Still can’t believe that crazy Clippers/Warriors game last night. But somewhere in there is the key to beating Golden State if teams are paying attention. It’s going to be an incredible year for basketball.

→ 2015/11/20 8:43 am

A diverse community through writing

I read a lot of weblogs. RSS is a great way to keep up with sites that update infrequently, or that aren’t popular enough to bubble up on Twitter with dozens of retweets. But the Mac and iOS community has grown so much over the years. I know there are many new writers who haven’t been on my radar yet.

Brent Simmons has posted a great list of tech blogs by women that I’m going through now. There should be something there for anyone interested in development or design:

“I made a list of some blogs I already knew about, and then I asked my friends for more, and they totally came through.”

The list grew to include over 50 blogs as suggestions arrived to Brent via Twitter. I’ve already subscribed to a bunch and look forward to discovering even more.

One of my favorite new blogs is the travel blog complement to Natasha The Robot, which made Brent’s list. Natasha was recently hired at Basecamp, runs the This Week in Swift newsletter, and writes on her new blog about working remotely. From a post about taking her laptop to restaurants in Europe:

“The nice thing about this is that I get a really cool and inspiring office for a few hours – each cafe or restaurant has it’s own vibe, people, music and I don’t feel rushed internally knowing that I need to go back to my apartment or coworking space to actually work.”

When I quit my day job this year, it was partly so we could travel more without worrying too much about my work schedule, outside of when the kids are in school. In fact, just days after I finished writing my two weeks notice blog posts, we went to Europe and started a private family blog about the trip. So I’ve been inspired by Natasha’s blog as she shares her experience working in different cities.

And that’s a theme you’ll find in many of the developer-oriented blogs on Brent’s list. Wanting to get better, learning something new, and then sharing it with everyone else. Take this advice from Becky Hansmeyer, who wrote a daily series of posts about what she learned building her iPhone app, one post each day while she waited for her app to be approved by Apple. From day 4, on design and color:

“I think the biggest thing I learned in choosing colors and fonts for my app is not to get too hung up in making comparisons to other apps. I spent a lot of time looking at my favorite apps like Overcast and Tweetbot and thinking about the decisions the developers made, and as a result I wound up feeling like I had to make those same decisions. But that was stupid because my app is my own and is also designed for a much smaller market.”

Or this quote from Kristina Thai, who wrote a post about preparing to give a talk for the first time:

“My presentation didn’t flow, it was jagged and very rough around the edges, but I kept at it, made some changes and it got better. And better. And even better. And then I practiced it in front of a couple of friends who gave me even more feedback until I was ready.”

Kristina also gave a talk called Become a Better Engineer Through Writing. You can get a sense of the talk by downloading the slides. It covers the value to programmers in keeping a private journal, why you might write tutorials for your site, and makes a strong case for blogging.

Blogging isn’t difficult, but it’s still not yet as easy as tweeting. By creating a blog, you’re making a statement that you care about something. As I go through Brent’s list of bloggers, that’s what I’m looking for: what does the author care about, and what can I learn from or be inspired by in their writing? Because the more diverse our RSS subscriptions are — the more varied the opinions in what we read and share with others — the closer it gets us to a strong, healthy community.

Six Colors and the iPad Pro

Jason Snell has posted his initial thoughts on using the iPad Pro:

“What the past few days have taught me is that if I needed to switch from Mac to iPad, if I had a compelling reason, I could absolutely do it. I can edit podcasts, write articles, edit spreadsheets, generate charts and graphs, edit photos, build web sites, transfer files via FTP, and more.”

I don’t think Jason got an Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard, although maybe he’ll have one of each in time for his full review. If you’ve enjoyed reading Six Colors as much as I have over the last year, consider subscribing too.

I haven’t seen Adele’s When We Were Young show up on Apple Music yet, so I used Audio Hijack to make an MP3 that I can put on repeat. Great song that has set the mood for my work today.

