If you looked at First Crack’s internal commit history, you would see that most features take at most a few days to write. Even the entirety of First Crack’s rewrite happened over the course of a couple weeks, in the mornings before work and on the weekends. I have stuck with monthly releases since June of last year, though, and today I want to explain why.
I happened across The Law of Requisite Variety the other day, which states that a system for which D possible disruptions exist requires R countermeasures to keep itself stable, where R >= D. Having spent some time on my projects’ more theoretical side lately, I found this idea at once interesting and then familiar. Today, I want to talk about the simple way I apply this concept to my code, as a way to architect more reliable programs.
I spent most of my development time in April working on a project that I can, at best, call tangentially related to First Crack. After fighting with Flask, Bottle, and then Python’s own http.server library, I decided to write my own web framework. I won’t spend much time on this now, since I plan to deploy it in an Intranet soon and then release it after some real use, but I will say this: I liked Flask, but it has far too many dependencies to work in my target environment. I liked Bottle even more, since it mirrors most of Flask’s functionality without any dependencies, but it lacks the ability to handle concurrent connections. The surprisingly capable http.server library has zero dependencies and supports concurrent execution, but is ill-suited for building out an entire web application. My project, Swig1, solves all of these problems. For now, though, let’s talk about First Crack — a day late, yes, but I hope not a dollar short.
I opened Tobias Pfeiffer’s article expecting something along the lines of Your configs suck? Try a real programming language. Tobias focused not on configuring the environment, though, but rather best practices for configuring the control flow in the program itself. “Early Validation” was a particularly good point. Tobias has some sound advice, most of which I incorporated into the dev projects I started during the shelter-in-place period. I hope to talk about them more soon.
Cal started strong: his recommendation that experts improve the decentralized distribution of critical information by moving beyond Twitter, the original microblog, to their own blogs hits the nail on the head. I cannot agree more. I wish I could say he finished strong as well, but he just completely missed the mark. In closing, he played up the importance of institutional backing for these sites as a way to lend them credibility. As Ben Thompson explained in Zero Trust Information, though, not only have most of the institutional players put forth bad information throughout this crisis, they actively sought to suppress critical (factual) information as well. Although not all did so knowingly (some just sought to suppress dissenting voices), some did; the idea that we can improve the shortcomings of Twitter with greater institutional oversight is unbelievable. Read the first half of Cal’s piece and then close your tab; the rest is just ridiculous.
“With over 20 years experience at the time I recognized the first obvious flaw [with test-driven design]; writing tests prior to coding is mindful of the old adage about no battle plan surviving contact with the enemy. ... The second problem here is that TDD presumes that developers should write their own tests. This is supremely ridiculous. I’ve seen this many, many times; the project appears solid to me, I can’t break it, but someone else can break it in less than a minute. Why? Because the same blind spots that I had in design will appear in my tests.”
I have avoided test-driven design for similar reasons. For my projects, I like to start by defining performance goals; I write a few test cases for each feature I finish as I finish it, then move on. This has all the benefits of test-driven design — defining requirements up-front, clear success criteria, objective verifiability throughout the development process and at its conclusion — without the downsides Chris highlights: wasted effort and lack of actual code coverage.
I cannot stress the importance of unit tests enough: when I wrote a socket web server in Python, they gave me an easy way to make sure each change did not unintentionally break a key performance objective I had already checked off. This saved me hours of periodic, manual, boring checks. I have no such affinity for test-driven design, and I would encourage you to reevaluate your loyalty if you do.
The Internet succeeded in no small part thanks to the humble hyperlink. The link enabled it to flourish as a network rather than languish as a series of closed silos, which led to its widespread adoption and the prevalence it enjoys today. Although a disturbing trend of centralization has emerged in recent years, many people have made great efforts to combat it; they may yet succeed. Their efforts have relied on the link to bring users together, re-focusing the spotlight on this unassuming yet important tool and highlighting the importance of attribution as both the currency and the lifeblood of the Internet.
Modern computers have gotten so complex that the prospect of trying to understand them intimidates a lot of people. Unfortunately, many use that fear as an excuse not to even try. Nelson Elhage has some great advice for tackling this gargantuan task.
From Paul Rascagneres and Vitor Ventura at Cisco Talos Intelligence:
“Our tests showed that — on average — we achieved an ~80 percent success rate while using the fake fingerprints, where the sensors were bypassed at least once. ... The results show fingerprints are good enough to protect the average person’s privacy if they lose their phone. However, a person that is likely to be targeted by a well-funded and motivated actor should not use fingerprint authentication.”
“In Notes on the Synthesis of Form, Christopher Alexander points out that design always speaks of form and its context. A good design is not just a property of the form, but it is a matter of fit between the form and the context. The reason why we cannot evaluate an isolated form is not because we are unable to precisely describe the form itself, but because we are unable to precisely describe the context with which it will interact. ... Exactly the same limitations exist in the world of programming. No matter how precisely we can talk about programs, we also need to exactly understand the environment with which they interact. This is the hard part.”
The idea that suitability determination involves a multi-dimensional performance assessment on a scenario-by-scenario basis, rather than a simple checklist, is a departure from the process I often see. This approach represents a more complex process, and even a more fraught one, too — but, perhaps, also one that might deliver something usable.
And then on the unintended consequences of avoiding maintenance, later:
“When discussing maintenance, [Stewart] Brand mentions the cautionary tale of vinyl siding, which is used to avoid problems with peeling paint. Rather than repainting a wooden wall, you cover it with a layer of vinyl siding, which is durable and weather resistant. The problem is that vinyl siding blocks moisture and the humidity behind it can cause structural damage to the building. Many traditional materials have the attractive property that they look bad before they act bad and, furthermore, the problems with traditional materials are well understood. ... The lesson about using traditional materials has a relatively easy parallel. If you build software using tools whose problems you understand, you will be able to expect and resolve those problems. If you are using a new material, you will not anticipate where problems might occur.”
“By learning to use frameworks instead of the tools and protocols they implement, developers not only miss out on foundational knowledge that will help them become better at their job, but also hamstring themselves to the subset of features the frameworks’ creators’ felt important enough to enable. Expanding a project beyond that expected use case will require diving into those low-level tools and protocols.”
“You see, frameworks exist to offload repetitive work from you. They do not exist so that you can not care at all what’s going on under the hood and rely on the fact that it’s all magic. The first time you choose a framework like React or Angular for your projects should be when you’re confident that you can create that project without React or Angular too.”
You should learn C not to use it, but because it will make you a better programmer. Learning C will help you understand the code that underlies your usable high-level language. node.js vinyl siding is cool, but do not ignore the old-fashioned tools it “replaced”: we used — and still use — them for a reason.
Steve and I came up hearing the same refrain: “Learn C, it’ll make you a good programmer — it’s how the computer works behind the scenes.” As he points out in his threepartseries, though, using C just means having a thinner abstraction layer between your code and the hardware on which it runs. That layer still exists. I do believe new developers should learn to work in this environment: understanding the code that underlies usable, high-level languages like Python will help you write better Python for the same reason that understanding assembly will help you write better C; I do not believe they should use it, though, and here’s why:
I have an innate distrust of all writing advice that seem to come from a large organization. I blame academia, for all those years I spent years reading and writing the most rigid, boring prose known to man. I prefer advice from actual writers — and that’s what I found in Harry Guinness’s recent article for The New York Times, How to Edit Your own Writing. He offers some great advice, and makes some excellent book recommendations. To add to that list, I also recommend William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and Stephen King’s On Writing: Harry’s books focus on the mechanics, while these concern themselves with the craft.
I agree with Kev, that readers should have the ability to view my work in whatever format they please, but I still truncate the posts in my RSS feed. Here’s why:
Whenever I find a new writer, I go through everything they have ever written — turns out, good writers write good things often; this helps me find great works from their past. RSS feeds with, say, the site’s ten most recent posts make this much harder than ones with every article in them, so when I restarted this site, I took the latter route. Over a thousand posts would make my feed a hefty __ MB, though, so truncating the individual posts allowed me to strike a nice balance between the two.
Mozilla’s mistakes — although concerning — worry me less than Google’s methodical Internet takeover. Indulge me while I bring the uninformed up to speed: after eviscerating its competitors, over half the Internet now uses Chrome. This dominance gives its creator the power to force sweeping change across this decentralized system: although superficially optional, failure to comply means longer load times, lower search ranking, and lost revenue. Over the last few years in particular, the company has shown an increased willingness to wield that power with more and more aggressive mandates. Publishers who do not expose their content through Accelerated Mobile Pages lose viewers and income. Users who prefer other browsers, perhapsbecause they value their privacy, either cannot access many of Google’s popular services, or have to live with a degraded user experience. It all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So while I find Mozilla’s mistakes concerning, I like the thought of supporting Chrome even less, so I decided to give Firefox another try.
“Some of the key management systems — 5 out of 73, in a Citizen Lab scan — seem to be located in China, with the rest in the United States. Interestingly, the Chinese servers are at least sometimes used for Zoom chats that have no nexus in China. ... The report points out that Zoom may be legally obligated to share encryption keys with Chinese authorities if the keys are generated on a key management server hosted in China.”
This just makes an adversary’s easy job even easier, though, thanks to the weak encryption scheme those keys facilitate:
“A security white paper from the company claims that Zoom meetings are protected using 256-bit AES keys, but the Citizen Lab researchers confirmed the keys in use are actually only 128-bit ... Furthermore, Zoom encrypts and decrypts with AES using an algorithm called Electronic Codebook (ECB) mode, ‘which is well-understood to be a bad idea, because this mode of encryption preserves patterns in the input,’ according to the Citizen Lab researchers. In fact, ECB is considered the worst of AES’s available modes.”
