The Talk Show

20: Live From Çingleton, with Brent Simmons


00:00:00   So screw the space guy, we'll start the talk show.

00:00:07   Since we're in Montreal, I thought, and Brent, I'm here with Brent Simmons, who wanted me to introduce him.

00:00:13   I wanted to be Cable Sasser.

00:00:14   I wanted to be Cable Sasser.

00:00:15   Cable is so much funnier than I am.

00:00:17   Right, and every single live thing I've ever done with an interview thing has always been with Cable Sasser.

00:00:22   Because he's brilliant.

00:00:23   Right, it's like a cheaty move.

00:00:25   Yeah.

00:00:26   because then me who's like sort of miserable and not really that good in person, the effusiveness

00:00:30   of cable sass just rubs off and anybody would look friendly and professional on stage. So

00:00:38   there's a lot of pressure on you Brent.

00:00:40   Brent: Yeah, okay. Well, I'll do what I can. The truth is I was up a bit late last night,

00:00:45   entirely the fault of John's wife who wouldn't let me sleep. Anyway. Got anything with that?

00:01:01   You've already gone such a different direction than cable goes. I know. I thought, here's

00:01:07   the thing, one thing maybe people don't know, you spent a year, two years living in France?

00:01:12   Yeah, yeah, many years ago.

00:01:14   But I thought since we're here, we're here today as we record, it is Sunday, October 14th, we're in Montreal, Quebec,

00:01:23   at the tail end or after, like the after party of the Singleton, the second Singleton symposium.

00:01:29   I thought it would be nice if we did the whole show, conducted the whole show in French.

00:01:33   D'accord.

00:01:35   So, how do you say welcome?

00:01:37   Bienvenue.

00:01:38   Bienvenue le talk show.

00:01:41   I think it's Le Chote de Toc. Je m'appelle Jean Grubert. Je m'appelle Kébo Sasser. Merde.

00:01:57   No, fuck you. I'm out of French. That's all I got. Alright, so before I have a couple

00:02:08   I want to talk about and and

00:02:10   We're here. There's I don't know 100 people here 100. It seems like everybody stayed which is great. Thank you for staying

00:02:15   Obviously we can't just recap the whole conference. You really had to be here

00:02:21   You should have been here shame on everybody who wasn't here. You're looking right at me

00:02:24   You know, but it was really really good

00:02:28   But I do think there are a couple of things that I picked up from the talks over the weekend

00:02:33   That you didn't have to be here and we can we can use them to start the show from

00:02:37   So, the official theme of the conference was "scale." And, you know, I think it kind of

00:02:44   fit, but I think what I saw from seeing all of the things, to me, it was more about change.

00:02:48   Yeah. Starting with Jason Snell's keynote, the opening night, which really talked about

00:02:53   change in the technology industry, change in the publishing industry, and how, in his

00:02:58   role at Macworld and at IGG, it's sort of like the nexus of both. It's all about the

00:03:04   change in technology over the last 15 years and the change in the publishing industry

00:03:07   and I think it carried on from there. I think Mike Jurich's talk the next morning was really

00:03:16   about change in being an Apple developer, which is, you know, I mean everybody here

00:03:21   knows, I mean it's, you don't have to list all the ways that life has changed for iOS

00:03:25   developers.

00:03:26   >> Well, there was no such thing as iOS developers.

00:03:28   >> Right, well I should say Objective-C developers, Apple developers, you know.

00:03:32   Yeah, life has changed.

00:03:33   You know, my career started in, my professional software career started around '95, '96,

00:03:39   and I wanted to be a Mac developer at the very worst possible time to be a Mac developer.

00:03:46   Things have certainly changed for the better since then.

00:03:48   Well, and I think you're a good example, too, of somebody who sort of followed the advice.

00:03:53   And Marco's thing about your career and Rand's thing, Michael Lop's thing was everybody here

00:04:00   should be thinking that they're going to do something different in three years. Every

00:04:03   three years ago you tend to be doing something different.

00:04:06   Yeah, with the exception of working for nine years on NetNewswire. But there were three

00:04:11   different versions maybe.

00:04:14   But it did, it changed a lot over those years. I mean you never, it became a big hit and

00:04:20   it was really all on your Mac and then there was a huge change where it went to syncing

00:04:25   somehow.

00:04:26   Right. I spent a lot of time working on syncing. Before there was really any good syncing solutions

00:04:32   out there. Of course, now we have iCloud, which is perfect.

00:04:38   Problem solved.

00:04:39   Yeah, no doubt. Syncing remains just one of the most difficult and ball-busting things

00:04:44   to work on. I hate it with a passion. And I don't do it anymore.

00:04:52   thing I thought was, and Marco called his talk scaling your career, but I really thought

00:04:58   it would have fit better if titled changing your career, adapting your career, right?

00:05:03   And the other underlying message I thought in session after session all weekend long

00:05:08   is that a lot of this change is not really your choice. It's not you making, you do often

00:05:15   have a lot of choices in life, but a lot of it is you've got to get with the program because

00:05:20   the train is leaving the station and if you're not on it you're gonna get left behind.

00:05:24   Well it's um, it makes me think of swimming in the ocean. So much different than swimming

00:05:30   in a pool right? In a pool you can do what you want, do laps, whatever. In the ocean

00:05:34   you have to, you've got waves to deal with and they're gonna come whether you're looking

00:05:38   or not and whether you're ready or not. Yeah that makes me think that as soon as you said

00:05:43   that I thought you were gonna go in different. I was gonna say there's that phrase rising

00:05:45   tide lifts all boats, right?

00:05:47   Oh yeah, that's totally not true.

00:05:48   And so that's good.

00:05:49   And that's half the people.

00:05:50   Right, and also a rising tide often like washes you out in the undertow and you drown.

00:05:54   Yeah, indeed.

00:05:55   Like you've got to be careful.

00:05:56   Beware the undertowards.

00:06:01   So you've switched and now your thing right now, your big thing you're working on is Glassboard.

00:06:08   Right, yeah.

00:06:09   So how many people here have been using Glassboard this weekend?

