Creative news and reviews

The verdict is in.

Apple won just over $1-billion in damages from Samsung for patent infringement.

As somebody who has used the iPhone since the 3G model (currently on the 4S) and who has had about a week’s experience with an el-cheapo Samsung Android device I can say I am not surprised. Compared to Blackberry OS, which I have extensive experience of from the enterprise environment, and also compared to Windows Phone (which I played with once in a shop), Android feels largely derivative of iOS. Both Blackberry OS and Windows Phone are different paradigms.

But here’s the rub.

I think what Android has done, in many cases, is innovation by iteration. This is something that happens often – where invention happens in the way ancient cities rose. You always build the new levels on the old foundations. In this process they have come up with innovations that are beneficial to the end-user and that MAY NOT have existed ever before. Swype, for example, is a superior alternative to typing as it fully uses the glass screen surface in a way that is more suited to the medium than tapping and in fact leads to faster text input. Would I love to have Swype on my iPhone? You bet.

So what really is on trial here, is the US Patent Law’s inability to acknowledge this basic inherent truth about creativity.

Apple themselves have innovated by iteration in their development of the mouse, just to cite one example.

What should happen is for acknowledgement within patent law of iteration and let the market decide. If a company chooses a new paradigm, let’s see if Windows Phone can be beat Apple and Android. If Android takes on iOS then let them duke it out to make each other better – because, let’s face it, iOS has improved because it too has built on some of the innovation within Android. I’m looking at you here, Notification Centre.

Ideas flourish when they exist within open systems. When they are free to jump from brain to brain and to get better with each jump. It is time patent laws acknowledge this. And it is time for companies like Apple and Samsung to dedicate their time to out-innovating each other so the consumer can decide and choose from the very best human ingenuity can offer.

Further reading on innovation by iteration, click here.



This blog has been a tad neglected as my spare time has been eaten up by completing a short story I wanted to put out on the Kindle. In this post, I want to reflect on

a. The importance of self-publishing platforms in the realm of creativity
b. My own experiences with working with the Kindle platform

Before we get into it, here is the title in question.

If you decide to read it, thank you. In itself the story is about my main passion – the power of creativity in every individual. Here is the synopsis:

One Tuesday evening, 143 people find themselves on board a subway train from East Tsim Sha Tsui Station to Central Station on Hong Kong Island. As the train hurtles through the tunnel, a freak power surge causes the lights in the train to flicker in a bizarre, random sequence, inducing epileptic seizures in all 143 passengers. When they wake up, they have all been transformed.

I planned the draft in Literature and Latte’s Scrivener. For long form text, Scrivener is unbeatable. You can divide text up into several layers of nesting and easily move concepts, chapters and sections around. Version control on different sections is also a breeze.

Once I had the basic structure on the cork board, I used iA Writer to write the raw text for the different sections. In this phase of writing, I write really fast, without thinking too much. I just want to get the ideas on the page as quickly as possible. And really, for distraction free writing and simplicity – nothing beats this beautifully designed piece of software. It works on the iPad and on the Mac too and unlike Apple’s own iWork packages, allows you to switch effortlessly from device to device on the same document. Whilst in this phase, I was switching between a MacBook Air (trains, planes and coffee shops), an iMac (at home) and an iPad (bouts of insomnia).

Each time I finished a section, I pulled the text back into Scrivener to populate the cork board.

Once I had a workable draft, I uploaded a version on Google Docs where I had some very good friends helping me with proofing and suggested edits. About five eagle-eyed (I hope!) readers commented and often debated merits of lines of copy in the manuscript. Google Docs’ commenting feature really is amazing for this type of application.

I went through two rounds of crowd sourced proofing. After the first round, I simply pulled the edited Google Doc back into Scrivener and rebuilt a brand new draft with the new copy. With Scrivener’s split pane function, this was pretty easy and really useful to compare versions. In each instance, I backed up .rtf copies of the manuscript in a special folder within the Scrivener project.

Once I had the manuscript done, we got to the hard part. Preparing the text for Kindle.

The way it works is not exactly consumer friendly. Kinde relies heavily on html formatting, so if you are comfortable with markup language you could probably prepare the book file yourself.

To understand how that works, and for deciding on what to include in this length of manuscript, I looked to screen writer John August’s posts on the matter. His post on publishing The Variant was pretty useful.

I decided I wanted a heavily stripped down book file. No table of contents needed (10’000 words only) and no images.

Scrivener itself offers a conversion to the kindle .mobi book file format using the Amazon command line editor (which you have to download – for free – from the Amazon site and then simply tell Scrivener where it is on your drive). In any event, this tutorial was incredibly useful.

I experimented with a few different compilation settings and eventually got to something that seems close to what I wanted.

The actual upload and publishing process could not be simpler. If you already have an Amazon account, you can easily sign up for the KDP programme and get your work out there.

And this is where I get to reflect on the power of this type of platform. In the pre-internet age of publishing, it was pot-luck to publish and achieve success with your work. Now, it will be the power of the market to decide what works and what doesn’t. No talent now needs to remain undiscovered. The only thing you need to have your ideas out there, is an internet connection.

As an experiment, I will also make the story available on Apple’s iBooks store in the coming days. Having just begun to convert the text using the new iBook Author, the differences are already apparent. Apple’s made a very consumer friendly product. What you see is what you get. No weird formats or surprises when you compile.

(If you don’t have access to the Kindle and you’d like to read the story, contact me and I can make an epub version available to you.)

I have come to the conclusion that the type of content I post here would probably suit Google+ well. Maybe even Facebook, but for now I want to experiment a bit with the conversational power of G+.

If you use Google+ and you enjoy the content, I’d appreciate if you add Ingenuity Lab to your circles and be part of the conversati0n about creative intelligence.

Thank you.

Michael Mayer

I was sad to learn today that Michael Mayer, probably South Africa’s most prolific voice artist passed away over the weekend.

Voice artists, especially those who work in advertising, give texture and feeling to the television and radio commercials that fill our lives. Their ability to modulate, squeeze in words, interpret copy and give life to a copywriter’s words is priceless. The best ones work all the time and they have become a part of the nation’s cultural landscape.

Most South Africans would know Michael Mayer’s voice well. But almost every South African copywriter working in the business today would have had the opportunity to work with him. To hear him make something of your copy. To sometimes, dryly advise on better placement of a pause, or a simpler structure to make the lines more punchy.

He put the artist in voice artist. For him it was more than a craft, it was a life.

UPDATE 1: Memorial service to be held at Milestone Studios in Bloem Street, Cape Town on Wednesday 1 February – at 5pm.

UPDATE 2: Johannesburg memorial to be held at St. Columbus Church, Parkview at 11am on Monday 30 January. (Thanks, Irene)

I’ve been interested to scan through the MPAA’s blog commenting on this week’s blackout to protest the proposed new anti-piracy legislation in the US.

The MPAA, among others, seem to be in favour of this legislation to “protect the American creative community”.

However, most of the anti-SOPA protestors on Wednesday, were people from the American creative community.

Where is the disconnect?

If the legislation is so clear then why does it need constant explanation?

Or is that it seems Orwellian in the gaps it leaves?

Does the creative community even want government protection?

What is needed here, are not vague laws that could harm the openness of the internet, but innovative thinking about inventing new business models that work in a new open and connected world – where media is easily downloadable and distributable.

The open internet has made it easier for the creative community to publish their work and profit from their talents.

Just ask Louis CK.

Or Amanda Hocking.

It seems as if the MPAA understood this, they would be lobbying for more roundtable discussions on how to make an open internet work harder for the creative community.