Bill Marczak and John Scott-Railton’s study, Move Fast & Roll Your Own Crypto, goes into more detail, and concludes with this key takeaway: “As a result of these troubling security issues, we discourage the use of Zoom at this time for use cases that require strong privacy and confidentiality”. Unfortunately, though, most of Zoom’s competitors don’t do much better.
Most articles focus on the negative side of giving anyone the power to publish: in recent years, it has enabled massive disinformation campaigns so effective that even its own citizens now question Democratic underpinnings of the world’s premiere superpower. In Zero Trust Information, though, Ben Thompson argues that while this power did lead to an increase in misinformation, it also lead to the proliferation of much more valuable information, too. For proof, one need only look to the Seattle doctors who defied a government gag order to share their findings on COVID-19.
In last month’s release notes, I talked about First Crack’s rewrite: the things I set out to accomplish, the changes I made, and their performance costs. Although a simple fix later slashed First Crack’s runtime, I waited to post the code until I could talk about a few things here.
“I ask where he thinks this dysfunctional system [the fragile global food distribution system] has come from. ‘There is a culture of British exceptionalism. We were the first industrial nation in the 18th century and then became the dominant imperial power in the 19th century and pursued that as a way of feeding ourselves.’ Critics often point out that we were less self-sufficient in food in the early 20th century than we are now. True, Lang says, but that was specifically because we had an empire which we ravaged to keep our tables and bellies full.”
Add a century and replace “British” with “American”, and Tim Lang’s words apply just as well to the United States. Like Tim, I hold out hope that the nation will wake up and make a change; you would have to be a fool to bank on it, though. Exercise your individual liberty now to prepare for the all too likely crises ahead. Far too many are content just to whistle past the graveyard.
“An answer to the now age-old ARM-ed Mac question now emerges: With the emphasis on the iPad Pro as a real computer, there’s no reason for Apple to move the Mac off of trusty if perhaps less glamorous Intel processors.”
If I may finish his sentence, “... there’s no reason for Apple to move the Mac off of trusty if perhaps less glamorous Intel processors, because the iPad will soon replace the Mac.” As for when this will happen, I don’t know — and if Jean-Louis does, he’s not saying. With each passing year it becomes more feasible from a technical standpoint, but it will take a sea change in Apple’s strategic thinking for this to actually happen.
This reminds me of the electric car situation: they have gotten pretty good, but at least for my use case, they aren’t quite good enough. I can see that this will change soon, but — again — it will take a sea change in strategic thinking to make this happen. In this case, that means automakers stop trying to turn a truck into an electric truck, and start designing vehicles to take full advantage of all this new technology enables.
As I start shopping around to replace my trusty 2013 MacBook Pro, I hope Apple will make its decision soon.
“The kernel developers view of the docker community is that in the rare case they can actually formulate the question correctly they usually don’t understand the answer.”
Hilarious. Ian also got at a critical point about the state of modern software engineers, something I touched on a few weeks ago when I linked to Good TImes Create Weak Men. Short-term, push-button fixes attempt to get around the long, hard, and expensive problem of developing and deploying expertise. Like outsourcing, while the former approach has short-term benefits, its long-term effects are debilitating.
Dan Moore’s 2018 post, When do you earn your pay?, reminded me of something I told one of my friends a few years ago. Both senior ROTC cadets at the time, he had just finished complaining about how our instructors always blamed him when other people did the wrong thing. “You’re not here for things to go right,” I told him, “the only reason our job exists is to fix things when they go wrong.” This leads into a larger point about the role of Officers in the Army, but I need to spend more time thinking about that before I start writing about it; for now, this will have to suffice.
“Americans have gone west to escape the ills of society while bringing the ills of society with them, pretty much since Manifest Destiny; one regional myth was that, once here, everyone would have the chance to experience something wild. In reality, of course, settlement always brought land-access issues, prompted human displacement, and fueled socioeconomic disparity. That remains true now, as Billionaire Wilderness makes evident through its examination of one of the most beloved playgrounds of this part of the nation.”
Simple systems deploy faster than complex ones, and fail less often; sometimes they take less time to build, too, but the pursuit of simplicity often entails a long process to prioritize some features while justifying the exclusion of others. Ironically, that process tends to take much longer than just building in all the features, so most choose the latter approach. The end result is complex software that does many things, but few things well.
As a fan of premature optimization, I like to take the opposite approach, and to take it to the extreme. My software — and even my devices — tend to do one thing well. This makes the upfront cost higher in terms of time spent planning projects, writing code, and purchasing hardware, but also — since I understand and control the entire stack — lowers the number of opaque systems that can fail as well as the knock-on effects of such an event. I consider this a worthwhile tradeoff, and I bet Greg would, too.
In a similar vein, check out 507 Movements for — get this — 507 different mechanical mechanisms. When I run into a novel engineering challenge, I always try to solve it in a simple mechanical way first. Computers are great, but there is a certain elegance to simple machinery for which I have great appreciation.
I had a busy start to the year. Between traveling and work, I did not have enough time to finish the titanic task I had given myself: rewriting First Crack. When it came time to post the January release notes, then, I did not have anything ready; today I do.
I don’t likedependencies, but excusing one language’s reliance on bucketloads of them because others use built-in libraries misses the point. I care about the number of dependencies I have to install just for your project. On a system full of libraries that could have met most of those requirements, as evidenced by other, similar projects that do not need hundreds of extra packages, the fact that yours does gives me pause. The fact that this language seems to cause this leads me to believe some fundamental shortcoming must exist. Let’s not excuse that.
“They don’t adopt everything new but what new technology they do embrace, they take up about half a century after everyone else does. By that time, the benefits and costs are clear, the technology stable, and it is cheap.”
Over a decade ago, Keven Kelly put forward the idea that creators could earn a living from 1,000 fans. In this piece, Li Jin proposes that they can do the same from 100 super fans. Crucially, though, as the number of patrons goes down, the value that creator provides must go up. Many seem to forget this last point, and see headlines like these as evidence that they can somehow make it with 1,000 subscribers or 100 readers. It just doesn’t work. Understand the tradeoffs, make a realistic plan, and never quit.
I read a few of Marcus’s posts, and liked themall, but it was his link to an interview with Ira Glass that made me post this. Most have heard this many times before, but it bears repeating: doing good work means first doing a lot of bad work, and having the tenacity to get through those discouraging times. The great creators, to whom far too many aspiring creators prematurely compare themselves, made it through because they pressed on. Success is not a mystery, it’s just hard. Put in the work to get there.
“It’s suspiciously convenient that Facebook already fulfills most of the regulatory requirements it’s asking governments to lay on the rest of the tech industry. ... We already saw this happen with GDPR. The idea was to strengthen privacy and weaken exploitative data collection that tech giants like Facebook and Google depend on for their business models. The result was that Facebook and Google actually gained or only slightly lost EU market share while all other adtech vendors got wrecked by the regulation, according to WhoTracksMe.”
Suspicious, no; convenient, yes; par for the course — also yes. What a surprise.
I took two weeks off work around Christmas. I spent the first touring Arizona, and the second at my parents’ farm in Ohio. After a 605lb deadlift PR in early December, I felt like a break from the gym. Plus, I did not workout for the three weeks I spent driving up the east coast in 2018. Gym access did not factor into this trip’s planning process either, and so over those fifteen days, I worked out three times. Today, I want to share some thoughts about fitness on the road.
I like most of Leo Babauta’s work, but this one disappointed me. He titled it The Honest Guide to Mindfulness, but a more apt title would have been The Honest Guide to Meditation — because he talked about nothing else. Meditation, though, is a practice some have used to become more mindful, not the goal itself, and by no means the epitome of mindfulness.
My favorite explanation of mindfulness came from an episode of Back to Work, in which Merlin Mann described it as the ability to watch cars go by without feeling the need to jump in. The patent absurdity of this analogy made the value of mindfulness value clear, when he explained that the cars symbolized our emotions: temporary, quick to change, and far too often dictated by people and situations over which we have no control. The goal of mindfulness — which, again, some have found through meditation — is not to do the impossible, to wrestle back from a chaotic world command over those cars, but rather to regain control of the one actor in that scenario you have any hope of influencing: yourself.
You will never control which cars come, when they go by, or who drives them, but you can — with practice — learn to control their ability to hijack your life. An honest guide to that, real mindfulness, may have done some good.
This is such a cool idea: Denis Shiryaev used Gigapixel AI’s neural network to upscale a classif video from 1896 into 4k; as Timothy Bee points out, a similar approach could then add color.
One of my long-term projects involves making the small part of the internet I use every day available offline. As I lean toward a more nomadic lifestyle, I may not always have ready access to the familiar shows I stream on Netflix, for example, or that one news article from a few weeks ago. A single hard drive could store everything I have ever watched, read, and listened to, though, and so I want to make that happen. This goes well with one of my other long-term projects, which involves curating evergreen digital media for posterity’s sake. Think of the former as every movie I have ever watched, and the latter as the classics I want to save for my kids. There are many subltle challenges to this, but none so obvious as the fact that even video from a few years ago looks bad on modern displays. Denis’s demonstration gives me hope that this may not always be the case.
I love stories like Adam’s. Too many people propose complex solutions to simple problems because they get excited about building something cool, and lose sight of their actual purpose: building a useful tool. I see this all the time at work. In this case, another developer used a Big Data approach for a Small Data problem, and Adam shows how a much simpler — but less cool(?) — one would have got it done much, much faster. Had this other developer understood the underlying technologies, and taken some time for premature optimization, he might have gotten there himself.
