Tag Archives: adn

Developer Entitlement

Last Thursday, Apple’s developer site (ADC) abruptly went into maintenance mode. It’s not uncommon for the site to be put into maintenance while Apple pushes new tools and evaluation software out to developers. The maintenance window became uncommon when it lingered into Friday. As early as Friday afternoon, the tone from developers was turning from curiosity to speculation, with hints of anger and demands for updates from Apple.

What’s interesting to note at this juncture is that one of the most common topics amongst iOS and Mac developers lately is that of App Store economics and user entitlement. Experienced developers have all encountered users who believe the exchange of mere pennies initiates a contract where developers are beholden for lifetime updates and improvements.

Astonishingly, many of Saturday and Sunday’s posts about the outage on ADN and Twitter were from developers who seemed to believe Apple owed them an explanation. Developers who will casually complain about entitled users began hypocritically demanding answers from Apple about why the portal was down. Finally, Apple sent an email to members of their development programs Sunday afternoon, explaining the site had been taken down Thursday after attempts to gain access to developer data were detected. Here’s the first paragraph, as available Sunday evening:

Last Thursday, an intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers from our developer website. Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers’ names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed. In the spirit of transparency, we want to inform you of the issue. We took the site down immediately on Thursday and have been working around the clock since then.

Somehow this explanation wasn’t enough for some. The company whose shoulders thousands of individuals and businesses have built their own fortunes on is inexplicably required to provide details and disclosure of system attacks while mediation and triage are under way.

Insane.

It has become obvious which of the talking heads have been in a war room situation where a large system is under attack and those who have really only deployed PHP to servers in their basement. The $99 that developers pay doesn’t entitle anybody to realtime feedback on the health and status of any of Apple’s systems. Compared to the cost of operating those systems, developing the devices and software that make them important, and after-hours time that was put in this weekend, that measly hundred bucks is pretty insignificant. Distribute it across the full year, and $0.27 a day is significantly less than the anecdotal cup of coffee many developers compare their software to when arguing about the price of building apps.

Being Too Cautious

Last night I made a shocking discovery as I caught up on my ADN feed:

@thaddeus
thaddeus *shudder* I think I might agree with something RMS wrote. I need to re-read it in the morning to be sure.

After re-reading his comments this morning, I was right. I have found a case where I agree with Stallman.

It is certainly possible to be “too cautious”. In the US, that’s
standard practice. How else can one describe what they did today,
paralyzing an entire large metropolitan area to search one
neighborhood for a fugitive? In the US, just say the word “terrorist”
and lots of people start being way too cautious, and the TSA eats it
up.

Richard Stallman response to Boston Police efforts

Timeless Technology

Last night, I listened to President Obama address the nation following the capture of the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect. His remarks were heard following a press conference by the Massachusetts State Police.

I listened to both of these segments on AM radio in my Jeep, because all of the local FM stations continued to appease the needs of Bieber fans and commercials.

I tuned into the first station that wasn’t broadcasting a baseball game; it was obvious when I found a station reporting news, so I stopped on that spot on the dial. 1

After both press conferences concluded, the national rebroadcast was paused for station identification. “This is 84 WHAS, Louisville.” Louisville? As the crow flies, Free Map Tools says I’m 385 miles away from WHAS.

The rate our world is evolving is unmistakable, but it’s humbling to see a technology invented at the turn of the last century continue to perform so exceptionally over large distances.

  1. Sadly, my radio doesn’t have a dial. It’s digital, and the lack of adjustment is very apparent, especially on AM.

Kiwi 3.0

alpha-iconTwitter’s explosive growth is often attributed to the early availability of an API. When other social services were only available through their respective interfaces, Twitter allowed developers to put their own unique style into the presentation of tweets. The service has always been available as a web site, but a large number of users have found their Twitter home inside the screens of Tweetie, Twitterrific, Tweetbot, and a profusion of others. These apps gave the service unique personalities, as well as innovated on the platform. Things at Twitter have changed radically since those early days, and developers are now strongly discouraged from build anything that resembles a traditional Twitter client.

