Rose Gold by Any Other Name

Rebecca Mead, writing for The New Yorker:

The announcement, last week, that, with its new generation of iPhones, Apple would be offering a model that was “rose gold” in color made the news that it was meant to: “The internet has lost its damn mind about the new pink iPhone,” read Buzzfeed’s headline. The phone, with its rubicund sheen, was instantly coveted. “I don’t care at all about whatever they are talking about. gimmie the pink phone,” tweeted Roxane Gay, the feminist author. In other quarters, the color was met with a sense of mystification. Christina Warren, writing at Mashable, wondered whether Apple had opted for the appellation of “rose gold” as a way to avoid using the overtly girly “p” word. “I’m just going to say it: it’s pink,” she wrote.

Rumors swirled weeks before last Wednesday's event, claiming Apple had decided to anodize its aluminum with a pink hue. What was subsequently released was a device whose color was described as, fancy that, "Rose Gold." Since then, I've seen claims that Apple had deliberately chosen to refer to the new iPhone color as something other than "pink" because they don't want to potentially scare away male purchasers who, I can only assume, would rather drink hydrochloric acid than (gasp) buy a pink phone. Never mind the fact that Apple has shown every year that it has no issues selling iPhones, regardless of color.

Also never mind the fact that the choice would never be between drinking acid and buying a pink phone, since there are three other perfectly good, not-as-emasculating colors, if a dude is so terrified of purchasing a "girl's phone."

I engaged in a healthy discussion with a friend about this very issue, spawned by the above article. I do believe Apple's naming convention on the iPhone 6s is quite deliberate, but not as capitulation to the lustful eyes of rabid, tech-hungry men who are all inexplicably slaves to the delicate façade of masculinity that flakes away with each scrub of the exfoliant that is society's impinging feminism.

"Rose gold" is a term those accustomed to buying jewelry will easily recognize. I won't regurgitate what The New Yorker piece explains so eloquently (seriously, it's a great piece, and Mead doesn't get nearly as hung up on "rose gold" vs. "pink" as I am about to. Go read it). The coppery essence infused within a vibrant yellow. It's light. It's elegant. It's precious. Where pure gold frequently looks overtly gaudy, its rose-colored variant is decidedly restrained.

I bring this up because the names Apple chooses for the colors of its devices has been firmly rooted in precious metals for at least three years now (though you could argue that Jony's love of "aluminium" proves they've been obsessed with the inherent value the purity of metals brings far longer than that). Since the unveiling of the iPhone 5, with its "silver" model eschewing the more obvious and plain "white" or "aluminum" monickers, Apple has shown that they favor metaphors. The word, "silver," evokes a sense of luxury that the other two couldn't possibly.

I'd argue that even the black phone, or "space gray," has an inherent mysticism in its name that makes it a much more desirable than the more accurate "tungsten" or "gunmetal black" ever could. Both of those sound aggressive and ugly at worst, tough and rugged at best. These are not images you want to evoke when you're holding a premium handheld computer that is the pinnacle of elegance in its class.

Apple has always tried to compel customers through its marketing that it is selling finely-crafted devices that offer a certain level of refinement no one else can match. The finesse in which they are crafted–the diamond-polished chamfered edges, the sturdy and durable unibody enclosures, the gentle curve of the dual ion-exchanged glass that is stronger at a molecular level than any other glass–necessitates words that can describe their beauty and sophistication accurately. What my Limitless Adventure (seriously, please listen to our show) cohost frequently refers to as "marketing puffery," Apple proudly wields as their best weapon against imitators. They have the world's best manufacturing process creating these devices. Might as well have the world's best marketing to sell them.

(Quick aside: you don't have to subscribe to this way of thinking. You're more than welcome to continue rolling your eyes and go on about your business, but you can't deny that part of Apple's allure is their attention to detail, from the tiniest screw to the most embellished adjective on their website. They sell experiences, not gadgets.)

So when they released the iPhone 5s, its new color–a subtle yellow anodized aluminum casing blending seamlessly into a white glass face–was called "gold." Not "brass," nor "champagne," even though anodized aluminum's very nature caused it to possess a far more restrained tone that drove many to incorrectly associate its name with effervescent fermented grape juice. And rightly so! The name of the color was meant to stir up images of luxury, but Apple didn't want the color itself to beat you over the head. After all, it was merely aluminum. To pretend otherwise with a coat of yellow paint would be in poor taste.

(No surprise, of course, that Samsung stumbled haplessly onto the scene weeks later with their own attempt, marrying the ostentatiousness of gold with the unbridled tackiness of a plastic enclosure. Not only were they late to the party, but when they stepped through the door, they realized that they somehow put both feet through a single pant leg and fell flat on their face in front of everyone. Then, in a merciless display of divine cruelty, they shit their pants.)

