Just a reminder to all you good looking people that this year’s Fourth Annual Membership Drive and Giveaway ends on Sunday.

I could not be writing here full-time without the generous support of the members, and it means the world to me that readers are directly supporting the work I do here.

If the value you get from this website is worth $4/month to you, then I hope you’ll consider signing up to become a member. As a member you’ll get access to my daily podcast, Shawn Today, and you’ll be directly contributing to the work I do here on a daily basis.

Moreover, signing up for a membership now means you’ll be entered to win one of the Seven Boxes of Awesomeness. And all current members are, of course, eligible to win as well.

Sign up here. Then, tell your friends to sign up, tell your mom to sign up, and enjoy your weekend.

Update on March 3, 2014: The membership drive has come to an end. Thanks so much to all who signed up over the past two weeks, and to all the longstanding members who have supported this site for the past several years. For those who are not signed up as members, you can, of course, sign up at any time. And when you do you get instant access to the members-only podcast, Shawn Today, as well as access to the reruns page which features every show ever recorded (currently 485 episodes and counting).

Last Call: The 2014 Membership Drive and Giveaway

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about the past 3 years of writing shawnblanc.net as my full-time gig and the lessons, goals, good parts, bad parts of it.

Sponsored by:

Total Creative Freedom

Related to those several billion messages, what I like about iMessage is also a little bit what I don’t like about it: that I can use it on all my devices. It’s great to have a chat in the messages app on my Mac and then leave to go on an errand without having to say “BRB” or “TTYL”. But, it’s a bit annoying when an incoming message causes all my devices to beep.

While iOS and OS X are much smarter at this than they used to be — if I’m mostly using my Mac to talk to someone on iMessage, then an incoming message notification won’t ping on my iPhone right away — but it’s still not perfect. If my Mac’s messages app is in the “background” and I don’t bring it to the front as soon as a message arrives, then a few seconds later the message notification pings on my iPhone and iPad.

It’s not just iMessages either — it’s also reminders and calendar notifications. As I said in my calendar-centric interview with Lex, when an event reminder goes off at my desk, it’s like a fire alarm.

But this is a hard problem to solve, no doubt. Short of reading my mind and being acutely aware of which device has my attention at that moment, what should the logic be? How can my iOS and OS X devices know where my attention and focus is? Maybe they can’t. And, just throwing this out there, but maybe some sort of Apple wearable device could help.

Apple: Billions of iMessages Sent Daily

Yesterday I was playing Threes, and I realized that something was different in the game — it now shows a + symbol when the next incoming tile is going to be greater than a 3 tile. So I went to my Notification Center to see if the app had been recently updated and to read the release notes for what was new.

Lo and behold, at the bottom of the release notes for version 1.0.3 was a request asking users to please rate the app. Upon reading this, I realized I had not yet rated Threes on the App store, despite the fact that it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long time. So I opened it in the App Store and left it a 5-star rating.

Meanwhile, the guys at Supertop, makers of the popular Castro podcast app, have been trying the same thing:

Over the last few releases of Castro, we’ve also been experimenting with this approach. As well as being more polite than prompting with an alert view in the app, we’ve seen that this dramatically increases the number of reviews we get when an update comes out.

They had no request for ratings in the release notes of their 1.0.4 update, then added a request for 1.0.5, removed it in 1.0.6, and then put it back in for 1.0.7. The results are pretty incredible and telling.

This isn’t necessarily to say that these guys are getting more ratings than if they were using an in-app popup dialog, but for some developers that’s not something they want to do (and as a user, I appreciate that choice very much). But, clearly it’s worth it to put some energy into the release notes and to also put a polite request at the bottom, reminding and asking users to please rate the app.

Supertop’s Effective Way to Ask for an App Review

Juli Clover at MacRumors:

Over a 24-hour period beginning yesterday, approximately 293 new iOS games have been released into the App Store. 95 of those games are either Flappy Bird clones or heavily inspired by the original Flappy Bird title, according to data gathered by The Guardian.

Imitation is the greatest form of flappery.

Flappy Bird Clones Make Up One-Third of Newly Released iOS Games

Jeff Mueller is kickstarting (through App.net’s Backer service) an iOS app, Plink, that will upload images and generate reference links for them. Something that is trivial on a Mac, but actually still quite cumbersome on iOS. I’m in as a backer.


Where the camera industry is zigging, photographer Dennis Manarchy is zagging. Manarchy designed and built the largest film camera in the world. This ginormous format camera is 35 feet long, 8 feet wide, 12 feet tall, and it uses 6-foot film negatives.

Manarchy’s incredible goal is to take the camera all around the United States and document portraits of people from all different cultures. Followed by a traveling exhibition where he’ll display 24-foot prints of the portraits, printed at detail never before seen at that scale.

Be sure to see the video they made, giving more explanation into the history and vision behind this project. I would love to visit the Butterflies & Buffalo exhibit if it ever comes near Kansas City.

The Best Camera Is the One You Have Built on Top of a 40-Foot Trailer

The Origami Workstation (my review) is what I use for using a bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. However, because the side bezel of the iPad Air and the iPad mini are so thin, the bottom part of the screen is difficult to tap when the iPad is set into the Origami.

A cheap “fix” that someone showed me on Twitter is to put a carpenter’s pencil underneath the iPad.

Update: Check out Tyler Hellard’s even better solution that uses the Smart Cover.

The Pencil Trick for Using an iPad Air and/or iPad Mini With the Origami Workstation

The aforelinked guide to Threes strategy was via this stellar review of Threes by John Teti (this one’s via DF):

Here I’ve made two sixes, and I’m about to slide them together for a 12. The sixes gaze into each other’s eyes in anticipation of their mathematical destiny. This is one of the earliest glimmers of personality in the numerical cast of Threes. Later, the tiles will grumble, sigh, and playfully heckle you as you consider the board. The bigger numbers have bolder, more fully formed personas than the little ones. The tutorial is charming because it holds the promise of more whimsy; the game is charming because it delivers on that promise.

Threes Gives You Cuteness Where You Least Expect It

While your Mac is downloading and installing 10.9.2, why not read up on your Threes strategy? This is one of the best Threes guides I’ve read (whereby I just accidentally admitted I’ve read more than one guide to playing Threes). I’m pretty convinced that the corner strategy is the key to high scoring. What’s new to me here is the way the new tiles are dealt onto the board:

It seems that the game makes a “stack” of twelve cards containing four 1s, four 2s, and four 3s. It then gives you a card selected from that stack at random. When the stack has run out, a new stack of twelve is created and you begin again. This means that in any 12 card sequence you will always see four of each color of card.

Tips for Playing Threes