The "sort of" Tribute
It's approximately 24 hours after I learned of Steve Jobs death. Let me say, I never met him or knew him personally in any way, but growing up and living in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, it's impossible to say that the cumulative results of his life's work didn't affect me in a profound way.
I was saddened to hear of his death because 1) 56 is *way* too young to die and 2) Pancreatic Cancer has got to be one of the lousiest ways for it to happen. Cancer sucks, after witnessing it attack people I know and love - it completely sucks sweaty chimpanzee balls, and I do hope one day science will kick it in it's said damp testicles... My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family because they didn't lose a CEO or a Tech Celebrity, they lost a Husband, a Dad, a Son....
There's been some wonderful words written about him with accompanying images and videos about his legacy, and how he's touched people. I would recommend you seek them out if for no other reason to sit wide eyed that one person, through tech, altered our world. Some of my favorites can be found here
This guy also wrote a very touching tribute, that I think it hits a lot of items that I also felt about Steve Jobs, the Visionary and how I was rooting for him from afar and the ways his death affected me personally - you can click here for a link to his blog entry on it. You really should read it, I have - several times.
When I reflected yesterday and today about his passing, I kept returning to one thought:
He almost singlehandedly destroyed my business and then rebuilt it all at the same time...
I thought long and hard about that statement, how completely over the top it could appear, that Steve Jobs was the meteor that plummeted to earth and wiped out my prehistoric Land of The Lost bliss...
But the more I really considered the specfics of what my business offers people:
The Core DNA of my offerings is rooted in the Dedicated Touchpanel as the nucleus of everything I design, if you got no touchpanels, bro you got no business...
(It's possible to consider that Jobs might be "big assed meteor 1a" to "Housing Meltdown Meteor 1b" but the fact is they both changed the landscape across the nation and world pretty dang quick.)
So what did he do to me? Well there are three things, one of them is pretty obvious the other two were a bit more subtle but I see more and more the influence his vision has had on me.
#1) January 27, 2010 - Steve Jobs, Touchpanel Slayer - The release of the iPad
On that day all the swirling rumors had come true: Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad and after the first few moments of "Cool!" it was quickly replaced with oh "H-E goddanged Double Hockey Sticks" (I assure you it was far more expletive laced, but you get the idea...)
The minute I saw that device, the specs, the battery life and then the price, I *knew* everything I fundamentally had been doing as a business for the past 20 years changed, and I was potentially screwed. Apple had just walked into the prom, in a better looking tux, looked me up and down, chuckled and then walked off with my date. THEN for good measure it came back and told me to hand over my wallet and it was taking my limo too. Gee Thanks Apple...
It's now barely 19 months later, and only 17 months since the first iPad's shipped and if you look at the AV Industry (or Newspaper Industry, or Book Industry or or or), you tell me of a device that caused such a complete paradigm shift in the fundamental ways we did our business, than that one little piece of shiny hardware. We're talking about Henry Ford / Wright Brothers kind of stuff here. Sure the fanboys will say other people had come up with versions of Apple's offerings before that may have even been better or cheaper - but here's the kicker - he made pretty much everyone on the planet *want* it.
I've got a 15 month old son and 7 year old daughter, to say these kids are tech savvy is a bit of an understatement, but today I spotted one small detail in my son's actions that made me step back and shake my head in amazement. My wife was at her laptop and as is my son's purpose in life, he wanted to mess with whatever she was doing... so he sat in her lap looked at the keys, looked at the laptop screen...
And then he tried to touch and swipe at the icons on the display...
Jobs and his team by hard baking Gestures into everything they do, starting with the iPod Touches and iPhones and then into the iPads, and even now in a roundabout way in their new OSX operating system fundamentally changed the instinctual ways people want to interact with devices.
So much has this permeated our day to day lives, that even if you hand a non Apple device to someone, in a short period of time they've created an environment of interactivity where a user feels that if they can't scroll, swipe, two finger rotate, or pinch and zoon something, then "it must be broken"
For good or ill, Apple was able to do something that no one in AV could do, they trained the general public on what to expect from electronics "simply and intuitively"
#3) The "I've got an App for that" Generation
For decades the Custom part of the Custom Installation industry focused on taking a bunch of disparate devices, and their remote control clutter and in our own form of Electronic Voodoo, create a system where you could do it all with a button press. No jumping around, no more, "press tv input then press power, then press DVD and make sure it's on the component input, then press select, etc etc etc"
We focused on unified control, on a single repository for all your information, stripped down and presented in the "cleanest" of operative matters.
Again, in less than a few years Apple completely changed the psychology of "one button for all" They made the concept of de-centralized controls cool. Got a TV, there's an app for that... Lights... App for that... DVD Jukebox... App for that. Want to check your email and browse the web in between commercials? App for that.
Now I know that this will draw the ire of the Custom AV purists (and a lot of control system manufacturers) out there, that we're dumbing down the process or making it worse and contributing to the mass ADHD predilections of the general public. But you know what... people are doing it anyway. Pick an AV manufacturer that would look you in the eye and say "never gonna happen" if you asked them "Do you have an iPad App for that"
Steve Jobs - Gamechanger...
