Clearing the Cache

A Toast of Kool-Aid to Steve

My sadness over Steve Jobs’ death surprised me as it affected me more than I thought. Although I never met him or communicated with him, his ideologies and uncompromising direction in design has greatly influenced my work. I admit to being enamored by Apple’s products, but I equally admired Steve Jobs’ salesmanship and learned two game-changing perspectives.

Features and Specs Are For Geeks. Benefits Are For Everybody.

Nerds, geeks, and specialists sometimes fixate too much on the specifications that they forget what they represent. I think we’ve approached a point in computing technology that the processing power is more than we need for everyday tasks. Watching how Steve sells a benefit of a feature in his keynotes has helped me tremendously in reaching non-technical people with technical products or services. What does a four-gigahertz processor mean to someone who does not distinguish hard disk space and memory? It means they can get things done faster. What does eight gigabytes of flash storage mean? Two thousand of someone’s favorite songs or digital pictures.

Most people don’t know the specifics of the tools or services they use, but they do know the benefits. Steve was a master at selling the benefit. He saw the bigger picture than the multiple-core-million-gigahertz-super-something—he sold it to you and I in how much time we’ll save (better yet, what else we could be doing instead).

Making Something Easy to Use Doesn’t Mean It’s Dumb Down

Empowering people is an amazing feeling. I’ve had the privilege of building web tools for my work that speed up people’s tasks or allow them to do things they couldn’t do before. It’s exhilarating and addictive. I think there is a misconception, usually from those who pride themselves as elite, that when a tool simplifies a difficult skill so that it is accessible to more people, the tool is “dumb-down” for the masses. Perhaps the elite are fearing the status they hold, but whenever something difficult is more accessible, it allows for growth and innovation. And no tool can ever replace true talent and artistry.

My Corollary

There are few things about Steve that I would not to influence my life. While his company produced great products, I’ve read that they have come at the expense of terrorizing his employees with fear. Of the two levers that move men (love and fear), I would choose love. I would rather have those who follow me be motivated to do their utmost best because of their respect and love, not because I would destroy them otherwise.

His dedication to his work is also too costly to me. While I have to fight to not finish a code project at work when I need to go home for dinner, I want to always to skip building the next best thing so that I be with the best thing in my life—my family.

Thanks for the Kool-Aid Steve

One of the popular sayings surrounding Apple’s product marketing is “drinking Apple’s Kool-Aid,” meaning that the press and consumers get blinded by Steve Jobs’ showmanship and not being able to see realistically. It’s an incredible high (spiked Kool-Aid perhaps?) to see Steve just tell us how we need something we never knew. Though I’m not a fan of consumerism, his keynotes are great lessons on believing in your products, selling them as magical devices, extreme focus on simplicity, and a masterpiece in design and user experience. He always saw the bigger picture, which is something we all need when we’re deep in the forests of everyday life.

The Colbert Report