Monthly Archives: April 2015

No perfect iPhone size

Some people bought the iPhone 6 and then went back to the 5S. Some people bought the iPhone 6 Plus and then tried the 6. Some worked their way up to the 6 Plus after adapting to the 6. Some never upgraded to the 6 or 6 Plus because both are too big.

Marco’s post is a good formal summary of a few write-ups I’ve read this week:

“Having used an iPhone 6 full-time from its launch until these 6 Plus experiments over the last few weeks, I can confidently say that neither phone is extremely well-designed. Both have nontrivial and completely avoidable flaws. But the 6 Plus has bigger advantages over the other phones, while the 6 seems to sit in a mediocre middle ground.”

The lesson from all these switches couldn’t be more clear: there’s no longer one perfect iPhone for everyone. What works great for one person might be terrible for someone else. I personally love the 5C design — the size of the screen, the way the plastic feels in my hand, flipping or spinning it on my fingers without worry that it’ll slip, using it without a case, adding a little color to my life — but many people never even tried it because it contains underpowered hardware compared to the latest models.

Apple would be crazy to discontinue any size. I’m more convinced than ever that we’ll see a 4-inch 6C alongside a new 6S and 6S Plus later this year. They won’t have identical specs, and that’s okay. I’ll happily pick the 4-inch model even if its camera is a year behind the cutting edge. The iPhone market is so ginormous now that I know there are millions of people who feel the same way.

If a tree falls

There’s no denying the fact that my writing would have a greater reach today if I was still active on Twitter and tweeting links there. Posting to my own microblog feed and cross-posting to the dwindling user base that is App.net has an obvious “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” aspect to it. If the post is read by so few people, some might argue that it can’t be as relevant to a larger conversation.

This doesn’t bum me out, though. It inspires me. It reminds me that I believe in something ambitious that has to be built in layers, starting small — a more open microblog platform that other apps can hang on to, encouraging new writing that will last.

Dave Winer calls this process of building successful platforms a coral reef. I think it’s a forest. Only the most passionate users of the open web can hear the tree falling today, but tomorrow there will be new growth. We plant a seed with each tool we build and with every RSS feed that’s wired up. There will eventually be many forests, crowded with plenty of people listening, interconnected regions that can’t be bound in the way a closed system inherently is.

If you join in and post, maybe your posts won’t be heard as clearly today. But in the future they will become the oldest, strongest pillars around which everything else grows.

Call me crazy but I still believe a 1-person company with a great idea and just the right focus can take on a 100-person company that has started to lose its way. There’s a major productivity imbalance as a company grows.

→ 2015/04/06 10:39 am

How to start a microblog

All my short, microblog-style posts go to my own weblog first, and also get cross-posted manually to App.net. You can view them in a special category and RSS feed.

I think owning your own posts on the internet — even if they seem unimportant and fleeting — is a valuable contribution to the health of the open web. By loosely following some simple conventions, we can build stuff that goes beyond what purely centralized web apps like Twitter are capable of.

Getting started is easy. I recommend one of 3 approaches right now if you want to play in this emerging ecosystem:

  • Tumblr. Microblog posts don’t need titles, and Tumblr has never cared much for titles itself. Some of Tumblr’s post types fit the style of a microblog very well. They also provide custom domain mapping, so that if you want to move your site later you can do it without breaking links.
  • Radio3. The latest version of Dave Winer’s tool can cross-post to Twitter. The setup couldn’t be easier, and because it has it’s own RSS feed, it will be easy to plug into future apps or get your data out.
  • WordPress. I use the self-hosted version of this. Just give microblog posts the “status” post type, which many WordPress themes can render with a tweet-like style. If you also put these posts in a special category, you can provide RSS feeds just for certain post types, or filter them out of your main feed.

Since last year I’ve been working on something new that is all about microblogging. I hope that it will encourage many more microblogs, but there’s no reason to wait until then. You can start a microblog today with one of the above apps (or dozens of other blogging solutions), and more fully control your own presence on the web.

