The Real Comprehensive Terminal Guide
Quite some time ago, in a life before this one, I wrote an article that gained quite a bit of attention titled, “The Comprehensive Terminal Guide”. Someday, I hope to update and re-release that piece here. Meanwhile, Craig Hockenberry wrote and published an even longer, even more in-depth, and undoubtedly much better article than mine simply titled, “The Terminal”. Although he geared his more towards power users, users of all skill levels will find value in this monster of a piece. I consider myself fairly competent when it comes to the UNIX terminal, but Craig had already taught me a thing or two within the first few sections. If you have ever wanted to take better control of your computer, this is a great jumping-off point.
Diving into an Active Volcano
This is just incredible.
We as a species have a tendency to hold ourselves above all things both animate and inanimate in this world. Humans place themselves above nature, animals, and even one another. The trope of an invincible teenager is not exclusive to that age group, for at some level we all consider ourselves untouchable. And then, in the midst of this mis-placed mixture of entitlement and pride, videos like this appear to put us in our place — to exhibit our insignificance and utter frailty in the face of the majesty belonging to that which we so often disregard.
A Bionic Fan Surprises Matt Alexander
I don’t link to these kinds of things often, but this time I just couldn’t resist: for all you Bionic fans out there, a true fan surprised Matt Alexander at XOXO this year. Hilarious.
This Week in Podcasts
This week we see the return of my favorite podcast, Roderick on the Line, to this list with an even better episode than usual. Also making an appearance we have The Campfire Project, Exponent, and Grit; a fantastic roster, if I do say so myself.
I came across this story thanks to Polygon’s refutation of the mod’s existence, but fortunately thought to read the original article over at Tiny Cartridge first — as I would recommend you do as well. “Creepy” barely scratches the surface of this haunting tale. Especially if you, like me, grew up loving Pokemon, I encourage you to take a few minutes and read this story; it’s remarkably well-done.
Legitimate Text Processing
As usual, a great post by Joe Steel over at Unauthoritative Pronouncements where he tackles the now-inflammatory issue of Markdown and its numerous variants, and goes on to explain why he cannot get behind Jeff Atwood’s “Standard Markdown" — later renamed to “Common Markdown”, and then finally “CommonMark" — play. I completely agree with every point Joe made. However, I will say that although I do agree with Joe, I cannot get behind the undertone vilifying Jeff Atwood running beneath a number of the articles I have read on this topic. If Jeff’s latest blog post is anything to go by, he meant no offense in the first place. In fact, Jeff gave John Gruber multiple opportunities to express any issues with any aspect of his project, but John could not be bothered to respond. As Carl Holscher pointed out, adults should have acted like adults to begin with, aired their grievances promptly and privately, and then proceeded with an interesting project sans the drama. Act your age, and not your font size.
A Tale of Two Markdowns
Possible the only impartial take on the recent Markdown flareup you will find anywhere, Sid O’Neill took this opportunity to make a great work of prose rather than a declaration of support in favor of one side or the other. Take this opportunity to enjoy an article for the excellent craft it contains, rather than the point it attempts to make.
The Great Facade
Every day like clockwork, I copy a small text file out of a staging directory. Shortly thereafter, a Python script pulls the contents of that file out, parses it, and then places each line into a webpage that then gets pushed up to a server managed by a good friend of mine. Within a few seconds of that page going live, the handy Bitly bookmarklet gives me a shortened URL that I then send out to the world thanks to the magic of Tweetbot.
This Week in Podcasts
Coming back from a week without podcasts, I have two great episodes to showcase this time around. Here’s to fantastic podcasts, then, and their continued, well-deserved success.
I Ghostwrite Chinese Students' Ivy League Admissions Essays
The idea that one could survive and prosper based on their merits alone is a comforting idea. If this story teaches us anything though, it teaches us that increasingly, it is nothing more than that — little more than a comforting notion in a world where mom and dad can open their wallets to make any door spring open before their baby. I signed eight years of my life away in exchange for a four-year education, and while I don’t regret that decision in the least, it’s remarkably disheartening to see others reap similar rewards in exchange for their father’s signature and a brief “Thanks."
An idealistic notion
I first came across Rohan Anderson and his writing through a video titled “The Smokehouse”, where he talked about and demonstrated his efforts to construct a smokehouse completely by hand. Since that cool winter night almost a year ago now, I have continued following Rohan’s activities through his excellent blog, Whole Larder Love, and have linked to a number of his articles in the weeks and months since then. If my implicit endorsement of everything he says and stands for has not been enough to warrant your attention, though, let me come out and say it once more, this time explicitly: if you have any interest whatsoever in the outdoors, farming, sustainability, independence, health, cooking, photography, or alternative lifestyles, I implore you to spend some time learning about Rohan’s lifestyle choices and the reasons he made those decisions. And this post, An idealistic notion, is a great place to start.
How to Unschool Your Kids at Any Age
After Ben Hewitt’s recent essay on his approach to and the benefits of unschooling, Outside Online has another great article on the subject, this time offering some helpful suggestions to those looking to differ from the norm. Again, not the time to share my thoughts on this subject quite yet, but keep this one, too, in the back of your mind when I do.
Cabin Porn Roundup
This is a continuation of my ongoing Cabin Porn Roundup series, where I collect interesting pictures of cabins and cool stories about the outdoors from across the world and present them in a single location. Much like my “This Week in Podcasts” series, I feature only the best of the best here. Enjoy.
This Week Without Podcasts
For the past five months I have continued publishing a series of articles dubbed “This Week in Podcasts”. Born of my love for the medium, I have curated these lists to great results, and to my great enjoyment. However, this week I find myself in an unfortunate position: although I have worked diligently to get through my growing queue of unplayed podcast episodes over the past week, I have yet to find anything that merits inclusion in this list. I have had the privilege of listening to some great shows, but nothing struck me as particularly excellent and worthy of mention, unfortunately. And so, I have nothing to share with you today. I apologize, and look forward to something more next week.
Conjecture Regarding Larger iPhone Displays
John Gruber with the one article you ought to read before Apple announces its new iPhones in a few weeks, and the single article you ought to read afterwards as well when searching for the reasons Apple chose these dimensions. Minus the somewhat unimaginative title, a great piece, albeit somewhat hard to follow at times given the complexity of the topic at hand and the factors playing into his assumptions.
Curation Gone Wrong
Although I have never spent much time on Reddit, I once perused Digg with the same frequency that I opened Twitter and my RSS reader; sometimes, I even opted for the former in place of the latter. Similarly, I favored Hacker News over the more popular Techmeme for a time. In both cases though, despite all the enjoyment I found in these sites, I eventually abandoned each of them as the value they provided continued a disappointing slide towards zero. Today, Daring Fireball and The Loop are the closest things to a curation service that I continue visiting regularly, and one could certainly make an argument against their characterization as such.
We Don't Need No Education
Ben Hewitt puts forth a very good case not seeking to argumentatively justify the notion of unschooling, but rather simply to explain his motivations behind choosing it for his two children in a fantastic article for Outside Online titled “We Don’t Need no Education”. As a homeschooler myself whose education resided somewhere between the traditional system and Ben’s approach on the spectrum of organized learning, I have been fortunate enough to both witness and experience many of the philosophies named here. Although this is neither the time nor place to discuss those observations, nor my broader thoughts on education vis-a-vis this article, keep this one in mind when I finally do sit down to talk about education.
Alone With Lions
Jeff Kish is a contributing editor for Gear Junkie, a great site that publishes articles about the outdoors and the gear we humans can use to best tackle it. For the past two months, Jeff has been on a mission to hike the Pacific Northwest Trail, and post regular updates and gear reviews along the way. With this report, he has finally crossed the halfway point, and so I felt that now was as good a time as any to post a link here: if you, like me, appreciate a good trail almost as much as a great work of prose, I encourage you to give this series a look: it has both in good supply.
Looking to the Future
Here on this website, I predominantly write about technology: Apple, iOS, the web, code, and the like in a mixture of original articles and link posts. I also put together a weekly collection of excellent podcasts that I, quite creatively, dubbed “This Week in Podcasts”. Roughly once a month I write about cabins too, and every so often talk about outdoor gear. The vast majority of the pieces I publish here, however, are at least tangentially related to technology. So if today you have come here looking for one of these articles, perhaps one where I hypothesize as to the future of podcasts or Apple’s next operating system, you might as well leave now: today I will touch on none of those topics, for I have sat down to, for the first time in quite a while, talk about myself. Myself, and my future.
This Week in Podcasts
An unfortunately short list for you this week, curiously, despite the fact that — given my two-week absence — I have no shortage of podcasts queued up awaiting a bit of free time. But, therein lies the problem: as school resumes, I will no longer have the eight hours a day, forty hours each week, that I did over the summer to devote to podcasts. But enough about me — on to the shows you came here to hear about:
How to Build Your Own Cabin
A pragmatic approach to something I one day hope to undertake myself: building my own cabin out in the woods. I fully a knowledge that I do not yet have all the experience necessary to do this well, to say nothing for the money, but all in due time.
Zero Value Added
Shortly after Amplified started in 2012, I began following The Loop back when Jim Dalrymple served as the site’s sole writer. With a great sense of humor and an attractive approach to journalism that made no bones about calling people, institutions, and companies out for their often ridiculous shortcomings, the fact that Jim wrote great hardware reviews after Apple events was more a cherry atop the sundae than a driving motivation behind my choice to follow him; before too long, he had become one of my favorite writers, and his site the one location I turned to for a more diverse set of news stories than we in the insular tech community often expose ourselves to.
Note on cheap iPhones
Very interesting point from Benedict Evans at the tail end of this article, where he points out that Apple’s decision not to build a larger phone, and the company’s decision not to enter the mid- to low-end, place it in a very powerful position going forward as those decisions can be reversed at any time. Much more powerful a position than its competitors, because unlike Apple who possess the ability to ship phones with these capabilities but has thus far deigned not to, others have proven wholly incapable of creating the aspects that make Apple’s products so valuable. Going forward, that ought to cause a great deal of concern amongst some, while a great deal of hope among others.
How to be Creative in One Simple Step
I tweeted a link to this piece right before I left for Canada, but it bears repeating once more in a more formal fashion here: on August 1st, Linus Edwards made a brief reappearance on VintageZen with another installment in his ongoing article series, this time titled The Daily Zen #17 “how to be Creative in One Simple Step”. If you, like me, have become disillusioned with the creativity racket, and especially if you have not yet realized this, I highly recommend this short piece: Linus makes a great case, and has a fantastic conclusion.
Plus, as a expletive-filled bonus at the bottom of his post, commenter Dain Miller leveled a criticism not overdue for Linus in particular, but more so the entire faction of writers who love to wax on explaining how difficult writing has become. I will not be so foolish as to deny the difficulty of writing, but I will say that I agree wholly with Dain’s statement: “I’m so sick of people not doing their blogs anymore ‘because they don’t feel like it'. ‘It got hard’ wah wah wah. Fucking christ dude, man the fuck up and do your work. If your goals are really the goals you said they are, or you want to accomplish was what you claimed you did - you wouldn’t let ‘something being inconvenient or a chore’ fucking stop you.” I 100%, completely, totally, and unequivocally agree.
Speaking of the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, a modified version of the versatile chassis has been making the rounds lately in the form of a vehicle its creator, Bran Ferren, dubbed the “KiraVan” after his four-year-old daughter, Kira. For those of you more inclined towards this vehicular monster’s technical specifications, Gear Junkie has a nice rundown; for everyone else — for everyone, actually, because it explains the projects origins and the reasons behind Bran’s unwavering dedication to this costly endeavor, Wired has a fantastic article aptly titled “The Most Insane Truck Ever Built and the 4-Year-Old Who Commands It” that I recommend everyone read. This is an incredible story, and a very admirable one as well.
Mercedes-Benz Unimog Doppelkabine
No really, that’s what it’s called: shortly after World War II, Erhard and Sons began manufacturing Albert Friedrich’s vehicle for primarily agricultural use in post-war Germany until Mercedes-Benz took over the production process in the early 1950s. Since then, the Unimog has fostered quite the fanatical fan base, not unlike that of its counterparts across the world, the American Jeep, British Land Rover, or Japanese Land Cruiser. And looking at it, and seeing just what this family can really do, it’s no surprise: this is one remarkably capable vehicle any outdoor enthusiast would be truly fortunate to have in their arsenal.
This Week in Podcasts
I have decided to publish this a day early this week, as I leave for Canada in just a few hours and waiting any longer would make this impossible. Until I return on the sixteenth, then, enjoy this final installment of my ongoing series, This Week in Podcasts. I look forward to coming home and finding a host of shows awaiting my arrival almost as much as I anticipate writing this piece’s successor.
Cabin Porn Roundup
Once again, I’m back with some stellar cabins from around the world. This time, however, unlike past articles in this series and upon request by Gianfranco Lanzio, I have bundled images alongside the appropriate paragraphs in an effort at more easily conveying the beauty of these structures and their accompanying sceneries. I hope you all like the result just as much as I do, and maybe — just maybe — even more.
Excellent article from Carl Holscher on what it actually means to be an adult. At nineteen and preparing to head off to college, as well as greater things hopefully down the road, I found this piece particularly interesting and profound.
A Dying Breed
As I sit down to begin writing this, I lay in a hammock strung between two trees. It is old, this hammock: the previous owners replaced an even older one with it as a small gift when my family purchased this house some three years ago now, and despite the occasional frayed rope, we have felt no need to replace it yet. Outside of the occasional creak and a fair bit of moss that has worked its way into the fibrous sinews that crisscross seemingly haphazardly below my feet, down under my back, and up behind my head, this woven sling works just as well as it did the day I first sat upon it. More importantly though, it has become a fixture as a part of this small slice of nature as the trees that form the canopy above me.
On Working From Home and Running a Business
Great primer from Shawn Blanc for anyone hoping to take their work home and go indie. Someday, I hope I will have cause to return to this.
Leave of Absence
The best way to attain success is to show up every single day and work hard, or so the saying goes; in terms of this site and my goal of growing and fostering a strong readership, this meant putting some nontrivial amount of time into reading and writing every single day in the hopes that I could one day make this more than a hobby. For quite some time now, I have done well to follow this advice, and doing so has led to rather spectacular results: although this is not the time nor place to delve into specifics, suffice it to say that this has been a fantastic year so far. Yet, despite this track record, I am about to break this cardinal rule because for the next two weeks starting Saturday, April 2nd, I will neither read nor write a single thing.
Why We're Obsessed with the 10,000-Hour Rule
Another great piece from the surprisingly diverse site Outside Online, this time on the hallowed 10,000 hour rule. Especially within the circles I travel of writers, programmers, and general creative types, this is a very popular way for many to prescribe greater dedication and hard work to those looking to attain some modicum of success. However, even in the face of these new findings, I believe the underlying sentiment behind these suggestions prompted by this veneered rule remain valid: there is still something to be said for showing up every day, and in the creative professions, raw talent is but a small and potentially insignificant ingredient leading to eventual success.
No Time to Think
Discovered thanks to Dave Pell’s excellent newsletter The Next Draft under the title “Just Look at Yourself”, this is a very fascinating realization that immediately resonated with me: perhaps one of the reasons so many people spend such vast amounts of time engrossed in one device or another is not necessarily because Candy Crush is so addicting and Facebook makes them feel happy — or sad, as the case may be — , but rather because we have developed an intense dislike of introspection and the discomforts it almost invariably brings along with it. Reading that, it felt as if a puzzle piece had clicked into place: “Yes, it all makes sense.”
I wake up every morning, and within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed I walk into the gym where I spend the next hour working out. After that, I have between thirty minutes and an hour before I have to leave for work, during which I prepare for my day and, if I have time, read and do a little bit of writing. As I find it difficult to read or write while listening to music, I generally keep iTunes closed when engaged in one of those two activities; otherwise though, I keep something playing almost constantly.
Every day at work, I keep one earbud in at all times through which I listen to podcasts for nearly eight hours every day. Painting can be a quiet, lonely, and somewhat tedious task at times; this helps me stay focused and engaged. Both to and from work at the beginning and end of the day, I continue listening to those podcasts in the car until I get home, where the same rule set that determines what I listen to in the morning once again informs whether I listen to a song, podcast, or merely the sound of my finders tapping away at the keyboard. Regardless though, here once again, just as I do throughout the rest of my day, I permit myself no silence whatsoever. Even when lying in bed at the end of the day, I turn to a past episode of one of my favorite podcasts to help put me to sleep.
I routinely go an entire day without any time for quiet introspection. While I once considered this simply an efficient use of my time — why drive in silence when I can listen to a podcast or two? — , I now recognize this common happenstance as the habit it has become: filling every available second with an activity has ceased to serve as a means to the end of greater productivity in a given twenty-four hour timespan, and now functions merely as an excuse for me to avoid any time alone with my thoughts.
As for the future, I cannot say for sure where I will go from here. This is a very interesting realization, and also a potentially very important one as well. For now though, I plan to start by sitting alone with my thoughts before bed; in a week or two, who knows?
A Miserable, Beautiful Siberian Adventure
Fascinating story by Hampton Sides for Outside Online. As I have said before, Russia has always held a great deal of interest for me; with this article, Hampton lifts that near-impermeable veil — even if only a little bit.
50 Cent Is My Life Coach
When Adam and Nathan talked about this article during episode seventeen of their podcast Five More Things, 50 Cent is Actually Brilliant, I recognized its potential value but dismissed it as largely uninteresting, and sent it away to Instapaper. Now, however, a few weeks later, I wish I had sat down and read it as soon as it came to my attention. My only complaint is that I wish it were longer: 50 Cent had some fantastic advice and shared a number of very interesting insights that I wish GQ had given Zach more time to expand upon, and perhaps even search for more of; fascinating and highly-recommended.
Beautiful pictures from a remarkable place; I would love to take a long trip out here someday.
Economic Power in the Age of Abundance
A more apropos title, I feel, might read something along the lines of “Entitlement in the Age of Abundance”. Between that, and Ben’s actual title, I’m sure you can get a fair idea as to the subject matter of his article. And his closing point: the clichéd “you never know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”. I find it remarkable how many love to hate companies like Google, yet have no problem crawling back to them when they finally realize how instrumental the “evil overlord” was to their daily operations. Whether an individual whining about the company’s privacy practices or, as is the case here, a publisher acting on a misplaced sense of entitlement, the outcome is the same.
Stick to your high-brow morals if you must, but if you must, actually stick to them.
It’s no secret that I harbor a strong dislike of The Verge: perpetually vying with public radio for the title of my most hated news institution, I make no bones about sharing this disgust with others. And so, because of that, when the news first broke that Josh Topolsky — a writer I have no great love for — was leaving Vox for Bloomberg, I barely took notice; however, a lot of other people have, and this has since become quite the news story for many. To each their own, I suppose.
Until this morning, I had not planned to write anything about this event: I just don’t care. But then Daniel Ignacio sent me a link to a conversation between him and Mathew Conto, and I just couldn’t resist sharing the link here: this is everything you need to know about The Verge and Josh Topolsky’s move both. Welcome to The Precipice.
This Week in Podcasts
This week, thanks to Carl Holscher and Daniel Ignacio, I have discovered two great new podcasts. Alongside these two shows, I once again present my list of the best podcasts I have had the privilege to hear over the past seven days. These are the best of the best, folks, and as such I hope you will spend some time checkout out each and every one of them. I promise: it will be worth your time.
How I See Money Differently
Sam Dogen had another thought-provoking post over at Financial Samurai recently, this time looking at the very interesting difference between the way that Americans and Europeans in particular view money. I encourage you to read the entire thing: How Europeans See Money Differently From Americans. Most interesting out of this entire piece, though, and definitely the most impactful statement for me, was that of his conclusion: “Remember that money is only a means to an end. What is your end?"
One-Way Ticket to Ride
Worth linking to again, courtesy of Dave Pell’s The Next Draft this time around on the forty-fifth anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic mission: the speech President Nixon plan to give in the event of a moon disaster. Incredible, and remarkable chilling:
“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace."
The 30 CSS Selectors You Must Memorize
Seemed So Sensible
Regardless of your own personal opinions regarding Christianity and religion in general, I think we can all get behind Sid’s overarching sentiment: it is important to remain true to yourself even when doing so means standing alone alongside an unpopular opinion. For in the end, with what will we find ourselves left? It is to these convictions we hold and must hold strongly that we will return; without them, we have nothing.
Stick to your guns. Be yourself. At the end of the day, I promise: you will be glad that you did.
The Daily Show on Glassholes
Absolutely hilarious video, courtesy of John Gruber — with the choice line taken as an excerpt: “Magellan Was an Explorer. Chuck Yeager Was an Explorer. You Guys Have a Fucking Camera on Your Face.” I was rather bullish on the widespread reaction to Google Glass the other day when I wrote Thoughts on Glass, but I can still appreciate some great humor when I see it. Very well done.
This Week in Podcasts
Yet another week has come and gone, and here at the end we once again find ourselves with a collection of fantastic podcasts; some new and only just published, while others now have one more chance at enamoring a pair of fresh ears. Some new, some old, and all equally excellent.
Brett Terpstra Features First Crack
Roughly once a week, give or take a few days, Brett Terpstra publishes a new installment in his “Web Excursions” series, where he talks about interesting bookmarks from around the internet. In yesterday’s issue, Web Excursions for July 18, 2014, he featured First Crack 1.0 front and center. That’s pretty cool.
Amazon's Whale Strategy
You cannot — ought not — judge the Fire phone by the traditional standards against which we have come to judge all devices these days, but rather from the perspective of a goods and services company that seeks to facilitate streamlined access to its storefront for its most loyal and devoted customers by offering them a device integrated with its own services to a degree made impossible through third-party integration alone on another device maker’s platform. When considered in this light, the Fire Phone is, inarguably, an interesting proposition that more than merits the considerable number of think-pieces that have been devoted to it since its announcement. This is the point Ben Thompson makes here, and makes so, so very well.
The Future of Computing
In a style made popular by Benedict Evans in his hallmark Twitter postulations, posit: computers were created for writers. As such, the next iteration of computing devices will cater to the needs of others: creators and designers will have Jarvis-like artificial intelligence systems to converse with and holographic interfaces to involve their entire bodies in the creation process. The current model involves the two tools of the writer’s trade: their hands and their minds. Future implementations will go beyond those unnecessary restrictions that don’t apply in other fields in order to provide a richer, more productive computing experience.
I'd Drive That
Every so often an article crosses my path wherein the author drools over a custom shop’s awesome modifications to an already awesome vehicle, and then I invariably spend a good long while extricating myself from the inevitable rabbit hole that ensues. As of this writing, nearly four months have passed since I have gone down that path, continuing my trend of leaving roughly three months between each of these articles. Today, I’m back for another round: thanks to the rediscovery of three monsters I squirreled away in my Instapaper queue a number of weeks ago, and only just recently rediscovered, I finally have cause to once again spend time appreciating these mechanical marvels at the intersection of industrial design and raw power.
First Crack 1.0
Since starting this website nearly two years ago, I have written specifically about the engine that runs it exactly four times: in Introducing First Crack, I detailed my long journey to the realization that I needed to build something completely my own, from the ground up; later, I talked about some of my creation’s niceties in First Crack in Practice, before outlining the changes an innocuous redesign brought about in First Crack’s Complete Overhaul. Finally, some eleven months later, I returned to once again briefly run down my latest updates in Changes to First Crack. Since then, however, for the last six months, I have not said a peep. Today, that changes with the release of First Crack 1.0 to the public.
Disrupting Disruption Theory
Very interesting take on the recent flare up around Disruption Theory, and how Lepore was not necessarily wrong to criticize Christenson and his theory, but that she did point to the wrong permutation of it: it is not necessarily the base theory that is flawed, but rather the watered-down version we find in use so often today. John Kirk then proceeded to delve further into the theory in a great follow up to Ben Thompson’s recent piece, Critiquing Disruption Theory.
Critiquing Disruption Theory
I linked to this piece by Ben Thompson in the title only because it is his most recent on the topic of disruption theory; I strongly encourage you to start with his earlier piece from last year titled “What Clayton Christenson Got Wrong”, where he more fully explains the theory and further expands upon some of its flaws. Especially if you — like me until now — only know of Disruption Theory in the abstract as explained in passing here and there, these two articles from Ben are a fantastic place to start.
This Week in Podcasts
I am considering using a boilerplate for the introduction to this article, and keeping the actual noteworthy content the dynamic aspect going forward. So, let’s give it a try with last week’s opening: “Another week, another set of great podcasts for your listening pleasure. Enjoy.”
Like a Pendulum
From the Woman Suffrage movement of the late nineteenth century to the early 1920s, to the Civil Rights movement during the ‘50s and ‘60s, American history in particular has suffered many bruises at the hands of remarkable injustices. Even going back further to the 1700s, at the dawn of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers laid the foundation for this nation as the result of an affront they and their constituents considered intolerable. Since then, we as a people have proven unable to shake our masochistic obsession-bordering-on-fascination with this approach to social governance. Quite unfortunately, I might add, for despite a brief respite of fifty-odd years since the last major social movement, increasing civil unrest has brought us to the doorstep of yet another, albeit hopefully less violent, confrontation between social norms and its ever-changing landscape.
Yes; fantastic piece from Sid O’Neill. I myself have begun to wonder the same things lately, questioning how I became so pedantic and obsessed with things of such little real importance that I would wax on endlessly about a simple ad, of all things. Yet, unlike Sid, I have been able to suppress those uncomfortable questions until very recently. As time marches on, however, and the amount of time I devote to this hobby only grows, this is a very real reality that I must confront. And as for what I will ultimately answer? Time will only tell; were I forced to make a prediction now, though, I would wager I end up on the same side of this issue as Sid.
I never had a problem with the aesthetics of iOS 7, and continue to have no troubles whatsoever with it running atop my iPhone 4S: my phone never restarts, and my battery works just fine — especially for a device rapidly approaching its third birthday. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that many have had numerous and insurmountable problems in these areas as well as in many others, and that these issues have made iOS 7 a very difficult release with which to reckon their faith in Apple. And when framed in this light, I can understand why some would characterize their experience with iOS 7 as “bitter”. However, no significant, meaningful change comes without at least some modicum of pain: one does not become fit without straining at the gym, and becoming a big-time fancy-pants blogger takes more than one sleepless night along with a fair amount of effort. It’s important to keep in mind, then, the difference between necessary and unnecessary pain. This, I believe, was the former, and — at least for me — a relatively painless evolution at that.
This is Randall Munroe and What If at their best. Excellent.
Quite some time ago, I started this draft with a simple premise: precluding success is failure of at least one effort in a given area. Put differently, those who have yet to fail in their chosen profession can never attain greatness in that field. Along with this supposition, I included one more stipulation as an addendum to the previous statement: one can, however, substitute knowledge, to a degree, for failure. Regardless of the knowledge amassed relating to a particular skill set or field of study though, the best one can hope for is mediocrity without the essential, formative impact even one failure invariably brings with it. Thus, from these somewhat humble beginnings, I began to craft this article.
This URL shortener situation is officially out of control
This situation really is crazy. Part of the problem, though, at least where Twitter is concerned, is that Twitter does not use the t.co shortener until after a tweet is posted, which means after it imposes the 140 character limit. Especially for me where every link to one of my own articles that I post starts with “zacjszewczyk.com/Structure”, this makes not using my own shortener — in this case, Bitly — completely impractical. Even then though, there is no real justification for even this many redirects, and especially not as many as Scott found here. Insane.
This Week in Podcasts
Another week, (thankfully) another set of great podcasts for your listening pleasure. Be sure to pay special attention to this series’ latest addition, and — as always — enjoy.
Thoughts on Glass
The problem with Google Glass is not that it is inherently creepy, but rather that it has the potential for many uses of dubious morality; and as our minds happened upon those possibilities in the wake of Glass’ unveiling, and we paused to ponder an appropriate reaction to these eventualities, it became socially acceptable to walk around smacking these expensive devices off the faces of those who deigned to wear them. Like a small child who, in the split second before a parent can exert physical restraint, runs off unknowingly towards a potentially harmful situation, so, too, did the least of us jump on this brief respite in the broad narrative of what is and is not acceptable and begin harming others for something we readily admit that we do not understand.
Since Apple began requiring that developers submitting applications to the Mac App Store sandbox their products, it has remained a somewhat controversial decision. Two years after the rule went in to effect, it continues to preclude a number of great apps from sharing in the spotlight Apple so generously — and to such great effect — sheds on its platform’s developers by featuring their creations on the store’s front page. Nevertheless, by allowing users to continue downloading and installing programs from outside locations, Apple has avoided any significant amount of criticism; in fact, by presenting it as the security boon that it inarguably is, many praise this decision as a boon for all. And in reality, that is exactly the case: everyone, from developer to consumer benefited from this stipulation, including Apple itself.
Cabin Porn Roundup
It has been quite a while since I posted one of these — more than a month, in fact: the last came out at the beginning of May. Today, I finally have cause to bring this series back. Finally — far too long has passed during which I had no cause to sit down and revel in the simple beauty of nature and its rustic inhabitants.
Amazon Sells Everything
Hat-tip to Hayes Brown for tweeting this link, apparently Amazon does, indeed, sell everything — including, it seems, radioactive uranium ore. This surprisingly unsurprising development is not the best part though, but rather the “Customer Questions and Answers” section as well as the top reviews; in a word, hilarious.
This Week in Podcasts
Finally, after an uncomfortable few weeks of just one or two entries here, I have amassed a respectable roster highlighting the past week’s best podcasts. Enjoy!
Improving iMessages with Geofencing
The other day, as I drove home from work and practiced my dictation to the tune of Siri’s inept transcription abilities, I deftly tapped iMessages’ “Send as Text Message” tooltip for what — given the number of text messages I send each month — must quite literally fall somewhere in the neighborhood of the millionth time. I tapped this button two or three times until, finally, my phone realized I wanted every outgoing message sent without the use of Apple’s clever and oh-so-convenient replacement. Then, as if to mock me, a few seconds later it switched back to sending everything as an iMessage. I just couldn’t win.
From the day after Apple’s WWDC Keynote, Joe Steele took a refreshingly even-handed look at Swift, giving both the opinions of its proponents and opponents equal time, attention, and weight. And as if this were not enough, he included a number of astute observations and his causes for both concern and enthusiasm as well. If you, like me, have trouble staying abreast of tech news and thus have yet to read much about Swift, this is a great starting point.
The Great Pointless Debate
I really have very little to say on the recent debate surrounding the future viability of podcast networks. To me, it seems a lot like the age-old flame wars comparing Macs and PCs, and the more recent and equally bombastic arguments over iOS versus Android: everyone has their own personal preference, and we must all accept that. Taken a step further, everyone has their own personal preference, we need to accept that, and no one will ever change another’s opinion; it cannot be done, for there is too much evidence supporting both sides of these embittered arguments for a group of any size to overcome, no matter the length or veracity of their case. Now, that all said, I do have a few thoughts I would like to share regarding the larger argument at hand — that is, the discussion around creating good content and getting noticed, for I firmly believe that this — unlike its parent — is a worthy conversation to have.
Amish Leave PA in Search of Greener, Less Touristy Pastures
It’s sad to see tourism and capitalism ruining the way of life for a people whose traditions go back generations and hundreds of years. You might not agree with their beliefs, or may even go so far as to boldly proclaim the Amish lifestyle nothing more than a sham to avoid taxes; but regardless if your own personal opinions, I think we can all agree that this is unfortunate.
This is what Apple makes
It’s often said, especially by those who profess to understand Apple on a fundamental level, that the company is not in the business of making strictly hardware or software, or even iPhones and Macs. However, although that realization comes readily enough, the gap it leaves explaining what, exactly, Apple does do if not build computers and operating systems, has proven elusive at best. After WWDC though, we have another great opportunity to inspect this underlying motivation, courtesy of Ben Alexander and Carl Holscher. Carl’s article is short, but that is because the point he makes is uncomplicated, and rightly so.
This Week in Podcasts
Another short list for you, unfortunately; apologies. I hope that before too long, I will be able to turn out the impressive rosters of days since past and once again shine my admittedly meager spotlight on some work truly worthy of recognition. Until then, though, I have but two recommendations for you:
The Podcast Network Glory Days
Following Mike Monteiro’s recent announcement that he would effectively shutter Mule Radio Syndicate due to its untenable demand on his time, many wrote short farewells to what they considered a great podcast network. Marco Arment, however, had something very interesting to say regarding the future of this now-popular business model:
Can I get a jump?
At any given time I have a multi-tool, both phillips and flathead screwdrivers, a small survival kit, and a large pocket knife on my person, plus — obviously — a wallet with enough cash to get me out of most situations in which that would be of any help. In my car, I keep a blanket and enough paracord to erect a small shelter, along with a number of other items that would prove quite useful in a number of different situations. And, of course, jumper cables. Ninety-nine percent of the time I will use none of these, but I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without any of then. And boy, when I actually do need any of these tools, they sure do come in handy.
It's Really Hard to Be a Good Guy With a Gun
Fantastic, even-handed look at the often politically-charged debate surrounding gun control in America. I personally believe, like Adam Weinstein, that everyone deserves to protect themselves with the tool that they deem appropriate. However, he does raise quite a few great points and asks a number of very difficult questions that have made me really examine my point of view on this subject like no other piece of this genre ever has. And that, regardless of which side of the issue you fall on, is real, tangible progress. About time.
The Creativity Racket
I coded all morning in a determined effort to finish a long-standing project I intend to write about soon. Although I planned to spend only a short while on this before moving to other things, I ended up using the majority of my afternoon to finally, after months of work, just about make this script feature-complete. It was not something I had planned to do, nor was it particularly enjoyable — in fact, at times I grew quite frustrated with my lack of progress, and often thought of quitting. But I plugged away at it, and now I am one step closer to finishing this project as well.
This Week in Podcasts
A remarkably short list for you this week, if it even deserves such a title as “list” with only two members. But, nevertheless, it does contain the two best podcast episodes I encountered over the last seven days. So enjoy, and maybe this weekend spend a little less time with headphones in your ears.
Publishers' Deal with the Devil
By far and away the best article from Ben Thompson in quite some time, reminiscent of his past three-part series on the future of news and newspapers. I have paid too little attention to this issue to have formed any sort of opinion on it, but based on this piece I would agree with Ben: it seems like book publishers made a ill-fated deal, Amazon has come to collect, and it’s far too late to go back on it now.
America's Last King of Cast Iron Finds His Time Has Come Again
If you have never tried cooking with cast iron, you and everyone that has ever eaten with you are missing out: with the exception of boiling water, every single dish you can think of cooked with a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven turns out better than when made with a utensil of inferior materials, and everything is inferior to cast iron when it comes to cooking. Forget stainless steel, non-stick, and everything else: nothing holds a candle to this material. That’s why I, personally, cook everything in a cast iron pan, and wouldn’t even think of using anything else. So do yourself a favor and pick one of these up; I promise, you won’t regret it.
This article reminds of Rocky IV, when Rocky Balboa prepared to fight on behalf of the U.S. against The USSR’s Ivan Drago by running in the snow, doing push-ups, and lifting bundles of rocks while his opponent used steroids and the most advanced training practices. Yet in the end, Rocky still won: hard, grueling exercises, both then and now, prevailed over the finicky, artisanal workouts that have become so popular as of late. If you have not yet gotten the results you want, the culprit may very well be the actual workout itself.
After the Storm
A few days ago I asked if those who speak out critically of the attention WWDC garners changed their opinions with last week’s impressive roster of announcements; looks like it changed at least one person’s mind, and rightfully so. Adam’s more favorable opinion of WWDC is not the only noteworthy aspect of this piece, however: I believe he hit the nail squarely on the head when describing Apple’s current and future relationship with Google by way of these innovations as well. In short, it will be an amicable partnership no more. Apple has yet to fully realize Steve Jobs’ promise of going thermonuclear on Android, but they have been hard at work building the warheads behind closed doors up until now, of which we only got occasional glimpses here and there in the form of iOS 6 and then iOS 7. Now, though, the missiles have been wheeled out into full view, and I might even go so far as to argue primed and ready for launch. They say the only way to win is not to play, but in this case, I’m not so sure; personally, I’d put money on Apple.
Android by Apple
A few days ago, shortly after watching the WWDC keynote, I made a short quip on Twitter that went completely unnoticed at the time: “Posit: Apple doesn’t need to build low-end phones: it has Android.” I expected to get some pushback on that statement, and so partly because I did not and partly because I believe it an observation worth exploring, I have decided to expand upon it today.
This Week in Podcasts
WWDC has come and gone, and in its wake Apple has left us a number of great analytical shows discussing the implications of its announcements. Podcasts on this subject are not the only ones you will find here, though: this week, as always, I have something for everyone.
Monday afternoon, at the tail end of a jam-packed and incredible keynote, Craig Federighi introduced yet another “kit" — HomeKit. Continuing an impressive trend present throughout the presentation, this framework makes your entire house an accessory to the iPhone in iOS 8 by allowing those with compatible systems to control everything from security cameras and door locks to lights and, although not explicitly stated, other devices such as thermostats too. Unsurprisingly, the feedback I have seen thus far has remained universally positive: if not the utility of such an advancement, everyone recognizes the implications of Apple tying so many once-disparate systems together into a single, usable, and — most importantly — enjoyable system. Completely absent from this commentary, however, is any discussion of privacy or even the notion that giving Apple so many hooks into one’s personal life could, at some point, become a concern.
The magic of WWDC
As I catch up on missed articles, I came across this noteworthy one from Adam Haworth’s previously-mentioned Sansink, where he talks about fanboyism and WWDC. Worth reading, I believe, especially in the wake of Monday’s spectacular keynote address, because I think his point of view mirrors that of all but the relatively small sect who get genuinely enthused around this time each year: for most of the computer-using world, WWDC is an over-hyped and ultimately disappointing event specifically for overzealous hipsters with too much time and money on their hands. In light of the nature and magnitude of Apple’s latest announcements, however, I would be curious to know whether he — and all those who hold this and similar opinions — now feel at all different, for what we saw on that Monday afternoon truly was groundbreaking, and I firmly believe that one does not have to be an Apple fanboy — or even involved in the ecosystem, for that matter — to appreciate these impressive announcements; WWDC truly was worth the excitement. It may only be technology, but it will absolutely change the world.
An election fought by schoolchildren
Stories like this one from Craig Grannell remind me why I have been so reticent to enter the political landscape in any meaningful capacity up until now, a hesitancy I outlined when linking to Ben Thompson’s recent piece in which he called for greater political involvement for those in the technical professions. Everyone promises peace and to bring the soldiers home, but that will never happen: wars will forever wage on, and someone will always need stopped. The key difference between Craig’s story and reality, though, is not the tactics or actions of the system’s participants, but rather the end result when they invariably and inevitably fail to fulfill their promises: whereas his classmates held him and his cohorts accountable on the schoolyard, modern-day citizens — and Americans in particular, it seems — have no interest in holding anyone accountable for the promises on which they renege.
Soylent: How I Stopped Eating for 30 Days
Fascinating short documentary done by Motherboard on Soylent. Since it came out I have been a somewhat vocal proponent of this product, but remained so only in theory: through this site I readily recommended others try Soylent every time I wrote about it, but never actually gave it a shot myself. After seeing this, though, I have finally decided to bite the bullet and order some: I’ll start with the original Soylent, and then, depending on how that goes, maybe even dabble in creating my own over at DIY.soylent.me. Either way though, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Dear Minorities, Use Racism As Motivation For Achieving Financial Independence
Yet another great article from Sam Dogen over at Financial Samurai. Although I have considered unsubscribing from his site a number of times lately, for it seems that overnight his posts went from the single most interesting writing I could find on the internet to the most boring, he really hit it out of the park with this one: simultaneously excellent, rage-inducing, and depressing all at once. Especially in these socially-charged times we live in today, I would highly recommend this piece to anyone regardless of whether they have any interest in furthering their financial prowess. And if you, like me, maintain interests in both these areas, I have no doubt that you will grow to appreciate Sam’s work just as much as I do.
Change is inevitable
I subscribed to Adam Haworth’s site on a lark, and thus far doing so has proven a remarkably prescient decision. If you’re looking for another great site to start following, start with this piece on change and thank me later.
The Net Neutrality Wake-up Call
Thought-provoking piece by Ben Thompson wherein he explains the importance of those within the technical professions getting involved in the morass that is politics. In the past I have taken zero interest in this whatsoever: despite turning eighteen just before the last presidential election, I did not vote; I have yet to even register. But Ben makes a strong case for greater involvement, and one that I feel will, ultimately, prove not only the best course of action, but the only viable one for a bright future.
iOS 8 Wishlists
In preparation for Apple’s WWDC keynote today, be sure to give Harshil Shah’s article wherein he lays out his wishes for iOS 8 a try: although I’m only about halfway through, in the interest of time I have decided to post it here anyway. He makes a lot of great points, and has some very interesting ideas for the future of Apple’s mobile operating system. It just might take you until the beginning of the keynote to finish, but I highly recommend you check this piece out. And if you want to read even more about some iOS 8 expectations, I posted my own list a few weeks ago: Looking to iOS 8.
This Week in Podcasts
Almost exclusively old shows this week with but two outstanding exceptions. Turns out listening to back catalogs pays off; who would’ve guessed?
In Praise of Instapaper
Shortly after Marco Arment and Dan Benjamin started Build & Analyze in 2010, I bought Instapaper. I did not buy this app out of any particular need for it, though, but rather out of a desire to give Marco a little something in exchange for the hours upon hours of enjoyment he had provided me in the form of his podcast. Fast-forward just a few months, however, and — just as I do now — I had begun to use Instapaper daily. Even so, it took me nearly four years — until just a few weeks ago, in fact — to realize that the true value of this service did not lie in its ability to strip away ads and annoying sidebars nor even keep my saved articles available for reading offline, nor did its value stem from its intended use case as a way to time-shift the reading experience. Instead, I found Instapaper incredibly handy because of the psychological tricks it lets me play on myself.
Time for an Introspection
A lot has been said regarding women in tech as of late, and in general I hate every one of those articles; I don’t care for them in the least: they critique a broken system without offering a tangible solution outside of a weary call to action, and thus affect virtually no change whatsoever. Most importantly though, they are universally boring: I want to gouge my eyes out rather than read through to an inevitable and maddeningly boring conclusion that, in reality, merits such a designation purely out of its location in the body of prose rather than by its merit or as a result of its ability to put forth an answer to the academic queries “What’s next?" or “Where do we go from here?" The irony is not lost on me, then, that today I have sat down to write one of these detestable essays. I can, however, take solace in the fact that unlike the vast majority of writers who approach this subject, I have no intention of handling it delicately and only while wearing kid gloves; as I told Sid O’Neill the other day on Twitter, “Call it like it is, don’t hedge, and don’t sugarcoat it — that’s the way to go.” I did not sit down today to write and not offend anyone, and to maintain everyone’s comfortability: too little is accomplished in service of maintaining the status quo in these areas. And on top of that I do, in fact, have an actual solution.
Where there is stubble
With every single article Rohan Anderson writes, I become more convinced that his is a lifestyle I would love to live. A hard life, no doubt, but a good one all the same. And isn’t that what we are all after?
This Week in Podcasts
Another short week, unfortunately. Short, but no less excellent — of that, I can assure you. So sit back, relax on your day off tomorrow, and enjoy last week’s best podcasts:
Like Josh, I prefer to navigate with swipes rather than taps. However, unlike him, I prefer tidy swiping — that is, I prefer my apps not to register my gestures unless I begin them in certain areas, such as the extreme left side of the screen: whenever I want to go back in an app’s visual hierarchy, for example, I put my finger up against my case’s left bumper and swipe across; it would be confusing and annoying if I made an accidental rightward swipe and unintentionally moved back a screen. I do recognize the value of sloppy swiping, though; the key, then, is to strike a balance between the two. Even if that balance is struck though, there’s a discoverability problem with gestures that you just don’t have with buttons: you can see a button, while gestures are invisible.
The Best 404 Error Page Ever
More than two years ago, a company called Nosh got quite a bit of attention for their inventive approach to the generally unremarkable 404 error page: rather than the usual, bland description or even a poor attempt at humor, the folks over at Nosh made a video, and a fantastic one at that. I won’t spoil it for you here, but I will say this: this video stands the test of time in a way that few other things from even two years ago do; it’s just as cool now as it was then.
Fuck You Money
For better or worse — better in my opinion, but clearly worse if you looked at my bank statement — money has always been nothing more than the means to an end for me, and not a goal in and of itself. I want to have a good job where I can work hard and receive appropriate compensation after a job well done, but outside of a safety net should said job fall through, a costly, once in a lifetime opportunity arise, or an unexpected bill arrive in the mail, I have no interest in padding my checking and savings accounts. I never want to be the one that tells my girlfriend we can’t have a nice dinner and go to a movie because it’s too expensive, especially when I have a $50 bill in my pocket. I will admit that this is by no means a great approach to managing my finances, and in the long run very likely an unsustainable one, but I will regret missing that nice evening much more than I will ever regret spending a portion of that $50; I want to spend my evenings holding my girlfriend’s hand, not a wrinkled bill.
Podcasting's Blogger Moment
Over the past week especially, there has been a fair bit of discussion devoted to podcasting’s so-called “Blogger moment”. In particular, John Gruber and Mike Monteiro discussed this on the latest episode of The Talk Show, and Myke Hurley and Casey Liss spent some time talking about it on CMD+SPACE 96: Not Many Original Thoughts, with Casey Liss as well. In a nutshell, the idea is that just as Blogger brought blogging to the masses in the early 2000s and consequently caused the medium to explode in popularity, so too will podcasting have a similar moment whereby it breaks through the nerd barrier and goes mainstream. Interestingly, many at the forefront of the podcast medium believe that time to be now. For what reasons they believe this, however, I cannot say.
