Linked List: April 2022

Tara AI 

My thanks to Tara AI for sponsoring this week at DF. Tara believes in bringing joy back into building and shipping software. Tara’s project management tools are designed for developers, founders, and teams that move quickly and build beautiful products. Tara wanted to build project management software they themselves would use, where they didn’t have to spend hours finding a ticket or syncing to source control, while maintaining 99.9 percent uptime.

Since Tara launched to the DF community for the first time, they’ve added a slew of features. Here’s what they’ve released just in the last few weeks:

  • Blazing fast search, across all your tasks, requirements, and synced Github issues.
  • Quick addition of tasks, without losing view of your sprints.
  • Assignment of requirements to multiple teams.

Special deal just for DF readers: 35 percent off all plans, with the coupon code DFTARA.

David Letterman Tried to Buy Twitter 

“But something else will come along.”

What’s the Mood Inside Twitter? 

Kate Conger, reporting for The New York Times:

Many Twitter employees feel personally invested in the company’s effort to encourage healthy conversation — even if they do not directly work on content moderation — and have pressed executives to crack down further on hate speech and misinformation, six employees said. They see Mr. Musk’s proposal to revert to Twitter’s early, lax approach as a rebuke of their work.

But other employees have argued in internal messages seen by The Times that their co-workers have shifted too far to the left side of the political spectrum, making employees who support Mr. Musk’s plans too uncomfortable to speak up. In a worker-run survey of nearly 200 Twitter employees on Blind, an anonymous workplace review app, 44 percent said they were neutral on Mr. Musk. Twenty-seven percent said they loved Mr. Musk, while 27 percent said they hated him.

Blind offers colleagues a way to — according to Blind — anonymously chat about and review their workplace, where only their fellow colleagues can see those internal-to-the-company discussion boards. They verify that participants actually work where they claim to work by requiring a work email address to sign up. Me, I wouldn’t trust this as far as I can throw it, and you can’t throw a website. I might sign up just to lurk, but I wouldn’t post a word that I wouldn’t say under my name. But that’s just me.

A poll of 200 Twitter employees — all of whom are on Blind — doesn’t prove anything, but that an evenly-split response is not what you’d expect based on the public comments from Twitter employees.

Apple Launches Self Service Repair Store 

Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

In a paper published today, Apple addresses some FAQs about the program. It’s worth skimming.

The manuals needed for repairs are published on Apple’s support website but the Self Service Repair store can be found at I was expecting these parts to be sold on Apple’s website, but the company has decided to spin this secondary website up for purchasing parts and tools.

The site is decidedly different from Apple’s own. The design is basic and feels pretty cheap.

Not surprised at all that Apple farmed this part of the Self Service Repair Program out to a partner, but the website should look more legit. Or at least the website should feature a prominent link at the top to Apple’s own website to verify that it is legit.

I saw folks on Twitter bitching that the tools are rented but they put a hold on your credit card for their full value until they’re returned. That’s how renting expensive tools and equipment works.

Apple Developer News: ‘Clarifying Criteria & New Timing Extension for App Store Improvements Process’ 

Here we go. Clarification from Apple itself:

As part of the App Store Improvements process, developers of apps that have not been updated within the last three years and fail to meet a minimal download threshold — meaning the app has not been downloaded at all or extremely few times during a rolling 12 month period — receive an email notifying them that their app has been identified for possible removal from the App Store.

Apple always wants to help developers get and keep quality software on the App Store. That’s why developers can appeal app removals. And developers, including those who recently received a notice, will now be given more time to update their apps if needed — up to 90 days. Apps that are removed will continue to function as normal for users who have already downloaded the app on their device.

Good, clear clarification and response.

‘Old Apps Sometimes Die’ 

Matt Deatherage, writing for MDJ:

Is this unfair to apps that were complete years ago, like games? Others made the point that Gruber expressed most succinctly: “Pixar doesn’t have re-render Toy Story every couple of years.” That’s true, but the VHS tape of Toy Story you bought in 1996 does not work on your Apple TV box attached to your 8K TV. You can watch it on that TV with a VCR, but then again, that’s the device for which that tape was designed and on which you intended to play it. If you want the 4K HD version, you have to buy it — and you can, because Pixar did the work to create that version.

Good piece that digs deeper into an issue I admittedly glossed over because, well, I didn’t feel like doing the digging. It’s always tough to make analogies between software and anything else because nothing is quite like software.

One thing I’ve heard from a few developers this week is that developers who got this email from Apple, warning them that their app or game in the App Store would be removed if they weren’t updated, should be able to just appeal to Apple with an explanation vouching that the app continues to work just fine on iOS 15.4 and that Apple should grant the appeal. Apple isn’t culling older apps willy-nilly or blindly. They’re just culling — for lack of a better term — abandonware. The other thing I’ve heard is that this isn’t new — Apple has been doing this every few months for at least five years. This time around it caught the attention of the press.

So my advice to any developers who got this email (or who get similar emails in the future) about apps that are working just fine is to appeal. Apple’s automated emails to developers ought to mention this, though.

Joanna Stern’s Amazon Astro Review 

Speaking of Joanna Stern, her review of Amazon’s Astro home robot last week was fun and fascinating (News+ link for the article, YouTube link for the video):

Amazon’s list of Astro’s talents is overwhelmingly long, but at home the robot doesn’t do anything particularly valuable. I take that back: It’s very good at stirring up powerful emotions of love and hate.

How do I know? Astro moved in with my family (two kids, two moms, one dog) a couple of weeks ago.

You can’t buy the $1,000 robot — at least not until Amazon permits you. But you wouldn’t want to buy it. At least not yet. Our adventures with Astro, in its earliest days, showed me a world where computers can be relatable, proactive helpers.

AI research into autonomy is not only about transportation vehicles. The race is on to build and ship useful home and workplace assistants — something like a cross between C-3PO (can talk and go up and down stairs) and R2-D2 (not annoying).

Ducking Autocorrect Explained 

Joanna Stern interviews Ken Kocienda to talk about why autocorrect remains imperfect, but essential. Don’t miss the video, which involves some actual ducking ducks.

[Sidenote: I noticed just this week that the iOS 15 autocorrect glitch I wrote about in December, wherein my typing “20” would get replaced by “2.0”, seems to be fixed.]

Apple’s Results for the Second Quarter of 2022 

iPhone, Mac, and Wearables revenue are all up year-over-year, as is the almighty Services division. iPad revenue was down, slightly. Tim Cook, as quoted by CNBC: “We grew in each of our categories except for iPad where we had some very significant supply constraints during the quarter.”

Cook also told CNBC: “The last seven Mac quarters have now been the top seven quarters ever in the history of the Mac.”

It’s not just we Mac aficionados who see the Mac as resurgent.

‘The Contractual Impossibility of Unwinding Disney’s Reedy Creek’ 

Jacob Schumer, writing for Bloomberg Tax (my favorite website in the world):

Florida simply cannot promise to prospective bondholders that it won’t interfere with Reedy Creek, and then dissolve Reedy Creek. If Reedy Creek is ever dissolved, it would be a monumental and complicated enterprise even on a years-long timeline. The district has a nine-figure annual budget for expenditures, and even ignoring its various debts, it has a plethora of other contracts that somehow would have to be assigned to and divided between Orange and Osceola counties. However, the dissolution will have to wait until all of its bonds are paid in full.

