Micro.blog Notes

February 15, 2024

Manton Reece, with a new feature for Micro.blog:

Today we’re launching a major new feature for Micro.blog Premium subscribers. Micro.blog notes are a new way to save content in Micro.blog when you don’t want to use a blog post or draft. Notes are private by default, end-to-end encrypted across all platforms, with a special companion app named Strata for iOS.

This is interesting for a few reasons. First, I just love how the Micro.blog platform is continuously improved and extended in ways I wouldn’t have predicted. I’m not a heavy user of the platform, but I really do love that it exists and seems to be growing well. Manton and crew are a breath of fresh air in a VC dominated software world.

Second, the end-to-end encryption feature is very cool. I was poking around in the source and they are just using standard encryption features built into the browser. The notes never leave your browser without being encrypted.

I was working on a similar feature a few years ago and we gave up at the time due some browser restrictions, so it’s nice to see those resolved and this is a viable solution.

iFixit’s Vision Pro Teardown

February 14, 2024

The Vision Pro is insanely ambitious. Yes, it’s heavy, and the glass is fragile, and that tethered battery might get annoying. But Apple has managed to pack the power of a Mac, plus the performance of a new dedicated AR chip, into a computer that you can wear on your face.

The amount of tech and engineering packed into this device is incredible.

Apple Vision Pro

February 13, 2024

It took me a week to figure this out. When I originally tried on the Apple Vision Pro1 last week I thought it was cool, but didn’t plan on keeping it. Where does this type of device fit into my life? The answer for me didn’t come right away.

When you first set up the Apple Vision Pro, it asks you to do basic eye set up and training. This experience was super cool and well done. It didn’t take me long to get used to the idea of “pointing with your eyes”. The window controls are obvious, after you use them once, and worked incredibly well. (Although, it’s hard to shake my habit of looking to the top of a window to close it.)

Environments

The built-in immersive experiences are really fun, albeit gimmicky. I played with a few apps that placed F1 cars and dinosaurs in the room with me. These are great for parlor tricks and getting into the device, but after running them each once or twice I don’t see why I’d ever use them again.

In contrast, the “environments” within Vision Pro are great. There are a few choices for environments including Mount Hood, the Moon, and Yosemite to put around you while you work or play with apps. I love being able to dial in how much of them to see. My preferred setting is to have the environment mostly in front of my perspective, but leaving the side periphery with passthrough to the room around me. There are a few environments that aren’t yet available and say ‘Coming Soon’ when viewed. It seems odd that Apple would include unfinished environments in the main view. I do think there needs to be more of these over time. Even after a week of use I found myself bored with the same view over and over. My favorite setting for the first week: Yosemite. So great.

The Fit

I’ve struggled with the fit of this device. It’s entirely possible that my head is weird here, but the Vision Pro is constantly nagging me about fit. I’m either too close, or too far from the displays. It asks me to move the screens up extremely often. It’s too fidgety.

The solo knit band that was installed on the device by default was comfortable at first, but over time has exasperated my fit issues. I’ve found the dual loop band, which has a strap that goes over the top of your head, much more usable and comfortable for more than a few minutes of usage. I can understand why Apple included both of these bands in the box. I suspect one or the other fits different heads better. I do wish the dual loop band was more soft like the solo band, but for a first version this is good start. I’m hopeful that the third party accessory market will build up over time.

Entertainment

Watching movies and video on the Vision Pro is worth the cost of entry for this device. It’s not exaggerating to say the experience is like sitting in a movie theatre in your own home. I watched the first episode of the new True Detective season the first night I had the Vision Pro. I intentionally started the video scaled down to about the size and placement of the television in my living room. This was totally fine but the real magic is dragging the corner of the video to make it the size of the room itself. I don’t often watch video at this size because I don’t want to move my head to see the full frame, but for a few minutes it’s incredible.

The Apple TV app is, as expected, best in class. Watching a TV+ show is a great experience on Vision Pro and the app itself is carefully designed and well done. I cannot wait to watch live sports with this device. It’s a shame Vision Pro shipped during a time when we have no F1, baseball, or football but I’m excited for later this year.

Speaking of baseball, the MLB app on Vision Pro is amazing. There is a demo feature of a World Series game from last fall with a completely immersive experience. Your perspective includes the live game feed, stats, and a 3D pitch diagram coming right towards you. This is super cool and so fun. I’m unsure if this is just a demo feature, or if it will be available for each MLB.tv game streaming this spring. If it’s generally available, this is going to be incredible.

