McDonald’s Theory

I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s.

An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge. Magic!

It’s as if we’ve broken the ice with the worst possible idea, and now that the discussion has started, people suddenly get very creative. I call it the McDonald’s Theory: people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.

This is a technique I use a lot at work. Projects start in different ways. Sometimes you’re handed a formal brief. Sometimes you hear a rumor that something might be coming so you start thinking about it early. Other times you’ve been playing with an idea for months or years before sharing with your team. There’s no defined process for all creative work, but I’ve come to believe that all creative endeavors share one thing: the second step is easier than the first. Always.

Anne Lamott advocates “shitty first drafts,” Nike tells us to “Just Do It,” and I recommend McDonald’s just to get people so grossed out they come up with a better idea. It’s all the same thing. Lamott, Nike, and McDonald’s Theory are all saying that the first step isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. Once I got an email from Steve Jobs, and it was just one word: “Go!” Exactly. Dive in. Do. Stop over-thinking it.

The next time you have an idea rolling around in your head, find the courage to quiet your inner critic just long enough to get a piece of paper and a pen, then just start sketching it. “But I don’t have a long time for this!” you might think. Or, “The idea is probably stupid,” or, “Maybe I’ll go online and click around for—”

No. Shut up. Stop sabotaging yourself.

The same goes for groups of people at work. The next time a project is being discussed in its early stages, grab a marker, go to the board, and throw something up there. The idea will probably be stupid, but that’s good! McDonald’s Theory teaches us that it will trigger the group into action.

It takes a crazy kind of courage, of focus, of foolhardy perseverance to quiet all those doubts long enough to move forward. But it’s possible, you just have to start. Bust down that first barrier and just get things on the page. It’s not the kind of thing you can do in your head, you have to write something, sketch something, do something, and then revise off it.

Not sure how to start? Sketch a few shapes, then label them. Say, “This is probably crazy, but what if we.…” and try to make your sketch fit the problem you’re trying to solve. Like a magic spell, the moment you put the stuff on the board, something incredible will happen. The room will see your ideas, will offer their own, will revise your thinking, and by the end of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, you’ll have made progress.

That’s how it’s done.

Next Story — The Black Designer in the Yellow Sports Car
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The Black Designer in the Yellow Sports Car

I gave a talk in Mississippi a few years ago. I was picked up at the airport by a female African-American designer in an bright yellow sports car. Between dinner with her friend that night and all the driving between hotels, venues, and airports, we got to know each other pretty well over a few days. She’s awesome.

I love interviewing people. At Jamba Juice, I ask the employees how they’d redesign the store if they could. At the airport, I ask the gate attendants how they’d redesign air travel. When I start a new project at work, I ask coworkers to imagine they have a magic wand that could create the perfect designer. Then I ask them to describe that designer to me. I take notes.

So I found myself asking similar things of my host. I learned about her job. I learned about Mississippi. I learned about her car. I learned about the revitalized downtown district. I learned about the local politics. I learned a whole bunch of local idioms I have never heard before. And at one point I asked a minefield of a question:

“What’s something annoying that white people do?”

She had to think about it, but her answer was interesting. She said white people are unnaturally happy. “Like when I get into work and I haven’t had my coffee, everyone’s like ‘How are you?! Oh, I’m great!!’ and it’s just too much. Let me get my coffee and then I’ll work at getting up there,” she said.

But as we talked, I realized it wasn’t just about overly chipper morning people colliding with people who were sorely under-caffinated. She said it was something she experienced all the time. She was confused by this desire to FEEL GREAT and TALK ABOUT FEELING GREAT all the time. She said it was more than just strange. It came off as fake.

But as much as fake-happy white people were hard to understand, she found newly-sad white people even worse. According to my host, they spend so much time faking happiness that when they feel something real, they can’t cope. Which makes it hard to talk to them.

And a white person sad or defensive about race? Yikes. Watch out.


