Choosing What To Exclude Is The Hardest Thing

Tim Cook:

What we’re reading is that it’s a fairly compromised, confusing product, Cook said. One of the toughest things you do when making a product is to make hard tradeoffs. That’s what we’ve done with the iPad, and the resulting user experience is incredible.

Apple understood hard decision must be made. The rationale is not being good at everything. Their philosophy is to be great at something. The built quality of Ipad is still second to none. They understand to keep the form factor slim and sleek, they have to sacrifice retina screen for ipad mini.

Microsoft didn’t quite do that with Surface, Cook implied, and the market will recognize that. “You could design a car that flies and floats, but I don’t think it would do either of those things very well. … People will look at the iPad and at competitive offerings, and I think they’ll conclude the iPad is the better choice.”

MS is trying to please everyone. Here they have a device trying to fit into the needs of different type of users. Users are confused with what Surface can do for them. The fact is, the future is not looking exactly bright for them.

There is no denying that Windows are on a downward fall.

Once the snowball starts rolling, it picks up pace at a frenetic pace. Apple build and retain their customers around the core ecosystem. Microsoft may have to learn a thing or two because the barrier to exit is even more potent than the barrier to entry these days.

Practise The Art Of Self Control

It is interesting to read the impact of smartphones have on our lifestyle. At the same time, it is also very depressing to acknowledge the fact that our habits very much revolve around the smartphone.

Stephen Hackett:

The problem is that five years of reaching in my front right pocket any time I’m free has created a strong habit, and I need to quit cold turkey. 

I’m similar, only because my iPhone sits in my left pocket instead of the right one. I’m also guilty of reaching for my phone consciously or subconsciously  The action action i’m likely to do when i’m idling is to reach into my pocket. It’s like an addiction, or an assurance, whichever way you look at it. Assurance because it keeps me occupied when i’m aimless.

It’s the habit we are cultivating that is dangerous. Thanks to the advancement of technology, being bored is the least of our worry. We are being entertained anytime, anywhere. And being bored is actually vital, and essential for creative work.

We lose track of our surrounding, only to be too focused on what’s happening inside our smartphone.

If twitter is taking up too much of your time, delete it. It’s drastic, but action has to be taken for the good of our well being. If the twitter app is right in your screen, you can put them in a folder.

This solves 2 issues:

1) If you can’t see them as much as you do now, you are less likely to have the urge to click it.
2) It takes more than one click to get into the app. In other words, it makes you work harder to get into the app.

On my screen, i have productivity apps like Dropbox, Simplenote, iA Writer and Day One on my main screen. All games are hidden in one folder, and they are not sorted according to genre.

Ben Brooks:

When I stopped using Twitter in favor of, I noticed that I just stopped caring about checking either that often. My feed is so slow that I can catch up every few hours, in a few minutes.

With the abundance of apps craving for our attention, it is not surprise to note we are struggling to keep up with the hectic pace generated by our interests. Feeds unread, emails unopened, tweets unreplied, it all adds up.

We all have a choice, the choice to change our lifestyle.

It’s The Details That Matter

Philippe Starck:

We never retouched the project which means that from 2007, to the launch this year it is basically still the same,” Starck said. “We spent just one day every six weeks, for five years, on refinements. Millimetre by millimetre. Detail by detail.

So delicate, so precise, right down to every minute detail.

There is not a single useless item inside… not a single useless pillow, or a useless object. In that sense, it is the opposite of other boats. Other boats try to show off more and more. Venus is revolutionary. It’s the extreme opposite.

Job’s design process is not to remove everything right down to the bare minimum. Rather, it’s about building things from the bottom up. If things ain’t necessary, they would be left out.

Big or small, yacht or nano, it’s reflective of its obsessive personality for simplicity.

The Dawn Of A New Era

A few days back, i bit the bullet and ordered a MacBook. A Retina MacBook Pro 13″ to be exact. I figure out for my needs, a 13 inch would be sufficient and i don’t need the high end processor and nor the graphic power that the 15 inch MBP offers.

I went with the stock configuration, and that means i only have 128gig of space to work with. Gone are the days where i have tons of hard disk space, waiting for me to fill them up.

Speaking of which, as i recall the bitter-sweet memories of the past decade, i am struck by how awesome the technology world has enabled the world to be a better place. Involuntarily, memories came flowing back like raging river.