Watching sports demos on the Vision Pro makes me wish that Apple had acquired the streaming rights last year to the NFL instead of YouTube. This country’s biggest sports league deserves a first-class experience on a device like Vision Pro, and I’m not sure we’re going to get it. At this point there isn’t even a YouTube app, which doesn’t inspire confidence in anything groundbreaking for the NFL.

Speaking of YouTube, it’s a sorely missed app. Apple TV+ and Max are nice services, and I do watch both of them periodically. But the vast majority of my streaming comes from YouTube, YouTube.TV, and Netflix. Neither of these services have a presence on Vision Pro, except for on the web. Browsing and playing video on the web is a terrible experience. Many of the streaming service websites rely on hover states and tiny button targets to function properly, which makes them very difficult to use on Vision Pro.

One bright spot for YouTube is the app Juno by Christian Selig, formerly of Apollo. Juno is very well done, as is to be expected from Selig. But there’s only so much he’s likely able to do wrapping the YouTube site and APIs. A first-party native app for YouTube is sorely missed.

Work

I said that it took me a week to figure this thing out. Well, it took me a week to try using it for work on my Mac. Now I get it! The Vision Pro is an incredible device for doing actual work with a shared screen from a Mac. It’s a game changer for me.

Using my Mac’s keyboard, mouse, and virtual display with the Vision Pro is the experience I was looking for. It’s very far from perfect and I’m hoping will get better in the years to come. But for a version one product, this is fantastic. There is very little latency, and the display resolution of my Mac is plenty clear enough for use.

I’ve been spending about 2-3 hours a day working within the Vision Pro. This is about the max I would use it for each day, and my face is definitely sore from the weight after this usage. I love getting lost in my work with nothing around me but the snow and trees of Yosemite.

I wish I had the Vision Pro back when I was working in an open office space. Slipping this on and having a private, focused environment for work is an incredible experience. Paired with a set of noise-canceling AirPods, this is as immersive and private a working environment as you’ll find.

Working on the Vision Pro is the reason I’m keeping this device. It’s perfect for my use cases. I do not like multiple monitors on my Mac, I prefer a single centered view of everything. This is what the Vision Pro provides. If you’re into multiple monitors and lots of screen real estate, then the Vision Pro is not going to meet your needs. But for a simple single-monitor experience it’s very nice.


I’ve never had much interest in VR headsets before. I’m not a gamer and most of the use cases to date for this class of device have been heavily focused on gaming. We have a Meta Quest 2 in the house and my son uses it constantly for gaming. It’s not my thing. But the Vision Pro is different. It’s a fresh take on an old idea and I can see why Apple is excited about the future here.

It’s very early days for this platform. I’m skipping about a thousand shortcomings in this initial review because they’ll be fixed over time with better hardware and software revisions. It’s heavy. Battery life is too short. There aren’t many apps. The display resolution is amazing, but not good enough. I could go on but this device is incredible. I’m using it more each day, both at work, and at night watching TV and movies.

Apple Vision Pro is a 1.0 release. It’s only going to get better, and I’m here for it.


  1. I’m just going to call it Vision Pro. Saying “Apple Vision Pro” and not using “the” in front of it is dumb. ↩︎

February 12, 2024 at 7:02 AM

Fantastic Super Bowl game last night. As I suspected, never count out Patrick Mahomes. Just an incredible performance and well deserved title. We had a blast watching this game. The NFL sure does put on a show.

February 11, 2024 at 11:25 AM

Super Bowl Sunday. The current line says 49ers by two. After watching him a few weeks ago against the Ravens I’m not going to be betting against Patrick Mahomes any more. I think the Chiefs win this game outright. Maybe when that happens Andy Reid can retire then so the rest of the AFC has a chance next year!

Week Notes: February 10, 2024

February 10, 2024

Happy Saturday from a rainy morning in Texas.

A few links and notes from the week that was:

  • The Grammy Awards show was on Sunday, and it sure was fun for a change! My kids were interested for only one reason (Taylor) and it didn’t disappoint.

    My highlight: a great new single and performance from Billy Joel. It’s not technically his first new song in 30+ years, but it feels like it. The song is great. The chord structures and vocal lines are vintage Joel and sound like they were written decades ago in his songwriting prime. So much fun.

  • The Apple Vision Pro is in the hands of customers and it’s been a fun week watching videos and reviews from the early adopters. Casey Neistat’s video of wearing the device skateboarding around New York is brilliant. Love seeing the reactions of people around the city.

