Happy Sunday, everyone! I have slowly (and unintentionally) slipped into “summer mode.” I have been working only a little and reading quite a lot. Last week, I also met Ken Kocienda, a former Apple software engineer and designer, to talk about art, life, photography, and watches. 

I didn’t spend as much time on Twitter (either perusing or tweeting), so there isn’t a “Tweek” wrap-up for the week. But several articles caught my eye that I probably would have tweeted, and here they are: 

Vinyl Is More Popular Than Ever. Surprisingly, That’s a Problem

During the pandemic, vinyl sales in the U.S. exploded, growing 28.7% in 2020 to $626 million, even beating out CD revenues of $483 million. Vinyl sales have been growing steadily over the years. Everyone (and I mean everyone) is making and selling vinyl records, including Target and Walmart. The annual demand for vinyl is between 320-400 million albums, while the total manufacturing capacity is 160 million albums per year. That is a problem for small labels. And to think, we are in the golden age of streaming — even hi-res streaming! By the way, streaming revenues were up 13.4% to $10.1 billion in 2020.

Back to the Bad Old Days of the Web – Jorge Arango

Indeed, the bad old days of browser wars and conflicting corporate interests are back. 

NFT sales volume surges to $2.5 bln in 2021 first half 

Yes, crypto is hot. NFT is hotter. So is the planet. 

You really need to quit Twitter.

You might have already read this article. It is excellent writing and a good post for everyone to share. It was hard, but I got off Facebook and Instagram, and I even managed to limit my Twitter usage to less than 30 minutes a day. If you are a grown-up (like the author of this piece seems to be), you need to know how to exercise self-control and fight off the addictive tendencies that drive so much social media usage. 

Individuals Now Spend More Time On TikTok Than YouTube, Facebook, Netflix

In a recent report, App Annie, a mobile research and analytics company, points out that the average U.S. android user spent 24.5 hours per month on TikTok, compared with 22 hours on YouTube and 17.5 hours on Facebook. Like I’ve said before, TikTok is coming for YouTube in a big way. 

So Much Money Everywhere

Dan Primack notes many all-time records set in techlandia during the first half of 2021: 

  • VC dollars invested: $288bn 
  • VC dollars invested in U.S. startups: $140bn 
  • Startups sold: $232bn 
  • 410 companies went public (Thanks, SPACs) 
  • 5,248 PE/VC funds looking for $900bn

[Actually, I did tweet this one 🙂 ]

Walkover

I didn’t think the principled India of 1974 described in this article ever existed. That’s just one thing that makes this story so incredible. 

July 11, 2021, San Francisco

Social media is a mirage. More often than not, what you see or experience is not reality. But every now and then, you come across authenticity, and you are reminded of the goodness of the Internet. Like yesterday, after following him for years, I met up with former Apple software engineer and designer extraordinaire, Ken Kocienda. Unsurprisingly, I found it easy to have a conversation with him — his tone and his way of discussing things he cares about are pretty much the same in real life as they are in his tweets. Though in real life, he is even more eloquently expansive.

We had a nice simple lunch, sitting outside Flour & Water Pasta Shop, and we talked about everything except what he did at Apple and what he does at the highly anticipated and exciting stealth mode company, Humane. We spent a significant amount of time discussing our love of watches and photography. Ken shared with me about this time studying photography at Yale and what he learned there. One of his professors — the name slips my mind now — told him that lived experiences are what really allow you to make photos from your heart and mind. A full life is a key to visual transcendence.

And then he asked me a question no one has ever asked before (and that I have never bothered to ask myself): what is my photography? Is it a moment? Is it a memory? Is it an artifact? Is it art? Stumped by the question, the best answer I could come up with was that my photography is an expression of what I am feeling at that moment. It was a tremendous example of the value of IRL interactions, which provide such powerful, unexpected opportunities for thought and reflection.

