Category Archives: Tech

Technology is great.

Twitter Inc. is the federal government

This is adapted and expanded from a Twitter rant.

Twitter Inc. is the federal government and third-party developers are state and local government. Individual apps represent industries, and Twitter users function as regular citizens who vote, work, and live within the system. Allow me to elaborate.

Twitter Inc. originally provided a framework for the third parties to build on, but left them autonomous in many regards. They could make their design their apps however they wanted. They could decide which features they wanted to support and which ones they didn’t. If their apps were useful to a large number of people, the developers could sell them and make a living.

However, in recent years, Twitter Inc has continued to remove more and more authority from developers, increasing regulation of apps. They’ve decreed that third-party Twitter apps must support specific features. They’ve ordered developers to make their apps look alike, even dictating the placement of profile photos, timestamps, and other metadata.

Perhaps most egregiously, they’ve told app developers that anyone making a new app for viewing a Twitter timeline can only have 20,000 users. After the 20,000th user has logged into a specific app, Twitter will block additional people from using it.

With these API token limits, Twitter Inc. effectively told third parties to take a hike. “Sure, you CAN do great things, but we’ll limit your profit.” These new regulations stifle third-party app development. With so much regulation on how apps can look and function, and how many users they can support, developers no longer care to put in the work to create great software. Why bother when you’ll be limited to such a small user base, thereby limiting the number of copies of your app you can sell and the money you can make from your work?

If Twitter Inc. started deregulating third-party apps at the federal level, developers would be free to institute design choices and features catering to the unique needs of their apps and users.

As the apps become better and increase their user base (here an analog for employment) more people benefit from the overall Twitter service.  Twitter Inc. can’t possibly be responsible for maintaining the well-being of every single app. Developers and their users (“employees” who “vote” by purchasing apps) can work together to determine what works best & improve the service for everyone.

People want different things from the Twitter service (the overall system of government that we all live within). App developers (state and local government) can help meet the needs of specific groups with more care and precision by implementing policies (features and design choices) that benefit their applications (industries and businesses) than Twitter Inc. (the federal government), which forces a one-fit solution on everyone whether it benefits them or harms them.

Let’s talk about those OS X Yosemite app icons

I’m not going to bother explaining what OS X Yosemite is outside of linking to this page. Now, let’s talk about the redesigned app icons. Some are OK. Some are not. I’m going to explain what I don’t like about the bad ones and why I like the not-so-bad ones.

I’m not going to talk about stuff like the share icon (which is better than iOS 7’s but still really bad) or any other buttons and glyphs. Just app icons. I won’t even discuss all of the icons, just the ones that have actually been changed in Yosemite beta 1 (which does not include iTunes).

Each icon will be listed below with the old and new versions. You can roll over each icon to see which version it is, but it should be pretty obvious without that.

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Here’s what I thought iOS 7 might look like before it was officially announced

 

ios7mockups

Back in May, when Mark Gurman published his infamous article that (accurately) described the then-upcoming design changes in iOS 7, I had an idea of what I thought iOS 7 would look like. Based on certain parts of the article, I came up with a general idea of what the operating system might look like. I was actually pretty close, but also pretty far off.

I got bored and mocked up a few of the designs tonight. The ideas are based on the following selection from the article:

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This is how Twitter dies

twitter-dies

I used to use Facebook a lot, but over time I just got sick of it. Now I log on every once in a while from my phone or if I’m bored at my computer just to see what’s going on with a few people. If Facebook shut down tomorrow, I’d notice, but I wouldn’t care.

This isn’t the first social site that has followed this pattern. In ye olde days when forums were far more popular than they are now, I belonged to two for a few years where I made a bunch of “internet friends.” The older of the two was home to a large number of people and the second was inhabited by a small subset of these people who wanted a less strict place to share dumb jokes and such. Both sites eventually ground to a halt and were eventually shut down by their owners as people slowly lost interest and traffic dropped off significantly.

Facebook is taking a much slower path to irrelevance for me, but I can imagine that soon I won’t care what happens to it at all. At first it was a cool site to find your friends and share stuff. Then there were the annoying games, and now Facebook thinks they know what I want to see in my feed better than I do. Now Facebook constantly resets my News Feed to something called “Top Stories,” a list of items I may or may not care about that got a lot of attention from my friends according to some algorithm (such as that photo that got 1 “like” three weeks ago that somehow still gets placed above a friend announcing their engagement with 41 “likes”).

As Facebook insists more and more on telling me what content I want to see, I care less and less about being there. At the time that I was using any given social platform, I could never imagine how it would one day be replaced by something better. Now I’m on Twitter all the time. When I started using Twitter, I thought it was something cool to check every once in a while. Now it’s something I leave running all the time on my computer and in my iPhone’s dock. As I continued using the service more and more, I couldn’t imagine that one day it would be replaced by something different.

But lately I’ve started seeing Twitter follow the same pattern as those other sites, especially Facebook. It seems the company is actively attempting to make the service as unusable as possible. Consider this:

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An exclusive first look at Tweetbot Neue

There is no Tweetbot Neue. I invented it. It is fake. I will now explain why I did it.

iOS 7 looks like crap. Any good design sense Apple previously had was kicked out of the company when Scott Forstall was fired. The new home screen icons are especially terrible, with their strict adherence to a Jony Ive-designed grid blinding the designers to the fact that they just look awful.

