Vesper is phenomenally well designed from the graphics, animation, feel, speed, and interaction. It looks and feels great. It’s a fucking Ferrari of note, no, thought collection apps.
And yet I wouldn’t recommend people buy it for the same reason I rarely recommend or argue that people buy a Mac in 2004, an M5 at any time, or an iPhone in 2006.
Ruy Teixeira, writing over at Think Progress, has some interesting data and analysis about Georgia’s changing demographics and what it means for future elections:
The 2012 numbers aren’t accidents. A slate of underlying demographic trends are pushing Georgia in a bluer direction.
In the last decade, Georgia had a rapid rate of increase in its minority population, going from 37 to 44 percent minority over the time period. The increase in the minority population accounted for 81 percent of Georgia’s growth over the decade. Unusually, the biggest contributor to minority growth came from blacks, who alone accounted for 39 percent of Georgia’s growth. The next largest contributor was Hispanics, whose numbers increased at a scorching 96 percent pace and accounted for 26 percent of the state’s growth.
Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives. If you want to enter a category that’s crowded on iOS 6, and you’re one of the few that exclusively targets iOS 7, your app can look better, work better, and be faster and cheaper to develop than most competing apps.
This big of an opportunity doesn’t come often — we’re lucky to see one every 3–5 years. Anyone can march right into an established category with a huge advantage if they have the audacity to be exclusively modern.
An app like Tweetbot will look way out of place in the new aesthetic style whereas Twitterrific fits in just perfectly. Some apps will have to rethink their UI paradigms to deal with some of the new gestures that Apple has implemented.
iOS 6 is mostly neutral about what apps running on it should look like and how they should work. iOS 7 implements more constraints aesthetically and functionally on developers.
Constraints, however, can breed creativity. And I am excited to see how the apps that I use change when the pieces settle.
I am still formulating my thoughts on everything that Apple introduced today at WWDC. While I am still working out what I think about the specifics, read what Jim Dalrymple had to say about the confidence that Apple’s executives were exuding today:
It’s been an interesting few years for Apple. Despite high sales numbers for its products, Wall Street has been beating on the company and analysts as a group have wondered if Apple has lost its mojo. Today’s keynote should put that nonsense to rest.
One thing that became very clear to me early on in today’s keynote is that Apple was having fun again. They were really enjoying themselves.
Awesome story about Steve Jobs:
One of my favourite Steve Jobs stories was the time the engineers working on the iPod brought their finished prototype to him in his office. He said it was too big, they needed to make it smaller. They said it was as small as they could make it, it couldn’t be made any smaller. So he took the prototype over to his aquarium and dropped it in. The iPod sank to the bottom, and as it did, tiny little bubbles came out. ‘See those bubbles,’ he asked. ‘They’re air inside the iPod. Make it smaller.’
(via Andrew Clark)
Tim Cook, one year ago, to Walt Mossberg: “We’re going to double down on secrecy on products.”
12 months later, here we are, on the cusp of WWDC 2013, and nobody outside Apple seems to have any idea what Apple is set to show tomorrow. Cook’s words to Mossberg were anything but empty. The most secretive company in the industry got more secretive. We know Jony Ive has been leading the software design of iOS and OS X. We can be pretty sure they’re going to show us what they’ve been up to. But no one seems to know just what that is.
I’m super excited to see what Apple has in store for us tomorrow and will have a write up of my thoughts on what Apple unvieled after the keynote. On the hardware front I fully expect to see some new MacBooks and if a Mac Pro replacement is coming like Tim Cook has promised, it has to happen tommorow. Developers are the target audience for a device like that. Beyond a toned down aesthetic, I have no idea what other features iOS7 might hold, although inter-app communication is high on my wish list. iRadio seems to be imminent and the best thoughts on what it might entail can be found in the last episode of The Menu Bar1.
As for what cat OSX 10.9 might have, school pride leads me to hope for Wildcat, although the wave on the OSX banner in the Moscone Center leads me to hope against all odds that Apple might go with Sea Lion.
