Being plucked from obscurity

Stefanie Cohen, writing about Robert Askins (playwright, Broadway’s “Hand to God“) for the Wall Street Journal1:

Mr. Askins wrote “Hand to God” five years ago and it was staged in 2011 at the off-off Broadway Ensemble Studio Theater. The show was critically praised, and producer Kevin McCollum, (“Avenue Q,” “Motown” “Rent,” “In the Heights”) who had been told by a friend to see it, introduced himself to Mr. Askins in the lobby after the show…Within 24 hours, Mr. McCollum was in negotiations to option the piece.

This reminds me of the blade of grass paradox, which shows that events with really low odds (being plucked from a small theater and brought to Broadway) aren’t actually as low as you might think. Imagine standing in a large field of grass, reaching down, and touching a blade. There are millions of blades of grass that you might have touched, so the odds of being one of those blades of grass is extremely slim. Yet, a blade of grass did get touched, which means that there’s a 100 percent chance that one of the blades of grass will be touched.

Stories like Askins’ are inspiring (and “Hand to God” is amazing, so the fast track to Broadway is well deserved) but the resulting inspiration is inherently conflicted. Something like this will never happen to you…unless it does. Which it won’t. The odds are extremely low, but not that low(?). What if Askins is that single blade of grass, which has already been touched?

Then again, what are the odds that someone standing in a field reaches down and touches only one blade of grass?

 

  1. Life hack: to view the full WSJ article for free, paste the full URL into a Google search and click the link in the search results.

The Pentagon’s Engineers

David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, for the New York Times:

President Obama’s newly installed defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, toured Silicon Valley last week to announce a new military strategy for computer conflict, starting the latest Pentagon effort to invest in promising start-ups and to meet with engineers whose talent he declared the Pentagon desperately needed in fending off the nation’s adversaries.

While I do believe that the Pentagon “desperately” needs talented engineers, I find it difficult to believe anything else out of the Pentagon’s mouth. I wonder why…

He acknowledged that the documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, “showed there was a difference in view between what we were doing and what people perceived us as doing.”

Oh, there it is.

Making informed choices with none of the work

David Pierce, writing for Wired:

What does a tweet feel like? What about an important text? To answer these questions, designers and engineers sampled the sounds of everything from bell clappers and birds to lightsabers and then began to turn sounds into physical sensations…Ive was the decider and was hard to please: Too metallic, he’d say. Not organic enough. Getting the sounds and taps to the point where he was happy with them took more than a year.

Some people like to spend hours researching a particular topic before making a decision. Before making any large purchase, they’ll spend weeks reading every product review available and comparing prices across multiple sources. They won’t be happy with any decision unless they feel they’re educated enough to make the best choice.

That process, unfortunately, takes time. Time that could be spent doing other, more valuable, things. Things like working on personal projects or spending quality time with friends and family.

An alternate way to make big decisions is to spend only a small amount of time finding someone who is already an expert in said field. Someone who already knows all relevant information, and who’s opinion you respect. Find out the choice this person has made/would make, and make the same choice yourself.

You’re getting all the benefits of that vast amount of knowledge without spending the hours it would take to come to similar conclusions yourself.

This is one of the reasons I’m most excited to try the Apple Watch. Not because I particularly feel that I need a smart watch (at this point in time, at least), but because a company that I trust to create a compelling user experience has spent months (years?) honing the product. If it does turn out that a smart watch can enrich my life, it’s the Apple Watch that’s going to show that to me. That’s exactly what happened for me with the iPad*.

If I was tasked at choosing what vibration I wanted for a tweet, I’d be lost. I could try out a bunch of different patterns, and eventually find my favorite, but I’m definitely not an expert at things like that — nor do I want to me. I am, however, excited to feel what Jony Ive believes a tweet and text should feel like.

I’ll gladly defer to the experts and get the benefits of their years of research, testing, and training while putting in none of the actual work.

*I laughed when Apple announced the first iPad, swearing I’d never buy one. Then I bought one, swearing I’d return it within 14 days for a full refund. Then I tried it and have been using one since.

I’m back

I quit my job at The Verge a little over a year ago because it was time for something new. I retired this blog, IAmDann.com, and launched Novice No Longer, a website and podcast dedicated to teaching people how to build apps. I maintained that blog, while consulting full-time, for about a year before a new full-time job literally fell on my lap with an opportunity too good to pass up.

Novice No Longer has been quiet for a while (although I’m definitely launching my app-building course for realsies this spring), so I’ve been lacking an outlet for my random thoughts and musings. Rather than clutter NNL with off-topics posts, I decided to bring back IAmDann.

