AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

The ATP World Tour re-launches flagship website — and fixes exactly nothing

June 15, 2015

ATP staff, in an official statement released earlier today:

LONDON – The world’s leading tennis website devoted to men’s professional tennis stepped up its game today with the re-launch of the ATP’s flagship website, ATPWorldTour.com.

Delivering an enhanced, immersive experience across multiple platforms, the full breadth of the website’s vast content and statistical information is available for the first time on smartphones and tablets. Following a successful soft launch over the weekend, the enhancements can be seen immediately on the ATP’s responsive-design English-language website, with the re-launch of its Spanish website to follow shortly. The ATP’s Chinese website will re-launch later this year.

What a train wreck of a redesign.

All that “responsive-design” talk on the official statement above is complete and utter bullshit. If this is the ATP stepping up its game, then tennis fans around the world are all pretty screwed.

Before the redesign, only limited functionality was available on mobile devices. The majority of sections simply refused to load, redirecting users to the homepage instead and showing fans exactly how much the ATP cared about responsiveness for years.

The new site, on the other hand, loads all the elements just fine on Mobile Safari, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about it. This is without a doubt one of the worst mobile designs I’ve seen in a pretty long time.

The guessing game

Allow me to walk you through how some of the site’s great new responsive elements work on an iPhone 5S:

Partial view

Loading the homepage gets you a zoomed-in partial view by default, so you’re only seeing part of the content. That would be pretty bad in and of itself but worst of all, there’s no way to zoom back out and see the entire page. If there’s a full-width picture on the site — and there often are — there’s no way to see the entire image area.

Incomplete headlines

Came here for the headlines? Too bad. We hope you’re good at figuring out which words were cut out, or that you don’t really care about these thumbnails because no matter what you do, we won’t show you both at the same time.

Incomplete sections

Who’s the current World No. 2, FedEx? I didn’t know they played. And how many points do they hold? Is it 9,500,000? That doesn’t seem fair. Who’s No. 1 then, UPS?

Incomplete banners

Challenger Tour. Freaking Yeah!

Incomplete galleries

Who’s that guy in the blue shirt? All I’m getting is that Rafael Nadal blasted into his first grass-court fine, for some reason. Perhaps he was driving cross-country and broke the on-grass speed limit. Is that a thing? And how exactly does one blast into a fine? I’m no expert, but I think you’re doing it wrong, Rafa.

Those were just a few examples — there are plenty more where those came from — but you get the idea. And though some could be described as fairly minor issues, some of them are just ridiculous. I mean, what’s the point of having an image gallery if you can’t see the actual images?

Serious design takes work

The ATP World Tour’s official website has a long, sad history of being atrocious when it comes to mobile optimization, and the new version does little — if anything — to address that. What a wasted opportunity. They finally do a complete redesign after years of neglecting the website, and they manage to screw it up on the most basic elements.

All this goes to show is there are no shortcuts to doing great work. Responsive design is hard, but the ATP has no excuse. This is not a couple guys in a basement we’re talking about, it’s a major conglomerate that moves hundreds of millions of dollars around every year. They can afford it. This half-assed attempt is embarrassing to watch, and all the PR-speak in the world won’t fix it.

That, in 2015, a major sport’s website can’t even get the basics of responsive design right is appalling. That it comes right on the heels of a major redesign is quite simply inexcusable.

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Morning Coffee, issue #2

June 13, 2015

It’s been an interesting week, marked of course by Apple’s WWDC. This is a very special part of the year because most of the people I admire and follow on the Internet get together for a few days in person, and for a brief moment we get to see them as real people, outside of their Internet personas. I love that. That there also happens to be an Apple event during the week is just icing on the cake.

But there was indeed an Apple event during the week and in typical fashion, the long-awaited WWDC keynote came and went, leaving behind tons of speculation and replacing it with almost-certainties about the future.

This time around though, there were lots of different things about Apple beyond the keynote itself. We’re not used to seeing Apple Vice Presidents talking to the press, much less to the independent press in an unscripted recording in front of a developer crowd that was live streamed and watched by millions of viewers. It just doesn’t happen.

Well, this week it did happen, and boy was it awesome. John Gruber hosted the annual live episode of his podcast, The Talk Show, and the guest of honor was none other than Apple’s own Vice President of Marketing, Phil Schiller. If you haven’t watched the video yet, you can find it here.

Now, Schiller is a pretty cool and smart guy, and he knows it. He clearly knows he can handle himself but even then, he was still taking a massive risk by putting himself in such a position. That he did it at all sends a pretty strong message about Apple’s newfound openness when it comes to dealing with the media and frankly, it’s refreshing.

That said, the reason this interview was so special was obviously John Gruber. He managed to turn what could have been just another Apple PR event into a genuinely interesting conversation for the audience. He wasn’t overly pushy with questions he knew Schiller wouldn’t answer, but he did press him on a few important topics and got honest answers that really showed what’s important to Apple and what their vision for the company is. That’s a pretty hard balance to strike and in my opinion, John did it masterfully.

