Monthly Archives: October 2014

Twitpic archive at Twitter

The story of Twitpic shutting down has a better ending now:

“We weren’t able to find a way to keep Twitpic independent. However, I’m happy to announce that we have reached an agreement with Twitter to give them the Twitpic domain and photo archive, thus keeping the photos and links alive for the time being.”

This is much better than all those photos becoming broken links, but it’s still a sad statement on the Twitter ecosystem. Twitter threatened Twitpic, then Twitpic decided to shutdown, and in the end Twitter gets all the Twitpic assets anyway for cheap or no money at all. It’s a bizarre end to what only a couple years ago was a $3 million business.

Twitter is a big company with a lot of moving pieces. It shouldn’t surprise me that one half of Twitter is ready to sic the lawyers on Twitpic while another half wants to do the right thing for Twitpic’s customer base. Still, a bittersweet closing chapter on one of the first great third-party developers.

Taylor Swift’s 1989

I took my daughters to see Taylor Swift last year and we had a great time. I own a couple of her albums myself and was curious about the new “1989” and how very different it seemed. From the foreword:

“For the last few years, I’ve woken up every day not wanting, but needing to write a new style of music. I needed to change the way I told my stories and the way they sounded. I listened to a lot of music from the decade in which I was born and I listened to my intuition that it was a good thing to follow this gut feeling.”

I like bands who aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves because it means they’re both pushing forward and will also often return to their roots with something stronger. So I pre-ordered Taylor Swift’s latest and I’m really enjoying several of the tracks. It’s good for all of us to occasionally get out of our comfort zone and create something new.

Yosemite toolbars

Jason Snell writes about some of the inconsistencies in Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, such as how only a few of Apple’s own apps use the new combined title bar / toolbar style:

“It makes me wonder if Apple was initially enthusiastic about this approach, then realized it wasn’t applicable to many situations, and rather than abandoning it just decided to live with the inconsistency. There’s certainly no clear, this-is-the-future signal.”

I don’t hate the new style, but that does seem like the fundamental problem with it: it can’t possibly be used for all apps, especially those with lots of toolbar buttons. I considered it for the next version of Clipstart, but it’s not really a compelling enough change to risk breaking things that already work well.

Twitter Flight follow-up

Mat Honan has a long article covering the Twitter Flight announcements. On understanding why Twitter acquired Crashlytics and MoPub:

“Now, those acquisitions suddenly seem crucial. They form the backbone of Fabric—along with a new sign-on system called Digits (launching in 218 countries and 28 languages today). While tweets will remain Twitter’s foundation, this is a real strategy shift that’s in many ways similar to Google’s growth out of search.”

It’s interesting that one half of Twitter has so famously stepped on developers, but a new part of Twitter is emerging around Fabric with the opposite goal: make our life as developers easier so that we bundle the suite of Twitter frameworks into every app we build. This split in the company has allowed me to accept Crashlytics as a long-term sponsor of Core Intuition even as I criticize the “tweets” platform side of Twitter. They’ve done great work with Crashlytics and I happily use it in both Tweet Library and Sunlit.

Also this week, Twitter replaced their “Rules of the Road” with a simplified Developer Policy. I can’t tell if this is an improvement or not yet. It still has the 100,000 user token limit, among other restrictions. (As I write this I’m listening to ATP episode 88, which includes more great discussion about this topic.)

Digits is the surprise of the conference to me. It was impossible for a small company to do SMS verification on this scale before. I think it’s a new class of service with only CloudKit’s user accounts as possible direct competition, and even that only on iOS. Digits is going to be big.

Core Intuition with Brent Simmons

Daniel and I welcomed Brent Simmons on the Core Intuition podcast this week. Here’s Brent on writing and the web as a guarantee of free speech:

“The old web where I feel like more people saw the web as what I was talking about: as a unique and amazing invention in human history, a thing that can bring the 6 billion voices out into the open, to tell their stories and say what they’re going to say. That this thing is really something special, and it shouldn’t just be treated as a way for monetizing eyeballs and figuring out great new advances in interstitial ads. […] We can’t lose sight of the opportunity this is. And if the story really is that the web exploded in the mid 90s and became a wonderful thing, and then stopped being that wonderful thing a little more than 20 years later… Then I couldn’t even bear that heartbreak.”

