Developing Perspective

#191: Insulated Perspectives.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective, developing perspective as a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note and iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia. This is show number 191. Today is

00:00:14   Thursday, July 24th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes. So let's

00:00:19   get started. So today I'm going to talk about perspective, which is perhaps somewhat appropriate

00:00:27   given the name of the show. But it's coming from a very interesting experience I had the

00:00:32   last two weeks. So as a regular listener of the show, you probably realized I was away.

00:00:37   I think I mentioned in the last episode I was on vacation. I had a lovely time. But

00:00:42   the interesting part of being away for about two weeks and during those two weeks being

00:00:47   very intentionally and necessarily limited in terms of my access to the normal things

00:00:54   that I do online in terms of things like Twitter and email and RSS feeds and so on. Some of

00:01:00   it was just because I was in foreign countries and some of it was because I was busy enjoying

00:01:04   family things. But being away for, that's probably about the longest I've really been

00:01:09   away from the world that I typically engage with on a day-to-day basis. Our little iOS

00:01:17   or Apple nerd bubble, right? I was away from that for a long enough time. It was interesting

00:01:24   to see how that changed what I thought about and what I thought was important and the things

00:01:29   that I was discussing, both in my own head or with other people. And it was interesting

00:01:34   and rather enlightening, I hope. It's one of those things where as I come back to the

00:01:40   more typical day-to-day thing, my fear, the thing that I worry about is not learning lessons

00:01:45   from experiences like this, where if you can take the time to separate yourself from your

00:01:49   normal habits and routines, you can look back on yourself and say, "Why do I do that thing

00:01:55   that I do? Why do I do and think the things that I do?" And at some point you find that

00:02:02   you don't always have a good reason.

00:02:03   So as you probably just noticed, this is a very hand-wavy episode. This isn't something

00:02:08   that I'm going to be talking about, anything particularly technical, or trying to expound

00:02:14   something very specific. This is just trying to communicate something that I think is very

00:02:18   useful to communicate to an audience of people who make things, about how careful you probably

00:02:25   need to be about the way that you can... about how you draw your perspectives, how you think

00:02:32   about where your opinions and decisions are coming from. It's a funny thing how your day-to-day

00:02:40   interactions can mold that. So, for example, I was spending two weeks with my family and

00:02:49   various family friends and so on, and during that entire interaction, I probably, I don't

00:02:54   think any single person that I interacted with for a period of two weeks has ever really

00:02:58   used Twitter, right? That's an interesting thing, because in the month preceding, I probably

00:03:08   was using Twitter, I don't know, a hundred times a day, something like that, going on,

00:03:12   checking things out. Most people didn't know what RSS was or podcasts, you know,

00:03:17   and trying to describe what those are to people. Like, it is very interesting how

00:03:22   insulated your perspective can become if you only hang out with people who think the way that you

00:03:29   think. And this is certainly not a new concept that I've somehow discovered upon that, you know,

00:03:34   know, spending time with people who only think the way you think can kind of narrow your

00:03:40   perspective. But it's interesting having had that experience to then think about that.

00:03:45   Like, why do I spend so much time on Twitter talking to and reading things by people often

00:03:52   who I don't know? Why do I do these things? Is that instructive and improving me as a

00:03:58   person? Is it helping me to have good and right perspectives or is it not? And I think

00:04:06   the thing that I've been discovering, moreover, is that my perspective, and this is trying

00:04:10   to tie it back down into development, it applies in a variety of ways, but around development,

00:04:14   is often I develop applications from the perspective of that the people who would use my applications,

00:04:22   The people who would appreciate my applications are people like me, are other developers,

00:04:28   are other people who are very technically minded, other people who value the same things

00:04:33   that I, you know, I valued in many ways. And the reality is that's not the world. The world

00:04:40   is very different and I think the applications that the world appreciates are very different.

