I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Duplicates existing functionality

This addendum at the end of The iPad is the iPrius got to me:

Imagine when Adobe invests $X millions building Lightroom for a year only to have it rejected because Apple launches Aperture the same week.

With all of the discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of applying the iPhone OS to more general-purpose computing tasks, this is one aspect that’s easy to overlook at the beginning: software competition evaporates for anything already done by an Apple app.

It’s an acceptable trade-off for a smartphone, but is it healthy for anyone if all possibilities vanish for alternative native web browsers, email clients, media players, media storefronts, calendars, and contact managers?

And Apple’s apps span a wider range than just the iPhone’s “big four” bottom-row apps that have been forbidden to duplicate so far. How far will Apple’s “duplicates existing functionality” policy go as their App-Store-locked platforms are used for more general computing tasks?

If it were my time and money on the line, I’d certainly not want to be in the business of making an iPad photo manager, mapping app, ebook reader (narrowly missed that axe), slide-presentation builder, word processor, or spreadsheet. And that list will keep growing as Apple expands their software lineup to encompass nearly anything that’s mass-market enough to be worth their attention.

Another failure pattern that this situation creates is when an Apple app falls out of Apple’s favor and stops receiving significant improvements (e.g. iCal, Aperture), but is still covered by the competition ban. Users of those apps must simply live with the limitations or undertake the significant expense of dumping the entire platform.

I can’t think of any justifiable reason why it’s good for anyone in the long run — including Apple — to prohibit competition by apps that would otherwise be acceptable simply because Apple already made a similar one. And while most of the App Store’s policy issues are a mild nuisance at worst, we’re going to keep finding edge-case failures like this until the hopelessly broken policy of app review is significantly rethought.

Just before Apple announced the iPad and the agency deal for ebooks, Amazon pre-empted by announcing an option for publishing ebooks in which they would graciously reduce their cut from 70% to 30%, ‘same as Apple’. From a distance this looks competitive, but the devil is in the small print; to get the 30% rate, you have to agree that Amazon is a publisher, license your rights to Amazon to publish through the Kindle platform, guarantee that you will not allow other ebook editions to sell for less than the Kindle price, and let Amazon set that price, with a ceiling of $9.99. In other words, Amazon choose how much to pay you, while using your books to undercut any possible rivals (including the paper editions you still sell). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the major publishers don’t think very highly of this offer.

Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider’s guide to the fight

iPhone-to-iPad development: How’s the timing going to work out?

Either I’m missing something, the initial iPad apps are going to suck, or we haven’t yet been told that iPad-native apps won’t be available for some period of time after the iPad’s launch.

We have strong incentives to port our iPhone apps to the iPad quickly and completely so they’re ready for sale on day one. As soon as people start getting iPads, they’re going to want apps for them, and they’ll quickly realize that the experience of running an iPhone-native app on an iPad really sucks. Any iPad-native apps in the store on day one are going to receive huge advantages in publicity and ranking that could last months, and any apps that wait too long will lose favor among iPad users and may be abandoned for competing alternatives.

The problem, of course, is that before day one, we won’t have iPads ourselves for development and testing. This wasn’t a problem for iPhone development: by the time the SDK was released, we had all been using iPhones for many months. We knew how iPhone apps should look and behave, and we could test our apps on our iPhones during development for three months before anyone could sell apps to customers.

But we have very little guidance on how iPad apps should behave, and if we want our apps to be in the store at its launch, we have to do the majority of development without ever running our code on a real iPad (or even having used one).

This leaves a few possibilities for developers:

  1. Develop the entire app without using a real iPad, submit the binary to Apple, and have it available on day one. But, having never run it on a real iPad, the app will probably have a lot of issues, and it will get panned in reviews for being buggy while you wait in the very long app-review queue for your updates.
  2. Get an iPad on day one, rush home, test the app, iron out any little bugs or inopportune design choices, and submit it to Apple. This doesn’t really give much more of a testing and design advantage over option 1, and you’ll still be stuck waiting in the app-review queue for weeks as every other developer does the same thing.
  3. Wait for initial app submission until after you’ve tested extensively on a real iPad. You’ll have the best release, but you will have missed the launch window, which could cost you dearly in revenue and market share. And even when you finally submit, the app-review queue will still be bogged down with people who took the first two options, delaying your presence even further.