The choice of a gold 5s, from name to actual finish, was a success. Reserved enough to appeal to those who found actual gold revolting (me), but still holding enough of the allure to entice those who wanted everyone to see that they were, in fact, in possession of the latest and greatest iPhone. Apple found a way to make a brick of gold look tasteful. More than ever, iPhones were not just pocket computers, but pieces of jewelry. (It can't be forgotten that Apple does, in fact, produce pieces of actual jewelry now. However, considering their colors are derived from the actual materials used, the metaphor isn't applicable. They're the most literal displays of luxury Apple has ever produced.)

It should be noted that Apple is not afraid of being straightforward. Nowhere is this more apparent than the iPhone 5c, which was released in tandem with the 5s. It was created as a way to appeal to the widest amount of users. Vibrant and fun. A hard candy shell with the delicious iOS interior. The color choices matched that personality: white, yellow, blue, green, and pink. Bold colors, bold names. Never afraid to be front and center. Couldn't care less as to who might not want one because of any certain connotation. But like their bright plastic shells suggested, these were not the same class of device as their flagship siblings. They stood out in visual appeal, but were second-class in hardware. As close to a toy as Apple is ever likely to produce. You wouldn't call them luxurious.

The rose gold iPhone is the natural progression of this idea of elevating literal computers as metaphorical extensions of a user's elegance. The name is not Apple caving to the pressures of a male-dominated industry, but rather the logical evolution of their current marketing conventions. Yes, the phone appears more pink than copper, just as the gold phone appears more champagne than yellow; that's the manufacturing process mixed with the restraint of the designers. Apple is going to call them whatever they think personifies the quality of their products. I don't think for a second they give a shit about some insecure guy getting offended at the prospect of being sold a "pink" phone.

If Apple was actually afraid of alienating customers, they wouldn't deprecate floppy drives, CD-drives, 30-pin connectors. They wouldn't release a pocket computer without Flash support. They wouldn't release an iPad with no USB ports. They wouldn't release a fully-fledged computer with no traditional USB ports. They wouldn't donate their time and money to LGBT causes. Tim Cook wouldn't tell Apple investors to fuck right off when they question the necessity to create a greener company that will help leave the Earth better off than when they found it.

Apple tells its customers, "Strap in for the ride or get out." This is their vision of the future, and they'll define it how they want. If you don't like it, they're happy to leave you behind. Someone else will gladly take your spot.

And your pink iPhone.

Leaving Apple

The Clapout

This day is dragging. An indiscernible weight sits firmly on my chest, and the more I struggle to move out from under it, the more it presses down. I can’t escape it. I’m trapped. I find myself stealing a few quiet minutes–some in the bathroom, some in the south stairwell back near the bike rack, some in the cavernous underground storage room we lovingly refer to as “The Malkovich”–throughout my shift to try and ease my heart, to catch my breath, to quiet my racing mind. I can only fall back on a worn cliché: the anticipation is killing me.

Very little of my work gets done today, and it fills me with guilt. People keep joking with me, “So you’re totally checked out, right?” I laugh, of course, but deep down inside it makes me question myself. I’m not that person. I don’t check out. I care too much. But between being stopped every other minute, and the exit interview, and the assurance from my colleague I am leaving behind that, “It’s okay, Keenan. I’ll be fine,” it’s very hard to concentrate on anything of any importance. So instead I repeatedly draw the phone from my pocket to glance at the clock. The minutes have slowed to a crawl. My future is filled with panic. I’ll never be free of it.

Just breathe. It’s not the end of the fucking world. Or is it?

Is this the end of the world as I know it?

Mercifully, time does, in fact, march on. Despite my relentless clock-checking, which feels obsessive and futile, I send a text to a dear friend who has come to see me off.

 
 

It’s here. I’m ready.

I say goodbye to the few blue shirts I see on my way out of the basement. Then I climb the two flights of stairs. Stark, white walls lined with promotional posters of all of the talented artists and speakers that have performed here. They serve as a reminder that significant people are frequently invited to make their mark on us and our customers, before being hastily relegated to mere memories. The most important guests get recognized via their posters, our trophies. Hung up in the stairwell for all to admire every day and feel like we were a part of something important.

I emerge into a dark hallway that leads me past one of the Genius Rooms and into the auditorium on the second floor. I make my way toward the Genius Bar. A blue shirt, Dan, marches down the aisle, checking in with customers. He clutches an iPad. A man of such massive stature, Dan holds that iPad in a single hand about as easily as I hold my iPhone 4S. We’ve joked about it before. Dan and I have fun.

Dan’s the first to see me as he glances up from directing a customer to their seat at the Bar. When he does, he sets the iPad down and runs over and wraps his giant arms around me in the warmest embrace. He’s such a nice guy, and it’s hard to not succumb to the welling emotion. Then he lifts me up in the air and I’m suddenly very self-conscious of my weight. Doesn’t seem to phase him, though. He sets me down and my legs somehow hold their own against the unsteadiness reverberating through them.