Another topic we touched on that I still find myself mulling over was the idea of living with the weight of a legacy. Success should help free one from the various chokeholds of life. Instead, ironically, it can force us into a trap of perfection, when often all we should be considering is hitting the big reset button. 

Our conversation, while meandering, often returned to our common passion for “stories” and how they define our interactions with products, places, and people. For instance, I told Ken about my early love for German watchmaker Nomos, and the Bradley Price watch startup, Autodromo. (Read my interview with Price.) He told me about Erika’s straps, his love of the 1970s watches, and his affinity for independent and obscure upstart brands. 

The lunch went by too fast. As a parting gift, Ken gave me a signed copy of his book, Creative Selection. I look forward to reading it and learning about his journey toward two products he worked on that touch billions of people everyday: the iPhone and the WebKit. But the real gift was the conversation, held over a small table with some good food. Highly recommended.

Ken wrote about our lunch on his blog as well.

July 8, 2021. San Francisco.

Seven years ago, when traveling to Italy, I experienced the vagaries of data and its weird, unimaginative influence on our lives. Since then, the absurdity of what data-driven intelligence throws at us on a daily basis has increased exponentially. I wrote about it in an essay, 40 kilometers. It was part of a series of essays I wrote about data, its implications, and the emergence of limited-intelligence algorithms. If you are interested, here are some links to those articles in my archives.

Somehow that article, 40 kilometers, from seven years, ended up in the email inbox of my good friend Steve Crandall, who wrote a wonderful email reply in response. I thought it would be worth sharing and asked for his permission. Here it is:


The ‘data-driven world that we find all around us has little to do with science where data is highly contextualized and serendipity is welcomed and even hunted.  I think the notion of art is will be, or at least should be, important.

Operating as a simple person I like to make a distinction between awe and wonder. Both have multiple definitions, so I use my own.  Awe is a feeling of overwhelming majesty or even fear that seems to be beyond what we can understand or control. Wonder is a deep feeling of curiosity that leads to questions that can be addressed.  It’s scale may be big or small, but it can be consuming at any scale.  

Wonder is what I’m after and some of the paths have been decades long.  As a student in Pasadena I’d go on a long bike ride down to one of the beaches with the cycling club once or twice a month.  Being wasted from the ride and contemplating a more strenuous return I’d get lost watching gulls or the waves and surf.  I’d wonder about waves and that led me down a few paths.  The path I was taking wouldn’t naturally bump into fluid dynamics, but I started learning about the Navier-Stokes equation .. core in the study of fluid dynamics.  There were people to talk to and papers to read. The equations look simple, but are usually too difficult to solve analytically or exactly numerically in most real-world cases.  You learn tricks and the importance of the Reynolds Number as a guide for cheating.  I started to understand why the waves were doing what they did, but that led to other questions including the gulls.   

A few decades later I did some work on the flight of sports balls – particularly volleyballs as they’re one of the most interesting cases and that led to a friendship with Sarah Pavan and talks so far from my world that new sets of questions and thoughts sparkled into being.  Those waves were a long-term serendipity gateway and there have been dozens more.  I don’t know if a computer can help me in the wonder and initial serendipity part, but computer mediated communication, and synchronous is often the best kind, has certainly been an amplifier. So much of it is finding and bringing other wondering minds to the dance.


Steve’s right — what we called data-driven intelligence is not really intelligence. Instead, it is a somewhat simplistic rendering of the conclusions from the data. It lacks the ever-changing context and serendipity — something I experienced on that long drive to Siena.

July 7, 2021, San Francisco

Read article on Om.co: 40 Kilometers

Glacier View, Sutton: Leica SL 601. Leica 90-280 mm SL Vario lens. Focal Length 95mm. Aperture: f3.5. Exposure Time: 1/500th of a second.

Chris Michel, a good friend, and a photography mentor, recently told me that he is editing photos if he is not doing anything. He is always looking to make sure his library is not clogged with unfinished files. Given the daily frequency with which he captures photos, it makes perfect sense.

