I need a nap.
Glenn’s free preview of the newest issue: check it out.
I need a nap.
Glenn’s free preview of the newest issue: check it out.
I’m overly sensitive to overreaching, bogus “copyright” claims and legal bullying, but this is just ridiculous.
The New York Times should be ashamed that they — the press — demanded, unnecessarily and without any legal basis, that someone else censor a fact about the Times from their site.
If anyone at the Times gives a damn about their reputation anymore, they should inform the legal department what exactly the Times does.
Windows Azure Mobile Services makes it fast and easy to build iOS apps that scale. Use Mobile Services to store data in the cloud, authenticate users, and send push notifications.
Mobile Services lets you choose from a variety of relational, NoSQL, and
blob data storage options. You can authenticate users via Facebook,
Twitter, Google, or Microsoft accounts. It’s as simple as copying over your
App ID and Secret. And all it takes to send a push notification is
push.apns.send(). It’s really that simple.
Leave the infrastructure to Windows Azure so you can focus on delivering the features and experiences your users want. Sign up for the Windows Azure free trial and claim your 10 Free Mobile Services today.
Thanks to Windows Azure Mobile Services for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
Recently, I’ve had a recurring Wi-Fi issue:
Almost daily, the device stops being able to connect to the internet over Wi-Fi, but doesn’t report this as a connectivity problem — connections just sit there, spinning, waiting, until they eventually time out and fail. (Like AT&T in Manhattan.)
This happened most often on my iPhone 5 with the latest iOS version (6.1.4), but it also happened with the previous version (6.1.3) at the same frequency.
I complained on Twitter, and this sounds like a widespread issue with AirPort Extreme Base Stations and Time Capsules running the newest firmware, version 7.6.3. A number of people said downgrading to 7.6.1 completely fixed the issue for them, so I tried it.
I didn’t even know how to downgrade. Here’s how: in AirPort Utility, hold Option while hovering over the firmware version, and it becomes a drop-down menu. Pick whatever firmware you’d like and click Update. (warning: at your own risk, I don’t know, etc.)
I did this five days ago, and the problem hasn’t recurred once. A few additional people since then have reported similar results.
If you’re having this problem, downgrading to 7.6.1 may fix it.
In 2006, I moved to New York and started working for David Karp doing web development for various media companies. That fall, in a brief gap before starting a new client, David said that we were going to make a prototype of an idea he’d had for a while. He had already bought the domain:
tumblr.com, because it was an easy platform for publishing tumblelogs.
David Karp in September 2006, a few months after hiring me to build websites with him for clients.
In March 2007, Tumblr exploded after Gina Trapani wrote it up on Lifehacker and her post made it to the Digg front page (the first Digg!).
We soon added following and reblogging, which dramatically turned this publishing platform into the social-publishing hybrid that has made it so compelling and unique.
That summer, David decided we should stop doing client work, take some funding, and take Tumblr full-time. I was nervous about the idea, but he knew it was the right thing to do — and since he had been paying me (and the hosting bill) from consulting income and his own savings until then, we’d clearly need some headroom in the budget.
On November 1, 2007, we announced the funding and launched Tumblr’s third major design with lots of new features and architectural improvements.
David’s characteristically spotless desk in December 2007.
Growth continued extremely strongly. It’s a good thing we got the funding, because we desperately needed more capacity. In what was becoming a pattern that would continue throughout our working relationship, my previous doubts and fears were proven wrong, and David was right.
David and me in February 2008. David had done some sort of interview that required a photo, so I set up a tripod and shot this with a remote trigger. We both still look pretty much the same.
David and I were like-minded in prioritizing user-, geek-, and designer-friendly needs. Our priorities, free custom-domain hosting, and full HTML-template editing made Tumblr a big hit among creative people from the beginning.
MySpace was where you went in the past, WordPress and Movable Type were where people went if they had the patience and writing output to maintain a traditional blog, Facebook was where you went to define yourself by schools and checkboxes, and Tumblr was where you went to make your own identity and express your creativity.
David and I surprise-attended the very first Tumblr meetup in February 2008 organized by Lee “Sharingtime”, left-center.
Even though Tumblr was never a one-person company, it usually felt like a one-person product.
David always had a vision for where he wanted to go next. I was never the “idea guy” — in addition to my coding and back-end duties, I often served as an idea editor. David would come in with a grand new feature idea, and I’d tell him which parts were infeasible or impossible, which tricky conditions and edge cases we’d need to consider, and which other little niceties and implementation details we should add. But the ideas were usually David’s, and the product roadmap was always David’s.