Seeing an opportunity, Dalton Caldwell shifted the focus of his App.net project into becoming a realtime feed API with a striking difference from Twitter: a business model.

For many, what has emerged is an experiment that seems to be working: a sustainable service that charges users a membership fee instead of assaulting them with advertising. 1 App.net (or ADN) users have been given steadily-released features on a platform that has delivered on its promises so far. The only problem has been the lack of really great ADN clients. Caldwell is focused on building a platform, so he’s committed to only building simple clients as reference points for other developers. This is done intentionally to leave room for third party developers to bring their own styles to the market, and many have seized this opportunity. There has been a charge of new clients, especially on mobile platforms, but few have really shone as exceptional. The desktop has been especially void of a stand-out app. I’ve been testing a Mac client for a few months months that fills that void. Say hello to Kiwi.

Kiwi Reborn

Kiwi 3.0

Kiwi for ADN is a new app from Isaiah Carew of YourHead Software. Isaiah had previously shipped two major versions of Kiwi as a Twitter client, but stopped development in 2011. The third version of Kiwi is a completely new app, redesigned specifically for ADN, with simplicity and only the most popular use-cases in mind.

The result is wonderful.

What’s Familiar

Kiwi

A clean, familiar, and easily discoverable main window shows streams and subtly indicates unread content is available.

The most striking part of Kiwi is the wonderful simplicity. The app consists of a single window, with transient windows appearing for writing. It’s clear to the user that the main window is for reading, and other windows are for writing. The main view is familiar: a timeline with new posts at the top of the window, and individual items in the stream badged with a user icon and relative timestamp.

The main window dons a simple toolbar without labels. For the most part, the icons are obvious, though folks new to ADN may be surprised to find a Global Stream available. New content in any of the streams is indicated by a subtle blue bar beneath the respective toolbar icon. Artwork is included for both standard and high resolution displays, so Kiwi looks great on new Retina Macbook Pros.

In addition to the traditional icon-clicking and keyboard shortcuts, Kiwi users also have the option of using gestures to switch between streams.

Across the toolbar are icons for User Home, Main Timeline, Mentions, Stars, Global, Channels (Messages), and New Post / Message. When viewing a User Profile (including your own), the toolbar contents are be swapped out for context-aware options: User Home, Mentions, Stars, Following, and Followers.

Composing Posts

PostUnsurprisingly, the Post window in Kiwi is incredibly simple. The same window is used for channel messages as well (with the image button removed). Kiwi currently uses img.ly exclusively for image uploads, though it sounds like ADN’s native file storage will be used in a future release.

The Post window certainly isn’t as flashy, but is obvious and functional. I expect this is an area of the application that will receive enhancement now that Kiwi is publicly available. One key addition will be support for proper ADN linking.

What’s Different

Some of the motivation behind ADN and the clients built for it is fueled by a desire to have similar experiences to those on Twitter. It’s no surprise there are elements common to almost all ADN and Twitter clients alike. Where ADN clients really start to shine is when they include unique features. Many of the available ADN clients sport these features, but making them work well is part of the craft.

Stream Marker

One of the great innovations on Twitter was Manton Reece’s Tweet Marker. Tweet Marker is a service for Twitter clients to mark their read position in a user’s timeline. This lets the user read tweets on one device, and have their position synchronized to other devices. This seems like a logical part of Twitter’s own API, but since it was never provided, Manton built Tweet Marker. It’s a staple feature of all major Twitter clients today.

The folks at ADN saw the value of this functionality and introduced it to the API very early. It’s called Stream Marker on ADN, and Kiwi’s integration is incredibly smooth. Every time the app reloads data from the ADN service, it also reads the marker position. Whenever the app changes views or is replaced as the front-most application, it writes it’s position. The result is a fluid experience that happens in near-realtime.

Muting

User Home

User Home: view a user’s profile and recent posts. Of course @marc makes a screenshot appearance.

ADN also supports user muting, a behavior Twitter apps were forced to implement as client-only features. For users, it meant that users or hashtags muted in Tweetbot or Osfoora would still appear in Twitterrific. Some clients were able to sync mute preferences between instances (like from your iPhone to your iPad), but without an inter-app interface, it wasn’t ideal.

