Marco Arment’s way too popular day →

January 06, 2015 |

Marco Arment, on the aftermath of his “Apple has lost the functional high ground” piece:

Instead of what was intended to be constructive criticism of the most influential company in my life, I handed the press more poorly written fuel to hamfistedly stab Apple with my name and reputation behind it. And my name will be on that forever.

Had I known that it would go as far as it did, I never would have written it.

I understand his feelings, but I think he’s being way too hard on himself. I don’t believe he can be faulted for “handing the press more poorly written fuel”. It was far from being poorly written, for one, and sensationalist pieces were always going to get published, regardless of how carefully Marco had measured his words. Those outlets were obviously not interested in publishing accurate reports on his original piece, and they would have twisted his words to fit their narrative anyway.

I believe Marco’s original piece has merit, and it needed to be published. The quality of Apple’s software is a real issue and, despite all the noise, Marco has ultimately done Apple — and all of us, really — a great service by calling them out on it.

That said, I get how hard it must be to see your name attached to some of those sensationalist pieces, and it’s extremely unfortunate. We all end up losing when a great writer and developer like Marco gets pushed so far as to feel the need to censor his own work.

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Federico Viticci on the quality of Apple software →

January 06, 2015 |

iOS ninja master Federico Viticci shares his view on whether Apple has really lost “the functional high ground”:

My problem with most commentary to Marco’s piece is the binary interpretation of Apple’s software releases: that they should either do new stuff or fix bugs. That’s too simplistic and shortsighted. Software is never bug-free, but there’s a threshold where it’s good enough to be shipped. I want to see Apple get better at releasing updates like iOS 8 and Yosemite with a better balance between novelty and stability. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. I don’t want to see Apple “taking a year off” to fix iOS, as that wouldn’t be beneficial to the company and its developer community. Considering Apple’s scale and the uncharted territory of several iOS 8 and Yosemite features, that’s a tricky proposition.

I very much agree with Federico in that the right approach to improve the stability and quality of Apple software is probably not to slow down to the point of no new features. There’s quite a bit of wiggle room between “slow down” and “no new features”. The key, as ever, is finding the right compromise.

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To File or Pile? →

January 05, 2015 |

Interesting article by Roberta Kwok, on how a study found out that “filers”, the people who clean up their desks by organizing papers into files, end up keeping many more useless papers that “pilers”, those who just let papers pile up on their desks until the mess is unbearable:

Why? Filers, eager to clean off their desks, might automatically store papers that are in fact useless (a disorder that the study authors dub “premature filing”). Once they’ve put the effort into organizing that paper, they’re reluctant to throw it out. Pilers, on the other hand, can gleefully toss their messy stacks without feeling guilt over time wasted on sorting. As one piler explains, “[I]t really wasn’t well-organized yet, anyway… So, it wasn’t too big a thing to stand there with a pile of papers over the trash can and ruthlessly throw them in.”

Sounds about right. It’s surprisingly easy to convince ourselves to keep storing useless stuff forever, just in case we need it one day.

Please note that this also affects “digital filers”: junk stored on your hard drive is still junk, even if it doesn’t take up much physical space. This is particularly relevant in light of this other linked article from earlier today.

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How to disappear completely →

January 05, 2015 |

David Cain spends 90 minutes in a darkened sensory deprivation tank:

With no stimulus, time really seems to stretch out. After I’d lost track of my body, I realized I had absolutely no idea how long I’d been in there, only that it could only have been a fraction of the full 90 minutes. By that time I was extremely comfortable, much more comfortable than I ever get in bed or in an armchair.

One completely unexpected effect was that my ability to imagine became supercharged. I pictured being in a hammock on the beach, and some very specific details came flooding in — the smell of hot sand, the feel of my bare feet on a sunlit nylon rope, the sense of being away from Canada, even.

That must have been quite an experience. Although looking at those tanks, I wouldn’t get in there in a million years if not for the fact that there’s no lock on the door.

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Hayao Miyazaki, the master of childhood dreams →

January 05, 2015 |

Nice piece by Mike Hale for The New York Times:

Many things contribute to the enchantment of the 11 animated feature films Mr. Miyazaki has made, beginning with “The Castle of Cagliostro” in 1979. Their sheer pictorial beauty, in the lush, painterly style he developed during years of apprenticeship as a hands-on animator for film and television and as a comic book, or manga, artist. Their swooping, beautifully constructed action sequences, breathless scenes of racing, leaping and, always, flight — in vintage airplanes, on broomsticks or mounted atop mysterious beasts. And, of course, the beasts, spirits, demons and familiars themselves, a seemingly inexhaustible menagerie of companions and impediments for his plucky young heroes (who are most often heroines).

Hayao Miyazaki is without a doubt one of the most talented and accomplished filmmakers ever. “The Castle of Cagliostro” is a personal favorite of mine, but there’s a special kind of magic in all of his films, something that stems from his unique understanding of the human spirit:

You know it when you feel it: the mastery of tone and emotion, embodied in every gesture, expression, movement and setting, that give the films a watchfulness, a thoughtfulness, an unaffected gravity. To watch a Miyazaki movie is to remember what it was like to be a smart and curious child.

Via Kottke.

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Uncertainty is not the same thing as risk →

January 05, 2015 |

Seth Godin:

A simple example: the typical high school student applying to a range of colleges has very little risk of getting in nowhere. Apply to enough schools that match what you have to offer, and the odds are high indeed you’ll get in somewhere. Low risk but a very high uncertainty about which college or colleges will say yes.

That’s not risky. That’s uncertain. It takes fortitude to live with a future that’s not clearly imagined, but it’s no reason not to apply.

Interesting thought. I’d argue uncertainty is almost as difficult to handle as real risk, but he’s quite right in that sometimes it’s simply due to our own inability to understand the fundamental difference between the two.

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Copenhagen’s traffic playground for kids →

January 05, 2015 |

Mikael Colville-Andersen:

The traffic playground is a public playground with a “kid-sized” traffic town where children learn to move in a safe environment. The playground is staffed during business hours and children can borrow go-carts, pedal vehicles with trailers and small bikes. The children are also welcome to bring their own bikes, roller skates and scooters.

For younger children (2-5 years), there is a small, fenced traffic lane where the little ones can borrow carts, tricycles and bicycles with trailers. Furthermore, the playground has a garage with go-carts, which are intended for children between 5 and 14 years. In the classroom, children can receive classroom teaching.

The traffic playground consists of small roads that wind in and out between lawns, shrubs and trees. Everything on the small rehearsal roads is reduced in size to match the children’s perspective. There are mini signals, driveways, road markings, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths, a gas station, a roundabout, bus stops, traffic lights and even trash cans tilted towards the cyclists - just like in real life (you can see one here in this earlier article).

This is so great. Coincidentally, there’s a remarkably similar traffic playground in my hometown (Spanish page, scroll down for the pictures). I have very fond memories of the many afternoons I spent riding my bike there as a child — with training wheels at first, then proudly on my own. It was a really fun — and useful — way to learn, and become accustomed to the rules of the road. Every child should experience it.

Sadly, the one in my hometown is now closed due to a lack of municipal funds for its proper maintenance and operation. I really hope it comes back to life at some point in the future, when the economy of the city allows for it.

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The Future of Cinema →

January 05, 2015 |

M.G. Siegler:

All of this is a world — probably ten years away, maybe less — where you go to a theater to see a handful of films each year. The tentpoles. Everything else goes right to your living room. The tadpoles.

And if a tadpole hits it big at home, it could even turn into the next tentpole!

I suppose it makes sense. After all, every major industry will eventually need to adapt to the realities of technology and online video. But as a lover of cinema and everything it entails — from the popcorn to the sheer awe of a gigantic screen — I find this future to be utterly depressing.

It’s already happening, mind you, and there are other implications. What movie theater can survive with only “a handful of films each year”? Not ten years ago there were almost 10 movie theaters in Madrid’s Gran Vía. They were all beautiful, big old theaters, with red velvety seats and gorgeous marbled hallways. The Callao square was always dressed up in enormous, hand-drawn movie posters that made it look like a movie aficionado’s version of paradise.

All of that is almost completely gone now, and it’s but a memory of a seemingly distant past. Except it was practically yesterday. Today, only two movie theaters remain active in Gran Vía, and the posters are nowhere to be found. In their place, there now sit regular ads for cosmetic products, or whatever new fashion campaign that happens to be hitting the streets that week.

I don’t just love movies, I love going to the movies, but the whole experience is becoming so impractical and expensive that even I am going less and less as the years roll by. It pains me to no end, but I do agree with M.G. that the future looks bleak for movie theaters. And I will miss them dearly when they’re gone.

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The Tools & Toys guide to setting up and maintaining a paperless home and office →

January 05, 2015 |

I have long been a fan of paperless work practices. Doing everything we can to minimize our paper trail is important: there are many benefits — instantly searchable archives, for one — and absolutely zero disadvantages, so trying to avoid filling our offices with dead trees is pretty much a no-brainer for me.

This great guide over at Tools & Toys gives you everything you need to get started on the transition to a pristine, paperless office. Of course, the real dream would be to not generate any paper to begin with, but unfortunately this is not yet feasible in todays’s world.

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