When you search for blogs now on you see things like ‘Top 100 Blogs.’ ‘How to Make a Successful Blog.’ ‘Most Powerful 50 Blogs.’ But what you really want is 10,000 unsuccessful blogs.
Much of the linked piece is likely to be taken as hyperbole but it is mostly true-ish. It is true that it is harder to find smaller blogs via Google these days. And even truer that you no longer stumble across blogs. Unless, of course, you browse something like Micro.blog and follow link after link after link to find stuff. But even then, it is a lot of work.
Back when blogging started the internet was smaller. So the blogosphere felt bigger. While today, the internet is much much larger. So the active blogosphere – while likely relatively the same size as it was in 2003-2007 – simply feels a lot smaller. I suppose it depends on how you keep count. Social networks now feel so much bigger in both scale and impact. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great blogs being created every single day.
It sort of reminds me of music genres. Classical, Punk, Hip-hop. Each have had their time. It doesn’t mean that they no longer exist. It also doesn’t mean that there isn’t new material being made every day in each genre. But, they’ve had their time and their impact. And each gets replaced by something different. Something new.
I’m no longer waiting for the good old days of blogging to come back. I think that was a feeling that simply can no longer be replicated.
Today we’re launching a new feature on Micro.blog: support for multi-user blogs, so your whole team can write posts on a shared blog. We think it’s going to be great for small companies, families, and schools, with everything from shared photo blogs to podcasts.
This is a big update.
You may remember that I try to hold an interview with Manton Reece re: Micro.blog each year. Here is 2018, 2019. This year we couldn’t make it work. We tried for months. But he’s simply too busy – and now we can see why.
You may remember one of my questions of Manton in 2019’s interview mentioned “From an outsider’s perspective, I don’t know how you’re able to do as much as you do!” . Somehow Manton maintains Micro.blog’s code base, the server-side infrastructure, the iOS and Mac app, an additional photo-sharing app, customer support, billing, more than one podcast, his own personal blog, etc. And these are just the things I know about. I think we can all forgive him for not having time for an interview.
I wasn’t exaggerating with that question, I honestly have no idea how he does it.
Above is my first ever contact print. A contact print is when you lay a negative (film, paper, tin, glass) onto photo-sensitive paper and shine light onto it to expose the paper. You then develop that paper into a positive print (or what you’d think of as a normal photo).
This is a milestone in my film journey. I’ve been trying to build enlargers with household materials over the last few quarantined weeks without any real success. In fact, I might just give up on it altogether until I get my hands on a real enlarger (which I think I have one in my sights).
Here is how the story of the above photo began.
We are in quarantine. Are you? I bet you are. Well, we’ve been in quarantine now for over 2 months or so. And that has led me to do all sorts of at-home photography projects such as my bedroom camera obscura.
Last night I got the idea to finally try my hand at making a contact print from a paper negative. I didn’t want to use the negatives I had created with the camera obscura so I thought of creating many smaller sized negatives using some old cameras I have laying around.
So step 1 was to create some cardboard templates for the focal areas for the cameras I was going to use. In my case, I chose three cameras. A Baby Kodak Brownie, a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Edition, and a Canon 650 35mm film camera. I chose the Brownies because they’d give me a relatively large negative (about 48mm x 23mm) and I don’t have any film that can fit into them. I chose the Canon 650 because it is a fully manual film camera that wasn’t currently loaded with any film and I can control the shutter speed.
Now for the hard part. Rather than wait until dark (I don’t have a darkroom yet unless I create one), I decided to cut the photo paper in my changing bag. This means that I had to cut the paper blind by feeling the templates. Doing anything blind is harder than it seems it would be.
My cuts weren’t very straight, but by putting the cameras into the dark bag I was able to load the cameras with their single-shot paper negatives.
I then ventured outside our apartment to quickly take advantage of the fading light.
First, I took a photo with the Baby Brownie which ended up coming out under exposed. The photo paper is rated at about ISO 12 from what I’ve read so I thought the relatively slower shutter speeds of the Brownies would be to my advantage – but I guess I needed them to be just a bit slower. My guess is that they come in at around 1/50 or 1/60 and I really need 1/15 for this. Here is the negative and photo I took with the Baby Brownie.
Black and white photography continues to amaze me at how much information is stored in even under or over exposed negatives. This tree was in full sunlight when I took the photo and yet it came out with a very moody feel.
Next, I shot the Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Edition – a fun looking camera that I got from a friend.
This one of the apartment building came out far better exposed – but still under exposed. Again, though, you can see a lot of information is retained in these negatives despite how hacked together they are. And also despite the fact that this is photo paper and not film.
Last is the paper negative, digital positive, and contact print I created using a photo I shot with the Canon 650. I was able to meter the subject using an iPhone app, control the shutter speed (unlike the Brownies) and so the result is far better. That is why I chose this negative to create a contact print from – even though the size of the negative is smaller at just 35mm.
For the photo nerds out there, this shot was taken at f/5.6, 1/15s, and the paper is ISO 12. I developed all of the paper using Kodak D76 in my bathtub all for roughly 2 minutes or so.
I made the contact print by laying the negative on top of a fresh piece of photo paper and using my iPhone’s flashlight for about 10seconds to expose the positive. I then developed the positive in the same solution for about 2 minutes. I think I can do much better next time by making a contact print at a much larger size – say, 5×7″.
I’m definitely going to be doing more of this. Perhaps directly from negatives. But almost certainly using larger paper negatives rather than these small ones.
Seeing photos become “real” right in front of your eyes is a real treat.
Sometimes the area where you live would not be motivating to photograph because you see these things everyday. However, when I started photography I began to see the world (and my home area) in a different way. I started to look for compositions everywhere and I now have a bunch of spots that I’d like to revisit. I am always surprised that these spots almost never look the same.
Being in quarantine has certainly limited me in the area I can cover in my photography. But I’ve made more photographs that I’m proud of in the last few months than I had in the previous year combined. They will all slowly trickle out onto this blog in the coming months.
