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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

John Gruber on Apple Watch Series 3

John Gruber:

Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular networking completely alleviates this anxiety. It is not a replacement for a phone, and is not supposed to be. But it lets you leave your phone at home when you go for a run, or in your locker while you’re at the gym, or in your hotel while you go to the beach, and not worry in the least that you’re out of touch.

I can’t remember a time I’ve been so excited to not have my phone.

Reviews are beginning to trickle in – both in text and on YouTube – and I’ve been paying close attention. The Apple Watch clearly isn’t for everyone. And cellular is for even less people. But overall, people love the watch.

Eliza has had a Series 0* since they day they came out. She wears it nearly every day, it is her only watch at this point, and she’s using it more and more as the software gets better. So Apple is definitely iterating in the proper direction. It reminds me so much of the original iPhone (even the way it is aging) I can’t even describe it.

I’ve never used an Apple Watch** but I’m excited to try one. I’ll be sure to let you know how necessary the device is once I’ve had it for a month or two.

John also mentions that he’d like to see a camera and an always-on display in an upcoming version of the Apple Watch. If there was one more feature that I could request of the Apple Watch it would be the always-on display. Perhaps a forward-facing camera for Facetime makes a lot of sense but I do not think I’d ever expect the Apple Watch to have a camera you’d take vacation photos with. Unless, of course, you’re a spy – then obviously you need the camera in the watch to take photos of Top Secret documents.

* Believe it or not, the Series 3 is actually Apple’s fourth iteration of the Apple Watch hardware. It is likely very confusing to people that don’t pay close attention to these things. The current offerings are Apple Watch Series 1, Series 3, and Series 3 with cellular. It sounds as if Series 1 is very old compared to the 3 but in reality it is only about a year old. Apple hasn’t been doing very well with names lately.

** Obviously I’ve toyed with Eliza’s. In fact, recently I’ve been putting it through its paces in the evenings learning the menus and options in preparation for when I get my Series 3. They’ve made the watch very customizable.

Repost: Daring Fireball on the iPhone X notch

👉 John Gruber:

Long story short: embrace the notch.

Daring Fireball at 15

John Gruber:

15 years ago this week, I started Daring Fireball with this piece on a then-new lineup of PowerMac G4’s.

I’ve been subscribed to Daring Fireball since that first post. In fact, I’m a card-carrying member (when John was selling Memberships) and have more than one t-shirt. DF has set the standard for what blogging is on many fronts and I’ve linked to countless pieces from him.

Fifteen-years is a fantastic milestone to hit and I look forward to at least 30 more years of DF before John hangs up his clicky keyboard. Thanks John.

Favicons on tabs in browsers

John Gruber:

With many tabs open, there’s really nothing subjective about it: Chrome’s tabs are more usable because they show favicons.

Like John, I’m currently a Safari user. I switched to Chrome for a bit due to the Developer tools being a bit better at the time but, as you may know, I’m trying to go all in on Apple. Safari is just better all around when on the Mac, iPhone, or iPad*.

I totally agree, though, with everything John says in his piece. Go read the entire thing.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned in his piece though is Safari’s “Show all tabs” view. If you have a ton of tabs open it can be very useful to use the Show all tabs button to view them all and find the one you’re looking for. This feature alone will not pull Chrome users over to Safari but at least it is something.

* Currently iCloud tabs are not working at all for me on the Mac. But I’m guessing that may be due to me using the iOS 11 betas on both iPhone and iPad and I am not using a beta of macOS High Sierra.

Their own technology

Garrett Sloane for AdAge:

Apple News will let top media partners use their own technology to fill the ad space in their content, becoming more of an extension of the publishers’ own websites than the walled-off island it is now, the people said.

At first I thought those that were linking to this have this wrong. But, the way it is written it appears that Apple is going to allow publishers to embed their own ad technology within their content to allow them to sell their ads within content that appears in the Apple News app.

I cannot believe Apple would allow this. This is a leak, of course, so the details are thin. But I can see it only going a few ways.

In one scenario, the leak is wrong (or poorly written) and Apple will allow publishers to use their own technology (meaning Apple’s) to sell ads. So, they can use Apple’s own ad platform to sell the ad inventory found within their own content within the app. This totally makes sense.

In another scenario, the leak is somewhat right in that Apple will allow publishers to use their own technology (meaning the publisher’s) to sell ads but with a ton of restrictions. This wouldn’t be ideal but I’m sure publishers would appreciate having a lot more control. Apple has stated multiple times how they are committed to privacy so they cannot allow the same tracking scripts in use on today’s web within their app. And, I can’t imagine they’d want to rely on outside dependencies – like the myriad of ad platform infrastructures – that could diminish the responsiveness of their app.

In the last scenario, the leak is 100% correct and Apple News will become a cesspool.

Since I use Apple News every single day, multiple times per day, I hope it is the first scenario.

/via Daring Fireball.

Colin Walker on blogrolls

Colin Walker:

Part of the problem with people based following models on social networks is that you follow the whole person so see everything they post whether it is relevant to you or not. There is no filtering system.

He goes on to mention that blogrolls that also supply an OPML file make it quick to subscribe via RSS to all of the blogs in the roll. Then, that person can determine whether or not to keep each subscription based on the value they get from them.

I can see that. But, I still go back to my original thought on this. If I subscribe to a bunch of blogs (and I do) and then I link to individual posts that I think are interesting, then I’m acting as a curator for my subscribers. This is why Kottke, Daring Fireball, and Waxy are so popular. They highlight some of the most interesting content, discussions, or resources they’ve found on the web. I do not intend to try to be as focused as Daring Fireball or as prolific as Kottke, but if I find something interesting I enjoy linking to them and giving my thoughts. If I really think something is worth discussing then I will link to it in an individual post.

If you subscribe to my blog and notice I’m routinely linking to a particular source (like Colin Walker) you may consider hopping over to your nearest feed reader and subscribing to his site as well.