So, here’s where you can find me:

  • IAmDann.com – Random thoughts and musings on a variety of topics that are of interest to me
  • Novice No Longer – My new app-building course, and content related to building apps and becoming an entrepreneur
  • DannBerg.me – Portfolio of my work and projects around the web

I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be posting here. It mostly depends on whether anything particularly peaks my interest at a given moment. But it will certainly be more often than I’ve been posting to my other blogs, since I don’t have any particular goals with this blog beyond sharing my thoughts.

Come join me at Novice No Longer

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Pssst. I moved!

*deep breath* This is my last post on this blog. From now on, I’ll be spending my time on my new website: NoviceNoLonger.com.

*exhale* Phew! It’s so nice to finally tell you what I’ve been working on!

I didn’t just create a new website. I also wrote a book called 8 Things to Learn Before Making Your App (which I’m really exited about!). If you head over to Novice No Longer and join my newsletter, I’ll send you a copy for free.

8 Things to Learn Before Making an App Cover

I’ll  be writing the same type of content, but this is still a huge transition for me. I’ve been blogging at IAmDann for years, and it’s been my home base throughout my time at Laptop Magazine and The Verge. It’s where I first shared the story of my magnet implant, which has since made its way into corners of the internet that I never could have expected. This is also where I first told the story of building my first iPhone app, which inspired me to create The Non-Programmer’s Guide to Getting an App in the App Store workshop.

The new site is going to be bigger and more badass than IAmDann ever was. It’s going to be home to a TON of amazing resources for people interested in building products and being more productive.

There are some important things I’ve realized I’ve the years, which helped inspire Novice No Longer:

1. You can’t ask questions if you don’t know what to ask

Whenever you’re trying to learn a new subject, people will tell you to always ask questions. I find this advice to be insanely frustrating. When I’m learning something new, I don’t know what questions to ask, so I can’t ask questions! That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to learn, it means I’m fumbling around in search of the direction.

At Novice No Longer, I want to give you that direction. If you want to build an app, but don’t know where to start, I’ll help you find the right path and give you step-by-step instructions how on to get where you want to go.

2. The best ideas come from the most unlikely people

I helped students from all walks of life — from lawyers to accountants to nutritionists — in addition to the typical young tech-savvy startup enthusiast. I’ve found, somewhat surprisingly, that the best ideas usually come from people outside the tech community. Why is this? Because they have unique insights into professional fields that are largely untouched by technical advances.

People are generally inspired to make apps that address the needs they see in the world around them. The problems that are observed by members in the tech community are much different from the needs observed by people in unrelated fields. Therefore, it’s the non-tech people who are able to find ideas with the biggest potential.

At Novice No Longer, I aim to empower these people to build their ideas into products. Without a tech background, it can be difficult to break into the app world. I want to show everyone that it can be done.

3. There’s only so many people I can help locally

Up until this point, The Non-Programmer’s Guide to Getting an App in the App Store has only been taught locally in New York City. I get emails every week from people who want to attend but live in a different state or country. This is always so frustrating for me, because I really want to help these people learn to build apps, but I haven’t yet found a good way to bring this content online.

Until now.

In addition to the new blog, I’m working on turning my popular NYC class into a massive online course. It goes into way more detail than can fit in the two-hour workshop, and will be the ultimate guide to building and releasing an app with zero previous experience. It’s not quite ready yet, but as a way to help people now, I’m giving away a TON of content for free to my newsletter subscribers. They get my best content delivered directly in their inboxes, and they will be the first to know about the online course launch. My goal is to be able to help every single person who finds my website or sends me an email.

It’s been a blast writing at IAmDann, but I can’t tell you how excited I am for this new chapter. I really hope you come along with me for the ride.

See you there!

-Dann

Apple is losing the living room to Microsoft on the Tech Night Owl

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Gene Steinberg invited me to be a guest on this week’s Tech Night Owl, airing Saturday, November 23rd. We talk about Microsoft and Apple’s visions for a world of computers in the cloud and every device a display. We also touch on the Xbox One and how Apple is really losing ground in the living room. It’s a pretty fantastic discussion, if I do say so myself.

You can listen to the live broadcast stream from 7:00 – 10:00PM PT, 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM ET (I’m the second half, so that’s pretty late!), at http://www.technightowl.com/radio/. Or, if your local station picks up the GCN network, you can listen live.

An archive of the show is available for downloading and listening at your convenience within four hours after the original broadcast.

Check it out!