Apple’s launch of the iPhone X last week was notably different from its original iPhone launch in 2007, as I said in the intro to my Techtonic radio show on Monday evening.

Here’s how I put it on Twitter:

• Was the home button irritating users?
• Did users hate the kind of metal Apple was using?
• Did users want their faces scanned?
• Is this for users?

In other words, the features Apple touted about the iPhone X – face-scanning through FaceID, the edge-to-edge screen without a home button, and (my favorite) “surgical-grade stainless steel” – are all impressive technology, but I’m not sure they solve users’ primary pain points or unmet needs.

Compare this with the original iPhone launch from 2007, in which Steve Jobs demonstrated a complete revolution in how people would use smartphones. The iPhone solved chronic problems in smartphones of the time – managing contacts, three-way calling, accessing voice mail – while adding a number of other benefits. There simply was nothing else like the iPhone when it launched.

Going further back, compare last week with twenty years ago, in 1997, in which Jobs made the famous statement about Apple’s new strategy:

You’ve gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to sell it.

I wonder what Jobs would have made of the surgical-grade stainless steel, the face-scanning, and the rest of the iPhone X features. Did this launch focus on the customer experience, or did Apple perhaps “start with the technology” and then try to sell it?

I’m excited to announce a new project I’m starting today, Monday, Sept 11 at 6pm Eastern: a new radio show! The show is called Techtonic, and I’ll host the show live on Mondays, 6pm to 7pm, from the studios at WFMU based in Jersey City, NJ. (The greatest radio station in the world. I ran Skeptech there in May.)

Techtonic will explore our shift to a digital future: that is, all the ways technology is affecting our society and day-to-day lives – both for good and not-so-good outcomes. The show will have a talk format, with interviews followed by live call-ins from listeners.

For today’s debut show, my guest is Scott Heiferman, founder and CEO of Meetup. He’ll describe his perspective on creating technology for community-building, and how he reacts to Facebook’s recent moves in that space. 

If you listen live to the show, please call in! I’ll take live on-air listener calls during the show. Call +1.201-209-9368.

How to listen LIVE to Techtonic:

• Web: go to wfmu.org and click the big play button at 6pm on Monday (or before then, to hear Scott Williams’ excellent show, then the start of Techtonic at 6pm Eastern). 

• Mobile: download the WFMU mobile app and click the Play button there.

• FM Radio: 91.1 FM in the New York/New Jersey area.

How to comment on Techtonic: We’ll be having a livechat during the show on the comments board! Go to wfmu.org, click the “Playlist & Comments” link, then create an account in the lower-right and start chatting. See below:

Hope you’ll tune in, post a comment during the show, and maybe call in!

– – –

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Why you should listen to the new Techtonic show on @wfmu hosted by @markhurst – http://creativegood.com/blog/new-techtonic-radio-show-on-wfmu/

Here's the video of the first Skeptech event, which I hosted at WFMU in Jersey City, New Jersey on the evening of Wednesday, May 24.

Skeptech was the world's first event to question the tech industry, raise awareness about some of its problematic behavior, and describe positive ways of building, managing, and using technology to actually make the world better.

Summary of the talks:

• In my introductory remarks (minute 4 of the video), I listed four main problems posed by today's tech industry: Security, Privacy, Arrogance, and Manipulation. (If only it had a good acronym, right?)

Douglas Rushkoff (author, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus) argued for why we should join "team human." At roughly minute 31 of the video: "When I say, 'humans are special, we have awareness, we have consciousness,' my west-coast friends say, 'Oh, Doug, you only say that because you're human.'" (Douglas's podcast: Team Human)

Natasha Dow Schull (author, Addiction by Design) presented her concept of "ludic loops" - specifically, how apps and social networks employ design patterns from addictive Las Vegas slot machines in order to "hook" their users. At 1:04 (minute 64) of the video, Natasha describes the Snapchat Streaks feature, which tracks the number of consecutive days two friends have chatted: "The mechanism becomes the point. This becomes about maintaining the streak, not the friendship."

Vicki Boykis talked about life in Stalinist Russia and how there are some uncanny parallels to online life today, like conformity and self-censorship. Go to 1:12 (minute 72) of the video to watch her talk from the beginning.

Liz Berg, Assistant General Manager of WFMU, described how the station continues to create meaningful community with and among its listeners – and then Liz gave specific suggestions for how your team can do the same. Go to 1:38 (minute 98) of the video to watch Liz's talk, called "User Engagement Do-Over." 

Ken Freedman, Station Manager of WFMU, spoke about "The Fine Art of Troll-Whispering," pointing out that trolls pre-date the web – and he listed specific ways that any team can combat or neutralize trolls. Send this to any team that claims to build community online! 1:49 (minute 109) of the video. Watch it.