I am finding myself shooting the same location, like this tree, or the same subjects, like birds, over and over and over. But guess what? I’m getting better and more confident at it. In the last several weeks I haven’t missed a single exposure or messed up a frame entirely. I’m pushing the shutter with confidence and that has only happened due to repetition.
It was a pleasure to interview Marc and a lot of his answers epitomize the reason I built The Watercolor Gallery in 2010 – to inspire and motivate other artists regardless of their medium or tools.
Here are a few pull quotes from the interview that I believe should inspire anyone that wishes to be creative.
You have to completely understand your own process before you can teach it to someone else right? So it’s incredibly educational to be a teacher. I know a guy who calls teaching ‘Aggressive Learning’.
I feel like art in our society got off on a wrong track. We don’t look at sport, or music in the same way. Art is often considered ‘inspiration’. or ‘a gift’. We don’t think that way about anything else that involves training your body to perform complex tasks. Dance, Piano, Yoga – a Martial Art – all these things all involve coaching and self-training programs. And competitions. Score-keeping. Practical ways to motivate yourself and improve your abilities.
Focus on skills first. Invest in yourself. If the work isn’t there, nothing else matters.
And you know – it’s perfectly fine not to live from your art. Some of the greatest artists and writers in history have been office clerks or postal workers.
And finally, on blogging:
It’s a terrific vehicle for organizing your thoughts – but it’s also that guy who stands over your shoulder and pressures you to keep working! To deliver something for the audience. I love that boost to my motivation. It was fuel for the fire to keep learning about art, and keep sharing what I learned.
I’d been wanting to make my own camera for several months. Something simple like a shoe box pinhole camera. But then quarantine happened and I stumbled across Brendan Barry’s YouTube video about turning a room in your house into a camera obscura – and making a paper negative and positive print.
I thought with the quarantine and all that I had the time to figure this out on my own. So I decided to turn our bedroom into a camera obscura and, hopefully, make a paper negative from it. It turned out to be the most educational photographic experience I’ve had to date.
By blowing the scale of the camera up to a room-size, you learn how each individual piece of a camera plays its role. Reading or watching a YouTube video about how a camera works is not the same as making one yourself. Everything is exaggerated. The size of the lens, aperture, distance to the film, etc. This way, you can actually see how each of these things impacts the overall result.
Due to quarantine delaying some deliveries, and the lack of resources we have by not allowing much material to enter our home, it took me about a week from start-to-finish to get a paper negative that I thought of as “good enough” to move on from the project and give my wife our bedroom back. I could definitely see doing this project again, or at a smaller scale using a box.
Here are the steps I took and a few things I learned along the way. This is, by no means, a how-to blog post. For that I urge you to watch Barry’s video linked above.
I started by using a cardboard box to block the window in our bedroom. I was surprised at how difficult this turned out to be. Light is extremely good at finding its way into and around objects. This was in and of itself a lesson. If I were to do this again I’d start with a larger piece of cardboard that wouldn’t rest inside of the window frame but would, instead, rest upon it – covering the entire window. Ideally I’d also have black gaffer’s tape, some sort of foam seal that I could use in odd areas, and other materials. But, I was working within my constraints.
I cut out a rather large aperture in the cardboard to begin with, like in Barry’s video, and for the life of me I was never able to find a focal length that worked with this set up. By large I mean a few inches in diameter. It might have been due to the fact that Barry was using a large magnifying glass as his lens and I wasn’t in the beginning. The moment I created a much smaller aperture, around 3/16″ or so – was when the world came into focus. It was still a little fuzzy, but it was in focus enough to be passable for a few digital captures.
After playing with several different set ups and attempting many different apertures – I decided to grab a simple 2x lens filter from a 35mm camera and place it in front (on the subject’s side) of the aperture. Boom. It made an immediate and marked improvement in the focus. I believe it was at this point that it really dawned on me, I was actually building a camera. On a camera the order of elements is glass lens, aperture, some amount of distance, film or digital censor. I don’t know why it took my brain this long to lock into that concept but once I did things really began to speed up.
I employed several different types of “canvases” to project the image onto. I started with a light diffuser – which worked great to show the scale of the projected image. I could make the image as big as I wanted to. But then I eventually built a simple “stage” using a tripod and a white scanner bed cover. This too reinforced the notion that the surface upon which you project the light impacts the overall look of the image greatly. With the diffuser it was, well, diffused. But on the canvas it was much sharper.
With this set up; a 2x lens filter, 3/16″ aperture in cardboard, 8×10 white surface about 10″ from aperture – I was able to produce a sharp enough image for my liking. Now I all I needed was a way to capture the image without using digital (though, this was fun too as I created several exposures using my iPhone).
I have a bunch of film laying around and I almost considered throwing a few rolls of medium format 120 into my changing back and “building” a film surface to use. Perhaps by taping a few sheets together I could make a large enough negative. But I figured that’d be a huge waste of film. Even of the expired film I have. So instead I decided to follow Barry’s direction in his YouTube video and buy some Ilford Photo Paper (I used 5×7″, he used 8×10″) to create a paper negative. I thought it’d be fun to develop a paper negative since I had never done anything like that. So I picked up some paper, a few developing trays, and researched how to use the chemicals I already have (in my case, Kodak D76) to develop the photo paper immediately after exposing it using my bedroom camera obscura.
And that is exactly what I did. After 4 exposures on 2 separate days, here are the results.
I could go on and on about why the first two look the way they do and why the second two look the way they do. But rather than bore you, this is the short of it; on the first day I was using my iPhone’s flashlight option inside of a red transparent folder. It didn’t work. It exposed the entire paper so the whole exposure looks washed out. The second set I did completely blind. Which makes the composure not-so-great but the contrast much better.
Ironically, the exposure I did first – 4 seconds – was the very best shot I took. I just ruined it with the iPhone flashlight. Here is what a digital positive of that looks like.
The second-best exposure is this 3 second (it was much brighter day) exposure. It is blurry because I was hand-holding this in the dark. I should have been more patient. You can even see my finger marks from where I was holding the paper.
This was a really, really fun project. I learned an awful lot. Thanks to Brendan Barry for helping me via Instagram Direct Messages to make tweaks to my set up.
From the same roll as my 2020 avatar are these select exposures of 35mm film hacked into a medium format Ansco Rediflex.
What you’re looking at isn’t normal. The Ansco Rediflex is a medium format camera which, when invented in the 1930s, was to be loaded with 620 film stock. 620 film stock is no longer made but is very similar to 120 film stock save for the spool in which it is loaded onto and the length of the film sheet.
This particular Rediflex can be loaded with 120 film stock, albeit it needs to be literally jammed into it. (See the tree image in this post.) It is just a bit too small to accommodate the larger spools so to load it I’ve needed to sand down the spool widths and cut off the excess. Which creates some interesting affects.
But I stumbled across someone loading 35mm film into a medium format camera – vertically – which creates the exposures you see above. There are two characteristics about these photos that I ended up liking. First, the film is loaded vertically so it results is a much larger image than you’d normally get with 35mm film. In fact, the resulting exposure is more than double the surface area as a normal 35×24 mm shot. Second, the film doesn’t quite reach across the focal plane of the camera horizontally. This ends up exposing the full width of the “height” of the film – even over the “sprockets”. I think it looks super cool.
It took a few rolls before I got this to work properly. And there are a few scratches and light leaks that I need to tend to before I try this again. But I’ll be doing this again in the future for fun photo projects and perhaps some portraits.
At the end of the year I like to sit down and make a rather random list of the “best” things I’ve seen that year. I do this almost entirely from memory but I also peruse my browser history and look through my Unmark archive in order to uncover some of the things I appreciated throughout the year.
Since I’ve really been going all-in on my photography this year I’ve stumbled across a lot of photographers. In fact, I’m well over 100 photographers on my private Photography Twitter list (I’m @cdevroe there). I’m very glad to have found AOWS. See also the Instagram account.
Last year I said that we’d likely return to Kentucky and we did – that must say something about it. We enjoy the entire state, the distilleries, horse farms, and rolling hills. See posts.
Runner up: Cape Cod – This was our first trip to Cape Cod and I enjoyed the whole feeling there. Likely because so many people are either retired or on vacation. I’d like to go back and make more photographs in the future.
Best book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.
I didn’t read nearly as many books as I’d like this year. But I’m trying not to beat myself up when I miss self assigned goals like number of books to read. I did a lot of fishing, photography, and even started a podcast this year. So I need not read books.
Dark Matter was a nice change of pace from other things I’d read this year. I always like a book that has time jumping. And this book sort of did.
Best service: OneDrive
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but OneDrive – for the most part – holds up very well for my needs. I have nearly half of a terabyte stored there and it isn’t skipping a beat. I use it mostly as a cloud-based backup of all my photos and videos. I also use it to transfer things to/from my computer and phone which worked well when I was on so many different platforms; Android, Windows 10, iOS, and Airdrop wasn’t possible.
Runner up: Disney+ just for The Mandalorian.
Best song for working: Morning of – Colin Stetson
According to Spotify I listened to this song, and the album it comes from, a lot while I was writing code.
Best album: Benton County Relic – Cedric Burnside
Love the old style jazzy/bluesy feel of this album.
I shot nearly as many photos on this camera as I did on my phones (Pixel 2 XL until October and then iPhone 11 Pro Max) and the camera is 13 years old. It is rugged, has a lot more features than I ever knew it did, and I’m satisfied with the results I’ve been getting.
I have the feeling that next year a film camera may win this category and I’m very excited about that.
Runners up: iPhone 11 Pro Max – the battery life alone deserves an award, iPad Pro – I still use this every single day, in fact I’m writing this post on it right now and I’d say I do greater than 75% of my photo editing on the iPad.
Rather than keeping Firefox in just the browser category, I’m going to give it the best desktop app award. I really, really like Firefox and it has improved greatly this year in terms of speed, privacy, feature set. I simply cannot live without Containers at this point.
If it weren’t for how relatively easy it is to create a podcast using Anchor I don’t think I would have done it. Though I am looking forward to my podcast getting a bit better with some desktop-based editing apps. If you have an idea for a podcast I suggest at least giving it a look.
Runners up: ATP. I go back and forth on whether or not I should listen to ATP. Very good information, they were even nice enough to answer one of my questions, but the constant hypercritical (see what I did there?) take on things can sometimes be draining, and so I take long breaks from listening. But that is the entire point of the podcast so I don’t begrudge them of the style. I just always try to look at things positively is all. Also Cal’s Week in Review.
Special second place: Joe Rogan Experience – I have to cherry pick episodes that I’m interested in, mostly with scientists and outdoorsy people, but the interviews and long form style are refreshing compared to the bit-sized bits we get through TV these days.
I watch a lot of YouTube. Probably too much. Not probably. Actually too much. It is how I learn, am entertained, waste time, etc. In fact, I watch a lot less TV because of YouTube. So this isn’t an easy category to choose.
Luke shares a ton of photos via Stories from his town of Atlanta. It is inspiring the number of photos he’s able to take, process, and publish and has really gained a following in that area. He’s also super gracious in his responses whenever I’ve asked him how he did something.
Special second place: captain.solo – I can always appreciate when someone creates their own style and sticks to it – it isn’t easy to do either of those things. This account has.
You can also follow @cdevroe on Instagram where I frequently share accounts and photos I like via Stories.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s list. Whenever I sit down to make the list I always under estimate the amount of time it takes to create it. But I’m always glad that I do so that I can look back on it in the future. So this post is more for me than for you.
I’ve worn glasses for my entire life, so my personal dream setup would be replacing my laptop, monitor, and phone all at once by replacing my prescription lenses with augmented-reality glasses that annotate the world around me without blocking it out entirely.