Via this report by Mary Ellen Klas for The Miami Herald, which contains:

Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to the criticism that repealing Disney’s special district would become a burden for area residents. [...] He added that Disney will also be required to pay all outstanding bonds, but he didn’t explain how it will happen.

“Under no circumstances will Disney not pay its debts,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis should just say that Mexico will pay for it.

Data Suggests That Conservative Twitter Accounts Gained Followers, and Liberal Accounts Lost, After Musk Acquisition Was Announced 

Corin Faife, writing for The Verge:

Data compiled by The Verge from social media statistics site Social Blade shows that in the two days since the deal was completed, influential conservative accounts have increased their follower counts at roughly ten times the average daily rate for the month leading up to the acquisition. Meanwhile, popular liberal accounts have suffered, collectively losing hundreds of thousands of followers on April 25th and 26th after a month of gains. [...]

Out of the 50 conservative accounts in our dataset, 48 made unusually large follower gains on April 25th and 26th, while only two accounts lost followers. On April 26th, the conservative accounts in our dataset gained 17,229 followers on average. The single largest gain went to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who gained 141,556 followers.

All 50 of the liberal accounts in our dataset lost followers across the same two days. On average, each account lost 6,062 followers on April 26th, with the single largest loss from the account of Vice President Kamala Harris, whose follower count decreased by 22,453.

To put this in perspective, it’s worth noting that Vice President Harris has 19.6 million followers, so losing 22,500 is about one-tenth of a percent. Not precipitous. But, still, I find this interesting.

Conservative-leaning users joining (or re-joining) Twitter in anticipation that under Musk’s ownership, Twitter will be more to their liking makes some sense. I don’t really get why liberal-leaning users are deleting or deactivating their accounts now, though. Nothing has changed. We don’t know what will change. It seems so defeatist, which, alas, is on-brand for the active-on-Twitter left.

I also don’t get deleting your account. Why not just stop using Twitter for now, but keep your account in case you change your mind down the road?

Craig Hunter Reviews the 20-Core M1 Ultra Mac Studio 

Craig Hunter:

The main focus of my reviews has always been about CPU performance in real world engineering benchmarks, and this is where things take a dramatic turn with the Mac Studio. To really convey my experience, I want to set the stage with previous results from the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) benchmark I’ve been running for the last 10 years. These results cover four generations of pro desktop Mac systems running Intel CPUs. [...]

As shown above, we see a pretty typical trend where machines get less and less efficient as more and more cores join the computation. This happens because the computational work begins to saturate communications on the system as data and MPI instructions pass between the cores and memory, creating overhead. It’s what makes parallel CFD computations such a great real world benchmark. Unlike simpler benchmarks that tend to make CPUs look good, the CFD benchmark stresses the entire system and shows us how things hold up as conditions become more and more challenging.

Now let’s take a look at what happened when I repeated this test for the Mac Studio and plotted results on the same chart.

Off the chart, literally.

‘Marshall Law’ 

Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer, reporting for The New York Times on new evidence showing Republican members of Congress pressing, futilely, to keep Trump in office even after the January 6 riot at the Capitol:

“In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law,” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, wrote to Mr. Meadows on Jan. 17, 2021, misspelling the word “martial.”

Good luck finding a single paragraph in a news story that better captures our entire political moment.

Apple Is Culling Apps From the App Store That Haven’t Been Updated in Two Years 

Emma Roth, writing for The Verge:

Apple may be cracking down on apps that no longer receive updates. In a screenshotted email sent to affected developers, titled “App Improvement Notice,” Apple warns it will remove apps from the App Store that haven’t been “updated in a significant amount of time” and gives developers just 30 days to update them.

“You can keep this app available for new users to discover and download from the App Store by submitting an update for review in 30 days,” Apple writes in the email. “If no update is submitted in 30 days, the app will be removed from sale.” While Apple will remove the outdated apps from the App Store, any previously downloaded apps will remain on users’ devices.

This seems logical on the surface — culling apps that haven’t been updated in a while sounds like a good way to keep everything in the App Store fresh, for lack of a better word. And there have been various technical transitions over the years where something like this has been necessary (for some definition of “necessary”) like the 32-bit to 64-bit transition.

But in practice, there are a lot of apps that haven’t been updated in a while that continue to run just fine. It’s often not just a matter of opening a project file in Xcode and recompiling to get a new build. Sometimes you open an older project and it takes a lot of work to get it to recompile against the current SDKs.

I get the feeling this has a particularly heavy cost for indie game makers — and, ultimately, the players and would-be players of their games. We can watch really old movies today — movies that aren’t just years or decades old, but generations old. We can read works of literature that are centuries old. But we can’t play iPhone games that are three years old unless the developers constantly devote time and attention to making sure they keep up with latest SDKs every 2-3 years? Pixar doesn’t have to re-render Toy Story every couple of years.

It’s a hard problem and I can see the upsides of Apple automating the clearing of truly abandoned apps from the App Store, but it seems like there ought to be a way for developers of not-updated-for-a-while apps and games to just log into Apple’s developer portal and hit a button to vouch that they still work and don’t need an update. Apple could then only cull the apps from developers who didn’t respond.

Apple Store Workers in Atlanta Filed for First Union Election 

Ian Kullgren, reporting last week for Bloomberg Law:

The union has proposed an on-site election May 5-7.

“Right now, I think, is the right time because we simply see momentum swinging the way of workers,” Bowles said. “As we sat back and re-evaluated, what we realized is that we love being at Apple — and leaving Apple, that’s not something any of us wants to do. But improving it is something we wanted to do.”

Organizers say that pay at the store falls below the living wage for Atlanta. Starting pay is about $20 an hour, below the $31-an-hour living wage for a single parent with one child, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The union wants to raise base wages to $28 an hour, the minimum it says is needed for a single employee to afford a one-bedroom apartment without being burdened by rent. It’s also asking for bigger raises to offset inflation and greater profit sharing to match corporate employees.

An Apple spokesman didn’t comment specifically on the union filing but said the company is “pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full-time and part time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”

I don’t have much to add here but the moment is worth noting. I think Apple Retail is a great place to work by today’s retail standards, but today’s standards are so low in terms of both pay and benefits that it seems inevitable — overdue even — that unionization is on the upswing nationwide, even at one of the best retail employers.

Bill Cheeseman’s Amazing UI Browser Will Be End-of-Lifed in October 

From the PFiddlesoft website, home of UI Browser:

UI Browser End of Life: UI Browser will reach its end of life and be retired on October 17, 2022. The current release of UI Browser, version 3.0.2, will not be updated. On the end-of-life retirement date, the PFiddlesoft website will be closed. Thereafter, it will no longer be possible to download or purchase UI Browser, and product support will no longer be available. UI Browser has been a labor of love for me, its sole developer for almost twenty years. Now that I am 79 years old, it is time to bring this good work to a conclusion. Bill Cheeseman, April 17, 2022.

