Cerebrate good times (Asimov on creativity)

From Isaac Asimov’s 1959 essay on how people get new ideas:

Undoubtedly in the first half of the 19th century, a great many naturalists had studied the manner in which species were differentiated among themselves. A great many people had read Malthus. Perhaps some both studied species and read Malthus. But what you needed was someone who studied species, read Malthus, and had the ability to make a cross-connection.

Later in the piece he invents brainstorms, though he calls them cerebration sessions:

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

 

Oven gloves and swimming goggles

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“It really feels like I’m reaching out to the world through this screen,” he told the audience. “You guys extend your bodies all the time — you use oven gloves to reach into the oven; you wear goggles to swim underwater; you send your voice down phone wires and into space. I’ve extended myself into this screen, just like that. Using robots to move through places you can’t go is useful and fun — but if your movements are constricted like mine are, it’s life-changing, because often you can’t go anywhere.”

From computer scientist (and quadriplegic) Stuart Turner’s talk at Wired2014. 

Tech companies nailed

The inclusion of egg freezing as an employee benefit partakes of the techno-utopian fantasy on which companies like Facebook and Apple subsist—the conviction that there must be a solution to every problem, an answer to every question, a response to every need, if only the right algorithm can be found.

New Yorker, who else.

Jive talking

“We wanted to crystalize our vision of enabling people and organizations to do great work,” she said. “We are a collaboration platform for people and brands to work better together with the technologies they use on different platforms — we really needed to share that story with the world.”

No. No, you didn’t.

From Ad Age. 

Pay peanuts you get monkeys

Adding to the problem is that there is no shortage of work in competing industries. Starting salaries at tech firms like Adobe, Google and Microsoft, are in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, according to the 4A’s survey. An agency president told Digiday that in the last year alone, he has seen 15 of his brightest millennial employees leave the shop and go to Google, Facebook or Apple to work in graphic design, creative or user experience.

From Digiday’s cogent analysis on why the advertising industry is goosed.

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The New Yorker’s digital overhaul is working

It’s great to see the best magazine in the world embracing digital and growing a new audience. This Fast Company piece is, for once, a solid and in-depth look at the recent changes, and explains in detail how and why the magazine refused to bend to the trend of focusing on shareability over experience:

“We had good data that showed that if people get through a story from beginning to end, they’re more likely to talk about it, and therefore more likely to share it,” Thompson says. And that means designing a site where everything besides the content fades into the background. Sure, the new NewYorker.com could have gotten more aggressive in a play for ad dollars and social media traffic, but it would have been at the expense of not just readability, but the New Yorker brand itself.

The Knowledge, and London’s 13 remaining cabman’s shelters

Russell Square: cabman's shelter

Most English people know something about The Knowledge, the fiendishly difficult tests devised for London’s black cab drivers, and we take pride in the fact that our cabbies are probably the best in the world, thanks almost entirely to its imposing demands. But I would imagine most people’s Knowledge knowledge ends there.

This beautiful National Geographic piece dives deep into the history of The Knowledge and throws up many fascinating details, including the charming story behind London’s cabman’s shelters (shown above), of which just 13 remain:

With the ease and fluency of a man who has The Knowledge, and the passion of a true historian, Lordan explains how the shelters were founded by Captain George Armstrong in 1875 to give London’s taxi drivers somewhere to keep warm and dry.

Armstrong had “sent his manservant out to hail a cab in a blizzard,” Lordan says. “He came back an hour later and said they were all in pubs, and none of them were in any fit state to drive. And so he established these shelters.”

Read the whole piece, it’s wonderful.

Out of focus

A nice piece of pith from this take-down of focus groups:

People are lazy, forgetful, creatures of habit. We all are. This is why the mega bestselling book is called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, instead of An Infinite Number of Novel Tasks Performed by Highly Effective People.

August

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IMG_1027.JPGI can’t take the credit for the shot of Gerda – my wife sent that to me a few weeks back and made my day.

Stephen Fry has never sounded more like Stephen Fry

In his gushing praise for the new iPhone:

The matchless design and innovation team led by Jony Ive – who has headhunted to Apple the brilliant Australian designer Marc Newson (over whom at the launch I spilled some horrible green wheatgrass and spirulina drink that would otherwise have gone all over P Diddy) – has produced two devices of absolutely exquisite dimensions, heft and feel.