the responsibility we have as software engineers

I had the chance to chat this week with the very awesome Kate Heddleston who mentioned that she’s been thinking a lot about the ethics of being a software engineer, something she just spoke about at PyCon Sweden. It brought me back to a post I wrote a few years ago, where I said: There’s this continued and surprisingly widespread delusion that technology is somehow neutral, that moral decisions are for other people to make. But that’s just not true. Lessig taught me (and a generation of other technologists) that Code is Law […] In 2008, the world turned against bankers, … Continue reading the responsibility we have as software engineers

browser extensions = user freedom

The web browser has become the universal trusted client. That can be good: users can mostly rely on their browsers to isolate their banking site from the other web sites they visit. It can also be bad for users’ freedom: Facebook can encourage the world to add “Like” buttons everywhere, and suddenly users are being tracked across the web by Facebook IFRAMEs. Web browsers don’t have to send cookies to Facebook in those IFRAMEs, but if they don’t, they will appear to be broken, and so browsers tend to stick to existing standard behaviors. Browser extensions, or add-ons, can help … Continue reading browser extensions = user freedom

the genius of Steve Jobs: he makes you want the lock-in

Steve Jobs is a genius for many reasons, but one reason that may be under-appreciated is his unparalleled ability to convince users that he’s locking them into his platforms for their own good. Consider Jobs’s latest letter explaining why he won’t accept Flash on the iPhone/iPad. Most of the letter is right on: Adobe’s Flash technology on the web is slow, not open, and best replaced by HTML5. Apple has a history of ditching old technologies and pulling industry forward: they killed the floppy disk on the iMac when everyone thought it was too early, they moved to flat screens … Continue reading the genius of Steve Jobs: he makes you want the lock-in

What Nick Carr doesn’t get: hobbyists are the canary in the coal mine

I told myself I wouldn’t write about the iPad anymore, but I have to. Nick Carr has joined the John Gruber club, by calling us Luddites: What these folks are ranting against, or at least gnashing their teeth over, is progress – or, more precisely, progress that goes down a path they don’t approve of. They want progress to, as Bray admits, follow their own ideological bent, and when it takes a turn they don’t like they start grumbling like granddads, yearning for the days of their idealized Apple IIs, when men were men and computers were computers. […] While … Continue reading What Nick Carr doesn’t get: hobbyists are the canary in the coal mine

Myth: the app store will protect you and prevent user confusion

An interesting thing happened with the Apple AppStore this weekend: This weekend, as hundreds of thousands of people explored their iPads […] they found […] an application called Facebook Ultimate, featuring a sleek version of the familiar ‘f’ logo. The application quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the App Store’s top selling iPad applications. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent to these users that the application simply wasn’t very good, and that it wasn’t created by Facebook at all. […] the $2.99 application rose to become the #7 top paid app on the App Store. The app received … Continue reading Myth: the app store will protect you and prevent user confusion

“It’s a tradeoff” and other uni-dimensional thinking

Many folks, like John Gruber, are responding to criticisms of the iPad’s closed ecosystem with the “it’s a tradeoff” idea: to have such a great computer, you need to lock it down. Some use the argument that Linux has never conquered the desktop, so there, open is incompatible with good usability (I’m looking at you engadget). That is some twisted backwards logic. Apple needs to remove apps it finds “not useful enough” for the iPad to work well? Apple needs to be the sole app distributor for the iPad to be so desirable? It would make the iPad worse if, … Continue reading “It’s a tradeoff” and other uni-dimensional thinking

The Accidental Tinkerer, Unexpected Lock-in, and Fatherhood

Ben Fry recently explained his concerns about the iPad: I want to build software for this thing. I’m really excited about the idea of a touch-screen computing platform that’s available for general use from a known brand who has successfully marketed unfamiliar devices to a wide audience. [..] It represents an incredible opportunity, but I can’t get excited about it because of Apple’s attempt to control who creates for it, and what they can create for it. Their policy of being the sole distributor of applications, and even worse, requiring approval on all applications, is insulting to developers. [..] I … Continue reading The Accidental Tinkerer, Unexpected Lock-in, and Fatherhood

The Great Content Lockdown of 2010

I had an invigorating and thought-provoking chat with my good friend Oliver Roup today. We agreed that the Apple iPad is going to be an unbelievable success. I’ve thought from day one that it would be huge, but I think it will be bigger than huge. Before the end of the summer, millions of people will own one. Content producers, looking for a way to make money, will flock to it. A virtuous circle will be created. More users. More content. More users. More content. And so, while killing Flash with one hand, Apple may put a dent in the … Continue reading The Great Content Lockdown of 2010

a prediction regarding the Apple “Tablet”

Why a prediction? Eh, cause it’s fun and cause I think the Apple Tablet will have a large impact on consumer computing. I think Apple will launch a tablet computer in January that will be aimed at saving TV and print journalism. On-demand video and on-demand print magazines and newspapers will be at the forefront. And because those industries want Digital Rights Management, the Tablet will run the iPhone OS so that only approved apps can be installed. It will be great, and the “App Store” concept will continue to rock the house. In the meantime, Zittrain’s Future of the … Continue reading a prediction regarding the Apple “Tablet”

The erosion of our expectation of autonomy, and the Kindle Pledge

As much as DRM bothers me, I’ve tolerated some implementations of it, specifically Apple iTunes, Apple’s iPhone App Store, and the Amazon Kindle, because I’ve gotten more value than pain out of them. And, usually, the DRM didn’t get in the way. But the slippery slope of DRM has reached a dangerous point with the made-for-blog-headlines Amazon story of the last few days. This weekend, Amazon surreptitiously deleted all copies of Orwell’s “1984” from every Kindle, because of … well it doesn’t really matter, does it? Users legitimately bought a book in a store operated by Amazon, and a few … Continue reading The erosion of our expectation of autonomy, and the Kindle Pledge