15 Lessons From Anil

I’ve been trying to get back into the groove of more regular blogging. Like most habits, blogging is hard to keep up when you let the inertia of inaction take hold. Lately I’ve been trying to remind myself when I have a lively conversation with a friend, or when I start overloading Twitter with multiple tweets on the same subject, that I may as well use it as an opportunity to blog.

This ambition to blog more makes me especially receptive to rallying cries restating the value of blogging, especially when they come with advice for how to blog well. Anil Dash’s 15 Lessons from 15 Years of Blogging is full of observations and advice that ring true to me from my shorter yet still-significant blogging career. There are many gems here but I particularly like his emphasis on the difficulty of gauging the impact of a given post. Sometimes it feels like you’re sharing your thoughts with a black hole, but I’ve also experienced the phenomenon Anil describes:

The most meaningful feedback happens on a very slow timeframe. It’s easy to get distracted in the immediacy of people tweeting replies in realtime, but the reason I write is for those rare times, years later, when I get an email from someone I might only barely know, saying that something I wrote meant something to them.

The only thing Anil says that doesn’t ring completely true to me is his observation about blogging tools:

The tools for blogging have been extraordinarily stagnant. One of the reasons the art form of blogging isn’t particularly respected lately is because the tools essentially stopped evolving a decade ago.

At the very least I think this point needs elaboration: which tools in particular is he alluding to? I think the only reasonable interpretation is that he’s alluding to the hosted blogging services that facilitate “easy” blogging for the vast majority of people. 10 years ago, WordPress was still in its infancy, and my impression was that most people used (original) Blogger, Movable Type, LiveJournal, or Blosxom (a rudimentary text-based system) to share their thoughts.

The web interfaces to these early blog systems were laughably bad, so much that desktop apps like MarsEdit were celebrated essentially for simply providing a reliable text field in which to compose and send text to a blog. There was no Tumblr, whose interface was a revelation for many when it came on the scene and suggested that blogging could be something breezier than the pseudo-journalistic style that had been taken as the standard. Inclusion of photos or videos in blog posts was an insane exercise that only the most intrepid web-worker would dare to tackle. These days? Blog authors can easily share photos and videos from the palms of their hands, while riding a roller-coaster at Disneyland, before the ride stops.

Which is not to say that I think blogging tools are perfect. Far from it. As the developer of MarsEdit, my challenge is to observe the ways in which web-based tools fall short, and strive to fill those gaps with the native Mac-based app. Believe, me there are lots of shortcomings, but it’s also literally awesome how much the tools have improved over the years.

Because I work on a blogging tool, and because I’m friends with a lot of people who I will lovingly refer to as “internet hipsters,” I often get asked by these folks for whom blogging is old news, whether I think blogging is “on the way out.” Far from it, thanks in no small part to those massive improvements in blogging tools. In my experience from selling blogging software and from socializing in and out of tech circles, more people than ever are writing in blogs.

I regularly visit non-technical family in the rural midwest of the United States. Five years ago when I explained to them what I did for a living, the usual response I got was “what’s a blog?” or at best “how is a blog different from a newspaper?” They didn’t get the idea at all that a blog was something they could participate in personally. This year, one of those relatives finally started a blog of her own. And it’s good! Her dipping her toes into this “new” self-publishing platform will undoubtedly serve as a template for the rest of her friends and family. I’m sure we’ll continue to see a lot of new blogs and a lot of improvement to the current tools.

iPhone 5: A Form Factor Worth Keeping

Since I got my new iPhone 6 (not plus), my biggest concern has been the increased size. There are certainly things to like about the larger screen, but I am one of those people who looks at the phone primarily as something that empowers me to do great things with a minimum of extra weight or bulk. I don’t wear skinny pants, per se, but I don’t wear cargo pants, either. I like to have the phone at easy reach but I also like to travel light, and to move through life with a certain bounce in my step that makes me feel vulnerable with a larger phone.

