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The man who produced Steve Jobs’ keynotes for 20 years (2018) (cake.co)
674 points by allenleein 73 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 196 comments

This is one of the most insightful Q&A's about Steve that I've read. I especially appreciated the part about the risers for the gumdrop iMacs not working perfectly smoothly: he was pissed even though the audience couldn't possibly see the stuttering risers and even though the keynote was successful.

One might think Steve Jobs was an arrogant, perfectionist prick. But you realize in this small story, that the whole keynote could have been torpedoed, could have gone sideways and been ridiculed, if those mechanical risers had failed. The big moment for this product that could (and did) save the company, might have been a laughable sad trombone even though Steve had warned Wayne that it was a problem that needed to be fixed.

The work of hundreds of people, and hundreds of millions of dollars, were pitted against shitty mechanical hand-cranks -- that's why small details matter, and why Steve was pissed.

End of this video: https://youtu.be/vN2vxYnAZf0

Steve was coughing quite a bit throughout so he was probably not in the best mood already.

1:35:05 if anyone wants the exact timestamp

I never noticed before how he grabs the Grape iMac, which also appears to be the one that's the most out of sync behind the others. I wonder if he was trying to subtly push it into a faster spin to even them up?

Thank you for posting the exact timestamp.

Those things were garbage. I remember the hand cramps from the round mouse. Never bought Apple from then on

Oooh, there is also very very beta build of Quake 3 demoed!

Ah yes the commitment to make macs the best gaming machines!

> Ah yes the commitment to make macs the best gaming machines!

So... if Apple brings iOS games to a MacBook, does that satisfy that promise? :-)

no! app store's arcade games is no nowhere close to 90s arcade games... let alone today's.

> even though Steve had warned Wayne that it was a problem that needed to be fixed.

I think you are mis-reading the situation here.

In the Q&A Wayne says: > "A week before the event and we were still struggling to synchronize them and make the motion smooth. [...] However, Steve was on the stage watching these things not perfectly aligned with a little bit of stuttering. He wasn’t happy and we could see it in the video feed we were watching."

There is no suggestion of a risk of failure or that or that it was a problem. Steve simply wanted a perfect, smooth, synchronised motion.

> "But when you were in the audience, you couldn’t tell unless you knew what to look for."

Watch the video posted by another user and judge for yourself.

> There is no suggestion of a risk of failure or that or that it was a problem. Steve simply wanted a perfect, smooth, synchronised motion.

But Jobs did offer a solution that (for reasons he may not have been aware) wasn’t used (“I know the guys from Cirque du Soleil, why don’t you call them?”)

It actually reminds me of Van Halens brown M&M rider[0], but Steve doesn’t get to just take the money, cancel the show, and go home.

[0] https://www.sixsigmadaily.com/van-halen-quality-assurance-wi...

Edit: better link

Steve cared about the most minute things.

There’s a story about how he went into a meeting with an iPad and a MacBook and told his people that his iPad wakes instantly and his MacBook doesn’t.


Startup time isn't really a minute thing. Its a huge factor in conversion thats widely measured. Like the load time of a web page. People always prefer to wait less.

Thinking about it, I suspect the issue was that a CRT IMac in a small moving pedestal was probably very wobbly.

And a CRT Monitor is definitely something you don't want in a wobbly pedestal.

> a CRT Monitor is definitely something you don't want in a wobbly pedestal.

One should always have a good monitor stand. And that’s how the infection started. Pro Display XDR stand US$999. https://www.apple.com/pro-display-xdr/

And as history has shown, the solution is to get rid of the CRT, not build a better pedestal.

Windows 95 BSODed on demonstration in face of Bill Gates. Did not make it any less successful.

How do you know? It certainly did long term damage to the brand.

The demo didn't. A decade of crashes in the field did.

> The demo didn't

How do you know? People still remember it 20 years later.

First impressions do count and the BSOD surely would have done at least short-term damage to the product & brand reputation.

Windows 98 in fact.

USB stack error I seem to recall, can't remember if it was a scanner or a printer they plugged in.

Meh. Remember Bill Gates presenting Windows 95 feature Plug'n'play, and the blue screen of death? The product wasn't exactly a failure, regardless.

Presentation is important, but not that important.

For Windows, presentation wasn't that important. For Apple, it would have been.

Windows was the default operating system for business already.

Apple's products at the time were an alternative, not the mainstream, and sold largely on the customer's desire to live a different life. Apple sells a lifestyle as much as they do a product; you've always been able to see that in their marketing. The customer visualization of themselves in that life is formed first during those keynotes - and it's easy to break with a problem like the one Jobs cared about.

Since Cook took over, Apple's really switched largely to productionizing what they already had; that makes sense, it's what he's good at. Hopefully, he's kind of a caretaker until someone visionary can take the helm again.

> Hopefully, he's kind of a caretaker until someone visionary can take the helm again

Just waited until Apple launches iCar and iGlasses (AR/VR headset)


It tarnished the brand, but maybe it's like pennies, where people sort of expect them to have that brown tarnished color.

Here's the deal - if you're charging a premium for a product, it has to be exceptional.

I had a friend who worked for the airlines (this was pre-9/11 days).

He would tell me stories about first class customers. One guy came to the airport and bought 2 first class tickets to france for he and his wife and paid an astronomical sum for last-minute tickets. no problem. Stuff like this happened all the time.

But he said the flip side was that you CANNOT disservice a first-class customer. If you want to see a REALLY MAD person, bump a first class customer. Their expectations are in line with the prices. high.