    Nick Bilton had a solid interview with Tim Cook in Vanity Fair. Ben Thompson was underwhelmed by the productivity solution for work.1

    I saw a few people wearing the Vision Pro around town this week. They all looked ridiculous and so nerdy, but I suspect this will be more normalized in the coming years.

  • As with most years, I’ve spent a ton of time in the early part of this year planning features, projects, and other timelines for my teams. In years past I’ve just used Google Sheets as a visual means to display this information.

    This year I set everything up in Notion and it’s been such an easier process. Dragging project entries and creating a database of our yearly plans has been a significant improvement over a spreadsheet!

    It’s been a few years since I switched all of my ventures to use Notion, and I’m really glad I did.

  • This week Bluesky opened up officially for all new users, no invite codes necessary.

    I signed up for Bluesky a while back but never stuck with it. I don’t have a particularly good reason why, but it just never clicked with me yet. Mastodon and Threads have completely replaced Twitter for me, and I’m not sure I need a third service to check. But I do love the idea of the AT Protocol and the ideas behind Bluesky.

    The developer documentation they’ve produced thus far has been very good. I love the spirit behind the protocol and how the company is pushing it. It may be time to give Bluesky another look.

  • Disney has made a major investment in Epic Games, creator of Fortnite. This is a very interesting deal to me. It’s been a few years since the metaverse craze and things have mostly been quiet on that front for me.

    Fortnite is a massive deal. My son and almost all of his friends play the game every chance they get. When they’re not playing it, they’re watching YouTube videos about it. There’s a giant community of gamers that are very into this ecosystem.

    It makes a ton of sense to me for the Disney brand to invest in this space and reach this audience. Can’t wait to see how this ends up taking shape.

  • In a book that was released what seems like a few years too late, Chris Dixon’s Read Write Own is out. Although after reading Molly White’s detailed review it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the time.

    Dixon had some really interesting ideas that resonated with me a few years ago. But after so many cases of fraud, deception, and unethical behavior it’s hard for me to take anything crypto seriously anymore. Probably a shame, because there’s some very interesting tech in the space, but it hasn’t resulted in any life changing products for me.

  • Lastly, in today’s issue of Air Mail, Brian Stelter writes about the rise and fall of the Messenger. A great read about a very weird story. I really like Stetler and his work over the years. It’s so great to having him writing for us.

📰


  1. I disagree with Ben, by the way. More to come on that eventually. ↩︎

Lamar Jackson Wins Second MVP

February 9, 2024

Congratulations to Lamar Jackson for winning his second NFL MVP award. Lamar is such a joy to watch and the team really is on his back most of the year.

The Ravens are custom-built around his particular skillset and play design. He’s the single most important player on the team and I don’t see anyone else around the league that is relied on more than Lamar. Well deserved.

Week Notes: February 3, 2024

February 3, 2024

Happy Saturday. It was a very busy week. As is now my weekly routine, here are a few notes from the work week that was …

  • It’s Apple Vision Pro launch week. My pre-order arrived yesterday and I’ve been so busy I haven’t played with it yet. Hoping to find some time this weekend to dig in and figure this thing out.

  • I officially kicked off a new venture this week. No name or details to share just yet. It’s so nice to start fresh sometimes, and I’m really excited about this one. One of the challenges ahead is developing a design system and tech approach for rapid prototyping and sharing logic between a suite of apps. My goal is to make new ideas and new prototypes simple and quick. More to come here, for sure.

  • Google has notified users that they will be deleting all data from Universal Analytics (the old GA) in July. We have a ton of good data in our Air Mail accounts. I’m still annoyed we had to make the switch to GA4. It has been an inferior product in every way for us, and I suspect many other publishers too. Time to begin getting our data out of UA and into a proper warehouse.

  • Speaking of GA4, one feature I do really like is using Looker Studio for some internal dashboards and reports. Our audience team is doing some incredible things here and it’s a very nice tool. We’ve also integrated it with some of our archive and usage data in BigQuery and it’s a breeze to write queries and reports for the team to consume.

  • This week we also began the process of upgrading Air Mail to the latest versions of Ruby, and Rails. We’re not very far behind, but even a version or two can be complicated for an app of this size and scale. Upgrading Ruby was a piece of cake and took less than an hour. The Rails upgrade on the other hand, is a work in process.. This undertaking is still so much easier than it was a decade ago.

  • I’m also working on moving us off of CircleCI for our continuous integration. We’ve really had no issues with CircleCI, but our Github account offers most of the same features for ‘free’ with our existing paid team account. Github Actions is not very easy to use, but it seems good enough for our purposes.