With those biases in mind, I’ve noticed after a week of using the new iPhone 6 that in fact the pocket feel is not too much of a problem. The main time I recognize it is when I’m stepping over a baby gate in our house that requires me to lift one leg completely to the level of my waist. In this situation, the iPhone 6 in my pocket is stressed in a way that my iPhone 5 was not. I don’t think it’s going to bend or break, and sure, I could always just open the gate. But the point is this is impacting my life even if in a very minor way.

I am also an avid runner. Given my hesitation to carry bulky items, you might laugh when I admit that for years now I have been carrying my iPhone 4 and then 5 with me on all my runs. I used to carry an iPod mini but switched to the iPhone when my habit of listening to podcasts made it more frustrating to synchronize than to just carry the dang phone. Fortunately, a running belt like the Run Lite Pack makes this a relatively low-impact proposition. After getting in the habit of having the phone, of course it became both an occasional aid and a constant reassurance. I take sometimes long runs of up to 10 miles, and having access to the maps and phone for emergency purposes is a nice perk.

When the iPhone 6 arrived, one of the first letdowns I noticed was that it doesn’t really fit in the Run Lite Pack. I can fit it, but it’s awkward to squeeze in, and zipping the pouch feels like packing a suitcase where you have to sit on the top to get the zipper shut. Here was another real-life impact of the iPhone 6’s size. So I ordered this larger Nathan 5K running belt which I am assured will hold the iPhone 6 comfortably.

All of this finally got me thinking: why don’t I just use my iPhone 5 when I run? The original reason for carrying a phone was to make sure all my podcasts stayed in sync. With podcasting apps like Overcast that sync subscriptions and playback status, this should be possible across two iPhones. Unless I paid for an extra data plan for the old phone, I’d be stuck without maps when I get lost, but thanks to the emergency 911 support that carriers are required to provide even on deactivated phones, I would still have some reassurance of a lifeline in an emergency. It still fits easily in my running belt, and I am significantly less concerned about damages that might occur from impact or moisture.

But part of the rationale in upgrading to a new phone is often that the older phone can still be sold for some profit. There is probably at least $200 or more of value in my iPhone 5. Is it really worth hanging on to it just for the benefit of being able to easily fit a smaller phone in my running belt?

Now I start to think about the upcoming Apple Watch, and how I will almost certainly convince myself to buy one of those, as well. As you know, the Apple Watch is only moderately useful unless an iPhone is in close proximity. Importantly, the watch itself doesn’t have GPS support but relies upon the phone for this and other functionality. But these specific activities where GPS is valuable, are the same activities that tend to favor carrying a smaller phone. Thus, for sporting purposes, isn’t it lucky that the watch supports pairing with the iPhone 5?

Many of us have reacted with flip disdain for larger phone sizes, but as I said earlier most of the perceived problems have not turned out to be a problem for me thus far. The actual problems however are worth noticing, and will hopefully justify to Apple that a 4″ form factor is worth keeping for the long haul. I still haven’t decided whether to keep the iPhone 5 around “just” for the purposes of running and other sporting activities, but a theoretical 4″ iPhone 7 would certainly get my attention for all the benefits of a smaller size that I’ve described.


I’ve had a pretty successful life. I quit high school when I was 15 only to graduate from college when I was 20. I went straight from college to full-time employment at Apple, where I worked for around 7 years before leaving as a “Senior Software Engineer.” Not wanting to waste any more of my valuable, young life, I leapt from Apple to San Francisco State University, where I earned a second BA degree in Music. In the mean time, I started consulting and established what would evolve away from client work and into the software product company, Red Sweater Software, which sustains me and my family to this day.

In short, I’m a hotshot. When I put it all down in one paragraph like that, even I’m impressed by myself!

But if asked about my “biggest weakness” I would probably say it’s self-deprecation, because I tend to focus more on my own shortcomings than on my talents. I have always known that I am capable, but suffer a great deal of that hard-to-pinpoint impostor syndrome that afflicts so many people. Sometimes I wonder if giving a name to this “syndrome” is only a shorthand reminder that each and every one of us considers him or herself unworthy of credit for what we’ve achieved.

