This post was written by contributing writer Erik van Mechelen.
Collect till you can’t anymore
There’s something about collecting things that is an essential part of the human experience.
It’s in our nature.
We organized in groups to hunt and gather. Okay, we needed to survive.
But now we continue to collect.
Sure, there’s a counter-movement (minimalism), but even minimalists are in the business of collecting, often collecting experiences or relationships or something else they consider more valuable than material goods.
We collect stamps, rocks, feathers, books, ideas, friends, relationships, experiences. There’s something about it that we can’t avoid. Collecting can be about ownership and possession, or wealth and status, but however defined, you know it when you see it.
There’s a downside to collecting too much (perhaps). We all laugh or shake our heads when we see true hoarders in action, or people trampling one another on Black Friday. This could be some deranged form of the collecting mindset gone astray.
But it’s hard to make a case against the value of collections, whether inherent to themselves or to produce time savings or personalization.
Collections can be added to experiences, like my biology teacher in high school who had us collect 20 insects during our insect study (yes, it felt like Pokemon in real life). I get the same feeling as I collect knowledge and ideas from lectures and edutainment on YouTube.
When you interview for a job, the hiring manager will ask you for a collection of your experiences to discover if you have the skills and mindset to do the job and fit the culture of their company.
At bottom, life is a collection of experiences. Our past and present and future experiences coalesce to make a life. Collections matter.
Why do we value collections?
Life is a collection of experiences. Collections of things, physical and non-physical, make up the components of life.
My girlfriend’s parents collect magnets of places they’ve traveled to around the world. My college teammate’s parents display photographs along a wall of places they’ve visited.
People like collections so much that products and services often build it into their system to make it easier to collect collections.
Consider the book. When scribes thousands of years ago began setting ink to parchment, collections of ideas could be collected and saved. Inside the palm of one’s hand lay a collection ideas and theories and stories.
Then someone built a bookshelf. Now, collections of books could be stored for easy reference and review. A convenient space-saving tool and memory device. When I look across the room at the bookshelf, I see book spines, merely seeing this glimpse of the novel or biography immediately triggers the concepts and ideas and emotions and knowledge gleaned from those collections of ideas.
Next, consider the library. The library is, you guessed it, a collection of a collection of a collection. A third-level collection. Even as we progress to digitizing books, libraries in homes are still cherished. There is wonder in libraries around the world. We clearly value them.
(Yes, we have libraries of libraries on the internet, too.)
Okay…let’s GET INTO THE TOP 10!!!
Reminder: these are my top 10, and very open to discussion and debate.
1. YouTube (Entertainment/Casual-Learning)
For me, YouTube is a collection of ideas and entertainment and news and you-name-it. Subscriptions are the collection of things we subscribe to. These are valuable enough to support and be notified. (A similar effect is in play with Twitch.tv through subscriptions for a monthly payment to the creator.)
Khan Academy has a similar collection feel as you progress (show my status?), in learning. As does Degreed.com.
2. Audible (Reading)
I was slow to adopt Audible, but as part of my pursuit to understand story better, I’ve added so I can fit in listening during in-between time. A few taps and I’m listening.
Every month I get an email with a credit and recommendations. I easily add the book, encouraging repeat use.
Audible lets me save clips for remembering and reviewing key information or ideas (and share them, CD5). Channels give additional personalization and ability to collect stories.
I also use Scribd heavily (I like the ability to add Documents there), and have over 300 books in collections.
3. Netflix (Entertainment/Casual-Learning)
Not quite gone are the days when Netflix is used as an example of a disruptor taking marketshare (sorry Blockbuster) because it innovated where (and when) the incumbent didn’t.
Where Blockbuster was a collection of video experiences, Netflix represents a collection of collections. Oh, and it’s on demand.
The Alfred Effect personalizes my experience over time while also encouraging discovery (CD7).
It’s nice too, to have my spot saved in a show to return to later (notice the red status bars in my “Continue Watching” section.
4. Adobe Creative Suite (Creativity)
This may seem a little strange at first glance.
But think about it. So many creatives manage their graphic design almost entirely within Adobe’s creative suite between Photoshop and Illustrator or InDesign. (I learned some Photoshop and Illustrator on TeamTreehouse to make simple bookcovers.)
