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Baltimore and Buffalo

Tonight’s NFL playoff divisional matchup features two teams I know and love very well: The Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens. I was born in Buffalo, and my entire family is from there. It’s where we spent holidays as kids. I grew up a Bills fan, despite moving to Baltimore and spending the majority of my life there. We didn’t have an NFL football team in Baltimore until much later.

The 90’s Bills had an amazing run of ups and downs. An incredible team led by one of my childhood heroes, Jim Kelly. They came so close to winning it all: 4 times in a row! Agonizing. There will always be a special place in me for the Bills.

A few years later we finally got that NFL team in Baltimore and I’ve been a Ravens fan ever since. Now my own kids are getting into it and are budding Ravens fans themselves. It’s a fun family tradition. Especially this year, with so many awful things happening in the world, football has been a great distraction from real life.

This should be a great game tonight. Of course I’d like the Ravens to win. But I can’t think of a team I’d be fine with losing to more than the Bills. Whoever wins this game we’ll be happy to cheer for to win the whole thing.

My pick: Bills 27, Ravens 24.

Post-game update: Wow! I was hoping that this game would at least be competitive and entertaining to watch. One team showed up, and the other seemed to not be ready at all. For the Ravens, it’s on to next season after that embarrassment. For the Bills, good luck in the AFC Championship. First time since 1993!

Trump Impeached, Again

Worth noting for the official record that is this blog: Trump was impeached by the House for the second time in as many years. It seems like this will mean next to nothing since his conviction in the Senate is unlikely, but it feels like an important milestone. Half of the impeachments ever in our country are for this man.

Even more noteworthy than the impeachment is the 197 Republicans in the House that think causing an insurrection that jeopardized their own lives and our democracy itself is no big deal at all. If we’re trying to send a message to future would-be-authoritarians in our country, the message is clear: you won’t be held accountable.

Corporate America stepping up

While Congress and the Justice Department are in no hurry to do much of consequence for the insurrection at the Capitol, at least some of the corporate citizens in America are starting to step up:

  • WSJ: Stripe Stops Processing Payments for Trump Campaign Website
  • BuzzFeed: Amazon Is Booting Parler Off Of Its Web Hosting Service
  • The Verge: Apple removes Parler from the App Store
  • The Verge: Google pulls Parler from Play Store for fostering calls to violence
  • Popular Information Three major corporations say they will stop donating to members of Congress who tried to overturn the election
  • CNN: PGA cancels plans to play 2022 championship at Trump golf course

On Insurrection Responsibility

Last week’s insurrection at the Capitol still looms large in my head, and in the world. This week is setting up to be another interesting one with impeachment and the calls for invoking the 25th Amendment still on the table. The 25th doesn’t seem likely–it would have happened by now you’d think. Impeachment is a nice gesture, but now we’re hearing that even if Trump is impeached it most likely won’t be heard by the Senate until well into the Biden administration.

I’m struggling to imagine a scenario where a different mob of people invaded our Capitol. What if it was a foreign government or a known foreign terrorist organization? Would members of Congress shrug it off and keep going with their business? Would we not see any press conferences from the Justice Department? Would we not go after those responsible for inciting the attack?

I understand the calls for unity. I would like nothing more than unity and bringing us together as a country again, regardless of party. But we should hold those responsible for this attack accountable. We should make it so it doesn’t happen again. Only then can we come together, heal as a nation, and move forward.

Twitter Suspends Trump

Last night, Twitter announced it would be permanently suspending Trump’s account. This following Facebook’s similar announcement a day earlier.

This is the worst thing that could happen to Trump. They just took away his megaphone and ability to reach the most people.

Better late than never.

Former President Statements on Yesterday

What the former presidents had to say about yesterday’s events:

President Barack Obama:

History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.

For two months now, a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth — that this was not a particularly close election and that President-Elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo.

President George W. Bush:

This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol – and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress – was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law.

President Clinton:

The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another. The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost.