Walker also mentions that anecdotal evidence suggests that people using RSS or JSON Feed to subscribe to blogs is on the rise. I’m seeing that too. And I’m very happy about it.

Claim Chowder: The Talk Show live at WWDC 2017 video

John Gruber:

This year we are not going to attempt to stream live video. Instead we’re going to work hard to get edited video of the event up on the web as soon as possible after the show is over. If you just can’t wait, listen to the live audio. If you want to see the show, wait for the video — it should be up some time on Wednesday at the latest.

It is Thursday John! 🙂

I’m just having fun with John, of course. For those that aren’t longtime readers of Daring Fireball you can catch his claim chowder throughout the years. I know how hard it is to turn around a quality video in that amount of time. I’m just being impatient because I want to see John interview Schiller and Hair Force One.

Update: It is out now! And it is excellent.

John Gruber on JSON Feed

John Gruber:

The DF RSS feed isn’t going anywhere, so if you’re already subscribed to it, there’s no need to switch. But JSON Feed’s spec makes it possible for me to specify both a url that points to the post on Daring Fireball (i.e. the permalink) and an external_url that points to the article I’m linking to. The way I’ve dealt with that in the RSS (technically Atom, but that’s sort of beside the point) is a bit of a hack that’s caused problems with numerous feed readers over the years.

John has linked to a slew of things this week re: JSON Feed so run over to Daring Fireball (increase the font size a few bumps) and catch up.

He mentions an interesting advantage of JSON Feed’s spec that I hadn’t thought of. DF Style Links, which are Daring Fireball’s way of linking to things wherein the headline is the link to the story and somewhere in the body is the link to Daring Fireball’s permalink, throws many feed readers for a loop. As I’ve switched feed readers over the years I’ve had to practically beg the developers to make small tweaks for Daring Fireball’s feed. In the beginning (early 2000s) that was harder than now as John’s blog is massively popular. Looks like JSON Feed makes it a bit easier.

iPad sales

Marco Arment posits the idea that, maybe, the iPad isn’t the future of computing based on the fact that sales are down year-over-year again. He writes:

What if, like so much in technology, it’s mostly just additive, rather than largely replacing PCs and Macs, and furthermore had a cooling-fad effect as initial enthusiasm wore off and customers came to this conclusion?

I don’t think this is the case. I do believe the iPad, or something like it, is the future of computing. And I’m personally just as enthusiastic about it as a product as I was when I bought the original iPad. I use my iPad every single day.

As an aside: I think the Surface Book is certainly in the running to be the traditional PC replacement. This category is getting harder to define. What is a tablet? What is a laptop? The Surface Book surely fits into both. And, arguably, Apple’s own Macbook is getting more iPad-like with each release. Less ports, thinner, lighter. Laptops and tablets may become indistinguishable at some point.

Why the sales decrease? I agree with John Gruber:

The peak years (2013 and 2014) were inflated because it was an untapped market. Steve Jobs was right, there was room for a new device in between a phone and a laptop, and the iPad was and remains an excellent product in that space. But people don’t need to keep buying new iPads. I think the replacement cycle is clearly much more like that of laptops than that of phones. This was not obvious to me at the time, but it seems obvious now.

I’ve owned 3 iPads and my wife 2. In the same amount of time we’ve owned 6 iPhones each. iPads simply do not require updating nearly as often as iPhones. We both currently have iPads (iPad Air 2 for me, iPad Pro for her) and we likely won’t be updating for a few more years at least.

I don’t think sales are the right metric to track the success of the iPad but rather marketshare in tablets which, again, is an increasingly tough category to define.

The Outline

Joshua Topolsky:

What’s most exciting about the platform is that we’re able to break apart and atomize story elements into forms that are sized for what we want to communicate. So our ability to point you toward some interesting data, or key facts about a story, or context about where a story is coming from is vastly expanded. But our system also provides an incredible way of building intricate, deep, creatively varied stories that can be a single narrative or a sum of parts. In short, it’s a complex new piece of tech: a real-time, highly extensible, extremely modern way of making things on the internet.

I applaud Josh and his team for trying to make something new with regards to publishing stories online. That is long, long overdue. But I think he’s overhyping it.

John Gruber seems to love it. 😉

My take? Pop news for the Snapchat generation. Not a bad thing to exist. Let’s revisit this to see where they are in 24 months. I have a feeling this one will be a flash in the pan due to the management of the thing not the thing itself.

Oh… one other bit; they do that whole “URL-changes-as-you-scroll-thing”. Hate that. But I’m old.

Removing the pro from Apple

John Gruber regarding Sal Soghoian being axed from Apple:

If they had simply fired him, that’d be one thing, but the fact that they’ve eliminated his position is another. This is shitty news. I find this to be a profoundly worrisome turn of events for the future of the Mac. I hope I’m wrong.

I noted this on Twitter without any comment. But I’m slowly seeing us pros being shown the door at Apple and Sal is just further evidence of this.

When Dan Kimbrough and I were at the Apple Store last week to look at the new MacBook Pro we were speaking to a retail store employee who, after hearing how we use computers said, “Oh, you are a ‘Pro User’“. He said it in such a way that made me think we weren’t welcome. Dan felt it too. He said so immediately as we were walking out the door.

My thinking is this; the consumer market is enormous compared to the pro market. Yes, there is a lot of money in Enterprise but Apple doesn’t consider themselves an Enterprise company. They slowly stopped chasing that dream long ago. Remember the X-Serve? Now, they are also slowly backing away from the pro market as well. Their entire business, for decades, was built on top of those that use Photoshop and Illustrator to do their work. Then, with their switch to a Unix-based OS, they picked up a ton of us that do programming for a living. But now they are removing ports and power in favor of small and thin. And they aren’t updating their beast of a computer either. And, to top of off, they eliminated a position at Apple that was arguably a very important part of why pro people could use macOS.

We keep asking Apple if they are going to leave the Mac behind. And they keep saying no. What we should be asking is if they are going to be leaving the professional users of the Mac behind.

