RIP Twitter

Twitter was overflowing with alarmist complaints on Friday after BuzzFeed reported that the company was planning on introducing an algorithm-based timeline.

Alex Kantrowitz, from the original BuzzFeed News article:

Say hello to a brand new Twitter. The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned.

The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.

Of course, in the aftermath of this shitstorm, Jack Dorsey attempted to calm everyone’s fears by reassuring them that Twitter wasn’t going to pivot away from its realtime nature. But it was definitely not a denial of the rumor.

Since then it’s come to light that users will be able to opt-out of the feature and that it should feel more like an expanded version of the “while you were away” block that’s appeared in timelines for the past year — something that I didn’t even know existed until today.

I was a bit worried about this rumor when it first cropped up on Friday, but the feeling didn’t last long. Changes like this often have no impact on me at all, and if they do, typically not until months after their release. You see, I use Tweetbot — as believe everyone should — and Twitter has a habit of leaving third-party clients without APIs for their newest features. Which I’m fine with.

For the most part, I think the majority of features that have been added to Twitter over the last few years have only detracted from what made the service so great in the first place. I preferred their earlier, more simplistic approach which left a little bit more of the burden on the user to find what’s interesting and kept everyone’s focus on what people were actually saying. This is why I’ll continue to use third-party clients for as long as I’m able to.

But I’m fully aware that I’m in the minority with this sentiment. I get that most new users have a hard time finding people to follow and that helping them along the way is better for user retention. And I also understand that most users don’t check their timeline 15-20 times a day like I do. Those users would benefit from having an algorithm-ordered timeline which surfaces the most interesting tweets for them.

If you preferred Twitter the way it was 1-2 years ago and are still using Twitter’s official app, I encourage you to give Tweetbot, Twitterrific, or some other third-party client a try. They might cost a few bucks, but are well worth it for — what I’d consider to be — a superior user experience. But if you’d rather go along for the ride to see what this new feature — and what many more in the future — have to offer, more power to you. There’s no reason why we can’t both enjoy Twitter the way we want to.

We can all put our pitchforks away and get back to talking about the latest sportsball game and discussing the viability of iOS as your primary computing platform. Because that’s what Twitter was made for.

‘Rose Gold Coming to iPhone 5se’ ➝

Mark Gurman, regarding the recent “hot pink” iPhone 5se rumors:

This weekend, reports have emerged with claims that the new device will be offered in a new “bright” or “hot” pink color option, but sources say that the iPhone 5se’s coloring is identical to the iPhone 6s’s in appearance.

Apple is said to be aiming to keep its hardware colors consistent across iOS devices.

Just based on anecdotal evidence — as in, the devices I see people using in public — it certainly seems like the rose gold option is incredibly popular.

Unofficial iPhone Home Button Repairs Can Brick Your Device ➝

From a security standpoint, it makes perfect sense for Touch ID to stop functioning if the sensor is replaced. But it certainly shouldn’t render the entire device unusable. Rather than displaying “Error 53,” the iPhone should gI’ve the user an explanation and require a passcode in any instance where Touch ID could be used.

Blurring Photos for iOS Wallpapers ➝

A great tip by David Sparks showing how to use Pixelmator to turn any image into a beautiful wallpaper for use on your iOS home screen.

Marissa Mayer Unveils Make-Or-Break Plan for Yahoo ➝

Richard Nieva, writing for CNET:

Marissa Mayer is cleaning house. The question is whether the makeover is to keep Yahoo going for the long term or to sweep out the clutter and attract potential buyers.

To turn Yahoo around, the CEO said Tuesday that she’s cutting about 1,700 jobs, shutting down services like Games, and selling off patents and real estate in the hopes of adding $1 billion to $3 billion to the company’s coffers this year. She’s also put out a call to would-be buyers, saying she and Yahoo’s board are ready to “engage on qualified strategic proposals.”

I’m afraid Yahoo is too far gone at this point. Think about it, when was the last time you relied on a Yahoo owned-service? For me, it was Flickr about five years ago.

Twitter is Testing A Dedicated GIF Button On Mobile ➝

Honestly, I’m surprised it has taken this long. At the very least, I thought a third-party client would have added this by now.

On Changing RSS Services

Ben Ubois, founder of Feedbin, writing about the service’s newest feature:

You can now receive email newsletters in Feedbin.

To use this feature, go to the settings page and find your secret Feedbin email address. Use this email address whenever you sign up for an email newsletter. Anything sent to it will show up as a feed in Feedbin, grouped by sender.

There’s been a recent trend of tech-focused weblogs publishing email newsletters with exclusive content. I’ve signed up for a few of them, but I don’t really read any of them. The problem is that my email app isn’t the environment where I want to read that type of long-form prose.

When I open Airmail (my new email client of choice), I just want to check for important messages, take action where necessary, and move on. I certainly don’t want to read a couple thousand words on the newest app release. I do want to read about it, but not in my email app.