Later I learned about the concept of Rings of Support. Let’s say Abby has cancer and her husband Bobby is there to support her emotionally. Now let’s say Bobby has a friend named Chuck. They each represent another ring. Abby is in the middle, Bobby is one ring out, and Chuck is the next ring. Rings of Support points out that comfort has to come inward and frustration, anger, kvetching, etc must move outward.

Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times

In practice, this means Abby is the one dealing with cancer at the center of the issue. She gets to complain about anything she wants, to anyone she wants. But Bobby is one ring away. He can complain outward to his friend Chuck, but it’s inappropriate to complain inward to his sick wife. Saying “I just can’t handle seeing you like this” just adds more stress to Abby, but telling his friend Chuck “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” is perfectly healthy because he’s complaining outward.

Now aim the same concept to sexism or racism. My host in Mississippi was telling me “Yes, racism exists. Yes, it’s hard. But don’t tell me how hard it is for you to hear it as a white male who’s used to being happy and ignorant about Black America. I’m sorry you’re sad on my behalf but I need to spend my limited emotional energy on the racism I deal with every day, not on your newfound white guilt after finally noticing that there are two Americas. I’m glad you woke up, but don’t put that extra pressure on me.”

Which I never really understood until that point. I’m glad I asked.


Mandela Schumacher-Hodge recently wrote an article about her white boss expressing shock and outrage about the killings of two black men at the hands of police. She talked about how much it meant to her as a black woman to hear a white woman talk about it, check in, and not act as if everything was ok. Sometimes acting too happy isn’t just fake, it can be disrespectful and out of touch with the mood of those around you.

So, fellow white citizens, here’s the best answer I’ve been able to come to, thanks to lots of stilted, awkward conversations about race. Say something, but don’t make it about you. Express shock and disappointment, but don’t ask your black friends to validate your feelings or make you feel better. They don’t know what to do either. They feel awful too, but they’re at the heart of this. Your feelings are just not their number one concern right now.

Mandela’s article encourages saying something, which is why I wrote this. The more we talk, and the more we have our hearts open to one another’s experience, the better things will be. This little bit of writing won’t change anything on its own. But if thousands or millions of people find a way to make their own small gestures and connections, they’ll add up. They’ll matter. And things will get better. I’m sure of it.

Next Story — All your memes are belong to us
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Such meme. Very wow. (Illustration by Harry Malt for The Washington Post)

All your memes are belong to us

The top 25 memes of the web’s first 25 years

By Gene Park, Adriana Usero and Chris Rukan

For more of The Web at 25, visit The Washington Post.

Memes didn’t begin with the Web, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term in his 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene,” to describe something that already existed. A meme, from the Greek “mimeme” (to imitate) was “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” This encompassed phenomena from Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” to the famous graffiti drawing “Kilroy Was Here,” which dates to the beginning of World War II.

But the Web has proved to be the most fertile ground, and the site Know Your Meme has confirmed more than 2,600 of them. Below, 25 definitive memes from the Web’s first 25 years.

[1] Dancing Baby

1996: Considered the granddaddy of Internet memes, the baby shuffling to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” filled inboxes and prime-time airwaves, appearing in several episodes of “Ally McBeal.” The file was originally included with early 3D software. LucasFilm developers modified it before it was widely shared, and it was finally compressed into one of the first GIFs.

[2] Hampster Dance

1998: Proving that GIFs were meant for stardom, a Canadian art student made a webpage with 392 hamster GIFs as a tribute to her pet rodent. The infectious soundtrack was a sped-up, looped version of “Whistle Stop” by Roger Miller.

[3] Peanut Butter Jelly Time

2001: A Flash animation featuring an 8-bit dancing banana, “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” became an Internet phenomenon in the early 2000s. The catchy song was written and performed by the Buckwheat Boyz, a rap group.

[4] All Your Base Are Belong to Us

2001: A meme that would echo across the gaming community for years to come, “All your base are belong to us” originated in a cut scene in the Japanese video game “Zero Wing.” The poorly translated quote has persisted as an Internet catchphrase.

[5] Star Wars Kid

2002: Arguably the first victim of large-scale cyberbullying, Ghyslain Raza unwillingly became a meme based on a video of him swinging a golf ball retriever as a weapon, reminiscent of Darth Maul in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” It was an early sign that Internet privacy was not guaranteed for anyone.