All of these options are terrible. Not only are they bad for developers, but they’ll be bad for Apple as initial reviews ding the iPad for the first batch of sloppy native apps.

This is one reason why I suspect there’s something we haven’t been told yet: I don’t think anyone’s iPad-native apps will be available on day one. My best guess is that the iPad will be released with only the built-in apps and iPhone-native app capability. After a few weeks or months, as the SDK gets another revision or two and everyone has solid, universal (iPad and iPhone) apps submitted and (hopefully) pre-approved, the iPad App Store will officially open. This could happen sometime closer to WWDC in June.

I hope it goes something like this, because I don’t want to have to choose between those options.

By the end of ten years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, ten, or twenty years, the people now ‘grieving’ for Calvin and Hobbes would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason Calvin and Hobbes still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.

Bill Watterson (via igowen)

The problem is, in hardware you can’t build a computer that’s twice as good as anyone else’s anymore. Too many people know how to do it. You’re lucky if you can do one that’s one and a third times better or one and a half times better. And then it’s only six months before everybody else catches up. But you can do it in software. As a matter of fact, I think that the leap that we’ve made is at least five years ahead of anybody.

Steve Jobs in 1994

The world needs another blog post about the iPad


How many iPads do you think will sell in 2010?

This is important for app economics. Many developers want to know how many potential iPad customers will exist to determine how quickly (or even whether) our apps need to be iPad-ready and how we should allocate our resources relative to the iPhone editions.

iPhone sales have largely followed the price drops. I expect the same to apply to the iPad, with the added caveat that I think the overall userbase will be smaller in the beginning. As I said in the first article:

Nearly everyone can justify having a phone — the only question is which phone, and it’s easy for people to rationalize spending a bit more money for the really nice one. The same rationale applies to iPod Touch owners: they’re already buying a portable music player, and the iPod Touch is just the medium- to high-end choice.

The national economic problems seem not to be noticeably affecting sales of high-end tech gadgets, so I won’t factor them in directly.

I’ll take a wild guess and say that I expect about 3 million iPads to be sold this year3.

So how will that translate to app sales from iPad owners? For simplicity, I’ll assume that the value of your app to users is approximately the same on the iPad as on the iPhone.

If my three-million-iPads prediction is accurate, and the iPhone and iPod Touch keep growing at steady rates, by the end of 2010, I predict that about 3-4% of app sales will be to iPad owners.4

But there’s another dilemma: it looks like there will be significant pressure, both political and technical, for universal apps that run on both the iPad and the iPhone. Like multiple-iPhone owners, this only counts as one sale, since one purchase of the app will run on both devices. So for any apps that use a universal edition, their entire existing customer-base will result in zero new sales. (This effect may not matter in the long run. For most iPhone apps, new sales outpace existing-customer upgrades by a large margin.)

A significant portion of iPad owners will probably also own an iPhone or iPod Touch, and you could argue that they would have bought the app for the iPhone anyway.

So not every iPad owner who uses your app will have been the result of another sale.

Economically, there doesn’t seem to be a huge incentive to spend a lot on an iPad edition.

I think, overall, this is a good thing: it should dampen the gold-rush effect, leaving most iPad development to those who care strongly about it and want to do it well.

Running the numbers like this helps clarify my opinion a bit on the iPad App Store timing question: since the initial gold-rush period won’t be anywhere near the magnitude of the iPhone’s, it’s unlikely to hurt your app much in the store if you’re not there exactly on day one.

Meanwhile, if the iPhone is likely to represent at least 90% of your sales for 2010, it’s probably not a good idea to slack off much on the iPhone versions of your apps, even if the iPhone is no longer the focus of the tech press.5

  1. Apple has sold over 70 million, but I’m assuming that not every device sold is still in use. ↩︎

  2. Via this Wikipedia image↩︎

  3. Through Q1-FY2011 to include the 2010 holiday season. In case you want to claim-chowder me later when I’m way off, I’ll make yet another chowderable claim that my predictions will end up having been comically low, in which case much of this post will be irrelevant, overstated, and wrong. You can usually count on me for that. ↩︎

  4. My math is intentionally fuzzy and hand-wavy. ↩︎

  5. Normally, I dislike footnotes. But they made sense for this article. I’m sorry to anyone who is annoyed at them as I usually am. ↩︎

Optimal iPhone UI

I was asked via email:

It’s my job to research user interfaces and what makes a successful UI. My two conclusions I’ve come to so far are that UIs need to be invisible and familiar.