And that’s why this new Feedbin feature is brilliant. It helps keep your email inbox clean and puts the well-crafted newsletters in an app that’s better suited for that type of text. And it’s also the sort of feature that has me thinking about switching.

My current RSS backend is a self-hosted installation of Fever, which I’ve been using for six or seven years. It works well enough, but it’s become painfully obvious that it isn’t going to be supported for much longer. The last update was released in September 2014 to add support for the latest iPhones’ screen size alongside a few bug fixes.

I still love Fever — its “Hot” category, which displays popular links based on how many of the feeds you follow have pointed to it, remains as one of my favorite RSS features of all time. But the truth is, I don’t interact directly with Fever much anymore. The vast majority of my time reading RSS feeds is from my iOS devices where Reeder is my app of choice. The only time I use Fever directly is when I’m on my Mac — which is a becoming a rarity — or when I’m subscribing to a new feed using Fever’s bookmarklet.

There isn’t much compelling me to use Fever anymore. I like the idea of self-hosting, but not if the software isn’t actively maintained. I like Fever’s Hot category, but rarely use it because of Reeder’s shoddy support for the feature. And other services offer modern user interfaces and newer, more advanced features — like support for email newsletters — that are beginning to pique my interest.

I don’t know if email newsletter support is the feature that will push me to sign up for Feedbin, but there’s definitely a chink in Fever’s armor. The software has fallen behind its competitors and the rise of native RSS client apps has obfuscated the web-based backend almost entirely.

Given that Reeder supports both Fever and Feedbin, I don’t even need to get used to a new user interface. Once I sign up for an account, upload my OPML file, and login on Reeder, I can continue on business as usual. I suppose the only place for me to go from here is to take a look at Feedbin’s other unique features to see if it’s actually worth making the switch.

Neglected Apps ➝

Marco Arment, on the announced shutdown of Parse:

In particular, it’ll be problematic when possibly hundreds of thousands of iOS apps just stop working in a year because their developers have long since moved on, or their contracts expired, or they can’t afford to spend time on a significant update.

This is one of the main reasons why I try and support developers in any way I can. We all rely on these apps to get stuff done and none of us want to see them go away.

The Best ➝

Justin Blanton, writing on Medium:

I’ve always had this uneasy, incomplete feeling if I knew — even if it was just a hunch — that there was something better out there for task x, my build, my aesthetics, my circumstances, etc.

It’s not about brands for me, and really never has been — it’s about the intersection of my hyper-particular stylistic preferences, quality, and means.

The only measurable amount of brand loyalty I have is with the companies that have consistently proven themselves to me. But I’m also the first one to switch to another brand if a competing company provides a superior preduction.

Apple May Hold March 15 Event ➝

According to Gurman’s sources, Apple should be announcing the iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3, and a minor Apple Watch refresh — probably new bands and software updates. I’m really looking forward to seeing this new 4-inch iPhone and what the company has in store for the Apple Watch.

Update: Matthew Panzarino and John Paczkowski are also reporting the same date.

How to Stream Super Bowl 50 on Your Apple Devices ➝

Josh Centers, writing for TidBits:

Super Bowl 50 (yes, 50 and not L, because the NFL has switched from Roman to Arabic numerals) will take place 7 February 2016 at 6:30 PM EST. If you want to watch the showdown between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, but don’t have traditional TV service, the good news is that CBS will be streaming the game for free to viewers in the United States.

I don’t watch much football, but if I myself with some free time on Sunday night, I might check in on the game with the CBS Sports app for Apple TV.

GE Moves on from Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs ➝

Ry Crist, writing for CNET:

By the end of the year, GE will cease production and sales of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), the manufacturer announced this morning. Moving forward, the company’s focus will fall entirely on halogen incandescents and on high-efficiency LEDs.

Despite the superior energy efficiency of CFLs, I’ve continued to use standard incandescent light bulbs while they’re still available. I was never able to find a good CFL that offered comparable light quality to regular-old incandescents alongside inexpensive per-bulb pricing with zero warm up time. I tried bulbs from a wide range of manufacturers, but nothing stood up to the 75W Philips Natural Light bulbs I purchased from my local Wegmans.

I had previously stated away from LED bulbs because they’re much more expensive then CFLs and especially incandescents. But with new regulations limiting their sale, standard incandescent bulbs with decent light output are almost impossible to find. I think it’s finally time for me to start looking more seriously at LEDs.

The HTTPS Mystery ➝

Dave Winer publishes a short, 10-minute podcast episode discussing the push toward HTTPS everywhere by Mozilla and Google.

Time Warner Wants Hulu To Stop Airing Current Seasons Of TV Shows ➝

Chris Morran, writing for Consumerist:

The Time Warner Inc. umbrella covers a wide range of these channels — CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network — that stand to lose carriage fees and ad revenue every time someone cuts the cord. And while Time Warner apparently believes it can make money selling online access to HBO without requiring basic cable, many of its other properties don’t lend itself as readily to binge-viewing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that’s why Time Warner is talking to Hulu about ultimately rethinking how the streaming service handles recently aired TV shows.