  • I hang out a lot in Xtremesystems
  • I was fascinated with heatsink design. My favorite is from Zalman, an exquisite work of beauty and performance. To top it off, they operate in nearly silent mode.
  • I like fans, namely 90mm ones.
  • I was obsessed with benchmarking. Superpi and Prime 95 were my playgrounds.
  • I sourced for the best BH5 ram. I still remember trying for 2-2-5 @ 250mhz.
  • There were many occasions where i ran case-less.
  • I would wait at the newsstand for the latest issue of Atomic and Maximum PC.

Those were the days. The memories shall remain beautiful and I will always recall them fondly.

The dawn of the next era is here, and it starts with iPhone and MacBook Pro.

A List Of Sites I Adore

I have always been a fan of sites that have clean design and writing with a personal touch. They represent what is good about the self-publishing scene and the advancement of technology.
I’m grateful for the design, ideas, insights and thoughts they have given me. I have learnt a big deal from them, and i feel i’m just at the start. I’m pretty sure as i embark on my own adventure, i hope to leave a trail like the ones mentioned. It’s a massive privilege to be able to acquire knowledge and pick up a few tips or two from these guys.

In no particular order, they are:

Shawn Blanc
Chris Pearson
Pat Flyn
Jamie Brittain

Rafal Tomal
Dustin Curtis
Alex Rister
Design by Front

And of course:
Leo Babauta 

The Difficult Choice

After a few weeks, i’m still pondering over which Mac to get. It’s going to be my first Apple product and i’m really excited (and anxious) about it.
I really like the experience of using Iphone 5, which ironically, is my first Iphone. I like the close integration of Apple’s ecosystem and i believe having a Mac will increase my productivity and workflow.

The retina screen will be good to have, but i’m still not exactly sure if that’s a game changing factor in itself. The cost of having a retina screen is definitely a big issue, and i believe many people are also sitting on the fence on this issue. By marketing terms, the early adopters of this technology have to fork out more, and in this case, a substantial amount to enjoy the full glory of retina display.

The issue is further complicated by the imminent release of the new IMac, which i have taken a keen interest in. In fact, the reason why i’m holding out is because i’m leaning towards the purchase of the 21.5inch imac. There are only 4 choices, but the more i think about it, the more indecisive i become.

  • MacBook Air 13inch
  • MacBook Pro Retina 13inch
  • MacBook Pro Retina 15inch
  • IMac 21.5inch

It’s a choice i’m going to make eventually.

Working From Home

The idea of working from home is definitely intriguing.

Picture this: You wake up naturally in the morning, without the annoying buzz of alarm clock jerking you up alarmingly from your deep sleep. As your eyes slowly accustom to the warmth of the morning, accompanied by the beautiful ray of the sun seeping in from the window, a new day has arrive.

You take a slow walk to the bathroom, started brushing your teeth while checking out for zits in the mirror. Next, you grab the morning papers and browse through the daily happenings. Before long, the toasted bread is ready for consumption, together with your lovely cup of coffee and orange juice.

Sounds perfect.

Still in your pajamas, you switch on the laptop and follow up on the things that are supposed to be done.
Wait, are we missing something here? Don’t you have to report to office? Don’t you have to tussle with the crowd to get into the bus? And how about the bosses breathing down your neck, and your superiors watching your every move?

Our concept of the workplace hasn’t caught up with the needs of modern society, or what tools today can empower us to. Virtual work has to be valued and rewarded. It has to be featured in the media and it has to be socially desirable.

According to a recent study, workers consider themselves to be more productive when they are working away from the office. It implies that the boss trusts them enough to work where they feel is appropriate to deliver the output expected of them.

Away from the office, we have more opportunities to expose ourselves to different things. It opens the experience of working in more environments, meeting different people and potentially delivering more innovation solutions as a result.

Once empowered, individuals or/and teams can then select the best location to suit the tasks or activities.

I’m sure many of us could resonate with the lists above, but the benefits of working virtually extend far and beyond that.

It increases your productivity

We can be more productive when working from home. The endless meeting are time consuming, and the biggest expense for any corporation are spent on meeting. A 2-hour meeting involving many executives, many a time without serving the intended purpose of holding a meeting in the first place. It all adds up, and the time can be better use somewhere else.

It saves employer money

Rentals are increasing, sometimes to the level that is forcing many businesses to relocate or even push them out of contention altogether. Is it necessary for the company to house all of its staffs in a confined space? By properly delegating the work, I’m pretty sure most of the things can are done in office can be accomplished at home.