  • Developing for Github Actions is a giant mess of trial and error commits. It took us about 40 commits to get the config where we wanted it for our needs. We tried a few of the tools out there to test the scripts and run locally, but none of them did the trick accurately.

  • This week’s Air Mail issue is rolling out a new test feature for a small subset of readers: AI translated text. We’re experimenting with letting readers consume a few articles in other languages. The AI process for converting and updating text is quite incredible. Luckily we have many non-english speaking staff members, so there’s plenty of folks to read through the pieces in other languages. The tech here is not quite ready for us to publish without a quick staff edit, but it’s getting close. Fun tech to play with.

  • Speaking of AI, we’re actively exploring and integrating with Microsoft’s OpenAI integrations through Azure. There was a quick application process to get in, and it took us less than a day to get approved. The tools Azure provides are very nice, and seem to be much closer than giving us what we need. I’m hopeful there’s more to come here.

  • Registering a domain this week was more complicated than ever before. Apparently now we need to ‘verify’ domain details after purchase through an email and from process. Weird! I used to just purchase domains and use them within an hour with no fuss. Now I’m waiting for Hover to get its act together and send me the proper link to verify the domain details, as its automated initial email contains a broken link. Ouch.

  • Lastly, I finally upgraded to a paid plan on Casey Newton’s excellent Platformer. I should have done this months ago.

🤖

Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari

February 2, 2024

Major F1 news came down yesterday: Lewis Hamilton is joining Ferrari next year.

Luke Smith, writing at The Athletic:

It’s the kind of move F1 fans — and the figures at the top of the sport itself — could have only dreamed of ever happening. Partnering Hamilton, F1’s most famous and successful driver, with Ferrari, F1’s most famous and successful team, is box office stuff.

Ferrari will likely enter the 2025 season with the strongest lineup in F1 as Hamilton races alongside Charles Leclerc, its young star. As ‘superteam’ lineups go, short of the implausible prospect of Hamilton teaming up with Max Verstappen, it’s hard to think of any bigger.

Regardless of the outcome, this will be one of the defining stories in F1 for the next couple of years as the 39-year-old Hamilton bids to write the latest — and potentially final — chapter of his glittering F1 career in Ferrari’s famous red cars.

This was a complete shock. There’s certainly been rumors for years, but I never expected this to be a reality. How could Mercedes let this happen? Wow.

The Orioles are being sold

February 1, 2024

John Ourand, writing for my friends at Puck:

It looks like the Orioles sale is finally going to happen. I’ve had several plugged-in sources tell me that the team’s owner, John Angelos, has agreed to sell the franchise to a group led by two private equity billionaires: David Rubenstein, who started the Carlyle Group, hails from Baltimore, and has been tied to the deal for months; and Ares Management Corp. co-founder Mike Arougheti, who lives in New York. The extent of Arougheti’s involvement is unclear, but Rubenstein will become the “control person,” the term MLB uses for teams’ decision-makers. The deal values the club at $1.725 billion.

I never thought I’d see this day come. Is it a coincidence that it happened after the club’s most successful year since the early ’80s? Probably not. Call me optimistic. This sounds great. (Can’t get any worse, to be honest.)

February 1, 2024 at 9:59 AM

I wasn’t happy with how the cross-posting was going on Micro.blog. Especially for just external link posts, they looked a bit funny. I’ve added a secondary feed now that just posts these small status updates and any original posts. Links will continue to be on the main blog here. Steadily improving things as I go around here…

Project Tapestry

January 31, 2024

A new Kickstarter project from the Iconfactory team:

What if you had one app that gave an overview of nearly everything that was happening across all the different services you follow? A single chronological timeline of your most important social media services, RSS feeds, and other sources. All of the updates together in one place, in the order they’re posted, with no algorithm deciding what you should see or when you should see it.

Great idea for an app. I would probably back anything the Iconfactory team builds, but this one especially sounds really great. I love supporting indie teams creating amazing things. Two days in and the project is already up to $70k of the $100k goal.

Arc Search

January 30, 2024

Arc Search is a new delightful and incredibly useful app from the Arc team. I keep trying to get used to Arc on my Mac but it hasn’t stuck for me. I just love the simplicity of Safari and it’s hard to shake for everyday browsing.

