Checkout an iOS app’s release notes quickly with Opener and 3D Touch

I have a couple of apps installed on my iPhone/iPad and some of my favorites are updated constantly. I care about those tools, so I like to read their release notes to see what new features are added. My problem is that is these release notes usually get lost in the annoying river of “Bugfixes and updates”, “We constantly update…” crap and long novels that Medium does on the Updates tab. Luckily there’s a way to quickly check out an app’s release notes in the App Store with a combination of Opener and 3D Touch.

  1. Install Opener and add activate its action extension in the share sheet.
  2. 3D Touch on the app icon, and press “Share (App Name)”.
  3. Tap Opener and choose “View App (in the App Store)”.

Opener will load the app’s App Store page where you can check out its release notes.

Here it is in action:

I was thinking about installing an instance of Mastodon for myself, but I resisted for now. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Mastodon is decentralized, which means my own install should be able to communicate with other ones. This eliminates the hurry of getting my username on one of the popular instances—which is mastodon.social and mastodon.cc at the moment.

I’m just waiting for now. Twitter still operates and I’m trying using it from Feedbin which has a really nice Twitter integration. This way my Twitter feeds are getting mixed with other existing RSS sources. One less app to maintain. Maybe I can even subscribe this way to users on Mastodon so I can follow them, at least in read-only mode.

Regarding signing up for Mastodon: I don’t want to maintain another app for status updates and conversations just because it’s getting popular. I still have friends on Twitter, but maybe this signals something way more important. Maybe one day I’ll simply stop using social media altogether (for social media I mean Twitter, I don’t have anything else other than that).

For writing and status updates I’m keeping my blog, and I’m sure I’ll getting way less formal here which means I’ll post more status updates here or quick stuff like this.

A Commonplace (book/blog)

Of course, the natural extension of this new notebook was to start sharing some extracts online, specifically on micro.blog. It reminded me of the charm of early blogging. When it wasn’t so serious, when you didn’t need a specific goal or career from it and mistakes were useful and a sign of growth. You didn’t (and don’t) have to present yourself as an expert in something you just started out in.

Good riddance, Twitter

Thomas Fuchs deleted his Twitter account after the latest API deprecation:

I’ve deleted my account. I will miss the friends I made, but I will not miss the abuse. There’s a line that was crossed recently with Alex Jones and with removing support for various API functions, a move designed to deliberately target power-users and early adopters who prefer 3rd-party clients over the Twitter apps and their force-fed crap.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Social media can be fun. With friendly people, and with no engagement pressure, and no algorithms force-feeding you content designed to make you feel bad.

Well, I’ll try this first instead of messing around with Mastodon.

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You

When you surround yourself with moments of solitude and stillness, you become intimately familiar with your environment in a way that forced stimulation doesn’t allow. The world becomes richer, the layers start to peel back, and you see things for what they really are, in all their wholeness, in all their contradictions, and in all their unfamiliarity.

It’s weird, but I’ve just subscribed for Headspace to have a way to practice the routine of sitting in silence.

The Landowner and the Apartments

I’m still thinking about which apartment should I stay in or stop wasting my time and move away completely. I started making my own cabin in the woods which I use at the weekends. Too bad that I like some of my current neighbors.

Podcasts should remain independent

Jeff Perry reacted to a post that Anchor wrote a couple of days ago:

I pay $12 a month on Simplecast for both Getting Caught Up and A Slab of Glass. I do it happily because I know that I am supporting developers with my money for hosting, a website, technical support, and download statistics that they share with me on how my shows are doing. I don’t have to hope and pray that Anchor makes their money with ads in order to keep my content alive.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that video podcasts used to be a thing, but nowadays everybody just uses YouTube to maintain an online video presence. Sure, it looks attractive first, but when you use a service for everything end-to-end, you automatically lock yourself into it.

Luckily, we don’t have a YouTube-like monopoly in podcasting. I produce one podcast at the moment (sorry, it’s Hungarian), and the best thing about it is that we have a lot of hosting choices. Our listeners are not bonded to the same company that does the hosting. Everything is based on open standards and there are plenty of ways to start making a new podcast.

My podcast is hosted on a Digital Ocean VPS using the same server that hosts this blog. The site is built using Jekyll (you can find it’s source on GitHub, although it’s not well documented), new episodes are posted using Workflow. Everybody can adapt its source, change the design, set up a server and start making podcasts. It’s not as nice as dedicated podcast hosting services, but I like that it’s independent and very cheap to maintain. People are always afraid of doing stuff on their own, but to be honest I kinda like messing around with it. I learn new stuff.

Anchor is an interesting service and they’re building nice apps, but to be honest, I don’t want them to succeed. Maybe they really care about podcasting, but we’ve seen what happens with a medium that gets controlled by one company and podcasting currently dominated by nobody. Apple has a directory of podcasts, but it’s just a directory, it’s not the same as hosting and running them. iOS (and Android) made possible to choose whatever podcast client you want to use. Usually, the bigger ones integrate some kind of server-side directory or use iTunes, but they’re already making possible for people to find shows and subscribe to them very easily.

If you want to get into making podcasts quickly then you can choose a service like Simplecast or Firebase, pay a monthly fee and have your content hosted there. It’s a simple and straightforward deal.

We shouldn’t walk into the same trap as we’ve already done with YouTube and Medium. Those “free” services always want to “disrupt” a medium with some innovative way of making money, but at the end, we’re back to an ads based user tracking business, with monopolies and lock-ins. A couple of guys can get popular enough on those platforms to earn the big money, but the rest of us always have to follow business rules that a company makes for everybody.

A reminder about what difference can be made in technology just in a couple of years apart.

In Praise of Email by Dan Cohen

Most email systems do not signal to others that you are online, and such signaling is not part of the email protocols themselves.

We usually say a lot of bad things about email but it’s a rare case of a technology which is independent, interoperable and if you use it right, can be non-distracting.

I really miss the old days of communication, it was such a simple system: when I was online (on whatever chat service) you could ping me, otherwise, you were able to send me an email. Nowadays we just install multiple messaging apps, each of them is constantly online. We receive multiple notifications and we try to fight the distraction with hacks like Do Not Disturb and AI that tunes our notifications.

Sometimes it works, but we should also train some basic expectations on response time to our peers: send me an email, or if it’s urgent, message me, but never expect an instant response.

I kinda like the new version of Skype for iPad. Their macOS version is still crap, so I hope they’ll adopt something nicer with Martzipan and the current iPad app.

To be honest, I still question whether using RSS and Twitter is beneficial for me in the long term. I feel the excitement that dopamine causes, when I refresh these timeline based apps—it feels similar to craving sugar, which I’m also trying to get rid off. If there is no new content, I feel a little bit of disappointment.

Also, this constant scrolling of Twitter really hurts my ability to read. I don’t read anymore, I scan things. That’s pretty fucked up and I think it’s because I don’t read longer stuff that needs me to slow down and immerse myself in the story.

I really like the redesign of Apple Books (iBooks) in iOS 12 and I want to get back reading more books. And not non-fictional stuff about how to get better at GTD or pretend you work 4 hours a week, but stories about fictional worlds. I really like sci-fi, and there is awesomeness hidden in those books.

Here’s what I’m going to do:

  • Delete Tweetbot and Reeder (at least for now).
  • Pick my favorite sites from my RSS subscriptions and add them to the Favorites screen in Safari. I’ll try to check them once a day manually as Jason Fried does.
  • Buy a couple of sci-fi books (I’m especially interested in Aliens) and read a bit every morning or evening.

I assume BBC had this amazing footage laying around after editing Planet Earth 2 (which I’ll rewatch in 4K soon), so instead of putting it away on a hard drive somewhere, they’ve released it as 10-hour long looped videos. These are way better than any noise-making app for focusing when I code or relax. I even tried connecting a second display to my iMac just to see the video part too in fullscreen while I work, but that was too distracting.

Colin Walker brought up yesterday the idea of using your website as a private repository.

This also occurred to me a couple of months ago when I searched a better alternative for Day One. This blog which runs on WordPress looked great for a private journal, but I didn’t find anything that would migrate my entries from Day One, so I created a script for myself. I’ve open sourced it on GitHub so anybody with a little bit a terminal knowledge should be able to use it.


