Fog over Pacific. Made with iPhone 12 ProMax. Apple ProRaw enhanced with Adobe Super Resolution.

It is reopening day in California — and to finally call it summer. It has been a long time since we have been able to do things that can be deemed normal — mundane activities like walking out without a mask and look at each other’s smiles. Or get a cup of coffee at a cafe. I celebrated the comeback from the pandemic — at least in our part of the world — by getting a haircut and a straight razor shave from my favorite barber. It is such a simple thing, and yet the only thing I could think of that could give me such immense joy. I hope this mundane normalcy comes your way — and even if it does, wear a mask in crowded places. I hope you get a jab (or two) soon.

I don’t have any travel plans. I like the cooler confines of San Francisco, which is often wrapped in a blanket of fog, even as the rest of the west burns with record high temperatures. I know it is a brief respite before the wildfire season returns, and we are forced to use masks again. But for now, this is a gift I want to enjoy. And today, I am officially ending the use of the tag, Pandemic Chronicles.

June 15, 2021. San Francisco

I find myself on Disquiet, a blog run by Marc Weidenbaum, about once a week. I enjoy reading everything he wrote and shared during the preceding seven days in one sitting. And of all his regular features, the one I love best is how he aggregates the tweets he sent out during the week. When I asked him about this habit in an email, he responded: 

“I’ve found that the once-a-week habit has been useful, cyclically reflective. Often, the previous Monday feels very faraway in retrospect. Also, knowing during the week, in the back of my mind, that I will likely repurpose the Twitter material on my website makes me a little extra conscientious of what I am posting.”

Marc’s purposeful approach to Twitter results in stream of tweets with a seamless flow that reflects clear, insightfulthinking. In fact, I like the practice so much that I am going toshamelessly copy it. Below, you’ll find my first stab ataggregating (some of) my tweets from the past week. Next week, I’ll know I’m headed toward this final product, so perhaps my own flow will become smoother. If nothing else, this will allow me to easily remember what I was thinking about during aspecific time. And it gives me the chance to correct my grammar and spelling (When are we getting an edit button, Jack?).

  • Apple paid $230B to developers on App Store since its launch 13 years ago. That roughly Apple’s cut of 30% at $98.5B of the total $328B since launch. That’s about $7.5B/year. In its most recent qtr, @Apple sold $48Bn worth of iPhones. iPhone Gross Margin of 35% = $16.8B In a utopian world, Apple (Tim Cook) decide to take no cut from developers making less than $1 million a year. They can afford it.
  • I just noticed that I could use two HomePods as a pair using Apple AirPlay on my desktop. When did this happen? This is so great.
  • Safari browser redesign is a major improvement, but still quite jarring for someone like me who is used to the old-style browser. Tab clustering feature might be overrated, but then I am also not a mega-tabber like some.
  • In 2021 it is amazing to regularly experience a subpar mobile website experience made worse by pop-ups inviting you to sign-up for marketing drivel before even perusing the contents of the site. This bad design pattern is intentional as you can’t seem to find the X button.
  • This story about Kevin Durant by Sam Anderson in The New York Times Magazine is achingly poignant & masterfully written. It is not just a sports story. It is not a story about a sportsman. It is a story of a journey. The lead alone is worth reading, not to mention KD’s quotes.• Both iPadOS & MacOS Monterey are Apple’s most stable beta OS releases I have ever downloaded. Twenty-four hours later, I feel like they have always been on the iPad Pro 12.9 & M1-based MB13 Pro. So many subtle (but important) tweaks. It will make it worth upgrading in Fall 2021.

I don’t tweet about Apple this much all the time, but it makes sense that it was the focus this week — it was WWDC, after all.

June 12, 2021. San Francisco

 

Tony Kuyper is well known to many of us who tend to spend a lot of time in Adobe Photoshop. He makes an editing panel that allows photographers to create exact luminosity masks, which in turn help with granular and subtle editing. Of course, his panels do more than that, but his mask-making shortcuts are a blessing for my editing style.

Today, I ended up on his blog and found a gem of an article. He was philosophizing about photography, what it means to him, and what it has taught him. Kuyper has always eschewed what is popular and instead marched to the beat of his own (visual) drum. Kuyper shares five lessons from his extensive time as a photographer and developer of tools to help photographers.

  • Stop chasing the light and focus on where it might be hiding instead.  
  • Don’t ignore the ordinary.
  •  It’s easier finding light once you’ve found your style.
  • Taking the picture is only the beginning.  Developing the image personalizes it.
  • We are all photographers, even if we don’t take pictures.

Indeed we are. “Exploration isn’t always about traveling significant distances or spending lots of time reaching a destination,” he writes. The pandemic brought me to a similar conclusion and forced me to think creatively about photography.

June 9, 2020, San Francisco

Read article on Tony Kuyper's Blog

I came across this opinion piece about the role of social media in the demise and subsequent rebirth of blogging, a topic not unfamiliar to readers of my blog. It credits Twitter for providing a platform that allows for interactions similar to those that distinguished early blogging communities. And at least in a superficial way, that’s not wrong, I guess. But there is a wide gulf between the impulses that drive social media and the “why” of blogging. And the author completely overlooks the latter in his eagerness to report that, after many bloggers were wiped out, some elements of the activity formerly known as blogging survived. (Fact check: classical blogging continues to flourish in all corners of the Internet.)

As I have noted a time or two, blogging and the behaviors it inspired were the genesis of many contemporary activities on the Internet. Yet, despite this, we still seem unable to fully appreciate what was at the heart of blogging — that thing that makes so many of us nostalgic for its heyday, even as we tweet until our thumbs ache. And this brings me to my long-standing quibble with the media establishment: why can’t they recognize significant changes until it is too late?

Marc Weidenbaum, a music enthusiast and founder of Disquiet.com, expertly captures the distinction between blogs and social. “Social media expects feedback (not just comments, but likes and follows),” he writes. “Blogs are you getting your ideas down; feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.” In other words, one is a performance for an audience, while the other is highly personal, though others may end up finding it interesting. Weidenbaum also admirably points out the difference between blogs and all the suddenly ubiquitous newsletters. “And newsletters = broadcasting,” he says. “Blogging is different.” 

Bingo. By the way, for this exact reason, I recently decided to rethink the whole notion of my newsletter. I realized that it is just a way to get my words, as I wrote when I announced some recent changes, “from my computer to your inbox in order to spare you the trouble of coming to my website.”

The main reason media stalwarts couldn’t understand blogging is that they couldn’t see beyond their all-too-familiar containers and distribution mechanisms. They were too entrapped in their dogmas. The author of the opinion piece that kicked off this post offers up a telling account of his own transition from blogger to an employee at a legacy media company. 

“A key lesson I learned from my new colleagues was that we couldn’t cater to our regular readers the way many classic blogs did,” he writes. “Our salaries were supported by advertising. To make the whole project financially viable, we needed a lot of readers. Practically speaking, that meant bringing in a lot of new readers.” In other words, the company couldn’t conceive of any game other than the one it was already playing

This problem persists. Rethinking news requires a complete reconsideration of media, what it means, how it gets consumed, and how it gets distributed to those who want it. Even now, the media establishment is so stuck in text that they can’t fully see the extent to which we are transitioning to a world of primarily visual media. 

For the future of media — including blogging —  look to YouTube, Snap, TikTok, and Instagram. By the way, the content on these platforms is often created and engaged with in a spirit much more analogous to that of traditional blogs than anything you’re likely to see on Twitter. A whole generation has grown up with cameras — and front-facing cameras at that. Smartphones make it so much easier to create daily logs (What else are “stories” on Snap and Instagram?). The behaviors on these platforms will define the media consumption of the future. They are already reshaping the present.

Let’s take music journalism as an example. You are unlikely to stumble upon any new music through a traditional music magazine or even on many traditional music blogs. Instead, people are finding new musical acts on TikTok. “Mainstream music journalism is largely uninterested in promoting discovery, focusing instead on blanket coverage of superstars and seemingly endless traffic-grabbing lists — which may buoy an existing reader base, but often fails to capture newer, younger music fans,” reported (ironically) Rolling Stone. “Enter the upstart music blogs of TikTok.” 

TikTok’s rise as a taste maker for music (and culture) is just the evolution of (news) media away from the written word model. Magazines, radio and late-night television shows helped with music discovery before the social era. Blogs came next, by their human curation. Individuals as taste makers and cultural deejays was a trend that became stronger with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And TikTok is the newest evolution for a generation that lives at the network speed. 

And a generation growing up on the beat of the network wants their news in TikTok-style packaging. The future of media and news is a combination of visual, virtual, augmented, and metaverse realities. It is not a matter of if, but when. I am not saying that the traditional media formats won’t have a role — but they will have to compete with a different reality. 

Back when media companies were making a mess of the blogging world, they were hamstrung by their failure to understand and appreciate the “why” of the activity they were seeking to replicate. As they slowly key into the world of visual media — and inevitably attempt to stuff it into their preexisting boxes — let’s hope they don’t make all the same mistakes again. 

June 7, 2021. San Francisco


Mallmann, Oh Man!

For over a decade, long before Netflix’s Chef Table made him even more popular, Argentinian chef, dandy and raconteur, Francis Mallmann had been on my bucket list of people to meet before I kick the mortal coil. It was not for any particular reason other than just meeting, chatting, and simply enjoying their magnificence. Earlier … Continue reading Mallmann, Oh Man!