Friday Link List

1. Vinyl Sales Are Way Up {nicholas carr}

Speaking of the physical manifestation of informational goods, the numbers for 2012 just came out and, according to Nielsen Soundscan, U.S. vinyl album sales leapt another 18 percent, the fifth year in a row of muscular gains.

 

2. Gabby Giffords Launches Gun Control Campaign {npr}

So she and her husband Mark Kelly, as they write this morning in USA Today, are launching a campaign “to balance the influence of the gun lobby” and push for “responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.”

Their announcement comes two years to the day after Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman who attacked an event she was hosting in Tucson, Ariz. he killed six people and wounded 13, including the congresswoman.

 

3. iPads & China Vs. Wisconsin {npr}

A joke began to circulate in Wisconsin: ‘This paperless society sure is good for business.’ Amazing, astonishingly, the paper industry demand held up right around 2005, 2006. There is a beautiful old, 120-year-old mill on the Wisconsin River in a town called Nekoosa. It has to work extra shifts to make the paper for the recent biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The irony, of course, is that no industrialist has done more than Steve Jobs to create the touch screens that are putting the pressure on these paper mills.

I Wish Steve Jobs Changed Capitalism, too

Just found a depressing but important article about the working conditions in Apple factories, as well as a cultural explication of Apple’s recent success. Mike Daisey, quoted below, put forward these arguments in a live performance last Fall entitled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.  From Outsourcing Jobs {n+1 blog; via truth dig}:

Apple’s massive growth in the last eight years to becoming the single most valuable publicly traded company in the world is not entirely explained by the thesis that Apple products are great, or that the company was early to take advantage of wireless broadband, or that Apple’s time had come when we all began to see computers as lifestyle accessories. For every era gets the companies it deserves. A brand of cleanness and simplicity, of chipperly trading control for efficiency, seems particularly well suited for a time when people have lost faith in an incompetent, messy, gridlocked, shallow democracy and in our fragilely recovering economy. Better an iPhone than Il Duce, of course, to make the trains run on time—or at least to tell you how to get to Penn Station—but totalitarian shadows probably should not fall over the products we crave, in how they are made or why we love them. Nor should the manufacture and the appeal of our most desired products reach the same conclusion: that people are much less than our machines.

UPDATE 1/9: This week’s episode of This American Life features a made-for-radio version of his performance. It’s incredibly moving. Listen to it here: Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.

He’s Watching You

 

I’m burning through the Steve Jobs biography. It’s a great read for all the reasons you have probably already heard about.

What’s fascinating about it to me is the missing story it reveals between Steve Jobs the husband, brother and father – and the company and products he helped create.

No CEO has such a personal fingerprint on the products they create. His touch is evident in every Apple product. Take the “home” button on the iPhone, for example — the way it makes that satisfying little “pop” sound when you click it. Likewise the iPad’s rounded edges and the way the screen “thumps” when you tap it. These are the little details you know Steve Jobs himself spent days obsessing over, making sure they felt just right. He is personified in the things we use everyday; he is larger than life.

As CEO and co-founder of the world’s most profitable tech company, you see a man with an intuitive business sense, and an talent to figure out what people want before they know they want it (to paraphrase a famous passage from the book). He generated an enormous amount of wealth, but he lived a simple life and rejected superfluous displays of riches.

What I find most inspiring about the book is finding out what made him tick and how he approached his work and life. He was a genuinely curious, passionate guy, who was often hard to get along with but who seemed to have a good heart deep down somewhere. He made things not for money foremost, but out of passion and the belief that technology could improve human creativity and our lives.

While taking a break from reading the book today I watched a neat documentary with some interviews with him and other folks: One Last Thing {pbs}.

Now what?

A media narrative has emerged around Steve Jobs since his passing two days ago. Through the filter of my personal media bubble, it goes something like this.

Jobs’ brilliance was to take technology reserved for the realm of geeks, eliminate complexity, and produce a product that’s intuitive enough for everyday humans — from children to the elderly — to pick up without consulting the instruction manual. Examples of this singular, simple ideal are evident throughout Jobs’ career.

He saw in the mouse and graphical user interface what Xerox PARC didn’t, and created the personal computer. He saw the promise behind the portable MP3 player, and made an interface that’s easy-to-use, forging relationships with the companies who own the content.

In the vein of the Godin post I linked to earlier today — what can we do with Steve’s view of technology and the world? What sliver of an invention is out there today, waiting to be transformed into a simple, delightful product?

The Right Words for Steve

Seth Godin puts a positive spin on it:

It’s one thing to miss someone, to feel a void when they’re gone. It’s another to do something with their legacy, to honor them through your actions.

{read more: a eulogy of action}

 

And if you haven’t watched Steve’s commencement address to Stanford’s graduating class of 2005 yet, do so now {video and the text}. A primer for you:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.