I talked about my road to weightlifting a few months ago, and then the price of trading strength for conditioning. Today I want to look at the other side of that coin. After regaining the ground I lost in February and March of last year, I want to talk about the challenges of trading conditioning for strength.
Nikita Prokopov, on the growing complexity of software and the shrinking number of people who understand it:
“In programming, we are developing abstractions at an alarming rate. When enough of those are stacked, it becomes impossible to figure out or control what’s going on down the stack. ... Docker and Electron are the most hyped new technologies of the last five years. Both are not about improving things, figuring out complexity or reducing it. Both are just compromised attempts to hide accumulated complexity from developers because it became impossible to deal with.”
I saw this in college, when even Computer Science students favored complex and bloated frameworks over their own code. I make a concerted effort to counter it in my own projects: First Crack, the custom blog engine behind this site, uses vanilla Python 2 or 3 and has no dependencies. If you decide to code, you don’t have to start with C — but you should learn it. I resisted this during college, but two years into my career, I have come around: the lower you go, the better you will understand things higher in the stack. With greater understanding comes an increased ability to influence those things, which, in turn, will make you better at your job.
“Frameworks often hide/abstract parts of HTTP away. I think this is often a bit of a shame: it hides what’s possible with HTTP, and so can lead to effects on engineering decisions.”
By learning to use frameworks instead of the tools and protocols they implement, developers not only miss out on foundational knowledge that will help them become better at their job, but also hamstring themselves to the subset of features the frameworks’ creators’ felt important enough to enable. Expanding a project beyond that expected use case will require diving into those low-level tools and protocol—-which, again, you do not have to start with, but you should learn at some point.
Janna Koretz, writing for Harvard Business Review, on an interesting phenomenon called enmeshment. Working in a profession known to encourage and reward workaholism, I see this often — and work to counter it where possible.
Andrew Zaleski digs into the factors contributing to the RV market’s notorious lack of quality. I thought a lot about getting an RV instead of my first house, but this pushed me away from buying an RV then and ensured that when I do decide to go that route, I will build it myself.
I spent enough time Internet-less this holiday season that I had a chance to catch up on a few administrative tasks. One of those involved updating Keeping Up with Current Events and My Evening Reads to reflect new sites, feeds, and newsletters I now follow, as well as those I no longer read. I work hard to educate myself and stay informed, and I encourage you to check those posts out as a great starting point to doing the same for yourself.
Jeff Huang, echoing a point I made in Own Your Platform, in his piece on the importance of building websites that stand the test of time:
“I’ve recommended my students to push websites to Heroku, and publish portfolios on Wix. Yet every platform with irreplaceable content dies off some day. Geocities, LiveJournal, what.cd, now Yahoo Groups. One day, Medium, Twitter, and even hosting services like GitHub Pages will be plundered then discarded when they can no longer grow or cannot find a working business model.”
And then, later, he echoes a point I made in How to Own Your Platform, about the vulnerable position relying on trendy third-party frameworks puts you in:
“... a growing set of libraries and frameworks are making the web more sophisticated but also more complex. First came jquery, then bootstrap, npm, angular, grunt, webpack, and more. If you are a web developer who is keeping up with the latest, then that’s not a problem. But if not, maybe you are an embedded systems programmer or startup CTO or enterprise Java developer or chemistry PhD student, sure you could probably figure out how to set up some web server and toolchain, but will you keep this up year after year, decade after decade? Probably not, and when the next year when you encounter a package dependency problem or figure out how to regenerate your html files, you might just throw your hands up and zip up the files to deal with ‘later’. Even simple technology stacks like static site generators (e.g., Jekyll) require a workflow and will stop working at some point. You fall into npm dependency hell, and forget the command to package a release.”
Run your website, and own the production stack. Jeff has some some good ideas, but do not paper over poor back-end design with good front-end work. Own your platform, so that you can ensure both will stand the test of time.
“We’re at an inflection point today in the idea of space being developed as its own domain. When you look at the threats that we have today, there’s some similarity to what we had in the ‘80s. That waned in the ’90s and that led us to the idea of space as an uncontested area, so we designed space architecture based off the fact that we wouldn’t really be threatened in space. Today you’ve got a pretty much more aggressive threat. So that space area of operations is the area that we focus on for protecting and defending critical assets as we look at the growing threat from our adversaries.”
Replace “space” with “cyberspace”, and BG James could have said this twenty years ago about the fifth domain.
Jason Fenske does a nice job explaining why the Cybertruck will not tow well: high efficiency gives electric vehicles competitive ranges despite their batteries’ low energy capacity, but also means that even a light, 5,000 pound trailer will slash that figure. In distance = energy / force, a small numerator (low capacity) causes range to drop off much faster as the denominator (towed weight) increases. See the blue graph below, which depicts range (the y-axis) as a function of towed weight (the x-axis). Traditional vehicles, although less efficient, have vast energy stores; in their case, a high numerator means the denominator has much less of an impact as it increases. See this in the green graph.
I often see articles that I would like to talk about, but that I do not feel warrant a whole post here. Twitter is the obvious choice for quips like these, but I have little love for the service, prefer to keep all my work on my own platform, and feel that nuanced opinions should not come in 280 character bursts. Occasional “lightning rounds” will fill that gap. Together, a handful of these micro posts will make a full one, giving me somewhere to share things that used to just slip through the cracks.
A few days late, again, but here it is: First Crack’s release notes for November, 2019. Again in October, like in September, I spent most of my dev time on an Instapaper-like read later service. I use it every day, and plan to release it. I did get a couple things done, though; once again, I did not neglect First Crack entirely.
I like to think about things. To riff off Austin Kleon, I want to become a professional writer so that I can be a professional thinker. For now, though, as I have said manytimesbefore, I write to clarify, condense, and record my thoughts. I have sat down today to talk about Tesla’s new Cybertruck — not because the Internet needs one more hot take, but rather to pursue those goals.
I like this post a lot, and the idea even more: Noah Gibbs lays out some good reasons to encourage a culture of blogging within an organization, and solid strategies for getting started. My boss floated an idea like this a few weeks ago, and while I had my doubts at first, time — and this piece — have changed my mind. More to follow.
I spent the morning reading hot takes on Tesla’s new Cybertruck. I have some more thinking to do, but Jason Torchinsky wrote a great post on the truck’s design, and Kim Reynolds did a nice job approaching the topic from a manufacturing standpoint. Andrew Collins also has a nice comparison of the Cybertruck versus some of its competitors, which is beats on all fronts.
I have a few things to say here, so let me say them all up front. Your diet doesn’t matter. Your training plan doesn’t matter. The reason you will never reach your goal is because you don’t want to. You don’t work hard enough to achieve it, and nowhere near hard enough for anything like a diet or training plan to make a difference. Those factors come into play at such a high level, one so far from where you are now, that all the time and effort you pour into these areas is wasted. Now let me explain.
Avdi Grimm wrote an interesting post back in June, about using text to create simple diagrams. He highlighted a few different tools, but one stood out: nomnoml. I used UMLet a lot back in college, to create some mediocre user stories, which soured me on UML in general. I gave nomnoml a shot, though, and created this simple network diagram:
At home, I can send a link from any device to a local web server that saves it for later. Then, when I have time to read, I can see all my saved articles, move them into folders, and refer back to them as needed. At work, though, those links go into a text file. When I get home, I find the text file, open it, copy the list, clear the file, close it, and then send the list to the server. pbcopy makes that process just a little easier. Now, cat ingest.txt > pbcophy & echo "" > ingest.txt puts the contents of ingest.txt on my clipboard and then clears the file, so I can add the links through the web interface with just a bit less hassle.
The Economist took an interesting look at how citizens view politicians when they lie, and their conclusion warrants concern:
“You might expect (or hope) that thoughtful people would be more amenable to the force of fact-based evidence than most. Alas, no. According to David Perkins of Harvard University, the brighter people are, the more deftly they can conjure up post-hoc justifications for arguments that back their own side.”
“There is this unshakeable assumption that if they can just present the right fact[, ...] that people will change their minds. ... After spending years and millions of words and hours of video on this, we’ve had almost zero success. Why? Because you can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into. No one responds well to having their identity attacked. No argument made in bad faith — that the person on the other side is a moron or a dupe or a racist or a snowflake — is ever going to be received in good faith.”
Patrick O’Neill did a nice job explaining why Microsoft, as an organization, does threat intelligence so well. Yes, it has piles of money and legions of smart people to throw at this problem, but Microsoft’s biggest leg up over everyone else is the massive data flow its ubiquity enables. This means its Threat Intelligence Center sees things no one else does, and has the context to identify malicious activity that — even given the same raw data — no one else would know to flag. Those looking to step into the cybersecurity realm, even if just to beef up their home network, should take note.
Again in October, like in September, I spent most of my dev time on an Instapaper-like read later service. I use it every day, and plan to release it sometime soon. I did get a couple things done, though; once again, I did not neglect First Crack entirely.
“Michigan-based electric truck startup Bollinger Motors has finally announced the price of its rugged electric trucks, the Jeep-like B1 and the B2 pickup. Both vehicles will start at an eye-popping $125,000 ...”
Ben Thompson, likening Facebook to the printing press:
“... the printing press effectively overthrew the First Estate, leading to the establishment of nation-states and the creation and empowerment of a new nobility[, the Second Estate]. The implication of overthrowing the Second Estate, via the empowerment of commoners[, the Third Estate], is almost too radical to imagine.”
A fascinating perspective. The First Estate did not lose control without a fight — and a great deal of complaining — and it seems the Second Estate will follow suit. Ben made this point back in 2016 in The Voters Decide, but did a much better job in here.
