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Zelda, Fonts, and Magic (Newsletter #112)

Happy…late Friday! I've decided that in order to avoid burnout, I need to be more flexible with this newsletter, and this week that means doing a late-Friday edition, which is just more fun anyway, right?!

  • Want to play the original Zelda in your browser? Why not?!
  • Bakewell is a slick font that is just affordable enough that I'm trying to find an excuse to use it somewhere…
  • Coverture is a cool little Mac app for creating animations that you can export as code for the web. Here's a tweet with a preview.

The Videos

My new goal is to figure out how to get my employer to buy this for me too.

I don't know who needs to hear this, but Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed full run is on this channel…it hasn't aged particularly well, but the nostalgia trip here was intense for me.

Are you tired of 75% and 60% keyboards? What about a 300% one?

Watch this if you want to have empathy for what video folks go though to remove echo from their audio tracks.

And why not a little more magic to round it out? David Blane goes to the MKBHD studio to show them some impressive tricks.

The Tweets

A Haven for Forbidden Apps

Jared Newman: How AltStore is building a haven for forbidden iPhone apps

“You would think that allowing high performance apps would be to Apple’s benefit as they keep making more and more powerful iPads, but the state of (allowed) iPad software has been stagnant,” says UTM’s developer, who goes by the pseudonym Osy. “It’s one of the reasons I worked on UTM in the first place, because I thought it was a pity that such powerful hardware doesn’t have any software to take advantage of it.”

I just made a video about 1Password's new Universal Autofill feature and one of the things I called out there was how this is a great example of what's great about macOS: the OS didn't support something so AgileBits made it happen anyway. The tragedy of the iPad is that it has an incredible amount of power, but it's limited by whatever Apple allows people to do with it. Meanwhile, if you can dream it, you can probably do it on the Mac.

People act as if opening up the iPad to do more would turn it "just into another Mac" and I flatly reject that idea and I think it's a lazy argument. The iPad has gained tons of features over the years and it's still managed to be completely distinct from the Mac at all points in its history. Remember when we were debating whether a file system even made sense on the iPad? Or how a cursor and laptop form factor would make it too Mac-like? Or how about when we argued whether showing more than one app on screen at a time was something the iPad should do at all?

I really hope Apple has plans to make the iPad, specifically the iPad Pro (iPad Studio?), more capable.

Dogecoin is Going to the Moon on WordPress!

I saw this headline,455 Million WordPress Websites Can Now Accept Dogecoin, and of course I had to see what this was all about.

According to DogeDesigner, a UX/UI specialist and graphic designer at Dogecoin Foundation, millions of WordPress websites can now accept Dogecoin using the WooCommerce plugin "Easy Dogecoin Gateway" built by the Dogecoin developer known as "inevitable360."

A couple things here. First, this headline (and the plugin author's tweet) are hilariously optimistic. There are 455 million Wordpress sites out there, but none of them can accept Dogecoin until they install the plugin. Also, this is a WooCommerce plugin, so only WordPress users using WooCommerce can use it. The best numbers I can find show about 3-5 million sites with WooCommerce, so 99% of those 455 million are actually not able to use this.

Ok, so we went from 455 million to 5 million, but how many people have actually downloaded it?

Oh, a couple dozen.

I have no beef with this specific plugin, but I wanted to call this out because this is how I see so many, "Company X is bringing crypto payments to millions!" headlines actually work when you dig into them a little. It's all hype all the way down.

A Fandom That Doesn’t Want Me

This post is a day late, but all the Star Wars talk yesterday and the new Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer got me thinking about where I am with Star Wars right now. I was about 12 years old when I first saw A New Hope, and I’ve been a huge fan of the franchise ever since. Despite being disappointed on numerous occasions, I still eagerly anticipated each new movie/game/whatever with optimism.

My general feelings have changed in the past couple years, though, and it all started with…you already know what I’m going to say…The Last Jedi.

Now I really love The Last Jedi. Yes, it’s got a few cringy moments, but this is Star Wars, camp is built in and every mainline film has cringe-inducing moments here and there, so…whatever. The film was beautifully shot, was original in many ways, had great action, and was just flat out the most fun I had at a Star Wars film since Empire.

No, what made me shift on Star Wars was the massive negative reaction this film got from the fanbase. People can enjoy or dislike whatever they want, that’s fine, but my enjoyment of this movie seemed to make a shocking number of Star Wars fans mad. I can count on one finger the number of people who disliked The Last Jedi and asked me why I liked it. Everyone else had some variant of, “OMG IT’S TRASH, YOU’RE WRONG, AND HERE’S WHY,” (yes, even in real life with aquantances). It was so bad that much like “Trump” and “Elon” I didn’t even dare use the text “The Last Jedi” in a tweet because doing so would guarantee my mentions would be filled with randos telling me how wrong I was.

And this is of course nothing compared to what people directly connected to the film got. Rian Johnson was public enemy #1 for many people, and let’s not even get into what Kelly Marie Tran dealt with in terms of abuse.

