Tag Archives: c4

Twitter at 10 years

It was 2008 in Chicago, the C4 conference was wrapping up and I shared a cab to the airport with Alex Payne, who built the first Twitter API. I was so excited about the potential for the platform that I probably had a dozen ideas for Twitter apps. Alex and I sat at a cafe at the airport, waiting for our respective flights, and talked about the future.

Years passed. I did build and ship a few Twitter apps, including the popular Tweet Marker sync API. But I also grew disillusioned. I took a break from using Twitter.

Alex had left the company and Twitter was much different from a business and leadership perspective by the time the rest of the world started paying attention. Thousands of employees worked at Twitter. How many of them had experienced the early days of following friends’ tweets via SMS, when the service seemed genuinely new and important? The future had arrived but it was full of hashtags.

This year — with rumors of Twitter being acquired, with fake news and the election, with online harassment — many people have written about the future of Twitter. I’ve been paying attention again, experimenting with cross-posting. I missed the 10th anniversary of when I joined Twitter in July 2006, but not the date of my first tweet a few months later.

10 years is a good milestone to reflect on. I want to highlight a few posts I’ve read recently, and then wrap things up at the end.

What I like about this article by Faruk Ateş is that he gives a sense of the major changes Twitter has gone through, most of which were difficult to fully understand at the time. On the change with @-replies:

The second thing is that when they started hiding @-replies to people you don’t follow, they stripped the user experience of a vital ingredient for civility: peer transparency. The tone of discourse changed much for the worse over time, following that new behavior of the timeline. Before the rollout, all your friends would see if you behaved like a jerk to someone; after the rollout that was no longer the case. It removed the natural consequences of bad behavior, thereby encouraging people to reap the benefits of such bad behavior much more frequently.

This is a theme across many posts, that we didn’t realize what all these changes were adding up to. I have some related thoughts about Instagram and another post on why today’s social networks are broken.

Next, Sarah Frier writes for Bloomberg about how Twitter leadership is losing faith in Jack Dorsey. That despite new features such as live video, Twitter failed to ship other development efforts and fell behind competitors:

Advertisers see potential in the company’s live video strategy, but they’re also being wooed by photo- and video-sharing app Snapchat, and Facebook’s Instagram, which has recently become more advertiser-friendly. At the time of Twitter’s 2013 initial public offering, those services weren’t close competitors. Now they both have larger daily audiences than Twitter.

As long as Jack Dorsey has 2 jobs, it will be easy to blame him for being unfocused. I don’t know if that’s fair. But when streaming live football gets so much attention, there do appear to be competing visions at Twitter.

Twitter is too expensive to acquire. It’s also too flawed for a company like Disney to take a risk on. So instead there was another round of layoffs. From Kurt Wagner at Recode:

Last year, Twitter also cut 300 jobs shortly after Jack Dorsey took on the CEO role full-time. (Or part-time, given that he’s also running Square.) The current feeling among those close to the company is that Twitter is simply too bloated, and pays too much in stock-based compensation for a company that’s still not profitable.

There are no guarantees for an unprofitable company. The only certain thing is that something will change.

Back to Alex Payne. He wrote a post 6 years ago about his time at Twitter, and his unsuccessful attempt to convince coworkers to decentralize Twitter. It holds up very well:

Decentralization isn’t just a better architecture, it’s an architecture that resists censorship and the corrupting influences of capital and marketing. At the very least, decentralization would make tweeting as fundamental and irrevocable a part of the Internet as email.

It used to be impossible to imagine that Twitter could fail. And today, it’s still unlikely to vanish or even change much overnight. But the web will be better if we assume that Twitter is a lost cause. From the 10-year view, it’s clear that Twitter has already changed.

Acquisition rumors come and go, although they seem more real this time, and we’re reminded that few web sites last forever. It’s time to prepare for a web without Twitter.

Apple and the impression of being small

Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch at the C4 conference in 2007 defined indie as simply “non-large”. This covers not just the small, one- and two-person companies, but also the bigger software development shops like Realmac, Smile, Panic, and Omni that have 10-40 employees but still feel independent. They’re all part of the community. Panic may have a bunch of employees now but it appears from the outside like it’s not that much more complex of a company than if Cabel Sasser, Steven Frank, and their friends were building great apps out of someone’s apartment.

Small is personable, nimble, and bright. Small makes customers feel like a company is not that different than the rest of us.