Since this has become a politics-adjacent post, I have found Mathew Stoller’s BIG newsletter quite interesting over the last few weeks, too. As promised, I continue to update Keeping Up with Current Events to reflect the list of websites and newsletters I use to stay well-informed; Mat and Ben have both made the list.
Jude Robinson over at Coderwall posted quick fixes for two long-time annoyances with bash, one for tab completion — case insensitivity and having to double-tap the Tab key to view partial matches — along with what I will call contextual command history: the ability to type cd and then use the arrow keys to work through all previous entries that started with cd. Finally.
Jason and Nikki Wynn wrote a fantastic article that explains how they get Internet access on their sailboat. I spend a lot of time thinking about this, as I prepare to one day build and live in my own RV. I have an article in the works that outlines a few different approaches, as well as my own plan. In brief, though, I plan to use a dedicated LTE modem for my primary connection, with a satellite link as a fallback. This will give me a stronger connection than a cellphone, hotspot, or even the oft-cited WeBoost in most of the Americas. On the off-chance I have no signal but need one, satellite data prices have come down enough to make that a viable way to ensure I always have some sort of connectivity.
The “pound for pound” metric does a fine job of comparing two peoples’ relative strength. It accounts for the difference between someone weighing in at 175 who deadlifts 585, and me weighing in at 220 who deadlifts the same. I have a lot of respect for that other guy. This metric does not trump absolute numbers, though. Argue all you want, but the pound for pound “stronger” person, who maxes out with weights someone else uses to warm up, is far weaker; that other guy’s max would break him. You may convince yourself that an arbitrary ratio makes them comparable, but the iron will crush that argument, too.
“The other day, I came across a website I’d written over two decades ago. I double-clicked the file, and it opened and ran perfectly. Then I tried to run a website I’d written 18 months ago and found I couldn’t run it without firing up a web server, and when I ran NPM install, one or two of those 65,000 files had issues that meant node failed to install them and the website didn’t run. When I did get it working, it needed a database. And then it relied on some third-party APIs and there was an issue with CORS because I hadn’t whitelisted localhost. My website made of files carried on, chugging along. This isn’t me saying that things were better in the old days. I’m just saying that years ago websites were made of files; now they are made of dependencies.”
The first time I read through Steph Smith’s Writing is Thinking: Learning to Write with Confidence, I thought it was fine. Then I read it again. The second time, I thought it was great — an interesting breakdown of a much more mature writing process than my own, that gave me some good ideas for writing more and writing better. I have not done much writing about writing since I started again, but I hope to; maybe something like this, about how Steph’s piece changes my process, will be my first.
I like to plan ahead, and so I think about long-term financial security even now, in my early twenties. As the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” When I decide to retire, I will get to say I chose the first.
The folks over at Seeking Alpha, one of my new favorite websites, posted an interest writeup on a portfolio that has outperformed the market since October, 2014. Check out the original article here. As I work to eliminate debt and build a nest egg, so that I can then invest and prepare for retirement early, this subject has become ever-more interesting to me. Seeking Alpha — clearly — has some great advice, from some smart people.
I have read a lot of Aaron and Jen’s work, but it took this video to make me realize how nice they had it. Their Airstream-Silverado combo makes for a great setup, which made me re-think my plan to build an LMTV-based RV. With $40,000 for a used Airstream, though, plus another $30,000 for a used truck to pull it, I would spend more going this route and get a less capable setup. The M1083 will give me more living space atop a chassis that can go almost anywhere — and a trailer, no matter how slick, just can’t compete with that.
As I rolled into the last week of September, I started thinking about this post and how I have done almost nothing for it. I put a lot of work into some major performance wins last month, but lost almost all that momentum when I decided to write my own Instapaper-like read later service in September. It needs some more work before I release it, but I will. I did get a couple things done, though, even if I did forget to post this until the first week of October had already passed; I did not neglect First Crack entirely.
I like these drawers from Land Shark Outfitters. With big names in the space pricing their systems at well over $1,000, I love the idea of a polished product at half the price. My sleeping platform came out to about $600, with two sets of $215 36“ lock open/close slides and a $145 pair of 28” base mount slides. Having gone through that build process, though, and after seeing this system from Land Shark Outfitters, I think I could cut it in half. My 4Runner may have a Jeep parked beside it within the next year or two, so we will find out soon.
I spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinkingaboutmy rig, redesigning the Tacoma I want to build, and dreaming of adventuring. In one of these recurring dreams, I travel to far-flung places in a decked out LandCruiser 78. You may know it as the Troopy or the J78. I fear this will never become a reality, though, for a few reasons I touch on later. But that feeling did get me thinking. Why did I want a Troopy so bad? What would it take to get one? Would something else serve my needs better? Today, let’s talk about LandCruisers.
The folks over at ITS Tactical linked to a great review of popular water filters by Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply. They put a ton of work into this piece, and event sent water samples off to a lab for testing. Fantastic.
I chose the 4Runner for many reasons, and in part because I could take it off-road without expensive upgrades. I needed it to do more than just take me to cool places, though: I needed it to support me once I got out there, too. Because I had set my sights on the East Coast, I focused on gear to make that trip safer and more fun first, rather than new tires, bumpers, and recovery tools. As part of that process, I built a storage system and sleeping platform in my trunk. Today I want to talk about its conception, design, and construction.
Gergely Orosz has some great advice for professional networking, for people who don’t do networking well.
“A surprisingly efficient networking method I found was doing cold reach-outs to more experienced software engineers, offering to buy them coffee or lunch. In exchange, I asked them to share their advice ... What I did not expect was this approach to be far more valuable than just a one-off networking session. In all cases, I had fascinating conversations on problems they were facing and found myself explaining the biggest challenges on my plate. ... developers buying coffee and having a chat with other, local developers is an underrate hack for professional growth. It is also under-used.”
Out of all the topics I want to tackle here, I feel most excited to talk about adventuring. Although my passion for it all but died out in high school, after seven moves in as many years, it reignited in college: when I had to decide whether my profession would be the anchor that kept me stationary or the means to a nomadic lifestyle down the road, I chose the latter. This choice has informed every major decision I have made since then, and will continue to influence my actions in the future. Today I want to talk about the first choice it touched, my decision to buy a new car, and the journey that led me to a 2018 Toyota 4Runner.
Stewart Brand, with a fascinating look at the results of conservation efforts amidst cries that the sky is falling:
“The trends are favourable. Conservation efforts often appear in the media like a series of defeats and retreats, but as soon as you look up from the crisis-of-the-month, you realise that, in aggregate, conservation is winning. The ecologist Stuart Pimm at Duke University in North Carolina claims that conservationists have already reduced the rate of extinction by 75 per cent. Getting the world’s extinction rate back down to normal is a reasonable goal for this century. Restoring full natural bioabundance in most of the world will take longer, however. It would mean bringing wildlife populations back up to the marvellous level of ecological richness that existed before human impact. That could be a two-century goal.”
We could all do with a bit less alarmism, and a bit more reality in its place.
The fact that anyone finds this surprising is mind boggling. The fact that anyone would use this as evidence that Tesla’s Autopilot system is somehow unsafe blows my mind. The authors cited two accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, meanwhile I pass an accident caused by an inattentive driver about once a month on my three mile drive from work back to my house. We would be lucky to have such an “unsafe” system driving our cars.
At over 16,000 words, Tim Urban has some good advice for choosing a career. Back in college, I used to shake my head at all the lost students around me. One of my friends said it was unrealistic to expect kids, fresh out of high school, to know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I argued that eighteen years was plenty of time to figure that out, because it’s not that hard:
Start with things you like, narrow your scope to things you do well, then filter based on viable careers. Smack that list with a hard reality check. Take those that managed to hang on, set them aside, and do some introspection. Identify your goals first, so you can rule out paths that will not get you to them. Hopefully a few careers remain. Identify what drives you last, so you can highlight the paths that will make you happy in the long run. Sort the few that remain by the amount of time and effort it would take you to get into that field and then become successful.
High school students should do this before they graduate high school, not after spending years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree just to to abandon it partway through — or worse, after spending years and tens of thousands of dollars on no degree, in an undeclared major, just to drop out to learn a trade. Choosing a career is not complex, nor even hard. Society does young adults a great disservice by telling them it is, and by allowing them to put off important life decisions until well into their 20s.
Patrick George over at Jalopnik posted a picture of a Toyota BXD20 the other day, and I had to check it out. Kinja had a nice article about the vehicle. I would not say no to a BXD, but given the chance to build on a platform like this, I would just go with a similar AM General Humvee. AM General has built almost 10,000 per year since 1984 for militaries around the world, which has proven the vehicle’s reliability and made it readily available for cheap. With a few modifications, like locking differentials, I would have a similar rig for much less time and money.
Josef Adamcik wrote a neat how-to on building a custom USB cable. It looks great. I can see myself doing something like this, maybe for my RV build — building my own keyboard, though, not so much. Still, interesting stuff.
What a cool idea from TJ Holowaychuk. For a while before I re-released First Crack, my static blog engine, I used a custom Node.js frontend to serve my site. I ended up overhauling the project to build a static website instead, but I could have just used this neat trick instead.
I first heard about Bollinger’s B1 and B2 electric off-road vehicles back in July. Their simple construction and classic, Land Rover-esq aesthetic sucked me right in. According to electrek, the company plans to unveil prototypes and pricing this month. The Rivian R1T stole the show at Overland Expo earlier this year, but as far as electric overland vehicles go, I am much more excited to see what Bollinger can bring to market. Their platforms will give builders much more freedom to craft the perfect adventure rig than any vehicle we have seen thus far, and no matter what we buy, that’s what we’re all after here.