Please forgive my pedantry, but it was a Windows 98 beta, not 95 :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW7Rqwwth84

Yep. Steve Jobs did have a computer crash after that on a keynote and mentioned that's why they had two on stage. Macworld 2005 had the line "Well, that's why we have backup systems here."

Actually, there are compilations of all the bloopers made during Apple keynotes. They weren't all perfect.

It probably helps to recall that Apple had been on the brink of bankruptcy at the time, and as a hardware company, gambles their future every year by ordering inventory.

To be fair, Apple had one outlet for presentations and Windows had a horde of salesfolks in the ecosystem making different kind of presentations each day. Bill Gates had IBM fronting him and Compaq's actions with the BIOS made him rich.

That's the power of a monopoly. Apple didn't have it when the iMacs were presented.

> ”The work of hundreds of people, and hundreds of millions of dollars, were pitted against shitty mechanical hand-cranks”

That’s one way to see it. In my opinion, a faulty mechanical riser in his keynote would have resulted in exactly zero less iMacs sold.

Even if it didn't hurt sales, it would still have been shitty and embarrassing if the big reveal of this massive multi-year investment had been torpedoed by the risers, and (to the story'd point) after the risers had been explicitly called out as a problem.

This kind of thinking can be a problem. Spending outsized effort on unproven theories. Would it really have a serious impact if the shutters were bad?

On the flip side, if it was truly so impactful, relying on the faulty shutters would have been a very irresponsible thing to do. They could have paid some humans to use a pulley system out of sight at that point.

>This kind of thinking can be a problem. Spending outsized effort on unproven theories. Would it really have a serious impact if the shutters were bad?

Yes, because if he felt the same about other things ("woult it really have a serious impact if this/that") he'd have built worse or more-samey to other OEMs products.

So, it's not like you can have some precise cut-off point to stop caring, where the faulty systems in the keynote don't matter, but some other aspect of the product does.

If he ended up only caring for functionality, high impact, aspects of the products, it wouldn't be the same products.

And if the Keynotes didn't have such high production value demands, they wouldn't been as good.

It's not a binary issue (stop being too demanding and start being ok with good enough).

It's "where to put the cutoff point" in a sorite range (human caring).

>One might think Steve Jobs was an arrogant, perfectionist prick.

Because he was worried about an important aspect of an important presentation his terrible behavior towards others is justified? C'mon, there are almost a hundred examples of him treating others like crap. Was every case justified as 'something very important at Apple will crack if I'm not all over this employee'? It that was so, then they were the worst hirers of talent in Silicon Valley.

It is a dichotomy. On one hand you have an innovative titan of the tech universe doing really amazing things. On the other hand you have, by all accounts, not a very nice human being to those around him. I think the hero/innovator narrative really wars with the asshole narrative in popular media. He was both of those things and it’s okay to acknowledge his insufferableness along with his great accomplishments. I don’t think the worst of his behavior was required to be the industry titan he was. A lot of people mix these up as somehow critical to the success of Jobs. The truth is, inspiring leadership that treats people fairly is very hard. It’s an understandable fault, but still a fault. That is why I always tried to understand Steve as an innovator first and leader second. People followed him despite his lack of leadership because he was getting things done and it was worth it to be a part of the show. The people that stuck around made peace with his behavior (as illustrated in the article) and learned how to filter it in a way that let them work together, but that is not an easy working relationship and again I think it speaks to how much people believed in what they were doing despite the poor (human) leadership.

Jobs was a textbook narcissist. Absolutely by the numbers. But unlike most narcs he was actually good at some things, and he used those talents to create a Steve Jobs Memorial Corporation - i.e. Apple.

The narcissism was the source of his drive to be the most amazing monkey in the room. If he'd been a normal human he wouldn't had the laser-like focus on creating a narrative about being the guy who made everything he touched game-changing, immaculately crafted, and insanely great.

If you happen to be a narc you may have similar motivations. But it's unlikely you also have the talent.

Which leaves a question - is it possible to be a billionaire wo makes game-changing, beautifully crafted, insanely great tech without being a narcissist?

Arguably the 60s/70s crop of tech companies came closest. CEOs like Ken Olsen had a paternal attitude and an interest in employee welfare and development. DEC were insanely great in their own pre-Internet way, so he must have been doing something right. But there was no worldwide media attention, and the market was almost exclusively fellow grad-level professionals who were more impressed by substance and less by showmanship.

As soon as you open that up and create commodified mass-market products the level of attention goes up a few orders of magnitude, and a self-absorbed rock star attitude is more effective market fit.

Non-narcs just don't care about that kind of attention, and aren't driven by a need to create it.

Which is non-narc CEOs may be millionaire successful, but don't have the unhinged drive needed to be billionaire successful. And they won't have the kinds of followers who need the reflected glow.

And that's why the top of the tech tree is full of people who have these personality issues. They're unusually effective in some very limited areas, and a cocoon of money protects them from consequences. But they're still... limited.

A real game-changing genius would be able to negotiate the attention and rock star challenge to do everything they do without paying the price of narcissism. But those people are not just vanishingly rare in general, they're actively cancelled by current corporate culture.

And this is a bad thing, because we're going to need effective but healthy management over the next few decades. And it's hard to see where that's going to come from in this culture.

>Jobs was a textbook narcissist. Absolutely by the numbers.

Narcissist in a colloquial sense, perhaps. But narcissist in a medical sense (i.e., a set of defined cluster B personality disorder traits), no. Jobs was known for changing his position in the face of strong enough rational arguments, sometimes a couple days later. He wasn't wedded to his positions in the emotional way typical of cluster B narcissists.