Before you ask: I still use Day One with encryption turned on. When I reasearched the topic of private posts using WordPress I found a couple of security concerns which I’ve also shared on Colin’s blog. But after last week’s Day One security fiasco, maybe it’s something that I should reconsider.

According to GDPR, from May 25th I can’t talk to myself alone without agreeing my privacy policy first.

Leaving Facebook is easy, you just have to leave your laziness behind too

Sarah Jeong writing on The Verge:

I tried leaving Facebook. I couldn’t […] Facebook is an emotional labor machine, and if you want to leave it, you’re going to have to start doing a lot of work

When I read a post like this, I get angry and sad at the same time: it’s so easy now to reach people, but we still use our tools wrong. It looks like we have the same old problem that we had with every new technology getting popular. We just have to learn to use them. What makes Facebook different is that it’s also a tool for others to hijack our attention and they try to do everything they can to keep us addicted to it.

I’m not comfortable with that. This’s one of the many reasons why I left Facebook. If you think about it for a second, Facebook is no more than just a bunch of tools made for people to

  1. communicate with each other,
  2. maintain their egos by posting stuff about themselves,
  3. keep up with other egos,
  4. collect behavioral data that fuel tools that tricking others into a financial transaction (ads), political decision or other stuff that benefits them.

Nothing is new on this list, but we haven’t dealt with something like this before at this scale. Facebook tries to make the first three as easy to use and addictive as possible—although the internet has a lot of tools already for communicating and publishing— combining them into one is what makes collecting data and influence people this efficient.

I don’t like the idea of collecting data about my behavior and habits to carefully model a profile of me to sell crap or use it as a tool to get me addicted to something.

Existing tools can replace a lot of Facebook functionality (and they already do). You can easily leave Facebook, you just have to leave your laziness behind too. Replace your posts with a blog. There are email and text/IM services to communicate with people (although I still use Facebook Messenger without a Facebook account, I proactively ask people to switch over to iMessage if they can). You can use IM groups to organize a party or let people know about things.

But following people on a feed means you don’t really pay that much attention. We used to follow topics or news, following people around was called stalking. Now we know everything about each other thanks to addictive stalking. Meanwhile, something seriously fucked up: we have hundreds of “friends”, but according to statistics, we feel alone more than ever. That’s because we got lazy to invest a bit more energy to have more meaningful relationships with our friends. We follow them, but we don’t interact that much anymore. You must have been in a situation where you met somebody again after a while, but you didn’t enjoy it, because you had already know whats up with him/her. You were sitting there staring each other.

That’s happened because of batching. Facebook lets you see your friends prefiltered ideas and life moments in a nicely formatted feed. It makes keeping up with information convenient, but there is a problem: while batching works great when you want to be efficient, deepening relationships and friendships isn’t about convenience and efficiency. It’s about experience and time invested in each other. Facebook removes the intimacy of the moment when you “connect” with somebody. It makes it convenient but also isolating. It’s not surprising that people feel themselves alone on Facebook, it’s because they’re isolated.

Do you want to know what’s up with your friends? Message them, call them, meet them, then ask about their life, have a conversation. Invest time in your friendships. I know it takes way more energy and you can’t keep up with that many people, but who cares when it’s way more satisfying than following a bunch of curated profiles.

Om describing Skype perfectly:

a turd of the highest quality

I’m using Skype for podcasting but I’m in the hurry finding a good alternative for it. Since they dumped a fairly good Mac app with a stupid Electron crap, I just want to avoid it.

And don’t get me started on the iOS version…

Testing Icro:

  • It feels better than the official Micro.blog app.
  • Notifications would be nice.
  • The iPad app needs a lot of work.
  • No Markdown parsing feels weird.

It’s okay for 1.0, but I’m keeping the official one installed since I don’t keep up with my timeline but (silent) notifications are nice to have.

Electron is like, you have a knife and you want to slice stuff with it, but also eat soup.

“We updated our privacy policy” is the new “this website uses cookies”.