Hope you all enjoy the episode. It was great to have Brent on the show.

NSDrinking is tonight, 8pm at The Ginger Man. Schedule will probably shift a little for the holidays the rest of the year. Hope to see y’all there!

→ 2014/10/23 12:53 pm

On the eve of Twitter Flight

Twitter’s new mobile developer conference is tomorrow. Marco Arment writes about whether developers should give Twitter another chance:

“Twitter started out as a developer-friendly company, then they became a developer-hostile company, and now they’re trying to be a developer-friendly company again. If I had to pick a company to have absolute power over something very important, Twitter wouldn’t be very high on the list.”

Dave Winer responds that for now, we’ll be okay trusting Twitter:

“Twitter is not going to screw us in the short term. They need us as much as we need them. Independent developers are where wholly new ideas come from. You can’t hire people to do that to work inside companies.”

The unique tragedy with Twitter’s changing attitude toward developers is that so many of Twitter’s early innovations did come from third-party developers. The new leadership displayed an incredible disrespect for the value developers added to both the ecosystem and core platform.

Unfortunately in the “short term” it’s still happening. Not 4 years ago, not 2 years ago — just 1 month ago, TwitPic announced they are shutting down after a legal threat from Twitter. It’s a loss for the web, leaving millions of broken image links in old tweets. This latest third-party developer casualty from Twitter’s policies comes practically on the eve of their new developer conference.

I agree with Dave’s larger points, though, on mirroring content to your own blog in addition to Twitter and Facebook. His Radio3 is a step forward for RSS and the open web while still embracing social networks. We need more tools like it.

2 years ago I chose to stop tweeting from my personal Twitter account as a minor protest. I don’t expect everyone else to take such an extreme stance. We can agree on open formats and the power of microblogging while disagreeing on how to interact with Twitter.

(Skeptics say that leaving Twitter is a pointless gesture, like a pebble thrown into a river. The timeline flows on and the outrage is washed away as if it didn’t happen. If leaving doesn’t make an impact, why bother? But it does matter. It matters not for the change it creates directly for others, but for how it changed me. In the same way that writing an essay will solidify your thoughts on a subject, posting that last tweet has given me a new clarity from which to judge whether my own products are on the right track, living up to my ideals.)

Back to the present. On the flight up to Çingleton and back, I finally got around to reading the book Hatching Twitter. Since I was on Twitter near the beginning, I remember many events covered in the book: the launch at SXSW, the CEO shuffling, the names of early engineers who I’ve crossed paths with. I love how the book blends together things that I know are real with other details that must be more contrived or exaggerated, creating an engaging read that would seem to border on historical fiction if we didn’t know that it was basically all true.

Hatching Twitter captures the power struggles inside Twitter and fills a book with them. And that’s really the foundation for Marco’s post: based on Twitter’s history, we probably haven’t seen the last leadership change at the company. Twitter might have a strong future but it surely has an uncertain one.

My next product is about microblogging, and it has to launch in the real world where Twitter dominates. But I view that as a reality, not a feature requirement. I think I’ll be happier as a developer, and my app will actually be more compelling, if I design and build it for a world without Twitter.

Making RSS real-time

One of the critiques of RSS feeds in a world dominated by Facebook and Twitter is that RSS just isn’t fast enough. You can’t hope to achieve what Twitter calls “in-the-moment updates” and “watch events unfold” if your client is polling each web site’s RSS feed once an hour for new microblog posts.

Luckily this was solved years ago. Many blogging apps (including WordPress) have a setting to “ping” another server when a post has been published. When it receives this notification, the other server can request the RSS feed and make note of the new post right away.

