Developing Perspective

#28: Quiet and Authorship


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:03   Developing Perspective is an intermittent podcast hosted by me, David Smith.

00:00:07   I'm an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia.

00:00:12   Developing Perspective covers topics of interest to me, which typically includes things like

00:00:16   iOS, Apple, development news, things like that.

00:00:20   The show will almost always run shorter than 15 minutes.

00:00:23   So without further ado, let's get started.

00:00:26   Basically, I think today I'm going to talk through two articles and sort of topics that

00:00:31   I've written about on my blog recently.

00:00:34   First is a bit more general, and then the last one is a bit more topical.

00:00:38   So first off, it's going to talk about the concept of having quiet into your day.

00:00:44   I wrote an extensive article on this on my blog, which I'll link to in the show notes.

00:00:48   But at a high level, it's something that I've been struggling with recently, is the challenges

00:00:54   of being always connected and the challenges of sort of what that does for both your mind

00:01:00   and your attention, as well as kind of the impact that has on your work and your productivity

00:01:07   and those types of challenges.

00:01:10   And what I did is for a relatively short period of time, probably about a week or two, I made

00:01:15   some fairly drastic changes in how I work, in the things that I do to allow myself to

00:01:23   do.

00:01:24   The most obvious of these was that I set up an entirely new machine that was separate

00:01:30   from my main machine that I do my work on, and set up the secondary machine so that that's

00:01:36   where I do all my communications and reactive activities in a day.

00:01:41   So if I'm sitting down at my main machine, which is a big 27-inch iMac with a secondary

00:01:46   display set up all right, really the only things I can do on that right now is work.

00:01:52   I can do Xcode, Photoshop, those types of things.

00:01:57   But it was set up so that I can't check my email,

00:02:01   Twitter, those types of things.

00:02:03   And then I have another machine, a MacBook Pro,

00:02:05   off to the side.

00:02:07   Some are physically very separate from that

00:02:08   that I have to use if I want to do those things.

00:02:10   I changed my iPhone a little bit so that I don't have

00:02:15   some main notifications.

00:02:17   I have a silent ringtone.

00:02:18   Like I said, I walked through all this in the article.

00:02:17   And just kind of what I thought would be interesting

00:02:19   in developing perspective is to talk about

00:02:21   what if those changes really were effectual

00:02:24   and which ones were just kind of fun and whimsical

00:02:28   and like, oh, that's kind of interesting

00:02:29   but didn't really work.

00:02:31   So to start with, I'm going to talk about having

00:02:35   the changes I made on my iPhone.

00:02:37   Having a silent ringtone is great.

00:02:40   Highly recommend that to anybody who,

00:02:42   which basically, what I mean by that is

00:02:44   I've set up my default ringtone to be silent.

00:02:47   So my phone just doesn't make any noise.

00:02:49   There's no alert, there's nothing happening

00:02:51   when someone calls.

00:02:52   And for my favorites, for my wife, my parents,

00:02:56   my couple of coworkers, things like that,

00:03:00   they have specific ringtones that you can go

00:03:02   and you go into your contacts

00:03:03   and you can sign in with ringtones.

00:03:04   So if someone I care about calls, I get the call.

00:03:08   If it's something else, if it's my optometrist

00:03:13   telling me my contacts are ready,

00:03:15   If it's a telemarketer, if it's something, I'll get a missed call and I'll get a voicemail

00:03:19   and I can check that whenever I want, but it doesn't impress on me that, "Oh, someone's

00:03:26   trying to get your attention.

00:03:27   Oh, someone's trying to get your attention."

00:03:28   When in reality, I don't care.

00:03:32   And so that's just something that I've really enjoyed, that there's just fewer interruptions.

00:03:37   And when I am interrupted by my phone, I know it's something that I care about.

00:03:42   else I did on my phone was to change the default mail things so that it doesn't alert me to

00:03:50   new mail.

00:03:51   That was very nice too.

00:03:52   I enjoy that.

00:03:53   Go into the notification center settings and you can set mail so that it doesn't have a

00:03:56   badge, it doesn't alert you when there's new mail.

00:03:59   And a little added bonus benefit that I didn't think of when I started it is that you can

00:04:05   then disable push for mail distribution, which saves your battery a lot.

00:04:09   So essentially, because there's no notification

00:04:13   that's going to come up, my mail is going to be checked

00:04:15   when I want it, I set it to update every half hour or so.

00:04:19   So I have roughly new mail, but when I open up the mail app,

00:04:23   it'll then go and check and grab all the new stuff then,

00:04:28   rather than constantly doing it in the background

00:04:30   and draining my battery.

00:04:31   So those two things I think were big wins on the iPhone.

00:04:34   Or on the, actually having a separate computer

00:04:37   for all my reactive stuff, that's kind of a mixed bag.

00:04:40   And it's tricky because I found that works great

00:04:44   for Twitter, RSS, and Campfire, or kind of chat in general.

00:04:49   It doesn't work so well for email.