I was hoping you may have something to add, from your perspective, about what makes an optimal UI.

The “invisible” bit gets most of the way there for my taste.

As a user, I hate buttons and toolbars and sliders and panels and drawers and splash screens and instructional screens and settings screens. In short, I hate UI. I want to notice it as little as possible.

As a developer, I hate having to stop my work because I have to arrange a transaction with someone else (like a designer) to get something done. To minimize external-person dependencies, and because my graphical design skills are abysmal, I avoid needing icons, backgrounds, textures, or logos. The original Instapaper web layout only had one image.1 Since then, I’ve made extensive use of CSS for styling and Unicode characters for icons to minimize the need for images. Designing “invisible”, minimal UIs isn’t just a preference for me — it’s simply more practical.

But I look at Apple’s iPhone apps, and I don’t feel like my method is lazy or sub-par: all of their apps are the same way. They’re content-focused, with minimal UI. Think about it: what’s the UI to the Photos app? Messages? There’s almost nothing there. Even Safari is just two toolbars and a bookmarks list.

My design goal for Instapaper is for it to look and work like a hybrid of Safari and Mail. It’s not exciting and it won’t win much “design”2 recognition, but it’s how I believe most non-widget iPhone apps should be designed: just barely enough UI to get the job done, with the vast majority of the screen devoted to the content.

What’s particularly interesting about the iPad is that its screen is actually too large for this to apply as universally as it does on the iPhone. This is one of the reasons why Instapaper’s iPad edition can’t just be a recompile of the iPhone version: everything’s out of proportion and it just looks strange. It’s like maximizing a browser window on a 30” monitor. And, as I said last week, I suspect most initial versions of iPad apps will have this issue because their developers either didn’t have the time to do more complete redesigns or because they underestimated how different their iPad versions should be.

  1. It was the “Read Later” bookmarklet. Jacob corrected its jagged edges for me, unsolicited via email, before I even knew him. In the new layout, these are pure CSS, but I’ve added a few small icons where it made sense to do so. ↩︎

  2. On the internet, “design” usually means heavy use of rich graphics and textures. This isn’t how I think about it. ↩︎

David Lebovitz: Truffle Hunting

I always assumed that truffle pigs had a pretty miserable life. They spend all day looking for their favorite food, and as soon as they find it, it’s taken from them before they can eat it. The poor pigs have to keep finding them, but can never eat any.

This article claims that the human quickly takes the truffle and gives the pig a potato or apple instead, but I bet the pig still knows that it’s getting ripped off.

Would U.S. troops obey presidential orders to deploy against the American people and take away our freedoms?

There is no doubt about it. Of course they would, especially if the president told them that our ‘freedom and national security’ depended on it, which he would.

The Troops Don’t Defend Our Freedoms

Facebook’s coming at it from a corporate position. It’s basically like AOL in 1997 — everything is there and there’s no need to go anywhere else. I don’t know if they’re even considering what users want anymore. It’s all about how to maximize revenue and all that crap. It’s wanting to be everything to everybody possible so they won’t have to go anywhere else.

Matt Haughey

Anonymous rude comments are the coolest way to anonymously tell the world you don’t think you are very important.

Kelly Oxford (via Sarah)

Feature checklist dysfunction

The tech press loves checklist comparisons. Let’s evaluate the iPhone to see whether it’s a good product:

Sounds like a terrible product. I bet it will fail.

Remember the MacBook Air’s launch?

Sounds like there’s no reason to buy one. (Like nearly everyone else, I complained about all of this when the Air launched. We all do it sometimes.) But it’s been very successful, especially in its later revisions, and the SSD models are great machines for people who travel a lot.

So it bothers me when either of two common failures occur.

Assumed equality

This is when a competitor advertises (and often, truly believes) that their product is at least equivalent to another one because it has checkboxes in many similar categories.

Since the iPhone’s launch, every other phone manufacturer has made competing phones with 3” touchscreens, music playback, and square app icons arranged in a 4x4 grid. (Well, except Microsoft’s hilarious interpretation.)