The Menu Bar is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts and a must listen for interesting thoughts on Apple and related companies. Zac and Andrew do not tread over the same old tropes found on all the Apple blogs and instead have interesting and refreshing takes on the industry. I strongly reccomend it. ↩
James Somers wrote a brilliant essay for Aeon about the sad values our society has developed. The most lucrative opportunities, he argues, are immaterial and essentially useless, like “offer[ing] teenagers new ways to share photos with each other”. On the other hand:
Despite my esteem for the high challenge of writing, for the reach of the writerly life, it’s not something anyone actually wants me to do. The American mind has made that very clear, it has said: ‘Be a specialised something — fill your head with the zeitgeist, with the technical — and we’ll write your ticket.’
I don’t have the courage to say no to that. I have failed so far to escape the sweep of this cheap and parochial thing, and it’s because I’m afraid. I am an awfully mediocre programmer — but, still, I have a secure future. More than that, I have a place at the table. In the mornings I wake up knowing that I make something people want. I know this because of all the money they give me.
Ezra Klein explains why it repairing roads and bridges is more important than reducing the deficit:
This, then, is the difference between spending the next two years investing in infrastructure and spending the next two years sharply reducing the deficit. Both of them need to be done eventually. Delaying either means saddling the future with debts we declined to pay off in the present. But this is a particularly good time to invest in infrastructure and a particularly bad time to cut deep into the deficit. And yet we’re ignoring infrastructure and rapidly reducing the deficit. We’ve got it backwards.
The last few days there has been a lot of talk about how teenagers use Facebook and other social networks. Almost all of it has been written by adults trying to understand the behavior and psyche of my age group. As a teen myself, I think I can offer a slightly different perspective on the topic.
The post that started off this most recent round of speculation about teenager’s social media habits was Cliff Watson’s post on Medium about how teens are “increasingly skipping over static, interface-based URLs and apps in order to define “social” as messaging services”. The article is really insightful and gets a lot of things right.
Services like Twitter and Snapchat are becoming more and more popular; same goes for Vine, Instagram, and Tumblr. Another point he gets right is this comment about Reddit, especially about the gender split:
Facebook’s banality would explain Reddit’s rise in popularity, especially with the boys in this age group. I took an informal survey of the boys in my oldest daughter’s circle of friends. They were all on Reddit.
However, I think that Watson overstates the extent to which Facebook is becoming irrelevant. The idea that my friends and I are abandoning Facebook as if it were a sinking ship is an exaggeration of Titanic proportions (see what I did there).
I am probably not the average teen in terms of how I use social networks but there are a few things that I have observed which Facebook offers but the other services can’t which keep us coming back.
- People—As our social experiences become more fragmented across many different platforms a big factor in determining which service to use is which one your friends are using. Google+ is well designed but if nobody uses it, it might as well not exist. It is not uncommon to find someone who is not on Twitter or Instagram or Vine. A Facebook account, however, is the least common denominator for social interactions.
- Messaging—Watson correctly points out the messaging is increasingly becoming an important factor in social. Google is trying to get into this game with the announcement of Hangouts this week at I/O. But Facebook messaging already works everywhere. Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram only work on mobile devices. Twitter is too public. With Facebook you don’t need to know a person’s handle or phone number or username on some other service. Just click their name and start chatting; the conversation can happen no matter what devices the participants are using.
- Events—My mom often laments that I get invited to things on Facebook and she therefore has no idea when things are going on. If you are planning a party or get-together, a Facebook event is the preferred method among my peers.
- Groups—Google had the right idea when it implemented Circles into Google+: people want to be able to share content with smaller subsets of people. Facebook allows you to do this by creating groups. This year my english class had a group where we would complain about our teacher together and try to decode her often cryptic instructions. My grade had a group where we would let each other know about different events going on after school, try (unsuccessfully) to plan a senior prank, and keep each other updated about the schedule for Graduation week. The ability to have defined subcommunities within Facebook sets it apart from other social networks.
