Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: February 2012
No, not the angst that comes with a 2-6-1 roadie. And not even the literal pain that Todd McLellan is dealing with after getting smacked with a stick early in the second period.
Because of on top of all that, on top of the fact theyâ€™ve been on the road since before Valentineâ€™s Day, the Sharks are not flying home as planned tonight.
Mechanical trouble grounded their charter plane and theyâ€™ve all been brought back to their usual hotel in St. Paul, which luckily had not filled the necessary 40 or 50 rooms.
How about those Sharks?
Two losses to end the nasty 9 game road trip; they had a chance to turn this trip into a mediocre one, and ended up turning it into a disaster. You now have to look at this team and seriously think “given how the western conference is playing out, they could miss the playoffs”.
I can’t figure out why. the word being used by the team and players is “fragile”, and that’s true — when a mistake happens or a bad bounce, this team freaks out a bit, and suddenly they’re down a couple of goals. Niemi is off, can’t find his game; at least Griess seems to be stopping the stoppable goals.
I don’t know why this team is like this. The core players haven’t been like this in the past. They haven’t tuned out the coaches, they aren’t pissed at the GM, they are playing hard — just not playing smart. They seem (mostly) to play late parts of the game hard and intense, it’s starts that are killing them. Or in Minnesota, a good start, but they had about 3 minutes in the third where they gave up a couple of goals. They don’t play 60 minutes of good hockey, and playing 45 minutes kills in this league.
I said earlier in the week I expected Wilson to make a trade to shake up the chemistry. I’m more convinced now something needs to be done. The scary thing is that I’m not sure the coach or GM knows why things are off, or how to fix it. The players definitely don’t — they seem mystified as to why they’re this way. It’s not lack of interest or effort. It’s lack of sharp focus and execution. And that’s not necessarily easy to fix.
Maybe a shinto priest for an exorcism. If things weren’t bad enough, tonight the coach gets brained by a stick and knocked out (thank god is wasn’t WORSE than that, but there were five minutes there when I was wondering if this team had stressed him into a heart attack), and now, the plane breaks, and they can’t even get home until tomorrow. So even the hockey gods seem pissed at the Sharks right now.
Laurie turned to me tonight and said “I am so glad we don’t have season tickets this year, because if we were paying $100 a seat to watch this hockey, I’d be really pissed”. And she’s right. I miss the folks we used to sit around; I don’t miss dragging my butt to the arena 35 times a year and all of the disruptions that imply — and I don’t miss being in the arena for the games. I do still love the team and the game, but I’m really enjoying being able to not worry about it until game time, turning on the TV, and if they mess it up, pulling out a book or the iPad and multitasking around itâ€¦ And the way they’re playing hockey this year makes that decision seem even smarterâ€¦.
In any event, the road trip is done. Well, the last road game is done for this trip. hopefully the team can get home. Unfortunately, they haven’t shown that “home” is a fix of this, eitherâ€¦
And now, to the trade deadline. I wonder who won’t be in teal on Tuesdayâ€¦
There’s a kerfluffle going on with the Apple App Catalog over “crap app”, which is a bit of a misnomer because the primary anger is being aimed at developers who build apps aimed at grabbing money with poorly designed copycats of more famous apps. Sort of like what Zynga now does for a living, but not on Facebook.
What caught my eye were phrases being thrown about like “Appleâ€™s missed opportunities to prevent disaster were such simple and quick fixes”, which, once I stopped laughing, made me want to cry in sympathy.
It’s not simple. It’s not quick. If it was, Apple would be doing it.
In my previous life, I was involved in these issues on a regular basis. Before we hired our App Review gods and goddesses, I didn’t duck fast enough and got do do that as well. I was in on the discussions with the lawyers setting up the rules early on; I was consulted (as the voice of the developers and official tie breaking vote when needed) on apps we weren’t sure passed the smell test on whether they should be published.
So I can pull out and play the “been there, done that, no T-shirt” card here.
