I fall into the ardent minority who is pursuing using the iPad as a vehicle for productivity and knowledge. Rightly, the iPad has been described as a tool for consumption first and foremost. It’s fantastic for consumption activities like reading of all kinds, viewing video and playing games. It’s great for your leisure time, no doubt.
I’m a computer enthusiast and professional so I see the iPad as a new kind of computer. We’ve known for a very long time that a lot more is possible with a computer beyond typing on a keyboard and staring into a screen for hours sitting still. We’ve known that handwriting recognition, voice recognition and control are possible and being worked on. We’ve seen Minority Report with all the handwaving and now the Kinect. And Apple has had two blockbuster products that allow you to throw things around on a tiny or book-sized screen with your fingers. So, to me, what’s happening with the iPhone and iPad and their competitors is exciting and great to see.
The computer is the possibility machine. And something I do with it is work. I work for myself so work and play do kind of blend together. I work for clients but I also do things like this blog that are a bit more aspirational. Maybe there’s some work related to my most passionate interests out there that will find me blogging about this stuff.
I love computers so the first thing the iPad represents to me is a really tiny computer that packs a punch and is incredibly portable. It happens to run iOS and iOS is still discovering what it’s going to be when it grows up. So, I am not willing to think of it as a mere entertainment device even if it is extraordinary and surprising in that area already. I see it as a device that should be able to do anything any other computer has done one way or another. We’ve already seen keyboards that are created by shining a light on the table your are sitting at and typing on it. We’ve seen glasses that can display a huge screen relative to its distance from the eye. Why would I not be able to work with one of these things — with or without a keyboard?
Enough preamble, now let’s look at work from a knowledge professional’s perspective. I think of independent knowledge professionals as the new experts, consultants, advisers and publishers. The new part of it is that experts now kind of blend in with normal people who are passionate amateurs. I’m not an expert at the subject of independent knowledge professionals if a degree in IKP is required. But I am an IKP and have been for 25 years. And I’m the curious type. I do have a couple Masters degrees – one in Sociology and one in Business. Academia and other official institutions grant credibility but now we are realizing that amateurs and people who make this stuff up can be interesting and do valuable thinking too.
There’s this big knowledge component. It doesn’t hurt to be productive either. I like the knowledge piece more than the productivity piece so that’s mostly what I will talk about on this blog. I won’t talk much about traditional business disciplines like accounting, finance and marketing (maybe some marketing since it is intertwined with the web and internet which continues to change our world in dramatic ways). I’m interested in knowledge apps. They help you understand your world and figure out where you fit. They help you think, write, learn and articulate.
For a minute I’ll talk about productivity and productivity apps to make this distinction. Productivity has to do with efficiency. At its higher levels it has to do with effectiveness. Knowledge helps figure out these two kinds of virtues and how to get more of them, but it is more about the discovery and insight than the practice. Productivity is the getting things done. The work flow. Utility Apps may have productivity and knowledge aspects. The To Do apps exemplify productivity apps in the extreme. Pert charts and project management. List-makers. These can be awesome, but I like the less practical apps that lean towards knowledge, insight, analysis, creativity, expressiveness. Maybe a bit less about quantity and more about quality.
Apple aspires to blend Science with Art. The computer is the bicycle for the mind, Steve Jobs used to say. I think like that. I want to be delighted and enlightened.
Knowledge apps that excite me: Thinkbook, Index Card, Zite, Notesy, Bento, Day One, Scrivener and Circus Ponies Notebook. Those of you who are list-makers and masters of efficiency will probably be aficionados of productivity apps. This is where you shine. If that productivity app promises to help me be more efficient and get my work flow going with less time and effort, I’ll be there too. I just have my true loves and then my acquired tastes.