Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for October, 2015

The HTC One A9

It’s a little charming — in a backstreet vendor kind of way — just how blatant this is. Even the name is borrowed from the SoC powering the iPhones 6S.

Apple to Replace Defective Retina Macbook Pro Displays

Apple has decided to replace “stained” Retina MacBook Pro displays, issuing a notice to retail stores today. Joe Rossignol, Macrumors:

Apple will replace Retina displays on affected MacBook or MacBook Pro models for free within three years from the date of original purchase, or one year from October 16, 2015, whichever is longer. Affected customers that have already incurred out-of-warranty costs may be eligible for a refund through AppleCare support.

This issue seems to affect first-generation Retina MacBook Pros the most, some of which were purchased a little more than three years ago. It sounds like those who paid for a fix can submit a claim to Apple, provided you paid for your replacement prior to three years from the date of purchase. However, if you have an early-adopter Retina MacBook Pro that’s affected and you’ve been holding out for a proper out-of-warranty replacement program, this sucks. I stand by what I wrote back when this story broke: Apple should suck up the cost of replacing these displays regardless of when the product was purchased.

Update: Per Anthony Reimer, I may have read the above quote wrong:

You’ve got 1 year from now _minimum_ to claim. Longer if your MBP is newer.

So, if you’ve bought your affected MacBook in either the last three years or you submit a claim in the next year, you’ll be fine. Maybe it’s Rossignol’s wording, but this is confusing to me. Apple has posted nothing on their support site as of yet, but keep an eye out or ask your friendly neighbourhood Genius.

Rumble in the Jungle

Jay Carney, who is now the SVP of Global Corporate Affairs at Amazon, apparently, chose today to respond to the two-months-old New York Times story on the company’s depressing corporate culture. And he responded on Medium, of all places:

When the story came out, we knew it misrepresented Amazon. Once we could look into the most sensational anecdotes, we realized why. We presented the Times with our findings several weeks ago, hoping they might take action to correct the record. They haven’t, which is why we decided to write about it ourselves.

The Times got attention for their story, but in the process they did a disservice to readers, who deserve better. The next time you see a sensationalistic quote in the Times like “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”, you might wonder whether there’s a crucial piece of context or backstory missing — like admission of fraud — and whether the Times somehow decided it just wasn’t important to check.

The “admission of fraud” refers to Bo Olson, who provided the quote that Carney deems “sensationalistic”. The PR team at Amazon decided to discredit his quote today by opening his employee file publicly to a claim that he was accused of fraud while at the company.

Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times didn’t take kindly to that and replied. Also on Medium. Last I checked, the Times still existed as a medium for the words of its employees, but never mind. He disputes Carney’s account:

Olson described conflict and turmoil in his group and a revolving series of bosses, and acknowledged that he didn’t last there. He disputes Amazon’s account of his departure, though. He told us today that his division was overwhelmed and had difficulty meeting its marketing commitments to publishers; he said he and others in the division could not keep up. But he said he was never confronted with allegations of personally fraudulent conduct or falsifying records, nor did he admit to that.

If there were criminal charges against him, or some formal accusation of wrongdoing, we would certainly consider that. If we had known his status was contested, we would have said so.

Carney retorted:

The reason the Times’ reporters didn’t know the circumstances of his departure from Amazon is because they didn’t bother to ask — despite the fact that they were using his quote to set the tone for their entire 5,600-word article.

It’s hard to believe Carney, given that he is a PR guy at Amazon, and is therefore inclined to protect the interests of a public company. It’s also hard to believe that the Times would not correct such an egregious error.

Fuzzy User Interfaces

John Gruber, in his iPhone 4S review from October 2011:

iOS is explicit and visual. Everything you can do in iOS is something you can see and touch on screen. The limits are visible and obvious. Siri, on the other hand, feels limitless. It’s fuzzy, and fuzzy on purpose. There’s no way to tell what will work and what won’t. You must explore.

The thing that Siri did more than almost anything explicitly “Siri” was to introduce a sense of an explorative, fuzzy layer of the operating system. Today’s iOS is a similar creature to the one that shipped with the iPhone 4S; you could hand someone in 2011 an iPhone from today and it would feel familiar. But there has been significant and noticeable growth in the aspects of the operating system that are fuzzy.

