Tag Archives: releasenotes

Timetable 66 and Release Notes

I posted a new Timetable today after listening to the Release Notes podcast where Charles and Joe discuss requiring in-app purchase subscriptions. As I talk about on Timetable, I’ve been working on the Mac version of Micro.blog, so it was a good opportunity to make a final decision on Mac App Store support.

Speaking of Release Notes, I’ll be out in Chicago for the conference next week. If you’re attending, hope to see you there. Ask me for a Micro.blog sticker.

Micro.blog iOS 1.1

Micro.blog for iOS version 1.1 is now available. This release adds a number of new features:

  • Added support for longer posts with titles. Type more than 280 characters to reveal an optional title field.
  • Added Markdown syntax highlighting while typing.
  • Added formatting bar for common styles. Select a phrase and tap the link button for easier markup.
  • Added support for uploading multiple photos.
  • Added a Browser sharing item to open the current post on the web.
  • Fixed a potential crash in profile links and glitch when holding down to select text.

Here’s a quick screencast showing some of the highlighting and title support:

Hope you like the update. You can download it from the App Store

Release Notes interview and 2017 conference

I was a guest on the latest episode of Release Notes this week. We talk about the Kickstarter launch of Micro.blog and more:

Today Manton Reece joins us to talk about Micro.blog, the new microblogging service that he’s developing. We talk to Manton about why he thinks a new microblogging service is needed, the importance of owning your own content, and his successful Kickstarter campaign.

Speaking of Release Notes, the conference is coming back for 2017 in a new city: Chicago. I haven’t been to Chicago in years, so I’m excited for an excuse to visit.

I blogged about my time at Release Notes 2015, but never got around to posting thoughts from 2016. In short: it was a great conference. For a snapshot of the talks, see Matthew Bischoff’s slides and Ben Norris’s sketchnotes.

Core Intuition 253 and Google

We posted Core Intuition episode 253 this morning. From the show notes:

Manton and Daniel discuss Manton’s experience at the Release Notes conference, talk about the rationale for supporting what might be considered edge-case behaviors in apps, and dig deeper into questions of freemium pricing, reflecting on the Omni Group’s pertinent announcements. Finally they talk briefly about Google’s latest announcements and what their competition means to Apple.

Google must be doing something right with their announcements, because yesterday my son told me he wants to get a Pixel when it’s time to replace his iPhone 5S. And as much as I love our Amazon Echo, I can see Google Home taking off if it’s well-integrated with existing Google services.

Real work on the iPad

I only took iOS devices with me to Indianapolis last week for Release Notes. My iPad Pro with smart keyboard, for writing and podcasting; an older iPad Mini, for reading on the plane; and of course my iPhone SE.

A couple of months ago, Dan Counsell wrote about the iPad as a poor choice for everyday work:

I know a lot of journalists use the iPad full time, and that’s fine. The reason they can use it full time is that typing text has very low system requirements. However as soon as you need to move files from one app to another or unzip a document the iPad starts to make your life more complicated.

Part of the issue is that out of the box, the iPad can’t do everything that a Mac can do. The iPad needs apps. As Ben Brooks wrote about Dan’s ZIP file example:

It would be great if iOS expanded zip extraction as a built in tool, but it doesn’t, and yet a tool to do unzip is easily found, safe, and free.

iOS doesn’t have the Mac’s Finder. I could actually see a third-party iOS app centered on file management first, instead of just as an extra feature on top of text documents or photos — an app that blended a little of document providers, iCloud Drive, and app launching. Kind of in the spirit of the Finder-replacement PathFinder.

There are iOS apps to do pretty much anything. What often makes iOS slower to use is there’s less glue between apps and documents than on the Mac. No drag and drop between apps on iOS. Fewer keyboard shortcuts.

I love how Workflow sidestepped these issues with automation. I use a workflow for posting Instagram photos to my own blog. And Federico Viticci uses Workflow extensively. In a recent Club MacStories newsletter he shared how he used Scrivener and Workflow to write and prepare his iOS 10 review.

Another simple workflow I’ve used is to convert a podcast to MP3 from Ferrite. Every episode of Timetable was recorded on the iPhone or iPad. At WWDC, I edited Core Intuition on the iPad with the help of Ferrite and the web app Auphonic, which Jason Snell has also written about:

I was able to export and upload The Incomparable while sitting at a comfortable table in an Ashland pub, drinking their beer and using their free Wi-Fi. Auphonic did the rest, re-encoding the file as an MP3, tagging it properly, and uploading the result to both my Libsyn account and to The Incomparable’s FTP server.

When I was visiting a new coffee shop every day for 30 days, I loved taking the iPad with me because it was a lightweight, focused writing environment. With the right apps and workflows, it’s a fun computer to work on. I didn’t miss my Mac while traveling last week, and I expect iOS to serve me well on future trips.