The mobile app is something entirely different. It’s a full browser to replace your default, yes, but it’s really focused on searching first and foremost. I love being able to type a search phrase and have the app “browse for me.” The “browse for me” feature summarizes the first few search results and makes a lovely compiled webpage for you to answer a question and give you links to sources.

Comparing this with a modern Google search result page is a breath of fresh air. No scrolling past 10 ads to get to an original content source. This is the best use of AI I’ve found for summarizing web search yet. It’s so cool and nicely designed. I don’t know if it’ll replace Safari on the phone for general browsing and reading, but I will definitely be using this for searching and research.

January 30, 2024 at 7:13 AM

Congratulations to the Chiefs and 49ers for making the Super Bowl. I’ll confess this isn’t how I wanted the weekend to go! But here we are. I was really pulling for the Lions (great story) and, of course, the Ravens.

I can’t help feeling like the Lions gave away their game and the 49ers just outlasted them. I hope we see them back here again, it’s such a great story to resurrect that franchise and a city that loves its team.

The Ravens, on the other hand, completely flopped and didn’t show up to play. Lamar was awful, and the game plan was poorly conceived and executed. Patrick Mahomes might be the best player we’ve ever seen. He’s just incredible and turns on a different mode when he’s in a playoff game.

It’s hard for me to see how the best coach and best player in the league don’t cruise to another championship in two weeks.

🏈

Week Notes: January 27, 2024

January 27, 2024

Happy Saturday. A few notes from the week about work and life…

  • We’re working on an integration with SMS notifications through Twilio. Most of its platform is really quite nice and a pleasure to work with. Switching between SMS and Whatsapp was incredibly easy.

  • Getting started with a new company on Twilio: not so easy though. I understand the need to prevent spam text messages and such, but it shouldn’t be so difficult to set up an account and get verified. I’ve had a relationship with this company for over a decade, and I use one of its acquired companies (SendGrid) to send over a million emails a week. A few dozen text messages shouldn’t be a problem!

  • If it’s so hard to get set up sending SMS messages, why do I still receive so many unsolicited political messages!?

  • Stripe continues to be the gold standard for third-party APIs. I wish every company would treat its developer community like Stripe. Incredible documentation. Thorough examples. Clear messages when things go wrong. Versioning and change notes that were written by humans. Lovely all around.

  • The third-party integration we dread updating? Shopify. The opposite of Stripe in every way. We’re forced every few months to update our API version through increasingly hostile means. The documentation is inconsistent, incomplete, and often just plain incorrect. No specific notes on what features are deprecated within our requests, just generic notes that what we’re doing is incorrect. It took a few folks on our team almost a week to upgrade our very basic usage of Shopify’s APIs. Not great! And, we’ll be forced to do it all over again in a few months.

  • Another great integration and provider of ours: Cloudflare. Incredible how much value we get from so little expense. One of our worker processes on Cloudflare served 24,697,912 requests this month. The cost? $3.60. Incredible.

  • Software timelines are nearly impossible to predict when creating something from nothing. This is a struggle on one of my small teams. We’re all working towards a goal, but it’s always a challenge to predict when things will be done. I’ve not found a tool or methodology that can help with this, and I’ve tried them all. Sometimes things are just going to take how long they’re going to take. And that’s okay.

  • Coffee with a friend this week was incredibly helpful for motivation and support. Starting, building, and running multiple software companies is a tough business. Some fresh perspective from a person that “gets it” meant the world.

And a few links for the week:

  • Spyglass – M.G. Siegler’s new site. Nice to see M.G. writing and putting out new content, I’ve always liked his work and opinions.

  • LM Studio – I’ve been messing with AI models quite a bit lately. It’s such an incredible new set of tools and technologies that’s changing our world. LM Studio is a super handy application that simplifies downloading and running various models locally on my Mac.

  • I know I’m biased here, but today’s issue of Air Mail is really great. The quality of work this team (not me, the editorial team!) is producing on a weekly basis is incredible and I’m so proud of this group. In this issue: my buddy Nathan King got an early look at the Vision Pro (jealous!) and Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, mourns the loss of Sports Illustrated.

  • Tomorrow afternoon: AFC Championship between the Chiefs and my beloved Ravens. Cautiously optimistic today. Really excited for this one. If you want to be the champs, you have to go through KC. Let’s see if Lamar and the boys can get it done.

  • And finally, March can’t come soon enough for me with the return of F1. This week we saw contract extensions for Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris. Glad to see the stability. Oh, and we have a new name for AlphaTauri: The Visa Cash App RB team. Just rolls off the tongue.

