August 17, 2018 @ 10AM

Daring Fireball:

I think Twitter should reverse course on this whole thing. Replace the now-deprecated third-party client APIs with new ones, let third-party clients flourish, and figure out a way to make money from them.

Sadly, we all know that won’t happen. I’m not even sure it’s the right path forward. If we want an ecosystem of third-party microbloggers, I think Manton has found the better path. His micro.blog clients are the first “indie web” apps I’ve run across with a great user experience. The open nature of the service makes it possible and desirable for other great apps, like Icro, to flourish.

August 14, 2018 @ 10AM

Marco Arment seems to have a knack for doing little things that are, upon reflection, actually quite big.

This week, Marco suggested a strategy for designating payment links in podcast show notes; the next version of his Overcast podcast app will have built-in support.

This is a small increment that, if widely adopted, will make the open web meaningfully better. Better still: there’s no reason adoption should be limited to podcasts; that just happens to be the corner of the open web that Marco is most invested in (and that, at least today, has the most traction).

August 13, 2018 @ 02PM

Revisiting Mastodon three months (and many angry @jack tweets) later:

  • I was able to identify 3,786 public Mastodon instances. (Up 44% since May.)
  • Across these, there appear to be 1.4M registered accounts. (Up 14%.)
  • In the last week, there were 109K accounts that actively published content. (Flat.)
  • The majority of the network’s activity is still concentrated in the top 5 instances, although the top instances have shuffled around a bit.
  • The entire network reports slightly over 154 million “toots” across Mastodon’s entire history. That’s 33M new “toots” in the past few months, or a 10% uptick in monthly post volume over the past quarter. Mastodon is not a rocket ship but it certainly shows signs of life.

It’s not clear to me what’s driving the growth in instances: my assumption was that disaffected Twitter users would flock to well-known servers (like mastodon.social and mastodon.xyz) but it appears that self-hosting is becoming increasingly common. Perhaps this says something about the kind of Twitter user that considers Mastodon a viable alternative?

April 6, 2018 @ 12PM

Outrider is a new foundation that “believes in the power of an educated, engaged public” to “solve the world’s greatest challenges”.

They’ve just published a treasure trove of content covering the history, geopolitics, and technology behind nuclear weapons. The interactive bomb blast map is terrifying.

I only hope their hypothesis is right.

August 7, 2017 @ 11AM

I started a new blog over at Hipsterware, the goofily named LLC I use to collect my personal projects. I plan to write more about indie development in general and my new projects in particular.

March 8, 2017 @ 04PM

Snap’s recent IPO convinces me there’s much more room for “innovation” on shareholder rights. SNAP shares are entirely non-voting and there’s simply no way for the interested public to get their hands on voting shares. That’s bold, but there’s so much more we can do!

For example, let’s IPO a company whose shares actively grant the company voting rights in the shareholder’s future personal decision making. I mean, I bet the whiz-kids at Snapchat haven’t thought of that!

Given how much SNAP shares are worth, it’s pretty clear that shareholder rights aren’t highly valued when the property is hot. I hope someone has the huevos rancheros to push it far.

March 3, 2017 @ 12PM

Marco Arment recently launched an ad network for Overcast, his podcasting app. I’ve always admired Marco’s willingness to experiment with new business models. I suspect (and hope!) that this proves to be a gold mine. I also suspect that, somewhere down the road, it will prove worthwhile for Marco to implement an auction-based pricing model.

February 15, 2017 @ 02PM

Lawfare posted an interesting deep-dive on the law of leaks. The introduction discusses Trump’s recent tweet that the “real” story is about illegal leaks:

First, the President makes these accusations despite not knowing the actual source of these leaks. At least some of the information seems to be coming from his own White House. And nothing that has come to light is the kind of material that only the FBI or NSA would be aware of. Indeed, there is no particular reason to assume that any of these leaks are intelligence community leaks, rather than leaks by current and former White House officials with the knives out for Flynn.

Second, these tweets suggest that the President is more interested in hunting down leakers than in getting to the bottom of extremely serious allegations against his own administration. Whether Trump’s comments represent an intentional deflection or merely reflect misaligned priorities, most people can agree without defending leaking that the leaks are probably not the “real scandal” here.

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, the President’s statement seems to signal an intention to use the pretense of leak investigations to engage in political retaliation. As Tim Edgar noted yesterday, the President is showing an instinct here that is not all that dissimilar from the events that set Watergate in motion.

February 13, 2017 @ 03PM

From Phil Klay’s What We’re Fighting For:

If we choose to believe in a morally diminished America, an America that pursues its narrow selfish interests and no more, we can take that course and see how far it gets us. But if we choose to believe that America is not just a set of borders, but a set of principles, we need to act accordingly. That is the only way we ensure that our founding document, and the principles embedded within, are alive enough, and honorable enough, to be worth fighting for.

January 30, 2017 @ 11PM

Matt Levine, author of the wonderful Money Stuff column for Bloomberg, in a rare moment of seriousness:

If the president can, without consulting the courts or Congress, banish U.S. lawful permanent residents, then he can do anything. If there is no rule of law for some people, there is no rule of law for anyone. The reason the U.S. is a good place to do business is that, for the last 228 years, it has built a firm foundation on the rule of law. It almost undid that in a weekend. That’s bad for business.

January 29, 2017 @ 10PM

Lawfare is a blog by and for national security legal professionals. It’s therefore a refreshingly sober-minded source of analysis and opinion about the actions of the Trump administration. Benjamin Wittes writes that Trump’s executive order on immigration is an astonishing mix of malevolence and incompetence:

NBC is reporting that the document was not reviewed by DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and that National Security Council lawyers were prevented from evaluating it. Moreover, the New York Times writes that Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself. Yesterday, the Department of Justice gave a “no comment” when asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed Trump’s executive orders—including the order at hand. (OLC normally reviews every executive order.)

This order reads to me, frankly, as though it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all.

January 24, 2017 @ 11PM

The first beta of iOS 10.3 has several interesting new features, including automatic conversion to APFS, the ability to respond to customers on the App Store (!), and SKStoreReviewController, an official API for requesting app reviews. Naturally, Francisco is already on it:

January 23, 2017 @ 04PM

Francis Fukuyama, pondering America’s checks and balances:

As a political scientist, I am looking ahead to his presidency with great interest, since it will be a fascinating test of how strong American institutions are. Americans believe deeply in the legitimacy of their constitutional system, in large measure because its checks and balances were designed to provide safeguards against tyranny and the excessive concentration of executive power. But that system in many ways has never been challenged by a leader who sets out to undermine its existing norms and rules. So we are embarked in a great natural experiment that will show whether the United States is a nation of laws or a nation of men.

In the past, Fukuyama has advanced the argument that America is a vetocracy, a system of government gridlocked by countless checks and balances. In light of Trump, he sees this vetocracy as a double-edged sword.

January 18, 2017 @ 02PM

Fast Forward Labs is a machine intelligence research company that issues regular reports on cutting-edge technology. Each report explores a single machine-learning technique in detail, documenting the state of the art, practical applications, and current commercial landscape. Reports are paired with software that demonstrates how to use the technology in practice. Fast Forward’s business model is high-touch: expensive content subscriptions lead to high-value consulting engagements. As a result, their research is prohibitively expensive for individuals. Thankfully, Fast Forward’s blog keeps abreast of all their work.

January 13, 2017 @ 04PM

It always strikes me as odd when a company claims it’s working on the discovery problem — for music, books, social media follows, or any other content domain. I’m not convinced a single solution exists, or even makes sense. A better company might claim it’s working on yet another vector for discovery.

We’re foragers by nature. I tend to value the albums I’ve collected in large part as a function of the circumstances of their discovery. The more unique the path to discovery, the higher a value I place on them. This is independent of obscurity; I might take a circuitous route to discover a well-known title. If my musical world collapsed down to a single recommendation algorithm, or even a single friend, I imagine I’d ultimately find none of it very interesting.

January 10, 2017 @ 11AM

I’m convinced that there’s never been a better time to build compelling and novel privacy businesses. My recent at-bat may be compelling but it’s not novel; the goal was simply to improve the user experience of a widely deployed security technology. Evolutionary enhancements are valuable and necessary, but I suspect the space is ripe for revolution. One question that seems to be at the tip of our collective tongues is how (and when) to move personal data out of central stores and back to edge devices under our control. There are many verticals where the benefits of such a move appear to be substantial and where there seem to be no fundamental economic or experiential arguments against. But I keep wondering if there’s a deeper horizontal play to be found. I consider it an accident of recent history that today’s personal data typically lives far from home. A business that builds a platform (and hardware?) to enable a privacy-local future might plausibly power an online revolution.

January 9, 2017 @ 10AM

It’s hard to believe ten years have passed since Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone. It was a watershed event for our industry, a moment when several newly mature technologies converged and led to a radically better computing experience. I’ve always thought of Jobs’ announcement as a spiritual successor to Doug Engelbart’s 1968 Mother Of All Demos, which introduced the world to mice, bitmapped displays, window systems, hypertext, and more besides. I find both presentations inspirational and rewatch them regularly.

January 8, 2017 @ 03PM

Post-election, I’ve made a point of reading more diverse political opinion. Some of my favorite new voices include Evan McMullin, who ran as an independent presidential candidate in 2016 and who strikes me as the model of a true patriotic conservative; Lauren Duca, who writes sharply about politics for Teen Vogue (!); and Bess Kalb, a comedy writer who replies to Donald Trump as if she were his overprotective mother.

January 6, 2017 @ 11AM

Speaking of independent blogging tools: I just noticed that Desk 3 was released. Desk is a beautifully focused and thoughtful blogging app. I was actually a little worried that it had died the slow death of so many indie apps before it. Instead, it looks like a huge amount of energy went into Desk’s third version. More than that, it looks like John Saddington is building a second blogging app, mnml, that provides an elegant experience for posting to Medium. I count this as two more encouraging data points for the space.

January 5, 2017 @ 06PM

The Indie Microblogging Kickstarter reached its $10k funding goal in under a day. This is an encouraging data point. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about software in this space; it’s nice to see that there’s at least modest demand. I’m curious what would have happened had the goal been more aggressive, say $100k or even $250k. I have a feeling — justified by zero data — that this sort of project can attract contributors with deep pockets and mission-driven zeal.

January 4, 2017 @ 01PM

The political moment feels extremely dark. The two things I fear most are a creeping erosion of trust in government institutions and media outlets, and a newfound disregard for the fearsome terror of nuclear weapons. Trump has done his gleeful best to sow distrust with his infuriating, unsettling, and often literally insane tweets. In a recent post, Brent Simmons captures the depth of anger and fear I (also) feel about Trump’s alarmingly flippant attitude toward our nuclear arsenal.

September 11, 2016 @ 02PM

Hard to believe it’s been fifteen years. I don’t think about 9/11 much anymore, but the memory is never truly distant; the day’s clear blue sky is somehow just as clear. Dan Gillmor’s words from 2003 still resonate with me:

The world didn’t unravel to match our worst fears. There’s been some progress, and some steps backwards. We are, as usual, muddling along as a species. We can do better, and somehow I think we ultimately will.