A very cool video on a very cool subject: importing one of the awesome adventure rigs available in other parts of the world, to the United States. Bryan Rogala does a nice job breaking this process down, and shows off Brett Wilhelm’s neat Toyota Townace, too.
Full credit to Alex Armstrong and his helpful article for reminding me how to do this every time I start a new project. So I can better keep track of this, though, these five lines will create a local Git repo, tie GitHub and Bitbucket remote repos to it, and then push to both.
Go home. My job moved me across the country. Going home a few times a year helps keep me grounded, and reminds me about what actually matters.
Make friends at work. Love ‘em or hate ’em, you will spend more time with your coworkers than almost anyone else. At least learn to like them.
Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Don’t worry about the things you can, either. You have limited mental bandwidth, so use it well: just act.
Have a routine. Especially if you have zero control over your schedule at work, have a routine for those other hours. Save your mental bandwidth for the important things.
Eat well. Garbage in, garbage out.
Exercise often. Find a way to clear your head: some people like to run or cycle or swim — I like to put a five hundred pound bar on my back.
Have a hobby. Find a way to engage your brain for things other than work. I sit at a computer all day, then go home, open my laptop, and write or code all evening. Even this gives me a break from the type of work I do at my job, though, which helps me unwind. For even more of a break, I do something with my hands, like Legos or woodworking.
A friend of mine used to pirate all sorts of things. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he grew up in the golden age of piracy: Napster had proven the idea just a few years ago, and sites like The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents had since stepped in to keep the dream alive and well. Fast-forward to today, though, and most of those sites have shut down. The Pirate Bay still manages to limp along, but copyright laws and watchful Internet Service Providers have made piracy a mere shadow of its former self. As for my friend, now he pays for a basic Netflix subscription each month to watch a few shows — but for the most part, nothing replaced all that content he once pirated. As Antino Kim, Atanu Lahiri, Debabrata Dey, and Gerald Kane point out in MIT’s Sloan Management Review, that may not actually be the clear win most would have you believe.
I used to live in the preparedness space. I found Doomsday Preppers late one night in college, and despite a sensational portrayal of some already sensational people, I got hooked. I spent the next two years readingprepperblogs, listening to their podcasts, stashing supplies, and building a bug-out bag. I even wrote a book about it all. Preparedness fell to the wayside when I left college, though, until nutnfancy’s threepartseries pulled me back in.
I like seeing passionate people talk about their craft, and Carl Medlock has a passion for Tesla Roadsters. This story reminded me of Rich Benoit rebuilding his own Tesla. When I want to get away from my screen I stick with woodworking for the most part, but I would love to get into this sort of work. I can build out my car, but I would love to do more.
I have a lot of thoughts about choosing an expedition rig. I went over them before, so I won’t repeat myself here. On the topic of a van for between $100,000 and $200,000, though, I will say this: as prices for these vehicles climb, do not forget to consider the other rigs ever-higher price points make viable. If you plan to spend $60,000 on a cool van but come to terms with shelling out $200,000 for Sportsmobile’s beast, take stock of what else that $200,000 might get you before you pull the trigger. At this point you have gotten into EarthCruiser territory, and as cool as the Sportsmobile Classic may be, I would rather the former.
“A feed is based around time, usually sorted reverse chronologically, whereas an explore page reveals the expansiveness of a website by pulling from disparate sources, indifferent to time, allowing one to jump into the depths of something entirely new.”
Look for a new Explore page here over the next few weeks. What a great idea.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about expedition rigs. I started looking for the perfect one to see if I could find something better than the 4Runners and Tacomas Expedition Overland uses. Less than a year later, I bought a 4Runner. I resumed my search a few months later, and almost bought an RV instead of a house. As a home owner I have started searching again — and this time, I decided to talk about my process. I hope this guide will help those looking for adventure choose the right platform for their way of life.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Government brought its best intentions and a bottomless bag of money, removed all incentive for fiscal responsibility, then left us all wondering why an entire industry got so expensive. No, I’m not talking about higher education — or health care, pharmaceuticals, or agriculture; I’m talking about infrastructure.
Charles Marohn points out that the United States has used infrastructure spending to boost its economy for decades, without considering the long-term costs of those projects. Those bills are now coming due in the form of expensive upkeep. Thanks to an environment that did little to incentivize fiscal responsibility, we find ourselves saddled with these massive maintenance projects and equipped with a cost-insensitive workforce to handle them. He falls short in offering a helpful solution, but his analysis of the root problem is excellent.
Many developers have a tendency to consider themselves smarter than everyone else — or at least, smarter than the person who wrote the platform they build on. Web developers have made a habit of this, but as Carter Sande points out, that just might not be the case.
“I think it’s best to build small, simple, standards-based web pages. Browser developers are really good at their jobs, and they’ve spent a lot of time on features like progressive rendering that help your sites feel fast without any effort on your part. It’s not worth it to try and go behind their backs — premature optimizations like client-side navigation are hard to build, don’t work very well, will probably be obsolete in a couple years, and make life worse for a decent portion of your users.”
Most Soldiers hate organized Physical Readiness Training, or PRT. They tolerate it. Few enjoy it, and even fewer get anything out of it. I have a 1,600 word draft of an article titled “Army PRT is Garbage” that explains why — and outlines a few ways we could make it better — that will never see the light of day. Public critiques tend to reflect poorly on those who post them. I expect most Soldiers could speak at length on this subject, though, so ask one sometime. Today, I want to talk about the shift in mindset that helped me come to terms with this program.
Hillel Wayne explains why EMT’s continue to use error-prone paper Patient Care Reports even though they have digital replacements: the software is too slow.
“It wasn’t even that slow. Something like a quarter-second lag when you opened a dropdown or clicked a button. ... Did that quarter-second lag kill anyone? Was there someone who wouldn’t have died if the ePCR was just a little bit faster, fast enough to be usable? And the people who built it: did they ask the same questions? Did they say ‘premature optimization is bad’ and not think about performance until it was too late? ... Most of us aren’t writing critical software. But this isn’t ‘critical software’, either: nobody will suddenly die if it breaks. You just switch back to paper PCRs. But it could have saved lives. At scale, it could have saved people dying from PCR errors.”
This struck a chord with me. I once spent the first three hours of my day signing 10 PDFs on a horrendously underpowered thin client — and it shocked my co-workers when they heard I got through all of them before lunch. None of that work was critical, but the work I had to put off to get it done was. No one thought that through when they bought these machines, though: they saw small numbers in the “Total” and “Recurring” costs columns, and signed without question. Someone made a similar poor choice for digital Patient Care Reports, and although no one will ever take the time to know the true cost of either miscalculation, make no mistake — in both cases, it is high.
I’ll give Anna Merlan the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she started with the idea that vanlife could be cheaper, weirder, and more accessible than Instagram might lead you to believe, then set out to prove that by living in a 19-year-old Chrysler Town and Country while she travelled from Los Angeles to New Mexico. She spent a lot of time complaining about heat in the desert in the summer, the inconvenience of not having a shower or toilet in a van she did not add a shower or toilet to, and mediocre meals from mediocre food, though, interspersed with complaints about the vanlife community’s homogeneity. For the most part, it read as a hit piece. I agree and support her point that this lifestyle does not require an expensive luxury van or expensive accessories, but if she actually set out to show that, her general lack of preparedness set herself up for failure and made sure that she did a poor job of it.
So what should she have done? Without spending a dime, she could have dealt with the heat by staying out of the desert in the middle of summer, lined an old bucket with a trash bag for a makeshift toilet and used an elevated water container for a makeshift shower, and invested some time planningfortasty, easy camp meals. Basic camping tricks. She could have had some better, long-term solutions for the price of a few dollars, but her point was that this lifestyle does not require expensive things; she could have actually made it for the price of a bit of effort.
“A rule not ultimately backed by the threat of violence is merely a suggestion. States rely on laws enforced by men ready to do violence against lawbreakers. Every tax, every code and every licensing requirement demands an escalating progression of penalties that, in the end, must result in the forcible seizure of property or imprisonment by armed men prepared to do violence in the event of resistance or non–compliance. ... Without action, words are just words. Without violence, laws are just words. Violence isn’t the only answer, but it is the final answer.”
Another great piece from a few years ago, this time by Brendan Leonard at Outside Online in 2017:
“You want a shortcut, here’s one: Stop believing that anyone who’s successful at anything has some secret other than focus, drive, and a shitload of hard work. There’s your shortcut.”
I love this. Every few weeks, someone stops me in the gym to ask for a shortcut. “Man, that’s an insane deadlift. How did you get it that high?” Others say things that make me want to smack them: “I could never do that.” The truth is, you could if you wanted to — and as for how I got it that high, the un-sexy answer is months of long, hard, back-breaking, and grueling work after 5 A.M. wake-ups and ten hour work days. I got here because I put in the work and the effort to achieve my goals — not because I discovered some shortcut that you didn’t.
As I said about weightlifting, “Effort, and nothing else, decides success. More than diet, macronutrients, workout gear, or even your training routine, the most impactful thing you can do is workout every single day, as hard as possible, for as long as possible.”
Get out there and do the work. Stop looking for a shortcut.