00:04:45   And I think where this, like, say a simple example of this is understanding, you know,

00:04:50   example, why a lot of people don't buy apps. They only ever download free things. And there's

00:04:55   a perfect few reasons for that. And while I myself will download and buy lots of software,

00:05:03   a lot of people don't. And the tricky thing is, if I don't understand their point of view

00:05:07   or their mindset, I'm not necessarily going to be able to make good decisions about my

00:05:12   applications. And the more we talk, if I'm in this world where everyone's always bemoaning

00:05:17   that no one buys software anymore, I may be missing the actual reason and just focusing

00:05:23   on that complaint or on that whining or that ranting or whatever it is. There's people

00:05:28   who are making decisions for what's best for themselves, and those people are just average

00:05:36   typical people. I know this is a bit hand-wavy and I'm struggling a bit to try and put this

00:05:42   but I wanted to make an episode about it because it's, I think, very, it's been very impactful

00:05:47   to me for how I'm, when I'm looking at software, the perspective I'm trying to take. And maybe

00:05:54   here's an interesting story that I think will illuminate a lot of these points. And for

00:05:58   me personally, it was very impactful. So you may remember a few months ago, there's an

00:06:02   app that came out called Threes. And I've mentioned it a few times on the show. It's

00:06:06   great. It was a very interesting game and very novel in a lot of ways. And it came out

00:06:10   and it did fairly well. And then very quickly there was an app that came out called 2048,

00:06:15   which took the core concept of Threes and simplified it, essentially, and made it a

00:06:21   free app. And I think it was even an open source thing that someone put out that very

00:06:26   quickly kind of took off and I imagine to this day is still very popular on the App

00:06:31   Store. And I remember reading a long article written by the people who created Threes and

00:06:36   And they were talking about how bad that made them feel in some ways or whatever, like how

00:06:41   it feels like they got ripped off. And in some ways they did. They spent all this time

00:06:46   and energy polishing every little detail of this app. And this beautiful work of art they

00:06:51   created won an Apple design award, I think. I mean, it's fantastic. But it was then someone

00:06:58   else created this app, or this variant of it that kind of took the legs out from under

00:07:02   their own development. And there's a part of that that is kind of tragic. And I remember

00:07:08   kind of feeling, as part of our community, kind of having that like, "rah, rah, this

00:07:13   isn't right." You know, you've got to respect what people create and so on. And while there

00:07:20   is a validness to that, I think I was missing part of the story. And this is where the little,

00:07:30   experience I had fairly recently at a family gathering that I thought was kind of enlightening

00:07:35   to me on this perspective. So I was at a sort of a fine family function and I was interacting

00:07:41   with somebody, and that's someone I don't spend too much time with, but who is a fairly,

00:07:47   it's funny you say, like a typical person in terms of he's, you know, sort of average

00:07:51   intelligence, has a fairly average job, works, works for, you know, works, works just normally,

00:07:57   And when I mentioned to him that I make apps, he got a big smile on his face and said, "Oh,

00:08:08   you should check out this new app that I have. I love it. I really enjoy playing this." And

00:08:12   he pulls out a phone, and I think it was probably an iPhone 4. It was a fairly old phone, but

00:08:17   he was, you could tell there was a little bit of pride about having an iPhone in the

00:08:22   first place, which is something that, you know, it's so easy when I go to WDC and everyone has

00:08:29   an iPhone 5S for the most part, like, that even having an iPhone is an accomplishment for a lot

00:08:34   of people, is something to keep in mind. But first, you know, so he pulls out his iPhone,

00:08:38   he's kind of proud about having it, and shows it to me. He pulls out 2048. And he starts showing it

00:08:44   to me and kind of explaining it to me as though I didn't know what it was. And to be fair, I hadn't

00:08:47   actually really played 2048. I've been playing Threes. And the thing that was fascinating

00:08:52   about it is the way that he described his experience with playing 2048 radically changed

00:08:59   my view on that situation, on being ripped off, on these types of things. Not to say

00:09:05   that it diminishes the actual impact of what happened to those, you know, the developers

00:09:09   of Threes. But what's interesting is I discovered that the reason he liked 2048 was because

00:09:15   it made him feel smart. And as soon as I realized that, it changed quite dramatically my view

00:09:21   on the thing. So Threes is a well-designed game that is incredibly challenging and is

00:09:28   very good at, it's a funny thing to say, but almost like punishing you for when you make

00:09:33   a mistake. 2048 is much more forgiving. And you could argue, like if you're sort of from

00:09:39   an ivory tower looking down, like it's a simpler game. Like there's the thing, you know, if

00:09:42   just go right left right left right left in 2048 you'll do pretty well, right?