[6] Spongmonkeys

2003: Before they became spokesthings for Quiznos, two singing Spongmonkeys catapulted to viral stardom after being featured in a newsletter for b3ta, an early link- and image-sharing site. Their opening line: “We like the moon.”

[7] Numa Numa

2004: The eyebrow lift. The arm pumping when the beat drops. The song (by Moldovan boy band O-Zone). Gary Brolsma, sitting at his desk, showed us all what it means to “dance like no one’s watching.”

[8] O RLY

2005: Originating on the community site 4chan, the wide-eyed owl was used to show sarcasm, becoming a precursor to other reaction memes.

[9] Chuck Norris Facts

2005: Chuck Norris was the Internet’s first “most interesting man in the world,” crowned the avatar for mythical men with impossible strength, attitude and swagger. “There is no theory of evolution,” as one “fact” says. “Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.”

[10] I Can Has Cheezburger?

2007: Animal-based memes are a dime a dozen, but the “I Can Has Cheezburger” blog, whose mascot is a surprised, hungry British shorthair cat, brought them into the mainstream. The blog was created by Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami.

Rickroll and Deal With It collide to form an uber-meme

[11] Rickroll

2007: Before there was clickbait, there was the Rickroll. Popularized on 4chan, the gag — springing a Rick Astley video on an unsuspecting victim — has appeared during a session of the Oregon legislature and even on the White House’s Twitter feed.

[12] Success Kid

2007: Based on a photo that Sammy Griner’s mother, Laney, posted to Flickr when he was 11 months old, the meme describes something that goes better than expected. In 2015, Sammy’s fame helped his family raise more than $100,000 to offset the costs of a kidney transplant for his father, Justin.

[13] Dramatic Chipmunk

2007: A simple, five-second video clip of a chipmunk — ahem, actually a prairie dog — suddenly turning its head, from the Japanese TV show “Hello Morning.” The maneuver is set to an exaggerated bit of music from 1974’s “Young Frankenstein.”

[14] Philosoraptor

2008: This portmanteau meme was an early example of an “advice animal,” depicting the vicious dinosaur deep in introspection, and pondering wordplay and life’s general paradoxes.

[15] Deal With It

2010: In this GIF, sunglasses slide onto a smug canine’s face. It was around as an emoticon on the SomethingAwful forums for a while, then became a meme when the site Dump.fm held a contest encouraging users to create their own versions, with sunglasses sliding onto various faces and objects.

[16] Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife

2010: “So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband ’cause they’re raping everybody out here,” Antoine Dodson emphatically told a TV reporter after an intruder attempted to assault his sister. The clip spread quickly on YouTube, leading to Auto-Tuned versions and remixes.

Nyanyanyanyanyanyanyare you going insane yet?

[17] Nyan Cat

2011: The combination of an animated 8-bit cat (originally dubbed “Pop-Tart Cat”) with the insanely catchy tune “Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!” blew up on YouTube, becoming the site’s fifth-most-viewed video of 2011 and inspiring fan illustrations, designs and games.

[18] Ermahgerd

2012: Originally uploaded as “Gersberms . . . mah fravrit berks” and later “BERKS!,” the text superimposed on this meme mimics the garbled speech of a person with a retainer.

[19] Bad Luck Brian

2012: Takes goofy yearbook photo. Gets face plastered all over the Internet. His real name is Kyle Craven, and he’s Internet famous thanks to his friend Ian Davies, who uploaded the photo to Reddit with the text “Takes driving test . . . gets first DUI.”

[20] Grumpy Cat

2012: The original photo of Tardar Sauce (that’s her name) racked up 1 million views on Imgur in its first two days. The meme has since spawned books, a comic book, an endorsement deal with Friskies cat food and a made-for-TV Christmas movie, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” with Aubrey Plaza voicing Grumpy Cat.