Take, for example, the ability for Siri to remind you about whatever is presently onscreen:

This works in a lot of apps — Messages, Phone, News, Maps, and others. It works with third-party apps that have adopted that search indexing functionality we talked about earlier. […]

But, like much of Siri’s functionality, it’s buried under a layer of guesswork and unexpected failures. You can’t, for example, ask Siri to remind you about anything in Photos or Music — say, if you found a playlist in For You that you wanted to listen to later.

Or consider the 3D Touch functionality on the iPhones 6S, which works in some — but not all — apps, from both first- and third-parties.

This isn’t exclusive to iOS, either. Here’s the Verge’s Dieter Bohn on Android’s new “Now On Tap” feature:

Now on Tap plugs into Google’s vast knowledge of the web, but it seems pretty stupid about Google’s vast knowledge about me. Contacts I talk to regularly don’t pop up in Now on Tap, for example, and the suite of apps I depend on aren’t always options.

For now, the feature is a little frustrating in exactly the same way that Siri was frustrating when I first used it. It’s hard to know what Now on Tap can and can’t do — and even if you do know, sometimes it gets it wrong. There are only so many chances a “guess what you need” feature can whiff before it trains you to think that you can’t rely on it.

The discoverability and invisibility that makes these features so magical when they work is the same thing that makes it so frustrating when they don’t. The invisibility of this interface is also what allows us to take chances with it; it creates a sense of limitlessness until, of course, we stumble upon the limits of its application. Ask Siri “will I need a coat today?”, and I’m provided a weather report. Ask “will I need a tuque today?” and I get results somewhere between nothing and bupkis.

As we gain more confidence in the abilities of these fuzzy interfaces, they get better: more capable, more accurate, and more helpful. Theoretically, our trust in them tracks at a similar rate to their improvement, but this is impossible: they cannot improve without our interaction, because a team of people in Cupertino cannot realistically sample all accents, slang, timbres, and general mouth and throat sounds on their own. Add to that a plethora of possible background noises, the strong likelihood that we do not all enunciate as though we are Thomas Sheridan, and the typical size of the microphones in our devices, and it’s a small wonder that they can understand us at all.

One of the biggest challenges that the software must overcome in order to become better — whereby better I mean can be used with confidence that they will not confuse “two” and “too” in a dictated text message — is that we need to keep using them despite their immaturity. And that’s a big request when they do, indeed, keep confusing “two” and “too”. The amount of times that Siri has butchered everything from text messages to reminders to even the simplest of web searches has noticeably eroded my trust in it.

I implore you to not misread this; this is not a condemnation of Siri, Google Now, or any other contextually-sensitive or “personal assistant”-type software. It’s far better than it ever has been. But it will take continued patience from us and regular, noticeable improvements from the teams building this software for us to feel confident in its abilities.

On the Positioning of the Lightning Port on the Magic Mouse 2

Two of three devices in Apple’s new “Magic” accessory lineup are capable of being used while charging; one, the Magic Mouse, is not. Why? Because the charging port is on the bottom. And it looks as ridiculous as you think.

The real reason why this is is almost certainly because hardware engineering couldn’t figure out a way of placing the Lightning port along the top edge of the device, as would be logical. But my crazy theory on this is that this is intentional to make sure people use it as a wireless mouse and don’t leave it plugged in all the time.

If you think I’m wrong, here’s what Anil Dash says:

… the end result would be that, while charging, the mouse would still be fully functional; indeed, this mode would still be so useful that a lot of folks (myself included!) would just use it as a corded mouse most of the time and only unplug when needed.

I bet that this elicits something of a deep, frustrated sigh in parts of Cupertino.

This isn’t a massive deal logically; reviewers have pointed out that an exceptionally short charge time will last the entire day. You could plug it in while making coffee in the morning and have enough charge for a few days by the time you’re finished. But that’s not really Apple’s style, and the end result is a part of a product that is truly ridiculous.

IAB: ‘We Messed Up’

George Slefo for Ad Age:

In the wake of recent concerns surrounding ad-blocking software, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a statement Thursday telling content providers and others, “We messed up.” […]

The threat of ad-blocking software has created a feverish pitch among industry leaders, forcing them to reevaluate the status quo. As Mr. Cunningham writes, much of that was due to maximizing profits and disregarding user experience.

