Tag Archive for ‘Álvaro Serrano’

‘The Platforms Themselves Are Designed to Breed Confrontation’ ➝

Álvaro Serrano, on taking a break from social media:

It’s taken a lot of introspection, but I’ve realized that social media has been slowly poisoning my character in ways I don’t even fully understand. Being constantly exposed to an endless stream of negativity has made me more angry, and it has shortened my fuse significantly. My tolerance for disagreement is at an all-time low, and I find myself being defensive even when there’s no apparent reason for it. Perhaps more importantly, it’s been draining my capacity for joy and my ability to appreciate the little things in life. All of this has had an impact in my everyday life, my work and my relationships, and I’ve had enough.

It sounds like Álvaro is taking more drastic measures than I am, but I can’t fault him. The level of anger and frustration I experience from my timeline has increased exponentially over the past few years. It’s finally reached a breaking point.

I tried mitigating it with mute filters, but too much snuck through. So I’ve decided to unfollow some folks for a bit to see if that’s a more effective method. I’ve made note of everyone I’ve unfollowed and plan to refollow many of them at a later date.

Much of the tweets that leave me angry and upset are regarding news stories that I’ve already seen through other outlets — primarily RSS and Reddit. So it’s not as if I’m going to miss anything that I want to or should know about. But removing those from my timeline is a way to manage my exposure to topics that effect my mood.

And hopefully these steps will improve my mental health and turn Twitter into a service that I actually enjoy again.

➝ Source: analogsenses.com

Ten Years of Web Publishing ➝

Álvaro Serrano, writing about his time attempting to make his site a full-time gig:

Those were probably the most creatively fulfilling years of my life, and I’m quite proud to say that, for a little while, I was out there blogging with the best of them. However, the reason I’m so glad I took that leap of faith has little to do with the work itself. It’s all about the people I got to meet along the way.

You see, if I hadn’t sent that email to Shawn I probably never would have become friends with Josh, and never would have even met Marius. Candid never would have existed and, by extension, none of us would have met Thomas. These are three of the most important people in the world to me, and even now, years later, I talk to them every single day. They’ve become part of my family, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Initial Charge turned ten years old this year as well — back in March. I didn’t celebrate the anniversary as much as I probably should have. The reality is that doing anything for ten years is an accomplishment. Especially something like this, a hobby that’s all too easy to fall away from.

Like Álvaro, I’ve had so many positive things come from independent publishing — having the opportunity to write for The Sweet Setup, getting a job at Automattic, but most importantly I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some friends along the way.

I don’t speak with them as often as Álvaro does with his and I should probably make a conscious effort to change that. But I value the friendship that we have more than just about anything else that I’ve received from Initial Charge. And hopefully those friendships will outlast anything that any of us create for the web.

➝ Source: analogsenses.com

The Future of Computing

Álvaro Serrano, in a well-written and reasoned take on the iPad sales situation:

I don’t think there’s anyone left out there complaining that their iPads are not fast enough these days, or that battery life isn’t good enough. Similarly, screens are gorgeous, storage is ample, and wireless connectivity is better than ever. By all accounts, the iPad is a mature product line hardware-wise, and yet it is still very much in its infancy when it comes to software.

Álvaro is a little less enthusiastic about the iPad than I am, but it’s the best piece I’ve read on the topic so far.

If you’re unaware, iPad sales haven’t been so hot lately. They seem to have peaked at the end of 2013 and have been down year-over-year ever since. Many have speculated about why this could be, with theories ranging from Apple’s lack of commitment to the possibility that Apple was wrong about iOS — it might not be the future of computing. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the situation on twitter, but I thought I’d reiterate them here — it might be something I’ll want to point to in the future.

iPad owners don’t buy new iPads because the one they have is just as fast as the day they bought it. By comparison, the Windows PCs that many of these users buy are at their fastest when they’re first setup. I reference Windows users because they represent the vast majority of mainstream computer users and I believe them to be the primary reason for the massive success of the iPad in its early days.

These Windows PCs remain as their owners’ primary machine until they’re practically unusable — simply from years of built-up cruft in the OS. One solution would be to reinstall the operating system to regain that performance, but most people don’t know how to do that. It’s much easier for them to buy a new computer.

This scenario is practically non-existent with iOS. iPads almost always feel just as fast as the day they were purchased. This is also true with iPhones, but they have an entirely different, built-in mechanism that encourages owners to upgrade. Unlike PCs and iPads, many users buy a new iPhone because, as portable devices, they are prone to being dropped and broken — cracked screens, water damage, and the like.

iPad sales are down year-over-year because there’s no inherit mechanism that encourages users to upgrade. The OS and third-party software system is designed to prevent unnecessary cruft — PCs fight a losing battle against a growing list of login items and background tasks — and they’re less likely to be physically damaged because they’re not taken everywhere like an iPhone is.

Perhaps Apple should spend more time building iPad-specific features in an effort to increase sales. I certainly wouldn’t complain about this strategy. I’m strongly in favor of anything that improves the software on my primary machine, but I’m not entirely convinced that it will make much of a difference.

In the tech-centric circles that many of us frequent, new hardware and software features matter, a lot. But I don’t think the mainstream user is convinced to spend hundreds of dollars on a new device just because it connects to a new kind of wireless keyboard or works with a $100 drawing accessory that you have to buy separately.

Mainstream users think of their computers as appliances — they’re purchased for their utility. They are essential, but they aren’t anything to get excited about. And just like appliances, they’re replaced on an as-needed basis. When was the last time someone you know bought a dishwasher before their old one bit the dust? Probably never.

The iPad upgrade cycle might be longer than any other computing device in history. This might look terrible for Apple’s financial department, but it’s a testament to how well-crafted these devices are from both a software and hardware standpoint. The lengthy upgrade cycle lends itself to high customer satisfaction ratings and repeat customers. That’s something Apple should be proud of — a computing device that doesn’t have to be replaced every few years.

The iPad may never be a 15-20 million units per quarter kind of device, like it was in its early days, but that’s okay. As long as Apple continues to invest time and resources into improving the platform, and they’re able to sell enough to support that investment, the iPad could still end up becoming “the future of computing.” Even if unit sales aren’t as tremendously impressive as everyone wants them to be.

iOS as a Primary Platform ➝

Álvaro Serrano, commenting on Federico Viticci’s recent piece about working on the iPad:

I can’t help but feel a bit frustrated that this narrative — that the iPad is finally ready to replace Macs for the general population — continues to be pushed from certain people in the tech community. I honestly don’t see it in the real world, and iPad sales numbers certainly point towards a very different story.

These people, as well-intentioned as I take them to be, are not average users, and creating the perception that regular users not only can get by with an iPad, but that it will actually be better for them than a traditional computer, strikes me as a dangerous trend.

This narrative that he speaks of is something I’ve been struggling with as well. I use an iPad Air 2 for the vast majority of my computing tasks and I absolutely love it — the idea of using a Mac as my only machine feels archaic to me.

But I fully understand that iOS won’t work for everybody and there’s plenty of specialized software that just isn’t available for iOS. The platform is great for people like myself, Viticci, and many others who have spent months building new workflows for the platform, but for most people that just isn’t possible. For them, the Mac is still a better option.

Occassionally I’ll get questions from friends and family about what computer I would recommend to the them. The overwhelming majority of the time I suggest either an iMac or a MacBook Air. There are instances where I would suggest an iPad instead, though. Like my fiancée’s mother who just needs a web browser and an email client or my niece and nephew who haven’t built habits on desktop computers and might be better suited with a platform that involved direct manipulation — touch. Those situations, however, are not the norm.

Moving On

Álvaro Serrano, writing about the recent information on Samantha Bielefeld:

Those of you who have been following the Samantha Bielefeld saga may already know that a few days ago, new information was made public that caused many people, myself included, to question our role in this whole thing.

It appears — at this point I consider it proven — that Samantha Bielefeld’s real identity is actually a man named Victor Wynn Johnson. Not only that, but this man has been accused of being a pathological liar and a conman in the past, long before Samantha ever entered the picture.

For obvious reasons, that has some very important implications.

This whole situation has been incredibly difficult to follow if you haven’t been vigilant about reading all of the various threads on Twitter throughout the past week. But Álvaro does a great job at compiling all of the relevant information and presenting it in a digestible fashion.

I could have written much more about this and I certainly have plenty of thoughts on the topic to justify doing so. But I would rather leave that to Álvaro and others. The last thing I want to do is say something that I’ll later regret and I’m afraid if I elaborate too much I’m at risk of doing so.

Regardless of what Victor has done in the past, my interactions with Samantha, the character, were always pleasant. And although I prefer to base my opinions on my own experiences, it’s clear to me that it’s time to distance myself and move on. I just hope I’m doing so in a way that is respectful to everyone who was impacted by this person’s actions.

Perhaps I was too optimistic or blinded by the encouraging words and support I received from her, I simply wish I would have known the truth sooner. I hope that my vocal support of her writing and the guest post I wrote for her site hasn’t eroded the trust I’ve built up with my readers thoughout the years I’ve publishing online. But as much as I possibly can, I will continue expressing a feeling of optimism for new writers and members to our community. It wouldn’t be fair for me to treat them differently because of this ordeal.

And if there’s one silver lining in all of this it’s that the genuine friendships I’ve built over this past several months have only grown stronger through all of it. As someone who’s lived through tragedies in the past, I can tell you that the ones who stick with you through the hard times are the ones who will remain by your side for the long haul.

As for the the writing I’ve published with references to Samantha, I will soon be editing these pieces in order to better reflect my current feelings about the situation. I haven’t dug through Initial Charge’s archives to see exactly how much editing that will entail, but I expect that I’ll simply add a link to this piece for context.

The Gamble of Ad Networks ➝

Álvaro Serrano, writing in the Afterword section of his this week’s Morning Coffee:

The reality is — and people know it — that there’s no way to build a successful ad network without incurring in some of the bad practices they were supposed to address in the first place. You can’t participate in a massive network that rotates ads across tens of different websites and still claim that those ads are somehow tailored specifically to your readers. […]

The way I see it, the burden falls squarely on publishers to defend their readers’ time and attention and protect their trust. By placing that trust in the hands of an ad network, as ethical and well-intentioned as that network may be, they were effectively taking a gamble.

This whole ad blocking conversation has reminded me of my piece on native advertising from earlier this year:

This helped me to start thinking about native advertising from a different perspective (at least when it comes to one man shops), maybe we should be questioning the morality of links to products and services that we have no control over. Maybe the best way to maintain integrity is to vet every single word and link published on our sites. If someone else makes decisions about what products and services are linked to in sponsorship spots then how can we as publishers vouch for the quality of everything we publish?

I was more talking about sponsored posts throughout the article, but it’s applicable to any other form of advertising on the web. How can publishers vouch for the quality of their website if some percentage of their page’s “content” is in the form of advertising determined by a third-party that they have almost no control over?

I think it might be time for publishers to take their ad sales and hosting in-house. It’s going to be hell trying to convince advertisers that it’s the right thing to do — deliver ads without a third-party intermediary — but in the end, I think it’s the only respectable way to earn a living through advertising on the web. Simple, non-rotating banner ads that link to a product or service without the use of JavaScript sounds like a breath of fresh air compared to the current online ad market. And there’s plenty of ways for the publisher and advertiser to track the effectiveness of the ad that doesn’t require the use of third-party services.