For the past couple of years Isaac has been following his childhood friend Marvin on Facebook. And over that period, Marvin has shared a series of political links and comments that are diametrically opposed to Isaac’s core values. During the weeks leading up to the trip, Isaac was convinced that these political differences would be a thorn in the side of any experience.
But a funny thing happened when he got to Las Vegas. For the first time in years, Isaac saw his old friend Marvin in person. Within ten seconds of greeting each other, Isaac was reminded that in addition to a shared history and group of friends, he and Marvin have almost everything else in common. They talked for hours that first night in Vegas and the bonding session extended right through Sunday afternoon.
A great reminder that, as Pell puts it, “someone who only experiences the virtual you is not getting anywhere close to the full story.”
The big fight in the blogosphere is whether the Apple/Samsung battle will harm innovation, or help it. Jim Dalrymple’s piece, “The Innovation Argument,” explains the help side well:
What Apple’s win prohibits Samsung, and others, from doing is blatantly copying Apple’s design. There is nothing in the ruling that says Samsung can’t continue to innovate. There is nothing that says Samsung can’t release as many phones as they do now or that they have to charge more. In fact, this decision should lead to more innovation, not less. If Samsung is forced to stop copying Apple, there is only one option left—innovate.
Absolutely. We should see something like this as early as Christmas.
A device with a touchscreen and a few buttons, I was told by a comment on Hacker News, was obvious. “People don’t own ideas, they are granted temporary monopoly on real innovations so that they, in the short term, and society in the long term, can profit. The question isn’t ‘first,’ the question is ‘obvious.’”
We’re hearing a lot of that—although as Macworld’s Dan Frakes notes, everybody said it was nuts for the iPhone to have no buttons. When it first came out, it wasn’t obvious in that context. Even if first isn’t the legal term of art, it’s an important determining factor: if device X is the first device to do something in a market that’s existed for fifteen years, that something probably wasn’t so obvious.
And that “slide to unlock” patent? I’ve seen a lot of snarky comments claiming that, effectively, sliding door latches should count as prior art. Really? Really? If there’s any previous analogy to a claimed invention, the claim should be denied?
Look. Apple got market share by doing stuff that nobody else in the phone market was doing. There were a lot of similar (but not identical) things that other companies did in bits and pieces, but there simply wasn’t anything else like the iPhone before the iPhone. Ironically, the most revolutionary thing the iPhone brought to the market had nothing to do with what these battles are over: it was the web browser. We already forget just how much it blew the doors off anything available in a device that size in 2007. The biggest sign that Apple got that right is how dominant WebKit-based browsers are on mobile devices now.
A lot of the hatred directed against Apple over their “patent wars” seems to me to be misplaced. Apple is not abusing the patent system. They’re not an Intellectual Ventures style patent troll; they’re actually using the patents that they’re fighting over. And it’s very hard to make a convincing argument that Samsung wasn’t intentionally copying a lot of things about the iPhone. In fact, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t work: the more Samsung made their phones like iPhones, the more successful they got.
There are very good arguments to be made against software patents, even against trade dress patents—and maybe even against patents, period. Maybe patents just don’t do what they were intended to do anymore. But while it may be fair to hold Apple to a higher standard in some respects—not just because they’re the biggest tech company in the world, but because they’ve made high standards part of their brand identity—it’s just not realistic to expect any technology company to take a bold stand against the patent system by refusing to sue over perceived patent violations.
Furthermore, it’s not honest to keep portraying Apple as uniquely litigious in this area; Nokia and Motorola both initiated suits against Apple, and while Microsoft hasn’t been going around suing everyone, they’ve just been collecting license fees on Android from manufacturers. By some estimates they’ve made more money on Android than Google has. And as Jean-Louis Gassée asked,
Last year, Apple and Nokia settled an IP “misunderstanding” that also resulted in a “tax”: Apple paid Nokia more than $600M plus an estimated $11.50 per iPhone sold. Where was the outrage against the “evil,” if hapless, Finnish company?
(And maybe not all that hapless in this specific instance, as Gassée also noted that Nokia may have made more money from iPhones than from selling its own Windows Phones.)