I do not wear glasses but long-time readers of my blog may remember that I too would like to replace all of the screens in my life for an augmented reality experience. I’d want them to provide me any screen size I need at any time any where.
When I personally look at how I use my full monitor desk set up, my laptop, my iPad, and my iPhone; I am generally just changing the size of the screen between contexts. Mixed reality (MR) could provide me a way to have any screen I need at any time and thus only have a single device. We’re likely a long way off on this – mostly because all of the companies seem to be focused on the lucrative gaming market.
Yesterday’s Surface event was very good. I really like how Panos makes everything so dramatic. It is just more fun than how so many other tech companies present things. I totally understand if others don’t feel the same way. But I don’t think anyone has ever accused him of being disingenuous.
The updates to the Surface hardware were excellent. I think the 15″ laptop looks very, very good. And while I wish the Surface Pro was more of a direct competitor to iPad*, I don’t have any other wishes for their hardware. It is all very good.
The Neo and Duo products, both coming late 2020, are fascinating products. I have no idea if they will be successful or be hits – but I’m very glad Microsoft decided to make them.
Though I have to agree with John Gruber, they overshadowed the rest of the products that are available today a little. They likely knew they would though. So perhaps they are ok with it.
I have two quick I told ya sos, if I may.
In July Windows Central said they hoped someone at Microsoft was working on a phone, but if they were, they should keep expectations low. I vehemently disagreed with that sentiment. I wrote:
Microsoft was recently valued as the most valuable company to ever exist on planet earth. (Alongside Amazon and Apple.) Keep expectations low? Don’t make a huge bet?
I say Microsoft should swing for the fences. They should come out with Windows Phone again, base it on Android, call it a Surface Phone and set expectations at Panos Panay levels.
Guess which way they decided to go with Surface Duo?
I was wrong, though, they didn’t call it a Surface Phone. They are avoiding the word phone, which I think we all should as well. My Pixel is no more a phone than it is a book, but I can read and make phone calls on it.
And did they ever swing for the fences! A completely new form-factor, category of product, operating system based on Android. SWING!!!
The only thing Windows Phone was missing, you’ll remember, was apps. And now it will have that. Well, not Windows Phone. Android. Which I think is the right call.
Windows 10 X looks interesting. Could that be the new tablet mode?
The EarBuds look like a miss.
The way the Neo keyboard interacts with the device reminds me of the dial you can purchase with the Surface Studio. Microsoft should double down on this sort of thing. It really makes these devices truly like surfaces that you do stuff on. So, by next year we’ll have a Pen, Dial, and Keyboard. I say make a ton more of them.
I sort of think they could allow Android apps to run on Windows, this way Duo could still be a Windows computer. But there must be reasons that I don’t know about why they wouldn’t do this. Or perhaps it is still coming.
I think both the Neo and Duo will be very different by launch time. They don’t even have outward facing cameras on them yet.
Panos’ analogy of flow using his daughter at the piano is apt. When I’m in flow, it could be while I’m writing this blog post, writing code, editing a photo or video, etc I do feel like everything just disappears.
* Windows 10 tablet mode is simply no competitor to iPadOS in a tablet form factor. I’d go so far as to say it sucks in comparison. But, I’ve seen rumors that they’re working hard on this. So, we’ll see.
I wrote my stories as I cycled around the world and updated my website intermittently whenever I found an internet connection stable enough to send a bunch of text. The screech of dial-up internet and being plunged into darkness by power cuts were regular accompaniments to my early days of blogging. I enjoyed two directly contrasting aspects of writing for the internet: the anonymity of writing for a website with no idea of whether anyone would actually read it, and the slowly burgeoning community of people from all over the world who stumbled upon my words. I remember the excitement of receiving an email from a lady who was reading my stuff from Antarctica. This internet thing is here to stay, I thought to myself, presciently.
Be sure to read his entire post. Subscribe to his blog while you’re at it. I have a feeling he’ll be doing it for a few more decades yet.
Twitter recently released an updated UI that allows you to “pin” Lists you’ve created to your Home timeline view. This makes it possible to swipe between each List quickly. It is a nice feature – especially for those with only a few lists or for those just starting out with them*.
Since this update was released I’m noticing more and more people mention Lists. So I believe this update is working how Twitter wanted it to.
I suppose my favorite part about using lists is that I can check Twitter whenever I want without the feeling that I’ll be overwhelmed and distracted by tweets. I can choose when I want to be distracted. When I want to sit down and catch up on Twitter I can go through a few of my lists depending on my mood.
This remains true today. If I’m in the mood to catch up on some outdoor activity lists – fishing, hiking, kayaking – I can dip into that List and catch up. But if I’m in the mood to catch up on technology – I can scroll through that List. It sort of reminds me of reading a particular section of the newspaper, rather than skipping around the newspaper randomly. It allows me to focus a bit more.
Also, Lists do not suffer from the Home timelines terrible algorithm. For that reason alone it is worth building a List or two.
One List of mine that has stuck around is the idea of a “Scratch” list. Today I call it “Heap”. Call it whatever you want, but this allows you to add random accounts to this List and see if they stick. If they do, it is worth taking the time to categorize them.
Not all accounts fit into a category. People, for instance, tweet about all sorts of things. So I find that my relationship with them ends up becoming the name of the List. And for everything else, I have a List called “Lump of People”. I have no idea where I get these names.
I cannot imagine using Twitter without Lists. So I’m glad they are investing in the feature rather than removing or ignoring it.
If you haven’t tried Lists on Twitter I recommend you give them a spin.
Now, if only Instagram would give me some way do to this same thing I’d use it a lot more.
There are a lot of bad reasons not to blog. Here are a few of them and why they are bad.
Someone already wrote about this. Terrible reason. You didn’t write about it. And the most important component in the equation is you. In over 20 years of blogging I cannot tell you how many topics I’ve covered that have been covered by so many other people yet still the posts helped so many. I have a few blog posts that have hundreds of thousands of page views.
I don’t understand this as much as others. Blah blah blah! The best blog posts are those written by people still figuring it out because they are new enough to a topic to cover them in detail. People that know something well tend to skip over important smaller pieces.
I’m not a good writer. Join the crowd. The only way to get better at writing is to write.
I’m a perfectionist, I would never publish. Publishing is a muscle. If you do it once, and keep doing it over and over, it becomes easier. Perhaps your tendency to get things just right will actually set your blog apart from others.
No one would read my blog. Who cares? A personal blog is less written for other people than it is for yourself. This post, as an example, is a reaffirmation of my own opinions to myself. If no one reads this at least I wrote it and it reinvigorates me to continue to blog. In fact, I would recommend not tracking analytics too closely.
Blogs are too complicated. Start simple. If you continue to do it, then you can dig in and make things more complex. Sign up to Micro.blog, WordPress.com, or Tumblr where there is zero configuration needed.
I’ve been online since 1994. I’ve shared a lot of information here on my blog, through various social networks, and to different services like Google Maps, Untappd, and many others. That information has often included location, photos, audio and video.
For decades I thought nothing of sharing my current location online. I used check-in services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Gowalla, Swarm and many others. Or I’d share a tweet or a post here on my blog about my current whereabouts.
I’ve noticed, over the last several years, I do less of that. I post photos here on my blog often weeks or months after I’ve returned from where I took them. I share them a bit quicker on Instagram – however my account there is private (supposedly). And I rarely tweet on the go these days.
In fact, I’ve also noticed that I no longer geotag my photos on Instagram or use hashtags that often. Mainly because when I’ve personally tapped on locations or hashtags on Instagram the search results are less than representative of the location I saw and are simply popular selfies taken at the location.
My desire to do a sort of personal data sharing audit has been slowly building. I will read an article about how Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa is constantly listening in, or how our location is being tracked down to the floor we’re on by some apps and I pause, think about what I’m sharing, and sometimes shrug it off because I don’t really care if Google knows where I am. In fact, I like that they know where I am and where I want to go. I hop in my car and Android Auto suggest places it believes I would like to go and how long it will take me to get there. Who wouldn’t want that?
After all, what do I have to hide?
And then I see this ad from DuckDuckGo (which I use) on Twitter (of all places). It talks about the reasons, beyond criminal or mischievous, that I may want to protect my privacy. DDG’s reasons may not exactly be my reasons, but at least they’ve thought about it. So then I began thinking… “Have I thought much about this? Have I really gone through and made sure I have some sort of personal data sharing policy that I follow?”
So that is what I’m doing with this post. I started writing this post without having a personal data sharing policy and I hope by the time I’m ready to publish it I have version 1 of a policy that is right for me. Of course, suggestions are always welcome and perhaps I’ll revisit this topic from time-to-time to keep my personal policy updated.
Here are the main points of my personal data policy as it stands today:
Never share my current location publicly. I’m going to be certain my habits do not share my current location in a public way. I’m also going to audit any app or service that attempts to use my location data to be certain it does not share my current location publicly.
Download and remove all of my data from services that I haven’t used in over a year. I’ve got quiet an online trail that I’ve blazed over the last several decades. While I’m nostalgic for many of these services, and I hate dead URLs, I think it is best if I remove any of that data if I’m no longer using the service.
Evaluate each app on my mobile devices that use location data and read their privacy policies. In other words, make a more informed decision about what apps I share my location data with.
Delete any app that I do not use on my mobile devices that could use location or audio data. Believe it or not, many of the small utility apps that exist for free (like, doing fun image editing) have tons of third-party ad network code in them. I have dozens of these but I rarely use them.
Putting this policy in place isn’t paranoia. It is about making more educated decisions about what I’m sharing and with what companies. It is about being less cavalier with my own personal data and how it is used. It is about keeping myself and those around me a little safer – maybe. But overall, it is a gentle push to the companies that would profit off of this data to perhaps be more thoughtful and upfront themselves. And to make it just a bit harder on the scammers.
Yesterday while driving (sorry for the audio quality) I recorded a quick audio bit to distill my thoughts on why Automattic acquired Tumblr.
Short-version: Automattic sees Tumblr as an entry point for new WordPress.com customers – especially youth. For someone to go from idea to full commerce or publishing success via WordPress.com’s current offering could seem cumbersome and not nearly as hip as Tumblr.
Listen to the audio bit for more details. We’ll see if I’m right in 5 years.
When the possibility to join forces became concrete, it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive – and, frankly, more fun web. I knew we had to do it.
Let’s get a few things out of the way immediately. Matt’s team acquired Tumblr for beans. That alone is a big part of this story. Yahoo! paid just over $1B for the platform and Automattic, reportedly, paid somewhere in the $3M area. In the world of acquisitions, this may end up being one of the most profitable acquisitions made by a tech company. Time will tell but I’d be willing to bet that Automattic will profit on this acquisition in a very short period of time.
Second, the tech stack of Tumblr is going to be replaced by WordPress. This is good for a variety of reasons. It ensures Tumblr will very likely be around in some form or another in perpetuity while still retaining its unique posting UI that its community no-doubt loves. I know I love it. I wish I had the same thing for my WordPress blog. Maybe I will get that now?
It also likely means that Tumblr and WordPress users can move back-and-forth between these two platforms much easier. I remember when I switched The Watercolor Gallery, which began as a Tumblog in 2010, to WordPress. It took me weeks to get everything right. Presumably this will no longer be the case.
And lastly, Automattic is an excellent home for Tumblr. They don’t just throw things out like Google, or apparently Verizon. They believe in building things for the long haul, doing them openly (for the most part), and retaining the ethos of the companies they acquire.
Both Flickr and Tumblr have seemingly found good homes.
First, let’s dispense with the easy part: despite what you may read on Twitter, remote work is neither the greatest thing in the world nor the worst. We are not moving to a world where offices go completely away, nor are we going through some sort of phase where remote work will eventually prove to be a giant waste of time. In other words, it’s complicated.