All in all this was a great week for Apple, with plenty of cool announcements for both developers and customers alike. If you’d like to read more about it, I published my own thoughts on the announcements and the event the day after the keynote.

Now let’s move on to some of this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #2: on WWDC, making a hit podcast, Stan Wawrinka, the economy and taking a 16-year-long holiday

Naturally, a number of links in this week’s issue are WWDC related, but there’s also plenty of great stuff about photography, tennis, travel, politics and more. Let’s get to it.

Live with Phil | Marco Arment →

Marco pens a great analysis on Schiller’s appearance on The Talk Show. I pretty much agree with everything he said in this piece, and I envy him for having the opportunity to shoot some awesome pictures of the event. Definitely worth a read.

Initial thoughts on iOS 9’s iPad multitasking: a deep transformation | Federico Viticci →

When Apple announced the new multitasking features for iPad on iOS 9, pretty much everyone on my Twitter timeline went crazy — myself included — and we all thought of the same man: Federico Viticci. He’s been asking for serious productivity features for the iPad for nearly as long as the iPad has existed and in this week’s keynote, he finally got his wish. Here are his initial thoughts on these much-awaited features.

How to launch a top 20 podcast | Aaron Mahnke →

Aaron Mahnke shares the secrets that took his Lore podcast to the 11th spot overall on iTunes, which is just ridiculously huge:

I use a condenser mic, which is apparently not a good thing. $99 microphones cannot create popular podcasts (snicker, snicker). Until last week, that mic sat on a cardboard box on my desk, with no shock mount or boom arm. Like a cave man. I use GarageBand to edit the episodes because Logic seems to be developed by a team of NASA engineers and cryptozoologists. Plus it’s expensive. I have zero “acoustic treatments” in my office, which is shaped roughly the same as the Great Pyramid of Giza and contains nothing but hard surfaces.

I’m breaking the rules, guys (don’t tell mom).

The triumph of Occupy Wall Street | Michael Levitin →

Terrific piece for The Atlantic on the Occupy Wall Street movement and the work they’ve done on income inequality, environmentalism, student debt and more. Their potential impact on the 2016 Presidential elections should not be underestimated.

How to build a meaningful career | Amy Gallo →

Solid career-building advice over at Harvard Business Review. I don’t usually go in for these pieces, but I admit this one was full of interesting information and sound advice from beginning to end. If you’re going through a coasting period in your career or if you’re trying to find your true call, you may want to check it out.

Stan Wawrinka: tennis’s unlikely, deserving champion | Kevin Craft →

Last Sunday, Stanislas Wawrinka shocked the tennis world by winning his first French Open title at Roland Garros over Novak Djokovic, the overwhelming favorite and current World No. 1. Earlier in the tournament, Djokovic had beaten 9-time champion Rafael Nadal, claiming his first win over the Spaniard on the red clay of Paris in seven attempts. After that milestone win, Djokovic seemed poised to complete the Career Grand Slam by winning Roland Garros, the only major tournament he hasn’t won yet, but Wawrinka had different plans. Having beaten World No. 2 Roger Federer himself in the quarterfinals, Wawrinka was not about to give up without a fight. In fact, he fought so hard that he basically overpowered the World No. 1 from every angle, clinching the title in a shockingly comfortable 4-set victory.

This piece for The Atlantic is a wonderful profile on the unassuming nature of Stan Wawrinka and why, although his triumph caught so many by surprise, those of us who really love tennis knew better. I was so happy to see him lifting the trophy, and I’m glad the tennis world is finally giving him the respect he always deserved. A true champion on and off the court, now with a trophy cabinet to match.

Every Serena Williams win comes with a side of disgusting racism and sexism | Jenée Desmond-Harris →

On the other side of the coin, Serena Williams’s victory in the French Open final caught exactly no one by surprise. But what is surprising to me is that, no matter how many tournaments she manages to win, some people just can’t get over the need to belittle, insult and harass her on social media. In this piece for Vox, Jenée Desmond-Harris goes over this hard reality that has accompanied Serena during her entire career.

Serena Williams is an amazing athlete, and quite possibly the best tennis player of all time. She’s strong, she’s black, and she’s a total badass, too. If you have a problem with that, it’s time for you to grow up.

This is your brain on writing | Carl Zimmer →

Great article from last year, but I only discovered it this week. Carl Zimmer writes about a study on the human brain led by Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany. The study attempted to decipher the physiological reactions of people engaging in creative writing vs other forms of writing, and also between professionally trained writers and people with no previous writing experience. Fascinating.

The beginner’s guide to film photography | I Still Shoot Film →

Incredibly useful and comprehensive resource for all film photography lovers out there. If I were you I’d start with this excellent essay by Nathan Jones: Why Film Matters.

