A new (old) way to follow The Jolly Teapot

Up until now, you only had three different ways to stay up-to-date with the latest posts on this blog:

  • direct access: if you have The Jolly Teapot in your bookmarks (hello Mom), or if you type thejollyteapot.com” in your web browser every time you have a minute of free time (like I’m sure you do)
  • social media: you follow me on Twitter, somehow have not muted me yet, and you see me tweet when new posts are published.
  • RSS: the RSS feed is for me the best way — by far — to follow any blog or website (even some YouTube channels) on the internet. I understand it is also the least practical way for many people to follow a website, as many have been avoiding RSS feeds and RSS readers altogether since the end of Google Reader, seven years ago.

Acknowledging that RSS is sadly not widely used (a story for a future post), I prepared a newsletter on the fantastic Buttondown service, ready to be edited and sent once or twice a month, depending on the volume of new posts published on The Jolly Teapot. Think of this newsletter as a RSS-through-email summary feed, with an extra something on top of it.

I believe the first emails will be sent next week, or maybe mid-April, who knows really? If you want to join the party, you can already subscribe here 📧. Thank you!

PS: I have made sure the newsletter won’t track who opens, clicks, or forwards the emails, because we are already tracked more than enough, aren’t we?

Zoom may not be trust-worthy, but sadly their recent success may already protect them

Yesterday, John Gruber shared his thoughts on the new privacy / security issue with Zoom, the now-famous video conferencing tool: its iOS app was sending data to Facebook, even if the user didn’t have a Facebook account. A well recommended read if you recently installed Zoom. I tweeted about this: Zoom does not appear to be a trust-worthy company and — not unlike Facebook or Uber — will have to do much better if they want to be trusted again. As Gruber says:

This Facebook data issue is nowhere near as bad as the web server issue. But it betrays Zoom’s institutionally cavalier attitude to privacy. Their privacy policy more or less grants them carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want.

Mistakes happen. Bugs happen. I not only forgive mistakes, I enjoy forgiving mistakes. But Zoom’s callous disregard for privacy does not seem to be a mistake. As Zoom itself said about the hidden web server they secretly installed on Macs, it’s a feature not a bug.

The main concern I have with this, is that trusting Zoom or not won’t matter. It just recently got adopted by millions of people accross the globe; I believe it is now close to become a verb, just like Skype of Facetime before it. Apps like Zoom tend to share the same behaviour than messaging apps in terms of adoption: the best one is the one your friends or colleagues are using. Even if a few users become concerned about Zoom after this new bug”, they will have to convince most of their contacts to switch to something else: an video conferencing app where you’re the only one talking is rather useless. That’s why App.net failed, that’s why Signal, despite being a great app, is far from being as popular as Facebook Messenger.

The same happened with Facebook, the same happened with Uber. The services were already so ubiquitous, that not using them required not only a good alternative, but also a strong will to give up the benefits of using them.

That is why Zoom will probably get away with this. Its reputation is even more tainted than before, but this will probably not slow down a bit Zoom’s recent crazy growth.

UPDATE: Well, I barely got the time to publish this post before Zoom was at the center of another privacy-related scandal. VICE is once again behind the scoop:

For at least a few thousand people, Zoom has treated their personal email addresses as if they all belong to the same company, letting them video call each other.

Well, maybe the word zoom” will become a verb sooner than expected, but rather as a synonym of privacy-hostile bug”, instead of Skype”.

UPDATE 2: So, apparently, Zoom is very generous with tech stories these days. This time it is reported by The Intercept:

Zoom, the video conferencing service whose use has spiked amid the Covid-19 pandemic, claims to implement end-to-end encryption, widely understood as the most private form of internet communication, protecting conversations from all outside parties. In fact, Zoom is using its own definition of the term, one that lets Zoom itself access unencrypted video and audio from meetings.

This company is a just a gift that keeps on giving.

What is it like to be a copywriter in a company

Well-written, funny, on point, and entertaining read from Clare Barry, on how it can be for creative copywriters when it comes to feedback and suggestions from everyone else in the company:

There’s a joke in the creative industry that everyone is a designer”, making light of how infuriating it is to have someone (without a visual background) tell a designer how things should look. It’s a huge and common problem, caused by a client is always right” attitude — something we’ve all experienced, and all must endure. There is a point where you can actually see the lights go off in a designer’s eyes as their soul tries to escape their body — and that point is usually the 10th round of amends.