And this was different from what I had known of the prequel trilogy. If I tweeted today, “I loved The Phantom Menace,” my replies would be asking me why I liked it so much and that “man, I should rewatch that to see if it’s better than I remember.” If I tweeted the same thing about The Last Jedi, I don’t think the replies would have as much curiosity.

Basically, my enjoyment of a particlar Star Wars film made me feel alienated from the Star Wars fandom in general. I felt it was a club I didn’t want to be involved in, and even if I did, it seemed they didn’t want me. I’m sure other fandoms are like this to some extent as well, I just haven’t experienced anything at this scale and with this much anger in any other media I’ve enjoyed in my life.

I think this is why I have been a bit more tepid about Star Wars content after this. I still had affection for the stories and characters, but the distance I felt from the fandom made me less interested in the whole thing.

All that said, the new Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer looks great, and I have high hopes that it will bring me unabashed joy for a few weeks this summer. I hope that I can love Star Wars again and that the toxicity I’ve associated with its fandom over the past few years can fade away.

Why Discord Isn't a Viable Twitter Alternative (for me)

I'm not really convinced when people say that things like Discord or Slack are a good replacement for Twitter. "Angry about Twitter? Why not find a good Discord?" I keep hearing this, but no thanks.

This has nothing to do with Discord being bad, I use Discord and Slack to talk with a few groups of friends everyday, so I get the appeal, I just don't think those experiences are at all what I personally get from Twitter.

Twitter is amazing to me because it's a public place where everyone can come and talk about whatever they want. We tweet about politics and tech and food and literally every single niche you can imagine. I follow an assortment of friends, developers, comedians, reporters, and other random accounts to create a feed that's tuned just to my interests, and I know that anything I see on Twitter can be shared anywhere else as well. See a joke about product management that would kill at work? Share it in Slack. See an adorable meme? Put it in the family iMessage thread. Read a tweet that triggers an article here? Embed it on the blog.

As I wrote last week, I don't think Twitter is a "town square", but I do think that its public nature and wide array of users is a major part of its appeal. For what it's worth, YouTube, TikTok, Mastodon, Micro.blog, and Instagram are all pretty similar in this way as well.

But Discord and Slack are nothing like this. If I see something amazing in Slack, there's no way to share that message with anyone outside of that Slack workspace. And love it or hate the timeline, Twitter does a much better job of getting you caught up on the big posts of the day, while Discord and Slack become unusable when there's more than a few dozen people talking.

Like I said, I totally get the appeal of chatting in smaller places, I just don't think these are solving the same problems or delivering the same value as a service like Twitter.

Just Like the 5th Most Popular Bar in Town, Twitter Isn’t the Town Square

Some people like to call Twitter, “the modern town square,” and that this distinction means that everyone should be able to talk there, everyone should be able to say what they’d like, and any limits on those things is censorship.

I understand this argument to an extent. I’ve personally said that one of the big reasons I’ve not switched away is that most people are on Twitter and that’s part of its value. Why would I go to Mastodon with it’s far smaller user base when most people on there are also on Twitter, for example?

But why do we give Twitter this distinction? Is anyone calling Facebook a town square? It’s also a text sharing app at its core and it’s an order of magnitude more popular than Twitter, so shouldn’t that be the “town square” of the internet? Or how about YouTube, TikTok, or Reddit, all of which has way more users, and both of which let ordinary people have their words heard by larger groups of people?

The truth is that Twitter is disproportionately used by people who write blog posts like this or news articles for those who work for your favorite news sites, so it occupies an outsized part of our brains. People don’t say Twitter is the “town square” because it’s where everyone comes to talk, it’s because it’s where people like them come to talk.

In my opinion, the world wide web is the “town square” and Twitter is a private business that people hang out in and wax poetic (or shitpost) about the world. It’s a bar, and just like any bar, it can have rules for what you can and can’t say inside it, and it has every right to kick you out if it think you’re breaking its rules or making the experience bad for other customers.

“If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product,” is said a lot, and since Twitter is free, maybe we’re not the customers in the bar, we’re the drinks? Maybe the snacks? Am I an IPA?

Anyway…

My point here is that Twitter is a really great place to chat with a wide group of people, and I’ve met tons of people and heard stories from people with different perspectives than me on Twitter, and that’s been awesome. But people will tell you the same things about their local coffee shops and no one is suggesting those bars are the town square in the real world (especially if they’re like the 4th or 5th most popular bar in town).

I would argue that the internet itself is a “town square” and that effectively no one should be limited from using the internet. This blog post is in the “town square” and anyone and everyone can read it if they’d like. I could have made this a thread on Twitter or a post on Reddit or Facebook. It could have been a video on YouTube or a TikTok. It could have been a screenshot of text on Instagram. I could have posted on any of the many Twitter clones out there as well, and any of these choices would be examples of me using my free speech rights to express myself.

Twitter is just one place to share ideas online, and it’s been a place I enjoy visiting for years, but that doesn’t mean it’s a “town square” by any means. It’s a business just like your local bars, and there can be rules around what is said there, people can be banned for inappropriate behavior, and there are plenty of other places to share ideas if you’d like.