Don’t give up on WWDC

There’s a nice sale going on across several smaller, regional developer conferences right now. I think any of these conferences would be a great experience, so if you’re considering one you could save $100 by acting now.

I wanted to comment on something Joe Cieplinski said about WWDC while linking to this promotion:

Folks say that WWDC is the one time where everyone in our community can get together, but frankly, the price of hotels in San Francisco has made that statement a bit disingenuous. Many—if not most—of us can’t afford to make it to this party, so maybe this is no longer the party for “everyone.”

Curtis Herbert also echoed some of these themes in a post:

While it’s a shame to end the WWDC tradition, it makes sense to follow all the other technical communities out there and rely on smaller, more accessible and distributed, community-run conferences throughout the year. It’s a sign that our community growing up and leaving the nest. One city can’t hold us all anymore.

I think it’s possible to go out to WWDC without spending a fortune. You can attend AltConf, find an Airbnb room for $150/night, and stay a few days instead of all week. I downgraded my expectations for WWDC and booked a cheaper hotel room a couple of months ago. It’s about how much you want to be there.

In fact, I’d still argue that it’s less expensive to “attend” WWDC now because it has been proven how much you can get out of AltConf and other events without the $1600 conference ticket. When I went to my first WWDC back when it was held in San Jose (and the same could be said for the early years in San Francisco), hotels and flights were cheaper but it was pointless to attend without a ticket.

I can’t go to every conference. This year I’ve picked 2: WWDC (probably without a ticket) and Release Notes (in September). I wrote about Release Notes last year and highly recommend it again.

But I stand by the opinion that WWDC is worth preserving as the best place for everyone to go — with or without a ticket, with or without a fancy hotel room — because there’s room for thousands of more developers than at a small conference. I hope that Apple’s change of venue for the keynote and Monday sessions means they are trying to expand the conference to even more developers.

I’m so excited about Monday’s new venue that I’m actually thinking about trying to get a ticket in the lottery, to experience what it’s like and what it means for the conference going forward. The main thing holding me back is that it seems wasteful if I’m not staying through Friday, when another developer — maybe someone who hasn’t attended before — could get that ticket instead.

Tickets for Release Notes 2016

I’m registered for the Release Notes conference, coming up later this year in Indianapolis. This will be the only conference I attend this year outside of another ticketless WWDC week. If you didn’t go last year and want to know more about it, check out the web site or listen to episode 151 of their podcast.

One of my favorite blog posts on this site from last year was my review of the conference, because I think it both described the conference itself and also captured that inspired feeling you get when you’re heading off to the airport and your head is buzzing with ideas. And because it’s a blog, where I allow myself to be informal, it also has the meandering narrative of the everyday — a stop for coffee, a conversation with an Uber driver. My memory of the conference wouldn’t be complete without those things.

I’m looking forward to visiting Indianapolis again. I may also look at flying into Chicago and taking the train down, then flying out. Sounds like some people did that last year, and I think it would make a great start considering the venue at Union Station. We’ll see if the schedule works out.

Cute release notes

Ben Brooks takes on the trend of cute stories inside of release notes:

“With disturbingly increasing frequency, companies are deciding to let their marketing departments handle their release notes instead of the engineering team or product manager.”

I agree. These were fun at first, but the release notes don’t need to be entertainment. They should be a summary of what changed, with bullet points for key changes. (A single “bug fixes” line is also not helpful.)

I personally like to start each line with a clear statement: “Fixed <something>” or “Added <this feature>” or “Improved <something else> by <doing this>”. You can see this in the history of my Tweet Library release notes, for example.

Release Notes 2015

The best blog posts we write are as much for ourselves as for our readers. That’s one of the traits that makes personal blogging so special.

I published my essay last week from the hotel at Release Notes, right before heading downstairs as the conference got underway. Almost no one had read it yet, but the essay still helped me because it made me even more aware of when I accidentally monopolized a conversation. I did end up talking a lot about my new project while at Release Notes, but I also caught myself many times, making sure to turn the conversation around and listen.

And there was plenty to hear at Release Notes. I got something out of every talk and from many conversations with developers who I had never met before. Congratulations to Charles and Joe for putting together a great conference.

Highlights for me included Myke Hurley’s opening talk on Wednesday night about quitting his job and the first full-time year of Relay FM; Rob Rhyne’s fantastic whirlwind tour of accounting, which scared me a little because of everything I still don’t know about being independent; Jean MacDonald’s talk about podcast sponsorships and the fundraiser for App Camp for Girls; Pieter Omvlee’s advice on aiming to build a bigger business; and David Smith’s talk, which I’ll get to later. I could pull out lessons from each of these talks as well as the others from Rachel Andrew, Georgia Dow, John Saddington, Chris Liscio, Daniel Pasco, and Jim Dalrymple.