A pregnant pause. It takes me a moment to recognize an all-too-familiar sound. The violent shattering of windows? The furious grumbling of thunder? The sharp, staccato pulses of hail clattering upon the roof?

Wait, no. I know this sound. I have produced this sound countless times in my tenure here.

The energetic, jovial clapping of hands.

I wander to the staircase and peer down. A sea of blue stands before me. The claps–waves crashing incessantly against the bluff–the claps don’t stop. And they are for me. Clap. Wide smiles. Familiar faces. Raucous cheers. Clap clap clap.

It’s for me. All of it. I can’t contain myself. Try as I might, with hands drawn to my face, I can’t contain myself. There’s nowhere to hide. I thought I was ready, but I’m not ready. I’m not ready at all.

I’ve descended these stairs hundreds of times. Before this moment, I’ve nary given the long, thick slabs of glass before me any meaningful thought. Thick glass. Patented by Steve Jobs. I always laughed to myself at the trepidatious steps of our customers as they climbed them. Wary, fearful. One slip, a single crack, and you’re met with a violent introduction to physics.

Standing above the glass slats now, my colleagues cheering me on, a sudden realization:

I am so fucking scared.

I’m scared of falling down the stairs. I’m scared of saying goodbye. I’m scared of what it means to walk through the giant glass doors that await me at the end of the valley of people.

But I can’t back down now. So I step forward. Though I am deafened and confused by all of the blue shirts cheering me on, I suddenly remember the iPhone in my pocket. Halfway down the stairway, I stop and snap a quick photo–like any good Millennial would–the sensor struggles to compensate for my shaking hands.

 
 

Years later, I’ll be grateful that I captured it. For as blurry as it is right this second, it will provide infinitely more clarity than the images my brain holds onto after time slowly erodes them, a fleeting vision no more vivid than ethereal wisps in a darkened forest.

Stepping down onto the sandstone floors, I look at every face around me. These significant people that made me feel like I was part of something important. Many smile behind their claps. There are others look on with confusion, some of confused ones even muster up the courage to whisper to the blue shirts around them. I’ve had that conversation dozens of times.

“What’s happening?”

“It’s his last day. We clap everyone out when they leave.”

I want to hug every last one of them. I suddenly don’t want to go. I want this moment to last forever. But, out of practicality, I don’t let it linger. I’m drawn to some of those whose impact will resonate within me long after I leave. I hug Lindsey. Then Juli. Over to Amanda and William. And then I see my confidant. My counterpart. My very dear and wonderful friend who has helped me through countless moments of personal and professional tumult. Allexia. No point in even trying to keep it together. I melt into her arms. I’ll never know someone quite like her again. Someone who always has an answer, who can inspire passion and creativity, who can drive me to constantly strive to be the best version of myself.

Here I am. The doors are right in front of me, ready to let me out. I’ll be gone forever. A final wave back at my family before I’m outside on Michigan Avenue, swarmed by the crowd that has gathered at the entrance of the store. A couple passersby ask me who I am. What I did. What’s the deal with the clapping. I mutter something about leaving and I walk away. I’m so absorbed in this moment I don’t even realize my wife is following me until she darts forward and grabs my hand, jolting me back into reality. We walk around the corner and I hug her. I pause to think. Every minute moving forward from now adds to my life after Apple.

Am I Completely Wasting My Time?

Recently, a wrote a piece that garnered a reaction I am not yet well-acquainted with: derision. I wrote it in good humor, commenting on another article, and I tweeted a link to my finished post to the author of the original piece.

“You entirely missed the point,” he said.

I clicked on the Tweet, and saw that a colleague of his chimed in as well. “The wannabe Gruber got you. Neat.”

“Imagine how devastating he’ll be when he learns how to write.”

I’ve never been physically punched in the gut before, but I am pretty sure I know exactly how it feels now. Anger like I haven’t felt in a long time welled up from that spot and festered within me. Whatever else I was intending to pay attention to that evening became quickly irrelevant. My existence was now dedicated to mitigating this horrid feeling. I’ve had my moments of creative despair in the year and some change since I started this site, but nothing has ever made me question everything quite like that three Tweet exchange. This feeling was amplified exponentially due to the fact that I truly didn’t understand what would cause the author to react this way. My post wasn’t mean. Silly, maybe. Lighthearted. I reread it a dozen times searching for any hint of malice I may have overlooked while writing, and couldn’t detect it.

(It should be noted that I did reach out to the author, explained my intention, and asked why he felt the need to be disparaging. He responded when he awoke and clarified that he was overtired, in a bad mood, and misread my piece. He apologized, said he actually thought it was nicely put, and we’re cool now. All is right with the world.

Though I imagine the other guy still assumes I want to be John Gruber, which I guess I’ll just have to take as a compliment.)

My wife, one of the few people who truly knows me, immediately recognized something was brewing inside me. When I finally let my guard down and showed her the catalyst for my distress, she reassured me.

