We did a thing.

It’s been a little while since Iterate went off the air, and I’ve often thought about when I might want to podcast again. I knew that my schedule was different, the demands on my time are higher now, and life is moving pretty quickly. I also knew that it was something I enjoyed doing, and some part of me missed chatting with friends and then sticking it on the internet so other people can listen to it.

Tim and I have been friends for a few years now, and would joke from time to time about starting another podcast. We never really did anything with it. Then we wrapped on Iterate (for the time being, I still hope we return to it at some point), and literally that day, Tim said “hey, now you’ve got time”.

A few months later, I agreed.

So we did a thing. It’s no big deal. Two friends talking about the stuff that fills our minds. The basic premise is that we like to solve problems, and we usually do it in nerdy ways. It’s not a show about apps, or workflows, but they might show up occasionally. It’s a show about how we think about our worlds, the information in them, and how organizing those things makes us feel better about everything.

It’s purposefully short, and we only plan on publishing every few weeks, probably more like monthly. So there’s no commitment required. It’s casual, and we aim to keep it that way. We’ll see where it goes.

Hope you like it.

Fundamentally Broken

Iteration.

When Marc, Rene, and I started recording Iterate, I was already doing two shows a week with Rene for iMore, he was beginning his ascendancy to internet celebrity, and Marc was a great designer we both knew who was smarter and more talented than both of us put together. And we looked around and didn’t see anyone talking about mobile design on a podcast in a substantial way, so we thought, why not give it a shot?

Iterate kicked off in June of 2011 and we began booking guests and compiling news related to the slice of the computing world on which we wanted to focus. It immediately felt great. We got some terrific feedback from an enthusiastic audience, we got to speak to some of the most innovative and exciting people working in our industry, and had an absolute ton of fun doing it.

But somewhere along the way, we slowly began realizing that we weren’t able to sustain the pace we wanted to. It started with time zone conflicts for interviews. Then Marc and I had kids at almost the same time (unplanned). Then Rene became a big shot (rightly so). Then Marc and I had more kids at almost the same time (again, unplanned). And work. Tons of work. Work, travel, work, kids, work, life.

We met up at WWDC 2015, sat down at breakfast and all agreed to figure out a plan for the show going forward. We’re going to restructure it. Drop the interviews. Keep the news light, and choose focused topics. Release one show a month—we can commit to one show a month, right guys? Of course we can. Feels like a good direction for a mini-reboot. Ok, hands in… gooooo team.

Now it’s July 2016. We’ve released a few shows since last summer and we talk a lot in our Slack team about how we can try to get together for recordings, but we just can’t seem to do it. We absolutely love talking to each other, and people still seem to enjoy the show, but with our lives moving in the directions they are, we’ve come to the uncomfortable realization that this just might not be the best way forward for us right now.

So what does this mean?

Since we’re being honest, we’re not exactly sure. What it means for now is that we’re effectively ceasing production of the show. We said “hiatus” to each other for the reason that we think the show still works (if we didn’t, we’d take it out behind the shed like Old Yeller and be done with it) so we don’t want to rule out the possibility of picking it back up at some point in the future.

But we also feel pretty strongly that if we can’t do a great job on the show, we’d rather not do it at all right now. None of us wants to phone it in or do it with any less enthusiasm than we currently do. We’d rather it remain something good in peoples’ opinions and memories than slowly turn into something people quietly stop listening to, because well, “it’s not what it used to be”.

The other thing of note is that when we started the show, we really didn’t see anyone else doing this particular kind of thing. Since then, other great shows have started, and are doing an amazing job of covering the world of user experience and design—and [cough] releasing regularly.

It’s not a great feeling, knowing that something you really love and enjoy isn’t going to continue, but it’s also an unavoidable fact of life. If we could, we’d just keep going, but it’s time to take a break, and so we will.

We’ve had so much fun making the show and can’t thank everyone enough for supporting it, whether that means coming on for interviews, talking about it, making suggestions to us, and just generally enjoying it and passing it along to other people who might. A show without a great audience is just people talking to each other, and while we do enjoy talking to each other, we’re extremely grateful to all of you for the support you’ve given us. With any luck, things will settle down and we can revisit the show at some point in the future, but for now, we’ll quietly see ourselves out.

END OF LINE

Expanding aural story horizons.

I’ve been increasingly tired of technology podcasts. For an industry so focused on being all about the next big thing, we can collectively talk about the same things for a freakishly long time on occasion. Stack up a few shows that cover similar topics, and you find yourself essentially listening to the same show more than once.

There are so many other things in the world, I sometimes forget how refreshing it can be to learn a new thing or even just hear a story told in a compelling way. I dropped a lot of the podcasts I’ve been listening to for months (or even years in some cases) and began exploring new things. I’m ruling the experiment a success. Here are some of my current favorites.

Lore
Produced by my friend Aaron Mahnke, Lore is a bi-weekly podcast focused on telling stories about the things that scare us. Rich with research and history, and sure to almost always creep you out, it’s a small glimpse into the darker corners of our past and why they remain so.

Lore / iTunes

The Memory Palace
Brief, heartbreaking, inspiring, stories of wonder, human weakness, triumph, and all the quietly forgotten bits of history. Like fading wisps of smoke, Nate DiMeo brings these bits of time back to the present, tells a tiny tale, and then leaves you always wondering about it.

The Memory Palace / iTunes

Criminal
A tightly produced story/interview show about the bad things people do. From the macabre to the absurd, every single episode is an interesting glimpse into the human psyche, often with very surprising outcomes.