It’s as if the product managers commanded their engineering teams to come up with lists of the iPhone’s “features” and copy them so their phones would sell as well as the iPhone.

Every few months, the copy-list gets longer. Everyone just finished checking off their App Store box and is wondering when the developers are going to rush in.


This happens when a geek or manager makes a list of features to compare two products and comes to an oversimplified conclusion based on which one has more checkmarks in its column.

The main problem is obvious: how do you determine which features go on the list? It can’t possibly be exhaustive enough to represent the entire experience of using the products, and it won’t be the same list for everyone.

Here’s why I decided not to use a Nexus One (or any other Android phone):

The Nexus One may be the better choice for people who care about what it does well, like synchronizing with Google’s services. But I don’t care about those things, and I do care about a lot of factors that the iPhone is a better fit for.

It would be ignorant and arrogant for me to presume that your priorities are anything like mine.

The two opinions about your abilities that you should never trust are your own opinions, and the majority’s opinions.

Scott Adams

Affiliate infuriation

I’m irrationally, disproportionally offended by affiliate marketing on the internet. Early on, when Tumblr was just three people (me, David, and Marc), we had to decide whether to allow affiliate-marketing blogs.

These are the sites whose primary purpose is to drive traffic through links for which the blog publisher gets an affiliate payment, often for scammy, non-physical products like paid “how-to” ebooks. They’re easy to spot, usually looking something like this:

Best Floor Tile Reviews Blog

Did you know that the Best Floor Tile Reviews are on the internet? Let’s explore the best floor tile reviews together so I can tell you all about the best floor tile reviews. Click here to learn more about the best floor tile reviews.

The decision isn’t black and white because they don’t fit everyone’s definitions of spam. They’re usually human-created (in the same way creepy Scientologists offering stress tests in the subway are technically “human”), usually without automation tools. They’ll pass any CAPTCHA. And affiliate links aren’t always spam, such as when an otherwise non-spammy person links to a great book on Amazon with an affiliate code once in a while.

I don’t object to online commerce in general. Furthermore, I don’t object to other content that’s often lumped in with spam, such as porn. So how can I justify my hate for affiliate marketing?

I think it’s about sincerity.

Porn makes no effort to hide that it’s porn. It puts it right out there. “You wanted to see some naked people? Here are some naked people. Bam.” No ambiguity, and no attempts to trick visitors into thinking it’s something else.

Even regular bot-spam is pretty blatant. Sleazy guys write programs to spam the internet with thousands of cheap-drug offers. There’s no pretense of humanity or sincerity.

Affiliate marketing spam is much more offensive because it purports to be legitimate content. It relies on lost, naive Google searchers arriving on these pages, thinking they’re finding real content or reviews or recommendations, and being convinced that the best way to proceed is to spend a few dollars on this helpful ebook to learn more.

It’s not just commercial — it’s dishonest. Affiliate marketing is an attempt to trick people, Google, and web services into thinking that it’s real content. This inherent deception is far more offensive and reprehensible than its commerce.

[Flash 10 is required to watch video.]

It sure is snowy today. But since it looks pretty much like any snowstorm, here’s last year’s snowy video.

It’s like… Like if you asked a friend if there was a Starbucks in his neighborhood and he said, yeah I think there’s one half a mile down, maybe. And you drive half a mile and see a big carwash place, and you park and walk in and ask to speak to the manager. And you tell the carwash manager how unhappy you are with this terrible new Starbucks redesign.

Part of Neven Mrgan’s hilarious explanation of this

It’s absurd, of course, that anyone can create a scarcity and market value for fictional food for fictional cows, but it’s making money. In this economy, I think we see both the dying gasp and a parody of scarcity.

Jeff Jarvis

I’ve occasionally wondered why the Tappan Zee Bridge was built at one of the widest parts of the Hudson River, despite being so close to a much more narrow region.

Wikipedia taught me that it was the result of interstate government phallus-waving: the Port Authority wouldn’t allow it to be constructed within their boundaries, which extended northward until just below the current bridge’s location. It was originally (more sensibly) designed to cross a much narrower section only a few miles south.

