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In-App Purchases vs. Rolling Your Own

Michael Rockwell on Initial Charge:

Here’s the thing about allowing developers to opt out: it’s a slippery slope. If Apple allowed developers to push users to a website for purchasing digital goods, they would. There are plenty of payment systems out there and building a website that integrates with them is easier than ever. But I don’t want to give my credit card credentials to every single developer that builds an app I’m interested in.

Michael brings up several excellent points. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently as I decide the best way to charge for subscriptions on Bokeh. And I’m starting to agree. The solution shouldn’t be “if you don’t like our 30% cut, roll your own.” The one who loses there is the customer. Finding out how to sign up for something outside of the app is currently a dumpster fire for most people.

In-app purchases are pretty close to an ideal solution in that they come with the trust that people put in Apple, which is then extended to the developer. Not to mention, it’s much easier to use Apple’s existing APIs. Bokeh will ship with in-app purchases exclusively, and we'll see how it goes from there. A 30% cut will be big for my tiny company at first, but I’m hoping to make it up with the ease of use and inherent trust it’ll garner us.

In the end, I agree with Michael that Apple shouldn’t make it easier to opt-out of in-app purchases, and instead make using them better and more financially attractive for developers.

Depression

I haven’t been very public about this, but I was going through a severe bout of seasonal depression. We were living in a basement apartment in one of the coldest places you can live: Minnesota. Add to that the fact that there are so many days where it’s just gray and gloomy.

Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota is a beautiful place, and I loved living there, but the winters are harsh and long.

People kept telling me that “it wasn’t a big deal” and that “I’d get used to it.” But I had lived in Minnesota seven years already, and this was a feeling I’d never felt before.

People still don’t understand depression. Not only was I going through a difficult time, but I also needed to muster up the strength to explain (almost justify) what I was going through to loved ones. I often felt like people thought I was making all of this up, or that I was weak because I couldn’t “tough it out.” And it’s ok, many of those people are well-meaning—they don’t understand how deeply and profoundly their words can cut.

Back in November, we decided to spend the month of January in California. We were hoping the warmer climate and sunshine would help me. It did. I started feeling like me again.

So when we got back home in February, we decided it was time to leave Minnesota. We packed our things, said goodbye to our dear friends and family, and left.

I was scared. This was a big move. Kelly would have to quit the job she’d worked at for almost 20 years, and I had suddenly lost my job. It kept me up at night thinking about how this could all go wrong.

I’m glad we did it anyway. Kelly already found a job, and I’m doing everything in my power to get Bokeh off the ground. We found a beautiful apartment, in a convenient location that we can afford.

Having depression has been an interesting experience. It’s changed how I view certain things and revealed new aspects of my personality that I’m not happy about. I’m a positive, happy, and optimistic person by nature, but depression had turned me into a bitter, jaded, and cynical person. If there’s one positive, it taught me that my empathy has room to grow. Everyone has their own trials and tribulations, and instead of being judgemental, I need to find more ways to be helpful and encouraging.

Thankfully I’m feeling better. But I’m glad I took action. I found a therapist and went to the appointment. I made this move because I was tired of feeling the way I felt, and I didn’t want that to escalate into ruining my wonderful marriage or into suicidal thoughts. And that’s especially hard when the last thing you have when you’re depressed is motivation.

So if you're going through something similar, take action. Talk to someone. Get help. I’m so glad I did.

Spotify Standing Up to Apple 

Manton Reece:

Now if only more indie developers would speak out about this, maybe we’d make some progress with Apple. As I’ve said many times: 15% for paid downloads and in-app purchase is reasonable for the value that Apple provides.

I’m happy to see Spotify take a stand for this, but as Manton points out, we’ll have to wait and see how they treat podcasts after their acquisitions of Gimlet and Anchor to see if they genuinely believe this, or if they just don’t like when it applies to them.

Either way, the issue is a serious one. I’ve thought a lot about this recently as I build Bokeh. Bokeh will only have paid accounts, and as a new business, it’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that Apple will take 30% of each subscription. But then I worry about all the business we may miss out on by—essentially—making it more difficult for people to create an account and pay us due to Apple's stupid rules around what you can and can't say.

Apple needs to fix this.

It’s Time to Quit Facebook

A few months ago, I deleted both my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Facebook was pretty easy; there wasn’t much happening on there that mattered to me. Most of my remaining family was busy resharing important things like Minion memes.

Instagram was a little more tough. Most of the time, I’m the designated picture-taker of the group, and I enjoyed sharing my photography. Not to mention, I had a lot of friends still using it, and I enjoy seeing what’s going on in their lives.

Regrettably, Facebook owns Instagram, and in just the past three months, I’ve read countless stories about how Facebook is doing some incredibly creepy things, how they’ve exploited kids for money, how Facebook abused Apple’s enterprise developer certificates, and how Walt Mossberg, an excellent and highly respected journalist in technology, decided to quit Facebook feeling that his values and the company’s policies didn’t align.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg, really. We haven’t even gotten into how Facebook’s negligence has contributed to the spreading of misinformation, how their platform has become a breeding ground for hate groups, and that their default privacy settings are geared to giving them the most amount of information possible to sell ads to you.

My personal moral and ethical beliefs aside, their business wasn’t built to care about any of these things. Unfortunately, Facebook’s business model depends on being able to sell ads to you, which in turn means that they need to be able to mine every bit of data they can.

I want to try something different.

I’m starting a company called Bokeh. Bokeh is an Instagram alternative with no ads, a chronological timeline, and where sharing is private by default.

That last one means that your photos are only shared with the people you want to share with. If that means you have a completely public profile, great! If instead you just want to share with a few friends and select family members, that’s great too.

Bokeh will be financially incentivized—by charging a small monthly or yearly fee—to keep the minimal data we request from you secure, to never interfere with your timeline, and to never employ the social engineering tactics these companies use so that you stay in the app longer.

If you’d like to stay in the loop and possibly participate in the beta, head over to the landing page and get on the email list. And if you feel this idea resonates with you, I would really appreciate your help in getting the word out.

Thank you.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

An attractive design, versatility of ports, and power delivery make this dock one the best for Mac

4/5 stars
Top right view of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock.

OWC provided me this product for review at no cost. All opinions are mine and have had no editorial input from OWC.


A Thunderbolt 3 dock is a necessity if you have a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. If I’m honest, when this initially became a reality, I resented it. But after seeing the flexibility and versatility that a dock like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock can afford you, I’ve never been more in love with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.

Since OWC’s first iteration of this dock, there have been a few changes. The back of the device has four USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, an S/PDIF digital audio out port, Gigabit Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort 1.2, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which is now capable of delivering up to 85W; a significant change since the first version which could only deliver up to 60W.

Top left view of the back of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock.

In my testing, even 60W was just fine for keeping my laptop charged, but I spend most of my day at my desk either sitting or standing and connected to the dock. So while 85W is a welcome change, I didn’t notice much of a difference.

The Firewire 800 port was dropped, which a year ago would’ve been more significant to me because of my then audio interface. Since then I’ve upgraded to an audio interface that conveniently plugs in through Thunderbolt 3.

Regrettably, the vacant space goes unused. We didn’t get anymore Thunderbolt 3 ports or even anymore USB-A ports which is unfortunate. I’m unsure of the technical constraints of making this possible, but if you have a Thunderbolt 3 display (like the LG UltraFine 5K), you’ll need to connect any other Thunderbolt 3 devices directly to your Mac, which is no longer a convenient one-cable solution.

Back view of the back of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock.
Space left open by removing Firewire 800 isn’t used to add more ports

I assume this is a problem dock makers haven’t quite figured out yet, because none of the competing docks seem to offer more than two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The front of the device has been upgraded with a microSD slot and a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port. Just like the previous iteration, the front also has a USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port, a 35mm headphone jack, and an SD Card reader which unfortunately doesn’t seem upgraded with UHS-II support.

Close up front view of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock.
This iteration comes with a microSD; slot and a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port

Just like before, you can choose between Silver and Space Gray. I received the Space Gray version, which I would’ve preferred anyway. Its color nicely matches my MacBook but unfortunately still has a shiny plastic top which easily attracts fingerprints and dust. I hope that they’ll move to matte plastic in the future.

Overall I think the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is still one of the best docks I’ve seen out there. No product is perfect, but it has a wide range of ports, a competitive price, an attractive design, and it just works.

‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘The Punisher’ Get the Netflix Axe

Jessica Jones and The Punisher are the last Marvel Netflix shows to be canceled according to Deadline. The third season of Jessica Jones will still air, but no official release date has been announced yet.

At this point, I expected Netflix to cancel these too. I’m confused by the why, but I think this article on Forbes makes a solid argument.