And yet some things I have felt unabashedly smug about over the years. For example, I have always valued my ability to “make things work” under tight constraints. That is to say, I will put almost anything off until the last minute, even if there is no rational reason for doing so. You could say I’m a procrastinator but I think it’s more complicated than that. Even tasks I look forward to and anticipate enjoying might be put off in the name of making them, I don’t know, more dramatic upon their completion? Under psychoanalysis this might reveal an affinity for the adrenaline rush that comes with “following through just in time.” Why write that school paper ahead of time when you can binge on reading and writing the night before it’s due? Why dig into tax-filing research in January when the (US) government gives you until April 15, or if you’re like me, until October 15 to finally file?

There’s something about the thrill of delaying action up until the edge of failure, only to follow through and complete a task in the nick of time, that makes me feel somehow more accomplished. More like a hotshot.

The unfortunate price for this “heroism” is needless anxiety in groping for essay ideas at 3AM, or racing to the post office at 11:50PM the night tax-filing postmarks are due. Or worse, if the hotshot-compulsion extends to one’s personal life, arriving a chronic 5-10 minutes late for appointments because you respect punctuality enough to aim for on-time, but because you value the thrill of last-minute travel sorcery just a tad more.

Lately I’ve become, on an intellectual level at least, increasingly convinced that real hotshots don’t complete tasks, solve problems, or meet acquaintances at the last minute. I’ve come to envy the folks who file taxes in February, and then proceed to enjoy spring and summer without the increasing weight of that obligation weighing on their shoulders. I respect the college student who studies, drafts, then rewrites an essay a week in advance, so they can truly enjoy their down time outside of class. And I see the Buddha-like wisdom of the person who compulsively leaves for every appointment ten minutes early instead of aiming for the precise moment of departure that will more-or-less ensure their timely arrival.

This post was completed at 5:59PM, because I gave myself 20 minutes to write it when I started at 5:40PM.

Breach Of Trust

There’s a spectrum, as with all things, to the reactions people have had to Apple’s promotional gifting of U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence.” On one end you’ll hear ridiculous, conspiracy-minded talk about how Apple has violated customer privacy by, you know, giving them a free album. On the other end you’ll hear ridiculous derision of anybody who, even upon careful reflection, finds fault with the way Apple and U2 carried out this PR stunt.

I tend to agree with Marco Arment’s take, both about it being a mistake to overlook the nuances of this situation, and that the nut of the problem, the part especially worthy of scrutiny by Apple’s fans, is the extent to which this move, and the threat of more moves like it, erodes our trust that the company has our best interests at heart.

Hold up a minute, I hear you choking on your disbelief that I could actually believe a giant corporation has my best interests at heart. I get it: to them, in the big scheme of things, I’m nothing. We’re all “nothing.” But their actions over the course of many years tell a different story. Whether they ultimately care about our interests or not, it has been a primary business practice to respect not only customer privacy, but customer primacy. It’s important to Apple that we trust them to safeguard our personal data, but it’s also important that we trust them to let us choose the desktop picture, the system beep sound, and the computer’s name. The notion that Macs, iPhones, and iPads are personalized devices runs deep in Apple’s history and remains a powerful marketing message.

So, many of the people who complained about the U2 album suddenly appearing in their “Purchased” list weren’t outraged by a petty act of gifting an album that they may or may not like. They were instead annoyed, and perhaps a little scared by the implication that Apple doesn’t respect the boundaries that separate “customer stuff” from “Apple stuff.”

I can’t help but draw a parallel between the ongoing debate about the merits of Facebook’s algorithmic timelines vs. Twitter’s (up to now) more-or-less self-curated timelines. Over the course of years, Twitter has trained customers to believe that we have control over our timelines, while Facebook has not. Does it matter in the big scheme of things if Twitter injects an ad here or there, or treats a friend’s favorited tweet as a retweet? Not really. In the same sense that it doesn’t matter much that Apple inserts an unwanted music album into your purchased list. But even a little move in a direction that threatens the primacy of users is a relatively big move for companies like Twitter or Apple, whose track records have inspired us to trust that we retain more authority over the personalization of these products than perhaps we do.

First Impressions

I recently bought my first TiVo (the baseline Roamio), and was excited to get it up and running so I could start collecting shows. I started the process last night and only finished this morning, after investing about 3 hours of my time. Granted, it didn’t help that I forgot to plug the coaxial cable in when I first turned on the machine, but everything that happened after that was a bona fide shit-show, from the cryptic error feedback of the device, to the hit-or-miss activation of the cable card, to the dreadfully long support call with Verizon.

Knee-deep in the trouble, I kept second-guessing my expectation that TiVo would actually turn out to be of value to me. Why was I investing hundreds of dollars into a product that treats me like a grade-A jerk from the start? Ardent fans of TiVo assure me that once it’s setup it truly is a better experience than most of the clumsy cable-company DVR boxes provide, but my confidence was eroded by a “first launch” experience that seemed hostile in every respect. I tweeted:

But as I’m also trying to turn over a new leaf with respect to blogging, I also added a note to my TODO list:

  • ▢ Blog about “the first launch”

The idea being, I bet I have plenty to say on this topic and I should sit down with MarsEdit and write about it! Great idea, except … I already did that six years ago. From the Red Sweater Blog’s Designing for the First Launch:

Every product has shortcomings that will cause some users to run away screaming. The best we can do is try, with each iteration, to make fewer and fewer people do so. If 100 people download your product, and 90 of them run away screaming after launching it once, then you’ve only got a chance of selling to 10 of them. We can assume that statistically, some fixed percentage of the people who remain will end up buying. So cut the flee factor down to 80 and you’ve just doubled your sales.

And my post was itself a response to Brent Simmons’s On the Design of the First-Run Assistant:

Present as little friction as possible—don’t overwhelm the new user so that he quits without trying the app. Ask for just the minimum required to make an account: username and password.

Given that I barely remember reading this, and barely remember responding to it, how likely is it that I’ve followed this sage advice over the past six years? Looking back at how MarsEdit treated new users then, compared with how it treats them now, I have definitely made some improvements, but these have come in fits and starts. There were long lulls during which I just took it for granted that the current “onboarding” experience was good enough, and focused on features that, unfortunately, will only be appreciated by users who don’t run away screaming.

My experience with TiVo, and review of these old blog posts, reminds me that good enough almost never is, and that the single most important feature of any app is keeping new users engaged long enough to appreciate the rest of them.

Apple Watch Pricing

Since Apple announced the Apple Watch yesterday, one of the main points of contention among friends and colleagues seems to be whether or not the base price, $350, is too expensive for it be a massive success.

First off, I think there is some good wisdom in the argument that as a 1.0 debut for a product line that Apple no doubt currently expects to spend years if not decades refining, it doesn’t matter all that much if it’s “too expensive” for the mass market.

One challenge in determining what the watch should cost is determining what other products it should be compared against. Apple presents it as a “smart watch”, a “fitness watch” and as a “fashion watch,” but I’m sure that aficionados of each category will find plenty of faults.

It’s not exactly a “fitness watch” because even the special sport model doesn’t appear to be as rugged or water resistant as watches designed specifically for that market. It also doesn’t possess its own GPS, so unless you’re planning to carry your iPhone with you on every adventure, it’s a poor competitor to dedicated navigation watches from e.g. Garmin. On the other hand, its passive activity collection features such as monitoring vigorous activity, heart rate, etc., set it apart from relatively simpler sport watches such as this Casio which itself breaks the $200 mark. It might not be such a stretch that a significant subset of the sports/fitness market will pay the extra $150 for the purported advantages of Apple’s UX design, activity monitoring, and integration with other Apple products.

The elusive “smart watch” category is so new it’s hard yet to even know what a smart watch should or shouldn’t do. When Google announced its Android Wear platform earlier this year, the watches it presented included fancy features like turn-by-turn mapping navigation, voice recognition, and integration with Android devices and the apps on those devices. Apple seems to be aiming for the same targets, but also adding novel additions such as the “digital crown” as a usability enhancement, and touchy-feely stuff like the ability to send Taptic pulses to your friends and loved ones.

As far as fashion is concerned, it appears that this is the niche in which Apple probably sets itself farthest away other sports or smart watches. Frankly, the Apple Watch looks pretty good to me. And it’s meaningful that Apple will offer a wide variety of bands and designs, such that it will be difficult to write off the whole line as “ugly” without thoroughly evaluating the options. But as attractive as it is, it’s bulkier than most watches worn purely in an effort to appear sleek or stylish. This is probably something that will change over time. I agree with Manton Reece, who quipped on our latest Core Intuition episode that he had no doubt in a year or two’s time we will be looking back at this debut line of Apple Watches as the relatively clumsy 1.0 releases that they are.

But here’s the thing about fashion watches: they get really expensive, really fast. I don’t think anybody who would consider Apple’s watch purely for its fashion appeal would blink twice about the price tag at $350. So to the extent that Apple can itself influence what is or isn’t “in style” for a certain subset of fashionistas, it seems realistic to expect that Apple will sell an awful lot of these to folks who don’t particularly care about the finer points of their functionality as a sports or smarts enhancement device.

I was intrigued to read this review by Benjamin Clymer (via Ryan Nielsen), who evaluated the Apple Watch from the point of view of a self-identified “watch guy.” He gushes about many aspects of the watch’s design, and perhaps more importantly, appreciates Apple’s apparent attitude in approaching that design. He senses that Apple has respect for the art of watchmaking, and I guess by extension, respect for watch lovers as well. Early in his review he jumps to what I think makes a great summary of his findings when he appreciates the “feel” of the Apple Watch:

The overall level of design in the Apple Watch simply blows away anything – digital or analog – in the watch space at $350.

If Benjamin’s impressions are at all shared by other watch-lovers who get their hands on Apple’s watches, it seems likely to me that it will be an outright success as a fashion watch. Bear in mind that people who wear a watch for this reason do not typically limit themselves to one watch. I’m not even a watch-lover, per se, but I own two watches that are nice enough to wear when dressing up a bit, each more suited to a different style of apparel.

I suspect that at least for the 1.0 release of Apple’s watch, few people will buy it as an outright sports or fitness solution, but many will appreciate those features after buying the watch primarily for its “smart watch” or fashion appeal. As a satellite device to an iPhone, $350 seems in the realm of palatability for most people who value the thrill of owning and using cutting-edge technology. And for anybody who senses the watches will fill a fashion void on their watch rack, $350 will seem like a steal.

For everybody else, who will continue to feel that $350 is an absurd price to pay for something with such little proven utility, and with so many compromises compared to other solutions? I’m sure the $99 Apple Watch is only a couple years away.

File A Bug

My friend Marco Arment laments that of the 15 bugs he’s filed since 2009, eight have been marked as duplicates, and seven have received no significant response.

Since 2009, I’ve reported 161 bugs. It’s much harder for me to do a stone-cold analysis of the results of my efforts. Yes, I’ve “wasted some time,” but often in the process of doing so I have also gained a deeper understanding of the problems I was reporting.

Having filed 161 bugs over six years, I can guarantee you that I’ve had far more bugs ignored or filed as duplicate than Marco has. I’ve had my share of bugs for which I’ve had to send back a sternly worded note to the bug screeners, implying in as polite a language as I could muster that they were not doing their jobs well.

I’ve also burdened Apple with a good number of false alarms: bug reports that I filed hastily only to discover were actually my own problem. Sometimes these were reported with confident, dismissive words that I later felt like eating. Sometimes I am not a great bug reporter.

And sometimes I am a great bug reporter. I’ve received notes of personal thanks on Twitter, via email, and in person at conferences such as WWDC. Engineers at Apple have said things such as “I wish all bug reports were as good as yours,” and “your bug report spelled out exactly how to fix the bug, so that’s exactly what we did.” I can’t remember a major OS X release when at least one of my reported bugs was not addressed during the beta release period, before the software ever saw the light of day. If we stretch the timeline back to 2008, I’ve even had the unexpected honor of being credited in a security update for what I thought was a simple networking bug.

