Attentiveness

I have never been — and presumably never will be — a proponent of attempts to hack productivity. I find it to be, at best, self-defeating.

Of course, that's one man's utterly subjective and outrageously reductive opinion. Worse, it's an opinion with flaws compounded by the stinging fact that I rarely have a strong handle on my day-to-day obligations.

I preach (and live) an organic and naturalized approach to leading a productive life, but I frequently — as all humans do, I suppose — fail to uphold even the most crucial tasks I've dedicated myself toward.

OneThirtySeven, this weblog, has very much facilitated the professional growth I've undergone over the past year or so. Launched in November 2011, the website has carried me from interested nobody to engaged somebody (albeit with a relatively small reach). And yet, for all of the gains, I fail to find the time to dedicate to this once confidence and happiness-inducing platform.

My attention is most obviously divided between my upcoming startup, Need, and my podcast with Myke Hurley, Bionic. (I also help with WELD, work with startups, and serve as an advisor to a handful of startups, but they pose relatively minor impacts on my day-to-day when compared to Need and Bionic.)  Although those are both, of course, fantastic objects deserving of my attention, there is a distinct feeling of anxiety I feel every time I catch a glimpse of the OneThirtySeven favicon sitting — neglected — in my browser's bookmark bar.

For as much as my other projects are gaining popularity and intrigue, OneThirtySeven was the first and foremost result of my desire to breakaway from the corporate world. It was a naive, fun, and important means for escape. And it's one I've carelessly allowed to fall into inauspicious silence. 

I've written before that I wish to write one long-form article per week here. I've equally made statements of my intentions to never let this site fall into disuse. Obviously, as I write this, I've failed on both accounts. 

Simply put, my professional place is increasingly divergent from the world of independent technology writing. I articulate opinions on Bionic and Twitter, but I rarely have the time to write a lengthy piece about the state of Yahoo! or the latest iPhone. 

Nevertheless, I wish I did. 

I write this not as a resignation or with the intention of garnering empathy. I write it as a means to hold myself publicly accountable for my attentiveness to the properties that mean the most to me. I write it so that you, the reader, might occasionally send me an email or tweet decrying my silence.  I write it so that I, on those days I dare to visit my own quiet weblog, will remember that I have a promise to uphold.

Perhaps I'm simply ushering this piece of prose into a decrepit room no longer occupied by people who care to listen. In fact, I suspect that is, indeed, the case. This outlet, however, has never been about the size of the audience or the quantity of page views. It has been about the catharsis of writing, the joy of spilling my thoughts for others — however many — to dissect, and, most importantly, to meet fascinating people with similar interests.

I fully intend to continue writing here. I don't wish to shutter the site and write on, god forbid, Medium, about trite tips and tricks for marketing your startup. (How on earth do we let people do that in the first place?) I have opinions I wish to share and I have discussions I intend to pursue with all of you.  But I — and I'm happy to admit this — am utterly flawed. This site, too, is utterly flawed. For that, I simply an acknowledge that, yes, both myself and my work are irrevocably imperfect. And I'm at peace with that.

What I'm not at peace with is the passive allowance of such a personally important thing to fall into neglect for the betterment of something newer and shinier. (There's an obvious and grandiose metaphor to be gleaned from this acknowledgement, but I'll save us all the excruciation and allow it to simply sit there quietly awaiting your groans and yawns. )

I don't intend to fall into the mold of virtually all startup founders and start writing about the trials and tribulations of launch a company and raising venture funding. (Hint: it's just the same as doing any other intensive job, but there's far more narcissism involved. Everyone is busy, everyone faces daily struggles, and pretending entrepreneurial endeavors are exceptional is reductive.) I want to write about topics that matter to all of us, rather than taking the easy route towards meaningless page views.

For all of this verbosity, I simply mean to state publicly that I intend to do what I love — regardless of what ramifications it might pose — and write. I don't know how I'll manage that, but — and I say this to myself — I promise I'll try. 

The Fertile Ashes of Google Reader

Announced amidst the furor over the election of a new Pope and the resignation of Andy Rubin, Google yesterday outed the less-than-stunning revelation that its RSS product, Reader, is set to retire this summer.