This does not mean I think this is the wrong strategy for Apple. Apple is chasing revenue. They will sell more Macs to “normals” by making them as approachable, thin and light as possible. It just happens to not be the right strategy for me to continue using the Mac. So I’m making the jump to Windows 10. We’ll see if I’ve made the right decision in three years or so.

A tablet and a notebook in one

John Gruber:

To me, an iPad in notebook mode — connected to a keyboard cover — is so much less nice than a real notebook. And the difference is more stark when compared to a great notebook, like these MacBook Pros. There are advantages to the tablet form factor, but no tablet will ever be as nice as a notebook as these MacBook Pros. I also prefer MacOS over iOS for, well, “doing work”. I think I’m more productive on a Mac than I am on an iPad. I can’t prove it, but even if I’m wrong, the fact that I feel like it’s true matters. I always feel slightly hamstrung working on an iPad. I never do on a Mac (at least once I’ve got it configured with all the apps and little shortcuts, scripts, and utilities I use).

I totally agree with John. An iPad does not feel as nice as a MacBook. I’ve owned both devices and used them both daily for years. And I, like him, feel much less productive on an iPad than on a notebook computer like the MacBook. I used my iPad for reading, watching videos, and doing light work-related tasks like note taking at a client meeting. But for real work I grabbed my MacBook and, preferably, connected it to a display.

But what if you could have both? What if you could have both a tablet and a notebook in one? And what if all of the work that you do on the notebook could be possible on the tablet? I’ll be writing much more about my experiences with the new Surface Book with Performance Base in the coming weeks (I have only had mine three days and I want to get a little more comfortable with it prior to a proper review) but I can say this – without hesitation – the Surface Book is the marriage of the iPad and the MacBook and I’m loving it.

I read John’s post with the Clipboard portion (read: the display) of the Surface Book and was compelled to write this post. So I docked the display on the keyboard and began typing. Not because I couldn’t have used the on-screen keyboard, but more because I’m much quicker with a full computer. I have all of my shortcuts and customizations. The small little things that make more far more productive.

And, let’s not forget the actual reason John gave for feeling “hamstrung” while using the iPad – it is the software. The operating system. With my new Surface Book I’m running Windows 10 in desktop mode when docked to the Performance Base and in tablet mode when detached from it. But, in both situations I have my data, my customization, my small tweaks, my multitasking capabilities, etc. It truly is the best of both worlds.

I’ve long written on this blog that I believe Microsoft’s vision of one operating system for both contexts is better than Apple’s two-OS approach. John disagrees with me on this. And I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer but there certainly is a preference. My preference is to keep my “power user” stuff at my fingertips for when I need them but to hide them when I don’t. The Surface Book does this.

I’m truly enjoying this device and I’m very much looking forward to sharing more about my switch back from the Mac to Windows 10. But for now I’m going to detach my display and get back to watching YouTube videos on my couch.

Hey, umm, Siri?

I was happy this week to see that the topic of how far behind Siri is came up on many tech blogs. It is a topic I’ve thought, but not wrote, a lot about. In 2012 Siri was ahead on ability, but behind on speed. Earlier in 2016, prior to WWDC, I wrote a WWDC wish list and in it I wrote that I had hoped:

I hope Siri can do a lot more – I think we’re overdue on being able to say things like “Hey Siri, send the photo I just took to my wife.” Or “Hey Siri, open Spotify and play Jack White’s Blunderbuss.” Or “Hey Siri, find a note in Simplenote that I created on May 15th”. Or, even, “Hey Siri, show me all of the photos I’ve taken in Hawaii.”

Based on what I saw at WWDC I thought I was going to get some of these things. But I was wrong. There are a few things that Siri has improved in iOS 10 but overall it seems that it is falling further and further behind with every announcement from Apple’s competitors.

Even without any competition from other companies I still think Siri should be better than it is. The examples I gave above should already be possible. I’ve had some notes regarding a few queries that I thought Siri should be able to handle by now but she cannot and so I’d like to take one of those and add them to my wish list.

“Hey Siri, how long until it rains?”

This query would be huge for me personally. I use and open Dark Sky at least twice a day. Because I hike and kayak and go for a jog outdoors I like to know, as accurately as possible, when it will start raining. Do I have 30 minutes to get in a quick jog? Or do I have a few hours to go kayaking? I’d like to know and it’d be convenient for me if Siri could tell me.

Walt Mossberg:

For me, at least, and for many people I know, it’s been years. Siri’s huge promise has been shrunk to just making voice calls and sending messages to contacts, and maybe getting the weather, using voice commands.

Why are people only using it for these things? John Gruber explains:

The big problem Apple faces with Siri is that when people encounter these problems, they stop trying. It feels like you’re wasting your time, and makes you feel silly or even foolish for having tried.

Even if Siri has gotten better no one will know because they’ve already given up. I know in a lot of cases I have. And that may be a harder hurdle for Apple to jump over than simply improving Siri’s capabilities.

 

Disappearing apps and services

Alexei Baboulevitch (archagon) in a comment on Hacker News:

These indie apps are often marketed as beautiful, wholesome alternatives to grimy corporate or open source software, but how could I possibly rely on these products for essential tasks like note-taking if they’re just going to disappear out from under me in a few years? The idea that software has a lifespan controlled by the developer is, in my opinion, toxic to the market. It’s just one of the many things pulling the App Store down, and one of the many downsides of living in a walled garden.

I have to agree. More and more I’m inclined to use an open (but not necessarily free) alternative for just about any app or service that I rely on.

I wasn’t a Vesper user, but if I was, I’d be scrambling to find an alternative since it is now being shut down. I’m a happy Simplenote user which is free and open and backed by a company that wants to keep things open and running for as long as possible.

Picturelife’s recent closing, which I called in January of 2015, is also a stark reminder that even if we rely heavily on an app or service, and even if we support it with our money and our word-of-mouth, it doesn’t mean that it will stick around.

If you find yourself relying on an app or service that could disappear tomorrow do yourself a favor and seek out alternatives while you still have plenty of time to make the switch. You don’t have to switch, but knowing what alternatives are out there and having a plan can save you a ton of headaches. If I hadn’t switched from Picturelife to iCloud when I did I’d be hurting right now. Bigtime.

I’ll have more on Picturelife’s shutdown in a future post.

The iPhone turns 9

Nine years ago today Eliza, John Gruber, Rob Sandie, Matt Regula and I were standing in line for the original iPhone. Here are a few photos:

Colin Rob Eliza in line for iPhone

John Gruber in line for iPhone

John, before having a computer in his pocket.

John Gruber taking a photo of the iPhone line

Rob Sandie powering up

Me with my original iPhone

It was quite a day. Looking back on it now, that day changed everything we do now.

What Photos for OS X and iOS will be able to automatically detect in iOS 10

Alternate title: My hopes are low for object detection in the new Photos but I still have hope

Reddit user vista980622 dig some digital sleuthing and may have come up with the list of over 4,000 objects, memories, and facial expressions that Photos for iOS and OS X will be able to mine all on its own with Apple’s Advanced Computer Vision technology announced at WWDC. The user then wrote this about the landmark detection on Ev’s blog:

Additionally, you can search for various landmarks. For example, Photos can respond for search query of “Maho” (beach in Saint Martin), despite Photos is not programmed or trained to understand specific landmarks. Behind the scenes, Photos app first generates a generic categorization for the scene, “beach”, then searches through a built-in dictionary for all landmarks that has the name “beach” in its definition.

This is smart approach.

It reminds me of something Craig Federighi (Hair Force One to me) mentioned during John Gruber’s live Talk Show event during WWDC. There are a lot of ways to teach Apple’s Advanced Computer Vision system that do not need to involve sending your photos to them. They know what a beach or mountain or forest looks like. They have access to the location of the photo. And they have access to the world’s knowledge via the web. Combining those things they can find a huge amount of information in your photos that can be used to discover them without ever needing to look at the photos themselves.

In my wish list for Photos for OS X, iOS, and iCloud Photo Library I mentioned that I wanted to be able to search for objects. I wrote:

Sort of related to the auto-generated albums above, I’d love to be able to search for “red” or “lake” or “tree” and get results. Google is killing Apple at this. And it just makes so much sense. The more the application does for you the less classification you have to do manually. I tag my photos with things like “cat” or “ants” or “beetle” or “snake” because I want to be able to search for these things later. And adding my own layer of taxonomy on top of my library should always be an option … but for objects that are easily identifiable these days (like lakes or cats) it just makes sense.

It appears I’ll be getting that. I noticed a lot of object and animal specific terms in the list that vista980622 shared. One stood out; “arachnid”. I hope, and am pretty sure I will be able to, still search by “spider” though it isn’t listed. Which brings us to the discoverability of these types of searches. I hope Apple doesn’t only provide a search box but that they also suggest searches or create pseudo-albums for you.

For example, Google Photos creates albums (sort of) by simply giving you a way to find those objects in your library without searching for them. They aren’t albums so much as links to search results that look like albums. I hope Apple builds in a discovery mechanism too. And it’d be great if it were based on what I took photos of the most.

Looking through my Library it’d be easy to see that I take a lot of photos of lakes and rivers (kayaking), bees, barns, and buildings. I also visit a lot of wineries and breweries. It’d be nice if Apple simply had “pseudo albums” or saved searches at the ready for me for all of these things. And then they could throw in a few for fun like cats, pink, beach, panoselfie.

One tidbit about the assumed facial expression detection in Photos… They seem to be using this to create memories. Who wants memories of a bunch of angry people? So I’m guessing that if they want to make a bunch of happy memories for people they needed to go beyond just detecting the people in the photos but also what mood they were in.

OK, one more tidbit about face detection. I’m skeptical that this will be any good. But I hope I’m wrong.

Currently there are two kinds of face detection. The first involves determining that there is a face in the photo. You’ll see iOS’s camera app doing this live while you’re shooting. A yellow box will surround people or objects in a photo to get a good focal length to make sure your subject(s) are in focus. That is face detection that simply says “we think this is a face”. Then there is face detection that involves determining the actual person in the photo. Photos for OS X has this currently… though it needs to be improved a lot. Like, a real lot. Check out this example from this weekend:

Photos OS X Face Detection Error Fail

You can click the image to zoom in a bit.

On the left, my friend Matt (who has a face). On the right, a vending machine (which does not have a face).

Photos for OS X believes that the vending machine is a face. This is technology that Apple has been mucking around with for at least 8 years as it was debuted in iPhoto in 2009. It didn’t suggest any names for the face (it rarely does, which I’ve covered here), but it doesn’t even see Matt’s face.

I’m sure that Apple’s new Photos for iOS and OS X will be better than what we currently have but I’ll wait and see before I get excited. Because so far they’ve yet to be great at this and Google and Facebook kill them at it.

I’m anxious to play with iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. But not anxious enough to install the betas on my hardware. So I’ll be writing a lot more about this in the fall.

App Store Subscriptions

Yesterday the news hit of Apple’s changes to App Store policies and features including allowing developers to leverage Subscriptions for their applications so that they can better make a living making great apps.

This, from John Gruber’s coverage at Daring Fireball:

Now, subscription-based pricing will be an option for anysort of app, including productivity apps and games. This is an entirely new business model for app developers — one that I think will make indie app development far more sustainable.

Some of you reading this may wonder why this is important and some of the coverage doesn’t really lay it out.

As it stands, for most apps in the store, you pay once and get upgrades for as long as the developer can afford to give them. Some applications, but not all, require constant maintenance. Perhaps they run a syncing service so that your information is available across all devices or platforms. Perhaps the services they are built on top of change a lot and so app updates are needed often to keep the app working. Or, perhaps they offer new content (like game levels, or editorials, or videos, etc.) and to support the creation of that content they need money.

All apps require updates a few times a year as iOS releases and new Apple devices are released.

The problem right now is… developers need money to continue coming in over time to build and update great apps. The “pay once, get updates for free forever” model, isn’t sustainable for apps that do not offer in-app purchases.

As a consumer of these apps (and you’d know this if you’ve read this blog for a long time) I want to pay for upgrades. When Tweetbot was released as a wholly different app to skirt around the limitations of App Store policy, I gladly ponied up. I use the app daily. I want it to continue working. So I will pay. There are other apps that I wish did the same thing.

I know there is a bit of confusion at the moment about exactly what apps are eligible for this or not. There is always confusion when a change like this is introduced. It’ll all shake it out. I’m very happy to see this change and look forward to supporting my favorite apps with my money. It means I’ll get to continue to use them.

Year one of the Apple Watch

In January I wrote:

The Apple Watch could be called a flop if it sold so poorly and customer demand or interest was so low that Apple totally shelved the project. But they haven’t. I’m willing to bet they made a lot of money on the Watch so far (far more than any of their competitors in the same space). And I’m willing to bet that in 2016-2017 Apple will double down on the Watch and make some incredible improvements to every piece of it.

Today Apple releases their quarterly earnings statement and while they won’t directly comment on the number of Watches sold — or how those numbers breakdown between the different styles of watch — analysts have backed into a figure that settles in around $6 billion dollars.

Flop? From now on I am classifying anyone willing to write the word flop into a headline about the Apple Watch as a clickbait artist, scammer, or moron. You’ve been warned. No matter how you frame it; a product earning $6 billion dollars (and I’d say it is likely that even with brand-new tooling to create these devices, and the R&D done that led up to it that the Watch was still profitable year 1) in its first year is not a flop. Of course people are making comparisons to Apple’s competitors in the smartwatch space and even in the traditional watch space (which I do not feel is a fair comparison). However, Apple smashed all of them in the revenue numbers game; see: Fitbit (by 3x), Rolex.

How much better could it possibly have done?

John Gruber takes a slightly more reasoned tone:

Apple Watch can’t be neatly summarized with a one-word description like “hit” or “flop”. It has some serious, deep flaws, but it has sold well — especially considering those flaws. And the people who own one tend to really like it.

I can agree with John — that the Apple Watch isn’t a runaway hit. And I don’t mean just sales. There are some design issues with the Watch and it certainly feels like a version 1. As did the iPhone.

Me, again, in a different post in January:

My wife has an Apple Watch. I’d call her a “light user” of the Watch. She wears it every day but mainly uses it for glancing at text messages. There are a myriad of other uses but, just like the original iPhone, they are a bit too slow to be fully useful yet. You can use them but you don’t very often because they are too slow.

Speed, is an issue on the Watch. But this is going to improve by several factors with each iteration.

Here is Gizmodo’s Casey Chan on something he doesn’t like about the Apple Watch; buttons:

First, I still don’t know what the buttons do. This is ridiculous (and probably very stupid on my part) because, well, there are only two buttons, the digital crown and the side button. Most of the times, pressing the digital crown acts like an iPhone home button. But sometimes it’s a back button (like when you’re in the Favorites contact screen). It gets more confusing because you can scroll through a list with the crown but you can never select, you have to tap the screen for that to work. Most of these things you eventually figure out, but these little inconsistencies just add to the frustration of using it.

I’ve only used the Apple Watch very sparingly as I don’t own one of my own. But I can agree. I’ve never been as confused using any Apple product as I was using the Watch the first time. I remember using the Mac for the first time and every single thing I wanted to accomplish turned out to be far easier than I thought it would be. The Watch needs to get to this point too. And if Apple sticks with it — and I think they will — then I think they will improve on it.

Even with these two main issues the customer satisfaction numbers are very high. Higher than first-gen iPhone or iPad. And, anecdotally, I’ve never talked to an Apple Watch owner that didn’t like theirs.

Rumors aside I’m sure the next Apple Watch will be faster, lighter, thinner, and hopefully a bit easier to grok. If they can do that, they’ll turn the Apple Watch into a massive hit by any comparison.

Regarding blog comments, again

I’m behind in my reading and even further behind in my writing. Which is why I’m just now finally writing about something I’ve wanted to since earlier this week even though the original post was written in late February. Ugh.

Alex Payne, one of the many talented people behind Twitter, recently wrote on his blog his thoughts on blog comments. In a nut, Alex felt that by leaving comments off he’s elevating the level of conversation. That, if he had comments turned on, there would be less than desirable comments written on his blog. That, by turning comments off, it forces people to reply to his blog posts from their own blog. Since people don’t want to write stupid things on their own blog the level of conversation would automatically be risen. Smart.

Alex isn’t the first person to share this sentiment. I’ve written about blog comments in 2004, again in 2007, and have thought about it many times since I began blogging around the turn of the century. In 2004 I was commenting on the indirect benefits for turning off comments. The main benefit I highlighted was that by not allowing comments, you’d be forcing people to link to your site from theirs, creating more link backs to your site, increasing your blog’s audience, and improving your site’s Pagerank on search engines. All very good things for any writer. I suppose those benefits really just improve Alex’s reason. Improving the conversation while at the same time doing well for yourself.

In 2007 I was, in an ironic sort of way, responding to Jeremy Keith’s thoughts on leaving blog comments off. He said that he didn’t like having them on because of they were “examples of antisocial networking”. He made examples of YouTube and Digg being saturated with worthless comments. I’ve recently reread my post and I think I worded my response quite well, so if you’re interested, give it a read.

I think my thoughts hold up, two years later, that Digg and YouTube are, well, Digg and YouTube. Digg, generally speaking, is meant to act as a human filter for the world’s news. The comments on a Digg are, for the most part, about whether or not that particular news item, link, photo, video, or whatever should be worthy of being on Digg at all. Digg has gotten so much better than it was when it first reached critical mass. YouTube, however, still has a lot of maturing to do. The community is so vast that as you browse around the site you will see that thoughtful videos usually are rewarded with thoughtful responses while not-so-thoughtful videos are not. The nature of the beast I suppose.

There are edge cases, of course. Where you have a thoughtful video that gets the attention of the trolls. Where dumb people with nothing to do flock to a particular video and, for no other reason than their own personal entertainment, tee off in the comments in a tirade of incredibly distasteful, worthless, and (even I’ll admit) humorous commentary.

I suppose my main reason for agreeing to disagree with Jeremy was because, well, my site isn’t that popular. This isn’t Digg. This isn’t YouTube. I don’t have the problem of having millions of troll-like morons looking for an excuse to yell things like “first” or, well, any other worthless response (let alone the off-color ones). If I did I’d probably deal with that in my own way. This is, afterall, my house. I very much doubt I’d ever turn comments off entirely. One of my core beliefs, which I mentioned in my 2007 note, was that I thought of blog posts as the beginning of or the response to conversations. I still feel that way. I wouldn’t write anything on my blog, ever, if I didn’t in some way want someone to think about what I’m writing about and, if they chose to, respond to it. That is why I write.

Daring Fireball, one of my favorite Weblogs of all time, which made my Best of 2008 list, and is run by my friend John Gruber, also leaves comments off. John, who recently linked to Alex Payne’s thoughts, has covered this topic a few times. Based on what he’s written publicly about this topic I can safely say that he is in agreement with both Alex and Jeremy. And he has reason to. Jeremy’s main point about how there are too many worthless comments out there has a lot to do with scale. Daring Fireball has enough scale, though no where near the scale of Digg or YouTube, to create those types of moderation problems for John. You see, John curates Daring Fireball like a rooftop garden in a busy city. He cares for it. Every pixel. He cares for it as though it has very limited space. He uses that space efficiently. It is like he needs to get the greatest quality vegetables possible from the absolutely least amount of area. Besides John’s writing it is probably the biggest factor in the success of Daring Fireball. With as much traffic as he gets (which is about 1.2M hits per month according to his Sponsorship page) he would probably run into the problem of trolls. When John goes off on jackasses (which are some of my favorite posts, by the way) I’m pretty sure other jackasses would chime in.  With regards to Alex’s main point, about the fact that Alex really enjoys well thought-out discussions rather than terse commentary, John also tends to link to many people that mention his site in thoughtful posts. John enjoys good writing as much as anyone. In other words, I can see why blogs like Daring Fireball leave comments off.

TechCrunch, one of the most popular blogs right now, has comments on. It has some troll activity. It has some comments that, in my opinion, aren’t worth all that much. But, some people have used the comment area on TechCrunch to do a great job of responding to not only TechCrunch’s commentary but also to the TechCrunch audience. Gary Vaynerchuk, someone I consider a dear friend, runs a Web site called Cork’d. (You can read my interview with Gary about Cork’d, if you’d like). When Cork’d got hacked, and TechCrunch promptly reported on it, Gary took the opportunity to directly communicate what was going on through his own blog and through TechCrunch’s comments. I’d love to hear Michael Arrington’s thoughts on comments on TechCrunch and why they’ve chosen to leave them on for the majority of their posts. I’m positive he has an opinion on this matter.

Again, I’ve been blogging for 10 years. Longer than it has been called blogging. Longer than there has been any form of personal content management systems. This topic of comments, and whether or not to have them on my site, has been debated in many conversations with other bloggers at blogging meetups and conferences, with myself in the shower, with the road while I’m driving, in my own brain, and many other places over those years. I struggle with it. All. The. Time.  My strategy, as of today, is that if it even became a problem where I began to regret having comments on – where the comments I get on my site do not have a value to quantity ratio that I’m happy with – or when my goal is for people to link to my site from their own sites for the sake of getting linkbacks – then maybe I’ll turn them off. But not until then. And neither of those situations have happened in all of these years an
d I doubt they will any time soon.

I’m just happy to know that other people think about these sorts of things still too. That, even after 10 years of publishing on the Web, we’re all still struggling together with the same fundamental issues that the Web, in all of its social greatness, has imposed on our efforts of sharing ideas. No matter how good the tools get, no matter how many people jump online worldwide and join the conversation, we will always have the decision to make of how we’d like interact. What we’re comfortable with for us, for our companies, and for our Web sites. The learning curve is, as far as I see it, infinite. And I’m okay with that.

Live from SXSW in Austin, TX

Below, in order, are my notes, thoughts, and random pieces of media that I’m collecting at this year’s SXSW. You can subscribe to my blog with this feed, and keep up to date. Each time I update this page, I will mark the date, time, and location that I am updating. Each date and time is hyperlinkable (not a real word).

Thursday, March 8th

12:33pm – In preparation of the trip from the northeast, to south by southwest (fittingly) – I picked up some shorts and got my hair did (photo). I managed to get these two tasks done fairly quickly and get back to my office for a few “last minute” things that I need to get done before we set sail.

Right now I’m waiting on the WineLibrary TV crew to get their latest episode completed. I’m helping them integrate their show with Viddler‘s system so that they get the most benefit out of it. Yesterday’s show was a huge success and today we’re hoping to add even a little more value for the Vayniacs.

People are really coming around with how Viddler works in situations like this. I think WineLibrary TV’s episodes are the perfect candidate for Viddler’s technology. Check out this comment.

“Man, after being a naysayer yesterday, I have to say that these new tags are awesome, and I’m now a total convert!” — Kent I

As this service matures, I think many people will start to enjoy interacting with their video in this manner. Stay tuned – because today’s episode should have a few new features that I think their audience is going to love.

2:35pm – I think it is amazing how many people are going to this thing. I’ve gotten more instant messages and emails today than I have in a very long time, and most of it is about trying to get together in Austin. In one hand; exciting. In the other; overwhelming.

I’m still going over our itinerary with a fine toothed comb. I have a lot of friends that are speaking on panels, and it’d be really nice to see all of them on stage, but I doubt I’ll get to see anyone since they are mostly there for “Web dev stuff” and my primary focus will be on Internet video while I am there. Well, back to the calendar.

4:20pm – I had the privilege of helping to prepare WineLibrary TV Episode #196 using some new Viddler features. Things went really smoothly and so far it seems that their audience really enjoys it.

Now I’m packing my suitcase, going to see if I can get a small nap in this afternoon before I pack up all of my “technology stuff”. I have to leave at 4:00am..

10:51pm – Just packing up my “tech stuff”. Heading to New Jersey in 5 hours or so to catch a jet plane to Austin, TX. My next update will probably be from an airport or something.

Friday, March 9th

11:02amOn Continental Airlines Flight 350 at 34,000 feet: Our ride this morning was, well, interesting. I was supposed to be the navigator for Mike and I to get to Viddler HQ, pick up Rob, and head to Newark, NJ to catch our flight.

Mike and I got to talking and I managed to allow us to pass a few exits, a few times, so we did a lot of U-turning. Then, after we finally met up with Rob – we were on our way to Newark International Airport and Rob forgot his wallet. Another U-turn.

Morgan Spurlock and Colin Devroe in Newark New Jersey

Morgan Spurlock and I in Newark, New Jersey

We finally made it to the airport, all of us having to pee like crazy, and managed to get on Mike’s flight (we were on standby for this flight). Mike is about five rows behind me right now, looking at some girl in a rather inappropriate way probably, and Rob is next to me. Next to Rob is a nice guy named Jeremy who is also heading to South by Southwest with Morgan Spurlock (of SuperSize Me fame), who I had a chance to meet and have a short chat with.

James Bond: Casino Royale is currently playing on the screen as I am listening to Dan Benjamin interview Cindy Li on the latest Hivelogic Radio. I’m going to finish listening to Hivelogic Radio before I move onto watching the latest episode of Heroes that I downloaded before I left.

4:38pm@ SXSW – 2nd floor: – Just got registered. Going to see if we can fit in a panel here at the convention center. The first panel we wanted to see is at a different place. 🙁

6:14pmFrom the back of Austin Cab 451: – Rob and I are in Best Buy parking lot, in the back of a cab. We just bought some things we needed for the HD camera (since we now have a press pass), and we want to be able to tape some of the panels we’re attending.

I was twittering with Chris Messina and I saw him and Tara sitting at a table. If it wasn’t for them I would have never figured out that there was “big bags” to get full of cool trinkets. Most of them are purely marketing material, but that’s cool. There was piles of papers that people threw out of the bags onto the tables.

I just met up with David Seah just before leaving the convention center. I did an interview with him while he was trying to put together some legos. Video coming soon.

9:21pmAt the Double Tree Room 609: – Just got back to the hotel after eating at The Boiling Pot on 6th. Very cool place, nice and spicey. Alex, Rob, and I ate crawfish, potatoes, corn, and other stuff that was spilled out all over the table. Sound familiar Eliza?

Now we’re trying to get our Internet connections working. Here are some photos that I took today.

Rob Sandie Colin Devroe Taxi SWSX

Rob and I in Taxi

rob-colin-line

Rob and I in Line

davidseah

David Seah

capitalbuilding

The Capital Building

crawfish

pileoffood

Our food
I have some more photos, but I’m only going to do a few a day until I can get home and have the time to go through them all.

Saturday, March 10th

8:43amAt the Double Tree Room 609: – Woke up fairly refreshed this morning. Definitely need some breakfast and a coffee before heading to SXSW. Anyone having breakfast anywhere?

10:15am@ SXSW 2nd floor – Room 12AB: – In the Video is worth more than 1,000 words panel. Going over some of the trends, some of the history, and some of the future of social video.

11:13am@ SXSW 2nd floor – on the floor: – Panel is over. Met Chris from Adobe. Still can just barely get the internet. Port 80 sucks.

11:56am@ SXSW 2nd floor – Room 19AB with Jeremy Keith and Andy Budd: – Just published my interview with David Seah on the Viddler blog.

7:10pm@ Logan’s on the Sixth: – Ate some dinner, talked to my brother-in-law on video chat for the first time. Having a Logan’s Lemonade, very good. More video on Viddler coming soon! Stayed tuned.

8:05pm@ Double Tree, 15th Street, Room 609: – Dumping photos, video to our hard drives. Checking a few things, getting a shower, short nap – then off to see the Ze Frank BuzzFeed party, then to the Virb party till 4am supposedly? Should be fun, we’ll shoot video.

9:15pm@ Double Tree, 15th Street, Room 609: – Just posted our Saturday lunch update, and our Saturday night update to our Viddler blog. Here are some photos from today.

Alex

Chris and Rob

Lunch update

Tag, You’re It

Overlooking Austin

Free beer w/ Zach

Saturday, March 10th, Gallery

4:14am@ Double Tree, 15th Street, Room 609, after the Ze Frank party:Ze Frank, BuzzFeed and another company threw a party at the Molotov Lounge. It was pretty good, Ze did a funny bit on airplane safety (which will be on Viddler later). Then there was free drinks for a few hours. Thanks to all the sponsors, it was a cool place to hang for a bit.

Here are some photos of the people I met at Ze’s little bash.

It was really great to finally meet everyone. It kinda makes me wish we all could do this every month if for no other reason than to bounce ideas off one another and chat about the stuff we love. The world is such a small place, thanks to the Internet, yet it remains so large that I feel as if I am going to lose “contact” with everyone the moment I leave South by Southwest. We’ll see…. I guess I can still Twitter spam for Adam.

Sunday, March 11th

10:58am@ Double Tree, 15th Street, Room 609: – Stayed up until 7am playing around with something “special”. Alex and I will put some polish on it today/tonight and release it. It is the culmination of the brain power of myself, Rob Sandie, Adam Michela, Peter Flaschner, and several other contributors. Should be fun.

Now I have to get over to the conference center so that I can show up fashionably late to the second panel of the day after finding some coffee and a muffin or something.