I was confused by the above until I realized that "narc" was probably being used as an abbreviation for "narcissist."

I've only ever seen "narc" being used as a slang term for a government narcotics agent.

>Was every case justified as 'something very important at Apple will crack if I'm not all over this employee'?

Does every case have to be justified? Perhaps without the overall "pressure" climate they wouldn't get as good results.

Almost any company exec, even one phoning it in most of the time, would be all over an employee if "something very important at the company would crack" otherwise.

But doing it for small, medium issues too (not just "company on the line" ones), helps maintain the pressure climate better than just flipping off when there's something very very serious.

>One might think Steve Jobs was an arrogant, perfectionist prick

That's because he was, regardless of this story.

> The mythology of him mostly comes from individuals that didn't survive around him. The people who got close knew the rules, knew how to work with him, knew his core desires and what he was trying to achieve. They never really had problems with it.

From the article

Probably because he was, first and foremost, a user.

And users are fucking sick of the shit most companies and devs have been pulling since forever and we would treat them the same were we in a position of power.


I’ll try to simplify: Perfectionists don’t put with shit by definition and not putting up with shit tends to make one a butt orifice.

And the fact that he was like that + attention deficit made Apple products the fastest and smoothest. Look how laggy flagship Android phones still are, compared to even obsolete iPhone... Fireworks exploding next to you is a tragedy but from miles away it's only beautiful.

The two statements can live in unison you know; you can be a prick AND be at the helm of a company that makes products.

But be aware that you don't have to be a prick to make great products; that's cargo cult thinking.

And just because his company makes/made great products does not excuse his behaviour. The two are separate statements.

You haven't used the right flagship Android phones the last few years. Android on a recent Sony flagship feels smoother than iOS on an iPhone X to me.

Your comment is unsubstantiated, but okay. It is extremely unpopular on HN to like Steve Jobs for some reason. The way reputation works is that if you're extremely rude to 100 people but are helpful for millions, people will still remember you as an asshole. People only see the mistakes, not the overwhelming successes, and that is an empirical fact, turned proverb at this point...

There's a whole book that substantiates this. Commissioned by Jobs himself no less.

It's perfectly acceptable to both like a company's products and dislike the person at the helm.

Also see Tall Poppies

There’s this thing, or entity, that seemingly everyone is talking about. If I can point out even one contrary thing about it, I win. (or feel like I have)

If you’re a dick, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, you’re still a dick.

It’s always interesting to watch other companies give presentations in their attempt at Apple style. Google comes to mind as being the worst.

It’s like everyone has analyzed or identified certain little nuggets of a good presentation and then sprinkled them in... versus truly and innately understanding how to deliver a cohesive performance to an audience. The most famous example of this is the way everyone started to use “we did x y and z and you’re going to love it!” which was thrown around like peanuts on a domestic flight.

Richard Feynman’s quote on cargo culting comes to mind.

I'm not an amazing presenter, but I think I'm ok. People ask me how do I approach giving a talk, etc. I tell them, "It's a performance. You are telling a story. There is emotion involved, both with you and them." People always look at me in bewilderment and never seem to get the fact that a great presentation is really not about the information. No one ever said, "You know what would take this presentation to the next level? Another product shot of Gmail."

Back in college, I was in the the Toastmasters club. For recruitment, we'd bring in a ringer from another club. This gentleman was an absolutely amazing "speaker". I put speaker in quotes because he transcended speaking. It was closer to a dramatic performance.

There are many tactical techniques that can get you to being a good speaker. To truly transcend, you have to treat your "speech" as a one-man play, with all the associated aspects: playwriting and acting.

One person who does that tremendously well is Trevor Noah. The man is talented as heck. If you watch his stand-up (not his Daily Show), you'll see all the elements of good storytelling.

He's essentially acting out the story, with his voice impressions and physical movements. Pauses inserted in the right places, suspenseful narrative arcs, conversational bits with the audience, etc.

I've always been a fan of Eddie Izzard's performances as well.


Are you serious? Trevor Noah is widely considered to be the least funny host on television. Google "trevor noah not funny" and the list is endless. He's so, so, so bad. His jokes are pandering to 12 year olds, and he reads the jokes off the teleprompter like it's the first time he's reading the lines. It's so cringy. I have no idea how People manage to watch an entire episode because every joke is just not funny.


Are you Trevor Noah? Because I really don't see how anyone can defend the dude, especially compared to John Stewart

> If you watch his stand-up (not his Daily Show)

(I have no knowledge of how funny his stand-up is, but you’re arguing against a point the comment didn’t make.)

Are you serious? X is true. Google "X is true" and the list is endless. X is true.

This is practically the definition of confirmation bias.

Storytelling is very under appreciated in business generally. Storytelling is what allows teams to make decisions without running every single one by their manager.

I heard this on Lex Fridman's podcast a while ago. This is Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott on “storytelling”:

Lex Fridman: Microsoft has 50-60 thousand engineers. What does it take to lead such a large group of brilliant people?

Kevin Scott: … (snipped)... One central idea in Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens is that “storytelling” is the quintessential thing for coordinating the activities of large groups of people once you get past Dunbar’s number. I’ve really seen that, just managing engineering teams. You can brute-force things with small teams, but past that things start to fail catastrophically if you don’t have some set of shared goals. Even though this is sort of touchy feely, and technical people balk at the idea that you need to have a clear mission, it’s very important.