The election was free, the count was fair, the result is final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates.

President Carter:

This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation. Having observed elections in troubled democracies worldwide, I know that we the people can unite to walk back from this precipice to peacefully uphold the laws of our nation, and we must. We join our fellow citizens in praying for a peaceful resolution so our nation can heal and complete the transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

Insurrection at the Capitol

What an incredible day it was yesterday. It was shocking to see our United States Capitol building completely swamped with a rabid mob of people. It was shocking to see how easily they were able to overcome the minimal security forces in play to have their way with such a sacred building. But perhaps the most shocking of all is that the entire event was incited and encouraged (then not halted) by the sitting president. Incredible. I spent most of yesterday stunned and glued to the news. It’s a day I’ll certainly never forget.

At the end of the day, as shocking as this episode was, it accomplished nothing. President-elect Biden was confirmed by congress early this morning. He will be inaugurated, as expected all along, on January 20th. The democratic party now controls the House, and the Senate after the victories in Georgia by Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. It is going to take years to repair the damage done by the Trump presidency. It’s time to get started.


It’s really one of the best times of sports year. The regular season of the NFL is about complete with just one game to go tonight. What an interesting season this has been, and it’s a bit incredible that all of the games were actually played. Even with the scheduling nonsense of a few weeks ago, things worked out for the most part in the end. Quite the achievement, when you think about it.

The last few weeks of the season are really fun. They can be completely heartbreaking too, and I think I remember more of those seasons than the fun ones. Watching things fall into place is always a dramatic and interesting way to end the season.

This year, it’s been more fun than normal for me. My beloved Ravens clinched a playoff spot in the first wildcard, 5th overall seed in the AFC, with an absolutely crushing win over the Bengals today. Things looked a bit different than in 2017, when a last minute touchdown by the Bengals destroyed the Ravens’ playoff hopes that year.

Here’s to a good few weeks of football left. Things should be a lot of fun here, and it’ll be interesting to see who (if anyone) can topple the mighty Chiefs and win this thing.

Happy New Year

It’s a new year, and a good time for optimism and looking forward. I’m certainly not alone in trying to move on. The past year certainly sure has been something to wish away.

There’s still much work to be done to fight this virus. There’s still civil unrest and significant racial problems to focus on. The politics of this country don’t seem to be slowing down. Just because a number on a calendar is different today than last week doesn’t mean our problems are solved. But it’s still a chance to stop and consider what’s next.

Hopefully 2021 is a year of being nicer to one another, being more compassionate for your fellow man, and being more respectful of this planet we call home.

I’m not into resolutions but I do have some things I’d like to do differently and not at all in 2021. There’s no better time to start moving forward than now.

Here’s to 2021.

Here Lies Flash

Mike Davidson, providing a proper eulogy for Flash which is about to reach end of life support in a few days:

Then one day in 1997, I clicked on a link to Kanwa Nagafuji’s Image Dive site and the whole trajectory of web design changed for me. It looked like nothing I had ever seen in a web browser. A beautiful, dynamic interface, driven by anti-aliased Helvetica type and buttery smooth vector animation? And the whole thing loaded instantly on a dial-up connection with nothing suspicious to install? What was this sorcery? Sadly, I can’t find any representation of the site online anymore, but imagine the difference in going not just from black-and-white TV to color TV, but from newspaper to television.

Nagafuji’s work was such a huge, unexpected leap from everything that came before it that I had to figure out how it was done. A quick View Source later revealed an object/embed tag pointing to a file that ended in “.swf”. A few AltaVista searches later led me to the website of Macromedia, makers of ShockWave Flash (“SWF”), the technology that powered this amazing site.

I downloaded a trial version and was blown away at the editing interface. Instead of a shotgun marriage of Photoshop, HTML, browser hacks, and a bunch of other stuff that felt more like assembly than design, here was a single interface to lay out text, shapes, images, and buttons, and animate everything together into an interactive experience! It was magic.

Flash was amazing for a few years before browsers started to catch up and standardize around modern features like, ahem, custom fonts.

This piece is a trip down memory lane for me. I’m so glad Flash is gone but like Mike, I am glad it did exist for a time.

The relentless 2020 news cycle in one chart

An interesting visual analysis of Google Trends and searches throughout 2020 by Stef W. Kight and Axios:

If you’re feeling extra tired this holiday season, blame the non-stop news cycle of 2020, as visualized in Axios’ fourth annual Google Trends chart.

Why it matters: From a pandemic to multi-city protests to contested elections, 2020 has been one unprecedented crisis after another. “We have never seen a year like this in Google Trends history,” Simon Rogers, a Google data editor, told Axios.“These were huge stories that changed how we search.”

Get Back: Sneak Peek

Acclaimed filmmaker Peter Jackson has released an exclusive sneak peek of his upcoming documentary “The Beatles: Get Back” for fans everywhere to enjoy.

The 5-minute special look is available to fans worldwide on and streaming on Disney+.

Jackson said, “We wanted to give the fans of The Beatles all over the world a holiday treat, so we put together this five-minute sneak peek at our upcoming theatrical film ‘The Beatles: Get Back.’ We hope it will bring a smile to everyone’s faces and some much-needed joy at this difficult time.”

This made my day yesterday.

Facebook’s Full-Page Newspaper Ads Attacking Apple

Kurt Wagner and Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

Facebook Inc. lashed out at Apple Inc. in a series of full-page newspaper ads, claiming the iPhone maker’s coming mobile software changes around data gathering and targeted advertising are bad for small businesses.

The ads, which ran Wednesday in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, carried the headline “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.” They home in on upcoming changes to Apple’s iOS 14 operating system that will curb the ability of companies like Facebook to gather data about users and ply them with targeted advertising.

Alex Hern, summarizing nicely for The Guardian:

The point of contention is a feature coming to iPhones in the new year that will require developers to ask for permission before they can track what users do across apps. Apple says the feature, which was originally slated for launch in October before being delayed in order to allow advertisers time to cope, is necessary to protect user privacy; it comes alongside a number of similar changes in new versions of iOS, such as a requirement that app developers provide a “nutritional label” for their software to explain what they do with user data.

Facebook objects – but seems keen to stress it is not doing so because it is defending its bottom line. According to its pitch, the real victims are “your neighbourhood coffee brewery, your friend who owns their own retail business, your cousin who started an event planning service and the game developers who build the apps you use for free”.

“Yes, there will be an impact to Facebook’s diversified ads business,” said Dan Levy, the company’s head of ads and business products, “but it will be much less than what will befall small businesses, and we’ve already been factoring this into our expectations for the business.”

It’s pretty rich to see Facebook taking the angle of ‘standing up for the little guy.’ They’ve been getting away with a complete disregard for user privacy for a long time.

The US Federal Government Needs a VP of Engineering, not a CTO

Danah Boyd:

Inside tech companies, there is often a more important but less visible role when it comes to getting things done. To those on the outside, a VP title appears far less powerful, far less important than a C-Suite title. If you’re not a tech geek, a VP of Engineering might appear less important than a CTO. But in my experience, finding the right VP of Engineering is more essential than getting a high profile CTO when a system is broken. A VP-Eng is a fixer, someone who looks at broken infrastructure with a debugger’s eye and recognizes that the key to success is ensuring that the organizational and technical systems function hand-in-hand. While CTOs are often public figures in industry, a VP-Eng tends to shy away from public attention, focusing most of their effort on empowering their team to do great things. VP-Engs have technical chops, but their superpower comes from their ability to manage large technical teams, to really understand the forest and see what’s getting in the way of achieving a goal so that they can unblock that and ensure that their team thrives. A VP-Eng also understands that finding and nurturing the right talent is key to success, which is why they tend to spend an extraordinary amount of time recruiting, hiring, training, and mentoring.

Good take, I agree with the thinking here.

I also think, more than anything, it would help our government to not focus entirely on people from big tech companies to run the show at a federal level.

Figma: Meet us in the browser

Dylan Field, co-founder of Figma, writing about the company’s five year anniversary of launching on the web:

We didn’t realize that launching Figma was heresy, a generational assault on top-down, siloed models of decision making and a challenge to the identity of many designers. While some immediately understood the potential of building design software in the browser, our vision elicited an immediate and negative reaction from others. Some even told us that if this was the future of design, they were changing careers.

I remember when I first heard about Figma. It was at a Layers conference a few years ago and I thought the concept was cool, but wasn’t going to go anywhere. First: shows what I know, Figma is incredibly popular right now. And second: good for them. This is an amazing feat. I love companies that push the web forward and dream big when it comes to how we can all use it.

Initially I didn’t understand the negative reactions to Figma’s closed beta launch. I only saw the obvious benefits: a single source of truth for files, cross platform support, and multiplayer editing. Now I understand that the power of the browser lies in the broader cultural change it delivers — and this change can be scary. The browser is natively multiplayer. It forces a mindset shift on access. It strips away the need for expensive hardware. And it pushes us to embrace working together, especially when we are blocked and our default might be to hide.

This is the key. Recently I switched my workflow from Sketch to Figma as well. It’s just easier to collaborate with other folks on a project, share prototypes, and get feedback in the form of comments. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better all of the time.

Johnny Bench’s Friend Buys Over $1M Worth of Bench Memorabilia, Donates it Back to Him

Darren Rovell with a pretty incredible story:

When the auction began, some of the prices paid seemed a bit high. Someone paid $80,000 for Johnny Bench’s last home run bat, more than double the estimate and $90,000 for his last Reds jersey, nearly five times what it figured to go for.

There was the $32,500 winning bid for his Rookie of the Year Gold Glove and a $55,000 winning bid for the same trophy he won in 1975, when the Reds won their first of two consecutive titles. His championship rings from the two titles went for $115,000 and $125,000, respectively.

Little did Bench know that the person bidding on these items was Alan Horwitz, who had set up with the auction house to do whatever it took to buy the items back so that Johnny could have them again.

Filed under: good things can happen in 2020 after all.

Cloudflare Web Analytics

Jon Levine on The Cloudflare Blog:

In September, we announced that we’re building a new, free Web Analytics product for the whole web. Today, I’m excited to announce that anyone can now sign up to use our new Web Analytics — even without changing your DNS settings. In other words, Cloudflare Web Analytics can now be deployed by adding an HTML snippet (in the same way many other popular web analytics tools are) making it easier than ever to use privacy-first tools to understand visitor behavior.

It’s limited to one domain per account for now, but the sign up process is super simple. I’m trying this out on a test project to see how it looks. Mostly because of this:

Being privacy-first means we don’t track individual users for the purposes of serving analytics. We don’t use any client-side state (like cookies or localStorage) for analytics purposes. Cloudflare also doesn’t track users over time via their IP address, User Agent string, or any other immutable attributes for the purposes of displaying analytics — we consider “fingerprinting” even more intrusive than cookies, because users have no way to opt out.

The concept of a “visit” is key to this approach. Rather than count unique IP addresses, which would require storing state about what each visitor does, we can simply count the number of page views that come from a different site. This provides a perfectly usable metric that doesn’t compromise on privacy.

Excited to give this a spin. I really want a privacy-respecting alternative to Google Analytics.

What Joe Biden reads and watches

I thought this was interesting. A roundup of how president-elect Biden consumes his media, written by Daniel Lippman:

Biden is a devoted fan of the Apple News app on his iPhone, and frequently scrolls through it when he’s in a car, on a plane or just has some down time. (Playing chess and solitaire on his phone are also favorite activities.) He has the New York Times app on his phone, and a former Biden staffer said that when he was in the White House last time, Biden had the POLITICO app and checked it regularly.