And the reality is, it ain’t easy. And what Apple probably would LIKE to do it probably can’t, and would open itself up to various legal challenges and a whole can of really foul tasting worms.
Your first problem: one of the underlying concepts of the DMCA process that gives companies a safe harbor is that they take a hands off approach to the content. There are some broad areas where exceptions to this are carved out, especially around adult content, and there are some areas where companies have decided to do some broad fireaxe enforcement like the “make me rich, do nothing” apps. But the reality is, once you start policing content, you start opening yourself up to liabilities on all of the content you do not police. It can even cost them the safe harbor, and then the entire app store infrastructure could be at risk.
So you have to be really careful how and where you do your enforcement and bans, and you have to do these things such that you minimize opening yourself up to legal or PR fights over “you did that, why aren’t you doing this?” as well. These quickly turn into scenarios that make lawyers wake up screaming. And situations that boil down to “he’s ripping off this other person” become entirely subjective, and as a reviewer, you can make jokes about the app (privately), but you can’t reject it for that — until someone files the complaint of infringement. There’s a legal protocol defined here, and if you cross that line and start pro-actively rejecting apps, you are buying yourself and your company a whole lot of legal indigestion.
There’s just a wide swath of things that a company like Apple really can’t (and shouldn’t) do, and if they DO, they’ll end up getting yelled at. Think back over the last couple of years over every time an App doesn’t get through the review process into the catalog, and the developer complains, and everyone gets up in arms over “big brother Apple” and yells for a while. And here we are, calling for Apple to do MORE big brother stuff.
Apple is in a no-win situation here. Because you know if they did start being more pro-active here, it’d just feed the “apple is big brother” screamfests instead.
Apple has a serious problem on their hands, and it is one they need to fix it as soon as possible. No, this isnâ€™t a diatribe about the lack of Flash on the iPad. And, no, this isnâ€™t about the need for an SD Card slot for iOS devices. Instead this is an issue that Appleâ€™s biggest ally â€“ iOS developers â€“ are complaining about, one that hurts the user, and one that could end up damaging the iOS ecosystem more than any set of labor issues ever could.
The issue we are facing, is the proliferation of scamming apps.
First, Apple needs to cut off the funds. Taking the approach of going to the root of the problem, Haddad noted that if Apple â€œmakes it clear that if you try to defraud customers, then you arenâ€™t going to get any money. If thereâ€™s not any financial incentive to scamming then itâ€™s very likely that most of the problem will just go away on its own.â€ This would likely cut out most of the scam apps from the App Store.
As soon as you start touching money, it gets even nastier. So, if Apple cuts them off and doesn’t give them the money, then what? Apple keeps it? refunds it? If you refund it, what do you do with everyone who wants refunds for apps THEY feel are scams, but Apple doesn’t agree? What do you do about all of the people demanding refunds, and because the only way to get a refund is to have it declared a scam app, starts complaining that everything they decide they don’t want is a scam app?
This is a a PR and customer support nightmare. trust me on that. Even in a “no refunds for whatever reason” policy app catalog, refunds are a horror. This just makes it even more of a horror, because now a chunk of users will try to wedge what they want into this policy to get what they want.
Only real solution? How about a “refunds for seven days” for any app users don’t want? Developers, do you really want to go down that path? Apple would have to hold funds another 30 days or so before sending them to you to avoid having to claw them back. Users could pay for an app, use it a while, then get their money back; free seven day rentals of your full function app, effectively. if I were a game developer and Apple proposed this, I’d be headed to cupertino with torches and pitchforks. Be careful that the “fix” doesn’t create an even nastier problem.
However, in between the time that scammers hit the Top 100 and the time Apple is issued a takedown notice, many users can get irritated by the lack of quality apps in the store. To mitigate this problem, Haddad recommends that Apple start to curate the Top 100 list beyond automating it based on sales.
And whatever policy Apple implemented on this, it’d create a firestorm, because “the fix is in!” because it is.
