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My new blog

Driven by a desire for complete control and ensured longevity, I recently transfered this blog to Wordpress, and a new URL (subdirectory, yay!). It was also the impetus for a new design and an about page. The RSS feed changed, and if you’ve been following only on Tumblr, I invite you to subscribe.

Since I made the switch, I’ve continued to write and share. Here are some good posts that you may have missed:
Naming your blog: eponymous or not?
Car-free in Brussels
Pomodoro in the Mac App Store: Ugo Landini’s freemium experiment (interview)
The effect of Apple’s App Store policy: an inferior experience for users
Lion is the future
With Lion, Apple has made the concept of spaces accessible to everyone

Thanks for following, and let me know what you think of the new design and the new site.

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Putting a Price Tag on Pop Success

How much does it cost to manufacture a hit song? Using Rihanna’s latest album, which began in a song factory “writing camp” — where “a record label hires the best music writers in the country and drops them into the nicest recording studios in town for about two weeks” — NPR estimates $78,000:

The cost of the writing camp, plus fees for the songwriter, producer, vocal producer and the mix comes to $78,000.

That’s before the “roll-out,” which includes marketing, flying the artist around, and getting cozy with the “radio guys.” The roll-out is by far the most expensive part, at about $1 million. And all that — $1,078,000 — only sets the song up for success, which, at least for now, still can’t be bought straight-out.

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An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out

Oliver Miller:

AOL is a billion dollar corporation, and the foundation of its current business model is words.

No, the foundation of its business model, like many modern media organizations, is pageviews. Words are just a means to an end. Words are meant to be beautiful and wonderful, to create something special, but AOL and others like it have bastardized them and diluted their value for profit. Real value exchanged for the fleeting and ersatz value of money.

(This is not to disagree with Miller’s point-of-view — I think we agree.)

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Apple revises in-app purchase policy for the iOS App Store

I’ve been an outspoken critic of Apple’s strict policy on in-app purchases and subscriptions, which was to require all content available for an app to be offered through Apple’s in-app purchase system, with Apple taking a 30% cut. Furthermore, prices were required to be set at equal to or less than those of the same item outside the app (like content available from a publisher’s website). So I was happy to see that Apple recently revised its stance, allowing purchased or subscribed content to be read by an app without it being offered through the in-app purchase system. However, all in-app purchases must still go through Apple’s system, and buttons or links to purchase content in any other way are not allowed. The relevant section of the App Store Review Guidelines now reads:

Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app

While this is an improvement, I still contend that a nonnegotiable 30% fee, regardless of the type of app and type of purchase or subscription, is draconian and anticompetitive. It excludes companies that rely on a margin of profit below 30%, like eBook sellers and music subscriptions services, from using Apple’s in-app purchase system.

The fee was recently blamed by BeamItDown Software for leading them to shut down their company and discontinue their iOS-exclusive eBook app, iFlow Reader. In an interview with CNET, the company’s co-founder Dennis Morin said, “the In-App Purchase model makes it impossible to comply with the requirements of the [eBook] agency model, which was created by Apple.” While using the in-app purchase system is no longer mandatory, much of the complaints leveled at Apple by Morin and BeamItDown Software still stand. Besides, certain apps should not be excluded from taking advantage of in-app purchases (which forces them to build beyond the iOS ecosystem) only because they can’t afford to give up almost a third of their revenue. iFlow Reader co-founder Philip Huber says the revised policy doesn’t change the plight of his company:

Apple still prohibits us (or anyone else) from having an in-app bookstore without giving Apple 30%. Apple also still prohibits anyone from providing a Buy button or even a link from our app to bring up Safari in any convenient way to purchase content.

Apple has (warning: sarcasm ahead) graciously allowed applications to read content purchased elsewhere. That works fine for the big companies like Amazon and Google who started with a web presence and most people already purchase that content on the web.

For a small company like ours, we foolishly built our sales platform on Apple thinking that most people would prefer to buy either from their device or computer. Apple knows this all too well, which is why they’re restricting convenient ebook purchases on your devices to be made within iBooks. This is pure and simple greed on Apple’s part. Their PR department can and will spin this, but the harsh reality is that the eviction notice is still effective.

