Using Design To Build Trust: TED Talk By Joe Gebbia

Pass the phone to the person next to you. You feel vulnerable, insecure, right?

Would you feel comfortable if I were to ask you to stay in a complete stranger’s place?

You would feel awkward, hesitant and will probably dismiss the idea. That was how the majority thought when they heard first of Airbnb.

How do we use design to assure people the homes listed on the site are genuine and will be able to provide travellers with a good stay?

By using design to build trust, says Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb.

When people share a part of themselves, it changes everything.

Trust, that’s when you start to build trust.

Offscreen Issue 12: Interview with Alexander Aghassipour of Zendesk

I love Offscreen magazine. It’s the only publication I’ve gotten every copy of since issue 7. Even if you’re not in the tech sector, you could still pick up nuggets of wisdom from the people behind the bits and pixels.

Issue 15 is just hot off the press and it will be the last issue using the current format. Comes the next issue, it will be a complete redesign. I’m looking forward to what Kai Branch will bring to this magazine.

Meanwhile, please support him for all the awesome work he has done for Offscreen, as well as sharing behind-the-scene work. One man operation for a sustainable publication is tough, props to him for consistently delivering such quality stuffs.

Also, I want to revisit Issue 12 where Alexander Aghassipour, founder of Zendesk, shares his thoughts on several things.

Be focused and obsessed
I learned that I needed to pick one thing and stick with it. It should be the first thing I think about when waking up in the morning and the last thing I think about when going to bed at night.

Getting word-of-mouth to spread through opinion leaders
We identified alpha consumers who would blog about us, be passionate about zendesk on social networks, and eventually make us mainstream.

Design first
You cannot brand or build your product without aesthetics and design being treated as first-class citizens.

On being bored
To me the ultimate luxury is – as weird as it sounds – to be able to be bored. Being bored means that you have no immediate schedule and no commitments. Time belongs to you. It opens up space for you to ponder, reload, and get new ideas. Like most other luxury items, I realize boredom is only valuable when it is scarce. But I’m deprived of it and in bad need of a refill.

On Remote Work

For the past few days, work has been torturing. The very act of going to work – a 1.5 hours commute each way – in a crowded bus and train – is enough to leave me jaded upon reaching the office.

That’s 3 hours of precious time spent travelling each day. 15 hours a week. It’s massive. The more I think of it, the more I realise it doesn’t make sense to mandatorily report to the office daily. My work could be done remotely, without any hiccup. The reasons why the higher-up are not keen in taking up the idea is probably due to trust, unbalancing the company structure, and habit.

I picked up Remote, written by the founders of a company I admire deeply in 37signals/ Basecamp. Sped through the book in a couple of days and mostly agree with what they said. However, some company’s culture is so conservative and deeply-rooted with resistance to change, it’s like facing all odds to even get them to consider this shift.

Even experimental change like working a few days a week from home (gauge the result, tweak it, and measure it again) is being rejected. Productivity should be measured against the progress and output of individuals, not against the number of hours our butts are in the office. Creatures deprived of meaning will eventually turn into undead.

I don’t want to turn into such soulless being with nothing to look forward to.

Rainbow Trail In The Sky

Earlier this month Japanese CG artist and photographer Yutaka Kagaya (previously) was perched atop a hill in the village of Oshino near the foot of Mt. Fuji. This, as it turned out, happened to be the right place at the right time for a rare, magical moment. That moment occurred when cloud iridescence appeared in the sky. The occurrence of colors in clouds is itself a fairly uncommon phenomenon. But the magic happened when a plane suddenly passed through the clouds, leaving behind rainbow-colored contrails.

(via Spoon & Tamago)

Lifestyle Practice: Write More

In The Focus Course, one of my lifestyle practices I listed down is to write daily.

Well, I’ve been writing daily already. Every night, I open Day One and starts documenting what has happened in the day. Some days are short, because it’s just a normal day and there’s nothing special to add on. Some days are interesting, like a new experience or a memorable incident that happened.

They are all written in Day One.