If there’s a problem here—and I think there is—it’s with the patent system. It’s certainly too easy to patent things that shouldn’t be patentable. And maybe part of the solution would, paradoxically, be more regulation, involving compulsory licensing the way copyright collectives like BMI and ASCAP work. But regardless, the Apple-Samsung battle is a symptom of the problem. Don’t mistake it for the disease.
"I think Silicon Valley as we know it may be coming to an end," Sacks posts, arguing that because major Internet companies are on the prowl for innovative ideas, it’s too risky and costly for entrepreneurs to attempt to create successful new companies. "How many [viable] ideas like that are left?"
This is certainly concerning. As you probably know, startup ideas are a limited natural resource, and despite recent advancements in extraction techniques there’s increasing concern that we’re approaching, if not already past, “peak idea.” I hear there’s talk in Congress of tapping the Strategic Idea Reserve.
I’m still against offshore drilling for it, though. It’ll be too disruptive to the migratory patterns of venture capitalists following the yacht trails to Cabo San Lucas.
We need to talk a little about something that makes Americans in particular, well, uncomfortable: a common good that can’t be adequately addressed by the marketplace.
At this very moment you’re using a magnificent outcome of this kind of “common good” approach that I’m talking about—the Internet. Yes, yes, I’ll pause for you to crack an Al Gore joke here, but let’s not miss the point. The Internet exists the way it does because no private or state actor owns it, right? The reason no private or state actor owns it is because of explicit decisions made by both its creators and funders to treat it as a common good. From TCP/IP up to higher-level protocols like HTTP and electronic mail, no company or government agency has the power to declare “from this point in time forward, things using this protocol will be different.”
Those protocols are open infrastructure. Sometimes they have nominal owners but control has been relinquished to a standards body; sometimes they’re true public domain. Businesses can build on them, governments can try to spy on them, and of course vice-versa—but they’re public roads, not private ones. Everybody can use whatever web browser they want or email client they want or MP3 player they want. People can (and do) build businesses on top of those protocols, just like businesses in the physical world are built on top of physical infrastructure that those businesses only pay for indirectly.
So. About Twitter.
Twitter isn’t the first proprietary protocol to take off; instant messengers are the most notable previous ones in my mind. But nothing else has become as entwined into the fabric of the mainstream so quickly. Twitter is being treated by the world at large as if it were in the same class as email and HTTP and IM. It’s on billboards, on fast food drink cups, in crawl lines across cable news channels. We all know it’s one company’s product, but it’s not the way we use it.
Suppose CERN had spun off a company headed by Tim Berners-Lee around, say, 1992. In this alternate universe, HTTP works the same way it does now—mostly. The difference is that WebCo™ authenticates all the browsers and acts as the CDN. If it’s done right it may even be a more efficient experience than what we have in the real world! But maybe WebCo™ decides, one day, that they need to ensure a “more consistent experience” for web browsers. Poof! No more ad blockers. (No ads without a cut to WebCo, either.) No plugins that reformatted web sites except in specific ways. No “read it later” services like Instapaper.
WebCo can enforce this because, well, they own HTTP. It’s not a common good in their alternate universe. It’s a private good. WebCo’s HTTP may be more awesome in many ways than the HTTP we really have, but when it comes to infrastructure protocol, a terrible open standard is better than a terrific closed one. The problem that Twitter is inadvertently demonstrating to us all is that they are to their own service what alternate-universe WebCo is to HTTP.
Identi.ca recognized this issue very early on, but misdiagnosed the problem. People who aren’t nerds don’t care whether the software stack is open source, and Identi.ca would collapse if it was ever successful anyway. If you have a service that costs thousands of dollars a month to run (if not millions), your problem isn’t your software license, your problem is paying for your damn servers.
So what about Dalton Caldwell’s App.net project? He’s trying to “fix” Twitter’s business model by moving it from advertiser-supported to user-supported, so it should never have the problem that Identi.ca wishes it would have. Yet as much as I’m with Ben Brooks in the “let me pay for it” camp (and yes, I’m an App.net supporter, there as “chipotlecoyote”), I wonder if this is the wrong problem to be tackling.