One of the magic tricks that Apple has pulled off is somehow maintaining a similar feel even as they have grown to be the world’s largest tech company. They’re bigger in revenue than Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and a dozen other software companies that have a much more obvious over-sized, bureaucratic feel. But you walk into an Apple Store to chat with an employee at the Genius Bar, or browse apple.com looking for a product, and it’s almost as if nothing has changed in the last decade. The complexity of the supply chain, of too many products, of layers of management — it’s all hidden.

Why aren’t Apple employees allowed to blog? Part of it is secrecy, sure. But too many voices also creates noise, and noise makes simple things messy, confusing. Apple still gives the impression of being smaller than they really are because our view of them is heavily filtered. What we see is the beautiful tip of a massive iceberg.

And maybe that’s why pundits keep waiting for Apple to fail. Because the company doesn’t look that different, the doubters just can’t comprehend how big and unstoppable Apple has become under the surface.


There will be many C4 wrap-up blog posts, but “Fraser Speirs hit the spirit of the conference”:http://speirs.org/2008/09/08/c42-brain-dump/ very well:

“I thought C4 was incredibly reflective. If you imagine it as a smaller WWDC, it’s really nothing like that. The amount of code shown on-screen is really quite small, and the conversation is really about the art, craft, business, science and lifestyle of Mac development.”

I had a great time at C4. As always I met a bunch of new folks and caught up with everyone I hadn’t seen since WWDC or the previous C4. It was especially wonderful to hear the positive feedback about “Core Intuition”:http://www.coreint.org/ in person. Thanks!

I also participated from the stage, as Wolf called me up to be on Saturday night’s panel literally minutes before it started. I have a feeling I came off as a bit of an oddball — I managed to shrug off software pirates, decry moving away from Subversion, suggest a “crap” label for the App Store, and actually recommend Dreamhost — but I hope there was value in it for attendees, even if it was less exciting than last year’s panel. Wil Shipley did a great job guiding questions for the panel.

For a view into what the conference was like, “check out the C4 Flickr pool”:http://www.flickr.com/groups/c4-2/pool/.

Promoting Core Intuition 7

The latest episode of “Core Intuition”:http://www.coreint.org/ is up. Daniel and I focus on promotion and marketing in this show — releasing a new version, sending email newsletters to customers, and promoting your brand on a blog. We also hear from Daniel about development life with the new baby and talk up C4, which starts tomorrow in Chicago.

The web site now includes links for products and topics mentioned in the podcast. We’ll be transitioning the site to a full blog with listener comments soon. In the meantime, send an email to “feedback@coreint.org”:mailto:feedback@coreint.org with thoughts about the latest episode or suggestions for future topics. Thanks for listening!

BBEdit 9

“BBEdit 9 is out”:http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/, and it’s a solid upgrade. A recently came across an old BBEdit 4 CD, which Rich Siegel gave me back in the mid 90s when I was helping run the WebEdge Mac web developer conference. Good times! Bare Bones is one of the only “old indies” to make the transition so strongly to Mac OS X. Rich is also “speaking at C4”:http://rentzsch.com/c4/twoOpen/ this coming weekend.

Don’t give up, shipping takes time

I love the passion in “this comment from Wil Shipley”:http://theocacao.com/comment/5466:

“This app is all I’m working on. My entire reputation, my 25 years in the industry, my company is all riding on this release. I’m not going to just suddenly give up one day for no reason.”

I’m one of those people who will upgrade to “Delicious Library”:http://www.delicious-monster.com/ 2 on the first day and I know I won’t be disappointed. Although my indie app has a tiny fraction of the users Delicious has, I’m currently going through the same kind of delays.

After months of quick, focused “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ releases, I decided in November to skip a minor bug fix release and roll up all the outstanding issues into a bigger release with several important user interface improvements. You reach a point in this process where there is no turning back, and for every refinement to the product you see just how much more you could do. I think it’s that kind of constant, iterative polishing that Wil is going through now.

If you are curious about the business of software development, don’t miss his “talk from C4”:http://www.viddler.com/explore/rentzsch/videos/4/ last year. In many ways I’m glad it took so long for the videos to go up; I’ve already forgotten half of the content so it will be fun to review the sessions.