“They sound like dickheads.” Measured and thoughtful and endlessly supportive. Classic Gia.

I couldn’t shake the rage, though. How could I? This was (surprisingly) the first instance of true criticism I had experienced. It attacked my reading comprehension, my motivations and character, and my writing abilities.

“You’re putting yourself out there. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say. You can’t please them all. Don’t let it to get to you.” She’s a very sweet person, and I knew she was right. Rationally, I knew she was right.

Insidious are the thoughts of an irrational and hypercritical brain. It continued to eat at me. I thought I was going to be sick.

Do I shut down the site? Is this even fucking worth it? Am I completely wasting my time? These thoughts occupied my mind for a great deal longer than I feel comfortable admitting. Even now, when I think about it, I wonder if maybe there’s a little bit of truth burrowed in my internalized interrogation. But Gia was right. I can’t please everyone. As I write more, and more people get exposed to what I have to say, it’s inevitable that there will be more criticism. The nature of anonymity on the Internet has taught me that what I experienced was relatively tame compared to the horrors that lie waiting in the nebulous expanse of the web. If I’m going to react this way to something that's ultimately so benign, what will it be like if and when the time arises where people tell me I should kill myself because I make fun of Samsung’s latest abortion? Maybe this isn’t worth pursuing. Life under a rock seems far less confrontational.

Desperately, I tried to relieve my anxiety. This drove me to seek out someone, an objective third party, a person I could trust to tell me what’s what. Set me straight. I took to Facebook and contacted a good friend of mine, pleading for his blunt honesty in a couple frantic messages.

“Is what I am doing with my site stupid and worthless?”

“Am I a terrible writer?”

I assured him it wasn’t a ploy to fish for compliments, but reading back on the conversation now, I can’t help but feel downright pitiful. It’s way up there on my ever-growing list of weakest moments.

To his credit, he lived up to my expectations and provided a compassionate but pragmatic and well-reasoned response after letting me ruminate on the events for the evening.

“I think you offer an interesting perspective on Apple. It’s a crowded field of bloggers,” he said. “My problem with all Apple blogs is that Apple is a big, terrible, smugly capitalistic megacorporation that shrouds itself in the costume of righteousness and unbridled creativity.” Spoken like a true former Apple employee.

Everyone who leaves Apple leaves for a different reason, and they all seem to have a very unique takeaway from their experience. I’ve heard the sentiments run the gamut from, “I really miss it,” to, “Fuck this place and its Kool-Aid drinking zealots.”

I don’t fault my friend for his perspective. I completely understand where he is coming from, though I personally disagree with the assessment.

He continued. “I know your writing comes from a personal place, and it’s thoughtful and often very eloquent.” Coming from a scholar who is in the midst of writing a four-year long dissertation, a man on the editorial board of a peer-reviewed academic journal, I’d be a damn liar if I said this didn’t inflate my ego a considerable margin.

“Corporations are not people.”

“Apple is not people.”

“So if you’re wasting your time, it’s not at all because you’re not good at what you do.”

“It’s because maybe what you do doesn’t need to be done.”

Four messages drove home his point. He said that’s about as brutally honest as he could be. I was at the same time emboldened and disheartened.

I know your writing comes from a personal place.

Apple is not people.

Over the last few days, my thoughts have revolved around a common inquiry: what is it about Apple that I connect with on such a personal level?

October 5, 2011

The operator stations in the North Michigan Avenue Apple Store are nestled in a corner of one of the stock rooms. One or two Specialists are assigned to the phones in shifts that typically last no longer than two hours each, and during that time they field every phone call that comes in from the outside world. Most people don’t revel being on phones, though there are some who find ways to secret themselves away down there for extended periods of time. They’re not feeling well. The person taking over for them hates phones. They busted their knee and can “literally barely move.” To them, anything is better than going back up to the floor and talking to another person who won’t buy AppleCare on their iPad. These are the people who won’t be successful at Apple.

On the afternoon of the fifth of October, 2011, I was assigned to phones. I never minded manning the station. I liked helping people solve problems. I also liked when sweet old ladies told me I had a voice that sounded like it should be on the radio.

It’s the little things.

This particular afternoon was quiet. Not a lot of people ringing the store. Inexplicably, there were two of us assigned to phones, and between trading every other call, we’d peruse the Internet on the iMacs at the station.

I was scrolling aimlessly through Twitter (clearly, nothing much has changed in my life). My timeline was pretty unassuming that day. Boring even. Until a new Tweet notification showed up on screen and I clicked it.

“Holy shit,” I said. My colleague looked over and asked me what was going on.

“Steve died.”

Three years at an Apple Store, and I never experienced a day quite like that day. It didn’t take long for the news to spread between every employee in the store. The term “viral” was never more fitting. The solemnity that filled every room in the building was bewildering. Staff and customers alike commiserated with one another as reality set in. Everybody shared in the grief over Steve’s passing.