I’ve had my share of frustrations with Apple’s bug reporting system, but I’m a developer. I can take it. I’m used to rejection. 9 times out of 10 when we developers press Cmd-R in Xcode to “Build and Run” our projects, they don’t even make it past the compile phase. But we keep trying. Why? Because we know how great it feels when we finally get something to work. We don’t need to be constantly reassured that we’re great, that our input matters, or that our concerns have been heard. Would it be nice? Sure. But so would Objective-C namespaces and a pony.

If we developers want Apple’s platforms to work as well as they can, the sad and short truth of the matter is we have to report bugs. If you’ve only reported 15 bugs over 6 years, as Marco has, I’m afraid to say that you haven’t done enough. To stand a statistical chance of either helping the cause or of being gratified by a personalized response, you’ll have to step it up, grin and bear the frustration and continue to press “Build and Run” on the Apple Bug Reporter and see what comes out the other end.

What Have You Been Working On?

In one week a huge number of Apple nerds will convene in San Francisco for the Worldwide Developer Conference and related festivities. As I did last year, I’ll be traveling for the event but whooping it up outside the walls of the official conference.

Around WWDC time, whether I’m attending or not, I always find myself taking stock of recent achievements. As my own worst critic, this usually isn’t very pleasant. Some of this introspection is rooted in the historic, vain hope that some of my work might one day be recognized by Apple in the form of an Apple Design Award. It’s not uncommon for developers to ramp up work schedules in January or so, in the hopes of putting the finishing touches on, and shipping, a major release in time to be considered for the prestigious honor. By the time WWDC comes along, you are either happy with what you have to show, or, well, you’re normal.

The truth is I have never expected to win an Apple Design Award, but I have often used it as as a kind of productivity hack: “Let’s see what I can get done by WWDC.” Until a few years ago, Apple required developers to nominate themselves for the award, so engaging in the process was a way of bringing into focus what kinds of achievements one might like to make by a specific deadline. These days, Apple simply selects from the vast selection of App Store titles (though I’m sure that private lobbying can’t hurt), so there isn’t as much of a concrete sense that one’s work is in the effort of qualifying for an award.

But even without an overt application process or a vague sense of possibly winning an award, I still find myself taking stock of recent achievements. Why? Because in San Francisco next week, five to ten thousand Mac and iOS nerds will be plucked from their usual, typically introverted lifestyles and given the opportunity to socialize with one another. And I will be among, and one of those nerds. When people who don’t know each other at all make uncomfortable small talk, the question of choice is often “What do you do?” For us nerds who know even a tiny bit about one another, it’s the more precise “What have you been working on?”

And that’s the kicker. What have I been working on? The answer is never any of the things that an outsider might admire and celebrate: a best-of-class blog editing app, a popular podcast or two, a job board, raising two beautiful children, or trying to be a good husband. Those are all things I have worked on, and continue to work on. And I’m proud of them. But in the context of this question, posed at a professional conference where I’m taking stock of what I’ve done and what I plan to do, none of these qualifies as what I feel I’ve been working on.

Because what I’m really working on is never ready to share. What I’m really working on may never ship. What I’m really working on is what gets me out of bed every morning, willing to bang my head in vain for hours in the hopes of chipping away at this monumental task that seems impossible and amazing, but maybe more the former than the latter. And when and if this thing does finally see the light of day, I will celebrate for a moment before quickly relegating it to the list of boring things I’ve already done, and set my sights on something else.

So when someone asks me again next week what I’ve been working on, I’ll be hard-pressed to think of anything interesting. I’ll hem and haw and reflect upon the year’s dubious achievements before muttering, “Oh, just the same old stuff. What have you been working on?”

Core Intuition Jobs

On Wednesday, my podcasting colleague Manton Reece and I launched a new site: Core Intuition Jobs.

I’ve been in the Cocoa business for a long time. I started to learn the frameworks at Apple in the early 2000s, and got more serious after leaving Apple and building up Red Sweater Software as a consulting business and then as a direct-sale software business. When I started looking for Cocoa jobs on my own around 2004, there was no go-to place to search, so I resorted to a series of Craigslist RSS feed searches, tuned to each of the major markets in the US where I anticipated jobs would show up. That was a real drag.