- Likes—As Sid O’Neill explains: “You can’t get the same self-esteem bump from sending a text that you can from getting 50 likes on the meme you posted”. I have heard people discuss (I am ashamed to admit that includes myself on occasion) how many likes a certain status or picture has as if it were a competition.
So while us teens are certainly moving some of our online social networking away from Facebook, we aren’t jumping ship like Watson suggests.
Justin Williams put together a list of fifty things that Apple would need to release at WWDC to “appease the internet”. It goes to show just how much the perception of preassure there is for Apple to come out guns-a-blazin’ in a couple weeks.
And in the wake of the laundry list of things Google released this week at I/O I think Apple does have to address at least a reasonable chunk of the list.
Mat Honan imagines the world that Google wants to create in one of the greatest pieces of fan-fiction about a tech company ever:
I awoke aboard a boat, just before daybreak, which was weird. The last thing I remembered was being in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, wrapping up a four-hour Google I/O keynote liveblogging session. My last recollection was of Google CEO Larry Page taking questions from the audience and promoting a vision of a utopia where society could be free to innovate and experiment, unencumbered by government regulations or social norms.
“I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out,” he had said. “What is the effect on society? What’s the effect on people? Without having to deploy it into the normal world.”
I realized I was the only one aboard, and the boat was driving itself.
It only gets better from there.
Nathan Liu has some concerns about the direction The Magazine is headed. He asks the question “Is there such thing as ‘too niche’?”:
The Magazine is in danger of having readers deciding they simply do not care, and want to read something else more specific to their interests. There really needs to be a leash which writers should be tied down to. Albeit an unusually long leash, allowing them to explore new and innovative topics, but one which will hold them back from alienating even the most avid readers.
My first reaction was agreement; Nathan was getting at a feeling that I had begun to feel after looking at the table of contents for the last few editions of The Magazine.
When Marco Arment released The Magazine I commented on the fact that it was being written “for geeks like us”. I was included in the target audience. It said so right there in the copywriting.
I loved reading Stephen Hackett’s reflections1 on how technology is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to healing his son’s brain cancer. Albert Wu’s story on how Taiwan’s economy has been shaped by semiconductor manufacturing was fascinating and not something that any tech blog would cover. That’s also true of Chris Higgins’ report on competitive Tetris. Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s article wasn’t just about the quenepa fruit but also about what it means to be a nerd and what it means to be curious.
In its first many issues The Magazine lived up to its promise to be a kind-of Wired Magazine told through the lens of personal stories. Its articles were about the way that technology shaped and affected real people’s lives. Almost every article was interesting to me.
When The Magazine launched, it was ostensibly about technology and related subjects that tech geeks found interesting, written by tech writers. Over its first two months, we realized that it was much more interesting to broaden the scope to all good writers with stories and ideas that we find interesting.
This is The Magazine: stories and ideas for curious, geeky people.
At first I feared that the publication had lost—at least for me—some of the sense that it was “written for geeks like us”. I used to be included in The Magazine’s promise; now it seemed that I was getting the short shrift. I don’t care about the band Phish (sorry Marco) or the economics of parking meters. An article about some distillery in Seattle belongs in a general interest magazine not in a magazine that was being written for geeks like me.
But before I wrote mean things to Marco and Glenn on Twitter I took some time to think this through. Why was I beginning to feel like I wasn’t The Magazine’s target audience anymore?
When it comes to questions of Geekdom I always find myself returning to reread John Scalzi’s post “Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be”. I’m sorry for quoting so much of the article, but there is a lot more to the post and it is really that good. Scalzi writes:
Geekdom is a nation with open borders. There are many affiliations and many doors into it. There are lit geeks, media geeks, comics geeks, anime and manga geeks. There are LARPers, cosplayers, furries, filkers, crafters, gamers and tabletoppers. There are goths and horror geeks and steampunkers and academics. There are nerd rockers and writers and artists and actors and fans. Some people love only one thing. Some people flit between fandoms. Some people are positively poly in their geek enthusiasms. Some people have been in geekdom since before they knew they were geeks. Some people are n00bs, trying out an aspect of geekdom to see if it fits. If it does, great. If it doesn’t then at least they tried it.
The promise of a publication written “for geeks like us” in which every article captures my attention instantly is inherently paradoxical. Scalzi continues:
Geekdom is personal. Geekdom varies from person to person. There are as many ways to be a geek as there are people who love a thing and love sharing that thing with others. You don’t get to define their geekdom. They don’t get to define yours. What you can do is share your expression of geekdom with others. Maybe they will get you, and maybe they won’t. If they do, great. If they don’t, that’s their problem and not yours.
The Magazine will never be able to delve into every aspect of Geekdom without writing a few articles that don’t interest me that much. And that’s okay. Because there will also be articles that fascinate me but fail to resonate with other people. I might find an article about video game culture in the Arab world or about gender relations in Pakistan throught the lens of text messaging fascinating. Other people might not.
Such is the nature of writing for geeks and curious people.
As long as The Magazine continues to attract great writers and continues to publish great articles I can’t see it failing any time soon.
The foreword in the App is different from the foreword on the web. The quote is found in an updated version of the introduction which is in the iOS app. For some reason the version on the web hasn’t been updated to reflect the changes. UPDATE: The Magazine’s editor let me know via Twitter that in the app the foreword “is the first thing people see if they aren’t subscribers. Online, [they] preserved historically”. ↩
David Stuckler, a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford, wrote a powerful op-ed in the New York Times about the harms of austerity:
First, do no harm: if austerity were tested like a medication in a clinical trial, it would have been stopped long ago, given its deadly side effects. Each nation should establish a nonpartisan, independent Office of Health Responsibility, staffed by epidemiologists and economists, to evaluate the health effects of fiscal and monetary policies.
Second, treat joblessness like the pandemic it is. Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking. Politicians in Finland and Sweden helped prevent depression and suicides during recessions by investing in “active labor-market programs” that targeted the newly unemployed and helped them find jobs quickly, with net economic benefits.
Especially in the aftermath of the Reinhart and Rogoff scandal, thinking about the human impacts of austerity is important. The last few years have been an interesting economic experiment: the United State between 2008 and 2010 engaged in stimulus policy which led to real growth. Europe engaged in austerity policies and now Spain has 27% unemployment and Greece’s economy is screwed.
Another aspect of the economic debate is monetary policy; Jeff Spross does a great job explaining its importance.
One need not be an economic ideologue — we certainly aren’t — to recognize that the price of austerity can be calculated in human lives. We are not exonerating poor policy decisions of the past or calling for universal debt forgiveness. It’s up to policy makers in America and Europe to figure out the right mix of fiscal and monetary policy. What we have found is that austerity — severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending — is not only self-defeating, but fatal.
Today I graduated from high school.
At my school any member of the senior class has the opportunity to submit a speech to give at commencement. When the call for submissions went out I took a few minutes to think if there was anything I felt was unique and important to share with my class. I quickly answered no and didn’t submit a speech. If you don’t have anything to say, why search for a platform from which to say it.
However, today, sitting with the 246 other members of the class of 2013—some of whom I have never met and others who I just saw for what is likely the last time—my favorite poem came to mind.
It’s not technically a poem. And it is certainly not an original thought on my part. It’s just some advertisement copy from an old Apple commercial.
But these words inspire me to do great things and I hope they do the same for you:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
So here’s to the crazy ones. Here’s to the Class of 2013.
If you missed it the last time it was in town, the Apple Pop-Up Museum is coming back for two more days. There was so much demand that the museum is going to reopen on Saturday May 18 and Sunday June 8 at the Kings Market Shopping Center (1425 Market Blvd. Suite #200) in Roswell, Georgia.
I had a blast when I went last month when the museum was open for a weekend. Even my mom—who graciously indulged my inner-geek—was extremely surprised and impressed by the quality of the exhibit. Ars Technica put together a gallery with some pictures of the exhibit that’s worth clicking through.
I may make a second trip to the museum but if you didn’t make it last month (and you live in Atlanta) you should do yourself a favor and check it out.
The College Board is paranoid.
It is (rightfully) scared that cell phones will undermine the (remaining) academic integrity of the SAT and of the myriad AP exams.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the policy regarding cell phones and the SAT. The list of banned devices is amazingly thorough—though I’m not sure why “BlackBerry devices” are separated from “cell phones”.
You don’t want to bring any electronic equipment or communication devices, like cell phones, smart phones, tablets or anything else that can access the Internet, any cameras or other photographic equipment, or even any watches that beep or have an alarm. You may not have any food or drink in the exam room, including bottled water.
They also remind you that during breaks:
…you are not allowed to consult textbooks, notes, teachers or other students; and you may not use any electronic or communication devices, like your cell phone, for any reason.
Today when I sat down to take my AP Spanish Language exam the proctor read in a monotone voice from his proctor booklet about not discussing answers on social media after the test. The idea that we could make it out of the room without some discussion of the passages is already naïve but to think that we won’t take those conversations to Facebook and Twitter. That’s just ignorant.
But while the precautions and the constant warnings might seem draconian, even a quick Google search shows that students can and do use cell phones and other technology to gain an advantage on standardized tests.
It’s about to get worse.
Imagine for a moment a world ten years from now. Google Glass—or some similar technology—has become commonplace. Nobody has to be on some special list to have a chance at using Glass. Instead when people go to the eye doctor to get a new pair of glasses, the lenses obviously come with the latest in heads-up-display technology already built in. Every pair of glasses is Google Glass.
In this world how can a teacher—not mention a huge organization like the Collge Board—administer a test fairly?
It wouldn’t be that hard to write a program that looks at a question in Spanish and translated it into English. Google Translate could probably work pretty well as a backend for this service.
Or what about an app that snaps a picture of a calculus problem, sends the question to some server, which then spits the answer right in front of your eye.
None of this is out of the realm of possibility and the possibility raises even more questions.
What if only a few (probably rich) kids in the class have Internet enabled glasses?
What if a kid actually needs his glasses to see? Do you make him buy a second pair?
If we can have all of human knowledge at our fingertips—maybe even our eyelids—in seconds, what’s the point of learning stuff?
One thing is certain: the College Board better start revamping its security guidelines now. And maybe it should consider the role of standardized testing in this Information Age.
Although I haven’t kept up with Mythbusters the last few years, I was a big fan of the show back when I was in Middle School. Kyle Hill reflects on the show reaching its tenth season:
Instead of trying to do peer-reviewed science, the Mythbusters try their hardest to promote scientific thinking and skepticism first and foremost. It’s a “teach a man to fish” model. Both Adam and Jamie are active skeptics and rationalists, noting that some of their least favorite myths were of the “woo-woo” variety—like “pyramid power” and perpetual motion devices, they went on to tell me. Teaching a whole generation of kids, like myself, how to hold up our beliefs to the light of experiment and empiricism instead of faith and fixed beliefs, will arguably go much further than spending the extra time to smash together 50 cars instead of five.
Jimmy Stamp reports on a new study out of Japan (via Alexis Madrigal) which indicates that the common story that the inane QWERTY keyboard was created by Christopher Sholes in order to force typists to slow down to prevent typewriters from jamming is wrong.
The researchers tracked the evolution of the typewriter keyboard alongside a record of its early professional users. They conclude that the mechanics of the typewriter did not influence the keyboard design. Rather, the QWERTY system emerged as a result of how the first typewriters were being used. Early adopters and beta-testers included telegraph operators who needed to quickly transcribe messages. However, the operators found the alphabetical arrangement to be confusing and inefficient for translating morse code. The Kyoto paper suggests that the typewriter keyboard evolved over several years as a direct result of input provided by these telegraph operators.
Even if QWERTY evolved as a more well-thought-out layout, it still seems anachronistic to me. I have always been interested in trying out the Dvorak keyboard; however, because iOS does not support the layout, I haven’t ever taken the leap. I figure that when trying a different keyboard layout it would make sense to use it on all possible devices.
Google Reader will shut down on July 1st. Over the last week or so the first signs of a post-Google Reader world as good as—or maybe even better than—what we already have, has begun to emerge.
