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WWDC 2020

I totally understand why so many devs are loving the new WWDC format this year. I can see why many don’t want to see it go back to the “old” way. I don’t, either.

There’s no question this online format gives more access to far more people. And that can only be a good thing. Whatever Apple does next year and in the years following, they should absolutely continue to make the show as accessible to as many people as possible. They should incorporate what they’ve learned this year into any future iteration of the show.

But then I’ve seen a number of people suggesting the live show is no longer needed at all. And I’m not so sure about that.

You know what didn’t happen for me for the first time this week while attending WWDC? I didn’t make a single new friend. My community grew by zero. Sure, I had plenty of FaceTime/Zoom/Messages interactions with friends whom I met over the years at the in person show. I even co-hosted a happy hour Zoom call with my podcast cohost Charles Perry. And at some of these online events, there were new faces to whom I could be introduced.

But if I had never been to a WWDC before, I would have spent the entire week alone. I would have had no one with whom to share this experience.

To me, that’s the bit that can’t be replaced. You can meet new friends online, of course. But do you get that same connection? Would I be comfortable texting people I chatted with for five minutes on Zoom a year from now? I don’t think so.

The fact remains that any live form of WWDC is not going to reach as many people as the online event. But why can’t we have both?

Given the expansion of AltConf (which had started popping up in cities all over the world prior to this year), more people than ever had an opportunity during WWDC week to interact with new people and make new connections. The live WWDC inspired other simultaneous live events.

Without a live WWDC, does a live AltConf still happen? I’m not sure.

I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this for years, but it remains as true today as ever—we need more live gatherings in our community, not fewer. (Once we’re past this pandemic, of course.)

Some of us are just getting started on building connections. And even those of us who have a large group of lifelong friends in the community are always going to be better off expanding that group a bit more every year.

So while the prospect of never having a live WWDC again appeals to many developers (and my wallet), I’m hoping Apple doesn’t agree.


This privacy page in the HBO Max iOS app is a work of art.

Let’s start with how I navigated here. (Shout out to Dave Mark for making me aware of its existence in the first place.) Launch the app, tap on the account tab on the bottom right, then tap on the little gear icon at the top left, then tap on “Do not Sell My Personal Information” towards the bottom of the list.[1]

Not the hardest page to find, but I’m willing to bet around 2% of HBO Max’s users will bother to dig this deep into their own account settings.

Next, the header: “For California Residents Only.” Does that mean this switch only applies to California residents? Since I live in Colorado, should I not bother with this switch, because they are going to sell my info anyway? Or are they saying they only sell the data of Californians in the first place?

“pursuant to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)”

Translation: We’re only offering this option because those assholes in California made us do it.

If you’re feeling bored, go ahead and tap the “visit the Privacy Center” link. There, you will find a crystal clear explanation:

We do not sell personal information for monetary value, but we do sometimes transfer it to third parties as part of a mutually beneficial business relationship. Because of this, we refer to the sale of personal information as “data sharing.”

Funny, I’ve always defined “sharing” as willingly and knowingly giving someone something of mine. Giving away something that belongs to someone else is usually referred to as theft.

Let us know that you don’t want us to share this data with third parties any longer by submitting a request.  We’ll ask you to provide an email address.  Then we will search our systems to make sure you’re excluded from third-party data sharing based on that email address.  As to some third parties, we may only be able to honor your request if you are a California resident.

Translation: Let us know if you want us to stop helping others steal your information, and if you live in California, we may actually stop doing that. The rest of you can pound sand.

The switch is off by default, of course. And it’s greyed out, as if the designers of this app want you to think you can’t even tap on it. iOS native switches have a white tappable/draggable handle when in the “off” state. Warner went out of their way to make the handle black.

Finally, the footnote.[2] “This change will take effect the next time you start the HBO Max app.”

In other words, now that you’ve flicked the switch, we’re going to immediately “share” your info before you get a chance to quit the app and restart it.

And here I was dumb enough to wonder why Warner didn’t want to offer HBO Max as an Apple TV Channel.

I love that they actually labeled the page that way, rather than calling it “Privacy Settings” or something less blatant. ↩︎

I tried to find the corresponding asterisk in the main body of the text, but there isn’t one. But now I’m just nitpicking. ↩︎

Magic Keyboard for iPad, 2020: First Impressions

Over two years ago, I wrote a piece about long form writing on iPad, which I’ve grown to love as an activity over the years. My combination of iPad and Canopy/Magic Keyboard served me well for much of the intervening time.

But then I made the mistake of lending my Magic Keyboard to Jessica in the middle of last year, and I never got it back.

So rather than picking up a new Magic Keyboard, I took the opportunity to pick up a Smart Folio keyboard, even though every time I had tried one in a store, I basically hated it.