MarsEdit guilt trip

In which I am the last person to point to the “MarsEdit 2.0 release”:http://www.red-sweater.com/marsedit/. I figure if James Duncan Davidson is “just now purchasing MarsEdit”:http://duncandavidson.com/archives/643, I don’t feel bad waiting so long to say good things about 2.0. (Rumor has it Duncan used to post to his blog with a set of Ant XML build files that he would run with custom Lua scripts as part of his Lightroom workflow.)

Seriously, though, it’s easy to believe that Daniel is right when he “talks about the potential for Mac desktop clients”:http://www.austinheller.com/2007/11/interview-daniel-jalkut.html. MarsEdit had a great start back in the early NetNewsWire days, and 2.0 shows that it has a strong future as well.

At lunch with “Brent Simmons”:http://inessential.com/ and the “Rogue Sheep”:http://www.roguesheep.com/ guys after C4, just before I left Chicago, we joked that what MarsEdit really needs is a Dock badge with the number of days since you’ve last posted to your blog. A big red guilt trip icon staring you in the face: “25 days since you last blogged, slacker!”

Rails and Mac dev communities

“Damon Clinkscales has a write-up”:http://damonclinkscales.com/past/lone-star-charity-workshop-wrap-up/ of the Charity Workshop that took place before the Lone Star Ruby Conference in Austin a couple weekends ago. I skipped the conference and attended these tutorials instead, enjoying some great talks by Marcel Molina, Bruce Williams, and 6 other speakers all packed into 4 hours. I definitely picked up a few good tips on Ruby blocks and ActiveRecord, but I was not-so-secretly relieved that I didn’t attend the full conference.

“Since brunch on Sunday”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalnomad/1352583178/ after the conference, where I got to hear another wrap-up from co-workers, I’ve been thinking about why. Why did I sell my RailsConf ticket and book a flight to Chicago for C4 instead? Why skip a cheap Ruby conference practically in my own backyard? Why have I whittled my Ruby-themed blog subscriptions down to just a few from dozens?

Now I know: it’s about the difference in the communities. The Mac developer community is all about building unique apps, crafting an excellent user experience, and the “indie culture”:http://www.al3x.net/2007/08/c41-friday.html of building something small and useful. The Rails community by contrast seems focused on how few lines of code a controller method is. I’m lucky to work with people who care about that stuff, because it often does yield better applications, but I just don’t wake up in the morning excited about rewriting code, so why would I leave my family for a few days to hear someone talk about it?

There are many kinds of programmers. People who have hacked their whole life, dropping out of school to sell software; traditional developers with a CS degree and big company background; and even fine arts majors who fell into programming by accident as a way to build web sites. Based on that background, or what direction their passion takes them, I believe there is a balance between joy for the act of writing code vs. the pride in seeing the final product, and each programmer leans to one way or the other.

For Rails developers, at least many of the leaders in the industry who came from or were inspired by the extreme programming methodology and test-driven development, it’s the former: the art is found in the lines of code — how efficient can the logic be, how DRY, how RESTful.

For Mac developers, not just the “Delicious Generation”:http://www.rogueamoeba.com/utm/posts/Article/DeliciousGeneration-2006-11-06-10-00 but old school Mac developers as well, it’s the latter: the art is how the final product looks and behaves — being inspired to build something simply because you used another application that was great.

Cutting it this way allows me to see two things very clearly that were confusing before. It puts specifics to why I’ve drifted further away from the Rails cutting edge, and it explains why I get so annoyed with some of the newer crop of Mac developers who proclaim “bindings”:http://cocoadevcentral.com/articles/000080.php and garbage collection as beautiful gifts for programmer productivity even though they have no added value for the user experience.

Rails is a great framework, and I will continue to enjoy switching gears to write web apps in between my Mac projects. But I’m not going to tune back into that community until there is an equal focus on the bigger picture as it impacts the user (more scaling, more UI best practices), or whatever the next big thing to hit web apps ends up being.

Not a C4 wrap-up post (iPhone!)

Soundtrack for this blog post: “The Touch”:http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?playlistId=254632798&s=143441&i=254632948 from the 1980s Transformers feature.

Yesterday Apple announced new iPods, plus cool stuff like the Starbucks integration and iTunes Wi-fi Store. I was out at lunch and errands, so I followed the announcements on my iPhone with Safari and Twitter. If the new store had been available, I probably would have bought some music too.

