Two Seconds a Day in January 2019

Toward the end of my photo a day project in 2015, several people asked me if I was going to do it again in 2016. “Heck, no!” I responded. That project meant a lot to me (still does), and I loved doing it, but it was a lot of work, it took up a lot of mental and emotional headspace, and I was burned out on sharing.

Still, once you get into the habit of making, it’s hard to break. It just feels good to make something every day, to watch a little bit of incremental effort become a body of work. And it’s especially nice when it serves as a kind of journal of your life.

Even though I was saying no to doing another 365 photo project, I had started toying with the idea of doing a one second of video a day project. I had seen a few of these floating around on the Internet, and I was amazed by how much a single second of video could capture.

I started playing around with this at the beginning of 2016 and didn’t even get through a week. Over the next few years, I tinkered with other daily project ideas, but wasn’t motivated enough to do one.

I decided to revisit the one second a day idea this month. You can see the results above. I started with one second a day, and really liked it, but when I showed it to others, they said it was too fast. I decided to go with two seconds instead, and I like it even better.

Doing this was much less stressful than my 365 ever was. First, it was only 31 days. I might do another month, but I haven’t decided yet. Second, I’m not sharing every day. Third, video is much more forgiving than photography. You get two more dimensions — movement and sound — to capture something interesting. Fourth, I don’t care that much about getting good at video right now. I’m just playing, which is pretty liberating.

That said, I’m slightly more primed to capture video than I was three years ago. I’ve been inspired by several friends and colleagues (and, in some cases, their kids) who often produce simple, but really fun and compelling videos. My experience with photography helps. I also read Walter Murch’s outstanding, In the Blink of an Eye, a few years ago, and it made me see video in a whole different light. Finally, the 1 Second Everyday app makes it super easy to compile and edit your videos. (The iOS version is superb. Sadly, the Android version is terrible.)

Using my iPad Pro as my Primary Computing Device: Day 1

On Saturday, I sent my MacBook Pro in to get its keyboard repaired. Because my Hackintosh died late last year and I decided to keep things simple, I will be without a computer for two weeks for the first time in my professional life.

Boo hoo, right?

Ten or even five years ago, this would have been a big problem, but in this age of advanced mobile devices, it should be okay, at least in theory. I have a first-generation iPad Pro 9.7 with keyboard and Pencil, and I enjoy it very much. I use it a lot for sketching (via Paper) and writing (via Bear and Ulysses). Because my iPad does not let me multitask as easily as on my laptop, I’m able to focus more, which is great for reflecting and writing. Everything syncs to the cloud instantaneously, meaning I can access this data on my laptop immediately.

The iPad has limitations that make it difficult for me to replace my laptop entirely. For example, G Suite does not play that well with the iPad. I can’t ALT-TAB between different documents, the mobile versions of the app have limited functionality, and I haven’t figured out how to easily use the desktop versions of the app via Chrome.

It’s all good… until you no longer have access to your laptop. I timed my repair (which will take 1-2 weeks) to when I figured it would be least inconvenient, and I’m making a go of using my iPad as my primary computing device in the meantime. Here’s what I’m learning so far:

  • My bag is much lighter!
  • Writing blog posts via the WordPress app works quite well!
  • I can’t easily print from my iPad to my 2011 Brother printer. Exploring options now.
  • I’m not sure how well conferencing via Zoom will work. At minimum, I usually take notes while I’m on Zoom, and I often use its more advanced features, such as screen-sharing and breakout groups. I’m not planning on doing the latter on any upcoming calls, but it’s a good opportunity just to see if any of this is possible.

We’ll see how this all goes.

Etymology of “Conspire”

Gail Taylor is doing exciting new things with Tomorrow Makers and is seeking conspirators. Going through the new website today, I learned:

To conspire, in its literal sense, means “to breathe together.” It is an intimate joining.

Here’s what Google has to say about the etymology of “conspire”:

Here’s something I wrote on Faster Than 20 a few years ago about literally breathing together when collaborating.

Google Maps Timeline: Interesting or Valuable?