Ten years later, I am no longer in the market for jobs. But after all this time in the community, working as a developer, blogger, podcaster, and occasional speaker, I’ve gained enough of a reputation that other people ask me where to find the jobs. To make matters worse, employers also ask me where to find the talent. The terrible thing is after all these years the situation is not much different than it was in 2004. There are a heck of a lot more jobs, and there is a heck of a lot more talent, but neither knows how to efficiently find the other.

Core Intuition Jobs aims to solve this problem by becoming the go-to source for both employers and job-seekers in the Cocoa development market. Other sites like StackOverflow Careers take a stab at solving the problem, but they suffer from a problem in that they are too large, and serve too many different needs to be uniquely valuable to a niche market such as ours.

I was talking with my wife in the car today about the value of niche job listing sites, and she shared an insight that seems obvious in hindsight: job sites are like dating sites. Matchmakers. If you’re looking for a romantic partner, you’d like to think you’re choosing a service that is teeming with suitable partners, or at least happens by some circumstance or other to be used only by other people who have a higher than average chance of clicking with you. This explains the preponderance of specialized dating services such as Salon Personals (for “smart” people), JDate (for Jewish people), or Silver Singles (for “mature” people).

If you’re looking for a partner, the last thing you need is a single database of every unmatched person in the world. Questions of religion, sexuality, musical taste, politics, and affinity for long walks on the beach may help to narrow the overwhelmingly large field, but some of these categories are significant enough to people that they warrant organizing at a higher level.

Most employers who are seeking Cocoa developers, and most developers seeking Cocoa jobs, are frankly inflexible about one sticking point: the match must involve one Cocoa expert providing a Mac or iOS solution to one company. That’s it. Android, ASP.NET, Java, jQuery, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and so on need not apply.

Well, we launched Core Intuition Jobs on Wednesday and by my estimation it is already the go-to source for pairing Cocoa employers with Cocoa developers. Take a look and see the impressive list of companies with openings in North America, Australia, the UK, Germany, as well as a handful of “anywhere” listings. The calibre of the companies on the site is also staggeringly great. This is no run-of-the-mill list of Cocoa jobs, which is a good thing, because we have no run-of-the-mill audience of developers.

Apart from the number and quality of employers who have responded so quickly by listing positions, I’ve been thrilled by the response from developers who, regardless of whether they are actively seeking, see the jobs board as a gift from us to them. This is incredibly charming because we do see it as a gift, but we also see it as a business venture. We got tired of telling people, often friends, that we had no good advice for how to find or a fill a job.

At some point we took a step back and realized that we’re being asked from both sides, and with our unique position as the hosts of a popular developer-oriented podcast, we have the ability to fill this niche quite nicely. We can give the gift of connecting developers and employers who, up to now, have had no common meeting place to discover one another. In return, we expect to build the job board into a sustainable business that complements our indie software businesses and the podcast.

We are selling 30-day listings on the site at an introductory price of $100. After February 25 (Tuesday) the standard price of $200 goes into effect. Buoyed by the positive reaction over the first few days, we’re hard at work adding new features, particularly to facilitate better tracking of new listings by job-seekers, and considering options for employers who want to maintain a consistent presence on the board.

We’ve already made one improvement with the addition of an RSS feed, so you can keep on top of every new listing we add. We’ll also be building similar notifications into the @coreintjobs Twitter and ADN accounts.

It’s a big world out there, filled with many potential career partners. We’re doing our part to bring passionate Cocoa developers together with companies that are looking to shine on Mac and iOS. In 2014, there is finally a go-to source for Cocoa job listings, and Manton and I happen to run it.

Threes Scoring

I mentioned in my previous post about Threes that the game is seductive because it’s easy to do well as a beginner, but much harder to do “really well”. I also pointed out that looking at the Game Center leaderboard might give you an idea of how well you’re actually doing.

As much as I enjoy the game, there is a weakness in the way they neglect to connect you with your score as you play. I have found that after playing a relatively long game, I am very unlikely to have a good sense of how well I’m doing. You never learn you score until after you’ve lost and the final tally is made.