Lex Fridman: Stories are sort of the fabric that connects all of us, and that works for companies too.

Kevin Scott: It works for everything. If you sort of think about it, our currency is a story. Our constitution is a story. Our laws are a story. We believe very strongly in them, and thank God we do, but they’re just abstract things, they’re just words. If we don’t believe in them, they’re nothing.

Lex Fridman: In some sense, those stories are platforms.

I recently started to listen to Lex Fridman and really love his show. Makes long walks in the snow with the dog go by much faster. I want to go on just to have a meaningful conversation with someone.

I like to think of stories as data in actionable form. Just knowing the facts doesn't tell you what to do. Those facts need to be embedded in some larger framework of meaning that enables you to make correct choices based on it. That's what a narrative is.

But you have to make your story believable. I worked for a company where the CEO loved to tell 'inspiring' stories about the companies future riches glory. The problem was that his stories felt so outlandish ("We'll be bigger than Microsoft" etc.) that everybody basically wrote him off a delusional and ignored everything he said.

That's arguably part of the craft, though. People will believe all sorts of outlandish things if the story is told well enough. The story not being "believable" could be a function of crappy storytelling as much as a function of fact.

To directly connect this to the article: Jobs’ famous “reality distortion field.”

If anybody is looking for a book, I'm half way through The Leader's Guide to Storytelling by Stephen Denning. It focuses on business use, explores different use cases, and provides actionable advice. It is somewhat lacking in scientific foundations despite a long bibliography and gives rather anecdotal evidence. Still a good broad overview targeted at corporate use.

Storytelling makes things relatable. Without it, it's as boring as reading a new tech gadget's spec sheet. (Though some would very much like doing that...)

Are there any resources/books etc that helps in improving ones storytelling skills?.

I took an in-person class at Second City Chicago. It was 3 hours per week for 8 weeks, and the class had to put on a paid show at Second City at the end of term -- pretty hectic, and very hands on. It teaches a genre of storytelling called "personal storytelling" (not the same as business storytelling, but the principles are similar) that is popular at events like The Moth.


Storytelling is also seeing a resurgence as a community activity -- if you google "live storytelling" events in your area, you'll probably find some (there are tons in Chicago) though during COVID they are all online so it doesn't matter where you are. These are essentially open-mics -- you can YouTube "The Moth" to see what they are like.

Storytelling is one of those things where you gotta learn by doing -- reading a book can only help so much. That said, there's also a book called Long Story Short (Margot Leitman), which I found helpful. (again only for the genre of personal storytelling)


If you're interested in business storytelling, I've heard that "Building a Story Brand" (Donald Miller) is a good primer.


I suspect part of this stems from the fact that he put more work into these than others realize / are willing to.

People watch from the side lines, think it looks easy, procrastinate and start preparing the week of and the end result is a cheap imitation. Excellence in anything takes extraordinary preparation. He revved up the machine 3 months before a keynote and got an army working on it. I doubt most others do.

Like watching a magic show and thinking the secret is just to have a deck of cards.

Yeah I was so impressed when I read that part about him taking 3 months to prepare.

I think the Steve Jobs presentations are great, but it's hard to really apply learnings from them because he had such a cult of personality along with the Apple brand itself. If you're just presenting some analysis results to a director and a few people, yes, Steve-Jobbs-ing the presentation is going to look like cargo-culting even if you manage to pull it off technically.

For those of us that do pedestrian presentations (ones that DON'T need a "producer"), I think its helpful to watch and analyze presentations from peers who are well-practiced, as well as watching those who flopped.

I like to watch AWS re:Invent and the chaos computer camp presentations because there are a lot of them, with wildly varying levels of presentation skills. It's easy to see what works and what doesn't work and that's helpful.

Any particular Chaos Computer Camp presentations you'd say are some of the best?

I don't even know if it is Jobs style or ... if that extended into what I called "valley style" for a number of years, and that involves a handful of tidbits and habits that Jobs didn't do, but are pretty common patterns.

I've sat through so many agonizing presentations of folks trying to emulate this or that. Granted I don't blame them, they want to make a good presentation, but I'd almost rather see folks try their own style and fail then mimic others.

The biggest issue I have is the litany of different people giving different talks all with the same lead in with a story and then lead up to what they want to say. But none of it really accounts for that like 2 other people just did that too....

I find it incredibly awkward when tech presenters do the self-conscious pause and wait for crowd applause. When the applause don't come, or they're not well timed, the whole thing ends up looking contrived and sad.

Elon Musk does this a lot, and I've never seen it work well. It makes me wonder whether Apple had a lot of plants / cheerleaders in their audiences. I mean if you obsess so much about all the other parts of a presentation, would you be above planting cheerleaders?

What would work better, I think, is to just do the presentation, and if you get a big round of spontaneous applause, then pause and acknowledge with a "yeah!". Definitely not the other way around, though.

Honestly, I think the other factor is having a good set of microphones trained on the audience. Sometimes what looks like a presenter pausing too early is really just the mics not picking up the milder scattered applause that then builds up and gets heard after they pause.

The whole thing is a production, and having a good setup can radically change people's experience of it.

In Musk’s case I don’t think he’s trying to emulate anything, looks like legitimate social awkwardness to me. Bet he does the same in private conversations!

You may have a point re. the audience - as far as I know the teams involved in the launch would all sit in the front rows, and naturally cheer for every bit of their own work being introduced to the world.

To me the worst Jobs inspired cargo cult effect is that everyone is suddenly obsessed with details and thinks that OCD is cool, "omg I can't stand that kerning, it's half a pixel off, it stresses me out."

