Sometimes I forget I’m not a full-time blogger. Accidentally spent all morning writing instead of coding.

→ 2015/09/04 2:09 pm

Watch form over function

Everyone’s thinking the same thing: Samsung’s new smartwatch looks significantly better than the Apple Watch. Even the rounded scrolling control looks as usable or more usable than Apple’s digital crown. If Apple tried multiple designs internally, including a round watch — and I’m sure they did — why did they opt for a nerdy square shape that looks more like a computer than a watch? Especially in a product with such a focus on fashion that they felt the need to charge $10,000 for the high-end models.

Surprisingly, this might be Apple showing they can still choose a functional user experience over purely beautiful form and design. Square looks worse but it’s just more practical for reading text. The digital crown is a better fit for scrolling vertically.

It’s rare in the modern era of Apple (post-2000 or so) for the company to sacrifice beauty for usability. The iPhone is always thin at the expense of battery life. Mac scroll bars are hidden in the name of cleanliness. The new MacBook has a single new cable type which no one owns peripherals for. But with the Apple Watch, I think they built something with a foundation that could last for years, despite its initial awkwardness, and square was the right call.

Doubt, part 2

The flip side to the optimism of my last post is the hard reality that sometimes the doubt is warranted. Sometimes, a little caution could lead to better, more reasonable business decisions.

I like this post from Brett Terpstra about how his wife provides some balance:

“For every wild idea I plan out, she reminds me of the realistic outcomes, backed with historical data. If it weren’t for the tempering quality of having ‘pessimists’ around, I’d be living in a tiny apartment, buried in debt, and likely friendless.”

I’ve been trying to do a better job of bouncing ideas off other people before fully committing, while still holding on to a strong enough original concept that I can’t get too distracted or discouraged. I also have a new idea to help lay the groundwork for my new microblogging service, before actually shipping it. Hope to announce more in the next couple of weeks.

Ordered a couple of those Amazon Dash buttons (for coffee and ziplock bags) because the launch deal means they pay for themselves right away, and because I love it when Amazon invents crazy new products.

→ 2015/09/02 10:29 am

Finished writing a basic XML-RPC parser this morning. I forgot how verbose that format is. We’ve been spoiled on JSON.

→ 2015/09/01 10:44 am

I bought the DVD months ago, but finally set aside some time yesterday to watch Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Beautiful, stunning hand-drawn animation. There’s never been a film like this.

→ 2015/08/31 5:56 pm

Doubt, with screenshots

My good friend and Core Intuition co-host Daniel Jalkut isn’t convinced. After we recorded last week’s podcast, we talked privately about the direction I’m headed in. He’s seen the projects I have in development, but he thinks working on Mac apps is a safer bet than web services. And he works on a blogging app, so if I can’t convince him that the goals I have around microblogging-related tools can be a real business, how am I going to convince the rest of the world?

Earlier this year I gave a talk at CocoaConf about tips I’ve learned to be productive while juggling multiple projects. But as I worked on the talk, it turned out to be about something else. It was about Walt Disney moving from Kansas City to Hollywood. It was about crazy side projects that no one else believed in. It was about Texas Hold ‘Em poker and risking everything for an idea.

The new microblogging app and service I’ve been working on, off and on for the last year, is the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted. It is difficult to explain and market, it might only resonate with a niche audience, and it is going to increase my hosting costs. So part of me knows that Daniel is right — that the smart business decision is to put it on hold and focus on my Mac apps, which will probably have more predictable revenue.

And yet, this project is also the most meaningful. In the words of Peter Thiel, it could take independent microblogging from zero to one. A new push forward for weblogs, maybe the first in a while. Therefore, I must do it, and I must accept some risk in the process.

Lately I’ve been working on the iPhone version. When you look at these screenshots, it might be tempting to compare it to Twitter. Don’t. Instead, think about how the plumbing fits together: RSS, microblogs, and the open web.

screenshot

I can’t wait to officially announce and ship this. If you’d like to get an email when the beta is ready, sign up on the announcement list.

Added push notifications to the new iPhone app. Still kind of feels like magic when all of that works.

