Sunday, September 20

You Get What You Give

It should come as no surprise to me that my favorite, and perhaps most level-headed, reaction to the ad-blocking brouhaha that emerged this past week comes from none other than The Macalope.

Oh, ad blocking. See, despite Patel’s contention, it’s very clearly about business and user experience. If it’s not at all about user experience, why in the heck are people paying for ad blockers? Because Apple told them to?

Marco Arment’s decision to pull his ad-blocking app Peace from the App Store after only a few days on sale revealed his humanity as a developer, but that certainly didn’t end the conversation on ad blocking. A common refrain among Arment’s detractors was the irony of selling an app to block ads. Insinuating that selling something to someone who is willing to pay a fair and reasonable price – or, for that matter, any price at all – only revels how vapid content creators on this issue have become. Irony, in Arment’s case would have been releasing the app for free, but somehow supporting its development with in app ads, not selling it to willing buyers.

Back to The Macalope, who astutely concludes that content creators are not the sole contributors to the economic model of publishing gone awry – yes, we the content consumers, carry the burden of blame as well (emphasis mine):

Sadly, the Macalope has to leave you with a pox on both houses that, as Patel correctly notes, is going to affect us all. People who say “Ad blockers are evil!” are wrong and so are people who expect to get the web for free. There’s a middle ground to be had here, but the chance to find it is probably gone and Patel’s hell is a very real possibility.

The lesson: Find something you like or need, pay a fair and reasonable price for it, and don’t groan and complain every time you find it somewhere else for a dollar less.

Monday, June 08

Reading, Tweeting, and Keeping a Schedule

Three of my favorite apps saw fairly notable updates last week so I thought I’d highlight the changes and use that as an opportunity to promote the apps. They’re all paid apps, but totally worth it in my opinion.

First up is one of my all-time favorite apps and the first “expensive” app I ever purchased for iPhone, Instapaper. Created by Marco Arment, but now in the capable and prolific hands of betaworks and lead developer Brian Donahue, Instapaper has seen a steady flow of updates since being sold off by Arment1 and the app just gets better and better. Last week’s update gives us Notes, the ability to add comments or annotations to highlights in the app. As I’ve been blogging more frequently (and in more places), I’ve been relying on Instapaper more and more to help me organize reference and direct links and to jot down notes or comments that I want to make sure I remember about each link or article. Up until now, I’ve been hacking my way with comments but editing the article summary in Instapaper’s web app or by highlighting passages and trying to remember later what it is I found interesting about that specific passage. Now with Notes, I can add my thoughts and associate them directly with each passage and then reference those comments later when I sit down to write.

Next up is Tweetbot 2 for Mac by Tapbots. Tweetbot 2 for Mac has been teased for a while now and it finally saw the light of day last week, the week before WWDC. That’s somewhat notable because Tweetbot 2 is the Yosemite-inspired redesign of the application, and the Yosemite design aesthetic entered our collective consciousness just a year ago at last year’s WWDC. A redesign like this is significant, though, and it was executed very well, fitting right in with the new look of Yosemite. I loved the unique shape of the old dock icon, but the more square icon of Tweetbot 2 is a nice reminder that this app has a fresh new design. Relatively speaking, Tweetbot 2 isn’t cheap at the now-reduced price of $12.99, but if you are a heavy Twitter user and, especially if you have multiple accounts, it is well worth the price. Columns, a staple feature of Tweetbot version 1, is improved in this new release with a new, more obvious icon (a rectangle divided into columns replaces the old gears icon) and gives you quick options for commonly created columns. I love using columns for multiple accounts and especially for special events like the upcoming WWDC where I can create a column with a specific hashtag search.

Finally we have Fantastical 2 for iOS, by Flexbits, which now includes a bundled Apple Watch app. The Watch app is getting great reviews so far, and is a great alternative to the built-in calendar app. Due to WatchKit limitations, it doesn’t feature a complication that you can add to a watch face, but it does give you access to your reminders, which, curiously, is something Apple doesn’t currently provide through any stock Watch apps. Sadly, I don’t have an Apple Watch (yet), but if/when I do decide to get one, Fantastical will definitely be front and center in my app cloud.

  1. Arment’s inability to update the app as frequently as he wanted and with the features he wanted are what compelled him to sell the app. That doesn’t always turn out well, but betaworks has done a fantastic job of making the app their own, adding new features and a great redesign, while also maintaining the core essence of what makes the application and service so great. I can’t overstate how great that acquisition has turned out.  ↩