Wes Siler has some advice for those looking to buy an adventure vehicle. I agree with almost everything he says, even if most of it just applies to those who already have one: get good tires, have a tire repair kit and recovery gear, get advanced driver training, pack less, don’t try to force an inadequate car into the role of a much more capable one, and understand the difference between AWD and 4WD — but the rest, not so much. He also suggests leasing instead of buying (say goodbye to things like bumpers and roof racks, and don’t get too adventurous), defaulting to a truck (too large and heavy unless you choose a mid-size pickup, at which point you might as well get an SUV like a 4Runner), and avoiding a Tacoma — one of the most capable off-road trucks in North America — at all costs. Take the good from this piece and ignore the bad. I plan to post a guide of my own soon.
Leo Babuta of Zen Habits wrote about a great way to combat overthinking the other day: just make the best decision you can now, given limited information and time to make it. Many will scoff at this idea, for making important choices in particular, but I disagree: I like his approach a lot, because it has worked well for me for almost everything.
I threw together a web scraper the other day for a project at work. Since web scraping is easy, I had extra time, and I needed to poll a few hundred pages from a single domain often, I rotate through a pool of user agent strings and randomize my request pattern to make it less likely that the server will block me. Hacker News once blocked me after I did not take precautions like these, so I made sure to avoid that this time around. Pierre over at ScrapingNinja talked about these and a few other strategies yesterday. Looks like I have a few features to add.
Joe Jackson has some good tips for better camp kitchens. I like to keep everything for cooking, eating, and cleaning in one container, packed at all times. I keep a second one empty for dry goods. This makes trip prep a breeze: I just load the first tote in my car, then fill up the second tote and my cooler in the grocery store’s parking lot on my way out of town. Along with two dining tables, two water jugs, and my storage system, this setup makes cooking tough meals easy, and eating them fun.
Ben Montgomery took his three kids on a 250 mile section of the Appalachian Trail, and wrote about their journey. I don’t have much to say about this other than that it made me smile, and made me want to get back into backpacking.
I work in a technical profession, writing code and inspecting network traffic all day — and I found Anuschka Rees’ two-part series on garment quality fascinating. She approaches this topic as a technical one, with the exacting attention to detail I have come to appreciate in my line of work. I have devoted a lot of time to learning subtleties like these as a way to choose better adventure clothing, and could have seen myself writing something like this someday. Now I may never have to. Check out part one here, and part two here. She also posted a handy cheat sheet as well. Great stuff.
A little over a year ago, I moved to Fort Gordon for the Cyber Basic Officer Leaders Course. I saw one of my former classmates in the gym this morning, lounging on a bench press near two of his Soldiers. He once said that he did not have hours to spend in the gym every day, and that he had better things to do with his time.
Tom Smith over at DZone, one of a handful of websites I read every day, just finished a great three-part series on common cybersecurity shortfalls. He highlights the importance of basic countermeasures, like encryption and patching, all the way up to complex topics like attack vectors. I recommend all three: part 1, part 2, and part 3.
I have used GitHub for a while now, but even more over the last few weeks. Gists have proven especially useful, as a quick and easy way to take notes at work. I had a hunch these might work like a GitHub repository, and Giovanni Cappellotto confirmed my suspicion. Hat-tip to him for his nice walkthrough of a simple collaboration workflow.
I wanted to get into this when I explained why you should manage your own website, but that got a little long and this topic deserves its own post. I have talked before about my setup and myblogengine, First Crack, but today I want to explain how I run my site, so that you can run yours. I agree that most technical people underestimate the difficulty of setting up a website, and so today I will make that easy.
Although a few weeks old now, I still think addressing this may have some enduring value.
Regulus Cyber got some attention a few weeks back for tricking a Tesla Model 3 into making a premature turn. Not an unsafe one, just premature. I almost didn’t read the post, though, let alone write about it, because of course you can trick a Tesla into turning early. The article’s popularity made me come around, though, and so here we are. Evidently this is still 1) surprising, and 2) interesting, and I would like to address both of those here.
Let’s tackle #1 first. This does not surprise me because at best, autonomous systems will drive as well as you do on an unfamiliar country road at night. Consider that scenario: you can see no more than a few feet ahead, know nothing about the road beyond your headlights, and have nothing but a questionable GPS route to guide you through the darkness. At any moment something could jump into your path, or you could find your way blocked by something no map will ever identify. These conditions are the human equivalent of the conditions under which the autonomous Tesla system operates at all times. Given that, of course Regulus Cyber tricked it into turning early.
Put yourself in that scenario. If you found yourself on an unfamiliar country road in the middle of the night, able to see maybe twenty feet ahead of you and navigating with a GPS that said to turn in a mile, would you turn early, onto another road, if that GPS told you to? I would. And that’s why this is neither surprising nor interesting to me, and why it should be neither to you as well. Of course you can trick a Tesla into turning early, because you could trick me into doing it, too. Instead of focusing on the weird edge cases where this miraculous technology fails(?) by doing the same thing a human would, how about we focus on all the lives it saved drivingbetter than we do?
On the topic of misunderstood technology, I have another point to make about the ridiculous notion of “planned obsolescence” — but I will leave that for another day.
Steph Smith, on what it takes to become great. Emphasis mine:
“I realized that it was not the sporadic highs that were exceptional, but instead the long hauls; the sequences of events that seemed minimal at each juncture, but compounded into major gains. This led me to think further about what greatness truly means. I’ve come to learn that it’s not about overnight successes or flashes of excellence, but periods of repeatable habits.”
I cannot agree more. As I said before about weightlifting, “Effort, and nothing else, decides success. More than diet, macronutrients, workout gear, or even your training routine, the most impactful thing you can do is workout every single day, as hard as possible, for as long as possible. Before worrying about anything else, worry about doing that; that is the single most effective way to reach your goals.”
Do not try to explain away others’ successes, or try to excuse your own failures, by calling them anything other than the results of long, hard work — or a lack thereof. Anything else would be a lie, to yourself and anyone else to which you justify your actions.
This post’s title comes from Ray Lewis. I love that line, and I encourage you to take it to heart. I did many years ago, and it has served me well.
A third gem I re-discovered, this time from Patrick Rhone. In this post from 2010, he gets at something I did not understand until college. I look forward to explaining it soon in Starting Over: The Gear I Would Buy if I Had to Do it All Over Again, but in brief: you can either buy a nice thing once, or a cheap thing forever. Price does not necessairily indicate quality, but you will never find quality without paying for it.
Another gem I re-discoved putting together my personal development initiative, Patrick McKenzie has some phenomenal advice for those just starting their careers. Out of all of his great work, if you read just one article, read this one. My favorite point: “You radically overestimate the average skill of the competition because of the crowd you hang around with.” This hit me like a freight train the first time I read it, and I did well to remember it during college and my first year as an Officer.
I took over a team in June, and like Dwight, I have more than one priority. We have our mission and all the tasks it entails, but on my own time, I decided to also encourage my Solders to take an active role in their personal development. This involved a long write-up, a detailed plan, and a list of many books, articles, and projects to guide their study. Those will make their way here in time, but for now, I want to highlight some of the gems I re-discovered as part of this process — starting with Writing vs writing, by Shawn Blanc.
I used to read everything Shawn Blanc wrote, and this piece from 2011 reminded me why. Writing is hard, and the people who don’t think so either haven’t written enough, or haven’t written well enough, to understand this.
I go back and forth on running my own website. I love workingonFirst Crack, but that work can become trying. I have little time for projects, and the more I spend coding, the less I read and write. On net, though, I consider this a worthy pursuit, and so I do not plan to move away from my setup any time soon. Many feel the same, and over the last few months in particular, I have seen a lot more people express this on websites of their own. I would like to add my voice to theirs today.
Since re-releasing First Crack, I have made some great progress on the project. Not enough for version 2.0, though, so I spent the last few days thinking about how I wanted to post new versions. In short, I decided not to.
Jordan Carter surprised me with this one. Everyone defaults to CrossFit, running, or cycling these days, so seeing him write about powerlifting in a positive light, with helpful advice for those getting started, caught me off-guard. Check his post out, then get to the gym.
I read a rundown of a cyber security threat hunting model the other day. Right at the start, the author’s definition of “hunting” jumped out at me. It jumped out at me because he defined it well — which reminded me of all the times I have seen others fail at this — and prompted this post.
I go back to work next week after a month-long vacation. I bought a house, traveled, read often, and wrote a little. Then I spent a lot of time thinking about those things. In particular, I spent a lot of time thinking about the choices that made me a homeowner at twenty-four, that also put me on a week-long beach vacation. I started writing again to help condense, clarify, and record trains of thought like these, so today I want to start with my thoughts on life and choices.
When I started blogging, I bounced around between places like Zoomshare, FreeWebs, and WordPres. Nothing fit, though, and so in 2011 I built my own content management system. I started running my website on First Crack a few months later. Easy, fast, and portable, my engine has no dependencies, builds a static website of over one thousand pages in less than two seconds, and works just as well as a server daemon as it does on my home machine. I stopped posting public updates to the code base in 2015, but kept working on the project in private. Today I re-release First Crack to the world.
Patrick Wilbur has written a great two-part series on the dangers of public WiFi networks, over at HackerNoon. In part one, he shows just how little work it takes to steal personal information from unsuspecting users at a cafe. His second article explains some of the reasons that took so little work, as well as a few ways to fix them. Part three outlines concrete steps the average internet user can take to make themselves less susceptible to these types of attacks. Whether you read all three to understand your vulnerability, or just skip to the end to fix them, everyone should take something away from this series. I also recommend Basic Computer Security, for the novice and expert alike.
The Internet ranks among the greatest inventions of all time. It gives everyone instant access to mankind’s collective wisdom, learned through millions of years of evolution. It connects people across cultures, continents, and time zones. It ushered in an era of unprecedented economic growth. History already recognizes the Internet’s remarkable impact, in the few short decades it has existed so far, and its significance will continue to grow as mankind uses it to achieve even greater things down the road.