00:09:48   There's a mindlessness to it that isn't quite as sophisticated as threes, but what I found

00:09:54   is that I was focusing in some ways on the wrong part of that situation. Here's an app

00:09:58   that has made someone who has perhaps not necessarily always felt like he's the smartest

00:10:03   person in the world finally, you know, there's this little phone, little app that he can

00:10:07   get for free and put on his phone, it makes him feel smart. Because the nature of the

00:10:13   dynamic involves a bit of math, involves a little bit of thinking, but then it's easy

00:10:17   enough to really reinforce and engage that. And that is in many ways much more valuable

00:10:25   than perhaps the artistry of threes. It's complicated, I'm not trying to say that threes

00:10:31   is a bad app or game or anything, but hopefully you can kind of see what I'm driving at. That

00:10:36   is a fundamental thing that happened in that person's life, that this piece of software

00:10:40   made them feel smart in a way that another game, like the thing that it was derived from,

00:10:46   probably wouldn't. My suspicion is if I response to that situation and been like, "Oh, you're

00:10:52   playing 2048? No, no, no, no. That's a ripoff. What you want to go is go get threes." I get

00:10:57   him threes, I set him up, I have him start playing. I think he would have been frustrated,

00:11:02   And he would have been, you know, felt worse off as a result of that interaction, versus

00:11:08   coming back and having this tremendous pride on the time that he got whatever it was, 40,

00:11:13   48, or whatever it was, his high score. And he was talking about him and his wife competing

00:11:18   on this and like the actual just the happiness and the joy that were coming from that piece

00:11:22   of software. And I mentioned that story because it is something that is, that it was impactful

00:11:28   for me at that moment of seeing how I can so often be focused on completely the wrong

00:11:33   thing. That I'm building software that will engage and interact with people's lives. And

00:11:38   I can structure and value and put importance on things in my software that can genuinely

00:11:44   improve people's lives. Or, and what I can sometimes do, is I can get too wrapped up

00:11:51   on things that kind of the group of people that I tend to hang out with think is important,

00:11:56   in the real world maybe isn't so important. Things like I can get too wrapped up around

00:12:00   tiny bits of typography and tiny bits of graphic design or all these types of things that I'm not

00:12:05   saying don't have value, but don't have value in the way that they're actually going to be

00:12:10   affecting and improving people's lives in quite the same way. And I think about that and I'm

00:12:15   thinking, trying to think this through in the projects I'll be taking on this rest of the

00:12:19   summer and into the fall. Thinking it through in terms of the way that I structure my business

00:12:24   and my app updates, and things like that. How can I build software that will most strongly enrich

00:12:30   people's lives and have that be perhaps the goal that is worth striving towards? That have that

00:12:36   perhaps be the thing that I'm working towards? Making apps sort of uncommon apps, uncommonly

00:12:42   good apps for the common man, maybe should be my new motto, right? I want to make things that

00:12:47   typical people will enjoy and will enrich their lives and will make them feel smart, will make

00:12:52   make them feel loved, will make them feel happy, will make them feel healthy, right?

00:12:56   So the most practical example that I could perhaps draw quite directly is investing time

00:13:02   and energy into pedometer++ to make it help people be healthier more and more and more.

00:13:08   So there's functions and things that I've been thinking about that I can work and push

00:13:11   into that. But if it can apply in a game, something as silly as just a number game where

00:13:17   you're sliding tiles around and around, that can be impactful and meaningful in someone's

00:13:21   life? Why not other pieces of software? Why can I take that perspective of how is my software

00:13:27   making someone's life better, not just how am I making something more complicated, useful for

00:13:34   a very narrow and small group of people, etc. These are the things that I'm thinking about.

00:13:40   And I know that was a bit roundabout, but hopefully I got my point across. Taking a

00:13:45   break from your work, and especially from the community, the kind of insulated community in

00:13:50   which I know many of the people who listen to this show operate in, is very constructive.

00:13:55   It's something that I would encourage you to think about doing yourself. Have you ever tried

00:14:00   taking Twitter off your phone and RSS off your phone for a couple of days and seeing how that

00:14:05   changes things? Putting your phone down in a few more contexts than you may have it currently,

00:14:11   or those types of things. It's important, I think, to make sure you're taking those steps back in

00:14:16   your own life to make sure that the reasons you have for the opinions and perspectives you have

00:14:22   are actually valid and important. Whatever those whatever is valid and important for you.

00:14:27   All right, that's it for today's show. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:30   complaints, email me David at developing perspective.com. Otherwise, you have a great

00:14:34   week. It's good to be back. Good to be coding and I hope you're doing the same. Happy coding. Bye.