12 films worth shooting with before they’re gone | Stan Horaczek →

Another oldie but goodie over at Popular Photography. I’ve shot with most of Horaczek’s selected films, and they’re all amazing.

The couple who went on holiday for a week - and didn’t come back for 16 years | Wales Online →

The amazing story of a couple who spent 16 years (!) circumnavigating the world on a 35-foot yatch with a budget of £130 a week. Unreal.

Afterword

Like I said at the beginning, this has been an interesting week. Before finishing up this week’s issue though, I wanted to mention all the feedback I got from readers regarding this new weekly article roundup. Thanks to everyone who took a minute of their time to write in, I really appreciate it and I hope I can quickly get this section to be the very best it can be. I know I have a ways to go, but I’m working on it.

I think I’m already starting to get a sense for which pieces I should link to during the week, and which ones are better left for the weekly roundup. My current method is quite simple: anything newsworthy or time-sensitive I will probably link to as it happens, while the more reflective and editorial pieces will be left for the weekend. I think this strikes a nice balance between the urgent and the important, and I’m quite happy with the way things are turning out. Hopefully most of you will feel the same way but as ever, if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to send them my way.

As a finishing touch, I’d like to leave you with a cool image. This morning there was no coffee for me while I worked on this issue. The reason for that is that I’m in my hometown of Plasencia for the weekend visiting my parents, and my dad asked me to help him out with something. Not many of you will know this, but my dad has worked in the radio business for most of his life. He founded a broadcasting company over 30 years ago and at 69, he’s still going strong.

This morning he asked me to work the control room while he covered a live press event, so I’ve been working on this issue while sitting at the wheel here at the station’s HQ. I’ve always loved radio and I guess you could say it’s in my blood. I supposed that’s why I also love podcasting so much.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll follow in my dad’s footsteps but for now, I’ll leave you with a picture of him doing what he does best. Have a wonderful weekend, and thank you for reading.

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Twitter Ditches 140-Character DM Limit →

June 12, 2015 |

Stephanie Mlot, writing for PC Magazine:

Twitter is finally removing the 140-character limit in Direct Messages. Starting next month, users can send DMs the that are up to 10,000 characters in length.

Fantastic news, but it comes right on the heels of Dick Costolo’s sacking. I wonder if he opposed this change of if the two moves are completely unrelated. In any case, this will be great for users and in the long run, probably for Twitter as well.

That said, the question needs to be asked: how long before they remove this limit for regular tweets too, not just DMs?

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Jordan Steele on the Sony A7R Mark II →

June 11, 2015 |

Jordan Steele:

However, Sony didn’t stop with those improvements: they’ve introduced a new shutter mechanism, rated for 500,000 actuations and with much lower vibration than the original A7R. Plus it gains electronic first curtain shutter and completely electronic shutter capabilities. They also added 399 phase-detect autofocus points to the sensor, which should give improved AF, even compared to the A7 II. The biggest thing with the new AF system? Adapted A mount lenses can use the PDAF autofocus system and focus as quickly as on the native DSLR (or at least as fast as the native E-Mount lenses can focus. DPReview noted that their testing even showed Canon EF mount lenses via the Metabones EF-E adapter to utilize the PDAF points and focus as quickly as a native Canon body. This is HUGE. Canon shooters can switch over now and use their lenses with near native AF speed if they so choose.

If this checks out it’s going to be huge indeed. Up until now, the only thing stopping me from buying one of the A7-series cameras had been the slow AF performance of adapted Canon glass. If this new AF system is indeed able to match the AF speed of native Canon bodies, many people are going to start wondering why the hell they should stay with Canon.

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Christopher Lee dies aged 93 →

June 11, 2015 |

Sad news today. Benjamin Lee, writing for The Guardian:

Sir Christopher Lee has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

The veteran actor, best known for a variety of films from Dracula to The Wicker Man through to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, passed away on Sunday morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, according to sources.

The decision to release the news days after was based on his wife’s desire to inform family members first. The couple had been married for over 50 years.

Christopher Lee was definitely one of the all time greats. I loved the insane intensity and total commitment with which he inhabited each and every one of his roles. There were far too many of them to pick one as the cornerstone of his legacy, but I’ll always have fond memories of Francisco Scaramanga, the cold-blooded assassin he portrayed in 1974’s James Bond movie, The Man With The Golden Gun. That movie was a personal favorite of mine growing up, and Mr. Lee’s performance was mostly to blame for that. He will be sorely missed.

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Sony A7R Mark II with 42.4 MP back-illuminated sensor officially announced →

June 10, 2015 |

Today Sony officially announced their new A7R Mark II camera, boasting a 42.4 MP back-illuminated full-frame sensor and the same 5-axis in-body image stabilization system found in the recently announced A7 Mark II, which was fine-tuned to match the performance of the new high-resolution sensor.