I am immediately skeptical of any framework for getting something done. Individuals often use these elaborate processes to procrastinate, and in organizations they have a tendency to become bloated risk avoidance mechanisms. I see the former danger in David Maciver’s strategy for doing hard things, but it did remind me of my own, so I want to take a minute to share my approach here.
In short, just do the hard thing. When you don’t feel like working out, goanyway. When you don’t feel like writing, write anyway. The more something scares you, the more important it is that you get aggressive, charge into it, and crush that thing until it holds no power over you. You might need a twelve step process to conquer that hard thing, but just like in weightlifting, give hard work a try first.
I fancy myself a technical guy. I got into web development at a young age, learned to write Python, Perl, C, and a handful of other languages in high school, and got a degree in Computer Science in college. Although I work in an organization not known for its technical prowess, it has worked hard to change that: today, Army Cyber matches industry on the defensive side, and — by law — has far more experience on the offense. I bring all this back up so that you have some context when I say this: don’t use Amazon Web Services to host your static website; it’s far too complex. I spent twenty days struggling to work through that process. Today I will share my cautionary tale.
I try to keep my machine as close to stock as possible. This makes setup a breeze, helps it stay fast, and means I have less to check when something goes wrong. Although I have gotten away from that, I have plans to re-work my setup soon. I appreciate posts like this one, from August Garcia at 256 Kilobytes, that remind me of these powerful built-in tools, and that I may not need a bunch of flashy third-party apps after all.
I follow a lot of websites. In Keeping Up with Current Events, I list the handful I use to start my day. These get regular updates and help me stay up on current events. I also follow a lot of websites run by independent writers and small shops. These cover many of the same topics, but due to their size, they do not get updated as often. The unique perspective they bring to the table, though, makes for some of the most interesting reading I do. To round out my earlier post, I want to share this list with you today.
Many have explained — in greatdetail — the dangers of Huawei in the West. They focus on the chance of a hidden vulnerability in those devices, but ommit the fact that even top-tier Western devices have security flaws. This ommission implies that the decision comes down to accepting significant risk by adopting Huawei, in exchange for 5G, or accepting zero risk by shopping elsewhere. As this story demonstrates, though, Western tech may not have built-in vulnerabilities a non-Western nation-state actor could exploit, but it also does not guarantee network security. As this debate continues to rage, I believe we should keep this in mind.
I have always admired the well-informed. Their ability to speak on complex topics, to make thought-provoking points about things of which I know little, impresses me. This happened again a few months ago, with a retired Army Colonel whose knowledge of the American Revolution, the geopolitical landscape, and war floored me. I absorbed all I could from him. He also made me realize that I needed to do a much better job of educating myself and keeping up with current events. I have worked hard to do that over the last three months. Today I want to talk about my strategy for keeping up with world affairs. The self-education side of this coin warrants its own article, so I will save that for later.
Nicholas Diakopoulos, at the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote a fascinating piece on Google’s growing influence over the news and its bias for left-leaning sources:
“The data shows that just 20 news sources account for more than half of article impressions. The top 20 percent of sources (136 of 678) accounted for 86 percent of article impressions.”
And then, later:
“Our data shows that 62.4 percent of article impressions were from sources rated by that research as left-leaning, whereas 11.3 percent were from sources rated as right-leaning. ... A higher proportion of left-leaning sources appear in Top Stories.”
The level to which Google decides the type of stories users see, and the algorithm’s evident bias in that decision, ought to chill even those who benefit from it.
In an article I will post soon, I mention the difference between smart and intelligent people. I have seen this explained in more ways than I can count, but none the way I define it. Rather than burying this in an already long piece, I want to talk about it here so that I can flesh it out and then cite it later.
Over the years I have dialed in my writing process. I started typing posts in a textbox on Zoomshare; nowadays, I write in a powerful text editor, track changes with version control software, keep redundant backups, and serve this site with a back-end I wrote myself. I have set myself up well with a pretty neat workflow, and today I want to share it with you.
I had a hard time getting Sublime Text to work with Marked 2, back when I used Brett’s app to proof my writing. Dan Sturm posted a simple snippet that launched it using a build system, that failed if Marked came from the App Store. Here’s the fix:
A few days ago, I decided to start an article about my writing setup. Over the years I have dialed it in, and today I have a pretty neat workflow. As I started on that piece, though, I realized that I had never talked about why I write in plain text. Most aspects of my workflow traces back to that choice, so today I want to explain some of the reasons I made it.
Dominik Vacikar measured growth signals for 4,000 companies, then searched for historical correlations between those signals and stock market performance. His research lead to some interesting results that he plans to turn into an interest product. This reminded me of my work on a Hacker News scraper, a project I hope to revive soon.
I talked about my road to weightlifting the other day, to give you insight into my background. Having reached each end of the fitness spectrum, and after going back and forth between extreme conditioning and extreme strength, I look forward to sharing with you the lessons I learned along the way. As I work to regain the strength I lost over the last month, I want to highlight some of the consequences of that decision. In doing so, I hope to better prepare you for this difficult journey, and help you avoid some common pitfalls.
I found this article after Making the obvious code fast, where Jack Mott explained the impact of ignoring basic optimization. In his 2016 piece Marginal Gains, he went over some small tips to make developers’ lives easier. He had some good suggestions, and I want to take a minute to emphasize one of his points.
Use the command line as much as possible, so that you can automate as much of your work as possible. Most programs wrap one or more command line tools. This helps non-technical people. Take out the middleman, though, learn to use the underlying tool, and then write a script to work for you. Automate the boring tasks, so that you can focus on the exciting ones, take on new roles, further your own education, or even start a side hustle.
Andrew and Nealie Barker write a travel blog, and in their latest post they talk about finding hidden cameras in the houses they stay in. Having the know-how to do things like this makes me glad I chose the cyber security field, even if no part of this process takes a great deal of technical expertise: you can do everything the Barkers talk about with simple apps found on the App Store. I do not make a habit of staying in others’ homes, but if you do, check out this simple guide.
Drew DeVault on the dangers of using a virtual private network, or VPN:
“[VPN providers] can identify you much more precisely because you used your VPN login to access the service. Additionally, they can promise not to siphon off your data and write it down somewhere — tracking you, selling it to advertisers, handing it over to law enforcement — but they could and you’d be none the wiser.”
Anyone thinking of using a VPN should read his entire piece, and Dennis Schubert’s VPN - a Very Precarious Narrative as well. I link to both of them in an upcoming article on basic computer security.
I like cooking my own meals for the same reason I code: I get exactly what I want, without anything I don’t, and I know every little detail about the “ingredients” that go into my projects. It takes some time, effort, and expertise, but the benefits far outweigh the minor drawbacks.
Nicholas Weaver on the technical challenges to calling Huawei “safe”, and why that might not matter:
“...the code that Huawei uses, like so much of the rest of the code running the world, is simply a nightmare: It is complex, written in an ‘unsafe’ manner, using ‘unsafe’ languages. The scale and complexity make it impossible to analyze the code to look for new bugs, let alone efforts at sabotage. ... [and] the dirty secret is that most of the world’s computing infrastructure is a similar nightmare.”
Two takeaways: 1) Choosing to use Huawei does not mean choosing to invite the Chinese government into a network. United States intelligence agencies have on-demand access to these networks; do not be so naive to believe other nations refrained from using similar tactics to the same results. And 2) 5G may not live up to all the hype. Even if it does, improving 4G infrastructure as AT&T did with its 5GE network may shrink that delta to the point where the risk does not outweigh the benefit.
I have an article in the works on a similar topic, but I wanted to take a minute to highlight this piece by one of my favorite new writers, Blair Reeves, before I reference it there. He makes some great points about the value of blogging, even if you have no intention of ever turning it into a revenue stream.
I liked this article for its breakdown of East versus West Coast off-road routes, and even more so because Mercedes Lilienthal also gives her eastern seaboard readers some actual destinations to check out. I can tackle the Georgia Traverse in a weekend, and a few of the other trails she mentioned over a long weekend. I look forward to heading out there soon.
I promised some posts on this topic, and today I will begin to deliver. Today I want to talk about my journey to weightlifting. It took me a while, but I look forward to sharing the lessons I learned along this long and winding road.
Joshua Goldstein, Staffan Qvist, and Steven Pinker believe nuclear power should replace fossil fuels, and serve as the backup that makes renewable energy sources viable. They make a good case in this interesting article on The New York Times, and I even found a few gems in the comments section — one of which pointed me to a piece on Bloomberg. Gerard Mourou, a winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics, has a novel idea to solve the problem of nuclear waste disposal.
These advocates, and the scientists behind them, have many barriers to overcome before their proposal becomes a reality. As they point out in The New York Times’ piece, though, it comes down to using a scary solution to avoid the guaranteed disaster that lies at the end of the path we walk today. If the science works out, we will have to choose between the devil we know, and the imagined one we have built up in our minds over the last half century. I’ll keep my finger’s crossed that we make the right choice.
I have spent a lot of time reading about China over the last few days. This reminded me of a great chart that broke down emissions by country, to make an interesting point: for all the attention it receives in the media, emissions from the United States pale in comparison to those of developing nations in general, and China in particular. In fact, the United States’ contribution has almost no effect on global temperatures. I believe we should keep this in mind any time the subject resurfaces.
I planned to include a link to this piece in Proxy Innovation. As that article grew from a brief comment into a more in-depth rundown of the U.S.-Huawei situation, though, I pulled Herb Lin’s Huawei and Managing 5G Risk out for its own post.