✌️❤️

The Mac at 40

January 25, 2024

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh computer. I can’t think of any device that has impacted my life more, even including the iPhone. In some hypothetical dystopian scenario where I could only keep one device, it would be my Mac. I switched to the Mac as soon as I could afford to do so and have been using it for over half of its 40 year history.

Happy Birthday, Mac. Many happy returns.

Sports Illustrated

January 22, 2024

Sad news last week reported by A.J. Perez at Front Office Sports:

Staffers at Sports Illustrated were notified on Friday of massive layoffs—some immediately, others in short time, with potential for the entire staff to be gone in three months.

Authentic, the licensing group that purchased Sports Illustrated for $110 million from Meredith five years ago, has terminated the agreement it holds with The Arena Group to publish SI in print and digital, according to an email obtained by Front Office Sports. That move comes three weeks after Arena missed a $3.75 million payment that breached the company’s SI licensing deal, which began in 2019. (Authentic’s notice of termination, meanwhile, triggered a $45 million fee due immediately to Authentic, according to an SEC filing on Friday.)

The fallout: On Friday Arena told SI employees in an email “… We were notified by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) that the license under which the Arena Group operates the Sports Illustrated (SI) brand and SI related properties has been officially revoked by ABG. As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand.”

I enjoyed Peter King’s callout in his column this week about SI:

Nothing describes how the sports media business has changed better than the precipitous decline of Sports Illustrated. More than a bit of melancholy washed over me Friday, processing the news of the battered place. Because even if SI survives 2024, it will do so as a skeleton of what it was.

I have only good memories of my 29 years with the franchise. In the midst of the sadness and bitterness over SI’s demise, I want to share a few of the reasons why I will always consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth because I got to work for the greatest sports journalism franchise for the guts of my career.

I remember the phone call—absolutely, totally out of the blue—from managing editor Mark Mulvoy in spring 1989. I was 31, covering the Giants for Newsday. Mulvoy asked if I was interested in interviewing for a job at the magazine. It’s still one of those things to this day that I can’t quite believe happened. I went into the mag’s Rockefeller Center offices, across from Radio City, and Mulvoy got to the point pretty fast. He wanted me to write the “Inside the NFL” column and, in fact, there wasn’t much of an interview. He asked me if I wanted the job.

He goes on to ask a bunch of people about their favorite covers and SI memories. Really cool.

Notion Calendar

January 22, 2024

A new calendar app from Notion was announced this month. Notion’s calendar looks very nice. It appears to be (like Notion itself) a web-based calendar app but with a few native app wrappers. The integrations are nice: I was able to easily sign-in with my various Google Calendar accounts and also to a few Notion workspaces.

Overall it is a very nice little calendar app. Also nice that it’s just built into our existing paid Notion accounts so there’s nothing else to buy.

Design-wise it’s very clean and clear. One of the reasons I’m attracted to Notion is its clean design. The calendar fits right in.

The ability to connect to a Notion database in a calendar is really super nice and it’s something I really have wanted from Notion itself. I wish I didn’t need to use their calendar app to get my data out into a calendar. I’d much prefer to use Fantastical, but it doesn’t seem to be possible without third-party apps just yet.

It’s hard not to compare this launch with that of the HEY Calendar launched a few weeks earlier. Notion is a much more traditional approach to a calendar app. Both were easy to integrate with for external calendars. HEY’s approach is very different and thoughtful. Trying them both out for a few weeks to see which ideas stick.

January 22, 2024 at 9:04 AM

Great weekend of football this weekend. The divisional round does not disappoint. The Ravens game was a bit stressful to begin the game, but they really turned it on during the second half. Good to see Lamar get a solid playoff win to silence his critics (for a few days, at least).

Sad to see the Bills lose last night. They played so well, but if you want to be the champs you’re going to have to beat the Chiefs sooner or later. Excited to see Jason Kelce at one more game this year.

Next weekend should be a lot of fun. I’m feeling optimistic about the Ravens taking care of business. Opening line is BAL -3. Basically a tie with the slight advantage going to home field advantage. I like it.

Friday Links: January 19, 2024

January 19, 2024

Happy Friday. A few links and thoughts from the week:

  • The Obsessor – Matthew Panzarino’s new site launched late last year after he left TechCrunch. Added a $6/mo paid tier this month. Powered by Ghost, which seems to be a popular non-Substack solution these days.