Of course, Reader has been on deathwatch for quite some time. Popular — and grossly misinformed — opinion has deemed RSS an irrelevant and dinosauric technology — a relic of the early days of the Internet. Thus, as the service enjoys relatively few users and offers little in the way of revenue streams, Google decided to shutter the service.

Although my initial inclination was to voice disappointment and anger toward Google, upon further reflection, I feel this is a warranted and pragmatic business decision. Highlighting a waining portion of its infrastructure, Google sought to — rightly — rid itself of cruft. Moreover, it liberated one of the most technologist-engaged — and therefore most volatile — properties within its wings.

For months, we've watched ambivalently as Google's shed excess products, outmoded designs, and refocused itself on the future. As with any change, many felt resentful toward Google for axing some beloved services. Others, on the other hand — myself included — felt the decisions represented a welcome narrowing of focus within the notoriously nebulous company.

In my eyes, the latter philosophy is utterly applicable to the death of Reader.

Perhaps Google could've kept Reader on life support. Or, perhaps they could've worked to monetize and improve the platform. Regardless, the likely outcome of either scenario would've been unilaterally underwhelming. We would've been left with a deplorable product amidst a rapidly improving Google ecosystem. There would've been no semblance of consistency and there would've been a gaping sore on an otherwise attractive, new Google visage.

So, rather than slip into complacency, Google euthanized a product that had fallen into irrelevant stagnation years ago.

In doing so, as many optimists have been quick to highlight, Google has removed the anti-competitive barrier to entry in the RSS marketplace. For the first time in years, developers and thinkers are engaged and actively pursuing innovative means to work with RSS.

Quite a remarkable turn of events for a purportedly dead and irrelevant technology.

For those who choose to decry RSS as outmoded technology, I cannot help but pity such a misguided and pessimistic outlook. RSS is a backend technology designed to be withheld from your view as a user. Just as OS X has undergone an aggressive path of simplification, RSS has also been steadily ushered behind the proverbial curtain away from our prying eyes.

And just because you cannot see something does not mean it cannot have a profound impact upon the manner in which you engage with the world.

RSS is a platform agnostic, apolitical, enabling technology that allows for the efficient distribution of content. Considering the resurgence of long-form writing and its confliction with the ever-more cluttered experience of Twitter and Facebook, there has never been a more fitting time for a new (or revitalized) distributional technology to make waves across our space.

The arguments for the death of such a fundamentally useful technology are most certainly not new. They've persisted for years without ever showing any tangible proof of a demise. In fact, looking back, the first article I wrote for The Loop was entitled, "The Purported Death of RSS." For context, that was written in November, 2011. And it was most certainly not the first article to seep onto the Internet refuting widespread conjecture over RSS's demise.

In other words, people have been blustering about the death of RSS for a very long time. And yet, as we all witnessed yesterday, the shuttering of a "dead" Google product caused outrage and Twitter activity to rival the election of a new Pope.

2013 is a monumental and utterly formative year for digital publishing. In my eyes, it's certainly no coincidence that RSS has been set free during this time. Readers are receptive, writers are experimenting, and publications are reforming. RSS stands to undergo a renaissance of relevance and that's certainly not a bad thing at all.

Read & Trust Magazine - March 2013

Aaron Mahnke, Read & Trust:

We are surrounded by mobile computing devices. This month, some of the best writers in the world of mobile computing weigh in on what this new era means for us.

For this month's issue of the Read & Trust Magazine, Dave Caolo, David Chartier, Federico Viticci, and I wrote about our respective takes on so-called "mobile computing."

As you might guess from my preamble — and from reading this site over the past few months — I took significant issue with the delineation between mobile and traditional computing and shared my opinions regarding the modern technological landscape.

Rather than framing "computing" as an entity which can be characterized as "traditional," "mobile," or, God forbid, "post-PC," I make the argument that such perspectives are reductive of the far-reaching capabilities of modern technology. Citing Google Glass, the iPhone, and even the traditional PC, I sought to blur the lines between each of the disparate devices and instill some semblance of awareness of the possibility spanning across all of these devices.

More than my piece, however, the March issue holds writing from some phenomenal writers who're utterly deserving of your support.

The March issue of the Read & Trust Magazine is available now.