So what did I do? I learned not to fight Apple on this one, I learned to partner with them. I changed my entire approach from a hardware driven, really expensive and instantly obsolete touch sensitive device, towards a more nimble, upgradeable and transferrable software approach. We focused on the experience people are telling us they want, to match the experiences they already have with their existing media.
Time will tell how good or bad we're doing it but the one constant in life is change, and Steve Jobs for whatever you want to say about him at least changed *my* world.
So, with all heartfelt sincerity, thank you Steve.
You will be missed...
Let me start with a relatively simple statement:
I think I'm a pretty nice, happy guy...
Now maybe it's a California laid back thing, maybe it's my immigrant family upbringings, maybe it's just the environment that I have been fortunate to operate under, and the love and support of my wife and kids. But for the most part most people who know me or get to know me are pretty much in agreement about this.
I also wholeheartedly believe that there's a place to be a nice guy in the AV Business where you can:
1) Do the right thing by your employees, clients, people you work with on a project, and *still* run a successful, profitable business.
2) Operate in the spirit of win-win and have it actually occur, creating opportunities in learning and collaborating and just plain getting along with people in whatever you do.
3) Still be seen as a successful professional and knowledgeable without having to resort to name calling, denigrating other's skills sets, or otherwise launching into infantile tirades about how everyone does it wrong except for you...
Now that I've got that out of the way on what I feel, let me tell you what happened and ruffled my feathers and prompted me to write:
This is a story anyone who's ever posted a comment or read an article online has had, I am not the lonely little flower bending in the wind over this...
It's pretty common knowledge that on the internet, you can go to any online publication or website and an article contains all sorts of random comments and the usual posturing and overall Lord of the Flies free for all, just as sure as your email inbox will overflow with great deals on prescription meds and promises of riches that are waiting for you in some subsaharan continent (just as soon as you send your bank info), this is just internet fact.
Now, I get that, the beauty of the internet at times is the anonymity that allows people to express themselves in the way they feel they have the right to, unfiltered and unfined. If you produce your work for the public, the public will sometimes respond in ways that you either didn't expect or didn't like - on that point I totally agree that you should probably just suck it up, buttercup.
So the other day, I put up an item up for discussion on my Google+ account, and yes I left it Public, meaning that anyone can comment on it (And I refuse to believe that doing that was my first mistake in all of this). This discussion was about a real problem that some AV Integrators are facing that affects their business model, making money and just staying in business, period...
Pretty harmless stuff one would think right? I made a request to make it relevant to share solutions and *not* make it about you. It started out with a lot of good info and what I felt was some genuine information sharing and peers helping one another - some call it "Reach One, Teach One"
The part that made me step back was how at one point what started as a seemingly positive discussion spiraled into vitriol, venom and being an internet know it all...
Why this issue came up, was that I wasn't writing an article, it wasn't in a publication. This was a personal post for discussion on *my* Google+ profile, and in there I run into someone who in the context of social/internet media appears to be that total Parallel Evil Universe Capt. Kirk to...my...deliberately...smiling...syncopated....speech....self...
Now we all have business that we either work for, or own, and we all have differing views on *how* we should be running our businesses. That's pretty basic stuff.
When further examining this, and weighing it against how I operate in that when engaged in the vast expanse of Social Media, I came to one simple conclusion:
No matter how you try to defend it, I just don't like rude people, at all...
The internet and people's ideas of "brutal honesty" or opinion mongering is a load of crap. A bully is a bully is a bully, more so when it's done from a cyber distance. You're not being honest, you're just trying to use the phrase to veil that you don't care what other people think, you just *HAVE* to make sure that people know what you think, and the rest is actually irrelevant to you.
(By the way if you use a statement that starts with "Now I have an open mind, but...." Then you don't have an open mind, you're actually quite closed minded and just lying to yourself and us in an effort to make it seem like you care - in order to try yet another end around for why you're right and we're wrong. Dude, just stop it... seriously...)
Now ultimately, as much as I was ruffled for *quite* a few minutes (in fact it prompted me to shut off the computer and just go play with my kid - so there was a lot of positives in that), once I had a moment to really reflect on it the next day, I was surprised over how I ended up feeling:
It saddened me...
The acutal good kernels of information that this person posted was completely lost in his incessant need to be antagonistic in what pretty much amounted to "If you see it any other way than I do, then my swearning and name calling will reinforce how much of an idiot you are"
It saddened me because I genuinely enjoy open dialogue, like I *really* enjoy the exchange of information where I walk away going, "man, I'm glad I had a chance to experience this person and get some really valuable stuff"
I walked away this time going "what a douchebag" and the pity is, I don't know this person, for all I know they might be great people to their kids, their dog, their community. All I'm left with at this point is a potential fundamental dislike for someone because.... well just because... And in some respects, I'm the poorer for it because I bet there would have been
some great info to share in the future.
So now what?
Well the defacto answer always is "ignore the people that don't matter to you" and yeah that's a pretty simple and ultimately stress free approach, and generally I try to abide by it.
But sometimes you just can't ignore it, sometimes you have to step forward and call it out for what it is, to remind people that no, acting like this isn't ok, and it's never been ok, the fact that you're on a computer doesn't change that and that there's never really any reasons to operate without the precepts of Grace, Courtesy and Poise.
Just be excellent to each other dudes, I know I'll try hard to do my part...