  • reMarkable – reMarkable e-ink tablet for writing. I really like the idea of this. Pricing is reasonable, but with a pen and case adds up quick. I’ve been using an iPad for this purpose for now, but this is a really interesting idea too. (via The Obsessor)

  • Justin Jackson’s newsletter focus this year is on marketing and growth tips for SaaS founders. Subscribed.

  • Prompt 3 – Third version of the great terminal/SSH app for iOS and now the Mac. Been using the previous versions on my iPad for years. (Also, Panic’s app pages are just the best.)

  • Bluesky 2023 Moderation Report – Interesting to me to see a social platform reporting this type of data. Maybe it’s been done by others, but this is the simplest and clearest I’ve seen. There’s a lot of tooling behind the scenes to make this work.

  • Iowa sues TikTok over mature and inappropriate content accessible to minors. Don’t let your kids use TikTok people. Or any social media if you can.

  • Amazon to invest in Diamond Sports and bail out the bankrupt and poorly run regional sports networks. Three cheers for Amazon here. Please let us stream local sports easily.

  • Last but not least: pre-orders opened up this morning for Apple’s first Vision Pro release. Very curious how this release is going to go.

Apple and App Payments on the Web

January 18, 2024

Apple updated its developer guidelines this week to “allow” for external linking to third-party payment sources for app developers. From the Apple Developer site:

In addition to using Apple’s convenient, safe, and secure in-app purchase system, apps on the App Store in the United States that offer in-app purchases can also use the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement (US) to include a link to the developer’s website that informs users of other ways to purchase digital goods or services.

The change comes with many specific requirements, including:

The link you provide in your app must:

  • Go directly to your website without any redirect or intermediate links or landing page;
  • Open a new window in the default browser on the device, and may not open a web view;
  • Not pass additional parameters in the URL in order to protect the user (for example, their privacy);

[…]

  • May not be displayed on any page that is part of an in-app flow to merchandise or initiate a purchase using in-app purchase.

I understand not wanting any tracking or privacy tracking parameters in these links, but it’s not a great user experience to be dumped out on a generic web page, requiring you to either sign-in or find what you were trying to purchase manually.

Apple is using a 7-day attribution window for all purchases made on the web through these links, and a commission of 27% (or 12% if you’re in the Small Business Program):

Apple is charging a commission on digital purchases initiated within seven days from link out, as described below. This will not capture all transactions that Apple has facilitated through the App Store, but is a reasonable means to account for the substantial value Apple provides developers, including in facilitating linked transactions.

[…]

If you adopt this entitlement, you will be required to provide transaction reports within 15 calendar days following the end of each calendar month. Even if there were no transactions, you’re required to provide a report stating that is the case.

There’s just a ton of hoops to jump through and extra work to make this happen, and developers still will owe the 27% commission for the sale externally. What’s the point? I don’t see how any developer actually goes through the effort of doing this, and that’s the point.


This is quite the change and has caused a justified uproar in the Apple development community:

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, on Twitter/X:

Apple filed a bad-faith “compliance” plan for the District Court’s injunction. It totally undermines the order allowing “buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to IAP”.

[…]

Epic will contest Apple’s bad-faith compliance plan in District Court.

Brent Simmons:

Apple doesn’t care about you personally in the least tiny bit, and if you were in their way somehow, they would do whatever their might — effectively infinite compared to your own — enables them to deal with you.

Luckily, Apple has just provided us all with a reminder. Just like the sixth finger in an AI-rendered hand, Apple’s policies for Distributing apps in the U.S. that provide an external purchase link are startlingly graceless and a jarring, but not surprising, reminder that Apple is not a real person and not worthy of your love.

Graceless and jarring indeed.

John Gruber, on Daring Fireball:

Apple should have been looking for ways to lessen regulatory and legislative pressure over the past few years, and in today’s climate that’s more true than ever. But instead, their stance has seemingly been “Bring it on.” Confrontational, not conciliatory, conceding not an inch. Rather than take a sure win with most_ of what they could want, Apple is seemingly hell-bent on trying to keep everything.

Nick Heer, on Pixel Envy:

Developers sure will have a lot of paperwork to complete in the near future if they want to take advantage of these additional capabilities. Apple is creating this bureaucracy because it says this is how it gets paid to develop iOS; Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found, on page 114 of her decision (PDF) Apple’s arguments were “pretextual, but not to the exclusion of some measure of compensation”. I find that line questionable mainly because Apple has developed MacOS continuously for over twenty years without taking a commission on digital purchases. But who am I to question the U.S. legal system?