On April 10th, two things go on sale: Apple Watch and Spurs playoff tickets. Maybe I’ll skip that extra watch band after all.

→ 2015/04/04 1:54 pm

Waiting out trademarks

Not long after I launched Tweetmarks in 2011, I realized that there was a trademark for that name, and an existing .com domain. I started worrying about the conflict so much that I couldn’t get any real work done. I talked to friends about it, tried to get other perspectives, and then finally renamed it to Tweet Marker. Whew, I had made a decision and moved on, free from ever worrying about it again.

I had to fix the tweetmarks.net redirect recently and checked around on some of the old stuff. That domain name I had been so worried about, which I literally lost sleep over? It’s gone.

I’m not going to tell you that trademarks don’t matter. Nothing I write on this blog should ever be considered legal advice. But it’s another reminder that there’s enough real stuff to focus on without wasting time on imaginary problems.

Footnotes follow-up (and the Newton)

I expected to get a little more negative feedback on my footnotes blog post than I did. Most feedback was pretty good. Thomas Brand agreed but also wrote:

“That being said, footnotes can be fun when used sparingly. They lend themselves to the kind of personal anecdote common to the tech blogs I read. If you are going to use footnotes to break up your articles, Bigfoot.js is not a bad way to do it.”

Definitely. If you’re going to do footnotes, might as well do them with the best user experience possible.

Thomas has had some really good posts lately. Before it expires off his home page, don’t miss the recent one on the Newton MessagePad 2000:

“I doubt a 25-MHz ARM710 would have been very effective as a laptop replacement, and it the Newton engineering team knew it. That is why the MessagePad 2000 was simultaneously designed with two different CPU architectures and its own form of Universal binary.”

I couldn’t afford a MessagePad 2000 at the time, but I still have my MessagePad 130. Along with my original iPhone, I’ll never part with the Newton — a wonderful device to use and develop for that was way ahead of its time.

Jordan Breeding

Last week at NSDrinking we had one of our biggest turnouts yet. At one point, we’re talking about programming jobs, meetups, and Apple, and Jordan Breeding was mentioned. Not in the context of having passed away, but just in remembering something he had said or done. A stranger listening to the conversation would have no idea that Jordan wasn’t still a member of the community.

This struck me as exactly right. I think anyone would would want to be remembered as who they were, not how they left us.

Like many in our developer community, I’ve thought about Jordan Breeding at certain moments over the last couple months. Patrick Burleson shared a story about his close friend:

“For those that knew Jordan, they know that he was a incredibly generous and caring person. He did so many things for so many people, it’s a wonder he ever got anything else done.”

Episode 135 of the iDeveloper podcast opened with a segment remembering Jordan. Scotty and John did a great job of capturing what he meant to the community. Scotty says:

“Everybody has said really the same things about him. Firstly, how clever he was. He was an incredibly intelligent person. But secondly, how generous and humble he was with that intelligence, and how he shared with people. He always made you feel like you could be better, and do better, and was always having a laugh about things.”

Guy English also dedicated episode 60 of the Debug podcast to Jordan. On his blog he writes:

“Good guy. I didn’t know him well but he always struck me as someone I’d like to get to know better. I lost out on that and too many others did too. Those who knew him universally loved him.”

Kyle Richter worked with Jordan and had this to say, echoing Patrick’s quote above about how Jordan went out of his way for other people:

“We were having dinner with some friends in California and my iPhone was acting up. Jordan volunteered to break away from the pack and come to the Apple Store with me. You rarely get to pick your last time with a friend, my last time with Jordan was him fighting with the Apple Store staff on my behalf. That was Jordan, even with everything he was going through he never thought of himself first.”

And finally, a collection of tweets via John Gruber. You know when reading any of these that Jordan will be remembered for a long time. He accomplished a great deal and went far, quickly, and that progress is a personal inspiration whenever I consider accelerating the change in my own career. Carpe diem.