More Skeptech info, and all speaker bios, at skeptech.info.

And hey! Make a pledge to WFMU if you watched some of the video and enjoyed it. Skeptech was a benefit for WFMU, with 100% of the proceeds going to the station. Donate to WFMU here.

Next Skeptech event: Mark your calendar! On Thursday, October 26, we'll return to WFMU for the next Skeptech event – in person and via livestream.

The secret to creating online community - and defeating trolls - is surprisingly simple. Listen to my podcast interview with Ken Freedman and Liz Berg from WFMU, the free-form radio station that has created a worldwide fan base through its radically innovative approach to radio.

You're invited: I'll be hosting the first Skeptech at WFMU this Wednesday, May 24, in Jersey City:
Sign up to attend (tickets almost sold out!) ... or watch the livestream starting 7pm Eastern on May 24.
Skeptech speaker list, venue, and all event details
My column that launched Skeptech

Subscribe to the Creative Good podcast:
Subscribe in iTunes
RSS feed

(Update: Watch the livestream of Skeptech on Wednesday, May 24, starting 7pm Eastern.)

Friends, we need to talk. About tech.

There's a problem brewing in digital technology. You're probably aware of it - the problem is big, it's systemic, and it's growing. We can name some of its aspects: Surveillance. Manipulation. Addiction. General creepiness.

I've been watching these issues grow and develop for a decade. Ten years ago, seeing people suffering under email overload, I published Bit Literacy - hoping to teach people crucial skills, seeing as tech companies weren't doing the job. But it got worse: the tech industry has found ways to lock users in, launch and promote addictive tools, and build surveillance systems that track users' private communications and actions, often without users' knowledge or consent. It's a totally different world from when I started Creative Good in 1997, naively optimistic about the internet's potential to improve the world.

The emerging tech reality has been hard to ignore while running my Gel conference in recent years, trying to spotlight innovations that I'm excited about. The early years of Gel were highlighted by the first-ever stage presentations of Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Duck Duck Go, and others - great projects benefiting the world - but in recent years it's been harder to find similarly inspiring projects. My customer experience consulting at Creative Good, as well, has felt pressure to become analytics- and algorithm-based, rather than human-based. (I wrote about this in January.) My most recent book, Customers Included, makes the case for good qualitative thinking, and basic human respect for users, but both ideas increasingly seem out-of-step with our new tech reality. So I feel the need to take action.

The world deserves better technology. You deserve better. And goodness knows, we've been promised better from the tech industry. So today, I'm going to do something about it: I'm launching a new project called Skeptech.

Skeptech will be a platform to...
question today's digital technology,
explore how it operates, often to users' detriment, and
discover ways that all of us - product teams and users, too - can create and use better technology that works toward users' long-term benefit.

In particular, I want to spotlight people and projects that are doing things right, proving the viability of a different approach:
people (thinkers, writers, innovators, and product teams) that deserve more exposure for the good work they're doing
tools (apps, sites, communities, even games) that create genuinely good experiences - they do exist! - and
media (books, podcasts, feeds, and articles) that are worth paying attention to, as this is a broad, deep, and swiftly developing issue.

Skeptech kicks off in two weeks with our first gathering: on the evening of Wednesday, May 24, both in person (update: sold out) and via livestream (starting 7pm Eastern on Wed May 24). Skeptech will feature these speakers: Douglas Rushkoff, Natasha Dow Schüll, Vicki Boykis, Liz Berg, and Ken Freedman - and myself as host. (See all Skeptech info.) We'll also include Q&A for attendees to contribute. Skeptech is the Gel conference for this spring - like a mini-Gel evening event! - so I hope you'll join us.

Our friends at WFMU, the freeform radio station run by Skeptech speakers Ken Freedman and Liz Berg, are providing the venue and the livestream. The whole event is a benefit for WFMU, so in addition to the ticket revenue going to the station, I hope livestream viewers will donate to WFMU as well. (Just click "pledge now" on the event page or the livestream page.)

But now I have to ask. Are you with me? Skeptech is an experiment, and it will depend on the community to succeed: Are you on board?

If so, here's what you can do right now:

1. Spread the word about Skeptech: copy and paste this into your Twitter/Facebook/favorite social media account:

Tech got creepy, so @markhurst launched Skeptech: http://creativegood.com/blog/tech-creepy-launch-skeptech

2. Watch the Skeptech livestream (from 7pm to 9pm Eastern), via the livestream page. More info at the Skeptech site: skeptech.info

3. Subscribe to my email newsletter and/or my Twitter feed. (There are also Skeptech Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds.)

4. Let me know your thoughts: Ideas, suggestions, comments? You can email me or post a comment below.

I appreciate your support - and I hope that, through Skeptech, we can change things for the better. -Mark Hurst