But journaling to me is personal. Writing here is not. It’s a platform for me to share. Sharing makes people (particularly me) happy. Teaching is the best way to learn, Bear Gyrll said. I heard this again during James Attacher podcast this morning. I find I’m able to understand and retain concepts better when I process them in my brain, think it through, and write them down.

I’m not going to make this long because it’s getting late (nearly midnight) over here.

Amongst the other lifestyle practices I’ve written down in The Focus Course is to read more and going to bed earlier. It’s about time to read on the bed, winding the night down for a comfortable rest.

The Story of Hiut Denim

As a huge denim fan, I’ve several pair of jeans. Those that I’ve retired are worn to the extend they are better off framed up. They’ve served me well over the years, standing up to my constant wear daily.

Most recently, I was introduced to Hiut Denim after Craig Mod posted a picture of his pair on Twitter.

Awesome fading, I thought. I assumed he wore them for hiking those long and challenging trails. No, he replied. It would be asking for trouble…

He wore them for everything else – like city bicycling. He must have worn them hard. It has to be…to get those kind of fades.

I love it.

The first thing I did back in the office was to fire up Google and search for Hiut Denim.

Aha! This is it. Didn’t look like something enticing. On the homepage, the striking Nike sneaker is so distracting I thought they are actually selling them.

The price of £230 scares me. I read the descriptions and didn’t find it impressive enough to warrant the high price tag.

I didn’t think much of them except feeling they’re overpriced piece of fabric, sold to unsuspecting buyers who have little knowledge of denim.

That’s until I read on their story. I like to read the story behind brands. They’re typically a crucial factor in my affection for them. I like to know their values, the people behind it and why do the brand exists.

In this case, Hiut Denim does a brilliant job in storytelling.

The Hiut Denim Company wanted to bring manufacturing back to Cardigan. A small town of 4,000, where 400 of them used to make jeans for over 30 years.

Then one day the factory closed.

Hiut Denim decides that this quint town will make jeans (dreams) again.

It reminds me of Shinola and their noble vision of bringing manufacturing jobs back to Detroit and back America.

Then, I came across the user manual – their guiding principles, their values and how they function. It’s long-winded, cheesy even. But at the same time it’s enchanting.

Many of them resonate with my own.

It’s like a human being selling to another human being. It doesn’t feel I’m buying from a giant enterprise. Buying from them feels good, like I’m directly contributing to a worthy cause.

I’m a marketer and I understand the value of a good story. It’s a lovely story. Whatever the founder has learned in his previous stint as a copywriter serve him well here.

A bottle of water remains a water unless you see it differently. Think Evian, Fiji and Perrier. They quench our thirst and replenish with fluid. Fundamentally, they are still liquid and there’s nothing special in them that an ordinary bottle of water doesn’t contain.

But they do feel special. Our perception of them are different because of the meaning, emotions, philosophy behind those brands. The power of branding turn essential everyday products into manifestation of lifestyles and personalities.

But that’s not all.

They have a interesting concept called The History Tag.

Each jean will come with a unique number. You go to the HistoryTag website and register. Then you can upload pictures of where you went, what you did, who you did it with…to the HistoryTag website. So those memories get saved. The more memories you add to it, the more fascinating it becomes. So if in the future, your jeans get handed down, or end up in a second hand jeans shop, their memories will go along with them.

Suppose I bought a pre-loved pair of Hiut Denim. I log onto the platform and read those stories – places it has been to, things it did, how was the weather, the lifestyle it led, the evolution of the jeans etc.

It’s a novel approach, and the platform will be more valuable as more people use it over time.

The story behind this denim could sway people into buying them. As for myself, I just got started on a pair of Pure Blue Japan bought from the recent trip to Tokyo. Until I break them in sufficiently, I won’t be wearing any other pair.

Obama After Dark

An article by the The New York Times on how President Obama spends his time is going rounds on my social network. Titled Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone, it gives us an unprecedented glimpse into how one of the busiest and powerful person in the country structures his personal time.

