We live in a time where it has become extremely difficult to be focused on any one thing at a time. If we are able to achieve this proper focus, lack of proper environment and our own abilities are not able to sustain this focus for long. The disciplines of simplicity and solitude are not practiced by many and I fear we are slowly losing the ability to do so even when a chance presents itself.
“Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.”
— T. S. Eliot
The enemies of this focus are many. In previous decades, people still seeking quiet spaces complained of noisy telephones, always on radios, and blaring televisions. We still have those today. But now we can add over-burdened inboxes, filled-to-the-brim feed readers, IM’s, tweets, and noisy ringtones to the mix.
But the intent here is not to focus on life in general. Not today. Today the emphasis is on our digital lives. In the list above, a lot of the new ‘noise’, the stimulus that we receive, is present only when we are in front of a computer. Since so many of us spend a lot of time in front of a computer, we are affected by these forms of stimuli.
And there is another item we can add to this list: software. Not just software in general, but newly released software. Betas and 1.0s, the software that drives us away from the perfectly good tool we are using now, to try the newly released, shinier application. Software that looks so good we simply have to try it out, even if we have no need for a tool of that type.
The latest edition of MacHeist really got me to thinking on this. Specifically, some of the commentary and controversy surrounding the highly publicized event helped me to solidify my thoughts on this subject. In particular, Lukas Mathis made some astute observations that hit at the heart of the issue. On the weighing the pros and cons of MacHeist in general, he says this:
Rather than arguing about whether MacHeist is good for the participating developers, or whether it’s good for MacHeist’s customers, or whether it’s a nice experience, or whether the participating developers are getting great marketing, I would be interested in knowing how it affects the Mac software market as a whole.
That is the Question
How does it affect the Mac software market as a whole? Great question. My feeling: it doesn’t help in the long run. Compare the past two MacHeist bundles and you see similar apps from year to year. The second bundle included Pixelmator while the third bundle included Acorn. It’s highly likely there are a lot of Mac users who own a license of each.
And MacHeist is simply some shrewd marketers capitalizing on this truth—current day computer users have software A.D.D.
Our fast paced society and our penchant for ingesting more input than we can handle has affected the way we use software. Many of us seem eager to try whatever is the newest, despite the cost of moving from one tool to another. No longer are we experts in our favorite applications, simply because we do not use our applications often enough or long enough. Giant software bundle sales take advantage of this fact.
We Can Change
The Mac community seems more vulnerable to this mentality. But it’s not the entire community. There are the power users out there, experts in their field who use certain applications every day in plying their trade. Take John Gruber for example—any regular reader of his site knows he’s been using BBEdit for years. It’s safe to say that he knows the application inside and out.
I want to become an expert in my favorite software applications. That only happens when you focus on doing your job—whatever that is—and forget about the applications themselves.
And we are back to focus.
- The GTD craze of the past couple years is perfect evidence of this mentality.
- Possibly due to the fact that the Mac platform has a virtual cornucopia of good software available compared to the Windows community.