User Muting is a feature of the ADN service, so it can work across all clients. The changes to user muting you make in Kiwi apply to any other ADN client you use with the service, assuming it has properly implemented the behavior.

Mute controls are accessed by viewing a user’s profile (clicking on their username in any post where they’re mentioned, or on their picture). You can also mute users in the Users Following view (people you are following).

Show Replies To Everyone

Preferences

Kiwi’s preferences are simple, including mention visibility and crossposting controls.

One of the first Twitter features to receive the ax was broadcasted replies. This behavior is an option in many ADN clients, and I’ve found that many people really enjoy it.

For example, when @jury replies to a user, I see his response, even if it’s to somebody I don’t follow. I might find his response interesting, so I swipe the message to reveal the entire conversation. As it turns out, the people he’s talking to are also people I would enjoy following.

Seeing these replies in your timeline is a great way to meet new people. 2

Vi Keys

Intrepid users will enjoy a subtle, geeky feature. Navigation between stream posts and conversations can be achieved with Vi navigation keys: h, j, k, l. These keys may seem foreign to some users, but the longtime vi user will feel right at home.

Twitter Crossposting

Of course, Kiwi allows you to crosspost to Twitter. Crossposting is enabled in the Preferences window, and applies to new messages; posts created in reply to another post are not sent to Twitter.

Crossposting is a difficult feature to manage, because the desired behavior varies greatly between users. Some wish to crosspost all the time, while others use it infrequently. Exposing the feature somewhere obvious also makes it more likely to be a nuisance to those not interested in it.

There are some Kiwi beta users who have criticized the current interface for crosspost configuration in Kiwi, but I find it easy to understand, simple to locate, and out of the way when I don’t want it. As ADN matures, I’m optimistic that crossposting will be removed from most clients.

What’s Missing

One of the challenges ADN client developers face right now is the rapid motion of the API they’re building against. The service introduces new functionality frequently, and developers have to scramble to meet the demands of their users. It’s unrealistic to expect every single feature to have a place in an application, and I don’t get the impression that it’s the developer’s intention to support all ADN features in Kiwi. There are a few things that would make nice additions to the application.

Places

The promise of a platform that users subscribe to means the possibility of apps being interchanged without the user losing their data. One of my primary uses of Foursquare is keeping track of the places I eat while traveling. After the Gowalla evaporation, it’s not unthinkable that this type of data could be lost if your favorite check-in app closes the doors.

The simple addition of location tagging to ADN opens up the possibility for these types of applications to be built on the network, and having some visibility to into locations where posts are created would be a nice touch in Kiwi.

Article Saving

It’s rare that I read an article when I first see it. I usually check ADN or Twitter when I’m waiting for something else and don’t want to be sidetracked for too long. When something looks particularly interesting, I ship it to Pocket. Currently, Kiwi lacks any sort of read-later integration. This would probably be a bigger deal on iOS where app switching has more implied friction, but it’s bearable on the Mac.

ADN File Support

Isaiah has already made public mention that this is coming, so I’d look for it in future builds. As mentioned, it seems likely the current img.ly support will be replaced in favor of ADN files for image posting. Having storage on the network is an incredibly compelling and interesting twist for ADN, and I think we’re going to see some other great things come out of this feature.

Channels / Rooms

Patter rooms made a brief appearance in the private betas of Kiwi, so it’s also likely they’ll be back eventually. They could be a great place for lengthy discussions about specific topics that may not be as welcomed in the main feed (especially when users have enabled Show Replies To Everyone).

Wrap Up

Kiwi is a wonderful ADN client for Mac. It doesn’t support every possible feature, and it doesn’t overindulge in UI candy. It’s focused, sharp, and snappy. It takes seconds to discover how it works, and days or weeks to find all of the nice touches. It transformed my ADN usage from occasional to routine.

Buy Kiwi

ADN logo provided under the CC-BY 3.0 license.

  1. The announcement of a free tier will be an interesting chapter in this story.
  2. The explosion of users due to the new free tier may prove to be too much. Some crafty developer will find a unique way to make this manageable for users.