[21] Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

2012: Uploaded to Reddit on April 3, the photo of the handsome runner quickly garnered 40,000 upvotes. Derivatives include Ridiculously Photogenic Metalhead, Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Rebel, Ridiculously Photogenic Prisoner and Ridiculously Photogenic Running Back.

[22] Doge

2013: In February 2010, a kindergarten teacher in Japan uploaded pictures of Kabosu, her adopted shiba inu, to her personal blog, and a meme was born. It usually features broken English phrases in the comic sans font, representing an inner monologue.

[23] Crying Michael Jordan

2014: The basketball great got a little emotional during his 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech. Around 2014, meme-makers started using an Associated Press photo, superimposing Jordan’s face over failures of all sorts.

[24] Ice Bucket Challenge

2014: While the origins of this one are unclear — people have been doing cold-water challenges for years — the results weren’t. The ALS Association raised more than $100 million in a month, compared with $2.8 million over the same period the previous year.

[25] Left Shark

2015: During the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, Katy Perry performed with two dancing sharks. One shark stuck to the routine. The other, well, did his own thing — and became an Internet sensation.

And if you’re not over memes like the Internet isn’t over Harambe, we’ve compiled a Spotify meme-themed playlist for you to follow and take with you on the go.

Did we miss your favorite internet meme? Tell us about it — and why it’s so great — in the comments.

Next Story — 10 Cultural Responsibilities of the Hillsong Leadership Team
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10 Cultural Responsibilities of the Hillsong Leadership Team

Everything has a culture. Your life has a culture, your marriage, your home, your business, our churches have a culture… If you’re a leader, it is you who sets that culture.

Over the years I have been repeatedly asked the question, “How do you guys build such a strong culture?” When Bobbie and I began Hillsong Church more than 30 years ago, we didn’t set out to build a particular kind of culture. Back then, there was no one else to sweep the floor after the service, or open the door and welcome others or pick up people to bring them along to our church. We had to BE the culture.

And that is what I have discovered — You cannot build the culture unless you are prepared to BE the culture.

Any culture is only ever as strong as its lowest common denominator. It’s not enough to just decide on a particular culture you want because if you have people on your team with a different spirit, then that is where the pace and level of your culture will be set. Build a culture around faithful people. Faithful people in your organisation are the ‘culture carriers’. They are the ones who will teach others the collective habits long after you have left. They will carry the vision and make the changes necessary to maintain the heart and purposes of your mission.

So, these are the 10 Cultural Responsibilities I ask our staff to embrace when it comes to setting the tone and framework for Hillsong Church. If you are leading a business, then adjust accordingly… it is never too late to BE the culture you want to see!

10 Cultural Responsibilities I Will Embrace:

1. I am a CAN-DO person.

I surround myself with can-do people. It is too easy to be ruled by what can’t be done, what we can’t afford, don’t have time for, can’t do… there’s always a reason why not. People are quick to tell you why you can’t do it, can’t afford it, we don’t have the people or we don’t have the money, we don’t have the time…

One of the things that hinder building can-do people is when we live by experience. No innovation, creation or new thing, is ever born out of experience because experience only tells us what either has or hasn’t been done. But when you live with a can-do mindset, it’s amazing how you can find a way.

2. This is not my job, this is my life.

2 Tim 1:9 says,

“[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…”

We are saved for a purpose, we are called for a purpose we are graced for purpose; it’s all about God’s purpose. When we live called, what we do is a calling, not just a job. Jesus talked about the spirit of hirelings in John 10:11, 13. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He goes on to say that he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and they are out of there. That’s the spirit of a hireling; they are just there to do a job, make some money, get on to the next thing.

If you are a pastor, be careful not to look around the world for someone who is the best or most skilled. Build from within — from those who are planted in your church.

A hireling spirit won’t stand with you when tough times come. But those who live saved and called for a purpose are there in the good times and the bad times and everything in between. The same goes for business people. Build INTO your people, raise them up and give them a vision for the long-term.

3. I Will Serve the Lord with Gladness.

Not sadness, not madness, not badness but GLADNESS! If we don’t serve the Lord with gladness, then we start to think minimums. Minimums say, “What time do we have to get there? Do I have to come? Do I have to bring my wife? Do we have to stay very long? What time do you want me to go?”

