Forget Lean Forward and Lean Back -- It's Curl Up

By Jason Calacanis

For the better part of the last two decades we've compared the lean-forward experience of computers with the lean-back experience of television.

At Mahalo today, as we were brainstorming new apps, we discussed an idea I had for a new app. Our president Jason Rapp asked, "Well, do you see it as a lean forward or a lean back experience?"

I thought for a minute and said, "Neither, it's more of a tablet experience. What would you call that? We need a name for that."

Then it hit me. Duh?

"It's the curl-up experience!" I blurted out.

Everyone nodded in complete understanding.

In fact, the most important experience in media is no longer learning forward into your computer, or leaning back to consume video, it's curling up with a device.

Even if you're sitting at a desk or on a plane, the experience of playing Angry Birds feels like you're curled up with your tablet and almost becoming one with it.

Folks taking notes in Evernote or surfing the web with Dolphin's awesome browser at meetings are typically rocking or lounging back in their chairs.

Our kids lying on their backs, holding their tablets above their heads before rolling over on their bellies -- never missing a swipe -- are curling up.

Asinine celebrities battling bitter flight attendants over their last volley in Words with Friends are curling up in bathrooms searching for triple-letter, triple-word scoring bonanzas.

Computing is much different when you're curling.

Curling-up experiences require a rethinking of the user's state of mind.

In the lean-back experience, you're 99% passive with interaction limited to zombie-like remote control behavior. In lean-forward experiences, folks are so engaged they seem to forget to breath or drink their coffee.

How many times have you lost yourself on your computer for so long that your once lava-hot Starbucks is now a decomposing, Java-soaked cup with bitter sewer water? How many times have you reheated that bastard in the microwave anyway? You are a degenerate, aren't you?

The curled-up paradigm ebbs and flows between engagement, when you aim the perturbed bird, and passivity, when you revel like a fat kid eating chocolate cake as you lock down another three-star performance.

I find Flipboard and Words with Friends have this same "engage and absorb" rhythm. Flip around some stories (or tiles), then reflect on what you've accomplished.

I'm spending all my time right now thinking about how curling up, engaging and absorbing will impact storytelling and education.

How should a course on World War II history be presented on a tablet?

How will the next Michael Moore engage a tablet to enrage and inform an audience?

What will "Shark Week" mean when folks stop watching the Discovery Channel on their TVs and start watching it on their tablets?

Steve Jobs' greatest legacy is curl-up computing.

all the best,


Other updates:

1. SF BOUND: I'm going to be splitting time between the Bay Area and Los Angeles this month. Renting a house in Noe Valley for the second half of January. Looking for a rental for the rest of 2012 in SF if you know of a nice house.

2. SEEKING STEALTH STARTUPS: The LAUNCH Festival is March 7th and 8th in San Francisco. This is the week before SXSW so it's the PERFECT place to launch a new product, startup or service. If you know of anyone ready to get on stage in March and blow our collective minds, email me ASAP!

3. AWESOME GUESTS: This Week in Startups has had a string of great guests. Kevin Rose of MILK (formerly Digg & Rev3), Dave Morin of (formerly Facebook) and Jim Lanzone of CBS/CNET (formerly Clicker & all put in amazing performances. Highly recommend checking out these three amazing stories:


4. ANGEL INVESTING: I'm doing five deals a year in the $25k-$50k range. Looking for folks doing amazing things in the areas I'm most helpful in: mobile, tablets, social, education and video. AngelList is the best place to find me.