My infamous standing desk improvised from Coke cans and IKEA bookshelves, March 2008.
David always obsessed over his newest ideas, features, and designs until they were completely polished and ready to go. He’s a workaholic — he truly lives and breathes Tumblr. I’ve never even seen him show any desire to work on a side project. David is all Tumblr, all the time.
He expects people around him to be similarly into work and Tumblr, and often drove me hard with seemingly impossible demands. But David has a lot of Steve Jobs-like qualities, and like many people who worked for Steve, I look back on Tumblr’s crunch times with mixed feelings: I don’t want to return to that stress level, but David pushed me to do amazing work that I didn’t think was possible.
David working on a Dashboard redesign in November 2008.
Intense focus requires neglecting almost everything else. David’s focus on pushing the product forward meant that he didn’t want to think about boring stuff: support, scaling, paperwork, and money.
Every time we’d get close to needing more funding, I’d try to convince David to hold out a bit longer or try to become profitable, and he’d convince me that everyone was better off if we’d focus on the product instead. And every time, he was right.
Jacob Bijani joined in December 2008 as a designer, front-end developer, and wall of hair.
We tried to hold out as just two (and then just three) people as long as possible. We were scared of growing the staff, so we just put it off — for too long, in retrospect.
Eventually, David knew that we’d need to expand to handle the load, but his job never changed: rather than become a businessperson, he just hired one.
Then Tumblr began its most challenging growth: David needed to become a product manager, start overseeing a lot more people, and delegate some of the duties he really wanted to keep doing himself.
David and me figuring something out in January 2009. Most of our conversations looked exactly like this.
After a rough start, David got the hang of being a manager. But he still didn’t want to think about money — his heart just wasn’t in it.
Instead, he continued doing what he does best: driving the product forward, knowing exactly what people want from it.
I’ve only seen one other “product person” as good as David, and that was Steve Jobs. (Believe me, there are many parallels.)
David has an impeccable sense of what’s best for Tumblr, and he doesn’t need anyone else telling him what’s best for the product. Many people, myself included, have tried to convince him to go different directions, and we’ve been proven wrong every time.
Tumblr is David, and David is Tumblr.
By June 2009, the staff had grown to include (clockwise from Jacob’s wall of hair) Jacob Bijani, Jared Hecht, Meaghan O’Connell, Peter Vidani, and Josh Rachford.
I didn’t have any advance knowledge of the Yahoo acquisition — I got official confirmation this morning, just like the public. When I read the rumor a few days ago on AllThingsD, I didn’t know whether to believe it until I read this:
Sources said that as part of the deal, founder and CEO David Karp would continue to operate the business, with Mayer promising him a level of autonomy, despite the need to integrate closely with Yahoo too. He will be locked in, sources said, via a four-year deal…
That sounded like David.
Peter, Jacob, Topherchris, Andrew Terng, Matt Hackett, and I tested new shirts at Shake Shack in June 2010.
Generally, what Tumblr needs, and what Tumblr has always needed, is to get support and maintenance roles off of David’s plate so he can focus on the product.
David’s perfectly able to worry about money and operations, but I bet he really doesn’t want to. At best, it would be a tremendous waste of his time and talent.
We — internet users, creative people, publishers, socializers — will be much better served if David can focus on his product’s features, design, and messaging instead of worrying about server architecture and raising more money.
Shortly before I left Tumblr, in July 2010, the original corner of the office looked almost the same as it always had.
This is why I’m optimistic about the Yahoo acquisition.
Anyone who knows David can tell, very clearly, that he wrote every word of his announcement post. Not only did Yahoo let him end it like that, but the subhead on their official press release shows that Tumblr and Yahoo are seeing eye-to-eye on quite a lot already. In many ways, this feels more like a merger than an acquisition.
This is clearly what David believes is best for his product. On such big decisions, he hasn’t been wrong yet. This time, though, I don’t have any doubts.
Acquisitions on this scale usually work well — YouTube, for example, has gotten much better, faster, more stable, and more sustainable since Google bought it.
Buying Tumblr is a big enough deal for Yahoo that they clearly aren’t intending to ruin it or shut it down — like YouTube and Google, Tumblr will probably become an extremely important part of Yahoo indefinitely. And I believe they’ll do a good job with it. Yahoo today is a very different company than the Yahoo that neglected Flickr for years — it has extremely competent new leadership making bold changes. (Including fixing Flickr.)
