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‘Great Developers Steal Ideas, Not Products’

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David Barnard, in a post from 2011 on the oft-cited (and oft-misattributed) adage about good artists copying and great artists stealing:

In dancing around the moral and semantic differences between borrowing and stealing, I’ve been missing the greater point. Elliot used the word steal, not for its immoral connotation, but to suggest ownership. To steal something is to take possession of it.

When you steal an idea and have the time and good taste to make it your own, it grows into something different, hopefully something greater. But as you borrow more and more from other products, there’s less and less of you in the result. Less to be proud of, less to own.

Barnard quotes the actual origin of the adage, from T.S. Eliot, and that alone is worth a bookmark. In Eliot’s formulation, it’s not copying vs. stealing, but imitating vs. stealing. That subtle distinction is clarifying. People who are creative and ethical generally see the clear distinction between remixing and ripping off. I add generally there because some people are truly offended when the ideas behind their own creations are remixed — stolen — by others.

To name one notable example, I’d argue that Android, as a whole, is a remix of the iPhone. But there are specific Android handsets — starting with some early Samsung Galaxy models — that are rip-offs of iPhone hardware designs. Steve Jobs, however, felt otherwise.

(And which is not to say Google hasn’t often been a shameless imitator/copycat.)

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samuel
1 day ago
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Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Reruns

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It’s not a bug in your RSS reader if recent articles in this feed all suddenly appeared as unread. You may even have seeming duplicates.

Sorry about that! It’s due to my changing settings in my blog generator. Pages now have a .html suffix where before they had none. This change impacts permalinks, which also changes the guids in my RSS feed — and NetNewsWire and other RSS readers use the guid property to identify articles, which means these will show up as new articles.

(Note: I’ve created redirects so that old links pointing in will still work.)

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samuel
4 days ago
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NewsBlur helpfully (and expensively) merged these stories because they were >95% the same. So no dupes.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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‘Poor Charlie’s Almanack’ (and the Tragic State of E-Books)

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When Charlie Munger — Warren Buffet’s longtime partner at Berkshire Hathaway — died last month at 99, I mentioned that a new edition of Poor Charlie’s Almanack was about to be published by Stripe Publishing (a subsidiary of the very same Stripe of e-payments renown).

The hardcover edition is out, but Stripe has also made the entire book available on this marvelous website. The site is beautiful, fun, and clever, and reminds me greatly of the web edition of The Steve Jobs Archive’s Make Something Wonderful. Both are damning condemnations of the state of e-books.

Regarding Make Something Wonderful, Sebastiaan de With wrote:

It’s hard to capture the delight of a real book, but this website does a fantastic job coming close. Lots of delightful, thoughtful little details.

I say “ebook” because it isn’t a word used anywhere on the website, likely for good reason: there are no good ebooks. The ePub file lacks all the delight of the beautiful website. Books on Apple Books are objectively worse than their written counterparts. This might be nicer.

Kindle editions are even more primitive, design-wise. Compare the Kindle preview of Poor Charlie’s Almanack to the website edition. It’s like comparing a matchbook to a blowtorch. With the e-book editions — Kindle, Kobo, Apple Books, whatever — you can merely read these books. With the web editions, you experience them.

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samuel
56 days ago
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I'm building an epub reader now (solreader.com) but I have experience with both RSS and ePubs, which are open formats designed to normalize the differences between different publishers and make it easy to read more. These websites are beautiful but they are not scalable, in that publishers can't make a bespoke website for each book, and readers will fatigue of having a new reading UX for each book/feed they read.

In other words, these solve different problems.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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2 public comments
Belfong
64 days ago
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I think Gruber is overlooking the economy of making a technology to support such experience. Not every Kindle books are designed with such visuals and multimedia. To slight Kindle or Apple Books for not building that technology into ePub or whatever format is not considering the economy of building vs the returns.
malaysia
Nikkoura
65 days ago
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Gruber is overlooking the « Berkshire mode » format you can also find on the website.

Get ready to hear more about "pre-internet" times

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Expect 2024 to feature more talk about "pre-internet" life — a subject of intense curiosity to the growing cohort of people who never experienced it.

Why it matters: There's been a pronounced generational tipping point: Boomers, Gen Xers and elder millennials are now the last people who remember what it was like to use a pay phone, a paper map, a typewriter, etc. — and they're being rapidly outnumbered by younger adults who don't.


Driving the news: There's mounting fascination among the "youngs" in how people socialized, found where they were going, and got things done before the mid-1990s, when the internet, email and mobile phones started becoming common.

