Category Archives: Idle Philosophizing

A great quote on Apple vs. Google

I love this bit from Khoi Vinh, occasioned by Google’s recent Smarty Pins map/trivia game:

Apple fans like myself often criticize Google for doing things that Apple would never do, and Smarty Pins is a prime example of that. Aside from being an unfair criticism, it’s pointless. The fact that Google endeavors to produce silly things like this is on the whole a positive thing, I believe. It’s acting according to its own compass, which is what every company should be doing.

At Adobe I used to say, “We’ll never out-Apple Apple. We’ll never be more mysterious & magical, so let’s be ourselves—conversational and down-to-earth.”

Or as Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Integration fights bloat

Thus I’m delighted that in iOS 8 Apple is adding the ability for apps to provide one another services. The news reminded me to re-read what I wrote three years ago when requesting just this:

Poor integration leads to bloated apps: if jumping among apps/modules is slow, customers gravitate towards all-in-one tools that offer more overall efficiency, even if the individual pieces are lacking. […]

Remember the promise of OpenDoc? Despite all its well documented faults, I still love the idea of assembling a dream team of little parts, each the best in its class for doing what I need. […]

Why did Photoshop 1.0 succeed? It offered excellent (and focused) core functionality, plus a simple extensibility system that enabled efficient flexibility (running a filter brought no need to save, navigate, re-open, etc.). The core app could remain relatively simple while aftermarket tuners tailored it to specific customer needs. 

With this support coming to iOS (and already on Android & Windows), I think all our lives (as app users) and my life (as an app developer) are about to get a lot more efficient & interesting. We shall see.

Secret & Whisper vs. The Paradox of Choice

tl;dr: In text apps just as in photos & video, limiting choice gets more people across the goal line.

Lately I’ve had text-upon-image apps on the brain. Notegraphy promises “beautifully designed writing;” Pictual offers to “turn your words into visual statements; and Overgram can “add beautiful typography to your Instagram photos.” They’re all nicely done, but how many people have cared?

Compare that to the highly popular Secret (current $40M valuation) and Whisper ($24M in funding). Both share captioned images anonymously. Secret only lets you set text (no control over font or positioning), then use a colored background or image. Whisper looks at your text & offers matching images, then offers a rudimentary set of fonts & the ability to slide a text block.

In both cases the essence is to make something that you’ll want to share, without giving you enough creative options that you’ll get lost en route to doing so. You can’t go too far wrong or be judged for not getting the look “right.” Immediacy whomps visual control. It’s Instagram all over again.

By the way, speaking of fun text/image projects, Nathan Ripperger makes fun art from the weird things his kids say. To help parents do something similar, JibJab has released Kid Quoter, but I haven’t seen it take off. See also Linzie Hunter’s Spam One-Liners, “a gorgeous, colorful set of hand-lettering based on spam email subject lines in Linzie’s inbox.”

Keeping my head on straight

It’s really been an extraordinary week, with such a crazy-generous outpouring of support from friends, colleagues, and readers. A guy could get pretty high on his own supply. That’s why I like remembering bits like this (quoted once previously):

In 1983, advertising pioneer David Ogilvy summarized his mission as follows: “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip’.”

Note to self: People say you’re great; now let’s show, not tell.