I was chatting with Manton Reece about the game and realized I didn’t even understand precisely how it was scored. I knew that the longer you played, and thus the more tiles you combine, the higher the score. And I knew that the scores seemed to get exponentially higher the longer you play. That is to say, if you combine 20 tiles you will have far more than twice the points you would have gotten by combining 10 tiles.

In short: the score goes through the roof quickly, and somebody on the Game Center leaderboard with a much higher score than you may not have survived all that much longer than you did.

Here’s my highest scoring game to date:

Skitched 20140211 160008

So how is it scored? The 2s and 1s are worthless, and the rest of the tiles are each valued based on the number of times it has combined with a pair. Specifically, the score is 3^N where N is the number of times it doubled since it was 3. For any face value “x”, the score is 3^(log₂(x/3)+1). So “3” is worth 3 points, “6” is worth 9, “384” is worth 6,561, and if you’re so lucky as to combine a given tile 11 times, the “6144” face value will earn you a whopping 531,441 points.

Here’s a handy chart, based on a WolframAlpha equation I hacked together:

Face Value:3612244896192384768153630726144
Point Value:3927812437292187656119,68359,049177,147531,441

So if you’re looking at a board with two 192 tiles on the verge of merging, the mere act of combining them will net you 2,187 points. As the game progresses, assuming you’re able to hold on to your high value tiles as you fend off the endless stream of smaller tiles, it’s easy to see how your score can balloon and ultimately catch up to the probably much higher scores you see on the leaderboard.

(If you want to read more about Threes scoring and also some general advice on gameplay, check out this article on Touch Arcade).

Addicted To Threes

While the rest of the world frets about the loss of Flappy Bird, some of us have become unexpectedly dependent upon a dazzling numerical puzzle game from Sirvo LLC called Threes.

I learned about the game through my friend Marco Arment, who gave a ringing endorsement of the game when he said it “doesn’t suck.” He’s right, in many, many ways. I was moved by his assessment to download and play the game. I’m glad I did, and I’m also devastated that I did.

It turns out Threes is a better game than I quite know how to comprehend. I want to play it again, and again, and again. It’s dangerous.

What is the secret sauce of Threes, and games like it? I’m not sure, but I have some impressions. If I were designing a game and I wanted to hope for anything near the irresistibility of Threes, these are the lessons I’d be taking from it:

  1. It’s easy to learn. The game has a brilliant interactive training mode that guides you through the simple rules that govern the game. Even a game with simple rules will be put aside if it takes more than a minute or two to learn, so luring folks in with a tutorial is a good call.
  2. It’s easy to “do well”. From the moment you start playing Threes you will find yourself making immediate, almost constant progress. The format of the game has smaller number tiles combining with one another from the very start, giving a fast-paced sense of progress that should thrill even novice players.
  3. It’s much harder to “do really well”. Once you’re hooked, you’ll find yourself trying to figure out what it was about your choices in one game that made you do so much better than you did in another game. And if, like me, you’re not some kind of cosmic genius, you’ll be intrigued to figure out what that is. I’ve been balancing my play between “having a good time” and “struggling to understand.” Sometimes the two do overlap. I’ve developed some techniques that seem to be effective, but on the whole I recognize there is a lot of room to grow. There is a lot to understand.
  4. It’s easy to get a reality check. Here’s a real kicker. If i were playing Threes in the privacy of my home without the benefit of Apple’s Game Center to let me know just how well my proud accomplishments stack up to friends and strangers, I’d be feeling pretty good. There’s even a chance that, without the knowledge of just how well other people are doing, I might reach a point where I convinced myself I had the game figured out. A quick glance at the high scores of my friends lets me know that I’ve figured out how to be relatively competent at the game (current high score: 9,132), but nowhere near as lucky and/or skilled as some friends and many strangers.

I’m sure these four points are the tip of the iceberg, but they are what stand out to me. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game is well-designed and adopts an honest business model (no ads or scammy upsells). The target audience for Threes is probably dramatically smaller than the audience of Flappy Bird, but especially for nerds or folks who just love a good numerical puzzle, Threes is a great value and an example of how great iOS games can be.