I returned from a quick trip to London on the day of Thanksgiving, thus missing the bonhomie of the weekend. While I did miss the slices of pie, it was good to spend the time watching The Silence of Water on PBS Masterpiece (via Amazon Prime.) The Italian crime show is beautiful in location, cinematography, and acting. And despite having to follow the subtitles, it is worth binging. 

The show was an excellent way to stay away from the incessant come-hither siren call of Black Friday — a disease that has also spread to the United Kingdom. I used the opportunity to stock up on memory cards, but that’s all. For the rest of America — despite economic doldrums, it seems to be the season of shop till you drop. I call this the consumerism curse.

The long weekend was also a good time to reflect and read. 

What I am reading

Amazon was losing $10 billion a year on its Alexa business. Google, too needs to learn how to make its voice-interface business profitable. And Apple’s Siri is not going anywhere as, well. So what is the future of voice interfaces in this era of economic frugality

Talking about Apple is becoming an ad company. On its blog, Proton, the privacy company, breaks down how Apple’s tracking works. I, for one, am disgusted by this direction taken by Apple. (Related: The golden noose around Apple’s neck.)

If you are struggling with the whole FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s shenanigans, here is a very easy-to-understand explainer of how the whole con worked. Alex Tabarrok has done a good job, and worth a read. 

On the other end of the spectrum is a breakdown of the disaster that was FTX by an accomplished finance professor who digs into the intricacies of the con.(https://www.coindesk.com/)

Ken Kocienda, a former Apple user experience guru, breaks down the design and user experience challenges of Elon Musk’s proposed changes to Twitter’s verification systems. The whole piece is worth reading

Given all the obsession with Twitter, we must remember that the new generation of Internet natives doesn’t care much about the platform or its peer Facebook. For them, it is all about YouTube and TikTok

The A to Z of climate change by Elizabeth Kolbert is the most sobering piece I have read this weekend, and it is an important reminder of the existential threat we are facing as a collective. 

November 27, 2022. 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.