Shaken Faith

Late last night I blogged about how the general atmosphere of the Apple community has been bumming me out lately. That post garnered quite a response (much bigger than I expected!), with many expressing agreement and decrying the whole industry that seems to have been built around fashionable, clickbaity Apple hate.

My post lacked a bit of nuance, though, and I have a few thoughts I’d like to add. First, I want to make it clear that I don’t think that everyone who is hypercritical of Apple is a “hater.” It’s quite the opposite, I know. When you really love someone, you want them to be their best self. And if they’re struggling, you want to help them become their best self. Fandom isn’t a whole lot different in that respect. People just want the nerdy things that they love to continue being awesome. That’s not hard to understand.

A lot of people in the Apple news and developer community have big audiences and big opinions. They have popular apps and blogs, news sites and podcasts, and Apple employees read and listen to them. With great power comes great responsibility, right? I don’t blame these people for feeling like they should use their megaphone for good: to convince Apple to turn from its erring way, to listen to its most ardent fans, to “get its poop in a group,” as my high school theatre teacher liked to say. Personally, I’m glad these folks speak out the way they do.

The problem is, since our conversations with Apple are generally one-sided, things tend to escalate during the quiet periods between major announcements. We’ll start by calmly stating our opinion about how some OS or hardware feature is broken or missing or confusing or whatnot. And then, since we don’t know if Apple is really aware of what we’re saying (they are) or if we do, we simply don’t trust them to do anything about it (ah, there’s the issue!), we just yell louder. And more frequently. And there’s more handwringing and hyperbole and everyone just feeds off of each other until it’s just this thing, you know?

So then, there’s a lack of trust. Our faith in Apple to do what’s in the best interest of its customers has been shaken. The era of “customers would just ask for a faster horse, so it’s up to us to show them what they really want” as a business strategy is over. Apple tried that with its Mac line-up, and brought upon itself the wrath of Mac users, who, in fact, really did just want a faster horse. And they wanted it yesterday. With more ports. And an SD card slot.

I think Apple is trying to be a better listener. We can help them be their best self by writing thoughtful blog posts, having thoughtful discussions, proposing thoughtful solutions, and writing thoughtful software. Why did I say thoughtful so many times? Because there is value in infusing everything we do and say with empathy. Every word, every feature, considered.

Apple is a big ship. I’m not a sea captain, but I’m guessing it’s not easy to maneuver a big ship. To continue with this metaphor, it seems like some of Apple’s attempts at course correction have been akin to throwing deck chairs off the Titanic. They just didn’t help. Complex, systemic problems call for systemic solutions. Sometimes they call for leadership changes. The question is, does Apple think it has deep systemic problems? Or is its judgment, as I hinted at in my last post, clouded by hubris? We’ll find out one way or another eventually, I suppose.

My favorite response to my original post was this, from Matt Thomas (@mthomas): “…when I start to feel like this, I find the best resolve is to get off social media and make something.” Amen. In closing, that is my wish for all of you: that you would experience the joy of getting off social media and making something. ❤️

[As one last aside: I know I said “we” and “our” a lot in this post, but I obviously don’t mean to speak for everyone. The range of opinions in this community is huge, so yeah…you do you!]

Apple Malaise

Maybe it’s just me, but the Apple news/developer community seems to have settled into its own particular, cozy brand of misery as of late. And sure, 2020 is off to a bit of a slow, dismal start––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.

The 10th anniversary of the iPad’s unveiling really cracked open a can of worms. From John Gruber’s pointed criticism of the current iPad multitasking situation (which I agree with) and Ben Thompson’s The Tragic iPad to the more general Six Colors 2019 report card, the disappointment in the air is thick. I think it was Marco Arment who said, on a recent episode of ATP, something along the lines of “the technical foundation at Apple is rotting.” Nobody wants a rotten Apple.

And yet, here we are. Oh how I wish I could have been an Apple fan in its glory days. And how awesome would it have been to be a developer during the App Store gold rush? Alas, I’ll never know. I’m stuck with today’s Apple, a vast and unwieldy mega corporation that has all but lost sight of what made it great. What happened? How did we get here? I’m not sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say it probably boils down to hubris. Most things do. I have always felt that greatness necessitates humility. Confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive and both great design and great execution require both.

Anyway, I’ve digressed. All of this is really just to say that I’m feeling pretty bummed about all the pessimism in my favorite community. I’m not saying any of it is unjustified—just that I’m bummed. And what can we do? File radars? Write blog posts? Complain on Twitter? Yes, and these things we will continue to do, shouting passionately into the void.

I like to imagine that indie developers have an opportunity to show people what Apple used to be. That it’s up to us now to think different. To work within and around all of our crappy constraints and ludicrous App Store rejections to share something beautiful and cheerful and functional with the world. That even if Apple fails to stay true, we can somehow carry on its mission…

Well…okay. Maybe not that dramatic.

At least they fixed the damn keyboards.

~Fin~

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Inktober 2019, Day 31, “Ripe”

And that’s a wrap for Inktober! It was a fun addition to my daily schedule and I’m pleasantly surprised that I managed to complete it without missing a day. Now, back to coding! 🙂

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Inktober 2019, Day 25, “Tasty”

This is a sign for a restaurant in Lincoln that opened in 1948 and closed in 2013. I never ate there, but I’ve heard that it was much loved.

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Inktober 2019, Day 23, “Ancient”

This isn’t something that’s actually ancient, just something that feels ancient: a micro cassette containing an audio recording of me talking about my life when I was 8 years old.

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Inktober 2019, Day 19, “Sling”

I’m not particularly good at portraits, but the only thing that came to mind when I saw the word “sling” was Charlie’s little friend Amy, who recently broke her arm on the playground. I traced the outline of her body and her eyes, nose, and mouth (because I knew I’d mess up the proportions).