Look, I get it. You already subscribe to too many newsletters. So much to keep up with. But guess what? I only send out a newsletter once a week. And if you‘re feeling curious, peruse the Creator Class archive. You might find something that resonates with you! It’s a great way to stay current with what I’m publishing, and newsletter recipients always get some extra insight just for them. So what are you waiting for? Let’s roll!
A lot of people still remember the hype train and rumors flying left and right leading up to the announcement of the iPhone—the “Jesus phone” as some wags liked to call it. I too was very excited about the iPhone.
But not as excited as I was about the iPad.
The iPad was hardly the first tablet to get my heart racing. In the tumultuous period of the very early 2000s, Be had been attempting to pivot from marketing a PC OS to rival Windows and instead service the theoretical market of “internet appliances” — even naming their updated OS BeIA. BeIA was intended to run on a variety of form factors, some looking rather iMac (G3) inspired, but one looking essentially like an iPad with a few extra buttons (and an antenna!):
You can see a fascinating early look at various BeIA prototypes in this YouTube video.
At the dawn of the millennium I had been a huge BeOS nerd, so you can imagine my excitement at the thought of a touchscreen, wireless, internet-capable tablet running a variant of BeOS. I simply couldn’t wait to get my hands on one once Be’s hardware partners started shipping production models.
And then Be folded and the BeIA dream died. For roughly ten years—ten!—I remained lost in the wilderness. (Not really though, because I quickly dived headfirst into shiny new Mac OS X waters…kicking off my love affair with #Apple with the gorgeous Titanium PowerBook G4. The rest is history…)
So when the rumors started making the rounds that Apple was working a tablet of its own later that decade, I was quite intrigued. Of course in those early days, most people assumed a tablet would run a touch-and/or-stylus-enabled flavor of Mac OS X, and we all saw plenty of third-party mockups of a “Mac tablet” to whet our appetites.
Then the #iPhone landed, and suddenly the narrative began to shift. What if…just bear with me here…what if an Apple tablet wasn’t running a stripped-down version of Mac OS X, but a beefed-up version of iPhoneOS? Using all of the touchscreen awesomeness of the iPhone experience?
And as we know now, that’s exactly what happened. And my body was ready for it. (We later came to learn that Apple actually started development of the iPad first and ended up deciding to bring multitouch technology to market in the phone form factor initially with the intention of circling back around to tackle the tablet project.)
Once I had gotten my hands on an iPad, I quickly put it through its paces and—despite many obvious limitations—fell in love with the experience. It was only a year later when I embarked on a journey to revamp my “personal brand” and website development agency around “tablet-first computing”. I ended up building a whole new CMS and website hosting platform from the ground up which launched in late 2012. I would spend the next couple of years trying to reach product/market fit and unfortunately never did so. Mariposta was certainly an interesting product, but ultimately doomed to failure because the web never embraced “tablet-first computing” and instead went for the ultimately superior concept of “responsive design” — aka websites should look and function well on a wide variety of devices and form factors, scaling up and down as needed. (Apps too eventually went the responsive design route, and the dream of tablet-first app design and product marketing died a slow and painful death.)
So here we are in 2023, and while in some ways I’m disappointed the tablet ended up having far less of an impact on media and computing than I’d originally hoped (the laptop PC and the smartphone remain the canonical computing platforms for most people around the world), I nevertheless am extremely happy with my #iPadPro and use it every day to get real work done. The iPad is a fun product, a joyful product, and that I’m able to earn a living using it as a trusty companion to my desktop Mac is a noble conclusion to this story.
I still hold out hope that tablets will eventually mature into the “everyday computer” for the masses—more capable, powerful, and usable than a phone…more versatile and nimble than laptops featuring a far greater number of potential use cases and ideal scenarios. Certainly it’s true my children use iPads all the time, and tablets are every bit as central to their lifestyle as any PC-style device.
In summary, Happy 13th Birthday iPad! I love you and can’t wait to see what you’re capable of next.
This was a thought-provoking read by Walter Chaw about an uncomfortable topic. As the years have gone by, I’ve (slowly, to my great chagrin) come to realize more and more how ethnic stereotypes in popular media can be so damaging to the targets of such “humor”. One aspect of this which hits close to home is my own memory of cringeworthy experiences as a Scottish/Irish-American who once performed Celtic folk music professionally across the United States.
No, of course I’m not in any way comparing my experiences directly with those who are Asian-American. Being white-presenting in America, you get to choose when and how you are the butt of ethnic jokes. Others aren’t so lucky, to put it mildly. But it was certainly illuminating to see how stereotyping can feel “othering” and disrespectful, or simply how people’s ignorance—while perhaps understandable—nevertheless was frustrating. Just a few examples:
Pronnouncing “Celtic” as “Sell-tic” (the C is a hard K sound as it comes from the Greek word Keltoi), “Slain-tay” instead of “Slon-cha” for Sláinte, “Edin-berg” instead of “Edin-ber-re” for Edinburgh, and vast litany of other faux pas…
Seeing people very poorly dance “an Irish jig” as they’re walking down the street and notice our performance…
Calling our music “Riverdance music” 😡
Throughout my teenage years I was regularly misgendered as a girl because I wore my hair long and wore a kilt—which is NOT a skirt!
Not to mention all of the kitsch and cultural artifacts we had to contend with…what I might call the “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” set of stereotypes. Dancing red-headed leprechauns with pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and all that. Or worse, drunken Irishmen punching each other out at the pub. Grizzled old Scotsmen with impenetrable accents roaming the moors. Bagpipe jokes…So. Many. Bagpipe jokes.
Sure, it’s not all terrible, and sometimes genuinely amusing—but as is often the case with these sorts of things, the jokes are funnier when they’re offered from people already immersed in the culture. A legitimate Scottish pipes player can make a joke about bagpipes. Some bozo American who thinks “Braveheart” is an accurate historical depiction of Scottish history? Fuck no.
Which is why I try to be careful what I say or do when I’m around other cultures—especially ones I have little familiarity with. Rather than throw out a phrase I heard once or do some idiotic dance move or mention something truly dumb…along the lines of “hey, you look Asian, so you must be great at kung fu!” …I’ll shut the fuck up. 😅 (More people should try this!) There’s a fine line between stereotyping (even when well-meaning) and outright #bigotry.
All that to say…it’s really wonderful to see far better representation in popular Western media of many different ethnicities and demographics. We still have a long way to go, but it is getting better. Personally, every time I see someone obviously Irish or Scottish in a modern movie where they’re not defined by their accent or fairies or getting drunk or “the troubles” or sheep on the moor or funny sounds coming out of bagipes, etc., etc.—well that’s certainly cause for celebration.
I’ve been sounding the alarm for some time now that #generativeAI is exploitive, but I was primarily considering the ways in which these large learning models rely on scraping online content without the consent of its human authors. Now we learn the uncomfortable truth that these popular tools built by OpenAI such as ChatGPT were made possible by the exploitation of third-party low-wage workers in parts of the world Silicon Valley would rather us Euro-centric netizens not know too much about.
But hey, this is going to be Big Tech’s next Big Thing, so what’s a few poor African souls with faltering mental health in light of Western Capitalism. Hmm, I wonder what ChatGPT thinks about this single-minded pursuit of the almighty dollar, ethics be damned… (Don’t ask.)
While it’s conceivable that Elon will soon appoint a new CEO of #Twitter and get back to focusing mostly on Tesla, I wouldn’t bet 2c on it. Elon is the ultimate poster child for an unhealthy addiction to social media and reveling in his status as “the main character” — frankly I don’t see any indication he’s ready to step away from the day-to-day.
If I were a major shareholder of Tesla, I too would be furious. Elon’s actions are not only damaging to the business of Tesla internally, but to the reputation of the company. Many people, myself included, have switched from viewing Tesla as an aspirational brand to regarding it as anathema. Major structural changes would need to happen at Tesla, including but not limited to firing Elon Musk and bringing on a new CEO, for any of this to turn around.
OK, so not everyone’s going to dig this headline (I don’t hateThe Last Jedi personally, but I don’t exactly love it either). That comparison aside, I and I think a lot of the rank and file Star Wars nerds out there have really and truly enjoyed Andor. It’s certainly one of the best #scifi#tvshows in recent memory, and unlike most of the other Disney SW content, that’s almost in spite of Andor being part of the Star Wars franchise.
It’s just great storytelling, pure and simple. With adult themes and expert world-building—along with an amazing and awe-inspiring takedown of fascist ideology which speaks poignantly to the present zeitgeist—this is a show that deserves to be taken seriously. There are a few very specific moments in Season 1 which to my mind elevate the entire art form, and it’s largely due to top-quality acting (though it’s definitely an ensemble cast, Stellan Skarsgård gives a standout performance) and a rock-solid script—NOT some whiz-bang effects and orchestra swells (although it’s not entirely devoid of action-adventure-style rousing moments either).
