Justin Duke

Not The Keynote You're Looking For

I hate to be in the position of defending Apple evangelists, but there have been a lot of weird takes about the Apple leaks the past few days. Here’s one:

I think the comparison between Star Wars and Apple products is particularly apt because, well, Star Wars isn’t “commercial art”: it’s a meticulously managed piece of intellectual property. It isn’t a singular artistic vision: its the culmination of hundreds of stakeholders, producers, focus testers, and marketers. So much so that the director of a Star Wars movie just got replaced, like a poorly-performing engineering manager:

Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutually chosen to part ways on Star Wars: Episode IX. Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon.

The primary goal of a Star Wars movie is to entice audiences to engage more in the Star Wars universe: to create buzz, to purchase merchandise, to consume more Star Wars media. It accomplishes this by putting out an entertaining, easily consumable, but unchallenging product. (And, sure, sometimes it gets a little derivative.)

The primary goal of an Apple keynote is to entice the audience to engage more in the Apple universe: to create buzz, to purchase products, to consume more Apple media. It accomplishes this by putting out interesting (albeit comically self-indulgent) marketing material. (And sure, sometimes it gets a little derivative.)

I think it’s weird and unambiguously bad to complain that tech journalists are doing their jobs: of course they’re going to report on the leaks and of course they should report on the leaks.

I also think it’s weird to pretend that Apple fans are any different than Star Wars fans or Marvel fans or of any wildly successful franchise.

There are a lot of things to criticize about Apple, and even Apple fandom. But the act of just being excited about the new shiny things is, I think, harmless and honestly kind of lovely. There’s something so earnest about the idea of people being so excited to watch the keynote and see how their technology is going to evolve.

(For what it’s worth, I watch the Star Wars movies because I love big ol’ adventures, and I watch the Apple keynotes because I am a tremendous nerd. And I think complaining about spoilers is dumb.)


iPad Things

As is tradition, it’s the time of year where folks have hot takes on iPads and the ~ future of computing ~. Here’s one from Joshua Topolsky:

This year’s spin on the age-old debate comes from iOS 11’s heavy emphasis on iPads and productivity. Most of the changes in iOS 11 seem great; none of them seem to address the existential issues that most folks talk about when they talk about the issues of productive work on the iPad.

I wrote about my experience with the iPad Pro last year, and I mostly stand by my conclusions. In particular, this passage rings truer than ever:

Still, though, I feel good using the iPad. “Delight” is the buzzword of the day when it comes to technology, and the iPad Pro doesn’t quite delight me: but sitting in a coffeeshop and using it to read or write gives me a vital sense of clarity and focus. This is important: as we drown ourselves in apps, in engagements, in vertices of various graphs, feelings of clarity and focus are rarer and more fleeting than ever before.

Using the iPad (or, perhaps more accurately, using iOS) feels absolutely frictionless. The iPad Pro, which I now use for reading, writing, and emails, albeit rarely, never confuses or surprises or angers me. It performs exactly as expected, unlike my MacBook Pro (which, despite its power and complexity, will randomly behave in bizarre and unexpected ways.)

Moreover, I think I’m just kinda bored of the narrative that the iPad has to replace the laptop or else it’s a failure. My iPad does iPad things really well! I love using it!

Maybe that’s not reason enough for market analysts, but it’s reason enough for me to continue owning mine.


Use a surfboard

Over the holidays, this tweet was making the rounds: When you overhear people complaining that their tools are the root cause of failure send them this video of Kelly Slater on a table. pic.twitter.com/0Mw1CByeUy — Jesse Hanley (@jessethanley) December 28, 2016 First off: watch the video! It’s pretty neat! Kelly Slater is one of the best surfers in the world. Don’t take it from me, take it from Wikipedia:
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A month with the new MacBook

I have been using the new MacBook Pro (fifteen inches, in what I guess is space gray?) for about a month. It’s my primary laptop now. Below are some thoughts I have on it. They are in no particular order, but I tried to cover all the main talking points: keyboard Touch Bar Touch ID the internals ports battery price I’m going to lead with the conclusion, because it’s a very boring one in contrast with a lot of the hyperbole that invariably gets thrown Apple’s way:
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Small tools

Technological gravitas is at an all time high. So many new startups and apps try to be revolutionary, promising dramatic lifestyle changes or mindblowing productivity gains. This is mostly marketing — but products exist as a reflection of their marketing. This kind of positioning is offputting. I’m not in a place where I particularly want my workflow or day-to-day interactions to be upheaved. I’ve settled into a comfortable and productive relationship with the technology I use, albeit one with a couple unsmooth edges.
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A month with the iPad Pro

I thought about writing this blog post on my iPad Pro. I’m not — I’m writing it on the same place I write everything else, my MacBook Pro. But I could, theoretically, write it on the iPad. It would take me a little more time to actually type – the keyboard is uncomfortable but not unpleasant. But I would definitely be more focused; even now, I’ve written like forty words and switched out of my writing app of choice five times – three times to Twitter, once to email, and once to Spotify.
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Why podcasts feel good

I think they are part of a constructive and fascinating conversation that has, by and large, a relentless positivity, a sense of wonder, to it. That’s something woefully missing from a lot of corners of the internet, and in disliking podcasts I genuinely feel like I’m missing out on several fronts: parts of friendships, cultural currency, being a little more well-versed in the world. Nick Disabato So I got into podcasts.
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Two weeks with the Amazon Echo

(Obvious disclaimer goes here: I work at Amazon but not on the Echo team or any team that remotely touches this product. I’m writing this as a nerd consumer, not as an employee of Amazon.) After buying an Apple Watch (which didn’t turn out great), I bought an Echo. I’ve had it for two weeks. I think it’s really great. It doesn’t do much, but it does what it does very well.
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Two weeks with the Apple Watch

Guy walks into a doctor’s office. “Doc,” he says, “I’ve got an issue. I used to urinate two or three times a day and that was it. Now, I can’t hold my bladder for more than an hour. Can you take a look at me?” The doctor looks him over. He gives him a physical, a blood test, and a tox screen. “Aha!” the doctor exclaims. “I have a solution.
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I’ve been using Tumblr a lot lately – or, at least, more than I have have before. 1 It’s been pleasant, and kind of weird, and as solipsist as it is I figure it’s worth gathering my thoughts about a random internet thing that I spend a couple hours a week using. To frame this, I want to pull in a quote from that teenpiece on social media 2:
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