Take control of your online life

There are so many ways to get started, the choices available can feel like their own barrier. But these days it is easier than even just a few years ago. In the IndieWeb community, we still recommend you Get Started with your own domain and website. But I admit that’s a big lift for folks who are just beginning to think this through. Several choices to be made and so many options for each.

Tantek is providing advice, tools and words of encouragement on his 100 Days of IndieWeb series. He starts with a simple observation and words of encouragement to Own Your Own Notes. Each day, Tantek is presenting a short bit of advice about how to proceed. At this writing he’s a couple weeks in. Follow through the links at the bottom of each post to the next one in the series.

My own advice is to start with micro.blog. It takes minutes to get started, and you can optionally use a domain name of your own. They have a free 30-day trial, and inexpensive plans with great features. Micro.blog even ties in seamlessly to the fast-growing “Fediverse” of systems that communicate using ActivityPub, allowing you to follow and also be followed by someone using Mastodon, Pixelfed or any of the other compatible services.

The Timeline is often the wrong paradigm

It’s great to see folks stepping away from assumptions brought over from other social media systems. The river of posts may serve the attention merchants’ engagement goals when they can keep you endlessly scrolling, but it’s not the way we naturally think. So we have filters and other methods of tightening our focus down to the “important stuff”. Or maybe the important people.

Better yet, rethink that interface. We’re seeing a lot of that kind of creativity happening.

Ben Brown, @benbrown@hackers.town, author of Shuttlecraft (https://github.com/benbrown/shuttlecraft) is experiementing with a news reader style interface that lets one browse by person/feed.

I think it’s a great idea, so I told him so:

This started a whole conversation between us, which was very fun.

The creativity and fun of the ActivityPub world (which is not just Mastodon) reminds me of the early days of Twitter when their open developer APIs created an app ecosystem that was dynamic.

Moving from Dark Sky to Apple Weather

Apple Support has posted a helpful guide to Apple Weather especially for people coming from Dark Sky:

Dark Sky’s features have been integrated into Apple Weather. Apple Weather offers hyperlocal forecasts for your current location, including next-hour precipitation, hourly forecasts for the next 10 days, high-resolution radar, and notifications.

Apple Weather is available on devices running iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS 13 Ventura. If you’re new to Apple Weather, here are some tips to get started.

The background, in case you are wondering and don’t already know, is that Apple bought Dark Sky a while back, and now they have shut down that service.

Watch WWDC for Technology Futures

Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference is this morning, and so I’m annoyed by all the people who are wrong on the internet. 😉

The mainstream press, and even some of the tech press (and certainly the financial press) never seem to know what to think of the news from WWDC. The tendency is to think of it as a product announcement event, even though product announcements at WWDC happen only occasionally.

WWDC is the richest look at Apple’s long-term plans that we ever see. As much as individual new products are picked apart and analyzed, the best information about Apple’s plans and the general direction of their technologies and products comes at WWDC.

This is a show for Developers. Most Developers are chomping at the bit to find out what new features and systems will be in this year’s new software, including Apple’s major operating systems (iOS, MacOS, et. al.), and languages and tools (Swift, Xcode, SwiftUI, ARKit, et. al.). Developers want to start building!

But many of us also watch closely for directional signals on what’s coming in the future. For example, Apple’s Memoji are cute animated avatars that you can design and decorate. They are cute and fun, but many people thought them silly and even useless. But developers saw the directional signal: Apple’s deep integration commitment for Augmented Reality. Apple’s commitment to privacy has been on display year after year at WWDC. And although we couldn’t really know it for sure at the time, Apple’s Metal framework for graphics presaged the move to Apple Silicon.

Apple’s just wrapping up the transition to using its own processors, Arm-based Apple Silicon, across all products. The last major product family to get Apple Silicon, Mac Pro, will be coming out soon – possibly being announced at WWDC today.

Both SwiftUI and ARKit are high on my list for expected improvements. They have both been developing in some interesting ways the last couple years and are also both “unfinished” in ways that are both frustrating and intriguing.

The pace is sometimes frustrating. Holes in capabilities (and bugs!) can be maddening. But it’s still remarkable the progress made over a few years.

Apple Design Awards 2022

Every year, Apple celebrates brilliant app and game design with the Apple Design Awards. It’s a huge honor to be a finalist or selected as an Apple Design Award winner.

I love this event because it celebrates the best of the independent software world. Many of the recipients of the awards are small teams or even individual developers. It’s so fun to see the creativity and beauty of these apps. You can check out the finalist at Apple’s Design Awards Page. The awards ceremony will be Monday, June 6th at 5pm (Pacific) and will be streamed online at that page linked above.

Have a look at all the finalists and you’re sure to find something you love. I already knew of several but was delighted to learn about (Not Boring) Habits, and Gibbon: Beyond the Trees. And I’m so happy to see Halide Mark II in the finalists list.

Have a look for yourself and find something that tickles you!

Hacking with Swift – a great learning resource

I’ve been following Paul Hudson’s work for a few years now, and I’m also a very happy subscriber to his Hacking with Swift+ program. Paul provides great learning resources, many of them for free. If you want to get started learning Swift (and SwiftUI), I recommend 100 Days of SwiftUI, his free learning program. He also has a UIKit version, at 100 Days of Swift.

