Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Future Is a Scary Place

I'm in full on essay avoidance mode now. Two weeks left to go and I have four major assignments to do, two of which I haven't really started. It'll hit me hard soon, I think. However, this isn't ordinary essay avoidance. Normally I just don't want to do the work, but this is different. I mean, it's true that I don't want to do the work, but it's more than that.

These assignments effectively represent the end of my academic career, an ending about which I feel violently conflicted. I absolutely want to finish school and get on with my life, and I need an extended break from the workload, having not had the past summer off, so I'm looking forward to being done. But I'm also dreading it.

I expect that I'm going to spend far too much time over the next few months at home, desperate for something worthwhile to do. School has given me a purpose for as long as I can remember. I was always working toward finishing, and even when I was doing assignments I thought were a waste of time, I was still working toward my main goal. In a few weeks, I won't have that goal. I'll have to set new priorities and new things to work toward, and in the meantime, I'll be adrift. I've never experienced that before, and it's terrifying.

I'll also miss the social element desperately, especially in the short term. School gave me opportunities to meet new and interesting people all the time, and it's only now that I really realize how miserably I've failed to capitalize on that.

This is probably going to be the biggest life change I've ever experienced, and I feel completely unprepared for it. I've spent so much time focused on finishing, I forgot to figure out what to do when I'm done.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Changing the World

This post isn't really about me, and is probably going to end up more like the kind of work I do for school, but I don't care. It's my blog, so I'll post what I want.

Motorola announced this morning the Moto G, a new smartphone. It's generally an unremarkable mid-range phone, with specs that are comparable to flagship devices of 2011. What is remarkable, however, is the price. Motorola is releasing this phone at $179 outright for the 8 GB model and $199 for the 16 GB model. That is crazy.

This isn't the first $200 smartphone. LG's Optimus One hit that price point a couple of years ago, and Nokia has both Asha and Lumia devices in the $200 range. However, while this phone is not a flagship smartphone by any means, it is by far the best device I've ever seen at that price point.

I just bought a Google/LG Nexus 5 a couple of weeks ago (it's an awesome phone, by the way). I had only had my Nexus 4 for about six months, but at $350 it was cheap enough that I didn't feel like it was a waste of money to upgrade. I use my phone a ton (it's a problem) and having the fastest and best device available matters to me.

This is the second time that Google has hit that price point with a Nexus phone. The Nexus 4 actually launched even cheaper last year, with an 8 GB model available for $299 (I got the 16 GB for $349 both this year and last). At that price, I felt like there was very little excuse for anyone who can handle a smartphone not to have one. If you can't afford data service, Toronto and most major cities have sufficient free WiFi that it would still be totally viable to use an outright purchased smartphone on a talk and text plan.

For me, though, this seals it. $350 may be a little steep for some people still, but $200? Most people will end up paying nearly $100 for an outright featurephone anyway. Unless you can't handle the complicated tech, or the phone is for emergencies only and never gets used, there really isn't any reason not to get a smartphone anymore. This isn't the first smartphone for $200 or less and it won't be the last, but maybe this indicates a change in the way manufacturers will treat this segment. Maybe these phones will finally be good.

And if that's the case, then this will change the world. More than the iPhone. More than the cellphone. Maybe more than personal computer. This can put a powerful personal computer in the hands of every person in the world at all times. If the service providers will play ball, this can put internet access in the hands of every person in the world at all times.

As just about anyone with a smartphone if it has changed the way they live, and they'll almost all say yes. Ask them if they could give it up, and they would almost unanimously answer no. Having the ability to access all the information available on the internet at all times will change the way people live.

People sometimes talk about the information revolution as though it has already happened, but I don't think we're close to the peak yet. In fact, I think everything that brought us to this point has just been laying groundwork. The real revolution is about to come, and this is a big step toward it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Missed Opportunities

I like to think I'm pretty good at reading people. I find that I can usually figure out what someone is thinking pretty quickly, and before long I understand their thought process. I use that to deal with them when I need to. The negative view is that I use that skill to manipulate people, and while I can't deny that there may be some truth to that, I like to think that I use it more to find outcomes that satisfy everyone. It can be an extremely useful skill in advancing at work, in particular.

I do this mostly by paying attention. I'm nearly always paying attention. I listen to everything people say, and I store it away. Later, I use that information to build a holistic profile of people. Nobody says or does anything in a vacuum, you always have to put it into the broader context. I take all the context I have on that person specifically and fill in the gaps with what I know about their personality types, people like them, or myself. After some time, I can usually pull together a pretty good picture, and I use that to frame my interactions with them.

That's a very sterile and scientific way to describe a very organic process. It's not like I'm keeping notes on people on purpose, I did this for years and years before I even realized what I was doing. I still do it without thinking about it. It's just a part of who I am, and how I deal with people. It also sounds way more creepy when I write it out like that.

While this is a very useful skill to have, the biggest problem is that I find it is most effective by far as a reflective process. That is, I interact with someone and gather a lot of information, then I (usually subconsciously) analyze it later, and next time I interact with that person I am far better prepared. That's great, except you don't always get a second chance to interact with someone.

What I am really, truly atrociously bad at is reading someone in the moment. Picking up hints and figuring out someone's intentions in real time just doesn't come naturally for me. Mix in a not-so-healthy dose of social anxiety, and I'll often struggle with maintaining "small-talk" type conversations too. As you might imagine, this makes things particularly difficult for me with women. I just don't pick up on the signals that they're interested in me, and I'm usually so preoccupied with not killing a conversation, that I don't have enough mindshare to watch for them.

Of course, hours later (right around the time that I'm figuring out all the perfect things I should have said earlier), I'll clue in. By that point, it's usually too late. It's incredibly frustrating, and I have no idea how to fix it, other than practice.

The worst, however, is realizing weeks or months later that I missed something. That happened to me recently, and it really, really sucks. I had an opportunity for something, and I missed all the signs. Worse still, it happened over the course of several weeks. I had the chance to take in everything I needed, process it, and still had an opportunity to act on it. This is supposed to be what I'm really good at! Unfortunately, other things in my life at the time had me completely preoccupied, and I missed it all. I only just clued in, and short of not at all subtly manufacturing another opportunity (and I really can't think of a way that doesn't come off as borderline creepy at best), the chance is probably gone. At least gone for now.

Missed opportunities suck.