Inexplicably, I felt an immense void deep within myself. As though someone had removed a part of me, but didn’t bother replacing it. In the coming weeks, that void would slowly fill in with each incredible gesture the residents and visitors of Chicago showered upon the store. The giant glass windows that lined Michigan Avenue began to fill up with myriad Post-It notes. Heartfelt well-wishes. Expressions of sadness. The lovely memories of those whose lives were forever changed by Steve and the things his company built.

 
 

But before all of that, on that night, I felt empty. And that emptiness transcended sleep, burrowing itself into my gut to accompany me to my early shift the next morning.

Shifts at Apple Stores typically begin with the “Daily Download,” a meeting led by someone on the Leadership team. Some common topics discussed are: sales numbers from the previous day, and the goals for the current day; tactics for showing customers the benefits of whatever product we were focusing on that quarter; recognizing other employees whose actions personified Apple’s relentless mission to enrich the lives of its customers. Daily Downloads were usually a great way to get the team hyped up for the day ahead of them.

Depending on your personal views of Apple, the following events I describe will either seem especially touching, or insane and bizarre, fortifying your opinion that Apple breeds cult-like religious fervor amongst its fans.

The Daily Download on the morning of October 6th, though, was led by our Flagship Leader, and she told us she knew that today would be tough. Tough for us. Tough for our customers. We should be prepared for it. She was sweet, caring, understanding. She wanted us to know that we all had a support system. The Leadership Team was there for us.

At one point, we were invited to share our own memories or stories about Steve, thoughts we had on his passing, or anything else that was on our mind. Some of my colleagues had met him once or twice, usually in passing. Some of us just wanted to talk about a way that an Apple device touched their life in a meaningful way. Anyone who wanted to speak was given an open invitation to do so.

I didn’t expect to say anything, but something compelled me to vocalize my sorrow. I was confused by it. I had never met Steve. At that point, I was barely with the company for more than a year. What stake did I have in all of this?

My memory is hazy around the specifics of what I said, so I am hesitant to put anything between quotation marks. The general sentiment, however, is something I will never forget.

I opened up to my team, something that became increasingly difficult as I elaborated, since the void decided to bubble its way up my gullet and choke me while I spoke. I told them:

I never knew Steve. I never met him. I never even saw him. But when I heard the news yesterday, I felt (and continue to feel) incredibly sad about his passing. I’ve been racking my brain since then, trying to figure out why this is affecting me so deeply. I love our products, but I love technology, so that’s not surprising. I feel incredibly fortunate to work for one of the most amazing companies in the world.

I think the reason why I can’t shake this feeling is because if it wasn’t for Steve, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with all of you. More than anything else, getting a chance to come here every day, be around people that I truly care about and love working with, is the best thing he could have ever done for me. You all inspire me so much. You’re more than my peers. You’re my family. Steve helped me find a family.

I think about that day a lot. How I felt. What it means to me to have been surrounded by such warm, wonderful people that challenged me to be my best. To be a part of something bigger than myself. It’s one of my most cherished memories from my time with Apple. I expect it will stick with me for a long time.

Soylent Green

It’s been a few days now since my friend and I spoke about my work. His cynical statement continues to swirl around my head, twisting and turning and weaving its way into every conceivable fold of my brain. I know what he means. I know exactly what he means. I share his cynicism for damn near every other company out there. I try to assume the best of everyone, but there are some out there that just make it so. Fucking. Difficult. My snarky liberal sensibilities frequently get the best of me. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would call me a hypocrite for thinking different about Apple, if even for a second.

But this is where I have to deviate from his perspective. I truly believe that Apple is people. They are a company, sure, but a company comprised of thousands of people who share a common goal: to enrich the lives of their customers through great experiences. This is something that I saw on a daily basis in my time there, and it’s something that I continue to see from an outsider’s perspective as Tim shapes the company under his direction.

You might think me naive. You might say that the environment in a store is an outlier, that it’s not indicative of the company as a whole. Of course they want to cheer their lowest-paid employees on. Keep up the morale of the troops as they wade into battle after daily battle. It makes sense to instill them with a greater sense of importance. But I’ve worked at the ground level for those types of faceless, greedy corporations before. I know what it looks like to be an under-appreciated peon whose only practical purpose is to make more money for the people above me.

Apple has a gift for hiring talented over-achievers. Empathetic listeners who love to solve problems. It demands the best from its employees, and it inspires them to grow as individuals, to bring their unique experiences to each and every interaction. People that are capable of succeeding in that type of environment are not stupid, and most of them will be able to suss out any sort of nefarious intent and take action accordingly. This is something that I saw at all levels of the company, from the Specialists with whom I worked side-by-side each and every day, up to the leadership in Apple Retail, and those I met from corporate. I don’t believe for a second that that type of culture is wrought of a flaccid mission statement plastered on the walls. That sort of inspiration is engrained at the highest levels of the company. For it to truly succeed, those who preach it must believe it.

