I like video games because I like software, and some of the most creative software designers make video games.
When Electronic Arts was founded in the 80s, the concept behind the company was to showcase software designers as serious artists. The name “Electronic Arts” came from the movie studio United Artists, who at the time was known for celebrating the creative people behind movies. EA’s games shipped in album covers that included interesting details about the designers and their thinking behind the game.
Today, EA makes mega games like FIFA and Madden. The production costs run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The teams are huge and divided into functional units. These games are wonders of technological achievement and organizational design (and great games!), but it’s difficult to feel like you’re interacting with the mind of the designer the way you did with EA’s early games.
One of the great things about the rise of smartphones and tablets is that - for a variety of reasons - it is again economically viable for small teams to create games that reach hundreds of millions of people. Some of these games are funded on Kickstarter, some are self funded, and some are funded by big publishers.
I play a lot of these games. My favorite site for finding indy games is Touch Arcade. I’ve played every game on the site that got 4.5 or 5 stars. My favorites are Rymdkapsel, Bridge Constructor, Cut the Rope, Carcassonne, Helsing’s Fire, Pirates, FieldRunners, World of Goo, Little Inferno, Microminers, Ridiculous Fishing, Modern Conflict, Peggles, Plants vs Zombies (1, not 2), and Solipskier.
I just wish they included liner notes the way EA used to do.
There are many people who live in order to work, who consume in order to produce, if we like to use those terms. Most people who are reasonably well off derive more satisfaction in their capacity as producers than as consumers. Indeed, many would define the social ideal as a state in which as many people as possible can live in this way.
You and I both know, learning to code is the best way to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Hell, look at me. Other than my affluent Orange County family, my Stanford bachelor’s degree, and the $10 million that my uncle invested as seed capital for my innovative advice column start-up, I have nothing but my ability to code.
Q: What will do most for the share price – a buyback or a blockbuster new device?
A: Neither. What will do most for the share price is a change in the perception that Apple is not going to survive as a going concern. At this point of time, as at all other points of time in the past, no activity by Apple has been seen as sufficient for its survival. Apple has always been priced as a company that is in a perpetual state of free-fall. It’s a consequence of being dependent on breakthrough products for its survival. No matter how many breakthroughs it makes, the assumption is (and has always been) that there will never be another. When Apple was the Apple II company, its end was imminent because the Apple II had an easily foreseen demise. When Apple was a Mac company its end was imminent because the Mac was predictably going to decline. Repeat for iPod, iPhone and iPad. It’s a wonder that the company is worth anything at all.
Wall Street favors companies that benefit from structural advantages over companies that simply create better products. For example, investors loved how, in the 90s, Microsoft charged tariffs on the inventions of others (Intel, Dell, application vendors).
Apple’s vertical integration leads to higher quality products but also fewer opportunities to charge tariffs. Unless you happen to have one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century running the company, competing without tariffs means competing on a level playing, something Wall Street hates.
Let’s say you are planning to be in California on Monday and New York on Tuesday. You have a meeting in California on Monday at 1pm local time (Pacific) and a meeting in New York on Tuesday at 2pm local time (Eastern time). Do you think of the first meeting as happening at 1pm Pacific time and your second meeting as happening at 11am Pacific time? Or perhaps you first meeting as happening at 4pm Eastern and your second meeting as happening at 2pm Eastern?
Neither! You think of those meetings as happening at 1pm and 2pm in *local times*. People think in local times. So the calendar software should reflect a shift in time zones when the user is planning to switch time zones (presumably, fly across the country). In other words, everything on calendars should be shown in local time, where local time is determined by where ever the imagined future calendar person is at that time.
Smalltalk, something of an indie darling among programming languages, is to mainstream languages such as Java what J R R Tolkien’s Elvish is to English. You don’t actually expect to encounter it in real life, let alone in the context of critical production infrastructure, any more than you expect to hear Elvish spoken in Congressional debates.
With the advent of A&P stores, consumerism began its 150-year journey from real farmers’ markets in small towns to fake farmers’ markets inside metropolitan grocery stores. Through the course of that journey, retailing would discover its natural psychological purpose: transforming the output of industrial-scale production into the human-scale experience we call shopping.
There is a company called Pantone that for a long time had a healthy business creating books that listed colors along with a “Pantone number” for each color. Their books became a standard in industries that communicated using colors. So, for example, if a clothing designer wanted to tell an overseas manufacturer what color they wanted, they’d use the Pantone color. This forced everyone to buy their books.
Imagine if one day Pantone switched from their arbitrary numbering system to some non-arbitrary system, like RGB. Now I could skip buying the book and just use a computer to figure out the color. Hence, you had to buy the books precisely because the numbering system was arbitrary.
The same logic applies to protocols, operating systems, APIs, web metrics, etc. There is inherent tension between what is optimal for the ecosystem and what is optimal for the business who controls the standards.
Consider, for example, systems that try to measure a person’s “social influence” across Twitter, Facebook, etc. Arguably, the optimal way to measure social influence is with a pretty straightforward mathematical formula. But it would be hard to build a business on a formula that is so easy to replicate. So instead the tendency is to add arbitrary, undisclosed inputs to the formula, thereby making it proprietary.