→ 2015/08/29 5:45 pm

We’re nearing episode 200… New episode of Core Intuition out this week, talking about Twitter, the open web, and Apple’s new ATS requirements for SSL on iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11. coreint.org/195

→ 2015/08/29 10:05 am

Startup life and Medium

Pretty hilarious guide to San Francisco startup life from Padlet on Medium. Here’s just one small part:

“Markets are chockablock with these desk+gym hybrids — standing desks, treadmill desks, cycling desks. This is why I feel bullish about my swimming desk idea — a big water tank with an infinity pool and a computer bolted on one side. Noise cancelling scuba masks, snorkels, and fins come as standard equipment.”

I’ve been fascinated with Medium lately, and have cross-posted a couple recent posts over there to better understand it. Is it a blogging tool? Sort of. Is it a social network? Not exactly.

While you can follow other users there, I find that even with the 100+ people I’m following, the posts I see on Medium are almost exclusively popular essays written by people I don’t know. They’re recommended enough that they show up in Medium’s daily emails, or on the home page, or linked from other blogs I read. But it’s like if you signed in to Twitter and only saw retweets.

This may explain Medium’s design changes to encourage quick, microblog-like posts, in addition to full essays. Longer blog posts just aren’t written often enough to make for a meaningful social network.

Rediscovered using the Safari web inspector to debug a UIWebView running in an iPhone app. So helpful.

→ 2015/08/25 8:45 am

NSDrinking is on for this Thursday 8pm, back indoors for the summer at the Ginger Man. Hope to see y’all there!

→ 2015/08/24 3:40 pm

Really wish I could use TestFlight for Xcode 7 / iOS 9 builds. I like having Fabric around for daily builds, but I want to send this new app to a wider audience.

→ 2015/08/21 5:36 pm

Marketing, mission, movement

As I was writing some documentation this week, I kept thinking about what makes great marketing copy. 37signals used to say that copywriting is a form of user interface design. That’s true but I think there’s more to it.

The best products don’t just have marketing copy; they have a mission statement. They don’t just sell a tool; they sell a movement.

When I stare at my product wondering if it’s too confusing — if it’s too different, and tries to do too many things, to be immediately understood by new users — I try to remind myself that it’s an opportunity. Instead of simply explaining what I’m doing, how can I pitch it in a way that strengthens a community around the idea. Because dozens of bloggers can spread the idea more quickly and in a more meaningful way than I can by myself.

And unlike a one-way press release, a community is inherently two-way. Every mention of the idea is both marketing and feedback. Someone blogs about how they’re excited for the product, but also how they wish it had a certain missing feature. Someone in the press writes a review, but also with a pros and cons list.

This cycle means the product gets better. And if we’re thoughtful in that first approach to marketing copy, then every blog post, review, and tweet that follows is laced with a little part of our mission statement.

Acorn 5

Flying Meat’s Acorn 5 is out. I’ve been using the beta for a while and it’s a great release. Read Gus Mueller’s blog post for some of the features, including neat tricks you can do with the new Shape Processor.

I also love this section about focusing on bug fixes:

“So we fixed pretty much all of those. It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late. But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren’t going to let that happen to Acorn.”

Congrats to Gus on another big release. You should check it out here.

Built a documentation site for my new project this morning, powered by Jekyll. I’m either close to shipping the actual app, or I’m procrastinating.

→ 2015/08/19 2:53 pm

Relay FM’s first year

Casey Liss summarizes the excellent first year of new podcast network Relay FM:

“Last year, I was deeply honored to be invited to be part of the launch shows on Relay. This year, I’m deeply honored to be a part of a network that not only airs some of the best spoken word programming on the internet, but also cares so deeply about being more inclusive.”

Congratulations to all the podcast hosts, and of course to Relay founders Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett. Stephen posted about how his time as an indie is going:

“The hours break down about how I felt they would break down, with Relay FM taking up about half my time and everything else going down from there. I suspect that consulting number will shrink as I wrap up some stuff for my former employer, but for now, I think this balance works. It’s a decent reflection of where my income is, which is encouraging.”

Rewinding a few weeks, this is what he had to say about the shift to indie work:

“It’s profoundly surreal, but incredibly freeing, to be focused on my writing and podcasting full-time. There’s still lots to work out with budgets and time management and extra things I could take on, but it’s all under the category of my work. That’s what makes it so much fun, despite the unknowns.”

It’s fun to watch the rise of podcast networks. It has now been a little over 5 years since I first wrote about the 5by5 launch. Daniel and I will probably keep Core Intuition independent forever, but I hope that the continued success of larger networks means that the overall podcast market is still growing.