How to Drink All Night But Never Get Drunk
At the intersection of science and fun-filled Friday nights you find neat tricks rooted in the former and potentially immensely helpful in the latter, such as this one. I still have a couple of years until I have to worry about this, but I might as well get ready now.
Incredible video by Gary Turk teaching the value of living life outside of the narrow world within our smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Take a few minutes to watch this; I do not feel out of place saying that it just might change your life. Truly remarkable work.
This Week in Podcasts
Relative to last week’s, and compared to the week prior’s, another relatively short list this time around, unfortunately. But, as I have said before, volume and quality are rarely linked: I will never pad these out with shows of dubious value just to reach an arbitrary length. This is a curated list of the best podcasts I discovered within the last week, and so it will forever remain.
One Year Wrangling Feeds
As a Feed Wrangler subscriber myself, I’m glad to hear that this has not only become a profitable and sustainable business for David Smith, but an intellectually fulfilling one as well full of many more potential avenues of exploration. Feed Wrangler is right now at the cusp of its Instapaper 4 moment, right after Marco Arment sold the service to Betaworks: very much in need of improvements that it will undoubtedly receive in short order and to fantastic results. Buckle up, folks: this is going to be one great year for everything RSS. and to fantastic results. Buckle up, folks: this is going to be one great year for everything RSS.
Snow Driving the Internet
Yes — I agree with everything in this article from Sid O’Neill, from the lessons that ought to be applied generously when driving during the winter to the appropriate etiquette on the internet. We could all benefit from slowing down a little and realizing that everyone else has as many problems as we do, and that completely disregarding the validity of another’s existence, much less the validity of the challenges they face every single day, is no way to live at all.
There must be something in the water — over the last few months, a surprising number of writers have gone independent, each with varying degrees of success: first Brett Terpstra, then Matt Gemmell, followed by Sid O’Neill and Ben Thompson soon after. Personally, I think this is wonderful: these great writers have left their distracting nine-to-five jobs to focus on the thing they love and that I love to read; fantastic. However, two of them in particular had a very strange approach to going independent, and one that I feel merits some exploration. Specifically, both Sid O’Neill and Ben Thompson allow complete strangers to purchase a guarantee of their time and attention.
Looking to iOS 8
Late last month, Federico Viticci wrote a great article about his iOS 8 wishes. I agreed with some of his suggestions, disagreed with the necessity a few, and consider still others a bit too niche for Apple to have focused much time and energy, if any, on over the last twelve months. By the end of his piece, I had decided to write out my own list in preparation for WWDC, as we all begin to turn our attention towards the impending unveiling of iOS 8 alongside the possibility of wearable devices and CarPlay demos in a Ferrari. Unlike Federico, I have no spectacular introduction to kick us off; in lieu of that, then, I suppose we ought to just get straight to the point.
Incredible words from Rohan Anderson on living a meaningful life. In particular, those of his fifth paragraph struck me especially hard. I was sorely tempted to extract the relevant paragraph and paste it below, but I will not deprive him of the credit he so deserves for writing this piece. I sincerely hope you will go check it out.
This Week in Podcasts
I made it to Thursday afternoon with only three episodes here, as woefully underpopulated as last week’s issue had been. But then, as they say, a miracle happened: all of a sudden every show I turned on wowed me, and before I knew it, I had the sprawling list you see stretched out before you. A sprawling list of, as usual, the best podcasts curated from those I listened to over this last week; it doesn’t get much better than this. Unfortunately though, I forgot to post it on Sunday: Mothers’ Day got the best of me, I suppose. Sorry — but let me assure you, this will be worth your wait.
On last week’s episode of the Accidental Tech Podcast, John Siracusa spent a great deal of time explaining his disappointment in Apple for sticking to its long-held policy whereby it takes a 30% cut of all digital transactions, regardless of volume. He theorized that Apple’s strict adherence to this rule had led Amazon to remove comiXology’s ability to sell comics within the app, thus leading to a detrimental user experience for this segment of Apple users who now had to use a clunky web-based workaround. Then, in this week’s follow-up segment, John revisited this subject in response to a number of listener comments questioning how his suggester solution — a discounted cut for high-volume retailers driving huge traffic through Apple’s platform, such as Amazon would with in-app purchases of comics and books, for example — did not clash with his stated support of net neutrality. Rather than weigh in with my feedback in an email though, I would rather it appear in a public forum if for no other reason than so that, if I am completely off-base, someone can tell me so; because as I listened to John justify his position in response to his listeners’ opinions, I couldn’t help but feel he completely missed the point.
When Apple released iOS 7.1 to the public in early March, many heralded it as the version of iOS 7 that should have shipped last September in 2013; iOS 7.1 is what iOS 7 should have been. Faced with severe time constraints, however, the popular narrative paints a picture of Apple having no choice but to release what many would come to call a half-baked product or slip on their intended release date. Unsurprisingly, the desire to stick with the latter made the former a necessity, and thus we found ourselves with the oft-criticized iOS 7.
Could Soylent Replace Food?
Great to see Soylent popping back up in the news again, this time courtesy of Dave Pell’s The Next Draft and The New Yorker’s Lizzie Widdicombe. In the past, I have written about and linked to articles discussing this a number of times, but never took my enthusiasm for Rob Rhinehart’s creation any further. Now, however, that Soylent has moved past the beta stages and anyone can get their hands on it, I can’t wait to give it a try.
Fear and Passion
I have a tendency to write long, rambling, retrospective introductions filled with background information of dubious value that I, for some reason, nevertheless deign to include as a prelude to beginning my actual article. This time, however, I want to get straight to the point.
This Week in Podcasts
Just a few shows for you this week, unfortunately. I would rather post a short list than pass mediocre episodes off as something much greater though, so I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Without further ado, then, I present the best podcast episodes from this past week.
Cabin Porn Roundup
Happy May, everyone. As Spring begins to finally come to the States, we approach the season of outdoor activities — hiking, camping, picnics, and the like. And maybe, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a few weekends getting away from it all in a relaxingly isolated cabin out in the woods somewhere.
Earlier this month Linus Edwards wrote an article he titled Numbers, a piece where he posited that metrics-based social networks such as Twitter have made interpersonal interaction a game in which attracting the most attention means winning, and have simultaneously chipped away at the majority’s ability to maintain real relationships devoid of such concrete numbers and superficial endorsements in the form of likes, favorites, retweets, etcetera. In response to his essay, I countered by questioning the existence of this purportedly unfortunate shift in Killing Twitter, and an interesting conversation ensued. Ultimately, in evaluating the validity of Linus’s proposed network devoid of all but the most basic of social mechanics, it came down a question of the aspects leading to such a service’s success. Unsurprisingly, that effectively ended the conversation; but it also got me thinking.
In praise of unfairness
In the twenty-first episode of his podcast Technical Difficulties, Raising a Human, Gabe Weatherhead had a great talk with Merlin Mann about, among other things, fatherhood; during that discussion he also mentioned — in passing — how important fairness is to his daughter, even at the age of four. Alongside entitlement, I believe the notion of fairness is one of the single greatest problems facing the American people today: these two touch every aspect of American society, from social interactions to public discourse, to such a degree so as to all but inhibit any meaningful progress in any area. Turns out, as Benedict Evans points out in this piece, unfairness affects the various technological industries as well, and — get this — it isn’t actually all that terrible there. Shocker, I know, but maybe — just maybe — we could do with some unfairness elsewhere. But, I digress.
This is absolutely awesome. Still far out of my reach, unfortunately, as well as the reach of most others, I would imagine — but hey, we can all dream, right?
First Look at Editorial 1.1
Although at this point slightly outdated given Ole posted the original announcement more than two weeks ago, these screenshots of the upcoming ui module as well as an iOS 7 and iPhone version of his acclaimed text editor Editorial are no less impressive. In fact, I would go so far as to call them incredible, and I bet Federico Viticci would agree with me. So far, I have resisted purchasing a Dropbox-capable text editor on my iPhone out of hope that Ole Zorn would create an iPhone version of my favorite iPad text editor, and now, I’m glad I did. I can hardly wait for this to come out.
It may sound cute and sensational to write a headline like this, but for Linus Edwards’ recent piece Numbers, I don’t consider it wholly inappropriate. In that article, he first painted a picture of a microblogging service devoid of quantified metrics: no one would have any idea how many followers a given individual had, nor would the person in question. No longer would the best jokes, most insightful comments, and noteworthy observations come from a select few with follower counts in the six, seven, or eight digits, but could instead come from those individuals as well as the everyday user. I won’t lie: it sounded nice, and for a short while, I was completely on board with this suggestion. However, then he took it a step further.
This Week in Podcasts
As Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a changin'.” Over the past week, this has proved particularly true for the podcasting space: with the launch of Fiat Lux’s Constellation, we have been given a glimpse into a possible future whereby the greatest emphasis falls on the podcast rather than another, ancillary aspect, and this beloved medium has lost the shackles that once kept it relegated to a small, insular sect. At least within this podcasting space, Bob Dylan’s words have never been more appropriate. Perhaps some day soon, your friends and family will sit down to enjoy episodes of these excellent podcasts alongside you.
These are so cool — and all done in CSS, no JavaScipt required. Manoela “Mary Lou” Ilic has to be one of the most talented web developers I have seen in a long while. If I ever decide to take this site in a more graphically-complex direction, I know exactly where I will look for inspiration.
Predicting the Future
These days it has become quite common to frame both current events and predictions of the future in terms of the past. Within the technology space, and particularly when talking about Apple, this is especially true — even for me: every time I comment on a rumor, whether in regards to something so trivial as WWDC dates this year all the way up to the much more significant potential screen sizes at which the iPhone 6 could ship, I look to the past. In terms of WWDC, the past indicates it will take place some day in the month of June; turns out, it will run from June second through the sixth. Regarding the potential for the iPhone’s screen size to increase, Apple’s historical aversion to changing this aspect of their devices pitted against the fact that they did with the iPhone 5 and a growing desire for a larger device nevertheless makes a larger-screened iPhone a likely proposition. And so, were I a better man, thus would I place my bets.
Real Food is Here
Hat-tip to another article from Huckberry, Modern Pioneering, that I just linked to for bringing this one from 2013 to my attention. In the past, I have written extensively about Rohan Anderson’s own work, as well as his escapades: when he felled trees and built an awesome smokehouse by hand, that fantastic video led to a string of four posts — Something to it, walk it off brother, hard at work, living simple, and so simple — that effectively chronicled my amazement with and admiration for his chosen lifestyle. And then I stumbled across this piece, and all of those feelings rushed back even stronger than before.
Although I’m still coming to terms with her use of “#ModernPioneering” when promoting this, Huckberry’s recent article on Georgia Pellegrini is great even if it does seem — to me, at least — almost absurd to see the two disparate worlds of pioneering and hashtags collide so inelegantly. Someday, I would love to live the lifestyle she leads: it sounds incredible.
Apple and Nike
Ben Thompson has been killing it over at Stratechery lately, especially with this piece comparing Apple and Nike through the apt characterization of experience companies. As a recent convert from the Windows world, I can speak to the reality of Apple’s unique (within the technology industry, at least) position as such a corporation from first-hand experience: from the outside looking in, I couldn’t help but want to join this community and become a part of the Apple world. There are undoubtedly those who will discount even the accuracy of Apple’s designation as an experience company rather than a behemoth fostering a cult of fanatic worshipers willing to pay any sum for their latest POS — and that’s not “point of service" — offering, much less the ability for that to compel anyone to Apple’s platforms over Windows and Android. However, it is very real. And most importantly, it’s working.
Does Jeff Bezos Read Asymco?
I doubt it, but who knows — maybe Jeff Bezos has an assistant gather Horace’s articles every evening, print them onto sheets of newspaper, and insert the pages between those of his morning delivery of The Washington Post. Weirder things have happened before, anyway. To Ben’s point though, making the distinction between novelty, creation, invention, and innovation is incredibly important regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, whether among those creating products or writing about them. Having a firm grasp of these marked differences will not only inform how one frames emergent technologies, developing market segments, and potential businesses, but the viability of focusing any attention on to any one — or all — of these areas as well.
Writing for Pageviews
When writing Rethinking RSS the other day, I started reflecting on my process for discovering and consuming new and interesting writing. This time around I zeroed in less on the specifics, though — Tweetbot, Instapaper, and Reeder — , more on the jobs I use those and other services to complete, and how that methodology could bode ill for the current metric by which website owners determine success, attain profitability, and measure popularity.
Analog's Stranglehold of the Classroom
Interesting retrospective by Josh Ginter over at The Newsprint on his time in college and how, then, higher education seemed to approve more of analog note taking than digital, and why. Thankfully, that has largely ceased to be the case: in my last two semesters in college, I can think of only two classes — math and Chinese, for during both those courses a romanized alphabet would have proved virtually worthless — during which no one had a computer out. Aside from those two, it has become par for the course to use some sort of electronic device during class, whether a laptop or tablet, and for the most part teachers have accepted this. Great — but personally, I’m more of a pen and paper kind of guy; for the foreseeable future, at least, analog will maintain its stranglehold on my classroom experience.
On April 21st, 2014, a tremor shook the podcasting world. Not a large one, but like an avalanche feeding on itself and growing ever-larger, this quake’s onset marked the beginning of a significant change. Or at least, that’s how I think we will look back on the otherwise unremarkable Monday afternoon Ben Alexander, Jamie Ryan, Lorenzo Guddemi, and Sid O’Neill launched Constellation.
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
Great article and accompanying advice from Leo Babauta on choosing the hard tasks rather than sticking with the easy ones, and how this approach to every aspect of life — while inarguably more difficult — will inevitably lend itself to greater results than the alternative. “Easier said than done”, one might say, but that’s exactly the point.
Railways and WhatsApp
I know I speak for many when I say that some disruption among the service providers of the mobile phone industry would be very interesting indeed. Unfortunately, as Benedict Evans explains here, this will prove quite the monumental task. Not impossible, but perhaps at the very least prohibitively difficult.
CSS 3D Solar System
In Defense of the Link Blog
Earlier this month I published Owning Their Words, an article I named for and wrote in response to Matt Gemmell’s then-recent essay titled Own your words. In that piece, Matt explained the reasons he continues to write and publish on his own website rather than using a more streamlined venue such as Medium or another, similar service potentially more conducive to greater traffic that his own setup. Doing my best not to spoil his conclusion, that motivation came down to owning every aspect of his words, from the creation process to the manner in which the browser rendered them for his readers. This had a particularly profound impact on me in bringing my long-standing discomfort with the traditional link blog format — whereby its adherents scour the work of other authors, extract the pertinent lines as a pull-quote, and post it on their own site — to a head; by the time I finished Matt’s article, I had resolved to abandon the format entirely.
Why the Web Still Matters for Writing
Great counter-point to The decline of the mobile web by Ben Thompson, guest posting on Matthew Mullenweg’s site about the value of the web in a world dominated by apps. An infinite number of apps could be made for infinite number of use cases, but they will still only be designed for those specific use cases; beyond those, there must be something more flexible, able to handle every other possible need. That something is the web.
The decline of the mobile web
In preparing to read this article, rather than read it on Chris Dixon’s website, I first tried in Instapaper. Instapaper failed to accurately parse the article though, so I then created an account at Pocket where I ultimately read and finished the piece before writing about it in Drafts and posting the end result from my computer. Now, as I have explained in the past, this is not usual: for the most part, I prefer to read articles in their intended environment. Ideological values only last so long though, and if that’s not a damning case for the future of apps over the web, I don’t know what is.
This Week in Podcasts
Driving home from a weekend with the family? Boy, have I got just what you need to spice up a few hours of monotonous turns and straightaways: the following list contains all the best podcasts I have had the privilege of listening to within the past week. Whether you’re out on the open road or simply looking for the diamonds in the rough, look no further than this week’s installment of my ongoing series, This Week in Podcasts.
An Interview with Ben Thompson
Josh Horwitz, writing for Tech in Asia, conducted a great interview with Ben Thompson about his decision to go solo, and his background as a writer in the tech sector. If you’re still on the fence as to whether you should become a member of Stratechery or not, both this interview and another article from The Next Web by Jon Russell on Ben’s transition to independent writer ought to convince you. Ben knows what he’s talking about: he has an impressive background that gives him fantastic insight into modern-day events within nearly every industry technology touches. And even at $30 a month — disregarding the existence of the two lower membership tiers at $5 and $10 a month — access to those insights is a steal.
Until a few days ago, I was the cautionary tale; everyone told my story leading up to a punch line in which some unfortunate schmuck lost everything after a malevolent hacker gained access to one of his online services. Despite his best efforts, an obscure — or not so obscure, ahem Heartbleed — security breach had given an attacker access to one of this poor individual’s passwords, and although he had selected lengthy combinations and varied them slightly from service to service, they ultimately remained only marginally different; he had to keep them all straight in his head, after all, and so after the initial break-in, determining the appropriate combinations to everything else from Gmail to bank accounts proved relatively easy for his maligned attacker. Thankfully, it never actually got as far for me as it did for our hypothetical Job. It could have, though, and that realization has weighed heavily on me for quite some time now.
As of yesterday, Ben Thompson has gone indie: after a three-part series examining the decline of newspapers and the role of individual writers in this new world order, he took his own words to heart in crafting an impressive business model consisting of three membership tiers, each chock-full of some very compelling offerings. Along with an excellent new weekly podcast called Stratechery.fm — whose first episode, Welcome to Stratechery.fm, I plan to cover at length in this week’s installment of This Week in Podcasts — he intends to publish much more often and in this way make writing for Stratechery his full-time job. I became a member, and I hope you will too; we could use more intelligent analysis in the tech industry these days, and Ben Thompson is just the man for the job.
My relationship with RSS, while not exactly turbulent, has remained fairly amorphous over the last few years. In the Google Reader era, I used RSS occasionally to keep up with a handful of sites using Google’s now-defunct service, an iOS app called Feedler, and then, later, Feedler Pro — you could say I was moving on up in the world. Following Reader’s demise, however, I had to change things up a bit as I simultaneously lost my primary tool for participating in this medium and became much more enthusiastic about it. Unable to find any suitable web-based alternatives capable of syncing across multiple platforms though, I opted for the somewhat cumbersome route whereby I pointed my latest iOS RSS client, Reeder, directly at the RSS feeds I wished to track with. In other words, rather than signing in with a Google Reader account, I pasted the feed URLs directly into Reeder and let the app take care of the back-end work previously fulfilled by Google. Although this had the benefit of cutting out my reliance on middlemen, it came with one major downside: no sync whatsoever. Thus, unless I wanted to scroll through the same list of feeds multiple times for each device — and I did not — I could subscribe to and read these feeds on one device only.
Popular + Luxurious = Populuxe
Huckberry takes us on a nostalgic trip to a bygone era I fear we will never experience again. Aspiration, decency, and pride are all vanishing from America at much too rapid a pace these days, and that rate has only continue to increase in recent years; Nicholas Pell is right to be saddened by their untimely and unfortunate passing, for once our society loses these values I doubt we will ever see them come back.
Measuring Success In Life
Colleen Kong wrote a guest post on one of the few websites I follow unrelated to technology, Financial Samurai, detailing how she measures success in her life outside of her wallet’s size, with some great advice for everyone regardless of their lot in life. I wish her the best of luck.
After Marco Arment posted his great article on fancy headphones and fussy coffee back in February, I strongly considered dropping $180 that I — to be brutally honest — didn’t have on a pair of Beyerdynamic DT-770-PRO 32ohm closed dynamic headphones. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I still cannot say, sanity won out though, and I abstained from blowing a week’s salary on what I have no doubt would have been a fantastic listening experience. As both Linus and Marco explained though, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on great headphones just to have a good time listening to your music: take the advice of a few trustworthy people, spend within your means, sit back, and enjoy.
I think The Typist put it best when he posted a tweet linking to this piece by Matt Gemmell, where he said, “I am wary of superlatives but @mattgemmell’s latest is the best piece of text I’ve read in the last 5 years; at least”. This truly is a phenomenal work of prose, simultaneously remarkably sad, hopeful, and intensely inspirational; better words of advice than those at the end of Matt’s article have never been said.
In scene reminiscent of Steve Jobs’ dismissal from Apple at the behest of John Sculley, Brendan Eich lost his job as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation a few weeks ago over a political donation made roughly six years prior in support of California’s Proposition 8. A bill that sought to ban gay marriage in the state, it’s easy to see why Eich took such flack for that move in today’s hyper-sensitive political landscape permeated by the rantings of faux-political activists. Although a federal court ultimately struck it down as unconstitutional, the fact that his donation ultimately had no lasting effect mattered not to nearly everyone that weighed in on the controversy, and least of all to Sam Yagan. CEO of OkCupid, Sam Yagan played a key role in Eich’s ultimate impeachment by acting as one of Eich’s loudest opponents.
Why I Rank My Friends By Income, Iq, And Hotness
Impersonal, cold, and calculating, perhaps, but pragmatic, practical, and logically sound? Yes again. Milo Yiannopoulos has a very interesting approach to relationships. And today, in an age where anything less than four digits worth of Facebook “friends” has somehow become strange, it might not be such a bad idea. Food for thought, anyway.
The Outsider and the Creed
Turns out you are not the only one battling with a lack of conviction in your own self worth and the value of the things you create, and struggling with the fear that at any moment someone might discover that you are, in fact, the fraud you so strongly believe yourself to be. In reality, we all struggle with these complicated feelings — you, me, and I would bet anything your role model does as well. In the somber words of Raymond Reddington though, “There will be nightmares. And every day when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about. Until one day, it will be the second thing.” Although at the time he referred to something much darker than the purely psychological impostor syndrome, his words apply here as well: these misgivings will plague you from the moment you wake up in the middle of the night to the second you fall back into a fitful sleep. Until one day, they will not.
Detecting duplicate images using Python
Fascinating article from Silviu Tantos of Iconfinder on developing an algorithm to detect duplicate images using just a few lines of Python. Having written the back-end for this site myself, completely in Python, I plan on using some of these tactics extensively in version 1.0 to streamline and improve my process for determining when and how often to re-build this site.
Following the BUILD conference, there has been a great deal of uncharacteristically positive talk within the Apple sphere with regards to the products and services Microsoft recently unveiled there, as well as the new direction these announcements seem to indicate. In particular, Myke Hurley, Stephen Hacket, and Federico Viticci of The Prompt had an interesting discussions on these topics in the forty-second episode of their podcast, Beautiful Flower, as did John Gruber and Ed Bott in episode seventy-eight of The Talk Show, recorded live at BUILD. These two shows forced me to rethink the class of writers I follow, for I can no longer confidently state that Apple is the only company making anything interesting. So I set out to find some writers from the other side of the fence — onces not wholly focused on the iOS ecosystem, that could provide valuable insight into a company quickly regaining its relevance in today’s tech scene. Or at least, I decided to; I have yet to succeed.
This Week in Podcasts
Unfortunately, the past week was relatively light in terms of new podcasts, and even more sparse with regards to great episodes. There are always a few, though, and this week was no different.
Let's Talk About the 5C
Continuing to riff on Brian Hall’s recent piece for Tech.pinions, Panic Inside Apple and Cheers for Satya, that I linked to in my last post, I want to spend some time talking about another topic of his article: the iPhone 5C. Lately there seems to have been a great deal of talk about the 5C as a failed product that missed the target Apple set out for it by a gross and (apparently) indicative-of-impending-doom margin. I could not disagree more, though; and in fact, I would go so far as to say that every piece painting such a bleak picture belies the author’s fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what the 5C was and was not created for.
I’m going to violate my cardinal rule of not using a pull-quote for this article by Brian S. Hall, for to simply point you at his recent piece for Tech.pinions and expect you to grasp the pertinent thread out of the three near-disparate topics within would be a fool’s errand. Although ostensibly about Microsoft, more accurately yet another critique of the 5C, and with a tired subtext of the usual “Apple is doomed”, I see no other recourse but to hand you the appropriate portion on a silver platter. From Panic Inside Apple and Cheers for Satya, then:
A Brief Naval-Gaze
Turns out, vanity searches pay off: earlier this evening, my girlfriend pointed an article out to me of particular interest. Writing for Fast Company Labs, Jenna Kagel published Inside One Blogger’s Plan To Make Money Without Hideous Ads on January seventh of this year, where she recounted my plans to take this site from a cost center to a profitable enterprise detailed in Doing Monetization Well. To me, to have a site so popular and widely-respected as Fast Company post an article about something I wrote and posted to my site, that’s just awesome; so very cool.
Custom Homescreen Icons with Pythonista
This is so cool. Back when I used to write exclusively on my iPad, I nearly did this so that I could copy a finished article to my clipboard, and then simply tap on a home screen icon to publish it using Pythonista rather than opening the app as an intermediary step between creation and pushing it up to my server. Then I got my MacBook Pro, though, and it became my primary writing device. I doubt this will remain the case forever, so I plan on keeping this one in my back pocket.
Bitcoin Is Pointless as a Currency, But It Could Change the World Anyway
Despite it’s oxymoron of a title, this is a great piece by Felix Martin for Wired drawing some interesting parallels between Bitcoin and the monetary system of sixteenth-century Europe. Bitcoin has enjoyed a great deal of support up until now, but the jury is still out as to whether it will turn in to a viable, stable currency or go down in history as a somewhat lengthy flash in the pan. Hopefully, though, for the reasons Felix laid out in his conclusion, Bitcoin will.
The Culture of Shut Up
Fantastic article by Jon Lovett at The Atlantic, where he writs about the power of free speech particularly with regards to internet culture. In my mind, these two issues have collided and come to a head recently with the resignation of Mozilla’s CEO Brendan Eich: given the political nature of the reasons Eich lost his job, I have seen a great number of people on both sides of the issue speak up, out, and often vilify each other. And that’s not helping anyone at all.
The Failures of Technology(?)
After I posted A Question of Value the other day, where I talked about some important questions to ask when evaluating the plausibility of a smart watch as a viable future device category, Linus Edwards sent me a link to a very interesting and thought-provoking piece of his from July of 2013 titled Where Did The Time Go? The Failures Of Technology. Part of the reason I found it so noteworthy, though, is because I disagree with it so strongly: I disagree with his statement that “In terms of design, most computing devices, programs, operating systems, and websites are not designed to simplify people’s lives, but rather make people more and more reliant on those computing devices, programs, operating systems, and websites.” He lumped all these very different mediums together and categorically condemned all of them for the more pronounced shortcoming of one or two, a process that I feel he used to form the erroneous conclusion that he then wrote his article in service of.
And Today, the Irony was Palpable
Merlin Mann once said that when he was seventeen years old, he felt his sole job in the world was to expose all hypocrisy. At the time, at seventeen myself, I laughed; however, a couple of years later the same thing has become true of myself: very few things annoy me as much as hypocrisy these days, and the very closely-related phenomenon of the double standard drives me insane. Today, in a fantastically ironic turn of events that came to my attention through an article on SFGate, UnCrunched discovered that OkCupid’s CEO, Sam Yagan — one of the most vocal critics of Brendan Eich — once supported a congressman known for his huge opposition of anything to do with homosexuals. The same man who played such a pivotal role in the ruin of Brendan Eich’s career, claiming that his support of California’s Proposition 8 nearly a decade ago made him an abhorrent individual unfit to lead Mozilla, supported a congressional candidate that goes even farther than Proposition 8 did. Absolutely incredible.
Narrative over Facts
Last week Ben Thompson recommended that anyone who enjoyed his three-part series on the future of news and newspapers check out Nieman Journalism Lab’s latest report on the state of news media in 2014. For anyone interested, here’s the link: New technology, new money, new newsrooms, old questions: The State of the News Media in 2014; at the time, I was: I promptly saved the essay to Instapaper and eagerly awaited reading it. However, a little more than a week later, I got through the first two paragraphs before completely losing interest. Yet, ten days prior I read more than three thousand words on this subject, spread across three different articles. What changed?
How You, I, and Everyone are Still Getting the Top 1 Percent All Wrong
I don’t agree with the constant vilification of America’s top 1%. Some call them “captains of industry”, others have much more choice combinations of nouns and verbs to describe the small subset of Americans that earn substantially more than everyone else — the constantly marginalized 99% — as if they somehow did not deserve their hard-won success. This article from The Atlantic does not go as far to dispel that ridiculous notion as its title — doctored above, originally “How You, I, and Everyone Got the Top 1 Percent All Wrong" — might lead everyone to believe, but I guess it’s a step in the right direction.
A Question of Value
When small handheld computing devices went mainstream, they did so by replacing boredom. I recognize that this supposition seems rather reductive and perhaps more than a little stretched in pursuit of achieving comedic effect, but consider the situations many use their mobile devices in, and what they use them for: often, people employ the latest iteration of this category, smartphones, to stay boredom in a checkout line, provide an escape from the drudgery of a lengthy commute, or to avoid interacting with others in what could otherwise prove an awkward or otherwise unpleasant situation. Yes, there are other use cases — communication, for example — but the majority of those additional situations fall within one of the previously-described ones. Thus, the jobs consumers hire this category of computer to do has remained mostly constant throughout the short time period from going mainstream until now.
This Week in Podcasts
Another week, another seven days of spectacular podcasts. Maybe I’m just biased, but this is my favorite medium in existence — even more beloved than television, film, and — yes, and — writing. So sit back, relax on your commute for once, and tune in to some of the best podcasts on the internet.
Should I Continue Working As A Contractor Or Go Full-time?
As usual, an interesting article from Sam Dogen at Finaicial Samurai. Especially within this microcosm of independent app developers and writers, it has become so common to hear the story of a full-time employee striking out on his own that this piece nearly took me by surprise: rather than leaving his large company and setting up a one-man shop, Sam is considering returning to the corporate nine-to-five lifestyle he left in 2012. Even more interestingly, his reasons make a lot of sense. I would love to go independent at some point in my life, but there is certainly some appeal to being a corporate stooge.
Discrimination Comes Full-Circle
Last week when I wrote Hedge Yourself Before They Wreck Yourself, I talked about the regrettable situation we have found ourselves in with regards to the discourse around issues like sexism. Rather than affecting meaningful change, this community has grown into a hodgepodge of pseudo-activists more concerned with the lexicon used in furthering their professed cause than actually making any meaningful progress. Unfortunately, this divergence has led to a great deal of hostility, confusion, and outright unwillingness for well-meaning and concerned individuals to participate whatsoever. Thankfully, this culture of misplaced priorities and general disrespect of their fellow human beings has yet to permeate the discussions surrounding another important social issue, ageism; however, we likely have little time before it, too, becomes infected in a similarly deplorable way. For all my condemnatory prose, though, I never talked about actually having an opinion one way or the other: I opined against a community that would discourage anyone from sharing their personal beliefs, but said nothing of a culture that actively discourages having a belief.
DJI Phantom Quadcopter Flies Into an Active Volcano
After coming across another video on Laughing Squid of a dad using a quadracopter to pull his son’s tooth out, I found what has to be one of the coolest videos I have ever seen: Shaun O’Callaghan flew his own DJI Phantom quadcopter over an active volcano on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, and the resulting video is awesome.
That Special Feeling
In a brief departure from his daily Tab Dump series, Stefan Constantinescu wrote about the LG G Flex. He did not write a review though, but instead a rather introspective essay about how the single advantage to this device and what that signaled for the future of the mobile phone industry. Quite a while has passed since the 5S came out, and even longer since Apple did anything new with their flagship phone’s form factor. We have already seen releases from the other major smartphone players, and it’s about time Apple added to the cacophony. I can’t wait to see what they come out with.
Spoiler alert: sexism isn’t the only social issue holding up progress within the tech industry at large. A few weeks ago, I read a great article by Yiren Lu titled Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem, where she explained how a preference for young entrepreneurs combined with the type of projects they tend to work on has created an unsustainable culture of front-end innovation built atop outmoded technology. She later went on to detail how that unfortunate amalgamation will put us in a poor position in the near future as the march of progress falls victim to increasingly restrictive constraints when the underlying technologies powering that advancement become unable to sustain further progress. Then, just yesterday, I cam across another, similar article — this time from New Republic — by Noam Scheiber titled Silicon Valley’s Brutal Ageism.
Owning Their Words
When I started this website, I did so with the same intentions many decide to set up a blog these days: post often and about topics that interest me, and link to the work of others in between. In short, I set out to model my website after the likes of John Gruber, Shawn Blanc, and Marco Arment, back when the latter two published with much more regularity. By any measure, I succeeded: I wrote regularly, posted often, and occasionally made something interesting enough to spawn some intelligent discussions. I succeeded by adopting a proven format, even though I did little to improve upon it. Towards the end of last year, I began the difficult process of rectifying that.
Inkas Armored Vehicles
These have to be some of the coolest vehicles I have ever seen. I could definitely go for one of these, so if anyone’s offering... You know how to get in touch.
Cabin Porn Roundup
After last month’s post, I feared for the future viability of this series as I continued an apparent trend of finding fewer and fewer cool links for each of these issues. After the last few weeks, however, I’m convinced that those slow months were flukes: this time around, boy have I got some great cabins to show you. Let’s start with The Tiny Project, then, a small house built on a trailer that features beautiful architecture and well thought-out design. Very impressive — I would be more than happy to live in one of these, traveling around the country with the comfort of home just a few feet from my steering wheel. Maybe some day.
A Bit of F.U. Validation
In episode fifty-eight of the Accidental Tech Podcast, Marco, John, and Casey did some follow-up on their previous episode in which they discussed — among other topics — sexism. In response to the previous week’s show, ATP 57: Smorgasbord Of Pronunciation, I wrote the gruesomely-titled Hedge Yourself Before They Wreck Yourself — a poorly-executed play on the “check yourself before you wreck yourself” cliché — wherein I talked about my dislike of the culture surrounding social causes. Although I tried to publish that piece before the trio recorded ATP fifty-eight, I missed it by a day and posted my article late. After finally putting it out for all to see though, I went and listened to episode 58: Always on Vacation in California. To my surprise, within the first few minutes Marco validated everything I had opined against in my unfortunately-titled piece. For the unindoctrinated, here’s a transcript of the pertinent parts:
This Week in Podcasts
Given my first link, I feel the need to state this explicitly just once more: although I call this series “This Week in Podcasts”, it may be helpful to think of it as a curated list of the best podcasts I listened to within the last week rather than a similar list consisting of only those released within the last seven days. After I published the first, I expanded my scope in this way so that I could include episodes from since-retired shows, or early episodes from now well-established podcasts. In doing so, I sought to truly provide you with a collection of the best shows possible, rather than a certain subset of those. Now, with that out of the way, let’s delve in to another week’s worth of excellent shows.
The Great Unbundling of Journalism
Yes. Earlier this week, I posted a link to Ben Thompson’s three-part series on the future of newspapers and journalism. Riffing off of that theme, Josh Ginter shares some thoughts along those lines. He’s very hopeful about the future of the blogging industry, and rightly so.
The Jeans Strategy
I really, really like this. To put it in the context of writing, how about taking your best day — whether you measure that by number of articles posted or page views gained — and make that your goal every single day? It would be hard, and many would say impractical, but maintaining the same waistline for fifteen years is hard too. In both cases, though, they are worthwhile pursuits.
The Trouble With a Singular Solution
Whereas Clay Shirky spoke to the benefits of online education, Mark Edmundson is a bit more skeptical in his 2012 (yet still just as relevant)1 article for The New York Times, The Trouble With Online Education. I agree with most of the criticisms Clay made in his two articles I linked to yesterday, particularly with regards to the unsustainability of the current model upon which higher education runs. However, having spent three of my high school years taking online courses from various remote schools, and now that — for the first time in my life — I actually go to a classroom on a regular basis, I feel confident in saying that there exists no absolute solution to this problem.
Why the upgrade cycle means the "Apple tax" is lower than it seems
I have written about this before, in an article titled Testing the Apple Tax, and Ben Lovejoy comes to the same conclusion I did in his piece over at 9to5 Mac: in reality, the proposed “Apple tax” is, frankly, nearly nonexistent. Taking into account overall build quality, form factor, fit and finish, power, and power consumption, Mac computers compete quite competitively with their PC “counterparts"; adding in other factors such as resale value, maintenance, and support, I have a hard time believing anyone could make the reasonable case than any manufacturer offers greater value than Apple. The only part of Ben’s article that I took issue with was his belief that a five-year-old Windows machine would have any resale value whatsoever: late last year I tried to attain some return on investment for four DELL laptops roughly that old, and as far as anyone was concerned, they were worthless.
Your Massively Open Offline College is Broken
Education is a topic near and dear to my heart, so whenever I can find an interesting, well-written article on the subject I tend to afford it slightly more attention than I might Business Insider’s terrible article explaining possible reasons behind Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus. Unfortunately, these articles often turn out mediocre at best; this piece by Clay Shirky, however, and its predecessor Napster, Udacity, and the Academy, are both very interesting in-depth looks at the problems facing higher education in America. You will have to spend a while reading both of these, but it will be time well spent.
Hedge Yourself Before They Wreck Yourself
Although I have touched on facets of this topic before — in articles I encourage you to read before continuing partly to have a bit of background to frame my subsequent words with, partly because I still feel quite proud of how well they turned out, but mostly because I still stand behind those sentiments — I have put off writing this for quite some time, for a whole host of reasons. After listening to last week’s episode of the Accidental Tech Podcast, however, where John, Marco, and Casey discussed sexism and the best ways in which to respond to accusations of unsavory bias towards the “wrong” side of politically-charged topics, I decided it was high-time I put my two-cents out there for everyone to tear apart as they see fit. Throughout the rest of that day, I spent every spare moment tapping nearly eight hundred words into a first draft; after a bit of editing and some minor corrections, this is the end result.
The Search For The Next Platform
Now this makes sense: Mark Zuckerberg may not necessarily believe virtual reality is the future of computing, and thus a good reason to purchase Oculus, but with the scale Facebook is operating on it would be foolish to take any risks. For a company of Facebook’s size, with so much to lose should they make the wrong bet, two billion dollars really is nothing.
You Get Nothing
Interesting take on why Facebook elected to buy Oculus by Joe Rosenstee of Unauthoritative Pronouncements. I haven’t fully worked out the justification for this purchase in my own mind, but I will comment on something tangentially related to this deal: as Joe pointed out in his article, and Linus Edwards as well on Twitter earlier, for some reason many seem to have this mistaken notion that Oculus — or Facebook — owes its Kickstarter backers something. Talk about entitlement issues, and an impressive ability to misunderstand the exchange Kickstarter facilitates. As backers, you provide the startup money — that initial push to make it to market. In return, you receive whatever rewards the project owner elects to distribute based on your contribution. That exchange is the extent of your relationship with the company.
Requiem for Days Long Past
It seems more and more these days, and especially over the last week or two in particular — perhaps in conjunction with the rise of the smartwatch as a general topic of discussion — people have begun yearning for the lifestyle of yesteryear when watches fulfilled the single, uncomplicated need of telling time, running errands entailed a trip to the local grocery store, and sometimes you just had to shovel through four feet of snow to get to the driveway. Although I can’t say that I look forward to every one of those tasks every single day, there is something to be said for a lifestyle less reliant on technology.
The Overprotected Kid
Thanks to Dave Pell’s The Next Draft for the original link, I found this article from The Atlantic a few days ago, and it’s great — really great, actually; I would even go so far as to call it exceptional. For this piece, Hanna Rosin traveled to the United Kingdom to get some first-hand experience with a novel playground concept called The Land, where rather than the sanitized, boring playsets so common especially in America, kids get to actually challenge themselves with activities I would still enjoy at nineteen years old. Using the growing popularity of this concept as a jumping-off point, she discusses an unfortunate trend of the last few decades whereby children have increasingly fewer opportunities to play and grow without the heavy-handed supervision of their parents acting as an omnipresent deterrent of anything remotely challenging or risky. Fortunately, I often had the opportunity and permission to go off on my own so long as I remained safe; unfortunately, that seems less and less the case nowadays. All in all, a fascinating article and well-worth the read if you have any interest in even tangentially-related facets of this broad subject. Seriously, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
FireChat is a new iOS app that purportedly allows its users to send text messages and pictures between devices without the use of both a cellular and wifi connection, at ranges up to thirty feet, using a new iOS 7 networking feature. Although these days I would rarely have any reason to use such an app, I would have loved to have this ability on an airplane, for instance, or out of the country where carriers can charge exorbitant rates. Regardless of whether I actually need it though, I can’t wait to try this out.
Rare earths: Neither rare, nor earths
Take a break from the tech news racket and spend some time reading something else — this article from the BBC on rare earth elements, perhaps; very interesting.
Eve: The Most Thrilling Boring Game In The Universe
In the past, I have linked to tales of grandiose exploits in the world of Eve Online. Outside of those short articles and a few videos though, the game has remained a black box, of sorts, whose inner-workings I failed to understand. With this great article from Polygon, however, Tracey Lien gives us an in-depth and fascinating look at the mechanics, politics, and strategy behind this truly massive multilayer online role playing game, and it sounds amazing; I can’t wait to give it a try.
Ben Thompson on the Future of News and Newspapers
Over the past week, Ben Thompson has posted a three-part series discussing the business of news, how that field relates to journalism and newspapers, and — by extension — the future of this profession and that industry. I have been a long-time fan of Ben’s work, and these three articles are truly exceptional: insightful, fascinating, and — what’s more — remarkably timely given the current state of news organizations. If you read nothing else this week, start with FiveThirtyEight and the End of Average, move on to The Stages of Newspapers’ Decline, and finish with Newspapers Are Dead; Long Live Journalism. Truly fantastic work.
Ads, Sponsors and Legitimacy
I absolutely agree with Sid here: basically, he wrote the article I did in A Few Thoughts on Sponsorships the day before I published mine. You know what they say: great minds think alike.
Here's Some Better Life Advice Than Richard Branson's
Earlier, I linked to an article from The Typist where he expressed dissatisfaction with the majority of “follow your passion” articles, and then went on to recommend some truly great advice with regards to that trite mantra from Bradley Voytek: “don’t follow your passions, follow your competencies, and you might just find you enjoy doing something you’re good at.” When linking to The Typist and, by extension, Bradley’s articles, I conveyed a similar level of disapproval for this genre of writing. Turns out, the three of us are not alone: Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, is just about fed up with wealthy individuals pontificating to those less fortunate than them, advising them to pursue unsustainable lifestyles just to chase a dream at the expense of every other aspect of their lives; I absolutely agree with him: I would much rather spend a summer hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I have to work so that during the school year, I have money for gas and car insurance and food and the iPhone I love so dearly; I would much rather spend a day writing than going to class, but there, too, I have no choice in the matter. It’s easy to romanticize the past and talk about how you would have done it given the chance to do it all over again, but you you didn’t do it that way the first time around, and you have no idea how your life would have turned out if you had. Aspirations are fine, but not at the expense of your well-being.
We're All Going To Die Someday
Great one-two punch from Sid O’Neill and Linus Edwards dealing with significance and its corollary, futility. I often find myself stuck between these two warring factions, fighting with another side of me that questions whether I should spend my time watching TV instead of writing, or writing instead of staying an extra hour in the gym, or working out instead of working more, or working more instead of spending more time with my family and friends, or if I should spend more time with my family than my friends — the list goes on and on, forever, but has to stop somewhere; it’s that stopping point that informs our value system, and thus, ultimately, the person we become.
The Passion Trap
Like The Typist, I rarely read articles on passion — the ones that prescribe that everyone follow their dreams to the detriment of every other aspect of their lives; not only are such pieces irresponsible, but impractical as well. Bradley Voytek’s article, however, which The Typist links to and relegates to such a category, really ought to belong to a category all its own — it’s just that good, and features neither of the disadvantageous aspects many other articles of this genre do. A great read, and something young people in particular ought to read. Going through many of the things Bradley describes myself, his article hit home especially hard for me.
This Week in Podcasts
When I published this article’s predecessor, I should have debuted this series as a collection of the podcasts I listened to within the past week rather than those released during that time period. This slight difference in phrase would have been especially appropriate given my eight-day absence last week, during which I could not listen to a single episode of any show. Now that I have returned, with a week’s worth of episodes now outside of my stated time frame, I have painted myself into a corner of sorts. Or I would have, but for the fact that I can make that necessary change now: from here on out, these “This Week in Podcasts” posts will include episodes I have listened to since publishing the last installment rather than only those less than a week old. In addition to broadening the scope of these posts, this will also give me the ability to — in good conscience — talk about retired shows and episodes long past their prime. On top of that, I can now talk about all the shows I missed while in the Bahamas.
A bit of a forgone conclusion at this point, but still worthwhile to have someone so skilled as Horace Dediu put the phone market into perspective, especially with regards to that upstart Apple. Come for the insight, but stay for his conclusion; that is, indeed, a mystery, and one that Apple has obviously solved.
The American grocery bill
Fascinating look at the percentage of household income various countries spend on groceries each year. Surprisingly, that number has steadily decreased over the past thirty years. In response to Businessweek’s chart, on display at the beginning of The Typist’s article, The Atlantic wrote a great, in-depth piece taking the discussion a few steps farther. Even if you only have a passing interest in this subject, I encourage you to check these articles out; great stuff.
Apple Designer Jonathan Ive Talks About Steve Jobs and New Products
Fantastic interview by John Arlidge of Time Magazine with Apple’s famed designer Jony Ive. I will do neither the disservice of taking a pull-quote from this piece, for you really should read it in its entirety rather than in pieces, but I will say this: the key takeaway, I felt, is the remarkable humanity of this entire process: from inception to creation to ultimate release, at no point in the life of these devices does anyone measure their viability, utility, or success by something so mundane as technical specifications. Rather, it all comes down to the human element — the experience, to use a rather clichéd turn of phrase, for in the end, when all is said and done, what else is left but the device in your hand?