Imagine if Jesus said to God about going to the cross, “Do I have to? How long do I have to stay up there? Do they have to use nails?” Aren’t you glad that wasn’t the spirit of our Saviour?

If you try to build around people who think in minimums, that’s what you end up getting.

4. Empowerment Starts with Me.

We often think of empowerment ‘downwards’. My experience is that empowerment works in every direction. Sometimes if you want to be empowered, you need to learn how to empower upwards. If you understand empowerment starts with you, then you live your life in a way where you are committed to empowering your leader or boss upwards.

What does that look like?

If you are complicated, over sensitive, have to sit and talk through your latest sensitivities every day, then to me, you are complicated; and that complication pulls the person you answer to into your complication, and your world.

Understand that empowerment starts with you and do whatever you can to live with the kind of initiative that enables your leaders to lift their head higher and get their eyes looking further down the road to set the pace and vision.

5. I Am Not On the Gossip Train.

Every country has its Christian gossip mafia. They are the ones who are always on the phone, “Have you heard the latest? Did you hear about Hillsong, I don’t know whether you heard…?” I want to pastor the kind of church where we are the last to know because we don’t get on the gossip train. If people ring you all the time to tell you the latest tragedy or rumour, you probably should ask yourself, “Why are they telling me?”

The Bible says that the mouth of the righteous is a well of life. Is your mouth a well of life or a sewer of defeat? Scripture also says that the mouth of the righteous feeds many. So if the people around you are depending on your words for nourishment — are they dying of malnutrition or are they thriving?

6. I Am One of Them.

I’m thinking about ‘them’ and ‘us’; them may be THE bosses, us are the workers. Them are upstairs, us are downstairs. Them and us.

I wonder in your church, where do you locate yourself? In the culture of our church, I want people to spiritually, emotionally and mentally see themselves to be on the same side. We are all ‘us’, we are all a part of the same team.

7. I Will Bring Those Around Me on my Journey.

I’m talking about your family — your wife and kids; those that are ‘outside’ of your work environment. Take them on the journey. I’ve seen so many sad mistakes within the normal weekly dynamics of a church team. People can leave work feeling offended or aggrieved; they go home to their wife and ‘vomit’ their emotions about all of the stuff that happened…

Then they come to work the next day and during the day they get that issue worked out and talked through — it’s gone and everyone moves on — but they don’t resolve the issue at home. They go back to work and sort it out and the cycle repeats itself over and over.

The issue is, your spouse loves you, and if you are constantly bringing home the problems, but not the resolutions, then you could wake up one day and find your home is full of resentment. Your family will feel like church is getting too much of their family time.

I have never been a fan of compartmentalising our time. It’s not God-time, then church-time and family time. I don’t think we need to box our lives like that. If you have wisdom you can obviously serve God, love the church and bring your family along on the journey with you. But if you keep dumping resentment at home, you set them up as enemies of church time. Use wisdom when it comes to what you ‘bring home’.

8. What I am Part of is Bigger than the Part I Play.

No matter whom you are, the moment we think our part is bigger than what we are a part of, it begins to destroy culture and bring separation. I often think about Barnabus and Paul. They had a bit of a falling out, and Barnabus left — we literally never hear about him again.

Don’t forget that God anointed both Paul and Barnabus. If you are unteachable or can’t easily be told or taught, you will drift away from what God has for you. The devil loves to get people to separate from the thing they are part of — often with tragic results.

Is there someone in your life who loves you enough to look you in the eye and tell you what you need to hear?

If you keep a teachable spirit and understand that what you are part of is bigger than the part you play, then I believe you can build a beautiful culture that will build the kind of team, ministry, business or church that is a magnet to people.

9. I Delegate, but I don’t ‘Dump’.

The most difficult personality to locate when it comes to dynamics on a staff are the people who are wonderful upwards — nothing is too hard and there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for their boss. But when it comes to carrying out their instructions, they just offload it onto others.