Ben Thompson, in a Stratechery Daily Update:

I don’t, to be clear, like this state of affairs. While an iPhone may not be a technical standard, I do think that it is an essential platform for businesses of all kinds, and that Apple reaps a multitude of benefits from having a thriving app ecosystem. At the end of the day, though, Apple’s intellectual property is their property, and they get to charge whatever fee they like. That they will jump through whatever hoops are necessary to collect said fee should not be a surprise to anyone at this point.

Manton Reece:

I like Tim Cook, but there are moral issues he seems completely blind to, like this 27% tax nonsense. Forget iOS. By Apple’s logic, they could also charge 27% (or anything!) for any business that has a Mac app and links to their web site. Never in computing have we seen a company so overreach.

David Heinemeier Hansson, never one to mince words:

Apple would be wise to study the long arc of Microsoft’s history. Learn that you can win the battle, say, against Epic, and end up losing the war for the hearts and minds of developers. And that while the price for that loss lags beyond the current platform, it’ll eventually come due, and they’ll rue the day they chose this wretched path.


I don’t have any issue with Apple expecting some sort of payment or commission on purchases in the App Store, and a reasonable attribution of other purchases. It’s their store, their platform, and their prerogative to do so. The 27% isn’t a payment processing fee, it’s an “IP license”, which Apple is going to collect from developers no matter what. I think this license is extremely high and aggressive, but they can charge what they decide.

There’s a reason I’ve spent most of my career working on the open web. Sure, the web has its deep flaws, but I can’t imagine running a sustainable long-term business subject to the whims and demands of one corporation. In the early days of the app stores, this type of behavior would have been more reasonable (I guess), but mobile devices are (as Ben notes above) an “essential platform for businesses of all kinds” and it’s a shame that there are so many rules and regulations governing how they work.

The past decade or so of the Tim Cook era at Apple has been mostly positive: incredible shareholder value generated, industry-leading environmental policies, and of course some amazing products. But I think the long-term stain on Apple and this era will be its relationship with China and how it treats the App Store especially its entitlement to receive a “license fee” for all commerce on its platforms.

A Plea for Lean Software

January 16, 2024

Niklaus Wirth’s writing in 1995 is just as relevant today as it was then. Some gold in here:

  • The belief that complex systems require armies of designers and programmers is wrong. A system that is not understood in its entirety, or at least to significant degree of detail by a single individual, should probably not be built.

  • Communication problems grow as the size of the design team grows. Whether they are obvious or not, when communication problems predominate, the team and the project are both in deep trouble.

  • Reducing complexity and size must be the goal in every step—in system specification, design, and in detailed programming. A programmer’s competence should be judged by the ability to find simple solutions, certainly not by productivity measured in “number of lines ejected per day.” Prolific programmers contribute to certain disaster.

Some of the best programmers I’ve ever worked with wrote the least amount of code.

  • To gain experience, there is no substitute for one’s own programming effort. Organizing a team into man- agers, designers, programmers, analysts, and users is detrimental. All should participate (with differing degrees of emphasis) in all aspects of development.

  • Programs should be written and polished until they acquire publication quality. It is infinitely more demanding to design a publishable program than one that “runs.” Programs should be written for human. readers as well as for computers. If this notion contradicts certain vested interests in the commercial world, it should at least find no resistance in academia.

I was meeting with an advisor this week and one of his pieces of advice was very similar to this last point: We often get only one shot at a first impression in software, especially for B2B hosted software. Make sure it’s ready and polished up. If we need more time, then take it to build, but don’t rush something out. An “MVP” isn’t a good thing in the B2B space.

(via Daring Fireball)

January 15, 2024 at 8:25 AM

Fun weekend of NFL playoffs this weekend. With the Ravens on a first round bye week it was a nice low-stress way to enjoy the first round for me. This weekend will be a different story..


Saturday night’s Dolphins/Chiefs game was streaming-only, a first for an NFL playoff game. I’m curious how that experiment went. Younger and more tech-savvy fans surely had no problem, but I bet a ton of people that wanted to watch couldn’t find the game. Early reports give the broadcast a new streaming record, but seems to be far below the numbers for a typical broadcast in years past. The NFL seems to be really pushing towards streaming, which is very interesting to me over the long term. I wish baseball and basketball would make similar moves and further separate from the regional sports networks.


Another year, another Cowboys playoff meltdown. It’s comical at this point. Hard to see this organization not making serious coaching changes.


Nice to see the Lions get their first playoff win since 1991! Happy for Detroit this morning.


Two more games today for a MLK holiday doubleheader. Let’s go Buffalo!