Besides the cursory test shortly after iTunes Radio launched, yesterday marked the first time I had used the service for any extended period of time. In my past experiences, the recommendations had proved mediocre at best, and the process not compelling enough to prompt me to switch away from the songs I already knew and loved. Yesterday, though, I gave it another shot; and I loved it.
A Year on the Road
Shortly after returning from six months spent circling the globe, Jonny and Michelle set back out on the road and spent a year traveling across America. Again, I’m jealous: although I have lived in and traveled through quite a few states, my travels have thus far consisted of mostly the eastern seaboard, and nothing more westward than Wisconsin. Someday, I would love to take a similar journey.
Nothing Short Of Incredible
Not to be redundant, but Jonny and Michelle dropped everything to spend six months traveling the world, and that really is incredible. I have already done a great deal of traveling in my life — I have lived in five states and visited more than I can remember, and spent a great deal of time abroad in seven countries spread across two continents — and I wholeheartedly agree with their comment that traveling does indeed beget more traveling: given the chance, I would love to go back and visit any of the places I have been to in the past, and that’s to say nothing for all the places I want to go in the future. I don’t understand the people who have never left their hometown, let alone the state they were born in. The world is a vast and incredibly diverse place; go out and see some of it.
When Water Flows Uphill
Awesome video showing how, when heated to certain temperatures, water can actually flow uphill. It seems impossible, but — as the folks over at Science Friday demonstrate — some neat factors come into play after the boiling point to make it possible. Very cool, via The Loop.
Reeling Me In
Excellent news, and definitely a step in the right direction. I went through the opposite process a few weeks ago in creating my now-defunct newsletter, but thankfully realized the error of my ways shortly thereafter, discontinued it, and refocused my efforts on this site. Diversifying your public outlets in an attempt at creating multiple more focused properties seems like a good idea in theory, but invariably falls down in practice.
Superman with a GoPro
I didn’t watch this the first time I saw the link go by, but after the second time I’m glad I set aside a few minutes to check it out: this video really is the coolest thing I will watch all day.
The Changing Landscape of Innovation
As I prepared to leave for my trip to The Bahamas last week, I saw an article from Gizmodo go by linking to a blog post from Walmart — of all companies — showcasing a new concept vehicle that would make a number of significant improvements to current semi designs. I read through the article, and then sat down to write a short post about it; however, I quickly realized that I had much more to say on this topic than could be contained within the single paragraph of a link post, so I jotted down a quick draft and then left the work of creating a finished article until I got back from a day on and off airplanes flying across the U.S.
1000 years of European borders
This is just so cool. If my history teacher had shown me this video on the first day of our history class covering ancient civilizations of the world, I would have had so much more interest in the subject than I otherwise did. This almost makes me want to go study history — almost. Via TransferWise Blog.
The Backseat Companion
It’s taken me way too long, but I finally got some time to read the backlog of email newsletters in my inbox. Alongside Huckberry’s and Benedict Evans’ Mobile Newsletter, today I read my first issue of The Backseat Companion — and let me tell you, I loved it. The Backseat Companion is everything a newsletter should be: interesting, informative, humorous — a joy to read, to be sure. If MailChimp isn’t your thing, you can also read past issues on Medium. Regardless of where you go though, you’ll have to head over to Gianfranco Lanzio and Diego Petrucci’s tumblr to subscribe. Do yourself a favor and just head over there now though: you’ll be there soon enough anyways.
A Few Thoughts on Sponsorships
Within the last week there has been a great deal of talk about sponsorships: Marco Arment ended sponsored blog posts, citing waning interest and falling click-through rates. Sam Hutchings chimed in on the debate regarding bias and how it could, theoretically, adversely affect credibility. Josh Ginter, writing in response to Marco’s aforementioned post, posited that Marco’s decision might not be an anomaly, but indicative of a disturbing trend in the blogging space. I don’t see this topic elevating any further from here, so I might as well chime in now.
On my way to San Salvador last weekend I wrote a short article titled “The Changing Landscape of Innovation”. Without any internet connection until arriving back home the following Thursday, I planned on publishing it Friday morning; however, I didn’t count on Drafts losing the note to a botched sync operation. In lieu of that article, then, as I try to work with Greg Pierce to recover it, consider this:
The Only Answer
A tediously accurate map of the solar system
Very, very cool project from Josh Worth — both technically, and as a source of perspective for how vast space really is, and how small the earth — and, by extension, we — are.
Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks Out
Nice to finally have some closure on this subject. I never got into Flappy Bird — I never even downloaded the game — but I couldn’t help but get sucked into the “discussion" — and I use that term loosely here — around the game, especially after its creator took Flappy Bird down at the peak of its popularity. I wish him good luck in the future; he has been remarkably blessed, and I have no doubt he will make good use of that good fortune.
A Brief Editorial Note
Tomorrow morning at three o’clock, I will wake up three hours earlier than normal; within sixty minutes of getting out of bed, I will be on my way to the Pittsburgh International Airport; five hours after awakening — if all goes well, and weather permitting — my plane will take off bound for the Bahamian island of San Salvador where I will reside for a week as part of a geology class I enrolled in at the beginning of this semester. After several weeks of in-class study, this trip will allow my class and I to gain valuable field experience — hence the class title, “Field Investigative Geology”. Because I will go San Salvador with the express purpose of gaining field experience, due to the research center’s isolated and somewhat dated nature, and as a result of the island’s location far outside of America’s borders, I will have no way of accessing the internet from Wednesday morning until the following Friday. As a courtesy to all my readers, then, rather than simply going off-grid for an entire week without notice, I just wanted to take a moment and give you a heads-up.
Cabin Porn, the book
I will include a link to this page in my upcoming Cabin Porn roundup post, but in an effort at being timely I will also do so here: the great folks over at Beaver Brook that run Cabin Porn, the main site from which I glean those cool images to fill my monthly roundups, are making a book. If you enjoyed my roundups even in the slightest, I encourage you to sign up for the book’s waiting list; I did, and I can’t wait to give them a few dollars in exchange for what I have no doubt will be an excellent book.
The long shadow of Steve Jobs: Tim Cook at Apple
Although written in the same vein as all those articles about Tim Cook where the collective discourse was invariably framed by the comparison to Steve Jobs and his legacy, published for much too long after Tim became Apple’s latest CEO, here such a format actually felt appropriate as the author — taking from Yukari Kane’s upcoming book Haunted Empire, Apple After Steve Jobs — did so to contrast the two very different leadership styles of these two individuals. What’s more, I found this brief excerpt all the more interesting as the first in-depth article I have seen about Tim Cook in particular. About time.
The Mint 400
Incredible — I can only imagine what it’s like to drive in this race, at these speeds, on this terrain, and in these vehicles. Definitely adding this one to my bucket list; wow.
Podcasters Need A Dose Of Reality
Fantastic take ostensibly on the problems facing podcasters with regards to discoverability, but in reality a thinly-veiled critique of all those who complain about having the greatest undiscovered app, show, or website rather than focusing their efforts on bringing that undoubtedly exquisite labor of love to a broader audience. I have fallen into this trap in the past, so having a slap-in-the-face reality check like this one to keep me focused on what really matters, and what will actually make a difference in my own work, is especially helpful, and something I will definitely return to multiple times in the coming months and years.
Brighten Your Monday
Very few people actually enjoy Mondays. If you’re in the majority, I’ve got the cure for you: check out Andy Martin on Vimeo, where he posts delightfully weird short animations. My favorite is easily Selfie, and if you enjoy that one The Welsh Egg Choir and his The Plants series are both great ways to spend a few extra minutes blissfully unaware of the drudgery that is the first in a long succession of nine-to-five days. Enjoy.
The Conglomeratization of US Internet Companies
Just as early nineteenth century Americans took Britain’s manufacturing process, improved upon it, and quickly outpaced the nation from which they originally learned from, so too it appears China learned from the early mistakes that befell American internet companies, improved upon their flaws, and now seeks to outpace the country from which they drew those original lessons. So says this article from Digits to Dollars, anyway, and after reading it I am inclined to agree: as of late the notion of Google becoming an internet conglomerate, or “General Internet” as Horace Dediu and many others have put it, has gained a significant amount of traction. The larger notion of “conglomeratization” has also grown quite popular, and with Facebook’s recent acquisition of Whatsapp some have even gone on to say that Facebook could become the social conglomerate. Halfway around the world, however, as this article from Digits to Dollars points out, many Chinese internet companies have already made the switch that only the largest American internet companies are just now showing signs of considering. Very interesting, and possible even telling, observation.
Is "Fake It 'Til You Make It" The Reason We're So Screwed?
The “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality and impostor syndrome are closely linked, in that the former is often cited as a solution to the latter. Especially in the creative professions, where impostor syndrome seems nearly as common as clicky keyboards, many advocate overriding that feeling of inadequacy with a philosophy that accepts it as a given and pushes you past it: you may feel like an impostor — a fake — but that’s okay, because you can fake it until you actually meet your expectations in a particular area — in other words, until you make it. If an article on that mentality’s adverse effects does not interest you though — and really, if you fall prey or subscribe to either frame of mind, it should — come for Sam’s look into the “dark”, less morally-sound side of making money on the internet. The same group that often suffers from impostor syndrome simultaneously prize making money ethically through relationships with those they create for. Not everyone on the internet has this same value system though, so coming from the former I found it interesting to read about the perspective of the latter.
This Week in Podcasts
I have long wanted for a place I could link to great podcasts and point out particularly spectacular episodes, but neither my site nor my now-deceased newsletter seemed like the appropriate venue for such posts. Nevertheless, for especially noteworthy shows, I have broken this unspoken rule and linked to Exponent’s The Garbage Truck Song, for example, and The Weekly Briefly’s A Writing Guide. Yet although I did occasionally point out an especially good episode here on my site, countless others went unmentioned and thus unlauded for excellence in any number of areas merely because I lacked a medium in which to highlight such work. Today, hot on the heels of ending my last weekly publication, I will begin posting another weekly roundup — this time here on my site — showcasing the past week’s greatest additions to the podcasting industry.
Cabin Porn Roundup
I have a very light issue for you this month, unfortunately: precious little caught my eye over the past few weeks. In fact, just two articles did, and only one came from Cabin Porn: a third-generation hand-made cabin from Michigan. This structure, to me, defines the genre: built of wood and stone and out in the middle of the woods, not some modern architecture retrofitted into a rustic getaway a few hundred feet from the nearest road, this cabin has character. And I love that about it.
I sat down to catch up on some long-overdue reading with Sid O’Neil’s recent article Earn Your Tools the other day, and before I knew it I had gotten sucked in to the world of every day carry. When I finally resurfaced and finished Sid’s article, after embarking upon more tangents than I could possibly remember along the way, I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with him: all too often, especially in Boy Scouts, I see kids touting some fancy piece of gear despite having no idea how to use it both properly and to its full potential, and with little regard for either its worth or its value. To all too many, that price tag was just a number their parents made disappear with the swipe of a credit card. They did not earn the right to that piece of equipment, yet they toss it around as if no more useful or valuable than a sack of potatoes. To borrow a line from Sid’s article, many of these kids truly are “that idiot with the shiny new thing who thinks he’s bought himself into the ranks of the talented.”
El Diablo Jeep
Late last year I linked to another, similar post from Huckberry on the Filson 4X4. Like Filson’s modified Jeep, Starwood Motors made significant modifications to this once-run-of-the-mill vehicle, transforming it into something remarkably cool — perhaps even cooler than its impressive cousin, also linked in Huckberry’s post, the Starwood Full Metal Jacket Jeep. Although at $72,888 and $107,000, respectively, both will remain far outside of my price range for the foreseeable future, I can always look, and look I definitely will.
Of Platforms, Operating Systems and Ecosystems
Worthwhile distinction to be aware of not only for those targeted by tech company announcements, but those writing about them as well. All too often tech writers use these and countless other terms interchangeably when in reality, they are nowhere near synonymous.
How Hacker News ranking really works
Interesting examination the of story ranking system Hacker News employs, and much more scientific than my previous attempt. Ken Shirriff’s earlier article on the topic, Inside the news.yc ranking formula — in case you miss the link in his latest post — , also warrants some attention as both try to explain the fickle and near-inscrutable internet fire hose that is Hacker News. I found these two articles especially interesting given a recent project I have begun work on, but I won’t spoil that here.
Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?
Somewhat interesting article explaining the reasons behind the aspects that lead many to consider academic writing so terrible. For the most part, I agree: in my experience, the academic community — or, at the very least, the subset involved in literary pursuits — is incredibly out of touch with not only current trends in their professed field of interest, but averse and close-minded to change in that field as well. This is especially true — painfully so — of those who for some reason believe that they are bucking the system — particularly the ones who graduated within the last few years — and put down that old five paragraph format as outdated before going on to teach their favorite derivation of it. Unfortunately, I am nowhere near as confident in the revival of this once-praiseworthy system as Joshua Rothman is: if the academic community cannot change their writing style, what hope do we have that they will bring about meaningful change to the underlying system?
Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience
Try — I say “try” fully aware of the fact that few of you will even try, let alone succeed — to disregard your own personal beliefs when reading this article and it becomes an interesting social commentary on rationality and hypocrisy. I have seen both sides Michael Schulson describes take their beliefs to their respective extremes over the years, to equally ridiculous and ineffective results. If nothing else, read this article, stick it in the back of your mind, and think back to it next time you make a decision based on something you hold as a self-evident truth.
A Star In A Bottle
Phenomenal article by Raffi Khatchadourian chronicling ITER’s long and trying journey towards nuclear fusion. Fraught with not only technical challenges but also complex social dynamics, geopolitical tensions, and budgetary shortcomings time and time again — to name just a few of the problems that have plagued this project in the twenty-one years since work began, to say nothing of the ridicule and general disregard the idea suffered particularly from the academic community in the preceding fifty-eight years — it is nothing short of a miracle that the team has not just managed to remain intact, but made progress as well. Incredible — their journey, yes, but the sheer scale they are working on as well. Absolutely awe-inspiring. This piece alone justifies the continued existence of print publications.
Apple Acquires TestFlight Owner Burstly
Apple acquired another company — great, wonderful; the most interesting news I saw after this announcement, however, came from Federico Viticci when he highlighted a recent idea MG Siegler put forth before Christmas in suggesting a Beta App Store. From Federico’s article:
> “On a related rumor note, the Burstly acquisition may also indicate Apple’s intention to launch a ‘beta App Store’ service for developers to test apps publicly with subsets of users in specific regions or demographics. The idea was first suggested by MG Siegler in December 2013 and brought up again today following the acquisition news.”
Very interesting. If you, like me before coming across it by way of Federico’s article, have not read MG’s piece, I encourage you to do so: he makes a strong case for this idea. It still needs some work and presents a number of potential issues — allowing anyone access to this testing ground seems problematic, to say the least; there’s a very good reason betas of Apple’s operating systems and apps are restricted to those with a developer account — but these challenges are by no means insurmountable. And MG is right: it’s high-time Apple gave its developers these capabilities.
Meet the 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
I said it in the last edition of my newsletter and alluded to it in a recent tweet, but I’ll say it again here: I’m not at all excited for Marvel’s upcoming movie. Iron Man 3, The Avengers, and even Thor: The Dark World — although to a lesser degree there — all spent way too much time and energy in pursuit of humor. In some cases, it paid off: the scene where Hulk tossed Loki around before calling him a “puny god” was great, and Loki’s scene where he impersonated a number of other Marvel characters with Thor in their latest film was delightful. By and large though, that humor has no place in action movies. Marvel ought to pick one or the other and stop aiming for both genres, because they invariably meet both criteria poorly. Better to focus on a single goal than spread themselves too thin. There’s a particularly worthwhile analogy to writing here, but I will leave it to you, the reader, to make.
Interesting article from MIT’s Technology Review on Bitcoin’s potential uses outside of a new currency. I have written to the topic of Bitcoin a few times in the past, but beyond covering it here I have had no interaction with Bitcoin whatsoever. Nevertheless, it remains a topic of great interest to me, and will undoubtedly go on to play a significant role in the future of not only global currencies, but internet commerce of all types as well.
The Social Conglomerate
For the most part I stayed away from articles attempting to explain Facebook’s reasoning in acquiring WhatsApp. That is, until Ben Thompson posted his take, where he continued the “company-as-conglomerate” trend in dubbing Facebook the Social Conglomerate. Although I found myself nodding in agreement to the majority of his post, I did take issue with one bit: towards the end, Ben called Apple a personal computing conglomerate; however, I believe a more apt designation would call Apple the quality conglomerate, pursuing excellence in not only hardware, but every aspect of the computing experience. One could certainly argue their effectiveness across the board — iCloud probably being the poster child against using “quality” as the operative word in that sentence — but you get points for trying in this game, not only for succeeding; case and point Facebook and WhatsApp.
Who cares about Office for iPad?
More of a problem than not having Microsoft Office available for iOS, I think, is the strict siloing Apple’s mobile operating system enforces: I can fulfill all my Office-related needs with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, but trying to find away around the cumbersome process of opening a document in Dropbox, sending it to Numbers for editing, and then finding a way to get it back into Dropbox so my seventy-five year old uncle can edit the spreadsheet on his computer is a massive barrier to entry for him buying an iPad; in the end, I had no choice but to recommend a Surface. Although the absence of cellular capabilities in the Surface is thankfully pushing him back towards the iPad, the mere fact that I had no choice but to recommend the former highlights a huge shortcoming in the latter.
The Existential Plight Of The Video Game Hero
Looking for a fun read over the slow weekend? Check out Linus Edwards’ article The Existential Plight Of The Video Game Hero. I planned on linking to it in my newsletter shortly after he published the piece earlier this week on Monday, but got mired in the uncertainty that ultimately led to that newsletter ending before I got the chance. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty short read. I look forward to seeing more work in this genre from him in the future though, so if you — like me — really enjoy this piece, check back often: I doubt either of us will have to wait long.
Exponent: The Garbage Truck Song
Speaking of great podcasts, Ben Thompson and James Allworth just started a new show called Exponent. In their first episode, released just a few days ago on Thursday, the pair took an interesting look at disruption theory, the innovator’s dilemma, and culture as those aspects pertain to Microsoft and Apple’s past and present situation as well influence their future directions. Rather than spending the majority of their time discussing Apple though, as many of today’s tech podcast hosts are want to do, Ben and James had one of the most level-headed, intelligent, and engaging discussions on Microsoft I have heard since the company became a headline-worthy topic once again with the elevation of Satya Nadella to CEO. Any show with this impressive roster would be worth taking note of, but these two outdid themselves here: if their future episodes are anywhere near as good as this one, Exponent is going to grow into quite the remarkable show.
The Weekly Briefly: A Writing Guide
Shawn Blanc and Patrick Rhone are two of my favorite writers. For this week’s installment of The Weekly Briefly, they teamed up and recorded A Writing Guide where they shared their thoughts on writing, motivation, building an audience, and putting yourself out there. Regardless of how good a writer you consider yourself, whether you follow these two or not, and even if you never intend to take writing beyond a nights-and-weekends hobby, I cannot recommend this episode enough: out of the hundreds of hours I have spent listening to podcasts over the last five years, this is by far and away one of the best — if not the best — episodes on writing I have ever listened to.
"The All New One"
I can see it now: “I just bought the 5S, but I’m going to go get the all new one when it comes out later this year.” Talk about a cumbersome naming convention: in this case the speaker is clearly talking about purchasing the latest iPhone, or is he? Point is, no one really knows. What a curious and poorly-executed mimicry of Apple’s admittedly clumsy naming convention by which they eschew model numbers on their iPads in favor of prepending the device’s name with “the new”. And that’s to say nothing of Apple’s inexplicable aversion to articles before product names — "iPad Mini now has a Retina display”, for example, rather than “The iPad Mini now has a Retina display" — or the initialism debacle with the 5S whereby all of Apple’s marketing materials had it listed as the “5s” in stark contrast to all previous “S” models which sported the properly-capitalized “S”. It would be so much easier if everyone could just pick a sensible and unique naming convention, and then stick to it. Hat-tip to February 19: 46 tabs from Stefan Constantinescu for the link.
Wired Writers Guild
"Build a Large Readership and Earn Your First Dollar" — it’s a goal everyone that writes on the internet strives for, but few know how to reach. Wired Writers Guild features lessons and articles designed to provide that information. Although I’m only on day three of their daily series, I have already started benefiting from them: their second issue, asking me to formalize my motivations to write and the audience I wish to target, prompted me to think long and hard about these topics and ultimately resulted in Me the Writer, which kicked off a number of changes including the cessation of my newsletter and a minor redesign. If you can’t get in to NextDraft and TabDump, or even if you can and you want a really great writing resource at your disposal, I strongly encourage you to check Wired Writers Guild out.
How The iMac Cooling Fan Stays So Silent
Originally published under the title “Future Mac Fans Will Be Smaller And Quieter Than Ever [Patent]", I couldn’t help but link to this blatant attack from Luke Dormehl. Who is he to predict the vocality or physical dimensions of Mac fans in the future? We are a community made of diverse individuals both outspoken and introverted; small and large. To so insensitively equate each and every one of us, then, making such a broad generalization as to our future is not only a claim completely unsubstantiable, but remarkably offensive as well. Getting just a little cocky over there at Cult of Mac, aren’t we?
If you’re looking to fill the void left by my now-discontinued newsletter, you could do much worse than Dave Pell’s NextDraft. I subscribed a few days ago upon a friend’s recommendation, and have enjoyed every issue since. It’s billed as “the day’s most fascinating news” so while you won’t see the more obscure type of links I tended to throw in my newsletter, Dave makes up for it with great curation. The byline does not lie: NextDraft really does feature the day’s most fascinating news. Alternately, if a daily newsletter isn’t your thing, Stefan Constantinescu publishes a daily blog post collecting interesting news articles from the past twenty-four hours in much the same way Dave Pell does with NextDraft. I wrote a short post linking to one such collection a few weeks ago, which you can find here. I subscribe to both, but I realize that not everyone will find both equally attractive. So pick whichever suits your needs; you can’t go wrong either way.
Me the Writer
A few days ago The Typist and I spent an evening talking about a number of things, one of which dealt with the difficulty of developing an audience. During that conversation, he made a rather interesting observation, saying that the giants of today’s tech scene made a name for themselves by writing about more than just one topic, whereas the common refrain these days dictates that a fledgling writer must pick one subject and stick to it. I responded in favor of this advice, for at the time I believed it the best way to differentiate oneself from the thousands of unfocused others clamoring for the finite resource that is time and attention. As I sought to explain myself though, I slowly came to realize that the advantages of this approach I considered so obvious were, in reality, not quite as clear-cut as I thought.
Two Days Matter
Interesting perspective from Stefan Constantinescu on the news. There has been a great deal of talk in similar veins as of late, questioning not only the relevance of articles written in response to news stories, but their long-term value as well. This question has been posed as particularly damning to the Apple-tech-blog niche, where it combines with the oft-cited criticism that this segment’s participants do little but constantly compliment one another. Taken in tandem, they form a juggernaut of sorts calling in to question the very worth of the profession so many writers have devoted themselves to. In the coming weeks, months, and — hopefully — years, this is a question I must think about long and hard, for my answer will inform the direction I ultimately take this site in.
How To Get Paid And Promoted Faster
Yes, the title is maybe a little too sensational for my liking; yes, “Financial Samurai” is a bit ostentatious. But you know what? Sam Dogen is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers for his terrific financial insight, and that more than makes up for any choice I may disagree with with regards to his approach to writing on the internet. Of all the sites I subscribe to and all the writers I follow, he is the only writer whose work I read regardless of topic — it’s just that good. What’s more, most of his work — in addition to providing helpful advice I have already gone on to implement as a step towards securing my financial future — can be translated and applied to the career I wish to some day have writing here. His latest article, linked above, is a great example of this valuable combination of practical advice for furthering you both in your career and your life as well, and thus something I strongly recommend you check out; and if you like it, go through his back catalog: each article is just as applicable today as it was when he first published it.
Last night I read Federico Viticci’s post about Jumpy Octopus, a Flappy Bird clone made in Python. I had the article open on my computer, so rather than navigate to the source code on my iPad, copy more than three hundred lines, and then paste them into Pythonista, I opened Command-C on both devices and sent my Mac’s clipboard contents to my iPad. Less than a minute later I had tried, grown frustrated with, and ultimately abandoned the game. This article is not about the object of my distaste though, but about the mechanics that got it there in the first place.
Headbutting the Wall
I don’t have an infant son to take care of, so I cannot speak to that adventure, but I can speak to its effects: every so often I undergo bouts of insomnia-like symptoms where no matter how much I may want to sleep, regardless of how significantly tomorrow’s test will effect my grade, it’s all I can do to hold myself still while my mind races. What am I doing tomorrow? Did I finish all my homework? Will I have time to listen to that latest podcast episode? How about write? It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything but a link post. But I have so many articles in Instapaper...will I have time to finish them tomorrow? They say those who sleep well at night will never possess the perspective to truly appreciate the inability to sleep, and I completely agree with that: shortly after these experiences end, as I forget how truly terrible the last few nights were, even I begin to lose perspective; it really wasn’t that bad, after all. But losing sleep is: I never feel motivated to do anything, nothing interests me, I have a short temper and an even shorter tolerance for others, everything loses its luster, and the list goes on and on. Least of all, I feel the urge to create: that’s the last thing I want to do after managing to fall asleep only to wake up a few hours later. I can only imagine how rough Sid has it right now.
If not the best, for even as I type this I have likely forgotten someone, then Matt Gemmell easily comes in as by far and away one of the greatest writer I have the continued privilege of reading, and one of my favorite as well. Aside from that praise, I have little to say with regards to his latest article: words fail me, and no commendation could do it justice. I am awestruck.
The Amazon Rorschach blot
I personally consider Amazon the former: “a brilliant company investing every penny of cash in building the future”. Benedict’s graph seems to support this theory: as revenue increases net income remains approximately zero; where did all that money go if not to infrastructure? Especially given the alternative that paints Amazon as “a Ponzi scheme doomed to collapse" — completely ridiculous and utterly juvenile — I find any argument discussing the future of technology and computing ignoring Amazon’s place in that narrative lacking to the point of irrelevance. Rather than asking “what” Amazon is, we ought to ask “when” we will finally see Amazon realize the potential it has been building to all these years.
The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter #5
Did you know that I write a weekly newsletter collecting cool articles and code projects from around the web? Because I do, and I think it’s pretty cool; won’t you consider signing up? If you need some extra encouragement, how about checking out the past four issues before subscribing? Because you can, just head over to the campaign archive page. The fifth issue just went out a few minutes ago. Hopefully, next Sunday the sixth will go out to you as well.
I hate to be “that guy” who takes to his website after a Twitter exchange goes south, but it seems I am becoming him more and more with each passing day. A few weeks ago after Zac Cichy and I disagreed on using mute filters to block uninteresting content, I wrote In Defense of Muting; today, this article comes hot on the heels of a debate Glenn Fleishman and I almost had after he rejected an article Linus Edwards submitted to The Magazine as “too vague and too broad for [them] to consider.” I won’t rehash the entire conversation here, but if you so desire you may read it starting with Linus’s tweet. Rather, I took a break from House of Cards to talk a bit about good writing.
Microsoft's Mobile Muddle
I cited this quote on Twitter and I’ll do so again here: “Saying ‘Microsoft missed mobile’ is a bit unfair ... Not that that should make Satya Nadella sleep any better at night.” I love this, and I found the rest of Ben’s article on Microsoft’s mobility saga very interesting as well. This is Stratēchery at its best, folks; great work by Ben Thompson, as usual.
Over the last month every time I sat down to write, all throughout the editing process, and even after I finally washed my hands of an article and published it, I would think back to a curious analogy I happened upon a few weeks ago while writing a particularly long and challenging piece. As I wrestled to clearly and with great concision convey my thoughts in that since-forgotten post, I realized that writing — for all its apparent ease — is every bit as hard as the most intense of physical exercises. Obviously in a slightly different way, using another set of muscles, but just as difficult nonetheless.
The Typist on H&FJ
Great look at the industry’s leading font providers, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, Typekit, and Google Fonts, made all the more valuable because now I won’t have to shell out $150 to ultimately go back to Google Fonts in the end. In a sense, as light bulbs are to Marco Arment, so too are fonts to The Typist in this article. Also worth noting with regards to Google’s offering is that in addition to making an ever-expanding library of fonts available for the attractive price of free, the ubiquity of these fonts over the more expensive options from H&FJ and Typekit makes caching and, thus, decreased load times something to consider as well.
An Improved Liberal, Accurate Regex Pattern for Matching URLs
Last week John Gruber updated his regular expression for matching URLs from a relatively modest 205 characters to just shy of two thousand. Given that I wrote my own Markdown parser for this site and thus spent quite a bit of time crafting regular expressions myself, his article immediately piqued my interest. Unlike John though, who wrote his to actually match URLs, mine assumes that everything formatted as a Markdown link is, in fact, a link of some fashion and deals with it accordingly. Thus, we approached the problem from two very different directions, and solved it in very different ways as a result. Perhaps in the future, if I ever take First Crack public, the ability to detect valid URLS could prove useful; however, until then, my solution works just fine, and I see absolutely no reason to change it.
Interesting article from Benedict Evans drawing parallels between the dynamics of today’s smartphone industry where device manufacturers have no idea what the next five years could hold for the platform they base their entire business upon, Android, and the days of WinTel’s dominance we are only just now beginning to see the decline of, where OEMs had concrete road maps upon which to build future devices to. This lack of stability could have served as one of the primary motivations behind Samsung agreeing to stop skinning Android: perhaps Google offered Android’s largest adopter an offer they just couldn’t pass up.
Linus Edwards on Boredom
"Don’t just complain that tech podcasts are boring, create your own tech podcast that you don’t find boring. Don’t just complain that most blogs are posting such boring echo chamber posts, post more interesting posts that explore new topics. That is what the great visionaries in history have done, fought the boredom and let it push them into areas that they didn’t find boring. That’s creativity, pushing the boundaries of what came before and creating new and interesting things.”
Over the last few months it seems everyone decided to take a break from making great things and instead spend their time complaining. First it was link blogs, at whose feet we could lay the blame for some perceived decline in intelligent discourse on the internet. After that, tech podcasts were too long, unfocused, and lacked polish. And then just recently the topic of discussion revolved around iOS games and in-app purchases, with the most recent example in Flappy Bird. There is room for this critique, to be sure: in most cases it is not only completely justifiable, but necessary in order to move forward as an industry and a community. However, complaining to the exclusion of innovating, when the former completely takes the place of the latter, certainly warrants some serious reconsideration of your priorities. It’s fine to say that you are dissatisfied with something, but don’t let that proclamation get in the way of creating something better.
Some Thoughts About Writing
Patrick Rhone shares some great insights into writing after a lifetime spent with the craft. Not just on writing though, but about blogging, setting expectations, and attaining success as well. A great read.
Bill Gates' Steve Jobs' Moment
Great piece from Ben Thompson on Satya Nadella’s recent ascension to power over at Microsoft. Although I have not followed this saga closely — a fancy way of saying that I just don’t care — I found Ben’s thoughts on the topic, as usual, very interesting. Perhaps one day we will look back on this day as the turning point after which Microsoft started an upwards trend of relevance, profitability, and innovation. Perhaps, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
The Big iPhone
Stefan Constantinescu has some very interesting ideas regarding Apple’s future plans for its mobile phone line with the launch of the iPhone 6 this fall. I wrote about my thoughts on the topic a couple weeks ago, but the possibility of an iPhone 6C built according to the new form factor of the 6 with 5S internals did not occur to me. Very interesting, both this idea and his reasoning behind the imminence of a larger iPhone, and his justification for the form factor he ultimately puts forth as most likely in the coming year. Well worth the read.
How We Failed Our Way to a Day on the Front Page of Hacker News
A few days ago I wrote Algorithmic Ineptitude, where I took Hacker News, Digg, and Reddit to task for recommending articles based on flawed algorithms rather than employing humans to perform the same task in a much better way. That same day I found a post by Alex Turnbull of Groove talking about his team’s efforts to game Hacker News. Although his well-researched, reasonable methodology ultimately failed, its existence highlights a huge shortcoming in this service to actually bring good content to the attention of its users, and I highly doubt Hacker News is the only site creators have gamed in exchange for pageviews and thus increased revenue.
Apple buys back $14 billion in stock
Right on the heels of its quarterly earnings call, after an 8% drop in price, Apple shelled out $14,000,000,000 in continuation the buyback program it started in 2012. Contrary to 9to5mac’s report, I have a hard time believing Tim Cook was at all surprised by this drop; rather, a much more likely scenario would have found him counting on such a devaluation regardless of what he said, did, or otherwise announced during the earnings call. What better time to conduct a large buyback program than at nearly 10% off? If anything, it may have surprised him that it did not fall farther. As Jim Dalrymple said, “Apple is being very strategic with every move it makes.” I completely agree.
The New Way to Work: Charlie Hoehn at TEDxCMU
I’ve seen some great critiques of TED in the past, but I really enjoyed Charlie Hoehn’s talk from 2011 on free work — essentially, what amounted to “do what you love on nights and weekends until it becomes a viable business, then take it full-time.” There is quite a bit more nuance to Charlie’s approach though, so I strongly encourage you to check his video out. It’s a bit long, but — as he said in closing — what do you have to lose?
A few days ago my girlfriend told me about the “lunk alarm”, a gimmick Planet Fitness uses to make its facilities more attractive to those who rarely go to the gym. Marketed as a judgment-free workout zone, Planet Fitness sets this alarm off whenever a patron makes too much noise during their workout; upon repeat transgressions, the gym’s managers will ask these people to leave in order to foster a less intimidating atmosphere — or so the reasoning goes. When she explained this to me I managed to meter my incredulity, but only just so.
When I sat down to write this yesterday afternoon, two of the top five articles on Hacker News were not actually articles at all: the first pointed to a Microsoft page extolling the virtues of their new CEO Satya Nadella, below which the fifth “story” linked to Firefox 27’s release notes. In no universe would any person categorize either of these pages as something that “gratifies one’s intellectual curiosity.” In fact, I would say we can look forward to watching the former appear “on TV news” ad nauseam in the coming days and, perhaps, weeks as well. Nevertheless, both climbed out of obscurity and to the front page of this popular site despite violating the Hacker News submission guidelines not because someone decided Satya needed more publicity, or that Mozilla releasing the twenty-seventh iteration of the new Internet Explorer was in any way noteworthy, but because an algorithm put them there.
Writing For The Web
I completely agree with Sid here: the growth of the internet as a widely-accepted medium through which to publish one’s thoughts and opinions as was once handled exclusively through corporate newspaporial publications with batteries of editors at their disposal has led to a net decline in literary quality over the last few years. The popularity of the link blog certainly did not help, perhaps it even compounded the already steady march, but to lay all the blame at John Gruber et al.'s feet would be to erroneously attribute them with an inevitable decline facilitated by lowering a barrier to entry much higher in the internet’s earlier years than it is today. So spend just a bit more time editing: your readers will appreciate it, you will take greater pride in your work, and you just might make Sid’s day.
Back in January Linus Edwards started “The Podcasters”, a series of articles in which he interviews podcast producers from all walks of life around the world. Beginning with Ben Alexander of Fiat Lux, continuing with The Menu Bar and — more recently — Life and Code and Stuff’s Andrew Clark, Linus just posted the third installment wherein he spoke with Slovenian podcaster Anže Tomić about the shows he does on Apparatus. If you glossed over these interviews when Linus started posting them, I encourage you to given them a chance: Ben and Andrew both had very interesting and tenuously-related answers to Linus’s last question, “Would you like to change anything about your current podcasting setup?", and Anže’s setup and his thoughts on equipment alone make the short interview worth reading.
February 04: 57 tabs
A few days ago Stefan Constantinescu of Tab Dump wrote an article titled Making Some Bets, where he announced his decision to go fully independent and rely on his writing to support himself. The latest in a string of similar resolutions, his decision gained a bit of attention, through which I came across February 04: 57 tabs earlier this morning. The broad range of topics he covers makes for very interesting reading and highlights great articles I would never have found otherwise, but I could get that from any old news reader. Rather, it is the unique format and accompanying succinct summarizations that I find so compelling about Stefan’s new daily venture, and it doesn’t hurt that he includes enough articles to keep me set for a day or two, at least, with each installment. I really like this new thing Stefan decided to do, and I think you will too. Definitely go check it out.
Computer Programming as a Foreign Language
Just last week the Kentucky Senate passed a bill by which computer programming classes would count towards a student’s foreign language requirement in high school. Although at first I wanted to see this as a boon for teenagers who would now have the ability to enter college or the workforce better technologically prepared, just as the bill’s proponents and Jim Dalrymple, who originally linked to this piece do, I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing after all.
Cubed Episode 17: What a Week in Tech!
Around minute 44:33 of Cube’s latest episode, Ben Bajarin theorized that Google’s motivation in selling Motorola to Lenovo while Samsung simultaneously agreed to scale back their customization of Android could have come about as a result of Samsung desiring access to a concrete feature road map which they could build to in the future. In my last article, Retroactively Planning, I talked about how Samsung’s backwards strategy in which rather than approaching future product creation with a long-held guiding philosophy they must now scramble to infer one from existing successful products is ultimately doomed to failure. Ben’s theory fits nicely into this picture as a move Samsung could be taking in an attempt at having greater control over their destiny. However, without an underlying theory guiding the decisions they say yes and no to throughout the creation process, I stand by my original idea: I feel this newfound knowledge will change little with regards to Samsung’s future.
Upon reaching a goal you cannot look back on the journey in search of the process that led you to success; you will invariably romanticize the past, shedding mediocre choices in a complimentary light, discounting difficult challenges, and misremembering strokes of genius in situations where there was none. In short, this exercise will ultimately only ensure that you never replicate any form of that success again. Rather than flying by the seat of your pants and relying on a postmortem to delineate good steps from bad, a much better approach would advocate starting with a solid and detailed plan, a well thought-out course of action, for you cannot go from the other way around and reasonably hope to make even mediocre achievements.
Cabin Porn Roundup
A few more of my favorite cabins alongside some great articles on related topics and stories. If you have any interest in checking out my previous collections, start here at the beginning, then continue with November and December’s lists. If not, read on.
Death by Papercut
After buying my first Mac a few months ago, I soon grew quite fond of it as the most powerful computer I have owned to date. It zips through every task I can think to throw at it, and I can spend an entire day working without needing an outlet. Even better, it takes up so little space and ads such insignificant weight to my backpack that I regularly reach behind me just to make sure I didn’t forget it somewhere. My 15” Retina MacBook Pro not only outclasses every one of my previous computers in raw processing power, I can confidently say that this device is the best I have ever owned. And then to sweeten the deal, Mavericks puts my past operating systems to shame. Especially coming from the current Windows world undergoing a forced devolution to Windows 8, I did not realize how relieved I would feel back in the traditional desktop computing paradigm ironically only present in OS X these days.
Bev on the Web
Another great post I found during my WordPress escapade. Seems like she’s coming back to writing for all the right reasons. Keep up the good work, Annie, and never stop improving.
Having emptied my Instapaper queue last night and early this morning, I went back to my old stomping ground, WordPress, in search of some interesting articles on topics outside of Apple and, possibly, technology as well. I try to do this ever so often, looking to break the Apple-centric trend so many link blogs invariably fall in to these days. Today, pursuant of that goal, I found this great piece by a high school English teacher on tangents during lectures. I must confess, I have done my fair share or rejoicing when a teacher started going down a rabbit hole. Some have been more transparent than others in allowing themselves this diversion, but I invariably felt that I and my classmates had pulled on over on her. Ha! Anyway, I really enjoyed this short article, her writing style, and her approach to a topic of great interest to me, so I went ahead and subscribed. How about you? Go spend a few minutes looking for something outside the norm. You won’t regret it, I promise.
In 2012, Shawn Blanc marked the fifth anniversary of starting his site by publishing an article titled 50 Things I’ve Learned About Publishing a Weblog. Filled with some of the best advice I have ever read on the subject, I return to this article every few months, gleaning just a little bit more each time. When I look back on the years since I started following Shawn, this piece stands out in my mind as his best work. And so, given how much I enjoyed his advice, I thought I would create my own list of lessons learned over the last few years of writing on the web.
The End of Higher Education's Golden Age
“Our current difficulties are not the result of current problems. They are the bill coming due for 40 years of trying to preserve a set of practices that have outlived the economics that made them possible.”
Thanks to John Siracusa for the link, as a college student I found this excellent article on the problems facing higher education especially interesting and well worth the time it will take you to read through once or, maybe, even twice — it’s just that good.
In Defense of Muting
Inspired by an exchange Zac Cichy and I had on Twitter earlier today, and further prompted when Zac made another series of very pointed remarks earlier this evening, I decided now was as good a time as any to step away from the Apple sphere and talk about Twitter for a little bit.
Crossing The Musical Finish Line
If you scrolled past Linus Edwards’s latest article for some reason, disinterested in the topic of music and his thoughts on the subject, 1) you’re wrong, go read it anyway; it’s great, and b) after you have read through it once, go back, replace “music” with “idea”, and it suddenly becomes even more impactful.
Apple to close down, because the company is just so sick of analysts
Absolutely hilarious fictitious recount of the Apple quarterly earnings call, all the funnier because Peter Oppenheimer and Apple’s other C-level executives would be perfectly justified in responding this way.
The Apple Problem
“Of course, most of these challenges are going to also impact Apple’s competitors in the higher-end device space — they aren’t unique to Apple. Plus, Apple has proven over and over again that they’re able to innovate in way that its competitors can only dream about. So, don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried about Apple’s long-term fate in the least. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t see a bumpy road over the next few quarters and that’s an Apple problem that has to be given serious thought.”
Bob O’Donnell writing for Tech.pinions with an excellent article published in the wake of Apple’s recent quarterly earnings call. Unlike most of the commentary I have done my best to avoid thus far, Bob takes a refreshingly even-handed approach to the topic. The coming year will indeed be an interesting one for Apple and the entire mobile computing industry alike.
The iPhone Company
An interesting article from MG Siegler explaining the importance of the iPhone to today’s Apple and Apple years down the road as the smartphone market approaches saturation and mobile phone sales, inevitably, begin to decline.
Eve Online wages largest war in its 10 year history
Almost a year ago today I linked to Penny Arcade’s coverage of the famed Battle of Asakai, a war that occurred in the popular game Eve Online and consisted of roughly 3,000 players. As if to commemorate the massive battle’s anniversary, several coalitions are currently in the process of finishing the largest fight in the game’s history even as I write this. I said it before and I will say it again: “I still can’t quite wrap my head around a fight consisting of more than 3,000 individuals. Amazing."
The March Towards Uniformity
A few days ago Lorraine Luk, Eva Dou, and Daisuke Wakabayashi wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal conservatively titled — the hallmark of this upstanding publication — Apple iPhones to Come Out With Bigger Screens. It sparked a great deal of primarily confirmatory discussion over the next few days, during which Ben Thompson spoke out in favor of this rumor. Citing the Asian market’s desire for large devices, Ben made a compelling case for larger phones as Apple seeks to capitalize on the massive Chinese mobile phone industry. John Gruber, on the other hand, did not feel similarly inclined, and made a few valid points discounting The Wall Street Journal’s piece.
Coding in color
I spend quite a bit of time writing Python in Sublime Text, navigating documents whose line counts range from ten to five hundred. System variables — "False”, “%s”, “%Y" — and integers render in purple, strings in yellow, flow control statements — "for”, “while”, “if" — in red, and built-in functions — "open”, “sorted”, “len" — all display with an electric blue tint. These keywords only make up a small portion of my scripts, however; for the rest, I dig through line upon line of white variable names and regular expression operations. So when I saw this article from Evan Brooks on coding in color — essentially, implementing semantic highlighting rather than syntax highlighting — I could immediately realize the practical application of the former over the latter. Unfortunately, given the way semantic versus syntax highlighting works though, few editors support it natively.
The Second Web Conglomerate
Rather than asking “Is Yahoo Even Worth Trying To Save?”, a more apropos question would ask not if Yahoo! was worth rescuing, but instead if Marissa Mayer — or anyone, for that matter — could actually keep the company afloat, for to operate under the assumptions imposed by the latter would be to approach this issue from the wrong direction entirely. As Harshil Shah points out in his aforecited article, Steve Jobs managed a drastic course correction of the caliber needed at Yahoo! when he made his triumphant return after the floundering Apple purchased NeXT. With that notable exception, no one else in recent history has successfully conducted such a significant change. To use that anomalous revival in support of the argument that Marissa Mayer could, if her company warranted salvation, save Yahoo!, however, does not take into account the very distinct differences between Apple of the late 1990s and the Yahoo! of today.
Hey, Look At Me, Bigtime Bloggers
“You can’t just do good work, you have to cultivate relationships and promote what you’ve done. That is, if your goal is for more people to read and enjoy your stuff.”
Exactly. The Typist made a good point when responding to Sid’s article, saying, “People who have made it rarely admit the role randomness played in their journeys.” It’s a racket, this whole blogging thing, but we still wake up and do it every day instead of getting that extra hour of sleep, or going out with friends, or sitting down to watch that movie with the family. I got lucky when Jim Dalrymple linked to one of my articles earlier this month, and I have done my best to take advantage of that influx in attention ever since. I know good content played a part in that fortunate happenstance, but I also realize luck did as well, and that without the friends I have made as a result of them finding and enjoying my site, Jim’s link would have made for nothing more than a single spike and then nothing.