More importantly, it gives David, and the rest of Tumblr’s team, the freedom to continue making the best product they can while offloading a lot of the grunt work to Yahoo’s leadership, staff, and infrastructure.
As for me, while I wasn’t a “founder” financially, David was generous with my employee stock options back in the day. I won’t make yacht-and-helicopter money from the acquisition, and I won’t be switching to dedicated day and night iPhones. But as long as I manage investments properly and don’t spend recklessly, Tumblr has given my family a strong safety net and given me the freedom to work on whatever I want. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.
Amazing. By Mat Honan.
(Via John Moltz.)
Sponsored by An Event Apart and CocoaConf.
By Mark Wunsch, the web developer:
There is no unified Google that is “good” or “evil”. There is just an organizational clusterfuck that is unable to decide what it thinks is truly the best way to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Is that by forcing web authors into a social network in order to improve directory results? Is that by dipping a toe into the music business? Is that by abandoning standards like RSS and XMPP/Jabber? I don’t think so.
Google has a problem. The problem is that nobody says no. Google effectively owns the Web, and they’re lousy managers.
A great take on the increasing, sprawling power that Google has over such a huge portion of the web.
For Google, Android was a detour from their focus on owning and dominating web services; it ensured that those services would be freely accessible in this new world of computing, including on the iPhones and iPads that were used liberally in nearly every keynote demo. And, now that Android is successful, Google is back to focusing on “the best of Google”.
Speaking of John Gruber being smart, are you reading everything by Ben Thompson yet?
Excellent, succinct post by John Gruber about Larry Page’s attempt to change the conversation whenever Google rips something off or crushes a market.
Politicians and executives do this all the time. “Arguing about [controversial thing we did], focusing too much on [our weakness], or implementing [regulation that benefits the public but makes us less profitable] isn’t constructive and/or is holding back progress/jobs/children/America.”
Among its many other similarities to ’90s-era Microsoft, Google seems desperate to prove that it’s a major innovator of original product ideas, despite most of its strengths lying in improving, extending, devaluing, and better executing everyone else’s.
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Thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
Design is about identifying, understanding, and ultimately feeling your end users’ needs, and then meeting those needs. Facebook Home, like countless SV startups, looked beautiful, worked elegantly, and didn’t meet any needs.
I’d go a bit further and say it’s actually designed badly. Facebook Home rested on two major assumptions:
OK, show of hands:
Facebook Home was flat-out badly designed: it’s designed for optimal input and failed to consider real-world usage.
And it looks like demand for Home was from the same imaginary world as their perfect input.
Matt Gemmell on skeuomorphism and intuitive design:
Our industry isn’t young anymore, but it’s still full of fear about whether so-called non-technical people will be able to use its products. I think we’ve been trying to get to less adorned, more information-centric interfaces for quite some time, but we’re still making the same tired old arguments from the golden age of human-computer interaction, about how humans need faux three-dimensional cues about the affordances of on-screen objects. Buttons apparently have to look “pushable”, or no-one will push them.
The reality is more nuanced. Our tastes, and capabilities, have moved a bit beyond screamingly-obvious knobs and dials. We don’t need drop-shadows to encourage us to poke at something. All we need is an invitation, in the form of icons or labels or animations which imply functionality, and a consistency of presentation which allows us to make a good guess about what we can interact with.
Matt, a programmer by trade, addresses the skeuomorphism debate more effectively than most designers I’ve heard arguing about it.
This is a very serious problem — not only does this cross major ethical lines, but it reveals a severe lack of security at Bloomberg.
Why did Bloomberg News reporters — rank-and-file employees of an entirely different division — have so much access to customer data from the financial-terminal division? Why should reporters have any access to customer information? Who else in the company needlessly has access to it?
Since JPMorgan Chase reportedly had a similar issue last summer, this had to be happening for quite a while. Does a company as big as Bloomberg, dealing with such sensitive data with such huge possible financial risks, not log and audit employee queries of customer data?
This isn’t the result of a fluke hack or a couple of bad employees — this is serious security negligence.
I applied for a job at Bloomberg in 2006.1 I wonder how many reporters there have access to all of my personal information.
I ended up joining Davidville instead, for less money, because David would let me work on a brand new Mac with any keyboard I wanted and more than three feet of desk space. A few months later, we started Tumblr. Turned out to be the right move. ↩
Time-limited trial or “demo” versions of apps have always been prohibited in the iOS App Store. Recently, discussions about trials have reignited in the circles I follow.
