Sean M Everett

Humanizing Technology | Table of Contents

iPhone Box Office

I’m a big fan of movies. In fact, I grew up going to one with my parents or my girlfriend almost every weekend since I was 5 years old. The result is that I’ve seen darn near everything that’s hit the box office in the last two decades.

So, when I think about launches, especially technology products, I think about it in much the same way:  opening weekend box office results.

And boy, the new iPhone sure didn’t disappoint last weekend. Check out the historical “box office” chart below:

The beauty of charts like this, and the fact that Apple is a publicly traded company, is that you can see the market’s reaction to this level of success in their business. Remember that the iPhone represents about 75% of Apple’s annual revenue. It’s not just one of their biggest products. It’s one of their most successful, commercially. Here’s a chart of their historical stock price over the same time period (2007 to today):

It’s not quite a one-to-one ratio of units sold to market perception (Mr. Market isn’t always fair), but in general there’s a strong correlation.

The only thing that really matters, aside from cash in the bank and annual profit growth, is their market cap. That is, what does the market think Apple is worth as a result of these continued box office successes.

Well, the market thinks Apple is worth $600 billion. That’s getting pretty close to the first trillion dollar company. Nuts.

Apple is the most financially successful company in the history of the world. And as Tim Cook recently said in his interview with Charlie Rose, all their products can fit on a kitchen table, with ample room to spare.

If you think about the amount of leverage an incredible product can have, you need to look no further than Apple.

Focus on one thing. Care about the most minor of details, to the point where it meets your own high expectations, and you can’t find even one tiny thing wrong with it. Only ship it when it’s ready. And then sit back, eat some popcorn, and watch the box office results roll in.

- Sean

How To Build Human Technology

It’s all very simple, conceptually at least. The answer is in the question.

You start with the human and then work backwards to the technology. You don’t start with the technology and move forward.

The problem is that it’s incredibly hard to keep reminding yourself, others, and entire companies that you have to start with the human experience (e.g., the emotion, the connection, the problem), and then move backwards into requirements, user stories, design, and ultimately code.

But why is it so hard to do that?

The reason, I think, is because we live our lives going forward. We step through time one moment to the next. This happens, then this happens, then that happens, and on and on.

What does not happen, though, is that we live in this moment, then the one before that, then the one before that. We don’t live our life moving backwards and so our thinking doesn’t work backwards either. We have to consciously think about and act in a way that’s backwards to our fundamental existence.

We have to think backwards, map out dependencies, and actually draw a treasure map backwards from the X (which marks the spot).

Then, and only then, can we shape the future that we want, instead of letting random moments determine the future. We have a unique ability above animals where we can actually design the future and outcome we desire. But it takes an incredible amount of hard thinking and work. It will exhaust you and test you to the Nth degree. But the reward, oh the reward, is well worth it.

This is why companies developed. A goal to make a profit couched in products and services that the builders love.

Set an X, draw a treasure map, and then start the adventure.

- Sean

Oculus Rift VR Keynote

Watch it on YouTube:…
If you’re expecting a consumer-driven keynote like Apple, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s not for the consumers, but for the 100,000 developers of the Oculus VR. It’s a very startup story and technological challenge focused keynote.

The reason? Recruiting.

They need the absolute best and the brightest in the software, hardware, psychological, vision, audio, and visual markets in order to make this, not a virtual, but a real reality. All the senses. Taken together, they call it perception. But I’d like to take it a step further.

What happens because of perception? I’ll tell you what. Emotion.

Now that’s what excites me. The future of StoryApp:  StoryApp’s 100-Year Vision by Sean Everett on Adam & Luna

At about 33 minutes in, you start to hear about the technical innovations that made this believability possible. They call it “presence”.

Also tune in around the 59-minute mark, to listen to Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist. He tells the story about not just why today is the right time that VR can take off, but also a story about how a pre-conceived notion can block you from innovating. Just believing something is possible actually makes it possible.

And then just wait until you get to the McGurk Effect.

- Sean

New Girl, Season 3 on Netflix

If you’re like me, there’s nothing better than a well-timed facial expression to make the pains of the day head for the hills.

In this case, Nick is your savior, and his face is your canvas. Project your life’s oddities onto his and watch him laugh you off your chair.

Kudos, Nicholas:


- Sean

What A Tiny iOS 8 Has To Do…

My favorite feature of iOS 8 is one that never got any face time during the Apple announcement event. It also didn’t make it into the tips app. It’s one of those tiny, edge case features that you grow to love over time.

First off, I get a lot of emails. I also have an incredibly large number of contacts in my phone, is complete disarray, carried over from about the year 2000 when there was no texting, social networking, or maybe even phone calling (hit me on my two-way, homie).

But in iOS 8, if you get an email from someone who’s not in your contacts, there’s a new button that asks if you want to save them. I click it. It opens the contact app with the phone number and email address pre-populated.