I’ve been hoping they revive these characters on Disney+, but according to some reporting by Joe Otterson for Variety, it seems that would have to wait:

Sources tell Variety that the deal for the original four Marvel shows includes a clause that prevents the characters from appearing in any non-Netflix series or film for at least two years after cancellation.

Daredevil, Luke Cage, nor Iron Fist could be on any streaming service until 2020. Jessica Jones would have to wait longer. I’m unsure whether they can begin production before then (as long as it doesn’t air before the cool off period), or if the specifics of the deal prevent them from working on these shows at all.

In the end, I think this whole thing will be for the best. It’s always better to own your content and have final say as to where it lives and how it’s distributed.

Apple Rumored to Release a 31-Inch 6K Display and 16-Inch Macbook Pro Sometime This Year

Chance Miller writing for 9to5Mac:

Perhaps most notable are Kuo’s claims about the Mac lineup. According to the analyst, Apple will release a new MacBook Pro between 16-inches and 16.5-inches with an all-new design. Further, Kuo says Apple will return to the display market with a 31.6-inch 6k3k monitor. This display is said to feature a Mini LED-like backlight design, giving it “outstanding picture quality.”

I don’t usually write about rumors, but this is juicy. The partnership with LG was rocky at best, so returning to the display business makes a lot of sense in my mind. Apple may be sweating the details less than in previous years, but this partnership made it abundantly clear how bad things could be without them.

As Matt Birchler points out, the cost of this 6K display will no doubt be high, but its design and functionality will most likely blow everything else on the market out of the water. Not to mention, this isn’t something you upgrade often. I had my Thunderbolt Display for about seven years, so at that point, it had paid for itself many times over.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is an intriguing rumor too. After years of Apple going smaller and thinner for almost everything, why increase the size? Maybe we’ll see a MacBook Pro with I/O and ports added back?

Whether all or some of these rumors turn out to be true, one thing is for sure: 2019 looks to be an exciting year.

The State of DC’s Black Label Line 

Mike Haynes:

The most painful part of Black Label has been DC’s backpedalling. They promised a mature comic book line and then went back on their word at the first sign of trouble: a silhouette of Batman’s junk.

Agreed. Here’s what I said back in September of last year:

This all feels like an overreaction, really. It was clear the title is for adults so… I guess I don’t see what the big deal is.

I continue to feel the same. DC had to know that people would be shocked (likely because it’s Batman, and because people seem to be more scandalized by male nudity). Instead of riding the wave and letting the shock pass by, they allowed the ordeal to cower them. Personally, it confirms that if you want risky and adult-geared stories, the big two are probably not the place to find them.

When Your Shared Netflix Account Outlasts The Relationship 

Yuki Noguchi reporting for NPR:

The expression “Netflix and chill” isn’t just code for date night. It speaks volumes about how closely relationships entwine with digital life. But unwinding these entanglements can get messy after a breakup. Some spurned lovers exact revenge by changing the password just as their ex reaches the climactic season finale.

This whole article reads as if straight out of The Onion.

Culture Is What You Do 

Shawn Blanc:

If you were to look at the amount of work you are doing, and the pace at which you doing that work, would it be something you would still want to be doing in 20 years from now?

Anybody can talk about how they value a healthy work culture.

But culture is what you DO (not what you SAY).

I like that Shawn talks about human sustainability because humans are the core of any financially sustainable business. But this is also a great life lesson. Your actions need to be in line with the goals you have in life, and sure that’s something must of us would be like “duh” about, but living life in autopilot is all too easy.

Pull List for February 13, 2019

Comics for the week
From left to right, back to front: Daredevil #1, Star Wars: Age of Republic - Anakin Skywalker #1, The Amazing Spider-Man #14, and Deadpool #9

Every Wednesday, all-new comic books hit the shelves with original stories to be engrossed in, and new art to be fascinated by. This is my weekly write-up where I share what comic books I read last week, and my pull list of comics for this week.

What I read last week

Daredevil #1 4/5 stars

Chip Zdarksky didn’t disappoint with the first issue of this new Daredevil run. It felt like an excellent starting point for new readers, and I’m interested to see where he takes the character. Marco Checchetto’s art is fantastic and feels like the perfect pairing for this book.

