Dallas 

My heart goes out to all those in Dallas, especially for the police officers that were killed and wounded tonight. I grieve for them and their families. Make no mistake: this is the greatest tragedy tonight. 

I’m also deeply sad for the thousands of people who have had their voices hijacked by people who sought to commit terror tonight. If you can set the tragedy aside, it’s remarkable to think that so many came together in so many communities to further the conversation our society needs to have about injustice, racial tension, and overreaching of authority by those charged with protecting us.

The problem is that this may now devolve into another polarizing issue that’s over-simplified to being either anti-black or anti-cop. Just like Orlando prompted discussions about whether certain people shouldn’t be able to buy guns, we need to have the same conversation about whether certain people  shouldn’t be able to become cops. 

It is possible for people to grieve these officers in Dallas and other law enforcers who have made grave sacrifices, while at the same time question whether current climate and procedures give way to an abuse of power by police, and whether they should be held to a higher standard. I’m fearful however that our idea institutions and leadership have become so weak that we won’t have that thoughtful discussion before more lives are lost. 

Tonight is a sad night, this week is a sad week – not only for those lives that were lost, but also for our kids. I’m sad about the world they’re going to grow up in. 

Apple’s playing with “Monopoly” money

Spotify: Apple is holding up app approval to squash competition

Let’s get this out of the way: Apple is completely within their rights to set whichever app approval policies in their platform. It’s their OS, their store, their rules. I’m not a lawyer, but when it comes to Apple enforcing their own policies: I don’t think Spotify has a legal leg to stand on.

That said: Apple may (and should) lose in the court of public opinion, and their behavior is asshole-ish to say the least, and likely anti-competitive to the point that they may (and should) be punished.

I get it, you built the store and thus are entitled to take a cut for setting up and facilitating a profit center for app developers, and I realize Apple feels they deserve a cut for digital goods and subscriptions for apps that charge nothing up front.  Throughout the course of the app store, Apple has become competitors in many of these markets, and are now using their platform ownership to slant the playing field in their favor.

In the case of Spotify: aside from the fact that Apple Music is a red hot mess, Spotify has superior music discovery features and an easy way for me to interact with my friends and embed playlists in various posts.  At the time, it’s a superior product, but Apple is hiding behind their app store policies to give themselves a competitive advantage in price-point.  Sure users can sign up through the Spotify web site to get avoid the Apple tax, but it’s asinine that even mentioning that through their app prevents the update from being approved.  This “Minister of Truth” garbage makes no sense.

As the app ecosystem has evolved, many legitimate questions have arisen about how app makers can continue to monetize based off their apps.  Now that we’re reaching a saturation point with users, we’re finding out that it’s not sustainable to pay $3 for a Podcast app and expect feature enhancements until the end of time.  I’ve come to accept that in order for apps I love to stay in business, I’ve accepted that I may need to fork over an annual fee for an app like PocketCasts or Tweetbot.  Apple facilitates the platform and should probably maintain their cut. Their new subscription platform does offer some reprieve if users subscribe into their second year. This seems like a fair way to do business.

On the other hand, there are apps, platforms and business models that have developed their own sustainability and are expected to be omnipresent in all computing platforms: Amazon Kindle, Spotify, Netflix, Comixology to name a few.  These apps have their own revenue streams and ultimately the app store doesn’t play a meaningful role in delivering that content to the user.  Apple is just another platform – albeit one of the biggest – in this service’s eco-system.  By forcing these apps to tax their users or simply pretend they don’t sell the content (Comixology does this) and trust that you’ll figure out to go to their web site, Apple demonstrates that they don’t give a crap about your user experience while using this app on their platform – which goes completely against their mantra of simplicity and elegance in their UI.

Then there’s apps that are in all places (e.g. Social Networks), making their money by selling advertising through their own platforms (combined with the user data they can harvest).  I could be wrong, but Apple doesn’t get a share of that ad revenue. In many ways Apple and the social networks have a symbiotic relationship with one another.  I’m pretty sure that for some apps like Facebook, some money has exchanged hands with Apple to get the deep OS integrations – but I don’t believe for a second that the App Store is taking a cut from the ads that Instagram serves me.  How is this different than the content that’s being served up the previously mentioned omnipresent apps?

As much as I’ve enjoyed having the latest and greatest apps on my elegant piece of hardware, the anticompetitive stupidity that results in these awful experiences may ultimately drives away users like me.  What’s 30% of $0 spent, Apple?

50 Shades of SquarePants

Movie mix-up shows ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to ‘SpongeBob’ audience

I came across this story earlier this week and wanted to share my single degree of separation with this story. The funny thing about is that the opposite happened in what’s likely the same theater the night before.

I guess I’ll have to come clean and admit that I saw 50 Shades of Grey with my wife – but when you have an 18-month-old, you don’t get many opportunities to see a movie in the theater and be able to participate in pop culture conversations (at least that’s what I’m telling myself to sleep at night).  Back to the point.

By the time we got into the movie they were deep into the previews, which seemed strange to that they all seemed to be for animated movies.  I was wondering if maybe the studios were really trying to appeal to the soccer-mom demographic.  We finally get to the “featured presentation” part, which fades into a panning zoom of an island, flashing the words “Nickelodeon Studios Presents”.  At that point everyone took out their phones to illuminate their ticket stubs, wondering if they were in the right theater.  A good 5 minutes pass before the movie stops and they change things over.  From the looks of things it looks like they didn’t fix the problem by the morning.

Paula Deen’s new opportunity

You’ve probably heard the news that Paula Deen was fired from her Food Network show.  I don’t think I have enough of the full story to warrant an opinion on whether her firing was the most appropriate result (although I do think there’s more below the surface).  Truth be told, I’ve never really watched one of her shows, although I may have enjoyed a recipe or two.  However I think it’s safe to say that Deen’s career in traditional broadcast media is essentially over – but while one door closes, another one opens for old media outcasts: New Media.

I realize that Paula’s first foray into YouTube wasn’t that successful, her future lies with the video service.   Deen needs to create a channel, put a camera in her kitchen and create bite-sized (no pun intended) cooking videos for her audience.  With the proliferation of mobile devices, YouTube is the first place people go to get instructions.   The ability to have someone demonstrate to me in the environment (like in the kitchen, for example) and go at your own pace by pausing is transcendent. YouTube has been invaluable with helping me re-grout my shower, patch our bathtub, and fix my lawn mower.  The recipe books we have in our kitchen go unopened because any time we’re craving to cook something new, we go straight to the Internet.  Paula can produce the same content she’s done on the Foot Network for years, at a fraction of the cost. Not only will she go where her audience is at, but she will give it to them in a format that would be more valuable to them.

Deen just needs to look to people like Adam Carolla and Leo Laporte when it comes to finding success in new media, which goes back to why podcasts are so great. You can find niche content, in a long format that isn’t convoluted with commercials.  Hearing Bill Simmons lament the NBA Pre-Game Show format assures me that in terms of quality of content: new media guys understand what makes this format better than the traditional broadcast format.  It’s only a matter of time before more traditional media folks embrace this, in one way or another.

Friday Tech Roundup, June 21

I’m going to try something new here, and do a little recap of tech news, developments and my take on various tech news stories for the week.

Facebook announces video for Instagram

Normally I detest Facebook’s propensity to blatantly copy features from their competitors, but in the case of of InstaVine and in the interests of having a good video sharing product on Android: good on them!   I may hold a lot of unfair hostility towards Vine, but I can’t get past the terrible first impression they made upon Android users. If you’re going to make users wait for months later than your iOS users, you better make a pretty good first impression – but between the very limited functionality (like not being able to search), the problems with capturing and playing video (audio out of synch) and the lack of worthwhile options (like muting your videos by default): all you did was give me all the more incentive to look forward to something else.

If Twitter seems unwilling or unable to quickly improve their app, I’m more than happy to spend time with an app that can.  Instagram is giving me most of what I’m looking for, with a bigger user base. I’m more than happy to put my video eggs in that basket.  That said, I hope this is a wake up call for Vine and Twitter, as great products come from competition.

 

Feedly updated with Cloud sync and app support ahead of Google Reader shutdown

When Google announced they were shuttering Reader, I remember freaking out as I drove home.  In terms of getting my information: Reader was where I got the majority of my news.  Given that I consume it on multiple computers, my phone and tablet, I was concerned about how I was going to be able to sync my feeds.  I began my quest looking for the replacement, and am happy to be living in the Feedly space.  They’ve really stepped up and have done a great job welcoming Google Reader refugees, and have been very open about their roadmap and where they want their product to go.  They don’t deliver the exact same functionality of Reader (yet), but they are a great alternative that will soon get there.  I previously thought I was going to be counting down the days until Reader was shutdown, but I’ve been so happy with Feedly that I’ve all but forgotten.

 

Falcon Pro removed from Google Play Store

I don’t use Falcon Pro (I’m more of a Twicca man), but this news is distressing nonetheless.  The way Twitter has turned the table against the developers – on whose backs they built their service on – irritates me to no end.  While Twitter’s app has greatly improved, it still lacks a ton of features that their advanced users – who also have used Twitter the longest – count on every day.  By relying on these apps early on, people like me learned how to use Twitter reading from oldest-to-newest, and have come to rely on Twicca for this continued experience.  This back & forth between developers and their apps need to stop. Just be satisfied that 80% of your mobile users are using your app, you don’t want to piss off the other 20% with stupid stuff like this.