I was at a dinner party last night where a friend was talking about his Google Maps Timeline year-end report. Another friend asked:

Do you find it interesting or valuable?

This is a very good question to ask about technology in general.

Personally, I find Google Maps Timeline interesting, but not valuable. It’s generally interesting as journal. I’d love to import a static copy of the data automatically into Day One or other journaling software. (Lazy Web, has anyone done this already?)

Using it to track movement is interesting and potentially valuable. In 2018, I traveled 27,711 miles total, about one time around the world. I walked a bit less than a mile a day averaging 2.25 miles / hour — not as much or as fast as I would have liked. Tracking this data more regularly might encourage me to move more, but fitness trackers provide this same data in less creepy ways.

More valuable is the transit information. In 2018, I spent over 21 days on some sort of ground transportation for a total of 9,575 miles, about 26 miles / day. This was surprising for someone who works from home at least twice a week and sobering from the perspective of someone who cares about carbon emissions. That said, I don’t know that trying to optimize these totals further is very valuable. I already take lots of public transportation, carpool when I can, and drive a Prius. I could lower my carbon footprint much more dramatically by changing my diet.

I’m not sure whether Google Maps Timeline will ever be valuable for me individually. However, I do think Google makes this data valuable for me in aggregate. For example, Google is able to tell me the average wait time at my favorite coffee shops and restaurants. I could imagine this data in aggregate could be very valuable for urban planning. I would like for it to be used this way, and would be happy to give this data to someone if I trusted they would use it in useful and also ethical ways.

And there’s the rub. We still don’t have good, trusted agreements between organizations and individuals. I don’t trust the government to handle my data competently — to anonymize it appropriately, to store it securely, etc. — or to put it to good use. I trust Google to put it to good use, but I am very skeptical that they will use it ethically. That said, I trust Google a lot more than most companies, which is also potentially misguided.

Way back in the day, I did some work on these kinds of issues in community with good folks like Phil Windley, Doc Searls, and Identity Woman. Aman Ahuja and his friends at the Data Guild have also done a lot of good thinking around ethical guidelines for using data. I’m heartened by the work they’re all doing. If you know of others doing great work in this space, please share in the comments below. Be specific — what is the problem they’re tackling, and how are they going about it?

Managing Complexity: Exploring the Cockpit of a 1960s F-5 Fighter Jet

The other day, I visited the Western Museum of Flight with my friend, Ed. It’s a tiny, volunteer-run museum next to Zamperini Field in Torrance, California, and it boasts several original prototypes of some iconic fighter jets, which I enjoyed seeing. But the surprising highlight of the visit for me was sitting in the cockpit of an F-5.

I was largely apathetic about the F-5 at first. It’s an older jet (first deployed in the early 1960s), and it was mostly an export and training plane. However, it was the only plane where we got to go into the cockpit, and I had never sat in the cockpit of any fighter jet before.

My first reaction was surprise at how comfortable it was in there. Much better than my office chair! (I need to get a new office chair.)

My second reaction was overwhelm. Take a look at this instrument panel:

Here’s a more dynamic view:

That’s a whole lot of dials and buttons and levers to track, all while flying at the speed of the sound and dogfighting with other fighters. I felt awe and appreciation for the pilots, who somehow were able to monitor all of this complexity in real-time.

After I got over my initial overwhelm, I took a closer look. To my surprise, everything seemed to make sense. Dials and buttons were clearly labeled. Color-coding helped me quickly figure out which buttons I should avoid. The buttons and switches felt good when I pressed and flipped them — not enough resistance to be hard, but enough to feel solid and high-quality. It doesn’t hide the complexity, but it makes it manageable, even enjoyable. Look more closely at the weapons panel on the lower left:

Notice the diagrams and descriptions. Notice the spacing — dense, but comfortable.

When you think about it, of course the inside is well-designed. A jet is a high-performance device, and the pilot’s life literally depends on their ability to process massive amounts of complexity in real-time. Still, I found the design inspiring. I wish all of my dashboards were designed as well.

Here’s a more zoomed out look at what it’s like to sit in the cockpit, along with some additional commentary: