Apple & the Sensational Press

In the last day or so you may have started seeing even more sensationalistic news about Apple than usual. This time, it’s about the claim that Apple is slowing down older iPhones in order to sell new iPhones.

This article at TechCrunch by Matthew Panzarino has the real story. I strongly recommend reading this one to be best informed.

I want to talk about another issue too. It’s related.

I’m so deeply disappointed in some members of the press for the way that they sensationalize stories. It’s nothing new, I know. The fact that I often only notice their sensationalistic tendencies when they’re talking about a subject I actually understand hints that they might be doing this all the time, and I just don’t know it.

On this particular story, I’ve seen absolutely terrible articles by CNET and Business Insider already. Business Insider even went so far as to make it sound like Apple had confirmed, hat in hand, that they were throttling old iPhones in order to sell newer iPhones. They’ve done no such thing.

How can we hold the journalists responsible for these kinds of things accountable? I understand that I could just stop reading stories from those publications, but I imagine that sometimes the writer who publishes the story isn’t the only one responsible for this problem. They may have even been compelled to write something they didn’t personally agree with, or even understand properly, by someone higher up who is motivated to bring in more clicks and more ad revenue.

How are we to know who is to blame for gross misrepresentation of the truth? Is there nothing we can do? Do we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater? It’s terribly ironic that these things are coming from the very organizations we patronize for the sole purpose of bringing us the truth in a timely manner. What a terrible abdication of duty!

The Calcified Persona

This might be ignorant of me, but I’m putting these thoughts into the public space so that 20 or 30 years from now you can call me out on being wrong about myself, OK? That’s the informal agreement you’re entering into with me by reading this.

It seems from my vantage point that many people reach a point in their lives where they close themselves off to new things. This could be new scientific discovery, new art, new political thought, new music, or even simple things like new habits, new personal preferences, new beliefs about the simple, everyday things of life.

I think that’s kinda sad. I don’t want that to be me. My aim in writing this is to make a public commitment that I will not allow that in myself, ever.

There is so much flavor and nuance and amazement and beauty in the world, it is practically packed to the gills with it. Why shut yourself off from that? Maybe at first glance you don’t perceive it’s there, but don’t turn away just yet. Look a little deeper. Trust what your friends and loved ones tell you through their own amazement and enjoyment, and spend the time.

As we get older, we often have even more of that kind of time, so one would think as a person gets older they’d be using that time to expand their horizons. It seems that’s often not the case. My “ignorance alarm” tells me there’s so much I don’t understand yet about life and aging, and that once I get there I’ll see why. We shall see. But my intention is to always broaden myself.

Having said that, I totally understand that there’s no moral obligation to enjoy new things. Or even to notice them. So I’m not arguing that it is wrong to stop learning and changing. I mean, hey, if something is perfect, you’d be wrong to change it, right? But the chances that something is perfect are incredibly, extremely, ridiculously low. Believing you’ve found perfection should at least call for healthy skepticism.

I also acknowledge that there are areas of life that I have literally no interest in. Certainly, no one is obligated to love literally every activity and every subject. But I think a person isn’t living their full life when they close themselves off more and more over time from more and more things, drawing inside themselves, disconnecting and becoming calcified.

So let’s not say that calcification is a normal part of aging. Let’s not accept it in ourselves and others. Encourage the people you love to live their lives as broadly as they can, with as much connection as they can. And when you see calcification happening in your own life, fight it!

Work & Nothingness

People kinda tease me because I keep my desk at work fairly clear. I actively remove everything from it. I’ve removed my lamp. I’ve put all my old desk toys in a box under the desk. I put my phone under the desk and forwarded my calls to my cell. I’m considering drilling a hole or two in the desk so that most of the cords can be invisible and just come out where they’re needed. And it goes even deeper: I don’t have much in my backpack. My car is usually empty.

But these are just surface-level symptoms of a larger mindset. The real question is why. It’s given me so much joy, I want to share it. So, why do I do this?

What I’ve found is that as you approach nothingness, the only thing left you have is the work you’re doing. You’re there to do the work. So do the work. If there’s something else for you to do, something else to look at, something to be distracted by instead of doing the work, get rid of it. Do the work.

The more work I do, the more I find that this principle of ruthlessly removing the extraneous is really central to excellent creation. It echoes what I wrote years ago here and I’m shocked to find I don’t back away from that nothingness these days. I go forward, closer and closer to it. It’s beautiful.

I should say that I understand there are plenty of people who can focus without any distractions, even if their desks and their lives are crowded with all kinds of junk. I’m not one of those people. So if you find that you aren’t one of those people either, try nothingness. You’ll acclimate and you’ll love it.

My Dad Retires

My dad preached his last sermon as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church yesterday and wrapped up his 39-year career as a pastor. My sister and I wrote a remembrance of what it was like growing up in the Lewis household and I gave this speech at the “Celebration Service” they threw for him.

Hi. I’m Josh, Ken’s son, and Emily (my sister) and I wrote this together.

