Engineered Eloquence

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I’m Reading Weekend in Review

November 5, 2018

This weekend I found time to read quite a few items. Below are the highlights of that reading, including the most recent interview with Jony Ive; some thoughts from my father from his new blog space, Tongue on Fire”; an exploration on the extinction of the Middle Child; and an article about Apple’s approach to social networking as a study in in-person engagement at Apple Stores.

To start off my weekend, I read the oft-shared interview with Jony Ive about the iPad Pro. In this situation, I was looking for something unique and I found it in the below quotes: magic. The idea that Apple produces things that just work or are considered magical is something well-documented over time. From the perspective of a designer however, everything in a device should be planned and calculated for; this is why this discussion from the designer himself is so important. What follows is likely is a part of each design decision made at Apple. From Jony Ive Interview: Apple Design Guru On How He Created the New iPad — And The Philosophy Behind It:

Ive pauses to consider what makes something appear magical. I think what puts a product in the place where it’s described as magical is often about those attributes which are less easy to describe. You can’t quite put your finger on what it is.” … I think the way [the Apple Pencil] just snaps onto the side, well, that’s a nice example of a sort of that magical feeling. It’s unexpected, we don’t quite understand how it’s working and even more incomprehensible is the fact that it’s also charging. You can see how that’s aligned with this idea that you can just pick the product up and use it without thought.”

My father is a pastor and has chosen a great time to start putting his thoughts to paper as the midterm elections and political climate come to a head. His first few posts are dynamite, in the sense that they throw a proverbial lit fuse at the currently publicized far-right, Evangelical narrative. First up (of two from my weekend reading) is about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (I literally shuddered as I wrote that last sentence.) From What Brett Kavanaugh Reveals About Us - Tongue on Fire:

The fact that the men—separated by 25+ years—survived their confirmation process in spite of allegations of non-consensual sexual advances reveals that not much has changed despite the #metoo movement. The testimony of men when denying allegations of sexual assault, harassment or abuse of power is still more believable than the testimony of the women who come forward with the allegations. People—both men and women—will still default to protecting the reputations of men while dragging women through the dirt, questioning their motives and morals—especially when political power is at stake.

My mother sent this article to me awhile back and as I have the difficult conversation (in this day and age) of whether or not to be a father for a third time, it seemed fitting to get this one read. From The Extinction of the Middle Child - The Cut:

While dramatic, this shift won’t be surprising if you haunt the playgrounds of New York. As a fairly recent new parent (of one, so far), I know that, observationally speaking, two kids has become the default norm. The common argument for two kids is a reasonable one: You have an oldest, a youngest, and a sibling for both. Three kids — which a generation ago was considered a slightly smaller brood than ideal — now seems aspirational, even decadent. A certain set of married, affluent New Yorkers are going for the third child,” the New York Times reported in 2014, and went on to quote a father of three: At some level, the third child is a proxy for having enough wealth to have a very comfortable life.” For most everyone else, two seems like plenty. Millennials are waiting longer to get married and women are waiting longer to have children. Housing and college are more expensive than ever, and the future of the planet itself is increasingly in question. Personally, I know lots and lots of couples in New York who have children; I know precisely one family with a middle child. That couple has three kids — the Brooklyn equivalent of Cheaper by the Dozen or Jon & Kate Plus 8.

On to my father’s second posting on his blog, regarding the Lottery. I have never been interested in playing the lottery nor gambling in general, I suppose, but that may be part of the point. From Why Lottery Tickets Are the Devil - Tongue on Fire:

The desire to win more money than you’d ever know how to spend afflicts the people who can least afford it — low-income households of color. In 2017, Americans spent almost $73 billion (BILLION) playing the numbers. That is $223.04 per man, woman and child in the U.S. Put that into perspective: We spend more playing the Lottery than we do on movie tickets, video games, books, NFL and Baseball tickets combined! And according to studies, the poorest third of households buy half of all lottery tickets sold. Those who can least afford tickets often spend the most–both in real dollars and as a percentage of their income. West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in America (17.7%), yet West Virginians spend a whopping $598.47 per person on lottery tickets. In both Connecticut and Illinois, the poorest zip codes in the state (also home to people of color) account for the most lottery ticket sales.

As usual, Ben Thompson has a detailed rundown of what makes Apple financial result phone calls interesting. He then is able to take that historical knowledge and add a perspective that others may not think about. In this case, he describes Apple’s inability to point at unit sales and soon average sale price as units to growth. Instead, Apple’s Social Network”, in the form of their Today at Apple” program, is going to be able to show physical engagement numbers as a growth vector (and likely a continued reputation/popularity metric). From Apple’s Social Network - Stratechery:

What is striking about Today at Apple is the scale of its ambition combined with its price: free. Of course that is not true in practice, because one needs an Apple device to realistically participate (and an Apple ID to even sign up), but that raises the question as to what Apple customers are paying for when they buy an Apple product? Apple’s point in highlighting Today at Apple is that customer’s are not simply buying an iPhone or an iPad or a Mac, but rather buying into an ongoing relationship with Apple.