Month: August 2017

  • Five Things, August 2017

    Five Things, August 2017

    It’s mid-August and I have things to share, in no particular order or even with a greater purpose other than to get it out there. So here goes, a (perhaps long overdue) five things enjoyed post for mid-August 2017.

    1. I updated my setup page, mostly because of the 10.5” iPad Pro, which has replaced the 12.9” model. It’s a wonderful device, especially when paired with a keyboard (the Smart Keyboard or Magic Keyboard) or the Apple Pencil. Mine lives in the new leather sleeve which is exquisite but expensive. That’s the major news in my setup, alongside the Libratone Q Adapt noise cancellation headphones. They’re not great but they sure make travel a lot less stressful.
    2. Started reading The Wicked + The Divine and was pleasantly surprised. I’m glad, because Archangel by none other than William Gibson was a disappointment. And yes, those are all graphic novels, or rather, collections of issues bundled as such in my case. I prefer finished stories.
    3. Saw Alice Cooper do an interview at the (official, no less) release party for his new album, Paranormal. It’s a nice album, I’m enjoying it a lot, and not only because of the fan service he’s doing over the songs. Alice loves to namedrop songs and phrases from his discography, it’s always fun to find these. Also, there are quite a few homages hidden on Paranormal. Do check it out if you like old school hard rock with a twist.
    4. I don’t watch that much TV, but I did enjoy the first season of Castlevania on Netflix, written by Warren Ellis (who’s also in the Haunted Futures anthology). Looking forward to the second season.
    5. I enjoyed John Wick Chapter 2. No horrible intro-killings of the non-human kind in this one. I hope they’ll close the story properly in the third movie, this one lost some of the charm of the first one, if you can believe it.

    This might become a regular occurrence, or maybe my newsletter will claim small tidbits like this. We’ll see.

  • On the app subscription model

    On the app subscription model

    1Password, Day One, and now Ulysses, turn to the subscription model. I don’t think this is a good thing.

    1Password started to push for their server sync feature, with personal and family accounts. Subscribe ($36 for personal, $60 for family), get your passwords in the cloud, that sort of thing. It works well enough, we use it at my agency, but I don’t particularly like it. The main reason is that it is a potentially faulty chain in my security. 1Password is well know, hell, I’ve praised it so many times anyone looking for my stuff illicitly would start there! So now my passwords are as safe as 1Password can make them on their servers, with the added layer of complexity of their very own service. If they screw up something in their server architecture, I’m at risk. If they happen to be caught up in the next Heartbleed, if there’s a government backdoor in their server OS, my passwords are at risk. Encrypted, but still at risk.

    Now, all cloud services screw up from time to time. Nothing is ever 100% safe. Dropbox has had security breaches, why wouldn’t 1Password? I’ll go one step further: With Dropbox, you don’t know what you’ll find should you get in. With 1Password, you know you’ll find passwords.

    I don’t like it.

    Which brings me to journaling app and service Day One. They forced their own sync service on their users, keeping their Classic version available for legacy users. Who wants an abandoned version that won’t get proper updates? No one, that’s who – Classic is more of a PR move than anything else. So they forced us to move our journals to their own sync engine. It works well enough, but to begin with traffic wasn’t encrypted. That’s scary, your words are traveling from your device to their servers in plain fucking text. Better not write something too personal in your journal, eh?

    It got worse when they moved to the premium subscription model ($35/year as an introductory price, $25/year for current users), with chaos around current customers (that all get some sort of account) and paying ones. It’s still somewhat unclear what it’ll mean for those of us who’ve bought the apps (plural) over the years, and got our accounts upgraded. We’ll get a basic experience, but obviously premium subscribers will get a better one, right? The verdict is out on this one, and Day One support has been stellar trying to solve weird things that especially seems to happen to Apple family accounts. Still, it’s a journaling app that wants me to subscribe to a service that, let’s face it, is less secure than iCloud. That’s a weak pitch to a faulty business model in my opinion.

    Then there’s Ulysses. I’m supposed to subscribe to this writing app ($40/year) now. Current users get 50% off, which is applauded all over the Apple-centric blogosphere.

    Why should I subscribe to a text editor again?

    “It’s because the developers need to make money, stupid!”

