Currently there is a technology press dog pile on the supposed failure of the Apple watch that similar to their proclamations of the iPod and iPhone on their first birthdays. I'm not terribly interested in these proclamations - it is far too early. But as technology becomes more personal and persistent, new questions arise. Unlike the iPod and iPhone, the current incarnation of the watch didn't work for me, but there is so much that can be done. Jheri and I have a running conversation on fashion and technology. She has an extremely strong personal style and a deep interest in the history of fashion. I knew she was critical of the watch, so I asked for more detail. Her reply was interesting enough to share:
Oh the watch! I do wear a watch. My great grandfather's gold pocket watch has seen much and has stories. I look at it and imagine Belarus and my heritage. It is on a large strap I made and I enjoy its company even if it doesn't keep great time. I pick my bag to complement it. It is very much part of me.
I was loaned an Apple watch soon after it was available along with a several colors of sport bands that weren't for sale. Its case is beautifully built and I like the feel of the sport band, but the shape isn't my style. To be constantly with me it needs to be so brilliant that I will overlook the style. It wasn't brilliant.
The watch was not like my iMac, Macbook, iPad and iPhone. I tried it for a few weeks but it was confusing and slow. It didn't show its face quickly enough when I moved my wrist to my face. It will get faster in later generations. A watch needs to convince me to wear it. This one went back.
I run and cycle but don't use Fitbits. Motivation is not an issue with me. I run in the ice, snow, rain and dark when I'm at home and traveling. I was given a Fitbit that lasted about nine months before it failed. It didn't match my needs and I ended up forgetting it most of the time. The Apple watch has fitness apps, but they don't match my needs. I did check it against the Polar chest heart monitor that I sometimes use for indoor aerobics. Its reading was very different. My trainer and physician claim the Polar is very accurate. Apple will probably improve it, but there isn't anything for me now.
The applications were mostly useless. A friend says it is great for alerts, but my view is different. I want to control when and how I use technology.
A few weeks ago you said you no longer believed the best camera is the one you have with you. You went on to say the best camera for some people like new parents may be an always there smartphone and some people take great images with them, but you needed to stop taking snapshots and start relearning how to see images. Yes! that is so right! I carry an iPhone, but have stopped photographing and posting everything. I'm learning how to use my medium format camera. You are forced to think about the image and these images become stories. They aren't poorly composed photos of the moment that are lost with 40,000 other poorly made photos.
I need time to myself and those wanting to get in touch with me can wait. My phone goes deep in my bag when I walk and is off most of the day. I'm not tempted by social media anymore. The watch was taking the distractions from my bag and putting them on my wrist. People who want constant connection will love that, but for me notifications can wait.
I think I react to seeing so many of those around me fail at the real world. Even if they aren't looking at their phone, their wrist says something and their mind leaves the world for awhile. I consider it rude when you are talking with someone and they check their phone or look at a notification on their wrist.
My grandfather's watch is not in any danger. I wonder what new technology I will allow into my life. If it is to work I want to be the one who allows it.
The end of Jheri's comment remind me of a very productive coworker at Bell Labs in the mid 1980s. If you called her you'd get her answering machine:
Hello, this is Pat. I don't use the telephone except from one to one thirty Eastern time. If you need to reach me my email is: (a bangpath on a public unix machine - not her research machine). I will check that when I come to work and when I leave. You can usually find me in the Unix room.
People don't multitask well - rather we switch context. You're working on something and the phone rings. You have to switch your mental state for awhile and then switch back to where you were. A good deal of research shows this switching often requires ten minutes or longer - much longer if you were deep in thought. There was a tradition in my first Bell Labs laboratory of declaring a half day period when your phone went quiet and you indicated if someone could knock on your door by a colored flag. Having several hours straight to thing alone or work with others of your choice was very powerful. When I moved to a different organization I began to come in at five in the morning to give myself a few uninterrupted hours. Interruptions from a smartphone or watch are an issue for some. Control and context are necessary.
What does Jheri expect of something as immediate and persistent as something on her wrist? What function, interface and design would be enough to displace the bit of family history that has become part of her style? Perhaps her phone will be her mostly persistent device for a long time. Wearable compute power will change, but perhaps not as quickly as some think. Interfaces will have to change. I also tried an Apple watch and found it a mixed bag. It wasn't enough to match my needs, so it is gone.1 In fairness I note that satisfaction surveys indicate people who own Apple watches like them a lot.
The need and willingness to be interrupted are a central theme. Ideally the information needs to be understood and appropriate in the context of what you are doing. At one point some of the people in my department studied how high level executives dealt with information. The conclusion was these people are so well served by their administrative assistants that any electronic aid of the time would be counterproductive. The best assistants were very high quality information filters and organizers. Building something like them is difficult and gets even more complex if you aren't king of your domain.
Will status be measured by your ability to control your filters and the access others have to you? Will it be your freedom to shut things down and be unconnected?
For a few years I've been going through a phase of limiting technology like Jheri to focus my thinking. It is great to know that I have capabilities I only dreamed off ten years ago, but I'm learning life works better for me if I limit their use. I suspect this is uncommon, but I've seen a few others, include at least two readers, doing the same thing. Smartphones are changing our lives and a view into almost persistent computing and communication. Wearables will only extend that and, as such, are fascinating. The notion that fashion and style are involved deepens the puzzle.
1 There will clearly be performance improvements. Perhaps not as much as we've seen in smartphones given the battery constraint and the fact die shrinks won't be as dramatic, but there will still be improvements here and perhaps in other power hungry components. Interfaces are much more difficult to get right. I'm very curious to see if major changes are afoot at Apple or any of the competitors. And, at least for me, there is no compelling application I need to have. It is clear there will be many use cases and polarized views.
Much of the Internet of Things may turn into a nightmare of badness. I continue to believe the Apple watch has potential to tame some of this as a trusted connection to other local devices and possibly services. There is also a great deal of untapped potential for smartphones. We're at a very early stage and thinking of smartphones as mature is a mistake.
I love humus and peanuts - so I combined them. This is really simple. I heated it up with a bit of Sriracha that was sitting around. Vary that and the amount of peanuts to match your taste. A trick when blending hummus in a food processor is to use very cold water.
° a 15 oz can of chickpeas rinsed and drained
° 3 tbl of peanut butter
° 1+ tbl Sriracha (1 is mild .. getting to 3+ gets very hot. I used 2)
° 2 medium garlic cloves minced
° 1/4 tsp ground ginger
° 1/2 tsp honey
° 1 tbl olive oil
° 3 tbl very cold water (maybe a bit more depending on consistency)
° a handful of roughly chopped peanuts - I used salted, but unsalted would be fine
° 2 chopped green onions chopped
° a handful of chopped
° lime juice - some zest if you like
° put the chickpeas, PB, Sriracha, ginger, garlic, honey and salt and pepper into the food processor and run until broken up
° with the processor running slowly add the olive oil and cold water until as smooth as you like. Move to a suitable bowl
° adjust the seasoning and
° mix in the green onions, peanuts and cilantro
° serve with a bit of lime juice and maybe zest