When you create a regulatory agency, you put together a group of people whose job is to solve some problem. They’re given the power to investigate who’s breaking the law and the authority to punish them. Transparency, on the other hand, simply shifts the work from the government to the average citizen, who has neither the time nor the ability to investigate these questions in any detail, let alone do anything about it. It’s a farce: a way for Congress to look like it has done something on some pressing issue without actually endangering its corporate sponsors.

Aaron Swartz: When Is Transparency Useful?

Side effects of developing for yourself

Instapaper is a one-person operation, and all of its development needs to fit into my free time. I originally made it for myself, because I had a need for it, and I didn’t even tell anyone else about it for months. It ended up being useful to other people, but that was a fortunate side effect. When it came time to make an iPhone app, I made my own dream app to satisfy my needs, and the same thing happened: it was adopted by other people who had the same needs. This development and feedback pattern has a number of interesting side effects and corollaries.

I use every new feature myself in a long test cycles — often weeks or months — before deciding whether to release it. I rarely use other beta testers, only bringing a handful of people into testing before major releases or major changes to the storage engine, and they never see features that I haven’t already been using for a while.

Major features only get developed if I want to use them. And, correspondingly, features I’ll never use are unlikely to be implemented.

Features that I don’t personally believe in are unlikely to see the light of day, such as an unread-count icon badge. I believe unread-count badges signify unseen items with some degree of urgency or time significance that were triggered by other people or external events. Instapaper articles are added by you, aren’t urgent, and in most cases, have been seen already (when you chose to read them and clicked Read Later).

Or tags. I don’t use tags. In anything. There are a lot of fundamental organizational and practical problems with tags for which I’ve yet to see a great solution. I try to minimize ways for my customers to shoot themselves in the foot (which is why the RSS folders are so limited).

Or full-screen reading, in which you tap to temporarily show the toolbars, then they fade out after a few seconds or when you tap again. Using this feature in other apps annoys me (except Photos, in which the benefit is immense and the required toolbar interaction is minimal) because it has a very high error rate: I frequently need to tap twice to show the toolbars, and I frequently invoke the toolbars accidentally while trying to do something else, like scroll. It’s the same reason I don’t enable tap-to-click on laptop trackpads: unreliable and unintentional behavior, leading to frustration and mistrust. Instead of implementing full-screen reading, I just keep the required controls as small and simple as possible on the reading screen.

This also applies to feature removals: I’ve removed Graphical Mode from the next release. I never use it because the experience of reading with it is awful. It’s one of those features that people say they want until they actually use it and realize that it’s not worthwhile at all. (Like comments. See: customers shooting themselves in the foot.) When I asked my users if they’d miss Graphical Mode, hundreds of people told me that they never used it. Only two — literally, two, out of hundreds — said they’d miss it, but only occasionally. So I’m replacing it with a much more useful feature: an in-app browser that can be used to view full-layout pages (online only, like Safari), but will be useful in Instapaper for many other reasons as well.

I can’t imagine getting to a point where I’d want to survey my users to decide which features I should implement, or let people vote on features to “buy” their implementations. (This is why I fundamentally dislike the premise of UserVoice.) People like Instapaper because of the features it has now and the way they’re designed into the app. If I let users steer product decisions, the result would be a massive codebase producing a bloated, cluttered product full of features that hardly anyone used at the expense of everyday usability and polish on the features that matter. Like Microsoft Word. Or Firefox.

By listening too much to outside suggestions, I’d destroy the very reason why I’m receiving them.

In her 2006 book, Generation Me, Twenge notes that self-esteem in children began rising sharply around 1980, and hasn’t stopped since. By 1999, according to one survey, 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent. (More than 40 percent of teens also expected that they would be earning $75,000 a year or more by age 30; the median salary made by a 30-year-old was $27,000 that year.) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America (a great overall article, but for this brief quote, paraphrasing this book)

In eras past, mainstream culture was blandly, blindly complacent, so underground music was angry and dissatisfied. But now, mainstream culture isn’t complacent, it’s stupid and angry; underground culture reacts by becoming smarter, more serene. That’s not wimpy—it’s powerful and productive.

Michael Azerrad in Paste, February 2010 issue (via Frank Chimero)

Much of the web is rude, thoughtless, or chauvinistic. … Rather than rely on a crowd-based system of voting comments and up and down, we’ve opted to curtail free speech and employ massive deletions. Create an atmosphere in which trolling and idiocy is not tolerated at all, and it starts to recede.