In Reeder 3.1, Feedbin is treated like Google Reader in terms of feed navigation and reading experience…Feedbin is still in its infancy, and, right now, Reeder 3.1 with Feedbin sync works exactly like version 3.0 did with Google Reader.
Reeder even has the ability to export your subscriptions directly from Google Reader to Feedbin with the click of a button to make the transition near seamless.
Feedbin costs $2 a month or $20 a year and is being billed as a replacement sync service for Google Reader; it has already replicated the undocumented Google Reader API. This contrasts with the other new player in the RSS space: David Smith’s Feed Wrangler.
On the night Google announced it would be killing Reader, Smith teased that he had been working on “an alternative take on aggregating RSS” for some time. Today he unveiled Feed Wrangler. Priced at $18.99 a year, Feed Wrangler is not being touted as an exact replacement for Google Reader the way that Feedbin has been positioned so far.
Feed Wrangler’s “must have” feature is “Smart Streams”. In addition to organizing RSS by feed or read/unread, Smart Streams let you create search filters to create something like Smart Folders on OSX. Vittici thinks that:
Smart Streams provide a more logical way of organizing feeds in subsets that are not based on a one-to-one relationship, but that instead combine the traditional aspects of folders with searches to create more flexible streams of content.
Another plus to using Feed Wrangler is its tight integration with the read later services Pocket and Instapaper. Feed Wrangler’s iOS apps are basic, as one would expect a 1.0 release to be. Hopefully when the API is released next month third party apps—hopefully including Reeder—will begin to be developed. One positive feature about both services it that they cost money, which I like. As David Smith explained:
I believe the reason that Google turned its back on Reader and left its users hanging is that they were users not customers. I’m not interested in building a platform designed to attract as many users as possible and then work out how to sustain it later. I want to instead build something that is sustainable from Day 1. I want my customers to feel confident that they can expect this to be around long into the future. I want to build a relationship with them and make something they really, really love.
I am still holding out until I get a better sense of how the market will develop over the next few months. I hope that Feed Wrangler’s iOS apps get substantially more powerful and would love for Feedbin to make some innovations of its own. Fever remains a possibility, especially given the new iOS apps that have been released for the self-hosted service. I am also waiting to see what Betaworks does with Digg, especially given their recent purchase of Instapaper from Marco Arment.
For the time being, I see myself ultimately picking either Feedbin or Feed Wrangler when I make the switch from Google Reader. I am looking forward to trying both of them out over the next few months.
I meant to link to these two articles a couple weeks ago but I have been pretty busy with homework and didn’t get to it. Timothy Lee identifies the problem with Bitcoins over the dollars we already have:
The fundamental demand-side problem is that it’s not clear why anyone would want Bitcoins—which are, after all, just entries in a database—in the first place. The obvious retort is that the same objection could be made of any fiat money system. The value of a fiat currency like the dollar is a matter of social convention: it’s valuable to me because other people will accept it as payment for stuff I want to buy. Theoretically, if you persuaded everyone that dollars were worthless, this would become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Conversely (the argument goes) all we have to do to make Bitcoins a “real” currency is to persuade some people that it’s valuable. And apparently, the creators of Bitoin have already succeeded in this task.
But dollars have at least two advantages over Bitcoins. The obvious difference is that the United States government requires taxes to be paid in US dollars. Since federal taxes represent a significant fraction of most peoples’ income, they will continue to demand dollars even if they prefer another currency for day-to-day transactions.
In a follow up article, he concludes:
So one of Bitcoin’s key selling points—a permanently fixed supply—is basically illusory. The supply of Bitcoins, like the supply of every other currency, will be controlled by the fallible human beings who run the banking system. We already have an electronic currency whose quantity is controlled by a cartel of banks. If you’re a libertarian, you might think the lack of government regulation is an advantage for Bitcoin, but it strikes me as highly improbable that the world’s government’s would leave the Bitcoin central bank unregulated. So I don’t see any major advantages over the fiat money we’ve already got.