If we think Twitter the service has long-term value as a fundamental Internet service—and I do—then Twitter the company needs to be disrupted. That’s not going to happen by building a clone with a more liberal software license or a better business model. It’s only going to happen if such a service becomes Internet infrastructure, no matter how many business models that breaks along the way.
Frankly, in today’s climate I’m not sure what company is going to step up to the plate to do that. In the long run, open infrastructure generates more revenue for more players than proprietary infrastructure does—but you have to believe creating a common good is more important than owning it.
TextDrive is a hosting company run by and for people who love publishing on the web. From shared hosting to fully managed dedicated servers (and everything in between), our reasonably priced hosting plans represent what we consider to be the very best tools for working with data, managing email and serving web pages.
TextDrive was started in 2004 by Dean Allen, the creator of Textile (a “humane web text generator” similar in style to Markdown) and, later, Textpattern, the closest thing to a beautiful CMS that I’ve ever seen. He bootstrapped TextDrive in a pretty remarkable way: rather than taking venture capital money, he sold “lifetime hosting” contracts, at first for $200 and then for $400, in limited availability blocks. These guaranteed—in theory—that you’d stay on the best shared hosting plan they offered in perpetuity.
TextDrive merged with another company called Joyent in 2006. Joyent had a sort of “intranet in a box” package for small business but no hosting; TextDrive had hosting but no business applications. Perfect match. Except nobody wanted Joyent’s applications, so they focused just on hosting—and not on TextDrive’s customer base. They relentlessly pushed Joyent up the value chain, going after bigger and bigger customers, always making sure they were highly buzzword-compliant. Joyent today advertises itself as “high-performance cloud infrastructure for today’s mobile and web applications” (their front page uses the word cloud, give or take, three thousand times).
So it’s something of a wonder they’ve kept some old creaky shared hosting boxes around just for the lifetime hosting deal. Joyent doesn’t sell the product that was the replacement for that original hosting service. They seem to shift their focus every two to three years: the plans change, the services provided change, the target customers change. Whatever infrastructure Silicon Valley startups are all talking about in 2015 is pretty much guaranteed to be Joyent’s prime focus then.
But lifetime no more, Ken McKinney reports; as he puts it, “apparently by ‘lifetime’ they meant ‘until we get tired of supporting them.’” I can see why they want to get rid of those remaining old hosts. Yet rather than migrate the remaining diehards to low-end SmartMachines (their equivalent to Linodes) and keeping the free-forever deal going, they’re only offering a year longer for free. A deal that starts in 2004–2006 and runs through 2013 is a deal for seven to nine years. By Joyent’s definition, I have owned two or three lifetime automobiles.
I was one of TextDrive’s “lifetime” customers, but moved to a Linode last year. Joyent hadn’t put any love into their shared hosting for years before that; the service had the same rough edges in 2011 that it had in 2007, and the web configuration panel was so slow one suspected punch cards were involved somewhere. Interactions with staff nearly always had a faint whiff of BOFH about them. Dean Allen left Joyent years ago and has, from all appearances, given up computers entirely.
I should note Joyent hasn’t gone all corporate on us: they’re the main backer of Node.js. Pretty cool, huh? That’s the infrastructure Silicon Valley startups are all talking about now.
Right now. In 2012.
If I were heavily involved with Node.js, I’d be making contingency plans.
Peter Kafka, in an article headlined “Apple’s New TV Plan: Same TV, Different Box”:
The latest from the Wall Street Journal: Tim Cook is now more interested in a TV box than a TV set. Certainly plausible—just ask Tim Warner’s Jeff Bewkes, who was predicting this a month ago. But the bottom line hasn’t changed. Apple keeps poking at the TV industrial complex, and keeps concluding that it’s better off playing along than playing a new game.
I mention this mostly to call attention to the assumptions here: namely, that Apple was ever interested in making a TV set. They already make a TV box. Nobody ever provided a very convincing explanation for why Apple would want to make the whole set, beyond vague thoughts about how it might somehow make setting up a television easier—or even more vague pie-in-the-sky thoughts about how Apple would revolutionize television. Somehow.
The bottom line—still—is the bottom line. Kafka does go on to explain this correctly. The only way to “get people the stuff they want without paying for everything else” (i.e., the current cable/satellite model) is present a business model to individual studios and/or networks which will bring in equivalent or higher revenue than the business model they have now. For a host of reasons—mostly contractual—this is an either/or choice: they can have the current model or a new model, but not both.