Other improvements over the original A7R include the ability to capture 4K video in Super 35mm format as well as full-frame 35mm format — that is, using the entire sensor surface as opposed to only a central crop. It also includes improved AF performance with 399 AF points and a new Fast Hybrid AF mode for video recording.

On the minus side, the new camera is still not fully weather sealed, with Sony claiming only dust and moisture resistance as opposed to full water or splash-proofing.

The new Sony A7R Mark II looks like an amazing camera, with many substantial improvements over the previous generation, as well as over the A7 Mark II. However, with a recommended retail price of $3,200, it will not come cheap. It will be available for preorder on June 17.

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Thoughts on Apple’s WWDC announcements

June 09, 2015

Every year, when June rolls around, the same story repeats itself. The geek community reaches peak enthusiasm in the days prior to Apple’s WWDC, in anticipation of the keynote address that kickstarts the conference. Apple has traditionally used the WWDC keynote to unveil new versions of their operating systems, along with a few surprises every now and then.

This year the story was no different, and the keynote went exactly as expected. We got new versions of OS X, iOS and for the first time ever, watchOS. On the surprises front, we got a new app and publishing service called News, and a new music streaming, radio and social service called, well, Music.1 And on the not-really-surprises area, we got the promised WatchKit for watchOS, which will allow 3rd-party developers to write native apps for the Apple Watch.

Of course, not every announcement was equally important, nor received with the same enthusiasm by the developer crowd that filled Moscone West, but that is how these things usually work. Let’s take a closer look at each of the main announcements and see what they promise to bring to the table.

OS X El Capitan

Let’s just say it upfront: El Capitan is a terrible name for an operating system. I’m sorry, but it just is. Alright, moving on.

At first glance, it looks like there aren’t any revolutionary features in this new version of OS X. Instead, El Capitan looks a lot more like an evolutionary update, much like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion were evolutionary updates of Leopard and Lion, respectively. As such, most of the changes in El Capitan occur under the hood and focus on performance improvements and the like. But that’s not to say there aren’t any significant changes here.

In fact, one of these new features has the potential to substantially improve graphics performance across the board, and even extend the life of older, ailing Macs. El Capitan now has full native support for Metal, Apple’s graphics framework that debuted last year in iOS 8 and that provides improved graphics performance and efficiency over OpenGL. If some of the numbers Federighi bragged about during the keynote are reflected in real world usage — like the much-touted 10x improvement in draw call performance — there should be a noticeable improvement over Yosemite for practically every user.

The UX improvements were admittedly less impressive, but they also include some nice additions, like a special full-screen mode called Split View that allows you to have two apps side by side in a full screen space, for example. Or the now considerably smarter and more context-aware Search. Or Notes, which can now handle images with hand-drawn annotations alongside your text.2 And finally Maps, which now includes transit information for several large cities around the world.

These are all nice features that will make using a Mac every day easier and more pleasant but the truth is, other than Metal, none of them really strike me as life-changing, to be honest. The good news is, system requirements for El Capitan haven’t changed, so if your Mac supports Yosemite, you should be able to upgrade when the public version is released in the fall. And since it’s a free upgrade that actually helps older Macs run better, there’s literally no good reason not to upgrade this time around.

iOS 9

After nine major versions, iOS still feels remarkably new, but there’s no denying it has reached maturity. As such, the new features announced yesterday are not only focused on improving iOS itself. Instead, they were all part of a bigger vision, one that tries to tie iOS in with OS X, watchOS and, of course, iCloud.

This is also understandable. There’s really not much low-hanging fruit left in iOS, and focusing too much on fixing it would probably yield diminishing returns at this point. By focusing instead on leveraging iOS’s relationship with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, Apple can make substantial improvements to iOS that also result in a better experience when using OS X or the Apple Watch.

Besides some performance and security enhancements, iOS 9 also includes some new UX features and even new apps. But the real stars here were the new multitasking features for the iPad. These features include three new modes: Split View, Slide Over and Picture in Picture.

Split View is exactly what it sounds like: it is now possible to have two apps side by side and use them simultaneously, much like the new fullscreen mode in El Capitan. Alas, this feature is only available on the iPad Air 2, which is currently the only iPad with 2GB of RAM.

Slide Over is subtly different, in that it still shows two apps on screen at the same time, but instead of being side by side, one slides over the other. This means that only one of the apps — the one in the foreground — is active at any point. This mode was designed for quick interactions like replying to messages and the like.

Picture in Picture is one of the coolest new features in iOS 9. It allows you to shrink video to a mini window and keep playing it alongside any other apps you’re using. This could be very useful for video podcasts, for example, where you may not necessarily want the video to fill the entire screen.