He has the phone’s push notifications turned on: On the campaign trail, another Biden aide said, Biden would take meetings with his iPhone on the table in front of him and would get alerts from news apps. (The Biden aide declined to comment when asked if Biden still has his iPhone or if it’s having its security upgraded given that he’s about to become president.)

Why Web Scraping Is Vital to Democracy

The Markup:

People build scrapers that can find every Applebee’s on the planet or collect congressional legislation and votes or track fancy watches for sale on fan websites. Businesses use scrapers to manage their online retail inventory and monitor competitors’ prices. Lots of well-known sites use scrapers to do things like track airline ticket prices and job listings. Google is essentially a giant, crawling web scraper.

Scrapers are also the tools of watchdogs and journalists, which is why The Markup filed an amicus brief in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court this week that threatens to make scraping illegal.

I’ve become quite a fan of The Markup’s work over the past year or so. They are fighting for important causes in the modern tech world, especially user and data privacy. They created the Blacklight, a really cool service that inspects web pages and reports on trackers.

This piece on scraping really hits home for me too. A few years ago, I co-founded and then sold a startup almost entirely based on scraping tech that I created. It was really fun and would have never been possible without web scrapers like Google.

Salesforce Acquires Slack for $27.7 BIllion

The big news this week is that Slack has been acquired by Salesforce, as has been rumored recently. It’s a big deal: $27.7 billion.

Since I first saw it years ago, I’ve really loved Slack. We were using HipChat at the time and it was totally fine. Campfire was also around and doing very well in the space too. But Slack was such a breath of fresh air in the group chat market. It was well designed, fussy about typography, and has always been fast and feature-rich. I still wish that they would make a truly native Mac app so we weren’t stuck with the web UI, but it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve seen quite the consternation around the web about how Salesforce is bad and this is bad news for Slack. I think quite the opposite. Slack is currently running up against Microsoft Teams, a product that Microsoft is giving away for basically free with its Office 365 services. It’s the same reason so many companies have turned to SharePoint and other garbage Microsoft products over the years that have snuffed out great competition: it comes with Office for free. This is a bad thing for the industry and we need companies like Slack around. (Nothing against Microsoft Teams, by the way. It seems like it has its fans.) Salesforce buying Slack gives it the long-term support it will need. It’s not just a small player anymore, it’s part of a much bigger ecosystem.

Salesforce also acquired Heroku nearly a decade ago and there was much of the same concern then as there is now with Slack. I think Salesforce has done a fine job managing Heroku. Like Slack, I use Heroku every single day and it’s a great service. It could be better, of course. But that has nothing to do with Salesforce’s ownership.

Call me optimistic about Slack’s future. I’m excited to see how this goes.

The NFL Schedule is a Mess

The NFL has a serious scheduling problem on its hands. The Ravens and Steelers were scheduled to play on Thanksgiving night on NBC in primetime and are now tentatively scheduled for tomorrow at 3:40pm. This, after rescheduling the game previously to Sunday, then Monday, then Tuesday, and finally (for now) Wednesday. The game would have likely been the most watched game of the week and now surely will be the least.

Elsewhere in the league, the Broncos played a game this Sunday in which they had no quarterbacks on the roster to play. None! They even tried to get a coach to come off the bench and play but the league wouldn’t allow it. Of course, the Broncos lost in brilliant fashion.

This is a mess on so many levels, and the NFL has no one to blame but itself.

Every other major sports league had already restarted its mid-pandemic play this year before the NFL even kicked off. The NFL had time to sit back and learn from the other leagues’ mistakes and plan around the reality of a season in 2020. It doesn’t seem like they learned from anything that happened previously this year and marched on like nothing was going on. There were no extra breaks than normal in the schedule. There is seemingly no plan if one or more teams has an outbreak. The only plan so far it seems is to keep the owners making money from the TV contracts above all else. Not a good look.

