Offline First

Welcome to 2018 where everyone is online, all the time. The more I think about this, the worse I think it is for us in general. For the past few months, I’ve largely bailed on social networks. More recently I’ve been avoiding news as well.

On my phone I’ve removed a many applications, and while I’ve left a few games for when hanging out in the bathroom taking a 💩, I try to avoid my phone for things other than phone calls and text (eg. no social media and limited web browsing).

I took a quick peek at twitter over the weekend and immediately saw this tweet from @jjj which made me think of a new old approach to life in the 21st century.

In web development we try to take an approach called mobile first. This is where the content is loaded as minimal as possible and designed considering mobile first, rather than designed with the kitchen sink (everything) for desktop then scaling it back for mobile. The reverse approach tends to be slow and bulky on mobile where you may have an old device or limited bandwidth. It’s not ideal.

This week starts an experiment I’m calling “Offline First.” For years I’ve worked off one or two laptops, work and/or personal, they’ve always been on, they usually travel with me (sometimes even when going to visit family). I get up in the morning, move the mouse to wake the screen, then lose time checking email and surfing the web. 30 minutes later I realize I’m late for something and I’m  ignoring my family.

In avoiding my phone I’ve found this thing called the “real world” (scary, I know) and it’s amazing. I’ve felt better about life, spending time with kids and family, and most important of all, NGAF about what is happening in the world at large.

Back to Offline First and @jjj’s tweet. This week, I’m going to take a new approach to work. When I’m done work at the end of the day, I will be powering down my laptop. No longer will it be there, at the ready for me to unlock and start writing emails or surfing the web. It then becomes a conscious decision on whether or not I want to turn it on then sit and wait until I can use it, or defer until the morning. In most cases, hopefully the answer is “no, this can wait until the morning” and I write myself a note. While certainly there may be cases where I actually need to address something that involves more than an email reply on my phone, hopefully those are the exception rather than the rule.

In the morning, I’ll get up and have coffee or breakfast, then do whatever I want to do with this newfound time-slot before I sit down and consciously start work. Once ready I’ll start my day, work on accomplishing what I need to, and then turn it off again at the end of the day. It will be similar to going in and working in an actual office with a desktop computer then leaving for the night.

While work may never be done, it does need to be paused from time to time so that we spend some time enjoying life in the real world.

I’ll keep you posted on how my experiment goes and hopefully it’s something that yields good results, becoming a permanent fixture of my life rather than a one week experiment.

The US Postal Service is killing itself

I just stumbled across a Reuters article that said the US Postal Service was failing due to the internet. People sending emails instead of mailing cards and letters was what killed the postal service. There are a few problems with this argument.

Its been well documented that the the problems with the US Postal Service stem from the out of control pension system as well as the congressional mandate to provide service to every single household is what’s causing the problem. Also, the fact they USPS is trying to deliver packages is ridiculous.

If the US Postal Service thinks that a higher volume of mail would save them from disaster, they’d be crazy. Volume of mail (income) is going down, while costs are going up. Anybody with a business background would tell you that’s a recipe for disaster. Even if you marginally increase your income, you still need to reduce your costs.

My grandfather is a retired postal inspector. He retired in his 50’s… he’s nearing 90 years old now… retired for 30+ years. Last I heard his government pension was about $80,000/year. Yes, you heard me right, $80,000/year. Must be nice… but it sure as hell isn’t sustainable for the USPS to keep paying pensions like that.

This whole debacle reminds me of other industries failing to adapt. The RIAA and MPAA have fought tooth and nail to avoid the digital era… instead of adjusting their business model, they cling to the old and dig their hole deeper by attacking people. Remember when they fought VCRs? Now they’re delaying movie rentals longer in hopes of people giving up and buying the movie instead of waiting, therefore making them more money.

In the end, the US Postal Service using the argument that the internet is killing them is just ridiculous. The USPS has been around for a long time… in one way or another before it was officially run by the United States Government. I wonder if anybody ever argued that other forms of communication like phone lines would kill them? Before any electronic communication, letters were the only way to communicate across distance. Did the mail volume go down with the advent of a phone in every house? I bet it did. Its much easier to pick up the phone and call your friend.

Stop blaming the internet for your failing business model.