00:06:11   Awesome.

00:06:12   Thanks guys.

00:06:13   That's really, really awesome.

00:06:14   was for those of you listening at home I would say that was everybody's hand and there's

00:06:19   still one guy with his hand up. He really likes Glassboard. In a sense, like honestly,

00:06:26   I mean this in a sincere way, like I know there's the, you can't get up here and talk

00:06:30   without mentioning Steve Jobs at least once, but like and he had that phrase, he wanted

00:06:35   to make a dent in the universe. Right? So Glassboard has made at least to some extent

00:06:40   a little dent in the conference going experience for everybody, like at least in the tech circle.

00:06:45   Well, sure, it keeps your Twitter feeds or ADN feeds a bit more clear since we can move

00:06:53   all this stuff to Glassboard.

00:06:57   But the most rewarding thing to me is seeing my peers and friends use my software.

00:07:00   I've had that experience before with NetNewswire and Mars Edit and having it again with Glassboard,

00:07:06   just seeing it on people's phones is just fucking awesome.

00:07:09   I totally love it.

00:07:11   I don't even care about money at this point.

00:07:14   If my friends are using my stuff, I feel good.

00:07:16   - But you still need to pay the bills.

00:07:19   So you've got the thing--

00:07:20   - I don't need to pay, someone else has to pay the bills.

00:07:22   - So Glassboard started as totally free

00:07:26   and including the backend.

00:07:28   And that's gotta be a significant part of it.

00:07:30   Like you've got real messaging stuff.

00:07:32   - So the cost of that stuff have come down a ton

00:07:35   over the years.

00:07:36   we're using Azure, which is one of these many scalable virtual things that I don't understand

00:07:44   because I write client apps, but it's a lot less expensive than it used to be to do these

00:07:49   back end services.

00:07:50   But recently you guys have added, do you call it a pro tier?

00:07:54   I forget what you call it.

00:07:55   Premium.

00:07:56   Premium.

00:07:57   Right.

00:07:58   How is it taken off?

00:07:59   We have a few customers.

00:08:00   Yeah?

00:08:01   I signed up.

00:08:02   And by a few, I mean, yeah, I think it's like three.

00:08:05   How hard was it to draw the line at where you switch from the free service, which you

00:08:15   really do want to be useful to everybody, right? Because if it was all paid or if it

00:08:19   was really limited, there's no way all those hands would have gone up.

00:08:21   Right, of course. I think we took the slightly lazy way and we said, "Whatever we haven't

00:08:27   done yet, that's for pay, and whatever it is now is the free."

00:08:32   interesting way to do it. So going forward, most new features are going to be on the premium

00:08:37   end.

00:08:38   >> Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Not all, but most.

00:08:41   >> And I have to admit, as somebody who works alone, it's unsurprising that I tend to use

00:08:45   it. I put it a couple screens back, and then I come to a conference and, boom, drag it

00:08:50   to the front screen. I mean, to me, it's like conference board. That's when I use Glassboard.

00:08:55   But you guys designed it also specifically with yourselves in mind, like in an eating

00:08:59   your own dog food way that this is the way your team is going to communicate with each

00:09:04   other for work.

00:09:05   Yeah, totally.

00:09:06   Yeah, it's our, you know, we don't use email, we don't use, you know, IRC or whatever.

00:09:12   We just use Glassboard all day long.

00:09:14   And it works great as, you know, a way of working together.

00:09:17   It's fantastic.

00:09:18   And that was the plan.

00:09:19   I mean, we didn't set out to make conference wear.

00:09:21   We set out to make, you know, work group thing.

00:09:24   And yeah, it's fucking great.

00:09:27   When you're working a typical work day, are you using the web interface to it?

00:09:32   Because there's no Mac client for it.

00:09:35   It's iOS and web.

00:09:37   Well, I use the web mainly during the day because the iOS client I'm actually working

00:09:45   on at the moment and it may not actually build and run.

00:09:48   So I tend to use the web a lot.

00:09:52   And I ask that because, and maybe it should have been obvious because it, well of course

00:09:57   you're going to use the web because you want to use your big keyboard and if there's no

00:10:00   Mac client you're going to use the web.

00:10:01   But the reason I ask is because I often find myself during the day while I'm working, if

00:10:06   I'm going to check Twitter or use Twitter, I will use my phone instead of something on

00:10:12   my Mac a lot of the time because then I'll keep it not running on my Mac to not be distracted.

00:10:16   But if it's off, it actually is like a useful way, it almost feels like using my iPhone

00:10:21   as a second screen and I just keep Twitter there and it kind of keeps me from using it

00:10:28   more than I would if it was on my Mac.

00:10:30   Right.

00:10:31   Sure.

00:10:32   Yeah.

00:10:33   Your phone is great for bathroom breaks and so on, right?

00:10:34   It's just perfect.

00:10:35   No, I actually use it at the desk though.

00:10:37   I find myself using my iPhone at my desk specifically for Twitter.

00:10:41   Like if I just take a little break from whatever I'm writing or working or reading, I'll check

00:10:46   Twitter.

00:10:47   See?

00:10:48   an iOS developer, my phone is useless because it's running my software in debug mode.

00:10:56   >> I want to go back to some of the stuff that Juri had talked about yesterday. For

00:11:03   those of you who don't know, Mike Jurovitz used to work at Apple. He recently left to

00:11:08   go to BlackPixel, worked in developer relations. From a very recent vantage point, he was giving

00:11:14   everybody at the conference a sort of, here's some dope from a guy who is inside Apple,

00:11:21   really at the intersection of where third party developers interact with Apple and giving

00:11:25   them some honest advice as to how to deal with Apple. And a lot of it goes back to what

00:11:33   I said about change being outside your control, right? So like Sandbox and Mac apps is a perfect

00:11:43   example of that. Where developers have all sorts of problems with it. It didn't roll

00:11:50   out as smoothly technically as it could have and it's a really hard transition. You know,

00:11:55   it's definitely, I think one of the biggest problems with it is that the Mac has not had

00:11:58   sandboxing for 20 some years.

