The smartest new product coming from Twitter in a long time?

According to Axios, Twitter is about to launch a new local weather news service, and, looking at the details, it looks very compelling:

The team will produce newsletters and exclusive long-form content on Twitter via the company’s newly-acquired newsletter platform Revue, as well as membership-specific short-form content for users, such as ticketed live audio sessions via Twitter Spaces” and audience Q&A services.

The Q&A services will be unique to this model. Members can ask unlimited questions during breaking news weather events to meteorologists and climate experts, essentially scaling a function that Holthaus says has become second-nature for climate and weather experts on Twitter anyway.

This has to be the first time in years that I see Twitter come up with something that looks both perfectly integrated into their new ecosystem — namely Spaces and the Revue newsletter thing — and that truly fits the feel of what Twitter is. We still have to wait and see how it does, but, on paper, this is not only very smart, but it makes perfect sense. These are not terms I’ve used often with Twitter in the past.

The next step in this direction for Twitter seems quite obvious to me: replicate the same Tomorrow model but for individual sports and live television. Pretty sure Twitter is already working on a football publication for the next FIFA World Cup.

Why the iPad Pro needs its own “iPadProOS”

Harry McCracken on Fast Company, on the latest iPad Pro and its current software limitations:

I speak not as an iPad skeptic but as someone who—come September—will have used an iPad as my primary computing device for a decade, and happily so. I love the iPad so much that I want to see it live up to every iota of its great expectations. Every time iPad Pro hardware gets more powerful, those expectations ratchet up.

Having said all this, I remain a cautious optimist about the iPad’s future: It’s tough to believe that Tuesday’s great leap forward on the hardware front isn’t a prelude to major software advances. And we shouldn’t have to wait long to find out.

McCracken at Fast Company, along with Jason Snell at MacWorld, both agree: the iPad Pro needs a more powerful OS than the current iPadOS, which already feels too weak compared to what the iPad Pro hardware can do. It was true on the previous generation iPad Pro, it is even more the case with the newest version.

This is what the iPad Pro needs, a better, more flexible and more powerful iPad OS, with — why not — a few good Mac-inspired set of features, but not some version of MacOS, which doesn’t make much sense.

I also wonder if iOS — the base layer for iPadOS — is what really slows down the potential of iPad Pros, software-wise: I think the regular, much less powerful iPad is what makes Apple struggle on how to make iPadOS evolve. On one end, they have to keep it simple and classic iPad friendly, on the other end they have this incredible machine which can and wants to do so much more.

It almost feels like Apple created a sixth category of devices with the iPad Pro, now the only one without its own OS: the Mac has MacOS (and MacOS can scale up to the power of the machine usability-wise), the Watch has WatchOS, Apple TV has TvOS, the iPhone has iOS, and the iPad has iPadOS. Maybe something like iPadProOS” is needed?

Federico Viticci on what we can expect knowing that WWDC 2021 will take place in June:

The last time a new iPad Pro’s hardware was so obviously more capable than its software demanded, we saw the debut of iPadOS seven months later. The 2021 iPad Pro’s hardware has created new low-hanging fruit for its software; I’d be really surprised if the second half of this story isn’t dropping in six weeks.

June 7th should be an interesting day.

It’s that time of year again

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg about the latest iPad Pro and its M1 chip:

It’s time for Apple to pull off the Band Aid and merge the iPad and Mac—at least their operating systems.

The company seems to have done everything it can to delay the inevitable. Over the past few years, it has danced around the idea of combining the Mac and iPad software ecosystems—to a confusing degree.

This whole piece is either a really bad take and doesn’t grasp anything about software, usability, or even why Apple does what it does, or it’s just a premature, rushed, yearly click-bait article. Not sure which.

UPDATE: There seems to be a trend, with the latest nonsencical article published the next day on the Verge: basically zero regard on the UX except opinions like it would be cool” and an abundance of expressions like natural,” really need,” and makes sense.”

I understand the idea of these wishes, I understand the appeal of saying bold things like iPad and Macs should merge,” but I don’t understand the lack of sensibility towards interface design, on how software works, especially coming from tech-centric publications. This may just be some click-bait column, a random harmless opinion piece that makes a lot of people react, and maybe it even opens up a debate, but to me it activates a voice in my head saying you should just stop reading this crap.”

