inessential by Brent Simmons

October 2016

The Man Party and the Woman Party

This weekend I voted — proudly, enthusiastically, and happily — for Hillary Clinton. It’s my third vote for Hillary this year, because Washington state is weird and has both a caucus and a primary.

I was struck this election by just how many women I voted for — more women than men. In many races, the choice was between a Republican man and a Democratic woman. It looked almost as if our parties are actually the Man party and the Woman party. (Even in the non-partisan races you could tell the party affiliation of most candidates.)

I voted for Pramila Jayapal to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District. She’ll replace the retiring Jim McDermott. I voted for Patty Murray, Gael Tarleton, Noel Frame, Tina Podlodowski, Pat McCarthy, Hilary Franz, Mary Yu, and Barbara Madsen. (I’m forgetting some of the races, surely — the actual list is longer.)

It feels, surprisingly, like a big relief. I’m a 48-year-old straight white male who’s done pretty well in life — which makes me part of the traditional ruling class, I suppose. It felt amazingly good to help make it so that people like me don’t have to be in charge of every damn thing. Why should we be? Why would we even want to?

PS How awesome is Mary Yu. She’s a judge with a name that sounds like “marry you” — and she opened her court at midnight to perform the first same-sex marriages in Washington State.

Surface Studio Notes

I’ve long thought that a desktop OS can’t be unified with a touchscreen OS. A desktop OS needs all kinds of things that touchscreen OSes don’t tend to provide.

In the Mac world that’s menus, AppleScript, multiple windows, drag and drop, and so on — all these things you need to be able to comfortably work eight hours and get a bunch of things actually done. Boring stuff, maybe, compared to the fun of iOS, but important stuff.

And especially you don’t need to be holding your arms up all day long to touch a screen.

Then Microsoft shows this video of the Surface Studio, and now I’m wondering.

* * *

What if — and it’s a big if — Microsoft made Swift a peer with C# and provided some good app frameworks?

Two things come to mind:

iOS developers are loosely tied to Apple. (I’m speaking generally, of course.) They love iPhones, but many of them came here from some other platform. They’ll go to whatever platform looks like fun and has some business opportunities. These developers tend to love Swift, and would be delighted to be able to preserve that investment in the language.

Mac developers, on the other hand, tend to be more closely tied to Apple. They’ve been doing development on Apple platforms since long before iOS. They’re more likely to stay put.

Except — and this part shouldn’t be underestimated — many of these Mac developers are here because Macs are the computer for creative professionals and artists. That’s what attracted us to Macs in the first place.

It’s more than a niche. It’s our identity as Mac developers: we write apps for people who make things. But what if the Surface Studio takes over as the computer for people who make things? And what if we could bring over some of our investment (such as learning Swift) with us?

I never thought to even consider that as a possible future.

* * *

Tomorrow’s going to be a weird day, as new Macs will inevitably be compared to the Surface Studio, on the Surface Studio’s terms.

Dogs and cats. The apocalypse. Zombie date night. It‘s all happening.

Dash and Apple’s Statement

Apple states that nearly 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected — and that they’d given the developer notice and had tried to resolve the issue with him.

If this is true, then it would be hard to say that Apple has done anything wrong. In fact, we want Apple to notice fraudulent reviews (since they harm consumers and other developers), get them removed, and work things out with the developer.

I don’t know what’s true here. It wouldn’t be right for Apple to make all the evidence public, and it wouldn’t be right for Apple to publish their correspondence with him. So it’s likely we won’t ever know more than we do right now.

Apple’s statement is consistent with Apple’s doing the right thing, though. There’s a very good chance that they are.

While Apple’s culture of opacity continues to bother me — enough so that I won’t put any of my own apps on an app store — I can’t say for sure that this is a case where they’ve mistreated a developer.

Apple’s Judicial System

(Update Oct. 10: see Dash and Apple’s statement.)

Apple has a judicial system — that is, they have a system where they make judgments and enforce penalties. It’s not a criminal judicial system, and so the state and federal laws that govern that system don’t apply.

Apple is allowed to run this system however they want to. And we can’t see in, so we don’t know how it runs.

But we have learned — in the case of Dash — that one of the features of the system is that Apple may accuse a developer of fraud, not provide any evidence to the developer, and then remove that developer’s apps, with no appeal allowed.

While this is legal, and within Apple’s rights, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from a moral judicial system. No matter what the context, we expect that the accused see the evidence against them, we expect avenues for appeal to be made available, and we expect proportional penalties.

Otherwise, here’s what happens: if you’re well-known enough and have a good app, other people will raise a fuss on Twitter and on blogs and possibly in the press, and maybe something will happen. Maybe.

That sucks. That’s a middle-ages way of handling things.

Apple is allowed to run it that way, if they want to. Of course. They own it.

But any adult would expect the same basic morality that people accused of crimes get: that is, again, the right to see the evidence against them, an avenue of appeal, and proportional penalties.

In the meantime, it’s our job to presume innocence in the absence of evidence. This is also a moral issue, and it’s true even if you’ve never heard of the developer.

Open Floor Plans

I don’t know if it’s true that Apple’s new campus will be mostly open floors with few offices. But it is true that I could never work without my own office.

Like almost everybody at Omni, I have my own office. We also have lounges with chairs and sofas, and some people work in the lounges some or all of the time. Everyone’s different.

Here’s why I work in an office: when I’m around other people — it doesn’t matter who they are — I feel a constant low-simmering level of anxiety. And I find it extremely difficult to be productive when I feel any level of anxiety at all.

I’m a nerd, and this is something a good number of nerds put up with. It doesn’t go away over time.

When people who decide on workspaces for programmers don’t understand this, I wonder if they understand programmers.

[Sound Off] Childcare at AffectConf 2016

Sound Off is raising money for childcare at Affect, a new conference in Portland. The goal is to pay for two childcare providers by raising $2400.

Here’s the thing: everybody who wants to should be able to go to conferences. Everybody should be able to learn things, meet new people, and help other people.

Just because you have a child who needs care shouldn’t disqualify you. Simple as that.

Affect is a “2-day event about the work, culture, and design of social change.”