Monthly Archives: August 2012

Announcing Watermark

I’m renaming Tweet Marker Plus. Its new name — to better reflect its gradual move away from Twitter and syncing — is Watermark.

As part of the relaunch it immediately gains a new feature: posts. You can now add an account and it will download any posts from your friends, making them available for search. Watermark is already storing tens of millions of tweets, and I’m excited to start adding posts to that archive as well.

So what happens to the basic Tweet Marker API? For now, nothing. The sync API that over 22 Twitter apps support will still be called Tweet Marker and remain Twitter-focused. Think of Watermark as a separate app: a new kind of client and archive tool, independent of Tweet Marker.

Justin Williams kills 2 apps

Justin Williams on his decision to stop selling his apps MarkdownMail and Today:

“Financially, it may not have made much sense to cut off the revenue streams, but therapeutically I’m freeing up that portion of my brain to focus my full attention on the next version of Elements and the dozens of other ideas that that are circling in my head.”

I felt exactly the same way when I stopped selling Wii Transfer earlier this year. It wasn’t until a month later that I realized how much I had been enjoying that revenue, limited as it had become. I don’t regret it, though. It was the right thing for my potential customers, not to be misled into thinking there would be new versions. And it was the right thing for my focus, working on other projects.

Sparrow and the unlimited indies

Recently I found myself in rare disagreement with Matt Gemmell:

“Indie devs are an endlessly replenishable resource. Good indie devs are similarly replenishable. This acquisition has no effect whatsoever on the rest of us, except for further legitimising the practice of big companies buying us up. That cannot possibly be a bad thing.”

While the general argument that Matt makes is solid — that Sparrow customers should be happy for the developers being acquired by Google, and that paying $3 for an app doesn’t give anyone a right to complain or feel betrayed — there are a couple ways that this acquisition could be a bad thing for everyone else.

Good indie devs, especially successful ones, are a limited resource. There are very few indie companies able to make a client as polished as Sparrow was, and even fewer with commercial success.

And with Twitter’s latest anti-competitive moves, we may end up losing another market that was friendly to indie developers and rich with UI innovation.

My favorite take on the Sparrow acquisition and what it means for sustainable indie software came from Rian van der Merwe:

“We need to reframe this argument. The real issue is much deeper than this specific acquisition. The real issue is the sudden vulnerability we feel now that one of our theories about independent app development has failed.”

The Sparrow acquisition came as a surprise to most of us. One day, they look like a successful company, taking on a difficult market and winning against free competition. The next day, they’re gone. I wish them luck at Google, but it is a loss for the community of small Mac and iOS companies.

(Speaking of Matt Gemmell, he’s just released a new Mac app called Sticky Notifications for sticking reminders in Mountain Lion’s notification center.)

Twitter lock-in

With every day since Twitter’s new rules were announced, my opinion grows stronger that this is the end of the platform as we’ve known it for the last few years. It hurts that so much of what was pioneered by the developer community has been co-opted and trademarked and turned against developers. Nothing will change tomorrow; we can expect new versions of Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and my own app Tweet Library. But in the long run it’s a dead-end.

Lex Friedman, writing for Macworld:

“Some developers are notably hesitant to speak on the record, lest they incur Twitter’s wrath; the fear seems to be that since Twitter is now exerting more control than ever over access to its API—which developers leverage to make their Twitter apps work—that irking Twitter too much might result in a developer’s API access getting revoked.”

I have less at stake than developers with popular mainstream apps, so in a way I feel it’s my duty to speak out when it’s warranted, where others can’t. I’m quoted in Matthew Panzarino’s article on the Twitter API change, and I was interviewed for a radio spot on San Francisco’s KQED.

I could live with some of the API changes. I could live with the display requirements, even the user caps. Maybe I could live in a developer-hostile environment, finding a market niche far below Twitter’s radar. Except for two things:

  • “Timeline integrity”: The display guidelines say you can’t mix other content in a timeline of tweets. You can’t easily have a multi-platform app that shows both posts and Twitter tweets in the same view.