Perhaps Andor won’t be to everyone’s taste across the broader fandom, but I can tell you right now: THIS is the kind of Star Wars I like. More please.
Over on the website for my “alter ego” electronic music act Yarred, I’ve started posting every day (until the end of the year!) all about my favorite works by #synthmusic maestros Tangerine Dream. I elaborated a bit about my long-time obsession with this band on the first installment about the brilliant 1980 album Tangram.
I know TD may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you have any interest whatsoever in electronic music, you should be at least familiar with their role in the rise of synthesizers in popular music. As I wrote in the linked article above:
“Talk to any electronic music legend of recent years and ask them what they think about Tangerine Dream. Go ahead. You many not have heard of TD, but I guarantee most of your heroes have.”
Today I found out Jack Conte has fired a bunch of people at the behest of former Instagram bigwig who became Patreon’s Chief Product Officer in January. Obviously “the big rewrite” is now underway.
First of all, changing your development priorities = firing a bunch of people is ridiculous. It’s the cookie-cutter mentality in tech. Oh, we need React developers now. Oh, we need Swift developers now. Oh, we need Kubernetes DevOps experts now. Oh, we need…
If you can’t adequately train the people who already work for you how to adapt to changing requirements, your org is fundamentally broken. Conte insists Patreon’s doing great financially, they just have some new ideas. OK. SO THEN WHY FIRE ANYBODY @#&%!#%?!
Secondly, I’d missed the memo that the former Head of Product of Instagram’s “Home experience” (aka “Feed, Stories, Ranking, Video, Profile and Interactions”) is now in charge of Patreon UX.
That revelation alone is firing planet-sized alarm bells in my head.
And it continues on from there… I was not a happy camper!
Needless to say, it’s now been well over a year later and Patreon genuinely sucks. 😒 The iOS app doesn’t feel noticeably nicer or more appealing in any way compared to before Mr. Instagram Julian Gutman took over, and the desktop web app now looks like a crappy knockoff of old Facebook. Most of the design on my large macOS display is blank nothingness. None of the UI has any character or personality whatsoever. (Remember when Patreon looked like this? Now it’s a dry corporate Silicon Valley VC desert.)
Patreon started out feeling like an indie product: by indies, for indies. Now they’re having to peer under sofa cushions looking for loose change in an effort to placate their VCs. It’s exhausting. I begrungingly support a tiny handful of creators still on the platform. I’d much rather pay them directly.
Look, I’m sure Jack Conte’s heart is in the right place and he means well. But I have ZERO confidence in the future of Patreon. They should have never hired Julian Gutman, and they should have never taken ridiculous piles of VC money. Bad moves, plain and simple.
Next obvious question: who will rise up and take Patreon’s place, only this time actually stay indie and forever feel indie and support nobody but indies?(VCs Begone!)Inquiring minds want to know!
So I’ve been sad hearing the rumor mill pontificate that the mini size will be going away due to middling sales numbers. However, the flip side to all this is I’ve never been a fan of the notch. Sure I understand why it’s there, and it doesn’t bother me in daily usage. Yet it’s always felt like a hack, a necessary evil, a stain on an otherwise “perfect” form factor.
The pill-and-hole design brings us much closer to perfection. There’s no visual interruption along the edges of the display. It feels much more symmetrical, especially in landscape orientation. Obviously I can’t come to a final conclusion without seeing the final product in the flesh (assuming the rumors are true), but I’m far more impressed by the mockups so far than with the iPhone X-era notch.
If that’s the new design language of the iPhone 14 Pro, I’m afraid I’ll have to kiss my mini goodbye and embrace the bigger size once again. The pill-and-hole styling is simply irresistible.
This excellent tweet by Hector Martin sums up the bewildering lack of understanding many people—including the (likely) new owner of #Twitter, Elon Musk!—seem to have around the moderation of online speech.
Obviously I don’t want government goons arriving on your doorstep to haul you away if you’re just spouting off racist / homophobic / transphobic / misogynistic (etc.) garbage. You certainly have the right to be a trash human.However, you do not have the right to invade an online space I’ve chosen to participate in which purports to follow specific moderation rules. Twitter has been such a space as an independent company running an independent service on the web. If you don’t like it, well guess what? Run your own space! No one’s stopping you.
If Twitter is going to change its rules to make it “OK” to post hate speech on its service, then the people who are targets of that speech along with their allies will pack up and leave…which ironically results in less “free speech” on the platform in totality. “Let everyone express themselves freely in the public square” …and eventually you will find that the only people left in that square are the trolls.