Earlier this month I wrote a post about how vital it was that Apple began allowing developers to reply to reviews. In my post, I didn't specify whether or not those reviews should be public or one-to-one with the reviewer, just that a conversation needs to be had.
This is the salient idea:
The time is ripe for the App Store review system to grow into a two-way conversation between reviewers and developers, rather than a static ‘complaint board’.
Today, Matt Gemmell makes some very, very good points about the effects of a public forum on the human psyche. He references my favorite theorem on the subject and is spot on about how people turn into warped versions of themselves with an audience:
People aren’t really people when they’re in public; they turn into grandstanding, entitled, mutant versions of themselves. Talk to them privately, and suddenly you have a person again. It’s a cruddy reflection on our cruddy species, but wishing it away isn’t helping anybody.
He offers a few suggestions for ways to initiate the conversation outside of a straightforward public back-and-forth and the piece is well worth a read.
Instapaper developer Marco Arment also touched on it, offering another possible manipulation point: unscrupulous or crappy developers who would abuse a publicly available reply option.
And Craig Hockenberry of Iconfactory feels that providing personalized support links to problem reviews could help to force developers to maintain a functional and helpful support page and encourage reviewers to visit it in order to solve their problems, rather than stew.
Rene Ritchie of iMore also took a crack at this and made some good points about filtering out things that are more along the lines of 'bug reports' or 'feature requests' than actual reviews.
These are all great points and there is some really good thinking going on about this topic now, which is fantastic, and one of the reasons I wrote that post and an earlier one about how Apple could use its acquired Chomp talent to help change the way the App Store works.
The fact of the matter is that public replies may not be the answer, there may just be too many potholes to avoid. Look at the quality of internet comments as an example and tell me that you wouldn't end up down a rabbit hole of anger and blame. I'm basically a professional comment-generator who deals with the full spectrum of human intelligence, ignorance and outright stupidity when it comes to comments on a daily basis. And it still takes all of my effort to stay civil when replying to comments at TNW. I'm usually able to because it's very rarely helpful to argue with someone who has nothing to lose and everything to gain by making you mad. But it doesn't always happen.
Developers are not exactly the most patient and understanding folk. Engineers tend to think in a very analytic manner that makes arguing a point a mostly civil affair. But the rules of logic don't apply when it comes to dealing with the public.
All to often you're required to set logic aside and take up the reins of the unpredictable stallions of human emotion. And that's where things can get tricky, especially for those who think in blacks and whites, not shades of grey.
But the important thing is that there is a serious discussion now being had about this topic, which I feel is an extremely important one, both for Apple as the App Store continues to grow, and to the developers in its ecosystem. I don't think anyone has the right answers yet, but I think that there are some very smart folks at Apple working hard on the problem, including the ex-Chompites. So I'm cautiously optimistic that we might see some results later this year.
Until then, don't stop talking about it, don't stop thinking about it. And if you have something to share, share it. Isn't that what a conversation is all about?
Designer Max Rudberg relating Simon Blommegård's discovery of how the color adapting status bar in iOS 6 chooses its color.
Blommegård found that simply changing the bottom row of pixels in the header bar of an app alters the status bar's color. This means that the color of the bar can be changed by altering just that row. Even wierder, it takes an average, meaning that you can mix colors in the bottom row, creating a blend.
Every designer I spoke to this past week assumed that it was simply grabbing the base tint of the header bar. This is so odd.
I'm not a fan of the color changing bar myself, it feels funky and works in counter-purpose to the basic 'information appliance' concept that was the genesis of the iPhone. Simply put, the bar draws attention to itself and away from the app, rather than disappearing into the device, as it should.
It may still grow on me, but so far I'm putting this on my list of hopeful pulls. Perhaps someone can change my mind.
I got some requests to share the contents of my liveblog kit, the image of which is below.
11" MacBook Air i7
iPad 16GB Verizon
Verizon 4G MiFi
iPad SD/USB Dongles
8GB USB Drive
SD>CF Adapter, in case a friend needs one
Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen
Memory card wallet (~50GB of SD cards and 10GB of USB drives)
iPhone 3GS backup phone with T-Mobile SIM
Mophie JuicePack Plus battery pack for iPhone 4
iPhone Charger and 2 Dock Connector cables
Canon EOS 60D + 50mm + 28-135mm + 70-200mm
Mophie Powerstation Pro battery pack
MacBook power adapter with Twelve South PlugBug (+1 USB Port)
Various medications like breath mints, Advil, Immodium, antacids etc.
Tom Bihn SuperEgo bag with Absolute shoulder strap
Olloclip lens set for iPhone
SDHC card reader
After the liveblog I'll winnow down the kit to my MacBook Air with power adapter, iPad, Field Notes, Olloclip and the Powerstation Pro. The Juicepack stays on my phone pretty much throughout the week unless it's out of juice. The Powerstation is an impressive device so far that charges an iPhone up several times and can juice up an iPad at 'iPhone charger' speed and hold its own while it's in use. I also bring along a Tom Bihn Ristretto to swap to, as its a much slimmer and lighter bag.
I'll probably install iOS 6 onto my main phone because I'm an idiot, but that's why I've cloned my setup on the iPhone 3GS. I've installed the iOS beta on my daily driver every year and I've been able to get by without too many problems. I like to just jump in head first…but not without a safety net.
The MacBook has a Moshi iGlaze protector on it that I'm testing out. So far it does make me more comfortable when tossing it into a bag quickly with other loose items. In the SuperEgo, it fits into a neoprene sleeve that comes with the bag. All of the pouches I use are also made by Tom Bihn. I can't say enough about how good their products are generally made. Look for a writeup of the SuperEgo on The Next Web soon.
Vlad Savov at the Verge, with a good piece on the Android hardware market's homogenization. I think this is absolutely true for phones running Android. The software was developed separately from the hardware and modded ROMs just make that all the more evident as they strip away the 'customizations' — read: crapware — so generously provided by the manufacturers in order to differentiate this quarter's 1.2 model from last quarter's 1.1 model.
I believe that it is, however, patently NOT true of Apple's devices, like the iPhone, where the software is developed for, and explicitly intended for, a singular set of devices.
Much of the success of Apple is due to the seamless integration of its software and hardware, with all of the compatibility and upgrade path advantages that brings.
Apple's software is not an interchangeable part, it's a piece of the whole. That's what it gets right and what Google is missing. You can harp on about patents all you want, but I believe that this is also why Google bought Motorola.
Apple has the control to ensure that the software delivers the best hardware experience possible, Google does not.
The article linked above is one I wrote partially about the 'why' of Siri, but also about its future and the ways that developers might be able to use it. This is the pertinent passage:
As Siri gets more efficient, Apple will expand its capabilities, but probably not by offering access to developers with an API, at least not any time soon. Instead it is more likely that we will see Apple announcing deals with more information providers that will give Siri additional pools of data from which to give answers. Imagine a deal with ESPN for sports scoring or fantasy points, or a tie in with Fandango so that Siri can read you off the movie times at a requested theater.
Beyond more licensing deals for its brain, Apple may begin adding hooks that it can use to pull information store inside the iCloud data uploaded by an app, grabbing your list of action items from Omnifocus or having it read recent messages from an IM client. This would allow you to pull information from inside an app easily without having to clutter up your springboard or notification center with ugly and jarring widgets.
Beyond that I believe that we will see more direct app integration, most likely with the use of an app’s name (look for the addition of a phonetic name field in app submissions) and then a command. Perhaps, “EPSN Fantasy Football, what is my fantasy score?” or “OpenTable, book me a table at Chez Quis.”
I wrote this back in October. Since then Siri has added support for Yelp and — via Wolfram Alpha — Best Buy to its roster. It has yet to extend control of Siri to developers, but it seems likely that this is coming at WWDC.
Samuel Iglesias delves into the 'how' of a Siri API in this great article and makes some really interesting points about the difficulty
I'd venture to say that whatever Siri commands are extended to developers to hook into at first, they will be basic. There might even be a separate program that vets these apps and the ways that they're hooking into the API. It's a tricky business for sure.
A new Gartner report on supply chain prowess has been released. It shows off some interesting statistics about how big companies run their financials and inventory.
Apple excels in three metrics:
It has the second highest weighted return on assets of any company besides H&M, a vendor that makes cheap, but stylish, clothes.
It has the highest revenue growth of any company on the list, so it's making more money faster.
It has the second highest inventory turnover rate, every 5 days, second only to McDonalds, who specializes in shoving fast food out the door as quickly as possible.
The inventory turnover is the crazy bit. Apple turns its entire inventory over 74 times a year, while McDonalds does it 142 times a year. By comparison, the next highest comparable company was Dell, who only manages 35.6 per year.
See, I don't think that the bottom vent on the Chromebox is even functional as a vent like it is on the Mac Mini. There are already vents on the back for expelling heat, the slits on the bottom seem to be some sort of dead-stick auxiliary vent of some sort, maybe just for intake. They're even blocked in places by bits of internals.
So, in the end, Samsung was able to copy the look of the Mac Mini's vent, but wasn't actually able to copy the way that it works. Suitably ridiculous.
John Gruber weighs in Apple upping the iPhone's screen to 4".
His thoughts closely mirror the ones I put down yesterday about how and why this might happen. I'm especially in agreement with the fact that—if this does go down—Apple won't be reserving a portion of those extra pixels for itself.
The first episode of The Talk Show, with John Gruber of Daring Fireball, is up at The Mule Radio Syndicate. This is the new podcast network from Mike Monteiro's Muledesign.
This appears to mean that the show has moved away from the 5by5 network, which has been its home for some 90+ episodes. The Talk Show has been absent for the past two weeks on 5by5, I guess this is why.
I quite liked the rapport that Gruber had with 5by5 host Dan Benjamin, so this makes me a tad sad. But the first episode is co-hosted by John Moltz, who runs the smart and incredibly funny Very Nice Website, so that's a good start.
My buddy Casey Liss has some great tips for WWDC, especially if you're a first-timer this year. All worthwhile pieces of advice, but the bit about bringing an iPhone battery pack is a biggy. Seriously, don't come without one.
Last Macworld, the Olloclip lens accessory for iPhone also got a big workout. Ben Brooks was passing his around the group because we forgot ours. It's definitely a good buy, especially for those tight indoor shots and should be a big hit this WWDC.