The Difficult Sale: Reading

Out of the many things I’m excited about, books are the most precious to me. I love everything about them: the stories, the words, the typefaces, the paper, the covers…

My children joke that I can’t pass by a library without going in.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book in front of me. Many of my best memories have a book linked to them. I’m also trying to build my living around books, words, and publishing.

The older of my two sons is now eight.

As a second grader (in Finland, we start school at the age of seven), he’s at the age where I’d expect him to pick a book and read, read, read…

But as I try to push him gently towards books and the vast repositories of stories, worlds, and ideas they have in store for him, I’m slowly becoming afraid for the future of books and reading. I’m sure Oiva will find books and, with his reader parents’ support, become a reader himself. Many of the kids in his generation probably won’t.

Ironically, the “enemy” is another of my favorites.

Computer games.

As a computer programmer who has spent seven years making games professionally (and all of his youth before that, as a hobby), I’m hesitant to say anything negative about games. I love a well-made game as much as the next person.

But there is something about games that make it extremely hard for reading and books to compete.

Professional game designers are masters of luring the player in. I’ve seen them at work. I’ve seen how they make it easy and exciting to get started and then guide the player by the hand until he or she is completely invested. After this, the player will go through even the most difficult of quests to get the hero where he or she needs to go.

Games are easy to pick up, fun… and addictive. In the best sense of the word.

Let’s compare this to books, starting from the most obvious obstacle.

  • To enjoy a book, you have to be a fluent reader. To play a game, you need to know how to use a touch screen interface.
  • To pick up a book, you need to believe there’s an adventure hidden in those black and white letters. When you start a game, it immediately throws you in a colorful play world where something is going on all the time.
  • And, to make this belief a part of you, you have to struggle through your first books. Books that — no matter how good — you most likely won’t enjoy as much as you should.

In other words, to enjoy reading (and to become a reader), you will have to work. Hard. You will have to toil through the moments when reading feels boring. You will have to pick another book until you find one that speaks to you in a way that makes your mind go “a-ha!”


They never feel like work until you’re already well invested.

They are the opposite of boring.

When I was young (and probably you too), being bored was a part of life. Loading a game on the Commodore 64 took fifteen minutes. Children’s TV shows played only at half past five every night.

Even in that world, not everyone decided to go with books. But books still stood a chance.

There was a good reason for going through all the work of learning to enjoy books. The prize was clear to see: once you became fluent with books, you would never need to be bored again.

Today, books no longer have that advantage.

If you are bored, you can play a game. You can watch Netflix on demand. You can always pick something easy to do. Something you already feel like you know how to do.

In a world of instant gratification, why work hard towards a goal that will only bring you joy much later?

I have many answers, but I don’t think they are the ones my son and his peers will want to hear. But I’m convinced this is a question we need to answer if we want to raise civilized children capable of dreaming and building a better world.

Let’s get to work.

Learn a New Skill This Summer

What’s the biggest obstacle between dreaming about mastering something and actually mastering it?

It’s fear.

The fear of wasting your time on something you’ll never learn anyway.

The fear of spending your time learning the wrong thing.

Ever since I saw Marty McFly play Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future, I’ve dreamed of one day rocking the tune myself. But learning a song from start to finish takes effort and I have so much on my plate…

So, fast forward some twenty years and here I am, still not knowing more than the first three notes of the song.

Not for long.

Jon Acuff’s summer project, Do Summer addresses this problem head on with a simple idea: you pick one skill, and then, during the summer months, you will practice that skill for 15 minutes every day.

Follow this routine religiously and at the end of the summer, you will have clocked 1500 minutes of practice — a full 25 hours!

I think the trick here is brilliant: everyone has 15 minutes in a day to spare. The time slot is short enough so you don’t have to worry about using the time wisely. And almost without noticing, at the end of the project, you might actually have learned the skill you set out to practice.

Today is day one, so it’s early to say, but maybe this is the summer when I’ll finally learn to play Johnny B. Goode.

What do you want to learn?

I’m back… I suppose.

This is one of those blog posts every blogging advice guy and girl warns you against. The “oh, look how time flew” post that draws everyone’s attention to the fact that you haven’t been blogging for a while.

Well… In my case, it’s been almost two years, so I’m taking the risk. Everyone has already seen my fall from regular blogging so the only way left to go is up.

Today, this all I wanted to say: I’m alive. I’m kicking. I’m still a stay-at-home dad building my own business(es) around publishing and computers. If you are reading, that’s very nice of you.

My next post will actually have some content to it. Stay tuned.


If you are a Curious&Creative mailing list subscriber, reading this post in your email inbox, you’re probably wondering what’s going on.

So, let me explain.

Curious&Creative was an experiment in moving my blogging over to email.

For a while it was great and posting directly to your email inboxes gave the project a new kind of intimacy. But rather soon, because of some of the regular reasons that slow down a blogger’s posting frequency as well as some reasons specific to the mailing list itself (not having archives and the lack of connection between readers that blog comments bring) the posting pace started to slow down.

Then it stopped.

Now, it’s been a long time since you last heard from me, as I’ve been working on Bread Magazine (and another project about which I’ll tell you more soon) and trying to figure out the best way to approach Curious&Creative.

In the end, I decided the best way to revive both my blog and the mailing list was to bring them back together — after all, this is where they both started.

In the future, I’ll be posting my thoughts on curiosity, creativity, making things, and meaning on my blog at Once a week, on Thursday, you will receive a summary post with all of the posts published that week.

I hope you’ll like this new direction.