  • They're turning to vintage TV shows like "Friends" and "Seinfeld" to catch a glimpse, or asking questions on Quora and Reddit about what life was like.
  • A growing number of articles and personal essays meditate on what it was like to live without being reachable at all times or carrying all the world's accumulated knowledge in your pocket.
  • Social scientists use terms like "digital immigrants" and (cheekily) "the last of the innocents" to describe people who came of age in the era of phone books, VCRs, answering machines and paper AAA TripTik maps.
  • Dinner table conversations have Gen Zers asking their elders: How did you meet up with people? How did you find what you wanted to buy?
An advertising jingle for the Yellow Pages phone directory went, "Let your fingers do the walking." Before Yelp, when you wanted to find a business, you looked here for a listing (minus customer reviews) of a plumber, pizzeria, veterinarian, etc. Photo: William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Zoom in: Movies that took place in "pre-internet" times are starting to have an antique or period feel to them — like the 2023 Golden Globe-nominated "Air," set in 1984.

  • Ben Affleck's character, in his quest to sign Michael Jordan as a spokesman for Nike, fusses over a paper map while trying to drive to the Jordan family home, and races to a pay phone in front of a 7-Eleven to call his office for critical information.

Reality check: Even people who did grow up pre-internet find it increasingly hard to recall how things worked. (I sheepishly raise my hand.)

  • By today's standards, things were more boring and inconvenient — you couldn't play Candy Crush while standing in line, couldn't find the answer to whatever question popped into your head, and couldn't reach anyone, anytime.
  • Relics of this era seem increasingly vintage, like the "Message Tree" at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, where people pinned handwritten notes for friends they were trying to locate.
  • An article in The Atlantic encapsulates these sentiments: "What did people do before smartphones?" the headline asks, adding, "No one can remember."
At the 1969 Woodstock Festival, people communicated by writing messages on paper plates and sticking them on message boards. Photo: Ralph Ackerman/Getty Images

"Many who lived through these 'Dark Ages' will tell you how life seemed less busy, less stressful and more enjoyable," Christopher McFadden writes on the news site Interesting Engineering.

  • People got together in person more often since they couldn't text or Zoom — and paid more attention to each other.
  • Boredom begat creativity and useful ideas. After all, it's easier to let your mind wander productively when you're not addictively scrolling TikToks.
  • Pop culture was a lot less fragmented since everybody had to watch TV shows at the hour they aired (at least, before VCRs).
  • As the late, great David Carr — former media columnist for the New York Times — put it in 2007, "Rising above the clutter was a lot easier when we were all staring into the same campfire."

The other side: The safety advantages to today's world are infinite. Instant phone access to your children and other family members in case of emergency is just one example.

  • The luxury of being able to look up anything that's on your mind, any restaurant menu, anything at all, anytime... is amazing.
  • The ability to take infinite photographs and store them safely online is a great joy — and sure beats dropping off rolls of film for a week at a photo shop (or drugstore) and hoping the pictures don't come back blurry.
  • Emails and texts are a lot easier to compose than the handwritten letters we used to dutifully send to friends and family. (OTOH: Thank-you notes have become a lost art.)

How it used to work: Before the internet, you didn't keep in touch with everyone from your past — much less wish them a happy birthday, get periodic doses of their political views, or stumble on photos of their gender reveal parties (which didn't exist).

  • Before Facebook, your former co-workers, past classmates and roommate's-cousin-you-met-at-a-party-once were people you might never see again.
  • "You couldn't find out, buy, watch or listen to anything you wanted immediately," as one Redditor explained. "If you wanted to access your money, you had to go to a bank during banking hours. If you wanted to listen to a song, you had to hear it by chance on the radio or go and buy a physical copy at the store."
  • People read books and newspapers (sniff!); listened to records, cassette tapes and CDs; watched TV and played card games and stuff.

Where it stands: Our collective sense that we spend too much time online has led to an inchoate nostalgia for pre-internet times — when sounding off about politics meant writing a sharply worded letter-t0-the-editor and shoving it indignantly in the mailbox.

  • According to a Harris Poll published by Fast Company, "most Americans would prefer to live in a simpler era before everyone was obsessed with screens and social media."
  • That sentiment is strongest among Gen Xers and older millennials, the poll found.

Yes, but: Those same poll respondents might be in for a rude shock if they actually had to get through their day without a smartphone.

Flashback: One of my vivid memories of journalism in the late 1980s was covering a high-profile court case and watching the Associated Press reporter guard the phone booth next to the courtroom, so she could be the first to report the verdict.

  • As a cub reporter in the Boston suburbs, I used to go to local libraries to look up people's numbers in telephone books because that was easier than making lots of calls to directory assistance.
  • Pay phones were a hassle and often didn't work. Here's a story I wrote in 1994 about the perennial disrepair of public phones in Harlem.
Pay phones in New York City generally looked like this — and often swallowed your dime (or quarter). This photo is from 2015, seven years before the city's last pay phones were removed. Photo: Andriy Prokopenko for Getty Images

The bottom line: The digerati seem to be coalescing around the term "pre-internet" to describe the era, which refers to all of human history up until 1994 or 1995.