Where the five articles I linked to last time focused on this situation at a high level, Herb Lin delves into the technical arguments for and against Huawei’s adoption by the West. As it turns out, the decision to adopt or blacklist the company comes down to a much more complicated risk-benefit analysis, even if conclusive evidence linking it to the Chinese government surfaces. Tom Wheeler and Robert Williams agree. Check these pieces out, too, if you still want more to read after my last post.
It’s old, but — as the saying goes, every day someone is born who has never seen the Flintstones. I wanted to take a second to drop a link to Mozilla’s new project, Firefox Send. This service promises free, private, end-to-end encrypted, and temporary file transfers from a respected company with a stated desire to preserve its users privacy. Check out the release notes here. Also of interest, pCloud Transfer allows anonymous users to send encrypted, password-protected files, too; pCould Transfer doubles the max file size of Firefox Send, though, but that comes at the price of some neat features that keep Mozilla’s new project in the running for me.
I want to take a moment to speak to my old readers. Maybe you forgot to remove my feed, never got around to unfollowing me on Twitter, or just stayed close and hoped that I would one day write again; regardless, I’m glad you did. What this site once was, however, somewhere for me to talk about the writer’s craft, Apple, and technology, it is no longer.
So, I’m back. I stopped writing almost four years ago, and a lot has happened since then. Although in the past I did not share many personal details, I want that to change, and I want that to start now. While I used to loosely limit myself to two topics, technology and writing, I plan to broaden my focus considerably in the future. I will save my vision for this site for a later post, but today I will start down this new path with a brief rundown of the last forty-eight months.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to make a concerted effort to stay abreast of world events going forward. Especially given the continued spread of Ebola across America, I could no longer focus solely on happenings within the tech industry as I have for the past two or three years. No sooner had I made this decision, though, than I came across a ponderous and subsequently maddening article over at NBC News titled “New Jersey Releases Nurse Quarantined for Suspected Ebola”.
An incredible video from a group of hunters who make no excuses for their chosen profession, but who also approach it with the extreme respect that nature deserves. I personally have never had a particularly strong desire to take up hunting, but hearing Donnie Vincent talk about nature with such reverence showed me a side of this lifestyle — for to call it a “sport” would be to do the lifestyle Donnie and his companions devoted themselves a great disservice — that I had previously never seen. There is now little doubt in my mind that there exists a more noble passion than this.
I’ve been moving further and further from the tech space lately, but this article still caught my eye from Aric Mitchell over at inStash. Here, Aric takes a short minute to chronicle his journey with Apple’s products, and then talk about the experiential side of the company’s latest desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite. This is by far and away the best piece of tech-focused writing I have read in quite some time.
For just shy of the past seven months, I have written weekly roundup posts talking about my favorite medium — podcasts — and the episodes I considered the best released during that time span. Although the number of shows in each issue varied from week to week, I like to think that the quality remained constant, along with my rate of publication: with the exception of a lengthy trip to Canada’s backwoods, I have not missed a single week. It may come as a surprise, then, that today I have decided to end this series for the foreseeable future.
Once again, another great photo essay from Gear Patrol, this time on the Cascade Mountains rather than South Africa’s Sabi Sands game reserve. I’ll add this to the ever-growing list of places I would love to visit. Someday, always someday.
Another week has gone by, made all the better with a few great podcasts. This time around, Roderick on the Line makes another appearance, and is accompanied by a great episode of Systematic and a fantastic episode of Zac & Co. Enjoy.
Another article courtesy of the folks over at Gear Patrol, this time a photo essay after a trip to South Africa’s Sabi Sands Game Reserve. I spent three months in South Africa a number of years ago, and hours upon days trolling through an adjacent park (Kruger National Park, for those curious), but only managed to see a fraction of the sights the folks did here. Even then, though, I have no complaints: Africa was full of majesty everywhere I looked. Ben Bowers saw some of that majesty in Sabi Sands, I saw some of it elsewhere, and we both walked away changed men.
In a day and age before ubiquitous personal drones roamed the skies, capturing incredible footage of active volcanoes, for example, filmmakers had no choice but to climb into planes and film those breathtaking views themselves. Harrison Sanborn found some of this footage in his father’s archives, digitized the film, and turned the result into a neat three minute video on Vimeo.
There’s a certain quality to this footage that newer, digital-first recordings courtesy or our aerial robotic minions just don’t have. Perhaps its “the celluloid warmth of the colors”, as Nick Milanes suggests in Gear Patrol’s article covering the video. Regardless of what it is, I just hope that we don’t lose it. There is always something to be said for taking the hard route, and the quality of the end-product when doing so, over that of the easier, increasingly mechanized approach.
An incredible, remarkably powerful story by Alan Heathcock that seeks to lay the harsh realities of drought to bear with a painful, hard-hitting story of good people who have lost everything for lack of one sample necessity: water. This article ought to be a prerequisite for forming any opinions on sustainability whatsoever.
Jeff Kish, contributing editor at the excellent site GearJunkie, spent the summer hiking 1,200 miles on the Pacific Northwest Trail. I followed his journey from that first report in July all the way up to this the conclusion of his trek, and I have to say: I’m both jealous and impressed. If you had the misfortune of missing this great series, head over and check it out: it’s well-worth your time. Follow Thru-Hike Of “Pacific Northwest Trail” All Summer.
A great companion to yesterday’s post, 10 Typeface Pairs for Cash-Poor Designers, for those looking to improve the design of their site through the adoption of strong design principles. Despite its original publication date of 2009, the best practices Michael Martin puts forth here have retained their value over the years in an excellent resource for aspiring designers. I have applied some of these lessons, too, in the creation of my elusive latest project. Look for more on this soon.
As I continue work on an as of yet unnamed and unreleased project, I came across this great article by Morgan Gilpatrick from a number of years ago that still maintains its relevance today. Here he puts forth nine different font combinations paired according to a matrix of criteria, and to great results. I plan on returning here and to other resources like it when it comes time to redesign this site once again; great advice, especially helpful to those of us on the fringe of design.
Another installment in 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.
Reading this article from Outside Online, it reminded me of a story a family friend once told me. She explained that her son and daughter-in-law, both schoolteachers in Alaska, had decided to raise their young son without the traditional lessons society dictates a small boy learn during his formative years. As far as his dad was concerned, if he never learned to play baseball, that was just fine: instead he would learn about the outdoors, and gain skills that will benefit him for the rest of his life. Baseball simply didn’t fit the bill. That philosophy struck me as abnormal at the time, yes, but also wonderfully so: while this little boy’s peers learned to yearn for recess while a teacher droned on in the background, he would spend his time on things that actually mattered. Just because something is the status quo does not mean that it is right.
At first I attributed my absence of enthusiasm in a medium that I previously enjoyed so immensely a by-product of the increased demands on my time as of late. However, upon further consideration, and after yet another week of but one entry here in a list that previously contained double-digit items, I realized the true reason behind this unfortunate change: my interests had shifted. Just as I no longer derive the same pleasure in reading about technology and writing in speculation of Apple’s next announcement, I no longer take the same pleasure in the podcasts of the same genre. Do not look at the decline of this series as a step towards its demise, then, but rather the prelude to a massive shift that — at its end — will see both this series and this website stronger than it ever was before. And so, enjoy.
Incredible to think that today, in our modern society, things like this still happen. Not only do these sorts of things happen though, but they fly under the radar as well. Harrowing, to say the least.
I happened across Expedition Portal the other day after the same tangent led me to Triple Aught Design. Already more than an hour down this rabbit hole of outdoor expeditions and the gear enthusiasts use on such trips, I started clicking — and clicking, and then I clicked some more until I had filled my entire Safari tab bar. And then, I began reading this humorous article by Mathew Scott from March of last year: Death by Idiotic Purchases. If the only thing you, like me, love more than actually spending time outdoors is buying the gear to make that experience more enjoyable, and you’re looking for a laugh, this is a great place to start.
During September of last year I saw this incredible story pass by, but I let it go without comment. This time, however, I refused to make the same mistake.
It’s so easy for us to sit in our homes decrying America’s defense budget, and say things like, “I look forward to the day the Air Force has a bake sale in order to raise money.” America’s military is not some faceless organization used to enforce the will of politicians, though: these are real people who put their lives on the line every single day so that you do not have to; these are real people who willingly fly to their death for their fellow Americans. Yet so many have the audacity, the gall, to stand up and criticize those whom they have no right to call into question — their motivations, lifestyle, and everyday choices. And this infuriates me. Render respect where it is due.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 makingtherounds 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 cliched “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, 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.
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?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As usual, an interesting article from Sam Dogen at Financial 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the past, I have linked to tales of grandiose exploitsin 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Anze Tomic 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 Anze’s setup and his thoughts on equipment alone make the short interview worth reading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I have written anumber 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.
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.
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.
“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.
A fascinating look at the current state of business models and their inevitable future from Ben Thompson over at Stretechery. 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.
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 ostensiblyabouthisjourney 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Leading up to Linus Edwards’spromise 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 Stratechery 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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, manyagreedwith 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 manyresponded 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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 poorexperience 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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 twicebefore, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 numeroustimes 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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 vocalcalls 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.
“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.
“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 itsrounds, 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
I really enjoy reading Matt Gemmell’s writing. His article from quite a while ago, Writing Tools, caught my attention, and iOS 7greatly 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.”
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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moises 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”, Moises 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 Moises 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.”
‘Transporter is a private “off-cloud” storage device for syncing, sharing, accessing, and protecting your digital life. No cloud, no fees, no privacy concerns. Your files are only stored on your Transporters and computers and mobile devices that you authorize.’
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 Moises 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 Moises 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.