I remember being really annoyed at one of my bosses for obsessing about fonts in a game online store I was working on. It's like ... really? ... we're strapped for time and we have time for this? The thing is, unlike some other bosses, he asked nicely, and he was a great guy. So I felt like ... okay ... for you I'll do it.

There is something to the general strategy of insisting on excellence, and not being willing to let something go until it's just so. This can lead down idiosyncratic unproductive rabbit holes, but especially for design-based products and games it's important to maintain a culture of excellence.

Wrt to games and entertainment products, there's no metric like "reduced clicks to perform task by 1.5". So you're ideally trying to optimize for joy, or enjoyment. Since you can't really quantify it, you can at least try to substitute excellent craftsmanship as a proxy.

As a counter-example, when I was at Sago Mini, I was getting incredibly nitpicky and subjective feedback about the precise way in which to procedurally animate sheafs of wheat in a field in a game for toddlers. While the same culture of quality and branding concerns apply, this felt like a waste of time past the first few iterations.

> As a counter-example, when I was at Sago Mini, I was getting incredibly nitpicky and subjective feedback about the precise way in which to procedurally animate sheafs of wheat in a field in a game for toddlers. While the same culture of quality and branding concerns apply, this felt like a waste of time past the first few iterations.

For what it's worth, as the parent of a 5 year old who has loved Sago mini, the quality, care, and polish in the game/app and the subscription boxes has definitely shone through (I'm an iOS dev myself). Which is not to say that it was taken too far internally. Just remarking that the work you and others did there hasn't gone unnoticed, despite it being a game for toddlers.

Thanks, glad the games brought joy to you and yours. Craft and quality are certainly central to Sago's branding.

Frankly, I'm a bit annoyed at them as they let me go just before the end of a long probationary period. They were totally happy to use me and my photogenic daughters for a Father's Day twitter post. When the project I was on hit a snag, my immediate manager overreacted and let me go, to the surprise of me and the other senior developers. Recently, during the George Floyd hand-wringing their CEO (who I think was not particularly involved in the events I've described) reached out to me on how to attract and retain diverse talent. I felt like replying "Dunno -- don't fire diverse talent for BS reasons?"

My kids still remember the awesome time they had visiting the Sago office and ask me why I don't work there any more.

Anyhoo ... that's games.

EDIT> Oh wow, 2017. I had put that away in a box. Got laid off, got dumped by brainy hot summer fling girlfriend, and got divorce papers finalized all in like a 3 month period. Good times. Not bitter.

There's a tradeoff here. While obsessing over small details can take you away from more important work, it's also something that you can build up an instinct in your craft for and the actual cost in productivity drops precipitously. IMO it's important to make a practice of these type of things and a culture of excellence can pay off in the long run, as a culture of cutting corners can often end up cutting the wrong corners.

I can see why you’d be frustrated by that but I don’t think I’d attribute it to cargo culting. I’m like that myself but not because I was inspired by anyone else to be that way - I just like building really precise experiences.

I guess there are probably folks thing that see it on TV and decide to play the role without any authenticity, though.

Perhaps I only notice it more now, but it seems like it exploded after he died and after all those stories of looking at pixels in loupes and making the back of cabinets look good became public.

I imagined that people think that they just need to copy this characteristic and they'll also be successful.

I had a job doing that involved form layout for printed forms that would get used by tens of thousands. My boss could likewise spot things off by a single pixel. At first I was annoyed, but the bigger the audience for your work, the more those details matter. I’d further say this is the polish that should be part of a “one more thing to do” attitude if you want to produce your best output. It’s all context though. Devote attention proportional to the size of the audience.

Oh I’m not opposed to being detailed oriented, I just got the feeling that people started using their imaginary OCD as a flex lately, and that some founders think it’s the secret to success, when it’s actually at most a hygiene factor.

I put a lot of attention to detail myself, but I don’t imagine that this in itself is worth anything. It’s only one out of a multitude of things you need to do and be as a founder, and it’s among the easiest.

I would even say that Apple still tries to, and fails miserably, replicate Steve's ability to present to a crowd.

I don’t think they really try. Tim Cook has pretty much accepted he isn’t Steve Jobs from the beginning, and takes little stage time.

A lot of it sounds synthetic and like reading a script in a stiff manner, I think the only similarity is all the hyperbole. They do have some great speakers like Craig Federighi, and in my opinion John Ternus and Chan Karunamuni.

Even Apple has struggled to deliver great stage presentations post-Jobs.

The pandemic has forced them to stop trying, and it’s been to their benefit. The new all-digital “presentations” (more like extended intro videos) are way more interesting to watch.

Harley Davidson recently tried it and it really fell flat. Nothing felt right. It certainly did not help that they did not introduce any new products after keeping their riders waiting an additional five months from the traditional launch of new machines.

Worse was the intro by Jason Mamoa who the MOCO brought on as an influencer yet he literally phoned it in. The new CEO is really trying to connect to a different crowd but they don't want what the brand sells and the brand is consistently behinds it competition in features, technology, and more, and at better prices.

One of the differences cited between Apple keynotes and Google’s is lack of strong leadership that will say “no” to departments that want to present. Everyone gets their moment in the sun without any clear vision.

> Richard Feynman’s quote on cargo culting comes to mind.

Care to share? Probably 90+% of readers do not have this quote memorized.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool."

Google probably has 90+% of quotes memorized.