It eliminates redundant travel time (and eases traffic congestion)

Every day, we spend so much time traveling.The biggest waste of resource is the unproductive time, energy and money wasted into getting people to and fro office.You are also directly, and indirectly, helping the cause of saving the environment and easing the problem of traffic congestion by working from home.

Makes us more creative

Creative works are often produced when we are in a relaxed state. Seldom are works of creative nature produced under pressure-cooker environment. When we are working virtually, we could be in our favorite places. Having lunch in the quiet restaurant round the corner, with a moleskine and pencil, you begin to draft out the storyboard of what will be the beginning of a great plot.
We all need our personal space for discovery to take place. Allow your creative nature to strive in this kind of environment.

Having said that, social interaction is extremely important. It is vital to catch up with one another, update colleagues on the progress. Human interaction is what builds strong relationships. And strong relationship is the fundamental building block of our basic needs. Take some time, drop by the office. It could be anywhere, an informal meetup at your favorite coffee place and bar would suffice.

Working from home is for the minority.
Working from home and office is for the majority.
Working anywhere is the future.

Would we be better off, if we could just wake up and log into our work anywhere?

5 Simple Ways To Be More Creative

Drink alcohol

A little drink helps to increase our creativity, according to recent studies. Alcohol lower of focus, we become less rigid and robot-like. Advertising great David Oligivy revealed that having a brandy or two helped him to write better. I concur. Just don’t be an addict.

Step away from the screen

The best ideas never come to us when we are sitting in the office, with the bosses breathing down our neck. Inspirations strike us when we are least expecting it – dining, showering, drinking. We are not thinking about it, but subconsciously, our mind is processing them and rolling out the good stuffs.

Always carry a notebook and pen

You’ll never know when a spark will come to you. Ideas come and go, and the only way you can refer back to them is to record it down. There are many notebooks out there, and the one I’m carrying is moleskine. It follows me everywhere i go.

Read more

Reading expands your knowledge. Knowledge is power and apply them to your advantage. The more we read, the more we understand. As our understanding in the subject grows, our creations become more interesting and fascinating.

Don’t wait till you know everything to get started

Every project benefits from a series from small starts. If we constantly wait till perfection is attained before we begin, the opportunity is either gone or we will never get started. Perfection’s evil twin is Procrastination. The best advice is to start with whatever we have, and adjust accordingly.

Designers Are Also Problem Solvers

A great designer doesn’t seek to impress. A brilliant designer doesn’t inspire to win awards. The hallmark of a good designer is to solve problems, because they know deep down, designing is providing solutions to existing problems.
We may not know it, designers may not look at themselves that way, but it has always been, and will always remain this way.

More than just looking good

Design is more than just aesthetics, it goes beyond the superficial. It is not just about producing beautiful work. At the heart of every good design is the desire to provide a solution to a need, a problem.

YouTube are booming because we want to have more control over what we watch. Minimalistic sites are getting more prominent because we are sicked of over cluttered designs. Tablets are gaining traction because we want greater interaction between ourselves and the device. Wireless was invented because we don’t want to be restricted by wires.

We don’t design because we want change. We don’t demand changes just for the sake of changing. Designers need to have a clear vision that the newer design will be better than the current one.

Take a leaf out of Apple

Why seek to change something when it doesn’t improve on the current one? Apple didn’t reinvent the wheel with the launch of iphone 5. Aesthetically, the difference is subtle. It’s a little longer, a little thinner, a little lighter. That’s about it. Fans and critics were skeptical about it, citing that there wasn’t any major changes. Many were disappointed.

An apple’s executive said they don’t just roll out a new product, they want to make a better product. If Apple were to make radical changes and roll out a 5-inch screen, the world is going to stand up and take note. It will satisfy the public’s demand for major overhaul, but will it be a better product?

Then came launch day, and the long queues were as anticipated – Long. Those who got their hands on the handset are suitably impressed. The same critics and fans who were disappointed are now raving about the it, some claiming it’s the best phone by Apple yet.

Understand the rationale behind every design

To deliver a solution that holds real value we need a deep understanding of the issues and have a clear vision on how to tackle them. Apple recognize the need for bigger screen, for the phone to be thinner and lighter.

The screen is now bigger, but it doesn’t compromise on the one-hand operation people are used to. The phone is now thinner and lighter so you can chunk it into your pocket without much issue. In the hands of many consumers, the phone feels just “right”.

When it comes to design, it’s about the entire user experience. Beauty without form and functionality is like Ferrari body with a Cherry engine. Everything needs to be in harmony to achieve a fine balance.