Today, thanks to the Internet, we consider ourselves much more enlightened. We can discuss and examine the source in a way that was not possible in the past. But are we really aware of all information flowing up over the net? What is really true and what’s not? It’s somewhat disturbing at times when the bandwagon takes off and speeds up without being critical. We wanted to test how easy it is to spread disinformation.
A fascinating and somewhat disturbing story of how easy it is to make an “anonymous tip” into a news story without actually giving the tip to anyone.
While this is specifically an indictment of tech bloggers, I’ve seen the basic forces at work here in many other fields. When a conspiracy theory matches our confirmation biases—corporations are evil, government is evil, Apple is evil, Google is evil—we’re all too likely to just nod smugly and forward it on to five hundred of our closest friends.
I’ve-never-heard-of-it-either ebook site Unglue.it has, as Paid Content’s Laura Hazard Owen writes, “hit a bump after Amazon Payments pulled support for crowdfunding accounts.” Owen’s report says that Unglue.it “aims to release ebooks into the Creative Commons through crowdfunding,” and it’s easy at first glance—or second or third—to assume that Amazon is sneakily trying to make a competitor’s life difficult. However, an Amazon spokesperson told Owens that “Unglue.it’s model is not the same as some other crowdfunding services” and doesn’t, in Amazon’s opinion, let Amazon meet certain financial regulations (they’re not specific as to what those are).
I can’t figure out what’s different about Unglue.it’s approach to handling money that’s different from Kickstarter, but I wonder if it’s actually the business model itself that’s somehow a red flag. Unlike Kickstarter, Unglue.it doesn’t want to help people to raise money to create things—what they want to do is drive campaigns to get existing books released as free ebooks with Creative Commons licenses by raising money to pay rights holders. The single successfully unglued book is Oral Literature in Africa, a well-regarded but long out of print work. If you go to Unglue.it’s home page, though, their “Top Ungluing Campaigns” box features titles like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or A Brief History of Time, which don’t have campaigns associated with them at all. They’re just books people wish would be unglued. Hey, I wish I had a BMW M5 that came with a debit card that magically gave me 50% off my gas purchases. I can’t decide whether Unglue.it is just being quixotic by presenting them the way they do, or kind of disingenuous.
I’ve always wanted to allow end-users to tinker with their environment, my ability to do this is what got me excited about programming in the first place, and it is why I created the bundles concept, but there are limits to how much a bundle can do, and with the still growing user base, I think the best move forward is to open source the program.
Way to put lipstick on that pig.
The choice of license is GPL 3. This is partly to avoid a closed source fork and partly because the hacker in me wants all software to be free (as in speech), so in a time where our platform vendor is taking steps to limit our freedom, this is my small attempt of countering such trend.
Ooh, and take an RMS-like swipe at Apple in the process. Bravo!
This reminds me of Pepper, which should have been my favorite text editor when I became a full-time Mac user in 2001. In the late ’90s I was a devotee of BeOS, and Pepper was a Mac port of a mostly-awesome BeOS text editor called Pe. Pepper died in the early OS X marketplace, and its author was very bitter about that. He understood that “many [users] decided [Pepper] wasn’t good enough yet to dump BBEdit,” but never seemed to face the possibility that the fault lay with Pepper, rather than Apple or those stupid BBEdit users. He sold the editor to another guy who did nothing with it for a couple years and then in 2005 announced it was going free. In 2006 I left a message on Pepper’s surviving unofficial bulletin board suggesting people move to TextMate, in which I said one of its good points was “it’s actively developed by a responsive, enthusiastic author.”
In my defense, that was true in 2006, right?
Marco Arment commented briefly on TM2’s open sourcing, saying that while he hoped it would result in faster development, it’s more likely that “TextMate 2 was just sent to retire on a farm upstate.”
As Jim Dalrymple might put it: Yep.
(Marco appears to have moved to Chocolat, a new text editor that’s very clearly gunning for “most direct TextMate replacement” after it became clear that Macrabbit’s Espresso was being developed at, well, the speed of TextMate. While I’d primarily moved to BBEdit, I’m spending more time in Sublime Text these days, in part due to liking its project and window management more and in part because BBEdit, while it’s still a champion at certain kinds of text manipulation, has two big flaws: its block editing isn’t nearly as sophisticated as Sublime Text or Chocolat’s, and it’s years behind every other major editor when it comes to the sophistication of its syntax parsing. I suspect TextMate’s biggest legacy will be the way it’s influenced newer editors in that regard.)
Apple does innovate but rarely do they invent. There are a lot of people out there that think Apple is the creator and everyone else is a lowly follower. How many MAC fans screamed “iPad clone” when the MS surface surface? In fact, that technology has been around for a very long time.
I’ve found that when someone writes “MAC” instead of “Mac” it’s a harbinger of stupid, much like capitalizing the “S” in “Microsoft.” But here’s their challenge:
Name one thing that Apple invented on their own (after Woz left as an active team member), from start to finish, funded with their own money, etc. Software does not count.
Their responses in the comments make it pretty clear that the challenge should be rephrased this way:
"Name a hardware device that Apple has produced since 1987 that is not arguably an iteration of someone else’s existing work."
And they’re right, that’s tough! But replace “Apple” with any other consumer electronics company and see if it gets much easier. There’s not a whole lot that’s come out in the last 25 years that isn’t an improvement on somebody else’s work. Ethernet? The mouse? LCD displays? Capacitive touch input? PDAs? Mobile phones? Serial buses?
Sure, I get it—this is about mocking Apple for suing other companies over what often seem to be pretty silly patents. In Tek Syndicate’s world, that’s the one thing Apple did invent: nobody sued for patent infringement before Steve Jobs thought of it. And us Apple fans need to be edjoomahkayted about this kinda stuff. We’re all stupid and distracted by shiny, dontcha know. Thanks, Tek Syndicate, for being “educational and fun” about this! Maybe you should patent that.
Are Apple fans really so arrogant and obnoxious and guilty of blind faith as claimed? Sometimes, absolutely. That’s a problem with fans of anything. But the vast majority of fans of anything, whether it’s a phone or a computer or a rock band or a science fiction author, have become fans because they think the work is genuinely good.
Instead of asking why Apple attracts those crazy fanboys, ask why HP and Dell and Samsung don’t attract crazy fanboys. Don’t ask what’s wrong with Apple fans because they get excited about their Macs and iPhones. Ask why everybody else isn’t just as excited about what they use. The kinds of people who put together their own tricked-out gaming PCs and install new bootloaders on their Android phones are just as excited about their consumer electronics crap as Apple fans are about their consumer electronics crap, but they’re the exception to the rule.1
We’re in the fourth decade of the personal computer; why the hell isn’t everybody as happy with their technology as those annoying Apple fans are? I’m pretty sure that isn’t something Apple invented, either. But it sure seems to be something they get right more often than anybody else.
Incidentally, Tek Syndicate guys: if you don’t think the Microsoft Surface is a response to the Apple iPad, I have a patent-free bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
And, of course, people who put together their own tricked-out gaming PCs are Tek Syndicate’s main demographic—and one that Apple has never made any serious effort to appeal to. ↩
Why is Starbucks doing this? To lap its competitors in customer experience and technology the way Apple has in electronics retail and Nike has in shoes. Starbucks is already way ahead of the game and didn’t need Square. But [Starbucks CEO Howard] Schultz seems to have recognized that the Square team are doing something special in retail, with a particular focus on the customer experience that most other payments and software companies see as an afterthought. Starbucks gains long-term access to Square’s thinking and technology.
I have a love-hate relationship with Starbucks. It’s become de rigueur for people who’ve discovered single estate and artisan coffees—what you’d find at Blue Bottle or Stumptown—to cap on Starbucks for taking so-so coffee beans (probably the best they can get in the quantities they need, but even so), seriously over-roasting them (which destroys most of the character of the individual coffee beans, but keeps the flavor consistent from bag to bag), and swarming into cities to drive out all those good independent coffee shops.
But we’re also guilty of at least a little revisionist history: fifteen or twenty years ago, none of those artisan places existed. When Starbucks came into Tampa in the ’90s, they did drive some independent coffee shops and small local chains out of business—by serving much better coffee. If it wasn’t for Starbucks, Blue Bottle and Stumptown wouldn’t exist. Places like Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme and even McDonald’s all have better coffee now than they used to, because they had to step up their game.
And here’s my dirty secret: when I want to go out and do some work for a while at a coffee shop there’s a good chance I’ll end up at a Starbucks.1 They’re known quantities: almost always comfortable, clean, with power outlets and free wi-fi, and coffee which is never great but is drinkable.2 I love finding great independent/artisan coffee shops as much as the next middle-aged hipster does, but when I want to get work done, I’m not gonna risk finding myself drinking worse coffee for the same price in a room with a bare concrete floor and three sad couches rescued from the Salvation Army.
Anyway. What this partnership really means for Square, more than anything else, is that their name gets in front of a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise see them, and that the idea of using a phone app as a credit card replacement—in more places than just your coffee shop—gets out there. That’s potentially a very big thing.
Don’t get me started on Starbucks instant coffee, though.
Sorry, Panera fans—they have a great atmosphere but their coffee is McDonald’s level quality at higher-than-Starbucks prices. And Starbucks even has better pastries.↩
Some Starbucks have “Clover” coffee machines, which make a single cup at a time using coffees that only Starbucks with Clovers get. Starbucks Clover coffee is good, but still not great because they’ve forgotten how to do genuine light roasts. ↩
Microsoft has been using the “Metro” name to describe the new geometric, typography-heavy look-and-feel that is central to Windows 8 [and] Windows Phone. But sources are telling us that this is coming to an abrupt end after the company’s Legal and Corporate Affairs team sent out a memo banning the word “Metro.” LCA’s memo reportedly says that Microsoft has been threatened with legal action for infringing on “Metro” trademarks held by German retailer Metro AG.
Thought exercise. If Apple had been threatened with legal action over calling their UI design language of a few years ago “Aqua,” would they have:
Immediately switched to calling it “Mac OS X-style UI” and claimed Aqua was just a code name anyway?
Parachuted in a team of trademark lawyers and declared they would fight this with everything they had, up to and including devastating blasts from Scott Forstall’s laser eyes?
I’m not saying I love Apple’s approach to these kind of disputes. But this is folding like a stack of cards, and then declaring that you actually folded like a stack of something else foldable, just in case “cards” are trademarked.
With the official release of OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion,” I’ve seen some more of the inevitable “Apple is locking down the Mac, flee now while you still can” articles and blog posts. 10.8, for those of you not keeping track (and I don’t blame you), introduces “Gatekeeper,” a system control panel which can be set to one of three security levels: only allow applications to be installed from the Mac App Store, allow applications to installed from anywhere but only applications that have been “signed” with an authorized developer ID, and allow any application to be installed from anywhere, the way things have always worked.
At least, that’s the way it’s oft described. In practice, 10.8 will allow any application to be installed from anywhere no matter what—the Gatekeeper level actually controls how whiny it will get about it. On the default median level, if you install anything from the App Store or anything that’s been signed, it’s just as it always was; unsigned apps, though, will bring up a warning dialog box and make you acknowledge that it’s not Apple’s problem if the app sends your address book to a Russian bot network and fills your Documents folder with “My Little Pony” porn.
The worry, of course, is that this is just an interim step on the way to the draconian control of your computing life that’s surely just around the corner. This is based on the increasingly pervasive notion that Apple hates apple pie, freedom and cute puppies, as evidenced by all those essential, everyday tasks you can’t do with an iOS device. Like recompiling its kernel. I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled out my iPhone and urgently screamed, “Siri, recompile your kernel!” at it, then crumpled to the ground in despair. Same for you, I’m sure.
In all seriousness, while there’s system-level functionality I’d certainly like to see in iOS that isn’t there yet, I suspect we’re more likely to see something like Gatekeeper move to iOS than we are to see OS X move to disallowing installs from outside the App Store. While pundits often seem to divide the computer-using public into “developers” and “people who can’t find where they saved their files,” there’s a lot of ground between those two extremes, and a lot of people in that ground are going to keep wanting desktops and laptops for the foreseeable future. While I can’t absolutely rule out Apple turning its back on them, I haven’t seen anyone make a particularly good business case as to why Apple would. “Because they can” is not a particularly good business case.
My concern isn’t with apps at all—it’s with documents. Mac App Store applications must be “sandboxed” the way iOS applications are. iOS applications include documents in their sandboxes: a document “owned” by an application can only be seen by that application. If I save a Markdown document in Byword on my iPad, no other iPad application—even if I have dozens of other ones that can handle plain text—can see it, unless I can use “Open in…” from in Byword itself.
Ah ha! You may say. That’s what iCloud is for! With iCloud, documents get magically synced between devices!1 Yep. Thing is, iCloud also magically brings document sandboxing to OS X. If I want to see what I wrote in Byword on the iPad, I need to go to Byword on the Mac. If I want to preview it in Marked or do some power editing in Sublime Text, I’d still have to open it in Byword and then drag it to the other app.
Here’s why this concerns me a little: I’ve argued in the past that the kind of “open” we should really care about is open data. It shouldn’t matter whether I’m using Emacs or BBEdit or Byword for text, GIMP or Photoshop or Acorn to edit a PNG file, Alpine or Postbox to access mail on IMAP servers. If all of your meaningful data is open, you seriously reduce the friction inherent in switching applications or even computing platforms.
As neat as iCloud is, I’m concerned that it adds friction that a solution like Dropbox doesn’t. It may make “power user” tasks just within the Apple ecosystem a little more difficult—and it makes moving between ecosystems a lot more difficult. Suppose that I want to keep my Air and my iPad but replace my iPhone with whatever the next Nexus phone is? (Look, you never know.) If everything on the Air and the iPad starts adopting iCloud as the One True Sync Solution, doing this in 2014 might be a lot tougher than it is in 2012.
Except when it loses data. I don’t know if this is an iCloud problem, a Byword problem or a user problem, but it’s possible to have data that’s on your iPad and not synced to iCloud that gets wiped out irrecoverably by an earlier version of the document because you opened it on your Mac. Ask me how I know. ↩
I like Craig on some level. I think most people in the tech world like him, but he’s delusional, reckless, and created one hell of a cockroach of a business. He’s hypocritical (On the board of the Sunlight Foundation and advisor to Wikimedia but users can’t use CL data to create cool things) and on some level he lacks self-awareness. He’s no different than a capitalist who milks his business for profits instead of innovating. He’s smart enough to hide behind an “aw shucks, golly gee, I didn’t know I was making so much money” personality. The truth is this is the same personality as the guys who missed the boat on innovation at their newspaper business for the last 20 years.
Craigslist is one of the most weirdly frustrating web sites on the Internet: there are so many ways it could be improved, from simple design tweaks to reconciling its business practices with its professed principles. But CL is never going to substantially improve as long as C is still in charge of it. And while building a better competitor would be relatively simple, overcoming CL’s massive network effect? Not so simple.
Though less well-known, Waterloo, Ontario, is another city stamped by the accomplishments of a tech giant. Research in Motion began there in 1984, and with its era-defining success came an influx of talent and a growing community. But RIM has stumbled, and lately the signs have been especially grim: the all-or-nothing BB10 has been delayed until early 2013, and the company lost a half-billion dollars last quarter. It can be easy to treat the news from Waterloo abstractly, as just another unfolding corporate drama. But RIM’s fate affects real, actual people — and not just those buying (or not) its phones. It remains one of the area’s largest employers, a source not just of local pride, but Canadian pride as well. As Google is to Mountain View or Apple is to Cupertino, Research in Motion is more than just a company. It’s a symbol of accomplishment, a defining feature of the community’s self-image.
Another great feature article from The Verge. I wonder how accurate the comparison to Mountain View and Cupertino is, though: the point Hicks is making about companies defining their town belies that these those two cities are only six miles apart. Another few miles up is Facebook in Palo Alto; a few miles the road is Intel in Santa Clara, and Adobe in San Jose. These companies are very important to their individual cities in terms of tax revenue, perhaps, but for most citizens—at least in my admittedly small and non-random sample of friends and co-workers over the years—we’re all in Silicon Valley.