Discourse

discourse
After literally months of work, I’m finally ready to launch a project I’ve been working on: Discourse, an interview podcast about the story behind influential people.

I discovered podcasts three years ago, and have continued to be fascinated by the various formats and styles of podcasts that are possible within this medium, whether they’re interview podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Show, fascinating storytelling like Lore, game shows like Ciquizza, or the ubiquitous general discussion podcast, there is no shortage of shapes and sizes podcasts can take. It’s the former two formats I became interested in: interviews, and storytelling. While they tend to remain separate formats, what would a podcast look like if it tried to combine both? That’s what I’m trying to do in Discourse.

In late August, I recorded the first episode, in which I interviewed Jeremy Rossmann, MIT drop-out and the founder of Make School, a college alternative for software developers, but I finished editing in late September as I learned the ins and outs of podcast editing and marketing. Since then, I’ve stared at the finished .mp3 file sitting on my desktop, asking myself when I was going the take the next step and release it into the wild. Well, I guess the guilt got to me, so here we are.

You can listen to episode 1 of Discourse now on iTunes or Overcast. Discourse does not have any sponsors at the moment. If you’d like to support the show, you can sign up to be a patron on Patreon, where you can send in your own (approved) questions to pre-announced guests for as little as $5 per month.

I’d like to thank my family, Harshil Shah, Matt Birchler, Michael Rockwell, and Aniket Sharma for their feedback and support.

Mashable Profiles Blind Apple Engineer Jordyn Castor

Mashable’s Katie Dupere wrote an invigorating profile about Jordyn Castor, a software engineer at Apple who happens to be blind. She currently works on enhancing VoiceOver for blind users.

At that job fair in 2015, Castor’s passion for accessibility and Apple was evident. She was soon hired as an intern focusing on VoiceOver accessibility.

As her internship came to a close, Castor’s skills as an engineer and advocate for tech accessibility were too commanding to let go. She was hired full-time as an engineer on the accessibility design and quality team — a group of people Castor describes as “passionate” and “dedicated.”

“I’m directly impacting the lives of the blind community,” she says of her work. “It’s incredible.”

For all Apple claims to be changing the world, it’s nice to see hard-hitting proof of the commitment of Apple employees to impact the lives of their customers. It’s long been evident that Apple has been influential in making their products accessible for others, to a degree much effective than any other large company in the valley.

It’s important to remember that diversity goes far, far beyond race, gender, and sexuality, and includes people with a variety of experiences. These people’s individuality (in this case Jordyn Castor) brings novel and newfound solutions to problems. Castor’s insight of what it’s like living as a blind person lends Apple’s a lifetime’s worth of unique experiences to be able to put forth into designing great software for some of their most ardent consumers.

What A 15-Year-Old Can Do with a Year’s Worth of Babysitting Money

A fascinating open letter to Tim Cook by Zoe Olson, who saved up a year’s worth of babysitting money to buy an iPad Pro and Pencil to kickstart her illustrating career. At 15 (my own age), she bought an iPad Pro with her own money to start drawing and sharing her illustrations online. Soon enough, she got noticed by an author who asked her to illustrate for her children’s book.

To me, this is more than an apt description of the iPad Pro’s capabilities; it’s also about how young people can find exciting opportunities through the internet and modern technology not entirely possible just ten years ago. What’s more; Tim Cook replied to her email.

Ulysses Launches iPhone App as Universal Update to iPad App

My favorite new writing app, Ulysses, just launched their universal app to the world, adding an iPhone version of the professional writing app, after three months of beta-testing. Also check out their new site, which looks great, and expect a review on Yellow Signal soon.

Meanwhile, as The Soulmen co-founder Marcus puts it so eloquently in the blog post, write your fingers bloody.

Matt Birchler’s watchOS 3 Pitch

Matt Birchler wrote a spot-on and comprehensive pieces about how Apple can take the Apple Watch further. While the whole article is accurate, I’m especially partial to his analysis of the Workout app, which seems very limited, and I’m sure leaves everyone wanting more:

Workouts has very basic functionality, but the functionality that is there works well. This is one part of the Watch where it seems like Apple was suitably conservative with what they were trying to do. It left us with an app that has us begging for more, not questioning its very existence.

[…]

One: Give me media playback controls in the app. People tend to work out with music or podcasts playing in their headphones, and they’re almost certainly going to want to skip forward or pause at some point. Right now you have to press the crown once to go to the app selector, again to bring up the watch face, and then swipe up to get the controls. Then you have to double press the crown to go back to the Workout app.