Dumping and delegation are not the same. Dumping doesn’t consider the other person’s world or the other responsibilities they may have. This is one of the most caustic things to happen on a team. Dumping onto others undermines culture and is the hardest thing for a pastor or boss to recognise. Let’s be respectful of others’ time and their responsibilities, and know the difference between delegating — which is positive — and dumping.

10. My Spirituality is Attractive.

This is nothing to do with facial features, but everything to do with our spirit. Mean-spirited, angry, judgmental and legalistic people; if they looked at their own spirit, they’d realise these attitudes give no grace and fail to understand Jesus’ finished work. I cannot stand that kind of ‘ugly’ Christianity.

As Believers, we need to carry His name well. We are His hands and feet. Let’s not be pseudo-spiritual, super-spiritual, opinionated, negative or critical Christians; that is not the kind of spirit we want in our churches. Stay away from that kind of thing and let’s agree to focus on loving God, loving people and loving life. That kind of spirituality is attractive.

Lastly, have a vision that inspires a culture. A leader should create a culture that produces growth and cultivates longevity and creativity in others.

Culture is built over time through hard work and diligence. Know who you are, what you want, where you are going and identify who is coming with you. Culture is the outworking of these things and what you allow: Direction and pattern. You ARE the culture!

Take a risk and create a culture that defies what is ordinary; one that is marked by personal discipline, a different spirit and a different heart — a culture of love and servanthood that prefers others. Keep your habits and those of your team on track. We can build a church or a business, but if we don’t build a culture we cannot build anything that lasts.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, let me know by hitting the heart below. It means alot and helps build into the potential of people.

FYI: this article originally appeared on my website.

Next Story — The Apple-Google shift
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The Apple-Google shift

In the last couple of years, two very distinct things have happened — or, to be more precise, been happening — in the world of consumer tech, in my opinion. A shift has occurred: Apple, once the definition of innovation, has become stale, content to rest on its laurels; while Google, once ugly and disparate, has continually pushed forward with new and better products that are a delight to use.

The result is two-fold: firstly, from a software perspective, Google-authored apps have all but replaced Apple’s defaults on my iPhone; secondly, for the first time ever, I find myself potentially choosing a Google phone over an Apple phone — a choice that represents not just a one-off hardware purchasing decision, but a first tentative step outside of Apple’s ecosystem and, as a result, a break in unashamed Apple fanboy-ism.

Okay, so I’m considering a switch to Android. No big deal. I’m following in the footsteps of many, many, many others. But what I find interesting outside of my own personal decision is that there seems to be a growing discontent with Apple — especially amongst former so-called fanboys/girls — and, at the same time, a growing appreciation of what Google have been doing, especially from a design perspective. In many ways it’s unwise to compare these two companies alone, but few would disagree that these days they’re the two sides of one coin.

So I thought I’d try and pick this apart. What’s actually changed?

It’s not that Apple no longer creates great products, but there’s just not that spark there anymore, is there? Remember when a new MacBook or iMac would launch? Or the iPhone? Or pretty much any new product? The buzz was palpable; the hype almost always justified. For years and years, Apple constantly innovated, whether it was with entirely new product lines or updates to existing ones, but recently everything has just felt a little… well, meh, hasn’t it?

Could this feeling because Apple is now so ubiquitous, no longer the underdog? Possibly. And could this be down to some very shrewd business decisions, with Apple deciding to refine and hone rather than experiment, as evidenced by the longer life cycles of designs for their phones and computers? Very likely.

But that doesn’t excuse recent product launches that have (again, in my opinion) fallen flat by their past standards. The MacBook? Well, it’s a lovely little machine (and I’m typing on it right now) and I even took a whole set of photos to capture its beautiful form, but time has revealed it to be irritating in many ways (the keys repeatedly get stuck, for instance, and the removal of a magnetic power connector is genuinely irritating). The Apple Watch? After the initial magic wore off, I came to the conclusion that it’s essentially useless — as did almost every other Apple Watch owner I’ve spoken to. The new Apple TV? A total lack of innovation — both from its previous version and the numerous offerings from competitors. New iPhones aren’t even exciting anymore.

