Why You Need A Notebook

Ever the obsessive-complusive and lover of consistency, I have a system for my pockets… obviously. My left trouser pocket must contain my phone and my right trouser pocket must contain my keys along with my slimmer-than-slim wallet, nothing too unusual there, but it’s also the case that the right breast pocket of my jacket almost always contains a notebook and pen. In 2016? Yes. Absolutely.

It seems a completely anachronistic trait, out of step with the other facets of my personality which embrace technology at every turn and reject accumulation of extra “stuff” to a near fanatical level. The fact remains though that I love notebooks and have an ever increasing reliance on them. One comes with me whenever I leave the house, two sit on my desk at home, three fresh ones get packed every time I travel, and four adorn my desk at work. I seem to be constantly writing things down and it’s for the exact reason contained within the tagline of my favourite brand of notebooks Field Notes: “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now."

I have an awful memory and I assume that you—dear reader—are a human, so I know that you do too. Before you start howling about how great your recall is and that people rely on you all time to remember things because you’re so good at it, you may also want to consider the number of times over the years that you’ve forgotten something important. I’m willing to bet it’s a non-zero amount, and those are only the incidents that your useless memory can recall, there will be more hidden away in there somewhere I assure you. Add to that all of the trivial things you’ve forgotten over time and it should begin to become painfully clear that your memory—whilst almost certainly better than that of yours truly—is pretty rubbish and painfully unreliable. At the very least you will surely admit that it isn’t really up to the rigours of everyday reliance. To top it all I haven’t even mentioned how often our minds play tricks on us, recalling events one way, when in fact they went down a completely different way.

None of this is our fault, our brains are painfully useless tools when it comes to the sport of remembering, and it may even be by design. Our squishy meat brains are great at analysing and solving problems, making decisions, filtering information, and a myriad of creative tasks, but time machines they most certainly are not. This makes relying on your brain to remember meetings or what to buy at the supermarket for example, completely silly notions. At some point during our evolution we acknowledged our brains shouldn’t be solely relied upon for these tasks and so we developed tools to help, in these cases: the calendar and the shopping list. My question is: Why stop there?

The trusty notebook is the swiss army knife of a memory tool: compact, versatile, and yet so simple. You can make lists, sketch, draw flowcharts, take down personal details, record events, jot down blog ideas, make a note of links for podcast show-notes…. OK, maybe I’m skewing a little to my personal use cases now, but you get the idea. I’ve tried a thousand note-taking apps for the iPhone and none come close to the usefulness of a pocket-sized notebook and pen. Apps fail at taking down text faster, you have to locate the app on your phone, you have to remember to look through it from time-to-time, the options for what you can enter are much less varied than pen and paper. Don’t try and rely on an app, even the good note-taking apps haven’t been good enough to hook me in.

If there's one bit of advice I could give in life it would be to always carry a notebook and never stop using it: make lists, plan things out, take details, record memories. Whatever it is, your life will be richer and less complicated because of it. Start carrying a notebook now.

Changes Afoot For The Technically Correct Podcast

As you may be aware I have been part of a weekly podcast for over two years now with my pals Simon and Richard. We did re-launch the show around the start of 2015 and since then it has become clear that we need to make a change.

Our lives have become immeasurably busier over the past three months or so. The reasons for this are varied and not particularly interesting but the result of this is that it has made carving out time for recording more difficult, but so far we've kept things together nicely. Recently we've also found ourselves in the situation some weeks where we feel like we haven't had enough interesting topics to discuss. It's been a few factors that has caused this but none of them are a lack of ideas or a lack of desire to keep doing the show, in fact I think we've done some of our best ever work in the past few months alone... but all three of us clearly feel that something needs to change.

So what is that 'something'? Well, we aren't sure if we're being honest, so we're going to try something and see how it goes before re-evaluating. Here's what you need to know:

  • Firstly, there is no episode of the show this week, we will commence with new episodes starting next week and our release day will continue to be Thursday.
  • Nothing is required on your part as a listener. Simply stay subscribed to the show and everything will — largely — continue as normal, with new episodes filling your feed as they're released.
  • Here's the important bit: we're switching to a bi-weekly podcast format. This means we will be releasing one episode every two weeks.
  • There will sometimes be exceptions to this. For example we may decide to record an extra episode for Apple Keynotes or other major news. However, you can expect at least one episode from us every two weeks
  • We're trying this out for three months initially and then we'll take stock and see what we have learned before making a further decision.

Our hope is that this will a) lead to a better quality show on a more regular basis and b) make our lives generally less of a headache when it comes to scheduling recording times and duration. We hope that our listeners will embrace this experiment and bear with us while we decide how we want the show to evolve over the coming weeks and months.

My sincerest thanks for continuing to listen to us, I hope you'll continue to do so starting next week, at the usual time.

Google & Privacy

Apple has been firing a lot of thinly veiled shots at Google recently over their approach to user privacy, marking a distinct disagreement over where the balance should lie when handling user data to provide the best possible services.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones took the opportunity to get Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's take on the matter:

I put it to him that the world he portrayed involved all of us handing over a lot of our data and asked whether Apple had a point when it said Google was not too concerned about privacy. Having dismissed Apple's claims, he launched into an explanation of the many protections that Google offered its users.

He said the firm was very heavily regulated, both in Europe and the United States, and it would be "terrible if Google were to violate any of those things". Users had all sorts of options to delete any data that was held by the company or to use "incognito" browsing which makes it very difficult to figure out what you are up to. And he stressed that if you were still uneasy, "these services are optional". You don't have to use Google...

