Iterating Towards Success

April 15, 2024

Excellent post on iteration by Justin Jackson:

Your ability to launch a successful business depends on the accumulation of experiences, connections, skills, resources, experiments you’ve run, and insights you’ve gathered.

Today, ConvertKit’s mission is to “help creators earn a living online.” [Nathan Barry] and his team design and build the product with intuitions about what creators want and need. How did they develop those intuitions? Nathan developed his intuitions through his time being a creator. His experience writing and launching multiple apps, books, and courses from 2011-2013 informs his work today.

As an indie entrepreneur, you want to maximize every advantage you have. Most good markets are competitive, so you can’t just show up with a “good product;” you need an edge. Your competitive advantage should be that you understand the customer (and what they want) better than anyone else.

Friday Links: April 12

April 12, 2024

Happy Friday. It’s been a few busy weeks of work for me, so I’m catching up on some interesting links..

Microsoft researcher discovers backdoor in xz Utils library
This entire story is crazy, like out of a movie. It’s incredible how much of the computing world is dependent on small libraries like this run by volunteers.

Open Source Quality Institutes
Tim Bray suggests a new government organization to maintain, support, and protect our most crucial open source infrastructure. Open source maintenance is a thankless and mostly zero-revenue job, but so important to modern tech life. This is a really thoughtful and nice idea, that’ll likely never happen.

Yahoo acquires Artifact
It’s only been a few months since Artifact announced it would wind down, but apparently Yahoo still wants in.

Threads API is coming soon
Very nice looking API docs and specs for the new Threads API. It’s in testing with a few partners now, and rolling out later this year. I’ll be interested to see how this takes off.

Beeper is joining Automattic
Beeper, mostly known for its battles with Apple over iMessage for Android, has been acquired by Automattic. This seems like a strange partnership on the surface, but I didn’t realize Beeper has a messaging app for multiple services. And apparently so does Automattic, in the form of recently acquired Texts.com. I’m not in the market for an app like this myself, but I’m glad it exists and will continue to get support.

Have a great weekend. ⚾️

Solar Eclipse

April 8, 2024

Today’s eclipse was incredible. Here in Texas, we were in the line of totality so were able to see the full eclipse in all of its glory. At first it just seemed like it was about to storm: getting slightly darker every few minutes. The moon slowly rotated in front of the sun until everything was dark. The birds were acting strange and dogs were barking in the neighborhood. And for a few minutes it was nighttime again. Then it was all over. Incredible. So cool.

Curb

April 8, 2024

Larry David in his Air Mail hat

The series finale for Curb Your Enthusiasm last night was perfection. It’s so rare that a finale for a series this popular gets it right. Loved all of the cameos and flashbacks to the idiotic moments throughout this great show. Curb has been my favorite show on TV for years, and it’ll be missed.

Opening Day

March 28, 2024

Happy Opening Day for the MLB. I’ve missed baseball so much this winter, and I’m very much looking forward to this season.

My beloved Orioles kick off the season with a series against the Angels today at Camden Yards. The Orioles’ new ownership group and David Rubenstein sure have given us more reasons to cheer this year. It’s going to be tough to follow up last year’s amazing season, but things are looking up for this club.

Let’s go ⚾️

Integration is a Good Thing

March 28, 2024

I’ve been thinking a lot about the DOJ suit against Apple this week. It’s still the talk of the community, for good reason.

Kontra (aka @counternotions) on Twitter sums up my current thoughts very well:

DOJ’s antitrust suit against Apple may read infuriatingly ignorant, inaccurate and ahistorical, but, above all, it’s an ideological frontal attack on the notion of integrated product/platform design…a death march to commodification and interchangeability. The rest is much noise.

A ton of the suit seems to focus on the negatives of Apple being a deeply integrated product company. Integrations between hardware and software. Integrations between its services. Integrations between devices (such as your phone and watch).

I reject the notion that this is a bad thing! The entire reason many of us strongly prefer Apple products is because of these integrations.

Yes, Apple sometimes does use these integrations in a way that prevents competition, especially related to the App Store. But the focus in the suit isn’t on those policies. Instead, the suit focuses on non-issues like third-party watch integrations.

I continue to believe that this suit is misguided and a waste of the government’s time. What’s the end game here? To enable third-party watches that have better notifications? Is that something the general tax-paying public is interested in? I think not.