I worked remotely for about a decade. I now find myself working remotely again. A lot has changed since the first period that I worked remotely – as Mike points out in his post – but some things still remain the same.
Things that are improving:
Real-time chat tools
Video / audio conferencing
Things that will always be the same:
The need to over communicate
Distractions hurt productivity
Most meetings are terrible
People need to see people
I’m going to address each of these quickly.
That chatter that happens in office can sometimes bear fruit. Since these serendipitous interactions will no longer happen you have to create those interactions through deliberate action. Over communicate with your team about what you’re doing, what your ideas are, etc.
I feel there are less distractions working remotely than in an office though I can see how some would disagree. I suppose it depends on experience. In my experience, working in an office is like going to public school – a huge amount of time is “wasted” on chit-chat. Some, but not all, of that chit-chat moves into your chat client of choice. You have to be OK with this.
Meetings do not have to be terrible. There are some simple rules that I like to follow that help them suck less. Namely; Be certain you need an actual meeting, rather than an email or chat. Always give people enough time in advance to prepare. Always have an agenda. Always have action items. Follow up on those action items weekly or as appropriate.
Some people need to see people more than other people need to see people. 🙂 Finding some way to “get together” now and then is really valuable to the entire team.
I’m bullish on remote work. I think it is the way of the future for a large number of jobs though I totally understand people that would not want to do it. I cannot see it slowing down. I only seeing it becoming more and more normal and acceptable.
Yes, I know there have been leaks galore regarding the Google Pixel 4. While I’ve seen the leaks I haven’t paid much attention to them. I’ve tried to ignore them so that I could be at least a little surprised when it is announced.
I currently have the Google Pixel 2 XL. I’ve had it since December 2017. You can read my review here. This has been my favorite phone since the iPhone 7 Plus. So I’m eager to see what the next Pixel will be.
As my time to upgrade my phone comes around of course I’m left with a choice to go back to iOS or stick with Android. I’m sticking with Android. I really like my current phone OS. iOS 13 looks like a great update but it doesn’t have anything in it that would entice me to leave Android behind yet.
I’ve given thought to switching phone manufacturers also but there are a few things that keep me from doing so. The first obvious choice would be to go to Samsung. But Samsung’s software – both their apps they preinstall and their flavor of Android – seem subpar compared to the flavor of Android that ships on the Pixel. Also, their updates to Android under-the-hood come months (sometimes 9 months) after they are shipped. I like software updates far too much for that.
Another possible phone would be the OnePlus 7 Pro. This looks like a great phone for most people. Super fast, great display, etc. However, the camera system seems to not yet be what it needs to be for me.
There are other options like Huawei, LG, Xiaomi. But each of them has their trade-offs compared to the Pixel as well.
According to my research, the best Android phone for someone that cares about digital photography and having the latest, greatest software is the Pixel.
The only downside is that it is made by Google. And Google could, on a whim, wake up one morning and decide to discontinue making it. But I suppose I’ll have to live with that if it happens.
Faster – It isn’t that the Pixel 2 XL is slow. But is isn’t nearly as snappy as something like the OnePlus 7 Pro seems to be. I’d be totally OK if Google ships a Pixel 4 with 16GB of RAM to accomplish this.
Water resistant – “Waterproof” would be too much to ask, I fear. But a decent amount of water resistance would boost my confidence. I recently hiked 5 miles in a downpour and was very worried about my Pixel 2 XL but – surprisingly – it didn’t skip a beat.
Increased megapixels – I know, I know, megapixels aren’t everything. The 12MP front-facing camera in my Pixel 2 XL is extraordinarily good (see examples). But I’d be all for more pixels.
Better speakers – In quiet contexts the speakers in the Pixel 2 XL are more than adequate. But in nosier situations they simply do not hold up. And they aren’t good for music really.
That’s it. Faster, water resistant, increased megapixels, better speakers. I’m fairly confident that all of these things will come to be and that none of them are too much to ask. Looking forward to remaining on #teampixel for at least a few more years.
Below is a screenshot of the sheet you see on YouTube for iOS when tapping on a link in a video’s description.
They invoke this custom sheet because, like Google, Apple has created iOS to be competition hostile to other browser vendors like Mozilla, Opera, Microsoft, etc.
Tapping on a link should open your default browser, not provide you choices to download the developer’s other apps. I’m guessing the Safari option on this sheet is there because Apple wouldn’t approve the app otherwise.
But why should Google write the YouTube app any differently? If Apple can be competition hostile, why can’t they?
Early in iOS’s history I understood why Apple limited the browser, mail, maps, and calendar options to only their own apps. It made sense. The integration with the OS was just too deep and the OS didn’t have enough APIs to make a good user experience. But, today, on a platform that is into its second decade of existence, with features like deep links, extensions, services, SiriKit, etc. there is likely very little excuse any more not to allow users to choose their own default apps.
Then, on Cushion’s 5-year anniversary, I experienced my first panic attack.
Read his post for the full story. But the entire post resonates so much with me because with Plain I (and Kyle, my co-founder) experienced many of the same emotions.
Burn out is real. Creating and running a start up isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for me – I know that now. While I may be capable and knowledgeable enough about the “how” I’m just not suited for it emotionally. I take things far too hard. Put too much on myself. And I wig out.
His jumping to Stripe is just like what I’ve done. I’ve found a home at Jujama where I have some of the same basic things I love about being an entrepreneur (autonomy, small team, flexible hours, remote office) but enough stability to keep me sane and – most – weekends my computer is off.
Congrats to him for recognizing that he needs to make a change and doing so even if seemingly painful. He finishes his post with a note that I’d like to finish this one with.
Note: If you overwork yourself and feel like you’re burning out, stop what you’re doing and find stability—whatever you’re working on isn’t worth your health. Don’t feel the need to “hustle” because some people glorify it. Doing good work while living a healthy life is much more respectable.
Microsoft on the investment of a cool $1B in OpenAI:
The companies will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust. This will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way and is a critical reason the companies chose to partner together.
