Staying home today… My 9/11 Story.

There isn’t a person I know who does not remember where they were the morning of September 11, 2001 (9/11). The shattering of our sense of safety and security and to the protective shell that this country once took for granted was shaken to it’s core and we all felt it deep within our souls.


I had a friend staying with me whose flight was leaving that very morning. We were on our way to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) with NPR on the radio and had heard something mumbled about a plane crash. We hadn’t yet grasped the earth-shattering severity of the situation as we pulled into SFO’s (empty) temporary parking. We approach the baggage check to check in a bag and the woman at the counter insisted, “all flights are cancelled”.  All flights are cancelled?! The entire airport was desolate, passengers had received the news and hurriedly left the concourse. It was clear that no one wanted to be anywhere near this place.

The original plan had been to drop my friend off early to catch her flight so I could make it down to work in Cupertino in time. Forced to arrive with friend still in the car I walk around the building looking for the rest of the team. Our design and engineering team all gathered around the TV set with their jaws on the floor and their hearts torn in two.

The thought of such a force of destruction being used to attack the very underpinnings and foundations of everything we had come to know about civilization and the modern world was well beyond reckoning.

As a memoir I kept a few emails I had received at work that day and opted to work from home. We were unable to locate a flight for my friend to return to Los Angeles for that entire week…






" User perspective is rarely a valued commodity in working cultures where mental models are not taken into account. "Michael Darius

Privacy is a matter of perception

One of the core offerings of the last product I was working on was based around this new trend among social apps catering to people’s complaints around a perceived ‘lack of privacy on Facebook’. I questioned this logic namely because I believe at the end of the day people are often incapable of articulating why they like or dislike something when being asked. (A person may hate a TV show but still watch it religiously).

There is much going on in the space around privacy and anonymity but the more ‘private’ a product experience feels the less ‘personalized’ its content is capable of being.  That is the tradeoff, and Foursquare’s new redesign cares very little for your sense of privacy. So little in fact that they are counting on the fact that your concern about privacy will not be an issue compared to the services that you’ll benefit from in exchange. A guiding principle for any product I work with is the ‘informed consent principle‘. When someone is comfortable consenting to having contextually relevant content delivered up to them on a location aware basis the lifestyle choice they are making is one that is set apart from those who obsess around how that data may be being used.

Article: Radical New Foursquare App Thinks You Want Even Less Privacy

Participatory Design vs. Value Sensitive Design

“If we lose our human values by having everything mechanized, then machines will dictate our lives.” —The Dalai Lama

Facebook was recently reprimanded for performing a psychological experiment on 700,000 of its members. In order to create a more ‘positive’ experience for its users the company tested the effects of negative content in people’s feed in order to better understand how it affected their posting behavior.

Article: Furor Erupts Over Facebook’s Experiment on Users

To better understand how negative content affects a persons ability to distinguish between perceived and imagined events (something called ‘Reality Monitoring’.) Here is a good study on ‘The Effects of Emotional Content on Reality-Monitoring Performance in Young and Older Adults’ —

There has been speculation that Facebook may have actually cost someone their life by distorting their perceived reality to such an extent that the person lost their sense of purpose and direction in life.

In many ways Facebook’s ‘experiment’ shows that ‘Value Sensitive Design’ is a far better approach than ‘Participatory Design’…

Value Sensitive Design is a theoretically grounded approach to the design of technology that accounts for human values in a principled and comprehensive manner throughout the design process. It employs an integrative and iterative tripartite methodology, consisting of conceptual, empirical, and technical investigations.

Participatory Design substantively embeds democratic values into its practice and brings to the table important techniques, such as Future Workshops. However, when applied in diverse contexts, Participatory Design may not provide enough guidance when divisive constituencies argue on the basis of narrowly conceived self interests and hostile prejudices: after all, at least in principle, Participatory Design values each participant’s voice, even those that appear uncaring and unjust. Value Sensitive Design is a theoretically grounded approach to the design of technology that accounts for human values in a principled and comprehensive manner throughout the design process. Early interest in computer technology, values, and design emerged in the work Norbert Wiener (1954) and others. ( Source: )

…even when the individual believes that science contributes to the human ends which he has at heart, his belief needs a continual scanning and re-evaluation which is only partly possible. For the individual scientist, even the partial appraisal of the liaison between the man and the historical process requires an imaginative forward glance at history which is difficult, exacting, and only limitedly achievable…We must always exert the full strength of our imagination.” -Norbert Wiener (founder of the CPSR Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility) — Some Moral and Technical Consequences of Automation


One of my funnier Steve stories…

On Friday I was asked by a coworker to share one of my favorite Steve stories with the rest of the team. One of the funniest that came to mind was about the first time Dr. Dre showed up on Apple’s campus back in 2003. Being that we were trying to transition ourselves from being seen as a computer company to a music company it was critical that we have major figures within the music industry to speak at the keynote for the iTunes launch. Steve quickly discovered that he and Dr. Dre did not speak the same language. There were a few of us on the iTunes team who were used to working with personality types like Dr. Dre and we ended up coaching Steve quite a bit in preparation for this keynote. It was not long before we came to sobering realization that no amount of coaching was going to help.

The above video is from the iTunes keynote held at Moscone center.  We couldn’t get Dr. Dre to follow the script for the life of us (with all of the media there, it was a royal nightmare).

Immediately following the Beats acquisition last week, Eddy Cue and Jimmy Lovine made an appearance at the Code conference.

Right around 30:20 in this video, Eddy Cue shares more about the future of Apple’s TV strategy than I’ve yet to hear mentioned on the public record from someone within the company. In the five years I was at Apple, Eddy and I worked very closely on a number of products together, he was responsible for presenting my design work to Steve on a weekly basis. Today he is one of the few figures who Apple now permits to be a voice of reason and face to the company. The full Walt Mossberg interview is about an hour long but is worth watching if you have a little time to set aside.

The interviewers did a great job of expressing the concerns about Apple’s need to have acquired Beats. Apple has acquired technology in prior acquisitions, never before have they had the need to acquire culture or keep a brand alive that was not conceived of internally.

" The amateur, while overidentifying with his job, is someone who has not mastered the technique of his art and will not expose himself to judgment in the real world... The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will... The professional has learned, however, that too much love can be a bad thing. Too much love can make him choke. The seeming detachment of the professional, the cold-blooded character to his demeanor, is a compensating device to keep him from loving the game so much that he freezes in action. "Steven Pressfield (The War of Art)

" The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death. "Steven Pressfield

" Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistence gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash.

The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare... The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it's a novel or kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality. "Steven Pressfield (The War of Art)


If I were forced to choose between hiring someone who felt they were in tune with their own genius vs. someone who had to put down other people’s genius in order to make themselves appear superior. I would always choose to hire the person who felt they were more in tune with their own genius.

" Many a false step was made by standing still. "Chinese Proverb