  • Trademarks: You are allowed to use “Tweet” in the name of your app, but only if Twitter is the only service you support. You can’t add Facebook or or Heello support alongside Twitter.

These are anti-competitive and unworkable. So I’ve decided to spin off Tweet Marker Plus, my paid web-based app that builds on top of the Tweet Marker sync engine. I’ll relaunch it with a new name, slowly introducing new features that aren’t tied exclusively to Twitter. For a hint of where it’s going, you can follow me on

When it disappears

Dave Winer reiterates that we must plan now to preserve our online writing:

“There were far fewer bloggers. Maybe thousands. Today there are millions. None of them are thinking about what happens when Tumblr or Blogger or WordPress or Facebook disappear. But come on — we almost know for certain that one of them will. Given enough time they will all disappear.”

These companies are only as strong and permanent as their leaders, and leadership doesn’t last. If you think it can’t happen soon, look at the new Digg. Although they want to export the previous content, currently nothing from Digg’s 7-year history is accessible. Not by accident, not by catastrophic failure, but because no one at the new company cared to keep it around.

Spoiled by gatekeepers

Amy Hoy writes about master craftsmen and being accountable to your real customers:

“When you live and work in an insulated life — divorced from the end result of your work — you are spoiled. You’re graded more on your ability to please and manage gatekeepers than your work product. Gatekeepers are human; humans can be persuaded to accept excuses.”

Just enough separation from customers is healthy — email and tweets, instead of phone calls. But put up too many walls, too much bureaucracy, and you might no longer care who you’re building the software for. You might forget why it has to be great.

10 years of Daring Fireball

Daring Fireball turns 10 years old today. I love this visualization of the posts from those years. You can view by article length and highlight posts for certain topics.

There’s a rich history of posts in the archive. Like the best blogs, there’s consistency in design, tone, and format. None of the URLs have ever changed.

Here are some of my favorite essays.

June 4, 2004, Broken Windows:

“Arguing that it’s technically possible that the Mac could suffer just as many security exploits as Windows is like arguing that a good neighborhood could suddenly find itself strewn with garbage and plagued by vandalism and serious crime. Possible, yes, but not likely.”

April 20, 2006, Initiative:

“What I’ve concluded, though, is that if I want to make a full-time income from Daring Fireball, I need to just do it full-time. I.e. that it’s not going to work the other way around — to wait for the revenue to burgeon and then start putting full-time effort into it.”

August 4, 2006, Highly Selective:

“I’m sure there are other examples of Mac apps that offer anchored list selection, but the point remains that the vast majority of software now follows Apple’s lead and uses the unanchored model for list item selection. If ‘Mac-like’ means ‘what most other Mac software does’, then in this case the Mac-like behavior is wrong, or at the very least, worse.”

October 2, 2008, The Fear:

“But this pitch also worked because it was true. All three of those products sound good on their own. All three in one device sounds insanely great. Jobs was introducing the iPhone simply by describing precisely what it was.”

April 24, 2009, Twitter Clients Are a UI Design Playground:

“I read web sites and email and RSS feeds on my iPhone, but Twitter is the one service where reading on my iPhone doesn’t feel constrained compared to reading on my Mac.”

June 26, 2009, Copy and Paste:

“That we had to wait two years for the iPhone’s text selection and pasteboard is a good example of one aspect of the Apple way: better nothing at all than something less than great.”

January 27, 2010, The iPad Big Picture:

“Software aside (which is a huge thing to put aside), it may well be that no other company could make a device today matching the price, size, and performance of the iPad. They’re not getting into the CPU business for kicks, they’re getting into it to kick ass.”

August 24, 2011, Resigned:

“The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like ‘How should a computer work?’, ‘How should a phone work?’, ‘How should we buy music and apps in the digital age?’ he also brought to the most important question: ‘How should a company that creates such things function?’”