The Amazing Spider-Man #14 2/5 stars

I’m not a fan of Bachalo’s art in this one. Felt like a complete departure from the styles Ottley and Ramos had established earlier in the series. Unfortunately, I may drop this since I haven’t been as interested in the past few issues.

Star Wars: Age of Republic - Anakin Skywalker #1 5/5 stars

I’m so happy we get stories like this. The issue certainly feels like an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While George Lucas (and Hayden Christensen’s performance) made Anakin seem like a petulant child, stories like this show what I believe to be the true Anakin: a man with a strong moral compass and convictions.

Favorite of the week: Star Wars: Age of Republic - Anakin Skywalker #1

Picking up this week

  • The Amazing Spider-Man #15 - If I don’t like this one, I may drop it and wait for the next arc. Like I said above, I’m not a fan of this new artist either.
  • Captain Marvel #2 - Kelly Thompson wrote a killer first issue, and I’ve been waiting anxiously to read the next one.
  • Oblivion Song #12 - Conclusion to the arc! Holy moly this story has been a rollercoaster, and I’ve had that weird feeling in my stomach the whole time (in a good way!). I’m looking forward to how Robert Kirkman wraps up the “season finale” of this book, and what will be next for these awesome characters.

The New Keychron K1 Mechanical Keyboard is a Gorgeous Piece of Hardware

The Keychron K1 keyboard with blue LED back-lit keys from the right.
The Keychron K1's space grey matches my MacBook Pro perfectly

A few weeks ago, David Sparks wrote about a new mechanical keyboard he was buying. I’d stumbled upon the video a few days before, but after seeing him write about it, I pulled the trigger on the 104-key, Space Grey for Mac version.

The Keychron K1 keyboard with green LED back-lit keys up close from the left.
The keyboard has beautiful back-lit keys

My package was delayed a day due to some bad weather here in Saint Paul, so I was able to get my hands on it yesterday finally. I opened up the minimal packaging and used it for the day. The keyboard is shockingly slim, and while it doesn’t have flip out feet, the angle was perfectly comfortable for me.

Picture of USB-A to USB-C cable, keycap puller, and replacement keycaps on a wood desktop.
In the box, you'll find a USB-A to USB-C cable for charging, a keycap puller, and replacement keycaps

Unfortunately it doesn’t come charged, but it’s USB-C connectivity made that an easy fix. It’s only been a day, so I can’t even begin to give you any type of review. So far, the pairing and using of the Keychron K1 has been smooth.

You can buy your own, starting at just $74.

Patreon, Venture Capital, and the Loss of the Win-Win 

Cheri Baker on Patreon:

Here we have a business that people like, offering a service we value, and it enables small businesses to grow, benefiting many people. That’s how business should work. But because Patreon took in a shit-ton of VC money, they don’t have the freedom to stay in that business. They have to chase more money, a lot more, just to stay afloat.

Cheri’s right. The proof is in the pudding. If you’re starting a business in tech, self-funding is the the way to go.

Andy Baio's Eulogy for His Dad 

I’m going to give my dad the last word, by reading from the end of his will, a message that he addressed directly to all of you — the people who meant so much to him in his life. Here’s what he wrote:

Well, I think that’s about it for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. (Ha Ha.)

I’ll sure miss you a lot, more than you’ll ever know.

Maybe I’ll see you where ever God decides to send me. I hope there’ll be fishing and pretty girls, good music, my Mom’s Italian spaghetti, and beer.

Thank you all for everything, your love, your friendship, good fun, good laughs and memories, and for the pleasure just to know each and every one of you.

With all my love, now and forever.

Bye for now,

Me
Stephen

What a beautiful eulogy. I’m so sorry for your loss Andy.

The Colonization of the Americas Cooled the Earth 

They estimate that 55 million indigenous people died during Europe’s conquest of the Americas (~90% of the population), and the 56 million hectares of land that they had cleared of vegetation (roughly the area of Kenya) was then reclaimed by forests, which then took in more carbon dioxide, reduced the greenhouse effect, and caused the Earth to cool.

Holy crap.

Pixar Animated Short ‘Purl’

 

This animated short has some critical social commentary and lands some hilarious jokes while doing it. Turns out, the short is based on Director Kristen Lester’s experience in animation:

My first job, I was like the only woman in the room, and so in order to do the thing that I loved, I sort of became one of the guys. And then I came to Pixar, and I started to work on teams with women for the first time, and that actually made me realize how much of the female aspect of myself I had sort of buried and left behind.

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