This is such a bullshit response. Google aren't heavily regulated and oftentimes the regulators are concened with the wrong things, the EU's landmark "right to be forgotton" ruling is a shining example of this. The problem I have with the way Google do business is that they're not open and transparent about what they will do with your data and Schmidt's response is another example of that.

Google's services are now so woven into our online lives that giving them up would be hard.

This is a complete falsehood. It's simply not true. Other than YouTube there are a lot of great, viable alternatives to Google's services. I know this first hand because I stopped using Google's services over two years ago: DuckDuckGo is great and will let you fall back to an encrypted Google search if all else fails, there are a ton of other good email hosts, Apple's Maps are clearer to read and I find much faster to load on mobile. There are a ton of examples of this and it's a shame that people seem to be under the impression that they're stuck with Google and have nowhere to turn.

John Gruber Interviews Phil Schiller

Chances are that you're already familiar with The Talk Show, John Gruber's long-running podcast featuring a special guest every week. Last week that special guest was none other than Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing: Phil Schiller.

This is an outstanding interview in many ways. Firstly, Apple rarely — if ever — puts it's executives into this kind of situation, this is a unique opportunity. Which brings me to the second outstanding facet: Gruber asks some brilliant questions. Where a general, tech journalist likely would have wasted time on trumped-up controversies like "bendgate" and asked pointless questions about Apple TV and a mythical iCar; Gruber picked his questions with purpose and pertinence. He pushes Schiller on decisions to keep reducing device thickness at the expense of additional battery life and software stability, amongst other things. These are real concerns held by Apple power-users and questions Schiller is inclined to answer, and it's those answers that complete a trifecta of outstanding facets. Schiller's answers reveal a lot, are insightful, and reassuring.

You could do a lot worse than setting aside 70 minutes and watching the interview below.

New Photos: Newcastle From Grey's Monument

This weekend I got the opportunity to go to the top of Grey's Monument in my hometown of Newcastle.

Grey's Monument is a beautiful, Grade I listed landmark that's smack-bang in the centre of Newcastle. Once upon a time it was open for the public to climb up the steps inside the column and go all the way to the top to enjoy the views of the city in every direction. Sadly though, throughout my liftime that hasn't been the case and the door to the monument has been closed for some time. However, it is now possible for a select few people to enjoy this great experience by booking in advance. I feel lucky to have experienced it.

You can browse through all my Newcastle photos below, including the ones I shot from the top of Grey's Monument. Or visit my photography page.

Apple's Hook

Immediately following the keynote announcing the Apple Watch it seemed like there was an awful lot of chatter about the Edition. Whether you were outraged by the price, intrigued by how it would be sold, or desperately trying to understand it's place in the lineup, one thing was clear – the Apple Watch Edition was an interesting prospect for Apple and somewhat of a departure from their usual product line-up. But for all the talk following the keynote, nobody seems to be talking about it now following its release.

It's interesting that this is the case and of course the reason why is obvious, but then it always was. We all knew that only a select few people would buy this high-end model, so why did we talk about it so much, knowing all the while that after the launch we'd all be talking about our models? The answer is because the Edition has largely served it purpose already. Apple has capitalised on it's luxury brand and used the Edition as the hook to lure in not the tech geeks, but the fashion and style conscious. Much like Chanel uses $5,000 handbags to sell $50 perfumes, Apple has expertly positioned the Edition as a marketing tool for the lower-end models. They've been able to this because Apple is already perceived as luxurious, or at least a purveyor of affordable luxury, something the likes of Samsung or Motorola could only ever dream of doing.

Edition.png

So what about the select few that will buy the Apple Watch Edition? What of them? Well, there’s an interesting element at play here as well. Apple will be competing with the likes of Rolex for a position on these people’s wrists; and beyond the obvious differences between the Edition and a Rolex there’s something a little less obvious: the Edition sticks out like a sore thumb, if someone is wearing one it’s pretty easy to tell, and on top of that people generally know just how expensive it is, roughly at least. This is in contrast to a Rolex where — depending on the model — it’s not always easy for someone to know that you’re wearing a Rolex specifically. Sure, someone that’s really into watches will probably tell right away, but joe public likely won’t know the difference between it and a regular watch. This raises an interesting social implication. 

Maybe you’re the type of person that would quite happily boast about their wealth and wear it on your sleeve. Sports stars and hip-hop stars1 immediately spring to mind as people that would fall into this category, they’re hardly concerned about advertising their wealth by wearing the Edition. But there are celebrities that maybe don’t want to seem so out of touch: music stars with a working-class image and celebrities that are heavily involved in humanitarian work, for example. These types of celebrity would probably be wise to stay away from the Apple Watch Edition, it will be interesting to so if they do.

1. I wonder if these types of celebrity would also buy a hypothetical $50,000 gold iPhone

Cool Conferences

Perhaps I just have conference fever after the outstanding Úll last month but two up and coming events really caught my eye on the conference cicuit yesterday. Release Notes will be taking place in October in Indiana; and the closer to present day Layers will be happening in San Francisco at the same time as WWDC.

Just check out both sets of speakers, the quality is marvellous. I sorely wish I could go to both, but alas I due to a combination of factors (mainly money), it's unlikely I'll get to either. But you — yes, you dear reader — should think about it.