Ben Bajarin:

Specifically, the iPad is the most general purpose computing device I’ve ever studied. It can be so many things to so many people and do a wide variety of things well. It can be a DJ’s mixing board, an art easel, a portable DVD player, a music recording studio, an e-reader, a web browser, a gaming console, and so much more. I believe this range of supported use cases is what made the iPad Apple’s fastest growing product and one of the most quickly adopted devices in consumer electronics history. […]

The iPad’s curse may be it can do many things well but does it do anything better? That is a key question.

The iPad’s Curse

Frank Chimero:

Increasingly, I feel like a lot of my tools are dressing-up as tools, because they don’t offer any savings in time or effort, just slightly different methods to mindlessly shift information from one bucket to the next. And if one bucket has a hole in it, you get another, smaller bucket to catch anything coming out of the hole in the first bucket. This goes on and on with more holes and buckets, and before you know it, you have an intricate network of buckets whose reason for existance is to catch the information you can’t manage in the first place. You are stuck in bucket recursion, adding tools to patch the shortcomings of other tools. Those patches are how you know you have dress-up tools.

No New Tools

Matt Gemmell on the small screen of the 11-inch MacBook Air:

There’s no substitute for motivation, self-moderation and focus, but there’s also nothing inherently limiting about small screens. You absolutely can have the best of both worlds: your entire office in an envelope, without feeling that you’re being held back.

Great piece; hitting on both the philosophical and the practical.

Small Screen Productivity

Your best ideas come when you least expect them. That’s why Scratch launches lightning-fast, ready for input. Write it down and get back to life. Later, send your ideas where they need to go: Email that recipe to your sister, turn that note into a reminder or post that joke to Twitter. Get Scratch for iPhone today.

* * *

My thanks to Scratch for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. This app is just fantastic. It lives in my iPhone Dock for the sole purpose of being the go-to app for initially capturing ideas, lists, and other miscellaneous tidbits of information. It’s fast and right there, waiting. Highly recommended.

Sponsor: Scratch — Your Quick-Input Notepad

Over the weekend, Anna and I watched this documentary and really enjoyed it. (It was also the first time I’ve ever used the YouTube app on Apple TV; I had to un-hide the darn thing.)

Someday I’ll Fly is just an hour long, and it tells the story of how John Mayer got into playing guitar, how his first record came about, and subsequently how the rest of his records came about.

What’s so great about this video is that the focus is entirely on creativity, making music, and working through disillusionment as an artists.

The video is narrated by Mayer himself, and even if you’re not a Mayer fan, there are many fantastic quotes and tidbits about the journey and struggles of the creative artist.

John Mayer Documentary: Someday I’ll Fly

Flickr 3.0

Flickr for iPhone version 3

Flickr shipped a massive update to their iPhone app just a few days ago. As an avid user of both Flickr and an iPhone, I wanted to share my thoughts about their new app and bit about the state of Flickr in general.

In short, it’s a fantastic app sporting one of the best iOS 7 updates I’ve seen. It has many visual tie-ins with the also-recently-updated Flickr website. All in all, I am encouraged about the future of Flickr and their resolve to avoid obsolescence.

Instagram Inspiration

There is a lot of Instagram-type inspiration going on, and I like it. When scrolling down the main timeline view you can double-tap on an image favorite it; all images in your main timeline view are shown as edge-to-edge squares even if the image itself is a different aspect ratio.

The notifications screen that shows all the activity happening on your account (people who have liked your images, favorited them, and/or new followers) is also reminiscent of the Instagram notification screen.

In the main photo stream timeline, when someone has uploaded several photos, you see them as a collage of 2 or 3. You can tap on one of the photos you see to bring that photo’s detail view, or you can tap the button to “view all photos” and you’re taken to a gallery-type view showing all the photos in that set.

Navigating around the app

Virtually everything within the app is tappable as a link, which is great. It’s very easy to find and explore new photos and photographers, and thus it’s easy to drill down deep within the app.

