New on Kickstarter: Gotta Get a Vuelta

There’s a new Kickstarter project that I’d like to call out for some attention: The Padron Watch Company.

Leo, the guy Kickstarting his business, is someone I’ve known for 10 years now. I really admire how he’s taken a passion – restoring old watches – and turned it from a hobby into a business. And now he wants to take it to the next level.

People talk a lot today about where all the jobs in middle America are going. Talking is easy. Starting a business – and who knows, maybe someday creating some good new jobs – is a lot harder. I have a lot of admiration for Leo and what he is doing. And especially that he’s choosing to follow his passion for craftsmanship and creating not just another Internet site or mobile app, but something far more tangible and lasting.

I know not everyone who reads this is a watch fan, and may not feel inspired to contribute to his Kickstarter project. But if you have a friend who might want to contribute, would you please pass the link along?

And if you do contribute, you’ll be supporting someone who is going to work as hard as he can to see the project through.

Please consider helping out in any way you can.


On The Human Costs of Apple Products

The New York Times has a very lengthy and disturbing report tonight on Apple’s much-vaunted supply chain and the human costs that go into the manufacture of their iconic product lines.

It’s worth reading. If the Times got the story right, it paints a picture of an Apple that is well aware of the human costs they’re inflicting to produce their products, but rather than doing anything about it, continues to squeeze every penny it can out of its suppliers.

For example:

In January 2010, workers at a Chinese factory owned by Wintek, an Apple manufacturing partner, went on strike over a variety of issues, including widespread rumors that workers were being exposed to toxins. Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.

Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.

Apple commented on the Wintek injuries a year later.

The laptop I’m writing this on is a Macbook Pro that will be three years old this summer. When my AppleCare contract runs out I’ll likely replace it. Whether I’ll replace it with a new Apple computer is still an open question.

I’m not a fool. I am well aware that my phone, and my cameras, and a huge swath of the rest of the products in my home and closet are also made in China, and not all in pristine conditions. Why single out Apple?

Apple is getting the lion’s share of the criticism in part because of their brand image – a widely admired company shouldn’t have such a dark underside, right? And for my part, I find it particularly disconcerting because Apple sits on a huge stack of cash and brings in tens of billions of profits each quarter. They could easily give suppliers more favorable margins that would allow them to cut fewer corners, and still rake in huge profits.

When you’re in a position of such great power, a truly great company would use that power to not just rake in huge profits, but to do some good as well. Apple could earn every plaudit 10 times over if they not only led the way in product design, but also in how they treat their supply chain.

Wouldn’t that be even more amazing?

Upcoming Speaking Gig

Thanks to the kind invitation of Susan Tenby, I’ll be speaking later this month at a local community managers Meetup.

I’ll be talking about community growth and how to scale effectively. It should be fun!

If you want to be there, you need to RSVP. I hope to see you there!

First Day With the Google Nexus One

I’m in London this week, doing a series of team and community meetings. One of the fun things that have happen this week is the team all got brand-new Nexus One phones while we’re here.

I’m a pretty hardcore Blackberry user but when someone hands you a new, cool phone just begging to have a SIM card added to it, the Blackberry can wait. I’ve been using the Nexus for about a day now, and here’s some initial impressions:

Things I like about the Nexus One

The screen is gorgeous. The cameras is far better than the one on my Blackberry. The phone feels good when you hold it. Not too heavy, not too bulky.

Adding new apps – a breeze. There’s lots to choose from in the app store, including many popular apps like Urbanspoon, Shazam, Foursquare, and many others. I got a dozen apps onto the phone in short order. Definitely much closer to the iTunes Store experience than the pain of adding apps to my Blackberry.

And Flash Player 10.1 beta is looking pretty good. 🙂

Things I’m Not So Sure About

I’m spoiled by my Blackberry’s ability to go as much as three days without a charge, so having to charge more often is a bit of a bummer. Not a showstopper though.

The music client. I don’t see anything that will make me want to give up my iPod. (The app is nice though)

Covering that gorgeous screen with very visible fingerprints.

The London weather hasn’t been very sunny today but even so using the screen in daylight is definitely a bit harder than using it indoors.