In many ways, I wonder if this all started with the launch of iOS 7: although I was originally one of its supporters when it came out and enraged half the Apple-buying world, when I think about it these days, iOS still doesn’t really encourage interaction. It’s not about flat design versus skeuomorphic design; it’s more about how Apple laid the groundwork for what a great, minimal, mobile operating system could be… and then never really built upon those foundations. The same could be said of their camera technology. The iPhone camera’s noise reduction algorithm has ruined many a photo that would have benefitted from not being put through a paint-like Photoshop filter. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Apple Music. What a mess. Sure, it’s not a total failure from an interaction design point of view, but it’s a sub-par effort from a company that should really be far, far, far better than any other steaming music competitors. That Apple Music has been so successful is only down to the ecosystem they’ve cultivated — not because it offers a superior experience.

Then there’s just all the douche moves Apple has made again and again with proprietary connections — their decision to remove the headphone jack on the forthcoming new iPhone being the latest. All of this has added up to make even this most ardent of Apple fanboys start to question his allegiances.

And all the while this has been going on, Google — which, with each new product launch, whether software or hardware, has become even more of an Apple competitor — has continued to innovate; to make better versions of Apple’s own apps. (I don’t even need to mention Maps, do I? No? Good.) And from a design perspective, Google has well and truly grown up: Material Design offered a lot of promise when it was first announced, and in the time that’s passed since, it’s proven itself to be a strong framework for unifying a the company’s multiple software offerings. Sure, there are times when its incarnation feels a little templated and dry — Google Play Music, for example — and perhaps it’s easy to praise Google for their grown-up new looks when, until recent times, Google web apps were so damn ugly. (Remember how Gmail used to look? For a reminder of that less graceful era, look at the browser version of Google Calendar.) But the difficulty of creating a system that works in so many instances, both in terms of aesthetics and interaction, should not be underestimated.

Beneath all of these apps and interactions and aesthetics, there’s another layer of Google that has become so trusted: its infrastructure. Yes, I get the fears about our data being mined to show us more relevant ads, but who do I trust for reliable cloud syncing: Apple or Google? Who do I trust to backup and share my photo library: Apple or Google? Whose infrastructure do I trust for my emails, documents, calendars, and more: Apple or Google? Granted, the latter could be any service provider vs. Google, but the point is that Google’s infrastructure underpins so much of the internet and our daily lives, it often just doesn’t make sense to let someone else handle what we know Google can handle so well.

(At this point, i’m going to refrain from delving into lengthy praises of particular Google apps and services, but I do want to give a quick mention to the Google Calendar and Google Photos iOS apps. They’re so radically superior to Apple’s equivalents, I’d question anyone’s need to ever open those defaults again.)

All this is to say: if Google can be this good on a competitor’s operating system, how much better can it be in its own environment? This is the question that’s been gaining traction in my head recently.

Android used to be a poor man’s iOS, but it’s obviously grown a lot since then. Unfortunately, fragmentation is a problem that’s plagued Android from the very beginning and is probably the primary factor that’s never allowed me to take switching seriously, but here’s where it gets interesting: with Google making (via OEMs) its own Nexus hardware, it’s possible to use a vanilla version of Android, free of bloat from carrier-installed software. It also removes that weird you-can-only-use-this-particlar-version-of-Android thing that plagues Android phones made by other manufacturers, and, in doing so, puts Google on an evening playing field with Apple: control the hardware and you control the software.It just works.

So it’s this vision of Android — a Google phone in its purest form — that’s making me, and others, consider the switch. And with new Nexus phones rumoured to land (or at least be announced) very soon, the opportunity to do so might be just around the corner.

Or maybe not. The new iPhone is also due very soon. Maybe it’ll be amazing. Maybe it’ll be the best hardware and software combination that exists in the world. Maybe Apple’s core apps, services, and experiences that underpin the entire iOS / macOS / tvOS ecosystem will up their respective games and I’ll look back on this post as blasphemy.

But — sadly — I’m not sure that’s something the Apple of 2016 is capable of.

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