Unauthoritative Pronouncements

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I wrote this a couple weeks ago about a great article I had read. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it. However, all the detailed feedback I’ve received is about the part of the article where I describe technical limitations. I haven’t received any feedback about the part where I discuss the issue of creating in-points for new listeners.

I am not sure why that is. I think it is just as much of a problem when you’re trying to get someone in to a podcast with 100+ episodes.

One of my favorite podcasts, Bionic is up to episode 77. If you go back to the start point the hosts’s recommend, that’s episode 51, which is now 1,636 minutes of podcasts to listen to. How can I get anyone to start with Bionic when I have to tell them they need to devote 27 and a half hours to listening to this? That’s more than a full day of podcasts to listen to now. That doesn’t even go all the way back to Episode 1 (which Myke and Matt don’t really recommend). This isn’t like television, where there are seasons of TV, rather than 1 episode per week.

If you go with a show like Back to Work then you’re looking at 157 shows. Even if you assume a bas level of 60 (which is insufficient) then you will spend 157 hours of your life trying to catch up to the current point.

No one wrote in about this. I think that’s because this is the harder problem to solve. Where do you insert your catch-up episodes? Where are the recaps? The clip shows?

It’s the kind of situation that comic books find themselves in more than television shows do. People will binge watch 24 hours of programming, no problem. They don’t seem as inclined to catch up if they are more than a season behind though (more than 24-26 hours behind). How can podcasters bridge that gap?

2014-02-06 01:50:00

Category: link


Rife With Future

I wrote only the first chapter and thought it might be interesting to kind of publish as a serial. Then go back and edit it all at the end for the final short story. If you’d like to just read the final result skip this. The title is just a working title, so don’t get attached if I think of something better later on. I also may change Mel’s name, as it is too similar to another “character”

Chapter 1: Me

“Brian,” my voice said. “Cathy wants to meet you for Starbucks today. I had to tell her you can’t make it because of our meeting.”

“What meeting?” I asked Me as the apartment door gently shut behind us. I descended the painted, cement stairs to the landing. With the soft echo of my sneakers in the partly-exposed, beige stairwell.

“We are interviewing a new candidate, Mel, for an internship at —”

“Oh! Right, right. Thanks.” I rolled my eyes a little for forgetting this little thing. One always forgets things these days. Having a Me is barely tenable at all under the circumstances, but it was still under contract. An i was obviously the only thing worth having now. I should never have bought another Me so late in the cycle.

My Way was parked where it always was, in the back of the apartment building, in the alley, next to all the others. The white LEDs did their little dance when they detected the Me and my Way disconnected from the others. I noticed the neon, anisotropic, paisley-print finish of the Way next to mine and winced. The new neighbor wasn’t just loud, so was his Way. “Me, tell the manager about the noise last night.”

“We already have, and I sent an audio clip, with decibel rating, to his Me.” There was a brief pause here, I’m not sure why. “We did that last night, remember?”

I stood on the Way and it was off, down the alley. “Oh, right,” I lied. I did not recall.

We passed a few other early morning commuters on the way to my Starbucks. But it wasn’t crowded at all for San Francisco. Everyday there seemed to be less and less. The arranged work schedules really helped to space out commutes. As did working from home. I preferred my Starbucks. The only downside of the shorter commute is that I had less time to watch my YouTubes.

“Oh, Me, play that thing from last night. You remember, the one with the comedians.” I might have had a little more excitement in my voice than was probably reasonable.

My field of view filled mostly with the 3 minute episodes of Parker’s Pizza Place with just the periphery showing road, grass, trees, and buildings zip by. This was a funny one, but I suppose they were all funny. Ads showed new fragrances, and new Ways, and I made sure to stay engaged with them. It was hard to focus on the ads as we went up and down some hills. The Way never tilted, but it was still easy to get a little motionsick. I wasn’t going to be able to afford my i if I wasn’t on top of everything.

We arrived at the Starbucks office mall pretty quickly. I only got to watch two, or three episodes of Parker’s. “Pause it for later,” I instructed Me.

My Way glided to the large rack if Ways and I stepped backwards, off of it. It looked like today would be a pretty large shift at the Starbucks. Surprising, given the nice weather.