On launching my first crowdfunding campaign

“Do something interesting first and only then write about it!” is one of the best, if often also hardest to follow, pieces of advice for blogging.

Today, I am happy to say that I am following the advice, so much that maybe it will be enough to break this long period of silence and get this blog up to speed once again!

So, what’s going on?

Last weekend, I launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The campaign will run until the end of the year with the goal of collecting enough money ($8,000) to fund the printing of the first issue of my magazine, Bread, next year.

Yes, I am trying to take the magazine to the next level: (limited edition) high quality print, supported by a strong digital presence.

If this sounds interesting, check out the project, buy one of my pre-sale packages (The project is now 29% funded but there are still some very nice perks left for you to choose from. I did sell my one and only notebook already, though!), and spread the word!

But what I think will be most interesting for you is what follows…

In the coming days and weeks until the end of the Indiegogo campaign, be it a big success or a sad failure, I am going to post updates on running this campaign: what’s going on, what I am learning, anything that I believe could be useful for someone planning to do something similar in the future. I hope my successes and failures can give you a better understanding on how crowdfunding works and we can learn together.


Topics included (but definitely not limited to):

  • Why I created the campaign on Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter?
  • How I approached writing the campaign page? Text, images, video (with some cut scenes from my countless failed takes)
  • Marketing efforts as they happen (what worked, what didn’t work…)
  • And if the campaign is successful, delivering the magazine and perks to everyone who participated

Tomorrow, I’ll start by talking about creating the campaign and the thinking behind it. But first, check out the campaign so you’ll know what we are talking about!

I’m happy to invite you on this adventure with me.

The Sound of Art in Software Installations

In my previous post, I wrote about trying to find the “sound of art” in your work. Those small, surprising details that catch you off guard and create a positive emotion inside you — like a smile, for example.

Here’s an example outside music that I saw today when installing a new version of RubyMine, a programming environment for the Ruby language. The beauty here is in how this installer has been designed with no one but the Ruby developer in mind. For someone not used to how the Mac works or how to read and write Ruby (most of the world), this is nonsense. And therefore probably not funny.

For the rest of us, it’s simply brilliant.

Kuvankaappaus 2013-8-27 kello 9.42.17

The Sound of Art

Do you know the feeling when listening to a song, the drums enter at just the right moment, surprising you off guard? Or when all of the sudden, you hear a perfectly timed, unexpected bleep of a synthesizer and you can’t help but smile a small, appreciative smile?

It seems the most natural place to see this in action is in music. But I don’t think it’s something only music can do. It’s a result of very focused attention to detail, which sometimes means spending hours on polishing a song, and sometimes just allowing your creativity flow freely.

How do you do this in your art? Your writing? Your publishing efforts?


For me, Christianity is a wrestle.

From the ethics to the existence of God, I seem to wrestle every bit of the tradition. At times, I end up agreeing, at times, not so much. Although I must admit there is something about the wrestle I love and enjoy, I have often asked myself if it would in fact be better to not pass this heritage on to my children.

Today, my family and I were walking next to a river that flows near our home. It was a beautiful spring day: little green leaves peeking from the trees, first flowers popping from the ground, and water flowing nearby.

My older son, soon six years old, said to us: “Hey, we could thank God for this water!”

In that sacred moment, he and his three-year-old brother kneeled down on the river bank, crossed their fingers, and said a little prayer: “Thank you for this beautiful river. Amen.”

And then, off they went to continue with their adventures.

This moment reminded me something about the beauty of faith at its best. That is, when all the excess has been stripped away. Faith without the burden that comes from theological issues such as salvation, original sin, or atonement is still pure. And it’s mostly about thankfulness.

No, you don’t need religion of faith to be thankful.

But religion gives tools that help when speaking about abstract things that are hard to talk about. Thankfulness is a good example: when we experience something beautiful, even if it is not the doing of human hands, we still feel thankful and want to thank someone for it. God is language for expressing this emotion, actually thanking someone for the good we have been blessed with.

I could go on and on about what God means, whether or not you can talk to God, and many related topics. But that’s something for another time and another blog post. All I want to say today is: We have been blessed with a life full of beauty. Let’s be thankful!

Hope and Parkour

When you think of Gaza, what are the first thoughts that come to mind?

Violence, fear, lack of resources, maybe the rockets fired by both Hamas and the Israeli army. Destruction. Even without taking sides in the peace negotiations, it’s clear that life in Gaza is tough.

With youth unemployment rates at 66% or higher depending on how you define youth (see this page for full statistics), there is a big group of young men without anything to do. They could become militants or terrorists, and some probably do.

A group of young men who call themselves Gaza Parkour Team have decided to take a different route and started practicing Parkour instead. I’m a big fan of parkour videos in general, but the setting these guys come from adds to their videos a new layer of awesomeness.

Hope is not something that either is there or isn’t. Hope is something you choose to have.

Is RSS History?

Two days ago, Google announced that they are closing Google Reader in July.

In the blog post, they wrote:

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

When I started my journey in the blogosphere, I spent a lot of time in Google Reader every day. Now, I check my feeds a few times a week. Based on the quote above, I am guessing this is the case with much more people than I had thought.

But what does it mean? Is RSS history? How are people following blogs these days? RSS was never the most intuitive solution but I am going to miss Google Reader when it is gone.

Bono Is One of My Heroes

…but that’s not why you should watch this TED talk. You need to watch the talk for its message: a powerful message of how much has already been achieved in ending extreme poverty and how much more can still be achieved.

It only takes 13 minutes. Do it now.