Here’s something you don’t see every day: a brand new completely native Mac code editor. Panic’s new editor, Nova, is out of beta and ready for use. I’ll certainly be kicking the tires on this one.
Ben Southwood, writing in the new Works in Progress magazine:
Once, small firms centred on inventors were responsible for most of our innovation. Larger firms might buy or exploit these steps forwards, but they did not typically make them. And then for a brief period, this changed: many of the best new products, tools, and ideas came from research labs within large corporations. This brief period also happened to be the era when scientific, technological, and economic productivity sped forward at its fastest ever clip. Yet almost as soon as it arrived, the fruitful period was over and we returned to a situation where small companies and small-business-like teams at universities developed innovations outside of large companies and sold them in a market for ideas. Though we might enjoy the innovation created by small flexible firms, we should not dismiss the contributions made by large corporate labs.
Jacob Kastrenakes, reporting for The Verge:
Mozilla is laying off 250 people, about a quarter of its workforce, and plans to refocus some teams on projects designed to make money. The company will have roughly 750 employees going forward, a spokesperson confirmed.
[..] Mozilla makes most of its money from companies paying to make their search engine the default in Firefox. This includes deals with Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, and most notably, Google in the US and most of the rest of the world. The company also makes money from royalties, subscriptions, and advertising, but those search deals still represent the “majority” of its revenue.
Tough news for Mozilla. They really do incredible work for the web community. It seems like the MDN, Firefox DevTools, and many other services will have little or no staffing to support the offerings.
The community has put together a few nice resources and tributes to the Mozilla team:
Here’s hoping that Mozilla gets its act together, and can be a long-term player on the web like they’ve always been. 🙏
Nathan J. Robinson, Editor in Chief of Current Affairs:
Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.
But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want “Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus—they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness–well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.
Yesterday’s Twitter hack was pretty incredible. Nick Statt, with the high-level at The Verge:
The Twitter accounts of major companies and individuals have been compromised in one of the most widespread and confounding hacks the platform has ever seen, all in service of promoting a bitcoin scam that appears to be earning its creators quite a bit of money.
We don’t know how the hack happened or even to what extent Twitter’s own systems may have been compromised — but following the unprecedented hacks of accounts including President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Kanye West, Michael Bloomberg, and Apple, Twitter has confirmed it took the drastic step of blocking new tweets from every verified user, compromised or no, as well as locking all compromised accounts.
According to @TwitterSupport:
We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.
We know they used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf. We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it.
If you’re going to pull off a hack of this magnitude, why waste it on a bogus scheme to make some Bitcoin? Let’s be thankful this wasn’t some crazy election night attack that resulted in a real problem. It looks like the hackers made off with around $116k. Compared to the number of very influential people that were hacked, this hardly seems worth the effort. Let’s hope Twitter has this buttoned up quickly and it can’t be done again.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate Thursday as Texas scrambles to get its coronavirus surge under control.
The order requires Texans living in counties more than 20 coronavirus cases to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth while in a business or other building open to the public, as well as outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. But it provides several exceptions, including for children who are younger than 10 years old, people who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, people who are eating or drinking, and people who are exercising outdoors.
Let’s hope this gets things going in the right direction here in Texas.
Nice recap video from Apple, narrated by Serenity Caldwell:
I think the first day of virtual WWDC went very well yesterday. The keynote was jam packed with great new things and the format was well done, considering the circumstances. The introduction section with Tim Cook, addressing the concerns of the world in 2020, was nicely done as well.
Speaking of WWDC, it starts in just over an hour. I’m sad I won’t be there this year — but neither will anyone else! Hopefully by next year we’ll be back to a normal conference schedule.
Last year John Sundell published a fantastic and comprehensive site full of goodies about WWDC, and he’s doing it again this year. It’s a great resource to follow along throughout and after the week’s events.
Just in time before the start of WWDC today, it looks like there is a nice resolution between Basecamp and Apple.
So we got down to it, and worked the weekend to get an update on Apple’s desk Monday morning. Our team did a great job implementing the product changes that Schiller asked for, and first thing this morning, right after we shipped 1.0.2 to our customers, we submitted 1.0.3 to the App Store for approval.
This new version introduces a new free option for the iOS app. Now users can sign up directly in-app for a free, temporary, randomized @hey.com email address that works for 14 days. Think of it like a temporary SIM card you buy when traveling. Or for when you don’t want to give out your real email address, like a short term “for sale” listing, like Craigslist does it.
We’ve also accelerated our multi-user HEY for Work offering where the company pays but the employees don’t. This brings HEY in line with Basecamp, and dozens of other high profile multi-platform enterprise offerings that have been permitted in the App Store for a decade.
I suspect this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this issue, but it’s great to see a peaceful resolution between my two favorite companies. ❤️
This response by Jason Fried to Apple on why they don’t want to use In App Purchase is pure gold. He’s 100% spot on, and anyone that has run a subscription business knows these truths well.
When Apple forces companies to offer In App Purchases in order to be on their platform, they also dictate the limits to which you can help your customer. This has a detrimental impact on the customer experience, and your relationship with your customer. It can flat out ruin an interaction, damage your reputation, and it can literally cost you customers. It prevents us from providing exceptional customer service when someone who uses our product needs help.
For example, at Basecamp we help people for all sorts of reasons. We apply credit to accounts for all sorts of reasons. We provide hardship exceptions for all sorts of reasons. We discount our software for teachers. We provide free versions for first responders. We extend trials for those who need more time. We extend payment terms occasionally for those who can’t make ends meet this month. We make exceptions because people are exceptional. We take enormous pride in helping people out. And we’re damn good at it.
If we had to push our customers through Apple’s system, we couldn’t do any of that. Apple’s rules prevent us from servicing our customers, yet Apple gives us no choice but to submit to those onerous rules or not be represented on their platform. That’s flat out hostile – to us, to our customers, and to the community.
The whole piece is wonderful.
There’s a mess brewing between Apple and third-party developers again. I sure hope that this issue doesn’t overshadow the launch of Hey, about which I’m very excited, but it’s hard to not focus on it today.
Yesterday, on Twitter, David Heinemeier Hansson posted this note:
Wow. I’m literally stunned. Apple just doubled down on their rejection of HEY’s ability to provide bug fixes and new features, unless we submit to their outrageous demand of 15-30% of our revenue. Even worse: We’re told that unless we comply, they’ll REMOVE THE APP.
This is a really bad look for Apple. The Hey app is free in the store, and does not mention how to sign up or offer any other option to sign up for the service. It’s just an app for existing members to use. Just like Slack, Gmail, Basecamp itself, and countless others.
Reporting at Protocol, David Pierce has the full story:
On Tuesday afternoon, Apple sent Basecamp a slightly softer written notice. “We noticed that your app allows customers to access content, subscriptions, or features they have purchased elsewhere, but those items were not available as in-app purchases within the app,” it said. Because Hey didn’t qualify as a “Reader” app, Apple said that existing subscribers could log in as normal but Hey needed to make all subscriptions available to new users as in-app purchases.
Apple told me that its actual mistake was approving the app in the first place, when it didn’t conform to its guidelines. Apple allows these kinds of client apps — where you can’t sign up, only sign in — for business services but not consumer products. That’s why Basecamp, which companies typically pay for, is allowed on the App Store when Hey, which users pay for, isn’t. Anyone who purchased Hey from elsewhere could access it on iOS as usual, the company said, but the app must have a way for users to sign up and pay through Apple’s infrastructure. That’s how Apple supports and pays for its work on the platform.
John Gruber chimes in with an excellent response:
[H]ow could such a distinction be made in writing? There are some apps that are definitely “business services” and some that are definitely “consumer products” (games for example), but to say that the area in between encompasses many shades of gray is an understatement. The entire mobile era of computing — an era which Apple itself has inarguably largely defined — is about the obliteration of distinct lines between business and consumer products.
Let’s hope Apple fixes this quickly. It’s a ridiculous decision that’s only going to cause further problems down the road. If they wanted to instate a new policy, they picked the wrong independent company to bully around. I’m sure DHH won’t go down quietly.
This week is the official launch of Hey.com, the new e-mail service from the folks at Basecamp. I haven’t been this excited about e-mail since Gmail launched over 15 years ago. (Remember how cool it was that they offered 1GB of storage, and didn’t force you to put things in folders?)
The thinking behind Hey is nothing less than you’d expect from the Basecamp team. They didn’t just create a new e-mail client. They rethought everything about how e-mail works and what it should be in 2020.
Some of the highlights from the tour on Hey.com:
- Screening of e-mails and senders, just like incoming phone calls.
- Renaming subject lines and grouping related threads together to keep things organized.
- Surfacing all files that have been received and sent in one simple file browser. Hallelujah.
- No push notifications, unless you opt-in.
- A first-party way to reply to something later. Perfectly suited towards organizing and prioritizing your replies.
- A “paper trail” section to keep all receipts. Brilliant.
- A single page readable view for newsletters.
- A way to add notes and reminders for yourself inline with your e-mails.
- Safe image loading through a proxy on Hey’s servers, and automatic spy pixel blocking.
On the interface design front, there are some very nice patterns here too. Everything is super fast. There are keyboard shortcuts for (nearly?) everything you see. The interface is clearly designed to be useful and get out of your way. It looks lovely.
Hey is a very opinionated product. It’s not going to be for everyone. That’s by design, and the product is better for it.
Last but not least, I love the video tour that’s posted on Basecamp’s YouTube page. It’s just Jason Fried walking you through the features of Hey while sharing his screen. No frills, no super polished animations or faceless voiceovers. Just the creator of the product telling you about how it works and why they made the decisions they did. Everything about this product is completely refreshing.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” was a great update on the virus featuring Donald G. McNeil Jr. In short: states that were initially hit hard with the virus are seeing improvements, where states that didn’t have as many cases early on are now surging. Especially in areas like Florida and Texas.
Anecdotally, here in Texas, people seem to have forgotten that there ever was a virus and are pretending like it no longer exists. I was talking with someone yesterday who scoffed at the word COVID. “Oh that’s over”, he said.
Nice interview here by Dan Buettner with Dr. Michael Osterholm:
In short, Dr. Osterholm is arguably one of the most dependable, non-political sources for straight answers on what COVID-19 means to us and our world in the immediate future. In his 2017 book, Deadliest Enemy, he correctly foretells a global pandemic and offers the best strategy for fighting it now and avoiding it in the future.
Here are the highlights of our conversation. But if you really want to understand this disease, read the whole interview. This disease may be the biggest event of our lifetimes.
This thing isn’t over, and it’s only getting worse. A good reminder to keep vigilant.
Great message from Marques, aka MKBHD, on YouTube.
…I want to try to be something to look up to for kids like the 15 year old me. To kids that want to be able to look at a high level of something and see someone that looks like them, making the right choices, and finding success.
He also links to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s post of the same name.
There’s exceptionally hard work ahead. I recognize this work has been happening for years, often ignored or unappreciated by many people, including me. How frustrating it must be to work so hard, and see such little progress, on something so elemental.
Change will require a massive, sustained effort by millions over many years. A change in perspective, mindset, and approach. And that work will certainly be met with future setbacks, which is why change requires optimism, too (which is in short supply in moments like these). I hope we can find it, and support those who need it.
I’ll be working to educate myself, and break my own patterns of ignorance. This sense of urgency is, embarrassingly, new to me, so I have a lot to learn – which organizations to support, what books to read, what history to absorb, and who to listen to. I’m starting on that today. If you’re like me, I hope you’ll do the same.
Barack Obama, on Medium:
I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting — that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.
Let’s get to work.
A brief glimpse into what it would be like to have real leadership in charge.
Oliver Darcy, writing in this morning’s Reliable Sources newsletter:
What do you write on a day like this? How can the day be neatly summed up in a string of sentences and paragraphs? How can the pain, agony, frustration, and fear felt by so many across the country be properly conveyed? Is it even possible?
I’m not sure.
I’m not sure how one conveys the emotions felt by a country that has watched, yet again, an unarmed black man die in police custody. How one conveys what it feels like to see major American cities set ablaze, or protesters clashing with Secret Service outside the White House. How one conveys a President of the United States who, instead of offering words aimed at consoling a nation, chooses to instead pour gasoline on the fire and turn the temperature up.
Imagine if you transported a recording of the news from Friday, May 29, 2020, back in time. Imagine showing people the state of America: With unrest spreading across the country, with a pandemic claiming the lives of more than 100,000 Americans, with 40 million out of work. Imagine explaining to people that a CNN crew was arrested live on-air for covering a protest, despite doing nothing wrong. Or that Twitter had to actually apply a warning label on the tweets from the President and White House for glorifying violence.
What would we think if we saw the events unfolding in America unfold in another country? “This country has been slowly unraveling for two decades; the acceleration in real time is terrifying to behold,” tweeted Tim Alberta. It’s hard to disagree.
Sara Fischer, reporting for Axios:
The New York Times will no longer use 3rd-party data to target ads come 2021, executives tell Axios, and it is building out a proprietary first-party data platform.
Beginning in July, The Times will begin to offer clients 45 new proprietary first-party audience segments to target ads
This is great news and I hope others follow. It’s going to be tough for them to pull away from the giant data providers, but I hope that publishers can do it. Third-party tracking and sharing of user data is gross and a privacy nightmare.
