Mute This

The iPhone mute switch functionality has been doing the rounds. Here’s Marco Arment on “Designing Mute”.

I almost entirely agree with Marco. This part caught my attention however:

The user told the iPhone to make noise by either scheduling an alarm or initiating an obviously noise-playing feature in an app.

The user also told the iPhone to be silent with the switch on the side.

I’m not sure this line of argument is entirely true given the push possibilities that are part of Exchange, iCloud and various other services. Is it possible someone else has pushed a reminder to your device that you’re not explicitly aware of? (Really, I’m asking, and I’m too lazy to find out. Someone tell me. In my comments. Which I don’t have. See my next post.)

What I do know for sure is that if the mute switch on the iPhone worked as Andy Ihnatko argues it should then I would be unable to use my iPhone as an alarm clock. I get far, far too many emails and notifications late into the night and early in the morning to not mute my iPhone before I go to bed at night. I’m quite sure that Andy, Josh, Marco and everyone else having this discussion likely faces the same problem.

I don’t know what the answer is. I do agree with Marco that the default suits my needs well and I appreciate the design choices. I also agree that it’s telling that it’s been years before this iPhone arrogant design flaw came up. I’d bet $100 that this happened already during some kid’s birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese but nobody got all up in arms when the teenage wait-staff got bust out of their “Happy Birthday” groove. (Do they do that at Chuck E. Cheese? We don’t have those in Canada. We love our children.)

Anyway, feel free to fire away with your comments in the form presented below. I will sleep soundly knowing that both my iPhone being on mute, and the fact that there is no comment form, will prevent me from hearing the chimes of the incoming emails and allow me to rest soundly, knowing that my iPhone will dutifully wake me up sometime around noon.

Learn to X

One of the rules I have when I consider writing a piece for Kickingbear is that it must be, to my mind, something contrary or a worthwhile addition to the discussion. There are many fantastic writers out there covering the same topics, their thoughts and conclusions most often align with my own. I decided that I didn’t want to say, “me too”. I thought that if I was going to take the time to write a piece here that it’d be at least something new, or probably contrarian. (Though sometimes I cave to being a jackass).

I find myself in disagreement with two terrific friends of mine. Both have been incredibly supportive of me as I came up in this community and both were gracious enough to speak at the Çingleton event I helped organized a few months ago. Brent and Daniel are good friends, good people and landed Mac gentry. So, let’s skewer them.

Jalkut wrote this piece, Learn to Code. Read it, it’s well worth your time. Simmons linked to Jalkut’s piece adding this, “I’m reminded of Matt Mullenweg saying ‘Scripting is the new literacy.’ Matt’s right.”

I appreciate where they’re coming from. I can, from a certain perspective, agree with the argument. But, let’s not kid ourselves, literacy is the new literacy. The ability to read, comprehend, digest and come to rational conclusions — that’s what we need more of. We don’t, as a society, need more people who have the mechanical knowledge to turn RSS feeds into Twitter spam. We don’t need anything more posted to Facebook, we don’t need anything we photograph to appear on Instagram and Flickr. If “scripting” is the new literacy then we’ve failed. We’ve become Mario drowning on a Water Level.

Scripting isn’t the new literacy, it’s the new tinkering with the engine, the new re-wiring the house. The new DIY for the digital age. These sorts of skills are incredibly valuable, but they’re not now, and certainly won’t be in the future, anything close to being an art form that stirs our souls.

That’s what literature does — it communicates to humans by leveraging our understanding of words and our grasp of narrative. And, sometimes, it mixes them all up but we still get value from it. That’s not how writing code works. Writing code is a craft, we build upon the capabilities of the compiler, the libraries and the hardware. We don’t have the freedom to innovate, as an author would, unless we control the whole stack. And we don’t. We swim upon a shallow surface, we perform what amounts to an act of synchronized swimming. At times it’s beautiful, but we’re in a pool, and we can’t control how wide or deep it is.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably too late. I’ll say to you — don’t Learn To Code, just Learn. Whatever it is you’re good at, whatever it is that calls to you — do that. And do it again and again and again and again.

Learn to X.

Code. Write. Draw. Build. Design. Bitch. Moan. Complain.

Learn to do it well.

Writing software is a craft. I’m quite good at it. Brent and Jalkut are also very successful at our craft. But it’s a craft. It’s something we’re really good at but, in my opinion, it’s not something that everyone needs to care about.

So, don’t Learn To Code, go and learn something I don’t know anything about and go and do it incredibly well. If you’re brilliant and new then I’m dying to see what you can do.

If you really would like to learn how to program then Code Year seems to be amazing. I’ve been volunteering for over fifteen years to help train people who want to become programmers. I believe in teaching people how computers work. I don’t believe it matters much more than wood-shop.