Slightly offtopic but I felt Accenture's ads have the same 'gravitas' as Apple's ads

Wayne Goodrich was fired by Apple shortly after Steve's death and subsequently sued the company:


Couldn’t read it there but archive.org has it: https://web.archive.org/web/20210205073421/https://www.latim...

What was the outcome, was he compensated in the end?

A judge refused Apple's request for summary dismissal[1], but then news coverage about it just stops.

My unjustified suspicion, since there's no evidence of it being resolved afterward, is that an out-of-court settlement was reached before it went to trial, and consequently, no press coverage resulted.

I suppose, if this were true, it would qualify as a win-win - Apple doesn't have court precedent of them firing people unjustifiedly, he ends up with a bunch of the compensation he primarily claims Apple was denying him by firing him. The people who lose are anyone else who gets dubiously fired by Apple and don't have the resources to sue over it.

[1] - https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/05/21/man-behi...

I mean the article mentioned he had "restricted stock" (I guess it's like options?); I don't know how many he was entitled to, but the stock price of Apple has gone through a split and has become 40x worth as much today.

RSU. It’s the kind of stock grants that are regularly handed out by tech companies. They’re not options.


The value of a stock grant is not determined by future growth. You can buy stock on the open market on the same day an employee vests, and all else equal non-employees should by MORE stock than employees, due to diversification concerns.

RSU grants are afaik usually on a per unit basis based on the price when you start. So if the current stock price is $20/share and you get $20k worth of RSUs then that means you get 1k shares. If the value per share goes up to $100 then your RSUs are now worth $100k. This is why some tech company employees have massive stock compensations, the stock has gone up a lot since their initial offer.

Im sure there are different ways of doing it, but this is not my experience. In my experience, you get X RSU stocks, and or Y dollars worth of stock. It is then locked up for 3-4 years so if you took stock it may have increased in value.

This depends on whether your RSUs are measured in $ or units.

This is a fascinating case, and I'm surprised I have never heard of it before. I'm sure Apple lawyers could very easily argue that Steve Jobs' verbal "job for life" guarantee had no legal standing, and he probably wasn't authorized to make such promises despite being CEO. But the company then would also be publicly shitting on Jobs right after his death, which would be much more costly than a quick settlement.

Furthermore, while I've always disliked the "this is contrary to everything that Steve Jobs stood for" cottage industry of takes that sprung up after his death, I can say with utter conviction that there's no way Steve would have let himself be held to a "job for life" guarantee, and surely the author knew this as well as anybody when he went to court.

Not that this necessarily makes him wrong or unethical for trying to enforce the guarantee…

Interesting. I wonder why he was fired.

> "I was, but when NeXT stopped making hardware they laid me off. A week later, Steve called me and started to say “okay Wayne, we need to...” I interjected “what do you mean we need to? You laid me off.” He said “oh” and then click.

>Eight months later I heard from my brother, who was still working customer support, “Steve wants you to call. He won’t call you but you should call him.” The result of that conversation led to working directly with Steve on all his most important presentations at Pixar and Apple for nearly the next two decades."

Steve Jobs' true skill was identifying great talent and leveraging them.

He had defined leadership traits. It's easy to align with a leader if you are looking for alignment. I would have screamed "fuck that pompous fucker, why not call me?". And never consider working for him. So that edits me out. Saves me time. Saves Steve time. People that jump onboard self-select and know what to expect from the start. Welcome to the Steve Stockholm club.

The damaging impact of Steve, an ongoing curse on industry, is the myriad Steve wannabes that only take the asshole part of Steve's leadership without any of his other qualities.

"So many of the people who want to be like Steve have the asshole side down. What they're missing is the genius part". Bill Gates, of all people.

Yeah that quote pretty much nails it.

Not seeing the connection between those two quotes and your comment.

Another way to look at this is that Steve realized there was nothing this guy could do to help him at the moment, so he hung up on him.

I don’t buy that.

Steve: “We need to do [XYZ]”

Wayne: “OK, sure, but I’ll need to be rehired.”

Steve: “OK.”

I sometimes feel we all take ourselves a bit too seriously in this industry. At the end of the day we're building little machines that can execute bits and bytes of software written by people in the same industry, it's all a lot of fun and we mostly make a decent living from it.

I think this Q&A really brings this sentiment back to the foreground. The iPad lost a side-connector, so what? who cares? It's an interesting tool that many people enjoy using, but is it really going to make a difference to anyone's life whether or not that port was there? It doesn't and it won't, which is why the decision to get rid of it was taken with just about as much thought as should've been given.

These fun bits of software also sometimes topple governments, lift billions into or out of poverty, permanently alter the meaning of labor, enable mass surveillance and end the concept of privacy, hasten (or help) global warming... If anything we need to take everything we are doing a lot more seriously.

>At the end of the day we're building little machines that can execute bits and bytes of software written by people in the same industry, it's all a lot of fun and we mostly make a decent living from it.

We're also building little machines which, if designed carelessly can burn someone's house down, serve up your most private details to malicious actors, spread disinformation/propaganda, and completely destroy a person's life many times over an infinite number of ways.

>At the end of the day we're building little machines that can execute bits and bytes of software written by people in the same industry, it's all a lot of fun and we mostly make a decent living from it.

We're also building little machines which, if designed thoughtfully, can be reliable and helpful, enable sharing information reliably, connect with close ones, generally create good in the world.

It was just a mildly interesting story, about how a seemingly unrelated restriction changed the product. I don't think anyone is taking this to be an incredible development that'll change the world.