Speaking about pouring one out. Man.

Long story as short as possible: “Regular” AppleScript scripting is accomplished using the programming syntax terms defined in scriptable apps’ scripting dictionaries. If you ever merely tinkered with writing or tweaking AppleScript scripts, this is almost certainly what you know. But as an expansion of accessibility features under Mac OS X, Apple added UI scripting — a way to automate apps that either don’t support AppleScript properly at all, or to accomplish something unscriptable in an otherwise scriptable app. UI scripting is, basically, a way to expose everything accessible to the Accessibility APIs to anyone writing an AppleScript script. They’re not APIs per se but just ways to automate the things you — a human — can do on screen.

A great idea. The only downside: scripting the user interface this way is tedious (very verbose) at best, and inscrutable at worst. Cheeseman’s UI Browser makes it easy. Arguably — but I’ll argue this side — “regular” AppleScript scripting is easier than “UI” AppleScript scripting, but “UI” AppleScript scripting with UI Browser is easier than anything else. UI Browser is both incredibly well-designed and well-named: it lets you browse the user interface of an app and copy the scripting syntax to automate elements of it.

I know that as a pundit, spending Apple’s money is easy, but UI Browser seems like a tool Apple should have purchased long ago. It’s like Apple only did the infrastructure of making UI scripting happen, but Bill Cheeseman did the work of making it usable. If UI scripting is worth keeping in MacOS, UI Browser is worth Apple buying. It’s not merely useful but essential.

Regardless, I can’t thank Bill Cheeseman enough for making UI Browser a reality. It has been wonderful, and still is.

MacOS Server, Adieu 

Andrew Cunningham, writing last week for Ars Technica:

Apple announced today that it is formally discontinuing macOS Server after 23 years. The app, which offers device management services and a few other features to people using multiple Macs, iPhones, and iPads on the same network, can still be bought, downloaded, and used with macOS Monterey. It is also still currently available at its normal $20 retail price but will no longer be updated with new features or security fixes.

Cunningham has a good rundown of its history, and Michael Tsai, as ever, has a good roundup of links. I don’t have much to add, but we should all pour one out for Mac OS X Server.

The thing to remember is that in the 1990s, it was industry-wide conventional wisdom that no one could put a consumer or prosumer interface in front of Unix. People who were already using NeXTstep would scream from the rooftops “We already have it” but no one could hear them. Mac OS X brought Unix to the masses. But Mac OS X Server went even further, and didn’t just use Unix as an under-the-hood implementation detail of the modernized Mac operating system, but put a Mac-style interface in front of a lot of Unix-as-fucking-Unix server features.

The shift to “cloud computing” was inevitable. Yes, there’s nothing magic about “the cloud” — they’re all just computers. But before cloud computing, teams and companies really needed their own servers. Mac OS X Server — and its long-gone hardware counterpart, the Xserve — enabled small teams to do remarkable things for the time, without the expertise of a Unix guru sysadmin on staff.

Mac OS X Server was never a significant factor in Apple’s financials. But it was a huge factor in re-establishing the company’s credibility with creative people — people with taste — who understand and demand technical excellence.

Matt Levine on Elon Musk’s Twitter Deal 

Matt Levine, in his Money Stuff column at Bloomberg, after running through a bunch of scenarios in which the deal might not go through:

Still I worry a little that Musk seems to conceive of “free speech” in mostly standard American billionaire terms. Yesterday Jeff Bezos pondered, on Twitter, whether the government of China will gain leverage over Twitter because Musk is buying it. The idea is that Twitter has no particular commercial ties to China (where it has been banned since 2009), so it is free to host criticism of the Chinese government. Other American businesses with lots of commercial ties to China — Hollywood, basketball, etc. — often do not tolerate criticism of China, to avoid angering its government and endangering their businesses. Tesla is an American business with deep commercial ties to China, where it makes cars, sells cars and buys parts; it is run by Elon Musk and makes up the bulk of his net worth. If he owns Twitter, criticism of China on Twitter is potentially his problem, and Tesla’s, and he might face pretty explicit pressure to censor critics of China on Twitter. This seems like a complicated set of issues for him to navigate. But soon he will own the company, and then I guess he’ll navigate them all by himself.

Bezos’s original tweet thread:

Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?

My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.

But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.

Shitposting Elon Musk fans on Twitter jumped on Bezos’s remarks, pointing out that many (most?) of the goods sold by Amazon are made in China. And Bezos owns The Washington Post, so did China gain leverage over the Post? Clearly they did not. I don’t think Amazon is nearly as reliant on China as Tesla. Amazon doesn’t sell to consumers there; Tesla does and it’s their second-biggest market.

Apple is the more interesting comparison. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a TV+ series or movie or documentary that portrays China unflatteringly. There are Western companies that do big business in China, and there are Western companies that run media outlets that are critical of Chairman Pooh’s regime, but not much, if any, overlap between the two groups. But commissioning TV shows and movies to stream on your own service is very different from running the world’s biggest micro-blogging service.

The Talk Show: ‘Devastation, Pessimism, and Rage’ 

Glenn Fleishman returns to the show to talk about Elon Musk’s (apparently?) impending acquisition of Twitter, Apple’s credibility problem when arguing against being required to allow sideloading on iOS, and Glenn’s new (and much-needed) book, Take Control of Untangling Connections.

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Updated Studio Display Camera Firmware Is Available in MacOS 12.4 Beta 3 

The Verge:

When we reviewed Apple’s $1,599 Studio Display one thing immediately jumped out: its built-in webcam is bad. At the time, Apple told us that an update to improve the camera would be forthcoming, and now it appears to be here. Apple spokesperson Jennie Orphanopoulos tells The Verge that “an update to the Studio Display firmware is now available with today’s beta release of macOS Monterey 12.4. This beta update has refinements to the Studio Display camera tuning, including improved noise reduction, contrast, and framing.” [...]

Developers are able to install the Monterey 12.4 beta now; everyone else will be able to install it from Apple’s public beta program later today.

The public beta is now out. I installed the developer beta this afternoon, and my very quick impression is that image quality is at least somewhat improved. Center Stage feels more natural too. Full report forthcoming.

Apple TV+ Partners With Idris Elba on New Thriller ‘Hijack’ 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple TV+ today announced it has landed Hijack, a new seven-part thriller starring SAG-winning and Emmy Award-nominated Idris Elba (Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Luther), who will also serve as executive producer. This marks the first project that will hail from Elba’s first-look deal with Apple TV+ and his Green Door Pictures.

Told in real time, Hijack is a tense thriller that follows the journey of a hijacked plane as it makes its way to London over a seven hour flight, as authorities on the ground scramble for answers. Elba will star as Sam Nelson, an accomplished negotiator in the business world who needs to step up and use all his guile to try and save the lives of the passengers — but his high-risk strategy could be his undoing.

The “thriller in real time” thing has been done before. First one I remember as a new movie was 1995’s Nick of Time, starring Johnny Depp, and the best-known is surely the Kiefer Sutherland series 24. And then there’s Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 classic Rope, which not only took place in real time but was staged and edited to create the illusion that it was shot in one continuous take.