Alas, there is no shortcut to get back to any of the top level tabs of the app. Suppose you tap on someone’s photo, then go to their profile timeline page, then tap onto another photo in their timeline, tap onto the comments of that photo, and then tap onto the someone who left a comment to view their profile timeline. Well, now you’re 5 layers deep into the app and it will take 5 taps to get back to the top. And, to add some lemon juice, to exit out of an individual photo view, you have to tap the “x” that’s in the top-right corner of the screen, but to go back a level when you’re on someone’s profile page, you have to tap the back arrow that is on the top-left of the screen. Moreover, since the Flickr app doesn’t have any gestural-based navigation (you can’t swipe from left-to-right to go back), the only way to navigate out of someone’s profile photo stream view is to scroll to the top to reveal the back button.

Overall, the app is extremely well designed and easy to navigate and figure out. The nature of the design and content encourage (in a good way) getting lost in the app and discovering photos and photographers. Just an easier way to get back to the trail head is all I’m asking for.

Pull to Refresh

The pull-to-refresh animation is quite clever. If you’re at the top of the main timeline view, pulling down reveals a white dot. As you continue to pull down to refresh, the white dot gradually turns pink as it simultaneously gets surrounded by a thick blue line (the two colors of the Flick logo). Then the blue line and pink dot separate to form the the two-dot Flickr logo and they sort of spin/orbit around one another.

This animation is even cooler when you pull to refresh from someone’s profile page. The blue line forms around the person’s circle avatar, and those two dots orbit around one another as the page refreshes and then the avatar sort of slingshots back up to where it was.

Auto-Uploading and Privacy

The Flickr app can auto-upload your iPhone photos just like Dropbox does.

So far as I can tell, once you’ve enabled the app’s auto-uploading feature, only your preceding photographs (and screenshots) will be uploaded to Flickr. It won’t begin uploading your whole iPhone Camera Roll.

All your auto-uploaded photos are automatically set to private. This is, in fact, a setting that you cannot change. I like that it’s a non-adjustable setting because it means nobody will accidentally set all their uploads to be public.

Photos that are set to private won’t show up in any public timelines and they are hidden from anyone who views your Flickr profile. You, however, will see the photos the same way all other photos appear in your timeline, and you can set any image to be public if you wish.

Within the iPhone app, photos that are set to private have a little lock icon in their top-left corner. On the Flickr website, the only way to know if a photo is set to private or not is by going to the image’s permalink page where you can see a lock icon.

On the left is what my Flickr photo stream looks like to me, and on the right is what it looks like to others.

Flickr for iPhone version 3

p.s. Here’s what it looks like in a web browser.

For photos that you upload manually from the Flickr app, you are given the option to set the photo’s visibility to Public, Private, Friends only, Family only, or Friends and Family only. (For those not familiar with how Friends and Family works in Flickr, when you chose to follow someone you can define if they are a friend or a family member. Thus, you’re given the option to also set a photo’s visibility to only those groups. Which is actually really great.)

You can also share the upload to Twitter, Facebook, and/or Tumblr. As well as adding the photo to a location (via the Foursquare API), and adding to any of your Flickr Albums (or create a new Album).

The idea of Flickr as a photo Syncing and sharing service

Flickr gives you 1TB (!) of free photo storage, which is pretty amazing.

That amount of storage is certainly enticing when trying to consider a photo backup service to use, but I see two downsides:

  1. For one I’m not sure if I want all my iPhone photos to be in my Flickr account. The past couple years I’ve been only putting my best / favorite photos up to Flickr. There are a lot of silly, blurry, goofy images on my iPhone’s camera roll.
  2. Secondly, not counting the iPhone app, there’s no automatic uploading of my photos to Flickr. I have to manually upload my images. And, suppose I were to upload today all my photos from 2013 — they would appear at the top of my Flickr timeline, because Flickr doesn’t auto-sort by original photo date.

While there are some cool possibilities with using Flickr as a hub for photo sharing and syncing, it’s still not there yet.

In-App Filters

The Flickr app continues to let you take and edit photos as well.