There are a few flavors of this, such as just passing the URL of the updated feed, or sending an XML-RPC request, or passing the actual post content along with the ping as JSON. It may not be the most efficient or elegant solution, but it works well, and it’s significantly better than frequent polling. You could build something on this.

Some distributed Twitter clones try to come up with something more clever instead. And there are attempts like PubSubHubbub with significant traction. But adopting any new technology is hard, and this ping system is surprisingly well deployed already. Worse is better wins again.

iPhone 6 Plus and iPod

Kirby Turner wrote about needing an iPhone 6 Plus as a developer but not really wanting one as a user:

“As a developer what I really want is an iPod touch Plus. If Apple were selling an iPod touch Plus that is the same as the iPhone 6 Plus minus the phone, then I would buy it in an instant. That way I could continue using my iPhone 5 as my primary phone device and the iPod touch Plus as a test device.”

I’ve talked about skipping this phone generation on the podcast a few times. I already got out of the yearly updates when I kept the 4S forever and then got the 5C instead of the 5S. After seeing the 6 Plus in person at the Apple Store and with everyone who had one at Çingleton, I’m pretty comfortable with my decision. But I’d strongly consider replacing my iPad Mini with a 5.5-inch iPod Touch.

Quiet, cold morning walking through beautiful Old Montreal. I had the square outside Notre-Dame Basilica completely to myself, for a moment. Thank you Çingleton for 4 great years enjoying visits to your city.

→ 2014/10/13 7:17 am

When it rains, it pours. Went back to my hotel room to fix a minor server glitch and found several problems across my web apps: full disk on a server, Redis expiration problem, bug updating Stripe accounts, etc.

→ 2014/10/10 12:38 pm

The unremarkable yesterday

Yesterday you had lunch with friends or family and posted a photo of your food and location to Twitter. It didn’t matter much. You put it on Twitter and didn’t care that you didn’t have a copy or didn’t post it to your own blog first, because controlling that trivial bit of content just didn’t seem important at the time.

5 years later, 10 years later, 15 years later. That lunch is magic now — a captured moment, something you wouldn’t remember and didn’t think to record elsewhere unless you keep a comprehensive private journal. Maybe it was the day before a significant event or on a trip. The true context is only revealed with hindsight.

I wrote this blog post because I wanted to follow up on my post about blogging every day, underscoring that seemingly unimportant events can carry great meaning later. Those common everyday activities that don’t seem noteworthy today? That’s our life. One after another, strung together for days and then years until we die. It’s the culture of the 21st century scattered among millions of micro posts. And it’ll be lost to time if we don’t curate it.

Yesterday was unremarkable only because we’re too close to it. Later we’ll understand that it meant everything. And if that’s true, let’s aspire to something greater than our content being sliced up and interspersed with ads on someone else’s platform.

Flying up to Montreal today for Çingleton. Looking forward to catching up with everyone! Great city. I was just there in August for vacation, happy to be going back.

→ 2014/10/09 8:06 am

RSS reading and writing

I’ve received so much feedback about microblogging that I haven’t had a chance to reply or blog about each one yet. This post from Dave Peck is especially interesting:

“For some time now, I’ve wanted a new kind of RSS client: one that reads and writes. Today’s RSS apps artificially separate us from the content we read. If we want to reply — if we want to participate in the conversation — we’ve got to use an entirely unrelated set of tools.”

MarsEdit of course was famously spun off from NetNewsWire. Early versions of NetNewsWire did three things: reading blogs, organizing ideas in a notepad outliner, and writing new blog posts. I think Brent was on to something with combining all these features, but I also totally understand wanting to simplify so that each component is as good as it can be. MarsEdit wouldn’t be as full-featured and polished today if it hadn’t been given that room to grow as its own app.

Also, don’t miss the last half of today’s Core Intuition. Daniel and I talk at length about microblogging and owning your own content.

“Twitter in 2014 feels like it has settled into a certain default mode of hostility and rage.” — @buzz

→ 2014/10/08 10:49 am