I passed a couple people talking, not to each other, and found my rented seat at crowded Communal Table Amalfi, but before I sat, I noticed the guest spot on the opposite side of the table was occupied by a young woman in her early twenties, or late teens. I paused, hopefully out of earshot and asked Me, “I thought my meeting was later?”

“No, your meeting was on for first thing. That is your potential intern, Mel.” The voice was almost too cool.

I turned and walked over to my seat. I purposefully did not make eye contact with Mel. Eyes are money, and I wasn’t about to give them to her for nothing.

I pulled the metal chair out and slid back in with it. For the first time, I made eye contact with her. Red hair, milk-white skin flecked with red and brown freckles, and pale lip gloss beneath two emerald-green eyes. She was either a boring naturalist, or very poor; perhaps both.

She returned the eye contact, awkwardly drinking it up. I greeted her, “Mel, is it?”

“Yes, Mr. Grayson.” Her voice was a little high, but not squeaky. I judged she’d do poorly on anything other than thought, or sight.

I looked down slightly, breaking eye contact with her, as anyone aught to do, before proceeding, “I appreciate your interest in the position. Your demo seems to show some pretty keen observations on your part.”

“Thank you sir,” she gushed.

I started to play with the table’s primitive touch menu. The kind of thing you do when you’re in a conversation, as it would be rude to appear undistracted. “Just so you understand,” I continued. “I have very strict rules about sharing face time with other people. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about this arrangement.” I circled a few items on the menu with my index finger and have it a lingering glance until my interest in those products was recorded. “What I look at is what I show the world. I’m a tastemaker. My views go to my followers, their views to their followers, etcetera. You might say I get my living from my looks.”

I paused for a laugh but there wasn’t even an awkward pity-chuckle. I picked a half-caf, mocha, Mmm’Santoberry©, with a double-shot, and a Starbucks Classic II™ No-Butter Croissant. I watched my analytics in the very edge of my view show a spike at a few other Starbucks. Social tracking showed matching items being talked about in GLounges.

“Mr. Grayson, I know how valuable your time is,” she timidly confirmed. “That is precisely why I want to intern with you.”

“Yes, but just know, you can’t expect my interest. I give it if I feel like it, which means you must either earn me money, or be interesting. You are, if I may say so, nice, but a little plain. Why would anyone follow you?”

I could see her shift her weight in her chair, her right hand unwrapped itself from her left wrist and then her left hand grabbed her right wrist. Fidgeting is only endearing to a point. She spoke calmly, “I happen to be from Clearwater, Florida. Just on the lower border of the Southern wastes.” Now that had potential. “I have personal stories, anecdotes, about life on the fringe. I also happen to be a skilled nature photographer. Even with my old contact lenses, I got shots in the news.” She cleared her throat and went on, “The most interesting is my training in spreading social news.”

Now that last one was disappointing, and I didn’t mask it in my voice, “I’ll give you this one piece of advice, free of charge, news doesn’t make much money here. Sure the media companies do, but a Mom and Pop operation, like I have, is all about personal appeal. If you had done research in to me, you’d know you should talk to me about products. Referrals that can actually make money.”

Now she was moving her fingers up and down on the table, like insect mouthparts busily trying to eat the glass and polytexture surface. Her next words had some real passion, “Look, Mr. Grayson, I spent my savings on flying out here, getting an i, and sending out demos to anyone that would have me.” She had a little too much passion. “Look around, we’re at one of thirty tables in here, and that’s just this floor. Five floors of people talking about products, engineering mini-word-of-mouth campaigns, sub-lingering on coffee cups. You just happened to be the guy that took my interview this morning.”

I looked up at her and made eye contact again. My analytics showed that people were doing facial searches for her. I didn’t stop to look away though. Her verbal punch really dislodged something in me. She was interesting, the metrics confirmed it. Mel’s follow count had increased by three. They might not stay, but it was something. Then the barista came with my breakfast and we both broke eye contact.

Chapter 2: Us

2014-01-30 09:22:52

Category: text


Regretful Loquaciousness

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merlin:

It’s true.

I made a list in the shower one morning. I totally did.

