Month: March 2016

Does your *(thing)* need a community?

As a community manager a common conversation I end up in is “I have this (thing) and it needs a community. Should I install (forums, slack, name your poison) on my site?” And my first reaction is usually “Slow down, Cowboy, do you understand what that means? And why do you think you need it?” There’s this perception out there that you need to build communities around things, but rarely do people stop and think through what this really means. You don’t just “install forums”, they require maintenance, and they require administration — so there are ongoing costs and resources you have to be willing to commit to. The worst thing you can do is install them and assume they’ll magically run without any ongoing activity from your team. The second worst thing you can do is tell yourself that your existing team can just put in a bit of time around their existing roles, because if you make it a spare time activity for them, it won’t happen, but you can pretend it will. I bring this up because Casey Liss and Myke Hurley have this extended conversation in episode 76 of the Analog(ue) podcast on Relay.FM and it’s a quite good look at the opportunities and challenges involved here. Some of their listeners have been encouraging them to create a Slack channel (Slack being the latest community hot...

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When the camera fights back

I’ve been in one of those phases where everything I do with a camera sucks. You might notice that my images from Yosemite consist of (a) an afternoon spent with a nice cooperative coyote and (b) some pictures of Yosemite Falls, taken out the window of the SUV while parked at the side of the road. Which is not to criticize either set of shots, but, well, not exactly innovative. I have been fighting the camera the last few months. My landscape work sucks. Everything I shoot I hate. I’ve lost my eye for composition. When I shoot things, it’s bland, it’s boring, it’s ugly, or all of the above. I can’t tell whether it’s because I’m shooting ugly, or whether I just see what I shot as ugly. You know what? From talking to photographers, pretty much everyone hits this phase. It happens. Often, you grow out of it in new directions a better photographer. Until you do, you grump and grind away and throw away a lot of crap. What interests me about this is the cause. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about how I ended up at the point where I hate pulling the camera out of the case. This is speculation, but here’s my take: I put too much into the idea of “I should…” — I should work on being better...

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Kicking Unca Walt in the Ankle, and other Apple slices…

Last week I wrote about the latest Apple product releases and event and how it’s lower-key feel was a feature, not a bug — my view is that Apple tech press (and by extension it’s readers) are addicted to the major-world-changing-massive-innovation hype cycle, and Apple is a company that is now moving into a more mature environment with evolutionary products and needs to wean all of us from this hype cycle. If you think about it, Apple has gone through a phase of massive innovation: iPhone, iPad, Watch, Apple Music, Apple TV, the beginnings of HomeKit, the emergence of ResearchKit and now CareKit… And there has been growing discussion and grumpiness about the lowering quality of Apple’s software, which Apple has felt the need to try to defuse — to the point of having people like Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi and Eddy Cue reach out and talk to us about this via blogger/podcaster John Gruber. And they make a good point about how complicated things are, and that’s a good point we should consider when criticizing them. But it’s also my point: the software and environments Apple is working are a lot bigger and more complex than the days when I was there whacking on servers for them, but that is, honestly, a reason for Apple to double-down and put more effort into doing those things while maintaining the...

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The Genius Problem

Every few years, someone decides to invent a way to scribble on the internet. They generally aspire to some higher goal, but in practice, they create tools that allow the mouth breathers to haul out the crayons and vandalize other people’s work. The most recent attempt at this — annotation platform, they call it — is New Genius (links intentionally redacted). And it’s more of the same. These tools have a long history online — Glenn Fleishman does a nice overview. I had friends who actually joined the Third Voice startup back in the day and tried to recruit me, and they were quite surprised when I not only turned them down, I started complaining loudly about their approach. The problem with News Genius was surfaced by Ella Dawson, who is (a) a woman and (b) writes about uncomfortable and politically sensitive topics. Her twitter stream is a great place to browse to follow this issue and to see this kind of abuse in action — coming from the News Genius team itself, since when she contacted them and asked them to allow her to opt out of the service, they told her to get over it. News Genius doesn’t see why someone who creates content should be allowed to opt themselves out of having that content used in ways they don’t want it used by someone why haven’t...

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The Cocoaconf Yosemite Conference (why I went, why you should)

Last week I spent the week in Yosemite at the facility formerly known as the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls at the Yosemite Conference put on by the Cocoaconf team. Cocoaconf is somewhere between a developer conference and a teaching seminar. They put on a number of conferences across the country — in Chicago on March 25, Austin in April, Seattle in May, Washington DC in September and San Jose in November. I’m not sure what my reality will be like in November, but if it doesn’t include prison, the hospital or endless mandatory conference calls, I’ll be there. The focus is on programming for Apple platforms: Cocoa is the core framework for both IOS and Mac OS. Each conference has a unique slate of speakers and teachers from within the Apple developer ecosystem. The Yosemite conference is a bit different than the other conferences they put on. It’s a single track, one room conference. There’s less focus on bits and code and frameworks, and more on topics tied to being a developer — I’m tempted to call it the lifestyle track, but I think a better way to define it is that it was about being a developer and thriving as a developer. There were talks about avoiding and recovering from burnout, about living habits to help you maintain yourself and your health, about managing career change, both...

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