Over time, I did get used to the strange feel of the keys. And not having to think about battery life or Bluetooth connection issues was nice. Overall, I never ended up loving that set up, but it got the job done.I knew whenever I moved on to another iPad I’d need to go keyboard shopping again.

Enter 2020, with its new line of iPads and a new Magic Keyboard made specifically for iPad. I knew immediately I would want to try this new keyboard and integrated trackpad out.

The new keyboard arrived via FedEx yesterday. So here are my initial impressions. Keep in mind that I have the iPad Pro 11-inch, so the corresponding keyboard is the smaller version:

  • Wow, this thing is heavy. Seriously heavy. It needs to be heavy. I get that. Any lighter, and it would likely topple over under the weight of the iPad itself. But it makes the Magic Keyboard into an accessory I’ll lug around specifically when I want to write (as I am now) rather than one I carry with me most of the time.
  • The weight also makes it slightly less advantageous to head out of the house with my iPad instead of my laptop. This smaller combo of 11-inch iPad and keyboard is still lighter than my MacBook Pro 13-inch, but not by much.
  • The keys feel really good. I still think the new scissor switches have more travel than I would like, but I get that most people prefer the extra travel. So I’m okay with it. At least the keys are very sturdy. None of that sponginess from the old desktop Magic Keyboards. And precise.
  • I love the backlight. Typing in the dark on an iPad is no longer a problem.
  • I would like if there were a bit more of an angle of view. It’s way nicer than the old Smart Keyboard folio in terms of adjustability. But I’m a tall person. Being able to tilt back even further would be nice. (Maybe it wasn’t possible, due to it toppling over?)
  • Connecting and disconnecting is a breeze. The magnets are that perfect balance of strong enough to not disconnect accidentally, vs easy enough to disconnect with one hand. I don’t think I have to worry about the iPad falling off as much as I thought I would.
  • Typing on my lap is better than I thought it would be. Better than the Keyboard Folio, for sure.
  • Opening with the iPad inside the case is a bit awkward, as the heavy side is on top instead of bottom. But closing the case is very nice. I’ve found I can push down in one motion to a certain point, and the iPad will come to a full close on its own. And I like that it clearly “snaps” shut.
  • The keys are not full-sized, of course, so I still find myself, as I always have on iPad keyboards, typing with three fingers and thumb on each hand, rather than using both pinkies. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but I’m never going to be quite as fast on an iPad keyboard as I can be on my laptop. If I moved to the 13-inch iPad, this would not be an issue, of course.
  • Speaking of larger iPads, typing on this as I am now, I can totally see Apple making a 15-inch iPad Pro. It would give them more room for a larger trackpad and better palm rests. And an even bigger screen would make for an even better drawing tablet. I’d be shocked if that doesn’t happen in the next few years.
  • Now that I’m over the concept of having trackpad support on iPad, I have to say the implementation is pretty darn good. I always found having to reach up to the screen while using iPad in keyboard mode awkward. It’s amazing how fast you get used to using a trackpad on iOS. It feels way more natural than I would have expected. Having a trackpad that’s so small is weird, given how big trackpads have gotten on MacBooks lately. But it’s a very handy thing to have around.
  • The super-dark grey is a very nice color. I picked up a Smart Folio (the keyboard-less version) in the new Cactus color, which is a nice lighter green color. It looks really cool with the Space Gray iPad. But this sleek all-dark look on the keyboard is also very nice.
  • The rubbery material of the outer shell soaks up finger grease like nobody’s business. It’s going to be hard to keep this thing clean.
  • I haven’t noticed any keyboard-shaped grease stains on my screen yet, from being toted around while closed in a bag. But this is my first full day. I suspect that will happen eventually.
  • The USB charge-through port is a cool idea. But given reports of how slow charging is in that configuration, I figure I’ll stick with mostly charging via the iPad’s main port. I generally don’t use other USB accessories with my iPad, anyway.
  • Not being able to flip the keyboard around back and use the iPad as a touch device while still connected is a bit of a bummer. But given how heavy it would be to hold and use standing up, I don’t think I would have left the keyboard connected for this purpose much, anyway.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this keyboard. It’s not as nice as my laptop keyboard, of course, but it blows my Smart Keyboard folio out of the water. And the old Magic Keyboard/Canopy combo, frankly. This is as good as typing out long blog posts on an iPad has ever been. I look forward to using it more.

We’ve Changed

“it appears the world is going up in flames, both literally and figuratively, and the Apple rumor mill, which once brought us a bit of cheer throughout the winter doldrums, is now greeted with a general sense of weariness and indifference.”

via Becky Hansmeyer

I hadn’t thought of that particular point before, but it’s obviously accurate. People in general are anxious and scared to death about the condition of the world and where it is headed, be it political divisions, global climate crisis, etc. And so that negativity naturally flows right into other aspects of their lives—namely the things they geek out about.

