Ben the Bodyguard

I’m particularly tempted to drop $5 on this just to support the developer’s successful effort in applying a debonair personality to a security app. Ben the Bodyguard keeps 256-bit level of encryption for passwords, photos, contacts, notes, and reminders on iPhone/iPod touch, all the while keeping a classy French assassin vibe to the whole undertaking.

As is the tradition with most iOS developers, the promotional website for the app is fantastic, employing surprising page scrolling triggers within a well-done isometric view. And as it should, the website works flawlessly on iOS devices. No Flash. No bullshit.

If you’re interested in a much more robust, cross-platform solution, 1Password is always the way to go.

The Dark Art of Caffeine

I don’t know if caffeine has an effect on me, but it sure the hell makes for a good breakfast. I’ve been on the drug for as long as I’ve had human memory, and while it started with polishing off a 12-pack of Coca-Cola every three days, it’s moved into the more laborious — but rewarding — territory of tea and coffee. Some people enjoy sharing their coffee setups, but it usually involves one method. Thus: I think my coffee setup is superior in every way.

Wands & Magick

I use two vessels for summoning my caffeine. At the same time, mind you.

  1. The Bialetti - a dual-chamber son of a bitch wrought from stainless steel that forcibly presses piping hot water from a base chamber right into the coarse ground specimen atop it and immediately fills a liquid reservoir.
  2. The Chemex - an aristocratic beaker made of thick glass that services my bidding with elegant science via its simple but effective filtration process.

Now, hold up — using both vessels for coffee would be folly. Each one specializes in different caffeine magicks — the Bialetti operates like a deranged black Mage, specializing in the curation of dark, venomous espresso without regard to safety. And the Chemex — candid but earnest — drips rich, aromatic coffee like a lithe sorceress. Combine the results and you get a brawny shot of espresso alongside a rich dose of coffee. For breakfast, ideally every day of the week.

The Apothecary

The process of brewing requires a few key tools and ingredients. The transmutation recipes and properties:

  • The Bialetti: For use in conjunction with coarsely ground espresso beans.
  • The Chemex: For use in conjunction with finely ground coffee beans
  • Helvetica Whistling Kettle: 100% damage to cold water when paired with stovetop
  • Chemex non-chemical filters: Complete physical protection against coffee bean contamination; ensures clean magickal output of caffeine weapon
  • Blade grinder: +80% damage against whole beans (Not yet willing to invest gold assets on a burr grinder)
  • Espresso beans: Additive +7 caffeine power when mixed with Bialetti + boiled water
  • Coffee beans: Additive +10 caffeine power when mixed with Chemex

Caffeine Magick


Caffeine dosages

According to Mayoclinic:

Type Vol. (mL) Caffeine (mg)
Espresso 60 (2 oz) 116-150
Coffee brew 240 (8 oz) 95-200

Fantastical App

Another brilliant piece of Mac OS X software that was recently ushered out the gate: Fantastical. It specializes in fast, elegant calendar management via a natural language engine and event creation hotkey (assignable by you). It’s similar in concept to something like 37signals’ Backpack calendar (Update: 37signals in the last few years has shifted focus to just their Basecamp product; as such, here are a list of alternatives to the defunct Backpack software), but far more sophisticated in its understanding of semantic syntax.

Rarely can you mention Mac OS X software without noting the developer’s carefully crafted website for it. Fantastical’s product page is great (another reason I hope these pages outrank Apple’s proxy pages for the iTunes/App Store listings in organic search), with an enjoyable subtle use of modern HTML5/CSS3 animations for product feature emphasis and clarity.

Isam

This one slipped me by — Amon Tobin’s new album, Isam, was released early for digital purchase (official release for May 23rd). Surprisingly challenging, the album is like a struggle between machine, man, beast, and a child’s toy room. What’s even more fascinating about the virgin soundscapes is that unlike his previous album, Foley Room, the artist has confirmed “there are no samples on this record”. Hard to imagine after you’ve given it your ear.