Given that this is is a Google product it’s probably inevitable, but the deep lock-in and integration with other Google products is annoying for those of us who are not hardcore Google users. I don’t use Picasa, gChat, or Google Contacts, for example, and if I want to really use the Nexus, they’re hard to avoid.

Things I Definitely Don’t Like

The built-in IMAP client is poor, making it tough for those of us who don’t run our email through Gmail. I expect there will be a third-party solution pretty soon though.

Comment spam in the app market reviews. Really annoying.

Trying to do the two-thumb typing I am used to on a real keyboard is really frustrating. My error rate is close to 100% when I try it on the Nexus. To be fair, though, this isn’t specific to the Nexus; I felt the same trying to use my iPod Touch’s keyboard as well. I’ve simply spent a lot of years using various Palm / Blackberry devices with real keyboards and it’s going to be very, very hard for me to let go of needing to feel real keys under my fingers and relearn how to type on a handheld. Typing with one finger, aided by the very nice auto complete feature, is much less painful. It’s just not very fast.

Things I Haven’t Figured Out Yet

The best way to synch data (contacts, etc) off either my desktop or my Blackberry. I need to research this some more. Being able to sync data from Facbook is interesting. Ideally I’d like to get my work info on it too, but Exchange support is a bit shaky so far.

All In All

I like the Nexus a lot more than I thought I would. I am not sure if I will be able to adjust to the lack of a real keyboard and I don’t love the Google-lock in, but other than that I’m pretty impressed.

And did I mention how nice the beta of Flash 10.1 looks on it? :p

Dear Apple – 1984 Called, They Want Their Video Back

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose I should start out by noting that I, like a very significant number of my colleagues at Adobe, am a big fan of OS X and Apple products. I am typing this on the Macbook Pro I purchased for personal use. The MBP for work is sitting on a table nearby. There’s two iPods and an iPod Touch in this room as well. The only thing I use Windows for is some HR stuff that doesn’t run well on the Mac. In short, I love OS X and I hope to keep using it for a long time.

So from the point of view of someone who’s a fan of both the Apple and Adobe platforms, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the vitriol lobbed against Flash by my fellow Mac users. And if you read the blogosphere these days, you might come away thinking Adobe is on the verge of a massive route, driven into irrelevance by a horde of iPad-wielding HTML5 developers. And some in the media, who always love a good “X is going to kill Y” story line, are following suit.

The reality is somewhat different.

One thing that frequently (but not always) goes overlooked is that as much as this is a technology battle, it’s also a business one. Pushing as much content through the App Store as possible is great business for Apple; and honestly, I don’t blame them for wanting to build their App Store into a massive (and massively profitable) content juggernaut. It’s far friendlier to their margins than the hardware business, even with their premium pricing, so why not go for a platform play?

Where I take exception — and developers should too — is with Apple’s “my way or the highway” approach to development. Adobe’s Flash is a very high-profile victim of this approach right now, but we’re not the first nor are we the only one. And I really don’t understand how a bunch of developers committed to embracing the “open web” can turn right around and accept the massively closed structure that is the Apple ecosystem. Is it cognitive dissonance, or just Stockholm Syndrome? Is this really the same company who so famously embraced the image of shattering Big Brother’s image? How did Apple lose its way?

When I think about why all this matters, I think about my 10 year old niece. She doesn’t know (or care) what Flash is. All she knows is that she loves playing Webkinz, and every time I come over to visit, she wants to play it with me on my laptop. If I handed her an iPad, she’d want to play it there too, and she wouldn’t understand why she couldn’t. Yes, of course, I can buy her a bunch of other games on the App Store, but that’s not the same thing to her, and anyone who says that it is has clearly never withstood the wrath of a pre-teen. 🙂

Apple needs a reality check. Once you get outside the San Francisco to San Jose corridor, you’ll find very few people who know or care what HTML5 is. Most people who don’t do technology for a living find our high-geek holy wars incomprehensible and boring. They don’t want to be locked out of content, and they don’t want to be told they should spend money in the App Store just to conform to Apple’s vision of the internet. They just want to use the sites, view the videos, and play the games they’re used to.

Oh, and 90% of them do not run OS X.

Go back and watch that famous “1984” video again — because it seems to me that Apple has become the very thing they were fighting against back then.