    I don’t begrudge anyone making money, especially not when it’s quality software like Ulysses (or Day One, or 1Password – they’re all in my setup as I’m writing this). But why should I pay to be able to edit files I authored, in an app I paid for? That’s what happens if I decide not to subscribe, my app turns read only. I’ll have to export my content and move elsewhere.

    Am I going to subscribe to my web browser next? To my email client? Is everything turning into a subscription because the marketplace has dumped its prices on itself? Will anything that isn’t open source just plain implode?

    That’s not going to work. Three apps all want me to pay money, a total of $111 per year (assuming only personal accounts, discounts will bring that down a bit). They all get daily use from me, no brainer to pay up, right?

    Well, no. Again, I don’t begrudge the developers making money, and I sure won’t say that any of these apps aren’t worth their asking price. I will say that they’re not acting in the best interest of the customer, however.

    • 1Password pushes a service that will make my passwords more vulnerable to attack, and add very little if anything to my experience as a user.
    • Day One pushes a service that offer no immediate benefit to the user over the original iCloud sync, unless you want to publish your journal entries on their thing which they could charge for (but nobody’d pay).
    • Ulysses locks all my documents and charges me to use their app with no benefit over the current version whatsoever.

    Yeah, that’s all about the user experience and satisfaction, isn’t it?

    I get it though. People buy an app and then they use it for years. If that app was $3 then that’s not a lot of money per user, especially if you decided to build and host an infrastructure. That costs money. I get it. Ulysses developer Max Seelemann explains why they decided on going down the subscription route. Subscription income brings stability and room to grow, no doubt about it. But how many apps and services can we afford to subscribe to? The three mentioned here – 1Password, Day One, and Ulysses – are all popular choices. You could argue that Ulysses is a ”pro” app, and thus it can (and maybe should) cost more, but the same can be said about the other two. Add a subscription to a todo app, a project management app, and maybe an office app, and you’ll be well over $200/year. God forbid you have further needs than that…

    I don’t think forcing people to sign up for a subscription is the solution. 1Password is great, and still usable through Dropbox sync, but it won’t be in the long run, no matter what they say. At least not if you want all the bells and whistles. Day One still works for current customers, but sooner or later you’ll have to pay to not get a lesser experience (and I’m still not sure if my data is encrypted or not). Ulysses just makes your content read only, which clearly is the biggest dick move of them all. I love their app, but they’re trying to bully me into paying a monthly fee.

    Why are you applauding this? What is the upside?

    Is it that app developers get paid? Short term, sure. Long term, hundreds of competing developers will see an opening and burst in with apps, clones perhaps, but without subscriptions. These apps might not be as good, but if they’re good enough then that’s it. We’ll get worse apps for no reason other than that we’ve enabled broken business models.

    We all need to pay rent and mortgages, buy food and all that goes with life. Developers and users alike, we’re all entitled to a good life, or at least I like to think so. That means that we’ll have to pay for what we use. If a developer charges $3 or $5 for an app once, then never again, then that’s a bad deal as soon as support, maintenance, and new features overtake the steady flow of new customers. No doubt about it. $15 once? $30? When does it become a good deal? That’ll depend. As Max Seelemann points out in his aforelinked post, the spikes of releases makes it tricky to make ends meet. The app stores are skewed.

    If you charge $40 per year to use your app, you better have a damn good argument. Because you’re just a place I store my passwords, a collection of journal entries, or a bunch of organized text files. I can replace any of you right now, for a nominal cost, and if I can then so can everyone else. Because $40/year is a lot for an app, and it’s a huge step away from our idea of what an app should cost and how it should be paid for. You better damn well bring something new to the table, not limit what I already bought.

    None of these much loved apps succeed at this. They’re forcing their new business models onto their users. It might be necessary for them to survive, but it is disrespectful. I don’t think the users will stand for it in the long run, and we’ll be short some amazing apps.

  • Believability


    There was an interesting discussion about realism in fantasy the other day (thread here). Lots of good points were made by my friends Tim and Gábor (whom you should follow, obviously).

    Personally, I think the term “realism” is flawed when used to describe fantasy. It’s not a matter of if something is real or not, it’s a fantasy, a story even, so realism, to me, is the wrong term.

    I like believability instead. How much do you believe that something is true to the world? It’s not how real it is, it’s how believable it is in both the story and the setting.

    Sticking to fantasy, imagine a traditional sword and sorcery setting, with swords and barbarians. Magic exists but it’s rare, sorcerers are uncommon and true ones even more so. A puppet-master magician controlling the king might be believable, magic gives an upper hand and opens doors to the practitioner that are closed to everyone else. However, two groups of magicians duking it out in the street, throwing fireballs and invoking the elements, that chafes with the rarity of magic. It’s not believable. It’s sure as hell isn’t realistic, no matter how you cut it, but that’s beside the point. With the story and setting as the backdrop, it’s not believable because that’s not how we’ve been told magic works in this particular world.

    Staying true to the reader, the story, and the world is what makes something as outrageous as magic believable. It’ll never be realistic, no, but believable in the context.

  • Twitter DMs are dead

    Twitter DMs are dead

    It’s no secret that I prefer Twitter (say hi to @tdh if you like) out of the social media offerings available. The short form format is something special, in my opinion. I don’t belong to the crowd that thinks adding more characters per tweet is necessarily a good idea. 140 characters might be a bit arbitrary, a relic from texting days, but there are other issues with the platform that are more pressing.

    Like direct messages, or DMs. From being all but ignored by the product leads, to trying to take on proper messaging apps, DMs are the forgotten stepchild of whatever sort of dysfunctional family this is supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I actually preferred Twitter DMs to other messaging options for a long time, and while the character limit can be a good thing for public tweets, lifting said limit for private talk made DMs brilliant to use.

    Side note: Twitter is much like Facebook in their DM strategy. From keeping everything public and making it hard to do anything in private, to trying to enable private conversation on the platform with group DMs and the lifted character limit. This is the same as Facebook moving from “post everything public” to “start private groups” to build your local communities. It all boils down to us, the users, not wanting to be entirely as open as these social media behemoths initially thought, or perhaps hoped. Privacy is a thing, so they need to lure you into feeling that you are indeed in control of your content and persona on social media.

    Back to DMs and how they’re dead. It wasn’t Twitter’s changes that killed them for me, it’s all those bloody auto-DMs. For some reason, social media professionals and the services they want you to use all recommend you to set up an auto DM when someone follows you. And you know what, why not do follow-ups on that to make sure that your new follower absolutely retweets your pinned tweet or buys your book.


    Thanks for following me. I know your time is precious so let me just get right to the point and tell you about myself. I’m an author from somewhere who’s got a brand new book out, called XYZ OR WHATEVER. I worked so hard on it! You can read more about it and buy it on Amazon.

    Amazon link: YEP THAT GOES HERE

    Please visit my homepage for more about myself.


    Oh and could you do me a favor? Please retweet my pinned tweet. I’d love to return the favor if you do that. Just let me know.

    Have a great day! Looking forward to the convesation.

    Sent with UnfollowspyCrowdfireWhatever. (Want this? Sign up for UnfollowspyCrowdfireWhatever for free!)

    Yeah, I’m not going to do any of that. While the above is an adapted version of several auto DMs, because I’m not going to point any fingers here, they’re all about the same. It looks like a parody of social media marketing, doesn’t it?

    There are so many things wrong with these auto DMs.

    1. Why are you introducing yourself with something that’s probably already on your Twitter bio?
    2. Speaking of the bio, I bet your URL is there. I don’t need that in my DMs.
    3. I just followed you and you want me to retweet your pinned tweet, just like that? And you’ll return the favor, will you? What if I believe in space monkeys hiding in plain sight as the rulers of the world? Oh and they’re nazi clowns and hungry hippos too. Wait, that sort of makes sense, but you get my drift. I bet you won’t retweet that just because I pinned it.
    4. So you wrote a book or created a product, and you want me to buy it? I get that, but maybe not just throw a clumsy ad my way first thing.

    There was a time when I just plain unfollowed anyone who sent me an auto DM, but that just doesn’t work anymore. It’s too common, and it didn’t really change anything in terms of the DM inbox.

    The big problem with auto DMs is that they bury the real DMs. I’ve missed a ton of those the past year, people who actually want to converse, not bots and scripts trying to trick me into doing things.

    So yeah, good job social media professionals. Way to go killing DMs for the rest of us.