As an aside, I do happen to run a small independent publisher that is partially supported by sponsored ads at Air Mail. When I built the tech for Air Mail, I specifically and intentionally created a system that wouldn’t allow any third-party tracking of ad data. We host and serve all of our ads in a first-party and private matter. Tracking clicks and impressions is standard practice for ad servers and ours does it entirely in the background as well. This allows our sponsors to check their numbers without compromising on one ounce of customer data from our readers. I created the type of system that I wouldn’t mind using as a reader.
It’s not that complicated if you design your ad systems with privacy in mind from the beginning. Here’s hoping more of the publishing world catches on.
Ashley Carman for The Verge:
Joe Rogan, comedian and host of one of the most popular podcasts in the world, is taking his show to Spotify. The Joe Rogan Experience will soon become a Spotify exclusive, meaning episodes’ full audio and video will only be available through the platform starting later this year. Up until now, Rogan’s show has never been available on Spotify, let alone exclusive to any platform.
Spotify is quickly eating up the “podcast” world. Not great.
A “podcast” that is only available on one app and does not provide an open feed to access its shows is not a podcast. Maybe we need a new name for these type of things. We need more independent podcast publishers, not consolidation of power into the hands of the few.
Dave Grohl in the Atlantic:
In today’s world of fear and unease and social distancing, it’s hard to imagine sharing experiences like these ever again. I don’t know when it will be safe to return to singing arm in arm at the top of our lungs, hearts racing, bodies moving, souls bursting with life. But I do know that we will do it again, because we have to. It’s not a choice. We’re human. We need moments that reassure us that we are not alone. That we are understood. That we are imperfect. And, most important, that we need each other. I have shared my music, my words, my life with the people who come to our shows. And they have shared their voices with me. Without that audience—that screaming, sweating audience—my songs would only be sound. But together, we are instruments in a sonic cathedral, one that we build together night after night. And one that we will surely build again.
The bit about Springsteen in the piece is priceless too.
(via Daring Fireball)
David Peisner, writing about the making of Jason Isbell’s new album for the New York Times:
After all the strife the album caused, it’d be understandable if Shires never wanted to hear it again, but that’s not the case. “It’s the worst recording experience I’ve ever been a part of, but it’s my favorite record he’s made,” she said. “I’d like to say we’re stronger because of it, but we’re not. We just know that our strength is more than we thought.”
Isbell doesn’t think the album was affected by the turmoil he underwent making it but allowed for the possibility he could be wrong. “Maybe you can hear it,” he said. “Maybe the record is better for it. I don’t know. I try not to ask that question because I don’t want to get in a pattern of [expletive] my life up to make better records.”
What a refreshingly honest piece. Tough discussion I’m sure. Isbell is by far my favorite artist of the past 5 years or so. Looking forward to the new album. (Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t listen to singles ahead of the release. I like to wait for the full thing.)
Anil Dash writing about this yesterday’s Facebook SDK issue that crashed many apps:
So, understandably, everybody just plugs in the Facebook code (often called a “library” or more formally, a Software Development Kit, “SDK”) and focuses on the more important features of their app. But while lots of open source code libraries that you might use just perform a certain function in your app, like displaying a picture or formatting some data, this Facebook code also relies on a service on Facebook’s site running properly, too.
Today, that service got broken.
The result of Facebook’s breakdown today is kinda wild: a minor configuration change on a Facebook server that isn’t even visible to regular users made dozens of high-profile apps from some of the biggest companies in the world all start crashing when you open them — even if you weren’t using Facebook at all.
This was supposed to be a great year for live music. Well, every year is a great year for live music. But, for me, any year with a new Pearl Jam tour these days is a good year.
One of my favorite things to do is see my favorite bands and performers live in concert. In a previous life I would travel up and down the east coast to see shows as much as I could. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a few bands and still wish I could go to more. It’s harder for me to get out these days (life with small children at home is complicated!) but I still manage to get to a select few shows each year.
And yet, right now I can’t imagine a more dangerous place than a crowd of 500 to 20,000 people sitting together in close proximity. Everyone breathing on one another. Ugh. Gross. This isn’t something we’ve imagined before. Live events are supposed to be fun: a way to escape life and enjoy the music for a few hours. As with everything else right now, it’s a whole new world.
The music industry doesn’t know how to handle what’s happening. None of us do, really, but some are handling it better than others. The music industry is lazy. More specifically, the live music ticketing industry is lazy and has barely innovated in decades.
Why should they innovate? Each year millions of people, just like me, buy tickets as fast as they can when their favorite artists announce new tours. There’s no reason for these providers to change when they are already making money at an alarming rate compared to the actual service they provide. Service charges, convenience fees, and other ticketing add-ons continue to increase in cost, while the service and convenience they offer continue to decline.