→ 2015/11/17 10:26 pm

Blips microblog

Jussi Pekonen has relaunched his weblog, with a new focus on microblogging:

“I want to own all content I produce. That way I can ensure that everything I write does not go the way of the dodo when the latest and coolest microblogging platform goes belly up.”

He calls the short posts “blips”. I call mine snippets, which I borrowed from Noah Read. I like both names, but even more importantly, I like Jussi’s approach to owning his own content and providing a simple RSS feed of microblog posts. (I wrote more about RSS and microblogs a couple weeks ago.)

Wrote for a while today on the iPad Pro (using the software keyboard, typing with 4 fingers like I’m a Simpsons character). Even with the big screen, it’s really a nice lightweight coffee shop writing experience.

→ 2015/11/15 2:35 pm

Stopped by the Apple Store this morning to try out the Pencil. It’s incredibly good. Sounds like most stores only received 3 yesterday, might get a few more today.

→ 2015/11/14 10:54 am

Core Intuition 206

Yesterday we published episode 206 of Core Intuition. From the show notes:

“Daniel returns from Amsterdam to find Mac App Store issues abound. Manton buys an iPad Pro but has to wait for the Pencil. The two discuss the Mac App Store’s 6-year failure to evolve substantially, and dig into the emotional highs and lows of enjoying and surviving Apple’s platform constraints.”

I really love how this episode turned out. It hits on several themes that have run through our show since the very first episode: a little tech news, some high-level coding talk, a bit of business analysis, and wrapped up with just how we feel right now about being indie developers. I hope you enjoy it.

Developing for the iPad Pro

Let’s start with a quote from the MacStories review by Federico Viticci:

“For developers, it’s time to be bold with their iOS apps and understand that they can be more than single-purpose utilities. There are millions of people who aren’t buying PCs anymore because mobile devices are their only computers.”

I’ve been using the iPad Pro a lot in just the last two days. Apps that have taken advantage of the larger screen — and that support iPad multitasking well — are just much more useful. It’s great to have Slack or Tweetbot in the sidebar and a writing app in the main part of the screen. (Until Editorial is updated, like Seth Clifford I’ve switched to Byword.)

As a developer, going from an iPad Mini to an iPad Pro has opened my eyes to what Federico says above. You simply can’t have a great iPad app today if it doesn’t attempt to fit well on the iPad Pro. So although I said I would discontinue my app Tweet Library, I’ve actually been spending some time this week to update it to support iPad multitasking.

The key to iPad Pro support is actually less about auto layout (although that’s helpful too), and more about split views and size classes. For a modern app, this is an easy transition. But Tweet Library was written for iOS 4. Back then, UISplitViewController was extremely underpowered. I had used MGSplitViewController instead, which I’ve modified over the years to adapt to multiple screen sizes from the iPhone to the iPad. So the first step to real iPad multitasking was to rip out most of the split view code and start over with a clean foundation based on iOS 8/9 and UISplitViewController. Not exactly trivial work that I could knock out in a day, although I tried.

I remain very optimistic about the iPad Pro, especially when the Apple Pencil is actually available. From a business standpoint, it also seems like a better investment in time than either the Apple Watch or Apple TV. There are so many platforms and distractions now. If I can’t focus on a single platform, I want to at least be proactive in saving some attention for the iPad.

4-inch iPhone rumors

In the spirit of replying to podcast topics with blog posts, I have some comments after listening to a recent Clockwise. It was another great episode, featuring hosts Jason Snell and Dan Moren, and guests Christina Warren and Susie Ochs.

The panel was split on the likelihood of a new 4-inch iPhone from Apple. Apple is a company of patterns, so it seems counterintuitive that they’d release a new phone in the Winter or Spring instead of the Fall. But doing so has a couple of nice advantages: first, you can bump up an otherwise slow sales quarter with a new product; and second, you don’t hurt sales of the primary iPhones (the 6S and 6S Plus) by confusing buyers with another choice. Customers perfectly happy with their iPhone 6 from last year, and who were planning on buying a 6S as a natural upgrade, now would be faced with an unexpected choice in screen size if the 4-inch phone had been announced alongside the 6S.