Everyone Should Have A Creative File

You have this spark of inspiration that strikes you when you least expected it. You could be showering at the end of a long day, and this sudden burst of thought came popping up in your mind.
You put it away, thinking that you will be able to recall them when you need them. But the fact is, more often than not, we wouldn’t be able to remember the idea.

We are human beings, not a hard disk. We have so many things that happened in our daily lives that we put away many other things. It’s still there, archive somewhere in our brain. Over time, that idea fades away.

Keeping your Ideas together

Most good ideas come into our mind as hunches – small fragments of sparks, hints and notes that will be the foundation of our larger idea. Many of these hunches hang around for months and years before they can be combined with other hunches to form something useful.

The problem with hunches is they are incredibly easy to forget. You are reading this article and suddenly these little sparks of idea appear. The next moment you are on some social networking sites, checking your email, and doing other things. And before you know it, your hunches are gone for good. Even the ones you have managed to retain in your memory don’t really turn out to be useful, and subsequently you lose track of them altogether.

The Spark File

For the past year or so, i have been keeping a Spark File – my lovely moleskine that keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, sketches and anything i write on it. You don’t have to organize your spark file, you just dump all your ideas into them. The rationale is for it to become a central place to store everything, and to get them into words before you forget about them.

The idea of spark file has been around for centuries, probably longer. We write down things we like, we take note of inspirations we have. When we refer back to them one day, these hunches will be the building blocks of something bigger. We need to walk before we can attempt to run. All these hunches are just like baby steps, in preparation for for race ahead.

There are so many note taking software and applications in the market that you could literally get lost inside there. There is no best app, only the ones that is suitable for your needs and style. For me, I’m using Evernote and Workflowy.

Evernote: I use Evernote to exclusively clip articles i find interesting on the web, and when i stumble upon something that arouses my interest, i’ll archive it in Evernote. Clipping it on Evernote is to safeguard my possession, in case the article got taken down for some reason I’d still have a copy in there for me. Evernote can do so much more than storing articles. You can organize your articles into different categories, subdivide them into even deeper hierarchy . The nice thing about Evernote is it syncs your mobile devices and tablets with your PC. No matter where you read about that brilliant idea from, you can instantly store it in your account and retrieve it anywhere.

Workflowy: I use Workflowy as a tool to be more organized, and as a GTD tool. It change my life on how i see things as a whole. It has no hierarchy, it works just like a Spark file. When you finish something, you cross them out. It functions like a giant white board where you can store lots, and lots of things in there. There are so many uses for it, depending on what you want to do with it. Some use it to store their draft, some for To-Do list, the possibilities are endless. What i really like about Workflowy is it does not try to impose any restriction other than getting your words down. In another words, it’s a minimalist’s dream.

When i want to sit down and really start writing, the only application i use will be Zenwriter. It eliminates all the unnecessary stuffs, leaving you with just the words. It’s just like a blank sheet of paper. It may appear overwhelming and unwelcoming at first sight, but once you start writing, you will come to appreciate the simplicity of the design. Nothing else matters here, just you and your words. You can change the different background to switch things up a bit, and they are all very easy on the eyes. The soothing music playing in the background is a bonus. Definitely recommended for all inspiring writers out there. PS: This piece of work was done with Zenwriter.

Good’ old Pen and Paper evoke a special feeling

When it comes down to digital and technology, it’s all about convenience and productivity. Nothing can beat the efficiency of typing words into the word processor, but there’s something special about writing characters on papers.

We have a long tradition dating back centuries in putting ink to paper, and there’s a special feeling using pen to write characters on paper. Wherever i go, i always bring my pen and moleskine with me. It goes with me to work and vocation. There’s always something for me to document in there. It’s small, handy, and sturdy enough to take my rough handling.

Read through your Ideas

Now we are done with the tools used to compile all our ideas, it’s time to move back to talking about the spark file. Every now and then, I’ll pick up my spark files and read through what’s inside. Some of the contents in there might even surprise you. The things which you didn’t realize of its existence will re-surface before your eyes. You would be grateful for all the things you have documented, for it acts as a bridge between the past and present.

It’s interesting to reflect upon your ideas months and years down the road. You would be grateful when the spark file contains ideas on the project you are working on.

The benefits of keeping a spark file doesn’t just limit to writers. Anyone can benefit from having it.

So, go on, start collecting your ideas, curate them, and make them into the lovely spark file that is uniquely yours.

Inspired by the original post by Steven Johnson