Obama’s Work Ethics
In 2009, Jon Favreau, Mr. Keenan’s predecessor, gave the president a draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech the night before they were scheduled to leave for the ceremony in Oslo. Mr. Obama stayed up until 4 a.m. revising the speech, and handed Mr. Favreau 11 handwritten pages later that morning.

He favours writing as it helped to organize his thoughts.

On Reducing Cognitive Overload
Their dream was to never make decisions, says Mr. Emanuel, the current mayor of Chicago. Opening a shop that sells only one color (white) in one size (medium) was their dream.

This is consistent with reducing the mental load.

Wearing the same suit (grey or blue), and leaving what to eat to his chef, he doesn’t let these recurring decisions to sap away his precious energy which can be better utilised for more important issues.

On Crafting Out Time To Think And Reflect
“Everybody carves out their time to get their thoughts together. There is no doubt that window is his window,” said Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s first chief of staff. “You can’t block out a half-hour and try to do it during the day. It’s too much incoming. That’s the place where it can all be put aside and you can focus.”

The window he’s referring to is the time Mr Obama spends alone in his study after having dinner with his family. Four, five hours of time by himself. To gather thoughts, to thoroughly think through issues, and to decompress.

Family First
He’s first and foremost a doting father, a loving husband and a human being. Relationships matter to him, even in a job as intense as the president of the United States. He carve out time for them. Dinner together every day at 6.30 p.m., frequent movie night, spending time with his wife and daughters. He’s a shinning example of no matter how busy we are, relationship matters.

Taking Time Out For People
Mr. Obama saw a television report about students whose “bucket list” included meeting the president. Why had he not met them, the president asked Mr. Love.

“‘Someone decided it wasn’t a good idea,’ I said,” Mr. Love recalled. “He said, ‘Well, I’m the president and I think it’s a good idea.’”

I think in these eight years, he has demonstrated humanity, repair relationships and build bridges. He’s a wonderful human being above all. Once his term is up, the world is going to miss this wise and grounded man.

Twelve Watch by Naoto Fukasawa

When we were in Japan for honeymoon, we saw this watch charming watch that’s full of character.

What a great looking timepiece, I thought to myself.

I later realized it’s created by Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa for iconic fashion brand Issey Miyake. It’s name – Twelve – is modelled on the shape of a socket wrench. It has a polished circular silver case that creates a 12-sided frame for the watches’ face based on the shape of a classic socket wrench.

They look even better in person than the pictures. I’m not a watch guy, but this is definitely appealing.


Uncle Ice Cream

I used to wonder why old people like uncle ice cream doesn’t want a more laid-back lifestyle, having work hard throughout their lives.

The answer is found in my question, I realized.

Retirement or sitting idling will hasten their demise. Hard work is ingrained into them.

The routine of collecting his Rolls Royce cart and interacting with people gives him something to look forward to everyday.

Dedicating his whole life to selling ice cream, he’s been doing it for 70 years. Reminds me of Jiro Ono the sushi master.

A simple man with a simple outlook in life. No wonder he looks so contented.

Foreign Talent Singapore

We call them foreign talent.

FT for short.

A minority call them foreign thrash.

In a population dense city like Singapore, one can often be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people. Skyscrapers everywhere, shopping malls are sprouting up. Housing estates are fulfilling the needs of expanding population.

As we prosper as a country, blue collar jobs are generally shunned in favour of jobs that are perceived as more glamorous – bankers, doctors, lawyers, executives. But the cornerstone of the nation is built with the collective efforts of individuals. People that left their homeland to work here and support their families back home.

Though they’re down-to-earth and humble, they dream to achieve bigger things. They want to develop their interests – volunteer, photographer, poet, entrepreneur. They are so much more than the roles they hold here. It’s a timely reminder that we dreams make us alive, and moving the needle forward towards our goals – even if it’s just an inch – can give us so much hope.

The next time you see them taking the public transport, don’t cast them an annoying glance. They’re here to help us with chores we don’t want to do. Let us be more appreciative of them and be more gracious in our efforts to be an inclusive society.