00:12:01   >> Right.

00:12:02   >> And now it does and that's a lot harder than iOS which debuted with this sandboxing

00:12:09   mindset.

00:12:10   Yeah, we never even thought of it as sandboxing really, it's just how it worked.

00:12:16   And jury's advice was, what did he say, I wrote this down, get over it, I think.

00:12:20   I think that's what he said.

00:12:21   Mike, is that what you said?

00:12:25   And that's sort of a brash way of saying it, but I do think he's kind of right, because

00:12:29   you can sit there and complain about it and not get anything done, or you can deal with

00:12:34   it and move forward.

00:12:35   And I have always thought over the years, like when you blog about development and how

00:12:40   you approach stuff. You never get upset. You don't. Maybe you do privately but like you

00:12:46   always seem unruffled and even when you get a raw deal it's like you just don't seem to

00:12:50   be like well that's what I got to deal with. Yeah right well there's you know there's no

00:12:55   fighting city hall I guess is the old phrase right. Right so like if you know there are

00:13:00   things you just you can't change. I'm not going to make I'm not personally going to

00:13:05   get Apple to stop sandboxing. I mean, so.

00:13:08   >> So like years ago, when you were still developing that newswire, I would say one

00:13:12   of your city halls that you had to fight was Google Reader.

00:13:15   >> Oh, Jesus Christ. >> Which you used, you guys used that Newsgator

00:13:18   as a syncing back end. >> Right, yeah.

00:13:21   >> I mean, just, can you just talk some of the problems you dealt with with that?

00:13:24   >> Well, man. Google Reader, fantastically popular RSSI

00:13:31   aggregator and we used it as our syncing backend.

00:13:33   And it has an undocumented and unsupported API.

00:13:38   And I had sworn to myself earlier in life, don't ever

00:13:42   use undocumented, unsupported APIs.

00:13:45   And yet there I was, suddenly doing it.

00:13:47   And I had little choice.

00:13:48   Google Reader was the thing that everybody used.

00:13:51   And it was a must do feature.

00:13:56   And I lost a lot of hair and a lot of sleep trying to get that to work.

00:14:03   And I don't think I ever got it working all that well before I ended up selling it to

00:14:07   the Black Pixel folks.

00:14:09   And now it's their headache instead of mine.

00:14:11   But you know, it was a thing.

00:14:14   But you never publicly really, you would explain if there were deficiencies or you know, you

00:14:21   would explain as best you could.

00:14:22   But you never seem to get upset.

00:14:23   And you're just like, this is my hand to play.

00:14:25   to move forward on it.

00:14:27   Exactly.

00:14:28   Because life's too short to spend it bitching.

00:14:31   You got to get your work done and ship software.

00:14:34   And I think one of the things people, you know, developers I think because they're so

00:14:42   by definition rationally minded have a keen sense of justice.

00:14:47   And of course everybody's self-interested and everybody, you know, if it's close call

00:14:52   wants things to go their way.

00:14:55   But I think what developers, what third party developers see and complain about with the

00:15:00   Mac App Store and sandboxing is that Apple is kind of cheating with their own apps.

00:15:07   >> Well, they totally are.

00:15:09   But we always knew they would, right?

00:15:10   I mean...

00:15:11   >> Right, because it's their store.

00:15:12   >> Exactly.

00:15:13   >> Right.

00:15:14   >> They can do whatever they want to do.

00:15:15   >> And so, you know, I don't even, I hope this isn't getting Paul into trouble.

00:15:22   I know Paul Kofasis had told me that I think Fission, Rogue Amoeba's audio editor, had

00:15:27   problems with the sandboxing restrictions for something something that happens to be

00:15:32   the exact same thing that GarageBand does technically at an API level. And I don't even

00:15:36   know if GarageBand is sandboxed yet, but the fact that if it isn't even sandboxed yet,

00:15:40   that just speaks more to the rules, you know, for third party developers are not the same

00:15:45   rules that Apple plays by.

00:15:47   >> Yeah. And, but we never expected that they would. And anybody who did expect that Apple

00:15:52   would play by those rules is, must be new here.

00:15:55   (audience laughing)

00:15:59   - One of the other things that a jury had talked about,

00:16:03   and I think it comes up a lot in a developer conference,

00:16:06   is the concept of technical debt.

00:16:08   And it manifests itself in many ways.

00:16:11   And I think Marco's talk about your career

00:16:13   kind of touched on this, certainly Michael Lop's thing,

00:16:17   did too where if you're too attached to what you've done to the way things were

00:16:23   to what you were good at you can really get into trouble because the world

00:16:27   around you moves forward right right and one of the things you it's like a

00:16:31   repeating thing like it always comes up is that you Brent Simmons love to delete

00:16:37   code it's what gets me up in the morning I love deleting code almost more than

00:16:42   anything else.

00:16:45   I've written some wonderful, clever, great things that then the OS had support for and

00:16:51   I can just delete those.

00:16:52   What did you say about the thing about table cells?

00:16:55   Yeah, so in the last version of NetNewsWire for Mac I did, I did a UI table view like

00:17:02   thing on the Mac, so it was a table that used views instead of cells and it had the same

00:17:08   dequeuing mechanism and all that kind of stuff. And it was really fast. I tested it with a

00:17:14   million rows and did everything. And it was magical and I loved it. And it was some of

00:17:18   the coolest UI code I ever wrote. And then they added support for that in the OS. And

00:17:22   I could go, "Pshh, gone. Get rid of it. Delete the whole thing."

00:17:25   And I think your natural instincts always lead you to your -- I think you're a little

00:17:31   off the charts in that direction. Where you don't -- it's not like you have this regret

00:17:35   "Oh man, that was beautiful code.

00:17:38   Now I have to, maybe I should delete it."

00:17:39   You're like happy to do it.

00:17:41   - I totally am.

00:17:41   I get a thrill out of deleting my best code.

00:17:44   - Yeah, I think I, if I were writing code for a living,

00:17:47   I would probably be more likely to be at the other end

00:17:50   and be too attached to the thing I did.

