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iPhone Palmistry

So, as you may or may not know, Chris Dancy and Michael Coté have a new Podcast they’re calling ‘Connected Culture & Oblique Strategies’. During episode 2 ‘A Most Delightful Cyber Dystopia’ they did some ‘Mobile Palmistry’, in which they attempt to read people by looking at their cell phone home screens.
This idea intrigued me, to say the least, and I emailed Chris with a proposal…
I was always skeptical of palm reading, because I had the same misguided ideas that I think most do –new-agey people and frauds measuring love lines, life lines, money lines, etc. It was fun nonsense.
Then Liz (my wife) read my palms on our first date, and it blew my mind! It was not at all the mystical, superstitious mumbo-jumbo that most people make it out to be – it was SO much more a practice of reading people through subtle behavioral cues, with a bit of physical health & wellness indicators thrown in. It's a real scientific art of awareness and deduction, and it's beautiful, when done right.
I felt like I was on a first date with Sherlock Holmes, and that's pretty much when I knew I was done-in by her, and there was no turning back.
What Chris and Coté were doing on the show was very much reminiscent of what "real" palmistry is all about – and I LOVED it!
Chris knows me quite well. Coté, on the other hand, isn't even aware I exist, as far as I know...
I think it would be fascinating to compare my explanation of why I do what I do, to a stranger's perception of what the results say about me, to a friend's balanced perspective of both – and maybe find some truth in the middle of the three.
My suggestion to Chris was this:
Coté reads my screen first. Then Chris follows his reading – giving it the color and insight of someone who knows me. In the meantime, I will write a blog post about how and why I organize my phone the way I do. My intention is to just explain my rationale for my phone layout – not to try analyzing what these things say bout me. I'll finish the blog post before I watch the show, but not publish it until after I know they've posted the show online.
That’s what this is.
A bit of background for those who don’t know me very well, or at all: I hyper-analyze everything I do – and I DO mean everything. It’s pathological, really. I do nothing at all in my life, no matter how seemingly trivial, without having a very specific reason why I do it in that very specific way. Then, when I'm done, I look back, analyze the shit out of the experience, and use that analysis to inform my decision on how to better lace up my boots the next time.
I am the living wet dream of the love-child of Lillian Moller Gilbreth and W. Edwards Deming.
Because of this, I'm keenly aware of exactly why I put every icon where it is - and why I may have shifted one of them by one space three separate times last week.
I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my phone organization – without going too far off the deep-end into the details.
Here’s my screen:

I remember watching the movie 'Cheaper by the Dozen' when I was about 7 or 8 years old. In one scene, Frank has Lillian time how long it takes him to button his shirt from bottom-to-top and compare that to how long buttoning it from top-to-bottom took, to see which was more efficient. I felt like this was someone I could really relate to.  This was the first I ever heard of “Efficiency Expert” as a career, and I remember thinking, “People will actually PAY me to do this??” I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In my mind, organization is about being able to reach my hand out during the middle of performing any task, and grab the tool I need without even looking up from what I’m doing. I think that’s what drives my passion for user empowerment through Knowledge Delivery. It’s a kind of modern off-shoot of Time & Motion Studies. Your tool should always be right where you naturally want to reach for it, when and where you need it.
I organize my phone pretty much the same way I organize my person, my plethora of bags, my toolboxes and my life. It’s also how I always aim to organize my workspaces, but that tends to be much more difficult to maintain, because of the frenetic way I tend to mix work and play – but that’s a topic for another blog post.
When I want to organize something, I have a set of steps that I follow in a general linear progression, but realizations along the path may force skipping and back-tracking…
High Attention/Availability
Purposeful Categories
Additional Considerations
…each step get applied above the previous one, but these steps aren’t so much layers, as much as they are coatings. Each new coating will melt into the previous one – taking the general shape of the previous coating, but also changing the shape of the previous coating – and, by extension, changing the shape of the whole.
High Attention/Availability
First are the things I put on the “Shelf”. (I don’t know if that’s what it’s officially called, but it’s that place at the bottom of an iPhone that’s always the same, no matter what screen you’re in… The most present real estate on the iPhone.) These things cut across all task categories, and always need to be within immediate reach. I don’t necessarily use them the most often, but they are either things I shouldn’t ignore, or things that I always want in reach at a moment’s notice. The availability factor started largely a holdover from when I had 6-12 screens and organized those screens similar to the way I now use folders – but now that has changed, and I’ll get to that in a moment...
Then we have the top of the screen… The top row is simply the string tied to my finger.
In a way, I have 7 “to-do lists” on my phone (I used to have 8, but I found I preferred using Reminders to Dosecast for reminding me to take my medication) and these are the icons on the Shelf, plus the icons across the top (except for Contacts, which is why it’s in the top left, but we haven’t gotten to the ergonomics part yet). So these 7 icons are the ones I want to always know when there is a notification, without having to look into a folder to figure out what wants me to address something. I want these in my face, vying for my attention, every time I look at my phone.
No, Safari does not generate notifications, but I do use it as a to-do list. Well, more of a doing-now-and-need-to-get-back-to-one-of-these-days list. Eventually, I’ll take the time to figure out how to effectively use Read it Later and/or Evernote…
Purposeful Categories
The next step is to group the remaining tools into categories defined by purpose.
There are two sub-categories here: Specific Task Purpose and General Purpose. Finance is a good example of a Specific Task Purpose, and Look It Up is a General Purpose.
It was quite a while after folders were offered in the iPhone before I started using them. I had been trying to organize my phone with a different page for every task type… The Travel folder is a hold-over from that – and this is why my weather apps are there. Essentially, I wanted my phone to pretend to be a different phone in every situation to suit my needs in that moment. When I’m travelling, I would have my phone on the Travel screen, and everything I would need was there.
I never could get it quite right, however, largely because I had so many multi-purpose tools.
This was when I decided to take a different tack, and start looking at organizing folders in much the same way I build music playlists. My playlists are designed to reflect/influence my moods. For example, some songs have a way of making me swagger down the street as if I’m strutting through my 1973 ghetto, wearing platform fishbowl shoes, and listening to Parliament Funkadelic…
That playlist is named Funk & Swaggers.
So, combining mood-driven, task-driven and purpose-driven categories landed me with this set of folders on my home screen.
Once the core folders were determined, the next step was to figure out where each tool lives, and which ones don’t have any place to live.
I used to have more that didn’t have a place to live. It forced me to carefully consider why they didn’t fit and whether I really needed them. I ended up deleting a lot of apps as a result, and I looped back in the process one step to reconfigure the folder names and purposes.
In my tweets to Chris and Coté, I also mentioned that my second screen has QRReader and Scan (another QR Code app). These were stuck on page 2, because I wanted to learn more about how to generate and use QR Codes, but I really don’t have time for that right now. Page 2 serves as my future phone projects bucket.
Additional Considerations
After all this, I weigh other considerations regarding the thing I am trying to organize. In this particular situation, Tumbler is a perfect example.
Tumblr had to be on its own page, and that had to be the last page.