Don’t let the name OpenAI fool you, as there is no word from either company on whether their efforts will be open sourced.
It’s fair to say that in 2019, Microsoft is “all-in” on the Android platform thanks to its efforts like the Microsoft Launcher, Edge, and Office, all first-class experiences on Android smartphones around the world.
I’m glad Bowden wrote this post. I’ve been wanting to.
Longtime readers of my blog will know that I liked Windows Phone very much. I bought a Lumia for testing and immediately fell in love with the device and OS. If only it had apps! It was the only thing holding it back.
Today, if Microsoft decided to do what Bowden is suggesting, that wouldn’t be an issue. Android has tons of apps. And so many of Microsoft’s own apps are already first-class citizens on Android (as well as built to be cross platform from the ground up).
Bowden points out Launcher, Edge, and Office as Microsoft’s strongest efforts on Android. But that isn’t all of them. Your Phone, which he mentions later in his post, is also a big piece. Not to mention OneDrive, Skype, and a myriad of apps. They are all very good experiences on Android already.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people internally at Microsoft thinking about this very idea right now, weighing up whether it’s worth trying. Does Microsoft want to put money into researching and developing a new smartphone, while also maintaining its own Android ROM, updates, and paying Google for a Play Store license?
This is a given. They have already been doing this for years. Microsoft R&D is one of the largest, most expensive R&D departments in the world. Has been for decades. They shed off billions of dollars per year in R&D. And they aren’t slowing down.
Also, do you think Panos Panay hasn’t already prototyped 10 or 20 or 50 different designs of Surface Phone by now? Of course he has!
One other area I will disagree with Bowden. He writes:
This isn’t a bad thing, but an Android smartphone wouldn’t be the worst idea Microsoft has ever had, especially if it keeps expectations low and doesn’t make any huge bets on it.
Microsoft was recently valued as the most valuable company to ever exist on planet earth. (Alongside Amazon and Apple.) Keep expectations low? Don’t make a huge bet?
Steve Jobs passed away 10 years ago. Jony Ive is leaving Apple. Huawei has regulatory issues I can’t even dream of. Samsung’s devices are months behind on Android updates and one of their recent models exploded in people’s hands. And Google’s Pixel has yet to have a foothold.
I say Microsoft should swing for the fences. They should come out with Windows Phone again, base it on Android, call it a Surface Phone and set expectations at Panos Panay levels. That is; pumped.
Jonathan Snook, on his learning curve when joining a new organization that uses React:
When people talk about learning React, I think that React, in and of itself, is relatively easy to understand. At least, I felt it was. I have components. I have JSX. I hit some hiccups with required keys or making sure I was wrapping child elements properly. But overall, I felt like I grasped it well enough.
Throw in everything else at the same time, though, and things get confusing because it’s hard at first to recognize what belongs to what. “Oh, this is Redux. That is React. That other thing is lodash. Got it.”
Most of the time React is merely a piece of an app’s overall puzzle. There are so many other pieces that make up the entire thing it can be an overwhelming experience.
I’m not new to building apps. In fact, the vast majority of my life I’ve been building apps. But learning React this year has been one of the more haphazard experiences of my career. It is not straightforward.
It isn’t that I think React itself is poorly made or documented. In fact, out of the box you can spin up a simple Hello World React app about as quickly as any other technology. But, as my boy Snook points out, it never ends there. Any somewhat mature app built on React has many, many other parts to learn.
He points most of them out in his blog post but I’ll reiterate here some of the things I personally see that could be overwhelming to people jumping in…
CSS pre-processors (like SASS)
Any one or all of these things could potentially be new to a web developer coming into React. And, equally so, an app developer.
The only way to avoid being overwhelmed would be to take one bit at a time. Understand that what you’re looking at isn’t a single thing but a collection of many new things and that each of them will become natural to you over time. If your team is large enough, perhaps there are pieces you won’t need to worry too much about. But if not, you’re essentially diving into the “full stack” and will eventually become familiar with that entire thing.
I will say, lastly, that it has been very fun. React sort of combines the things I like about building apps with, say, Swift (typing, “stricter” rules, reusable bits) and the things I like about building things for the web (HTML, CSS, app runs on literally everything).
So Facebook, among others, announced a new cryptocurrency and blockchain called Libra. You’ve likely already seen the headlines. But perhaps you’re wondering what it means, what makes Libra any different than, say, Bitcoin, or perhaps you have other questions.
I did too. So I’ve rounded up a few links that helped me gain some perspective on this announcement. As with all things crypto, it is fascinating to see all of this play out.
We believe that collaborating and innovating with the financial sector, including regulators and experts across a variety of industries, is the only way to ensure that a sustainable, secure and trusted framework underpins this new system. And this approach can deliver a giant leap forward toward a lower-cost, more accessible, more connected global financial system.
This white paper lays out the problem, the proposed solution, and even a roadmap for the future of the currency/payments system. It reads well-enough and it a good place to start.
The Libra Association will consist at first of up to 100 founding members including Facebook, each of which will invest at least $10 million to fund the association’s operations, and receive interest earned off the reserve. (Libra’s NGO members are exempted from the investment requirement.) Each member will be empowered to operate a node on the blockchain, and have a voice in determining changes to its code and managing the reserve.
As reporters are good at, the Wired piece distills the main points of the effort as well as provides context around the crypto-market in general. Adds some flavor to the entire thing.
The best way to understand Libra, then, is as a sort of distributed ledger that is a compromise between a fully public blockchain and an internal database […] This means that the overall system is much more efficient than Bitcoin, while the necessary level of trust is spread out to multiple entities, not one single company…
At this point, I’d call Libra a pseudo-distributed blockchain backed cryptocoin. Rather than network nodes being managed by anyone they are managed by “qualified” entities. And so is the underlying software.