I will continue to preach that there are plenty of issues with Apple’s dominance in the smartphone market and app economy. But this suit has yet to show me how it will fix any of that. Instead the DOJ is just wasting resources and taking time away from more important issues to litigate something that, I would guess, most of Apple’s customers think is a good thing.

Key Bridge collapses in Baltimore after ship collision

March 27, 2024

Hayes Gardner and Christine Condon, writing in The Baltimore Sun:

A massive container ship adrift at 9 mph issued a “mayday” early Tuesday as it headed toward the iconic Francis Scott Key Bridge, losing power before colliding with one of the vital support columns. As the 984-foot vessel struck the bridge in the middle of an otherwise calm night, it caused a din that woke people ashore and immediately toppled an essential mid-Atlantic thoroughfare into the frigid waters.

[…]

Hours after the overnight collision, sunrise illuminated the chaos. A massive ship sat in the middle of the Patapsco River and strewn about were pieces of what used to be the 1.6-mile bridge that carried 12.4 million commercial and passenger vehicles in 2023.

A terrible story from my home town yesterday. My heart goes out for the people injured and still missing.

Apple Sued by US Department of Justice for iPhone Monopoly

March 25, 2024

The big tech news last week was the US Department of Justice suing Apple in an antitrust case. The New York Times has the full PDF of the complaint here. It’s not terribly long and worth a read through to understand what’s going on here, or at least what the DOJ are claiming.

It’s my understanding that the DOJ does not typically bring cases like this that they do not believe they can win. They’re certainly going to have an uphill battle in this one and it will be very interesting to see this play out.

The biggest challenge is going to be proving that a company with, at most, around 60% market share in the U.S. is a true monopoly and is using that status to abuse the market.

Lauren Feiner at The Verge has a great summary of the ways the DOJ is claiming that Apple is illegally maintaining its monopoly:

  • Disrupting “super apps” that encompass many different programs and could degrade “iOS stickiness” by making it easier for iPhone users to switch to competing devices
  • Blocking cloud-streaming apps for things like video games that would lower the need for more expensive hardware
  • Suppressing the quality of messaging between the iPhone and competing platforms like Android
  • Limiting the functionality of third-party smartwatches with its iPhones and making it harder for Apple Watch users to switch from the iPhone due to compatibility issues
  • Blocking third-party developers from creating competing digital wallets with tap-to-pay functionality for the iPhone

I sure hope these are examples to understand the spirit of the complaint, rather than an exhaustive list of actual issues to fix. I think there are much bigger concerns with Apple’s treatment of third-party developers and how the App Store economy works, but of course I’m biased.

In general, I’m having a hard time agreeing that any of this is a good use of the DOJ’s time. I would much rather see Congress enact new laws that prevent the abuses of Apple and other companies rather than trying to apply monopoly laws from the 1890s. But these are the laws we have, and I don’t think Congress will be functionally able to pass anything cogent and reasonable any time soon. For now, we’re stuck with what we have.

Friday Links: March 15

March 15, 2024

Happy Friday. A few links from this week that caught my eye:

TikTok Bill Passes House
If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by President Biden, TikTok would either need to be sold to a non-Chinese entity or be banned completely. In modern US politics, this is a rare bill with bipartisan support.

Android Browser Choice Screen
Just like the iOS version revealed a few weeks ago, Android users in the EU will see a screen letting them choose a default browser.

The Most Populous Cities in the World
YouTube video of animated city size by population. By Ollie Bye. (via Kottke)

Dave Winer adds a Blogroll
I used to love these so much, and I wish it was more common. What are the people I’m following reading? Micro.blog leading the way, again.

Callsheet is on vision OS
Nice work by Casey to get Callsheet working on Vision Pro. A great companion to watching TV & Movies on the device.

Devin
The first “AI software engineer” is here? We’ll see.

🍀

Avoiding pile-ups

March 15, 2024

I like Jason Fried’s idea of “doing something later” in a project in his latest post:

When you work on really long projects — say 3, 6, 9 month projects — or projects that don’t have any end in sight, “we can do that later” typically means you’ll get to it eventually, as part of the current project.

[…]

But, when you work in six week cycles, or relatively short time frames, later means something else entirely. There’s no time for later. It’s now or not. Later doesn’t mean we’ll get to it at the end of this cycle. It means we’ll drop it.

This is exactly how I treat my “later queue” as well in my various ventures. We often have a “Someday” list that is more of a punch list of ideas, but not a work queue. If something is important, it will come back up. If we don’t have time for an idea now, we skip it and wait for it to come up again. Keeping our task lists small and focused is the goal.