Below is an image of my wife, Anna, holding our new nephew, Simon. The image itself was shot with my E-M10. In clockwise starting with the top-left image: (1) the original out-of-camera JPG; (2) a version edited with the new Flickr app using the Brooklyn filter; (3) edited on the iPhone VSCO Cam app using the F2 filter; and (4) a version edited in Lightroom on my Mac using the VSCO Film 05, Agfa Vista 100 preset.

Flickr for iPhone version 3

(Tap the image to bring up an enlarged view.)

I tried to pick the filter in each app that I liked best for this photograph. Here, comparing them side-by-side here, the Flickr version looks the most dramatic and “cheesy”. I think the VSCO Film version looks the most natural and nice. The VSCO Cam version looks great as well, though it too — for a one-tap filter application on an iPhone, I’m impressed.


  • For a few days, if you installed the Flickr iPhone app onto your iPad you got a watermelon icon. Apparently it was an easter egg placed there by Flickr as a hint that the iPad app is coming soon.

  • When you’re in the detail view of a photograph, you can “toss it around” just like you can with Tweetbot 3 for iPhone. This is a neat and fun touch. However, it’s also the only way to exit the detail view aside from tapping the “x” in the upper-right corner.

When you tap a photo, it brings up that image in full-view. Tap it again and all the text and photo info on the screen disappears, giving you the “lightbox” mode. Tap in lightbox mode to go back to image-only view with the relevant text again.

  • When leaving a comment, there is no way to reply to a particular person’s comment. You can only type your comment out, but not have it be an “@reply”.


The new Flickr app is one of the nicest iOS 7 apps I’ve seen. Its links and tappable areas are clear, it does a great job using blur effects, and it’s easy and delightful to use.

Flickr has so many things right. The whole way the site works is clever, thought through, and useful. But times are changing and so there is still much that Flickr needs to catch up on. But I love that it’s making serious strides forward, and that Yahoo is taking the service seriously. I’ve been a Flickr user for years and I use it now more than I ever have. It’s encouraging and exciting to see these improvements to their website, service, and mobile apps.

Flickr 3.0

CJ Chilvers:

It may not please the geeks, but the best solution I’ve found for all this is the humble book. Making a collection of photos into a book (even if it’s just a year book of miscellaneous shots) solves several problems.

Making a photo book through iPhoto has become one of our favorite things to do as well, and I highly recommend it. It’s super easy and affordable.

For the last two years now, after Thanksgiving weekend, I place all of my favorite photos from the past 12 months into a new iPhoto library. The software will auto-generate the layout of the book (it puts them in chronological order), and then I just tweak it and send to print. The quality is fantastic and it’s one of the best ways to have your favorite photos all in one place.

The Best Photo Management Tool

I linked to Kidpost back in February, but it seems relevant again considering the aforelinked. Basically, Kidpost rounds up all the photos of your kids that you post on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram and then sends them in an email to your extended family.

The service is still in beta, and I haven’t seen it or tried it myself, but it looks like a promising and clever solution to the problem of photo sharing.


Justin Williams on the different options available for both backing up our photos and sharing them with friends and family. He looks at Dropbox’s Carousel, Apple’s Photo Stream, and Google+ Cloud Backup, and email.

Aside from my writing, I really can’t think of anything else I make that is as important to me than the photos I am taking. If you’re casual about your photos and only care about sharing the most recent snapshot and then you never really care about that photo again, then things aren’t that bad. You take a picture, upload it to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and/or email it/text message it to your friends or family and you’re done.

But once you start caring. Once you realize that you want your favorite photos in some sort of album for easy trips through memory lane, and that you want all your photos to be available on all your devices, and that you want to more easily define who you share what photos with, and that you want all your photos to be safely backed up in case your toddler tosses your iPhone into the potty, well… that’s when you realize the state of photo sharing and backup in 2014 is still a confusing mess.

I touched on this yesterday in my link to Federico Viticci’s iOS 8 Wish List article. While pontificating what Apple has in store for the future of iOS, surely improvements to Photo Stream and iCloud storage are on the list. With how aggressive Apple is when it comes to enhancing the iPhone’s physical camera and the software that drive is, it’s mind boggling how much they’ve neglected the storage, syncing, and sharing of those photos.

State of Photo Sharing in 2014