But right now, around WWDC2022, he’s also running specials on his books and bundles, for 50% off.

https://www.hackingwithswift.com/offers

I have enjoyed and learned a lot from his books, and own all of his bundles. It’s amazing how he keeps updating the various books. I really don’t know how he does it all. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet him and thank him personally at (or around) WWDC this year.

Being There

There is a new retrospective book about Apple that’s just out, “After Steve: how Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul“, by Tripp Mickle. It sounds like a good book with some good stories. But many Apple followers are pointing out the flaws in the narrative. It seems the author doesn’t really “get” Apple.

But Apple is a weird company. Their business model, organization structure and decision-making confound many people in the business And while the author has some great first-hand accounts of what went on, it’s not the same as Being There.

If you want a good sense of how the story-telling can go right, I recommend “Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs“, by Ken Kocienda. A big part of the reason this is a better book is because this author “was there”. Ken was Principle Engineer of iPhone Software at Apple, and specifically the DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) for the original iPhone keyboard. This story is from an earlier period, when Steve Jobs was still alive, but what’s important is that the narrative he presents of how things worked, and why, runs well with everything long followers of Apple understand about the company.

But Being There doesn’t solve everything. You still get differing perspectives. I’ve been in Silicon Valley a long time, and like most people here I have my own experiences of Being There. But when I talk to colleagues about “the good old days”, is remarkable how differently we remember some things. And I’m not talking about memories fading with time. We were looking at events from different perspectives, and with different information (and biases, and understanding), so we came away with our own differing narratives of how things worked, and why.

So I don’t judge this new book about Apple based on a simple question of whether the author got the story fully right. The question is whether it adds something valuable to the story. From the reviews, I think it’s worth a shot, so I’ll be picking the book up.

Normalize Being Kind

As I walk along the path near our home, I smile and say hi to people who pass. Some return the greeting, or smile. A few don’t notice me. And a few give me a look of consternation, or look down or away as they speed past.

It occurred to me today that it’s important that we all normalize simple acts of kindness. Especially those that don’t ask for anything in return. A smile. A greeting as we pass.

Too much of our lives has become transactional. We can battle this by the simple act of being kind. Being friendly. And not wanting anything in return, but maybe a nod to the beautiful day.

Learning Swift andSwiftUI

This is a great time to get started learning Swift and SwiftUI. The language and tools have matured to a very usable state, and there are some excellent learning resources out there.

I’ve been learning Swift and SwiftUI for a bit now and I’m getting fairly proficient. During this journey I’ve taken several online courses and bought quite a few books. Most of these were very well done and I’m glad to have supported their creators in some small way. But a few really stand out.

Big bonus for the 2021 Holiday season, these folks are all having Black Friday or Holiday sales. See each site for details.

Hacking with Swift is a website by Paul Hudson that teaches Swift and SwiftUI. His free course 100 Days of SwiftUI is excellent. If you like his style (and his dogs!), he also has some paid options that are very much worth the money – several books and an excellent online membership called Hacking with Swift+ (https://www.hackingwithswift.com/plus) Paul keeps creating new lessons and updating old ones and I subscribe so that I can have access to all of it. (Plus I like supporting Paul’s fine work!)

The books that have really made a difference for my deeper understanding of Swift and SwiftUI are all written by Daniel Steinberg at Dim Sum Thinking (https://dimsumthinking.com). I first met Daniel some years ago at a technical conference where he gave a short talk. I was immediately impressed with his teaching style and the way he brings to life the underlying structure and logic of the programming language and related libraries and tools. His books and lectures go beyond simple “how-to” to teach how things work and why. You can find his brilliant books, including a full bundle of them, and his videos and other work at https://editorscut.com, and he sells his books as eBooks at Gumroadhttps://editorscut.gumroad.com

If you are coming from a Design Background, or if you are like me and are very much NOT a designer, then you’ll get a lot of value from the courses at Design+Code – https://designcode.io. Meng and Stephanie are great instructors! Their courses are first-rate, and you can get started for free. I especially love the visual, hands-on teaching method. Also, if you join there are design tools and other extras.

There are so many other wonderful books and courses out there, you can simply poke around and find something to your liking. I feel guilty not listing all those that I know. But the most important thing is to start. Pick a course, free or paid, and get rolling. Try to do a little every day and you’ll make quick progress. And don’t forget to have fun!

Are You Susceptible?

One of the problems we face is that it’s easy to get people to agree with the premise that social media manipulates people, but difficult to get them to believe that they, personally, are being manipulated.

“You’re converting people’s lives into digital models. Collecting all the data the leave out in the world, and using that to both forecast their behavior and to manipulate them.” – Roger McNamee

The manipulation is generally very subtle. But a small effect, repeated and built over thousands of interactions, can develop into substantial changes in behavior, and in beliefs.

This all seems pretty innocuous when it’s a laundry soap advertiser trying to get you to switch to their brand. But various kinds of bad actors have also used these tools very effectively.

These bad actors don’t need to reach everyone. They only need to find those who are susceptible to their manipulation. Then they turn the screws to get what they want.