Thursday night was the “dine around”, a clever idea to split attendees into groups of about a dozen people, each meeting for dinner at an assigned restaurant. It’s easy to fall into cliques at conferences. This was a great solution to mixing it up, all but guaranteeing that you’ll meet someone new.

It’s worth saying something about the venue. Converted from the Indianapolis Union Station, which was built in 1853, the conference center and hotel served as a beautiful backdrop to the conference. My hotel room was even made from an old train car. As we left the conference center late Friday afternoon, I took another look up at the vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows, making a mental note to read more about the history of the original train station.

On Saturday I checked out of the hotel, walked up to Bee Coffee Roasters (where I ran into a couple other attendees who were also still processing everything we learned at the conference), and then took an Uber to the airport. My driver was a musician; he had toured the country playing with bands, was working on a soundtrack which he played on CD for me, and had such an optimistic take on the world that it struck me in obvious contrast to the negativity we see online sometimes.

And he said something that stayed with me even longer while I waited at airport security and for my flight to board. He said that everything he had wanted to do in life, he had done. Sure, he’d love to tour with another band, he’d love to find success with his new music. But already he was content. He laughed when he said he could die happy, and he was not old.

David Smith mentioned in his talk at Release Notes that he used to want to do everything. Have a best selling app, win a design award, be admired by his peers, and other goals that many of us share. It was only when he set out with a more singular focus — judging every decision by whether it moved his business forward so he could continue to support his family — that all the other secondary goals started taking care of themselves as well. It was a great talk and something I needed to hear.

As a community we’re ambitious. We want to build something amazing and we want to make a positive impact on the world. But this week was also a reminder to me that it’s okay to be more focused, to tackle niche vertical apps, or make small boring decisions that will help our business. It’s okay, even as we want to do more, to slow down and be proud and content with the path that we’re on.

Tweet Library 2.7 and promising features

Last year I wrote that I would be removing Tweet Library from the App Store at the end of December, and later said on Core Int and in a tweet that there would be one last update before the app is gone. It’s well into January and the old version is still for sale. I’m over a month behind schedule but still plan to release the updated version and stop selling the app.

On the latest Release Notes podcast there was a great discussion about when to give up on an app that isn’t making money, including a mention of my plan with Tweet Library. Joe and Charles talked about why it’s usually such a bad idea to promise features before you ship, and whether there’s an obligation to give customers any updates at all.

I pretty much agree with everything they said, but the upcoming Tweet Library 2.7 “features” are different. My goal with this release is for the app to be functional and stable for as long possible. I think the app needs better syncing of tweet collections to help future-proof it, to make it easier for customers to move between iOS devices when they upgrade their iPhone or iPad a year from now. For an app that is going away, I should do everything I can to make sure that a customer’s data is accessible and that import and export are as robust as possible.

It’s a reasonable question to ask why I would spend so much time working on something that will essentially bring in no additional revenue. But while it won’t directly make any money, it probably helped convince some new customers to buy the app over the last month, and it will very likely reduce the support burden for the app over the following year.

I also view it as a sort of parting “thank you” to my customers. It’s just the right thing to do to wrap up the app. Panic did the same thing when they stopped selling Unison, releasing a major free update at the same time.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of Tweet Library before it’s too late, you can buy it on the App Store for $4.99. The new version should ship in early February.

Podcast appearances and slides

I forgot to mention a few weeks back that I was a guest on the iPhreaks Show podcast. The format is a panel of regulars and usually one guest, making it feel more like a roundtable discussion. They had me on to talk about subscription pricing: charging every month for your app or service.

Some of what we talked about was covered in 2 talks I gave last year about subscriptions, at NSConference and CocoaConf Dallas. I’ve finally pulled together the slides from these talks and put the latest version from CocoaConf here as a PDF (17 MB). It’s different than the NSConference one, but I think works better standalone. You can still purchase the videos from NSConference 2013 to get my talk and many other great ones.

This week I was also on the Release Notes podcast with Joe Cieplinski and Charles Perry. They do a great job each episode focusing on something from the business side of running an indie software company, and they’ve had some excellent guests as well. From the show notes for episode 41:

“We talk about creating products vs. services, changing products from free to paid, and the advantages and challenges of subscription pricing. Manton also shares his experience in creating apps like Sunlit that build on top of other services like Twitter and App.net, his recent foray into freemium pricing, and the launch of the new Core Intuition Jobs Board.”

If you enjoy Core Intuition, I think you’ll really like Release Notes. Let me know if you have any feedback on the show.