In a similar move to Radiohead’s past digital releases, Amon Tobin has several choices for downloadable formats when you buy the digital version, including FLAC, Apple Lossless, and WAV. Seems like you get the compressed MP3 version with any other higher quality option — which is nice.

Kottke on Kane

Simple and accurate film commentary on the great Citizen Kane (70th anniversary today):

Citizen Kane is The Beatles of movies, not just because of its universal influence and acclaim, or because it really does live up to the historical hype, but because on top of its arty aspirations, what it really wants to do is entertain the hell out of you.

This is the kind of encouraging film criticism that gets new viewers to watch classics that really are amazing pieces of work. (Citizen Kane is, after all, on nearly everyone’s list of 100 greatest films, including AFI).

iA's Oliver Reichenstein Drills Online Newspaper Design

The Article: Business Class: Freemium for News?

Attention. Ads. Content. If you want an ideal approach to online newspaper design going forward, this manifesto is your gateway drug.

Simple words of reason go a long way:

The idea of creating a business class for online news where is not about buying information, but buying better experience, it’s about service and customer experience. That’s right: Customer (paying), not user (free).

Then again, this is already possible to a certain degree with orbital content managers parsing text and repurposing it for a “business-class” user.

Regarding Orbital Content

Cameron Koczon recently wrote an excellent post about orbital content. It tangentially relates to my recent post on the Performics blog. Users from the modern consumption era of Internet access are increasingly using apps and bookmarklets to parse out the useful content from sites into much more mangageable, easily accessible “orbital” collections. But:

Calling Instapaper a content shifter tells only half the story. It puts too much attention on the shifting and not enough on what needs to happen before a piece of content can be shifted. Before content can be shifted, it must be correctly identified, uprooted from its source, and tied to a user. This process, which I call “content liberation” is the common ground between Instapaper, Svpply, Readability, Zootool, and other bookmarklet apps. Content shifting, as powerful as it is, is just the beginning of what’s possible when content is liberated.

Migrating Domains & Using Tumblr

TL;DR Abstract: Domain transfers shouldn’t suck so bad; Tumblr should provide payment plans.

I just recently migrated my domain registrar from Google’s Google Apps/GoDaddy clusterfuck to iWantMyName. The process has been far from smooth, and for three full days my blog was in hiatus. At first, I thought this could be the result of relying too heavily on Tumblr as the primary content host (seeing as how I’m pointing the domain’s A-record to 72.32.231.8 and it’s taking longer to complete the two tasks). Of course, that assumption was ludicrous as I merely overlooked a small setting in iWantMyName Nameserver setting — it didn’t activate its own; rather, it kept the old ones. Not sure why this is set as the default, but it had me confused for the better part of the week. Other than that, iWantMyName has been a brilliant change from the domestic mangled nightmare of settings and user interface design of the previous dashboard. I encourage anyone stuck in that shithole to change immediately.

After finally seeing the transition complete, it brings me back to the argument about paying for things you use. The practical, ease of use with Tumblr and the number of prolific blogs on the platform should suggest that merely paying for the service through custom CSS templates isn’t enough. It’s been argued far and wide that we should have the chance to pay for using Tumblr. This would, ideally, provide the following:

  • Grant the opportunity for Tumblr to get funding and improve server structure
  • Encourage/guarantee optimal uptime for blogs that pay for the service
  • Fund permission for the Tumblr CMS to be hosted on your own server (like Wordpress and Movable Type)
  • Provide revenue for the platform to steer it away from venture capitalist funding
  • Give a big thank you for the service

Any of these options would prove valuable to both Tumblr and its users (soon to be customers?). You can argue that social platforms like Twitter and Facebook lose their cool once you’re required to pay to play. They wouldn’t garner nearly as many members, and it wouldn’t be nearly as easy to jump onto the platform if there were an initial paywall. But weblogs are a different beast. They aren’t necessarily part of a site; they oftentimes are the site. Why have content sit and rot on a server when you can encourage the continued use of a service by kindly sticking a price tag on it?

