Writing

Mangled Tenets and Exasperation: the iTunes App Store

By way of Darling Furball, a blog post by Steven Frank, co-founder of Panic, on his personal opinion of Apple’s gated community of software distribution, the iTunes App Store:

Some of my most inviolable principles about developing and selling software are:

  1. I can write any software I want. Nobody needs to “approve” it.
  2. Anyone who wants to can download it. Or not.
  3. I can set any price I want, including free, and there’s no middle-man.
  4. I can set my own policies for refunds, coupons and other promotions.
  5. When a serious bug demands an update, I can publish it immediately.
  6. If I want, I can make the source code available.
  7. If I want, I can participate in a someone else’s open source project.
  8. If I want, I can discuss coding difficulties and solutions with other developers.

The iTunes App Store distribution model mangles almost every one of those tenets in some way, which is exasperating to me.

But, the situation’s not that clear-cut.

The entire post is very thoughtful and well worth reading, it’s also coming from a long-time Apple developer rather than some crank from an online magazine looking to stir up advertising hits. Panic’s software is wonderful: Transmit is an application that singlehandedly makes me want to use a Mac (yet it’s only, uh, an SFTP client). I think his post nicely sums up the way a lot of developers (including myself) feel about the App Store. He concludes:

I’ve been trying to reconcile the App Store with my beliefs on “how things should be” ever since the SDK was announced. After all this time, I still can’t make it all line up. I can’t question that it’s probably the best mobile application distribution method yet created, but every time I use it, a little piece of my soul dies. And we don’t even have anything for sale on there yet.

Reading this also made me curious to learn more about Panic, which led me to this interview from 2004 with Frank and the other co-founder. He also has a number of side projects, including Spamusement, a roughly drawn cartoon depicting spam headlines (Get a bigger flute, for instance).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 | mobile, software  
Book

Visualizing Data Book CoverVisualizing Data is my book about computational information design. It covers the path from raw data to how we understand it, detailing how to begin with a set of numbers and produce images or software that lets you view and interact with information. Unlike nearly all books in this field, it is a hands-on guide intended for people who want to learn how to actually build a data visualization.

The text was published by O’Reilly in December 2007 and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere. Amazon also has an edition for the Kindle, for people who aren’t into the dead tree thing. (Proceeds from Amazon links found on this page are used to pay my web hosting bill.)

Examples for the book can be found here.

The book covers ideas found in my Ph.D. dissertation, which is basis for Chapter 1. The next chapter is an extremely brief introduction to Processing, which is used for the examples. Next is (chapter 3) is a simple mapping project to place data points on a map of the United States. Of course, the idea is not that lots of people want to visualize data for each of 50 states. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for learning how to lay out data spatially.

The chapters that follow cover six more projects, such as salary vs. performance (Chapter 5), zipdecode (Chapter 6), followed by more advanced topics dealing with trees, treemaps, hierarchies, and recursion (Chapter 7), plus graphs and networks (Chapter 8).

This site is used for follow-up code and writing about related topics.

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