Amateur
6069 stories
·
100 followers

★ Making Our Hearts Sing

1 Comment

Matt Birchler, “The Shocking State of Enthusiast Apps on Android”:

I recently commented on Mastodon that I thought when it comes to third party apps, iOS is remarkably far ahead of Android. My feeling is that you can take the best app in a category on Android, and that would be the 3rd to 5th best app in that category on iOS.

It’s harsh, I know, but I really think it’s true for basically every category of app I care about.

Someone responded to me saying that there are a bunch on Android apps that are better than their iOS equivalents. I wanted to be open-minded, so I asked what apps they would recommend I look at to see how Android is ahead of iOS. They recommended a text editor with a UI that looked more like Notepad++ than a modern writing tool.

Birchler’s Mastodon post was in a thread I started with my question about the best Android Mastodon clients, but I hadn’t noticed that he’d written this article until today — a day after my take on the same theme. Birchler goes on to review an Android RSS reader named Read You, which seems to be the best feed reader on Android. To say that Read You wouldn’t even register on the list of best iOS feed readers is being kind. It’s enough to make you wonder if anyone on Android even knows what a feed reader is. Birchler’s review is more than fair. He’s not cherry-picking one app in one category — I think it’s fair to say that Read You exemplifies the state of Android, for, as Birchler calls them, “enthusiast apps”.

Android enthusiasts don’t want to hear it, but from a design perspective, the apps on Android suck. They may not suck from a feature perspective (but they often do), but they’re aesthetically unpolished and poorly designed even from a “design is how it works” perspective. (E.g., Read You doesn’t offer unread counts for folders, has a bizarrely information-sparse layout, and its only supported sync service was deprecated in 2014. It also requires a frightening number of system permissions to run, including the ability to launch at startup and run in the background.) And as I wrote yesterday, the cultural chasm between the two mobile platforms is growing, not shrinking. I’ve been keeping a toe dipped in the Android market since I bought a Nexus One in 2010, and the difference in production values between the top apps in any given category has never been greater between Android and iOS. And that’s just talking about phone apps, leaving aside the deplorable state of tablet apps on Android.

Michael Tsai found two threads on Hacker News with short threads discussing my piece yesterday, here and here.1 A representative comment from an Android user skeptical of my take:

What on earth is he asking for out of these apps? How do you objectively compare one app’s “panache” with another? If I was a developer, what are the steps I can follow to program some “comfort” into my app? These complaints seem so wishy-washy and underspecified.

Then he leaves with the Kubrick quote: “Sometimes the truth of a thing isn’t in the think of it, but in the feel of it.” We’re fully in the realm of mysticism now, this is not an attempt to fairly compare or measure anything. [...]

I think if he’s going to praise some apps and dunk on the other ones, he should compare using measurable criteria. Otherwise, it’s only one person’s opinion. Just saying “App X feels right” is like saying “App X has a better chakra energy.” What is any developer supposed to do with that feedback? The whole article could have boiled down to “I personally like these apps and I don’t like those.”

That’s like asking for “measurable criteria” for evaluating a movie or novel or song or painting. I will offer another quote from Kubrick: “The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good.”

Art is the operative word. Either you know that software can be art, and often should be, or you think what I’m talking about here is akin to astrology. One thing I learned long ago is that people who prioritize design, UI, and UX in the software they prefer can empathize with and understand the choices made by people who prioritize other factors (e.g. raw feature count, or the ability to tinker with their software at the system level, or software being free-of-charge). But it doesn’t work the other way: most people who prioritize other things can’t fathom why anyone cares deeply about design/UI/UX because they don’t perceive it. Thus they chalk up iOS and native Mac-app enthusiasm to being hypnotized by marketing, Pied Piper style.