Privately, I’m utterly obsessed with eventually being great on The Incomparable.

It’s ponderous.

Merlin is too hard on himself here. He’s since gone on to contribute to some really good episodes of The Incomparable. This one isn’t even a bad episode, nor my least favorite, by any stretch.

I feel for Merlin. Not that I have ever, ever, ever been a part of anything like The Incomparable, but I can identify with some of his regret here. I am actually deeply anti-social, but under the right (wrong) circumstances, I won’t shut up. There seems to be a tipping point in a conversation where it transitions from “excruciatingly difficult to talk” to words just falling out of my mouth. Sometimes I manage to catch myself on that last part, but that only results in me slamming the brakes on saying anything. Ideally I should be able to reach some kind of conversation-cruise-control where I am contributing just the right amount to a conversation.

Do you know what would be even better? To be the person that can wait on the sidelines and just pop in with that one really amazing thing. Scott McNulty often does just that on The Incomparable. He joked, in that Twitter exchange with Merlin, that he doesn’t talk. That’s not the case, he is simply very judicious with what he says. An example is The Incomparable’s I Look Forward to Ignoring Your Criticism, where Scott deftly swoops in and executes the perfect, show-title-worthy statement (you can tell it was worthy because it’s the title). His economy of speech is really something that I envy. Not because he says less but because when he does say something it is some kind of conversation concentrate. I have tried to do this, but this suppression usually results in me favoriting nearly everything.

I am really bad at this on the internet too. You may have noticed. After all, this silly blog does say “Rambling. On the Internet”, and does what it says on the tin. Even today, I kept butting in to Twitter threads and lobbing “witty” comments in to the fray, but why? Was I witty? Odds are I could have said 1/99th of what I said.

Just look at me, now, taking something someone else said and then spewing out all these words just to circle back to it being about myself. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to “reblog” Merlin’s post. But that’s what Tumblr is for, right? Theoretically, right? How could I pin this to his post? Does that mean I should have deleted this? The most economical thing would be to skip this post. This conflict between wanting to say all of this potentially-idiotic, self-centered crap, and wanting to say only important things that contribute to a conversation makes me anxious. And yet, here it all is, in this half-measure where I can whinge about my insecurities without bothering someone. That’s partially why I oscillate between sheepishly posting things on here (and TPS), and the other extreme of shoving links at people every time I think I may have something worth sharing. Do I want to be part of a conversation, or do I want the conversation to be about me? Truthfully, mostly column A, but some column B – and that freaks me out. There’s stuff on TPS that podcasters haven’t read because I don’t want to insert myself in to their “conversation”.

Merlin at least made a list to try and be better on The Incomparable. I don’t know what to put on my list, just all the things I don’t like. I should probably pick a narrower area to improve first.

Lastly, (finally!) if I ever spew a bunch of words at you and then clam up, refer to this. I may already regret how much I will have said before you do.

2014-01-29 01:16:35

Category: link


Let Me Share This Podcast With You

First World Podcast Problems

Stan Alcorn wrote a really brilliant piece about why audio isn’t as omnipresent in our online experiences as video is. He conducts interviews with many people responsible for sharing video, and audio, to dissect the reasons non-musical content is so seldom shared.

I agree with the points of many of the interviewees in regard to podcasts. Many of the things holding podcast-listening back are things that I see podcasters lament on Twitter. There is a lot of consternation over SoundCloud from some people, and a warm embrace from others. Their program is in beta, and appears to have some quirks. People want searchable, legible, text versions of hour-long podcasts to spread links about the really good stuff. Even the ability to jump to a specific moment in playback as part of a URL has been bandied about.

There is one thing Alcorn doesn’t elaborate on and that is for listeners willing to go down the full Podcasting Rabbit Hole, we are left without easy ways to change where, and when, we playback. We are trained by the podcast players to become creatures of habit. “Is it Tuesday? Can I listen to Back to Work live today? Well… I can listen to half… Should I wait?” “I need to force Downcast to refresh before I get off WiFi or I can’t listen to today’s Your Daily Lex because he has no web player.” “I streamed half this episode of Bionic in the browser… Where did I leave off?” Those all sound silly, but they are the minor annoyances that dedicated fans fret over.

