Monthly Archives: November 2016

Refocusing around Micro.blog

As I talked about on Timetable, now that I have the micro.blog domain I get to figure out what to do with it. And what I’m hearing from friends and listeners is clear: throw out my jumble of Snippets-related names and use Micro.blog as the brand for the platform. It’s obvious now.

Renaming a product before its official launch may not seem like a big deal, but in this case it gives the app a new importance. Just by renaming it, the app feels more ambitious. It forces me to devote more attention to it, which means saying goodbye to some of my other web apps that I can no longer focus on.

I have a difficult time shutting down failing products. Over the weekend, I took some much-needed steps to finish winding down Watermark and Searchpath. I’ll be sending an email this week to everyone who has used Searchpath with the details.

For Searchpath, I had procrastinated making a decision because even simple steps like closing new account registrations requires actually writing code and deploying changes. The index on my Elasticsearch server had grown to 90 GB, including Watermark as well. I needed a clean way to reset it and migrate the small number of active paid accounts somewhere else, to give customers time to find a new solution.

I’ve tried a few technologies for search over the years. The first version of Watermark used Sphinx, which I loved but became a scaling issue with its default need to completely reindex MySQL data. Eventually I moved to self-hosted Elasticsearch, but I had to keep feeding it RAM as the index grew. It was never stable enough with my limited skills.

As I noted in my post about Talkshow.im, there’s no perfect way to admit defeat and clean up the mess left by a web app. It’s always a balance of responsibilities — to your own business and to your customers.

But again, the way forward is clear. I should put everything into launching and growing my new microblog platform. It’s too much to maintain other web apps at the same time.

Excited about Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud. Next: convince him we should vote again so he has another shot at the popular vote.

→ 2016/11/28 9:03 am

We all really enjoyed Moana. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack this week, so it was nice to finally see how it all fits together.

→ 2016/11/26 5:58 pm

Talkshow.im archives

Shutting down a web site correctly isn’t easy. When Talkshow announced they were closing, I was surprised. Six months is a limited time to launch, get traction, and then wind down. But I was glad that they’d let any show be exported as an archive.

The archives aren’t available for very long. If you hosted a show on Talkshow, you have until December 1st to download it.

I downloaded a couple to see how Talkshow handled it. Just in case no one else grabs them, I’m copying them here: Pop Life episode 5 with Anil Dash and guest John Gruber, and the Six Colors live coverage for Apple’s September 7th event. I had Instapaper-ed both of these to read later anyway.

The archive itself is a simple .zip file with HTML, CSS, and user profile images. In the Finder it looks like this:

Talkshow.im Finder screenshot

This self-contained structure makes it very easy to re-share somewhere else. Credit to Talkshow for keeping this simple. But it also strikes me as so easy to keep hosting as static files, I wonder why Talkshow doesn’t keep the archives available indefinitely, which would preserve any existing links to these shows from the web.

Thanks to our Core Int listeners

Yesterday we published episode 260 of Core Intuition. From the show notes:

Daniel and Manton discuss Sal Soghoian’s sudden departure from Apple, and what it may mean for Apple’s future ambitions with automation. Then they react to Apple’s alleged decision to abandon their line of AirPort branded routers, and bemoan the loss of yet another “just buy the Apple one” peripheral option

I liked the topics for our show this week because it allowed us to not just talk about AppleScript as it exists today, but also to reflect on what life developing scriptable apps was like in the early days of AppleScript. It’s always fun to think back on 1990s Mac development.

Many of our listeners are celebrating Thanksgiving today. To all of our listeners, whether you’ve listened since the beginning in 2008 or just recently discovered the podcast, thank you so much for giving our show a chance and for being part of the community. Daniel and I still feel incredibly lucky that we get to chat every week about Apple news and our work as indie developers.

Fake news and Instagram

Twitter has retweets. Facebook has sharing. But Instagram has no built-in reposting. On Instagram, there’s no instantaneous way to share someone else’s post to all of your followers.

The first version of Instagram was built by a very small team. They’ve always grown slowly and expanded the UI thoughtfully. I think the lack of a repost feature was deliberate.

When you have to put a little work into posting, you take it more seriously. I wonder if fake news would have spread so quickly on Facebook if it was a little more difficult to share an article before you’ve read more than the headline.

It’s not easy to build software that encourages good behavior. When I look at my Instagram timeline I see beautiful photos, hand-drawn art, and snapshots of everyday life. I see the very best of the world. It’s not the full truth, but it’s all true.

Instagram was no accident. The only question: was it unique to photos, or can the same quality be applied to microblogging?

Excited about .blog, but the rollout has been confusing. I definitely got 2 domains. Not quite sure about a 3rd which I dragged my feet on.