When it was announced that iOS 9 would support content blocking extensions in Safari, I was of two minds. Part of me thought that they would become mainstream through the combination of less risk and greater visibility, as they’re coming from the App Store, in addition to a greater need on mobile. The other part of me thought that they would remain, as on desktops, a relatively niche category of software.

As of right now, Purify is the 63rd most popular paid app on the Canadian App Store, just above Tweetbot 4. It is the highest-ranked content blocker on the store, and it ranks well above some pretty popular apps.

But I’m not convinced iOS content blockers, specifically, are substantially increasing the dent of ad blockers as a whole quite yet. I think the IAB is reacting predominantly to the rising wave of negative press adtech has received in the past few months.

Slefo, again:

L.E.A.N., which stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice Supported and Non-Invasive, will be the principles that will help guide the next phase of advertising technical standards for the global digital advertising supply chain, the IAB said.

The guidelines will look to limit file size, “with strict data call guidelines,” assure user security, support DAA’s consumer privacy programs and supplement user experience, which includes covering content and sound enabled by default, the IAB said.

That sounds really prom—

The guidelines will not replace the current advertising standards.

Oh well. At least this industry has a spectacular track record of self-regulation.

Apple Updates iWork for iOS and OS X

Among the changes:

  • Open Pages ’08 and ’06 documents

It’s well past time to banish the “document cannot be opened because it is too old” nightmare.

  • Enhanced support for OpenType font features like small caps, contextual fractions, alternative glyphs and more

There are “finally”s, and there are “finally”s — this is the latter. Pages, which is ostensibly Apple’s flagship word processor and page layout tool, now has similar typographic capabilities to the built-in default TextEdit. It remains impossible to add mirrored page numbers, though.

What Do We Really Know About Osama Bin Laden’s Death?

This article from Jonathan Mahler for the New York Times touches on everything I’m interested in: big policy, big stories, and discrepancies. Thankfully, it’s completely free of conspiratorial nonsense, instead relying upon the differences in coverage between more official accounts and Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster article in the London Review of Books earlier this year. This is fascinating, purely from a media critic standpoint.

Update: Mark Bowden vehemently disagreed with Mahler’s depiction, arguing that his column wades far too deeply into conspiratorial territory.

The Drone Papers

The Intercept has managed to get their hands on documents that explain, for the first time, how a drone strike is carried out by the American government, who’s responsible, and the efficacy of the program. It’s not good:

The White House and Pentagon boast that the targeted killing program is precise and that civilian deaths are minimal. However, documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse.

Abhorrent. This policy and these figures are something every American — at the very least — should be angry about.

This is the culmination of reporting that was first revealed at the end of Citizenfour, where Glenn Greenwald shows Edward Snowden a chain of command chart for authorizing a drone strike.

Facebook Says They’re Aware of Egregious Battery Drain in Their iOS App

Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch:

In a statement provided to TechCrunch a spokesperson for the company confirmed it is investigating the issue, adding that it hopes to be able to put out a fix “soon”.

“We have heard reports of some people experiencing battery issues with our iOS app. We’re looking into this and hope to have a fix in place soon,” the spokesperson said.

Look out for a changelog reading “bug fixes and performance improvements”.

Oh, wait.

Gary Allen of IFO Apple Store Has Passed Away

Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post:

In March, Allen announced his blog was ending, saying so many others were following the stores now. “Who am I to keep up with them?” he wrote. “So, I’m going to focus on my family and friends, drop the demands of writing and get back to what it was before—just fun.” […]

The real reason he gave it up, his brother said, was the brain cancer diagnosis. He didn’t want people to worry or fuss over him. The site is down, likely for good. Allen leaves behind another brother, Bob Allen, his wife Nancy, son Devin, and an incredible free spirit.

Gary’s voice is one I’ve missed since he stopped writing in March, and will miss for a very long time to come. He was one of the originals and the greats.

Fuck cancer.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

Frédéric Filloux writing for Monday Note was involved with the publisher’s side of Google’s new Accelerated Mobile Pages — or “AMP” — Project. It’s a derivative of HTML that aims to dramatically speed up the mobile web:

“amp-html” strips off most of the conventional web page payload and only keeps the HTML code directly involved in content rendering: text, images, videos gifs, basic ad formats and a few strictly mandatory trackers. Everything else —javascripts, iframes, embeds, large chunks of the CSS etc.— known to slow down page downloads is shuttled to a separate “container”. As for ads, they load separately, usually one second after the editorial content. No more waiting for a promotional video to start playing.