Filed under Apple iOS iOS App Store

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Good reasons

Marco Arment on Twitter’s recent PR shortcomings:

In most cases, there are very good reasons why a company the size of Twitter does or says something, but for other very good reasons, they usually can’t say exactly why.

The key aspect in this equation is, good for whom? Any “reason” is highly subjective, and “good” is often only a matter of perspective. In most cases, especially with a company the size of Twitter, whatever they do or say is driven by what’s good for them (as it should be). I think this is certainly true of Twitter’s recent PR statements, like Ryan Sarver’s declaration that developers should not attempt to imitate the “mainstream Twitter consumer client experience” or the sudden change to apps’ access to direct messages.

Ideally, what’s good for a company will align with what’s good for everyone else (users, developers, derivative businesses). And, especially with Twitter, that’s where “good reasons” can start to fall apart.

Filed under Twitter

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Wisdom is around us already

Today I was sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car at page 22 of Patrick Rhone’s Keeping It Straight, marveling at how profound only the first few essays had already been. Each ended with a wonderful observation or piece of advice, wise and relatable to my life.

“Can I interrupt for a moment?” asked my mom from the passenger seat. She began to talk about a conversation we’d had earlier. Wisdom poured out.

And I realized something: the kind of wisdom that impressed me in Keeping It Straight is all around us. It may not always be as cogent and polished. It may not be as well-said. But if you’re looking for wisdom in a book or online, you’re looking in the wrong place. Wisdom’s value resides in its personal relevance, and what source is more personal than our own lives?

Wisdom is all around us, in experiences and relationships. Wisdom can be found in conversations and in moments of reflection. Wisdom surrounds us, if we only take the time to recognize it.

Filed under wisdom keeping it straight Patrick Rhone

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Brent Simmons on good writers, good developers, and where the computer meets human nature

I’ve always thought of it this way: a good writer reads a lot of books. They see how other writers solve problems. They pay attention to what’s happening now as much as they pay attention to the classics. Good writers are readers first, but eagle-eyed, careful readers.

I think good developers are the same: they look at other apps. They “read” those apps, the problems they have and how they solve them. They notice trends, they notice new solutions, they notice when things work and when they don’t.

Not every developer does that. Some do, but pretty much limit themselves to Apple apps, which means they’re missing some interesting things. And some developers try but haven’t yet developed the close eye it takes. (It just takes practice.)

There may still be some developers who say there’s no place for style and fashion in UI, that usability is usability and that’s that. They’re mistaken, because part of human nature is to get tired of things and want fresh things, and UI is where the computer meets human nature. Human nature is not going to change on this matter. And I’m glad about that.”

-Brent Simmons, in an interview with John Gruber, Daring Fireball, June 3, 2011

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♥ Notational Velocity

Chris Martucci on what makes Notational Velocity great:

Notational Velocity encapsulates a new era in text-editing. In just a matter of hours, I moved most of my documents to the application, getting rid of bulky folders. Even the word “folder” seems archaic now — similar to the way I feel about the word “windows.” These “folders” and “windows,” they involve a sort of dis-integration — a lack of cohesion between multiple components. Today’s users want an integrated whole, not a hodgepodge of disconnected parts. Notational Velocity unifies the text-editing experience — makes it whole and coherent. Everything you need is right there.

I feel the same way. Notational Velocity brings all my text together, whether thoughts, lists, goals, ideas, quotes, notes or blog posts, and makes it all instantly available and searchable, with the input of new text being immediate and effortless. It’s a space for disparate thoughts and ideas as much as structured writing and quotes. It’s how I capture and organize my mind.

Filed under Notational Velocity Chris Martucci simplicity

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The internet, is becoming this thing, where it’s just people, trying to become successful on the internet by showing other people how to become successful on the internet. It’s this unbelievably fractal Ponzi scheme. It’s very Escher. It’s a terrible, terrible ghetto of information out there. It’s like a snake masturbating its own tail. It’s miserable.

Merlin Mann, in his video announcement of the Inbox Zero book, August 18, 2009.

The amount of content online continues to grow, and it shows no signs of stopping. So when you contribute, it’s important to contribute — to provide something of value — not merely to add and recycle carelessly.

Filed under internet Merlin Mann success value content