As fans, we go online at a specific time to try and fight the bots and scalpers to get decent tickets. The tickets go on sale at 10:00 AM local time on some random weekday when we’re all supposed to be working because the ticket providers still can’t handle a surge of traffic that’s less than Amazon receives in an hour of Cyber Monday sales. And yet their servers still buckle under the pressure. Bots, scalpers, and preferred ticketing vendors get all of the good seats and true fans are left with scraps. Which we always buy because, hey, we’re in the building. And so is Paul McCartney!
Or, if you’re out of touch like me, you don’t even realize when tickets are on sale until that magical time has already passed. This happens to me all of the time. I’m listening to something on Apple Music and I wonder if the artist is touring soon. I check it out and sure enough they are coming soon, but tickets are already mostly sold. Then you’re stuck in the third-party market of StubHub and others; inevitably paying a hefty premium on top of a face-value ticket price to some scalper that never intended to go to the show anyways. There has to be a better way.
Then the coronavirus happens and the live music world is upended. Last night I received an e-mail from Ticketmaster about a show that was supposed to take place back in March:
Unfortunately, the event organizer has had to cancel your event.
The good news is that a refund will be processed automatically for you. Due to the unprecedented volume of cancellations, you should expect to receive your refund in as soon as 30 days.
Please Note: If the tickets were transferred to you, the refund will go to the fan who originally purchased the tickets from Ticketmaster.
Of course the concert has been canceled. It was supposed to take place in March, and it’s now May 2nd. That’s also nice that they are going to refund my purchase. Strangely though, much like unsubscribing from a mailing list, it takes 30 days to refund. But it’s better than nothing.
Except for the last sentence of the e-mail: “the refund will go to the fan who originally purchased the tickets from Ticketmaster.”. Ticketmaster knows that I have the tickets, but it isn’t smart enough to realize that I didn’t purchase the tickets. I bought them from someone else on StubHub (for a premium, sigh) and then received the tickets as a transfer. So according to this it seems that I probably over paid for the concert (which is totally fine) on StubHub, and now the original purchaser is going to receive a refund for whatever they paid. We can only assume that I’ll receive nothing by way of a refund, even though I clearly ‘own’ the tickets in my Ticketmaster account.
The money I’m out for the concert is annoying, but I get that. It’s a minor blip on the coronavirus radar these days. It wasn’t an expensive ticket so I’m not that worried about it.
But the bigger issue is how much of a mess the ticketing industry is. Ticketmaster, building on tech from decades ago, is not prepared to handle simple things like returning an order. StubHub, and others like it, are seemingly still operating on the idea that a ticket is a piece of paper that once transferred to someone retains no historical context of its origin.
The concert industry, like many, is hurting right now. This could be a time of great innovation and overall cleanup. Ticketmaster is a giant. They have immense resources and even more political sway in the industry. What if they took on the task of modernizing the concert ticketing space? That seems unlikely.
The more likely and hopeful scenario is one of disruption from a new player in the market. Cloud services are ubiquitous. Mobile ticketing solutions are available to everyone with a smartphone. The databases and integrations required for this type of innovation are not complicated from a systems design perspective.
The live music industry is at a standstill right now. It’s going to be months or years before concerts are back to the way we left them. That’s plenty of time to start innovating and clean up this mess.
As a fan, I hope someone is up to the challenge. Here’s to 2021 being the best year for live music and ticketing yet.
David Heinemeier Hansson joins the discussion on evaluating programmers with a skills test. At Basecamp, they prefer a late stage take-home challenge that mirrors the actual work that will be performed in the job if hired. As usual from Basecamp, this is very well thought through and sounds like a nice process for the company and the candidate alike:
There’s no perfect process for hiring great programmers, but there are plenty of terrible ways to screw it up. We’ve rejected the industry stables of grilling candidates in front of a whiteboard or needling them with brain teasers since the start at Basecamp. But you’re not getting around showing real code when applying for a job here.
So we whittle the group of candidates down aggressively first. This means judging their cover letter and, to a far lesser extent, their resume. For the opening we had on the Research & Fidelity team, we gave 40 people the take-home test, and even that proved to be too many. For the opening we had on the Security, Infrastructure & Performance team, we only gave 13 people the take-home test. That felt better. In the future, we’ll target fewer than 20 for sure.
Then there’s the assessment itself. I’ve heard many fair complaints that companies are asking candidates to complete massive projects that may take 20-30-40 hours of work, which is all unpaid, and which might be difficult for candidates to fit in with their existing job and life. Yeah, don’t do that. Asking someone for forty hours of work product, without pay, which might well go nowhere, is not what we do or advocate at Basecamp.