On wishing for boredom

This is not a post about Steve Jobs. I read enough of them in the days and weeks af­ter his death. I read in these a lot of what I al­ready knew and learned some new stuff for sure, but one Steve quote stood out to me in Wired’s obit­u­ary:

I’m a big be­liev­er in bore­dom,” he told me. Boredom al­lows one to in­dulge in cu­rios­i­ty, he ex­plained, and “out of cu­rios­i­ty comes every­thing.”

I’m not sure if I’d head this quote from him be­fore, but it put in­to words some­thing that has been trou­bling me for some time: I haven’t been bored in years.

The first time I no­ticed this was in the mid-2000s, and  I on­ly re­al­ized part of it, and I saw it through the lens of my Internet us­age, par­tic­u­lar­ly RSS. Even to­day, as the cool kids have moved on to fol­low­ing Twitter feeds (re­al­ly, talk about a step back­wards) of web­sites and blogs they find in­ter­est­ing, I’m still a huge fan of the no-bullshit, user-in-control, de­cen­tral­ized pow­er of RSS.1

What oc­curred to me back then was that hav­ing posts pushed to me dai­ly gave me more read­ing ma­te­r­i­al than I need­ed. And since I could nev­er get all the way through the un­read glut of posts from blogs I’d sub­scribed to, my need to ever go for­ag­ing for in­ter­est­ing things to read ba­si­cal­ly dis­ap­peared. RSS gave me tons of serendip­i­ty (thank you, linkblogs!)… and at the same time, prac­ti­cal­ly none at all. I miss the old days — some would say the bad old days — when I’d get my on­line en­ter­tain­ment and ran­dom bits of en­light­en­ment by brows­ing aim­less­ly from link to link, be­ing per­son­al­ly point­ed to in­ter­est­ing things by friends on AIM, fol­low­ing lat­est links post­ed to proto-blogs like Pixelsurgeon, and… I don’t know, how­ev­er else we found cool shit back then.

The sec­ond time I felt this ef­fect of this was at some point over the last few years, but this time in a more gen­er­al sense. This time it was big­ger than RSS; this time it was about every­thing in my life.

I re­al­ized I have far too many op­tions for en­ter­tain­ment. There are two rea­sons for this: mas­sive dig­i­tal stor­age de­vices and the fact that, be­ing em­ployed gives me an ac­tu­al en­ter­tain­ment bud­get for pur­chas­ing paid me­dia and fan­cy de­vices on which to ex­pe­ri­ence it. Between a pile of un­read books and bunch of e-books; more un­watched movies, sea­sons of old TV shows and ani­me se­ries than I can name; and games ga­lore that I’ll nev­er fin­ish (thank you Nintendo Wii and DS, Android phone and a still-kickin’ Atari 2600), I’m pret­ty much set for… for­ev­er.2 Even if I don’t seek out any­thing new, it’ll be years and years be­fore I get through all of this. And it’s not like I can just ig­nore new re­leas­es and stuff I be­come aware of in the mean­time!

I might be able to en­joy this world o’ plen­ty, if I could for­get about what life was like when I was grow­ing up, be­fore we had the com­put­ing pow­er, stor­age and net­work ca­pac­i­ty to ex­pe­ri­ence all the dig­i­tal rich­es of more en­ter­tain­ment than we’ll ever need. I spent so much time be­ing bored grow­ing up, aim­less­ly think­ing and day­dream­ing and such. This was be­fore my first com­put­er; I had tons of books and had prob­a­bly read al­most all of them, made good use of the pub­lic li­brary, played with toys, ac­tion fig­ures and stuff a whole lot and still found time to be bored and day­dream be­cause it seemed like I had run out of things to do.

If you live a sim­i­lar­ly full, media-rich and em­ployed first-world life, and can still ever find your­self so lux­u­ri­ous­ly bored, how do you man­age? And can you teach me?

  1. Google Reader, please don’t die.
  2. I didn’t men­tion mu­sic here, be­cause the way I con­sume mu­sic is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I still clear­ly have more than I “need,” but I don’t feel the same sort of pres­sure to get through it all, thanks to shuf­fle mode.