“Dave Winer had mixed feelings about the new stuff”:http://www.scripting.com/stories/2007/09/05/will2007BeLike1984.html, but likes how the iPod is evolving to be its own full-featured client:

“They are interesting if only because they illustrate so clearly that it’s possible to get content onto the iPod directly, without synching, without tethering to a laptop or desktop computer. I think the users will love this, and it will quickly become the primary way music gets on the device.”

The $200 price drop on the iPhone was a surprise. My first thought: Apple is totally playing to win. With such an aggressive price drop, they plan to own the high-end market, and maybe some of the middle too. It never crossed my mind that I was ripped off paying $599 until I started reading “comments in this TUAW post”:http://www.tuaw.com/2007/09/05/apple-lowers-price-of-8-gig-iphone-to-399/. These are the same kind of people who say “I like your software but I wish it was free” to indie Mac developers.

The iPhone was expensive at $599 but worth it, and the new price doesn’t change that fact. It’s allowed me to work even more remotely, stay connected to friends, get unlost using maps in a new city, and greatly improve how I use a mobile phone.

(I wrote most of the rest of this blog post a couple weeks ago. It was originally titled “1000 emails in your pocket”, but that was before I saw Craig Hockenberry’s excellent “Benchmarking in your pants”:http://furbo.org/2007/08/15/benchmarking-in-your-pants/ blog post, which while not as directly accurate to Apple’s original iPod marketing, was much more funny.)

I’m not going to post specifically about the sessions at C4 yet, because anything I say would be redundant against posts from “Alex Payne”:http://www.al3x.net/2007/08/c41-friday.html, “John Gruber”:http://daringfireball.net/2007/08/c4_1_in_a_nut, and “Mike Zornek”:http://blog.clickablebliss.com/2007/08/13/c41-retrospective/, among others. Instead I want to follow up “my original iPhone report”:http://www.manton.org/2007/07/iphone_its_from.html with how the phone performed during travel.

There were a lot of iPhones at last month’s C4 conference. I had such good luck using the iPhone at the airport and on the train and walking around Chicago, I took my MacBook’s dead battery as a sign to stick to the iPhone all weekend, using it exclusively for email, Twitter, blog reading, and general web surfing. I responded to a handful of emails, used SMS for sending tweets, and hit the iPhone version of Newsgator Online (synced from my NetNewsWire subscriptions) for news and blogs.

Sure, I was jealous of everyone running Twitterific while I had to refresh m.twitter.com manually, but overall the experience was great. As “Matt Haughey has blogged about”:http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2007/07/01/24-hours-with-the-iphone-my-dream-mini-computer/: the iPhone is a computer, and 3 full days of use proved to me that it’s extremely competent.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago and I went on a weekend road-trip to Dallas with only the iPhone, confident I could respond to email if needed. Same thing over the long Labor Day holiday: drove 7 hours both ways for 2 nights in Louisiana, easily able to follow up on bugs from a recent software release without my MacBook.

Of course there are a few rough edges: I don’t do significant server-side spam filtering, so deleting spam on the iPhone is getting tedious; paying a premium for SMS is annoying and counter to the unlimited web bandwidth; and my typing is only now to the point of pretty good. But otherwise any limitations with the built-in software are quickly becoming solved with new 3rd-party offerings, which have blossomed faster than most of us expected in no small part thanks to “Nullriver’s excellent installer”:http://iphone.nullriver.com/beta/.

Now the the only question is: what do I do with my “free $100”:http://www.apple.com/hotnews/openiphoneletter/?

I didn’t go to C4

C4 was last weekend and looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was about travelled-out this year with RailsConf and WWDC. Perhaps next time.

Daniel Jalkut was the first I saw with nice write-up. He provides “a speed-through of sessions”:http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/213/c4-abridged and closes with what is probably the biggest draw for attendees:

“As inspiring and as much fun as the scheduled speakers were, the unstructured social time both between sessions and in the evenings were just as much fun, and probably just as educational.”

I subscribe to a couple dozen Mac developer blogs, and keeping an eye on Flickr and Technorati tags for C4 is another great way to see what developers are up to. Mr. Rentzsch himself has a “set of links here”:http://rentzsch.com/c4/zeroLinkage, and Mike Zornek just posted some “short videos of the room”:http://clickablebliss.com/blog/2006/10/25/c4_photos_and_movies/ that give another view of the show.

When I go back through my older Mac programming posts, I’m reminded that I don’t really blog about Mac development as much as I used to. Perhaps that is because there are so many other good Mac guys blogging now.