00:17:53   Like I do, and I, if I have a weakness

00:17:55   as a one man show writing operation

00:17:58   is that I probably should delete more

00:18:02   of what I've written sometimes

00:18:04   if it interrupts. Like if it's a good passage and I feel like there's something good about

00:18:09   it, but it might make the whole piece better if I just took it out. I'm less likely to

00:18:14   kill that than I probably should be or than I would be if I had a separate editor or something

00:18:18   like that.

00:18:19   Well, you know, there's old writing advice. Is it kill your darlings?

00:18:22   Yeah.

00:18:23   Something like that.

00:18:24   Murder your darlings.

00:18:25   Murder your darlings. Or, you know, when I was very young, my journalism teacher said,

00:18:31   Brent, find the best sentence in that and delete that,

00:18:34   and then ship the rest of it.

00:18:36   - Right.

00:18:37   - You know, because, and she was fighting against

00:18:39   the tendency to, you know, get too attached

00:18:42   to some, you know, clever bit of wordplay or something,

00:18:44   you know, and stuff is stronger when you get rid of that.

00:18:48   - Right, and the one thing I do find myself doing often

00:18:50   is deleting the first sentence of a piece,

00:18:53   which I am attached to, because it's something that's good,

00:18:57   and it got me started, and broke the change

00:19:00   got me actually moving my fingers on the keyboard. But then when I go back and read it all over

00:19:06   again, it really, really reads better if I start with the second paragraph.

00:19:09   >> Yeah, yeah. It happens to me all the time. The real lead is the second sentence or second

00:19:14   paragraph. >> Something overly clever and off the tone

00:19:18   of the rest of the piece. >> Right.

00:19:23   >> Probably a good -- we're about 20 minutes in. So why don't I take the time now and I'll

00:19:30   do the sponsor break. We only have one sponsor for this very special show. The magazine from

00:19:36   our good friend and we've already mentioned him a few times this show, Marco Arment. So

00:19:42   where's Marco? I think he's out there taking pictures. So the magazine is really interesting.

00:19:49   Marco has taken what's sort of the skeleton of Instapaper, which I'm going to assume everybody

00:19:55   out there knows. And instead of making a thing where you send articles to it and stash it

00:20:01   and read it, he's taking the skeleton of here's articles and here's a nice presentation area

00:20:06   and a really nice reading interface. And he's gone into publishing himself and he's had,

00:20:13   you know, one issue is out right now as we do the show. There's one issue and it's just

00:20:18   It's loaded up with singleton talent. We've got an article by our friend Guy English.

00:20:26   We've got an article on baseball and tech from Jason Snell. Who's the other? Oh, Michael

00:20:35   Lobb. And Alex Payne, who is not here. Shame on him. Why is Alex Payne not here? If everybody

00:20:42   else from issue one.

00:20:43   >> I don't think I've seen him since C4 probably.

00:20:46   I don't know. But it was a really great article. It was four dynamite articles all over the

00:20:52   place. Or not all over the place, but of widely different topics. And it's just a real simple

00:20:59   idea. And the simple idea financially is buck 99. How often? A month? Buck 99 a month. And

00:21:09   you get two issues a month of really thoughtful, really interesting articles. And it seems

00:21:19   so simple. And I think it's going to work. Like Marco in his introduction said, "Do

00:21:23   I know that this is going to work? I don't know." But it's going to. And it has all

00:21:27   sorts of stuff that I think is just, it sounds ridiculous that this is the sort of thing

00:21:32   that deserves praise, but you can select text. How crazy is it that that's actually a feature

00:21:41   deserving praise in an app for reading when the OS has a feature that you select a word

00:21:47   and you can get a little button to define if somebody uses a word you don't know. Have

00:21:53   you subscribed? Do you read the magazine?

00:21:55   >> I will, but I've been traveling, so I've been too busy to actually get in front of

00:22:00   devices, but I will as soon as I get home. Very much looking forward to it. I love the

00:22:07   I like the model where he has like 30 days or something, exclusive rights, and then the

00:22:13   person can republish it. But I think what that does is it encourages the writers to

00:22:18   write something timeless rather than just the news of the day. Something that will last

00:22:25   a while. And I think that's a good call.

00:22:28   magazine, the idea for it fits or fills so many needs that have been left as everybody

00:22:34   has moved towards blogging and tweeting and doing these things that when you hit the publish

00:22:42   button, the people who it's intended for can start reading it seconds later. And, you

00:22:51   know, there's obviously, and it, that publishing model obviously, and even in my case, definitely

00:22:56   leads me to writing things that are more about the here and now or this week or the thing

00:23:01   that just came out the two days ago or the thing that now we all know or have heard is

00:23:05   coming out on October 23rd as opposed to thinking about things that just so the audience at

00:23:12   home knows John's holding an iPad mini as we speak. I swear I've got my show notes.

00:23:22   And it does. I mean, and these, and I would say four for four in the first four articles

00:23:28   in the issue one of the magazine, all four of them, if Marco had like taken one of them

00:23:33   and put it in his pocket, editorial pocket and published it in issue 26 a year from now,

00:23:41   it would still work. First anniversary issue, it would be just as timeless and would fit

00:23:44   just as well.

00:23:45   - I bet he does have articles in his pocket.

00:23:48   - He probably does. We should probably do so.

00:23:52   So anyway, everybody out there, if you haven't already, check out the magazine. You can go

00:23:58   to the app store and search for the magazine and you won't find it.

00:24:02   >> Okay.

00:24:03   >> But maybe by the time the show airs, you will. It is a weird problem with naming it.

00:24:08   And I will add this is that before he launched, Marco ran the idea by me and I pooh-poohed

00:24:14   the title of the magazine as being too generic in a chat.

00:24:21   Mr. Talk Show. And that's exactly it. And then as soon as I hit return, I realized I

00:24:25   had to immediately type this coming from the guy whose podcast is called The Talk Show.