Steve Jobs on unintended uses of tools

A choice quote from an all-around in­ter­est­ing in­ter­view:

The point is that tools are al­ways go­ing to be used for cer­tain things we don’t find per­son­al­ly pleas­ing. And it’s ul­ti­mate­ly the wis­dom of peo­ple, not the tools them­selves, that is go­ing to de­ter­mine whether or not these things are used in pos­i­tive, pro­duc­tive ways.

–Steve Jobs, 1985

goatse mobile

I had a strange mo­ment of serendip­i­ty ear­li­er this evening.

I was read­ing some RSS feeds and I saw there was a new post to the Flickr tag “first­goatse.” (If the term goatse is new to you, I’m not sure what to say ex­cept: don’t blame me when you look it up… now. The above link is safe to view, by the way.)

I felt like I hadn’t seen a ‘first­goatse’ in a while, so I checked it out. The pho­to it­self was un­re­mark­able, but I was view­ing it on my Nexus S phone and hap­pened to glance away from the screen, at the phone it­self. Something clicked in my head, and I thought of a way to breathe new life in­to the age-old pas­time of show­ing your friends dis­gust­ing im­ages and cap­tur­ing their hor­ri­fied re­ac­tion for shar­ing on the Internet.

HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS WE ALL HAVE SMARTPHONES WITH FRONT-FACING CAMERAS!! (It must be the fu­ture!) These tiny pock­et de­vices are cor­nu­copias of giv­ing: lulz for us, lulz for the Internet, and hor­rif­ic, can-ever-forget mem­o­ries for our friends!

Basically, what the best app ever would do is dis­play a hor­rif­ic im­age of your choice… self-supplied of course, in case your poi­son is more tub­girl, or what­ev­er kids these days show oth­er kids these days. It would al­so cap­ture the re­ac­tion of the per­son hold­ing the phone via the front-facing cam­era, at the very mo­ment of ex­po­sure.

A se­ries of pho­tos lead­ing up to the mo­ment would work nice­ly too. Heck, what about cap­tur­ing a video of the en­tire re­ac­tion? For all I know, kids these days are show­ing each oth­er the video equiv­a­lent of that guy bend­ing over and… ugh. For bonus points, it might even com­bine the orig­i­nal and re­ac­tion videos in­to one, side-by-side, not that any­one would want to ever view that.

I’m ready to be­lieve that a mo­bile app like this al­ready ex­ists. It clear­ly, how­ev­er, can’t ex­ist for iPhone, be­cause Apple doesn’t al­low that brand of awe­some, and I can’t be both­ered to check the Android Market (aside from, okay, my quick search for “goatse,” which turned up noth­ing), but this is clear­ly the kind of app that the wold to­day could use.

Well, there’s a Mac app, but who can fit that in their pock­et?

Hey world — some­body make this!

“Real artists ship”

I’m by no means an Apple fan, and don’t own any Apple prod­ucts (though I’ve al­ways want­ed to play with a Newton!), but to a geek, it’s pret­ty hard to ig­nore the ef­fects that Apple has had on the world around us.

This prob­a­bly wouldn’t make it to the av­er­age list of Apple’s con­tri­bu­tions, but my per­son­al fa­vorite is a Steve Jobs say­ing:

Real artists ship.”

I take this to mean that you can keep pol­ish­ing the prod­uct un­til it’s per­fect, but it doesn’t mat­ter how great it is un­less it makes it out the door while it’s still rel­e­vant. (No, it didn’t take a lot of read­ing deeply in­to the phrase for me to come up with that, Mr. Hypothetical Snarky Commenter. An al­ter­nate mean­ing could be an ex­pla­na­tion for push­ing a prod­uct out the door when it con­tains bugs that may give oth­ers pause.)

I some­times find my­self spend­ing more time than I should on some­thing, in pur­suit of get­ting it unim­peach­ably per­fect. It’s a flaw of mine. I need to do some­thing about that, but I’m not sure what… and giv­ing up on qual­i­ty isn’t an op­tion. Consider this bug #1 in my pub­lic bug track­er, pow­ered by WordPress. ;-)

Now, if you’ll ex­cuse me, I’m go­ing to ship this post so I can go ship that e-mail I’ve been craft­ing so I can fi­nal­ly ship my­self some Zs.

http://www.ghostinthepixel.com/?p=24