Many people love the design of iOS 7—or claim to, at least—and have said they couldn’t wait for their favorite apps to adopt the style. As an experiment, I gave Tweetbot fans a taste of the iOS 7 treatment to see how they’d respond. Things went exactly as expected.

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Going Rogue: How Twitter app developers can circumvent Twitter’s restrictions (and why they probably shouldn’t)

Expect to see a lot more tweets like the one above in the near future as popular Twitter clients across a variety of platforms reach the 100,000 API token limit imposed by Twitter, forcing them to stop accepting new users.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of API tokens and Twitter’s arbitrarily-set limit, I’ll attempt to explain this very quickly. Essentially, every user that logs into any given Twitter app requires a special string of text (a token) in order to use that app. Due to recent changes, Twitter only allows apps to hand out 100,000 of these tokens. What that means is that 100,000 people are allowed to login to any given Twitter app ever. Now, it’s possible for users to revoke their token for an app if they don’t use that app anymore, but the majority of users won’t do that. If the token is revoked, someone else can take that user’s spot in the 100,000. If not, that user will be counted as one of those 100,000 tokens forever, even if they aren’t using the app. So if you buy a Twitter app, login, decide it sucks, then delete it, you have taken up one of those limited slots and wasted it.

When a Twitter app runs out of tokens, people will no longer be able to login through it. Twitter simply blocks all new logins. App developers can request more tokens from Twitter, but Twitter is not obligated to comply.

Because of this, developers are forced to charge more money to ensure that only truly dedicated users will buy their apps, and that people who simply buy a cheap app and then stop using it won’t waste a token.

But what if there was a way around that limit? As it turns out, there kind of is, and it’s kind of a bad idea.

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Tweetbot and the updated Twitter Display Guidelines

Update: This post seems to be getting a lot of attention for some reason. Let me just clarify a few things. Tweetbot was updated a few days after this was published, and many of the changes below have been implemented. Others have not, and I suspect that Twitter will probably not care enough to say anything. Specifically, some of the display options like timestamps and username display style are optional in Tweetbot, even though they are specifically required to look a certain way by Twitter. The branding note in the last section seems to have been ignored entirely. There is no Twitter logo anywhere adjacent to the Timeline. Again, I don’t think Twitter will make a big fuss over it.

 

Per the above request, I’ve decided to make a list of all of the user-facing changes that will need to be made to one of the most popular Twitter clients on the market to comply with Twitter’s latest demands. I’m only covering the iPhone version here, but most changes will apply to the iPad and Mac versions as well. These changes must be made by March, 2013.

This list is by no means guaranteed to be exhaustive or 100% accurate, but to the best of my knowledge is fairly complete and accurate. What I won’t be covering here is changes that only apply to the backend and don’t impact users at all. I’ll go through section-by-section of the Display Guidelines.

Also, In case you’re wondering why I keep capitalizing “Tweet” in this post, it’s because that is also required by the Display Guidelines. I know, I know: ugh.

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Easy Cydia links are here (sort of, almost) — Updated

UPDATE: Saurik emailed me about thirteen hours after this post when live and told me that he had read my suggestion to add a similar service to Cydia. Effective immediately, all cydia.saurik.com links will include a button to open the tweak/theme in Cydia when viewed on the iPhone. To try this out for yourself, tap here on your iOS device.

The post below is being left intact for archival purposes. I guess I should also mention that I planned to turn this into an affiliate system where you would be able to post links that contained a special code and you’d get Google Adsense revenue from each time someone viewed the “This will open Cydia” page. Oh well, guess that won’t happen now.

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Missing the point: HTML5 is not the problem

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg said that the biggest mistake Facebook made was using HTML5 for their iOS app instead of native Objective-C. While it’s probably true that this was the biggest mistake they made, it’s not actually the reason Facebook for iPhone is so bad. Even the new all-native app is bad. It has nothing to do with the code that makes up the app, though.

In fact, HTML5 itself is not inherently evil. The Instagram app uses some HTML5 on the iPhone, and you can hardly tell. Instagram is a fairly well-built app that works like it should (and coincidentally was recently bought by Facebook).

The problem is not HTML5. The solution is not native code. The problem is that Facebook was designed for a desktop browser, while Instagram was designed to be used primarily on a phone. Every feature that Facebook has rolled out has been rooted in the desktop paradigm. Porting them to mobile devices has made them cumbersome and painful to use.

Look at Twitter as another example. Twitter was always primarily used on mobile devices. Initially it was based on SMS messaging, but eventually evolved to include mobile clients. The thing is, desktop clients for Twitter tend to be based on mobile clients. That’s because mobile devices are the primary way people use Twitter. The interface of the website, desktop apps, and mobile clients all reflect this. They all (mostly) look good on a mobile device.

The problem with the Facebook app is not that it was written in HTML5 at some point. The problem with the Facebook app is that it’s attempting to take the entire Facebook experience—which is designed for desktop devices—and shove it into a mobile interface. It just doesn’t work.

Why the iPhone 5 name makes sense

Please stop complaining about the iPhone 5 name. There is no reason for Apple to drop the number and call it “the new iPhone” at all. Consumers want to be able to differentiate between models. Especially when multiple models are being sold simultaneously.

There’s this stupid graphic floating around the internet showing the iPhone generations all lined up next to each other, numbers 1-5, with the iPhone 4S being number 5. It’s stupid and dumb and I hate it. Let me explain why this is the proper name for the phone.

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