Less talked about is the everyone is a copywriter” problem.

I never worked as a copywriter, but for many projects and campaigns during my previous jobs, I pretty much had a copywriter role, and these experiences gave me enough background for me to laugh while thinking exactly!” a few times reading this piece. Does it count as copywriter-cred?

How to install an AppleScript and save a lot of time writing blog posts

AppleScript is something I’ve always knew by name, but never really got into it. I know it is a language used to build tiny programs on top of MacOS, to automate some tasks, to create shortcuts, basically to do things computers are supposed to do in the first place: compute things.

I am not even sure if what I will be describing below is technically an AppleScript, or a program, or an app, or whatever, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say it is an AppleScript. Forgive me if I butcher the terminology in this post.

Having recently switch to Drafts and optimised it with a few Markdown shortcuts native to the app, I decided to take things one step further and optimise my MacOS workflow itself. Nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated. I only had one AppleScript in mind, one I’ve heard John Gruber mention once on The Talk Show: a script to quickly paste opened Safari tabs URLs into the document you’re working on.

This tool allows you to do it with a couple of keystrokes and clicks only; which is way faster than respectively switching apps, going to the URL bar, copying the URL, switching back apps, and finally pasting. And the more URLs you need to paste, the more useful the script becomes.

Gruber has generously made the code available on Github: Paste URL From Safari Tab — so, how does it work? I struggled a little myself finding the information I needed to make everything work perfectly, so I thought I’d share a simple step-by-step guide for beginners like me.

Installing an AppleScript in 10 easy steps on MacOS

This should take 2 or 3 minutes.

  1. Copy the code
  2. Open the Automator app (the use of Spotlight to find it is recommended), and create a new file.
  3. Choose Quick Action, and select no input” in front of Workflow receives current”
  4. On the left column, look for Run AppleScript by using the search field, then double click on it: a new box should appear in the main panel.
  5. Replace the code inside this box with the one you copied earlier, and then save the Automator file. Use a simple, recognisable name.
  6. Go to your computer’s System Preferences, and select Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services.
  7. At the bottom of the list, you should find the Automator file you just created: you can now add a shortcut to it (I used cmd alt colon“ for the Gruber script for instance).
  8. Now, one last step: go back to the System Preferences main screen and select Security & Privacy.
  9. Now select Privacy, and then Accessibility. From there you have to add Automator to the list of apps allowed, by clicking the plus” button at the bottom of the list (you may need to click on the lock first), along with all the apps you want to use the script with (for the previously mentioned script, my allowed apps are Drafts and Tweetbot)
  10. Once all these steps are completed, you can try your shortcut; the first time you will use the script, you will have to click OK a couple of times, and you’re good forever.

And voilà: the quick-access list of your Safari tabs, with their URLs ready to be pasted from your favourite text-editing app. That was easy. Now I wonder: Are there any other AppleScripts” I should know about? Like usual, let me know on Twitter or via email. Thank you for reading.

Be ready for what is coming on LinkedIn, or don’t

Cheyenne MacDonald, writing on Input about the upcoming big feature on LinkedIn: stories. The title of the article really says it all: Nobody wants Stories on their LinkedIn feed, but she gets right to the point when she describes what is coming:

LinkedIn Stories inevitably promise to bring well-manicured, painfully corporate video clips to your feed as a way to mix up the approach to networking.

When there is a conversation about LinkedIn, I always make the same joke: the first thing I would do if I ever win big at the lottery is to delete my LinkedIn account, and only then I would tell my wife.

Of course LinkedIn is great at what it does: connecting people looking for a job with people looking for an employee. I found my current job on LinkedIn. I found my previous job on LinkedIn, and I will probably find the next one on LinkedIn too.

Outside of sharing profiles and job offers, I find the rest of it either useless, obnoxious, or downright pretentious. I’m sure some people enjoy the news feed, the groups, or even Pulse, and I may be the one missing out on something. My loss. I can only hope that LinkedIn stories will only be a thing on the mobile app, which I don’t have installed on my phone.

Apple has underestimated what the iPad can do for too long

MG Siegler, in a great post about the new iPad on 500ish, on how the device is closer than ever to be a full laptop:

Now, is that what we want? I’m honestly not sure. I see it both ways. On one hand, it’s sort of a shame that the if you see a stylus, they blew it” iPad not only now has a stylus, but it’s going to have a keyboard and trackpad. That is to say, this is seemingly not the device Steve Jobs set out to build. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means that ideas have evolved. And who knows, maybe Jobs was shortsighted in this regard. It’s possible! Likely, even.

When Jobs talked about a stylus what I think he really meant was if you have to use a stylus, they blew it.” With the iPad you don’t have to use a stylus.” Sure, you can use the Apple Pencil — if you want — and the pencil is made for specific tasks, like drawing with the precision fingers cannot possibly have. This is not a stylus per se.

The same story goes for the keyboard and trackpad. You don’t have to use them with the iPad; you sure do need them on a laptop though. But for the specific use-case of using your iPad standing on a desk, having a physical keyboard — along with a trackpad — makes a lot of sense.1 If you don’t want to use them, you can just leave them on the desk and take the iPad alone. If you don’t want to use the pencil, you can just leave it too.

That’s why these accessories are just accessories and sold separately. I believe the tablets Jobs was referring too were almost unusable without their stylus.

Maybe one thing Jobs didn’t see coming with the iPad, was the immense power Apple will soon be able to get from these custom-made ARM chips. When Jobs unveiled the iPad, A-series chips where promising, but who could have predicted the state at which they are now? This famous tweet shows that Anil Dash certainly could. Maybe Jobs - despite being the visionary we all know and admire — couldn’t, and could not see the iPad becoming something else than a casual big iPhone” for being used at home, in your gorgeous Le Corbusier LC-3 chair. More probably, he definitely could, but just didn’t want the iPad to be anything more.

Today, the iPhone 11 outperforms the 16-inch Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro in single-core use, according to benchmarks. The chip on the latest iPad — just a small update from the previous one — rivals the top-of-the-line pro-level laptop for a third of the price, according to the same benchmarks. So I’d say it was about time this incredible piece of hardware gets proper tools to be used comfortably and efficiently while standing on a desk. And apparently, Apple did a great job with the trackpad software part on the iPad.

The iPad hardware is ready for more and has been for a while. This month, Apple eventually made the OS ready for more with the latest iPadOS release. We will now see if finally iPad apps will step up their game too, because the days of the iPad being just a big iPhone” are definitely over.2

  1. While my wife uses the MacBook and that my new MacBook Air hasn’t yet arrived, I am typing this using my iPhone coupled with a standing case and the great Magic Keyboard. Every time I want to scroll up or down, my right hand is instinctively searching for a trackpad below the keyboard, you know, where it makes sense. Lifting up my arm every time I need to interact with the device for something else than text input is not great at all.

  2. Well, at least it seems over for the iPad Pro: the regular iPad, and the iPad Mini are almost in a different category nowadays.

A new way to interact with the iPad

Speaking of Craig Mod, he just wrote a beautiful piece on Wired, about the new iPad mouse/trackpad support, the one where a new type of cursor was introduced to interact with the touch-based iPad OS:

Move the pointer above a button and the circle morphs into the button itself, snapping” into it, enveloping it like an amoeba, causing it to glow in a pleasing way. What this means is that the usual precision of a trackpad isn’t required to get exact hits on navigational elements. […]

I’ve been using the trackpad with my 2018 11-inch iPad Pro for the last four days, and I can’t stop smiling.

From the few reviews I could read today, there seems to be a general consensus on the refinement of the new UI, sort of proving than it makes more sense to have a trackpad or a mouse to control the iPad when it stands on a table, rather than lifting up your arm and touching the screen all the time.

Jason Snell at Six Colors seems to be very pleased with it too:

I want to take a moment to appreciate the delicate and whimsical animated appearance of the cursor in iPadOS 13.4, which was released today. It’s delightful. It’s like a little cartoon character, the plucky dot who is up to any challenge, even if it means contorting itself into whatever form is required. […]

Apple didn’t just copy Mac cursor support and paste it into iPadOS with version 13.4. This is a careful, considered set of additions that rethink what a cursor should look like. And apparently it should look like an adorable round sticky color-changing blob.

Same for Dieter Bohn at The Verge:

I have a lot more to say about trackpad support on the iPad, but here’s the short version: I think Apple came as close to nailing it as possible. Scrolling feels natural and the way the mouse cursor changes shape to match buttons is weird at first but I think I like it.

This is all very promising: now we will have to wait for Federico Viticci to publish his iPad-expert thoughts about this to really know how good it is. Today on MacStories, he posted a link to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines on Pointers for iPadOS, and it is quite fascinating.

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