Podcasting really relies on making listeners jump through these silly hoops; over-and-over, week-to-week. They are trivial, of course, but if fans need to think about these minor things then I imagine they must be part of what’s keeping the unwashed masses away from podcasts. Live listening is particularly annoying because you need to contort your schedule to get your happening-right-this-second dopamine fix. The 5by5 network has their own mobile, streaming-player apps, but there is no way to pause and record it like a DVR. There is no way to bookmark that location and shift it to your podcast player when the episode is available for download.

A huge improvement will come when people can pass time codes as arguments for players. Not because I want to manually format those time strings, but because I hope apps will helpfully offer to do that for me. They will say, “Here’s the bookmarklet to save your position to Downcast, or anywhere else.” Then I will drop to my knees, weeping tears of salty joy.

I could add the podcast to my podcast player, but that is often a commitment to a show you may only be trying out. Something that was linked to off of Twitter which may, or may not, suit your taste.

YouTube is, in any meaningful sense, everywhere. Likewise Vimeo. You can watch their short, burst-like content in one sitting, stack up URL’s for later, or sign in with your account and add it to a list.

It’s really that last thing that is crucial. Think about the other long-form media providers. Instead of YouTube, and Vimeo; think Netflix, and Hulu.

I can sign in to NetFlix on a toaster oven, or TV, and it will remember what I was watching and where I left it. Many podcast playing applications offer ways to sync, but they are extremely clunky and almost totally unreliable. Worst of all, your sharing, and syncing, is confined to that one application. Many apps let you export data about your feed as OPML to take in to another app, but that’s not syncing those player apps, that’s moving. SoundCloud is trying to work in this space, but their beta isn’t refined enough, and if it ever is, then it’s SoundCloud instead of iTunes with leverage over the podcasters. Multiple, federated, interoperable players should really be the goal instead of lining up behind one.

No Way In

Another way audio contrasts with video is that if we take an average, hour-long podcast and put it up against an hour-long TV show we start to see a huge difference in time. Podcasts don’t have the same series runs each year because they are mostly released weekly. How can you convince a friend to catch up on a podcast with 52 episodes? More than 52? This isn’t a podcast player problem at this point. Where’s the in point for a new listener? Are we all standing around in comic shops talking about how no one can start without starting at the first comic? There need to be starting points for people that aren’t comic podcast geeks.

It is very easy to lay the blame for podcast-listening’s technical shortcomings on the developers, and on Apple’s iTunes Store, for basically stagnating, but the content creators should really feel empowered by this. They can really take charge of their platform for themselves. If a creator can make content more easily digestible, then they drive up their listenership. If they can make it easier for loyal users to share segments, wiki-transcribe bits, and push context-shifting, then they will be able to exponentially increase their reach.

If Merlin and Dan have a really great talk, and it’s 3/4 of the way in to the episode, how do I share that with the uninitiated without disclaiming, “Oh just skip all this because you won’t get it”? Only fans get that.

I have the flu, so I was trying not to say something silly about viral content but: viral, viral, viral, viral…

Update: Andrew Clark, Zac Cichy, and Bradley Chambers discussed many of these things in an episode of The Menu Bar that was released after my post went up. Enjoy this attempt at trying to share it.

2014-01-27 16:46:08

Category: text


A Thought Exercise

caseyliss:

I’ve lamented on the last couple episodes of my podcast with friends that I have several gigabytes of text and picture messages stored on my iPhone.

If Apple were to offer to include your text message history in iCloud–without it counting against your storage limits–how would that make you feel? Would you be happy? Scared? Impressed? Depressed?

What if Google offered the same thing? Would that change your feelings? If so, how?

The weird thing is that I think they are already storing this information. When I open my MBP after a few days of sending images and texts over iMessage, everything locks up while the Messages app tries to download all of it. It has to be downloading this from Apple, not from my phone, so they do have some kind of record of my iMessages. Perhaps it is incomplete? Or so unreliable they don’t want to use it as a backup?

Of course that is only iMessages, not the totality of my communiques. It may be the case that they don’t want to be responsible for collecting and storing SMS and MMS data. With iMessage, both users have consented to Apple’s iMessage policies.