After some early season moves, in which games were rescheduled and bye weeks were moved around, there is now no wiggle room left in the schedule for the remainder of the season. The league seems uninterested in cancelling or forfeiting games: they’ve threatened to not pay the players and coaches if such a situation arises. They’re bending over backwards for one team (my beloved Ravens, alas) and throwing another team into the fire with no quarterback. Not to mention the half dozen or so other teams affected by the Ravens and Steelers schedule moves.

I’m not sure where the league goes from here. It seems like it’s only going to get worse. Like many things in 2020, we all just need to deal with it. They’re just doing what we’re all doing: winging it one day at a time.

How about if there’s an outbreak on a team, they forfeit their next game? Pay the players. Pay the coaches. Move other games into primetime slots. Get the team healthy and protect everyone involved from spending this virus. Deal with it, and get ready for the next week. Have some make-goods for the TV networks in future seasons or future weeks. Do something other than just hoping this will go away.


There’s so much to be thankful for this year. Every year, in fact. But especially this year.

It’s easy for me to go through each day without thinking of all of the good in my life. It’s easy to complain about minor details here and there and wish certain things would be better.

This year has been something. But I’m still aware of how blessed I am, and am thankful for it.

I’m thankful to have been spared (so far, knock on wood) from this virus that’s ravaging the world. I’m thankful for a healthy family that is taking this pandemic seriously and keeping themselves and those around them safe.

I’m thankful this year, more than ever before, to have a neighborhood full of good people. And especially for a neighborhood of kids for mine to play with outside.

I’m thankful for steady, challenging, and interesting work to do during this time. There has been abundance of good things to focus on and the blessing of that is not lost on me.

I’m thankful for so many little things. I hope you are too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography

Sebastiaan de With, maker of Halide, with another excellent review of the latest iPhone camera system. This time it’s the iPhone 12 Pro Max. (This big one!)

Imagine a camera sensor as a collection of lots of smaller sensors. Each collect red, green, or blue light. These sensors are packed together to get an image that measures 3024 by 4032 pixels. (Technically each pixel on that sensor is called a ‘photosite,’ as they collect, yes, photons)

You’d think a bigger sensor means more pixels — and indeed, a bigger sensor could allow you to pack in more pixels. But we’re at a point of diminishing returns in megapixel wars.

Instead, Apple decided to make the the photo sites bigger, because one most important aspects of image quality images (and really, life in general) is signal to noise.

An important note on the difference between the Max and non-Max:

Here’s why we’re seeing stories that the camera is a minor difference at best: Most people who aren’t seeing the dramatic difference are shooting in daylight, with a fast ƒ/1.6 lens. On top of that, Apple’s intelligent image processing combines multiple shots together, which makes it harder to look into the hardware.

The visuals and diagrams here, especially of the sensors, are really cool. This is great work.

I still don’t want the huge phone, but it sure does look amazing.

Apple reduces commission for small developers

Yesterday Apple announced some great news for small businesses on the App Store: it is reducing its standard fee on App Store transactions from 30% to 15%.

Developers that make less than $1 million per year on the App Store will receive the new commission rate automatically starting next year. If a developer goes over the $1 million threshold within the year, they’ll be charged the standard 30% for the remainder of the year. There are details to come, but this seems very straight forward and fair.

This is an excellent strategy. It likely helps the vast majority of developers on the store, and encourages new apps to be developed that maybe couldn’t have been earlier. A 30% commission is a very high fee to pay for a small business selling software. 15% is significantly better. It’s still very high compared to normal payment processing vendors at around 3%, but this is still a big deal. (Especially since the other app stores will likely follow along soon.)

The incentives are well aligned here for Apple and developers. This encourages new apps and new developers which should have a positive impact on the number of great apps on the store for users. Apple likely is giving up very little in the long run here, because App Store revenue is very clearly tied to the big players.

This is a great first step in the direction of a better App Store economy for developers. Great move here, Apple.