I use Adobe Audition for sound design and podcast creation, but apps like Zencastr may remove the need for it…almost. It’ll probably be a collection most creators can’t drop entirely.
5. Amazon (Stuff to buy)
Amazon is quickly becoming one of the largest product-based search engines. Wishlists and product recommendations.
Alexa Skills could be huge, too. Bringing learning through voice activation. I’m watching that closely, although I don’t own one yet.
6. Product Hunt (Products, Services, Tools)
Having just merged with Angellist, and no wonder. An incredible discovery tool for so many things. And of course it has a collection feature, which I use collect gamified experiences, podcasts, no bullshit productivity tools, an intro reading list to fantasy, imaginative fiction, curious non-fiction, and my favorite: writing tools.
7. PokemonGo (Games)
Or any video game from Farmville to Final Fantasy to Fable involve collecting status or labor points.
We could probably live without games…well, maybe not 🙂
If you missed it, here’s our collection of 27 game techniques Pokemon Go used to capture the world.
8. Pinterest (Ideas)
My Pinterest front page probably looks different than yours. Once again, a pleasing Alfred Effect.
Pinterest allows me to do what I want with it. To make it my own. Big CD4. In my case, it works great for a little writing inspiration, too, to help drive me into a writing session.
9. Facebook and Instagram (Communities)
Facebook has collected a lot of information about us. And we’ve willingly allowed it to. This collection of metadata provides us with great Alfred Effect’ed experience.
Consider Top friends, Photos, the new-ish Memories feature, and the collections of groups/communities/causes in which you are a part.
Social media provides a place to collect like-minded people to share ideas.
10. Scribd (More books)
Okay, I did it. I added two reading services. This is my top 10, remember? I love reading 🙂 … I would have added Goodreads, too, if you could have spared me another Amazon company…
I have over 300 books in various collections on Scribd, ready to pick up and read or share with someone I know asking for just the right book.
What I left out…
If I’m not leaving something out I wouldn’t be doing this right. Even when building big collections a man needs to make some choices.
I use Dropbox, but there are many options. As one of life’s primary collections (collection of remembered experience), I’m still searching for a great solution.
Before getting a Samsung s7 Edge recently, I had a 16gb iPhone 5, so necessary to have a place to store photos/video, and therefore Dropbox (although I could have gone w/ Apple or Google storage too).
Jun Loayza wrote a great post comparing Dropbox’s Carousel and Google Photos.
I more often listen to books and music or debates on YouTube. But podcasts are great passive learning tool, as well.
I’ve previously written about Overcast.fm and Tung.fm. And others are joining the party. I’m not sure which I’ll use. I guess, for now, YouTube is winning that game in my mind space and the way I like to consume (combo audio and video).
But hit me up if there’s a great collection-based podcast app I should pay attention to.
BoardGameGeek: Where I collect board games and board game ideas.
Goodreads: As a fiction writer (and avid reader), this is among the most important social media and collection sites. I also collect books on Audible/Scribd/Goodreads/Fieldbook/physical-bookshelves.
Documents: With Windows 95 distribution foMicrosoftft Office was massive, but now the Google App Suite is the dominant place to collect my shareable/collaboration documents. But maybe something else will take its place.
Professional collections (masterminds, networks): My job experience is a collection of skills and problem-solving ability and mindset and cultural fit. Sites like LinkedIn or Degreed showcase evidence of my adaptability and collaboration across major companies, my own startup, and consulting/hustling I’ve done for several others.
Before we go…The Alfred Effect (Game Technique #83)
If you haven’t, check Yu-kai’s article about Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession.
The Alfred Effect is when users feel that a product or service is so personalized to their own needs that they cannot imagine using another service.
As we march towards a fast-food world of more convenience and off-the-shelf options, people start to long for a deeper experience that is uniquely their own. That’s why some wealthy people would spend ten times more to customize a product to uniquely fit their style and preferences.
Where else do you see the Alfred effect? I’ve noticed it in my Chrome extensions or in cookies that log you in automatically (part of a collection of websites or blogs or communities where you are known so well that you are logged in automatically.
As the saying goes, “if your wifi works right away as you enter the home of another, then you know you’re their true friends”.
“You could say I’m best friends with a lot of coffee shops.”
If you want to join thousands of others who have learned about human-focused design, join the 21-day gamification course.