Loving Your Livelihood
One day Kurt J. Mac decided to walk to the edge of Minecraft. Three years later he has turned what many would call a trivial pursuit into a viable revenue stream, allowing him to quit his job and take this journey full-time after identifying a way to distinguish his work and support himself thanks to the popularity of the videos he creates. His approach should sound familiar: almost everyone in the independent writer bubble — those fortunate enough to do this for a living and the people who follow them — seeks to accomplish this very goal at some point in their lives. Especially coming from an industry traditionally antithetical to this one, the similarities in approaches to fulfilling this dream are interesting.
Interesting article from Benedict Evans talking about the difficulty of fully understanding even one aspect of the internet or the mobile device industry. Unfortunately, all too many not only fail to accept this, but operate under the assumption that they do, in fact, have a comprehensive grasp of multiple topics on a wide range of subjects. This erroneous thinking has a significant impact on the formation of many tech writers’ opinions and thus their work as well, and not for the better. Ironically, as Benedict pointed out, it also leads to some of the greatest innovations when creating actual products. Without the restrictions imposed by preconceived notions regarding what will and will not work, it’s no wonder it takes a certain degree of cluelessness to attain greatness.
The Mac keeps going forever
I generally dislike interviews, but Jason Snell did a great job with this one. With the incredible popularity of the iPhone and, although to a slightly lesser degree, the iPad these days, it’s easy to disregard the Mac’s significance. Thankfully, Apple’s senior leadership does not make that same mistake.
My Road to Gaming
A few years ago when I decided to start exploring the world of PC gaming, I set out with three criteria: it could not, like major titles such as Call of Duty or Ghost Recon, require a significant amount of capital just for the the privilege of participating in this hobby. Whatever I ended up choosing had to have a low price tag or, preferably, cost nothing at all. Further, my distraction of choice had to run well on a mediocre machine: I refused to suffer through jittery gameplay on an overclocked processor. Finally, it must not require a great deal of time and effort just to attain a reasonable level of proficiency. I had precious little of either to spend gaming, and none if my unwillingness to eschew everything pursuing a skill of arguably practical application meant a thirteen year old who did nothing but tap himself closer to RSI every day would beat me repeatedly. These stringent criteria left me few candidates, primarily small Flash applets like Helli Attack 31 and Motherload. As you might imagine, each of these gave back in accordance with the amount of effort I put in; in other words, very little. So I set off in search of something more fulfilling.
For the Love of Money
Hat-tip to Shawn Blanc for the original link, former hedge-fund manager Sam Polk talks about his amazing journey from addict college dropout to making nearly four million dollars in a single bonus, to say nothing of his base salary and any other dividends accrued throughout the year. If you, like me and so many others, have ever thought, “If I could just win the lottery, think of all the great things I could do; all the problems that money would solve”, you ought to read this; even if you have never thought that, you should still read this. It’s an incredible and harrow story of wealth, greed, and, ultimately, redemption.
When TED Talks Turn Evil
Before Benjamin Bratton posted the transcript and then full video of his TEDx talk titled “We need to talk about TED”, I cannot remember ever seeing anyone seriously criticize this group. Now, though, it seems not a week goes by without someone taking a particular speaker or the entire conference to task for some harebrained, far-fetched, and implausible scheme that somehow made it to this once-revered stage. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Joe Rosensteel Starter Pack
As detailed in The Curse of Preconceived Notions, before Monday night I had not read any of Joe Rosensteel’s work; instead, I had wrongly disregarded it in any capacity surpassing that of humorous entertainment. When I finally came to my senses and started reading his blog though, starting with The Ubiquitous Yak for the Discerning Obsessive, I found that I really enjoy his thoughts and opinions. So for anyone else that, like me, made a similar mistake, I thought I would compile a short list of my favorite articles from Joe, to give you somewhere to start.
Introducing The Weekly Briefly Podcast
I listened to every episode of The B&B Podcast back when Shawn Blanc and Ben Brooks recorded it once a week up until just shy of a year ago. It came as a great disappointment, then, when it ended rather abruptly. Thankfully, I did not have to go without for long: today, Shawn announced a new weekly show to be released alongside his members-only Shawn Today podcast. I already subscribed, and I recommend you do as well: if The Weekly Brief is anything like its predecessor or reflects even a portion of its creator’s great work, it will be well worth the time.
While on the topic, I would just like to say that it’s encouraging to see my idea of a members-only show with a public counterpart validated by a writer I respect as much as I do Shawn Blanc. If nothing else, it shows that I’m on the right track.
Given my recent track record, you could probably predict what I will write about next just by following Linus Edwards on Twitter and reading his site. Yesterday, Linus posed a thought-provoking question asking for thoughts regarding paid memberships for independent writers, saying that he did not believe in them given their ineffectiveness. An interesting conversation ensued in which many weighed in both for and against. I did not, however, choosing to instead save my opinions for this article.
The Curse of Preconceived Notions
Until yesterday, every time someone mentioned Joe Steel or his blog, I immediately thought of Terrible Podcast Screenplays. I had equated Joe to this one Tumblr, and that humorous pursuit to Joe. In my mind, they were one and the same. As a result, whenever someone referred to his work, I absentmindedly categorized it as comedic and of little value beyond a source of entertainment, and disregarded it accordingly. Late last night though, I read — and posted about — The Ubiquitous Yak for the Discerning Obsessive because I finally gave Joe’s site a chance, and because he really impressed me with his writing. I then spent the next half hour reading his last twenty blog posts, finally rectifying this egregious lapse in judgment.
The Ubiquitous Yak for the Discerning Obsessive
When Sid O’Neill posted Farewell to Text Files, I read his article but really had nothing to say on the topic. One person left the world of plain text files — "so what?", as Dan and Merlin love saying. But Joe Steele’s response, cited above, made me reconsider Sid’s predicament: the low barrier to entry plain text afforded him made testing new writing apps too easy to resist, and so Sid spent more time experimenting than working. At some point in our lives, we have all gone through something similar: I did last month when I disavowed gaming and pledged myself to the constant betterment of this site. Abandoning text files was Sid’s equivalent to my denunciation of gaming. Framed this way, I applaud Sid’s decision: if leaving this format is what it takes for you to write more, then by all means, carry on. You could do much worse than “trading” versatility for productivity.
Sans the rather generic name, I really like Workflow. As an unnamed individual demos the app, he shows off impressive system integration by dragging Editorial-like pre-defined actions taking advantage of the camera, music, and AirDrop APIs into a queue and running it. Alternately, Workflow can also transform these processes into their own standalone apps. Wow. Impressive, to say the least. Even with such a basic feature set as the one on exhibit in its demo video, an app like Workflow has the potential to completely change the current state of inter-app communication, taking it from a tedious task necessitating difficult URL creation and fairly extensive knowledge of Python to a relatively easy process with a much lower barrier to entry. Unfortunately, I feel some of these abilities may fall outside the boundaries of the App Store’s rules, and thus Workflow may never graduate to a full-fledged app; however, I would love to be proven wrong.
Google's three Ps
Last week Ben Thompson posted two fantastic articles describing the inevitable shift in business models 2014 will likely bring about and the actual implications of Nest’s acquisition by Google, respectively. Then, Friday afternoon, Horace Dediu chimed in with his own fascinating two cents when he published Google’s three Ps. As interesting as I find their examinations of Apple, I enjoyed these in-depth looks at Google immensely.
The Reasons I Write
Back from a weekend camping, I had a lot of catching up to do. Beginning with some four hundred unread tweets yesterday afternoon and approximately fifty RSS items, I have finally made my way to Instapaper where I had Linus Edwards’s ninth installment of his Daily Zen series — The Daily Zen #9 “Exposed & Obscured” — waiting for me. I only found his blog recently, but given the nature of his last post it came as no surprise that I liked this one a great deal. Specifically, his thoughts on why we, as a community, write on the internet and publishing our own personal blogs struck me in particular:
The Daily Slog
You might consider this article a thinly-veiled stopgap to inevitably breaking my streak of publishing at least one new post every day. While one could certainly make that case, for I did pick this topic while searching for something to write about today, its origin does not change the relevancy of this subject.
Thinking About An iPad Pro
I have written a number of articles in the past speculating as to what an iPad Pro could do to differentiate itself from Apple’s two existing models and thus merit its addition to the lineup. In all those posts, my proposed device most closely tracked with Federico’s “Option B: A ‘Pro’ iPad With Substantial Software & Hardware Changes”. Like Federico, I find the case for the alternatives — his “Option A” and “Option C" — difficult to make, to say the least. I won’t rehash each of my articles or Federico’s points here, but suffice it to say that I think it very likely that we will see an iPad Pro very soon from Apple. With the 2013 Mac Pro ironically shipping in 2014, perhaps 2014 will be the year of the Pro.
Thinking About the Future
The past ten days have astounded me. I entered 2014 with low expectations, tentatively hoping to increase my readership by some small integer multiple year over year. Over the next two weeks, however, I surpassed traffic for the entirety of 2013 with fifteen days left in January. What’s more, these readers keep coming back: although pageviews decreased after the initial surge from Jim Dalrymple’s link faded, my readership has continued to grow since then at an impressive (and mildly alarming) rate. RSS subscriptions have increased as well by a factor of five, and I now have nearly as many signed up for my newsletter as I had daily visitors in 2013. This has given me a great deal to think about, and forced me to keep my head down working feverishly in my every spare moment. Now, though, with a brief respite between articles, I have started thinking about the future.
Many have called the blogging racket an echo chamber, wherein one popular writer says something mildly interesting and everyone else immediately links to that article with trite, nuanced comments tacked on after a paragraph or two taken in excerpt. Anyone following Joshua Ginter and I over the last few days would have seen us epitomize the circular nature of that stereotype in our recent exchanges, albeit sans popularity: first, I wrote Doing Monetization Well, and Josh replied with a thoughtful piece titled Cashing In A Blog. Continuing the cycle, I then published Tangible Goals, to which Josh wrote in response with Zac Szewczyk’s Tangible Goals. However, we did much more than frivolously compliment each other.
My Tools and Toys
I decided to start this article in response to a remark Linus Edwards made saying that although a tech blogger, he felt like a bad one given his lack of knowledge regarding the intricacies of RSS, which prevented him from keeping an accurate record of those subscribers. I faced a similar problem shortly after launching this site, but solved it soon afterwards. As they say though, every day someone comes into the world having never seen the Flintstones. Today I thought I would take some time to explain how I go about doing what I do here in the hopes that it will save someone time, energy, and frustration in the future, or just make their life a little bit easier through a new app or service they had previously never heard of. Before I can get into the nitty-gritty details of back-end sites and services though, I must provide a frame of reference by talking about the front-end devices and apps I use on a daily basis.
Google's New Business Model
“In my estimation, [the Nest] deal is not about getting more data to support Google’s advertising model; rather, this is Google’s first true attempt to diversify its business.”
Ben Thompson once again, continuing his streak of great articles with this gem. I found his “Some additional notes” section particularly interesting, where he explained the implications of this move to the other major tech companies of today.
Business Models For 2014
A fascinating look at the current state of business models and their inevitable future from Ben Thompson over at Stretēchery. An excellent article well worth the read going in to 2014. Especially in this coming year, I believe, this knowledge and a solid understanding of it will prove invaluable.
The Road to Geekdom
When I started this website, I had a number of misgivings. For example, every writer I looked up to had already done this for years or, in some cases, even decades; what could I possibly contribute to such a mature community? I had missed the boat, failed to get in on the ground floor — what hope could I have of rivaling the skill, insight, and popularity of folks like John Siracusa? I struggle similarly with my desire to build an app. But, as John points out in his article ostensibly about his journey to U2 geekdom, time does not automatically impart upon anyone the necessary traits common to geeks; rather, they are born from a great deal of effort, and anyone that tells you otherwise, that there is some barrier to entry beyond that, is wrong.
Yesterday, Josh Ginter responded to my article Doing Monetization Well with a very thoughtful post of his own. To no great surprise on my part, he questioned the viability of sponsorships at my low threshold of just 2,000 visitors per month. I expected someone would, and I can not fault Josh for doing so: I picked such low numbers on purpose because I wanted to have tangible, achievable goals I felt some confidence in my ability to attain. Even if I only get ten or fifteen dollars a months, that will cover hosting and take this from a cost center to a profitable venture, while simultaneously setting me on the path to further monetization down the road as my readership continues to expand. In my eyes, that’s a win.
Your Verse, My Inspiration
I will not pretend to have some groundbreaking insight born of years watching Apple and scrutinizing its marketing tactics, but perhaps this inability to immediately evaluate, classify, and dismiss Your Verse works to my advantage in this case. In his article written shortly after the ad went live, Stephen Hackett conveyed his general disappointment in Apple at employing a tactic of engendering a powerful emotional response from its viewers once again, as it did last month with Misunderstood. Others have made similar criticisms, some even going on to chastise Apple for making their latest ad unrelatable.
The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter, Issue #1
Who, What, Where, When, and How?
Prompted by a question from Shibel early this morning wondering how I determine where to publish a given article, to my site or my new newsletter, I decide what content goes where and when to release it based on a relatively simple heuristic: when I write for my website I strive to do so in service of furthering the overarching narrative with regards to topics I currently have some degree of interest in. Pursuant of this goal, I write long form articles and link to others’ work who have varying viewpoints and provide commentary I feel my readers will value but may not otherwise see elsewhere. I started The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter to have a place in which I could write without those restrictions, somewhere that I could publish my thoughts on any given topic not beholden to a desire to advance its associated conversation. This will manifest itself in new genres I have previously only covered on occasion or not at all.
The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter
Although still waiting for the dust to settle after Jim Dalrymple linked to my article Doing Monetization Well, I believe I will cross the twenty readers per day line once my traffic returns to normal. As promised, I started a newsletter tentatively titled The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter. Unfortunately, more than the title needs work; however, I have done the vast majority of the heavy lifting today, so from here on out I can focus on small design tweaks and pour most of my efforts into collecting cool code projects and interesting articles I deign not to craft extensive articles for, but still wish to write about in some capacity for future issues. The first installment will go out tomorrow evening at 6:00; I hope your name will be on the list.
The Daily Zen #8 "Winners, Losers, & High School"
“Markets can sustain more than one company or product. There doesn’t have to be an ultimate winner in everything, and most of the time the market is fragmented into various successful companies and products. You can have Android with a huge market share and still have iOS be successful and profitable; neither side has to kill the other to survive. Markets are endlessly complex things filled with shades of gray, and while it’s nice to try and fit them into set boxes, it’s fantasy, plain and simple.”
An excerpt from another installment of the Daily Zen, a series of articles Linus Edwards — who distilled a lengthy Twitter conversation into a great article titled The Hard Way just a few days ago — endeavors to post daily. I found this observation especially interesting when applied to the world of writers who publish independently on their own websites, where many possess the incorrect notion that one individual’s success must come at the expense of another’s. In both cases, this is an equally incorrect belief.
Mac OS X: My Setup Tips & App Recommendations
On the topic of writers I have only just recently discovered, The Typist wrote a great article about his conversion to a Mac: the motivations that preluded it and the software that facilitated his switch. I learned a few new tricks and found some cool new software here, so while I may disagree with his statements that one could purchase a PC approximately 150% faster than a MacBook Pro for slightly less, I enjoyed his article and look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
Finally getting around to a few blogs I have wanted to check out for almost a week now, earlier this morning I read Harshil Shah’s third blog post since starting his new site. I enjoyed his refreshing honesty, and his new approach seems like a great middle ground between pushing so hard he burns out once again and posting two articles for the entirety of 2013. I look forward to reading more of his excellent writing very soon, and you should too.
Bespoke Morning Reads
After catching up on the latest episode of White Collar1 and clearing my Instapaper queue, I spent the rest of my morning going through a few gear websites. While not all carry wares with the vintage feel that almost every item on Huckberry’s store has, each site picks out the best product for its respective category, whether styled to match this century or not. Personally, I prefer the former: I love gear and apparel that could have come out of a 1900s-era general store. It looks cool, works great, and I know it will last so long as I take care of it.
A Complete Redesign in Twelve Hours
Over the last few days I have received a ton of great feedback on both a number of my articles and my site’s design as well. While the former has remained consistently positive, the latter refrain almost invariably included the same two criticisms: that I had set the font too small, and that every line contained too many words spread much too far across the screen for a comfortable reading experience. Others recommended that I find a way to differentiate linked list items from my own posts, but by and large the most common suggestion advocated a larger font size and decreased content column width. Today, I have addressed those issues and many others with my latest redesign, live with this article.
How and when the iMac and Mac Pro can go Retina
Like Casey Liss I did not particularly care for John Siracusa and Marco Arment’s incessant Mac Pro banter, but kept listening because I enjoy their thoughts and opinions so much. I found Marco’s latest post, however, where he explained why he believes we will not see a true Retina iMac-caliber display for quite some time, very interesting.
“To bring Retina to the 27” iMac and 27” Thunderbolt Display, Apple doesn’t need to wait until 5120x2880 panels are available. They can launch them at the next-lowest common resolution and use software scaling to let people simulate it if they want, or display things slightly larger at perfect native resolution. ... That next resolution down, of course, is 4K."
The Hard Way
Leading up to Linus Edwards’s promise of an article after he, I, and a number of others had an incredibly long conversation about growing one’s readership and attracting attention on Twitter yesterday, I had been toying with the idea of writing one myself. However, when he decided to put his own post together, I chose to forgo mine until he published his. As it turns out, I did the right thing: reading The Hard Way earlier this afternoon, it was as if I had written it myself. Linus covered all the points I would have and even told a story that could have just as easily fit my experience working to drive traffic towards my work. All in all, an excellent retrospective and a great starting point for anyone thinking of launching their own website.
AT&T Unveils Sponsored Data
Last November, I barely managed to stay within my data limit: roughly halfway through, Verizon sent me a message saying that I had already reached 90% of my alloted bandwidth. Given that I had just recently decided to stream all of my music with iTunes Match rather than sync more than a thousand songs to a newly replaced iPhone, it should have come as no surprise. For the following two weeks I carefully metered my 3G usage, doing far less on my phone than usual; nevertheless, I soon hit 95% and, wanting to avoid an overage charge, stopped opening even images on Twitter off of WiFi. Thankfully, my billing cycle ended soon after that and I could start with a clean, music streaming-free slate.
Mophie Announces the Space Pack: An iPhone Battery Case With Local Storage
Aside from Matt and Myke’s recent CES discussions, Mophie’s newest battery pack is by far the coolest thing I have seen come out of CES this year. When I upgrade to an iPhone 6 this fall, I plan to make this my second purchase: rather than go with the 32GB model, giving myself ample room to expand after only recently transitioning from an 8GB iPhone 4 to a 16GB 4S, buying the Space Pack I will save me $100 by allowing me to get the 16GB iPhone 6, which I can then use towards Mophie’s $150 case. Given that I would have bought a different case for somewhere in the neighborhood of $30, though, the Space Pack’s price will essentially be a wash in which I end up with a Juice Pack Air and the same storage capacity I would have otherwise.
50 Things I've Learned About Publishing a Weblog
Although published back in 2012, every day I come to realize the truth in Shawn Blanc’s words just a little bit more. Even if he does discount the vast majority of his own counsel as general life advice more applicable there than on one’s website, I believe he makes an unnecessary distinction in doing so: when you begin to take writing seriously and it ceases to be something you have to do and instead becomes something you not only want to do but need to do, it has transformed from a hobby to a way of life inextricably linked to the person you are today. At that point, both have become one and the same.
Zac Cichy started a new blog last month titled “Whole and Part”. Since then, he has consistently published great articles, particularly with regards to podcasts. From Ben Alexander’s article linked at the top of this post, “He’s transcribing portions of podcasts as source material for blog posts. His quotes are timestamped and he links directly to the episode in question.” Ben goes on to commend Zac further and detail some future plans for his podcast syndicate Fiat Lux. If either of these two or their respective sites are unfamiliar to you, I strongly recommend you check out both Zac’s site and Ben’s podcasts for truly exceptional work.
When will smartphones saturate?
“Although 2013 was often cited as the year when smartphones saturated (‘everybody that wants one has one'), the total population of users will likely take another decade to reach maximum. The point of inflection in global growth could be expected in 2017. ... What most observers sensed was the point of inflection in growth in North America and Western Europe. Those regions are 11% of the world’s population.”
A characteristically excellent article by Horace Dediu of Asymco. Horace Dediu, Benedict Evans, and Ben Thompson constantly vie for the top spot as my favorite data-driven writer. As much as I enjoyed Chromebooks and the Cost of Complexity, Horace might have inched his way ahead with this one. As usual, I find his perspective on data — even more so than his revered graphs — fascinating.
Chromebooks and the Cost of Complexity
Had I picked one paragraph or sentence as a pull quote from Ben Thompson’s Chromebooks and the Cost of Complexity, I would have done the rest of his article a great disservice by holding one fascinating line above another equally excellent passage. Having read Stratēchery for a few months now, I can honestly say that out of all his articles, I consider this one by far and away his best.
Also of interest, Ben posted a followup piece earlier today titled The Best Analogy for Chromebooks are iPads, where he explained the use case of a Chromebook and its similarity to that of an iPad. When I can justify another large technology expenditure, I will have to do some serious work to talk myself out of a Chromebook after these two articles.
The Last App You Open Before Bed
A few days ago, MG Siegler posited that the app you open first every day signals a great deal about both the current state of apps and your present state of mind. After posting my take, I kept thinking. Eventually, I decided that even more telling than the app you launch first every day is the last app you open before bed every night.
Speeding Mistake Ad
As a rule I avoid publishing links to articles I find on popular tech sites such as Jim Dalrymple’s when I do not have anything significant to add to the conversation, but I had to make an exception for this post. When I watched it earlier this morning, I immediately tried to discount it and distance myself from the discomfort it caused me. I have pushed the speed limit on occasion — albeit never so egregiously — and rarely thought about the potential consequences besides a speeding ticket. Everyone who owns a car ought to watch this video, and think long and hard about it next time they feel like punching it.
The First App You Open In The Morning
At first, I thought I — like Federico — launched Tweetbot before any other apps every morning. However, after a some thinking I realized that not to be the case: I open Facebook Messenger right out of bed to send a quick “Good morning” off to my girlfriend — because Messages never works for us — followed by Instacast while I make and eat breakfast. If I have time between breakfast and leaving for work, only then do I get to Twitter.
Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?
In my early days as a fledgling internet writer, back when I posted at blog-that-shall-not-be-named-dot-provider-dot-com, I worked hard to increase my readership. Taking lessons from anyone willing to give them, I delved into WordPress.com’s fantastic blogging community and networked with other like-minded individuals. We read each others’ articles, commented, and even planned to start a number of joint ventures together. Although in its infancy, even back in 2007 I also looked to drive traffic towards my work with podcast advertisements. As the years wore on I unfortunately moved away from these venues and on to Hacker News and Twitter, where I have remained to date with little to show for my efforts.
Vlcnr 1.0 Released
Taking a quick break from my next article I will hopefully publish late tonight, John Voorhees worked with Myke Hurley and Matt Alexander of Bionic to create Vlcnr 1.0. Featuring the show’s hallmark suspense accents one through eight and an easter egg that plays random clips from the show, I downloaded the app sight on seen. Not to steal Matt’s idea, but I have to say: I have been testing this app for quite some time now, it’s really great. Those of you unfamiliar with Bionic will likely think it ridiculous; for everyone else, might as well pack up and leave: 2014 has peaked.
Doing Monetization Well
Recently, I have started thinking seriously about monetizing this site. Although I could not command the same rate John Gruber, Marco Arment, or even Federico Viticci does, nearly 3,500 unique visitors in 2013 has to count for something. Moreover, I plan to grow that number significantly throughout the coming year. The question remains, however, how I ought to go about doing that or, perhaps more saliently, how I should not.
A True Budget iPhone
To paraphrase Benedict Evans in episode twelve of Cubed, around 12:20, Samsung has the talent, resources, and funds to mass produce any type of hardware, and so they substitute taste and design sense with covering all possible bases in order to determine successful product lines. Apple only recently accrued the former, so up until a few years ago they operated solely on taste and design sense. Now that they have the scale to adopt a similar strategy as Samsung though, they see no point in implementing a lesser process having already perfected the greater one Samsung developed a methodology to emulate. This is the fundamental difference between the ways Samsung and Apple build products: one carefully selects its targets, while the other uses a blunderbuss to obliterate the target, its stand, and anything within a close range. Ultimately both accomplish the requisite goal, only one does so more elegantly and with much fewer casualties.
Thinking Brett Terpstra had expanded nvALT into an iOS counterpart, I opened Chris Gonzales’s post on Tools & Toys reviewing nvNotes for iPhone curious to see what he had made and his justifications for such a move. To my surprise, the only relation nvNotes has to either Notational Velocity or nvALT lies in inspiration: created by Nicholas Clapp, it takes cues from both aforementioned apps in its utilitarian aesthetic and strong feature set. Despite its many benefits though, nvNotes’ infancy in relation to the likes of Drafts unfortunately shines through in many areas.
A Fundamental Disparity
Reading through Ben Bajarin’s recent article on Tech.pinions, it reminded me of the incredible disparity between those who inhabit the Apple sphere and regular people with regards to knowledge of Apple’s intended direction. This lack of understanding leads uninitiated reporters and laypeople alike to frame Apple in the same way they would a much more familiar business such as Target or Walmart: one expands into groceries, the other follows suit; Samsung makes bigger phones, Apple must do so as well in order to survive. Such wildly off-base associations stem from this apathetic incomprehension and betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the very different ways these two companies design products, yet those same people who cannot grasp these truths we hold to be self-evident nevertheless feel compelled to write their trite opinions concerning Apple’s future. I cannot understand why anyone spends time discussing those articles.
Apple's 2013 Scorecard
In direct opposition to Christopher Mims’ belief that the technology industry as a whole collectively failed to accomplish virtually anything significant — see John Gruber and Marco Arment’s refutations — in 2013, John Siracusa outlines eight areas of ten that Apple met his expectations well enough to merit a respectable grade. Personally, I would place much more stock in this list.
Yesterday I linked to an article by Tyler Cowen where he made a strong case for Coin’s inevitable devaluation as a currency, citing the ease with which one could create a cryptocurrency potentially superior to Bitcoin as the catalyst that will push its value further and further down from the high it currently enjoys. Ironically, today a new service made its way into the top ten on Hacker News called Coinage Beta, which allows anyone to create their own alternative currency by filling out a form and paying a nominal fee.
Let the proliferation of Bitcoin alternatives begin. I look forward to seeing how this affects the Bitcoin market, if at all. Tyler could not have posted his article at a better time.
AnandTech's Mac Pro Review
As Marco said in his post linking to AnandTech’s new Mac Pro evaluation, “For Mac OS reviews, read John Siracusa. For Mac reviews, read Anand.” This has become widely accepted over the last few years, and rightly so: these two writers epitomize every aspect of excellence within their respective fields. That’s why I sat down with AnandTech’s latest article, despite having no intention of buying a Mac Pro within the foreseeable future. After Marco’s recommendation I originally intended to focus solely on page two, but before I knew it Anand had sucked me in and I ended up finishing the entire piece.
During Neutral’s brief run John made an interesting point in their discussion of the latest Ferrari supercar which, I believe, took place during episode eight: car companies traditionally focused on mid-range to low-end price points nevertheless devote significant time and money to building incredibly powerful vehicles — some of which never even make it to market — in order to push the boundaries of the automotive industry and showcase the extremes of their abilities as engineers, designers, and manufacturers. In the computing world, Apple’s Mac Pro fulfills a similar role in epitomizing the juxtaposition of power, usability, and design. To shift focus briefly back to cars, high-end car companies like BMW and Audi charge a premium for craftsmanship and luxury, yes, but also for the latest vehicular technology available that more economical cars will not see for years to come. To predict the future of the low end, one need only look to the current high end: within a few generations that technology will trickle down to the economy classes, replaced with even more impressive features, and so the cycle will repeat itself. We may draw another parallel to the Mac Pro here as the signifier of impending change to not only Apple’s other computing devices over the next few years, but the computing industry as a whole resultant of Apple’s relatively new position as today’s most popular tech company. Therein lies my reasoning behind setting aside an hour or so to read Anand’s article and put this short post together: while I do not plan on buying a Mac Pro, it serves as an excellent indicator of where the high end is headed, and thus sets a reasonable expectation for the next few years with regards to not only CPU performance, but every other aspect as well.
Amazon's PR genius
“All of this leads to the question; is there any company more successful at controlling the public narrative than Amazon? Nothing it cares about ever leaks. Almost all of the press coverage, even the negative stories, runs to a script that Bezos could have written — 'We do amazing things to get low prices to customers’ and ‘it’s incredibly hard to compete with us'. Of course, both of those things may well be true.”
Everyone loves to praise Apple as the most interesting company in existence, building the greatest products available, showcased with the best marketing in the business. Conversely, everyone loves to hate Amazon: they never do anything interesting and consistently “fail” to turn a profit; their products consistently fall far short of even the most reasonable expectations; and the company operates essentially as a black box. I find it incredibly interesting, then, when a writer goes to bat for Amazon. The companies are not all that different, after all.
Looking Towards the Future
Marco Arment in Smart Watches and Computers On Your Face, after explaining technology’s inexorable progression since the 1980s, went on to posit that perhaps our current devices have reached the point of “good enough” with the advent of current-generation smartphones and, in some use cases, tablets; perhaps, at this point, further “innovation” with products such as Google Glass and a smart watch of sorts serves little purpose, because mobile phones have become so good as of late to obviate the need for more devices of arguable value. Although I tend to agree with him, I do so with a tremendous amount of reserve.
Two Years After Quitting My Job: 2013 in Review
Sitting here trying to decide the best way to fulfill my goals for this website, I found Nathan Barry’s post — and, subsequently, his past “year in review” updates — simultaneously inspiring and disheartening all at once. On the one hand, we have an amazing success story: after quitting his job Nathan has nearly doubled his salary every year, to say nothing for his readership and all his other impressive accomplishments; on the other hand, though, more than a year has passed since I started this website and I cannot consistently attract twenty pageviews a day. Needless to say, I make nothing for the countless hours I devote to this profession. No matter how much I want to take this from a nights and weekend hobby to a full-time venture, I have no choice but to keep waking up each morning and driving off to work.
How and why Bitcoin will plummet in price
An interesting article from Tyler Cowen that gained considerable popularity on Hacker News a few days ago, for very good reason: although a difficult read at times, his article makes a strong case for Bitcoin’s inevitable decline. Also worth reading, Tyler linked to an article by Dan Kervick in a similar vein to this one along with another of his own from November, China, and the soaring price of Bitcoin, both worth checking out.
In Defense of the Defender
What an awesome vehicle. Not only does it look great, it drives exceptionally well too, and can handle quite literally any terrain thrown at it. It’s a pity, then, to see such a rugged, utilitarian SUV like this one fade away only to have a more stylish, inarguably less capable one replace it. How disappointing.
The Woes of Facebook
I predicted this a while ago in an IRC conversation during a 5by5 broadcast, and many jumped at me for criticizing the practice of promoting one’s business on Facebook. To be fair, I made this statement prematurely: it took Facebook another year or two to actually begin diminishing their position as a viable source of attention. Now, though, I cannot say that this development surprises me in the least.
Who to Follow in 2014
Earlier this week Matt Gemmell posted Who to Read in 2014, where he pointed out ten writers and explained why he felt everyone should pay attention to their work in the upcoming year. At the end of his post, after listing his five favorite articles from the last twelve months, he called on other writers to provide their version of this list. Never one to back down from a challenge, I have done so with a bit of a twist: in addition to the individuals I believe everyone should follow in 2014, I also included a section devoted to people I believe we ought to stop reading before providing a collection of my own favorite works.
Cabin Porn Roundup
A collection of my favorite cabins from Cabin Porn and other similar sites, beginning with The Watershed. A seventy-square-foot building in the woods of Oregon specifically designed as a writer’s retreat, I love the idea of a small, designated area set apart in which to conduct one’s most personal work. Although given the type of articles I traditionally post I feel such an environment would not be particularly conducive to my writing, but that said I would still love to try such a thing. Perhaps some day.
"We Need to Talk About TED"
For everyone waiting on TEDx to release Ben Bratton’s “We need to talk about TED” video, here you go. Since reading his transcript I have kept the page open in anticipation of TEDx releasing this, and I still managed to miss it by a day. If you enjoyed the transcript, you’ll love the talk.
The case for 3x
The only thing I love more than listening to podcasts is writing about them. During the last curfuffle I wrote Podcasting State of the Union where I did my best to provide counterpoints for the flaws Harry Marks pointed out in the podcasting industry. To my delight, many agreed with me. After a few days the heat died down though, and I did not expect to have another opportunity to discuss this topic for a while. Then Ben Brooks decided to stir the pot once more with Why Tech Podcasts Bother Me, and many responded with wildly different opinions. Perhaps most notably, Andrew Clark and Zac Cichy of The Menu Bar surprised me in episode thirty-four by agreeing with the majority of Ben’s points.
Nerd, Decentralize Thyself
Back in April I linked to Rich Stevens’ announcement of a new newsletter he planned to begin publishing once or twice a week focusing on “A little business, a little gadgetry, a little art and writing, and a few dick jokes.” Since then I have enjoyed his seventeen posts immensely, and the latest was no exception: in Nerd, Decentralize Thyself1 Rich Stevens spoke to the recent trend towards relying on platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter, and how despite liking both he would never forfeit ownership of his website. He went on to call for more people devoted to pointing out great work in order to solve the discoverability problem those aforementioned services aim to obviate as a way of decreasing our reliance on third parties to do great work and, hopefully, make building a website back into something cool again. If you find this description at all interesting, subscribe to the newsletter; you will not be disappointed.
Testing the Apple Tax
Prompted by an article Zach Epstein posted to BGR last Thursday titled Testing the ‘Apple tax': What would it cost to build a Windows version of the new Mac Pro? I planned to link his piece as a smug counterpoint to all the people I know who like saying that they can build a more powerful machine for “1/3 the cost"1 of my overpriced Apple computer. As I thought more about the notion of an Apple tax though, I realized I had more to say on this topic than a juvenile “ha ha”.
Unfortunately I’ve encountered an error while trying to locate the resource you requested. If you know the title of the post you are looking for, check out the “Post Archives” page where you can do a simple in-page search for the article’s title. Alternately, if you have a general idea as to when I published it, I have delineated my articles into collections based on the month and year posted, which you can access from the aforementioned Archives page. If all else fails, head over the the home page; I’m sure you’ll find something worthwhile there.
Introducing Instapaper Daily
From almost a week ago, midway through my Christmas vacation, Betaworks announced the latest in a slew of great improvements to the Instapaper platform: Instapaper Daily. Although I cannot say it will replace Tweetbot or Reeder as one of my primary sources for news and articles to read, I really like this as a service and as an indicator of the direction Betaworks plans on taking Instapaper.
In the past I have criticized Betaworks for both insufficient design sense in their web ventures and a lack of direction driving their product decisions. With the release of Instapaper Daily they have assuaged these misgivings, at least a little, by continuing to improve upon Instapaper’s core value proposition — improving one’s reading experience — and doing so beautifully: whereas Instapaper’s website remains an eyesore at best, Instapaper Daily presents its information in a clear, concise, and visually attractive manner.
Good for them.
As soon as Information Architects released Writer Pro shortly before Christmas, I began collecting “first look” pieces after their phenomenal introductory video nearly caused me to shell out a hefty $40 to have the app on both my Mac and iOS devices sight on seen. Much more cautions after my poor experience with Coin though, I exercised a bit of restraint in choosing to wait until after Christmas to make my final decision. Nine days and one debacle later, I am very thankful I did.
Drew Magary's Fantastic Interview with Phil Robertson
Recently, Phil Robertson of the sensational cable TV program Duck Dynasty has drawn quite a bit of flack for his very Christian views kept largely hidden until now through A&E’s refusal to air his more candid statements. Setting personal opinions aside though and totally disregard the absurdity of crucifying Phil for his beliefs because today’s hyper-sensitive, disgustingly entitled society seeks to vilify everyone who challenges their nuanced values, and looking at this from an unbiased standpoint, a very interesting lifestyle emerges in Drew Magary’s article for GQ — incidentally, the article that started this whole debacle. The entire piece is excellent, but if I had to pick my favorite line it came down to Drew’s revelatory experience toward the end, for I can relate to that very feeling myself:
Mailbox Updated With Support for iCloud and Yahoo Mail
Great news. Now, the only reason I have left to keep Apple’s Mail app around is for the occasional spam message, which Mailbox curiously does not have any way of handling. Once Mailbox builds that functionality in, I can happily say goodbye to Mail.
What. The. Fuck. Nokia.
Jim Dalrymple with his characteristically ambiguous thoughts regarding Nokia’s latest commercial, hot on the tails of Apple’s spectacular ad Misunderstood: “Kids, this is why you don’t do drugs while making a TV ad.” I normally wouldn’t have linked to such a thing as this, but it illustrates exactly why everyone devoted so much time and attention to Misunderstood when it came out: with such “competition”, how could we not? Jim had one more thought on For Work. For Play., which he posted to Twitter shortly after linking it:
> “So Apple comes out with a TV ad that brings a tear to your eye and Nokia scares the shot out of me.”
The end of the Facebook era
Via Ben Brooks, Chrys Bader takes a very interesting look at where Facebook came from, its current state, and the platform’s bleak future. With the exception of Twitter I have all but abandoned social networks, including the venerable elder statesman Facebook, so I rarely take any interest in articles examining them. I followed Ben’s link on a whim though, and I’m very glad I did.
Especially damning, I thought, was his comparison of Facebook to LinkedIn: “Teens likely see Facebook the same way the Facebook generation sees LinkedIn — like a utilitarian place to manage connections.” Facebook has crossed the Rubicon, so to speak; from here no amount of money will ever bring it back.
"We Need to Talk About TED"
I rarely find anything worthwhile on Hacker News — primarily interesting coding projects and the latest NSA story to catch the masses’ attention, rarely anything substantive — but when I do come across something interesting it really is truly exceptional. This article from Benjamin Bratton is one of those excellent pieces, one for the record books. I can’t wait to watch his talk.
The Sweet Setup
Four weeks old today and I have yet to at least mention Shawn Blanc’s The Sweet Setup. For the three people who still have not visited this site, The Sweet Setup collects and reviews best-in-class apps for iOS and OS X alike, with a special focus on interviewing “internet celebrities” to discuss their home and mobile computing setups. So far, Shawn Blanc and his impressive staff have conducted six of these interviews. As a recent Mac convert I have found this site invaluable in picking great new desktop apps, so if you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend you check this site out.
Ben Thompson on Apple's New *Misunderstood* Commercial
Having updated his article on Apple’s latest ad, Ben Thompson finally delved in to the reason so many fell in love with this commercial in the first place, and the reason so many have talked about it. As I said earlier this video hits so close to home because it does not focus on feature comparisons or implausible situations necessitating eighteen processors, but instead on the experiences Apple’s devices enable:
> “The iPhone shown in the first half of the commercial wasn’t being used as an escape device to kill boredom — it’s advertised as a creation device used to create memories, edit videos, and share a touching moment with family members that you don’t see much often anymore. From the iPhone’s camera point of view, now mirrored via AirPlay onto the big screen for others to see, everything makes more sense: seeing relatives and watching them talk, play, and share personal moments. The iPhone was used to record life rather than escape from it. The home video ends, notably, with a selfie; people are happy, the kid is happy. Cut to family house seen from outside. Happy holidays from Apple.”
Changes to First Crack
In The One Where I Disavow Gaming I outlined two goals I wished to work towards using this newfound time of mine previously wasted “mindlessly tapping the W, A, S, and D keys for hours on end": to write more regularly and code more frequently. A week later the former remains a work in progress, while I can happily report that the latter has gone so well I not only successfully fixed a number of outstanding bugs and implemented quite a few new features in the process, but went on to add some impressive functionality I hadn’t even considered before then as well. Although this focus only allowed for a single post most days last week, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Master and Commander
Last night I took Coin to task for extending their pre-order sale, again, in to the new year rather than allowing it to expire as should have happened sometime today. I briefly explained how this move has further devalued their product by virtually solidifying it at the $50 price point, and then talked about how Coin’s latest escapade showed a startling lack of respect for the individuals who put their hard-earned cash on the line so that this company could fulfill its one job in life by making a great device. Unlike the causes behind the former though, which I could explain with relatively simple examples, the latter — distilling the relationship between maker and consumer — proved much more difficult. I touched on this topic in my past articles on Coin, but have not actively sought to fully flesh out my thoughts on this topic until now.
I feel a bit like a broken record at this point, what with having already talked about Coin twice before, but the company’s latest stunt bears once again picking up my banner and going back off to war: earlier this evening, via their Twitter account, Coin posted a “BREAKING NEWS!" announcement that — you guessed it — extended the $50 off early adopter deal into the new year. Surprised? You should’t be.
After all the talk of Castro in the last twenty-four hours since its release, and as an avid podcast listener myself, I couldn’t help but feel obligated to weigh in. With articles from John Moltz, Cody Fink, and Shawn Blanc waiting unread in my Instapaper queue, I downloaded Castro earlier this evening expecting to burn the midnight oil to get this article out. It came as a great surprise, then, when I tried every one of Castro’s features and saw every screen within about fifteen minutes.
Dear Aunt Rose Comma Thank You for the Speech Recognition Software Exclamation Point.
Linked to by Shawn Blanc, this is absolutely hilarious. Coincidentally Marco just posted an article titled Siri Accuracy Continues to Improve, where he complained about Siri’s frequent inability to process his requests. Since I finally upgraded to a 4S last month I have been using Siri daily, and with the exception of a few incorrect words it has worked both flawlessly and exceptionally quickly regardless of my cellular connection strength. I have yet to see see the, “Sorry, I can’t take requests right now” error message.
Heat of the Moment Insurance Policy
I have spent the last two or three months occasionally hearing Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo talk about an app capable of completely cutting a computer off from a certain set of domains as a means to increase productivity. By making it impossible for one to get distracted, the creators of the aptly-named SelfControl reason, productivity must increase accordingly. I downloaded SelfControl Sunday night, and even in my brief experience with it so far I can attest to its effectiveness.
Incredibly High-Level Discourse
Sunday evening shortly after I wrote The One Where I Disavow Gaming, as I scrolled through Zite looking for something to read, I happened across a headline that immediately caught my attention: iPhone 6 Release Date And Recent Rumors. Given that the article came from a site I had never heard of before and because the Apple sphere has remained relatively quiet with regards to iPhone 6 rumors as of late, I opened the article with low expectations. What could Value Walk know that John Gruber didn’t? Turns out, absolutely nothing. In fact, the extraordinary simplicity of these rumors and the fact that one would devote an entire section to speculating as to the iPhone 6’s release date were so absurd that it made me realize something rather profound.
The One Where I Disavow Gaming
As I write this I have wasted almost an entire weekend. I got home Friday afternoon and spent the evening collecting gift ideas for my family and playing a video game; Saturday I wrote the first draft of an essay and reviewed three months’ worth of notes for an upcoming exam all before lunchtime, then proceeded to waste five hours playing that same game before cramming an article in with one foot out the door as I prepared for my girlfriend’s choir concert that evening. After the concert we went to a party. Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed for church, and then proceeded to spend the rest of my day playing video games once again. I have probably spent just as much time gaming this weekend as I have sleeping, and I really despise this about myself.
Missing the Forest for the Trees
With the release of Tweetbot 3 Tapbots brought a complete user interface overhaul to the beloved Twitter app alongside a whole slew of other improvements and changes. One such change saw the removal of both Tweetbot’s double- and triple-tap functionality. Citing increased responsiveness as the app would no longer have to wait for iOS to discern whether the user intended multiple taps, Tapbots replaced this feature with a curious swipe gesture. Believing it would work similarly to Mailbox’s finicky yet workable gestures where swiping different distances invoked different actions, I looked forward to this improvement; however, in this regard Tweetbot 3 fell far short of excellence.
Every time I save an article to Instapaper I immediately open the app to make sure it actually went there. Although quite some time has passed since this proved a worthwhile exercise, my unfortunate habit stems from a fear derived of Instapaper’s past inability to parse Cabin Porn URLs. Because I once had faith in the system I happily sent every post I planned to write about over to Instapaper, intending to come back to those articles at a later date. However, this practice came back to bite me when Instapaper failed to accurately record the correct article URLs, much less successfully parse their contents, and I lost several weeks’ worth of effort spent in aggregation. I seem to remember something similar happening with other sites around this time, but Cabin Porn is the sole site that Instapaper consistently failed to handle appropriately.
The Blame Apple Game
Another unsurprisingly great article from Ben Brooks, and my favorite piece of his for quite some time. I absolutely love how he describes PandoDaily’s post: in a day and age where everyone pulls their punches for fear of offending someone by implying one thing while unconsciously omitting something else and finally ending the sentence with a period, Ben’s candid characterization is a breath of fresh air. Made all the more worthwhile by his ultimate point, I could not recommend that you go read Ben’s article and subscribe to his site more strongly. I have been critical of his views in the past, but at the end of the day his site is consistently one of my favorites.
While neither a fan of DROdio’s website or the author’s writing style, Dissecting Coin’s Massively Successful Product Launch nevertheless gives me a way in to talk about Coin once again. Last month, shortly after Coin launched to great fanfare, I condensed some of my thoughts into a post titled Thoughts Regarding Coin. I explained the device’s premise, areas I thought it would excel, and those in which I felt it would fail or needed improvement. I did not, however, go into some of my less tangible concerns with the product; specifically, I did not talk about any of my issues with its marketing and pre-launch strategy. Given that Daniel devoted a significant amount of time to this topic in his article though, I feel now is as good a time as any.
Three Weeks with Two iPads
"After 3 weeks, I’m actually leaning slightly more towards the mini if I had to pick one. Though I do work a lot from my iPad, the iPad is not my main work machine. I still spend most of my time at my desk working from my MacBook Air. And so, for the things I do use an iPad for, the iPad mini is better for about 80-percent of them and ‘good enough’ for the other 20-percent. I plan to keep using both iPads, side by side, for at least another month or two, so I’ll check back in again soon.”
As an avid iPad user — although less so lately after purchasing my MacBook Pro — I have followed this discussion with great interest since the retina iPad Mini’s launch. Of all the articles I have seen so far, Shawn’s is one of the best.
I love overachievers in the world of cars much more than in person, hence my unbridled enthusiasm when I happened across Mercedes’ six-wheeled monster the G63 AMG and Ghe-O’s indomitable Rescue. Something about these trucks, for their rugged ability to tackle literally any terrain imaginable truly epitomizes the colloquial definition of the term1, awakens a visceral desire to pack my backpack and spend a long weekend trekking through uninhabited back country with nothing but my thoughts to keep my company; they ignite within me a base midwestern American desire to go outside and spend time in nature. Unsurprisingly, then, Filson’s Jeep 4x4 was no exception. My only hesitation in pushing its limits on a narrow mountain trail would be that I tarnish its carefully crafted exterior and spoil the bespoke interior; once I got past that though, I have no doubt it could handle anything I decided to throw at it.
I don’t mean to go on a rant, but as a brief aside I do not understand the appeal of such small trucks. I can see the place of cars, vans, SUVs, and F-150-esq trucks in the jobs consumers hire vehicles to do, but when it comes to these small “trucks” I am at a loss. Granted, their perpetuated existence indicates continued demand for such a form factor, but I can’t for the life of my understand its appeal. Perhaps this is the naivety of youth and machismo of a nineteen-year-old speaking, but if I had the need for a flat bed and an additional four miles to each gallon without the bulk of an F-150 or above — the only reasons I could see someone purchasing one of these vehicles — I would swallow my second and third criteria and buy a Ford F-series anyways.
As opposed to the dinky Ford Rangers that have somehow managed to subsume the moniker.↩
Towards the end of Amazon and the Benefits of Vision Ben Thompson explained the importance of vision — and the consequences of a deficiency in this department — using many of today’s top tech companies as examples. At that point not particularly interested in Amazon’s alleged plans slated for years down the road,, I found this all too brief examination much more fascinating than his actual topic. And then I read an article by Kevin Roose of the New York Magazine, which John Gruber linked to on Tuesday.
Starting with November month, I have decided to take a different approach to posting links to cabins I find inspiring, attractive, or otherwise worthy of note: rather than make an individual post each time I come upon such a structure, from here on out I will hold them for the end of the month when I can collect my favorite posts and pictures. This will not only reduce the volume of “Wow.” and “Beautiful.” one-word link posts I have made a habit of publishing since discovering the Cabin Porn Tumblr last year, but will also allow me to centralize these relevant thoughts into a single monthly post.
When news of a new currency dubbed “Bitcoin” first began circulating, I paid little attention: it seemed like a fad, something no one would remember in a month or two. Instead of fading away though, Bitcoin continued to gain popularity until not a day went by without someone writing an article either glorifying the currency for its upsides or crucifying it for any number of perceived downsides, whether real or not. An interesting parallel could be drawn between these fickle emotions and the manner in which many publications report on certain topics as of late, but I will let sleeping dogs lie.
I love The Verge — I really do. Not long after posting Credibility and Bullies with Blogs, where I took Josh Topolsky to task for his wholly inappropriate reaction to many justifiable criticisms regarding his publication’s device reviews, I subscribed to The Verge. Today it not only serves as my primary news source, but I also follow The Vergecast and tune in for their live coverage of Apple’s events. Lately, however, I have been increasingly disappointed with their work.
Back in May I wrote Nickelodeon’s Experiment where I talked about the network’s hit animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Last week the latter’s show finished its second season with the final episode of “Book Two: Spirits”. In preparation for the third, I thought I would post a mid-series update. As with my last article on this topic, spoiler alert, I will give away big parts of the story in this piece; if you haven’t seen the excellence that is Nickelodeon’s Avatar franchise, read the next two paragraphs and then go watch it before continuing on.
Yesterday morning Brett Terpstra posted an article to his blog calling for open auditions to guest on his podcast Systematic. Like many, many others I’m sure, I made a submission. I briefly introduced myself then, in typical Systematic fashion, went on to my top three picks for the “show”. Looking to increase my chances of getting the spot, I decided to make an extra effort by posting an article here in case Brett decides to look for further information on my website.
An interesting story made all the more absorbing by the model Amanda employed in stark contrast to the one nearly all writers in the circles I frequent employ. Whereas we hold the individual’s reputation on high — I read people, not websites — she takes the opposite approach in impersonally finding, occupying, and ultimately cashing out on an existing niche rather than create her own as I and many others are want to do. A thought-provoking approach, to say the least, and inarguably effective: I can’t argue with her results.
This year marked the first time I have taken any interest in reading long-form hardware and software reviews of any kind. Previously, as I described in Diary of a Convert, I rarely made it past the first few pages; this time around, however, I not only plowed through John Siracusa’s twenty-four page epic, but many others’ as well. I learned a great deal about Apple’s latest hardware and software offerings through this process, something I look to repeat from here on out. In preparation for next year, then, I paid great attention to reviewers and their work so that rather than shopping around for yet another iOS 8 review next fall, I can instead read the thoughts of a select few writers and in doing so enable myself to devote much more time and energy to my own work, which trends would indicate will increase once more after Tim Cook closes his keynote address.
I think about my English classes almost every day when I sit down to write, and even some days when I don’t. I think about how much I hated them, how I dreaded each pointless class and similarly meaningless assignment, and then I think about the eternal debt of gratitude I owe those three teachers for seeing me through.
I feel like Gene Munster, where just as he perpetually beats upon his iTV drum so, too, do I all too frequently return to the iPad Pro. Since Apple’s iPad event, after receiving my MacBook Pro, and all throughout the ensuing period during which I began to define the different roles this new device and my trusty iPad would fill, this topic and Tim Cook’s comment to that effect have occupied a great deal of my consciousness. Unfortunately, I could find no written record of Tim Cook referring to such a device despite numerous verbal accounts; however, when questioned before October’s iPad event as to whether Apple would release an iPad Pro, he responded (with a smile) in saying, “We already make one: the 11″ MacBook Air.” I find this statement interesting for a number of reasons.
When linking to Shawn Blanc’s excellent iPad Mini and Air review I mentioned Jim and Marco’s altercation on Twitter the day before in passing. Brought on when Marco criticized Jim’s lack of time spent with the Mini preluding an article titled “review”, I found the entire exchange humorous and representative of the pair’s similar personalities. I considered writing this article then at peak relevance, but instead pushed it into Drafts for another time. Four days and two posts later though, the fact that this topic remains at the front of my mind is a testament to the importance of a first impression.
Recently I have begun exercising more restrain when deciding whether to publish a link post or not, attempting to decrease the lopsided original content to echo piece ratio by posting more of my own work than others'. I find it somewhat ironic, then, that today’s first link post goes to John Gruber’s linked list item commenting on Ed Dale’s Smart Move Apple.
Yesterday afternoon Benedict Evans had something interesting to say regarding a new product-service pairing called Coin, questioning why anyone considered it anything more than a toy. Having never heard of the site, I continued scrolling until coming across Cody Fink’s referral link, at which point my “when in doubt wait until more than one person talks about it before taking the bait” rule kicked in and I opened Coin’s website. Over the next 1:45 Adam Lisagor serenaded me in a promo video nothing short of beautiful1 that brought me — generally very averse to spending any significant amount of money — the closest I have ever come to impulse-buying anything, and especially something in the neighborhood of $50.
Shortly after Ole Zorn released Editorial for iPad I adopted a workflow heavily reliant on this and his other — some would say companion — app Pythonista. Employing Editorial for all my writing needs and Pythonista to run a retrofitted version of FirstCrack thus enabling me to post on the go, I read, wrote, and updated my website almost exclusively on my iPad. Although recent months have seen a reversal of that shift in conjunction with my purchase of a new MacBook Pro, certain circumstances still make me thankful for the ability to not only consume but also produce content on such a portable device. Pythonista 1.4 brings a whole host of exciting changes to this already excellent app; perhaps even more exciting, though, is what these changes indicate for the future of Editorial.
Shawn Blanc posted by far and away the best iPad and iPad Mini first look I have read thus far. I enjoyed the flame war over Jim’s article immensely, Marco’s own “review” — if it even merits such a designation — had its own humorous high point, but up till now nothing impressed me to the extent that Shawn’s piece did.
Ben Brooks put it quite well when he linked to this article, characterizing it as a “fantastic post from Watts Martin"; I wholeheartedly agree. More often than not I consider Ben to have gone off the deep end some time ago, the result of which we see today in his near-constant advocation for privacy often taken to the extreme. However, Mr. Martin — and, by extension, Ben in his explicit endorsement of this piece — hit the nail on the head with this one.
Yesterday Jason Snell made an interesting tweet regarding Apple’s A7 SoC, presumably after reading the MacRumors article Retina iPad Mini Has 1.3 GHz A7 Processor With 5X the Performance of the Original Mini: “The iPad Air’s processor is running at 1.39GHz; the iPad mini’s is clocked down to 1.27GHz.” Amidst nearly every discussion surrounding the iPad Mini, especially building up to its release earlier today, much of that discourse has lauded synonymous computing power between both devices as enabling those wishing to buy an iPad to make their decision based purely on form factor rather than performance. Today, however, we find that despite possessing identical processors, the Air will outperform the Mini as many suspected it would leading up to last month’s event.
The whole debacle surrounding New York Times writer Catherine Rampell’s article Cracking the Apple Trap holds almost no interest to me. However, after yesterday’s The Talk Show during which John X. Gruber and very special guest Paul X. Kafasis devoted a fair amount of time to ridiculing the entire enterprise, I feel it at least merits some attention.
Every Sunday Benedict Evans, whose articles I have linked to numerous times in the past, publishes an excellent newsletter providing insightful observations into the tech and mobile industries’ news to a subscriber base growing at an impressive rate of 1,000 every month. Every week I look forward to the next installment of this thought-provoking newsletter, and Benedict always exceeds my expectations. If you need more convincing than my own personal endorsement of this invaluable resource though, take not just my word for it but a thousand others as well.
In the wake of iOS 7’s release very few developers skipped the godsend of an opportunity to update their apps and charge once more in the process. Unfortunately, interspersed amongst the Tapbots of Apple’s ecosystem who shipped a product rebuilt from the ground up, others instead chose a shallow strategy Ben Brooks quantified quite well in the title of his article linking to Chris’s piece, Let’s make it 2.0 so we can charge for it again. Like Chris, I had no problem paying for Tweetbot 3; I happily bought Instacast 4 when it came out too. But by and large those two were the exceptions, not the rule.
Speaking of Ben Evans and Amazon back in August1, when Amazon was the hot topic of discussion amongst the small circles we tend to frequent, he neatly and concisely explained many of the mysteries surrounding the company. For instance, why does Amazon turn nearly zero profit? And why, for crying out loud, do so many have such considerable faith in this curious company?
This should give you a general idea as to how good I am at keeping up with my Instapaper queue.↩
From last month but no less applicable now, Benedict Evans takes a few moments to break down the core businesses of Apple, Amazon, and Google. And that’s all it took: a few moments. If only more “tech journalists” would read this before writing — or performing some semblance of the act — their next article.
Amidst all the hubbub that invariably follows every Apple event as embargoes lift and reviews flood the internet, as writers formulate, present, and respond to thoughts and opinions regarding Apple’s latest moves, it’s easy to lose a diamond in the rough. The problem is further compounded when amongst other diamonds, to continue stretching this metaphor, such as John Siracusa’s famous Mavericks review. Such was the case when Stephen Hackett posted his own article reviewing OS X 10.9, which I just now got around to reading more than two weeks after its publication. While it will not replace John’s in-depth analysis and historical perspective I enjoy so much, Stephen’s much quicker pace and more jovial approach did earn his annual review a spot among those I will look out for and read every year from here on out.
I realize I have come late to the party, but after just two weeks that does not change the relevancy of John Gruber’s article written in the wake of Apple’s October iPad event. Many wrote about a single aspect: Marco chimed in on the presentation itself, and I devoted an entire article to the notion of an upcoming iPad Pro; others, such as Jim Dalrymple, attempted the more monumental task of tackling the entire event; still others put forth more opinion-based pieces, such as Shawn Blanc’s Best in Class, Built to Last. None, however, did such a good job as John in not only conveying his thoughts and observations regarding the event, but presenting both those ideas and Apple’s announcements in context born from years of experience in this industry.
This is why John Gruber is so famous amongst the generation of writers, and why so many respect him; this is why I read Daring Fireball, for these impressively insightful pieces that inspire me to become a better writer myself. John gives me a bar to strive for, and one that I someday hope to reach.
This completely blindsided me. I had the lack of foresight to uninstall the betas after Instapaper 5 hit the market, so I had no idea a revamped iPad app was in the works until coming across the announcement in my Twitter feed late yesterday evening. Thanks iOS 7’s automatic update feature, I got to experience Betaworks’ latest revision firsthand as soon as I opened the app; and as I said on Twitter, I really like the new design. The folks over at Betaworks also implemented the much-acclaimed sorting and filtering abilities Instapaper 5 for iPhone shipped with three months ago, along with some other, more minor tweaks and updates. For a full list, head on over to the blog post: Redesigned Instapaper for iPad.
When I started writing Need, Fashion, and Matt Alexander I began with the title “Harry Marks Interviews Matt Alexander on Need”. Those curious can look to the post’s URL for confirmation, which still reads as described despite the fact that I changed its title. I set out with such a headline intending to make a short congratulatory post linking to Harry Marks’ article Interview with Matt Alexander of Need; however, ambition got the better of me and I ended up writing something I feel quite proud of as one of my better think pieces in a while. Those original motifs I pushed to the wayside still clamored for attention though, attention that I will grant them in this follow-up piece.
In the works for nearly a year, Matt Alexander’s new startup Need addresses a fascinating deficiency of not just fashion, but any degree of concern with respect to one’s physical appearance all too prevalent in today’s society, especially amongst young people. At nineteen a young person myself, I speak from first-hand experience: you would not believe the things I see my peers wearing, especially on a college campus. I am not wholly exempt in this respect — I have worn my fair share of tattered jeans and undershirts in public — but I also have enough sense to realize my shortcomings in this area. And acceptance is the first step towards recovery, right?
Following Apple’s event last week and after I ordered a top of the line 15” Retina MacBook Pro, I sat down to read John Siracusa’s famous Mavericks review. I started last year’s Lion review with good intentions, but without any incentive to finish I only read a few pages. This year though, with a shiny new Mac already on its way from China, I finally had more of a reason to persevere than simply to say that I had. Surprisingly, that gray “24” page marker — for I read it on Ars just as John suggested — turned up much faster than I expected it to after more than 24,000 words; unsurprisingly, I enjoyed every minute of John’s epic. Less than a week later, I received a FedEx email whose subject line told me everything I needed to know: “FedEx shipment delivered”.
I hesitate to pass judgement just yet, but after the first I can’t say I’m all too hopeful for a sequel. Taking a more adult approach in production will certainly help, but then again the first film didn’t exactly set a high bar.
My name is Zac Szewczyk, and I’m here to restore your faith in my generation. At nineteen I have spent the last nine years programming in various capacities, the last seven writing, and the last three spending every spare moment with headphones in my ears and Instacast on my iPhone. It has taken innumerable failed ventures, hundreds of hours writing, and more time than I care to admit coding to gain the experience necessary to reach this point; this website is the culmination of nearly a decade spent learning about the internet. If you happen to like something you see here, shoot me a message over on Twitter; I would love to hear from you.
I could certainly spend a winter here in Minnesota, bitterly cold or not.
In my last article, The iPad Pro, I promised to write about Apple’s perpetuation of its second-generation tablet. I actually set out to discuss both the iPad 2 and a hypothetical Pro model in that piece, but long-windedness got the better of me and I had to push it off until now. Given that these points have already been made in parts elsewhere, I will keep this brief.
“Siri can get confused, of course, as every iPhone owner knows. For example, searching for the Pokmon ‘Charmander’ kept autocorrecting to Mander. But this can be excused. It’s a freaking Pokdex. In your pocket. Just think about how your 10-year-old self would feel about that.”
Back in my day...
Shortly after Apple’s keynote earlier this week, Zac Hall made an interesting and thought-provoking quip on Twitter:
“My grandfather lived to be 100 years old. If the Blanc blood running through my veins holds up like my grandfather’s did, then I’ve still got 68 years to go. Do I really want to spend one ounce of energy trying to make random people on the internet like me? Will that matter at all in six decades from now? I’d rather spend that energy strengthening my own core values, dating my wife, building life-long relationships with my sons, serving my friends, and doing the best creative work I can possibly do."
"Overcast will use speed-accurate labels. I’ll take the heat in reviews.”
Excellent. Instacast’s inaccurate, “legacy-style” labels have always annoyed me, especially when trying to decide whether I had enough time to play the latest episode of Roderick on the Line.
I would have loved to have this back when I played Pokmon LeafGreen and Pokmon Saphire. Instead I had Prima Games’ Pokmon Pokedex Collector’s Edition which, although a great book for its time, simply cannot compare to the power Wolfram|Alpha will afford its users. I don’t even play the game any more and I’m still excited.
Although ostensibly about monetizing a podcast, Lex Friedman’s article also does an excellent job of setting out some great guidelines for creating exceptional shows, many of which align with the suggestions I outlined in Podcasting State of the Union.
Ever since reading Craig Hockenberry’s article Sonderklasse, an article ostensibly about the iPhone 5S, I have waited for an opportunity to write about something I came across in the process of reading that piece: the Mercedes G63 AMG.
Last week Ben Thompson of Stratēchery wrote Open Source Apps, where he explained the “inevitable” shift from paid-up-front to free apps monetized through other means. From his article:
Shawn Blanc on Nick Heer’s predictions for Apple’s event next week: “From my armchair, I say Nick is probably pretty close to the money here.” I really hope so: I have been holding out for a new MacBook Pro since before Apple unveiled the new Airs; it would be a huge disappointment if I had to continue waiting until January.
On the tablet front, I may also consider purchasing a new iPad along with a MacBook Pro and a new iPhone. Widely rumored to ship with Apple’s new Touch ID functionality, this upgrade in conjunction with the A7X processor Nick expects the iPad 5 to ship with might just be enough to entice me to buy a new one Especially coming from an iPad 3 with the A6X, the speed boost would be a welcome one.
Film School Rejects’ Inkoo Kang has been posting fantastic reviews of each new Homeland episode shortly after their premiere. Now at three articles, one whole review for each of the three episodes out to date, I have been thoroughly enjoying her examination of the plot lines, undertones, direction, and parallels present in this show almost as much as I enjoy watching each episode.
"Ive come to a point in my life where I can afford nice computers, good scotch and a great view of the leaves changing colors across the hills and bluffs of Southeastern Minnesota. My wife and I can afford to take good care of our pets, and I can afford to take better care of myself. I honestly never would have guessed Id get to this point.”
This article by Brett Terpstra has already made its rounds on many of the popular blogs, and for good reason, but I just couldn’t resist linking it as well.
Someday I hope to reach a similar place as Brett. Maybe without the life-threatening experiences along the way, but it is those that make us the people we are today.
What a beautiful mountain range.
The last few years have seen a great proliferation of linkblogs, by far and away the most popular topic of which is technology and, specifically, Apple. Nevertheless the likes of John Gruber — who did not, despite many erroneous beliefs, invent either the format or topic — and Shawn Blanc have made their mark as entrants to a space established long before their arrival. This not only happens in the blogging space, but the podcasting industry as well where interview shows like Daniel Jalkut’s Bitsplitting came in and sherlocked — ugh — the existing space, which already had plenty of interview programs, with a really great show.
This is how one should leave a podcast, respectful of both his listeners and co-hosts alike. Not that I’m pointing any fingers.
“This isn’t the end of the road for me on the podcasting front; I’ll still appear as a guest on various shows, and have ideas on what might make sense for stratechery in both the near and short term. In the meantime, though, I’ll simply be a listener and a learner of Cubed, not a host.
“My thanks to both Ben Bajarin and Benedict Evans for the opportunity."
The question of whether Clark Kent as Superman should or should not kill is an extremely interesting one, and one I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about since seeing Man of Steel a few weeks ago. For the uninitiated, the controversy sprang up when Superman killed General Zod to save a family after destroying the whole of Metropolis throughout the course of their battle.
While it seems the photographer did his best to portray the house as much larger than it actually is, this Belgian “egg house” is nevertheless a very impressive and interesting alternative structure.
A few days ago I watched a strange article from The Verge titled LG starts producing curved displays to cure dull phone design scroll by in my RSS reader, but paid it little attention. Then, last night, another item caught my eye: Is this Samsung’s curved smartphone? Although still unconvinced as to the form factor’s upsides, I nevertheless opened the article. Shortly thereafter, to my delight, the last piece confirmed the rumor: Samsung announces the Galaxy Round, a smartphone with a curved OLED display. From Sam Byford’s article:
As a huge fan of the medium myself, over the last two weeks I have followed a burgeoning discussion on the podcasting industry with great interest. Across the board, the discourse has remained almost universally positive: Stephen Hacket, Chris Gonzales, Federico Viticci, and Myke Hurley have all expressed considerable enthusiasm for the changes iOS 7 in particular signals for this space, and great hope for its future. Unsurprisingly, not all share these positive sentiments.
As a rule I try not to link an article unless I have something meaningful to add to the surrounding conversation, and especially in cases where all the popular tech sites have already picked up said article. Occasionally, in exceptional circumstances I break that rule however, as I couldn’t help but link Fred Vogelstein’s New York Times piece chronicling the advent of the first iPhone. An exceptional read, to put it lightly.
Exactly a week ago today Chris Gonzales of Unretrofied wrote an article called iOS 7 and the State of Podcast Apps, a rather presumptuous title given the article’s actual contents, that I initially did not plan on linking to or writing anything about. At the very bottom of his article though, Chris tacked on a bracket-thetical that gave me pause:
Over the last few weeks, as I scrolled through my RSS reader and came across a particularly interesting or attractive cabin, I would send the page to Instapaper. Unfortunately, most of those cabins got lost in translation, so to speak, and never made it to this site for one reason or another. I’m not here to assign blame though, but instead to show off some really great cabins.
Number ten, Tonya Lavel’s, and the eleventh, David Pepper’s, were reasonably good. With those two exceptions though, these were almost universally both terrible and utterly hilarious.
An excerpt from the Popular Science article in which they laid out their reasoning behind turning comments off. As John Gruber said, it’s hard to believe it took them this long.
“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’ on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”
This is the point where I pick up my weary banner and resume railing against faux-feminists, for I see a strong resemblance in the difficulty Popular Science faces in maintaining intelligent discourse and the apparent inability for the vast majority of those wanting to challenge misogynistic behavior to do so either appropriately or intelligently, much less both. Popular Science faces a highly politicized discussion in a field that should, ideally, operate without such ponderous constraints, much like the discussions around misogyny has devolved into an unproductive, highly-emotional flame war. Popular Science could turn off its comments and at the very least curb this behavior in their small corner of the internet; unfortunately, we have no such remedy for the writings of faux-feminists.
In a similar vein, Marco tells the story of how he came up with the name “Overcast”. I love stories like this.
I absolutely love podcasts. Much to my girlfriend’s confusion, I might add. After Marco Arment sold Instapaper in April, after Yahoo! bought Tumblr.1 in May, and after he sold The Magazine shortly thereafter, only in my wildest dreams did I hope his elusive next venture would lead Marco to create a podcast client. Then, last Sunday at XOXO, my dream came true.
Perhaps that’s putting it slightly melodramatically, but to say that I — and the collective internet as well — am extremely excited for Overcast would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. I can’t wait for Overcast to come out; I plan on purchasing it on day one, as I’m sure many others will as well. Despite Marco’s modest expectations for Overcast, I would be surprised if it didn’t take the podcast client market by storm: the same design sensibilities that made Instapaper and The Magazine so popular — one need only look to the announcement Marco posted for an idea as to those proven ideals — will almost undoubtedly make Overcast similarly popular and, hopefully, a smashing success.
Good luck to you, Marco; we await Overcast’s release in eager anticipation.
I can’t help but think of Ben Brooks’ article Yahoo! + Tumblr. = !! on the topic every time I think about this acquisition.↩
Another great article by Ben Thompson, this time on Clay Christensen’s interesting disruption theories and Apple’s approach in making products that both defy them and motivate people to purchase en masse. Come for the insights into Apple, and stay for his dissection of Christensen’s widely-regarded theory; this article is well worth the read.
I realize in my last two articles, Instapaper 5 — in which I made a number of proposals for Instapaper 5 — and Betaworks Releases Instapaper 5 — in which I conveyed my mostly positive feelings on the new release — I likely appeared very critical of Betaworks and their continued work on Instapaper. This is not the case: while I do feel a better launch strategy entailing a service-wide design overhaul and one in which they added a larger set of new features to Instapaper would have greatly helped the platform, I am not of the opinion that Betaworks did not improve the app in Instapaper 5; the impressive new InstaRank feature is a prime example of this.
That said though, I cannot help but feel that this feature, too, would have benefited from some additional development time. I may — and the blog post linked earlier confirms this suspicion — be an outlier in that I prefer to keep my Instapaper queue small, in the four to eight article range, and read in chronological order. This is a roundabout way to say that I will find little use in Instapaper’s new Popularity sorting algorithm, but not that I could not at some point in the future: a section similar to The Feature — available under “Browse” on the iPhone — populated with articles ranked using the InstaRank algorithm through which I could find and save articles to my queue for consumption at a later date would be very useful indeed.
"Looking again at that chart, and with the realities of these three markets in mind, it’s not so much that the iPhone has saturated the American-style and European-style markets, and ought to focus on the Asian-style one; rather, the iPhone has saturated the high end in all three markets the high end just varies in accessibility ($200 for American-style, $650 for Asian-style). And, if you accept that the iPhone is in roughly the same competitive position in all three markets that the difference in market share is due to inherent structure of the market then it’s not at all obvious Apple should focus on the SE Asia-style market. In fact, it’s obvious they shouldn’t.”
A characteristically fascinating article by Ben Thompson explaining the logic behind Apple’s refusal to enter the low-end market as many predicted it would with a C model, and why Apple chose to position the 5C where it did in the iPhone line. His work is quickly becoming some of my favorite writing to read, alongside that of Horace Dediu and Benedict Evans.
By now I realize this issue has largely fallen to the wayside, as its various permutations invariably do seemingly momentarily after gaining any significant traction, despite the condemnation many so readily metered out. Regardless of its fall from the collective’s fickle favor though, the event and ensuing discussions nevertheless merit some examination.
Every so often I like to take a break from the whole technology gamut and read something else. Preferably, something exceptional like Coronado High from The Atavist. Telling the fascinating origin story of what grew from a few California kids running drugs to a multi-million dollar narcotics empire, Coronado High is much more than a fantastically-written, gripping tale of a bygone era. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it for you though: this is one of those articles you just can’t afford to miss.
Every once in a while, Letters of Note posts something great, a letter I just have to share. This is one such letter. For me, the last one was a speech William Safire wrote for President Nixon in preparation for a disaster during the moon landing; perhaps the best speech I have ever read.
Last week I acquired access to the Instapaper beta prior to its launch alongside iOS 7. I chronicled that story in I Finally Understand Bias. Since then, I have put off writing about the beta for a number of reasons: as a beta, the onus would have been on me to explain every single aspect of the new design or include numerous screenshots. Unlike the Federico Viticcis of the world, I did not find that prospect particularly appealing. More importantly though, I did not — do not — consider the app ready for widespread use, and at the very least not worthy of a version increment. iOS 7 or not, I am of the opinion that Betaworks should have forgone releasing Instapaper 5 quite so soon.
Last week, amidst the frenzy preluding Apple’s impending iPhone event, I posted an article titled Instapaper 5. I did not have early access to a beta or any insight as to the direction Betaworks planned on taking the service; instead, I merely wished to put forth a possible launch strategy for the upcoming update and outline a number of improvements I had been considering. I posted the article with minor expectations, thinking it would attract the usual eight to twelve pageviews; what came next took me completely by surprise.
Yesterday, Apple lifted the press embargo on both iPhone and iOS 7 reviews in conjunction with the operating system’s release to the general public. Like most of the internet, I got little to no work done once the reviews and new apps started rolling out. I did, however, succeed in pulling together this list and brief overview of the best reviews I came across throughout the day, for your reading pleasure.
Early yesterday evening I saw co-editors Alexia Tsotsis and Eric Eldon post an apology for an alleged inappropriate presentation made at TechCrunch Disrupt. Dismissing the short article as a response to yet another activist blowing an innocuous joke way out of proportion though, I paid it little attention until coming across Gawker’s coverage of the event later that evening. Like an article taken directly from The Onion’s homepage, I read about and subsequently watched two incredibly inappropriate presentations with varying degrees of disbelief throughout. More than the actual presentations though, because God only knows enough will be written about them in the coming days, I would like to focus on my original sentiment when I came across TechCrunch’s apology for failing to screen the exhibitions.
My introduction to this article, and the piece I personally found more interesting, was the response Casey Liss wrote. As I read both articles, I thought of something Patrick McKenzie said quite some time ago in Don’t Call Yourself a Programmer, and Other Career Advice: “You radically overestimate the average skill of the competition because of the crowd you hang around with.” While Patrick said that in reference to the perception of one’s own skill set, it is just as applicable here.
When Matt Gemmell publishes his novel, I will buy it regardless of the genre. With talent like this, how could I afford to miss it?
Craig Hockenberry making a very apropos comparison between the Mercedes-Benz S-Class line and Apple’s iPhone 5S. Perhaps just as interesting as his thoughts on the iPhone, however, were his thoughts on this particular vehicular product line, however brief.
I always find a writer traditionally steeped in technology taking a step in to the world of cars disproportionately fascinating. That meticulous nature, attention to detail, and, most important of all, the ability to take in to account the intangibles — aspects of a car that don’t appear on a feature checklist — make for an invariably interesting read.
Just before the iPhone event last week, I linked to an excellent piece by Ben Thompson titled Thinking About iPhone Pricing. A day after the event, he posted another article, Two Minutes, Fifty-Six Seconds, this time explaining Apple’s reasoning behind pricing the 5C at $549. I really enjoyed both articles; Ben Thompson’s intelligence, insight, and storytelling ability is only rivaled by a few.
I’m a little late to the party, I admit, but John Gruber’s thoughts and observations concerning the iPhone event last week are just as interesting now as they would have been Tuesday afternoon.
The interesting trend, I think, as I work through my Instapaper queue from last week reading various writers’ opinions, is everyone recognizing Apple’s strategy with the 5C as exactly what it is: a marketing gimmick designed to give them cause to market both this year’s top model and last year’s hardware.
In the first in a wonderful series of articles, C is for Cognitive Illusion, Horace discussed the positioning of the iPhone 5C, how it differed from past years’ portrayal of the “n-1” product, and what this means for the iPhone line:
Far be it from me to step on Horace Dedeiu or Benedict Evan’s toes in my “analysis”, if you could call it that, of this graph Horace posted yesterday, but I do believe it tells us something interesting about how successful Apple believes the iPhone 5C will be.
In previous quarters, as Horace’s trend shows, the iPhone grew at an increasing rate with each successive launch. That is, Apple’s device sales did not increase linearly with each new phone, but increased in growth rate upon each release giving a nice, curved ramp in cumulative devices sold. At the far right of this trend we have Tim Cook’s claim that iPhone shipments will reach 700 million by October, indicating a sharp uptake in iPhone sales from the norm.
The interesting question here is why he expects this jump. Every other year when Apple introduced revolutionary phones, the company forecasted no such spike. So given this, we cannot attribute such a jump to the 5S no matter how great a device. The credit, instead, must go to the 5C, which marked a distinct change in Apple’s product marketing; no other significant change occurred to which we can attribute this increase.
It’s interesting to see the level of faith Tim Cook has in this new device line. Whether that faith will bbe justified, however, remains to be seen.
Since its debut yesterday virtually everyone has lauded Apple for introducing the iPhone 5C. (I refuse to acknowledge Apple’s ridiculous naming convention; 5c? Please. If I wanted to look like a five year old I could forget to proofread my articles on my own. And I’m not the only one miffed at Apple’s new standard: Lex Friedman, in a tweet yesterday: “If Apple is lowercasing the S and C..., I’m going to start capitalizing the “i": IPhone 5s. That’s better.”) Hailed as the elusive midrange offering from a traditionally high-end company, Apple received great praise over a move many see as a way to increase device sales by capturing the low end. I have a number of issues with that sentiment.
"You hold the encryption keys, which means the NSA holds the keys too. I don’t care for that. Thanks for all the great service along the way.”
In an excellent article posted to The Verge earlier this afternoon Casey Newton made the point I intended to discuss this evening almost as an aside near the end of his article:
“Apple could also let users log in to other apps and services using a fingerprints, providing secure authentication into apps and websites with a couple of taps. If biometric solutions become widely adopted, the tech industry could begin to phase out — or at least augment — the flawed, familiar password.”
With the advent of Passbook in iOS 6, Apple began handling important personal information such as credit card numbers, boarding passes, and gift cards. A few months ago in June, when the company announced iCloud Keychain, it expanded that domain to include passwords, but only on the Mac platform. Before too long — hopefully prior to iOS 8 — I foresee Apple marrying these two technologies with Touch ID on iOS to give users the ability to not only unlock their phone with a fingerprint, but login to websites and apps with that same technology.
Touch ID in its current form is a technology in its infancy; it will take time before we see the full potential of the groundbreaking feature, and perhaps even longer before we realize it.
With just hours left until the iPhone event today it’s a little late to speculate on pricing, but I just couldn’t resist.
Where there is smoke, there is fire. Apple, then Google, and now Sony all make set-top boxes of varying sizes and functionality. Will Apple, as the leader in this trend, be the first to take the next step in the television space?
It’s not a cabin, but I’m sure this neat little structure will appear on Cabin Porn before too long. The advent and increase in popularity of minimal living structures such as this one is very interesting to me; perhaps one day I will build one of my own. Until then, though, I can always dream.
I could write an entire article proposing improvements to the new website alone, let alone the aging app. But this article isn’t just about Instapaper’s website, nor is it just about the app; this article is about Instapaper the read it later service and what Betaworks can do to revolutionize this beloved platform upon its next milestone release.
Wednesday evening, news broke that Apple had removed The Omni Group’s iOS app OmniKeyMaster for facilitating upgrade pricing, a feature Apple has refused to build in to the App Store since its launch. Amidst the vocal calls for change in Apple’s long-standing policies, I remembered something Marco Arment said on an episode of Build & Analyze.
After nearly six years of Windows XP, the tenth major version of Microsoft’s computer operating system released to much hype and high expectations. With an overhauled visual aesthetic and a host of other headlining features, the Windows world heralded this release as the platform atop which the next generation of computers would build itself. An ambitious claim for sure, Microsoft’s promise to not only overhaul the user interface but its very underpinnings as well seemed almost too good to be true. After XP’s phenomenal success though, the claim seemed a believable one. Like a joke straight out of Family Guy, Vista exited the gate and promptly fell flat on its face.
Excellent piece from the New York Times on the less technical challenges of the writing process. I completely agree with Harry Marks — I, too, hate explaining any written work, and especially my own — and the article’s author herself: she made a number of observations that hit very close to home for me.
"That’s the danger of bluffing in anything — you better be 100% certain you aren’t called, or willing to take the risk you are. I think it is clear this was a bluff on Obama’s part. Right or wrong Obama has now been called. There is very little choice for the United States now — because either hard line statements from our President no longer carry weight, or we go to war (of some scale).”
I looked forward to hearing Ben Brooks’ thoughts on this topic all throughout the process of writing Syrian Waves; he didn’t disappoint.
Shortly after Downton Abbey’s third season ended, iTV announced a fourth set for the latter-half of this year. Even as an ardent fan of the British television programme, I paid little attention to the announcement and any ensuing chatter until, presently, it faded from my mind entirely.
Of the few topics I consistently refrain from writing about, I most actively avoid religion and politics. Not because I hesitate to post anything inflammatory or fear alienating potential readers, but more so because I do not know enough about either topic to write with any valid authority. That list used to include Apple rumors and speculation, but the last few weeks have seen me gradually enter that front as well. Today, I expand my topic list once again to include politics.
In an uncharacteristically long post from The Loop titled The state of Apple’s TV quest, Dave Mark made an interesting observation regarding Apple’s alleged impending entrance in to the television industry. The pertinent sentence — cited below — draws a parallel between the music industry prior to the introduction of iTunes and the television industry of today:
On a recent episode of what I believe was Back to Work, Dan and Merlin mentioned in passing a great page on the MacRumors website offering buying advice for Apple products. Based on average product cycles and current rumors, the editors at MacRumors decide whether to give the green-light to purchasing a new Apple device, whether to caution against it in the case of a yellow light, or give a product the red light signifying their advice against purchasing it at this time. Even for those steeped in the Apple community and familiar with all the current rumors, this page is nice to keep around if you ever lose track of whether or not now is a good time to buy a new MacBook Pro.
Possessing the ability to write a CMS and code a website is great — don’t get me wrong — but it’s neat little scripts like this one that make me glad I learned to program.
"Considering Huangshan’s extreme beauty, it’s not surprising that the area derives much of its significance from Chinese art and literature. It has inspired poets such as Li Bai, many Chinese ink paintings, and more recently, photography. According to Wikipedia, over 20,000 poems were written about the mountains between the Tang Dynasty (618-906) and the end of the Qing Dynasty (1614 to 1911). They’ve also inspired modern works, lending to the fictional world designed for James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar.”
Seeing such majestic scenery as this mountain range is so common in many of today’s movies and TV shows, yet it takes an article like this to realize that such places do actually exist in the real world.
"His paintings show a universe much like our own, but beside the everyday humans carrying out everyday activities are massive buildings and machines running on technologies currently unknown.”
This is exactly the sort of article I subscribed to Visual News for. Very impressive.
"There’s a great movie to be made about the life of Steve Jobs, but Jobs is not it. The primary challenge in making a film about the co-founder of Apple is finding an actor who can play an overtly cerebral, egomaniacal dick, but a dick for whom you want to root. Besides a striking resemblance to the young Steve Jobs, Ashton Kutcher is a terrible choice: There’s nothing about his character that makes you want to root for him, and all of his attempts to depict Jobs as a dick are layered in frat-boy douchebaggery.”
I haven’t seen Jobs yet, but I absolutely love everything about this review, from the title to the closing paragraph. Easily one of the best articles I have read in quite some time.
Although the first movie adaptation of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon could have passed as a mildly successful yet unremarkable summer movie, it falls far short when compared to the original series from which it borrowed little besides character names and basic plotlines, only to discard the latter whenever the “director” deemed it convenient. Anyone who has ever seen a book-turned-movie undoubtedly read that without any surprise; the book invariable proves better than the movie, or so that adage goes, and there are countless examples supporting the phrase in just the last year alone.
Whereas Matt appears to perhaps unintentionally relegate his condemnation to those producing poorly-formed written work for public consumption, I would take his advice one step further and apply it to every single written sentence, whether that fragment of prose is something so innocuous as a text message or important as a book. Regardless of the medium, there exists no suitable excuse for degrading the writers’ craft with poor work.
When this article originally made its rounds, I saved it to Instapaper but put off reading the piece. With a title like “Working in the Shed”, I assumed Matt Gemmell had gone off the deep end and actually taken his Macbook out into a backyard shed in an extreme attempt at curbing his Twitter addiction. Having finally gotten around to reading his excellent article though, I’m here to say that Working in the Shed is much, much more than an anecdote about avoiding distraction. I won’t go any further though: go read the article yourself.
Well, there goes that theory.
"All we can really gleam from this new footage is this: Thor has a problem. Loki has some knowledge of how to fix that problem. The two team up. After that, it’s all Thor swaggering, Loki sneering, and the two doing a whole bunch of fantasy-themed ass-kicking.”
What more do we need? I, for one, am extremely excited to see this movie come November. The first fell short in many, many areas, but after The Avengers and its phenomenal success I have high hopes for this sequel.
With the beta release of Instapaper’s newly overhauled and undeniably much more attractive website, we are finally beginning to see some of the great new features Marco sold Instapaper to Betaworks for. As I said in What Happened to Instapaper?, I’m very excited to see where the company takes Instapaper in the near future. A new website was a wonderful place to begin.
And for those thinking Betaworks has sat on their hands for the last four months, Marco Arment dispels that notion in his blog post responding to the announcement:
“Betaworks has only owned Instapaper for a few months so far, and they’ve already hired a staff, moved the entire infrastructure to AWS, improved support, rewritten much of the back end, and overhauled the website design.”
This is a very promising start. Next up: a new version of Instapaper for iOS, likely to be released around the same time iOS 7 hits the market.
Can’t say I love the site, but his flow chart is excellent. That’s all there is to it, folks; it’s not too complicated.
I devoted my last post to discussing Ina Fried’s prediction of a September 10th iPhone launch date, forgoing my thoughts on the article itself and its rise to popularity over the last twenty-four hours. From my opening paragraph:
Earlier this morning, as I scrolled through my RSS reader, I came across a number of articles mentioning an unassuming and altogether unremarkable AllThingsD piece by Ina Fried. Despite its lukewarm tone, the prediction of a September iPhone launch event ran the gamut of popular tech sites and garnered a great deal of attention even though it said nothing surprising or even particularly interesting at this point. Setting that aside for a future article though, I would like to focus on the rumor itself.
Last night I posted a link to John Gruber’s commentary of MG Siegler’s article cited above. I found Gruber’s realization that rather than a floundering monolith Amazon is instead a flourishing innovator pouring almost the entirety of its profits back in to the very ecosystem responsible for creating that revenue in the first place a very interesting one, especially given Mathew Alexander’s similar sentiment expressed on a past episode of his podcast Bionic.
Today I got around to reading the original piece from MG Siegler, and I couldn’t agree with Gruber more: it’s a wonderful article well worth the read, especially for those who do not fully understand Amazon and the Apple community’s continued fascination with the company.
"Ability to disable Control Center while using apps. The feature previously worked no matter where you were in iOS 7. Now you can select to have it turned off whenever an app is open. It can also be disabled on the lock screen.”
Immediately upon reading this it struck me how very strange it is for Apple, notorious for choosing the one experience it considers best and enforcing it with a hard and unyielding hand, to give its users control over such a major feature in iOS 7. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the setting gone by the next beta release.
Bitsplitting has been and remains my single favorite interview podcast. One hundred episodes of Hypercritical exposed me to fields of knowledge I otherwise would never have come across, but it took a different kind of show to really acquaint me with the internet’s favorite critic. Although I would not go so far as to presume to know John Siracusa, Bitsplitting gave me wonderful insight into the man behind the curtain not only for Hypercritical, but many other podcasts as well. This hiatus will serve as a great opportunity for new listeners to catch up on the first season before Daniel Jalkut picks back up again, hopefully in the near future. Go check it out; I promise you won’t be disappointed.
When I set out to write this piece, I began with a title: “Sometimes, I Need Lighter Fluid”. As is often the case, inspiration for the title and accompanying article came at quite the inopportune moment: just after I had started shaving. Nevertheless, I captured both and began writing intending to bemoan the fact that over the last three months or thereabouts, I had failed to produce a respectable number of substantial articles. Attributing this lack of prolificacy to my job, I planned to write about how posting linked list items kept writing at the forefront of my mind, and how these types of articles often served as the gateway drug, if you will, to the long-form pieces I wrote in the evenings and on weekends.
John Gruber, commenting on MG’s article: “I’ve harped on Amazon’s seemingly eternal lack of profitability as much as anyone, but when you think about it and study their business, it’s not that they can’t turn a profit. They’re not burning through money like they were in the go-go ‘90s. They simply choose not to turn a profit, and instead invest everything in operations and low prices.”
Mathew Alexander of One37.net and the popular podcast Bionic, in an episode from quite some time ago, made a similar point responding to the hyperbole following an Amazon earnings announcement painting the company as an unprofitable and therefore doomed company. Flying in the face of the familiar rhetoric the Apple community almost univocally spouts, the notion that instead of simply being unable to make money Amazon instead pours almost all of its profits back in to the very ecosystem that created it in the first place rather than saving those funds for a rainy day as Apple does is a very interesting — and apparently novel — way to think of the company, and one that lends a great deal of credence to the notion of Amazon emerging as a major player in the tech sector sometime in the near future.
Speaking of why I read John Gruber’s work, this kind of post, with this type of headline, is exactly why I read Daring Fireball: it made me laugh out loud, and showed me something I otherwise would not have come across. Good stuff.
"Randall Munroe’s web comic XKCD has long been known for pushing boundaries in strange ways, but his latest experiment topped them all. Over the course of four months, “Time” grew as a frame was added every 30 minutes or so, ending up with over 3,000 individual frames by the time it wrapped up earlier this week.”
I absolutely love XKCD. I have read every one of Randall Munroe’s 1246 comics, and Time — which you can watch in its entirety over at Aubron Wood — is one of my favorites. I plan to read the next 1246 strips as well; I suggest you do the same.