If we're taking about 50$ noname Android phone - sure. Apple works on premium products where people expect quality. They have every right to be as serious as they are.

And so they ship devices which bend, have keyboards which stop working due to dust, mice which are not ergonomic, undersized soldered RAM so it's always swapping, have bad thermal design so CPU throttles, soldered SSD with custom SSD controllers which kernel panic occasionally, iMac displays which develop light spots...

  If you watch different keynotes, you can see that he had different emotional ramps depending on whether it was a product he was totally into or not
Probably the best known 2 minutes 30 seconds of 'not' https://youtu.be/jt7mbW8ov_U

Your video stops before the best part:


Steve clearly hates this fucking phone.

Thank you! Also the clip I used seems to have pots and pans banging around in the audio.

Other than allowing them to use iTunes, Apple had nothing to do with Rokr phone.

"100 songs!"

I don't see 'not' there?

It's the brevity and the parts that are missing (eg: 'It just scrolls like butter' or 'isn't that nice? Would you like to see it again?') Instead he just rushes along, hitting the required bullet points. It's probably more noticeable if you get yourself into the mindset of the times (a couple years of anticipation of an iPod phone) and watch in the context of the entire preso.

And yet we wouldn't have had the iPhone without this, so good thing his dislike wasn't listened to.

In the context of the full keynote it was pretty funny. The contrast between all the great announcements that preceded the Rockr was close to 'and lastly there's this phone. It's fine. Okay, good night, everybody!'

Project Purple started in 2004, a year before Rokr was announced. They were aleady building the iPhone and Jobs was very much on board with the idea.

Yea honestly the Rokr seems like an intentional misdirection to throw people off the trail

It was a real product so no clue why they would come out with something to trick people. The Rokr was just a test of the market, could your phone replace your MP3 player? The Rokr wasn't a huge success mostly because the hardware sucked but it did show that people were interested in the idea of having their music on their phone. Once it was clear that the hardware was hampering the coolness of having music on your phone, that was a big green light for Apple to push forward with the iphone. If the Rokr had been more successful, maybe we would have seen more phones come out with iTunes integration and the iPhone would have taken longer to bring to market.

Of course. But I like to imagine Steve knew well in advance there was a huge market for an all in one device and feigned interest in this direction as a quick jab while he was building up the big left hook with the iPhone..


- Questions & comments about the Wayne Goodrich panel? (https://www.cake.co/conversations/2Jf7ksx/questions-comments...)

- That time I had Steve Jobs keynote at Unix Expo (https://www.cake.co/conversations/rZXhqtP/that-time-i-had-st...)

>He is writing a book about what it was like on the inside.

Any idea if he ever completed the book? I can't find anything about it. Would love to read it.

I was looking for the same thing. Would be really curious if it got released. BTW I really enjoyed "Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process during the Golden Age of Steve Jobs"

Thank you for a book recommendation!

"iCon: Steve Jobs — The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business"


is fascinating. It has many stories you won't find in any other book about Jobs, including an unforgettable account by a guy who went to India with Jobs in search of enlightenment. They got caught in a monster storm in the Himalayan foothills and each dug a pit, burying themselves up to their shoulders to wait it out without getting struck by lightning. Frightening! I am not making this up.

Jobs banned the book from Apple Stores as soon as it was released and all mention of it seems to have vanished, for the most part.


Amazing interview, but horribly "optimized" webpage. Impossible to meaningfully archive, because elements that are not visible on screen get instantly hidden.

Yes, super annoying. It also breaks the 'find in page' function. I wanted to go back to something I clearly remembered and didn't find it. I thought I was going crazy until figuring this out.


If you have those emojis as much as I do, you add "display: none" to the CSS rules for post.footer and make them go away. So annoying.

Excellent suggestion; thank you. I am _entirely_ uninterested in my reading being crowdsourced and "social". I'll talk about the thing somewhere else, after I've read it and had time to think. This attempt to inject an attention-stealer in the middle of one of the last things we do without interruption is an enormous turn-off.

Emoji use in any serious writing is an appalling practice that will erode away at writing quality until everything reads like some bullshit twitter take.

The story of how the iPad lost its second 30-pin port is astonishing.

Something I’ve noticed time and again is that when you start working on marketing, you look at the product differently. In having to pitch it to an audience, you’re forced to confront things that seem obvious in retrospect but didn’t jump out at you throughout the design process.

This particular anecdote is amazing - but also speaks to Jobs’ zen-like ability to edit things down to their essentials. For the more tech-minded, this aspect of Apple products is annoying. But it’s also a huge part of their success.

> In having to pitch it to an audience, you’re forced to confront things that seem obvious in retrospect but didn’t jump out at you throughout the design process.

That reminds me of the old story about the early days of UNIX, and the great decision to introduce a "Bugs" section to man pages.

Reportedly the developers would, when starting to capture the problems with their tools, get embarrassed and instead of documenting the bugs they'd just fix them.

Related: documenting something is a fantastic way to uncover your own knowledge gaps. As soon as I start to feel myself handwaving something away (passive voice is a dead giveaway) I know I've hit on a topic I don't really understand.

And probably only a small part of the real reasons: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26034351

As I look back, if we had not been berated so much, we wouldn’t have seen that these were amazing products and they could have been launched so much better.

Textbook abusive relationship

The real question is if people with a capacity (perhaps even desire?) to suffer beration and verbal abuse are better at their job compared to the people who just quit?

If they are indeed better, then Jobs may have had a sound strategy. But if this form of masochism is not positively correlated with competence, he may have ended up with a worse team overall.