I will have more on this in the near future, but I don’t see how this is much different than stripping nonessential embeds, scripts, and so on from a standard HTML page. I’m certainly struggling to figure out why a 137 KB JavaScript file is required for a page with an ostensibly reduced payload; for comparison, this entire page is about 80 KB. Like I said, I’m working on a deeper dive, but I’m seeing very little here that’s more compelling than removing all nonessential web crap and making the remaining assets more efficient.

Apple Explains How Wi-Fi Assist Works

You may have heard about a feature called Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9, perhaps from friends reading panicky Huffington Post stories about how it’s going to eat up your cellular data and how you need to turn it off right now. Part of this is Apple’s problem — they enabled it by default and documented it poorly.

Dan Moren of Six Colors noticed that there’s now a much better explanation of how it works on Apple’s support site. More specifically, he highlights where it doesn’t work:

  • Wi-Fi Assist will not automatically switch to cellular if you’re data roaming.

  • Wi-Fi Assist only works when you have apps running in the foreground and doesn’t activate with background downloading of content.

  • Wi-Fi Assist doesn’t activate with some third-party apps that stream audio or video, or download attachments, like an email app, as they might use large amounts of data.

These exceptions are perfectly reasonable. In my months with iOS 9, I’ve never exceeded my 1 GB monthly data cap, and I’ve had WiFi assist turned on since it appeared in one of the betas. If your data plan is very tight, it may be something to turn off; if you have a pretty standard plan, though, I’d leave it on.

Apple’s Insurmountable Platform Advantage

Steve Cheney:

It is – in fact – these chip making capabilities, which [Steve Jobs] brought in-house shortly after the launch of the original iPhone, that have helped Apple create a massive moat between itself and an entire industry.

Ultimately this chip advantage is one of the little spoken, but critical elements in Apple’s vertically integrated approach. Android OEMs can copy the fingerprint sensor or the 3D Touch mechanism. They just go to the supplier that Apple buys it from. But they can’t copy the underlying software powering these ‘commodity’ chips.

With each generation, Apple’s products get closer to feeling like a singular element, with software and hardware crafted together. Every time the integration feels as tight as it’s going to get, they raise the bar. It’s uncanny, in the best possible sense of the term.

Update: As John Gruber notes, calling this “insurmountable” is an overstatement. It’s a huge, category-defining advantage, but not something impossible to chase.

The Background Data and Battery Usage of Facebook’s iOS App

I’ve been seeing reports over the past month or so that Facebook’s iOS app uses an extraordinary amount of resources when it’s in the background. This is especially true when Background App Refresh is switched off for the app, according to Matt Galligan:

It accounted for 15% of all battery drain.

Despite having background app refresh disabled, because the app isn’t “sleeping” properly when I hit the home button, it continues to drain.

That extraneous background usage, despite not providing any value to me at all, is keeping the app alive 2x longer than my actual usage.

Varying reports peg this as an abuse of VOIP backgrounding, audio backgrounding, or content-available push notifications — or perhaps all three — as a fallback when Background App Refresh is off.

Make no mistake: this is user-hostile. Facebook is actively creating channels to continue refreshing their app in the background when the user has explicitly stated that they do not want it to. Ironically, the best way to reduce the battery and data consumption of the Facebook app in the background is to switch Background App Refresh back on. Better still, remove the Facebook app from your phone, and perhaps replace it with Paper (US store only).

Twitter Announces Layoffs

From a memo Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent to staff this morning:

So we have made an extremely tough decision: we plan to part ways with up to 336 people from across the company. We are doing this with the utmost respect for each and every person. Twitter will go to great lengths to take care of each individual by providing generous exit packages and help finding a new job.

What I’m hearing from those at Twitter is that the respect and courtesy mentioned in the memo isn’t exactly present in these layoffs. People are finding out that they’ve been cut because their internal email account stops working.

Behind the Scenes of the New iMac and ‘Magic’ Accessories

Steven Levy got a backstage pass for the quiet launch of the new iMac lineup and trio of “Magic” accessories: keyboard, mouse, and trackpad:

[Phil] Schiller, in fact, has a grand philosophical theory of the Apple product line that puts all products on a continuum. Ideally, you should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line. […]

“[The desktop’s] job is to challenge what we think a computer can do and do things that no computer has ever done before, be more and more powerful and capable so that we need a desktop because it’s capable,” says Schiller. “Because if all it’s doing is competing with the notebook and being thinner and lighter, then it doesn’t need to be.”