00:04:51   And the thing that I found for that is that email

00:04:55   is often something that I am doing that's sort of

00:04:58   part of the product, the productive part of my day.

00:05:01   And I tried things where I'd have shared documents between

00:05:05   so I could move tasks around,

00:05:10   or doing it inside of my GTD,

00:05:11   the do manager, syncing and things.

00:05:14   But often what I really need is

00:05:16   a client will send me something that says,

00:05:18   "Here is three things you need to change on this."

00:05:20   And then I'll open it up,

00:05:24   and I'll be making those three changes.

00:05:25   And it was very awkward and cumbersome

00:05:27   to be kind of juggling between that,

00:05:28   and I'm replying to them,

00:05:31   it's, "Oh, here's this thing I need to copy

00:05:30   from my main computer and now I need to get this text over

00:05:33   to the other one, so that didn't work so well.

00:05:36   But I think it does work well for other things.

00:05:38   Those things that aren't really core parts of your day,

00:05:41   that are just kind of creating an environment of information

00:05:45   about understanding of what's going on,

00:05:48   those things work great on a separate computer.

00:05:50   And the interesting thing is it's not that having them

00:05:52   on a separate computer means that I check them less often.

00:05:56   Maybe sometimes part of me wishes that were the case,

00:05:59   that having it separately, being physically separate,

00:06:02   would mean that I would do it less.

00:06:04   But really what happened is that I'm just aware

00:06:08   of the amount of time I spend in a day,

00:06:10   sort of, it's not really slacking off in that sense,

00:06:13   but the amount of time I spend in a day

00:06:15   kind of off doing things that aren't strictly productive,

00:06:19   that are more meta activities for keeping informed

00:06:22   and understanding what's going on in my industry.

00:06:26   Every time I kind of roll my chair back,

00:06:28   and turn around and go over to my MacBook Pro,

00:06:33   that's something that I know is, I'm making a choice then,

00:06:37   rather than what I was doing before.

00:06:41   And this is the thing, the habit that I'm glad

00:06:43   I'm gradually being able to break,

00:06:45   is I would before be able to kind of just reflexively twitch

00:06:47   over to something else.

00:06:51   It's like I hit compile in Xcode,

00:06:52   and then, "Oop, let's see what's happening on Twitter.

00:06:54   Oop, let's see what's happening in RSS."

00:06:56   And that kind of, the speed at which I could do that

00:06:57   meant that I did it without any intentionality.

00:07:02   Whenever I had a thought, "Oh, oh, oh,"

00:07:04   and what I ended up inevitably doing is

00:07:08   my compilation in Xcode would take six seconds

00:07:11   and I'd be spending 90 seconds reading my Twitter or whatever.

00:07:14   And so it was a much more constant noise in my day,

00:07:19   rather than now it tends to be more like,

00:07:22   After all, every 20, 30, 40 minutes,

00:07:25   kind of like having a little mental break,

00:07:29   it's something that I can go and look at.

00:07:31   I definitely still keep--

00:07:34   and I think I'll definitely still keep that part.

00:07:37   Like I said, I've scaled back on the mail,

00:07:40   those types of things, on the PC.

00:07:42   But I'm still kind of working this out.

00:07:44   I definitely do still have found that using Instapaper

00:07:48   on the Kindle is a great way to kind of add quiet

00:07:52   to myself too, which is on that Reactive Machine.

00:07:56   On my MacBook Pro, I send all,

00:07:58   I primarily focus on taking the content

00:08:02   that looks interesting to me,

00:08:03   that I kind of come across during the day,

00:08:05   and I throw it into my Instapaper queue,

00:08:07   and then at five o'clock I have Instapaper send me a,

00:08:11   send it all as a big bundle onto my Kindle,

00:08:14   which is a regular generic Kindle 4,

00:08:16   And I use that on a daily basis

00:08:21   to actually do the long-form reading

00:08:24   rather than feeling, A, that I should do it in real time,

00:08:27   which is probably not good for productivity,

00:08:30   and, two, it's great after spending all day

00:08:32   in front of all these backlit LCD screens doing work

00:08:34   to lean back with an e-ink, almost analog Kindle.

00:08:37   It just feels much more relaxing

00:08:43   than when I used to read reading on the iPad or on the iPhone.

00:08:45   And so that's definitely something that I think is another thing that I kind of started

00:08:49   off doing as part of this experiment, but really came into its own as a result of kind

00:08:56   of playing with that and really kind of understanding the different options there and the settings

00:09:00   that are available with InstaPaper.

00:09:03   All right.

00:09:05   And so that's sort of those changes and those things that I've been doing there.

00:09:10   The second thing is sort of a bit more topical that I was going to talk about is some of

00:09:14   One of the new things that are going on with iBooks and specifically iBooks Author, it's

00:09:21   kind of interesting.

00:09:22   There's an article I wrote on my blog about this again in the show notes, but it's the

00:09:27   interesting thing that I think, and I'm thinking a slightly different tack than I was talking

00:09:30   about in my article.