A notable man-child recently said something to the effect of, “I hope my critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech is all about,” and no, absolutely not. Free speech is about me being able to speak without the government punishing me for having ideas it doesn’t like. That doesn’t mean I can use hate speech at my local bar. If my bar decides that hate speech is allowed tomorrow, it will make the experience worse for all customers and they’ll go elsewhere. It’s the same with Twitter.

Should there be something like Twitter that actually is a digital public town square? Again, I think that the internet itself is the best analogy we have today, but if we want something like Twitter specifically, then we should make it and it should be owned by the people, not by a corporation, and certainly not by one individual.

God This is Late! (Newsletter #111)

Happy Friday and man, it's been a bit! The combination of work, moving into a house, YouTube, and my freelance work have just made it so something had to give, and sadly this newsletter drew the short straw.

I hope you all like the tweets and videos, because I'm just going wild on those this time. Enjoy!

  • How I Experience the Web Today is upsettingly accurate.
  • And this week in fonts kicks off with Martian Mono, a free monospace font.
  • Boucan is a $30 variable font that's pretty rad.
  • And Comic Code ($80 for the whole family) is a monospace font based on Comic Sans that is better than it has any right to be.

The Videos

What an awesome, organic moment ❤️

Knotwords is the latest game from Zach Gage (Spelltower, Good Sudoku, Ridiculous Fishing, Really Bad Chess, and more) and IMO it's the next great word game (and includes a daily puzzle that's the same for everyone which me and my wife are already enjoying comparing notes).

This is 99 minutes breaking down what's incredible and also kinda really bad about the biggest game of the year, Elden Ring.

The Corridor Digital crew used iPhones to recreate that iconic 300 shot.

Doom with ray tracing is incredible 🙌

I love this video because it's the big budget version of "I'm a blogger and no one really cares about this but me, but it's my site and I'm going to do it anyway."

The Tweets

Android Apps on Windows are a Match Made in Hell

Will Sattelberg: Android apps on Windows 11 review: Not like this

You can fill all of these absences elsewhere on Windows 11. Many of these titles have versions on Steam or the web — you don't need the Android version of Among Us to play on Windows. The same goes for those missing apps, from Google services to social networks to recipe apps and smart home controls. It's not hard to access Gmail these days, even if it's not in a dedicated app, and that all begs the question: why does this service even exist?

I'm not sure what problem Android apps on Windows are solving. As Will says, most of the experiences you can get from the Amazon App Store for Windows already have good ways to experience them already.

iOS apps on macOS aren't great, and it's sad to hear that Android apps seem even worse on Windows.

The iPad is for Everyone

Numeric Citizen: Where Should The iPad Go From Here?

The iPad form factor dictates the rest of the story: the iPad cannot meet everybody’s needs with the same ease as a traditional portable because of its form factor AND the design decisions Apple made about its interaction models; iPadOS isn’t macOS.

I agree with the point earlier in this piece about the iPad switching its functionality based on whether you’re using touch, Pencil, or keyboard being bad, but I actually disagree on this bit. There are two points I’d like to make here.

First, whenever someone says, “thew iPad should be more powerful,” there will always be someone who replies, “it’s an iPad, not a Mac, stop asking for Mac-like features,” and then Apple adds those features (file system, cursor, etc.) without making the iPad losing its soul. Yes, some people want to run macOS on their iPads, but let’s not bundle in all “the iPad should have more power” requests into “people want the iPad to be the Mac.”

And second, I think we generally give traditional PCs too much credit for being able to appeal to everyone. My mom literally never uses a PC or Mac because she hates them. They didn’t work well for her and for 60 years she never owned one, never really used the one in our house growing up, and had no interest in learning. She now uses an iPad for way more than she ever did on a normal PC.

I think we consider Macs to “appeal to everyone” because they were the only type of computer available for decades, so people either adapted to them or some, like my mom, just opted out entirely.

Also, and I’ll beat this drum until I’m blue in the face, but the iPad is special specifically because it appeals to such a diverse set of people and needs. They’re godsends for contractors working in the field. They’re amazing in medical and retail environments, or as Apple loves to point out, in the cockpit for pilots. They’re great for writers and photographers and general information workers on the go. They’re great for people who have accessibility needs that a Mac doesn’t suit well.

And by expanding the interaction options for the iPad over the years, they’ve made it appeal to more and more people over time. I personally don’t use my iPad for everything, but I use it for writing, reading, chatting, scheduling, and more. Sometimes I’m using the iPad as a tablet, other times it’s on the Magic Keyboard, and still others I’m working exclusively with the Apple Pencil. Only one of those input methods was supported when the iPad launched in 2010, and each one has only made it more useful, more accessible, and more widely-appealing than before.

As I wrote last week, I don’t think that full on mode switches are the way to go for the iPad; Windows does this and it’s not great. Instead, I really think Apple can advance the iPad more than it has in years by supporting external displays for real. No mirroring, just second monitor support with more windowing options. You can already do everything in iPadOS with a mouse and keyboard, so keep going with that and let people use iPadOS on a non-touch screen with those inputs.

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