My Take on the WWDC Keynote: Net Positive

First, if you’ve not watched the WWDC Keynote yet, you can watch it here: WWDC 2016 Keynote (You can also see a write-up over at Wired and a Liveblog of the event at Engadget.) There are a few things that came up that I think are pretty notable.

First, Continuity continues to be a big push: Apple wants as seamless an ecosystem as possible across all devices and platforms in their stable of products. We started seeing some elements of this in Yosemite and El Capitan, and it looks like they’re doubling down on it in Sierra. I have some reservations about this — mainly, lock-in and whether or not it will play well with third parties. The concept itself, though, makes a ton of sense. I’m curious to see what sort of response we’ll see from Microsoft and Google in this space (MS is starting to point this direction with their push towards a single core across platforms, but at the same time we’re seeing a de-emphasis of Windows Phone, so curious how this will play out).

Second, Machine Learning. All the big players are getting into it (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant), and Apple has clearly invested heavily in this area, with tight integration of Siri into iOS and macOS. One thing I think is notable about Apple’s choices with this, though, is keeping the AI on-device, rather than web-driven. I’m very curious to see how this evolves in future releases.

Third, Security, Privacy, and Encryption. Several times in the keynote, they made a point of calling out that they’re NOT building profiles of user, and are keeping PII on your device, not on their servers. This emphasis on privacy (and security) pervades a number of the choices they’re making, which I applaud them for committing to. While I disagree with some of their product decisions (single-port computers, charging ports on the bottom of the new magic mouse, etc), I genuinely appreciate that they’re sticking to their guns in the face of pressure from the government.

Fourth, Opening up new APIs. A big concern I’ve had in recent releases from Apple is continued lockdown of services, where it felt like if you weren’t Apple, you couldn’t play on the playground. This release sees several integrated services get opened up to third parties (Messages, Maps, Siri being the big three to me), which gives me some hope that Apple isn’t entirely forgetting what made OS X so great.

Fifth, Swift Playground. It’s worth noting that this closed out the keynote, and for good reason. Apple is committing to bringing programming into education in a big way, by making what appears to be a robust learning app that targets youth where they are (mobile devices like iPads), teaching them a language they can directly use for real, complex applications. This is a big win for both Apple and STEM: For Apple, it gets a new generation of developers started using their tools, environment, and language, which you can bet will make an impact on what they choose to use in the future. For STEM, they’re providing free tools, free resources (entire books, including guides on how to teach it and incorporate into your curriculum), already targeted to youth. That’s awesome. You can read more about the whole initiative at their Everyone Can Code page.

It wasn’t covered in the keynote, but has been brought up elsewhere: they’re also releasing a new Apple File System, replacing the old and creaky HFS+. This is significant: Apple’s been using HFS (and then an expanded HFS+) for basically the entire time Mac OS has existed. From reports, it sounds like a robust, next-generation file system that brings some brilliant and essential features. While we likely won’t see the OS truly make the most of these new features until the version after Sierra, this is still quite interesting, and I’m excited to see what gets done with it.

Overall, it felt like a productive developer-centric keynote. It leaves me feeling cautiously hopeful about the future of the ecosystem, and that they’re placing their bets in the right places.


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Back in Portland

It hasn’t really sunk in that I’m back in Portland — it still feels a bit like a vacation. This will change, I imagine, as I get more settled, get unpacked, and find what will be my new routine and rhythm.

The drive north was pleasant, wandering up the coast on CA-1 and US-101. There’s been a heat wave for the past week, so it was nice to be by the coast, where the air was much cooler (I’ll take 65-70° over 90-95° nearly any day). The rest of this post is a bit of a photo dump — I hope you enjoy! Continue reading “Back in Portland”



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Link: Jobs are for Machines

Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines, by Scott Santens.

Advances in technology are now so visibly exponential in nature that we can expect to see a lot more milestones being crossed long before we would otherwise expect. These exponential advances, most notably in forms of artificial intelligence limited to specific tasks, we are entirely unprepared for as long as we continue to insist upon employment as our primary source of income.

Scott Santens

There’s been talk about this coming in varying degrees for years (and the idea of a universal basic income has been tossed around for decades — it was a central idea in For Us, The Living, Heinlein’s first [unpublished at the time] novel back in 1938), but this article does a solid job of summing up the state of where things are NOW, and why we’re out of time to put off thinking seriously about what’s coming.


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Link: Life Lessons from a Lifestyle Business

Over at IndieVC, A Lifestyle Business Can Kill You Life Lessons from a Lifestyle Business: A really honest, worthwhile interview with Matt Haughey, the creator of MetaFilter.

I crave simplicity and I don’t want complications. I’ve counseled my friends many times to just make things that make a little bit of money and make you happy. Why isn’t that good enough?

Matt Haughey

It should be good enough. You don’t have to build an empire to make people’s lives better and to do things you love. I’d even go so far that digital empires are in direct opposition to making people’s lives better. But that’s a rant for another time.

Update: So, the title felt kind of incongruous, and doesn’t really have a lot to do with the post. Apparently Matt felt the same, so it’s been changed:


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Link: Anna Wiener on the SF Tech Scene

Good article about the bullshit startup culture in San Francisco by Anna Wiener over on n+1.

But we see now that we’ve been swimming in the Kool-Aid, and we’re coming up for air. We were lucky and in thrall and now we are bureaucrats, punching at our computers, making other people — some kids — unfathomably rich. Anna Wiener, “Uncanny Valley”

It’s a good read, and captures a lot of what makes me uncomfortable/unhappy about the Bay area and the tech scene here.


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Wil Wheaton on Depression

Depression is a dick, and Depression lies, and even though I know all of that with the rational and reasonable part of my brain, the Depression part of my brain has been really loud and persistent and just relentless for a couple of weeks, now. It’s Friday, and when I look back on this week, I can see all the important and good stuff that I’ve done, I can see the small but meaningful steps I’ve taken toward completing things that are important to me … but those things are all in the shadows that are cast by the giant spotlight Depression is shining on the things I didn’t do.

And the thing is, I could probably come up with good reasons that I didn’t do the things that I wanted to do, and they are probably reasonable reasons, too. But I also know that all week long, Depression was right there on my shoulder like the leprechaun that tells Ralph to burn it all down, and quietly telling me that there’s no point, there’s no reason to do it, it’s not worth my time.

And now it’s Friday, and Depression is telling me that I’m a failure because I didn’t finish the things that Depression helped ensure I didn’t start.

That’s the insidious part of Depression, at least for me, and I know that to a person who doesn’t struggle with mental illness like I do it just sounds like a pity party where all the gifts are excuses.

But here I am. On Friday. No closer to finishing the things I wanted to finish than I was on Monday.
Wil Wheaton, so distorted and thin

(I’ve posted a few prior quotes/links to Wil’s depression posts, partly because they’re well written, but mostly because it’s so spot on for how my own depression manifests itself.)


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Link: The Cult of the Attention Web

Good article discussing the “Attention Web” over on Medium by Jesse Weaver:

The finite nature of time means that, in the world of the attention web, the competitive landscape is all encompassing. Everything is in competition with everything else. Facebook is as much in competition with Twitter, as it is with Spotify and Apple Music, Gawker and BuzzFeed, Hulu and YouTube, Candy Crush and Two Dots, Amazon and Walmart, Xbox and Playstation, Chipotle and your family dinner table, your hobbies and your bed. Because in the attention web, time spent shopping, eating, talking, playing, or sleeping is time that you are not looking at ads. It’s why Facebook has experimented with in-feed shopping. It’s why they bought a messaging app and VR company. It’s behind their big drive into video, as well as article self-publishing. They have to compete on all fronts to win the attention war.



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Link: Being tired isn’t a badge of honor

Jason Fried speaks Truth about the tech industry’s love affair with overwork over on Signal v. Noise. This has been a perennial issue in games (where terms like “crunch” and “death march” are used often), but is definitely happening in general software as well. It’s a demonstrably stupid and abusive idea with repeated studies showing it is, and yet it’s still prevalent. When an industry is attractive (like games, like the current 2.0 Dot Com gold rush), it’s easy for investors and management to adopt a “burn and churn” mentality about their workers.