So happy that syncing is back in the new Shortcuts beta. I now have a lot of tidying up to do across all my iOS devices though.

I've been trying out WordPress as a possible platform to move my website to, but I still find myself preferring Jekyll.

Shortcuts beta now syncs over iCloud!

It had been a while since I last used my Moment macro lens. This is a close-up of a bluetooth speaker with a Duotone filter applied using Darkroom.

IMG_1752

Summertime

📍Jersey City, New Jersey

I stopped using Twitter about eight months ago. Last week, I removed all of my tweets and favorites.

Twitter is in desperate need of a severe course correction, but I suspect it's far too late now.

Does anyone know what's changed in the latest beta version of Shortcuts? There doesn't seem to be any information on TestFlight.

Apple Watch Apps Are Dead, Long Live Apple Watch Apps

9to5Mac reports that Instapaper has dropped Apple Watch support:

Just two weeks after announcing it was going independent, popular read-it-later service Instapaper has updated its iOS application to remove support for Apple Watch. Instapaper was one of the first applications to ever support Apple Watch, launching its client on Apple Watch release day in 2015…

On Apple Watch, Instapaper allowed users to access text-to-speech playback of saved articles. The app also supported reorganizing articles, “liking” them, deleting or archiving, and more. While those features were originally hidden behind a $2.99 per month Premium upgrade, they became free in 2016 after Instapaper’s acquisition by Pinterest.

Instapaper is just the latest iOS app to drop support for its Apple Watch client. Earlier this year, Instagram killed off its Apple Watch application, as did Slack, Whole Food, eBay, and several others.

The reasons Instapaper had for dropping Apple Watch support are similar to those we've heard before. Apple deprecated WatchKit 1.0 and requires existing apps to be updated, but app usage was so low that it wasn't worth the effort.

But why was usage so low? Some see this as a sign that Apple Watch just isn't a viable app platform, but I disagree. I think the main reason why some apps suffer from poor adoption is that they simply lacked any meaningful purpose. Apps like Instapaper weren't solving a particular problem or serving a need. As a result, they felt forced and unnecessary.

At WWDC in 1997, Steve Jobs responded to a question from the audience with one of his most memorable quotes:

You've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can't start with the technology and try to figure out where you can sell it.

This is as true today as it was 21 years ago, and I'd argue it explains why some Apple Watch apps didn't take. It isn't because the platform isn't viable, it's simply that some developers started with the technology and tried to come up with a reason to use it. I use Instapaper across my iOS devices, but I never used the Apple Watch app because organizing, deleting, and liking articles with it never made any sense to me.

As watchOS matures, apps that don't have a compelling purpose are disappearing. This is a good thing, because it leaves us with apps that are better suited for Apple Watch. However, I am thankful that Apple Watch apps like Instapaper existed in the first place, as they paved the way by showcasing functionality or demonstrating how versatile Apple Watch can be—even if the apps themselves weren't successful.

The lack of syncing in Shortcuts is really, really frustrating at times. I've been using AirDrop to share new shortcuts across my iOS devices (two iPads and an iPhone).

Apple Removes Apps From Their Affiliate Program

Members of the iTunes Affiliate Program (myself included) received an email from Apple earlier today that announced iOS and Mac apps would no longer be included:

Thank you for participating in the affiliate program for apps. With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program. Starting on October 1st, 2018, commissions for iOS and Mac apps and in-app content will be removed from the program. All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) remain in the affiliate program.

This stinks, especially as it comes less than 24 hours after Apple's earning call that announced yet another record quarter. Was that 7% rate really eating into their bottom line? I do find it interesting that the only content being dropped from the affiliate program is that which Apple takes a sizable cut of. iTunes Store and Books content remains, so why only apps? I can't help but think it's because Apple pay affiliates from their own 30% take, and they just don't want to do it anymore.

Federico Viticci describes the move as downright hostile and petty, and I completely agree with him. This decision is a shitty one on Apple's part, and it feels like it was made only with a balance sheet as consideration.

There are many great sites within the Apple community that contribute to app sales and adoption of Apple devices through app recommendations. This decision to end affiliate links hurts the very people who will have had a noticeable influence on the purchase of apps. Eli Hodapp over at Touch Arcade, one of the most popular iOS game sites, isn't even sure how the site can continue.

I can say with absolute certainty that the majority of apps I've purchased and enjoyed over the years have been through reviews and recommendations that used affiliate links. That's how I, and many others, discover new apps. I enjoy reading app reviews on MacStories or hearing recommendations in an episode of Mac Power Users. One of my worries is that we're going to see far fewer meaningful recommendations from the community. Sites like Touch Arcade are going to find it extremely difficult to survive, and other publications may no longer publish app recommendations at all.

Apple is one of the world's richest companies with billions of dollars in the bank. Dropping apps from the affiliate program after all these years just feels like a dick move.

This isn't good. Apple says it is removing apps & in-app purchases from its iTunes Affiliate Program.

Congrats to London Spitfire! Overwatch League 2018 champions. I wasn't able to watch today's games but will watch a rerun later.

I've made a few tweaks to how my blog displays webmentions. While doing this, I noticed that the content of some webmentions contain broken HTML or only include a quote of my own text. I'll need to think more about how to best display webmention content that keeps it presentable.

Overwatch League final time! Come on, London Spitfire!

I'm trying out the Podcasts app in iOS 12 for the next few weeks. I already miss the queue feature in Castro, but Podcasts has been a pleasant surprise.

Adding Webmentions to Jekyll

I've added some basic support for webmentions to my Jekyll-powered site using webmention.io and this Jekyll plugin. If any of my posts are mentioned elsewhere and my site receives a webmention, it's displayed below the post content.

Since Jekyll is a static site generator, the plugin can only check for new webmentions when the site is rebuilt. Netlify uses continuous deployment to keep my site up to date, so any time I commit a change and push it to Github, the site is automatically rebuilt and deployed. To supplement this, I also use IFTTT Webhooks to trigger a build every 24 hours, allowing my website to check for new webmentions on a daily basis.

Although the plugin is easy to install and use, I ran into a hiccup when trying to work on my site locally. I'd normally use the following command to serve the site as I work on it, allowing me to see changes reflected:

bundle exec jekyll serve --limit_post 50

This uses the development Jekyll environment by default, which overwrites site.url with http://localhost:4000 (instead of using https://www.jordanmerrick.com). The webmentions plugin then attempts to retrieve webmentions for posts under that URL, not my site's actual URL. As a result, no webmentions were being retrieved, so I couldn't test locally.

As a workaround, I discovered that I needed to set Jekyll's environment to production. This keeps site.url intact, allowing for webmentions to be properly retrieved:

JEKYLL_ENV=production bundle exec jekyll serve --limit_post 50

The plugin also supports sending webmentions, though I need to do a little more work to set that up. Outgoing webmentions is a separate command and not part of the build process. I do use a Digital Ocean instance for development, so I'm considering some sort of cronjob for handling outgoing webmentions.

iOS 12 public beta seems to be quite stable on my iPhone X and iPad mini 4. Should I go all-in and install it on my iPad Pro?

Reading a Six Colors post about automating charts and was reminded that I created a workflow almost three years ago for just this task. Hard to believe Workflow has been around that long, and amazing to see how far it's come.

Now that a third public beta of iOS 12 has just been released, time to install it on my iPhone!

I haven't used Instapaper in years, but going independent seems like a good move for them. Hopefully it all works out; companies that change owners every few years spend more time shifting gears than going forward. I'd hate to see Instapaper fade away completely.