I should listen to him. I go on landscape journeys, come back and forget about the photos. Sure, I like to sit on the images, but maybe it is not such a good idea. I was thinking about Chris this morning when I was cleaning my office space and came across many old memory cards that were chock-full of photos from a 2018 visit to Alaska.

Three and a half years later, I can tell these images don’t fit into what I seek in my images today. Still, I feel I was taking steps in the right direction. And that is why I should have edited these images. Instead, I never downloaded any of those photos onto my computer. I did find three negatives that were worth an edit. I used Adobe Photoshop to “enhance the originals,” and then cropped them to give them a bit more balance. They are a good reminder of why I love Alaska so much.

Chris is so right — if you don’t get to editing sooner, you leave many moments behind — forgotten, gathering dust. I hope you enjoy these three images. Have a good week ahead, everyone!

July 5, 2021. San Francisco

Glacier View, Sutton: Leica SL 601. Leica 90-280mm SL Vario lens. Focal Length 198mm. Aperture: f8. Exposure Time: 1/10th of a second.
Knik River, Palmer: Leica SL 601. Leica 24-90 mm SL Vario lens. Focal Length 75mm. Aperture: f22. Exposure Time: 30 seconds.
white and black cat sketch
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Marc Weidenbaum (through his blog) taught me about taking a purposeful approach to Twitter and how tweets should seamlessly fit into my flow and thinking. So, I aggregate (some) my tweets from this week. It allows me to remember what I was thinking about during this specific time. It also allows me to correct my grammar and spelling. Follow me on Twitter @Om

July 3: After “block” and “mute,” it is time for @Twitter to consider “showing less tweets” aka “lower the volume” option on certain accounts. I mean, not everything they say is amazing. Show me the important bits. I mean since we are pushing aside the “live” stream to the side a bit. Actually “block” and “mute” have been really useful when it comes to enhancing the experience! The thread with responses is useful.

July 3: Why does @tiktok_us need to do boost video length to 3 minutes? Simple to eat @YouTube for lunch, stop people leaving to watch music videos. TikTok drives mega traffic to YT & @spotify It is a major power move! 3 minutes are the new 280 characters. Link.

July 2: Global shipments of virtual reality (VR) headsets grew 52.4% in 1Q21, says IDC. Standalone headsets such as the Oculus Quest 2 or the HTC Vive Focus accounted for the vast majority of shipments — 82.7% share during the quarter, up from 50.5% 1Q2020.


July 2: Cleaning my papers, came across notes from 10 years ago, where @colsey  & I discussed smart TVs, Netflix, HDMI 2.0, h.265, 4K video streams & how compression gains aren’t going to break the broadband. Interesting points about @Chromecastas a media receiver vs. cable-set-top boxes!


July 2: Well, there is one way for @googlecloud to get attention, if not steal customers away from @awscloud @Azure via Reddit


July 1: It seems like @ATT Hollywood misadventure now prevents from doing any real infrastructure work. Ma Bell is shifting the existing 5G mobile core network to @AzureMicrosoft gets IP/Talent. Ma Bell can now focus on its core value prop: shitty carrier.


June 29: Elsewhere: the US is boiling. And this is summer in San Francisco. 

San Francisco Summer. Made with iPhone 12 ProMax (Adobe Enhanced)

June 28: The more I shop for non-Amazon online stores, the more I realize the massive logistics lead Amazon (@amazon) has over its rivals. You pay more to get things slowly if you want to shun @amazon actively. My shopping experience with, e.g., @Bookshop_Org @BestBuy has been less than average.


June 28: I wonder how many people think about Lotus these days. I was a seminal company, and not just for making software. Lotus, started by Mitch Kapor (@mkapor), championed gay rights during the AIDS crisis. IEEE Spectrum (@IEEESpectrum) has a great read.