But what really struck me about this announcement is that the first credit Apple listed for Idris Elba was Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I mean I get it — Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a huge hit and it’s very recent. But still, it’s Idris Elba — maybe list another serious role or two? The Wire, maybe? (At least they didn’t list Cats.)


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Twitter Nears a Deal to Sell Itself to Elon Musk 

Lauren Hirsch, Mike Isaac, and Kate Conger, reporting for The New York Times:

Twitter is nearing a deal to sell itself to Elon Musk, two people with knowledge of the situation said, a move that would unite the world’s richest man with the influential social networking service. An agreement could be announced as soon as Monday, the people said.

Twitter’s board was negotiating with Mr. Musk into the early hours of Monday over his unsolicited bid to buy the company, after he began lining up $46.5 billion in financing for the offer last week, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential information. The two sides were discussing details including a timeline to close any potential deal and any fees that would be paid if an agreement were signed and then fell apart, they said. […]

On Friday, Block, a financial services company led by Mr. Dorsey, disclosed that he had changed his title at the firm from chief executive to “Block Head.” That shift appeared to resonate with Mr. Musk.

I don’t even know how to make a joke about any of this.

Sheryl Sandberg Pressured Daily Mail to Drop Unflattering Story About Bobby Kotick While She Was Dating Him 

Ben Fritz, Keach Hagey, Kirsten Grind, and Emily Glazer, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

In 2016 and 2019, Ms. Sandberg contacted the digital edition of the Daily Mail, which was reporting on a story that would have revealed the existence of a temporary restraining order against Mr. Kotick that had been obtained by a former girlfriend in 2014, according to people involved in the article and the campaigns to stop its publication.

Working with a team that included Facebook and Activision employees as well as paid outside advisers, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Kotick developed a strategy to persuade the Daily Mail not to report on the restraining order, first when they began dating in 2016 and again around the time they were breaking up in 2019, the people said. Among other concerns, Ms. Sandberg’s legal and public-relations advisers, both inside and outside Facebook, worried that a story would reflect negatively on her reputation as an advocate for women.

It’s a well-worn adage but never more true: it’s the cover-up that does you in. Sandberg’s efforts to bury this story are now far more damaging to her reputation than the actual story would have been. She wasn’t even involved — only Kotick was.

Facebook recently started a review of Ms. Sandberg’s actions and whether she violated the company’s rules, according to people close to her and to Mr. Kotick. The review started after The Wall Street Journal began reporting on the incidents late last year, those people said.

Sandberg might be in some actual trouble over this. Having Facebook staffers do dirty work for Facebook is shitty, but it’s their job. Having them do dirty work for a boyfriend at Activision is something else. I’m no corporate governance expert but I think if she had called the Daily Mail, on her own, only as herself, it’d arguably have been defensible.

The digital edition of the Daily Mail, which is called the MailOnline and operates separately from the print publication, never published a story. Its reporting stemmed from 2014 court filings it had obtained that showed that an ex-girlfriend of Mr. Kotick’s had received a temporary restraining order against him after alleging that he harassed her at her home, according to people familiar with the situation and documents reviewed by the Journal.

The woman had initially petitioned for a longer-lasting order, but three weeks later the matter was removed from the court calendar at the request of both parties, and the temporary restraining order ended and the petition was dismissed, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records. The accuser later told people that the declaration she filed for the restraining order included many allegations that were either exaggerated or untrue, according to some of the people with knowledge of the matter.

This is the weirdest part of the story — Kotick’s ex-girlfriend effectively had neverminded the whole thing. If the story had come out in 2016 or 2019, it would have blown over as nothing more than a bad breakup.

Elon Musk Says He Has the Dough to Back Twitter Acquisition 

Dan Primack, reporting for Axios:

Elon Musk on Thursday disclosed in a federal securities filing that he doesn’t yet have any equity partners on his takeover bid for Twitter, but said that he has secured billions of dollars worth of loan commitments from Morgan Stanley. [...]

Musk committed to invest up to $21 billion of his own money, although this wouldn’t preclude him from cutting back on that amount by bringing on equity partners at a later date. He also said he has $13 billion in committed debt financing from Morgan Stanley and $12.5 billion of margin loan commitments from Morgan Stanley.

The Atlantic: ‘Stop Saying Vaccines Don’t Work for the Immunocompromised’ 

Benjamin Mazer, writing for The Atlantic:

But well-intentioned stories on this issue sometimes overstate the case, claiming that COVID shots for the immunocompromised are “ineffective” or “cannot work on everyone.” That is incorrect, and it hinders uptake of vaccines. The shots do provide these patients with very meaningful protection as a rule, Jennifer Nuzzo, the director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Public Health, told me. To suggest otherwise “is just a complete distortion.... It’s just scaring people, and it’s not saving lives.” [...]

Antibodies matter, but they matter most for preventing illness, at any level of severity. Regarding the most dangerous outcomes from disease, recent research from the CDC indicates that — shot for shot — the immunocompromised achieve most of the same benefits as healthy people. One study, published in March, looked at the pandemic’s Delta wave and found that three doses of an mRNA vaccine gave immunocompromised people 87 percent protection against hospitalization, compared with 97 percent for others. Another CDC report, also out last month, suggested that on the very worst outcomes — the need for a breathing tube, or death — mRNA vaccines were 74 percent effective for immunocompromised patients (including many who hadn’t gotten all their shots), and 92 percent effective for the immunocompetent. A 10-to-20-percentage-point gap in safety from the most dire outcomes is consequential, especially for those who are most susceptible to the disease. Still, these results should reassure us that the immunocompromised are not fighting this battle unarmed.

Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines.

CNN+ Streaming Service to Shut Down at End of Month 

The New York Times:

Warner Bros. Discovery has decided to shut down CNN+, the ballyhooed streaming service that had been intended to bring CNN into the digital future, just weeks after its splashy debut, according to two people familiar with its plans.

The service is set to cease operations on April 30, the sources said.

Chris Licht, the incoming president of CNN, called an all-hands meeting among CNN+ staffers for noon on Thursday to share the news.

Ignominious, to say the least. Even Quibi lasted eight months.

HomePods Are Appreciating in Value 

Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

I thought it was really strange when Apple kept selling the original $299 HomePod months after it got discontinued. But now, it’s starting to make sense — not only are some people still willing to pay a premium for the somewhat smart speaker, they’re willing to pay more than Apple charged for it.

We took a look at eBay sales numbers after spotting 9to5Mac editor-in-chief Chance Miller’s tweet, and we soon discovered it wasn’t just a joke: on average, an Apple HomePod fetched $375 this past week. That’s 25 percent more than Apple charged.

I don’t think it’s strange or incredible that HomePods are fetching $375 on eBay. They’re wonderful devices, and there does not exist any competing product with even vaguely the same sound quality at anything near their price. People who think HomePods are overpriced peers to Alexa and Google voice dinguses have no idea how good HomePods sound, especially when paired.

What’s strange and somewhat incredible is that Apple discontinued them without a replacement.