It’s very refreshing to see that Apple still devotes considerable engineering talent and effort into building products that sell at a tiny percentage of the rate of the iOS device lineup.

The new 4K iMac looks really, really good. Apple has been pushing the precision and depth of their colour gamuts across their entire lineup for the past few years, and this year’s iMacs up the bar once again. It’s not just the size of the gamut, but the precision with which it is calibrated. Surprisingly, the 21-inch model is not available with discrete graphics, but Intel’s Iris Pro has been getting rave reviews elsewhere. It doesn’t sound like a big problem.

I’m not in the market for a new computer yet, but I’m always in the market for new accessories. I currently use Apple’s standard Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad; though I don’t need to replace either, the new ones look very intriguing. All of the accessories now have built-in batteries that charge via Lightning cable. According to Jason Snell, all but the Magic Mouse work while plugged in to charge. I’m a little surprised that the mouse does not. I’m also a little bit disappointed that the mouse retains its plastic top; mine is extremely scratched.

The Magic Trackpad’s glass surface remains despite a change from an aluminum top to bright white. I think it looks great. The biggest change is the addition of Force Touch — strangely, not “3D Touch”, whatever the difference may be — instead of a fully-moving surface.

Finally, the new keyboard is kind of like a hybrid of the new MacBook’s and the old Bluetooth keyboard; the key travel is shorter, but not as short as the MacBook’s. The keys are bigger, but not enormous, and the caps are typeset in San Francisco.

These upgrades aren’t cheap. By building in the battery and new features, the price of these accessories has shot up. All three accessories used to be, in Canada, $69. Now, they range from the $99 Magic Mouse to the $169 Magic Trackpad. But my trackpad has lasted me many years since I bought it, and I trust that these should be around for longer, if Apple’s build quality is as great on these as I think it is. I’m looking forward to trying them in person.

Jason Snell reviewed the new 4K iMac for Macworld; you should check it out.

Update: It looks like the 4K iMac starts with a 5400 RPM drive, which was ludicrously slow in 2012, let alone 2015. On Newegg, going from a 1 TB 5400 RPM drive to a 1 TB 7200 RPM drive costs about $10, retail. It would be less than that wholesale. That seems like a small sacrifice for Apple on a $1,500 computer.

“What Do You Think?”

I haven’t seen the new Boyle-Sorkin “Steve Jobs” film, but I’d like to, if for no other reason than Aaron Sorkin’s masterful sense of dialogue (and Jeff Daniels playing John Sculley). But the two previous films that tried to tell Jobs’ story have painted him in a rather negative light, as though he were a sanctimonious, petulant dictator. Based on some of the initial reviews I’ve read, this one isn’t much different. Rick Tetzeli:

The film’s title character is a one-trick pony, a grandstanding egotist who gets great work out of people by charming them or berating them. Humans stand in the way of his unchanging genius, at least until that unconvincing reunion with Lisa at the end. It’s an old and unsophisticated view that’s been trotted out since the early days of Apple.

What is true is that Jobs did some really crappy things in the earlier parts of his career: he didn’t give Woz the financial bonus on the Atari Breakout board, and he denied paternity of Lisa, his first daughter, among other notable events. But that doesn’t reflect the multifaceted nature of that time — he did great things in this time in his life alongside the shitty things — nor does it reflect the three decades of his career that came afterward.

Jobs got married and had three more kids after leaving Apple. He and his wife hosted his first daughter, Lisa Brennan, at their home for several years. To project the worst things he did onto the remainder of his career is a narrative that is regularly told, but is not accurate.

Hence this recollection, from Arno Gourdol (via Michael Tsai):

Steve had many talents. He was a gifted communicator, a deep intellect, often the smartest guy in the room, a visionary that could see better than anyone else what the future could be. Above all Steve was a leader that could inspire creative teams to do the best work of their lives. That was his greatest creation.

“What do you think?”

Four simple words that convey so much: I care about what you think, I want to listen to you, I respect you, I trust you.