What’s happened over the last decade or so, I think, is that rather than the two platforms reaching any sort of equilibrium, the cultural differences have instead grown because both users and developers have self-sorted. Those who see and value the artistic value in software and interface design have overwhelmingly wound up on iOS; those who don’t have wound up on Android. Of course there are exceptions. Of course there are iOS users and developers who are envious of Android’s more open nature. Of course there are Android users and developers who do see how crude the UIs are for that platform’s best-of-breed apps. But we’re left with two entirely different ecosystems with entirely different cultural values — nothing like (to re-use my example from yesterday) the Coke-vs.-Pepsi state of affairs in console gaming platforms. On mobile, the cultural differences are as polarized and clearly delineated as the politics of our national affairs.

It’s no fluke that among Steve Jobs’s final words on stage was his soliloquy about Apple existing at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. March 2011:

It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.

Making your heart sing. That’s the difference.


  1. It sounds a bit conspirational, but for many years now it’s seemed clear to me that Hacker News has Daring Fireball in some sort of graylist. It’s not blacklisted, obviously, given the aforementioned two threads about yesterday’s piece, but nothing I write here ever gains any significant traction there. Ever. And the reason there are two threads for yesterday’s piece is that the first one disappeared from the home page soon after it was posted. I think? In this list of recent Hacker News threads for articles from DF, going back four months, only three have more than 10 comments — and two of those are the threads from yesterday. I don’t know who I pissed off there or why, but I’ve never seen an explanation for this. Update: HN commenter Michiel de Mare has quantified the apparent suppression, based on the ranking of this very article. Exactly what I’ve noticed for years. ↩︎

Read the whole story
jhamill
19 hours ago
reply
"That’s like asking for “measurable criteria” for evaluating a movie or novel or song or painting."

But Gruber, there are measurable criteria for evaluating every one of those things that exist besides the artistic aspect and how they make you feel.

Also, I have never heard of Read You. How is that the best RSS app? There's a lot of assumptions here between Gruber and Birchler and I don't think those provide a solid foundation to stand on when making comparisons.
California
Share this story
Delete

catchymemes:

1 Share

catchymemes:

Read the whole story
jhamill
1 day ago
reply
California
Share this story
Delete

karlfranks: fullcabs: fuck I like it when posts like this are...

3 Shares




karlfranks:

fullcabs:

fuck

I like it when posts like this are actually true

Zach Braff did an AMA on reddit a while ago and said the script would sometimes just say “Then Neil says something funny”

Read the whole story
fxer
1 day ago
reply
Bend, Oregon
jhamill
1 day ago
reply
California
Share this story
Delete

★ Meanwhile, Over in Androidtown

1 Comment

Whilst we iOS users celebrate the recent releases of Thomas Ricouard’s Ice Cubes, Tapbots’s Ivory, and Tusker, and look forward to the imminent release of other new Mastodon clients like Shihab Mehboob’s Mammoth, over on Mastodon I asked what the best clients for Android are.

Long story short: crickets chirping.

The app that got the most recommendations is Tusky, an open-source client available free of charge. It’s fine, and for now, it’s what I’ve got on my home screen on my Pixel 4. But if Tusky were an iOS app, it wouldn’t make the top 5 for Mastodon clients. I’d describe its UI as brutalist. (Tusky does have fun “burst” animations when you tap the Like or Bookmark buttons on a post.)

Honorable mentions to Tooot, the official Mastodon client, and some open-source forks of the Mastodon app like Megalodon. There’s also Fedilab, which costs $2.50 on the Play Store but is also open source. I find Fedilab homely, even by the standards of Android apps, but it’s fast and has some neat features like built-in translation. (Bonus points to the fellow who suggested this Emacs mode, I believe non-sarcastically.) All of these apps are more brutalist than Tusky.

None of these Android clients would garner any attention at all on iOS. Tooot and the official Mastodon client are also available on iOS, and seemingly offer the same features and same basic interfaces on both platforms. There’s a reason third-party clients are overwhelmingly more popular on iOS than Mastodon’s official client — yet the Mastodon app is clearly among the best on Android. It’s really just a different world over in Androidtown. Things like fluid scrolling, swipe gestures, and tap-and-hold contextual menus are table stakes for an iOS app. None of the Android clients scroll fluidly, none offer swipe gestures, and only Tooot seems to offer a tap-and-hold contextual menu. But more broadly they all just look and especially feel inert and rigid. Nothing shrinks or stretches. There’s no life to them.

Google’s Android system software and first-party apps try. (The Chrome Android app in particular is iOS-caliber. Not iOS-style, but iOS-caliber, in terms of fluidity, originality, and attention to detail.) The Instagram app for Android tries. But for the most part, it seems like third-party Android apps don’t even try to achieve the look-and-feel comfort, fun, and panache of iOS apps. It’s a weird thing. The chasm between how iOS and Android apps look and feel is growing, not shrinking. The opposite happened with the Mac and Windows back in the ’90s. Windows itself and Windows software in the Window 3.x era were just awful. Starting with Windows 95, the gap closed significantly. Spending a few hours perusing the state of the art in Android Mastodon clients gives me the distinct impression that Android is forever stuck in its Window 3.x era of UI polish and design. It’s rough.

iOS and Android are, from a macro perspective, rival peer platforms. But it’s not like, say, game consoles — PlayStation vs. Xbox vs. Switch — where all of the games on all of the consoles are striving for the highest possible production values. Not one Android Mastodon client seems to be striving for iOS-level production values. Again, not iOS style — just the baseline level of polish and detail-sweating that are de rigueur for apps like new Mastodon clients on iOS. Your bank’s iOS app probably sucks (mine does), but that’s because it’s probably a cross-platform web wrapper that’s nearly identical on Android (mine is). Nintendo Switch games don’t have the same style as PlayStation or Xbox games, but all of them are trying to be really nice. That’s just not a thing on Android. It’s banking apps almost all the way down. It’s an entirely different culture, with a different value system from iOS.

20 years ago my friend Brent Simmons wrote about why he chose to create apps exclusively for the Mac, despite the Windows market being so much larger:

One of the reasons I develop for OS X is that, when it comes to user interface, this is the big leagues, this is the show. That’s probably what Joel would call an “emotional appeal” — and to call it that, that’s fine by me. [...]

The other path is honorable and sensible and has its rewards too.

But to me it’s the difference between an empty night sky and a night sky with all the stars shining and a big, bright bella luna. “Emotional appeal?” Oh yes indeed. And I don’t apologize for that for one second.

I’m well aware there are Android enthusiasts who choose and embrace the platform because they strongly prefer it. But the differing priorities of both users and developers between iOS and Android is rendered stark by looking at Mastodon client apps. There doesn’t seem to be a single developer trying to make a commercial Mastodon client for Android, for one thing. Everything feels like a hobby app because everything is. Android seems to be the platform for people who consider this comprehensive feature checklist to be a helpful resource evaluating which apps they should try. iOS is the platform for users and developers who care about craftsmanship, who see emotional appeal as something far more essential than any feature comparison that can be expressed in a spreadsheet. I often cite this quote from Stanley Kubrick: “Sometimes the truth of a thing isn’t in the think of it, but in the feel of it.” It’s the feel of iOS Mastodon clients that makes them outclass those on Android.

iOS is now the show.

Read the whole story
jhamill
3 days ago
reply
"It’s an entirely different culture, with a different value system from iOS."

But I'm going to compare them anyway.
California
timk65
2 days ago
100%. One of the reasons I prefer Android is the focus on functionality over window-dressing. According to this author, my choice apparently is invalid; iOS is the show. *eye roll*
Share this story
Delete

Couples making $400K a year: still rich, no matter where you live

2 Shares
Georgetown Preparatory School, entrance and sign, North Bethesda, MD

Another unilateral representative of liberalism has been appointed, and I haven’t even been invited to the meeting:

Last week, in a conversation with colleague Gail Collins, Stephens argued that a couple with a combined income of $400,000 a year doesn’t necessarily have a lifestyle we’d describe as “rich”: “They’re scrimping to send their kids to college, driving a Camry, if they have a car at all, and wondering why eggs have gotten so damned expensive.”