Brazilian Judge Rules That Apple Must Compensate Customer Over $1,000 for Selling iPhone Without a Charger 

Sami Fathi, MacRumors:

Apple must compensate a Brazilian customer who recently purchased an iPhone for selling the device without a charger included in the box, which violates consumer law, a judge has ruled.

Apple’s decision to remove the charger in the box sparked controversy in 2020. Apple claims the move is for environmental reasons, claiming the decision is equivalent to removing nearly 450,000 cars from the road per year.

Nonetheless, the move has sparked some public and legal outcry. In the latest development, a judge in Brazil, a country that has long-questioned Apple’s reasoning to remove the accessory, is forcing Apple to compensate a customer nearly $1,075 for the lack of a charger.

Brazil has apparently decided to compete with the E.U. for the idiot crown.

Biden Administration Looks Gift Horse in Mouth, But Can’t See It Because the Horse Is Wearing a Mask 

Matt Yglesias, in his column for Bloomberg:

The federal judge who on Monday struck down the CDC’s mask mandate in airports, airplanes and other public transit did President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party a favor.

This lingering non-pharmaceutical intervention, at a time when mask rules have been dropped in virtually every other context (including in the U.S. Capitol Building) has become an embarrassment at a time when the country has otherwise moved on from so-called NPIs.

The basic problem is that the rule itself was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a scientific agency — and a conservative one at that. CDC guidelines suggest, for example, that nobody should eat rare steak or runny eggs, and that a woman should not have more than one alcoholic drink a day.

The science behind those calls may be sound. But they are sharply at odds with the habits and values of huge numbers of Americans. Fortunately, they do not have the force of law. Alcohol regulations are made by state legislatures, which ideally will be guided but not controlled by science as they make laws about public health.

The CDC is even more conservative than Yglesias suggests. They recommend cooking steak to 145°F, which is a hell of a lot more well-done than merely “not rare”. I’d send a steak cooked that well-done back to the kitchen.

In reality the White House should have put its foot down and lifted the rule weeks ago. But its reluctance to meddle with a scientific agency is understandable. At the same time, scientifically speaking, it’s always going to be the case that everyone wearing a mask will be at least a little bit safer than everyone not wearing a mask. The problem is that mask-wearing is annoying and socially divisive, with efforts to enforce the rule generating clashes between passengers and airline staff.

So the judge — a Trump appointee who is surely no fan of Biden, Pelosi or their party — may have succeeded in getting an awkward topic off the agenda. For that, Democrats ought to be grateful.

Well, so much for that.

Netflix Shares Drop 25% After Company Reports Losing Subscribers for First Time in a Decade 

Sarah Whitten, reporting for CNBC:

Netflix on Tuesday reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers during the first quarter — its first decline in paid users in more than a decade — and warned of deepening trouble ahead. The company’s shares cratered more than 25% in extended hours after the report on more than a full day’s worth of trading volume. Fellow streaming stocks Roku, Spotify and Disney also tumbled in the after-hours market after Netflix’s brutal update.

Netflix is forecasting a global paid subscriber loss of 2 million for the second quarter. The last time Netflix lost subscribers was October 2011. [...]

Co-CEO Reed Hastings said the company is exploring lower-priced, ad-supported tiers as a means to bring in new subscribers after years of resisting advertisements on the platform.

Netflix previously told shareholders it expected to add 2.5 million net subscribers during the first quarter. Analysts had predicted that number would be closer to 2.7 million. During the same period a year ago, Netflix added 3.98 million paid users.

That’s a big miss — expecting to add 2.5 million subscribers and instead losing some, and now expecting to lose millions next quarter.

Here’s one spitball idea for what’s wrong: too much focus on quantity of content and not nearly enough on quality. My wife and I have been slowly watching old seasons of Seinfeld on Netflix when we have nothing else to watch, or just want to watch one more easily-digestible show before going to bed. But it occurred to me this week that we haven’t watched anything else on Netflix in weeks. Just old Seinfelds. We’re watching lots of stuff on HBO Max and Apple TV+, and some new movies on Disney+, Hulu, and even Paramount+ — but not Netflix. This is a sample size of one family of three, but at this point, if we were forced to drop one of our streaming subscriptions, Netflix might be the first to go, based purely on what we’re actually watching. It seems weird that the only thing we’ve watched recently on Netflix is a sitcom from 25 years ago. The last Netflix original I can recall watching was (the admittedly very good) Don’t Look Up, and we’re looking forward to the final episodes of Ozark. But right now HBO Max has The Batman, Disney+ has all their recent theatrical releases and The Kenobi Chronicles coming soon, and Apple TV+ has Slow Horses and Severance. (Severance is probably my favorite show or movie in years — it’s so fucking good.)

The average quality of the average Netflix original just isn’t very good compared to their competition — not enough to justify the highest subscription prices in the industry.

NFL Sunday Ticket: How Much Do Bars and Restaurants Pay? 

Philip Swann, writing at The TV Answer Man back in October:

We don’t know how many bars and restaurants actually subscribe to the Sunday Ticket, but we do know how much they pay if they do and it’s significant. According to DirectTV’s web site, a bar/restaurant with a Fire Code Occupancy (FCO) of 101-200 must pay $6,000 a season for the Ticket. Owners of establishments with a FCO of 201-350 must pay $8,500; those with 351-500 must pay $12,350 while those with places that can serve 501-750 people must pay $13,700.

The rate goes even higher: If you have a bar/restaurant that can serve 751-1000 people, you would have to pay $19,000 for the Sunday Ticket; $28,125 for a place with a FCO of 1,001-1500; and $37,500 for an establishment with a FCO of 1,501 to 2,000.

Finally, if you have a mega place that can serve between 2,001 and 5,000 people, you’ll need to fork over $78,000!

I omitted bars and restaurants from my piece yesterday on Apple purportedly having already secured the rights for Sunday Ticket streaming rights in 2023, but it’s worth thinking about. Even small bars and restaurants pay a lot more for Sunday Ticket than home users do. And my understanding is that businesses have to get it via satellite DirecTV service — there’s no streaming option.

Even consumer Sunday Ticket is only available via streaming for certain people — students, and people who live in multi-unit buildings who can’t install a satellite dish, for example.

I would expect all of this to change under Apple. Swann speculates that even if Apple secures the rights for streaming, that businesses might still be served by DirecTV. I can’t see that happening. No way does Apple pay $2 or 2.5 billion for partial Sunday Ticket rights. At that price, Apple should reasonably demand exclusive rights, which means Sunday Ticket will only be available via streaming, and NFL fans can climb up on their roofs and disconnect their DirecTV dishes.

When you think about it, it seems obvious the NFL would want to move in this direction. Even if, say, Apple bid the exact same amount for Sunday Ticket as DirecTV, it seems to me the NFL would prefer to sell the rights to Apple. Streaming is the future. Satellite TV service has always been a niche, at best, and at this point is going the way of the dodo. If you’ll forgive mixing sports metaphors, skate to where the puck is heading, not where it’s been.