The core problem here: Crap apps are like porn. everyone has their own definition (which overlaps in many, but not all, places), and everyone sees what needs to be stopped as obvious. And however you define these rules, it’ll piss off enough people that the firestorm will probably be continuous.
The real question is what happens if Apple does nothing and continues to use their flawed policies. It hurts the user, who loses their money. It hurts the overall App Store ecosystem, as people stop trusting the look of applications, decreasing sales. Finally and most importantly, it hurts the developers, who have to fight harder for users, as user trust will continue to decline. There are any number of end-game results, and none of them are good. Apple needs to nip this in the bud now, before it gets any worse.
All of which are to some degree true. But be aware of fixes that actually create different, bigger problems.
A Beefed Up Fraud Team: I can only speculate at the size and competency of the App Store fraud team,
Is this fraud? If an app developer’s intellectual property is infringed, the DMCA process already exists to mediate that conflict and take it to a resolution. This isn’t Apple’s responsibility to deal with pro-actively, it’s the developer. If the developer initiates a complaint, there’s a (long, complex and ultimately off to the courts to decide) process to follow. It works, and it actually takes into consideration the issues of BOTH sides of the complaint a lot better than ACTA or SOPA ever didâ€¦ Apple’s IP isn’t impacted here, so it has to stay out of it. As a developer, you need to work the system to protect your IP. Apple won’t (can’t, and shouldn’t) babysit for you.
Automated Returns: What I canâ€™t fathom is Appleâ€™s refusal to automatically refund all customers who were defrauded of their money. There have been hundreds of open and shut cases, and to this day Apple requires customers to jump through hoops and phone calls (in 2014!) to receive refunds. This is insanity.
Discussed above. Ask a high end department store about women “renting” dresses for parties to see how much fun a relaxed refunding system would be for developers. Especially game developers. Be wary of what you ask for.
Video Previews in the App Store: Requiring a short video demo of the app in action would have prevented the common scam of providing one or two misleading screenshots to fool browsing customers.
Hah! we did that. It works great! Apple should. seriously. Or you can post them to Youtube or Vimeo now, and link to them in your marketing material. Seriously, this is a great idea. It works. If you aren’t doing free trials or screen videos of your stuff (especially games) you’re missing a great marketing opportunity. Ways to enable this by Apple would be a nice addition.
Better Education of App Store Customers: Much like the fashion industry, the App Storeâ€™s plague of knockoffs created a problem of uneducated customers unable to recognize the real thing vs. the counterfeit until after the sale.
“educating the customers” is something people have been advocating forever. And it always fails, because there’s always a subset of them who can’t or won’t be educated. Which doesn’t mean you don’t do it, because to the degree you can do it, it reduces your problems. But — it won’t solve your problem. Just reduce it.
The App Store could have done a better job profiling quality studios and developers, beyond highlighting individual apps, and rewarded those who built an ongoing track record and reputation. Not just developers, but App Store customers as well, to weight their reviews and ratings.
In my previous life, I designed a neat social system to do just that, and couldn’t get the people who should have been interested to care. Heck, I sat in meetings with product managers where I had to explain why pulling an app from the catalog if ONE PERSON flagged it as offensive was a bad, bad idea. And I had to argue about that multiple times.
But heck, I still have the design, and I do think a self-regulating community could moderate a lot of these problems if properly implemented. It’s too bad we never got past “I think we should have a LIKE button” in my previous life. And I’m open to discussing this with the “right people” if they want my advice. You know how to find me (or send me a linkedin).
Automated self-policing policies are the right answer here, if done well. If done badly, don’t bother.
The big problem in all of this? Discovery in an app catalog ecosystem still sucks. We didn’t solve that problem. Apple has made some progress, but it’s still very much not a solved problem. And it won’t be any time soon. Because it’s hard. And that’s why when I see phrases like “simple and quick”, I laugh, to hide the tears. buy me a couple of beers, I’ll show you the scarsâ€¦ As a developer, frankly, you should know better than play the “how hard can it be?” game, because isn’t that what your non-developers friends say about that new feature they want you to add to your app?
If it was easy, Apple’d have done it by now. Seriously.
(hat tip: Daring Fireball for the links to these)
When I first saw what Apple was doing with the sandbox and the restrictions it causes, my guess was that they’re setting these restrictions up for something else — and it seems to me the most likely thing is there’s some new product line coming (next gen apple TV box, perhaps?) and if your app is compliant with the sandbox restrictions, it’ll work on this new device, day one.
So what they’re really doing is getting app developers writing for this new product line, without telling them that’s what’s going on. IF you fit within this box, you’ll fit on this new thing, whatever it is.
Just thinking out loud. But that seems very much like Apple.
At its best sandboxing is a means for app developers to faithfully state their intentions in a manner that can be evaluated by users, and also be reliably enforced by the operating system. So if your new â€œFun on Facebookâ€ app declares its intention is to connect to the web, you might judiciously allow it. If it says it needs to write files to the root of the filesystem, youâ€™d be wise to search for another app.
Sandboxing on the Mac works by providing developers with a standardized list of â€œentitlementsâ€ which are clear descriptions of things it would like to do on your Mac. Examples include: access the internet, read files from your Pictures folder, print things on your printer.
The number one broken thing about sandboxing as it stands today, is the list of entitlements is simply too limited. Many apps on the App Store, including my own, will need to have their functionality considerably diminished, or in some cases made outright useless, in order to accommodate the available list of entitlements that sandboxing offers.
When you agree to upload an address book en masse, you ignore this mish-mosh collection of agreements and are treating that data as if itâ€™s yours, when it absolutely isnâ€™t.
So, what do we do? Weâ€™re not going to come up with some magical replacement for good olâ€™ contact cards â€” itâ€™s been tried before, and always falls to simplicity.
And if you stop to think about it, the company that understood this was Facebook, and it got roundly criticized by many in the tech elite for trying to limit people’s ability to slog this data around from service to service.
This was also something we tried to manage in Synergy in webOS, and we got roundly criticized for it, as well, because the mental model most people has is “my address book”, and it was a point of — discussion — I had with users and developers on a regular basis, because our decision to tie records to the service they came from made sense in some ways, but made it difficult to build the kind of PIM services people wanted. And part of the reason they wanted them was because those services existed long ago on Treos running webOS, and they couldn’t understand why they didn’t exist on webOS.
I’m not pretending that we got it 100% right (I don’t think we did, not close), but this is a problem that didn’t exist in the days of the Treo, where data didn’t live on 30 different services with 30 different terms and conditions.
This is a cat that needs to be belled, but I haven’t seen a mouse able to get close yet. Plaxo dealt with some of the micro issues, but not the macro challenges. The fact is, this is all brand new, and the rules of engagement (and disengagement) in a world where data is hyper distributed and not easily controlled by the owner.
And that’s my view of this — it doesn’t matter that the data lives in your address book, or on google, or iCloud or yahoo or wherever. It’s still MY data, even if I gave you permission to store a copy for your use. I should have the right to say how that’s to be used, and how it can be shared. Or whether.
Which means there needs to be some way to infinitely distribute that data while still having that data check with some authoritative point for both updates and access authorization.
You really want to be the service that controls (and monetizes) someone’s online identity? Solve that problem, and we’ll all use your service to manage how people access our personal information.
And until that happens, these fights and challenges will continue…
Apple can take all that address book data and make a real social platform out of it, adding features like two-way friend confirmation, blocking users, public profiles, photo sharing, activity streams, whatever. Then, one click could let you import all that stuff, especially all those existing friend relationships, into apps. Eventually, this could even become a standalone social network service, like Facebook. Maybe call it “Friend Center”.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of social apps for Apple’s iOS platform. Many of its most popular apps are owned by social networks, including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. And many of its top games are social, too, ranging from “Words With Friends” to multi-player card games.
I think this is a great idea. I don’t see it happening.
There’s a problem here. You can’t build social networking systems if you don’t understand social networking. If you try, you get — Ping. You get Google Wave. You get Google Buzz.
Google finally figured that out, and put work into changing the corporate DNA and getting people in who saw these things as social systems and not engineering systems, and I think Google+ is a good system that’s getting better (it’s interesting to live in two worlds and hear both sides of the Google+ story — the geeky elite seem to put it down a lot, and the photographers caught on to it early and love it (I lean towards the Photographer opinion, for what it’s worth).
Google, though, is further down the social path than Apple. They at least grok the need to converse with users and be part of the social space, and they have done a fair amount of blogging (corporate and personal) and while Google Groups needs a massive makeover, well, Apple Groups are, umâ€¦ And where is Apple’s presence in their own support forums?
Steve was simple not interested or supportive of the core of the social phenomenon, which was talking to customers. You can’t control a conversation, and Apple was about control. You can join into a conversation, you can influence it, you can do a lot of things, but you can’t control it. And so, Apple was never IN the conversation.
I expect this will change under Tim Cook, but the DNA to be successful in this is missing from Apple even more than it was missing from Google when they thought Buzz was the answer. There are people at Apple who would love to do these things, but I think it’s going to require big attitude shifts within the company, and an influx of people who can both understand the Apple way of things and mindset AND social systems before you have a hope of something like this happening. Which to me means it’s easily a few years off. And people who can translate social systems into something that won’t give Apple hives (and work to transform Apple into a mindset that will work in a social universe, too). I think this shift is necessary; this “snow blind” issue of Apple and social systems is a place where I think Apple’s success is at risk; it’s a way for a competitor to shift the market away from Apple in a way that Apple can’t compete with, similar to the way Apple used the iMac and design esthetics to do that to Microsoft in a way Microsoft couldn’t understand how to react to. Not an easy task, but it’s where I see a big vulnerability to a market disruption that Apple can’t fight.
This isn’t new. It was one of the things I was pushing to people who would listen, way back before I left Apple.
2) Community architect for iTunes. This is one I actually had some discussions about. Maybe youâ€™re familiar with Pandora or last.fm? One of the questions Iâ€™ve had since the start of iTunes (and the Clear-Channel-ification of broadcast radio) was how people found out about new and interesting music. Itâ€™s sure not on broadcast radio any more, especially here in Silicon Valley. Pandora and last.fm are heading in that area â€” but what if you could turn the iTunes community into a real recommendation service? And how would you do it? there are some very simplistic tools in iTunes today that are â€œvery Amazonâ€ and not â€œvery communityâ€ â€” and theyâ€™re nice, as far as they go. I felt that there was a lot of opportunity to build something really sharp and best of show. There was definitely interest among some folks inside iTunes, too. It may well happen â€” it just wonâ€™t be something I did. ohwell. Hereâ€™s hoping, though. Thereâ€™s such opportunity here.
3) Community architect for .Mac. Although honestly, .Mac needs a lot more than community building. Allow me to defer detailed discussion of .Mac for later (remind me if I forgetâ€¦.), but while I think itâ€™s good for many things, there are lots of things Apple really ought to do with .Mac (they should have bought Flickr, dammit, to name just one), and Mac Groups are barely adequate for organizing a church picnic. But there are some decent bones here to build from, if theyâ€™d just commit to doing so. Unfortunately, I just never got the feeling they would.
And now, six years later, we have — Ping — and iCloud, and Apple’s emergence into the social fabric of the net is still, well, completely missing. Well, Phil Schiller now tweets once or twice a monthâ€¦
Apple should be going in this direction. I see no indication they are. Apple needs to bring people in who can help them, people who both understand these technologies and understand Apple and its culture. Good luck finding them. And it’s going to take Tim Cook and Eddy and Phil and the top execs committing to not just integrating twitter into IOS in some superficial way, but bringing this stuff into Apple and the Apple mindset and corporate DNA.