The fix seems simple, and would be to enable a swipe up from within the Workout app to bring up media controls. Swiping up does nothing right now, so it could be added without impacting anything in the existing app. Boom, done.

Birchler also suggests giving third-party apps more power, but I’d take that a step further: the Workout app is composed of different components: ‘Outdoor Run’, ‘Rower’, ‘Indoor Cycle’, but I don’t think it would be too hard to allow apps to build extensions for the Workout app itself. It doesn’t sound too crazy, given that the fitness features are some of the Apple Watch’s main selling points, and why wouldn’t Apple want to expand its non-exhaustive array of workout types? I’m sick of having to choose ‘Other’ every time I play a game of basketball, and if a third-party option gives me a wider breadth of workout styles, that’s win for everyone.

Zaid Syed’s Mac and iPhone Setup on The Sweet Setup

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I had the great honor of having my Mac and iOS setup featured on The Sweet Setup, one of my favorite websites ever. If you’re (somehow) not familiar with them, I consider them to be The Wirecutter of Apple software.

While my setup has changed a bit since the interview, conducted in May 2015, you’ll still find that a lot of the things I use on the software side remains the same. If you’d like a more recent perspective on what I use every day, allow me to point you to my previous article on my favorite software of 2015.

Update to ‘Thoughts on the Patronage Model Debate’

Recent events have made me very disappointed in the actions of ‘Samantha Bielefeld’, someone who you may have heard of. While I don’t understand the whole situation, I understand that ‘Bielefeld’ is actually a man pretending to be a woman in order to write from a ‘unique’ perspective.

I feel betrayed by this, but more so that I’ve duped my own readers. I’ve updated all posts concerning this issue, including my ‘Thoughts on the Patronage Model Debate’ post.

More to come.

A Great Developer Can Come From Anywhere

Manson Reece writes a wonderful piece on his blog:

It’s March 2009, the height of SXSW in Austin before the conference gets too big for itself. I’m hanging out downtown with tech folks from a blogging startup, having dinner and beers before we head to the party they’re putting on. The CTO, one of the first employees at the company, is talking about Memcache servers and MySQL scaling, and I’m hanging on every word. I love this stuff. […]

We walk over to the party venue. It’s bigger and more crowded than he thought it would be. Their company has really taken off, growing well beyond the early days when it was just him and the founder trying to build something new. And it’s at this point that he turns to me and asks a question that brings us back to iOS development:

“So what do you think of my app, Instapaper?”

In answer to Marco Arment, at that time the CTO of Tumblr, I mutter something about liking it, but I haven’t really gotten it into my workflow yet. Hopefully whatever I said was encouraging. In subsequent years, of course, Instapaper would be one of my favorite apps.

This is such a strong piece. The main point Manton is trying to get across is that developers shouldn’t be jealous of another, but rather, inspired by them.

I’ll never accept the implied negativity in the “that’s fine for Marco” argument. I’ll never accept that we should be jealous of another developer’s success instead of inspired by it to do our best work.

Ev Williams on Medium’s Future

Adam Popescu scored a great chat with Ev Williams for The Verge, where Williams discusses Medium’s future, how it’s worked compared to the original vision, and how writers and readers can connect through Medium. The part that sticks out to me is this bit about the hole the Medium fills in social media:

I started Medium with the intention that there’s a better way to support quality ideas, thinking, stories we don’t yet have on the internet. Social media filled a gap that we didn’t know existed before, and Twitter and its followers so-to-speak have created a layer of real-time information that is extremely powerful. But that doesn’t suffice to help explain our world, or drive deeper understanding and connection. The web itself wasn’t meeting that need to its full potential. That’s why we created Medium.

I did feel like Medium solved a lot of problems we had before 2012. While some simply don’t ‘get’ it, I think it’s a great way for people to express themselves. It’s a great platform that allows socializes longform text. A lot of people still love building up a blog, writing consistently until you attract readers — like myself. But I think a lot more people will gravitate toward Medium to get their voice heard today — it’s because it’s easier to surface content in the network that Medium has created for people who want to get heard.

Matt Birchler’s Favorite 3D Touch Apps

Matt Bircher rounded up some of his favorite apps with 3D Touch. I don’t own an iPhone 6s, so I wouldn’t know how well they work, but it’s fascinating to gain an insight into how 3D Touch is being used by different developers for different use cases.

It’s a great piece well worth a read, with some brilliant high quality images showing off the 3D Touch implementations. I especially love Overcast’s implementation.

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