In this episode we talk with Dave Lonning, who writes documentation for Omni apps. Dave’s a long-time fan of role-playing games — running them and creating them — and he lived for years in Japan before making his way to Omni.
Among Dave’s hobbies is painting miniatures:
Dave, it should be noted, is a cat person — but, importantly, he’s learned to love the Omni dogs. They’re good dogs, Dove.
I’ve got some career-change news that might sound weird at first but that I promise will make sense in a minute: I’m quite happily still at Omni, but I’m switching from engineering over to marketing.
I am the new Marketing Human, a new member of the Design department.
If you think of me as an engineer, you’re not wrong — but the secret, hidden in plain sight, is that throughout my career I’ve done a whole bunch of design and things that could be called marketing.
Blogging could be called marketing, after all, and today I wrote my first post for the Omni blog.
(For whatever freakish reason, writing has never been a chore to me — I love it. Sometimes I think I only make apps just to have something to write about.)
But the new job isn’t just blogging — I’m also doing a podcast. I’ll help figure out the marketing points behind the release of OmniFocus 3. I’ll write some ads. I’ll create new websites. I don’t even know what all the different things are yet.
I’ll also help with defining future versions of our apps, which is super-exciting for me. This keeps me close to the process of app-making — at a different level, sure, but at a place where I’m quite happy, since I’ve done this kind of work with Frontier, NetNewsWire, MarsEdit, Glassboard, Vesper, and now with Evergreen and back to Frontier.
In other words, I’m using the skills I’ve learned as an indie and sort-of-indie over decades — just not the skills I write about here that often.
Make sense? Cool. :)
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For now, until OmniFocus 3 ships, I’m splitting my time: doing this and continuing to work directly on the Mac app. After that I’ll be a full-time Marketing Human.
If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at marketing at The Omni Group’s domain name.
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One interesting part of this — at least for me — is that, for the first time in decades, I’ll be back to writing code purely for fun. I’ll continue to work on Evergreen and other apps on nights and weekends, for sure. And I’ll keep writing about code on this blog.
But engineering will just be my hobby. I love that.
A year ago I was working on a microblogging system and wrote a bunch of it, but I didn’t actually finish it.
When I realized it’s not what I actually want, I shelved it.
The app is called Greenwood. Partly because I like the freshness it evokes — it’s a great name for a fresh, simple start — and partly because Greenwood is the neighborhood next to mine (I’m in Ballard), and I’ve been giving things Pacific Northwest names lately.
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Blog posts are stored as separate files on disk. There’s a place for attributes at the top of each file, and then the rest is Markdown.
It’s written in Ruby; it’s a Sinatra app. It’s fast. I tested it using eight years of inessential.com’s files.
My plan was to put it in front of a caching Nginx server, so it would essentially run as fast as a statically-rendered site.
There’s surprisingly not much code. And, well, that’s because it’s unfinished.
And — as it says at the top of the README in the repo — DO NOT DEPLOY THIS APP AS-IS. IT IS NOT SECURE.
Script Debugger has long been the secret weapon of people who write AppleScript scripts — and now it’s at version 7. Better than ever!
(Bonus tip: FastScripts is a great utility for running AppleScript scripts. I use it all day every day.)
She’s also a knitter — we have a pretty strong group of knitters here — and a cat person.
Me too. In fact, I’m going to go find a place in the sun to curl up. :)
I’d done almost no iOS work since system 7 came out — but, once we were finished with OmniOutliner 5 for Mac (a release I’m super-proud of), it was time to go work on OmniOutliner 3 for iOS, and so they pulled me back in. :)
I was just one person on a much bigger team, of course. I helped indent some things and helped with filters. But there’s a whole bunch more besides — it’s a big release.
And it’s the first OmniOutliner for iOS release with a lower-cost Essentials version ($9.99). And it’s a free trial.
And I’m super-proud of this release, too.
The Scottish Play is mentioned, but only as “the Scottish play.” So we’re all good there — if you’re in a theater right now you can safely listen to this.
RSParser is now a CocoaPod! It’s my first.
I’m super-proud of myself for taking this the last few tiny steps of the way there — Silver Fox did all the rest of the much-appreciated work.
This means that if you’re a CocoaPods user, you can now go forth and parse feeds.
Still to do: support Carthage and Swift Package Manager. And, after this repo, there are at least a half-dozen more to do.
But that’s okay — doing open source is what I signed up for, and learning and using the infrastructure is part of the gig.
PS I really like what happens in the Terminal when you successfully publish a pod. Here’s a screenshot.
(Disclaimer: before I get started, I should take extra care to note that I don’t speak for Omni. This is my personal blog, with my personal opinions.)
Every time I make some criticism of the App Store — that, for instance, the 30% cut for Apple is too high, or that free trials would be a good thing — some number of people respond that Apple is a business and they’re allowed to do what they’re doing.
They may also remind me that this is capitalism, and that I can vote with my feet — that is, go create an Android app (or whatever) where the cost is presumably lower.
And they remind me that I should work with the world as it is, rather than the world as I want it to be.
They’re not wrong. Of course Apple is a business and is within their rights to charge whatever they want to charge, and developers could go do something else. And when making business decisions we have to look at facts and best extrapolations, not wishes and ponies.
But that misses the point entirely.
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The point is that we are allowed — even in a capitalist system! — to criticize and to ask for changes. You can ask your spouse to put away the dishes more often; you can ask your kids to do their homework before dinner; you can ask the government for universal health care or corporate tax cuts; and you can ask Apple to lower the App Store cut.
Imagine if Starbucks charged $20 for a latte. You might complain about it and ask them to lower the price. Even if there’s another coffee shop nearby with much less expensive lattes, you still might.
Yes! Even in a capitalist system you can do this! It’s totally a-okay! Even if they’re within their rights (they are) to charge that much. Even if they are a business!
There’s no sacred verse that says businesses acting lawfully can’t be criticized. Nothing says we can’t advocate for change. In fact, I’d say that that’s part of capitalism, too.
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So I got into a lengthy Twitter argument about Apple’s 30% App Store cut.
My thinking is that a lower cut provides more incentive for developers to invest in high-quality, long-lived apps — and that that’s good for the platform and good for users, and good for Apple, and so everybody wins.
It’s at least worth trying (this being capitalism, there are no guarantees of success) — and, since Apple is the wealthiest company in the history of companies, they could afford to try this.
If I’m right, then everybody wins: Apple, users, and developers. And if I’m wrong, Apple is not in any financial jeopardy.
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I don’t think I’m misunderstanding or breaking the rules of capitalism by saying this. Nor am I telling developers to base their business decisions on fantasies.
But somebody will tell me that I am.
We could be excused for thinking that Micro.blog is like App.net — a Twitter alternative greeted with enthusiasm but that eventually closed.
It’s not the same thing, though, and I’ll explain why.
Micro.blog is not an alternative silo: instead, it’s what you build when you believe that the web itself is the great social network.
That’s the important part: even if Micro.blog doesn’t last (though I believe it will), the idea — that the web itself is where we are and where we talk to each other — will continue.
And: Micro.blog could be just one of thousands of similar services. And those services would all work together, because they’re made of web-stuff.
The Dream of 1999
Pick your year. I like 2003, since that was when I released NetNewsWire 1.0, an early Mac RSS reader. You might prefer 2000 (nice round number) or 2005 (things were a bit more advanced).
But if you think of the years 1995-2005, you remember when the web was our social network: blogs, comments on blogs, feed readers, and services such as Flickr, Technorati, and BlogBridge to glue things together. Those were great years — but then a few tragedies happened: Google Reader came out, and then, almost worse, it went away. Worse still was the rise of Twitter and Facebook, when we decided it would be okay to give up ownership and let just a couple companies own our communication.
Even if those companies had the public interest in mind — and they most definitely do not — they hold far too much power over something too fundamental to give up: our own human voices.
Twitter and Facebook are convenient, sure, but so are fossil fuels, and the cost was similarly unknown for a long time. But now we have some idea just how bad these things are for the world.
Micro.blog rewinds us to 2005 (or pick your year) — but, also, it has learned the lesson that people really like a timeline of short posts. People like being able to write and reply easily to other people. Good to know!
When you post to Micro.blog, you’re posting to an actual blog with an RSS feed and everything. The blog might be hosted by Micro.blog, or it might be some other blog somewhere else. (Could be a WordPress blog, for instance.)
Your posts are just a normal, everyday part of the open web. At this writing, mine appear on micro.inessential.com — but it’s on my to-do list to have those appear on my main blog (this blog) instead. (Probably won’t happen until after I ship the app I’m currently working on.)
And this is how it used to be, and how it never should have stopped being: my blog is me on the web. I own my blog: I own me.
And so everyone who follows me on Micro.blog sees my blog posts, and I see theirs. Simple.
And anyone who wants to could just read my blog in an RSS reader instead. All good, all open.
Replies are a little trickier. (Micro.blog is not a finished thing — the-web-as-social-network is not a finished thing, and, we hope, never will be. That’s totally fine.)
Replies don’t appear on your blog (though this could become an option, I suppose) — but they are sent as a WebMention when possible, which means even replies are part of the open web. You can read more about replies and @-mentions on the help site.
I expect this area to get more work in the future, especially as it’s part of the key to making Micro.blog part of the great social network but not the great social network (the web itself).
The app in your pocket
If you’re running the Micro.blog app on your iPhone or Mac, it really does look like a slimmed-down Twitter. This is by design. But don’t let that deceive you.
If the web is a river, Micro.blog is water, where Twitter and Facebook are dams.
What about my Uncle Joe?
You might think this is too difficult for normal people, that it’s all too nerdy, and that it won’t make headway against Twitter, so who cares.
My reply: it’s okay if this is a work in progress and isn’t ready for everybody yet. It’s okay if it takes time. We don’t know how it will all work in the end.
We’re discovering the future as we build it.