This is probably the last time I’m linking to this kind of nonsense: from now on saving my energy and time spent on this blog for actual good, valuable content.

The drop-in audio feature looks like it can succeed with or without Clubhouse

David Pierce, writing for Protocol, on the newly acquired by Spotify app, the Clubhouse competitor Locker Room

Locker Room was born out of an app called Betty, which founder Howard Akumiah created as a way to make live sports predictions with his friends. Betty got a little too close to sports gambling for his tastes, and Akumiah realized the most fun part of the product was the live chat that was happening during games. People were coming to Betty when the game was on, because they knew there would be someone in the app talking about it. The real impetus for Locker Room as we know it today is actually sports talk radio,” Akumiah said.

Sports talk radio is famously one of the best use case of Clubhouse: you watch a game, you tune in to Clubhouse and discuss with other sports fan about what you just saw. With this drop-in audio feature, anyone can participate and mimic what we are familiar with from years of listening to this kind of shows on radio.

I didn’t know about Locker Room, but acquiring it seems very smart on Spotify’s end: they obviously won’t buy Clubhouse (either too expensive for Spotify, or currently overpriced1), so they buy another player in the field, and one that seems to have focus and an interesting vision. If Spotify manage to tune this app into something more than sports talk radio (I can see this kind of format being popular with all sort of live events: Oscars, elections, TV shows, breaking news, etc.), they might have something interesting to add to their growing collection of audio services.

For Clubhouse, it has to mean some sort of danger. If they can’t figure out in time what their app and network is good for outside of the drop-in audio feature, they will soon be relegated as what Snapchat is for Stories: made it popular, almost defined the platform for a while, and now every app has stories, even LinkedIn for crying out loud.2

But Snap is still a very successful company, because deep down they always really were about messaging, not stories, and financially they are still doing extremely well focusing just on that. But if the Clubhouse-like drop-in audio feature is implemented on other platforms like Spotify, Twitter, Facebook, Slack… what is left for Clubhouse — the company — to remain interesting, special, worthwhile, and competitive? Privacy-related issues aside of course.

  1. Not that Google Trends mean anything, but I thought this was interesting.↩︎

  2. Since I don’t use the LinkedIn app, I admit that I’ve not seen a LinkedIn story yet. Am I missing something?↩︎

Medium joins the new publishing platform battle for independent voices

Ev Williams, in an email sent to Medium employees yesterday, talking about the fate of Medium in-house publications:

The bet was that we could develop these brands, and they would develop loyal audiences that would grow the overall Medium subscriber base. What’s happened, though, is the Medium subscriber base has continued to grow, while our publication’s audiences haven’t. There are many potential reasons for this, which we could debate.

I think a significant factor is that the role of publications — in the world, not just on Medium — has decreased in the modern era. I don’t mean the role of professional editorial, but the idea of an imprimatur that establishes credibility or trust. Trust is more important than ever and well-established editorial brands still have meaning. But today, credibility and affinity are primarily built by people — individual voices — rather than brands.

Williams doesn’t say the word, but I think we can all read it between the lines: Substack. Of course it is not only Substack’s success that has ruined Medium’s publication efforts. As Williams says, the role of publications has decreased, and individual voices never had access to so many great tools to monetise directly via their audience.

Substack — just to mention the most talked-about platform — embodies perfectly this new era of opportunities for writers and journalists wishing to go independent. Substack has almost become a common word for subscriber-only independent newsletter” whether or not the actual platform used is Substack, which says a lot about the success of the brand.

Where Medium tried to pay writers with money earned through a single centralised subscription to Medium itself, and tried to obtain more subscribers by launching these good quality publications, Substack and others went the other way, to the direct-subscription model, where readers subscribe to an author rather than a brand.

About this model, Williams adds:

In fact, that describes the vast majority of what people read on Medium. […] For the foreseeable future, we will focus […] on supporting independent voices on our platform. This means identifying writers — both already on Medium and not — and offering them deals, support, editing, and feedback to help them tell great stories and find their audience.