The rest of the features are also nice, but perhaps less radical improvements. Things like the more intelligent Search, the new Notes features and better Maps with transit information are the same as in OS X, and the new QuickType keyboard seems cool. The proactive behavior is also pretty cool, and if you’re a creature of habit it will definitely make your life easier.

Finally, iOS 9 boasts improved power efficiency that will allow users to get up to one additional hour of battery life with typical use. But beyond that, Apple included a new Low Power mode in iOS 9 that promises to squeeze up to three additional hours of battery life on top of that additional hour when you turn it on. This is fine, I guess, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that for the past few years, Apple has been cutting it extremely close when it comes to battery life. Personally, we’ve reached a point where I’d much prefer to see slightly chubbier devices across the lineup with actual, all-day battery life instead of the current situation. My iPhone 5S, for example, barely lasts into the afternoon without a mid-day top-up charge anymore. This is simply unacceptable.

Eight years after the original iPhone’s introduction, iOS devices should get true all-day battery life with all their features enabled, instead of requiring users to cripple their devices in order to make their batteries last a little longer. If Apple hadn’t repeatedly made the very deliberate choice to sacrifice battery life in their relentless pursuit of thinness and lightness, this Low Power gimmick would be largely unnecessary today.

Having said all that, to me the most interesting iOS-related announcement by far was the addition of the News app.

Apple News

News is a new app built into iOS 9 that is very similar to Flipboard in nature, but it’s so much more than that. It’s also a publishing platform for creators of content and digital publications big and small alike. With beautiful typography, an attractive layout and gorgeous image galleries, Apple is promising publishers that they’ll be able to create much better experiences for their readers.

Apple is yet to release a News Format guide to creating content for the new app, so it’s clearly still early to know how well the new publishing service will work. There are many unanswered questions for readers and publishers, but it definitely looks promising. Personally, I’m really excited about it and I’ve already signed up to become a publisher. If everything goes smoothly, you’ll soon be able to follow Analog Senses in the News app if you so desire.

watchOS 2

Apple announced the second version of the Apple Watch operating system, with several new features like new Watch Faces, a Nightstand mode that makes the watch double as an alarm clock, support for native apps, transit information in Maps, third party complications and many more.

The Apple Watch is still so new that some of these features may be things that didn’t make it in time for the initial 1.0 release, like the addition of a second Contacts screen, for example. Still, it’s nice to see Apple already pushing the envelope of what the watch can do.

But the really interesting announcement related to the Apple Watch was, of course, the new version of WatchKit with support for native 3rd-party app development.

WatchKit and ClockKit for watchOS 2

This was clearly the most expected announcement of the day. Although many thought it was still early for it, Apple did announce the native SDK for the Apple Watch, and it had some interesting things to tease the eager developer audience with.

With ClockKit and the new Time Travel feature, developers can now create 3rd-party complications that update in real time, but that can also look ahead in time and display future information like the weather later today, for example. I don’t know how convenient this will be to use on an Apple Watch, considering everything is controlled via the Digital Crown, but I’m curious to see it in action.

Another cool feature of the SDK is that Apple Watch will be able to talk directly to known WiFi hotspots, so apps will be able to update their data even if the watch is outside the range of the user’s iPhone.

WatchKit for watchOS 2 also gives developers access to HealthKit data, including real-time heart rate streaming for fitness apps. This is going to be pretty cool once developers start creating more serious hear rate monitoring and fitness apps. One of the problems the Apple Watch currently has is its lack of accuracy in estimating caloric consumption. This problem is caused by the lack of calibration, and it’s entirely solvable via software. By allowing users to specify their VO2Max and their resting heart rate and using those parameters together with the hear rate data, apps could provide much more accurate estimations. I’m definitely eager to see what some of the more experienced fitness-oriented developers like Polar and Garmin will do with it.3

Other than that, the new WatchKit will allow developers to use Bluetooth to communicate with wireless headphones and stream both short and long-form audio, which will be perfect for apps like podcast clients. I can’t wait to see what Marco Arment does with this in the new version of Overcast for the Apple Watch, which he’s surely already building by now.

All in all, the native SDK for the Apple Watch will provide many interesting new opportunities for 3rd-party developers, and that is great news for everyone.

Apple Music

Apple Music is a new music service by Apple that effectively combines the iTunes Music Store and the Beats Music service into what they called “a complete thought around music”. If you’d been wondering how cool it would be if Apple were to add a Spotify-like streaming service to the iTunes Store, well, now you don’t have to wonder anymore.

This was billed as a “One more thing…” in the keynote, much to the delight of the crowd, but it actually turned out to be the worst part of the event for me.

The funny thing about that is, it wasn’t the product’s fault, but rather the unnecessarily long demo and the poorly scripted presentation in general that left more questions than answers, really. I don’t know who approved the script, but it was clearly one of the weakest Apple keynote segments in recent memory. It wasn’t Eddy Cue’s fault — well, at least not only his fault — Jimmy Iovine also did a pretty poor job of injecting enthusiasm and communicating the potential of this new service for improving the music industry as a whole.