00:24:31   And I was like, so and then I read like next line was like, so now we're going to call

00:24:34   you the john. No, I was like, I went from I think it's too generic. And then I wrote

00:24:40   this coming from the guy whose podcast is the talk show. And then I wrote, so great

00:24:43   title. And I believe that what's the URL? I don't have it handy. I should have.

00:24:50   >> Are you sure? So Marco says the URL is the-magazine.org.

00:25:01   >> .org is this a nonprofit? >> People used to tell me with DaringFireball.net

00:25:09   because it used to be I think the original ICANN definition of .net was you had to be

00:25:13   like a service provider or something like that.

00:25:16   and dot orgs had to be nonprofits and I still want a dot edu. Brent Simmons dot edu. It's

00:25:22   um school mixology. I was going to say I'm deathly frightened to know what you learned

00:25:30   at Brent Simmons dot edu. I also want Brent Simmons dot gov. I'm sure that Brent Simmons

00:25:38   dot edu all the ads are from lawyers, bail bondsmen. I did another podcast where I talked

00:25:46   about going to jail. I did hear that. I don't know if you've heard that one. That was pretty

00:25:50   good. That's Dave and Lex, unprofessional, and this is their little plug. Yeah, go ahead.

00:25:56   And I'm done, that was a short plug. So one of the things that I find interesting, and

00:26:06   I feel like everybody has to deal with it. I would just say this, there's been a lot

00:26:10   of talk this week because it's new and everybody isn't really sure whether it's going to take

00:26:13   off it's like it just seems like this is app.net. What's your take on app.net?

00:26:20   I don't know if it's going to live. I like it a lot because I like the service and I

00:26:29   really wanted Twitter to be the thing that I loved because it was the thing I loved for

00:26:32   a long time but I just don't love the company. And it seemed that when Netbot came out, alpha.net,

00:26:42   What the hell is this thing called?

00:26:43   But that's part of it.

00:26:44   Suddenly, suddenly there's a lot of people actually using it.

00:26:47   And I'm like, eh, I'm not checking Twitter anymore.

00:26:49   I'm using ADN or whatever the hell it's called.

00:26:53   There, there's a, this is like where I fail as a talk show host.

00:26:57   But there's like three things about app.net that I want to talk about and none of them

00:27:01   really seem to lead to each other and you just touched on all three of them.

00:27:06   So let me just say them and you guys can remind me when we go off on a tangent on one of them

00:27:09   to go back.

00:27:10   But one of them is that it's a terrible name.

00:27:11   It's not even a name. That's like…

00:27:15   One of them is that if Twitter had behaved in what seems to be the most obvious way,

00:27:20   in a way that they should, there'd never be any room for it to happen and we'd never

00:27:23   be talking about it.

00:27:24   Right.

00:27:25   And the third one is that it's like, it's been a great little science experiment since

00:27:33   Netbot came out about the importance of apps.

00:27:36   Yeah, totally.

00:27:37   Versus web clients.

00:27:39   Yeah.

00:27:40   So, those are the three things. Let's talk about the name first, which is terrible. Nobody

00:27:44   even knows what to call it. Some people call it app.net. Some people call it ADN, which

00:27:49   comes from app.net. I've never even seen that before, where the dot in something's name

00:27:54   becomes part of its initials. I've never seen that.

00:27:57   People are grasping at straws. Anything to give it an identity.

00:28:01   Right. And then their reference implementation of a client for the service they called alpha.

00:28:08   And so it's like the URL is alpha.app.net and then there was some confusion. Maybe the

00:28:13   thing is called alpha and nobody really…

00:28:15   Right. They can't go into beta now ever because alpha is the name.

00:28:21   And I forget. I was just talking about it, I think the first night that I was here in

00:28:24   Montreal and just how it's almost impossibly generic, the name app.net.

00:28:34   everything if you're writing software is an app and when is the last time any of us has

00:28:38   had a new app that hasn't in some way used the net? Right? Like I'm trying to think,

00:28:46   like even games, games are still connecting with game center and sending saved stuff like,

00:28:52   it really is almost impossibly generic.

00:28:56   >> Yeah, yeah. And you could look at it in one way, all the personality for whatever

00:29:02   it's called, is going to come to the clients. When I think of whatever this is called, I

00:29:07   picture the netbot icon.

00:29:09   >> Right. That's, and that is, you know, it famously happened with Twitter in the early

00:29:16   days when…

00:29:19   >> Is Craig here still? Yeah, if I hadn't been for Twitterific…

00:29:23   >> Craig, stand up. We can't see you.

00:29:24   >> Yeah.

00:29:25   >> All right, there he is.

00:29:26   >> If it hadn't been for Twitterific, I would never, I mean, I saw Twitterific before I

00:29:30   I saw Twitter. And I'm like, "I like this app. What do I have to do to use this thing?"

00:29:33   >> No, but famously, well, maybe not famously, actually, much to the injustice of it, but

00:29:40   Twitter itself didn't use any kind of bird iconography at all. Not the silhouette or

00:29:47   anything. They were using a lowercase "T" bubble font thing as their logo. And Twitterific

00:29:55   shipped with, what's the bird's name?

00:29:58   >> Ollie.

00:29:59   Ollie, the bird, and it was such a spectacularly perfect icon for the Twitter experience that

00:30:08   all of a sudden it became one of the most like ripped off things in the universe. Like

00:30:15   everybody all across the web when they would link to their Twitter account would put the

00:30:19   Twitter-ic icon there as a representation of Twitter.

00:30:22   >> I don't know how that escaped the Twitter people. They named their service after the

00:30:26   sound a bird makes and didn't use a bird. I don't know it's one of those great you

00:30:32   know I like like so many great ideas it's so obvious in hindsight but you

00:30:35   know it's it's like a forgotten fact that it was the icon factory that. Oh and

00:30:40   the word tweet I guess was an icon factory thing and and like 10 or 20

00:30:45   other things we all have to thank Craig and his people for. And and because of

00:30:50   all the royalties that icon factory is getting from Twitter that's why Craig

00:30:55   will be the one who issues the refunds for everybody's singleton.

00:31:05   >> Which one?