And if we assume for a second that someone like Tim speaks only in platitudes to inspire his employees, what purpose does that serve him? The message is still gobbled up by (almost) everyone anyway, and that call to action has found them inordinate amounts of success as a result. If the people running the company don’t believe there’s truth to their words, they are idiots.

Now with all of that being said, because Apple is people, Apple is inherently not perfect. It is still a corporation, and by that fact alone there are choices it makes that don’t fit within the utopian ideals of a group of people with purely benevolent intentions. There were plenty of moments where I was baffled by decrees handed down from on high. I worked through the Browett months, for God’s sake. I watched my bright-eyed, optimistic, Apple-loving coworkers get ground down into jaded, miserable husks who stayed for the paychecks until they could find something, anything better.

I saw leadership hire new members for their own team. Many times these were external hires from places like Best Buy and Target, and they were brought on solely because they knew how to drive more sales. Those were the people who were managers, not leaders, and very rarely did they grasp the ideas that made Apple so different than other companies.

I saw hours cut. Attendance policies made more strict. People fired for offenses that would have previously resulted in a mere write-up. I once consoled a friend who got yelled at by her manager because she wanted to take an extra day off around the holiday to fly out and see her parents.

These instances (and others like them) made me question my own judgment. They drove me to look for work outside of Apple. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that many people who left in the ebb do not hold the same fondness for those who were there for the flow. I do not blame them for not sharing my perspective. The views of the world are shaped by our experiences, and every Apple experience is different. It’s also not for everyone.

Life After Apple

People occasionally ask me about my affinity for Apple. Frequently, that question will be phrased like, “You’re such a fanboy,” but I feel like I’m smart enough to parse the subtleties of the English language and glean the true meaning of their underlying query.

I don’t always know how to properly respond.

People admire things that don’t directly affect them all the time. It might be between Apple versus Google (or Apple and Microsoft, depending on how long it’s been since you threw your hat into the ring), Xbox versus Playstation, sports team versus other sports team. Jennifer or Brad. T-Swift. Katy Perry. Coke. Pepsi. Boxers. Briefs. Often times it’s arbitrary and silly, but it’s human nature. We glom onto these things with very little forethought as to why.

For me, Apple is something that I deeply connected with during my three years there. From its products, to its design, to its mission, to it being the first place that made me feel truly accepted for who I was. Apple connected me with some of the best fucking people I’ve ever met in my life. People I still think about today and consider them some of my closest friends. People I love. People who love me back. People I truly enjoyed seeing each day. People that challenged me. People that made me a better individual.

Growing up an outcast isn’t easy. Being treated poorly by others because of some perceived differences–things that, for the life of you, you can’t figure out what they are–that sticks with you. While it’s nice to think that as you get older, you can just move on from those experiences, it’s not always the case. Slights against you–especially the tiny ones that were callously spat out hundreds of times, a multitude of little emotional cuts that built up over the years–leave considerable scar tissue behind.

Apple taught me to value my differences, and the differences of my colleagues. And not just value them, but celebrate them.

It allowed me to tap into my core and use my knack for helping others. It encouraged me to do what was right for my customers; it allowed me to feel like a person and connect with others on a level unlike anything I had ever experienced before, workplace or not. It helped me learn how to mentor, how to teach, how to lead.

In three years there, I learned more about myself than I did in six and a half years in college (no, my Twitter bio isn’t an exercise in hyperbole). I overcame obstacles and learned from them. I developed new skills and honed existing ones, oftentimes discovering I possessed innate abilities that were previously unbeknownst to me.

The worst parts of the job made me cherish the best parts. It taught me about optimism. A lot of how things play out in life do so based on your attitude toward them. Apple instilled confidence in me. It taught me to respect myself. It implored that I always seek out what was best.

At the end of it all, leaving Apple was the best thing for me. Everything I learned there helped me realize it was the right time. All of the experiences I had in my three years there helped me realize that the risk was worth it.

So I guess that’s my answer. All of that is what Apple means to me. That’s why I write about it.

In that video, you can see how overwhelmed I am as I approach the top of the stairs. Even today, I watch that and I can feel my hesitation before I take my first step down the stairs. Faced with a sea of smiling, cheering family members, I remember being so terrified of walking out those doors. Back then, I think I was scared of leaving my comfort zone. Now that some time has passed, I realize that I was just scared that I’d be leaving the best parts of myself behind. My friends. The skills I had learned. My passions. That all of those things would stay forever trapped within those walls, because Apple was such a big part of me.

I know now that I brought all of that along for the ride. I may have left Apple, but Apple didn’t leave me.

Suddenly, Dicks are Why I Want to Play Rust

Filed under: Headlines I never expected to write.

Facepunch Studios founder, Garry Newman, has been doing a bit of a media tour lately. He's been discussing at length their game, Rust, and how they've deviated a bit from traditional development tropes with regards to character creation. Namely, there isn't any. Players who purchase the game are randomly (and permanently) assigned skin color and other physical attributes that distinguish themselves from other players. And by "other physical attributes," I mean their penis sizes. You're literally born with a body in game and it sticks with you, forever tied directly to your Steam ID.