Hulu would become a lot less valuable if it no longer offered episodes from current seasons. To the point where I might even consider canceling the service altogether if recently-aired episodes were no longer available. But unfortunately for Time Warner, there’s no way I’d ever return to a cable subscription. I cut the cord almost ten years ago and have been happily using alternative entertainment sources like Netflix, iTunes, podcasts, YouTube, etc. ever since.

Why iOS is Compelling

Early last week, Ben Brooks published a great piece explaining why so many members of the Mac community have found iOS compelling recently. I found this bit, about the feeling of switching to the Mac in the early to mid-2000s, to particularly resonate with me:

It’s that same allure many of us are feeling with iOS now — the idea that while the Mac is still pretty simple and mostly just works — iOS is even more simple. Like Macs in 2004, iOS either just works, or it flat out won’t work for that task. Either you can do it pretty easily, or not at all.

Although I didn’t make the switch to OS X until a couple of years after Ben, I did so for a lot of the same reasons. Everything was easier on the Mac and, as a result, there was a noticeable increase in my productivity.

I was just a college kid that wanted to spend as little time as possible doing school work, so that I could waste time doing anything else. Back then Quicksilver, Exposé, and Dashboard were my secret weapons that helped minimize many of the tedious aspects of using a computer. I no longer needed to navigate the start menu to launch applications; aimlessly alt-tab to find a specific app window; or clutter the taskbar with calculator, weather, or other utility apps. OS X was compelling because of how much more simple it felt when compared to Windows.

Now I’m finding myself attracted to iOS because of its even more simplistic nature. Split-screen multitasking, share sheet extensions, and multi-touch gestures are my tools of choice this time around. I dont need to spend a ton of time managing windows, interacting with the file system, or remembering a bunch of keyboard shortcuts for navigating and interacting with applications. All that cruft is gone.

iOS’ entire interface paradigm is designed around the idea of removing unnecessary things from the operating system so that the task at hand can be performed with as little resistance as possible. You might not feel as comfortable on iOS as you do on OS X because of years-worth of habit building, but I believe iOS is an objectively better OS with the only limitations existing because developers haven’t yet built applications to tackle every possible need.

Yes, there are still a few tasks that I can only do on the Mac. But the list is steadily shrinking as third-party developers innovative and Apple continues to improve the environment. The real proof is that I find myself using my MacBook less and less as I find new ways to implement previously Mac-centric tasks. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel at this point — it won’t be long until every single task is possible on iOS. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Some of the Sweet Setup’s Favorite Apple TV Apps ➝

I finally got around to ordering the new Apple TV this past week. It arrived on Friday and I’ve been spending the weekend testing many of the more interesting apps available for tvOS. This piece by Joe Caiati was the first place I looked for recommendations on which apps I should try first.

Podcast Chapters ➝

From the application’s homepage:

Want to make it easy for your listeners to tap directly through to sponsors? Skip over spoilers if they aren’t caught up? See what’s coming up in your episode? Let Podcast Chapters help.

If you’re a podcast creator, do your listeners a favor and start using this app.

KGI: iPhone 7 Plus Likely to Feature Dual-Camera System for Better Photos Using ➝

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI securities is today reporting that they believe the iPhone 7 Plus will come with a dual-camera system option with Linx camera technology Apple acquired last year. By using two distinct lenses, Apple can use the additional image data to create substantially better quality photos. Dual camera iPhones have been rumored for a long time. KGI also floats the possibility that the Plus will feature an optical zoom, with 2-3x magnification.

If true, this will be a major leap forward for the iPhone camera’s picture quality.

Maybe Apple Does Need to Make a Smaller iPhone ➝

Kirk McElhearn:

But there was one comment that I noticed, which I actually found surprising. Tim Cook said, at one point, that:

the number of people who had an iPhone prior to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus announcements, so this was in September of ’14, that have not yet upgraded to a 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus is now 60 percent. So another way to think of that is, 40 percent have, 60 percent have not.

60% of people are using an iPhone prior to the iPhone 6. In other words, 60% of people are using smaller iPhones.

That may mean that the 4-inch form factor remains the most popular iPhone size of all time. I’m in no position to speak for Apple, but that’s not something I’d let go of too easily.

The Case Against Control Center ➝

I’d certainly love for Control Center to be more customizable, but my biggest feature request is 3D Touch support. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could force touch the Bluetooth button to see a list of nearby devices which you could connect or disconnect from individually?

Google Will Soon Shame All Websites That Are Unencrypted ➝

I don’t like the idea of Google encouraging all web developers to use encrypted protocols. I can understand this line of thinking for websites which feature user profiles and private communication — where the information transferred actually has a reason to be encrypted. But why should simple content sites be shamed into adding unnecessary complexity?