So what does that have to do with death? Everything, from a philosophical and yes, even product, standpoint.

Yesterday, one of my cousins passed away. I got the text message while I was running my boss through some potentially disruptive things I am planning for Piksel Video Platform’s 2015 roadmap. I couldn’t handle thinking about it then so I pushed it out of my mind for the time being, until I could be by myself later that day.

I realized that I didn’t just want to go into a Contacts app and pull up an email address, phone number, or link out to his Facebook profile. What I really wanted to do was hear his voice. And that’s exactly the reason we created StoryApp about a year ago.

Sadly, we had to shut that down, but it’s precisely the reason I stayed in the digital video industry. Not just voice, but images, all moving, just like real life.

So as I think about where iOS 8 laid the groundwork for saving contacts, I’m hoping that iOS 9 lays the groundwork for saving emotions. Imagine saving a voice clip with pictures, or even a video, representative of your family member. So when he dies, you’ll always have a part of him in your pocket.

- Sean

How To Change The World, By…

I studied theoretical mathematics. I only say that because my brain works by analyzing and creating ever more complex interlocking systems, that when combined in just the right way, reduce themselves to x = 3.

You don’t change the world right out of the gate, in one step. You do it differently. You use different “equations” (read: tactics) at each step.

The first step is changing your own mind. You have to debate with yourself whether you believe. Whether the possibility is achievable. You can do anything, but not if you don’t believe it.

The next step is making your team believe. You speak your teams language. Engineering. Art. Experience. Profits.

And then your division. Your company. Your industry. Your country.

Then and only then can you begin to do the same thing in other countries.

At each step, you have different cultures, values, and it requires a different strategy and tactics.

Changing the world is hard. And fraught with danger. That’s why only a few people ever have. And why nobody has really ever done it truly worldwide. Starvation in Africa has nothing to do with an iPhone.

So if you want to change the world, the only question that matters (yes, at Each step), is how are you changing your own mind?

- Sean

Apple’s Power Cords

Take a look at that beautiful $3,000 Retina MacBook Pro sitting on the desk in front of you.

Take a look at that beautiful $1,000 iPhone 6 sitting right beside it (in 3 days).

Take a look at that beautiful $4,000 18KT Gold Apple Watch on your wrist while you type this.

Now imagine the millions of man hours that it took to design and manufacture these gorgeous, most technologically advanced machines on the planet, and then ask yourself why there are $30 plastic cords looping in and out of these machined al-u-minium devices fraying and stained, destroying the clean lines of your devices.

If I’m Apple, I’m always looking at two things:

  1. Innovation — what’s the new, new thing that’s going to move the needle? The thing that will leave people breathless.
  2. Ugly Experiences Left — what are the lowest common denominators of things that we have yet to fix? The ugly, ugly things.

Apple’s number 1 customer issue is battery life. Hire a team of 100 of your best power engineers and disrupt the need for cords and for any charging in general. I don’t care how you do it. That’s the requirement.

Cut the cord. Cut the need for charging.

My phone moves around with me all day. Watches charge themselves just through motion. Sometimes you have to look to our past to envision our future.

The sun shines every day.

Apple. Make me dream again. Remove the plastic from my otherwise metallic existence. Please.

- Sean

Microsoft, Not Lego, Buys M…

Lego makes toys. They’re the biggest company to do it in the world. Yes, even bigger than Santa Claus’s operation.

The reason lego is successful is because of one tiny simple thing that you can use to build almost anything:  a lego brick.

It’s so good that they haven’t innovated on the original design since they added the little cylinders underneath the block to lock one in place with another. They even made a feature length film that was successful at the box office, and would have been even without Will Ferrell.

So Lego knows that digital media is important. It is the user acquisition funnel to get people interested in and buying more legos. They’ve made games before. But they’ve never made a game that’s been as wildly successful as Minecraft.

So why didn’t Lego buy Minecraft? They’ve both essentially about building things with blocks. Except that Minecraft can get a little dark and scary and that’s not really the branding that Lego’s going for.

The bigger reason, though, is a simple financial one.

Even on the back of the wildly successful Lego movie, the company only made $480 million in profit in the last 6 months. That’s a bit shy of $1 billion in profit for one year.

Minecraft was bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. That means it’s at least 2 to 3 years of profit to buy one company. And then you need to turn into a software company to support and sell it. Which Lego isn’t. Lego is a hardware manufacturing company.

The ones in the know, know that if you care about software, you also care about the hardware it runs on. I don’t think Lego wants to be a technology company. It’s much harder to sell electrons buzzing around behind a screen than a little plastic block that a kid (or parent) can physically touch and hold in their hand.

The most satisfying thing about the entire company of Lego is also the most simple.


Software has yet to come close to competing with that.

- Sean

Seasons in Software

The real world has seasons. Some places even have four of them.

So what would it be like if software had seasons? Hmm…

It’s thought experiments like these that open the window to innovation.

What else can you come up with?

- Sean