This is such an intriguing concept to me, since so many games either give you predetermined characters, meticulously sculpted by the developers, or you're presented with a series of options—drop down menus, sliders, preset hairstyles, etc.—to craft your own being. Creating my character always gives me a great amount of joy for all of five minutes before I get bored and just want to get in game, so how my character ultimately looks is usually irrelevant to me.

However, there's something about Facepunch's approach that makes me want to play Rust. You're effectively birthed into the world with your own unique flaws that make you an individual (as unique as you can possibly be, given the current limitations of the engine). As Newman says in this PC Gamer article:

Fuck spending months making a character designer, lets make the game about the game. Then the more we started thinking in that direction the more we liked it. Assigning based on steamid means that everything we add gets evenly spread across the playerbase. We don't end up with 90 percent male white guys. We end up with a full spectrum. Players have to live with and accept who they are. They are recognizable, so more gameplay mechanics emerge. The long term goal in the back of our heads is to hide player names and have them only recognisable by familiarity. I think we are approaching that.

What Newman and his team are looking to create is not a game where you're just playing another character. You're playing a game where your character is an actual extension of you, in a sense. You're not creating your own avatar through which to live vicariously. Your digital self is permanently tied to your physical self, and just like real life, you don't get any influence over the genetic hand you're dealt. You have to make do with what you're given. I can definitely see how this could make characters feel more personal and give people a true sense of ownership over them. This could mold player behaviors in ways alien to the current online multiplayer landscape. Maybe it will make people think about things from a perspective they wouldn't otherwise have the chance to visit.

Even if it never goes that far, it's still a very interesting social experiment. I long for the moment where a character in Rust is recognizeable by merely their physical traits, rather than the defacto nameplate that every other game out there gives you. Maybe people will approach others with more caution, not knowing if the person that looks familiar from a distance is their friend or not. Give them a chance to get up close and personal and really see that person for who they are. Use the natural talent for recognizing others our physical brains already possess, and apply that to a digital world.

And then punch them in the dick.

No Man's Sky

I just finished reading yet another article about No Man's Sky that has succeeded in hyping me up even more.

My anticipation for this game is at a level I can't quite equate to anything else I've ever wanted. Well, okay, maybe the original Fable, which excited teenage me when it was introduced as Project Ego and promised to literally be the game to surpass all other games forever and always, only to release and resemble the end of a T. S. Eliot poem in comparison to its hype.

Since its initial unveiling a couple years ago, No Man's Sky seems to have grown exponentially in ambition and scope. The game they describe now seems impossible. Endless sweeping vistas. Fully-explorable worlds that are as vast and immense as those in our own universe. A limitless universe filled with more habitable planets than could ever be explored by our lifetime. At this point, it resembles some dramatic experiment with supercomputer processing, rather than entertainment for the average consumer, wrought from the power of a single video game console.

This is the type of game that makes me excited to be a gamer. This is the type of game that makes me wary about ever getting excited about anything. The lofty expectations that Hello Games continue to set for themselves resemble the outlandish claims that Peter Molyneux has been known for. I am at the same time feverishly consuming every little morsel of information about this title, and dreading its impending release because I know it can only bring me disappointment. I am (unsuccessfully) doing my best to temper my expectations, lest I become truly jaded and cynical of the industry that provides me my favorite pastime.

Right now, No Man's Sky stands as a testament that there are still games out there that can stoke my imagination like they did when I was a child. As I've gotten older, most games have revealed themselves as obvious systems with a beautiful candy coating. As well designed as some of these systems may be, they are merely bits of software and the suspension of disbelief is damn near impossible, even with the pinnacles of the industry. That Hello Games can manage to make me feel that childlike wonder leading up to a launch is wonderful. Yet, I can't help but worry that its eventual landing in my home will leave me whimpering in the dark, because I expected the Big Bang, but got an experience that instead relied on the ambitious fable concocted during its development.

Apple's Humanity

John Gruber stands on stage, microphone held tightly in his hand as he casually shifts his weight from foot to foot. He is about to announce his guest at this year’s live episode of The Talk Show, and he prefaces the introduction with a sentence that succinctly describes what appears to be his own disbelief: “I shit you not.” This is more for him than it is for the people in the crowd, but when he says the name, “Phil Schiller,” the audience couldn’t respond with more vigor. The cheers continue as John backs away from the narrow, focused glow of the spotlight, conceding the moment is not his own, but his guest’s. The excitement in the room is staggering.

As the stage remains still and no Schiller is in sight, that excitement quickly dissipates and the crowd cools, suddenly realizing they’ve been the victims of a very cruel joke on John’s part. They sigh. They boo. But John stands vigilantly in the shadows until the proverbial man of the hour reveals himself with a dramatic flourish of the curtain. Fucking Phil Schiller walks out on stage and the din erupts once again as both the host and the guest take their respective seats.