December 25, 2011, Merry:

“— how much will I be willing to pay then to be able to go back in time, for one day, to now, when he’s eight years old, he wants to go to movies and play games and build Lego kits with me, and he believes in magic?”

February 16, 2012, Mountain Lion:

“This is an awful lot of effort and attention in order to brief what I’m guessing is a list of a dozen or two writers and journalists. It’s Phil Schiller, spending an entire week on the East Coast, repeating this presentation over and over to a series of audiences of one.”

Congrats John. Here’s to the next 10 years.’s great start

Today, passed its $500,000 funding goal. A few weeks ago when I signed up with my $50, I didn’t think they could do it. And Daniel and I were both pessimistic about their chances when we talked about it on Core Intuition 50.

In less than a month, they went from a mission statement video that seemed just a step away from vaporware, to following through on an API spec and then alpha version web site. They delivered. The momentum of shipping something real brought in new users and drove them to the finish.

What I love most about is the transparency. Founder Dalton Caldwell is a blogger, like one of us. Where we only hear from Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, through big news publications or at conference keynotes, for Dalton we hear it directly from his own blog posts, the way a small company should communicate. Being on the ground in posts and tweets is a perfect complement to his goal of treating users and developers as real customers. will never overtake Twitter. Look no further than hashtags all over the Olympics as proof of that. But can put pressure on Twitter to respect third-party developers, and with thousands of paying customers, all with a vested interest in making something worthwhile, has already surpassed every other Twitter clone that has tried and failed to build a community.

From Paul Graham’s essay on ambitious startup ideas:

“The way to win here is to build the search engine all the hackers use. A search engine whose users consisted of the top 10,000 hackers and no one else would be in a very powerful position despite its small size, just as Google was when it was that search engine. […]

“Don’t worry if something you want to do will constrain you in the long term, because if you don’t get that initial core of users, there won’t be a long term. If you can just build something that you and your friends genuinely prefer to Google, you’re already about 10% of the way to an IPO, just as Facebook was (though they probably didn’t realize it) when they got all the Harvard undergrads.”

He’s talking about search engines, but it could be anything. Get those 10,000 passionate users and you have a chance to take on the giants in the industry. As of this writing, has 8000 paying customers. And 25% of them signed up at the developer tier. I’m sure every developer with a popular Twitter app has already looked at the API documentation.

As John Siracusa tweeted after successfully funded: “Now comes the hard part.” Totally true, but just reaching this point was difficult — a perfect mix of great timing and even better execution. In the first 30 days, we saw a team that knows how to win. Let’s see what they can do next.

The new Day One

Shawn Blanc reviews the latest version of Day One, which now supports photos:

“Over the years, most of the major, monumental milestones of life were documented in my Moleskine. But not all. And that’s why I’m glad to have an app that let’s me easily and joyfully add a snapshot or a quick note about an important or memorable event. These are the things my family and I will look back on 20 and 30 years from now with great fondness.”

While I keep the important stuff in my journals, I also use a protected Twitter account for the everyday notes and photos while away from the house. It has no followers; it’s just to have a date-stamped entry with a photo that’s easy to sync. Now that I’ve read how people are using Day One for this, I’m going to switch away from my private Twitter account to use Day One on the iPhone instead.

I like having one place for this kind of stuff. If the same type of content is scattered across multiple services, it makes it less likely that everything will be together in the future when I finally want it.

Especially interesting to me from Shawn’s review is that he also keeps a hand-written journal, even after using Day One for a similar purpose. I’ll keep using real-world pen and paper too, and everything I write there I will also transcribe into Day One. But I’ll write new things in Day One that will stay exclusively digital.

Federico Viticci also has a great review. He starts with the big picture, the why of writing it all down:

“I don’t even know if I’ll be around in twenty years. But I do know that I want to do everything I can to make sure I can get there with my own memories. We are what we know. And I want to remember.”

I think the best writers know that it matters what their work looks like in a decade, or two decades, whether the writing is private or public. You can see it in everything from permanent URLs to blog topics to what software they use — a conscious effort to create content that lasts.