"That is the very reason Android has no Gruber-like figure - they have no central philosophy that would allow such a figure to emerge. What would the Android Gruber write about? There are of course Android writers out there, but they mostly cover the latest greatest phone or compare feature sets. They never really put things into context with the overall philosophy of the platform like Gruber does with Apple, because there is no overall philosophy.”
An interesting article to be sure, but I can’t quite say I agree with him: I subscribe to Daring Fireball’s RSS feed because I enjoy the occasional snarky comment Gruber tacks on to his articles and because his site is a great place to discover trending topics in the Apple world. To date, I can’t say I have ever read a single one of his long-form articles, so to say that the reason I read his site is for pieces that “put things into context with the overall philosophy of the platform” couldn’t be farther from the truth: I would still subscribe to his site if he wrote about Android, so long as this Gruber-like figure did his job well and with an attitude.
"This has nothing to do with politics, or gender. I know women who have been threated physically because of their thoughts on real-time strategy games. I knew men who had their spouses and children threatened, or had racial or sexual harassment thrown their way, because of review scores. This isn’t new. This isn’t rare. And it’s not something anyone can easily ignore, or something they should expected to endure silently and gracefully.” - Ben Kuchera for Penny Arcade in Swimming in a sea of shit
Both Burn Notice and NCIS, arguably two of USA Network’s most popular television broadcasts, adhere to a strict rule set in each and every episode: a sailor dies, the NCIS team responds and eventually solves the case, and in the last few minutes the overarching story progresses ever so slightly. Similarly, Burn Notice opens with the client, someone with a problem that Michael will agree to solve after a varying amount of reluctance, and closes with the minute progression of a larger plot just as NCIS does. Although I have only occasionally seen other installments of USA’s programs, shows like Psych and to a lesser degree Covert Affairs follow the same basic outline.
Just over two short weeks in to the new year, Casey Liss, former Build & Analyze host Marco Arment, and former Hypercritical host John Siracusa released a casual car podcast aptly dubbed Neutral. The show went on to received critical acclaim not only for its fantastic roster, but for its role pioneering a new show format in the podcasting space as well. Finishing in just twelve short episodes, Neutral and its hosts proved not only the the viability of a limited run in podcasting, but its worth as well.
Last month, in Apple’s Wildcard, I predicted Tim Cook announcing an iPhone 5S rather than an iPhone 6 this fall, pointing to the 3G and 3GS, 4 and 4S models as proof. I did, however, hedge my bets with Tim Cook’s “Can’t innovate, my ass” comment:
"Instead of hurling myself at an insurmountable goal simply because it was named respectably, I came in with a personal best by asking more from my strengths and forgiving my weaknesses.”
It’s an article ostensibly about video games, though it may have just as well been about overcoming barriers by setting aside the often malformed and unrealistic expectations we often place upon both ourselves and our work.
Great story from none other than The Verge about the App Store on it’s fifth birthday.
I have always had great trouble starting to write. I seldom found the actual act of writing difficult, only getting started. The same goes for programming: once I had successfully implemented the main functionality I set out to imbue First Crack with, I ceased iterating on the project not for lack of new ideas — with the underlying code functional and working, I wanted to design an accompanying GUI, for example — but instead because I lacked the drive to approach such a monumental task. I was burned out, I suppose, tired after working on the same project for months and months, and stuck in a linkblog rut when it came to writing.
With the minor caveat of having drawn its entire inspiration solely from one of the most unintelligible and idiotic videos I have ever seen, Jon Negroni’s theory that all Pixar movies not only take place within the same world but also serve to establish a connected timeline is nevertheless a very interesting one. Like most conspiracy theories, Jon’s proposition makes use of many seemingly related happenstances and strings them together in to a plausible proposition, which he then offered up as a work-in-progress theory.
"Part of me think that an entry level iPhone will be very much like an iPod touch with an antenna, with hardware that’s capable enough to run all of iOS 7’s features, is better than the any last generation iPhone, but won’t compare to what’s inside Apple’s flagship offering.”
Marco Arment, writing in response to a Hacker News commenter questioning the effectiveness of Apple punditry changing minds within the corporation:
“I’ve heard a number of times in the last few years that something I wrote was circulated within Apple or brought up in an internal discussion, usually to support one side of a debate. And it’s very unlikely that Marco.org is the only site that Apple employees read.”
That’s pretty awesome.
It’s been a while since I linked to post on Cabin Porn, but this beautiful cabin was just too good to pass up.
"Copying iOS 7 is going to be a big problem for cheap hardware. iOS 7’s appearance and dynamics require a powerful GPU and advanced, finely tuned, fully hardware-accelerated graphics and animation APIs. This will hurt web imitators most, but it’s also going to be problematic for Android: while high-end Android phones have mostly caught up in GPU performance, and recent Android versions have improved UI acceleration, most Android devices sold are neither high-end nor up-to-date.” - Marco Arment in iOS 7 As Defense. Craig Hockenberry made the same point in episode forty-six of John Gruber’s The Talk Show around minute 35:40.
My second foray into the world of Apple speculation. In my first, which I titled Apple’s Wildcard, I spoke to the possibility of Tim Cook announcing an iPone 6 and budget iPhone this fall: while I consider neither particularly likely, leaning more towards an iPhone 5S as the continuation of Apple’s apparent tick-tock cycle and disappointment for those waiting on a budget iPhone, I hedged my bets with Tim Cook’s “Can’t innovate, my ass” comment. Since writing that piece though the budget iPhone has remained a surprisingly popular topic, and thus something I feel I should readdress.
For the most part I try to stay away from Apple speculation: quite simply, I neither know enough about the company’s past and present situation nor do I pay close enough attention to pick up on the subtleties of this practice. Then I read an interesting article speculating about Apple’s Fall hardware announcements, and I decided to give it a try.
I ask this question every time I open the app: What happened to Instapaper? After its sale both Marco and Betaworks seemed so enthusiastic about the popular read later service’s future. Since then two months have gone by without a peep from anyone — not even a point release.
I hate the word “sexting" — I really do. It sounds as if a sixth-grader invented it in jest and whose parents, upon overhearing it, decided to apply it as the label for the act of sending lewd pictures on a mobile device. Or maybe the fated decision was left to a lonely man in the poorly-lit corner cubicle, laboring under a flickering fluorescent light: “Texting and sex... ‘Tex'? No, that’s not it. ‘Sex texting'? Too long. Ha, that’s what she said... ‘Stex'? Still no; drat.” Regardless of whoever picked the term though, it stuck, and it stuck to Snapchat.
Speaking of app redesigns, Nevan Mrgan tweeted a screenshot of an app he was in the process of redesigning for iOS 7. Unlike Instacast 4’s mockups, this one looks like it will fit right in.
Two days ago Betaworks — creator of the popular iOS game Dots, the company behind Digg’s rise back to fame, and proud owner of Instapaper — opened Digg Reader to the public after greatly accelerating its development following the announcement of Google Reader’s impending demise. Especially for a product upon which work was not schedule to begin until the end of this year, Digg Reader is a very impressive entrant into the RSS reader market.
A few days ago Instacast’s created tweeted some mockups of the app’s next iteration. As a diehard Instacast fan, I was very excited to get a sneak peek at the next version of the popular podcasting app.
A few weeks ago now Yahoo bought Tumblr for more than a billion dollars; responding to the news, Marco Arment wrote The One-Person Product. In episode seventy-five of Roderick on the Line, John talked about watching successful young artists blow fortunes one CD at a time. On the one hundred and twentieth episode of their Back to Work program, Dan and Merlin discussed a common topic between Marco’s article and John’s podcast, the topic of a safety net.
I really enjoy reading Matt Gemmell’s writing. His article from quite a while ago, Writing Tools, caught my attention, and iOS 7 greatly impressed me. So, earlier this afternoon, I subscribed to his site; ironically, The Unfollower was the first article I read after doing so. Continuing the previously-established trend of excellence, this piece was no exception.
While I don’t agree with many of the author’s points, nor do I agree with her overarching theme, she did, however, say a number of interesting things throughout the piece. I tried, for the most part, to stay away from articles written on this topic, but this one is well worth the read.
“The security state operates as a ratchet. Once you click in a new level of surveillance or intrusiveness, it becomes the new baseline. What was unthinkable yesterday becomes permissible in exceptional cases today, and routine tomorrow."
"What makes an app great is the little things — the small details that take something normal and turn it into something extraordinary. I see iOS 7 as a blank canvas — an ‘un-design’ if you will. The goal of a 3rd-party isn’t to copy the stock apps pixel for pixel (that wasn’t the goal for iOS 1-6, and it’s not the goal now). Rather this is Apple saying it’s time to re-imagine what mobile software should look and act like. Five-hundred million people are using iOS devices, and it’s time for the training wheels to come off.”
In this morass of terribly-written prose, Rene Ritchie did manage to make an interesting point:
“The problem is that Apple listened, and now instead of being a trend creator they are ‘following’ trends.”
While I can’t say I necessarily agree with this opinion, it is nevertheless a very interesting one, and one that I haven’t see voiced since the WWDC keynote nearly a week ago.
I love this article. Its post slug, “campus”, should give you an idea as to what it is about. Great read.
Working my way through The B&B Podcast’s back catalog I came across episode seventy-three, Faded Avocado, during which Shawn and Ben talked about Marcelo Somer’s piece The Linkblog Cancer. This article sparked a controversy that went viral a few months ago, a controversy even the likes of Jim Dalrymple and Marco Arment felt the need to respond to. I even mentioned it, albeit briefly, in my article Reinventing the Linkblog.
For those curious, Ben and Shawn argued both sides very well and made a number of great points. If you have to pick one episode of The B&B Podcast to listen to, this is a good choice.
ReadWrite’s new site looks fantastic, very reminiscent of Digg’s current design.
“It would have been easy at that point to rest on our laurels. But we and our colleagues at Say Media, our parent company, whose technology and design teams worked tirelessly on this launch, wanted to keep pushing our design forward and drop the remnants of the ‘90s-era Web that clung to our site.”
Good for them.
Reminds me of the old “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” days. Even though, as Ian Paul points out in his article, the commercial is laughably innacruate, I still had a good chuckle.
"Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives. If you want to enter a category that’s crowded on iOS 6, and you’re one of the few that exclusively targets iOS 7, your app can look better, work better, and be faster and cheaper to develop than most competing apps.”
Now I see why this article was at the top of the Hacker News front page. Marco is very hopeful for this fall, and rightly so: iOS 7 does indeed present a rare opportunity for existing markets to be disrupted by brand new entrants. I’m extremely excited to see what comes next, especially from Marco. We are moving towards a very interesting time; buckle up and hold on.
Almost every time Apple releases a new version of iOS, someone has the Marco Arment “Well, shit” moment. The time, most prominently, it was 1Password’s turn, although other small, one-off app developers likely had similar reactions throughout the keynote.
The temptation certainly exists to criticize Satoru Iwata and his decision not to bring the company’s most popular titles to mobile gaming platforms like iOS; however, looking beyond our disappointment at being unable to play Pokemon and Mario Kart on the iPhone, we can look at the situation dispassionately and draw a number of parallels between Nintendo and Apple, Satoru Iwata and Steve Jobs: both men led (and lead) their respective corporations with a complicated, long-term vision for success. As the sole possessor of this grand master plan, Iwata’s decisions, like Jobs’s, sometimes seem nonsensical and even cryptic, in a way. Nonsensical or not though, no one in their right mind would argue that Steve Jobs was anything less than a genius; perhaps, in time, the same will prove true of Satoru Iwata.
Wonderfully worded and impressively well thought-out, Matt Gemmel’s article iOS 7 is easily the best piece on the topic I have read since the WWDC keynote address. In explaining the motivation behind Apple’s complete UI overhaul in iOS7, he began his one-two punch with this paragraph:
“The thing is, we’ve grown up. We don’t require hand-holding to tell us what to click or tap. Interactivity is a matter of invitation, and physical cues are only one specific type. iOS 7 is an iOS for a more mature consumer, who understands that digital surfaces are interactive, and who doesn’t want anything getting in the way of their content.”
Then, following up, he said something curiously familiar before moving on with the article:
“The basic functionality hasn’t changed. You still use iOS in the same way, and almost everything is where you expect it to be. The same gestures work. There are a few differences here and there – it’s a major new version of the OS, after all – but the changes are mostly aesthetic. You won’t be confused by iOS 7 if you’re accustomed to a previous version."
I try to, for the most part, stay positive when I write on here. Instead of taking a page out of Jim Dalrymple’s play book, not that there is anything wrong with his approach, and calling shenanigans and bullshit when I see shenanigans and bullshit, I try to “take the high road” and either ignore bad writing and poorly-formed opinions altogether, or criticize them generously. In the wake of the iOS 7 announcement though, many people have said things that I consider — quite frankly — stupid, especially concerning iOS 7’s overhauled interface.
"I think of it much in the same way I do exercise—you just have to make yourself miserable for a finite period of time, to reap the benefits later.”
Another Soylent story, this one, interestingly, less lauding than the others.
Surrounded by Tweetbot on my iPhone, iMore’s live blog on one iPad and Apple’s keynote stream on another, and flanked by my inconveniently inoperable computer, I watched Tim Cook introduce iOS 7. Even now, I can’t quite quantify the feeling I had upon seeing iOS 7 for the first time: a mixture of surprise and relief at the departure from almost every previously-held design philosophy, amazement for reasons that anyone who watched the keynote or read one of the many blog posts recapping the event would find obvious, and perhaps even euphoria for some inexplicable reason. iOS 7 is beautiful, plain and simple, and the reason my next computer will be a Mac.
Although I make it a point not to spend much time talking about my personal life on this blog, it occasionally creeps in to my writing in the form of an anecdote, perhaps, or the inspiration for an entire article. A few weeks before Christmas last year, I linked to an article by Jason Snell titled Why I’m Writing on the iPad, in which he talked about a time when he was forced to write using a pen and paper rather than on a computer. In my brief article linking to that piece, I talked about a six month period during which I kept a journal for a person very near and dear to my heart. I happened across that article a few minutes ago in the process of writing a new piece, and this paragraph struck a chord:
Shawn Blanc in an article published over two years ago, which he linked to earlier this afternoon in a linked-list post:
“But suppose one day I do arrive at some level of skill where the ink flows like honey and the prose like fine wine. I wonder if I’d even realize it. It may very well feel just like it does right now — like today — when it seems as if I can’t even put two words together using copy and paste."
For the past three days, I’ve gotten out of “the office” to write, meaning instead of in my room where I usually write, I went outside and sat in the backyard. And it’s done wonders for my work.
Up until now, I have, with but one exception, abstained from writing a single article containing anything but simple text. That exception, a video from Merlin Mann, Scott Simpson, and Adam Lisagor titled Smart and Funny, was just too good to resist: I couldn’t bear the thought of not posting it, of not sharing this hilarious video with everyone that happened to visit my site.
As I said, that video is the only exception, an exception I made because it was great. Today, a new Tumblr popped up called Unsplash. Every ten days, the curator of Unsplash posts ten new hi-resolution photos, free for anyone to use in all their glory. The first ten are nothing short of amazing — not great, even better: amazing. I can’t wait to see the next batch.
"We now have a Facebook page where we will post photos, video, and teasers of upcoming articles.”
For the past week or so, I’ve been on a bit of a writing binge. With school finally done for the summer, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time I quickly filled with writing at every possible moment. I started and finished Nickelodeon’s Experiment over the first six days, and wrote a number of much smaller articles and link posts since then. All in all, it’s been a great few days.
As Glenn Fleishman said in the article’s opening sentence, Marco has indeed had a very busy few weeks lately. I’m very enthusiastic about the changes Glenn plans to make in the coming weeks and months with the publication of an actual print volume and the advent of a complementary podcast. Until now I haven’t made time to subscribe despite constantly hearing wonderful things about The Magazine; who knows, maybe this will get me to bite the bullet and spend my summer reading.
Writing about writing has always held great interest for me. That’s why, when I saw Shawn Blanc’s article The Root of Non-Writing pop up in Reeder earlier this afternoon, I read it, saved it to Instapaper, and then read it again. I love metawriting.
"With each paragraph you write, double the amount of time you spend editing. It’s not just grammar and spelling errors that might be hurting your credibility. Is your point clear, literate, and concise? Have you pruned aggressively to find the core of what you’re saying? With each additional paragraph, the higher the chance becomes that you’ve made an egregious mistake that might make your email confusing and forgettable."
Michael Lopp explaining why engineers, in his experience, appear to hate you:
“In your company, there are three kinds of people. There are those you are aware of, but who don’t immediately affect your world. There are those who mildly affect your world and upon whom you have a lightweight dependency. And there are those who are an active part of your world. You depend on them.
“I don’t want to depend on you. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that as an engineer I irrationally believe that anything I don’t build with my own hands is going to get fucked up by someone else. I believe this because I’ve spent a good portion of my life watching other well-meaning people sit down at a computer and simply... make things harder for themselves.”
Replace “company” with “life” in the first paragraph and he just explained me. The entire article, in fact, and his characterization of the engineer describes my personality to a T. Well said, Mr. Lopp, well said.
"The cap on WWDC tickets means it won’t go the way of SXSW - a wildly successful conference that has grown consistently since its inception. I used to go every year until one late night we looked around a huge sea of strangers and decided that we no longer knew this conference. The experience had become diluted. It had become unfamiliar, full of strangers, and unknowable.”
For the most part, I didn’t follow the discussion surrounding WWDC ticket sales after they sold out in under two minutes. I read John Siracusa’s article on the topic, but for the most part stayed out of the conversation. I haven’t ever gone to WWDC, after all, nor do I plan to in the foreseeable future. From the few articles I did see, however, and based on the numerous podcasts that touched on the subject, I noticed that by far the vast majority criticized Apple for capping WWDC attendance at 5,000. Michael Lopp’s piece linked at the top of this article was the only piece of note I came across defending Apple’s decision, and easily the best.
As a brief aside before you go on your way, before tonight I had only heard of Michael Lopp in name. Specifically, I remember this one time, very distinctly for some reason, John Gruber mentioned him and his blog on an episode of The Talk Show. After reading Unknowable, I took a few minutes to check out his site. Ten minutes later I finished adding Rands in Repose to my RSS reader; I was very impressed. Over the next half hour I jumped between this article and You’re Not Listening, an article from last year about verbal communication and all its curious little nuances. It was a very interesting read and a representative sample of the type and quality of article Michael Lopp writes. As I suggested at the end of Tumblr. + Yahoo! = !!, if you are unfamiliar with his work, go check it out.
Almost a week ago I did something I rarely do: I wrote an article out of frustration. I had pushed and pushed myself to not only write every day, but to publish something at least once a day as well. But some days, there just isn’t anything to write about; sometimes, I need more than a day to work through an idea; and some days, I just don’t feel like writing. Instead of a strong readership, I only had frustration to show for my efforts. Writer’s Guilt was me saying that I had had enough: I was finished prolonging this never-ending sprint, constantly pushing myself to make and publish work I was not proud of. Then I decided to shift gears, looking to a shift in focus to revitalize my writing. Almost a week later, I’m here to say it worked.
The first time I saw the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was sitting in a friend’s closet. The floor was a mess, with clothes and toys strewn all about. It had rained almost constantly since morning, so the lot of us had stayed inside for most of the day. I was ten, and the show captivated me. That feeling stuck with me until roughly six years later when I sat down to watch the series from beginning to end. Even at sixteen, I still loved the show. Love the show, I should say — present tense, not past.
Since January first, 2009, Jonathan Mann has written a song every day. Every single day, for four years, four months, and four weeks exactly, Jonathan Mann, without fail, wrote and produced a song. That’s 1609 days, and 1609 songs. Those who have a hard time writing every day, feel free to take notes.
"But most importantly, what the hell does Yahoo do with all the porn?"
Ben Brooks asking the tough questions. I love everything he does, from his writing to The B&B Podcast, retired on February 7th of this year. If you haven’t ever read any of his work, this piece wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
In the past I have heard it said that there exists but one story, that every book and movie is nothing more than retelling of that single plot. Perhaps most famously, John Steinbeck once said something to this effect in his book East of Eden:
Nearly every day I see a new CSS module, jQuery boilerplate, or HTML5 template posted to Hacker News, or an article announcing the release of the latest version of Ember.js, whatever that is. Every so often, I follow the link out of curiosity; and every time, I close the page, disappointed.
I wish I had $635 to spend on this.
When I wrote Writer’s Guilt a few hours ago, I was done. I was drained. I was finished, and I was mad. Nevertheless, for an article written in anger, it turned out to be pretty good. As I walked downstairs after publishing it, I couldn’t help but feel just a little proud. Then I had a banana, an orange, sat down on the couch, and watched The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift for the first time in much too long. I had forgotten how great a movie it is — I had forgotten how great the entire series is, really. But after Tokyo Drift ended, as the last scene faded from the screen and the credits began to roll, I remembered. I remembered how much I love the series; I remembered how much I love movies.
Some days, I want to write. Other days, I don’t. Today is one of the latter, and yet I still wrote this. Why?
Speaking of iOS text editors, Brett Terpstra created an amazing chart comparing more iOS text editors than anyone could possibly use in a lifetime. This list went around the internet a few months ago, but it certainly merits linking to again. To anyone searching for a new editor, start here.
I used to write almost exclusively on my computer. Then, my spacebar started going bad sometime around November of last year, inconveniently just before I launched this blog. Especially problematic given how much and how often I like to write, I nevertheless decided not to fix it: right around that time the flame war around the iPad as solely a content consumption versus a multi-faceted creation device was raging across the internet, and I wanted to decide what I would use my own iPad for myself.
Quite some time ago I came across a very interesting statement in the most unlikely of places, in a “tips and tricks” piece sensationally titled 10 Rare But Simple Blog Tricks that Make You Look Like a Genius, where the author writes:
On January 18th Horace Dediu made two observations and posted them to Twitter. Shortly after those tweets went live, I began constructing a short article around them. Either unable or simply unwilling to finish the article though, the beginnings of this piece have remained in Simplenote since then. Now, with my Instapaper queue finally completely empty for the first time since I bought the app, I finally have the time and — more importantly — available attention to begin working through my back catalog of half-baked articles, the first of which is this one about Apple bloggers.
"This is almost exactly what I imagined the Nintendo phone would look like”, I thought when I came across the Jolla phone this morning in a Tech Crunch article. The same principles that inspired my “8-Bit Nintendo Phone” appeared to have driven the creators of the Jolla phone to design a product innovative in both its hardware and software alike. Unfortunately, this phone will not come to America for quite some time; however, based on the information available at the company’s home page, I formulated a few admittedly premature thoughts on this topic.
"Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up, Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business. David Karp will remain CEO. The product, service and brand will continue to be defined and developed separately with the same Tumblr irreverence, wit, and commitment to empower creators.”
A lot of people have written about this announcement. They started when rumors of the acquisition began gaining significant traction yesterday and haven’t stopped since. For all the long-winded articles explaining how this deal undoubtedly spells the end of Tumblr and the hissy fits of those lashing out as if anyone cares to listen though, Myke Hurley put it best in a tweet from yesterday evening:
“I think it’s fair to say Marissa Mayer is giving us exactly what we hoped.
She is building an exciting Yahoo!"
Yahoo! under Marissa Mayer has been doing a lot of interesting things lately. She really has built an exciting Yahoo!, and one that I look forward to seeing many great things come from in the coming months and years.
I try to post something every day. Most days I accomplish this goal, while occasionally I go an entire week without a single post. Most of the updates I publish are links to the works of others, something insightful, funny, or interesting I found while plowing through my Instapaper queue. Occasionally though, every once in a while, the proverbial muse, making his rounds, comes around and hits me especially hard. After a few hours of heads-down writing, I emerge with a couple link posts and a few actual articles tucked under my arm, ready to post. And then the cycle repeats itself: I spend another week or two forcing myself to read and eventually write something dull until, once again, I feel the inspiration to actually write a real article.
Moisés writing about the three lingering problems plaguing Nintendo these days, and what he believes are the best solutions to those issues. In the last point under problem #2, “Nintendo isn’t simple anymore”, Moisés introduces a concept he discussed with Horace on the eighty-third episode of The Critical Path, The Analyst Taxonomy: the idea of a Nintendo phone.
“If Nintendo is actually serious about staying in hardware, they should be developing a phone. That the most profitable gaming platform (mobile phones) completely lacks Nintendo software is bizarre.
“Their tablet platform already exists, and is attached to their set-top box. The same VirtualConsole-scale games could run on a phone with physical gameplay buttons, just as they do on the Wii U GamePad and the 3DS. They already make a mobile-scale OS, and have been doing so for years. Their classic games just don’t work on phones that have no physical controls. If anyone can truly break through with a smart gamerphone, it would be Nintendo, but they show no interest whatsoever in this space.”
Throughout the article Moisés drew a number of parallels between Nintendo and Apple, culminating with the suggestion that Nintendo come out and an offering not unlike the Apple TV to close the piece. As I said in The 8-Bit Nintendo Phone, such a comparison is not only apt but also very appropriate given the similarities between the two. I can only hope that those similarities extend beyond Nintendo’s aptitude for hardware and software creation to the ability to disrupt existing markets with revolutionary new products.
"'A tremendous amount of work has gone into every aspect of The Loop magazine from the fonts and design, to the writers I chose to be part of it. I want readers to enjoy every single article in a clean, ad-free environment. They should look forward to every issue because the experience was so good.'"
Prior to last Thursday, The Magazine was the only item on my Newsstand bookshelf. Marco Arment finally has some company.
I often start strong: I have an idea, direction, and inspiration; I know where I want to take this brand new piece and how I will get there. If I’m lucky, that article will go live within a day or two of its inception; if not, well, that’s when I have a problem.
The director’s cut of Hunter S. Thompson’s sensational article about the Kentucky Derby, posted online along with a series of parentheticals and insights in to the time in which he wrote this seminal piece. What an outstanding writer.
I stand by what I said yesterday when I linked to the collection of Paul Miller’s thirty-five dispatches from his year without the internet: he did something admirable and made quite a few interesting observations along the way. That said though, I found Harry Marks’s parody piece, My Valiant Return to Reading, absolutely hilarious.
The idea that one could earn a living through blogging, especially considering the relative infancy of the computing industry as a whole and the internet in particular, fascinates me. Twenty years ago, such an occupation did not exist; today, websites like The Loop, Marco.org, and Daring Fireball attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each month, generating a steady and respectable cash flow for their respective authors Jim Dalrymple, Marco Arment, and John Gruber. When I started writing this article five months ago, before it fell through the cracks and was lost until just recently, The Loop attracted an average of 400,000 visitors every month and claimed an audience of more than 17,000 Twitter followers. Today, those numbers have jumped up to an average monthly audience of 1,230,000 and a Twitter following just shy of 31,000 between The Loop’s own account and Jim Dalrymple’s. As for Marco.org, five months ago the site engaged an audience of around 500,000 every month and a mere 1,500 people followed the associated Twitter account, whereas today the two mediums have increased to 600,000 and just over 5,500, respectively. Daring Fireball, impressively, boasted an amazing mean of 4,000,000 pageviews each month, which has increased to somewhere between four and five million since then, and a Twitter following of 43,500, up to 55,000 in recent months.
Over the year he spent without the internet, Paul Miller wrote thirty-five articles for The Verge. I have only gotten to a few of these dispatches so far, but I already added the rest to my Instapaper queue. This isn’t just a story about a guy who got tired of the internet; it’s a story about a guy who got tired of the internet, an interesting story about a guy who did something about it, and a moving story about how that decision effected his life. It would be impossible for me to praise this venture enough to give Paul Miller the credit he is due, so just go and read about it. Start with the first post, aptly titled I’m leaving the internet for a year.
"Perhaps more noteworthy is Reeder’s new, standalone RSS feature — you don’t even need a Feedbin or Google Reader account anymore. Instead, you can start curating RSS feeds right on your iPhone; if you had a Google Reader account you can also simply import your feeds straight from there.”
Great news. Reeder is easily my favorite iOS RSS reader, and definitely one of the best on the market. This new feature makes it all the more appealing not just to me as an existing customer, but hopefully to potential future users as well. I just imported all my Google Reader feeds in to the app, and it works like a charm.
"This 135g technical marvel became privy to my secrets, my dreams, my work and personal life. Since that time, I’ve worn my way through several iterations of this device, yet my feeling for ‘it’ grows stronger as the months and years go by."
In 2012, Betaworks purchased Digg; a year later in 2013, the company announced a revamped list of priorities placing a successor to Google Reader at the top, and acquired Instapaper a few months later. As Brian Bishop pointed out in Instapaper acquired by Betaworks, owner of Digg, the Instapaper-RSS reader combination uniquely positions Betaworks to emerge as a major player on the internet in the combing years. As an extremely innovation-friendly company, I am very excited to see what Betaworks releases in the coming weeks and months. I have high hopes for the company, as I am sure many others do as well. And apparently, rightly so.
What a great idea. I will seriously consider getting one of these.
Speaking of Cabin Porn, the folks over at the site have put a lot of work in to finding and posting great pictures lately, as well as polishing the site’s design over the past few months. And while it may not be new, for I actually can’t remember if it was there or not before today, I wanted to take a minute to mention the Cabin Porn Archive, where you can find every post going all the way back to February of 2009. Having just discovered this page this afternoon, don’t expect to hear from me for quite a while.
Seeing pictures like this one remind me of all the times I looked at a hill and thought about how awesome it would be to grab a shovel and dig a house out of it, similar to the way Sean Hellfritsch and Rob Wilson built their subterranean breakfast nook, but more like this stone cellar in Newfoundland.
The idea of a Nintendo phone, initially proposed by Moisés Chiullan and Horace Dediu on episode eighty-three of The Critical Path, has continued to gain traction in my mind since I listened to The Analyst Taxonomy. As Moisés pointed out in the tail end of the show Nintendo, like Apple, possesses the capability to not only manufacture physical devices, but to create the software necessary to run them as well.
Shortly after Merlin Mann posted Chasing the Right Zero I linked to the article, as did most of the internet. With Chasing the Right Zero, Merlin wrote the article I had had simmering on the back burner for months, putting to words my epiphany regarding Inbox Zero and the real meaning behind the philosophy. At the time I felt no need to add anything to his words or quantify my own opinions on the subject, so my linked list post contained nothing but a short pull quote. Merlin had made the real meaning behind Inbox Zero very clear, after all; I had nothing further to add to the conversation. And then Shawn Carolan guest posted an article titled The myth of Inbox Zero and the path to peace of mind on GigaOM. Apparently it was not so clear.
This was a difficult piece for me to write because my feelings regarding academic writing are so conflicting. On the one hand, I view academic writing — by which I mean the type of writing taught in American schools — as a certain boon: it introduces kids to the writer’s craft, teaches young writers how to write, and provides an introduction to organizing and conveying thoughts and ideas in a coherent and orderly fashion. On the other hand though, I also feel it is very restrictive: beholden to the five-paragraph format, I feel much more better writing would come of less severe restrictions. And this is totally ignoring the morass that is citations in academic writing, a topic I discussed at length in Citational Fallacy.
Virtually every time Dan Benjamin is interviewed, the host eventually asks the same question posed by numerous interviewers of days gone by: “When people ask what you do, what do you tell them?" And every time, Dan answers the same way, saying that his answer depends on the person asking. For some, Dan responds that he is in broadcasting and leaves it at that; in other cases he goes in to more detail, qualifying that statement by describing his podcast network. He chooses his answer based on the level to which that person would understand his explanation, because as Dan has said each time in response to the aforementioned question, there are some people that still don’t know what podcasts are.
Located outside Silverton, Colorado. I have heard great things about the states out west and Colorado in particular. I would love to visit there some day, especially if I could spend a few nights in a cabin like this.
Two interesting anecdotes showing a different, less praiseworthy side of Steve Jobs. The man was not perfect, as many purported him to be in the sad hours following his death, but a mere mortal not just like the rest of us, but human nonetheless.
“He made himself so fearful and terrible that an entire group of amazing, talented, hard working people, ended up getting screamed at wrongfully. It was his fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly, not ours."
"This isn’t going to be a huge world changing ecosystem, but there is room for one little monster to take it all.”
Although I feel Alex Kessinger’s numbers would have benefited from some more research and the methods used to obtain his eventual conclusion could use some polish, his estimate seems to at least be in the ballpark of probability, as does his conclusion.
After reading this article, I went back and forth trying to decide whether or not I should link to it. The piece was not particularly remarkable in any way, after all. Regardless of how I justified not writing about it though, I kept coming back to this story until I eventually gave in. It’s a touching story tinged with the melancholy undertone of existential ennui. Having spent months away from home multiple times in the past, I can empathize with the the author’s sentiment.
In the past I have written one article about women and equality, A Crying Shame. I am quite proud of that article. So much so, in fact, that unlike many of the other topics I rehash here, I have felt no need to write anything more on the subject. I did feel pushed to at least mention the article linked at the head of this post, however, especially after listening to what I seem to recall was episode #114 of Back to Work a few weeks ago. In I’m Moving to FudgePacker, Merlin Mann talked about misconstrued statistics and how improper representations of inaccurate statistics can lead to incorrect conclusions on important issues when in actuality, maybe — just maybe — it isn’t quite as bad as everyone likes to stand up and claim it to be.
Merlin’s example chronicled a previous discussion with a woman advocating equality in the tech sector. She argued citing a statistic claiming that women receive, on average, a significantly smaller salary than their male counterparts. In response, Merlin asked whether she or any of her female co-workers experienced this disproportionality; she responded that none had. He also pointed out that in citing an average, by definition an equal number of people receiving a salary greater than the average must also receive a salary smaller than the average, and that the difference in those amounts must be the same. In other words, if on average women are paid 75% of the wages given to their male co-workers, for example, and within this sample group of women they are all paid 100% of the wages given to their male counterparts, it follows that in order for the statistic to be accurate, some women, somewhere, must be receiving 25% less than the average, or 50% of the wages allocated to their male counterparts. And really — and this was his ultimate point — is this actually happening anywhere?
But back to Rae Hoffman’s article, the piece that got me started down this rabbit trail:
“Of course, some people look at the lineup and immediately assume highly talented women are being ‘excluded'. Of course, they don’t know that for a fact. For all they know, 95% of speaker pitches came from men and thus why they ended up with a 95% male speaker line up once they whittled down the list to the best pitches."
When I first came across this article a few weeks ago while browsing Less Wrong, Eliezer Yudkowsky’s chronicle struck me as the perfect example illustrating the importance of a number of different things, primary of which was the significance of asking the right question. Alongside this topic the author also touched on the value of keeping an open mind, possessing a willingness to abandon pre-conceived notions when presented with new evidence, and arguing in univocal terms. It’s long, but a very well-written and thought-provoking piece.
"In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of unique varieties of apples in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop. Then industrial agriculture crushed that world. The apple industry settled on a handful of varieties to promote worldwide, and the rest were forgotten. They became commercially extinct—but not quite biologically extinct.”
A nice change of pace from the usual; a delightful article well worth the read.
As a comparatively new blogger I have done my fair share of self-promotion amongst the established writers I respect and strive to emulate, more than once recommending something I wrote by excusing my blatant plea for attention with the words, “I think you will like this” or some other permutation of the phrase. And each time I do I genuinely believe that John Siracusa might have found some interest in my argument for greater gesture support in iOS, even though I can almost guarantee, if I take a step back, that he would not, did not, and probably never will.
Back when John Siracusa published Annoyance-Driven Development in the tail-end of February, and amidst the discussion that ensued, I felt that I had nothing to add to the conversation and thus had no need to link to the piece. I still feel that way, but the idea that annoyance could affect change in the world — whether in the form of the development of a particular technology or, as in the case of this article, the advent of a blog post — invariably stuck with me.
Every time I post an article, I shamelessly submit it to Hacker News in the hopes that it will get picked up and generate a significant amount of attention and traffic to my site. Somewhere in the back of my mind, every time I submit something I wrote to Hacker News I think, “Maybe this is the one, the article that will go viral, and tomorrow I’ll see John Gruber post about it and hear Dan and Haddie talk about it on The Frequency. Maybe...” But that never happens.
In a Merlin Mann, Inbox Zero-esq fashion, I do my best to carefully limit the number of things allowed to compete for my attention. Although I regularly fall far short of this goal in most areas of my life, I do a relatively good job when it comes to the news I read and the writers I follow on the internet. While one could certainly make the argument against Hacker News as a news source with any rhyme or reason, that single exception aside the rest of the content I consume on a daily basis comes to me through a carefully curated RSS stream. Outside of Hacker News and those RSS feeds primarily aggregating the content of one-man-shop bloggers, I do not follow any other news outlets. I do not follow CNN, Fox, Time, or The Washington Post. I don’t read the local newspaper, the national one, or any other print publication I could reliably hide behind. I don’t watch the news whenever I can help it; after sitting through a feature on the egregious and all-too-common problem of using too much laundry detergent, I see little point in taking the effort to turn the TV on and change the channel. I don’t even turn the radio on anymore. And while this approach certainly has some advantages — every day I am presented with a relatively low number of articles and news stories, fewer of the articles I encounter are poorly written and uninteresting, and as a result of those two benefits I rarely experience a shortage of good reading material — it has its fair share of disadvantages as well.
"For me, the real ‘zero’ in Inbox Zero is more about consciously managing the amount of our attention that we commit (or, far more often, cede) to thinking and worrying about what may or may not be piling up while we’re away doing the real work of our lives. Which is to say: the Real Work that’s not, in this instance, about fiddling with email or drearily suffering the daily fusillade of random requests and information bombs that get lobbed our way."
"Android and the Fiber business and even Facebook fit into this analogy rather well. In this context more rainfall means more people using the Internet. If you have more people you’ll have more rivers and you’ll have more water and hopefully more fish. Fiber means the water will flow more rapidly: you’re essentially dredging the riverbed.”
Some wonder why Google still pushes Android despite failing to make a significant profit from it, especially when compared to Samsung; some wonder why Google chose to begin providing Fiber to select American cities; some wonder, and Horace Dediu, on episode #79 of Critical Path, very eloquently explained the reasoning behind these and many other decisions. A characteristically excellent episode I suggest everyone listen to at least once, and then again to absorb any glossed over brilliance you may have missed the first time around.
Not me. Not. One. Bit.
Sites like Less Wrong exist because it’s hard for those contributors, inarguably highly intelligent, to bring attention to their work through other venues. We often tout Twitter, YouTube to an extent, and a flourishing blogging community as the epitome of ease, enabling those with good ideas and smart things to say to develop a personal brand and get their content to the masses. But that’s not really true, is it?
"Now, Apple pessimism is even stronger. No matter what they release and no matter how well it sells, they won’t win over the press, the pundits, the stock market, or the rhetoric. Not this year. They could release a revolutionary 60-inch 4K TV for $99 with built-in nanobots to assemble and dispense free smartwatches, and people would complain that it should cost $49 and the nanobots aren’t open enough."
"You determine the greatness of your accomplishments by the amount of pain you’re willing to pay down. The more ambitious you are, the more glass you’ll have to chew. Everyone has their grind, even people doing what they love.”
A wonderfully inspirational piece from Arram Sabeti, CEO of ZeroCater, on the important role determination plays in success, especially in the face of deficiencies.
"No one wants to think of themselves as a Luddite, which is part of what makes technological conservatism so insidious. It can color the thinking of the nerdiest among us, even as we use the latest hardware and software and keep up with all the important tech news. The certainty of our own tech savvy can blind us to future possibilities and lead us to reject anything that deviates from the status quo. We are not immune.”
Perhaps not necessarily a representative sample of this great article by John Siracusa, I nevertheless chose this quotation from the piece reminiscent of the Hypercritical episodes of days since passed because, like John’s epic rants of old, it was just too good to let pass without note or comment.
"Your job? You pick up the freshest, most interesting coffee from tiny roasters who do not drop ship (and of varieties not listed online from bigger roasters) and send them by request to customers around the world. Your customers trust you as a reporter and pay a small premium to have access to the strange diversity that surrounds you.”
The first installment of Rich Stevens’ handmade, artisanal newsletter list. It’s been great fun so far; I look forward to each new release.
Yesterday morning I came across a video made by Duncan Elms called “Bitcoin Explained”. Curious, I decided to check it out. Rather than the information contined within it, it was instead the actual video that greatly impressed me. Not only informative but also extremely well done, Duncan Elms’ videos are all very impressive.
Almost three months ago today, I titled an article We Have Lost One of Our Own and posted it to this site. I gathered some of the more salient and insightful pieces posted in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s death, and wrote an article about unjust punishment and piracy. I try not to do this very often, but I will make an exception here and include an excerpt from one of my own posts:
Yesterday afternoon Marco Arment, Casey Liss, and John Siracusa recorded the final episode of their casual car podcast, Neutral. Episode twelve, Vomit Ruins Everything, runs for just under two hours and chronicles Marco and Tiff’s joint vacation with Casey and his wife Erin to pick up Marco’s brand new BMW M5 in Germany. I lamented the end of Hypercritical and Build & Analyze, and felt equally as sad — if not even more so — to hear the car door shut for the last time after a run of just twelve episodes.
Certainly not a cabin, but nevertheless a beautiful house.
Probably nothing; I can hope though, and I hope to see Apple add a second tier.
I have always had an interesting — if not unique — mentality when it comes to money. Rather than a thing to be desired, I have always considered money merely a means to an end. The physical thing is only worth possessing inasmuch as it allows me to do fun and enjoyable things with people I like. When I take my girlfriend out for dinner, I don’t see the twenty dollars I spend on a meal as the loss of that money; I see that twenty dollars as paying for a delightful evening spent with a girl I enjoy being with and really like. Or consider the days I take my siblings to the frozen yogurt shop down the street from my house. One of the last times I took them, my sister tried to pay. It was a nice gesture and good that she did, but it is not her responsibility, at twelve, to pay for her own food; I was there and fully capable of buying our yogurt, which I did. I exchanged somewhere in the ballpark of ten dollars for a delicious bowl of frozen yogurt with my sister. I did not lose that money; to me, it was an acceptable trade in which I certainly got the better part of the deal.
Hi, can I axe you a question? Ever made a blog at WordPress, Blogger? How about Tumblr or Squarespace? Before you answer, Hi.
When I wrote my first article about Reeder, Changing my Workflow with Drafts and Reeder, I highlighted its lack of reliance on Google Reader as one of the main reasons I chose to go with the RSS app. That was a factually incorrect statement; however, with this announcement, Reeder’s creator Silvio Rizzi announced that the popular iOS RSS reader would add Feedbin support in the very near future, thus ending its reliance on Google Reader. I realize Reeder supports Fever and Readability as well, but this is nevertheless great news.
"But percentages can be deceiving and they tell only half the tale of IDC’s predictions. Peering ahead to the future, IDC’s numbers suggest that while the overall market share for PCs will decline, shipments will still increase, if only by a hair. In other words, the demand for PCs isn’t dying down—it’s just that the thirst for mobile devices is exploding."
"Imagine a future society that flees into a vast underground network of caverns and seals the entrances. We shall not specify whether they flee disease, war, or radiation; we shall suppose the first Undergrounders manage to grow food, find water, recycle air, make light, and survive, and that their descendants thrive and eventually form cities. Of the world above, there are only legends written on scraps of paper; and one of these scraps of paper describes the sky, a vast open space of air above a great unbounded floor. The sky is cerulean in color, and contains strange floating objects like enormous tufts of white cotton. But the meaning of the word “cerulean” is controversial; some say that it refers to the color known as ‘blue', and others that it refers to the color known as ‘green'.”
A fantastic narrative from Eliezer Yudkowsky writing over at Less Wrong. Not merely about science and politics though, as the title suggests, but about human nature, hatred, and progress as well.
For anyone that hasn’t already read Rich Stevens’ post announcing his new email list and RSS feed, what better way could one possibly introduce something? So exceptionally well done; I look forward to more great work in this new medium.
“I need to keep a record of what I’m thinking about and might as well share it with folks who might be interested. It’ll be thoughts on staying alive as a nerd on the internet. A little business, a little gadgetry, a little art and writing, and a few dick jokes. It’ll probably be 1-2 posts a week until it’s done. Hoping to do the first one tomorrow."
I just flew home after three months in Minnesota. The TSA agents at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport in Minnesota were delightful: the man at the end of the security line checking my ID and boarding pass joked with me as I went through; the agent on the other side of the body scanner couldn’t have been nicer. Then, as I was trying to find my gate on my boarding pass and undoubtedly looking quite confused, a TSA agent that happened to be walking by stopped and asked if I needed any help. She didn’t have to stop; she could have kept on walking, but she didn’t, and for that I was very grateful despite not needing her assistance.
As I was reading No to NoUI earlier, an article ostensibly regarding the state of user interfaces today, Timo Arnall’s description of “the cloud” stuck with me more than anything else from the article. That’s why, even though I should have picked a more representative sample, I ended up using that as my excerpt when I linked to the piece. Foolhardy or not, I chose this paragraph above all the others:
"On the one hand, I worry that Pixar is making too many sequels. On the other, I’d love to see another Incredibles movie.”
Someone, somewhere, once said something to the effect of the higher the number the less-good the sequel. Certainly there are some exceptions to that rule––Toy Story, for example — but by and large it has proved a valid hypothesis. Take Cars 2: as much as I wanted to love that movie after the first, I couldn’t do it. An endless number of examples and counter-examples could be made on both sides of this argument, but I, for one, look forward to anything with Pixar’s name on it, regardless of whether or not a digit follows it.