What takes place in the following fifty-seven minutes is the best episode of The Talk Show John has ever created, as well as the best interview an executive from Apple Inc. has ever given. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to or watched this yet, you are wrong.

This interview is special for many reasons. Not only does John Gruber hold his own as the host and ask Phil Schiller the questions that deserve answers—real answers—but Phil responds in kind and gives Apple a warm, forthcoming voice filled to the brim with earnestness. Phil is a fighter ready to spar, but he is also a gentleman willing to yield to the man sitting opposite him. The rapport between Gruber and Schiller is one of mutual respect, and they've learned over their years of casual correspondences to know exactly where to poke and where to prod, as well as where to draw the line. Phil speaks from the heart with his responses, and it’s this honesty and passion that leads someone like Marco Arment to write of the experience:

Apple is just people. Their usual communication style makes that hard to see and easy to forget.

Phil’s appearance on the show was warm, genuine, informative, and entertaining.

It was human.

And humanizing the company and its decisions, especially to developers — remember, developer relations is all under Phil — might be worth the PR risk.

This interview is special because it is human. It’s a conversation between two men about topics that impassion them. It’s a conversation between two men that want to share that with the world.

Apple is a human company. It can be difficult to see that if you’ve never been a part of their ranks. At times, my own passion for the company—fueled by my years working for them—causes me to forget that not everyone gets the same sort of perspective that I did. So when someone’s cynicism gets the best of them and they accuse the company of chasing profits, or being disingenuous with regards to their values, or deliberately debilitating their products with software upgrades, my instinct causes me to reel. How could they think that? Few companies are as open and honest about their passion for creating amazing things that help people. Their criticism is harsh and unfairly targeted. This is not the Apple I know.

The problem with Apple is that not enough people know the Apple that I know. In all honesty, it’s Apple’s own fault. Decades of secrecy and, at many times, hostility toward the press caused a rift between the reality of their mission and the public’s perception of them. With Steve Jobs at the helm, this rift wasn’t as much of a factor. His legendary ability to mold opinions and find with pinpoint accuracy the it of Apple’s products, that special something that made everyone want one, made Apple cool and desirable without the need to cater to the wider public persona.

Steve’s passing ushered in an era of uncertainty. Sure, Tim Cook had successfully helmed the company before, and surely their product roadmap had been mapped out for the next five years, if not a decade. Apple would be fine in the short term. But that didn’t stop that seed of doubt from being planted. Without the mystical founder that resurrected his company from the ashes, how long before it withered once again to embers? One of Steve’s greatest achievements was that he made Apple. He was Apple. What is Apple without him?

If one of Steve’s greatest achievements was embodying Apple, pulling up the curtain in front of the eyes of the public at large, then one of Tim Cook’s greatest achievements is tearing that curtain down. He has revealed what’s been true of Apple all along: it is a company comprised of passionate people who have made it their life’s work to create great products and help enrich the lives of their customers. Steve brought them there. Tim shows them off. I’ve written a couple of times now about what Tim Cook’s Apple is, and I stand by my assessment that he understands what makes the company truly great is the people it employs. Letting them take the reigns allows their passion for their projects to shine through. They’re allowed to be honest, open, human. At this point in the company’s life, I think this is exactly what it needs.

Tim Cook doesn’t want to be another Steve Ballmer, a corporate-friendly stand-in for the guy who used to run things. He doesn’t want Apple to be so successful that they rely solely upon the brand deposits they’ve banked on in the past. Those would only get them so far. Instead, he wants the company to be open to risk, open to criticism, and open to listening. To be as human as their computers try to be. In the last few years, Apple has slowly shed its shell and opened itself up to the world. This strategy will only serve to benefit them in the long term. As the memory of Steve continues to fade, and the company continues to move on in its own direction, Apple’s willingness to listen, to engage, and to wear its passion on its sleeves will solidify the good will its customers already give it.

Phil Schiller isn’t the first executive to show this side of Apple, but John Gruber gave him the chance to be the best. With Gruber’s astute understanding of Apple’s culture as a developer, a commentator, and a fervent customer, he gave Phil all the chances he needed to be a person. He asked tough questions and bantered playfully. This wasn’t a dance, well choreographed with a slow, deliberate build that finished in a calculated climax. It was a boxing match, with two fighters whose abilities were tested, ultimately ending not in a knockout, but with each combatant giving it their all and paying respect to the other as an adept adversary. That all sounds super dramatic, and I’m sure John and Phil think nothing but the best of one another. That doesn’t change the fact that this is new territory for Apple, and coming face to face with the public and being willing to hear what they have to say is going to be a fight. Phil handled himself wonderfully, in a friendly and passionate way you would expect of a person who loves his work.

By extension, Apple handled itself wonderfully, too.