She and I are two of only three people in the world today who can claim to have lived with Ken Lewis for two or more decades. What that means is that I’m a member of a small, elite crew of Ken Lewis experts who know what he’s really like, in all circumstances.

I’ve read Exodus 20 and I know there’s no command to “tease thy parents”, but I just know so many things about him that you probably don’t know, I have to share. For instance:

  • I know what he’s like while travelling for days on end across the country in a Volkswagen Jetta. 46 of the 50 states, and parts of Canada and Mexico. Because of that, I also know that the very first thing he does when he gets into a motel room is turn on the air conditioner under the window. Full blast!
  • I know he’s a late laugher. It’s not that he gets the joke later. I think it’s that he enjoys it along with everyone else, and then goes back one more time to savor it a little more.
  • I know more about jazz than almost anyone else my age, all due to him. I’ve spent hours with him listening to all the greats.
  • I know how frugal he is. I’ve watched him laying on his back under one of those aforementioned Volkswagen Jettas in the garage, doing who knows what to save a few bucks on a mechanic while an AM radio on a nearby shelf plays a barely-decipherable baseball game. Probably the Reds.
  • I know one of his most-used phrases is “C’mere, let me show you something.” He is constantly sharing what he loves.
  • I know how much he loves to whistle. In the late 80s, during a road trip, Emily and I conspired to see if we could trick him into whistling a song he would otherwise hate, without realizing what he was whistling. So we started humming Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. He couldn’t stand Madonna, but he didn’t know the tune. So we hummed for a few minutes, and pretty soon he was whistling right along, totally unaware.
  • I know he loves recording important events, just like my mom does. When Emily and I were young, they had an actual Super-8 silent movie camera, and in order to get enough light for this thing to record well indoors, he had a set of intense white floodlights. So every Christmas when it was time to unwrap the presents, before the camera came out, this blinding array of floodlights would come out and get set on a stand, casting shadows as deep as astronauts on the moon, and smoke would rise slowly off of them and float up to the ceiling as we opened our gifts in a brilliant flood of pure white light. Christmas doesn’t feel the same once you get used to those, and then more modern cameras come out.
  • I know something scandalous about his toaster. It’s a Sunbeam, and it has a high wattage they can’t sell anymore. But because of that, the toast it makes is perfect. He has actually made a multi-toaster comparative chart demonstrating his Sunbeam’s unique qualities.
  • I know how he preaches. I’ve seen about a thousand Ken Lewis sermons live and in person.

So given how much I know about Ken Lewis, and how much experience I have in this particular subject area, I hope what I’m about to tell you holds extra weight. You may already know, but I want to confirm it. It’s just this: Ken Lewis is who he appears to be. He’s a man of great integrity.

It seems simple, and it kind of is, but it’s also extremely rare. I’ve spoken to so many pastors’ kids who are disillusioned in their faith, or left the faith completely once they got into their 20s, and you can usually trace their lack of faith back to the hypocrisy of their fathers.

But not my father.

It’s the faith that I saw every single day in him and in my mom that has kept pulling me back towards Christ over and over again, making me want to enjoy what he’s enjoying.

And what he’s enjoying is Jesus.

So I want you all to know without a doubt that the love Dad gave to you when he served you is completely real. 100%. He’s not perfect, but he is who he says he is. He’s the same guy at home that he is behind the pulpit. His passion for Jesus is gigantic and authentic, and Jesus’ love for him shows through in what he does and says, and it’s beautiful. I’d guess we’re all here, in part, because we’re glad we got to see that love and experience it in person.

Dad, thank you for your humor. Thank you for your integrity. Thank you for your love and your passion for Christ and His bride.

We Are All In Ministry Now

I recently talked (ranted) a little bit while recording on my iPhone on my commute home. I didn’t expect anyone to hear it except maybe my friend Jason. The rant was all about the Table and one particular thing that I wish more people understood about what the Table does and what it means to the congregation.

Jason liked it, so the recording ended up on the Table Project’s blog. Listen to it here.

Ideas and Hard Work

I was contacted by a stranger recently via this blog’s contact form. The question I’m assuming he or she is really asking (though pretty vague) is one I often hear, and I thought I’d share my answer. I’ve removed this person’s identifying information since I haven’t asked him or her whether it’s OK to post this here.

Hey Josh,

I was looking through the internet to try to find the best way to submit an idea for an iPhone/iPod accessory that has not yet been available and I stumbled upon your blog. A little about me: My name is [redacted] and I am currently attending (an American university) and I am a double major in Accounting and Finance. It’s a long-shot but I was just curious if you had any ideas or recommendations, advice, contacts, etc. that could help me in finding a way to get this idea to the right people in order for me to make some money to be able to pay off college. Thank you for your help and any further help would be greatly appreciated.



Here’s my response:


Since I don’t know you and I’ve only got one paragraph of (kinda vague) information here, I’m going to make some assumptions, and they might be wrong assumptions. Please forgive me if that’s the case.