A few weeks ago I came across Zite after having it recommended to me as a great way to discover interesting news in an environment capable of intelligently determining the kinds of content to serve its users based on their reading habits. More interesting than the actual content though, which I found consistently uninteresting and commonplace, I grew especially attached to the gesture-based interface: on the main screen swiping to the right switches between news categories, and swiping left moves back in the stack; in individual articles, swiping to the right brings me back to the main screen. And that’s only in the iOS app: in the iPad version, swiping to the left and right moves through a tiled interface of news stories; swiping up or down on a single item designates it as an item of interest whose kind I would like to see more of or an article whose type I want to read less of, respectively. Although few and not particularly significant, these gestures, once learned, felt so natural and commonsensical that I found myself fumbling in my other apps, only to be confounded by the lack of gesture support. Especially in my then-RSS reader Feedler and Instapaper, where I do the majority of my reading on my iOS devices.
At first I glossed over Timo Arnall’s piece No to NoUI, finding little interest in a discussion of user interfaces and its proponents’ nuances. After a steady climb towards the top spot on Hacker News though I added it to Instapaper, as I am wont to do for articles attracting this level of attention regardless of the topic. Rather than a meandering or pragmatic discussion regarding design in the most touchy-feely manner possible, though, I found, to my surprise, an interesting piece discussing the far-reaching and unobvious effects user interfaces have on our every day lives and the detrimental effects a future in which the user interface is invisible would bring — a discussion that also encompassed the importance of good design. A very interesting piece well worth the read, even if you have no interest in design.
Created in 2003, HandBrake was originally the brainchild of a single developer: titler. However, after his prolonged absence from the project beginning in May of 2006, Rodney Hester and Chris Long began developing a release of HandBrake supporting the H.264 video codec. Although they made significant advances in stability, interface design, and functionality, they were unable to submit their modified version of HandBrake without the consent of the original creator. Unable to officially commit their revisions as a new version, the two developers created a new project named MediaFork based on the latest release of HandBrake, 0.7.1 at the time. Then, on February 13, 2007, titler resurfaced and contacted Hester and Long. titler expressed his support for their project and encouraged them to continue development. Following the exchange, plans were made to reintegrate MediaFork into the main HandBrake build. And so, in the ensuing version, MediaFork’s code was integrated into HandBrake’s. At the time of this writing HandBrake is in version 0.9.8, released July 18th, 2012.
"People who know a little bit of statistics - enough to use statistical techniques, not enough to understand why or how they work - often end up horribly misusing them. Statistical tests are complicated mathematical techniques, and to work, they tend to make numerous assumptions. The problem is that if those assumptions are not valid, most statistical tests do not cleanly fail and produce obviously false results.”
The first of what I believe will be a long series of fascinating articles from Less Wrong. A great piece on statistical correlations.
"As soon as I lose pride in something, I stop caring about it being good. Its only value to me is as something that I one day won’t have to do anymore. It always starts with the cutting of one small corner, but that’s all it takes. Pandora’s Box is open and the feature is infected. I cut the next corner with only a faint pang of remorse, and after that I don’t even notice the corners anymore.”
A great article and an astute observation not only applicable in the professional world, but throughout our lives as well.
Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life
"I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love...in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.”
A surprisingly excellent article from The Onion that has gained quite a bit of traction since it was posted. Dan Benjamin and Garret Dimon talked about it on the latest episode of QUIT!, Four Hour Sleep Night, and then Dan and Merlin Mann discussed it on the latest episode of Back to Work, Touching Pizza and Robocon. Something to keep in mind next time you decide to do something instead of the thing you love.
"Less Wrong is an online community for discussion of rationality. Topics of interest include decision theory, philosophy, self-improvement, cognitive science, psychology, artificial intelligence, game theory, metamathematics, logic, evolutionary psychology, economics, and the far future.”
I linked to an interesting article from Less Wrong earlier today that made its rounds on Hacker News yesterday, and spent some time browsing the site throughout the rest of the afternoon. I have already saved a number of articles to Instapaper, and look forward to spending a fair amount of time on the site in the near future.
"There is nothing inherent in a set of words that makes them offensive or inoffensive — your reaction is an internal, personal process. ... What type of reaction you have is largely up to you, and if you don’t like your current reactions you can train better ones — this is a core principle of the extremely useful philosophy known as Stoicism.”
An interesting article posted to the community blog Less Wrong. Perhaps even more interesting are the comments though.
"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”
After listening to the fifty-ninth episode of Roderick on the Line, I found the speech written for the president should astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become stranded on the moon. It would be a lonely way to go, sitting on the moon, staring at Earth a few hundred thousand miles away as their oxygen slowly depleted and they suffocated. It would have been a terrible way to go.
Thankfully, this was one speech he never gave.
The iPad Mini, like the original iPad, launched to the tune of naysayers questioning the usefulness of a tablet in general, and especially one in such a form factor. After all, who could use the iPad for actual work? It was obviously a content-consumption device rather than a device capable of creating new and interesting things. Obviously. But now we have the iPad 4, and now we have the iPad Mini. And now we have two new ways to create whenever and wherever is convenient.
“Using an iPad mini was like switching from a 17″ MacBook Pro to an 11″ MacBook Air — all of a sudden you can use the device in far more places than you ever thought possible and still do almost everything you wanted to do on it. I can fumble for keys and easily find a safe place to tuck the mini — often in my jacket pocket or jeans back pocket — or do countless other things that would have me stumbling over the size of the iPad."
Paul Miller occasionally sends out dispatches, as The Verge calls them, articles about one thing or another penned by a writer who has forsaken the internet for an entire year. His last piece I read, Offline: Love, Loss, and Dating Without Facebook, was interesting only insofar as a story about an anticlimactic love endeavor can be; his latest article, linked at the top of this post, is much, much better. As Paul chronicled his difficulties finding the motivation to make good use of his newfound time, I couldn’t help but relate.
“These don’t make for catchy book titles:
* No Internet, No Life: The Paul Miller Story
* How To Disconnect From Reality In 365 Days
* At First I Liked Not Using The Internet But Then It Got Kind Of Sucky”
Paul’s piece made me laugh and it prompted introspection. If nothing else, if not for the great story, read the piece as a shining example of excellent prose.
A few days ago I linked to Marco Arment’s response to MG Siegler’s post What If The Google Reader Readers Just Don’t Come Back? without actually reading MG’s article. I got around to reading it this morning though, and he made a few interesting — albeit tired — points that merit some discussion.
Something I found in a note almost lost in the sea that is the host of half-baked ideas begging to be honed to a comprehensible piece:
I have devoted a lot of time to thinking about this, curious as to my motivations behind writing. In the past I said I wrote because I wanted to share my knowledge with others. How noble of me, I suppose. At other times, simply because I love the writer’s craft. This was closer to the real reason, but neither, while true on some level, accurately represented the actual drive that has pushed me to come home after a long day and sit down to write rather than collapse in my bed, the motivation necessary to make that seven-to-eleven-o’clock — or ten-to-midnight, as is the case here — side project a viable business.
Sometimes distractions are good. At the end of a long day spent working on homework, for example, being productive is the last thing I want to do: I would much rather relax and watch a movie than write. Other days, though, during the summer or over break, those are the days I should spend in Instapaper, reading, and in Drafts, writing. But more often than not, those two different types of days that for all intents and purposes should remain separate blend together, and I end up taking the easier path, at the end of which I find myself after two hours having accomplished quite literally nothing as my character in whatever game most recently struck my fancy is once again shot and killed.
Marco Arment and MG Siegler on potential reader loss due to Google Reader’s impending demise:
“I’m a little worried about this possibility. Short-term, it will definitely be a problem. Long-term is the question."
In the past few months I have written many essays necessitating the use of citations as a manner through which to lend credence to some datum or another. As you may have surmised from this article’s title though, I believe the current model for determining credible citations to be broken. Take, for example, XKCD comic #976, Citogenesis. In this comic, Randal Munroe once again displays brilliance by showing where citations come from.
Speaking of New Google, Marco talks about what it could mean for the future of Android. Particularly interesting to me were his final thoughts at the end of the piece:
“Old Google made Android. New Google is much more strategic, cold, and focused. Let’s see what they do to it."
James Whittaker on Google’s metamorphosis from a tech company to the machine that churned out Google+:
“The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”
It’s too bad, too: Google has given us some of the best web services since the dawn of the internet. For the past decade or so, Google has remained the unquestioned king of the web — of that fact there is no doubt. Doubt enters in, however, when we start to ask the simple question, “for how much longer?"
Soylent’s story got picked up by The Verge the other day. Great to see it getting some traction.
John Siracusa explaining Apple’s aversion to outsourcing:
“Like a lover who’s been betrayed one too many times, Apple has hardened its corporate heart against any form of true partnership. If it’s important, Apple wants to own and control it. When Apple does work with others, it insists on having the upper hand. iOS developers serve at the pleasure of Apple. Manufacturing partners must fight for the privilege of building Apple’s products, often using equipment Apple purchases for them. And, of course, Apple has its own mobile OS that runs exclusively on its own hardware.”
Apple is often criticized by its detractors for its refusal to rely — "work with”, as it is often so mildly put — other companies. Given its past experiences though, how could we possibly blame them?
I was talking to my girlfriend a few days ago when, in passing, she mentioned a conversation between her and one of her friends earlier that day. Her friend, she said, didn’t expect much of her boyfriend: she didn’t expect him to give her presents or bring her flowers; they weren’t needed — her words, not mine. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but it stuck with me throughout the day until I sat down and wrote about it here.
A humorous observation by Ben Brooks that belies its actual profundity. I’ll leave it to you to read and discover it’s meaning though. Enjoy.
After finishing the backlog of Critical Path episodes early yesterday afternoon, I scrolled down through my extensive list of podcasts until I came to The Talk Show With John Gruber. After my initial impressions of John Gruber’s latest work, I did not expect to particularly enjoy the next hour and a half. Like my previous encounters with John Gruber’s work, however, where it took a number of tries to discover the value of The Talk Show while it aired in 5by5, the third time was the charm: I am once again hooked on John’s podcast. I gave The Talk Show a third chance, and I suggest all of you who, like me, recoiled so violently from everything John Gruber in the wake of the move to the Mule Radio Syndicate, give The Talk Show another chance: it’s not quite as good as it used to be, but it’s still The Talk Show.
Since John Gruber abruptly announced that The Talk Show would move from 5by5 to the Mule Radio Syndicate a few months ago, many have speculated as to the reasons behind this sudden and unexpected split while both John and Dan remained, for the most part, silent. Twitter exploded with questions, theories, and, in some cases, anger; bloggers wrote long articles filled with speculation; Philip Elmer-DeWitt, writing for CNN Money, even entered the conversation with an uncharacteristically unemotional article for the topic; however, to this day John and Dan are the only two who know the actual cause for the split. Here I will aggregate the most common discussions and the strongest theories in an attempt at discerning the underlying cause for this unfortunate rift, using this topic as a manner through which to discuss the Mule Radio Syndicate of which I have many opinions on. I originally intended to incorporate this discussion into my post 5by5, but following the announcement that both Hypercritical and Build & Analyze would close their doors before the year’s end I chose to pause, step back, thank Dan, Marco, and John for the excellent work, and give a brief history of 5by5 and its impact on the podcasting industry. Separating these two articles also gave me the opportunity to fully explore all the possibilities of this unfortunate happenstance.
I was first introduced to The Next Web during the plagiarism fiasco from a few months back, which I wrote about in my post from quite a while ago titled Credibility and Bullies with Blogs. In that article, I briefly conveyed the lasting impression the whole affair left on my mind regarding The Next Web: “I have associated The Next Web with plagiarism, rash outbursts, and poor choices.” As I said in that article, to this day I refuse to read articles on The Next Web.
Every time I hear someone predicting the future of a company — more often than not Apple — I can’t help but think of a passage I came across a while back, probably in Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. The passage read something like this:
In a footnote to his interesting piece posted yesterday titled Everything Else, John Gruber made an astute observation regarding loyalty and Apple:
“Later in his piece, Gassée recommends that Apple engage a ‘powerhouse’ PR firm to help sway opinion in its favor. I’d argue that Apple already has a powerhouse PR firm, and it very successfully engages in most of the tactics Gassée speaks of. But rather than a separate company, it’s completely internal to — and thus dedicated to — Apple.”
For some reason the importance of loyalty is lost on many today, but not Apple: Apple knows the value of loyalty, and that knowledge has certainly served them well over the years.
"It’s not, in other words, a matter of faith or belief, but a matter of interest. You train, you run the marathon, and then you take a week off and eat ice cream. Recovered, you start running again. There’s no mystical hocus-pocus, no ‘icy waters of skepticism.' Our hearts do not ‘fail’ when we gaze at our cycling shoes or the box of contractor bags or the stack of over-wintered tomato cages in the unplanted spring garden. We might sigh to ourselves, and we might procrastinate, but we don’t go in for the Deus Deus Meus shit. At least, I don’t.”
An interesting opinion on procrastination. It might not be something outside of our control after all. Imagine that.
Every time I think of Roderick on the Line, I can’t help but recall the episode of Build & Analyze in which Marco Arment announced that he would soon have his first child, and detailed one of his goals regarding Adam: to teach him something just a little bit wrong, something that his son could go through most of his life believing to be true only to find out, in his early twenties, that the thing he had believed his entire life, that one fact his father had continued to push over the years, was just a little bit wrong. I found this absolutely hilarious. And for some reason, this is what comes to mind when I think of Roderick on the Line: it’s a show about the world that’s so right in so many ways, but every once in a while just a little bit off.
An interesting article by Marco Arment on the causes and effects of free apps and services.
“In other industries, this is called predatory pricing, and many forms of it are illegal because they’re so destructive to healthy businesses and the welfare of an economy. But the tech industry is far less regulated, younger, and faster-moving than most industries. We celebrate our ability to do things that are illegal or economically infeasible in other markets with productive-sounding words like ‘disruption'."
Emin Gün writing on Hacking Distributed about the impending demise of Google Reader and the farcical backlash that ensued following the announcement:
“Second, I suspect that the Reader-loving hacker-turned-entrepreneur crowd, which is deeply insecure about its position in society, is perhaps so sensitive because they see this as a sign that Google, and by proxy, the computer industry, values the masses with their dirty mobile devices and effervescent Twitter feeds more than the self-titled ‘digital cognescenti’ with their MacBooks and Reader accounts and IFTTT recipes that save noteworthy articles in Evernote or whatever. They want to flex their digital muscle. And to some extent, I sympathize with this. But let’s call a spade a spade, and let’s pick something more worthy over which to flex our muscle. My greatest fear is what would happen if Google were to go back on their decision. It will feed the crazed, self-important ‘technocrati’ so much that we’ll be deluged with overblown outrage at every perceived online slight. I know how 2 year olds turn out when they get their way with tamper tantrums.”
Emin made a lot of great points in his article, my favorite of which was his call for all the people whining and complaining about Google’s announcement to instead focus their collective energies into making or finding a good alternative to Reader. If you can code, write a script to fetch and parse your favorite feeds; such a challenge would be simple and take a few evenings, at best; if not, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Embrace this change, don’t fight it.
Wonderful news from Rob Rhineheart after two months consuming primarily Soylent. With a few minor modifications, Soylent has proved to be — for him and a small study group — quite perfect.
The past few days have been crazy. First Google announced that Reader would shut down almost as an afterthought in the middle of their annual spring cleaning post, and chaos ensued. Everyone wrote something about it, including me; opinions were in no short supply. Writers were not the only ones working furiously though: within six hours of the announcement, Zite removed their dependency on Google Reader. Far ahead of everyone else, Zite’s announcement preluded a veritable explosion that rocked the internet in the ensuing days: 500,000 users moved to Feedly over two days, and 60,000 to NewsBlur over a similarly small amount of time. And those are just the services for which we have stats for.
A lack of good ideas and direction caused me to repeatedly forsake the creation of this article, but a persevering determination kept it alive through long hours spent searching for the single salient problem plaguing American education. I came upon the rather anticlimactic answer late one night long after I should have turned the lights out and gone to bed in the most unlikely of places, the one unending source of potential solutions I habitually disregard: myself.
Quite a bit of discussion has taken place over the past forty-eight hours following the news that Google Reader will fade away on June 1st. Some have focused on the implications the announcement will have on the RSS spec, but a great deal — possibly even a majority — of the discussion has taken place around blog readerships. David Sparks’s article The RSS Apocalypse and Aldo Cortesi’s piece Google, destroyer of ecosystems stuck out in particular, where the two bloggers conveyed a similar concern: the potential loss of a huge swath of readers either unable or unwilling — or both — to find an alternative method for subscribing to their websites. But as Shawn Blanc said at the end of Goodbye Google Reader, “Only time will tell, and, in truth, those subscribers who don’t port their feed to another service likely weren’t all that engaged of readers anyway."
Granted we’re already well into 2013, but then again, this isn’t much of a list. I don’t want to see a “better” social network usurp Twitter and Facebook, a new laptop with a million pixels, or a bendy phone; I want to see rock solid syncing across all my devices regardless of platform, bundled neatly into an attractive and usable app. Simplenote comes close but, as I detailed in Changing my Workflow with Drafts and Reeder, is a far cry from even mediocre syncing; similarly, Dropbox is great and absolutely reliable, but requires that I manage individual text files where instead I simply want to create a blank note and walk away secure in the knowledge that regardless of which device I pick up next, it will be everywhere. While Drafts comes close with an excellent cross-platform app and reliable syncing across my iOS devices, there is no desktop counterpart to this wonderful writing experience. As of right now, not a single solution exists to solve this problem, and that’s quite unfortunate.
I have wanted to overhaul my workflow for a long while now. Feedler Pro, my go-to RSS reader, has gone quite some time without a significant update and is beginning to show its age. Just last night, for example, I spent nearly ten minutes wrestling with it in an attempt at reading a batch of articles curiously marked as read for no apparent reason. Simplenote’s syncing idiosyncrasies have also become harder and harder to ignore as well, an issue that came to a head this morning when nearly a hundred deleted notes reappeared in the desktop client. Neither a new occurrence nor an especially irregular one, curious hiccups such as this one are one of the few things I can actually depend on Simplenote’s wholly inconsistent syncing platform for. These two mishaps joined forces with Google’s recent announcement putting a finite lifespan on the industry’s most popular feed reader to create the perfect storm, finally prompting me to look in to some alternatives.
"Our shows deserve a solid platform to continue to grow. In my mind, there is no better place for this than 5by5 and no better person than Dan Benjamin to help us continue moving forward. When he first reached out to gauge our interest in joining his network, I was floored. As I said, Dan is a hero of mine, and I was honoured to have our network considered to join 5by5. As we continued to talk, and as I spoke with the other hosts, it was clear that this was the right opportunity for us.”
When the news first appeared in my Twitter feed last night I did a double take, positive that I had misread the announcement. Upon further speculation though, and to my growing excitement as I began catching up on the news, 70Decibels and Myke Hurley are indeed moving to 5by5 with the express goal of creating even more great podcasts. Best news ever? I think so.
After publishing my last article, Soylent, and as I made a late-night snack of a pear, I couldn’t help but continue thinking about Soylent. Rather than tacking these additional thoughts on to the bottom of the previous post with the sad excuse for poor journalistic planning that is the “UPDATE:" header though, I decided to shape them into an entirely separate post, a new post with a few more of my thoughts on Soylent.
"Hacking the body is high risk, high reward. I read a textbook on physiological chemistry and took to the internet to see if I could find every known essential nutrient. My kitchen soon looked like a chemistry lab and I had every unknown substance in a glass in front of me. I was a little worried it was going to kill me, but decided it was for science and quickly downed the whole thing. To my surprise, it was quite tasty and I felt very energetic. For 30 days I avoided food entirely and I monitored the contents of my blood and physical performance. Mental performance is harder to quantify, but I feel much sharper.”
Although initially intending to make this short observation at the tail end of my previous post, Critic Markup, I ended up spending much more time discussing the new and interesting spec than I had originally planned. The second topic of Ben’s post, where he pointed to an interview on episode twelve of The Distraction podcast, sent me down an all-too-familiar rabbit hole, at the end of which I had subscribed to two new podcasts: The Distraction and Hundred Down. The greatest problem we face today, at least on the internet, is an embarrassment of riches: we have too much good content vying for our attention. Not only in podcasts — I am currently subscribed to nineteen podcasts, plus an additional seven parked subscriptions — but in every other form of content on the internet: with the advent of The Magazine and other similar publications, an increasing number of excellent writers making their way on to the internet, and new avenues opening every single day, it becomes increasingly difficult to decide what to pay attention to. That skill, I feel, is what will set the great writers apart from the rest in the coming months and years.
Last month, when Ben Brooks decided to take a short sabbatical, he enlisted the help of Pat Dryburgh who graciously agreed to step in and keep the site going during Ben’s absence. When Ben came back, he posted While I Was Out, a short piece covering a few interesting things that had happened during his break.
“Opened in private beta last year, Submit lets creators upload comics for approval. From there, Comixology reviews work to make sure it “maintains a level of professional content,"" then adds it to the catalog. Besides getting a storefront, authors will have their work formatted for Comixology’s mobile apps, with a panel-by-panel view that’s proved useful on small screens. In return, they’ll give up a hefty chunk of revenue: there’s no up-front fee, but Comixology keeps half the money from each sale after other processing fees, and like other in-app purchases, sales through the iOS app will see Apple take its own cut.”
It will be interesting to see how the advent of this and other similar systems facilitating an even more streamlined publication process changes the content creation scene in the next few years. An exciting time, to be sure.
"Sure the advent of Blogger, WordPress, and the likes also ushered in an era in which we have been bombarded with substandard writers filling up the Internet with pages of crap. But such software also allowed some great writers to emerge, and some of them have launched careers and created decent businesses because of it. People and publications like John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, Jason Calacanis’ Weblogs, TechCrunch, Daily Kos, and Glenn Greenwald all fall into this camp, and that’s just to name a tiny few. All of them invested immense time, money, and energy into editorial – and they also happen to be compelling writers – but they couldn’t have done it without the blogging software.”
I have to side with Marco on this issue: no one reads Daring Fireball because the site sports an off-blue background color and small white text, people read Daring Fireball because John Gruber writes there. That’s not to discount the importance of good design, but rather that it is not of paramount importance: millions would still read Daring Fireball every month had John colored the background orange, The Magazine would still be a success if the menus were green, and just because your background is off-blue and your text is white certainly does not mean your site will be successful.
A few weeks ago I put the finishing touches on A Crying Shame. Rather than posting the article here though I submitted it to Marco Arment’s The Magazine for consideration in a future issue, hoping to one day open the app and find my own words alongside the work of those I hold in high esteem. Within a few days I received a brief response from The Magazine’s executive editor Glenn Fleishman requesting more information, and I sent him the entire piece. Bolstered by his apparent interest my confidence ran high during the ensuing weeks. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
When I sat down to write this post I began this paragraph with, “Another beautiful" — but stopped there, curious at my choice of the word “beautiful” to describe this cabin. This cabin, from what I can see of it, is not particularly beautiful, and although one might make the case to classify its surroundings as such, beauty is not the first thing that comes to mind when I look upon this photo taken some misty day on a far away hillside; rather, the word is merely the only way I know how to quantify the image displayed before me, the way I know best to attempt to convey the sentiment I feel when I see this little cabin nestled in the mountains of Vermont, shrouded in mist and surrounded by trees, the happy home of a lucky individual.
I must start this article with a confession I feel embarrassed to make: until quite recently, this issue existed solely in my peripheral vision; I acknowledged its existence, but only as an unfortunate happenstance. While the internet oscillated back and forth on the sinusoidal curve representing the collective outrage of armchair activists everywhere, I deftly scrolled past the occasional article attempting to address the topic in my news feed penned by writers calling for a change I saw no urgent need for. Until quite recently, sexism existed almost completely outside my realm of focus.
"The thing I realized early on is people are happy to pay for things that are good. Don’t be afraid to charge for your services. Don’t be afraid to charge for what you produce. If those people who don’t want to pay for it want to complain about it, that’s fine. They don’t have to buy it."
"We didn’t start with any wireframes. We didn’t spend anytime in brainstorming meetings. I gathered an understanding of the general goals, and went to work throwing my initial thoughts into a fake product. The end result was a prototype that, in a lot of ways, was functional.”
Just as writers do, designers often get caught up in minor details and the implementation of processes rather than creating a final product. Whether that sticking point is a brand new text editor or a distraction-free writing environment, a wireframe or finding the perfect hue to contrast just so with another color, it is important to put these potential time sinks in perspective: while they certainly are important, we “need to concentrate on the things that the reader will notice”, to quote Ben Brooks, rather than the details we get caught up in all too often, the details that prevent makers from making things.
John Siracusa in the opening paragraphs of his article Fear of a WebKit Planet with a few atypical sentences characterizing the traits so many came to love of the former Hypercritical co-host:
“As someone whose memory of perceived past technological betrayals and injustices is so keen that I still find myself unwilling to have a Microsoft game console in the house, my lack of anxiety about this move may seem incongruous, even hypocritical. I am open to the possibility that I’ll be proven wrong in time, but here’s how I see it today."
"I’ve looked deeply into SquareSpace. I know a lot about Shopify. I had this site running on MovableType, and tons of other CMSs — but at the end of the day I realized that WordPress works fine and I need to concentrate on the things readers will actually notice."
"A typeface’s readability is about far more than just one cosmetic attribute.”
Something to keep in mind next time you design a website with Arial or Helvetica. You don’t even have to buy a font from TypeKit: go to Google Web Fonts and pick something suitable from there — anything to make your site more readable and set yourself apart from everyone else is an excellent choice. Remember, though, that the first job a font should be employed to do is make readable content; it should not be employed to take over the job of your design, but rather serve as a complement to a superb design.
John Gruber in an exceptional article posted to Daring Fireball a few days ago. Not only a phenomenal piece on the history of the computing industry and the “open versus closed” argument but also an extraordinarily well-written piece — a reminder that I still have far to go.
“The Mac’s resurgence had nothing to do with being more open, and everything to do with improved quality: a modern operating system, well-designed software, and hardware designs that the entire rest of the industry now copies slavishly and shamelessly."
"The Magazine isn’t successful because I have red links, centered sans-serif headlines, footnote popovers, link previews, and a white table-of-contents sidebar that slides over the article from the left with a big shadow even on iPhone. It isn’t successful because authors write in Markdown, the CMS gracefully supports multi-user editing, we preview issues right on our devices as we assemble them, and any edits we make after publication are quickly and quietly patched into the issue right as people are reading it. Very little of this matters.”
It’s an all-too-common belief these days, the idea that creating a website mimicking both the design and posting strategy of those bloggers we hold in high regard can somehow catapult us to a similar level of success. But as Marco goes on to say in the aforementioned blog post, design and presentation exist on the outside of a system in which content is the key that unlocks both loyal readership and phenomenal success.
To adopt Ben Brooks’ practice of posting interesting tidbits as he comes across them as a “Quote of the Day”, I found this gem while scrolling through my twitter stream yesterday:
“Everything I write feels like something I read somewhere else first."
In my last post simply titled Outbox I linked to an article by Laura June of The Verge in which she raised a number of doubts as to the practicality of Outbox, including the potential legal troubles the startup could run into given that opening its users’s mail is an integral part of the startup’s business model. I glossed over those concerns in my last post; however, I feel they do merit some discussion.
"For $4.99 a month, you sign up online for an Outbox account (they also have apps), and then an Outbox employee comes to your house, picks up your mail, takes it back to Outbox HQ, opens it, scans it, and gives you access to it via your account. From there, you can “unsubscribe” from junk mail, and request to have your mail “delivered” to your house (even though it was definitely already delivered once, the other day).”
After reading Laura June’s article on the new startup Outbox posted to The Verge earlier this week, I feel that she missed the point: Outbox is not supposed to catalyze the process of bringing mail to your home, but instead offer real-life spam filtering and digitization in exchange for the addition of a day or two between sender and recipient. And that’s a tradeoff I’m sure many people, myself included, would be comfortable making.
Ah the linkblog. Although not the genesis of the format, John Gruber is often credited with the advent of this extremely pervasive practice and its widespread adoption over the years, a propagation that has continued despite the resurgence of its detractors every few months. Nevertheless, in spite of those dissidents, many writers have built a business around this model. Today, I would like to focus on one in particular: Shawn Blanc.
"Members contribute nearly half of this site’s income. Which means there is no way I could be writing here as my full-time gig without the generous support of the members.”
With a month left in Shawn Blanc’s membership drive he announced an additional incentive to the existing membership perks: prizes. Worth an aggregate of more than $3,000, these prizes are a great way to encourage readers on the fence about whether to become a member or not and an interesting take on the increasingly popular practice of individual bloggers cultivating a strong readership through member programs. Here’s to hoping Shawn not only reaches his goal, but exceeds it as well.
"'We paid for these goddamn seats, and we’ll recline them if we want to.' So then everyone was angry: I was angry because I had no room, and she was angry because I passive-aggressively kicked her seat once every 15 minutes—often enough to be annoying, but not often enough to definitely be on purpose.”
Funny how such a little thing could become such a bone of contention to so many people. Having spent days in airports and on numerous long flights though, I can certainly see where Dan Kois is coming from: there are few things more annoying during a flight than having what little personal space you are allotted cut down to a fraction by the person in front of you.
"As I fill the last jar with sweet summer pears I ponder for a second. Why do all this work when I could buy it? Well the truth is I don’t like money. I’m not good with it. Thats why I’d rather work for my food. I know I’ll never be a rich man, I’ll never own anything of great expense, but I have everything I need, I don’t want for much more than this. I have pears in a jar."
“Months after Instapaper launched all of these features and was being very well-received in the tech press, in October 2008, Read It Later added a web service for sync, other-browser bookmarklets, and offline saving. Then an iPhone app in 2009. And while Read It Later has introduced some original features, Weiner systematically copied almost every major Instapaper feature over the first few years of Instapaper’s existence.”
Marco also linked to a few other pieces in his aforementioned article: The Relationship between Readability and Instapaper and Some other tablets you may have seen. The following excerpt is from the latter of the two, explaining a part of his reasoning behind writing The first “Read Later” service:
“This awkward avoidance betrays a lack of confidence in their innovation and an internal culture of severe denial — two deep-rooted traits that Microsoft is famous for. So when the Microsoft people speak like this, it’s not serving them well: to everyone outside of Microsoft, it’s painfully obvious that they’re either delusional or trying very poorly to bullshit us.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Marco: the story behind Instapaper and its competitors needs to be told; and for those spreading lies, saying that Readability was the first app of its type on the market, this is unacceptable. Did I say Readability? I meant Clearly — wait, no, Pocket; excuse my confusion.
Marco Arment gave Jacob Goldstein of NPR some concrete numbers for the Magazine, showing just how great an idea launching this publication was, the importance of a consistent publication schedule, and the rewards of such an excellent implementation.
“Last fall, Marco Arment launched a general interest magazine. It’s called, aptly enough, The Magazine. Writers are paid $800 per article. There are no ads. Until recently, it was available only via iPhones and iPads. Astonishingly, it’s already turning a profit."
With years of programming under my belt and currently taking a philosophy course, I found the parallels a blogger writing under the moniker “panefsky” drew between programming, philosophy, and specific philosophers interesting.
“It is perfectly reasonable to consider the programming languages as the different philosophies of a virtual world, in which entities do exist and interact with each other. To this respect, even the fundamental philosophical questions receive an interesting transformation: For example ‘What is self-conscience?' can be rephrased as ‘What is reflection?'."
"'We are at the very beginning of the build process,' Dave Bedwood, creative partner at Lean Mean Fighting Machine, said in an email. ‘This site is very much for people to sign up now, get a second twitter account, private to them, and just watch it learn and grow. As A.I advances, then maybe we will then get into it being able to copy syntax. When you die, if you’ve had this account for a long time, it may be able to keep tweeting as you.'"
Although skeptical at first, the more I thought about it — especially in light of the impressive learning capabilities of the quadracopters previously linked to — the more I became convinced that this step in artificial intelligence was not only possible, but something we will likely see in the coming years. And while I fail to see a need for such a service, it is very interesting challenge I would nevertheless love to see successful.
When I scrolled past this article on Hacker News late last night, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see remote control quadracopters (flying vehicles with four rotors instead of one as in a helicopter) balancing, throwing, and catching a large pendulum with practiced precision. To my amazement though, that’s exactly what I found, along with another video showing two similar quadracopters juggling a ball back and forth with near-unbelievable success. Merely classifying these demonstrations as absolutely amazing falls far short of the impressive work conducted by Dario Brescianini, Markus Hehn, Raffaello D’Andrea, and the author of the original article Markus Waibel at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, but it will have to suffice.
Kenneth Erikson tells his amazing life story in an article titled I’m a shut-in. This is my story. No matter what I try I can’t quite capture the essence of this intensely personal piece, so I will leave you with this excerpt and the strongest urging possible to set aside a good hour to read K-2052’s amazing story from beginning to end.
“If you’re fake for long enough you’ll eventually start to fake yourself. The same tricks you pull on others you’ll start to pull on yourself. And trust me, there is no better person at deceiving you than you. You know all the right things to say to make you feel good. You know all the buttons to push. You know all the quotes, phrases, logic, rationalizations and flashes of epiphany that you’ll swallow hook line and sinker. You’re your most deceptive foe. You could sell yourself invisible snake oil from an imaginary salesmen in an invisible desert and then congratulate yourself on your luck."
Quite some time ago I came across Jeffrey Way’s article Publishers: Don’t Restrict Writers and added it to my Instapaper queue more out of curiosity at an article posted on Nettuts+ not about programming than anything else. Nearly a month prior, I had read an article on Ben Brooks’ website called Self-Publishing in which he said something I found very interesting:
Yesterday marks the tenth day since I last made a post to this site, the tenth day spent doing other things besides reading and writing in every free moment of my day; today marks the eleventh day since that last post went live, and the day I have decided to return to that lifestyle.
"As a young man I discovered that most people are insecure and full of shit. They are balloons of crap on the verge of bursting. The slightest pin-prick can destroy their self image and cover everyone else in their filth. I discovered that ‘normal’ is a lie. A teenage boy that can’t smile is as self conscious as a girl with a bad haircut. I was lucky. When I was 9 I lost control of a motorcycle and crashed. When I was 9 I learned that there’s no such thing as being normal.”
A powerful post written by Gabe Weatherhead of Macdrifter.
"If computers are analogous to powered flight, we are four and a half years after the Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk; we are still flying airplanes made out of bicycle parts.”
This was merely the first of the near innumerable excerpts I wanted to pull out if CMD+SPACE’s twenty-eight episode Technology and Music, with John Roderick. For the rest of them though, check out this excellent podcast hosted by Myke Hurley of 70 Decibels. Along with this great episode Myke has also interviewed a number of other popular Internet figures, including Shawn Blanc in the episode before last’s, A Full Time Masterclass with Shawn Blanc.
After reading this article by Hartley Brody quite some time ago, I set out to build a web scraper designed to analyze Hacker News. And while the project remains unfinished, it is in no way a reflection upon the work that inspired me to undertake it. Hartley Brody talks about ah interesting way to capture data using a web browser and scraping rather than an API in an article well worth the read.
"When I communicated about concerns and issues – as well as complaints from Cryptoparty participants peeved with out-of-touch crypto-lecturers who wanted to teach command lines to crypto-newcomers – I got put downs, got brushed off, ignored, told ‘oh don’t worry, we’ll look after it, it won’t be a problem', ‘don’t worry your head about it', or aggravatingly – told that I wasn’t qualified to judge their choices as I wasn’t a crypto-expert or a hacker.”
Asher Wolf brings to light a darker side of the internet as and the hacker community in particular, chronicling her “perfect storm” experience, if you will, with misogyny in the hacker culture. Disgusting — indescribably disgusting; that’s the thought that overrode all others as I read this piece, and the lesson we need to learn from this article. Absolutely terrible.
“I still feel very guilty about small habits which I can’t shake, one of which is my Nespresso coffee machine with its dependency on capsules bought in a store which makes my skin crawl with its ostentatiousness, a cathedral to consumerism. But today while stocking up my habit, I found out that I can recycle the capsules at the store and the aluminium will be melted down.”
As I looked back on this short post consisting merely of the two paragraphs above, prepared to save it for publication tomorrow morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it lacked something. There was, ironically, definitely something missing from this post about simplifying one’s life. And then it came to me: a few weeks ago during my cabin porn binge I posted an article called Something to it. After spending two days consuming every available resource so much as mentioning cabins or simplified living, I made an observation that maybe there was something to this simple lifestyle after all, something more than a cabin deep within the woods and a less demanding lifestyle — something more than meets the eye. This article from the anonymous writer at Living the Dream rekindled that spark, igniting the curiosity that prompted me to ask the question, “is there something more to this simplicity?"
Another blogger writing a response to Rohan Anderson’s post Hard at Work, Living Simple, putting in to words the feeling I spent so long attempting to quantify and capture but, ultimately, proved too elusive to voice in my commentary:
“There is no manual, no one set way to downsize, seize life, focus on what’s important. But geez, when I read Rohan’s Whole Larder Love blog entry today, I was ready to make him my guru, his website my guide to ‘simple living’. Read it for yourself. Just this one post struck me deeply and I cannot explain why. But I sat at my desk looking out my 6th floor office window reading it on my iPhone at lunch time with tears thickening my eyes."
When the wagon lumbered up the street proclaiming the news of Aaron Swartz’s suicide, I jumped right on. I had never even heard of him, but I nevertheless jumped right on the bandwagon, eager to bemoan the passing of an individual many hailed as nothing short of a prodigy. I eulogized the man, praised his work, and condemned the system that supposedly drove him from this life. Tom Negrino of Backup Brain took a slightly different approach after spending nearly four weeks in embittered silence:
“I’m fed up with the Aaron Swartz hagiography and subsequent bullshit garment-rending from people who didn’t know him well, or at all. I’m still reading fresh examples of anguished wailing and blogging and Twittering about the guy. But to me, he seems unworthy of the sainthood that’s being thrust onto his corpse.”
With a topic such as this and words such as Tom’s, many will likely label him as insensitive and brusque. Think for a minute though, before writing a very strongly-worded tweet from the vantage point granted by your lofty pedestal, that Aaron Swartz might not have been the saintly do-gooder everyone describes him to be or the martyr we seem to be searching for so desperately. Maybe, just maybe, he was a cowardly child afraid of facing the consequences of his actions, someone that through some twisted reasoning though it acceptable to kill himself and allow one of the few people he loved to find his body suspended from the ceiling. Maybe, just maybe, Tom is right.
"I greatly admire what WordPress did for the web; to say that we want to be the WordPress of forums is not a stretch at all. We’re also serious about this eventually being a viable open-source business, in the mold of WordPress. And we’re not the only people who believe in the mission: I’m proud to announce that we have initial venture capital funding from First Round, Greylock, and SV Angel. We’re embarking on a five year mission to improve the fabric of the Internet, and we’re just getting started. Let a million discussions bloom!"
Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror announcing the release of a next-generation open source forum software toolkit designed to promote constructive and productive discussions across the modern web. Although in recent years I have made it a point to avoid forums at all costs, Discourse just might bring me and many others back.
"No one could tell me why I was wasting my creative energy, focus, and life on something I didn’t want to do. Classes didn’t hold my attention- I could teach myself more in an afternoon than I would learn in a 10-week class. My classes appealed to the lowest-common denominator. The bottom of the barrel.”
"Since my early twenties, I’ve looked at my older peers and tried to figure out why some stagnate and how others stay vibrant.”
While Matt Might goes on to propose that “comfort breeds technical fossilization” and thus leads many writers to stagnate as time goes by, I would instead suggest that the blame should go to stagnation itself as both the cause and effect rather than simply the effect of growing comfortable, for through the door propped open by a lack of desire to try new and daring things waltzes stagnation and then ruin, unchecked and uninhibited by the rolling tides of innovation seeking to drown both. Matt Might’s article 12 resolutions for programmers goes on to propose a number of other activities designed to keep those tides rolling, and in doing so perpetuate that all-important desire to create and innovate.
A powerful story from Federico Viticci talking about his prolonged battle with cancer, his job as a technology writer, and some of the realizations that combination has forced upon him.
“I’ve made mistakes in my life, but I can’t escape from what I love doing — what in part led me to being in this room.
"'Doctor, I write about technology.'"
Rohan Anderson of Whole Larder Love on the pursuit of happiness in a more simple life:
“Many believe that you’re supposed to find love, get married, work you butt off, earn money, own stuff, out-do your neighbours and pop out perfect kids. People that believe in this are in fact, idiots. Because that approach is not suited for everyone. From my short life I’d say life is more about experiences, love, culture, memories, achieving contentedness and if you’re lucky, very lucky...finding true happiness. The latter of which is THE goal for people these days. But let’s face it, it’s a bit rubbish. You can’t be happy all the time, not even half the time, but you can be content. And I reckon that’s something worth aiming for.”
One of the better articles I have read in quite some time. An excellent piece well worth the time required to appreciate it.
Last weekend I found myself at a place I rarely make it to these days: it was early evening, I had cleared my Instapaper queue of articles newer than the last week, and my feed reader’s article count read, for the moment, zero. I had no articles to read, no back-burner topics clamoring for my attention, and I felt unmotivated to wade through my extensive Instapaper backlog in search of a suitable topic to write about. The situation felt strangely unfamiliar and weird. Shifting back into gear though I alt-tabbed over to my Simplenote client and began scrolling through an amalgam of nearly one hundred and fifty half-baked articles, prompts, and ideas. Before long I stopped on a note titled “Citational Fallacy” and began reading.
I somehow managed to forget to post this article after I wrote it, so here it finally is:
A blast from the past in an article written three years ago today, on January 26, 2010, by Josh Bernoff:
“We call this new world the Splinternet (with a nod to Doc Searls and Rich Tehrani, who used the term before us with a somewhat different meaning). It will splinter the Web as a unified system. The golden age has lasted 15 years. Like all golden ages, it lasted so long we thought it would last forever. But the end is in sight.”
It’s interesting to see how the increasingly diverse computing market was viewed even just a few years ago, in a time when accidentally finding this article on my computer and piecing together this post between my phone and iPad would have been impossible.
In the wee hours of this morning Andrew Sullivan and his team completed The Dish’s migration from The Daily Beast, transitioning fully to a reader-supported model. In an article posted to The Verge a few hours later titled Andrew Sullivan’s grand experiment in reader-supported online journalism is now live, Jeff Blagdon describes the challenges facing The Dish as one of the first major websites to become reader-supported:
“Prominent political blogger Andrew Sullivan’s site The Dish is now up and running at its new user-funded home. So far, the ad-free experiment appears to be a success, with Sullivan pulling in $511,000 in revenue over the five weeks that passed since the project was announced — half of the $1 million the writer says he needs to run the site for a year.”
Jeff went on to question the plausibility of The Dish reaching its funding goal in the coming weeks, skeptical of whether or not it was possible. But Andrew has a plan, detailed in The Verge’s piece Andrew Sullivan leaving The Daily Beast for ad-free, reader-supported blog as well as on The Dish’s own site in Migration Explained:
“Starting Monday morning, some posts will have a blue ‘Read On’ button. If you click that button, the post will expand for continued reading, just as in the past. If you’re a subscriber, you will always be able to access all read-on material. If you are a non-subscriber, you will be limited to seven read-on clicks during a 30-day period. If you open a read-on post in a new window, that will also count against the read-on meter. If non-subscribers max out the read-on meter, all content above a read-on will still be free and accessible – but the deeper dish won’t be.”
Striking the delicate balance between a full-on paywall and leaving their content open for anyone to read, The Dish’s segregation strategy fills me with hope for other major websites forsaking ads in place of reader contributions in one form or another. He continues:
“Incoming links from other blogs and websites will never, ever count toward the meter; other bloggers need not fear that their readers won’t be able to see content they link to. I want to personally soothe Dan Savage’s concern on this point.”
While I foresee this becoming a problem, I applaud The Dish’s foresight to create their paywall strategy with bloggers in mind. All in all The Dish has a very interesting plan, one that I hope to see succeed in the coming months.
On Saturday, Jim Dalrymple posted an article to his blog The Loop called “Scientists create near living crystal”. When the article scrolled into view, I mused as to why a scientist creating something near a living crystal would be of any interest. After all, creating things is part of the scientist’s job, is it not? Then yesterday afternoon I saw an article titled “We should only work 25 hours a week, argues professor” from Science Nordic. Although the first time around I opted not to open it, curiosity got the better of me the second time I scrolled through Hacker News. I opened the page expecting to find a misguided, self-righteous professor of some degree (pun intended) pontificating as to why he felt academics should only work 25 hours a week. What I found, however, was an interesting piece proposing that rather than whiling away our youth working at the expense of spending time with family and friends only to find ourselves with an inordinate amount of free time in our latter years, we should instead work for greater portions of our lifespan in exchange for shorter work weeks.
"One of the most refreshing parts of the show is how humbly John approaches his opinions. It isn’t about him getting it correct, it is about arriving at the best result possible through collective effort. Nearly half of the show is John discussing follow-up comments he has received about past topics. Sharing his platform with the opinions and comments of others always felt incredibly intellectually honest.”
I finally got around to David Smith’s article The Hypercritical Way after hearing about it during Hypercritical’s final episode, Metacritical. While the passage quoted above is a good attempt at quantifying one of the many reasons so many people loved Hypercritical so much, you will never find the actual reason written in a paragraph regardless of how many pages that paragraph spans. The compilation of selected excerpts at the end of the article gets closer to defining that feeling, but nevertheless falls short in an act only listening to every single episode will ever accomplish.
