Tim Longhurst's Blog

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Apple – harnessing technology, focusing on user experience

June 23rd, 2008 · 3 Comments

To some people, the opening of the Apple Store in Sydney this week has been a momentous occasion – worthy of camping out for hours, if not days. Reading about the chaos created by the event, I can’t help but think about how this has happened. How has one business managed to build a religion around the world, complete with high priest (Steve Jobs), festivals (Macworld Expo), millions of followers ( see Macheads movie) and temples (check this out).

The multi-million dollar Catholic-run-Australian-government-subsidised World Youth Day could do with a few lessons from Cupertino, California on how to build hype for a church event.

So what is it about Apple that makes it so lovable to so many?

There’s been plenty of column inches spent celebrating Apple, so I’ll keep my view brief:

Harnessing technology, focusing on user experience.

For all the patents Apple holds, almost all of them involve combining available, existing technology. From the iPod to the iMac to the iPhone, almost all of the parts come off-the-shelf – sure there’s a tweak here or a new part there, but inevitably when an analyst pulls out a screwdriver to work out how much money Apple is making on a new gadget, they discover a whole bunch of stuff that already exists in lots of other gadgets.

They don’t invent ingredients they just spend time coming up with new recipes they think will suit their audiences tastes…

There’s a great old video that compares Apple’s approach to communication with Microsoft’s. In the video, Apple’s beautiful, simple, uncluttered 5GB iPod box has Microsoft’s Style Guide applied to it.

Apple, with their head-office in image-conscious California, knows that simplicity and elegance sells.

In my experience of Apple products, if you want to work out how to do something, it’s straightforward. Some of the bestselling electronic devices in homes – toasters and TV’s – involve one button and you get something out of it. It’s the same with Apple products – you turn it on and something exciting is going to happen.
So how does this elegance and simplicity apply to the new Apple Store in Sydney? Well, they’ve used elements anyone could have used in a shop – glass, tiles, assistants…

And yet the user experience is dramatically different to any other store in Australia: exceptional design, plenty of staff, in this case free internet and even complimentary training and tech support from Apple’s ‘Geniuses’…

So Apple’s spent $15 million on the shop which probably represents at least $5 million in ‘unnecessary’ innovation. Well, if the store can generate anything like the $4,032/square foot in annual sales of it’s big NY brother, it’s probably money well spent.

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Zenning things done

June 11th, 2008 · No Comments

Zenning Things Done - all text in image is reproduced in blog post.Getting Things Done is a popular book 259 page book. I’ve read it. I like it. It’s got some good ideas. And if you stay with me on this post, you can get half the book’s value in a fraction of the time it would take to read the whole book.

First of all, you need to know that the most famous rule in the book is the two-minute rule™. The idea is that as you process all of your stuff, if you find a to-do item that can be completed in less than two minutes, you just do it right away.  Otherwise, you have to process it for later action. More on that below.

In searching for GTD crib notes, I came across Leo Babauta’s Zen To Done (ZTD) – a blog post on his zenhabits.net. Well, he’s written a great post there and by summarizing his notes and reflecting on my own GTD notes, I now present to you: Zenning Things Done – Not a 259 page book – or even a 10 point list – but a simple 5 step process that gives you the gist of what GTD and ZTD are getting at.

Zenning Things Done

Make your life’s work something you’re passionate about – your task list will be a list of rewards.

Now, onto the five steps…

1. Collect
Regularly record thoughts, commitments, lessons to a notebook. Empty notebook into your inbox daily.

2. Process & Organise inbox into a simple, Trusted System
Every day process your inbox by working out the very next action: do it; trash it; delegate it; defer it; file it.
Action Categories: Projects (very broad); Next Actions* (very specific); Calendar (time specific).
Defer Categories: General Reference Filing; Someday lists;  ‘Tickler file’.
*Have context lists based on where the next step will be taken: work, home, phone, out&about, waiting.

3. Routine: Review and Simplify
Morning: Check calendar; context lists; set Most Important Tasks (MITs); exercise; process inboxes; do first MIT.
Evening: Process your email and inboxes; review your day; write in your journal; prepare for next day.

Weekly: Review all goals: track progress & set tasks for week ahead.
Monthly and Yearly: More comprehensive review of goals;  values and visions.

Regularly simplify your commitments and incoming information stream. Ensure tasks are aligned to goals.

4. Plan
Set and schedule Most Important Tasks (MITs). 3 per day, the earlier in the day these are completed the better.

5. Do (focus)
Choose task based on (in order): Context (where you are), Time available, Energy available, Priority.
Focus on this task. Deal with interruptions by making a quick note in your notepad and getting back on track: stay focused.

That’s it. Man, so simple, so elegant, so difficult to imagine all of that becoming a regular habit.

Well that’s the other thing I liked about Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits: when he writes about his habits, I’m convinced he really does do the stuff he says he does. Beyond basic organisational habits, he even explains why he gets up early and why he’s chosen to become more relaxed behind the wheel. It might sound like too much information, and maybe for some it is, but he seems to have a strong following of people who appreciate his candid notes on turning life philosophies into daily practice.

Speaking of Zen… As I’ve spent a night reading blog posts with the word ‘zen’ in them, I’d also like to mention the two Zen-ist people I know, blogger and speaker, WadeM and futurist, Josh Floyd. Both advocates of meditation and two of the most likable and inspiring people I know.  The world needs a whole lot more of whatever they’ve got!

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Interesting South 2 – can’t wait

May 1st, 2008 · 3 Comments

Interesting South 2 is coming up real fast – 12th May, 2008. For those of you who didn’t go to first one late last year, imagine a theatre full of interesting people, with a dozen or so pre-selected to stand up and present a show-and-tell about their life, their work or their passion (usually all three at once). Participants this time around have been assigned 5 or 10 minute slots. Last year’s was a sell-out, so it’s been moved to a bigger venue – Upstairs@TheBelvoir in Surry Hills – and they’re only letting you purchase a maximum of two tickets at a time to try and keep things fair.

Introducing the speakers has been left up to yours truly – I’ve heard a little about a few of them already and I’m sure their stories and philosophies will be great starting points for the conversations in the two intermissions planned for the show.

See you there!


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Peace Boat Peace Festival – Sydney 15th April, 2008

April 7th, 2008 · No Comments

The Japanese-based Peaceboat is on it’s way to Sydney and if you’re in town then you’re invited to come aboard.

A Peace Festival will be held onboard the Peace Boat on Tuesday 15 April. If you’d like to come, you must rsvp to: peacefestival15april $$ gmail.com (swapping the dollar signs for an @ symbol) before 10 April. In order to board the ship, you must include in your RSVP:

– Full name
– Date of birth
– Nationality
– ID number (either passport or driver’s lic. – please indicate which)

You have to bring the same PHOTO ID with you on the day, as you will need to exchange your photo ID for a visitors pass. The ship will be docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney. The festival itself will begin at 7pm, and tours of the ship will also be available to those interested prior to the festival commencing.

See you there, Tim

Peace Boat Peace Festival

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Activists shine torch on Chinese government’s record

April 6th, 2008 · No Comments

The Chinese government’s aggressive and murderous behaviour towards people is the focus of a sea of activist campaigns in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics.

Check out how the SMH has covered the culture jamming so far. How will you participate?

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