00:09:31   That was talking mostly just about kind of the licensing agreement part of it.

00:09:37   People made a bit of a fuss about where essentially if you make an iBook in iBooks Author, you

00:09:44   you can only commercially distribute that

00:09:47   through the iBook store,

00:09:49   which seems entirely reasonable to me,

00:09:51   that Apple's creating this free tool and platform

00:09:54   for selling things in their system,

00:09:56   and if you're going to do that commercially,

00:09:58   then they deserve their cut, fair enough.

00:10:00   But mostly what I was going to get at here

00:10:02   and start talking about, though,

00:10:04   is what I was kind of struck by is the degree to which

00:10:08   that is going to sort of democratize the text

00:10:13   the textbook industry potentially?

00:10:18   And it's a big, big question in terms of

00:10:23   if that's actually going to happen,

00:10:25   if publishers and authors and all those kinds of people

00:10:27   are actually going to get into all this.

00:10:33   But it seems to me that Apple has created an environment

00:10:35   that may do for that kind of rich publishing educational market

00:10:41   what sort of happened with the app store.

00:10:46   What I mean by that is, so if I'm, say for example,

00:10:50   I'm a stay-at-home parent or a parent who homeschools

00:10:54   their children, and I come up with kind of a mini curriculum

00:10:58   for teaching a particular subject to my child.

00:11:02   Before, I really didn't have a platform by which I could

00:11:06   easily share that content with someone else.

00:11:08   to share it with other kids, to share it with other teachers,

00:11:13   other schools, whatever.

00:11:16   That was something that I had, just for myself.

00:11:18   Maybe I could do a website, maybe,

00:11:22   but it's hard to do that commercially

00:11:24   and have the effort be paid off

00:11:25   to polish it and package it.

00:11:28   But what Apple's done here is what they do

00:11:30   at the App Store, where they have all the big publishers

00:11:32   on board in terms of Pearson and McGraw-Hill

00:11:34   And those big guys, but the way it's going to be

00:11:39   in the iBook store, those people are given

00:11:43   no additional bonus for being a big publisher.

00:11:45   That if I'm a small, independent publisher, teacher, educator,

00:11:49   and I come up with something and I publish a book,

00:11:53   I put it in the iBook store, I'm on equal footing

00:11:56   for customers and students for that being something

00:11:59   that they see.

00:12:02   Now, fair enough, if I'm McGraw-Hill,

00:12:02   I have a big marketing budget, I have existing relationships,

00:12:07   and those things are all true with the app store as well.

00:12:10   We have these big EA games and the Omni Group

00:12:13   or all these large publishers that have existing relationships

00:12:17   with both customers and Apple and so on,

00:12:21   but you have these tiny little apps made by one guy

00:12:24   who ends up making huge sums of money

00:12:29   and being very successful and getting all this attention,

00:12:30   even though they're just small indies.

00:12:32   And I would delight to see the same thing happening

00:12:35   with iBooks and with educational things,

00:12:38   that it kind of creates this ability

00:12:40   that people who really care a lot about a narrow niche

00:12:44   and could really explain it and teach it

00:12:46   and kind of share that knowledge well,

00:12:50   now have a platform and an ability to do that.

00:12:53   And I think that's only good for education,

00:12:56   to kind of be able to take these things

00:12:59   that are currently so broad,

00:13:00   if you look at someone, the skill sets you would need to write a college biology textbook

00:13:06   is pretty complicated.

00:13:08   It's a huge breadth of topics.

00:13:11   Whereas I would strongly imagine that we will see people heading more and more into doing

00:13:17   smaller, more focused things on their area of expertise.

00:13:20   It's like, "I'm not going to write a 101 textbook, but I can really understand this

00:13:25   this one particular thing and I can write an incredibly good, shorter, focused book

00:13:30   on that topic. Maybe it's not a $15 book or the pricing, who knows? But by allowing

00:13:38   us to pull back and focus on what that person really cares about, I think you can do some

00:13:44   kind of powerful things in that way to be like, "Okay, anybody can do it." If I

00:13:49   to write a book about making this podcast. I could. And I can do videos and screencasts

00:13:56   about the tools I use, my physical setup within video, talk about it, show statistics, all

00:14:03   kinds of things that I wanted to do. Sure, I could just do that, make a book, put it

00:14:08   in the store. And that seems kind of powerful to me in a way that is kind of cool. It's

00:14:14   It's similar to what's happened on the Kindle, I know, where all these tiny authors are now

00:14:21   competing with huge, you know, James Patterson's and Grisham's for people's attention, just

00:14:28   because the Kindle store allows anybody to write a novel and publish it.

00:14:32   And that seems pretty cool to me.

00:14:34   So anyway, so those are the two kind of topics.

00:14:36   I'm hopefully going to be able to get back to more developing perspective on a more regular

00:14:41   but you know life's been a bit complicated recently but anyway I'll be

00:14:47   trying to keep at it so please subscribe tell your friends and otherwise I will

00:14:51   see you next time bye