A few days ago I had a conversation about the mobile space with a Romanian entrepreneur. Before that, I finally learned that Nokia E51 has a predictive text ability and I learned how to use it. Shortly after, I had an epiphany. This is the story of my surprise finding.

I don’t like iPhones. Their battery doesn’t last. The touch screen is useless for me since I’m a power keyboard user. Their keyboard is completely inappropriate for fast typing, being too small and not responsive enough. As a phone, I’ve learned that it drops the calls and reports incorrectly the signal power. And the worst in my opinion is that I cannot really own the phone or the apps because Apple might decide to remove them for everyone.

Yet people stay in line to buy one.

While I understand their reasons, and that Apple managed to create a high level of desirability for their products, I don’t see myself getting one. I have always been insensitive to social pressure, especially when it’s about what I know best: technology. But how comes I don’t have this need? Shouldn’t I? I mean, technology is my life, right?

Apparently not.

So while the entrepreneur was telling me how wonderful his iPhone is and how it changed his life and how it will conquer the world, I was thinking about my way of using phones. i have a Nokia E51, and I got it because it’s small, light, lasts for a week, has a wireless module, charges in about an hour, has excellent sound for talking and allows Java apps. If it had flash and a qwerty keyboard it were perfect. Oh, and it runs an open source OS, which means my rights are respected.

So I felt once more like I live in another world. To me, a phone is a tool. To Apple, it’s a fashion accessory and a life changer. It’s not that they’re not right – the market approves them at least for now – it’s just that I don’t fit there and that’s strange. After all, I produce technology; shouldn’t I be excited about the new gadgets? Shouldn’t I crave for them? How comes I don’t?

And then it struck me. I don’t do technology because I love technology. I must have a different passion.

But which one?

The simplest way to find out is to think of what I like doing. I love to read and write, to write code, to learn new things, to discuss ideas with interesting people, to speak and take part in conferences, to play video games and to watch smart movies. None of these have a strong connection with technology. So, what do I really like? And why did I choose to work in software development?

Once I asked the question in this way, my answer became clear:

I love working with ideas

I love software development not because it’s related to computers and gadgets but because it allows me to work with ideas. I read, write, talk, go at conferences, work with teams, teach people because all of these have something in common: they’re all about ideas, passing them back and forth and progressively transforming them.

That explains a lot. It explains why I never thought of any programming language as “the only one”. It explains why I never thought of software development like a job but like a passion, and actually unconsciously considered it as just another way of working with ideas. It explains why I am interested in management, marketing, business, startups and other stranger domains like symbols, semiotics and myths.

It also explains connected behaviours. Why I like slow food, silence and in general low levels of noise and an environment that allows me to focus. Why I developed my ability to ignore everything around me and to focus very hard on one thing at a time.

And it puts my relation with technology in a completely different light. I am not excited by gadgets because the core things I need are a library and something to scratch things on. Of course, I can and do use the Internet as a huge library and the computer plus a graphics tablet or a text editor or an IDE for my thinking process, but that’s only one way. But an iPhone doesn’t give me anything that I don’t already have.

So, what next? I guess I should explore other uses of my passion – working with ideas.

Do you know a way?

Add comment Reflections on design, craft and software

A new home for merging ideas about design

It is my strong belief that software design can learn a lot from other design disciplines. I wrote blog posts, a book and did talks on this topic, and it was time to group them all together. These ideas have now a new home: My plan is to add more blog posts there, and to involve other people doing work in this area.