This is yet-another-option in the crypto-market. Something sort of like other coins but different enough that it deserves to exist. Hardliner crypto peeps may take offense to any amount of oversight on something like a cryptocoin but it is bound to occur. This won’t be the last cryptocoin/payments system you see created that has institutional backing and oversight. In fact, it isn’t the first. See JPM Coin from JP Morgan.
Again, I’m fascinated by this space and I will continue to watch as the markets, coins, payment systems, blockchains, and companies spearheading this new territory evolve.
Lastly, one of my concerns of our generation is that we’re talking too much and not building enough, partially spurred on by the immediate reward mechanisms of social media. We seem to think we can all invest in or inspire hypothetical others into building the futures that we want. This was one of the hardest takeaways from my 20s because I fell for this too. If you’re looking for a thing to exist and you can’t find it, it might not be because there’s not enough X or Y, it might simply be that the person you’re looking to build it is, and always has been, actually yourself.
I touched on this topic in 2017 in How do you get work?. But let me just pull one sentence from that post:
The clear way to get work is to share work.
The same thing goes for getting “noticed” if that is something you want or need. You have to put things out into the world, and keep doing so, in order to be noticed, build an audience, or have opportunities come your way.
I have two recent, but altogether very different, examples that come to mind.
One is David Sikabwe. On Twitter he shared a rap he wrote for Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon. It has blown up on Twitter and, if you read through his recent tweets as of this writing, you will see he has a flood of attention from some very, very big names. He also has some people sharing new works using his work.
He mentions that he wrote the piece 1 year ago and he had it in his Notes app and simply didn’t share it. Would it have been as big of a hit if he had shared it a year ago? Who knows? But, the point is that he did share and it did get attention and now there is a big possibility this young talent finds his break into the industry (if that is what he wants).
These two examples are just the latest proof that if you put stuff out into the world you will receive attention or work if you are seeking it. It may take time. Sometimes even a long time. But it will never, ever happen if you do not share.
While I do think this performance speaks to Nadella being Microsoft’s best CEO it isn’t my only reason for saying so.
Microsoft now feels like it has an ethos I can get behind. While it may have had one under Gates or Ballmer it wasn’t a very attractive one to me. It now feels as though the company has a bright vision for the future not an overly technical (Gates) or competitive (Ballmer) one. Satya appears to care about customers in ways his predecessors didn’t.
Here are some things I’ve had the time to write about Satya (if I was a full-time blogger I would have written far, far more).
He’s only been in the CEO chair for a little while but I believe he has a vision for the future of the world and of Microsoft that is based on his core beliefs far more than his predecessor. I welcome it. And I like him.
I’ve written a lot about Windows 10 here on my blog. It, along with WSL, Azure, Visual Studio, Xamarin, HoloLens and people like Satya and Panos have me extremely bullish on Microsoft. More than I’ve been since the 90s.
If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few years you’ll know that I’m rather bullish on what Satya Nadella has been doing within Microsoft. Today’s Microsoft is one that embraces open source, contributes heavily to it, allows developers to use any language and platform, etc.
Keep watching, I think we’re going to be seeing a Microsoft that none of us would have ever thought possible just a few short years ago.
In my opinion, Microsoft has been firing on all cylinders for nearly the entirety of Satya Nadella’s lead.
To sum up, Microsoft:
is setting financial records each quarter
is growing their customer base on products they’ve had for decades
is arguably contributing to open source as much or more than any other company
has one of the best, if not the best cloud services suite available
is manufacturing the best hardware available for Windows computers
is leading the way in nascent fields such as AR, ML, AI, IOT
I don’t know how long I’ll be a full-time Windows 10 user. This year’s WWDC will likely have a significant bearing on that. However, to have seen this run and been some small part of it has been fascinating. And I’m still surprised that Microsoft is even a choice for me since it wasn’t for nearly two decades. I’ll continue to watch closely.
Apple pre-announcing something: “We’re excited to get this in customer’s hands late next year”. My interpretation: “We never pre-announce things. Why are we doing this? We’re terrible at it. In fact, we make fun of other companies for doing it! Steve Jobs would never allow this! (mostly) We must be doing this because some group of people is really angry with us. Oh, and this product will likely never ship and we’ll tell you about it after the market closes on a Friday”
Apple reassuring their customer base of an upcoming update (read: late in whatever next year is) to a beloved product by a small set of people: “We love the Mac”. My interpretation: “Crickts.” (E key didn’t work)
Apple announcing something that is available today: “We think our customers will love it. Available today. $PremiumPrice”. My interpretation: “Yes, other companies have tried to build this. Yes, our’s is much better in nearly every way. We’ve perfected it. And it is made of diamond and leather and unobtainium. Hence the price. Enjoy.”
Facebook, calling a mea culpa: “We didn’t intend for this to happen. And it happened only to # of users.” My interpretation: “We totally intended for this to happen. We just didn’t intend to get caught. But I don’t know why because we ALWAYS get caught. Oh, and it actually happened to many multiples of # of users. You’ll find that out in a few days.”
Facebook announcing something: “We are connecting people all over the world.” My interpretation: “Our massive drones are really to collect even more information about people than we already collect and sell to that information to people we say we won’t sell information to. Oh, and to misinform people about just about every topic possible.”
Google announcing something: “Here is our brand new cloud-based service that is free to use” My interpretation: “Here is our thing. We consider it beta but it is actually pretty good. Go ahead and use it. Fall in love with it. The moment you come to depend on it we’ll shut it down because we only make money on Google Ads. But you knew that and you fell for it anyway!”
Bonus: Microsoft, announcing a new cloud-based service. “Containers! Buzzword acronym, buzzword seamless integration acronym, buzzword, Kubernetes Docker.” My interpretation: “There are organizations in the world that pay Microsoft incredible amounts of money to license Windows on sub-par hardware, to use Windows Server to manage web applications and services that use far too much RAM, and to use Azure (which is actually quite amazing) to do literally anything they ask it to do.”
Bonus: Twitter announcing a much needed feature. Wait, Twitter hasn’t built any much needed features since 2008.