Rene Ritchie, partially in response to my paid-app market post, wrote The market for paid apps, and the sum of all compromises a few weeks ago:
Buyers want to avoid risk and expensing any more money than they have to, so they compromise on buying apps they might otherwise enjoy. Since there are no trials, absent urgent and immediate need or factors like addiction or ego-gratification, most people won’t spend any significant amount of money on apps.
This week, Dave Addey touched on a similar point in Apps Are Too Cheap:
If I purchase one app, and it doesn’t solve my problem, then I have no way to get the cost of that app back. If I try another, and the result is the same, then that’s two apps I’ve paid for that don’t do what I need. In fact, the price of the app that eventually does solve my problem is the cost of all of the apps I have to buy to find it. The result is that I’m willing to pay less for each individual app.
This is certainly a common occurrence. And the root of most of this discussion — that apps are too cheap, and everyone would be better off if they weren’t — is a real problem for a lot of developers. But Apple permitting (and technically supporting) free trials may not be the panacea to fix low app prices for everyone.
It’s not hard to imagine a world where we have free trials, because we already have such worlds: the Mac and Windows. What most mobile-app developers want is the ability to charge PC-class pricing — $30, $50, $100 instead of 99 cents, $2.99, $4.99.
But PC-class pricing would fundamentally change iOS buying habits, and we may not like the results.
Browsing the App Store and getting new apps, often spending a few bucks along the way, is a form of casual entertainment for a lot of people. This role used to be filled by movies and music. Today, it’s filled by browsing the internet and playing with mobile apps. Usually, they’re games, but not always — modern mainstream culture, especially among younger people, seems to be more interested in media and social apps than games.
This apps-as-entertainment market falls apart if app pricing rises above casual-disposable levels for most people. Few people balk at spending $1-3 for something that doesn’t end up being that great, but when someone’s $30 app is disappointing, that’s going to stick with them and inhibit future purchases.
There’s also the market of geeks, power users, and productivity users, including me and probably you. We want good apps to do the things we care about, so we’re likely to try multiple options before settling on the one we end up using (…for a while).
We’re often tire kickers:
Someone who is indecisive about purchasing a product or service, and never feels satisfied with what they are offered.
We’ll buy a new to-do app every three months because we’re never more than 80% satisfied with the one we’re using. We’ve bought seventeen weather apps, and next time Ben Brooks finds a new one, we’ll buy it, too. When we need to solve a new problem and three $1–3 apps all purport to solve it, we’ll probably end up buying all three of them to find the one that works best for us.
We’re not the mainstream, certainly, but we’re not a small market. Depending on what your app does, we might even be the majority of your market.
If you sell a low-priced app in the App Store with no free version, you make money from every tire kicker.
Even if we end up using a different app instead of yours, we still bought yours to try it out. We had to, because we couldn’t get a free trial — we paid to satisfy our curiosity of why Viticci raved about your app so much, or how a Twitter friend used your app to post that cool link, or how well you’re going to solve our most important problem right now. If the app is only a dollar or two, enough of us are OK with paying just to try it,1 even if we’re not going to end up using it every day for the next five years.
If the App Store mostly moved to higher purchase prices with trials, rather than today’s low purchase prices and no trials, this pattern would almost completely disappear. Instead, we’d get the free trials for almost everything, and then we’d only end up paying for the one that we liked best, or the cheapest one that solved the need, or maybe none of them if we didn’t need them for very long or decided that none were worth their prices.
In this type of market, the winners can make a lot more, because you can indeed charge more money.2 But the “middle class” — all of those apps that get tried but not bought — all make much less.
That’s exactly how the Mac and Windows markets, with free trials and higher prices, have always been. A few people make a lot, a few people make a living, but most people make very little.
Far more developers3 can make a living on iOS — partly because of the payment integration, partly because of the market size, and maybe also because the low prices and lack of trials boost the middle-class income from apps-as-entertainment buyers and tire kickers.
If we get trials, even if implemented very nicely, we may ruin that. Is that really what we want, as developers or customers?
I believe the “paying just to try it” effect is why Instapaper’s sales saw a slight increase, rather than any decrease, after I discontinued the free edition. The only remaining option if you wanted to see what Instapaper was like was to buy the paid app. ↩
Although how much more you can charge is debatable. Look at the Mac App Store: people can get free trials from many developers’ websites, yet we’ve still seen Mac software pricing drop dramatically since the introduction of the App Store.