"What’s maybe most striking about Tweetping is its presentation of data in pulses and punctuations: boomboomboomboom-PAUSE. That’s largely an accident of interface, but it also suggests something profound about Twitter and the social web: This stuff has a beat. It has rhythms and rushes and respites. It’s its own kind of organism, with its own kind of pulses — its own kind of heartbeat.”
“Sometimes when the pressure of city living would build to boiling point, I’d pack up my car and head bush. At times there would be a sense of insecurity, even fear, of the bush. Even though I grew up there, I would still be intimated. Why? Because I’d become a synthetic human. I’d spent far too much time at a desk under dull lights staring at a computer. I’d eat in the tea room, or the cafeteria with the other robots, and I’d spend hours between 8am – 5pm working on databases and spreadsheets and numerous other useless tasks. So when it came to the breaking point, I’d pack the camping gear in the car and head bush, I ended up both intimidated and impressed by the bush, as it had become foreign to a certain extent."
Following this morning’s announcement that the popular podcast You Look Nice Today would come to a close with one final episode, Rebecca O’Malley tweeted a link to a video from 2009 titled Smart & Funny:
I’m sad to see the podcast end; it has been one of my favorites for quite some time now. For those looking to fill the void left after You Look Nice Today airs its final episode, check out one of Merlin Mann’s other podcasts Roderick on the Line, now in its sixty-fourth episode. All the best to Merlin Mann, Scott Simpson, and Adam Lisagor: keep up the great work guys, your show will be missed.
John Siricusa on Apple’s to-do list for the coming year, posted to his personal blog Hypercritical:
“I didn’t just lead Apple to a record quarterly profit of $13.1 billion on sales of $54.5 billion, so I don’t expect to be consulted. But were Tim to ask me, here’s what I would tell him Apple should do in 2013—in broad strokes, and in no particular order.”
John’s third and seventh points, to diversify the iPhone product line and to improve iCloud, respectively, merit some discussion. A few weeks ago I wrote a post called The Problems with iCloud, in which I talked about Apple’s latest foray into cloud services and my problems with the product. It would be a huge step forward for Apple to finally offer a cloud service superior to the competition — superior to Dropbox. Underestimating the significance of those move would be a mistake.
And then we have the suggestion to diversify the iPhone product line. I first saw this idea from Marco Arment late last week, and the Internet has been abuzz since then. I am not qualified to speculate as to the probability of these rumors, nor would I even if I did possess the knowledge; my goal in publishing this website is not to become the next John Gruber or Mac Rumors. I will, however, say this: by “diversify the iPhone product line”, everyone means to say that Apple should ship a cheaper iPhone. Whether or not Apple chooses to do this, however, is not a matter of feasibility in production or difficulty selling this new, nuance device, but whether Apple wishes to support the low-end market they will capture with a low-end iPhone.
When I sat down to write earlier this evening there were a lot of things on my mind, my mind kept returning to the subject of design, still fresh in my mind after this site’s redesign last weekend. As much as I like the clean and simple layout I have now, it is not very media-friendly. I made this choice early on in the design process partially because I very rarely desire to post any sort of content other than plain text, but also because I have not found an acceptable way to do so in a manner complementary to my site’s design. Like The Magazine in its early days, therefore my site does not feature anything but simple text. Although for the most part I am fine with that, I would nevertheless prefer to have the ability to post a cool or interesting sound byte, image, or video should the need present itself.
"Should things pan out in Dish’s favor, we could very well see a fifth major carrier here in the US, something that would certainly shake things up in the wireless market. Whether or not Dish is able to accomplish that with Clearwire or by pursuing another deal will have to be seen, but we wouldn’t count the satellite provider out just yet.”
In episode sixty-four of The Critical Path, Mano a Mano, Horace Dediu and Benedict Evans discussed, among other things, the state of the cellular carriers throughout the world, with special focus paid to networks in the United States and the myriad difficulties an entrant would face against the incumbents.
Not surprisingly Horace and Benedict both made very insightful observations as to the impracticality of the move Dish seems to be making, and yet Dish nevertheless appears intent on becoming the fifth major carrier in the United States. It will be very interesting to see how this unfolds.
"When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.”
Another characteristically excellent article by Aaron Swartz, this time on Wikipedia.
Aaron Swartz made a number of interesting observations and suggestions throughout this piece. Of those, this is my favorite, found near the end of the article:
“I first got serious about this when I had to write essays for college. Writing essays isn’t a particularly hard task, but it sure is assigned. Who would voluntarily write a couple pages connecting the observations of two random books? So I started making the essays into my own little jokes. For one, I decided to write each paragraph in its own little style, trying my best to imitate various forms of speech. (This had the added benefit of padding things out.) Another way to make things more fun is to solve the meta-problem. Instead of building a web application, try building a web application framework with this as the example app. Not only will the task be more enjoyable, but the result will probably be more useful."
"The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them.”
Another insightful article by Aaron Swartz. I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Like Shawn Blanc, I too prefer to share interesting links I come across on my site rather than through Twitter or, dare I even say it, Facebook.
“Like Lopp and Bowler, many people are migrating to Twitter as their outlet to share links. And while I think Twitter and App.net are great places for that, I personally like the idea of sharing most of the links I come across via my site.”
I choose to link a post based on three criteria: my interest in the topic, whether I feel I can add to the conversation or not, and depending on the obscurity of the link. I don’t link to an article or a product if I’m not excited about it; I don’t want to waste my readers’ time any more than I want to waste mine. If I can’t add to the conversation in a significant way, I simply won’t join it. There are already too many websites that do this. And for those gems hidden on the fiftieth page of Cabin Porn or buried at the end of a long article, I often link to those as a way to call attention to something excellent that otherwise might go unnoticed. That’s how I link, relying on the quality of my commentary and prudence in determining whether to link to an article or not to separate my site from the myriad others that have adopted the linkblog format. That’s how I define rather than copy.
I came across this site partway through Cabin Porn earlier this week, but haven’t had a chance to take a look at it until now. Everything from cartography to programming to circuitry, to shelter building and winter survival tips is rewarded on DIY, an interesting initiative using badges to reward kids for learning important life skills.
Penny Arcade’s piece Planning for war: how the EVE Online servers deal with a 3,000 person battle climbed to the front page of Hacker News early this afternoon, at which point I came across the article and, curious, opened it. Althoug I spent roughly the next hour reading PC Gamer and The Mittani’s coverage of the incident and watching a number of videos taken during the battle, I still can’t quite wrap my head around a fight consisting of more than 3,000 individuals. Amazing.
Having just finished going through every article posted to Cabin Porn over the last four years, I thought it would be appropriate to take a step back, shift gears quickly, and write some observations about a rumor that has quickly gained a lot of traction over the past few hours. I am, of course, referring to the rumor of a 128GB iPad 4. As I thought more and more about it though, as I read 9to5 Mac’s coverage of the rumor, John Gruber’s take, and potential substantiation by The Verge shortly thereafter, and as I watched A day in the life from Whole Larder Love, the realization that the iPad 4 rumor was not what I wanted to write about slowly dawned on me. I suppose in order to give that epiphany any degree of substance I should provide some background.
I accidentally re-discovered this article last night as I was writing This Post is Not About the 128GB iPad 4, as I was looking for the link to Ben Brooks’s knife reviews. #20 is probably my favorite:
“Don’t give a shit about what people think of your honest opinion. If you think Android is better than iOS, Windows better than Mac, and Nikon better than Canon — so be it. You’d be wrong, but at least you’re standing for what you believe in, and that’s more important.”
Pandering came to mind the first time I read this and once again this time around. Something to keep in mind as you produce any sort of content attracting widespread attention and thus widespread criticism as well.
Two of my favorites. My only complaint is that he didn’t make more.
I’ve been making a lot of posts in the last 24 hours about Cabin Porn; I’ve written a lot and linked to even more. At the risk of sounding repetitive, if I could condense all the insight I have gained over the past two days into a single paragraph, it would be the opening lines from John Coffer’s video I linked to in This Must Be the Place:
My problem, if it could even be called that, with my obviously beloved Cabin Porn tumblr is not really a problem as much as a twinge of disappointment I felt as I made my way through all fifty-six pages on the site. I was disappointed because as I neared and eventually surpassed the halfway point, fewer of the cabins were actually that: a cabin; rather, many of the structures featured on Cabin Porn were more akin to small houses than the cozy, generally handcrafted buildings nestled away from civilization I came to the site looking for. It got progressively worse as I approached the final page. Now granted, in recent years the folks at Beaver Brook have gotten much better at this, but it nevertheless left me feeling slightly dissatisfied when I closed page #56.
John Coffer, in an excellent video produced by Lost & Found Films:
“I was living in Florida and I had a nice two-bedroom condominium, a garage, a swimming pool, some tangerine trees outside, a sports car and a Ford van. It wasn’t really very fulfilling, in the end."
"The great thing about having my job evaporate into thin air was that we were able to move out of town to this nice, quiet place where the only traffic we ever see is the occasional passing of a neighbor’s dog team."
"My favorite detail: The chimney is built with stones collected from 30 different countries, a lifetime project for one of its previous, and apparently nomadic, owners.”
As if the unique and often quite intricate designs were not enough to separate these cabins.
Rather than posting separate articles for each cool cabin I came across or interesting story I found on Cabin Porn throughout this past day, I decided to condense the day’s updates into a single post. There are a few cabins, however, whose stories merited more than a simple line item on an imposingly long list, and for those I did make an exception.
A very cool website Shawn Blanc runs along with a small staff of other writers from around the internet. I first learned of Tools & Toys in episode #25 of the CMD+SPACE podcast, A ‘Full-Time’ Masterclass, with Shawn Blanc, and then spent some time earlier this afternoon taking a cursory look at the group’s work. Not surprisingly, it’s top-notch.
"A town within a city, a rebel neighborhood within a well-ordered society. This is Christiania (Freetown), Denmark, a small community smack dab in the middle of Copenhagen, Denmark. Within this community are tiny houses, built by hand and with whatever materials are within reach.”
I found this article through a link on the Cabin Porn tumblr page. Christiania is not only home to a number of impressive cabins though, but also to a curious way of life made all the more interesting by the rules the residents abide by:
“The 900 or so freethinking individuals who inhabit the area are a self governing community who refuse to pay taxes to the Danish government, run their own businesses and schools, live without cars on unpaved roads, build their own houses, restaurants and civil buildings and even have their own currency."
To once again reference Ben Brooks’s article Fatal Design Flaw of Workspaces, he described his ideal workspace towards the end of the article:
“I often dream of my ideal workspace:
* 10,000 square foot space of nothing.
* Four foot by ten foot desk in the center, made of wood.
* Herman Miller Embody chair.
* Concrete floors.
* No windows.
* Thirty foot ceiling.
* Spot light illuminating only my desk.
* Just the laptop on the desk.
* No cables in sight.”
As I read this description, I couldn’t help but think about how different my own ideal workspace would be from this one. Where he dreams of a large expanse of nothing, dark except for well-lit area around his immaculate desk, I idealize a small cabin like the glass lodge linked at the top of this post: a bright, cozy space, isolated somewhere away from civilization where I can be alone to work. I suppose in that regard, at least, we can agree.
"My cabin at Beaver Brook is in a forest that used to be mostly dominated by white pines, the tallest trees in the Eastern United States. The forest was nearly clear cut and the logs were floated down the nearby Delaware River to Philadelphia where they were used as structural beams for buildings and British ships. ... Now, BB’s trees are mostly 40-50 years old, though I’m grateful there are still a few old growth trees to remind me of the previous magnificence of this historic forest.”
What struck me about this post as I scrolled through Cabin Porn earlier this morning was not the sad story, but the cover of Erik Rutkow’s book: featuring two cowboys, for lack of a better term, amidst a huge forest of leviathan trees. It saddens me to think that today, we lack both.
I can’t quite say for sure why I decided to go with this title, or, rather, what made it come to mind as the clock neared midnight last night. I had just finished The Art of Not Saying Anything a few minutes ago, and some part of my mind was bemoaning the abandonment of a great majority of the lessons my English teacher instilled within me not long ago. Namely, to avoid be verbs and contractions; to write grammatically correct sentences; never to start a sentence with a conjunction; and never to address the reader directly. Over the past few months I have slowly abandoned many of these beliefs — these morals, if you will — one by one as I continue to evolve as a writer.
As I reflected upon Cabin Porn and finished The Patron Saint of Cabin Porn late last night, I thought back to something Jim Dalrymple and Merlin Mann talked about on the seventh episode of The Crossover, We Met at a Tequila Bar. It’s late and I can’t quite recall their exact words, but the gist of the discussion was that sometimes, you don’t always need to write a thousand words — or even a hundred, for that matter — about something; sometimes, a simple “Yep.” will suffice. More is not always better.
"In 1968, at the age of 51, Dick left a life of ranching, carpentry and heavy machine repair to retire to Twin Lakes, Alaska in what is now Lake Clark National Park. Deposited by float plane, and carrying only the simplest of tools, he set out to build a homestead and survive the winter, alone in the wilderness.”
I found this partway through the first ten pages of Cabin Porn last night. At fifty-one to attempt something many will never attempt in their lifetime...such an amazing story. Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum did something similar in the Arctic Circle:
“In 2010, Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum spent 9 months above the Arctic Circle surfing, snowboarding, and subsisting in a cabin they built of driftwood, stone, and sea debris."
When I finally got around to opening Cabin Porn yesterday evening on another exotic living space binge brought on starting Friday afternoon with Ben Brooks’s article Fatal Design Flaw of the Workspaces, I was excited. Posts like The World’s Skinniest House and Tiny Houses over on Huckberry — both linked to in Ben’s article — had rekindled a long-extinguished flame somewhere inside of me, igniting that visceral desire to discover something new and interesting. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order. I would be the happiest man in the world to have any one of these amazing cabins.
Early Friday morning I started redesigning this site’s layout. I wanted to create a better reading experience and place more emphasis on my content, with particular attention paid to the latest articles. Two days later, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I closed my computer having not only accomplished my initial goals, but also after successfully completing a long-overdue complete overhaul of the content mangement system I drive this site with, First Crack. For those unfamiliar with my work on this Markdown-based content management system, check out Introducing First Crack and First Crack in Practice.
In pursuit of more perfect compromise between functionality and minimalism, Ben Brooks closed his article on minimalist spaces with an observation I found very vindicating, having made the switch almost wholly myself.
“I wonder if my perfect office really involves a laptop, or if it would be perfect with only an iPad and keyboard."
"SplinterNet is a simple mobile app that allows users to author posts in a similar fashion to blogging or tweeting. These posts can contain text and a single image. However, rather than being hosting on internet servers, users distribute their posts by syncing with other app users via Bluetooth. The peer-to-peer syncing creates an ad hoc distribution network without requiring the use of mobile networks or any other monitored network infrastructure.”
A very interesting idea indeed, even when considered as simply another form of blogging — a new platform for microblogging, perhaps. I look forward to hearing more from this app’s creators as it evolves from development into a service suitable for widespread use.
I have a particular fondness for hand-crafted things, and a special spot in my heart for crafting those things myself. Those Who Make features masters of their respective crafts doing what they do best: making things. Since coming across the Vimeo channel in an article over on Shawn Blanc’s blog last night, I only just managed to pull myself away for long enough to write this short post. As Shawn Blanc said, “Click through with caution — you may never come back."
As a born PC user I rarely interact with iCloud on my main computer. Even on my iOS devices I rarely use iCloud, where, given the choice, I will choose Dropbox or some other method to sync documents and settings across devices. The most recent episode of Back to Work, Lotta Little Knives, brought the issue to a head in my mind, and Ben Brooks’s less recent article Archived Data, in the Cloud, in which he proposed an interesting solution to the topic at hand, prompted me to write this piece.
After writing my last post, The Next Step, and as I went back to perusing the steady stream of news and articles I proctor throughout the day, I started thinking about the prevalence of the Apple blog. I touched on this briefly in my last article. There’s a strangely pervasive mentality in the blogosphere these days that in order to be successful, one must do some combination of three things: write about Apple, adopt the linkblog format, and post regularly, the argument being that few companies are as interesting to write about as Apple. For the most part, I agree with these requirements: nobody writes about Microsoft anymore, because Microsoft isn’t doing anything revolutionary anymore; for the same reason, nobody writes about Samsung or Oracle or Adobe. But that doesn’t mean Apple is the only interesting company on the market. As I said in my previous post, Google is doing many of the same things Apple does and receives so much attention for, although granted often to a lesser degree. In fact, Google does even more with their much broader research and development division, leading to the creation of driverless vehicles, augmented reality glasses, and, most recently, an experimental cell network. No other company in the world can claim the same.
"Now, Google’s no stranger to crazy experiments, and not all of them will necessarily change the world: for every self-driving car and wearable display, there’s an army of employees working on personal engineering projects. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening here.” - Sean Hollister of The Verge in Google building secret wireless network, says it involves ‘highly competitive consumer electronics'.
"Can you imagine if one of these new open sourcerers took my advice and got this response, without the support I had. Can you imagine?"
Disappointing. If you see a problem but do nothing constructive to remedy it, are you really seeing the right problem?
Although the trailer features few live scenes from actual gameplay, it does exhibit impressive graphics especially when compared to traditional video game animations. I have high hopes for this game, and look forward to the day when live gameplay will be indiscernible from the animation used in the trailer.
"But when we’re gone, its hydrogen will still continue fusing, irrespective of the politics of our successor race, whatever species next decides to fill its nearest star with qualities like love, intentionality, goodwill, and grace.”
I take some issue with this fatalistic point of view. The hydrogen will indeed continue fusing regardless of the majority of the decisions we make today, but that fact should not be used to discount the change we can implement today to in some way effect future change.
In a space increasingly defined by Apple bloggers and their copycats, it is not only interesting to see another writer’s process, but also to see how that creator works towards such a different end product using largely the same tools as those obfuscating this space.
“Fundamentally what he’s doing is quite simple: he tweets, and he retweets. A lot. Sometimes he goes 20 hours at a stretch, collating from those he follows and passing information on to his eighty thousand followers. He often interjects questions or critiques, building on what he’s read and recruiting fact-checkers. The result can be simultaneously cacophonous, intimate, and illuminating."
A particularly astute observation from my favorite blog, Blogarach.
“America is a nation of tantrum-throwing moral infants that’s been dragged bawling out of the crib of its own moral and ethical object impermanence, and even now it’s kicking and screaming on the floor of the department store, yelling that some black guy got into a California law school ahead of a deserving white."
Another post from what is quickly becoming my favorite blog, and one of the few sites whose articles I consistent read.
“For all the po-faced, high-church sentimentality and stentorian sententiousness of the quadrennial American coronation day, there’s something almost charmingly—and disarmingly—tacky about our great national junket jubilee, a certain plastic tablecloth, fire-hall wedding, warming-tray ziti trashiness that makes the fact that we are ultimately celebrating the ratification of one more dude’s right to once more screw the poor and bomb the fuck out the rest of the world slightly more tolerable."
Lots of interesting things going in in this space right now.
John Siracusa in an article from 2010, in which he briefly discusses the problem faced by those wishing to enter into blogging.
“Of course, now I just spent 20 minutes futzing with Tumblr themes (before giving up when I realized that I won’t be happy with the results without investing many, many more hours) instead of writing the the post that motivated this little excursion in the first place.”
For non-technical people, the problem is undoubtedly even worse. And while the advent of sites like Squarespace aim to lower the bar of entry, it is nevertheless still all too high, an unnecessary barrier preventing smart people from easily sharing their knowledge with the world.
Another article I glossed by a few weeks ago only to come back to it as the clock strikes midnight.
“The changes to my working (and sleeping) routine have forced me to write when it’s time to write, not when I feel inspired.”
At the time I didn’t understand the concept of writing when it was time to write rather than when I felt inspired, which is why I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to this article when Shawn Blanc first released it. At the time, I wrote when I felt inspired, not when it was time to write. At the time, there was no specific time to write, all the time was the time to write. And then my schedule got busy, and now I stay up late to write because it’s what I love to do. Now I write when it’s time to write.
When I first saw this tweet roll by in my feeds either earlier this week I didn’t pay much attention to it. As I sit here and it’s nearly midnight, however, John Gruber’s excerpt came to mind: “Midnight: Hunter ready to write.” These days I have very small windows in which to write in: between homework and class during the day, and after I return home from FRC practice at 9:30 (at the earliest) each night. Outside of those small windows, which are all to frequently filled by one thing or another, I have the weekends. The weekends and midnight.
Certainly one of the most interesting comparison I have seen to a closed nation like Korea scrolled into view in my news feed as an article from The Verge titled Eric Schmidt’s daughter reports on creepy North Korea trip, says the country is like ‘The Truman Show'.
A few days ago in preparation for posting We Have Lost One of Our Own, a short article I wrote eulogizing Aaron Swartz in response to the news that he had committed suicide, I spent some time perusing his work. This article, Take a Step Back, is one of the many I saved to Instapaper, and the one in which I found this interesting tidbit:
“There are the blogs on ‘life hacks,' which are full of gadgets and gizmos that seem to cause more problems than they solve. There are the anti-procrastination blogs, where the author has a constant stream of epiphanies that all seem to amount to ‘just put away the distractions and get stuff done.' And there are the charlatans, who tell you that all your wildest dreams can come true if you just follow their patented advice."
The title reworked for this article, Reginald Braithwaite’s article Why the Fuck? posted earlier today not only made it to the Hacker News front page, but to the top spot. He makes an interesting point to begin with, and then anticlimactically ended the piece with a call to arms in the fight against diabetes and obesity. But that’s his point: today the glamorous projects aren’t the ones helping people. The greatest technical minds of the previous generation spend their time at the Googles and Apples, at the Facebooks and Microsofts of today. Will we follow in their footsteps, or strike out on our own? And for those that do choose to walk a different path, where will that path lead?
I saw a similar post to this one a few days ago about Microsoft called Fail Fail Fail iPad on Gravitational Pull, using preductions from years long past that coincidentally fit current events to predict the eventual demise of Microsoft. Both articles were wrong.
Earlier this morning Dan Ryan posted The Problem with Kickstarter over on Xconomy. Joshua Beckman of SthgNw commented on the piece, saying, “The problem really is that people sell ideas and are expected to deliver hard products.” I would take Josh’s opinion one step further: the problem is that people sell hard ideas and are expected to deliver hard products.
Interesting and apparently very lucrative application of a business practice all too prevalent throughout this nation by an individual.
Interesting that Teju Cole chose to use Twitter as his blogging platform.
Speaking of talking about other writers’ tools and processes, here’s Shawn Blanc searching for a replacement to an integral part of his workflow as a writer, Simplenote. Not a day goes by that I don’t use Simplenote, and unfortunately I’ve noticed some of the synching problems he has. Nevertheless Simplenote remains the best on the market, and for that single reason I will continue to keep all my notes, to write all my articles, and to store nearly every bit of textual information I come in contact with in this app.
Planet Earth Abandons Death Star Project In Face Of Superior Galactic Imperial Power | Star Wars Blog
And so the story continues.
Always interesting to read about another writer’s tools and setup, and Matt Gemmell’s style makes this piece all the more pleasurable to read.
“What you’re seeing through the window is Outside. Now, I’m not a massive fan of Outside, generally speaking - I’m of the belief that we coped with Outside for a long time, until we finally invented Inside, and then breathed a huge sigh of relief - but it can really clear your head and restore some perspective. And sanity. And apparently vitamin D, or something, but health is a worry for tomorrow."
Kas Thomas on how to write an opening sentence, drawing on his extensive writing career as well as a number of books on the subject. I particularly liked how he pointed out the openers prominent writers use over and over again. Definitely something to keep in mind when writing.
“These aren’t all the possible ways to start a piece, but if you’re completely stuck, one of them should work. If not? Surprise the world with something outlandishly original. Don’t be like most people. Don’t just start with ‘If you’re like most people . . .'"
After the petition to build a Death Star and the petition to remove Ortiz from her position at the Department of Injustice (oops, a typo) all garnered the required 25,000 signatures, I suppose it’s not surprising. Sam Byford has more on this in his post After Death Star and deportation petitions, White House raises signature threshold to 100,000 on The Verge.
An interesting article posted over on Blogarach in response to Aaron Swartz’s death. Even more impressive is that it’s a single, extremely well-written sentence. Worth the read even if you are not following the tragedy that is Aaron Swartz’s suicide.
Thirty-eight minutes and eleven seconds in to the eighteenth episode of The B&B Podcast, Shawn Blanc, in response to Ben Brooks talking about the salient point of his Lion review, said, “If you can’t boil down your whole article into a tweet, what are you doing writing the article in the first place?" Amidst a discussion regarding Ben and Shanw’s recent Lion and Web OS reviews, respectively, this humble observation is easy to miss as its brevity belies its profundity. This modest phrase said in passing is nevertheless one of the most profound insights into the writer’s craft I have ever come across.
An article from Ben Brooks posted in November of last year I had near the middle of my Simplenote list, burried beneath a slew of notes, ideas, and half-baked articles.
> I’m not interested in writing when it’s not about the writing. iBooks Author is neat, but I don’t want to learn it - instead I’ll just “publish” the book here as a series of posts, where I know what I am doing (somewhat) and where writing is about writing and not layout, marketing, legal issues, notices, copyrights, glossaries, etc.
I completely agree with his conclusion, as I’m sure many writers do. That’s why, in part, I built First Crack: so that once it was working, I didn’t need to worry about the logistics and nitpicky details of publication. Instead, I could write in an environment in which “writing is about writing."
Matt Alexander of One Thirty Seven made so many interesting points I had a hard time choosing an excerpt of acceptable length for this post. I ended up settling on this one though, reflective of the tone throughout his exceptionally well-written article We’re Boring, They’re Sexting:
“Sitting on the front porch of our quaint weblogs and latte-art-filled Instagram accounts, we’re collectively yelling at the kids playing in the street using these platforms in newer, happier, and increasingly care-free ways. These kids have been born into a world of social networking and privacy concerns are literally the last things on their minds. They’re just looking for the next best way to chat, flirt, and sext their way into each other’s bedrooms, whilst we continue to perpetuate unwritten societal rules of etiquette for Twitter and Facebook.”
I can’t say enough good things about this piece — just go read it for yourself. And while you’re at it, read Josh Miller’s post referenced in the first paragraph of Matt Alexander’s article, Tenth Grade Tech Trends.
Kid Sends Brilliantly Blunt Cover Letter For Wall Street Internship, And Now Tons Of People Are Trying To Hire Him
Proof that honesty really is the best policy.
Interesting, all the things people are starting to do with receipt paper. Sean Hollister tells of a DC restaurant that provides a collection of the latest news items printed on receipt paper when you ask for the check. Also mentioned in this article is BERG’s Little Printer, a neat thermal printer with a bunch of cool features.
As I concluded Defining an Industry I again found myself once again trying to decide whether I should continue writing or stop where I was. On the one hand I was happy with the article’s length, approximately 550 words. On the other hand though, I really wanted to spend some time talking about being overtaken in a market and about market cannibalization. Ultimately proposing that adhering to industry standards in a given market will not perpetuate success, for in such a case a newcomer unbeholden to existing stigmas will eventually enter and surpass the incumbents, I felt such a topic would fit nicely in Defining an Industry. The more I thought about it though the less I agreed with my initial sentiment though, so I finished the piece, saved it for posting at a later date, and began this article.
Lately, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about disruption theory. I’m writing articles about podcasting, technology, and education, in which 5by5, Apple, and the likes of The Khan Academy are disrupting the incumbents in their respective industries to superb results. 5by5 proved the viability of business based on podcasts, and explosive growth in this space ensued as the medium gained increasingly widespread recognition outside of geek circles. This growth and Dan’s business model set into motion a renaissance of sorts and provided the foundation for the advent of companies like 70 Decibels and The Mule Radio Syndicate, and many more to come.
From Christine Pelisek’s article on The Daily Beast, I thought these two excerpts were of particular interest:
In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, NRA executive Wayne LaPierre drew criticism for suggesting that posting armed guards in schools could help prevent future shootings. Taft Union High School does employ an armed officer on campus, but he was snowed in on Thursday and did not make it to work.
In another ironic twist, the shooting happened just a few hours after the school held a staff meeting to talk about how to deal with shootings like the one in Newtown.
And this one later in the article:
“We can have all the gun control in the world but he was going to take [the gun] to school," said Youngblood about the suspect. “It is an issue of mental health more than it is gun control. It is not normal to get a shotgun, walk into class, and shoot someone. That is not a normal reaction of someone who thinks he is being picked on.”
The barrier to entry for pirating music, movies, or software discourages casual piracy; it does not pose anything other than a minor convenience, if even that, to anyone determined to download Carrie Underwood’s latest album without spending a cent. The question, then, and Sherif Youngblood got to this point in the article as well, must be asked: “How much of a difference will stricter gun laws make?" The shooter at each and every one of these recent school shootings obtained the weapon from an adult family member or friend. How far must new gun laws reach in order to keep the weapons out of the hands of troubled young individuals, and at which point do the ends no longer justify the means?
Earlier today I stumbled across an interesting article called We Are In The Final Years of Our Internet over on Stupid Is Winning explaining why the author believes the internet as we know it is likely to gradually fade as a younger, more tech savvy generation comes of age. The author is hypothesizing that a generation raised on touch screens and iTunes is unlikely to use the internet in the same way it is used now, which will eventually bring about a revolution of sorts in which the computing world and the internet in particular centers around specific apps rather than the browser. Perhaps the most interesting part in the article is not the main body, however, but the “jumbled thoughts in no order” at the bottom of the post, where the author proposes a number of questions and scenarios. Rather than a certainty though — the idea that the world of technology and the internet in particular are destined to change dramatically in the near future — I think we need to ask ourselves these questions: what is the possibility of reaching an asymptote in the near future at which point the need for innovation ceases? Before you answer, consider another: does anyone really want a phone the size of a bluetooth dongle — a Siri phone? does anymore really want a computer inside their head? Perhaps ranging into the dystopian extreme with the latter scenario, the thought nevertheless begs the question, “Is there a point at which we will have innovated enough that further innovation and future disruption is not only unwanted but also — and most importantly — unwarranted?"
Paul Shawcross did an amazing job responding to the recent petition for the government to build an actual Death Star. An excellent article.
An interesting collection of thoughts and observations regarding the meaning of life. These are my two favorites, the first from Frank Donofrio:
I have been asking myself why I’m here most of my life. If there’s a purpose I don’t care anymore. I’m seventy-four. I’m on my way out. Let the young people learn the hard way, like I did. No one ever told me anything.
And from Charles Bukowski:
For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God.
We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system.
We are here to drink beer.
We are here to kill war.
We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.
We are here to read these words from all these wise men and women who will tell us that we are here for different reasons and the same reason.
I planned to work on a number of articles this evening, but then, after I got home a short while ago and opened Hacker News, my evening plans changed as I began to read about Aaron Swartz. Rather than attempt to write about a man I know little of and who I knew nothing of before this afternoon, here are the better articles I have seen floating around the internet:
Last month I published Introducing First Crack shortly after this site went life. In that post I outlined a number of goals I set for First Crack during its development, as well as a few of the advantages I believed my new CMS would have over the incumbents. Since making that post nearly two months have gone by. During those two months I have used First Crack exclusively, and I have not looked back.
With From the Notepad: Perspective I started doing something the result of which I am very pleased with, and something I plan to continue in the future — an innovation of sorts: it’s not a post made in the traditional linkblog format, but it does draw some inspiration from it; it’s not a full-fledged article, it’s much more concise and to the point; it’s not an overly simplified, minified post condensed into a near-inscrutable tweet; it’s somewhere in between all of those, in a space I feel I can occupy very well. Rather than writing a full-fledged post for each of the myriad notes I have created over the past months in Simplenote, I will begin posting whatever I have collected for the potential topic as I would a linked item: with the excerpt as a blockquote along with some commentary if I deem it necessary. These types of post will allow me to expedite the publishing process without expending the extensive time and effort required to make a full-fledged post, thereby making it possible for me to post more frequently and in more easily digested modules.
When Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s daughter entered into high school, he wrote her a short letter. In this letter, he cautioned against following in his own footsteps in becoming a writer, while simultaneously encouraging her to pursue her dreams and not to get discouraged when her work fell short of her expectations.
> “Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.”
An interesting point of view to keep in mind.
I’m not sure what’s funnier: the story or the comment thread at the end.
With this post I thought I would try something different: rather than writing a full-fledged post for each of the myriad notes I have created over the past months in Simplenote, I will begin posting whatever I have collected for the potential topic as I would a linked item: with the excerpt as a blockquote along with some commentary if I deem it necessary. With that, then, the first post taken straight from my notepad, in which I attempt to frame the omniscient platform war with a bit of perspective:
Over the course of the last few days I have begun developing a new app to replace Hacker News Story Pickup Rate, a site that aims to take the guesswork out of submitting stories to Hacker News by using various heuristics to determine the best time to submit a story in order to gain the most attention. Partway through last week Hacker News Story Pickup Rate went down, and as of January 1st it had not gone back online.
During my flight earlier this afternoon I started writing an article tentatively titled “I Should Blog Full Time, But I Can’t”, the first two paragraphs of which I have included below:
It happened when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, and it happened again when he introduced the iPad: a new player entered a market stagnated by incumbents and surprised everyone by tossing the norm out the window and ushering in a new era through the door. On a much smaller scale this happened earlier last week when I stumbled across Cyloramic, a neat little iOS app for the iPhone 5 that uses vibration patterns to spin the phone in a full circle and take a panoramic shot of its surroundings.
What an amazing story.
Speaking of music created in interesting and unconventional ways, Ryan Challinor used his heart rate to set the tempo for Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson in this video created for MIT’s Music Hack Day.
Found this a little bit ago by chance at the bottom of the Hacker News front page. Very, very cool.
“Bass wobble - Notes based on smoothed out NASDAQ overall trading volumes. Wobble rate based on current volatility of the NASDAQ overall trading.
Melody - Apple performance vs NASDAQ100 index.
Basic beat - Static.
Hi-hat - Triggered when the overal nasdaq trading volume is above 2 minute rolling average."
A few years ago, when I lived in Minnesota, my friend and I split our time between two activities: building robots and building rockets. We built our robots of Legos and our rockets of cardboard and balsa wood. When we weren’t occupied with one of those endeavors we spent our evenings racing his go-cart around the empty parking lot across from his house, our afternoons building zip lines in his backyard instead of doing the work we were supposed to, and our mornings being homeschooled by our moms. Outside of that relatively small allocation to formalized learning, we were allowed to pursue whatever interested us.
As I was working through my seemingly immutable Instapaper queue this morning I came across Jason Snell’s article from earlier this month titled Writing on the iPad; it was as if I had written the article myself.
Over the past six months I made it a point to keep a journal. Not so that I could reflect on my feelings twenty years from now, but so that I could give it to someone very dear to me as a Christmas gift. Rather than keep the journal on my computer as I would have preferred to with any sort of activity requiring me to write extensively though, I chose to forsake the immutability digitality affords and put pen to paper to create something inherently more valuable than it would have been as a collection of text files printed on 8.5x11 paper. Although my handwriting, just as Jason Snell’s, was then and still is — although to a lesser degree now — quite poor, I was very happy with the result. As was she.
That creation process was surprisingly different than any I had employed in the past, and consequentially the result was markedly different than anything I had previously created. Whereas when I write with the intention of publicizing to this and its derivative platforms I edit fastidiously, I found that I spent little to no time editing my journal entries. Not because I was lazy or cared less about the quality of the result, but instead because I didn’t need to edit them: unlike when I write on my computer and — although to a lesser degree — my iPad, where I often write very quickly and spend an inordinate amount of time editing, the constraints writing with a pen and paper introduce forced me to consider each and every word very carefully. This made that writing especially good; in fact, I might even go so far as to say it was some of the best writing I have done in a long time. Although writing on my iPad does bring with it a similar set of benefits, the unique set of constraints the pen and paper approach presents exhibits these quality traits most prominently. These realizations brought me to a particularly interesting and counter-intuitive conclusion I plan to explore in the coming weeks: it is in the presence of great constraints that great achievements are accomplished.
The other day I wrote a short, single paragraph post titled Christmas Break. The gist of the very short article was to say that it’s okay to take a break from working, that your holiday break shouldn’t necessarily be spent catching up on overdue work; taking a break is not a bad thing, and in the grand scheme of things is unlikely to negatively impact your future success. I released the article early in the afternoon of Christmas Eve without any expectation that it would attract any meaningful traffic, but nevertheless submitted it to Hacker News. When I happened to check my stats the next morning, I was surprised to find that it had attracted nearly 220 pageviews over eleven hours. Christmas Day saw another forty visits, totaling to around 260 within the first two days.
The tendency to choose the path of least resistance has always been one of the most annoying personality traits I possess. Often manifested as a calm, easygoing attitude it has, however, served me quite well over the years. A double-edged sword if ever there was a more appropriate time to use the phrase, on the one hand the ability to discern and choose the course of action most agreeable to the largest number of dissidents has proven extremely useful; in combination with the easygoing attitude this approach prompts, I have been able to avoid unnecessary stress more times than I can remember, and for that I am thankful. On the other hand though, I often find myself backing down from an argument in favor of a different solution to the disagreement where in all actuality, a fight would have been the most appropriate response. That’s when the likeable, everyman attitude becomes problematic: when it becomes the driving force behind the tendency to not fight for the things you believe in, whether those “things” are something so simple as the place for dinner or something possibly infinitely more complex such as an opinion. As writers on the internet who are exposed to criticism of the latter much more often than the former of the two, it’s important to stick to your guns, to not balk in the face of adversity; for on the internet ambivalence is perceived as weakness, and just as in nature, weakness will be brutally stamped out.
To close his article Inbox Intentions posted early today, Shawn Blanc made a statement that presently found it’s way to Ben Brooks’s site, where I came across it earlier this evening: “Intentions are dandy, but real men get to work.” After two full days spent celebrating Christmas, this evening found me tired and wanting nothing more than to lay back on my bed and do some light reading. And then I came across Ben Brooks’s quote of the day for Christmas 2012. And then I sat down to do the thing I’ve managed to avoid doing since starting Christmas break: I sat down to write.
Since starting Christmas Break a few days ago I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. I intended to spend a lot of this time catching up on some reading, writing, coding, and working on a new project, but unfortunately as of yet that hasn’t happened. During what relatively little reading I did do over the three days since Christmas Break started though, I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one to step back, take a bit of a break from working, and relax. And you know what? That’s just fine: you don’t have to spend every day working, nor are you required to make up for lost time over holidays. You will still be successful if you take a bit of a break. It’s Christmas; go relax on the couch, eat some cookies, and gain a few pounds.
As I wrote BuzzFeed, Meet The Oatmeal Tuesday night, I came across Shawn Blanc’s short post regarding Vemedio’s latest release in a bout of procrastination as I pursued Twitter. My excitement over a new major release of my favorite podcast client was tinged with confusion though as I attempted to update the app, and was instead presented with the option to purchase it once again. Curious, I began digging around until finally, after a strangely complicated search, I confirmed my suspicion that Instacast 3.0 is, in fact, a paid upgrade.
Last night just before I went to bed I was scrolling through my Twitter stream — as you do — when I came across Jim Dalrymple’s post titled after a line from Mathew Inman’s article Dear Jack Stuef, “You bitter, uninspired, bottom-feeding ass”. All the more curious once I discovered Jim’s link was to an article written by one of my favorite webcomic authors, I spent the next half hour reading in varying degrees of disbelief and disappointment — disbelief that the issue managed to escalate this far, and disappointment that Mathew Inman received enough flak to take time out of his life and away from creating his excellent webcomic to respond.
In my previous article I talked about how I have begun to use my iPad increasingly often as a device to not only consume content, but also to generate it. I mentioned that I read almost every article in Instapaper and that I use Simplenote to write, but I did not delve any deeper into my iPad setup, nor did I go into too much detail in explaining the toolset I employ increasingly infrequently on my computer in the colophon. Taking after John Gruber and Shawn Blanc, these are the tools I use. First, on my iOS devices, as these are the computers I use most often these days. Not necessarily in any particular order,
Over the past two weeks my usage of the iPad as a device for both content consumption and creation has exploded: whereas before I had used the iPad primarily to read textbooks with the occasional deviation into other forms of reading, I now use the iPad as my primary computing device. Despite the occasional inconvenience this approach presents, forcing me to return to my computer for one thing or another from time to time, I have done so less often than I thought I would, and it happens increasingly infrequently as I spend more time perfecting a new workflow. And that’s strange for me, as an avid programmer, writer, and occasional gamer, to discover.
It’s no secret that everyone has a link blog these days, and there is no short supply of opinions on this topic, arguing both for and against the widespread use of the format John Gruber introduced in 2004. I am not here to parrot the words of other bloggers though, but to instead offer a solution to what Marcelo Sommers dubbed “the linkblog cancer”.
Earlier this morning Nic Haralambous posted an article titled Don’t Read TechCrunch. Within four hours his article had climbed to the #1 spot on the Hacker News home page with 132 points, at which point I found it and, out of curiosity, clicked the link.
Thanks to the magic that is Instapaper, I was able to reference the original text of Josh Topolsky’s article Integrity and Bullies with Blogs rather than the updated version available on his Tumblr blog, although my efforts proved to be for naught when I found the only difference between the two version to be the removal of a single sentence in the opening paragraph. Despite this I do not regret spending the extra ten minutes it took to locate a device equipped with Instapaper that had not synced with the Instapaper servers since I moved the article to the Archive folder — an action that removes the local cache in favor of a link to the article’s source — and install a Sublime Text plugin to diff the two copies of Josh’s article. I don’t regret what turned out to be an unnecessary expenditure of a minimal amount of time and effort for two reasons, the first of which is that in doing so I obtained the tools necessary to perform this task for future articles where it might be of greater importance. More importantly though, because taking an extra few minutes to verify the validity of my premise and formulate my thoughts into cohesive points is a step I believe every writer and especially those involved in this debacle could learn from.
When Marco Arment released The Magazine in early October, the announcement attracted the attention of many prominent internet writers, all of which spoke very enthusiastically about Marco’s magazine initiative. A biweekly publication released through iOS’s Newsstand, The Magazine featured articles from Guy English, Jason Snell, Alex Payne, and Michael Lopp in just the first issue. The second issue attracted work from John Siracusa, Lex Friedman, and Gina Trapani, setting a precedent I believe Marco will be able to meet with each edition as many other excellent writers contribute their time and efforts to this publication.
Absolutely hilarious. I remember seeing a series of tweets to this effect last year around Christmas, but couldn’t find any of those tweets for this post given Twitter’s 3200 tweet archive limit. Truly unfortunate.
The controversial touchdown during the third quarter of this afternoon’s Houston-Detroit football game left me shaking my head for the rest of the day. Marc Sessler summed it up perfectly in his article Justin Forsett, Houston Texans gifted a touchdown: the Texans certainly were gifted a touchdown, and unfortunately that touchdown gave them the edge they needed to beat Detroit in overtime.
As I mentioned in We’re Live, I wrote a slick content management system designed to streamline the publication of my content to the web. Serving as a nod of acknowledgment to Marco Arment’s efforts in developing his very own CMS dubbed Second Crack, I call my system First Crack. In this post I will talk about why I chose to write my own content management system instead of using an existing engine — a topic that will stretch to encompass a discussion of the advantages such an approach affords — before going through some of the specific aspects of First Crack I find particularly interesting.
Dan Benjamin’s recent announcement that both John Siracusa and Marco Arment would draw their run on 5by5 to a close during the month of December gave me the final push I needed to finally publish this blog. After having spent just over two years listening to these truly brilliant co-hosts discuss everything from TiVO to toasters and Journey and The App Store to artis-anal coffee methods and Fox News, what better way to open my new blog, just as Steven Sommer did, than with a hat-tip to the men responsible for prompting me to take this step? So as the Twittersphere bemoans the passing of these two excellent podcasts as their co-hosts move on to better things, I would like to thank not just John Siracusa and Marco Arment but also Dan Benjamin, not only for providing me with hundreds of hours of first-class entertainment throughout the past two years, but for all the lessons they have taught me as well. I certainly regret the passing of these two excellent shows, but I wish both Marco and John the best in their future endeavors; and I have faith in Dan Benjamin, that he will continue to produce the best podcasts on the internet.
In my last post, Getting Started on WordPress.com, Tumblr, or Squarespace, I briefly touched on an important design principle towards the end of the article, where I cautioned against choosing a theme that did not showcase your work to the fullest extent possible. I did not, however, explain my reasons for this caution. In the beginning I considered design to be of paramount importance. Even more so, in fact, than the content itself. As the years went by and my experience grew though, that opinion did an about-face, and quite some time passed during which I considered the design to be tertiary to the content in a system containing but two players. Today, however, I have finally come to a compromise, where I believe that a site’s design and the content that fills it are equally important and thus should complement each other, not vie for the attention of the viewer.
Hey everybody, my name is Zachary Szewczyk. I am an eighteen-year-old writer and programmer, aspiring designer, and general computer geek working my way through high school. Some of you may recognize my name from a past blog or once-popular article, but by and large I am unknown on the internet. As I begin to write more and work through the extensive backlog of article topics I have gathered throughout the past few years though, I plan to take after the likes of Marco Arment and Jim Dalrymple as I cover subjects ranging from the writer’s craft to the neat little CMS I built for this site to my thoughts on Microsoft’s relevance in today’s tech scene. I have grand plans for this blog, and high expectations. Hopefully this brief introduction has roused enough interest to bring you back to learn more about that CMS, hear me talk about the writer’s craft, delve into the complex world of coding, and muddle my way through the complexity that is design. Check back often; my first actual post should go live within a few hours.