Github Actions Status Checks with Heroku Pipelines

March 9, 2024

Lately I’ve started moving code projects away from CircleCI and just to use Github Actions natively within our repos. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with CircleCI! But, it’s still one more service to configure and pay for when we’re already paying for Github Actions along with our organizational account. So in an effort to tidy up a bit, we’ve switched over our CI pipelines to use Actions instead.

One of the issues I found while transitioning to Github Actions was with our Heroku Pipeline. With CircleCI, Heroku automatically had build status information on each commit. This way we could see exactly which builds passed or failed before we promoted the app to production.

I searched for solutions to this and couldn’t find anything that did what we needed, so I created my own little process.

If you’re using Heroku Pipelines and Github Actions, here’s how to get those little green checks back during your build phases.

Week Notes: March 8, 2024

March 8, 2024

Happy Friday. Back home from New York after visiting for Air Mail this week. A few links and thoughts from the week…

  • Status Bar Builder is the missing status bar app for the Vision Pro.
  • PixelSnap is a quick tool for measuring pixels on your screen.
  • A 2024 redesign for Kottke.org. Not my favorite design ever, but certainly cool.
  • Tumblr and WordPress to sell user data to AI companies. I don’t love this, but at least they’re providing users with some ways to opt-out. (It should be opt-in, not opt-out.)
  • Apple reversed its stance and will allow home screen PWA apps in the EU. Some good news here for the web.
  • Tailwind CSS’s progress towards 4.0, and a brand new compiler for the project. This is really cool stuff, excited to give it a spin.
  • The Dynasty, a documentary about the New England Patriots, is very well done. Really enjoying this show.
  • The final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is also brilliant. I love this show so much, and will miss it. Love that cover art on episode 4 too.

Have a great weekend. 🌧️

F1 2024

March 2, 2024

Today is the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season. My football posting around here is going to quickly turn into racing discussion. (And, soon enough, baseball.) Like many Americans, I found a love for F1 during the early days of Covid through Drive to Survive. I never would have predicted this, but it’s surpassed the NFL as my favorite thing to watch.

F1 has no shortage of drama and story lines. The personalities are huge. The competition is fierce and often cut-throat. But there’s a class and charm to it that I find missing in the American sports leagues.

Plus, I’m a nerd at heart and I absolutely love the engineering side of the sport. Unlike most other motorsports, F1 teams must design and build their own cars from scratch. There’s so much involved in designing a car from the floor to the wings to the engine itself. These are custom built rocket ships on wheels.

If you haven’t given Formula 1 a chance, it’s worth your time. Lights out, and away we go! 🏎️

Peter King Retires

February 26, 2024

Peter King is retiring and has posted his final column on NBC Sports. King is a legend in this business and he’ll be sorely missed. I’ve read his column every Monday morning for as long as I can remember.1 He’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers in any industry, and top of the list in sports coverage. A complete class act all the way around.


  1. King even linked to Air Mail once in his column in 2021 to a piece we published about The Office. Pretty cool, even though he complained about too many ads (I don’t disagree, Peter.) ↩︎

February 26, 2024 at 7:54 AM

One of the aspects of personal websites that I love is the ability to have a little bit of creative expression and “features” that are just for fun. I’ve noticed a few personal blogs that have a ’now playing’ widget of sorts to showcase what someone is watching or listening to.

This would be simple to do with a Spotify embed widget, but I really don’t want any third-party scripts and widgets on my site. So I created a little now playing web component. This was fun. The code and instructions are published here.

🎵

Apple Sports

February 22, 2024

Apple has released a new app, simply called Apple Sports. This is a really interesting one to me. I have started building this exact app more than a few times but I always run into the insane cost of sports data feeds, especially for anything close to real time.

Displaying the sports data is certainly simpler than sourcing all of the content. A five-figure (per league, per season) fee for sports data is nothing to Apple, but very cost prohibitive for an indie developer.

I’ve always wanted a very simple app to quickly check game times and scores. ESPN and others have become so bloated with features, ads, videos, and other junk that they have become significantly less useful for me.

I love the simplicity of this app, and now I don’t need to build it myself. 😆

Sora

February 22, 2024

Sora is OpenAI’s new prototype for generating video. In simplistic terms, it is DALL·E for video. But clearly so much more. The research write-up is fascinating.

The video demos in here are astounding, especially for what seems like an early prototype of the idea.

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.

🤖