Maybe the real cause of lower Mac pricing since the App Store is that if you drop your price, you have a better chance of climbing the charts, which drives more sales and you end up grossing more overall — the main reason why iOS apps are so cheap.
Abolishing the “top” lists from all App Store interfaces and exclusively showing editorially selected apps in browsing screens would do a hell of a lot more than trials to promote healthy app economics and the creation of high-quality software. ↩
Not every iOS developer succeeds at making a living from it, but I’m still convinced that’s usually a matter of oversupply, not pricing or trials.
I bet that far more developers make their living developing iOS apps than Mac apps, even if you do a per-capita-like adjustment to normalize their installed bases. ↩
In this week’s podcast: Tick-tock in iOS, PHP framework theory, passwordless logins, the Mac Mini’s accidental success, the word “podcast”, and Apple providing a sync platform for developers.
Sponsored by Mac Mini Vault and Hover.
This is how Business Insider re-titled my kit-lens post. This is why people who write opinions online get so much unnecessary shit from people: they read these inflammatory headlines that other people write, then they get unfairly angry at the original posts’ authors.
I didn’t say don’t put a “cheap lens” on your SLR. I said don’t use the kit lens — specifically, the 18–55mm lens that comes with most Canon SLRs for about a $150 premium over getting the body alone. Instead, I recommended getting the EF 40mm f/2.8 prime, which retails for… $150.
Their headline turned my argument about quality and value into elitist-sounding flamebait.
But I shouldn’t be surprised, because Business Insider knows nothing about quality and value.
But I can see three significant contextual differences between 2013 and 2007, and I think it’s those differences that likely provide the best hint as to what to expect in upcoming versions of iOS.
So what has changed since 2007?
I’d also add that the hardware is significantly different — in particular, we now have a (comparatively) huge amount of RAM on these devices, a major difference from the original iPhone’s hardware that influenced a lot about iOS’ design and architecture.
In this packed issue: mountain life, mountain rescues, red-light cameras, dynamic parking meters, improv fundamentals as life lessons, and Phish’s economics.
Glenn Fleishman urges freelance writers to take accompanying photos with better cameras than their iPhones:
The iPhone and similar smartphones with decent built-in cameras aren’t as good as a real camera when you’re taking photos to accompany reporting.
We’ve seen this a few times with The Magazine: writers take their own photos of places or events that are otherwise hard to find photos of — great! — but the image quality is so poor that we can’t use them.
It’s not just iPhones that are the problem: too many people are shooting with SLRs, but only using the kit lens.
I’d go further and suggest that you shouldn’t buy an SLR if you only ever plan to use its kit lens or an inexpensive zoom lens. Kit lenses and low-end zooms produce blurry, distorted, drab images — they can look decent on blogs or phones, but the flaws become apparent when you see them on big Retina screens or printed at larger sizes.
A decent consumer SLR body, usually $600–900, is a big investment for most people. But if you can’t also afford to buy at least one good lens with it, you’ll get better photos by going with a less expensive kit, such as a high-end point-and-shoot or an entry-level mirrorless setup.
Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a great lens if you’re willing to make one tradeoff.
Good lenses have three competing factors: price, versatility, and quality. You can optimize two of them, but usually at the expense of the third.
My best suggestion for Canon SLRs is the 40mm “pancake”, which is currently just $149 — the same price as most kit lenses. It’s a prime lens, meaning it does not zoom: it’s fixed to one medium-distance focal length, and you can zoom with your feet. By using simpler optical designs that don’t need to zoom, primes sacrifice versatility but bring very good quality at very low prices.
My wife and I have a lot of fantastic (and expensive) Canon lenses, but we use the 40mm pancake most because it delivers great quality in very little size and weight.
Photo by Tiffany Arment, taken with the Canon EF 40mm “pancake” lens.
If you absolutely must have a zoom range — and please, really reconsider if you must — you’ll generally need to spend about $700 to get noticeably better optical quality than the kit lens, and it still won’t be as good as most primes.
To approach or surpass a $150–300 prime’s quality in a zoom, you generally need to go well above $1000 — pro photographers needing a general-range zoom usually use this $2100 model, or for longer range, you’ve probably seen photographers using this $2200 beast.
Starting to see why I recommend primes if you want quality?
Understandably, these requirements may drive you out of the SLR market, but that’s OK: the smaller, cheaper mirrorless market is hot right now. There are some great midrange camera bodies around $500, such as the Olympus E-PM2 or E-PL5 (don’t miss their pancake prime).
Oh, and please don’t use your camera’s built-in flash. Ever.