Everyone also seems to forget about the newest 4-inch iPod Touch. It went on sale in July, features an A8 processor, better camera than the iPhone 5S, and sells for only $199. It’s easy to imagine Apple basing a new 4-inch iPhone on this design, reusing both the screen and many of the internal components from the iPod Touch.

Apple has sold a lot of iPhone 6 and 6S phones. But there are also a lot of 4-inch devices out in the world: of course the iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S, but also every iPod Touch sold in the last few years. There are many people who would love to replace their old phone with a new one that’s better and faster, but not bigger.

New morning routine: make coffee, then check the Apple Pencil page for in-store availability. I bet they get a small shipment in a couple weeks.

→ 2015/11/12 9:44 am

The incomplete iPad Pro

I ordered my iPad Pro online and picked it up in the store today. My excitement for this device is all about the Pencil, which doesn’t ship for a few more weeks. The store didn’t receive any and employees have no idea when they will get it. They didn’t receive any Apple keyboards either, so I left with the only remaining accessory in stock: the white smart cover.

I don’t think I’ve ever been less excited to walk out of a store with a brand new $800 gadget. The iPad Pro has so much potential. I think it’s going to be a success and I’m building apps for it. But without the Pencil and keyboard, a significant part of the appeal is missing. And worse, developers who need a Pencil to start testing their apps — especially those apps like the one I’m working on that already supports third-party stylus pressure — are put at a month-long disadvantage compared to Adobe and the other early partners.

I enjoyed reading the iPad Pro reviews this morning, especially from Daring Fireball and MacStories. But those reviews describe a product that just doesn’t exist today. The iPad Pro as advertised on Apple’s web site and in beautiful marketing videos isn’t ready, and I wish Apple had delayed the whole launch until they could deliver these important accessories for a complete user experience.

Stars vs. hearts and Twitter’s decline

In an essay about Twitter written in 2014, Ben Thompson described why he believed in the service:

“I think this actually gets to the problem with Twitter: the initial concept was so good, and so perfectly fit such a large market, that they never needed to go through the process of achieving product market fit. It just happened, and they’ve been riding that match for going on eight years.”

I’ve always thought the same thing. That Twitter started out so good, with such strong core features, that those basic features have carried it through all the years of missteps and inaction. But it’s not just that the features are “good” (although they are); it’s that they are unique.

Listening to the Connected podcast the other day, Federico Viticci and Myke Hurley made the statement that only nerds care about Twitter changing stars to hearts, favorites to likes. I was nodding in agreement until I talked to my daughter. She also didn’t understand why they would change away from stars, and she’s been on Twitter less than a year.

It’s not just nerds. Many new Twitter users recognize the subtle difference implied with hearts. But I realized that there’s something even more important about what this change says. Why is my daughter even on Twitter, in addition to Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Vine? Because — even if most people can’t pin down exactly what makes it special — everyone knows Twitter is different and interesting.

All Twitter has going for it is its uniqueness. The timeline user experience, the retweets and favorites, the hashtag, and the short 140 character posts. Changing any of those key strengths to be just like every other social network means they’re watering down their own potential impact. Eventually that approach will produce a bland product that has no unique qualities.

We’ve already seen the timeline experience significantly altered. Promoted tweets, “while you were away”, inline conversation threads, and Twitter cards. Twitter in 2015 looks a lot more like Facebook than it did a few years ago, to everyone not using third-party Twitter apps.

Growing the user base is fine. But making Twitter more accessible to new users won’t do any good if you lose the much larger base of passionate users who have loved the product for years because it’s unique. You’re not going to beat Facebook by becoming even more like Facebook. If that’s Twitter’s strategy, then the service is already in decline.

Going to drive downtown for lunch and a meeting today, so ready to queue up the first episode of Under the Radar, a new developer podcast from Marco Arment and David Smith. Looks great.

→ 2015/11/04 9:31 am

Changing stars to hearts seems like something to do when you’ve run out of new ideas. Maybe Jack Dorsey’s first misstep.

→ 2015/11/03 2:13 pm