The good news is, presentation problems aside, Apple Music looks like an extremely attractive new service. I’m currently a Spotify Premium subscriber and have been for years, and I’m also an iTunes Match user, but if the new Music service works as advertised I may switch to it entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I like Spotify a lot, but I’m not crazy about having my music split across two different services operated by two different companies.

I just hope the entire iTunes Store catalog is available to stream as part of the new Music service, because Apple has been conspicuously ambiguous about that.

Other miscellaneous thoughts

Besides the main announcements, there were plenty of interesting bits to comment on, as with any Apple keynote. Here are the other points that caught my interest from yesterday’s two hour and a half presentation:

  • Apple released Swift 2 with several new improvements, but the big Swift-related announcement of the day was that they’re making it Open Source. At this point in the keynote, pretty much the entire Moscone West exploded in applause and roaring cheers from the crowd actually made it impossible to hear what Federighi was saying. This is no doubt excellent news, I just hope they really make it Open Source this time, not like when Steve Jobs promised to make FaceTime and open standard.

  • Apple also unified the iOS, Mac and Safari Developer Programs into one unique program — called simply Apple Developer Program — adding support for the newly released watchOS to the mix as well. You’ll now need to pay a unique fee of $99/year for your membership and you’ll get access to the full range of tools, so it’ll be a substantial reduction in price for many developers: if you were enrolled in both the iOS and Mac programs, the price of your membership has been effectively cut in half.

  • Presenter-wise, this was a special keynote. For the first time we had women on stage at a WWDC keynote, with both Jennifer Bailey and Susan Prescott making an appearance to present changes in Apple Pay and the News app, respectively. It’s kind of sad that this is newsworthy and Apple still needs to do a lot more work on this front, but at least it was a start.

  • Speaking of presenters, Craig Federighi was once again the undisputed star of the show. He connects very easily with Apple’s developer community, and he knows it. What I particularly like about him — and I’m clearly not the only one — is that he’s not above taking small jabs at Apple’s own products occasionally. Yesterday he made several lighthearted puns about Apple’s use of transparency or an annoying dialog asking for Location Accuracy, for example, that provided some comedic relief and gave the impression that despite their success, Apple knows they still have their work cut out for them. Compare that with Steve Jobs’s keynotes, where he projected a flawless illusion of a perfect world that catered to users but not so much to developers, and it’s easy to understand why developers have grown to love Federighi so much in such a short period of time.

  • I didn’t much care for the presence of Jimmy Iovine or Drake on stage during the Music segment. Or Eddy Cue, for that matter. I think they failed to bring anything interesting to the table and I very much would have preferred to have seen Tim Cook, Phil Schiller or even Federighi himself take care of that part of the presentation as well.

  • Ditto for the music performance at the end of the keynote.

  • In fact, I question the need for the entire Music segment to be included in the keynote at all. It wasn’t anything related to developers, for one thing, so WWDC was already a weird place to announce it to begin with. In an ideal world, this would have been a perfect fit for Apple’s traditional Music event in September. Alas, since Apple is not so keen on updating iPods regularly anymore and they probably wanted to announce the new service as soon as possible, waiting until September was likely not an option.


  1. Not very original, but it does beat Ping, so there’s that.

  2. Between this and Brent Simmons’s recent leave from Q Branch, I wonder what this means for the future of Vesper.

  3. On the other hand, with these new capabilities the Apple Watch could very well suck the air out of the hear rate monitor market and leave these companies in the dust, so I’d understand if they’re not overly enthusiastic about developing apps for it. It’s not like they have much of a choice though, because if they’re not the ones to do it somebody else will. And they know it.

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Morning Coffee

June 06, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I’m a morning person. The first two hours of my morning routine are usually the most important ones for my productivity. If I manage to get in the zone and make the most of them, the resulting energy boost is usually enough to carry me throughout the rest of the day. On the other hand, if I squander those precious hours checking my RSS feeds and procrastinating my way until noon, my chances of getting any meaningful work done that day go down significantly.

For the past couple of years, those first two hours of the day have been dedicated to working out. I realize it may seem counterintuitive, to dedicate my most productive time of the day to doing something apparently unrelated to my creative work, but I have found the energy I get from working out helps me focus quite a bit better later on when I’m at my desk.

There’s an old saying that goes: if you work with your head, rest with your hands. That’s a pretty good approximation of how I feel about working out in the morning. When you’re sitting at a desk all day long trying to come up with cool things to write about, it’s easy to get a bit too much in your own head and after a while, things get weird and there’s a real chance of burning out. That’s where physical exercise comes in.

It used to be, I felt a bit guilty about spending those two hours each day at the gym. For a few months I kept thinking that time was too precious to spend away from the desk, and it’s taken me a fair bit of effort to accept it as what it is: an investment.

When the most valuable asset in your work is time, it is extremely important to invest it in a way that maximizes its value. For me, that turns out to be going to the gym in the morning. For you, well, only you can know that, but it’s important you at least ask yourself the question.

It’s a simple question after all, really: do I prefer to have two hours of exercise followed by six good hours of work, or just eight hours of half-work, half-goofing around on the Internet? In my case, the answer was pretty straightforward.

However, even though putting the first two hours of each day towards working out has definitely helped me be more productive, it clearly is no silver bullet. The truth is, there are no silver bullets. There are no shortcuts to doing great work. All I’m doing every morning is creating the opportunity and putting myself in the best position I can to do the best work I’m capable of. But at that point, the real struggle is only just beginning.

If setting aside the time to do your best work is important, choosing what to spend that time on is even more so.

Routine

The publishing rhythm in Analog Senses has been relatively stable throughout the past year or so, since I started working on the site full-time. On a good week, I typically publish around five link-type posts each day and one original article throughout the week. These articles take a fair bit of work and usually about a couple days each to finish, so this pace works pretty well most weeks. However, there’s a deeper problem.

Sometimes, there are particularly busy weeks like this one, when I don’t have the time to do it all and in those weeks, it’s usually the article that gets neglected in favor of the link posts. That seems like a sound decision, because rushing long articles is almost never a good way to go, and so I rationalize my choice by convincing myself that I’m doing it to preserve the quality of the writing.

The truth, however, is that link posts are a lot easier to publish, and require a lot less effort. They also keep the site updated every day which, as everybody will tell you, is great for traffic, SEO and whatnot.

But even though link posts are easier to do, they still take a huge amount of time to do right. I always make it a point to read every article I link to from start to finish before linking to it. Call me silly, but I think it’s a critical part of my promise to the reader: I personally vouch for each and every one of the pieces you’ll see here, and I genuinely think they’re worth my readers’ time and attention. I stake my reputation on that claim, and that’s the whole point of those posts.

The downside of doing link posts this way is that, unfortunately, the majority of my time and attention on any given week are devoted to them, instead of being put into my own original writing. And the longer I do it, the more I realize that’s not what I want my site to be. Link posts are fun to do but in the great scheme of things, they’re usually anecdotes that don’t add much, if any, long-term value and relevance to the site.

The worst part of it is, these link posts actually trick me into believing I’m doing good work. If I manage to publish six or seven interesting link posts one day, I’ll go to bed thinking I’m doing great but the truth is, I may not have written a single original word for the past ten days. Lately I haven’t been feeling particularly proud about that.

I aspire to be more than an amplifier or another member of the eco-chamber. I want my readers to come here for me, my own voice and my own work, not just because I’m good at finding cool stuff for them to read elsewhere.

Is it pride, or vanity? Maybe, but it doesn’t change a very simple fact: I am a writer, not an aggregator, and I just want to write more.

The problem is, in order to write more, I need to give myself the time to do so, and that means more than just wishing for it to happen organically. It means creating the opportunity by setting aside the time to do it every day.

Less linking, more writing

That, in a nutshell, is what I intend to do around here from now on. If the whole point of this change is to write more, I need to have a few uninterrupted hours every day to do so, away from the distractions of the online world. In all likelihood, that will result in fewer link posts being published throughout the week, and hopefully more — and more importantly, better — original writing.

So where does that leave link posts?

By focusing more on my own writing during the week, I don’t mean to say I don’t care about link posts anymore. Far from it, actually. I’m still a voracious reader and I’ll definitely keep coming across many interesting pieces of writing every week that I’ll want to share with my readers.

With that in mind, let this be an experiment.

Introducing “Morning Coffee”, a weekly roundup of interesting writing

The concept is simple and, quite frankly, not very original. Several of my favorite sites have been doing it for a while, like The Newsprint’s excellent Sunday Edition or Tools & Toys’ Quality Linkage column every Friday. The reason they do it is equally simple: it works.

The idea behind the name is also simple. I will be making my selections every Saturday morning as I sip my first coffee of the day, and hopefully the issue will be published by the time the U.S. East Coast wakes up, so American readers will be able to read it while they have theirs.

There’s a bit of irony in the fact that today’s issue — the very first one — is already late. You’ll have to forgive me for that, I’m afraid. I started writing this piece early in the morning but, as with most of my pieces, things just kind of got out of hand.

Anyway, that’s entirely too much blogging about blogging for one day, so without further ado, allow me leave you with this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #1: Emotional literacy, Apple Watch, photography and the defense of personal freedom

The Four Stages of Life | Mark Manson →

What an eye-opening article by Mark Manson. As someone who is slowly coming to terms with the transition from stage two to stage three, this was incredibly helpful to read.

A basic skill we should have learned as kids | David Cain →

David Cain’s writing is always top notch, and this week’s article is no exception. The ability to understand our own emotions and how they alter the shape of everything that happens in our lives is an essential tool we should all have in our toolbox. I also love the expression “emotional literacy”. It’s perfect.

Building an app from start to finish | “Underscore” David Smith →

This one is technically not a piece of writing, but I’m including it anyway. Mr. Underscore had an idea for an Apple Watch app and in this brief YouTube video, he shows you how he built it. Literally.

The Apple Watch | Ben Brooks →

I had been waiting for Ben to publish his thoughts on the Apple Watch, and I’m happy to say he didn’t disappoint. Ben is one of the very few writers I trust when it comes to product reviews for one simple reason: he gives a shit about being fair, and he takes his time to form a coherent opinion before reviewing anything. I’ve publicly stated before how I think it’s way too early to be making claims about the future of the Apple Watch, and Ben deftly stays clear of making any such claims. Great stuff.

Apple Watch Sport Band | Mike Bates →

Lovely piece by Mike Bates. I really like his photographic style and he makes some very interesting observations about Apple’s most affordable band option for the Apple Watch. If you want a white Sport band but are worried it might not age gracefully, this article is for you.

Beyond Scotland: hot climate whiskies to know | Mark Bylok →

Mark sent me a link to this article earlier today, after I asked him about Nomad, a very particular whisky I tried recently that is aged in Scotland but then finished in Spain. As such, it cannot be labeled as Scotch whisky, which is why they promote it as “outland whisky”. Go figure. The good news is, it was delicious. The better news, however, is that there are plenty of fantastic whiskies being made outside of the Scottish borders, and Mark’s article is an excellent way to get acquainted with them.

The unacceptably high cost of labor - how a deeper dive into Patagonia’s supply chain led to a new Migrant Worker Standard →

It’s good to see that some companies care about more than just making money. Human exploitation is a very real problem, and we need many more companies like Patagonia taking a stand and doing what’s right. Kudos to them.

Patagonia’s Anti-growth strategy | The New Yorker →

Another great piece focused on Patagonia, this time by J. B. Mackinnon for The New Yorker. Apparently, the company’s commitment to being environmentally and socially responsible even at the cost of potential growth is having quite an unexpected effect on their sales figures. Once again, good for them.

How to capture iPhone photos of wiggly kids | Erin Brooks →

Erin Brooks has been on fire lately and her pictures are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Keep them coming, Erin!

The world says No to surveillance | Edward Snowden →

Edward Snowden’s take on the recent decision by the U.S. Congress to stop the N.S.A.’s massive collection of information gives us reason to hope this may be the first step on the road towards a better future. I, for one, certainly hope he’s right.

Afterword

That wasn’t so bad for a first issue, was it? There are some real gems in this week’s roundup, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did putting them together. Unfortunately my coffee is long gone by now and yours probably is, too. This first issue took quite a bit longer than I expected to finish, but I hope the result has been worth it in the end.

The good news is, great writing goes well with more than just coffee, so choose your favorite poison, pick a comfortable couch to lean back on and enjoy.

Have a lovely weekend and, as ever, thank you for reading.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Tweetbot for Mac gets 2.0 update →

June 05, 2015 |

Pretty good — and free — update to Tweetbot for Mac. I’ve been a Tweetbot user since it was first released and, though I love it, this update was long overdue. Ever since OS X Yosemite was released the app had become incredibly unstable for me, to the point of being nearly unusable. Fortunately, I haven’t seen any of the same issues with the new version so far. That alone would be more than enough reason to update, but it just so happens that I also really like the updated Yosemite-style UI, so this one’s pretty easy to recommend.

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The Note →

June 05, 2015 |

Fantastic article by Shawn Blanc:

By giving myself no room for wiggling around or making excuses, I’ve found that having this set time to write means I actually write more than if I were to wait only for inspiration to strike. I write more words in general (usually 1,500 words every day) than days when I wait for inspiration. And my writing is of a higher quality — my crappy first drafts are much less crappy.

And, though my timer is set for 30 minutes, more often than not by the time the half-hour is up, I’m firing on all cylinders and I will continue to write for another hour or three.

As someone who writes for a living, I cannot think of anything more important for me to do each day than to actually write.

It’s an apparently simple lesson, but it so often goes unnoticed: if you care about doing something, set a time for it.

This lesson applies to everything that matters: exercise, writing, reading, you name it. Anything worth doing takes time, and that time is not going to magically schedule itself. If you want to exercise more regularly, don’t just wait and see when you have some free time in the day to do it. Instead, make it your first priority in the morning, even if it means waking up earlier than usual and going to bed earlier at night. You’ll be surprised at how soon it becomes part of your routine, and that’s when the real fun begins.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it’s worth it.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