1:14pm@ PF Chang’s for lunch: – Spent most of the morning getting things prepared for the rest of the day. Had a great discussion with Molly about some of the stuff she’s able to accomplish with Microsoft, I definitely wish her all the best with everything professional and otherwise.

Now we’re eating and planning the rest of our day.

4:50pm@ SXSW Ballroom F: – Waiting for the next panel to start, so I might as well fill you in. (I won’t have time for many links or photos so I will update this from the hotel later). I finally was able to meet up with Irina Slutsky to do The Vloggies Show (which is a new show she is doing so be sure to stay tuned as it will air this week). Spoke to a guy from Microsoft about Expression Web… he said there was a lot of things going on in the pipe and that the initial release is only the beginning. Being an ex-Frontpage 98 user, I hope they are able to build something that is relatively solid for their audience.

Allen Stern of CenterNetworks.com asked what the little black guy was in the big bag you get here at South by Southwest. I figured it out. If you go to the exhibit hall, find Vital Stream’s booth, you can throw it at a dart-like board and win a shirt. I got a bulls-eye on the first try and won a shirt.

We only were able to attend one or two panels so far today, and hopefully tonight we’ll be able to see Morgan Spurlocks doc “What would Jesus Buy”.

11:28pm@ Hilton Lobby: – Just had a nice conversation with Irina and two guys that did not give me their cards because they had run out of them (if you are reading this, email me your contact information). Talking about ad networks and how to display ads based on content within a video on Viddler rather than just the content on the page. Pretty cool stuff.

We’re sending all of our HD video that we’ve captured to a professional video editor, so I am excited to get all of that back and have it up on the Viddler blog soon enough. If anyone would like to do an interview, or has not signed my shirt, please grab me. I’m hoping to have content being published regularly over
the next few weeks.

Monday, March 12th

3:00am@ Double Tree, Room 609: – After hanging in the Hilton’s lobby for a few hours I heard through Twitter that the 9rules crew was hanging out in the bar. I ran over, had a drink with Molly (thanks for the shot Molly), Paul Scrivens, Mike Rundle, and Mike’s fiancé Eleni.

Back to work though as we headed for our hotel and I featured a video that was taken during one of the panels here. Rob and I managed to record many of the panels we went to, and we’re hoping to get that video up slowly over the next few days. We have someone helping us with that too, which is great – because Rob and I are stretched pretty thin.

Even though I am starving, I am going to head to bed and see if I can’t get up on time tomorrow.

10:22am@ Double Tree, Room 609: – Awake. Slept in a little, somehow our wake-up call never happened. Today will be another busy day. I didn’t have the chance, nor the energy, to go through all of my photos from yesterday and get them posted, but I will try to do that if there is any downtime during the day.

Remember, if I “know” you, but I have not met you yet, please make it a point to run over to me. I’d like to meet everyone at this opportunity. I’ll be the blonde guy in the Viddler tshirt.

2:46pm@ SXSW Room 12AB: – Just ate lunch at the Spaghetti Warehouse for a discussion about OpenID. Very interesting stuff and I am definitely going to recommend that Viddler make it part of their development roadmap. For anyone that has not looked into OpenID be sure to do so, especially if you’d like to be prepared for the future of online, cross service, authentication.

On my way back from the lunch, I saw Paul Nixon running and we both said I should have been running with him. Damn him and his Nike package and the motivation to run while in the Texas heat.

Right now I’m in an interesting panel about whether or not User Generated video is considered film or not. Sounds really niche, and it definitely is, but it is also incredibly interesting as a discussion topic – and I never ever thought it would be.

Tuesday, March 13th

10:33am@ Double Tree, Room 609: – Good morning! Sorry that I haven’t updated since early afternoon yesterday but things went a little hectic there. After watching Luke W‘s panel on the various interface libraries (which was absolutely packed and should have been much longer), I needed to be outside in front of the convention center to go to The Salt Lick, which is a BBQ pit about 45 minutes outside of Austin, with Robert Scoble, Chris Aarons, Sarah Beck, and Patrick Nichols of AMD, an extremely nice gentlemen from AT&T’s Web department, and Jim Posner from IBM who was in Apocolpse Now (more on all of this later).

After that I headed to the Great British Booze up, which was just about ending at the time. I hooked up with the entire Forty Media crew (there is a lot of them), and went to the next party where I ended up spending most of my time talking to Larry Halff about all things Ma.gnolia and Ruby on Rails. It was a great discussion and having never used Ma.gnolia – I can say that it seems like a service I should have been using for years. I’m going to give it a try the moment I can find some free time with wifi (aka: when I get home).

So now I gotta hop in the shower because Rob and I are going to do a Lunch Meet.

2:03pm@ In the Hilton Ballroom, 6th Floor, for Will Wright’s keynote: – Our lunch meet got postponed by a few hours. Hard to get everyone in one place at the same time. So Rob and I are recording the Will Wright keynote. I am definitely looking forward to seeing a demo of Spore.

Tuesday, March 14th

10:44am@ Double Tree, Room 609: – The demo of SPORE was really awesome. Will Wright’s keynote alone was very good, but the demo just tops it off that Will actually does what he feels.

I have a ton to more write about. I’ve kept this “live blog” as up-to-date as I could considering the circumstances with time, internet connectivity, etc. So instead of writing a huge wrap up to what is already one of my longest posts ever, I will be writing single entries that highlight very specific panels, discussions, lunches, and parties after I get back home to Pennsylvania.

As a short overview of what happened since yesterday’s keynote – We recorded one or two more panels, went to Logan’s again for dinner, then hit up the VIP at the Media Temple party.

After that it was a bunch of sad goodbyes, as most of us know that we’ll only be in contact virtually for awhile… but overall the experience was good.

Thanks to all that kept up with me over the conference. Those that came over to say hi, those that signed my shirt, those whom I met for the very first time, and those that I will be friends with for a long time to come.

Sorry to any of you that were looking for me, or didn’t have a chance to talk to me for whatever reason… send me an email and maybe we’ll get together sometime.

Stay subscribed, a ton of stuff to come.