Does Apple want to send out this disclaimer when an iPhone customer sends a SMS to an Android customer?

This conversation is being stored remotely.

Could you picture the headlines about that legal disclaimer?

Keep in mind that those conversations are already stored by the user, and backed up, but the unit of backup is your phone, not a server-side log.

I don’t see anything nefarious about Apple doing it (my concerns would be about reliability of the service) but I would have concerns if Google instituted a similar program. Would I want my conversations with friends that have Android phones backed up and indexed to prioritize what kind of ads are sent to my iPhone? Gmail does that, why wouldn’t their message backup service?

2014-01-26 11:24:15

Category: text


My Sappy Mac Story

All these 30th Anniversay Macintosh posts made me heart-wrenchingly nostalgic. I dug up some terrible thing I wrote 12 years ago and reworked it to be slightly less embarrassing.

The first Mac I ever used was my mother’s computer. It was a Mac Plus that my grandfather gave her in 1992 after we moved to Florida. It had a very loud, 20 MB, SCSI hard drive. My mother had specifically told us that the computer was for work only, not for playing games. Yeah, right.

My favorite game was Stunt Copter. I loved to drop the stunt guy on the horse – an early warning sign of my sadistic streak. Video game violence, etc.

My mother used that computer faithfully for a few years, but it was underpowered when she got it. We frequently spent time at Kinko’s so she could use their less-outdated IIci’s and IIsi’s. In 1993 she bought a Quadra 605 when it first came out. Again, this was a business computer, not a toy. One year we got a SupraExpress 33.6 modem and AOL 2.5. That is when I realized how incredibly slow it was compared to my friends’ computers. The Quadra 605 and I had a love/hate relationship.

When my mom bought a Compaq in 1998, she gave me the 605. I customized and upgraded that thing as much as I could (mostly just system extensions the decreased performance, and another 4 megs of RAM since the PPC upgrade card had been discontinued). Unfortunately, the monitor died, and it was replaced with an old PC monitor with a giant adapter.

I used that Quadra 605 all the way up until 1999, when I accidentally killed it by turning the computer around. The monitor adapter sticking out the back hit the wall and cracked the motherboard.

My school got rid of a LC II, so I picked it up. It couldn’t really do anything, but it was nice to have it around.

My mom’s office’s art department was getting rid of their computers, so my mom managed to get me one of them. It was a Performa 637CD. It was the first Mac I ever owned with a CD-ROM – a major failing of the Quadra my mom had selected.

I upgraded the Performa to OS 8 and maxed out the RAM. (68 MB). It had Photoshop 3 on it, so I was pretty happy. I gave it to my sister for Christmas and purchased a used Performa 6115CD for my younger brother. I was a pretty good Mac zealo– I mean, enthusiast. I also purchased an antiquated Quadra 700, and a used Performa 6360 for myself. I knew I couldn’t get a hot, new Mac, but I still wanted a Mac. In a time when Jobs was remaking the Mac, I was buying up the discarded, pre-Jobs machines.

In 1999, the school yearbook teacher switched over to using Quark XPress for the yearbook and bought three new 450 MHz G4s. She needed some guidance, though, so I became the “Technical Editor”. I also had to network the following: three G4s, two 7200/120s, six 5500/225s, a HP LaserJet 4MP, and a StyleWriter II (the same kind I used at home). We still passed Zip disks around to transfer most things.

I went off to college, and I had to build my own PC with Windows 2000, etc. because my major was something you could not use a Mac for.

I regret telling my mom to sell all the misfit Macs that I had accumulated – but only at times like this. I have no practical place to store those things, and even if I did, I would almost never turn it on. I did keep all the system disks though.

I spent most of the 2000’s wishing I had a Mac. MacWorld Keynotes were still a big deal and I’d pretty much want whatever was announced. After I graduated I kept inventing reasons why I couldn’t buy one. It wasn’t practical. Then, after my supposedly powerful PC laptop started having serious performance issues after only one year, I decided to go back to the Mac. I spent $2500 on a brand-new, 15” MacBook Pro (2007 edition).