Turning an idea into money is extremely hard. In this industry, people don’t pay for ideas. Even good ones. They might pay when all the details (and I mean all the tiny, tiny details) are fleshed out, and they’re holding something in their hand. But there are thousands of people who are out there saying “I’ve got this great idea. Let me just find some people to work for free and make it reality and I’ll just take 10% of the profits and leave the rest to them as payment for their work.” Those folks go nowhere.

If you want to go that route, I’m not sure what to tell you. Ask for help on Craigslist or on a local university message board and see if someone will have coffee with you, I suppose. If money is the final goal, you’ll learn a lot less, have little to be proud of and little to build from.

The category you want to be in is the group of people who are passionate (obsessed?) enough about their idea to build a team, get into the details, learn a lot, work extremely hard, and probably even build a prototype. Or a hundred iterations of a prototype. It turns out you have to put your own life into the thing to make it really worth something. And when you work hard, get into the details and learn a lot, even if your whole project ends up failing, you come out the other side wiser and more able to succeed next time. That’s something no one can take away from you. If you can find a team of people who see it the same way, no one will be able to stop you. You don’t need any of my connections, you just need to find those people.

If you want to go the better, harder route, it might look a lot like the shorter, weaker one in the very beginning, but after a lot of hard work it’ll eventually lead to places like Kickstarter. You can check out the Elevation Dock for an example of a well-done idea (where the details really mattered and the hard work was easily evident) that actually led to a real working product and clearly quite a lot of money. (Almost $1.5M in that case.) Another such case is the Recoil Winder. You can tell when you listen to the video that David Alden spent a lot of time working on the idea before he ever went to Kickstarter.

I hope that’s helpful, [Redacted]. Good luck pursuing your idea!


Elitism in Geek Culture

Earlier today I saw this video, made by a company whose web application I deeply love.

The company is NewRelic, and the tools they make are wonderful in helping me to make my web applications better in many ways. I was bothered by the video, and I said so on Twitter.

Later, the man who made the video contacted me and invited me to email him my thoughts on why the video bothered me so much. This is what I sent to him. In the hope that it might be helpful to others, or least enlightening as to my motivations, I’ll post it here too.


We spoke on Twitter earlier today. The meat of this message might not be fully “baked” and ready for deep analysis, but I think if I try to consider it more deeply and make a better argument, I’ll never actually send this email, so please forgive the holes and incompleteness of some of these ideas in the interest of having a conversation.

First off, I want to say that NewRelic is seriously my favorite web app from a professional perspective, and has brought me so much peace of mind and so much help that it is mind-blowing. So, well done. I recommend it to every serious web app developer without reservation as often as I can.

Your “Developers” video bugged me for a few hard-to-explain reasons. I’ll give it my best shot.

I’m one of those developers who has an immense respect for Steve Jobs and Apple. I moved across the country to work for the Mac OS X team in 2002 and worked there for about six years before moving back to the midwest. I never would have gotten into technology without Steve Jobs or the things he helped to make. I’m completely certain of that. So when someone appears to be teasing something that I know meant so much to him, and so much to me, and they’re doing it only a couple of months after his untimely death, I bristle more than a little.

But more important than my personal emotional ties, I often feel like developers and geeks (among whose number I proudly count myself!) don’t really understand how important visionaries like Steve Jobs are. Technology isn’t just about computer scientists solving geeky problems in clever ways. In fact, I would say it’s largely not about that at all. To be clear, I agree that we absolutely need geeks to solve geeky problems. That’s a crucial ingredient to what we’re trying to do. We don’t get anywhere without that.

We also don’t get anywhere without guys like Steve solving less-geeky problems. Steve doggedly pursued simplicity, down to the very core of his products, and protected the interests of common users who didn’t want to become geeks. He let them get away with not needing to learn much about technology in order to wield its power. In a sense, he delivered great power to the otherwise powerless, and demonstrated that innovation isn’t just the first time something is done, but also the first moment it becomes truly easy to do it.

I remember the first time it became easy to see how my app was performing on my live server. It was with your product.

Sometimes my own people, my geeks, act like lowered barriers to entry are a downside. We’re a pretty elitist, snobby bunch sometimes. I think we tend to forget who we’re making all this stuff for, and we make it obtuse and difficult almost as a point of pride, as though only the “worthy” can use our creations. The attitude is that if you can’t learn our horrible jargon and our convoluted, geeky way of thinking, you don’t deserve to have the power that comes with it. I think that’s a disgusting way to see technology.

So, having said all that, when you turn Steve’s concept into a new video which ends with the line “Because the ones who can create magic with code are the ones who will one day rule the world”, it doesn’t feel genuine to me because it conflicts with and thumbs its nose at the original message so strongly. It’s difficult to believe that it “meant zero disrespect” to the original concepts it is mimicking. “Rule the world” is a very exclusive goal. It shouldn’t be ours. The original line from the poem you’re mimicking says “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” That’s what we’re about. Changing the world. Not ruling it.

I hope that we as developers can pull together, amidst our developer pride and geek pride, and not widen the trenches between ourselves and the users. I hope we can help each other to fight pride and arrogance instead of making it culturally acceptable to build it up. The only way we can ever do that is by pulling the focus off ourselves and putting it onto the problems we’re working to solve together.