The question is, how will Apple charge bars and restaurants for Sunday Ticket? And what sort of equipment will they need to set it up and control it?

Open Letter to Apple About Final Cut Pro 

From an open letter signed by over 100 industry professionals:

Final Cut Pro is a wonderful application used by many YouTubers, education and small business content creators worldwide. We know why it is successful. It is liberating, efficient and fun to work with. But, unfortunately in professional film and TV, editors who use Final Cut Pro are a tiny minority.

I seldom link to open letters because I generally think they’re pointless. And I wavered on linking to this one because it isn’t particularly well-written. The above paragraph that I quoted is the nut of it: Final Cut Pro has great bones, many pros who do use it love it, but it’s hard to use in many pro workflows because so few pros do use it. This quote from the preface to the actual letter addresses it:

Steven Sanders, editor in chief of the Fox TV series War of the Worlds season 3, said, “The two main reasons why I am often not allowed to choose my favourite editing application, which is Final Cut Pro are:

  1. Collaboration! Editing big productions needs collaboration. Different users have to be able to access the same library at the same time. There is no way around this. Avid Media Composer does it and even DaVinci Resolve does it. Apple still targets the single user. They have to change that. That will change everything.

  2. Many professionals do not know how Final Cut works. They are afraid of it, even regard is as ‘iMovie Pro.’ I hear that all the time in my business. This perception really has to change.”

In other words, these Final Cut Pro-using professionals are asking Apple to do whatever it takes to make Final Cut Pro more popular in the industry. That it’s so seldom used — to name one example, it’s not on Netflix’s list of approved products for their own commissioned productions — is proof that something has gone deeply awry.

Scott Simmons, writing at ProVideo Coalition, has culled a bunch of insightful comments from fellow signers of the letter.

‘How I Experience the Web Today’ 

Only barely, just barely, a parody.

(You’ll want to disable any content blockers you have installed for this one.)

Facebook on 30 Percent Platform Fees: ‘Hold Our Beer’ 

Jon Swartz, reporting for MarketWatch:

Meta said in a blog post Monday it is allowing a handful of Horizon Worlds creators to sell virtual assets that could eventually include NFTs. Virtual-reality platform Horizon Worlds is considered an integral piece of Meta’s unfolding metaverse. The company said it will take up to 47.5% on each transaction, which includes a “hardware platform fee” of 30% via its Meta Quest Store, as well as a 17.5% cut on Horizon Worlds.

“We think it’s a pretty competitive rate in the market. We believe in the other platforms being able to have their share,” Vivek Sharma, Meta’s vice president of Horizon, told The Verge. [...]

“Meta has repeatedly taken aim at Apple for charging developers a 30% commission for in-app purchases in the App Store — and have used small businesses and creators as a scapegoat at every turn,” Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said in an email to MarketWatch. “Now — Meta seeks to charge those same creators significantly more than any other platform. [Meta’s] announcement lays bare Meta’s hypocrisy. It goes to show that while they seek to use Apple’s platform for free, they happily take from the creators and small businesses that use their own.”

Did Zuckerberg lose a bet to Tim Cook or something? I can’t imagine a better gift to Apple and Google regarding their app store commission fees.

Here’s Zuckerberg all the way back in June 2021:

To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023. And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.

Here’s Andrew “Boz” Bosworth this weekend, trying out the same lame argument Epic Games has used regarding why they’re purportedly upset about Apple and Google’s 30 percent fees for mobile games but not the 30 percent (or higher!) fees charged by Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo for their dedicated game platforms:

Apple takes 30% of software and a significant margin on their devices. They’ve capitalized on their market power to favor their own business interests, which comes at great expense to developers.

Good luck with that argument.

Audio Hijack 4 

Rogue Amoeba:

With an all-new JavaScript engine and API, building programmatically-driven workflows in Audio Hijack is now a reality. Scripts can run automatically when sessions start and stop, and process recordings as they’re created. A whole new world of automation is possible with this ability to manipulate sessions.

Scripting isn’t just for power users, however. Even if you’re not fluent in JavaScript, you can streamline your use of Audio Hijack. The built-in scripts make automation possible for anyone, and on MacOS 12 (Monterey), Audio Hijack even integrates with the Shortcuts app.

Rogue Amoeba CEO/Lackey Paul Kafasis and I discussed Audio Hijack 4’s new scripting and automation support at length on the most recent episode of my podcast. There’s so much other new stuff, too. I just love Rogue Amoeba’s user interface design — it’s simultaneously Rogue-Amoeba-y and yet feels standard, very idiomatically “Mac-like”. When an app looks cool, it just makes you want to use it.

Android Apps on Windows 11 Review 

Will Sattelberg, writing for Android Police:

As for the app selection, it’s as bad as you might’ve guessed from the jump. Forget Google apps, obviously — they aren’t on Fire Tablets, and they aren’t here. TikTok has been predominantly featured on Microsoft’s press images for the Appstore since it was announced, and for good reason: it’s the only major social network with a listing. Forget Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — you’re stuck with TikTok if you want to experience the social side of the web.

Games don’t fare much better. Looking at the top paid titles, I only recognized two names — and that was because I knew the Nickelodeon properties they were based on — not the games themselves. Free titles didn’t fare much better; you’ll find Subway Surfers and the Talking Tom series, but not much more. None of our favorite free-to-play titles appeared in a search: no Among Us, Call of Duty Mobile, or Roblox.

Granted, you can fill all of these absences elsewhere on Windows 11. Many of these titles have versions on Steam or the web — you don’t need the Android version of Among Us to play on Windows. The same goes for those missing apps, from Google services to social networks to recipe apps and smart home controls. It’s not hard to access Gmail these days, even if it’s not in a dedicated app, and that all begs the question: why does this service even exist?

It sounds a lot like running iPhone and iPad apps on the Mac, except at least through Apple, the selection of apps comes from the platform’s main app store. With Windows 11’s support for Android apps, you get a non-native platform experience and a poor selection of apps.

Better than nothing? Maybe. A big deal? Apparently not.

The Talk Show: ‘Fussy Typography Improvements’ 

For your weekend listening enjoyment: Paul Kafasis returns to the show to talk about Friday Night Baseball, Rogue Amoeba’s new Audio Hijack 4 release, and a bit of speculation on WWDC.

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Chaim Gartenberg Leaves The Verge for Google 

Chaim Gartenberg:

Some personal news: after nearly a decade, today was my last day @Verge. It’s been an amazing ride, with what is honestly a list of far too many people to thank for all the support and guidance over the years.

Next up: I’m incredibly excited to be heading over to Google, where I’ll be working on internal communications to help tell more stories about all the amazing things going on there! (If you’re at Google, definitely say hello!)

After Dieter Bohn last month, Gartenberg makes it two long-time Verge writers heading to Google recently.

Elon Musk Makes Play to Buy Twitter Entirely and Take It Private 

Elon Musk, in a letter to Twitter chairman Bret Taylor and filed with the SEC:

I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.

However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.

As a result, I am offering to buy 100% of Twitter for $54.20 per share in cash, a 54% premium over the day before I began investing in Twitter and a 38% premium over the day before my investment was publicly announced. My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.

Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.

Also from that SEC filing, these bullet points from Musk:

  • I am not playing the back-and-forth game.
  • I have moved straight to the end.
  • It’s a high price and your shareholders will love it.
  • If the deal doesn’t work, given that I don’t have confidence in management nor do I believe I can drive the necessary change in the public market, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.
    • This is not a threat, it’s simply not a good investment without the changes that need to be made.
    • And those changes won’t happen without taking the company private.

Musk can say it’s not a threat, but what he means is that it’s not merely a threat. If Musk pulls out of Twitter I think Twitter’s share price will, at least temporarily, sink.

Peloton Raises Subscription Fees, Cuts Prices for Bikes and Treadmills 

Lauren Thomas, reporting for CNBC:

Effective June 1, the price of Peloton’s all-access subscription plan in the United States will go up to $44 per month, from $39. In Canada, the fee will rise to $55 per month, from $49. Pricing for international members will remain unchanged, Peloton said. The cost of a digital-only membership, for people who don’t own any of Peloton’s equipment, will still be $12.99 a month.

Peloton explained the decision in a company blog post shared with CNBC. “There’s a cost to creating exceptional content and an engaging platform,” the company said. The price increases will allow Peloton to continue to deliver to users, it added. [...]

The price of its Bike will drop to $1,445 from $1,745. The cost includes a $250 shipping and set-up fee. The Bike+ will drop to $1,995 from $2,495. The Tread machine will sell for $2,695, down from $2,845. The Tread cost includes a $350 shipping and set-up fee.

Hey, prices go up. Inflation is running high. OK. But raising the prices only for people who already paid for Peloton’s premium-priced hardware and not for people on the digital-only plan doesn’t pass the sniff test that this is about the cost of content creation. If it were really about content creation costs, they’d raise subscription prices for everyone, or, only for the people who haven’t also purchased Peloton devices that cost $2000 or more.

It’s not like $39/month was cheap. It seems transparently obvious that they’re just soaking their best and most loyal customers — the ones whose hardware purchases have tied them to Peloton. (Unsubscribe and your bike or treadmill still works, but the display becomes useless. Update: Well, not totally useless. The display will still show you basic dashboard stats, like time, resistance, and distance — you just can’t use the display to show classes or anything entertainment-related.)

So the message to prospective new buyers is “We’ve lowered prices on our hardware; buy one today and we’ll squeeze you for more later.” Good messaging.

Easy Come, Easy Go, NFT Edition 

Sandali Handagama, reporting for CoinDesk:

A non-fungible token (NFT) of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet could sell for just under $280. The current owner of the NFT listed it for $48 million last week.

Iranian-born crypto entrepreneur Sina Estavi purchased the NFT for $2.9 million in March 2021. Last Thursday, he announced on Twitter that he wished to sell the NFT, and pledged 50% of its proceeds (which he thought would exceed $25 million) to charity. The auction closed Wednesday, with just seven total offers ranging from 0.09 ETH ($277 at current prices) to 0.0019 ETH (almost $6).

“The deadline I set was over, but if I get a good offer, I might accept it, I might never sell it,” Estavi told CoinDesk via a WhatsApp message on Wednesday.

Yeah, he might never sell it.

Giants’ Alyssa Nakken Becomes First On-Field Woman Coach in MLB History 

Maria Guardado, reporting for

Alyssa Nakken broke another historic barrier on Tuesday night, becoming the first woman to coach on the field in a Major League game in the Giants’ 13-2 victory over the Padres at Oracle Park.

Nakken took over as the Giants’ first-base coach in the top of the third inning after Antoan Richardson was ejected from the game by crew chief Greg Gibson following a dispute with Padres third-base coach Mike Shildt. Nakken said bench coach Kai Correa came down to the batting cages and told her she would be replacing Richardson. And so she made her on-field coaching debut with the Giants, who originally hired the 31-year-old as an assistant coach in January 2020.

Meanwhile, in similarly cool news from Florida:

Cheered by many fans who came just to see her make history, Rachel Balkovec debuted with a win Friday night as the first woman to manage the affiliate of a Major League Baseball team. Balkovec guided the New York Yankees’ Class A Tampa Tarpons over Lakeland 9-6.

“I’ve never heard my name chanted like that,” she said. “It was so much fun. Again, I just see, it’s like I see me sitting in the stands, whatever 15, 20 years ago, and so it’s just really cool.”

CNN Minus Is More Like It 

Alex Sherman, reporting for CNBC:

Fewer than 10,000 people are using CNN+ on a daily basis two weeks into its existence, according to people familiar with the matter. The people spoke with CNBC on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss nonpublic data.

CNN+ launched on March 29. The subscription news streaming service, which charges $5.99 a month or $59.99 annually, only became available on Roku on Monday and still isn’t on Android TV. Still, the paltry audience casts doubt on the future of the application following the recently completed combination of Discovery and WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery.

It’s an interesting idea. People do pay monthly subscription fees to watch exclusive entertainment and sports content on streaming services. Might not they pay for streaming news, too? Perhaps not. 10,000 users per day is crickets-chirping territory for CNN.

Inside Tom Brady’s Un-Retirement 

Ben Volin, reporting for The Boston Globe:

On Feb. 1, Tom Brady announced that he was stepping away from football. The Buccaneers moved ahead with Bruce Arians as head coach and assessed their options at quarterback.

By March 30, Brady was back with the Bucs, preparing to play his 23rd NFL season at age 45. And his head coach was Todd Bowles after Arians retired and took a consulting job with the team.

How did this drastic turn of events take place in just two months? This wasn’t a Brett Favre situation, with Brady walking away for several months before getting the itch again during training camp. Brady was “retired” for all of 40 days, and came back in time for the Buccaneers to be active in free agency.

Instead, Brady’s change of heart was the result of a fascinating fall of dominos involving the Miami Dolphins, Sean Payton, Brian Flores’s lawsuit, former Patriots offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, and a Manchester United soccer match.

This story is kind of bananas on the surface, but makes sense. The real fly in the ointment of the whole scheme was Brian Flores’s discrimination lawsuit against the Dolphins and the NFL. If not for that, today Tom Brady might be part-owner of the Dolphins and their starting quarterback next season — in the same division as the Patriots. But Flores’s lawsuit was at least partially precipitated by an errant text message sent to him by … Bill Belichick!

Elon Musk’s Twitter Board Seat: Never Mind 

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, in a tweet:

Elon has decided not to join our board. I sent a brief note to the company, sharing with you all here.

The first thing I’ll note is that Agrawal had to share the “brief note” itself as a screenshot, because, well, Twitter only supports up to 280 characters in a post. Duh, right? We all know that. But it’s really kind of silly when you consider that even Twitter’s own CEO, sharing important breaking news, has to use screenshots to share even a “brief note”. (The seemingly obvious solution would be to allow users to include a text attachment to a tweet, the same way we’ve been able to attach images and videos for years.)

From the note:

We announced on Tuesday that Elon would be appointed to the Board contingent on a background check and formal acceptance. Elon’s appointment to the board was to become officially effective 4/9, but Elon shared that same morning that he will no longer be joining the board.

