The Dann Chronicles
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The Dann Chronicles: January 2024 📓

The Dann Chronicles: January 2024 📓

A historic video game accomplishment, a years-long marketing battle, Apple's highs and lows, a handheld AI pal, and a return to decency.

January 2024

Hey all,

I've been thinking a lot about motivation versus discipline, and how they're two very distinct drivers that are often not in sync. Motivation drives the things you want to do, whereas discipline determines the things you spend your time doing.

I've been motivated to write a FinOps book for years, but haven't had the discipline to actually spend real time working on it. That means there's been a mismatch between my physical actions in the real word and the goings-on in the world that only exists inside my head.

Often, there are valid reasons why we lack the discipline to work on these ambitious tasks we feel motivated to do. For many, this is usually full-time jobs that leave us with little outside energy or families that take up all our time.

But on rare occasion, you come face-to-face with that disconnect between motivation and discipline, and must confront it head-on. For example, when you’ve been laid off from your full time job, secured some decent-paying part-time work, and made a deliberate decision that it's finally time to buckle down and write that book you've been thinking about for years.

In case you hadn't been following along, the above paragraph is currently me.

Career-wise, I'm officially on my own. And I'm consciously not taking another full-time job for a bit while I work on making sure my actions (discipline) match my words (motivation to write a book).

Channeling Ze Frank, this is an invocation for beginnings, because my past failures at follow-through are no indication of my future performance.

Phew. Okay. Let's do this.


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👶 The kids are alright

You may have noticed this feel-good story (NYT gift article) in the headlines this month: a 13-year old boy is the first person to beat Tetris. If you saw it and didn't click through to the story, that's understandable—it's certainly one of those stories that one might assume is completely told through the headline alone.

But this accomplishment has way more depth and the story is super interesting. In the same way that the documentary Free Solo made audiences really appreciate climbing El Capitan, this 16-minute video does the same thing for this new Tetris accomplishment.

It's a fun watch, which does a fantastic job of explaining the stakes, context, and accomplishment of this feat that will go down in video game history.

⚔️ A tale of two news cycles

Earlier this month was CES, the Consumer Electronics Show that takes place in Las Vegas every year. The show itself has much less of an impact on my life than it did years ago (when I was a technology reporter and actually attended the conference for work). But it's still fun to watch from the sidelines and pay attention to the intricate dance of marketing drama in the tech world.

One bit of inside baseball I always like to catch is what Apple is doing during the conference. CES is huge, with approximately 135,000 attendees and 4,000 vendors. Many of these vendors take this opportunity to launch new products or features at the well-attended and highly-reported event, making it a prime time for announcements.

But there's always one vendor conspicuously absent: Apple.

It's a power move. Apple doesn't need this big event to capture headlines; it commands news cycles all on its own. And one of the ways that Apple likes to poke at CES is by doing its best to dominate headlines with Apple stories despite the massive, news-filled event.

That's why on January 8th, one day before CES 2024 began, Apple officially announced the pre-order and launch date for its new AR/VR headset the Apple Vision Pro. The news, of course, dominated both the news cycle as well as the social media chatter. All I can say is: bravo.

🎢 Highs and lows

I'm going to spend one more newsletter section talking about Apple, but only because there were two polar-opposite Apple stories in the news this month and I think the juxtaposition is possibly even more interesting than each story individually.

The first story, as I mentioned is the Apple Vision Pro. I think this ten-minute promotional video from Apple, which shows a guided tour of the product through the experience of someone trying it for the first time, provides an excellent feature summary for anyone not following along.

As far as my personal opinion...I find the device to be super interesting. Not as a product necessarily, but as an attempt. Apple is trying something new—its take on the still-nascent industry of AR/VR. It's not a product for everyone, or even for most people. But as someone who likes Apple, and is interested in moonshot attempts, I'm watching very closely.

As for the second story, in the same month that it announced its highly-anticipated Vision Pro, Apple also halted the sale of its latest Apple Watches due to losing a patent dispute.

The two watches, the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 include improved blood oxygen sensors that infringe on the patent(s) held by medical device company Masimo. Last month, Apple lost its bid to stop the sales ban, and so the watches officially became unavailable this month.

They’re back on the market as of Thursday (nearly a month after sales halted) with the blood oxygen sensors present but disabled.

The moral of each of these stories: move fast and break things, I guess?

🤖 My friend AI

Going back to the topic of CES, there was one product announcement that managed to break through and gain some media attention: a handheld AI-powered assistant called the Rabbit r1. The 25-minute keynote (an Apple-like launch strategy) does a great job of explaining the features and use cases.

If you're wondering why this gadget in particular caught people's attention, just look at it. It's beautiful. That's because it was designed by Teenage Engineering(!), the Swedish consumer electronics company famous for its award-winning designs and discerning product partnerships, like with Panic for the Playdate handheld gaming device.

I'd probably buy one if I hadn't just lost my job. It's only $199 (not cheap, but way more competitively priced than expected) and there's no monthly fee.

But, like the Apple segment above, the story itself is much less interesting than the juxtaposition of this story against another. In this case, the Rabbit r1 next to the Humane AI Pin, which I discussed in November's newsletter.

Both are AI assistants, but one just feels right (the Rabbit r1) and one just feels wrong (the Humane AI Pin).

At this point, I think the real difference between these two products is transparency and trust. As someone who uses AI on a near-daily basis, I know how often it's wrong. The r1 gives users a view into what's happening, whereas the AI Pin relies on blind trust.

It's possible that in the future we'll realize that the AI Pin was ahead of its time. But that doesn't help the product today. Between the two, I'll take the r1 every time.

🏡 Love thy neighbor

Lastly, my wife Avi asked if she could write a section for the newsletter this month, so I happily gave up some space for her thoughts. Her inspiration: a story in The Atlantic that particularly resonated. I'll let her take it from here:

For the last few years, I've been really fascinated by contemporary sociology—thinking about interesting questions like why we live the way that we live, why we behave as we do, and why our lives look a certain way. I'm always trying to understand more about modern human behavior and, more importantly, I seek out ways to have deep, meaningful relationships with the people in my life. I think that America's late 20th century embrace of individualism has enabled people to pursue their dreams in a way never before possible in history, but that it's also produced some unintended consequences (paywall bypass) in the ways we live.

I've never been a particularly religious person, and I've never liked the argument that "societies need religious institutions in order to function." But I do think that our country is drifting away from the institutions and structures that create collective moral formation, religious or not. This article presents moral formation as something that's not solely created by religious spaces, but that used to be more prevalent in many spheres of life. I especially liked how it recognizes the failings of pre-1950 moral structures and proposes ways to implement a new moral framework for our modern society.

End note

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Also, if you find anything interesting, send it my way.

Thanks for reading. Until next time,

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