→ 2016/11/21 4:23 pm

Fixing AMP

When I first wrote about Accelerated Mobile Pages, there wasn’t a true implementation. Now we see how Google is rolling this out, and it has problems. John Gruber uses Ars Technica as an example:

On desktop browsers, these URLs do get redirected to Ars’s website. But on mobile they don’t. Share from one mobile device to another and nobody ever leaves google.com. Why would any website turn their entire mobile audience — a majority share of their total audience, for many sites today — over to Google?

Maybe this is inherent in how AMP works, and we should have predicted it. If Google’s AMP implementation must run in browsers, will there always be a layer of JavaScript and custom URLs that hide the original web site?

I’d prefer if Google added AMP support directly to Chrome. While it would be a much more limited rollout, it would feel more natural, with fewer drawbacks for publishers.

Competing news platform Apple News isn’t problem-free either. The apple.news:// shared links also add a redirect, with inconsistent behavior since not all platforms and countries even support Apple News. Apple News is an RSS reader that’s designed like a closed platform.

I want the web to be faster. Breaking links should not be part of the solution.

This weekend an Apple Store genius suggested that an iOS restore would fix our spontaneous iPhone 6S shutdown. I told him I doubted that would work and I immediately felt like a jerk afterwards. Of course the next day, Apple says there’s a real issue.

→ 2016/11/21 11:28 am

Indie publishing is about control

Andy Baio redesigned his blog recently and argued that blogs still matter because of ownership and control. Of course, I agree. And though it may seem far off, there’s no guarantee that Twitter will outlast our own blogs. Andy writes:

Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.

Ben Brooks followed up:

Having my own site gives me complete control to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want. I don’t understand why people ever want it any other way.

Words are powerful. Especially right now, why let anyone else have control over the format of our words and how they spread? Having a blog is a statement: our writing exists apart from the whim of an algorithmic news feed.

New episode of my Timetable podcast is up, about why today’s blog post is both rant and mission statement, work, and the Moana soundtrack.

→ 2016/11/18 4:21 pm

Today’s social networks are broken

Brent Simmons has left Twitter, frustrated with the diminishing value of the service, Twitter’s inability to deal with harassment, and more:

And then it was part of the system that helped elect a fascist President. This tipped it over for me: it’s no longer worth my participation. The shitheads can have it.

Facebook has also been in the news for its role in letting fake news spread. Ben Thompson has a long essay this week on it:

I get why top-down solutions are tempting: fake news and filter bubbles are in front of our face, and wouldn’t it be better if Facebook fixed them? The problem is the assumption that whoever wields that top-down power will just so happen to have the same views I do. What, though, if they don’t?

Maybe. Though while we should debate how to balance Facebook’s enormous power, there should be a parallel effort to move away from the centralized publishing model that gave Facebook that power.

Facebook has confused itself into thinking it is the whole internet, and so the principles of a free press that apply to the open web, also must apply to Facebook. No. While Facebook has a great responsibility to do the right thing, because they are so big, Facebook is just a web site.

I want Facebook to improve. I want Twitter to improve. But I can do very little to effect change at those companies, and some problems are so fundamental as to be essentially unfixable. The web wasn’t supposed to be like this, with all the power and all the writing concentrated into so few sites.

It’s time for a new social network that brings discoverability and community without the baggage of an ad-driven network that must grow to a billion users. A social network that embraces the open web, and freedom of expression, while preserving a clean timeline that can’t be interrupted by harassment.

Not just one new social network. I hope that many developers will work on products that encourage independent publishing again.

It’s going to take time to build. That’s why I started working on Snippets.today 2 years ago. I’ve made great progress, but I’ve also drifted, unfocused, uncommitted to finishing it, as if I knew something was missing.

Something was missing. The election results have made that clear. I was thinking big, but not big enough. The way forward must include both a decentralized publishing platform and the tools to encourage a safe community.

If you’d like to know when the beta is finally ready, please subscribe to the announce list. Thank you.

Leaving Twitter years ago was great because it gave me a new perspective. But it cost me, too. I need to shout a bit louder now to be heard.

→ 2016/11/18 9:24 am

Good turnout last night at NSDrinking, and a spirited debate about the election and Apple. Helped clarify a few thoughts in my mind.

→ 2016/11/18 9:10 am

NSDrinking is on for tonight, 8pm at the Ginger Man. Looking forward to it. I’ve been making a conscious effort to get out of the house more this week and haven’t completely succeeded. Having a beer with fellow developers is a great incentive.

→ 2016/11/17 2:41 pm

Core Intuition 259 transcript

Daniel and I covered a few topics on Core Intuition 259 yesterday, but the closing segment about the Apple design book — and indirectly, the election — was particularly interesting to me. I decided to transcribe part of the conversation. Here it is, lightly edited.

