Posts Tagged ‘android’

When Twitter Dried Up

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I’m a Linux guy, and have been for a number of years now. When people ask me why that is, my stock answer used to be “Because if I really wanted to, I could make it blink my emails to me in Morse code using the keyboard LEDs.” I figured people who got it, man would know what I meant and would nod sagely, and for everyone else it’d be an amusing conversation-starter. Never, not once, has either of those eventualities resulted from my nerdy little bon mot. Thankfully I was able to replace it the first time I saw Enter The Dragon.

Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot.

Bruce Lee summed up (far more elegantly than I’d managed) the concept I was trying to convey using a metaphor that, given that I’ve always been of a somewhat Taoist persuasion, should have occurred to me in the first place; water. I am the cup, the bottle, the teapot, and I demand that software take my shape. It’s why I run Linux on my computers, it’s why I prefer Android phones, and it’s one of the few things I liked about Twitter.

As social platforms go, I’ve never much cared for it. It’s really only suited to what could charitably described as ephemera, and lately doesn’t seem to be much more than a conduit by which famous people distribute their brain facts before urging us to engage in economic activity to their benefit. I use it for two reasons. First, it seems to be de rigeur for people with blogs to tweet about their social graph or something (and let me take a moment to let you know how badly I wanted to injure myself after typing that sentence.)

Second, and unlike any other social endeavour I’ve joined in the last decade, it had a wide open API that allowed for lots of nifty innovation. I was able to putz around with a variety of Android clients until I found one that suited me, and tools like If This Then That let me tie it into my blog and other social stuff in a shell-scripty, Linuxy kind of way that was quite enjoyable. In just the last couple months I’d gotten to the point of “Okay, maybe Twitter isn’t as silly as I’d thought”, when suddenly the API changes were announced and it all went to hell.

I tried, briefly, to give them the benefit of the doubt. I tried to read the announcement as something other than “We are taking away the best part of this service and leaving behind the part where a Kardashian tells you to buy products.” But then, just the other day, I got this email from IFTT:

In recent weeks, Twitter announced policy changes* that will affect how applications and users like yourself can interact with Twitter’s data. As a result of these changes, on September 27th we will be removing all Twitter Triggers, disabling your ability to push tweets to places like email, Evernote and Facebook. All Personal and Shared Recipes using a Twitter Trigger will also be removed. Recipes using Twitter Actions and your ability to post new tweets via IFTTT will continue to work just fine.

*These Twitter policy changes specifically disallow uploading Twitter Content to a “cloud based service” (Section 4A and include stricter enforcement of the Developer Display Requirements (

And that, as we say, was that. The day that Twitter stopped being user-shaped and demanded that its users be Twitter-shaped. The day the water dried up. I never really got to the point where I used Twitter, the way I use Linux, or Android, or Evernote, or Dropbox, or any of the other tools or services that make my life easy and interesting. And now I never will.


Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Fellow Nokia fans, mourn with me. Our Finnish friends have tumbled from their place at the top, brought low by their Korean competitors and their Canadian CEO. At this rate their spot in James T. Kirk’s 23rd century stolen Corvette is in serious jeopardy.

Pictured: Unwarranted optimism.

I carried a N95 for four years and loved it. Barring the devices available only to people who lived in Japan, it was the absolute pinnacle of mobile technology at that time and came in an attractive, easy to carry form. It had stereo sound, dedicated media controls, and a 5mp camera when the competition was lucky to have 2mp. It had GPS, turn-by-turn and an accelerometer. It had multitasking before the iPhone even had third-party apps. It had a Python interpreter, for God’s sake!

I only switched away from Nokia when it became pretty clear that Symbian’s days were numbered and that Android was the future. I bought myself a Droid, thinking “No worries, in a couple years Nokia will have caught on and started making Android handsets, and then all will be well.” Given that they were already making Linux devices it was practically a foregone conclusion that Nokia would turn to Google for their next OS. But then came September 21st, 2010, when Stephen Elop (formerly of Microsoft) became Nokia’s first non-Finnish CEO and shortly thereafter announced that Nokia would begin making Windows smartphones, and I had a little Picard moment.

The results have been depressing but completely and utterly predictable. Nokia lost the top spot in smartphone sales to Apple in second quarter 2011, and has now lost the lead in overall phone sales to Samsung. It isn’t especially hard to see why.

Back in 2010 when Nokia realized that they were in trouble, there was some pretty evident market wisdom staring them in the face:

  • When you’re winning you can afford to be closed. When you’re losing, go Open.
  • Making your handset stand out from the pack is less important than making sure it has the same apps as everyone else. Differentiation is not as important as having Angry Birds.
  • Two is company, three is a crowd.

For reasons that the Nokia board will no doubt take with them to the grave, they decided to ignore all of these truths and go with a fledgling, untested operating system with scant big-name app support, made by a company whose attempts to play in other people’s yards (e.g. Kin, Zune) could charitably be described as “horrific vomit-inducing failures”, in a market that clearly wasn’t looking for a third way.

I would love for Nokia to come to their senses, ditch Windows Phone, and use their amply-demonstrated industrial design chops to produce an Android device as gorgeous as the Lumia 900, but I just don’t see it happening so long as Elop is running the show. I think the best we can hope for is for Nokia to fade into pleasant, sepia-tinted memory alongside BeOS and the Amiga; A maker of great products that we remember fondly and whose winning characteristics we will defend vigorously long after they’ve ceased to matter in any way whatsoever.

Explain To Me Again Why People Support This Company

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

I probably should have gone with a different title for this article, because the answer came to me about a millisecond after I finished typing. “Because they aren’t paying attention.”

There are plenty of reasons not to like Apple. They advertise and emphasize membership in their brand cult rather than compete on the merits of their product. They have no history or tradition of charitable giving despite sitting on a Scrooge McDuck-sized swimming pool of cash. Their products are manufactured in China in conditions that any US worker would find deplorable, and they are entirely unapologetic about that fact.

Personally, my number one reason to dislike Apple was the Koresh to its Branch Davidians; Steve Jobs. I was sure that upon his death the company’s more irritating tendencies (paranoid secrecy, P.T. Barnum-style product announcements) would fade noticeably, and that the unreasonable and hypocritical hatred of Google would vanish entirely. Apparently I was almost painfully wrong!¬†Apple’s pursuit of Android’s demise continues, well after the death of the egomaniac that began it.

To understand why this makes no sense, compare these two quotes. From the Walter Isaacs biography of Steve Jobs:

Our lawsuit is saying, “Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.” Grand theft. I will spend my dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

From a 1994 interview with Jobs:

Picasso had a saying, he said “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” And we have, you know, always been shameless about stealing great ideas.

Pot, meet kettle. But the fact that Jobs would find no inconsistency between these two positions is no surprise. The belief that rules simply didn’t apply to him is a recurring theme in the aforementioned biography, and it was that belief that ended up killing him.

What I don’t get is why Apple continues to fight after Jobs’ death. It can’t possibly be to save face; any reasonable person that spends more than five minutes looking at the merits of the case reaches a conclusion along the lines of “Wow, the patent office is insane for giving you these patents, and you’re an asshole for trying to enforce them.” It must be a losing proposition to wage war on a wildly popular operating system and a hardware manufacturer that operates under a democracy rather than a totalitarian regime, right?

Oh, hang on, this is where I started. Nobody’s paying attention.