This isn’t intended to be a complaint. It’s merely pointing out the pitfalls of fantastic online platforms, like Tumblr, and the desire to see them continue to operate into the future. I could easily switch gears and host a Wordpress blog on my own server, but there’s something satisfying about the way Tumblr re-thought blogging (using Markdown as an input markup language for posts, allowing easy RSS ‘follow’ buttons for the Tumblr network, a neat dashboard of the blogs you follow, powerful mobile apps, and so forth). The only good way to support it is to use it.

More On Paying for Things, Supporting Development

From The Brooks Review, with the example of Twitter:

Everyone wanting to create something new and great when something old and useful is sitting right there. It’s trying to re-invent the wheel. Twitter’s options are simple: sell user data and information to marketers (not likely), advertise everywhere (seems where they are headed), charge customers (would make the service smaller, but the end users would be loyal and happy).

Again, I would rather pay up front, on day one.

One of Coudal Partners’ no-brainer questions before starting a project:

Can we make money from it? We’re a going business. We have mortgages to pay. We have tuitions to pay for our kids. We’re not ashamed of making money.

Garret Murray of Karbon on wanting to just pay for Tumblr:

I don’t want it to be free. I want to pay for it. Tumblr is one of the few services on earth that refuses to take my money. And it’s a shame, because rather than taking VC or running a tiny team, they could be charging customers, making money, and growing the service while remaining stable.

Restaurants aren’t going around giving away free meals. It’s a business. It costs money to run, even more money to run well, and you expect people who solicit your service to pay their fair share. Why are internet businesses any different?

Ryan Kim of GigaOm interviewing Marco Arment of Instapaper with his “let users thank you by paying you” philosophy:

That’s what’s allowed Arment to really focus on the paid segment. In fact, he still questions the value of the free version at times because it can leave a more negative impression for users with its limited set of features. Arment said his paying users have surprised him with their support. He started a $1 a month subscription plan in October that didn’t actually offer much in the way of extra features. It was more of a way to let users show their support for Instapaper. He said the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“That was a huge surprise to me how well it’s doing given there’s no real incentive to do it besides good will. But it ends up that good will is powerful,” Arment said. “It shows that people will pay for something they like because they want to ensure its future.”

Mule Design Studio’s Mike Monteiro on getting paid:

F*ck you. Pay Me.

App Stores: The Macro & the Micro

Building Apps for Target Markets

I’ve long wondered if developers build apps almost entirely for the nerd market and not the consumer market. Justin Williams, creator of Elements and Today, clarifies the motivation and incentive to do just that for the iOS and Mac App Stores:

“I frequently explain to people that I don’t build consumer applications and instead target the nerds. The nerds are more than willing to spend money on quality software. Nerds have bought tens of thousands of copies of OmniFocus’s $40 iPad app, so I find it hard to believe they would struggle to part with a $5 bill to use my application.”

Forty dollar task management software makes sense to nerds and productivity types, but to the average consumer? It sounds like they’re parting with two $20 bills to make checklists on a tablet computer when a free notebook jacked from the office would work just the same. An identical mentality most likely follows for spending $5 on an app for text editing and notes management when one comes built-in with iOS.

The Micro and the Macro

More likely than not, this is what’s happening with these kinds of niche apps:

  • Developers who build these apps are nerds
  • Consumers who buy these apps are nerds

This is a nearly perfect micro-economy that may have existed in the background before easily accessible app stores, and now is the forefront of an extremely healthy ecosystem based off the notion of effectively building and delivering goods for highly specific consumer groups.

The above scenario works the other way, too. With thousands of apps to choose from, the average user is undoubtedly overwhelmed by the sheer selection from which to choose. Top ten lists and top apps by category are some of the first places to go (my Dad, purchaser of the recent Verizon iPhone, did just this with a random game at the top of some category list). General iOS and Mac users will see products in these lists, often arriving there through pricing adjustments (translation: fire-sales), and with greater visibility, apps like Angry Birds retain top positioning and will be some of the first apps purchased by this consumer group.

If you’re one of the long-tail advocates, app store marketplaces are nearly perfect examples of the theory.