A similar discussion happened concerning toxic language towards Linux kernel contributors. Some have suggested that a "code of conduct" (i.e. speaking civilized) would lead to worse code quality, implying that the best developers are also the ones who tolerate or even desire verbal abuse. Personally I doubt this psychological condition is correlated with competence as a developer.

After all, how did Jobs get so good at his stuff when nobody abused him? The poor guy in the interview suggest it was the threats and berations which made him do his best effort. So why does this logic not apply to Jobs himself?

Maybe Steve Jobs did the same berated to himself?

I know that I quit 3 times, one kind of officially via email to HR. God only knows how many times I was actually yelled at and fired but it never went anywhere. Essentially I never really wanted to leave so I didn’t.

Smells a whole lot like Stockholm syndrome.

Why do people confidently assert psychological diagnoses based on i) minimal knowledge of the individual and their situation and ii) minimal knowledge of psychology?

It seems stupid to me.

Stockholm syndrome is not even a real diagnosis. But it is pretty clear form the story that Jobs was abusive towards his employees and the employee tries to justify and rationalize this. Call that what you will.

Because people are desperate to project their own personal opinion onto other people.

Jesus, the man clearly doesn't regret working with Steve. So there's no reason to give these weird pseudo-psychological takes any time.

Because sometimes it is this obvious.

I assume you also think every Chef working in a majorly successful restaurant under world leading chefs are suffering from the same, yeah?

You paint with a very broad brush here, but I think that there is a pattern of toxic work culture in the kitchens of many top restaurants.


Everybody I knew who was a chef working for somebody else has quit and do other very different things now.

Long working days, underpayment and stress were big complaints, but the thing that struck me was the correlation between complaints of excessive bullying, up to and including violence, with silver service restaurant kitchens.

There’s something wrong in that industry that wouldn’t be remotely tolerated where I work.

It may appear toxic externally, sure. It's clear many benefit from the military-style discipline and focus on perfection in these places.

So while it's easy to look back at something 'toxic' it completely skirts around the fact that their own personal skill likely benefited hugely from the experience.

So how did Jobs himself become brilliant? Who berated and humiliated him until he acquired his talents?

How does beating a dishwasher for taking a 45 minute break benefit his personal skill?

It obviously doesn't. It's not that black and white.

I find that the more people like Apple products the less they can see how abusive it was.

I like Apple products quite a bit. But I can still say that every story I've ever heard about Steve in this vein makes it sound like he was very abusive. But I hear you. It's like people with their favorite sports teams/automobile moguls/organized religions/podcast hosts/political parties/etc.

Yeah, because you know more about it than the man himself, right? He clearly doesn't regret his decision to work with Steve.

I like this TED talk about Jobs' presentations: Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks


I can't help—during the reading of the interview—but think of how people said the same things about Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson. You know, the the Skunkworks guy.

He and Steve seemed to have a lot in common: really high expectations of their people, firing people without really meaning it, and ultimately producing things which are technological marvels.

Great read. Jobs didn’t seem to suffer anything he didn’t like very well, but everyone had to suffer him.

If it’s possible to take the good from someone’s habits and ignore the bad, this book could be an interesting read

Did the book ever came out?

I couldn’t find it

One factor that helped a lot in their preparation - the “Just in Time” product reveal. As someone who’s done big stage shows with software that is still over a year from completion, having that secrecy until it’s basically ready to release makes for demos that have a lot less chance of going wrong. Of course, Murphy’s law they still have gone wrong but having something so close to release helps things go so much smoother.

That story about how the iPad lost its second 30 pin port on the side is so maddening. I understand Steve was all about the look of the device, but it would have been so much more useful if it could be docked on its side.

It’s also most probably a small part of the story about the second port.

We know from this interview with Schiller [0] that there was a clear price target for the first iPad, set early on at under $500, and that cutting everything superfluous was key in reaching the low price target (nearly all journalists were expecting a much higher price for an Apple tablet at the time)

“Well, if we’re going to get to a price point like that, we need to remove things aggressively.”

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/15/technology/de...

The port cost less than a Dollar.

Of all the things I ever wished my ipads had, a second dock connector has never been one of them.

I wonder if they'd think the same about a side port with the Lightning or USB-C connector nowadays.

That said, we'll see the end of physical connectors within five years I'm sure, at which point it won't be an issue anymore.

It's really not an issue anymore. With the Qi charger, it can dock in both directions.

Wireless charging is terribly inefficient. Unless your house is powered by your own personal off-grid solar array I really wish people wouldn't use it.

It's convenient AF, sure but it's the type of thing that's "meh" when only a few people use it but a bigger problem when millions adopt. Like K-cups.

the transmission loss itself really doesn't matter on the scale of a phone or tablet. we're talking about less than 10 Wh wasted per full charge (assuming a 40 Wh battery, much larger than we see in phones). this adds up to a large number when you multiply across millions of iOS users, but it could be totally offset if each of them chose a single LED indoor light to run for one hour less each day.

a more compelling argument might come from the battery degradation angle. wireless charging accelerates battery wear, leading to a battery or entire device being replaced prematurely.

I don't think iPad has wireless charging?

It can charge through the smart connector (slowly).

But my assumption is that they will add the same magnetic charging setup to the next iPads that they have on the iPhone 12.

Reggie Watts is another epic keynote speaker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdHK_r9RXTc

The keynote that revolutionized the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7qPAY9JqE4

Nice article but the emoticons between each question and answer were distracting.

One last thing...

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