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Eight quick thoughts on WWDC 2021, and an extended one

At the last WWDC, Apple unveiled a lot of new features for their platforms, mostly iOS and MacOS. Among them, a few caught my eye.

Two quick sidenotes before I start: 1) it appears most of things I expected Apple to do last year are either on their way of becoming real things, or are already more or less available, so there’s that; and 2) what I found interesting in the WWDC 2021 announcements, is how cross-platforms most of the new features are. At first, I had written this post in two parts, one for iOS, one for MacOS, but it turns out most of the features are available on both platforms, and separating them didn’t make much sense. That’s new.

  1. New tab navigation on Safari for iOS: now you can swipe between tabs like you can swipe between apps. Very happy about this since I’ve been doing this gesture anyway for years now. Now I guess it will actually do something.
  2. Password authenticator inside Apple Keychain: I wondered recently if Apple would one day improve Keychain in a significant way, especially with 2FA capabilities, and I got my answer at WWDC. I guess Authy’s services won’t be needed anymore.
  3. iCloud+ offering custom domain names for email: I guess Hover’s email services won’t be needed anymore.
  4. Quick note feature in Apple Notes: similar to the Quick Capture feature of Drafts, that I use quite often on the Mac. I like that you can highlight text on a webpage, and when seeing the same page later, the Quick note remembers which part you highlighted. This exact feature was the main reason I briefly used Pocket again this year, so I’m glad it will be a native feature soon.
  5. AirPlay to Mac: I wonder if watching Disney+ through AirPlay will improve the experience over the memory-heavy, heat-generating website that I have to use on my Intel MacBook Air.
  6. Erase All Contents and Settings: by making it much easier on the Mac, Apple is basically encouraging me to reset my Mac to its factory settings on a regular basis. Yes, I like doing that. Makes my computer feels faster somehow.
  7. On device speech dictation: as I am with my personal blog, I’m all in for computing speed (see comment #6), so whatever new feature makes the experience faster, I’m all in.
  8. New Memoji glasses options, including heart, star, and retro shapes: just kidding. I would love a scan your face” feature to generate accurate Memojis automatically though. Pretty sure this is coming soon.
  9. Mail privacy protection & Mail App Extensions: i.e. the ability to block email tracking. I’ve seen a lot of good articles on this topic and what it especially means for publishers from Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab, or Casey Newton at Platformer, so I’m not gonna repeat their analysis here. But there is one thing I want to add.

For many year, marketers tracked readers without their explicit consent. Today, readers and subscribers are given a choice, and they are — unsurprisingly — choosing to massively reject tracking, a bit like what happened with IDFA. Now marketers are complaining that it ruins their work and endangers their business.

To me this is like burglars building a business of taking pictures of the inside your house when you’re not around, and telling you that there are doing it to help you find better, more personalised furniture. One day, a company starts selling a new lock that says full burglary protection” and burglars are publicly complaining this new lock is threatening their business.

If your business is in the wrong in the first place, I am sorry, but maybe your business doesn’t need saving. Sure, it will be harder to ask people to enter their house and take pictures of their stuff, but this is their house after all, their rules, and you don’t get to decide what’s good or wrong based on habits you imposed almost secretly (that’s why tracking pixels” were used, and not tracking big-ass banners”). Just because things have been a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean that this is the right way.

Working in marketing and hating anything analytics-related, I am glad of this change, and I am glad the industry has to use better ways to track what is working or not marketing-wise. The opening-rate metric for instance has been a force for terrible clickbait nonsense for too long. That’s why ads always have been better in magazine and on TV. Maybe not more efficient,” but so much better. Like Big Technology’s Alex Kantrowitz says:

The advertising industry has addicted itself to tracking, prioritizing bottom of the funnel metrics at the expense of great content and creative. It’s tragic. […] And it’s why people hate advertising and ad companies.

Couldn’t have said it better.

There is no place like home: Why I love to blog

Only a few minutes after I tried out The Forest, a new website-discovery utility made by Manu Moreale and Carl Barenbrug, I’ve came across this post by Daniel Cuttridge, on his personal blog:

What I like about writing on a blog is that unlike elsewhere I don’t have to condense my writing into 100-whatever characters. Or having to write something I know will be popular enough to please an algorithm.

This paragraph caught my attention because it is also the way I feel about writing on my own blog. Later, Cuttridge writes:

You could even go a step further and start writing a blog of your own.

No matter what you decide on doing about it now or in the future, one thing I can say is that you’ve probably come away from reading this with a new thought or idea. Which is exactly my point. Blogs are valuable to us.

Well, even if I don’t fully agree with everything in his post, I guess Daniel is right here: starting a blog of your own is a good idea, and I came away with a new idea reading this.

What I like about my blog is that it feels like home, while social platforms are more like a bar or a restaurant. You go there to get a drink or to have dinner, you have a good time, you socialise, you meet friends and feel energised by the crowd around you, you eventually pay the bill, and then you go home.

Once at home you can finally relax and be more like yourself, the real you. For instance, you can wear whatever you want, do whatever you feel like doing, the way you like doing it, without worrying of what a stranger sitting next to you might think. Home is your personal space: familiar, comfortable, and safe.

My blog feels a lot like this compared to social media: very few people visit, but people who do have a better perception of me and my thoughts than people I talk to for ten minutes in a noisy bar. Sure, I can go there with friends and have great conversations, but my guests, my visitors, are more engaged. They will ask about the books on my shelves, the music I’m playing, and we can take our time to have real, deep, more intimate conversations.

This week, I have spent a few hours updating the Jolly Teapot: CSS mostly, with a few HTML tweaks here and there, as I would clean my flat extensively before having a few friends over. Not only I am very happy with the results — the website is now blazing fast — but it truly felt like I was building something for me and my visitors. Like a well-cooked homemade dish, I hope my guest will enjoy it.

Either way, there is no place like home.

Another area where Clubhouse is failing: blocking

Will Oremus, on his excellent post on the Atlantic: Clubhouse Has a Blocking Problem:

Imagine a live panel discussion in which each member of the panel has the power to cut the mic of any other member, at any moment and for any reason, and also the power to have that person dragged from the lecture hall by security. That’s roughly how blocking works on Clubhouse. […]

There’s even a visible emblem of this regime. When a user you don’t follow has been blocked by some unspecified number of people whom you do, that user’s profile will appear on your app with an ominous icon: a black shield with a white exclamation point. […] While others can see it on a user’s profile, the user herself cannot—and most don’t even realize they’ve been marked until someone else breaks the news.

Needless to say that Clubhouse once again showed the world they are not equipped to deal with their success, which we can now fairly call premature. The company was certainly not prepared to deal with having so many users so soon, and still, to this day, doesn’t look ready or capable to handle all of what is expected from a popular social media app.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Clubhouse was careless regarding the privacy of its users, and on how the company’s negligence could become problematic to say the least. Now, reading Oremus’ piece, it appears that their blocking feature is also a total disaster.

At this point, I feel that it is much more likely to see Clubhouse disappear, while one (or two) of its competitors succeed by the end of 2021, than it is to see Clubhouse maintain its success for very long, while its competitors abandon their own drop-in audio products.

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.

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