  • This distinguishes it from the "before times" — a phrase derived from a 1966 "Star Trek" episode — that has come to mean the period prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Sign of the times: a T-shirt being sold on Amazon says, "I miss my pre-internet brain."


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samuel
59 days ago
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I was born in 1985 so I experienced plenty of life pre web. Less than comforting to know society would irreparably break down in the event of a longer than two weeks electrical outage. Even the 2003 blackout had a minimal effect since it was still early and regional. Socialization is very different now but like all human made institutions, we’ll adapt.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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freeAgent
58 days ago
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One thing I look forward to in retirement is having the ability to disconnect and become connected on my own defined schedule. I plan on doing a digital cleanse once I hit retirement and rebuilding from (near) scratch intentionally around what I truly need atop a foundation of activities and practices that are "offline." It's, unfortunately, not practical to do this as someone who still has/needs a job.
Los Angeles, CA

Has Gratuity Culture Reached a Tipping Point?

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Paying extra for service has inspired rebellions, swivelling iPads, and irritation from Trotsky and Larry David. Post-pandemic, the practice has entered a new stage.
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samuel
70 days ago
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I would love for tipping to expand to the point that the attitude around it is encouraged and for those with the means to be able to tip up to 100%. If that means creating a culture where generosity is the norm and wealth is shared more directly with those in service roles, I'm all for it.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
WorldMaker
70 days ago
I think the current problems are that the US has allowed tips to replace base wages and that many of these “service” tips aren’t even going to wages. Service workers shouldn’t need to depend on customers good and special days to have a living wage. When workers depend on 18-20% tip averages just to pay rent, tips are no longer generous gratuities to show gratitude but a way to keep service workers beholden to the worst customers just to survive. On top of that as consumers get used to “everything asks for a tip” it increases the number of cases where businesses are taking tips as extra revenue and not directly as “bonus” wages for specific employees. Even when they are earmarked for specific employees, the companies are still taking cuts as middlemen. (Most of the “gig economy” companies hair shave “tips” as part of their direct revenue sources.) Tips silently and not so quietly subsidize “low prices”. I have a hard time wondering if we wouldn’t be better off as a society increasing the minimum wage for what are currently tipped jobs, right-sizing prices by 15-20% to make it clearer what the real prices are, and returning to a view that tips should be optional and truly an optional gratuity in gratitude for exceptional service.
fxer
69 days ago
> Service workers shouldn’t need to depend on customers good and special days to have a living wage That’s the meat of it. Tying worker pay to the whims of each individual consumer can never create a fair system.
fancycwabs
60 days ago
Tipping is a great way for racists to make sure the folks they don't like are paid less than the folks they do like.
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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta flight

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Last year we had a reservation for a ride in a balloon, but it was cancelled due to rain. A big reason for coming to the fiesta again this year was to have another chance for a balloon flight.

This time, the weather was perfect, and we got to experience the ride. And it was indeed a very special experience.

We signed up for the VIP Ryders Club package, which included a shorter line, a breakfast, and some swag:

VIP Ryders Club Check In

VIP Ryders Club tent

VIP Ryders Club breakfast

A boarding pass:

Boarding pass

Heading to the balloon:

Heading to the balloon

Our balloon:

Our balloon

Jenn helped hold up the balloon envelope while they used fans to start inflating it:

Using fans to start inflating the envelope

Using fans to start inflating the envelope

Using fans to start inflating the envelope

Using fans to start inflating the envelope

Inspecting the balloon

Basket

Hot air inflation:

Hot air inflation

Hot air inflation

Raising the balloon:

Raising the balloon

Getting into the basket:

Getting into the basket

Burners:

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Burner

Selfie in the basket. I wore my 360 camera on my head; stay tuned for a timelapse video of our flight:

Selfie

Liftoff:

Liftoff

Aerial views:

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The north RV lot; you can see our coach next to the power pole near the center of the picture:

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Another angle of the north RV lot and our coach:

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Coming in for a landing:

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Deflating the envelope:

Deflating the envelope

Deflating the envelope

Exiting the basket:

Exiting the basket

Deflating the envelope

Packing up

Packing up

Bubbly celebration:

Bubbly celebration

Packing up

Packing up

Packing up

Packing up

We landed very near the field; the van could have taken us back, but we opted to walk; the blue dot on this map screenshot is where we landed, and our coach was just above the middle of the word “Presbyterian”:

Map

This ride was a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’re super glad that it worked out to do it this year.

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samuel
78 days ago
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Check out our iOS developer's experience in a hot air balloon. Looks like fun!
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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