I never worked for Steve; I have never worked at Apple. But I have worked for people who are very demanding, and for those who are not. The best work I’ve ever produced and the most satisfaction I’ve ever felt have come from times when my creative abilities were pushed, and when my patience was running thin. That isn’t to say that a high degree of stress and pressure should be exerted regularly on employees, but that the expectations of quality are known and pushed.

The portrait of Steve Jobs that is painted these days is that he was a jerk once and a jerk always. But the stories I’ve heard from people who know best are more inclined to say that he was a demanding but, ultimately, fair boss.

The Sorkin approach to a biopic is one in which the main characters – first, Zuckerberg; now, Jobs — are fictional entities. They are merely characters. Both “The Social Network” and “Steve Jobs” play up the histrionics of their protagonists and use history as a loose guide, but not as the rule. This becomes controversial when the subject matter is this fresh, and one of the subjects happens to still be alive.

Rick Tetzeli, in an article for Fast Company:

[The] last scene hinges on an imagined reconciliation with Lisa [Brennan], and depends on an astounding fiction of omission: The entire scene takes place as if Jobs is unmarried, has no kids, and hasn’t changed at all as a result. In fact, Jobs married Laurene Powell in 1991. They had three children, Reed (1991), Erin (1995), and Eve (1998). And Lisa lived with Steve and Laurene from 1992 to 1996.

The way to approach “Steve Jobs”, then, is not as a work of history or documentary; I intend to view it as a work of cinema and of fiction, and I think it will be worth watching — I love Sorkinese. But separating truth from fiction is a challenge when the narrative around Jobs’ life is still being written and changed constantly, especially by those with a vested interest in specific versions. Above all, it does feel — as Tim Cook and Jony Ive have said — opportunistic:

On Sept. 28, 2011, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton left his Culver City office and made the four-and-a half-mile trek to Century City, ready to open his wallet.

Lynton, along with producer Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan), was being given a unique opportunity to read one of the most anticipated manuscripts in publishing history: Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs.

The brilliant but mercurial founder of Apple Inc. was on his deathbed — he would die days later, on Oct. 5 — and Simon & Schuster was rushing the book into stores, which meant the publisher did not want it read widely in advance of its Oct. 24 release: Secrecy was crucial to giving Steve Jobs the type of splash that would propel it to sales of more than 379,000 copies during its first week alone. And so Lynton and Gordon closeted themselves for hours in separate offices at ICM Partners, Isaacson’s agency, and waded through the 656-page tome.

By day’s end, both men were confident this was a movie …

After reading this, I’d be surprised if these executives would be sensitive to the subject of any biopic.

The Slow Death of Comments

The venerable comments section is still rampant across the web, but plenty of new sites are omitting them entirely. The discourse generated by this feature is, in most cases, of no great value. Even the comments section of a publication like the Economist — or any other reasonably high-brow publication — is unwelcome and barely literate. On any moderately-divisive issue, the comments section turns into the written equivalent of a drunk brawl. That’s too bad, because those are the times when we most need articulate, well-reasoned discussion.

Klint Finley, Wired:

While it’s too soon to say that comment sections are outright dying— there are plenty of major sites that still have comments, including WIRED—it’s safe to say there’s a trend towards replacing them with something else.

The “something else” is interesting. A while ago, I came across a WordPress plugin that would aggregate replies on Twitter to an article and present them to moderators for approval. This kind of thing probably wouldn’t scale so well to larger publications, but it allows a little more direction over what comments are approved.

But who says that it’s necessary to present readers’ opinions on the same page as the original piece? I love my audience, but you’re reading these words because you want to hear what I have to say. Many of you reach out with corrections and ideas of your own, and I appreciate that, but it’s not necessary to have them attached to the original post. I can think of three things that comments are used for, aside from spam:

  1. Offering praise or agreement with the author. I appreciate it when people reach out to tell me that they enjoyed something I wrote, but I don’t want to turn the bottom of every post into a place where you all can praise me. I also don’t have social buttons for a similar reason.

  2. Offering disagreement with the author. If you have a different opinion, that’s cool; you should write it on your own site and send me a link.

  3. Providing a correction or amendment. Again, thank you for sending me notes on what I may have missed, but these don’t necessarily have a place on the same page as the original article. I’d like to vet them, and if there’s something I like, I’ll update the original with a link and credit.

This seems to work for me. I don’t get to provide the cool impression of dozens of people so engaged with something I wrote that they debate it below, but I get my little spot on the internet. Thanks for reading.