Criminal / iTunes

99% Invisible
A weekly show about design and architecture, with terrific production values and excellent storytelling. Sometimes it covers topics I’m already familiar with, sometimes it touches on things I’ve never heard of. Sometimes it takes something that I assume is going to be boring and makes it positively enthralling. Which tells me a lot about my own expectations and why I should be open to new things in the first place.

99% Invisible / iTunes

I’m really enjoying these shows immensely, and I’m continuing the search for more. I’d love to know what you’re enjoying too.

Things I like this week, volume 1.

As I find things I really enjoy, I’m going to try to share them here. I can go into more detail than I can on Twitter, and it’s nice to have a quick way to look back at these things from the future and see what’s changed (or how I have myself). So here we go: here’s what I’m digging this week.

Lore
A great new podcast by my friend Aaron Mahnke. It focuses on folklore, history, and stories that scare us. He shared the first episode with me shortly before he launched it, and I was immediately hooked. It’s brief, well-produced, and full of rich storytelling and historical detail. Here’s the site for the show.

Blink
A new app by another friend, John Voorhees, that makes searching for media and generating affiliate links from the iTunes stores exceptionally easy. With a nice, clean interface, and iOS 8-friendly extension, it’s a great addition to your device if you find this process tedious on iOS. Blink is out today.

Launcher
This app has a rather storied history, but it’s back now, and I missed it the first time around, so I’m getting into what it can do. Short version: you can pin shortcuts to other apps and actions in a Notification Center widget. Which means all kinds of cool functionality is now only a swipe away. A perfect complement to Launch Center Pro and Workflow, you can pair it up with the other powerful automation apps you might be using and make a crazy Voltron of mobile productivity. Get it here.

The hidden potential of App.net.

I’ve thought a lot about App.net in the past few months, as many of us have I imagine. What started as discontent with the obnoxious corporate machinations that Twitter’s begun to execute spawned a movement to start something different and user-focused as opposed to focused on marketing. I won’t go into the details, because it’s well-documented in about a million other places, but suffice to say, the project got funded, we got an alpha web app and App.net quickly became a geeky subset of Twitter users both curious to try something new and disenchanted with the current state of things elsewhere.

The launch of Netbot kicked the service into high gear for a while and it saw a huge spike in traffic and activity, proving a point many have made, namely that in today’s tech world, to the user, the application is the service. App.net CEO Dalton Caldwell has even said himself that the ‘out of the box’ experience for new users isn’t terrific, and while they’re working to improve that, apps are paving the way and bringing people into the fold. And we watched as Netbot’s influence stabilized and we’ve seen overall ADN conversations trickle off in our feeds. People went back to Twitter, because the conversation keeps happening there due to a massively entrenched network effect that’s undeniable.

Lots has been said about the potential of ADN, and how it really needs to do something special to continue to grow. It won’t beat Twitter at its own game (admittedly, that’s been stated as not a real targeted objective anyway), but it’s got to do… something.

I’m starting to believe all of what we’ve seen is merely prelude to something more. I’ve been bullish on the service since making the decision to back it and I’ve watched it with great interest. I finally got around to listening to the official ADN podcast a few days ago too, and it’s basically Dalton talking about the API development and answering questions from users. The thing is, in hearing him talk about their progress and plans, I’ve started to realize something – two things, actually.

  1. The Twitter-like feed tool we currently see as “App.net” is but one face – the starting point – of a much larger idea
  2. It’s not just about making that tool better – the long play is to build an extensible communication platform not just for Twitter use cases, but for a myriad other outlets

I’d considered other ways in which the service might become valuable, but I’ll admit, I kept coming up short until I heard him talk about their plans. I thought about how it might be used as an external comment platform for blogs, linking threads and conversations back to a post via the service. I could see that being kind of cool, and I think it would definitely (given the price to enter the service) at least preliminarily solve a part of the “commenting problem”. Users willing to pony up some money to be part of a service like this might be less compelled to be dicks on people’s blogs. It’s a long shot, but you can see where I’m headed.

Listening to the podcasts, though, something else became very clear. The private messaging API is going to be the catalyst behind this entire thing. Dalton described how their focus on releasing a capable first iteration of this aspect of the service took great importance as they worked this past few months. He mentioned the concept of the “internet of things” – all the interconnected devices that are filling our lives with notifications and (in some cases) noise. He talked about the immense success platforms like BlackBerry Messenger and WhatsApp have had in the mobile space, and pointed out that no matter how large public messaging is, private messages (SMS and the like) outweigh it by orders of magnitude. He also reinforced the fact that ADN is not rushing to do much of anything – they’ve created a sustainable business model for the time being, focused on user features, and their goal is to continue developing the service, strengthening the hooks to outside applications and enabling developers to create new and interesting things by delivering working code examples with updates to the API.

Most importantly, he mentioned that with his previous company imeem, the final face of the service was drastically different than its first one. As with any software, the users will in large and small ways influence the ongoing development, and discover use cases that the devs hadn’t even considered. This is the core piece that as a market, we’re unable to see yet. We see a Twitter competitor, and one that feels like it’s faltering as Twitter continues to swell its userbase. We see something that we want to succeed, but we’re not seeing the endgame yet. I’m mentally reinvested in the entire idea after listening to him on the podcasts – not because he’s compelling users to foment revolution – but because he’s seeing past the market perception of what the service is supposed to be. It’s only been five months since the blog post that kicked this off, and four since funding. I don’t know many web services that declared victory in any capacity in that timeframe, and it’s worth keeping that in mind.

I highly recommend checking out the podcast if you’re even marginally interested in this at all. It’s changed my thinking; you may discover the same.

Thoughts? App.net | Twitter