00:31:07   >> Craig says to meet him on his private jet.

00:31:11   So the name stinks.

00:31:12   And I think names matter.

00:31:14   >> I think names matter.

00:31:16   On the other hand, their attitude seems to be, hey, we're going to make a generic service

00:31:21   and developers are the ones who are going to add personality to it.

00:31:24   I don't know if that will work, but as a developer I kind of don't mind their humility there,

00:31:29   right?

00:31:30   I do.

00:31:31   I do.

00:31:32   But I do think that it also speaks to one of the… as it seeps into the background

00:31:37   of your consciousness, what a tremendous advantage Twitter has that they own this word "tweet,"

00:31:44   which acts as both a noun and a verb.

00:31:46   And it's a thing, so these things that you send to Twitter are tweets.

00:31:50   And when you do them, you're tweeting.

00:31:53   And that's a really, really powerful psychological advantage.

00:31:58   And very much along the lines that doing a web search is called Googling.

00:32:03   >> Right.

00:32:04   Sure.

00:32:05   Yeah.

00:32:06   You ever Google something at Bing?

00:32:07   >> Yeah, I do.

00:32:08   You know, I think that I would easily find myself saying that I did.

00:32:12   >> Yeah, right.

00:32:13   Of course.

00:32:14   Yeah.

00:32:15   So what we're saying, though, is that Craig and his team need to step up and come up and

00:32:20   invent a personality and names and stuff for Alpha.net.

00:32:25   Right. So, second thing is that just, and it's more, well maybe not more important,

00:32:29   because I do think names are important, but the honestly indignation that I feel

00:32:34   towards the way Twitter is acting towards third-party developers and their

00:32:39   APIs. And it's brought to light by this App.net thing and as these App.net

00:32:46   clients start appearing where it's explicit, not even implicit. It's not like you have

00:32:52   to kind of like squint and think about it. It's like absolutely clear as day. One of

00:32:56   the few things that's as clear as day in the Twitter API guidelines is if you're using

00:33:01   the Twitter API, you cannot intermix the tweets that you're getting or any of the data you're

00:33:07   getting from Twitter with the content from anything that even any other service. Yeah.

00:33:13   And that to me is such bullshit. It is exactly like an email provider. Like imagine an email

00:33:17   provider that said you cannot put any email from us into a unified inbox.

00:33:24   - Yeah, imagine Google saying that about two email clients or something. Yeah, that.

00:33:29   - It just makes no sense because it's just totally, and again, and you know, and people

00:33:35   often call me out on this because, you know, I will write pieces that were, I'm not, I

00:33:42   really don't see myself as defending Apple's App Store. I'm trying to explain what they're

00:33:46   thinking. And so I do understand, I'm not saying Twitter can't do this, you know, or

00:33:53   even that they're morally wrong for doing it. I just think that they're being foolish

00:33:58   because I think being that…

00:34:00   What's the word?

00:34:03   Arrogant. Arrogant.

00:34:04   Arrogant. Right, sure. Well, they've lost the love of this room and many rooms like

00:34:08   it.

00:34:09   said, you know, it's easy to say that hardcore geeks don't matter much, but we do because

00:34:16   we tell our parents and siblings and family what software to use. And, you know, we have

00:34:21   an outsized amount of power. And when you lose the geeks, you lose a lot, I think.

00:34:27   Well, they've turned their backs on a lot of people who truly had and even have remaining

00:34:33   and to some extent, but it's dwindling, affection for Twitter.

00:34:36   Right.

00:34:37   really liked them and they've just turned their backs on that and it just seems like

00:34:42   that is something that they seem to be acting as though it's irrelevant now. Whereas I don't

00:34:48   think that's the case at all. I think that they should be to the top levels absolutely

00:34:54   positively like hey we need to actually have like one of these like change courses right

00:34:59   now thing because of just even the extent that app.net got off the ground. Whether it

00:35:05   stays up like I said it's yeah we'll see it seems iffy but the fact that there

00:35:08   was any enthusiasm at all for it really should have I think if I were there I

00:35:13   would be like this is this is awful we've you know this is existence proof

00:35:17   that we have screwed this up mm-hmm yeah and and to me just you know it just

00:35:21   seems so ridiculous like why wouldn't you let them integrate tweets into some

00:35:25   other thing if that's what they want to do sure you know let a thousand flowers

00:35:30   bloom right let all let people write all kinds of software it's just gonna make

00:35:34   your service all the more valuable and beloved. And they're like, no.

00:35:41   >> And it often, I think it easily comes back to a lot of the stuff you've done like RSS.

00:35:46   And now the difference is Twitter is in a unique position where they can do this because

00:35:50   they are, become so popular and they are big that they can do it. And they can make developers

00:35:58   write separate apps for app.net than Twitter, even though it would make a lot more sense

00:36:05   if they would just integrate it into the same app. But it reminds me of publishers who wouldn't

00:36:12   want to publish RSS feeds or wouldn't want to publish full data RSS feeds. And of course,

00:36:18   there are good reasons. There are reasons you think, "Well, all of our ads are coming

00:36:22   this other way and we don't have ads in the RSS. We don't know what to do." But when you

00:36:26   try to take your stuff and keep it in your own little box. Good stuff never happens because

00:36:31   the users, people, I say users, but just people want the stuff to just let me put it where

00:36:37   I want it.

00:36:38   Right, right, exactly. Yeah. And trying to control stuff in that way is swimming against

00:36:45   the tide. That's rarely works out.

00:36:49   And I, you know, Net News Wire is a perfect example where my life a year before to a year

00:36:57   after the existence of Net News Wire was that I was suddenly reading all sorts of stuff,

00:37:03   not on the website where it was written, which maybe, you know, in some ways was a loss for

00:37:08   those websites if I previously read them, but reading so much more in the aggregate,

00:37:14   including a lot of sources where I wouldn't be reading them regularly at all, and at least

00:37:17   I'm reading them, right?

00:37:19   So I can't help but think that it was a win for so many websites, not that me in particular

00:37:24   was reading it, but that everybody using NetNewswire was reading it.