Jim Rossignol

I get the strangest emails.

I have no idea who this person is, but it looks like he thinks I’m programming Civilization V.

I’m celebrating the traditional post-App-Store-submission ritual, having just submitted Instapaper Pro 2.2.

Business Insider will probably add an inflammatory headline about Joel Spolsky or Jason Calacanis here

In a recent Stack Overflow podcast episode, Joel Spolsky mentioned that he’s probably going to formally end his popular Joel on Software blog next month.

He has been talking to someone named Jason who’s doing a pretty good job convincing him to “blog” privately instead, via email, only to a mailing list of friends, superfans, and influential people. This solves a number of problems, although it creates some as well, and I don’t buy the argument that it helps reach more influential, high-up people who are “too busy to read blogs”. (If that’s the real reason, publish to a blog and send email.)

This saddens me because it’s a loss to programmers and tech writing. Joel’s book based on his blog is one of the most concise, accessible, and sensible collections of wisdom1 in our industry. Nearly every programmer or manager of programmers I’ve ever worked with has read it and loved it.

I don’t know his exact reasons for shutting down. He said he’s running out of things to say. But I suspect it’s partly our fault, as the audience, for the way we treat our writers.

Even if his reasons don’t include this, it’s a great excuse to talk about it.

Programmers are the worst audience

Joel writes to programmers, and is extremely popular among them. Nearly everything he posts gets front-page-linked by whatever social-news aggregators are popular at the time. (He has outlasted the relevance of all of them. His first articles would have been frontpaged on whatever came before Slashdot.)

While he wisely doesn’t allow comments on his site, his posts’ discussion threads on other sites generate tons of negative comments, and I’m sure he gets a lot of emails from people who absolutely must ensure that he reads their commentary. Sure, there’s some positive discussion, but it’s mostly negative and argumentative, even for seemingly benign posts. Programmers turn every popular post relevant to our industry into a huge argument.

In most cases, they’ll completely miss the point of what was written, nitpicking an inconsequential point or screaming at a straw man. And I’m only talking about the few people who actually read past the headline that the Digg submitter or Business Insider author has modified from the original to be more inflammatory and attract more angry clicks — most comments are made by people who barely read the article at all.

Wait, this was just about programmers?

All of that applies to every audience, not just programmers. Everyone is the worst audience.2

But programmers are a special case. Because not only will they tell you how wrong you are, but they’ll also tell you how stupid and idiotic you are, and they’ll mathematically prove it, and you should never program again, and you should be fired, you moron. Their attacks are all-out personal insults on your intelligence, but much better written and argued than most internet commenters.

Nastiness is simply a percentage of your audience, so the more popular you become, the more nastiness you get. Despite all of the wonderful, positive feedback that comes with having a large audience, it’s hard not to take it personally when everything you say or do is greeted by hundreds of people telling you how much of a worthless idiot you are.

Some people claim that they don’t care and that they can ignore it. I don’t know if Joel can.

I can’t, which is one of the reasons why I rarely write about programming: it’s just not worth the risk of putting myself out there on that subject because the risk of strongly negative feedback is higher than with most other content that I can produce. It’s much easier to share my breakfast than my easily argued, easily disproven, intellectually vulnerable thoughts on programming.

I can’t help but wonder whether Joel came to the same conclusion, and how much great potential writing we’re losing from others who do.

  1. Nearly all blogs and books about programming are about how to do something, not why to do it or how to decide what to do. There are very few that contain actual wisdom. ↩︎

  2. I would qualify that as “everyone on the internet”, except that I don’t believe that the internet inherently makes people nasty — it just provides the fatal combination of audience and anonymity that permits many people’s inherent nastiness to overcome the filters that prevent it from showing in other settings. ↩︎

Our building must have bought its security cameras from the internet.

Writers tend to work early in the morning, or late at night, when brains are naturally able to focus deeply on one thought. In the middle of the day, distractions are unavoidable. I wonder if anything worthwhile has ever been written in the afternoon.

Scott Adams: Like a Night Watchman

The view from the stage at Tumblr Reads, by Tiffany Arment.

Most people need less done well, not more done poorly.