Is the “background check” relevant here? Like, did something turn up in the background check that Twitter deemed problematic? The simple explanation is that Musk simply realized that he could have freer rein — and thus more fun, and more influence — not on the board than on it. But why mention the background check at all here then? Just as a jab — a not-so-subtle dig?

I believe this is for the best. We have and will always value input from our shareholders whether they are on our Board or not. Elon is our biggest shareholder and we will remain open to his input.

There will be distractions ahead, but our goals and priorities remain unchanged.

Translation: We are largely beholden to Elon Musk now, as our stock price is inextricably tied to his continuing shareholding.

I mean what happens to Twitter’s share price if Musk dumps all his stock and tweets something like “I tried to help Twitter but the company is run by a bunch of bozos. I’m out.” That’s just 76 characters and I bet it would tank Twitter’s stock.

Matt Levine on Elon Musk 

Matt Levine, in his Money Stuff column for Bloomberg:

Look this all makes complete sense, obvious, intuitive, simple sense. If you are the richest person in the world, and annoying, and you constantly play a computer game, and you get a lot of enjoyment and a sense of identity from that game and are maybe a little addicted, then at some point you might have some suggestions for improvements in the game. So you might leave comments and email the company that makes the game saying “hey you should try my ideas.” And the company might ignore you (or respond politely but not move fast enough for your liking). It might occur to you: “Look, I am the richest person in the world; how much could this game company possibly cost? I should just buy it and change the game however I want.” Even if your complaints are quite minor, why shouldn’t you get to play exactly the game you want? Even if you have no complaints, why not own the game you love, just to make sure it continues to be exactly what you want? The game is Twitter, the richest person in the world is Elon Musk.

I don’t think anyone in the media gets Elon Musk the way Matt Levine does.

The Case for Netflix to Add an Ad-Based Tier 

Ben Thompson, last week on Stratechery:

Meanwhile, subscriber growth has stalled, even as the advertising market has proven to be much larger than even Google or Facebook can cover. Moreover, the post-ATT world is freeing up more money for the sort of top-of-funnel advertising that would probably be the norm on a Netflix advertising service. In short, the opportunity is there, the product is right, and the business need is pressing in a way it wasn’t previously.

Thompson and I talked about this on Dithering last week, and I think this is a fascinating question. The first thing to note is that the “Netflix should sell ads” take that Thompson espouses is about adding new lower-priced tiers that are subsidized through commercials — no one is arguing that Netflix should add ads to existing subscription tiers. Basically, what’s being suggested is the Hulu model: pay something to get access but with ads, or pay more to get access without any ads at all.

When you keep that point in mind, as a business case, it makes a lot of sense for Netflix to expand this way. My argument against Netflix doing this is about brand, though. Netflix has built an incredibly valuable brand, and part of that brand’s foundation is that Netflix is a premium service that doesn’t do rinky-dink shit like force you to watch unskippable ads. When you’re a Netflix customer, Netflix is always on your side. Unskippable ads are not on your side. Ergo Netflix should never create a lower-priced-with-ads subscription tier. Yes, they’d add more subscribers that way, and goose revenue growth for a few more years, but I think the revenue they’d gain would be outweighed, significantly, by the brand equity they’d lose in doing so. Netflix isn’t just like Hulu or Peacock or any of the also-ran services with ads. Netflix is fucking Netflix, the leading streaming service.

There’s no way to account for brand value on a balance sheet, but great CEOs know what it’s worth in their guts, and savvy investors should too.


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‘SF Wide’ Font Variants Coming in June? 

Craig Hockenberry, commenting on the WWDC 2022 poster image:

No one has commented on this yet, but I bet there’s a new SF variant in June.

I guessing that SF Wide will look great on slides…

The “Call to Code” slogan is set in what appears to be a new wide variant of San Francisco, Apple’s family of fonts that it uses for everything from the OS system font (MacOS, iOS, WatchOS, and tvOS) to packaging to advertising. Can’t believe I didn’t notice this.

Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elevating the First Black Woman to the Supreme Court 

The New York Times:

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to be elevated to the pinnacle of the judicial branch in what her supporters hailed as a needed step toward bringing new diversity and life experience to the court.

Not a lot of drama, because three Republicans had already pledged their support (and reasonably so), but historic nonetheless. Today marks a great day in American history.

Overcast 2022.2 

Marco Arment:

Overcast’s latest update (2022.2) brings the largest redesign in its nearly-eight-year history, plus many of the most frequently requested features and lots of under-the-hood improvements. I’m pretty proud of this one.

For this first and largest phase of the redesign, I focused on the home screen, playlist screen, typography, and spacing. (I plan to revamp the now-playing and individual-podcast screens in a later update.)

Overcast is one of my favorite and most-used apps.

WWDC 2022: June 6–10 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced it will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in an online format from June 6 through 10, free for all developers to attend. Building on the success of the past two years of virtual events, WWDC22 will showcase the latest innovations in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS, while giving developers access to Apple engineers and technologies to learn how to create groundbreaking apps and interactive experiences. [...]

In addition to the online conference, Apple will host a special day for developers and students at Apple Park on June 6 to watch the keynote and State of the Union videos together, along with the online community. Space will be limited, and details about how to apply to attend will be provided on the Apple Developer site and app soon.

Elon Musk Buys 9.2 Percent of Twitter, Making Him the Largest Shareholder 

Chris Isidore, CNN Business:

Elon Musk recently purchased 9.2% of Twitter stock, according to a filing Monday, making him the largest shareholder in the company.

News of the purchase sent shares of Twitter soaring 22% in early trading. Musk did not disclose what he paid for the shares, but his stake was worth $2.9 billion as of the close of trading Friday, and $3.5 billion after the spike early Monday.

He does keep things interesting.

Update: Musk is now on Twitter’s board of directors. As a friend quipped, imagine how bad it would be if Trump were actually a billionaire.

Studio 3T 

My thanks to Studio 3T for sponsoring this week at DF. Studio 3T is the GUI for MongoDB. Studio 3T users get to:

  • Query faster than ever using the Visual Query Builder and IntelliShell.
  • Do fewer chores with the automating Task Scheduler for exports, migrations, and data comparisons.
  • Deliver better results with a powerful Aggregation Editor.

Studio 3T starts at just $19 per month per user, includes regular software updates, and personalized tech support from their dedicated support team. And now, they offer a free edition that includes a wide range of essential features. If you’re a developer who uses MongoDB, check out Studio 3T today.

‘I Would Like to Be Paid Like a Plumber’ 

Letters of Note:

17 months after Nevermind’s release, the band began to record what would be their final album, In Utero — produced by Steve Albini, outspoken engineer extraordinaire. In November of 1992, shortly before they formally agreed on his involvement, Albini wrote to Nirvana and laid bare his philosophy in a pitch letter that is fascinating from start to finish.

Remarkable clarity.

(Via The Studio Neat Gazette.)

The Talk Show: ‘Doggy Lake’ 

Matthew Panzarino returns to the show to talk about Apple’s new Mac Studio and Studio Display.

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