Between Substack, Medium, Twitter’s upcoming Super Follow feature, the latest Ghost update which includes membership and subscription options, tools such as Memberful and of course Patreon, there is a now a healthy competition in this publishing platform business, where each one of them tries to get more writers and independent voices for which readers are ready to pay.

Medium was maybe one of the first big players in this field — even if they might have been a little too early — but they kind of lost themselves juggling between being a CMS, acting as a platform, and promoting publications. Hopefully for them it won’t be too late to catch up with the others.

The implicit and recent differences between the meanings of “follow” and “subscribe”

James Cridland, writing on Podnews:

Apple Podcasts will no longer use the word subscribe” in a few weeks. Listeners will be invited to follow” their favourite podcasts instead. The new wording will be in iOS 14.5, which should be released later this month (and is available in beta). We expect Apple to communicate further with creators, and listeners, when this version of iOS is released.

For me it will feel weird for a few months, but in many ways, this change makes sense, as the word follow” sounds easier, less intimidating, and surely less of an obstacle than the word subscribe,” which sounds like it requires more engagement and effort from the user. When you subscribe to a newsletter, a service, or a magazine, you may have to enter your email, sign up, log in, and sometimes even have to pay, whereas a podcast subscription is usually one click away, and usually free.

Spotify already uses the word follow” for podcasts, and if I wonder what impact this change of vocabulary will have on RSS readers — do you subscribe to a feed or do you follow a feed? — I have no doubt that the other podcast platforms and podcast players still using the word subscribe” will eventually adopt follow” too.

If follow” implies easy and free, and subscribe” implies more commitment and maybe the involvement of a payment, I wonder if subscriber-only podcasts like Dithering will keep using the word subscribe” (maybe this is another thing we will see on Apple Podcasts?), and if Twitter’s upcoming feature Super Follow — essentially a subscription service — will end up being called Twitter Subscribe” to avoid confusion.

The quest for the perfect writing tool

Jason Snell, writing on Six Colors:

In trying out different writing tools on iOS, I’ve discovered that I actually have a checklist of features that I want. And of course, the frustrating thing is that different apps check different boxes, but none of them do it all!

I’ve been through the same thing last year, in my quest for the perfect text editor. It took me a while to find what I wanted:

So I kept looking. I was looking for an app with a fair amount of speed, a satisfying way of managing files, a few Markdown-specific tools, decent enough looks, and not trying to be a replacement for Apple Notes, which I still use and love as my go-to notes app.

I now use Drafts. I even explained recently how I use the app and what Drafts actions and shortcut I use. Reading Snell’s article, I completely understand why he doesn’t use it: the lack of a file syncing option through Dropbox or iCloud Drive. I get it: I think this is precisely the reason why I stopped using iA Writer in the first place, as I kept accidentally creating new entries in the Dropbox folder synced to my blog. Drafts creates this separation that I need to avoid creating new posts from unfinished drafts. Like I said last year:

Drafts is working for me, and it may not work for you. The journey of finding the best app for yourself is what’s interesting, and there are so many great apps available, especially on the Mac. I could still use iA Writer, and probably be happy with it, but again, I am a curious tech enthusiast, and trying out all those new apps was a satisfying, energising process.

My main conclusion reading Snell’s piece on which iPadOS writing app use, and reading again my own posts on why and how I use Drafts, is that MacOS, iPadOS, and iOS are incredibly rich app ecosystems. You can spend hours and even days just trying new apps, configuring them just the way you like it, looking for that gem that fits your workflow perfectly, and even having the luxury to be able to choose among several good options.

I use a Windows PC for my job, and even if my workflow is completely different from what I do on the Mac, the app situation is terrible in comparison to what you can find on Apple devices,1 and I’m not just talking about writing apps here, but many other daily apps like todos, mail, and calendar apps. From my experience, you can find a one or two decent options, but that’s pretty much it.2

  1. I would also say the same thing about Android. I used to have an Android phone back when I worked at Xiaomi, and before that too, and, to give just one example: good luck finding a good calendar app that is not Google’s.↩︎

  2. iA Writer has a good Windows app, but I think it lacks the polish of the Mac app, and some features are also missing. I may give it another shot soon to see if it improved since the last time I tried it. Currently I use Notepads.↩︎

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