Top 4 Training Tools for Aspiring Digerati

I just finished reading the NYTimes mini-New Yorker article about how Kevin Systrom founded Instagram, got it funded, got it built. Awesome story. Instagram will be a great brand management tool for Facebook.

I mention it, because the lesson of the story is that the quickest way to join the digerati is to go to college at Stanford and afterwards to hang out in San Francisco.

But for those of us who won't be moving to the Bay Area anytime soon, here's my working list of the top four training tools for aspiring digerti.

#1 Top Tool for Aspiring Digerati: A Manual Underwood Typewriter

The future is mobile and mobile UI is visual. No question one needs to learn how to read pictures in order to "write" (snap and edit) them well. But in the early part of the 21st Century, meaning remains ensconced in language. And language is yet codified in alphabets, text and syntax.

Old underwood

Which means, today, you yet have to be able to type.

The best typing training will not be on a fancy, extruded plastic, ergonomic keyboard, but on an old, mechanical, Underwood-manufactured typewriter.

The Underwood will require more muscle. Think of it as a training regimen not unlike carting weights when training for a 10k run. You'll feel that much stronger, lighter, during the main event.

#2 Top Tool for Aspiring Digerati: A DVD Copy of Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud) (1958), Starring Jeanne Moreau, with an Original Score by Miles Davis

Engineering is once again bumping up against the human capacity to absorb and utilize. Which means that once again the liberal arts, architecture and design, and an understanding of the universal human condition are essential.

Jeanne Moreau in Elevator to the Gallows

The single best tutoral in all of this is Elevator to the Gallows. To paraphrase Socrates, you probably cannot live a life worth living, if you haven't studied this movie and watched it in art houses multiple times. A DVD copy is a place to start.


(Also, it is good to be reminded there is an echelon of cool one will likely never reach. Takes the pressure off, somehow.)

#3 Top Tool for Aspiring Digerati: A Library of Antiquated Books

Books are more about design than might first appear.

Library Sydney 1920s

The older the book, the more likely it is to be an object of design. Old books smell; have interesting colors and textures (warp of the paper, bite of the type); heft; and require manual navigation, not unlike a smartphone in the hand.

When read, books (old and newer) can exercise the mind, loosen the mental tongue, add grist to the vocabulary, suggest routines.

Far more might be said about a library of antiquated books.

#4 Top Tool for Aspiring Digerati: Smartphones

That's smart-phones, plural.

Geeks at the Opera with Smartphones

It almost doesn't matter which smartphone OS you tackle first, but you need to struggle with two, if not three. Each OS has a different Gestalt. While mainstream media may refer to iPhone, Android and Windows Phone together as a generic category, it is the essence of digerati-ness to discern, appreciate and pontificate upon the distinctive value systems of each.

It's a pain to be tethered to one or more carriers on monthly subscriptions, but somebody is working on that. Maybe that somebody is you?

Photo of old Underwood by Van Sutherland / Flickr. Photo of Mitchell Library, Sydney, Dec 1923, by the Daily Mail / Flickr. Photo of Geeks at the Opera (working smartphones) by Ed Yourdon / Flickr.

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