00:37:27   People were reading a lot more than they could have before.

00:37:31   Right.

00:37:32   And then it comes down to, I don't think there's too many people, but people who accuse an

00:37:38   app like Instapaper of somehow usurping or flipboard or something like that, of stepping

00:37:46   on the toes or pulling content.

00:37:47   It's really no, they're just giving people other options for consuming your content.

00:37:53   And shouldn't you just be thrilled that people want to consume, want to read your stuff?

00:37:56   Yeah, absolutely.

00:37:57   Hopefully, that's your goal.

00:38:00   If not, choose another business, I think.

00:38:03   And I just think Twitter has totally lost that.

00:38:05   So what was my third thing?

00:38:06   My third thing was...

00:38:07   Oh, I don't know, but I have a Dick Costello story, actually.

00:38:12   That is good.

00:38:13   And I think I haven't thought about this in years, but it was at...

00:38:17   >> You're a CEO of Twitter. >> Chief executive officer and chief Dick

00:38:23   officer of Twitter. >> Right. So it's easy to not like him because

00:38:27   he's in charge of this whole thing and it seems awful. But the first time I met him

00:38:32   was years ago and it was evening at Adler or the first C4 perhaps. So I was in Chicago

00:38:38   and I had just started working at NewsGator and FeedBurner was in Chicago and Dick was

00:38:44   at FeedBurner. And both those companies were funded by Brad Feld and Mobius or whatever

00:38:50   he was doing at the time. So Brad encouraged me to go to the FeedBurner offices and meet

00:38:56   Dick and everybody. And so I go into their office and it's a big open space. And I walk

00:39:01   in there and I can't remember if it was Dick or somebody else, introduces me to the entire

00:39:05   company all at once. And this was probably 2004 or something like that. NetNewsWire was

00:39:11   was just starting to become a really big hit.

00:39:13   And of course, the guys at Feedburner had stats on that

00:39:16   and knew exactly how big it was.

00:39:18   And the entire office applauded me.

00:39:21   And I was just really, really fucking cool.

00:39:26   Just like for being the guy who wrote the software.

00:39:30   I loved that.

00:39:31   And then we went out to lunch

00:39:32   and Dick was charming and funny.

00:39:34   I think he has a theater background.

00:39:36   And I had a great time.

00:39:38   And it was, it's only years later where I'm like,

00:39:40   God, what a dick.

00:39:41   It's just, it's so easy.

00:39:47   - Yeah, right.

00:39:47   - To go with the joke about his name, but.

00:39:50   - But you can't help it, right?

00:39:52   - Yeah.

00:39:53   - Is George here?

00:39:53   George Dick?

00:39:54   There he is.

00:39:57   - I had an uncle Dick.

00:39:59   My father's brother was Richard Gruber

00:40:05   and everybody called him Dick,

00:40:06   but he was a little bit older even than my dad

00:40:08   and he died a couple years ago.

00:40:11   But he was of that generation now.

00:40:14   He was like Dick Cheney and those guys.

00:40:17   - I had a grandpa Dick, Dick Davis.

00:40:20   - I mean, he was a good name back then.

00:40:21   - Oh yeah, totally.

00:40:22   He had a mug, a white mug with black lettering,

00:40:26   big bold letters, Dick.

00:40:28   And he drank his coffee out of that every morning.

00:40:30   And I'm like, that's a hell of a good way to start a day.

00:40:33   - For some reason, the name seems to have fallen

00:40:35   out of favor in recent decades though.

00:40:37   Let's bring it back. All right, name your kid's dick, even the girls.

00:40:43   >> All right, so last thing on App.net, we can probably wrap up the show with it. But

00:40:47   I did think that it was really an interesting experiment. And I certainly have the belief

00:40:55   that native clients, native for the Mac, native for iOS, are the way to go for so many -- if

00:41:03   if at all possible, that's the way to go. And it just, it makes everything better. Latency

00:41:07   is better. Interface is better. You can, you're less restricted about where things go. You

00:41:12   can make things look just right. And as hard as it may be, and you can go back to, you

00:41:18   know, Brad's talk about how hard it is to get things looking exactly right when you're

00:41:22   truly a perfectionist. It certainly is a lot, how hard it could be and how much work, way

00:41:28   easier with a native app than with, with the web.

00:41:30   A great example I think was tweeted or outfit or something by I think Matt Drance.

00:41:35   He put up a screen shot of that web platform.org or something.

00:41:40   Have you seen this site?

00:41:42   Well it's talking about the web as a platform.

00:41:44   And of course if you open it on your iPhone it is completely fucked up.

00:41:49   It's like yep and that pretty much just nails it.

00:41:53   And it also ties in again to Marco's talk from yesterday.

00:41:58   And Marco at one point, he was talking about a conference that he had spoken at and that

00:42:03   he didn't mention because it ended up being a rather unpleasant experience, but as he

00:42:07   described it, it was a conference for web developers and web designers.

00:42:14   And Marco, you know, he did work at Tumblr, but you know, is certainly far more well known

00:42:20   for his work on clients like Instapaper.

00:42:25   more or less the message he gave was, "You guys shouldn't be thinking so much about the

00:42:30   web. You should be thinking about what's the best experience for your users. And in a lot

00:42:33   of cases, it's going to be an app, a native app. And maybe even only a native app." And

00:42:41   he held up Instagram as an example. Here I am getting my Instapapers and Instagram is

00:42:46   exactly right so far. I haven't made a mistake.

00:42:48   >> It's too bad Pixelmator isn't a sponsor today.

00:42:52   >> No.

00:42:53   >> Because I wanted to hear that in person.

00:42:54   Well, no, I would say with a French accent here in Quebec. Pixel métoré.

00:42:58   >> Windows Vista.