“Granted,” said Collins, which was the most fascinating part of this exchange.

The left side of the internet dragged Henderson mercilessly for days after his remarks 12 years ago. But here was a left-leaning New York Times columnist essentially conceding the point. As for the internet, I saw exactly one right-leaning economist gently joshing Stephens for his remarks. How have liberals gotten so comfortable with the idea that $400,000 a year — more than what 98 percent of the population makes — is really just a middle-class income?

It could be that “liberals” as a group (as opposed to a few what we might call Josh Gottheimer Democrats who like to this this because they’re part of the group) believe that $400K a year is a “middle class” income. Or it could be that almost nobody reads those Stephens/Collins colloquy columns and so nobody noticed this one throwaway line. I don’t think this a tough question!

But, since this has been brought to our attention, all of the objections to arguments like Henderson’s still apply, even if they come from (unrepresentative) liberals. If you make 400 grand a year, you’re rich. If you use the money to buy a really nice house in a high-amenity urban area, you’re still really rich even before we get to the fact that you can use that house as an ATM. If you use the money to send the kids to fancy private schools rather than Burberry trenchcoats and ivory backscratchers, you’re still rich. If you “only” go on two vacations a year, you’re still rich. If you reduce your immediate disposable income to put a ton into your 401(k), you’re still rich. If you have to put in a fairly long workweek rather than living off the juice like some of the parents at Maddie and Elijah’s school, you’re still rich. If you have a lot money, you’re rich no matter what you spend it on. And if you’re exhausted, well talk to any retail worker you interact with and suck it up, Christ.

Read the whole story
jhamill
4 days ago
reply
California
fxer
4 days ago
reply
Bend, Oregon
Share this story
Delete

before sunset

2 Shares
the sun setting on a green field
the sun inching closer to setting on a green meadow. streaks of clouds and orange fill the sky. little tufts of green dot the field. i might not always have a sunny disposition, but most of my photos here do.

I talked to my mom earlier this week. She’s the director of a professional organization that is starting to lose steam. She’s led the organization for decades through highs and lows and excellent conferences. Their membership numbers are in decline. Engagement among members is down since covid and hasn’t recovered yet. The organization is running low on funds. I asked her, “have you given any thought to a potential sunset of the organization? Maybe it’s lived out its purpose in this form.” She told me later that this was the word that she needed to hear: sunset.

It’s hard to watch the ending of things. People are often bad at saying goodbye; that’s true for programs too. Programs and organizations often outlast the people who build or work on them. When they come to an end, people may feel guilt or sadness at the loss. I prefer the term “sunset” to the less-euphemistic “ending” or the too-military “drawdown.” Yes, sunsets signify the end of a day. But they can be beautiful too, if we let them be. I consider these things whenever I need to sunset a program or organization.

consider the people

Organizations and programs that serve the public come to an end all the time. It’s frustrating. These programs go away after losing a single grant while the Metaverse is free to waste billions. Before it shuts down, find alternatives for people who use the program. Fight like hell for this! If none exist, lobby decision-makers to lengthen the shutdown timeline. Insist that staff have plenty of notice to plan their next steps.

consider the program

What lessons did you learn while the program operated? Who else could use the tools you created, resources you identified, or remaining funds? Is the rise and fall of your program a cautionary tale for the company? How will the people in charge learn from this decision?

consider the future

Most programs and organizations serve a purpose. It’s up to us to decide what short-term or long-term value it held. What could be next for this organization? If the program’s goals have changed, how could we better meet them next time? Ending a program is an opportunity to build a better one. What should we do differently and what should we preserve? What might a new leader or leaders create to meet the moment they’re in?

Program managers and organization leaders invest a lot into their body of work. We can’t take that for granted any more than we can take the ending personally. The sun will be back in our lives soon enough.

Read the whole story
jhamill
4 days ago
reply
California
rocketo
4 days ago
reply
seattle, wa
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories