The Problem with Free Software →

David Chartier:

It's far too difficult to find sustainable plugins with the features I need, and even when I do, they were most likely abandoned at least five months ago because the developer got an actual job or understandably grew tired of entitled freeloaders demanding features without offering any kind of financial support to keep the project alive.

How Teens Use Social Media Differently →

Andrew Watts, a teen, breaks down how his generation views all of the different social networks. Here are my highlights:

Facebook:

It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can't really leave.

Instagram:

Facebook gets all of the photos we took — the good, the bad, etc—while Instagram just gets the one that really summed up the event we went to. It is much more selective, and honestly people spend more time on the captions to make them relevant/funny.

Snapchat:

Snapchat is a somewhat intimate network of friends who I don't care if they see me at a party having fun. [...]

There aren't likes you have to worry about or comments—it’s all taken away. Snapchat has a lot less social pressure attached to it compared to every other popular social media network out there. This is what makes it so addicting and liberating. If I don’t get any likes on my Instagram photo or Facebook post within 15 minutes you can sure bet I'll delete it. Snapchat isn't like that at all and really focuses on creating the Story of a day in your life, not some filtered/altered/handpicked highlight. It’s the real you.

Tumblr:

Tumblr is like a secret society that everyone is in, but no one talks about. Tumblr is where you are your true self and surround yourself (through who you follow) with people who have similar interests. It’s often seen as a “judgment-free zone” where, due to the lack of identity on the site, you can really be who you want to be.

Why Apple Fans are So Loyal →

Neil Cybart:

There has been a trend to either mock, or make fun of people, that want to buy products simply because a certain company makes them. Some will say this type of buyer is being guided by marketing, or is just a follower, but in reality it comes down to trust. Many people trust Apple. It is this very important connection with users that will likely get people to at least try the Apple Watch, and for Apple that is the best outcome they can wish for.

It's the same thing as fans pledging on Kickstarter for a new album by their favorite indie musician. Fans don't know exactly what they'll be getting but they trust it will be as good as past albums.

My Homescreen (Sept 2014)

I've been switching around my homescreen a lot since I got the iPhone 5s. Here are some quick notes on my latest iteration:

  • Only one page for my homescreen.

  • Dark wallpaper for slightly better battery life.

  • I love keeping the bottom row of folders and the homescreen empty. It feels more spacious and gives me a natural place to swipe when I want to go to the next page.

  • I spent a lot of time organizing my less-than-important apps into four folders.

  • "Camera" folder is mostly for photo editing.

  • For the "Personal" folder, the general idea is, "If I had a personal assistant to help me organize my life, what apps would I have to give her access to?" So these apps would include: messaging, Dropbox, to-do lists, calendars, and online banking.

  • "Media" folder is for anything non-essential that I'll read, play, or watch.

  • "Utilities" is for everything else, including navigation apps.

  • My most frequently-used messaging apps get a spot on the homescreen so their badge notifications keep me up-to-date.

  • The four apps in the dock are by far my most frequently used apps.

  • Photos app gets a spot on the dock because, with iOS 8 especially, I do all of my photo touch-ups there.

  • Phone app is under the Personal folder. I'm not much of a phone person. 85% of my calls are to my parents and my brother, whom I just call via Siri.

  • Tweetbot is my primary method of keeping up with breaking news, tech bloggers, friends, and NBA news. (I have separate Twitter accounts for each and just swipe-left on Tweetbot’s navbar to switch accounts.)

  • Reeder is mostly for following blogs and articles that aren't news-breaking, e.g. Lifehacker.

  • Waze is placed near the top-right for easy thumb access while I’m driving.

Tweet me for any questions! @meltajon

The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain →

Former Apple Genius, Scotty Loveless, shares his insights on iOS battery drain from his two years of working as an Apple Genius.

Two things stuck out to me:

I have confirmed this behavior on multiple iPhones with the same result: percentage points actually increase after disabling these background functions of Facebook.

After iOS 7's changes to multitasking, this sheds some light for me:

By closing the app, you take the app out of the phone's RAM . While you think this may be what you want to do, it's not. When you open that same app again the next time you need it, your device has to load it back into memory all over again. All of that loading and unloading puts more stress on your device than just leaving it alone. Plus, iOS closes apps automatically as it needs more memory, so you're doing something your device is already doing for you. You are meant to be the user of your device, not the janitor.

The truth is, those apps in your multitasking menu are not running in the background at all: iOS freezes them where you last left the app so that it's ready to go if you go back. Unless you have enabled Background App Refresh, your apps are not allowed to run in the background unless they are playing music, using location services, recording audio, or the sneakiest of them all: checking for incoming VOIP calls , like Skype. All of these exceptions, besides the latter, will put an icon next to your battery icon to alert you it is running in the background.

Tech I Couldn't Live Without in 2013

As part of my annual tradition, here is a list of my favorite apps, services, and tech products that I used throughout 2013.

Read More

Why I'm Team Instagram Direct

I've been using Snapchat for the past few months, and admittedly, it took me a while to "get it." The more I used it, I realized it's a nice way of sending photos to close friends for those "Hey I saw this and thought of you" -type moments

But then I started adding more friends. And the more friends I added, the more random, impersonal, obviously mass-sent messages started coming my way.

Most of these messages were things I'd scroll past if they were on my Instagram timeline. But no, because it was Snapchat, I'd receive a push notification for every single one. Every single selfie. Every single low-quality food porn pic. Every single video from a club that is too dark and too loud to provide any value.

It just got too annoying.

Thankfully, Instagram Direct is here and there are a few key differentiators that make it more suited for me.

Read More

Experiment: Replacing RSS with Twitter Lists

From your 286 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 20,643 items…Since Oct 14, 2011 you have read a total of 300,000+ items.

That's pretty ridiculous, lol.

I've always been OCD about trying to read every single headline that comes my way. I've gotten pretty good about skimming through my Google Reader inbox, starring interesting articles to when I get home.

But as I'm getting deeper into my career, I've finding it harder and harder to keep up.

I think now is the time for me to let go of my must-read-everything OCD and just treat news as a "stream." As a stream, news will constantly float by and if something catches my eye, I'll Instapaper/Pinboard it.

With the inevitable end of Google Reader coming in the next couple months, I'm looking at this as an opportunity to break this habit. Here's what I'm gonna do:

  • unsubscribe from all major tech sites, including TechCrunch, Engadget, Mashable, and ArtTechnica.
  • create a "Tech" Twitter List and add all the major tech sites' Twitter accounts
  • on Tweetbot, keep three columns open: Personal Friends, Bloggers, Tech.
  • on Google Reader, only subscribe to blogs that don't update on a regular schedule.
  • on TweetDeck, have all three Twitter Lists open and have them pop up as Growl Notifications.

With this setup:

  • I'll cut back on an average of 300 RSS items per day.
  • I'll still be able to keep up with the less-active blogs.
  • with Growl Notifications and TweetDeck, I'll occasionally catch breaking tweets as they happen.
  • Any tweets I miss from Growl, I'll easily catch up on with TweetBot.
  • If news truly is breaking, people in my Bloggers Twitter List will be retweeting/talking about it anyway.

Let's see how this goes.

View @meltajon/lists

By Design →

Steve Sinofsky:

When using a competitive product you need to use it like it was intended to be used by the designers. Don’t get the product and use the customization tools to morph it into the familiar. Even if a product has a mode to make it work like the familiar (as a competitive bridge they offer) don’t use it. Use native file formats. Use defaults in the UI and functionality. Follow the designed workflow. They key is to let loose of your muscle memory and develop new memory.

Scratch out the word "competitive" and this argument is still pure gold.

I used to be the type that would customize the hell out of my computer. Customizing, hacking, tweaking...doing everything I could just to get things exactly the way I wanted.

But over time, I'd notice that my favorite third-party hacks would get updated less and less. Next thing I know, it'd just stop working. I'd find myself completely dependent on a hack that no longer existed.

That's when I learned to stop tweaking my software and start using things as designed.

Appreciate the design. Enjoy the reliability of a native solution. If you're gonna grow dependent on a feature, let it be a native feature that is here to stay and you know will be improved over time.

Good software is opinionated software. It should work great for people that share the same opinions as the designer.

Tech I Couldn't Live Without in 2012

  • Mac mini with 1TB Fusion Drive — For a $1,100 Mac, this baby is FAST. It gives me all the performance I need to open large Photoshop files while coding sites, and plenty of space for my massive iPhoto library.

  • iPhone 4S — My iPhone is my communications hub where all of my notifications are pushed to. And the outstanding 8 megapixel camera lets me capture precious moments that I want to carry with me for the rest of my life.

  • iPad mini — For a few months, I was iPadless because I sold my first-gen iPad in anticipation of the mini. What happened? I compensated by overusing my 4S, which had a significant affect on battery life. I see my iPad mini as my primary mobile consumption device, and a way to "extend" the battery life of my iPhone.

  • Google — Chrome has the right balance of feature robustness and simplicity. Gmail is still king of email. Google Reader is an absolute must-have (I don't care if bloggers say Twitter is the new RSS). Google Voice development has been extremely stagnant for the past couple years but having web access to all of my text messages has saved my ass countless times.

  • Flipboard for iPad/iPhone — still, by far, the best way to stay up-to-date with Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Tumblr.

  • Instagram — If I had to give up all social networks except one, I would keep Instagram. It's by far the most personal social network out there because everyone post things that make them happy, unlike Twitter/Facebook where some people only use for passive-aggression, bitching and whining.

  • Tweetbot for iPad — the best Twitter app out there. For me, the killer features are cross-device placeholder syncing (i.e. Tweet Marker) and being able to retweet as a different Twitter account.

  • ProCamera for iPhone — This is my secret weapon for taking great photos. Specifically, I love how I can lock exposure and enable image stabilization with one hand for close-up shots (e.g. food, lol).

  • Facebook — Simply because all of my friends are on it. Most of my friends don't have Twitter so Facebook is still the best way for me to reach everyone in my life.

  • Pinboard — This has become a big part of my consumption workflow. When I find an interesting link on Tweetbot or Chrome, I'll save it to Pinboard, which will push to my Google Reader via RSS to read for later.

  • Instapaper — While Google Reader is my inbox, Instapaper is my "Save for Later" bin where I'll dump long articles that aren't time-sensitive. Recently, it's been filled out with a lot of How To's and Quora posts.

  • Dropbox — I always need a way to share large files across people and devices. Been a loyal user since 2006.

  • Drafts App — This summer, I retired my iOS app experiment, PostMate for iPhone. Drafts shares the same workflow as PostMate for quickly drafting and sharing text, but supports a lot more external apps/services.

  • Backblaze — online backup solution. This thing has saved my ass a few times this year.

  • Bitcasa — infinite online storage. It's still in beta but I've been dumping a TON of stuff on here. I don't put anything mission critical on here because it hasn't earned that much of my trust yet, but for now, I use it to store things like movies, TV shows, etc.

  • Imgur — Tumblr used to be a very important source of entertainment for me but I figured out that 90% of viral posts on Tumblr come from Imgur. Now I just go straight to the source.

Honorable Mentions: ForkLift for Mac, DayOne, Slingbox, Siri, iTunes Match, Skype

Heating Up for 2013: 1Password, Pinterest, App.Net, New Myspace, GitHub

Cooling Down: Tumblr, Trillian, Voxer

Dismissed: Path, because none of my actual close friends are on it.