00:43:00   >> Yeah. But I thought that, and I thought Marco didn't extrapolate that though to the

00:43:06   right degree. And Marco is, you know, is usually, he's a nice guy, but he is not artificially

00:43:11   humble. Is that he kind of took away from that that I gave these guys this message and

00:43:15   he got, it ends up, long story short, he, this conference gives, all the attendees get

00:43:19   to rank the speakers and Marco came out ranked very, very poorly or dead last or something

00:43:24   like that. Not because what he said wasn't true. In hindsight, he was exactly true. And

00:43:27   Instagram was a remarkably apt thing because they sold for a billion fucking dollars.

00:43:32   Yeah, right. I mean, now it's like 400 million because Facebook's tank.

00:43:36   And they have a billion fucking users too. Yeah, right.

00:43:38   But yeah, and they still have more and more users. And it is by all accounts the most

00:43:45   successful social networking thing to have launched in the last couple of years. So it

00:43:51   was a great example. He was exactly, that's the thing is he should draw satisfaction from

00:43:55   the fact that he was dead right. The reason he got ranked poorly by the speakers wasn't

00:44:00   because what he said wasn't good advice and it wasn't true. It was because it wasn't what

00:44:03   they wanted to hear.

00:44:04   Exactly. What is it that this crowd doesn't want to hear that we can tell them? There

00:44:09   has to be something.

00:44:11   Bars closed?

00:44:12   Bar's closed.

00:44:14   I can't think of anything.

00:44:15   There's got to be something there.

00:44:16   I think that's one of the great things about this conference though is that people who

00:44:21   have come here are thinking ahead.

00:44:24   And to Marco's point about maybe you should think about an app, I thought the interesting

00:44:28   thing about app.net is it seemed to me like usage was going down and down and down and

00:44:33   then netbot shipped and there was this huge spike.

00:44:37   Yeah, that day was like the change.

00:44:39   And I'm sure they will always remember that day, right? When Netbot comes out and suddenly

00:44:46   it validated everything. And there were a lot of new users and a lot of activity.

00:44:54   I think that the idea, I think there was, and it was almost taken as religion, is that

00:45:00   once we got to the point where you could write web apps and web apps would run everywhere,

00:45:05   that that was like some sort of endpoint in the continuum of how software evolved. And

00:45:10   that not everybody, certainly not everybody, but there were a large number of people who

00:45:14   I think sort of took it and still take it. And I think that they, and now they give Marco

00:45:19   check minuses on his talks, that they've broken this dogma that web apps are the future. And

00:45:27   I think people are still dug in on that and that there were, you see a lot of people and

00:45:30   they look at the app store and the success and they say, well, that's just temporary

00:45:34   soon web apps will take over that.

00:45:38   I don't think that's true.

00:45:39   >> Yeah, I don't buy it because it's not an arms race exactly, but it's kind of like that.

00:45:46   What we as client developers are going to be able to do is always going to outstrip

00:45:50   what the web can do.

00:45:52   So people who love web development will say, hey, we're getting this and this.

00:45:56   I'll be like, hey, great, awesome, you're going to really enjoy that.

00:46:00   But meanwhile, we're going to be another mile ahead because it's not like the platform stops

00:46:05   and waits for equality.

00:46:08   It totally doesn't.

00:46:09   One of my all-time favorite Brent Simmons-isms, I don't even know how many years ago it was,

00:46:16   could be a long time ago, but I'll never forget it, but you were writing about why, and it

00:46:23   was clearly predates the iPhone, but it was why write software for the Mac.

00:46:28   And maybe it was in response to a Joel Spolsky thing talking about just how much bigger the

00:46:31   Windows market was.

00:46:34   And your piece was that it went beyond economics.

00:46:38   It wasn't about the size of the audience.

00:46:40   It was that writing Mac apps was the show.

00:46:45   With a capital S.

00:46:46   >> Right?

00:46:48   It's the only big leak there is at the time.

00:46:50   Of course now we have iOS.

00:46:52   But yeah, the idea was if you're making software, you care about user experience first.

00:47:00   And everything you do comes from that premise, right?

00:47:04   Your choice of platform, your choice of technologies, all choices start with user experience and

00:47:10   wanting to do the very best.

00:47:12   And I'm ambitious and wanted to play in the best playground that there was because everything

00:47:18   else sucks.

00:47:19   And, you know, to throw another, keep it, you know, because the show is a reference

00:47:27   to like that's like a baseball term for making it to the big leagues, to the major leagues.

00:47:32   Where baseball, professional baseball in the United States has these hierarchies of, you

00:47:36   know, they're all professional, but you go from A to AA to AAA and I don't even know,

00:47:41   it might even be thousands of players active at any given time to fill all these teams

00:47:46   and all sorts of local teams, you know, all really small towns have a professional baseball

00:47:51   team. But it's, you know, amateurs or not amateurs, but guys making like $1,000 a month.

00:47:56   Yeah, right. Sleeping on buses and stuff like that. And then you make it to the show. Yeah,

00:48:00   that's the real deal. And all of a sudden, the bright lights are on. And the big money's

00:48:05   there. And you're not playing in front of 700 people. You're playing in front of 35,000

00:48:09   people. Yep, yep. And you're on television and you have groupies and, and you make a

00:48:14   a mistake and it's on the front page of the sports section the next day. And if you do

00:48:18   something good, it's on the front page of the sports section the next day. So there's

00:48:23   scrutiny. But it's really, I think it comes down to you've got to be obsessed. Right?

00:48:30   So why play baseball instead of basketball? For those guys who play baseball, it's because

00:48:33   that's the sport. A lot of guys who are athletic could do anything, but it is the sport that

00:48:38   captivates the mind and you can't get unhooked from it. And I think that's what great user

00:48:43   experiences for a developer like you.

00:48:48   I have nothing to add to that.

00:48:50   Well Brent thank you for being here.

00:48:52   Thank you to the hosts at Singleton.

00:48:55   Absolutely thank you so much.

00:48:56   Even with the bad badges it was remarkable and extraordinarily generous to offer this

00:49:01   stage to me to do the show here today and absolutely most of all thank you to all of

00:49:07   you who stayed here to watch this.

00:49:10   It's always a thrill to do a show live and just a great thrill.

00:49:14   Thanks, John.

00:49:15   Thank you, Brent.

00:49:16   [Applause]

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