user experience

I gave my healthcare to an app and my ear is still screwed

So one day in between reading about the NHS collapsing and the hounds of various right wing elements nipping at the entrails of one of the finer things the UK has managed to pull off since the Magna Carta, I’ve decided to make a foray into privatised health care for the first time in about over 15 years. I should have started by a brief history. I’m from the US, and having grown up under the Reagan and Bush regimes was used to the idea that you’re on your own, especially when it comes to health care.

So sure enough here I am decades later in the UK, pushing middle age and watching my earthly body follow the same trajectory as our beloved National Health Service.

And then sure enough there’s an app. It’s called, very weirdly, especially for any other listeners of reggae pirate radio, Babylon.

I’ve had a weird itch in my ear. First in the left, then both and then it got really bad. I go to the pharmacy and they give me a spray. Said spray seems to make things worse and then scabs, weird water in ear type thing, etc. etc. I’m still alive here to tell you about it, but I’m sure I’m among the lucky.

So I download the app, get sucked into putting in my credit card details for the £5 monthly subscription with the free first month and off I went. I booked an appointment with someone who by all looks of it is a qualified doctor. They all have nice little pictures and “Dr.” before their name. You can chat by phone or by in-app video link-up and it sort of is that simple. Of course there’s that bit about no signal, missed calls, etc. but in the end we chatted for the allotted 15 minutes, just like the regular local GP, but without the waiting room, and for the most part whenever you want, and sure enough I got what seemed to be a reasonable answer and a prescription forwarded to my local pharmacy. I get a new spray which I use and the itch goes away sort of but more gunk builds up and then some weird under water thing going on in my head.

Now the thing is, and I’m no medical expert, that the fine person who seems to be qualified on the other end of the internet or phone can’t see into my ear through the phone. Even with the video, there’s only so much you can do.

The one thing I really like this is the fact that I get records of what transpired. But so do they which is the slightly worrying bit. I have a recorded copy of the actual phone conversation, a write-up by the “virtual” GP and then also an email. This is very nice. I can even have the record sent to my local registered GP, but I hate mine so irrationally thought I wouldn’t give them the pleasure.

I booked another appointment a week later once I was due to stop the prescription and sure enough they suggest, since they can’t look into my ear, that I go to my local GP, the very place all of this was supposed to avoid. Thus I should have not signed up for the £5 a month to go about the reassuring calls and blind hope that I wouldn’t have to go to my GP and that the sharing economy or whatever the hell this is could actually sort out this problem.

So I go to the GP and try to explain, albeit in a sheepish, masked way, who I’ve got through two different types of medicine for my ear without actually going in there and he seems really miffed at the whole concept. And that was the last time I used it really.

I'm leaving you Adobe

Let me tell you about warp. That's right, warp. This amazing ability that Illustrator has where you can make a vector shape and then make a deformable mesh on top of it that you can tweak around and well, warp a bit. Sounds epic doesn't it? What an amazing feature they've come up with. For some sad, strange reason I had an obsession with the concept of not being able to do this, even though every time I've used the tool it was difficult and ended up looking like absolute shit anyhow. This is what it boils down to, Adobe throwing everything under the sun at you and wedging in heaps of loss aversion through the door and down your throat. I don't know how I will make this sort of psychedelic amazingness anymore, but it doesn't really matter

So I'm trying to leave you and it ain't going to be easy. Adobe, you've weaved your tentacles into my life in ways and formats that will be incredibly hard to shake. But I look forward to the challenge and to breaking free till one day I can make it without drowning in your bloat and effluence every time I have to make some sort of image or put some words on a picture.

But you've made it so hard to leave you. You've ingrained yourself everywhere in my life and in my consciousness. You've gone through my phone and who I've called and told me how to hold a fork. You've been with me through bad and good. We've cried together, lasted up all night with a half empty bottle of whiskey, tears and all the memories that go with that one Strokes album. You were there. You're now a verb because you are everywhere.

Part of breaking away is opening your eyes. I haven't opened InDesign in over a year. I haven't done any photo type thing to an actual image in over a year and even when I do, I only use some basic stuff. What you have to realise is that you don't really need all the bells and whistles and you don’t need one company dictating what the creative output of the planet is.

Managing to Care

If there's one thing I've learned in my short and tumultuous time as a product manager is that, ultimately, it's just about giving a shit. That and having somewhere good to go. That is, having a vision and inching towards it, sprint by sprint, week by week. It pains me to use this word, "vision", but there really isn't any other word for it. How much do you manage? As little as possible if you ask me. How do you motivate people making this thing you're in charge of? You shouldn't have to. If people care, you don't need to motivate them. Take the now famous example of Valve Software the games company who literally let's you work on whatever you want firm in the belief that people who care about their work, do good work. And good work sells. So basically, get out of the way and let good people do what they do well.

For all this though you need to let go a little bit. This is extremely hard for us art school types who've had our minds filled with visions of superiority and genius. But its got to be done, because this is the real world. In the real world there are products, projects, cities and novels that all live and die not by their design, but by how well the good people putting them together are all moving in the same direction.