The one thing I do know is that Tim Cook understands how Steve made Apple successful, but he’s not Steve, and he has his own ideas and vision. He’s started shifting Apple down different paths already; he’s much more likely to have his own blog than steve ever would have, for instance, and he’s a lot less controlling, but not less demanding. So I think the possibilities are there in ways not possible as long as Steve was in charge.
But still, I’m not holding my breath.
Lane, who became executive chairman of HP on September 22, 2011 (he had been non-executive chairman since November 1, 2010, the start of HP’s FY 2011) Â logged more than $10 million in total compensation — the bulk of it in stock and options – for the fiscal year, according to the HP proxy.
Other highlights from the proxy:
Meg Whitman who famously took the HP CEO position in September for $1 in salary, gets $16 million in stock and options. Former CEO Leo Apotheker walked away with $30.4 million when he was fired by HP last September.
Except for my first year tenure, when they couldn’t even afford that. (but don’t feel bad for me, according to them, I was very well compensated).
1/12th of the year is gone already. How time flies when you’re having fun…
I apologize for the quiet on the blog the last week. Blame it on a rhino-virus, which took just enough out of me to make sitting on the couch a lot more attractive than other options. Tonight I’m back off sedated, off the Aftrin, energy levels almost back to normal, so I thought I’d check in and remind folks I’m alive.
I’m into my sixth week at the new gig, and things seem to be progressing well. It’s been this whirlwind of meeting folks, listening to them, offering them our views, and trying to figure out what exactly we need to do (as opposed to what we were hired to do). We’ve made lots of progress, we’ve gotten the contract with the developers approved, I’ve gotten the first round of wireframes making the rounds and the various teams looking at them haven’t laughed or cried yet. But we’re just scratching the surface; I’m already mentally planning a year out, and trying to make sure when we get there, we have what we need. Good stuff so far. My new cohort in crime and I seem to sync up well in complementary ways, and it’s nice being in an environment of yes.
January was a positive month for my online stuff and a good start to the year, despite my being pretty quiet the last week or so. Overall visits were up 60% over December with page views up 50% — and up 110% over January 2011. Traffic to my photos on smugmug rocketed to almost double my previous highest page view month. I got my first video experiment up, and it got 125+ views and good feedback and some very useful critiques. I only got out with the camera twice, but both were very intensive trips and both generated some really nice images — but I also got the trees pruned before the apricot budded and I’m making good progress on some neglected work in the yard and the house — much as I wish I could spend all my spare time out with the camera, there are other things I like doing as well. I also filed 13 reports with eBird for a good start to the year — one lifer and 114 species to the year list, my best january since 2009, which beat it by about 8 species, and if I hadn’t caught this stupid cold, I’d probably have gotten out one more sunday and caught it.
And I’ve started the redesign of this site and my online stuff, although you probably won’t see it for a while. it’s not just swapping in a new theme, from the looks of it. But that’s where my evening focus is right now (that, and skyrim and the sharks). I am working to shift to a more active creation attitude from a content consumption mentality, and so far, I think things are headed in the right direction.
Most popular pieces in the month?
- Changing of the Guard (about HP and webOS, not surprisingly)
- How not to be a doofus with a camera
- Some Thoughts on Lightroom Keywords (which keeps chugging along)
- We’re having the comment fight again
Although I have decided, for the short term, to focus on blog writing and the blog redesign as the primary tasks, and photography as the third wheel. Other stuff will wait to later in the year, just so I can keep focus on things I want finished sooner.
So I’m hoping to carry this forward into February, and see what happens. It’s both nice and scary to be through January, because I feel like i’ve accomplished a lot and set things up to accomplish even more — but I’m not sure where the month went. Been good, and busy. Better than the alternatives, I guess.