I love Curtis Herbert’s reaction to Becky’s piece on Twitter:

He’s absolutely right. Apple could release technology as game-changing as iPhone today, and people would love it for about two weeks. Then the negativity would pour in immediately after. How do I know this? It already happened with Apple Watch. Apple created a device that literally saved me from a stroke just by wearing it. But what was the community’s reaction? “The icons in that little honeycomb are too hard to tap.”

The same thing will happen with Apple glasses. The car. Whatever else Apple does. The hate will drown out whatever faint praise anyone has the gall to post.

I think it’s time we face the fact that sure, Apple has changed. It’s gotten bigger. More corporate. More mistakes are falling through the cracks. But also, we’ve changed as a community. We’ve become ridiculously jaded. I can’t post anything remotely positive about Apple anymore without getting called a fanboy behind my back. Rene Ritchie can’t set the record straight with his patented brand of fighting FUD with a laundry list of reality without getting labeled a shill. We reward people for complaining, and we shame anyone who says anything positive.

But here’s the thing. I keep doing it anyway. Because every time I post an opinion that goes against the accepted conventional wisdom, along with the haters come two or three people who say “Hey thanks. I thought I was nuts for thinking Touch Bar is actually pretty cool.” Or, “I agree Apple Maps is actually better than Google Maps for my purposes.”

I still give Apple hell when I think they deserve it, but when they do something right, and people are still spewing bile, I try to offer an alternative opinion for those who are frankly tired of being told they are wrong for liking something.

And I get it, from a business perpsective. Apple hate gets a lot more clicks than praise. I can see that from my own posts. But at some point, you have to ask yourself, why am I still here, if everything I read bums me out, and everything I like gets shat upon daily?

I feel bad for people like Becky who have joined our community at a time when the only way to gain acceptance is to be a constant whiner. I doubt I would have stuck around long if it had been that way back in 1986 when I got my first Mac.

Even in Apple’s darkest hours during the 90s, people outside the community were the haters.

About That Keyboard

I managed to get my fingers on one of the new MacBook Pro 16-inch laptops at an Apple Store yesterday. As someone who actually likes the butterfly keyboard that preceded it, I thought I’d share my perspective. I know I’m not alone in worrying this new keyboard would be a step backward for me, despite being absolutely the right move for the company.

Obviously this is a very short first impression, obtained at those ridiculous Apple Store tables that seem to be the worst possible height for typing while standing. So I’ll clearly need more time to make a final judgement. But it didn’t take long to at least know that this is indeed a bit of a step backwards—in terms of feel—for me.

The best way I can describe the new keyboard is if you drew a line with the butterfly keyboard on one side and the wireless Magic Keyboard on the other, this new MacBook Pro keyboard would fall closer to the Magic Keyboard in feel than the butterfly. No surprise, then, people who hated the butterfly are dancing in the streets.

It’s not completely Magic Keyboard in feel, though. It does manage to avoid the sponginess of the Magic. The keys do feel much more precise. Press down from an off-center position, and the whole key does seem to fire pretty evenly. Not quite as good as the butterfly, but better than the Magic, for sure. That’s quite an engineering feat in a scissor switch.

It’s not a bad keyboard, by any stretch of the imagination. And it certainly tramples the old keyboard on the 2015 and prior models. But the extra travel makes me feel like I’m working harder than I should have to when I type. And the extra space between the keys looks and feels cheaper and older to me. My guess is most people looking at this machine side-by-side with one of the current 13-inch models would say the 13-inch is the newer model.

But looks aren’t everything, of course. I’m just gaining a new appreciation for the reasoning behind the butterfly’s aesthetic.

I have never had an issue with the virtual escape key, but since TouchBar doesn’t lose any functionality by bringing back the real key, I’m happy to see the real key return. Combine that with the space now between the edge of TouchBar and the power button, and it has a nice symmetry to it. No complaints about what’s going on at the top of this keyboard.

The inverted-T arrow keys, do, indeed, look old and janky compared to the full-sized keys on the butterfly. (I never thought it was that big a difference until looking at the two side-by-side again yesterday.) But this is a case where function over form is absolutely the right move. I’m thrilled to see the inverted-T back.

So increased travel, slightly less precision, and poorer looks, balanced against the return of inverted-T arrow keys and the assumption of better reliability. (I know that’s a big assumption. But everyone else seems to be giving Apple the benefit of the doubt on this, so I will, too.)

Overall, I think Apple made the right move. But there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll like the keyboard on my next MacBook Pro a little less.

But probably only a little.