When Liz and I were first dating, I told her that my life was an open book. I would always be completely frank and honest with her, and had nothing to hide. She knew all my passwords and would check my emails and text messages for me, if we were driving.
I also told her, however, that my internal world was exactly that. Some of it I would choose to share with her, but much of it she would never know. It's absolutely essential for my health and happiness to have the universe inside my head completely free of fetters, judgments, and obligations to other people – and if she wasn't comfortable with that, she shouldn't be with me.
I see my Tumblr account as an extension of that world. She knows it exists, but doesn't know the name of the account – and she's OK with that.
On Tumblr I am me, but not all of me. I allow myself to shed many aspects of the person I am, and exist as a slice of myself. Because of that, it needs to live on its own, away from the rest of who I am.
Ergonomics doesn’t start coming into play until now. First I organize the icons and folders on the home screen so they reflect my comfort. I use my phone for social media more than anything else, so Socialist gets the prime ergonomic real estate address space #1. This is where my thumb is most comfortable landing. Music Movies is currently the second most common used, so it gets prime address #2.
Prime address #3 for me is where Finance is now, even though I use Look It Up FAR more often. This decision was based on the “Feel” and “Reality” coatings I’m getting to...
After I finish applying my ergonomic preferences to the home screen, I go into each folder and do the same there.
Note that my home screen has five folders showing 9 icons (or more). The reality is that only Socialist has exactly 9 (it had 10, but I finally got rid of Path). This is where ergonomic considerations get serious.
If I move you off the screen inside a folder, I really don’t give a damn about you ever reminding me you are there. Either I can’t delete you (because you came with iOS, and it won’t let me) or I have turned off any push notification functionality and I use you so seldom that it offends me to have you take up any real estate at all. Page 2 of a folder is, in effect, archiving the app away.
After ergonomic considerations, comes the fluffy, soft considerations. This level and above is the where I start to allow myself the freedom to break the rules. I allow myself to move beyond pure reason and logic into emotional responses and fun.
Going back to what I said earlier about entertaining myself, I put Planets (an Astronomy/sky-mapping app) in the Travel folder because it made me smile.
Amazon and eBay are in Finance because it just felt right.
By the way, the folders Pitchers and Socialist were renamed in this stage just to make me laugh. Along those same lines, when I did use Dosecast, I kept it in the Socialist folder, because if I forgot to take my meds, I wouldn't be very sociable, and probably shouldn’t be using the tools in that folder.
I entertain myself.
This is why Scrabble is in a folder named Words Words Words!
After all this excruciating planning, I put it to the test…
Even though I very rarely use Skype, it takes up prime address #3. G+ was in address #3, because that’s where all this planning said it was “supposed to be.” The reality, however, was that when I wanted to use G+ my eyes and thumb would automatically aim for the middle spot. I had no idea why this was, but rather than fight it, it seems far more sensible to follow my inclinations and just let it happen.
I struggled for weeks whether to put IMDB in Music Movies or Look It Up. (No, seriously… WEEKS!) All my reasoning told me that while it is a reference tool, I will be much more likely to use it in conjunction with the apps in the Music Movies folder, plus it just fits that theme, so that’s where it went.
It lived there for several months, and worked fine. When I was watching a movie, or looking something up on Netflix, I had IMDB right there to answer questions. When I watched TV shows or old movies and thought, “Don’t I know that person?” the answer was right there.
Then things started to change…
I realized that when I was absent-mindedly reaching for IMBD when I wasn’t actively consuming entertainment, I always reached for Look It Up. In fact, I would usually go as far as opening the folder and looking for it in there. When I switched it over to Look It Up, I was still reaching for the Music Movies folder when I was consuming entertainment! This led to several more weeks of struggling over what to do.

Finally, I realized that while I would reach for Music Movies when consuming – and I used the app more when consuming than not – I never actually opened the Music Movies folder to look for it.
It was just more sensible to get used to the one that wasted less of my effort.
Repeat Constantly…
Believe it or not, this was the short story. I could tell you the detailed history of every app and folder on my phone, but I think this gives a pretty good idea of what is happening in my head pretty much all the time.
I absolutely love analyzing efficiency and effectiveness of processes & organizational systems, but for me it’s more than just a pastime, it truly is a survival skill for My Particular Brand of Crazy.


So, Chris just posted the show to G+. They haven't put up the show notes yet, so I had to fast-forward through just to confirm whether they read my screen. Once I saw my screen was there, I stopped the show to come post this.
When the show notes are up, I'll post a link to them in the comments here (because I will not edit this once it's posted - I REALLY hope there are no stupid typos or errors that will itch and burn my OCD brain for not fixing them) and I will post a link to this in the comments of the show notes.

Now I can go watch to the show...

March 01, 2014, 07:40:52 am

About The Author


Craig Wilkey

Yeah... A few stupid typos and mistakes...


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