Daniel:

Alright Manton, I know what a fan you are of lavish Apple products designed for the rich. [laughter] I know therefore you have probably already placed a pre-order for the Apple Book Edition.

Manton:

Is the Edition the $300 one?

Daniel:

Yeah, the $300 one is the Edition. The $200 one is the Edition Lite. [more laughter]

Manton:

So Apple announced this book yesterday, and I believe orders are being accepted today. It’s just this very beautiful, well-produced “we worked 8 years on this” book of essentially product photos.

And I think there’s an introduction with Jony Ive. There’s a video from him that is a classic Jony Ive video about a product.

I’ve blogged about this a little bit, and actually talked about this on my microcast, Timetable. Red flags are going off for me with this product for a few reasons.

The first is, we’re a week out from the election. A lot of us are bummed out and trying to make sense of the world, and Apple releases a book of product photos. It seems out of touch. I don’t understand why they did this right now.

And the other thing, I just hit on something that bothered me about this book. I have a lot of books in this house. Bookshelves and bookshelves full of books. My wife hates the fact that I have every book that I’ve ever bought. I have a lot of books and I have a lot of art books. In a previous life I wanted to an artist, an animator. I have a lot of art books.

And so this is right up my alley, right? I love old stuff. I love art books. Why don’t I want to buy this?

And I think the reason is, unlike most art books, which are about… They’re about the artist as much as the art. And this book is just photos of iMacs.

This isn’t about the designers. And maybe there’s something in the book that I’m missing. That when I hold it I’ll say, “Oh, this book is amazing.” But I feel like this book is not quite right. It’s not about the designers.

I want to know about the designers at Apple, and why they made their choices. I don’t need this well-lit photo of the inside of a Mac Mini. There’s something missing with what they’ve done here.

Daniel:

You know, I agree with you. What you said just now is interesting to me in a few different ways. One of them is — and I know people are going to think I’m crazy for even imagining that this could possibly happen in the wake of a U.S. presidential election — but one of my instincts the day after the election, believe it or not, was actually going to Apple.com to see if Apple had some kind of commemoration or acknowledgement.

And I realized… That’s my passionate, emotional side. Because Apple has been that company on so many issues of national or global importance.

And I get it. Even if I see it as a catastrophic thing for the country and for the world, I get it that it is seen as a partisan issue, and that a lot of people would agree it would be not only poor business, but maybe poor taste to take a stand on Apple.com.

But that’s the kind of feeling I’ve had from this company over the years. I wasn’t surprised not to see something there, but that sensitivity to the current state of affairs in the world, while maybe not driving them to put something on their home page overtly in support of one direction or another… I can see how they could maybe have made an effort to come up with something that somehow spoke to the issue without taking a side. They could have done that.

And I’m not faulting them for not doing that. But your comment about the possible poor timing of releasing this right after the election, it drives it home for me that doing something like that with the home page would have reflected a level of consciousness about what’s going on — their being sympathetic or even empathic to the situation.

Releasing a self-gratifying, expensive art book certainly does not speak to sensitivity about the national and global implications of the election. Nor should it have to. But by doing it the very week of the election, it does sort of tip the sales toward insensitivity.

Manton:

Right. So we had the election. A lot of people are trying to make sense of it. Like you said, you went to Apple. “Is Apple going to say anything?” Reload, reload. No, they’re not going to say anything. “Is Apple going to say anything next week?”

The first thing they said, not about the election but the first thing they publicly said was, “We have this beautiful book.”

Yes, they didn’t mean it that way. They didn’t mean it as a reaction to the election. They’ve had this thing planned for years. But it doesn’t feel right.

I don’t want to take away anything from the designers at Apple and the people that worked on this book, because they do great work. The products in this book are amazing. They do deserve to be celebrated and talked about. But the timing does not feel right.

And like I said before, I think the substance of this book is also wrong. I want to be careful not to criticize too much, because I’m sensitive to this. I don’t want to just bash this book. It doesn’t feel like the book we need about design at Apple. Because there’s no text in it!

It celebrates objects and machines but it doesn’t celebrate people. The people are one of the most important things about design at Apple. It doesn’t seem right.

I had never thought after the election, “What would Apple say? Would they put something on their web site?” I hadn’t thought of that until you just mentioned it.

Tim Cook did send a letter to Apple employees, an email. It wasn’t really partisan, but it was kind of saying, “We know some of y’all are having trouble.”

I don’t know how he phrased it. But the sense of it was, “We’re moving forward together. We’re going to be together. That’s how we get through everything as a company.”

That was private to Apple employees. They didn’t say anything publicly. To say something publicly would have been difficult. This is kind of a cheat, but I’m just going to say it: it would have taken courage to say something about the election publicly. I’m using that word very deliberately.

Come on, Apple. Forget about the stupid headphone jack. If you want to be courageous, take a stand on something you believe in. Do it.