Brian Christiansen

I’ve been very clear about my view of netbooks. I think they are an experience that most people will not want to continue to have. People were interested in the price and they got it home and used it and went ‘Why did I buy this?’ so I think when somebody looks at iPad and compares it to a netbook, I find it hard to believe that people are going to buy netbooks.

Tim Cook, paraphrased

I guess it’s finally time to install this giant pile of accumulated software updates.

Copyright of Twitter posts in practice

Jeffrey Zeldman’s You cannot copyright a Tweet:

Contrary to popular belief and Twitter’s terms of service, you cannot copyright a Tweet. Under US law, copyright is granted on publication to “original works of authorship” finalized in “fixed forms of expression” but this does not extend to names, titles, or short phrases (PDF).

As messages sent via Twitter cannot be longer than 140 characters, they cannot be copyrighted.

I disagree. You can fit a good two sentences into 140 characters. Many poems, presumably protected by copyright, are shorter than that. A unique, two-sentence creative work that happens to be under 140 characters is probably copyrightable, or at least a gray enough area to cause any copyright fight not to be worthwhile enough to fight. (update: Legal analysis, thanks David Chartier)

For internet-based “copying”, the DMCA is most of the problem.

I hereby copy one of Zeldman’s Twitter posts:

The underwear said “Friday” but it was Wednesday. I said, “We won’t tell the underwear police.” Now she’s afraid of the underwear police.

Now, suppose Zeldman objected to this copy of his creative work. (I know he said he wouldn’t, but suppose he did.)

If he sent a DMCA takedown notice for this post to The Planet, I would be forced to remove his content from this post. Even if I wanted to argue that his complaint was invalid and that this was not a copyright violation, the content would be taken down for up to three weeks for “review”. After reviewing it, The Planet’s legal staff would side with Zeldman since it’s a gray area and they don’t want to risk the liability, and the content would remain down.

The validity of the copyright complaint is irrelevant, as long as it might be copyrightable, because at no point is anyone willing to test it.

If the copy was for a purpose not covered by the DMCA, like making a Twitter book, he could just send a legal warning letter to the publisher. They wouldn’t want the hassle and potential expense of fighting it, so they’d make the author remove the specified content without a second thought.

In copyright, if it’s a gray area or it’s arguable or “it should be fair use” or “it might be fair use”, it’s effectively copyright-protected for anyone who doesn’t have a large amount of time and money with which to argue otherwise.

I had the pleasure of meeting this classy, funny, genuine guy last year, and today’s his birthday. He’s one of the only reasons why I haven’t yet condoned L.A.’s sinking into the ocean.

Happy birthday, Adam!

Photo by Tiffany Arment.

You can tell Zeldman is not an attorney because he’s willing to make straightforward statements about the law on the Internet without a lot of disclaimers.


This is the best residential internet connection money can buy in Park Slope, Brooklyn: Time Warner’s Road Runner cable.

--- ping statistics ---
28 packets transmitted, 27 packets received, 3.6% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 467.139/761.779/1004.142/197.160 ms

I’m paying extra for the “Turbo” speed tier, which promises a blazing 15M down, 768K up. I have never seen those speeds. This speed test is the fastest downstream and the slowest upstream I’ve ever measured here.

(The only other option is Verizon DSL that maxes out at — seriously — 1.5M/384K.)

What developers see is that the App Store is a shaky foundation upon which to build a business. One day you’re prospering, the next day your app is gone. There are awesome iPhone OS apps that aren’t being built because developers don’t trust Apple not to yank the carpet out from underneath them.

John Gruber

This is very good, and a nice change of pace from my usual Belgian ales.

I recognize that it’s wrong on some levels to drink other-brand beer from a Chimay glass. But, in addition to appreciating the style, the glass has a great 250ml line on the side. It’s useful for measuring exactly three glasses out of these 750ml bottles, and 250ml is a great portion size to have on a weeknight and still be able to get work done.

Since businesses are obliged by zoning restrictions to locate far away from residential areas, most Americans drive to every store they visit. This means that store visits are often discrete trips that must be undertaken consciously and planned out ahead of time. As a consequence, shoppers will want to visit stores that carry the most diverse inventory—Wal-Mart, Costco, et al.—and avoid shops that specialize in one particular kind of good—the local paint store or flower shop, for instance.

Why Conservatives Should Care About Transit