When it came time to replace the 15” MBP with a newer model, I made sure to hold on to my old one. It’s a little easier to store than Performas, Quadras, and CRTs.

2014-01-24 09:46:27

Category: text


Going Off Half-Cooked

There was some handwringing, and mocking, and more handwringing, about SquareSpace announcing a logo design program.

The way I feel about this development, as a non-SquareSpace user, is, “big whoop.” The people that will use this service were very unlikely to be a designer’s future customer. It also has the ability to raise the bar for the bare minimum a designer must do for a logo. I mostly object to it because I really doubt this is what SquareSpace should be focusing their efforts on, based on the purely anecdotal complaints I see about their services, but I can’t judge the whole thing based on that. Perhaps the fact that I have not been swayed to be a customer before today, or since, should serve as some kind of evidence that it might not be the most crucial path for new customers?

Still, the logo program means almost nothing to me, as an artist. I don’t talk about my job, but let’s just say I do shmisual sheffects for shmilm. There is often a notion that the process involves computers, so it must be something that can be automated to use very little input from humans. That it is something a computer does and I am just there to turn the computer on. There is the notion that anyone can just go buy some software off the shelf (or internet, these days) and make their own stuff without needing training, or artists.

The SquareSpace logo program doesn’t prohibit users from making a bad logo. It provides some structure through limited options. Users can still make really terrible, ill-suited, generic, eye-rollingly-silly, dumb things with it. They can go buy a copy of shmisual shmeffects shmof- software and make things too.

There is never going to be a wizard, program, or widget that gives users control, and taste. Users have to bring one, or both of those, to the table. If it’s only providing the taste, users have clip art. Cellophane-wrapped, mass-produced logos have a shelf-life that is already expiring when they are purchased.

If users think they can make a logo, then they can go on and make one. A text editor can make a logo. The software that “helps” you is really software that sets guides, and limits, on your behavior. Without limits, you can do something far better, or worse, than the program allows.

Anyone can cook by assembling some prepared, or partially prepared, items together. That doesn’t mean what they cooked was any good. Rudimentary cookbooks don’t put chefs out of business. If anything, they provide the chef with clientele that expect better than what can be had at home; that elevates the discussion of the food beyond fish sticks and tater tots. And who do you think sets the trends for the next round of cookbooks when everyone is tired of this?

Great, now I’m hungry.

2014-01-23 00:00:00

Category: text


The Ubiquitous Yak for the Discerning Obsessive

I saw Sid O’Neil’s post today, Farewell to Text Files, and my immediate reaction was to tweet him and debate it. You should go read it now, because dude is smart1. I didn’t agree with the conclusion he drew, abandoning plain text, because I thought that unfairly laid the blame on a file format. When Linus Edwards and I pestered Sid on Twitter, it became clear the real problem was that the flexibility that text afforded him meant he could keep tinkering with the tools of writing. Ulysses III was just a way to constrain his urge to tweak, to tinker with This Week’s Hot New Text App in the ironically titled, “Productivity” section of the iTunes store.

However, Ulysses III is only a circle of protection that will help for X amount of time. I can’t help but feel burned by the times I’ve invested in software that sputtered out, or were acquired, and I have to come to terms with terminating my relationship with said application. Aperture, not a writing program, is my current hobbyhorse for stagnation in application development. It has a proprietary way to store, and reference, the data inside of it. I have been on the fence about transitioning to Lightroom since Lightroom 3 was announced. I went with Aperture 3. We are now on Lightroom 5 and … Aperture 3. When I posed this argument, Sid correctly pointed out that it is trivial to generate text files from Ulysses III at any time he wants. It’s not nearly as painful as trying to bake out multiple versions of images, the EXIF, and then to import and then to … oh god I really don’t want to do it. Do you hear me, Apple?!

Writing programs stall too. Elements for iOS stagnated when the developer was hired by Hipstamatic. He was, unfortunately, laid off and decided to devote his time to developing his own apps again. He then released Elements 2, but now that’s fallen behind the curve again. The data inside of it, however, was not locked up. It was one of the first of many plain text editors that supported markdown syntax, and Dropbox file storage. As Sid mentioned in his post, this makes the data almost universally portable. His problem was using that portability to try apps, rather than write.

The option problem Sid had was one that I’ve bumped in to with blogging plaaaaatforms, and that is you can get overwhelmed by the options. You can start yak shaving, and wind up configuring every, little thing you come across. Do you see this blog? (I hope so, because I’m all up in your face right now.) Do you want to know how long I spent this morning trying to do @media hacks to force the Tumblr template to do what I wanted on smaller screens? DO YOU?

I had stopped writing, or taking photos, because I was so hung up on where the writing and the photos would go. I’m still not 100% behind SquareSpace because every time I test a demo there is always something just a little off that I can’t easily tweak. It makes me hem-and-haw about spending $8, or $16 a month. I don’t like WordPress, because their backend is unpleasant. (Knowing wink.) I don’t like {{%insert static blogging engine name here%}} because it requires setting up a Rube Goldberg machine to publish to it from anywhere that isn’t your computer. I have even devoted days of time to writing my own Python-based static blogging engine that runs in Pythonista for iOS, but never finished it, because: yak. Ironically, I like Tumblr least of all, but it is the easiest to just shove HTML in to from anywhere. (Pro Tip: Lifehack: Their native markdown support is crazy-bad!)

I’ll circle back to all of this again, and again, but at least I’ll have the comfort of knowing that the posts are all saved, and backed up, in UTF–8, plain text. Dump in the text and see if I hate it or not. Move on and do as little with shoehorning the content in as possible.

This thinking even factored in to the silly iTunes reviews I write. Fountain, a markdown-inspired screenplay format for plain text files, lets anyone copy and paste the text from the review to generate a screenplay. Also, because of this, I can just write them wherever I see fit. ByWord, TextEdit, TextWrangler, SublimeText, Editorial, Highland, and Slugline are all programs I’ve used to write these 12 things. Earlier this week I wrote what basically amounts to a love letter to Fountain’s ideals and principles because I can write my terrible fan-fiction wherever I want to. If I didn’t have these text editors, I’d actually be less productive in my ridiculous, “creative” endeavors, because they mainly serve as a conduit to start writing, even if I will pass it to something else.

2014-01-18 20:52:00

Category: text


That Pointy Thing on Twitter

I fave things on Twitter a lot. A whole lot. I should probably not do it so much. What impulse drives pushing that button?

If I really scrutinize this to an unwarranted degree, it boils down to:

  1. What the person had to say was amusing.
  2. What the person linked to was interesting.
  3. To use the fave as a bookmark to revisit a link later.
  4. To impart a small ‘nod’ to the conversation.
  5. To say, “This was a good back and forth, but it’s done.”
  6. When reading a conversation involving people I follow, I may weigh in to the conversation by favoriting a tweet in the thread I agree with, to nudge the conversation without interrupting, or branching it.

The barrier to entry in those first three categories just happens to be very low for me. At least, it is when I compare the frequency of my faves with those of other people.

This is at odds witch my feelings towards retweeting. I rarely retweet because I would much rather have a personal conversation, and retweets rarely spawn any conversation, they just get retweeted. I know that I have an assortment of people that follow me, and that there is an even wider range of people whom I follow. I don’t want to jam up someone with things they don’t want to read. I’d much rather have a directed conversation with someone through @-mentions so only people following the both of us will see it — presumably, they are interested in that since they follow us.

Some people seem to be caught off guard by getting their tweets faved often. It seems to put them off. I’ll try to tailor my copious issuance of stars to spare them from “too many”. I do wonder if that means that other people also feel that I favorite things far too much and are simply trying to be polite and not tell me.

I would very much rather have people give me input on this since this is hardly something where there is an etiquette guide.

I really like you. Here, have this: ★ . It’s free.

2014-01-18 11:53:36

Category: text


On Screenplay Software

I have always had an interest in film and television, but I have only recently started to venture in to writing for the medium. One of the catalysts for my interest is Scriptnotes, a fantastic podcast with screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. They just came back from a holiday break and they are hitting it out of the park. Episode 125 is centered on dissecting an old post from Jeff Atwood (of StackExchange fame) called The 10 Commandments of Egoless Programming, and Episode 126 had a chunk on screenwriting software, specifically Final Draft 9. If you have any interest in technology you should listen to it (Then stay for the Three Page Challenges). Final Draft has remained relatively unchanged for years, but still dominates the entire screenwriting app market. Just a word processor, so what? It’s a $199.99 Mac App Store purchase which puts it in a unique weight-class. Final Draft also has mobile companion apps for iPad and iPhone. The iPad version appeared in Apple’s new, aspirational advertisement last Sunday.

What follows is an excerpt transcribed from 22 minutes in to Episode 126, but I strongly encourage you to listen to the entire conversation, particularly for Craig’s passion.

CRAIG
I just don't understand what -- If this is what they were doing, why did it take this long, exactly?

JOHN
I don't understand -- That's a very good question.

CRAIG
The other thing that bothers me about Final Draft is that they are so clearly driven by a naked desire for revenue over taking care of their userbase -- 

CRAIG (CONT'D)
At least that's my opinion --

JOHN ^
Mm-hmm.

CRAIG (CONT'D)
because a lot of these features should have just been released, incrementally, as free updates on top of 8. There is **nothing** here that justifies a brand new release. and to charge whatever they charged. What does this thing cost?

JOHN
It's an 80 Dollar upgrade.

CRAIG
80 Dollar upgrade! In a world where the entire operating system for Mac is free! And you're going to charge 80 Dollars for **what**? For colored pages  -- That you don't need. And ... what?

JOHN
For full -- For full screen mode that really should have been a point one release.

CRAIG 
Full screen mode and Retina compatibility? That's outrageous.

JOHN
Yeah.

CRAIG
And that's the upgrade! I mean, what does it cost new?

JOHN
Umm, 199, I believe.

CRAIG
Oh please. We live in a time where you cannot -- I'm sorry --  to sell a piece of *word processing* for a hundred and what?

JOHN
99 dollars.

CRAIG
I mean **what**?! Are you out of your mind when you can get Highland for how much, John?

JOHN
Uh, Highland is 29.99, right now.

CRAIG
I think FadeIn is 40 bucks?

JOHN
Yeah

CRAIG
Uh, It's **ridiculous**. It just doesn't make any damn sense.

JOHN
Yeah

CRAIG
I think -- I don't get it -- I think that, frankly, Final Draft is, um, they are perilously close to being disrupted, as the Silicon Valley term goes. Because nobody cares about this Final Draft crap any more, we're in the age of PDF for transmission. They're going to go bye-bye.

John goes on to play devil’s advocate, briefly, when discussing several limitations of competing screenwriting apps, mostly in the area of script revisions. They are, as Craig said, perilously close to being usurped if they think this situation will last much longer.

John August is a co-developer of the Fountain markup language, and the Highland app that functions as a converter for files to, and from, FDX, PDF, and Fountain plain text. The work he has put in to Fountain, along with the other developers, has allowed competitors to emerge and start to challenge Final Draft. Craig mentions FadeIn, which imports and exports Fountain to its own format, but there is also the popular Slugline which uses Fountain natively , and many other alternative apps, all using Fountain as leverage against Final Draft’s “.docx”-like hold on the market.

Here’s a short video John August made to demonstrate some key features of Fountain, and some drawbacks of Final Draft (and WYSIWYG in general):

The Slugline developers have their own video boasting WYSIWYG-ish functionality through on-the-fly parsing of what’s been typed. This bridges the gap between truly plain text, and the visual cues of what the final output will be. This is similar to ByWord’s approach to Markdown (which makes a small cameo).

On the same day as Scriptnotes 126, ArsTechnica released some thoughts on the fall of desktop publishing giant QuarkXpress. It is not pure coincidence that many of the reasons cited for QuarkXpress’ fall are cited by John and Craig as current issues for Final Draft. This was not lost on John and Stu Maschwitz (Fountain, and Slugline developer) either.

Yesterday, January 15th, Slugline got its first major update since it premiered mere months ago. The developers are moving at a quick pace, and they are clearly motivated to gain traction while Final Draft sleepwalks. I have no vested interest in winners and losers here, but I do like it when increased competition can lower the barrier of entry to the tools needed.

2014-01-16 06:58:00

Category: text