Maybe Zoom Parties Weren’t So Bad

From Clive Thompson:

But during COVID, while my socializing was purely online, it was broader. I spent time hanging out with far-flung peers, like my friends in Canada who I don’t see nearly often enough. Or, after my mother passed away in the summer of 2020, her side of the family held a 2021 memorial online, and it was amazing to see all my oodles of cousins, many of whom I haven’t been in the same room with for years and years.

I can relate to this. My social network was briefly much broader and had more frequent interactions than it does now that things are back to normal. Almost nightly I’d play games online with friends, hop on zoom parties to watch movies we’ve seen a hundred times, or simply happy hours.

If I’m being honest, the part I don’t miss is the work-mandated ones. I feel like tons of leaders did the bare minimum to set up something “fun” to check the box and it was nothing more than a distraction.

Stark’s Simple Browser Extension Will Check For Accessibility

From Elissaveta M. Brandon at Fast Company:

For now, the browser extension focuses on physical disabilities, but the team is also working on a prototype that takes into consideration people with cognitive disabilities, including dyslexia. The ultimate goal is for all of the web to be accessible, so that anybody can navigate a website, regardless of their physical or cognitive ability. “There’s no such thing as 100% accessibility,” says Noone. “But there is such a thing as continual integration of accessibility, and that’s what we aim for.”

One of the biggest challenges for folks who care about accessibility but aren’t deep into best practices is a lack of easy-to-use tools to help make small but meaningful improvements. This seems like a great step in the right direction.

I’m happy to see their extension and tools available for a ton of platform and browsers as well. Oddly, the entire article doesn’t actually link to the extension. Here it is.

Rendering Engine Diversity on iOS

Last week, some interesting news broke about Google and Mozilla prepping versions of their iOS browsers to use their own rendering engines rather than simply being a wrapper around Webkit, Apple’s rendering engine. If you aren’t familiar, iOS has rules that prevent browser makers like Google and Mozilla from embedding the engine that handles layout […]

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The Electric Vehicle Boom Is Bad News For Tesla

From Jesus Diaz, Fast Company:

After a decade of being the only game in town, Tesla is entering a new era of the EV wars, which started in earnest in 2022 but will only intensify in 2023. Tesla still dominates the EV market in the U.S. today, but its lead has consistently dropped—and is expected to quickly dwindle—as legacy automakers roll out their own electric models.

Tesla’s rise to fame has been nothing short of impressive, but in a competitive market like the automotive industry their regression to the mean was inevitable. As a Tesla Model 3 LR owner, I can say that while I am happy with my car, I wouldn’t buy a Tesla for my next vehicle.

The early decision to start from the top and working your way down the price ladder was something that set them apart and helped drive the “cool” factor despite the car not being premium in ways folks paying $60–100k for a car would normally expect. They used the early dominance to build a charging network that is still unrivaled, and the battery life for their long range models is still better than most of the competition. The ongoing software update model aligned with consumer expectations in the iPhone era and was fairly unique in the indsutry. Combine that with Musk’s larger that life personality (and expectations about self driving that he’s been promising since 2014), the company earned a lot of fans (myself included!) for accelerating the move away from ICE vehicles by making something cool, approachable and futuristic. But the cracks that have always existed are much more apparent now that the rest of the indsutry is getting into the game.

Teslas are notorious for questionable build quality, which is not at the level of other $50–70k cars that I’ve driven. Personally, I haven’t had many issues on my end but I’ve experienced a few unsatisfying noises from time to time, the feel of closing doors and windows isn’t satisfying, and I wish the road noise was a bit quieter. Additionally, the company’s insistence on cramming everything into one touchscreen is a weak point, and their insistence on building every single app for their touchscreen in-house means they’re always playing catch up when it comes to other infotainment systems. Tesla’s refusal to integrate with Carplay and Android Auto, likely due to their view of those platforms as competitors, is super frustrating. And then, there’s the elephant in the room – Elon Musk. While his outspoken nature and leadership of Tesla and SpaceX was once seen as a competitive advantage, it has now become a distraction.

While Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) technology has been highly anticipated for a decade now, I don’t believe anyone will be able to deliver on it within the next 15–20 years. FSD is at level 2 or 3 out of 5 right now, and haven’t made a ton of progress. The standard “Autopilot” feature, which is basically variable cruise control and lane assistance, is quite good for level 1. Highway driving on long road trips is way better with this tech. But the rest of it? Way too many edge cases for me to be interested in trying out. Like most software, that last 20% is hard to iron out, but in this case we’re dealing with 500k beta testers playing with human life. No thanks.

To keep a market share close to what they have now, Tesla needs to scale up, fix the quality issues they have and convince nearly every current Tesla owner to buy a second vehicle when they’re ready to buy. They also can’t rely on consumers paying premium prices for EVs forever. Delivering on a true mass-market EV in the $30k range will help them maintain a lead. Oh, and crack Level 4–5 autonomy to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market. Hard to see that happening with all of the great options coming out from established automakers.

It’s far easier for traditional automakers to figure out how to transition their fleet from ICE to EV than it is for Tesla to become a big automaker and solve for all of the small but significant headwinds they’re facing. That doesn’t mean Tesla is going out of business or doomed to fail. What it does mean is that capitalizing on the first mover advantage in an industry without strong network effects is hard to do for long. I don’t think many automakers could have maintained Tesla’s lead for long, but it seems like Musk and Tesla are squandering it even more quickly.

Bonus reading:

Twitter and 3rd Party Apps

From Mitchell Clark, the Verge:

Elon Musk just decided to throw all of that away. Twitter has abruptly cut itself off from that stream of ideas — the stream that produced its apps, some of its most popular features, and much of its core identity. Even if he backtracks, why would developers spend their best ideas on a company that’s burned them so badly?

Twitter was always unique in that they are one of the only social media platforms to allow 3rd-party clients to essentially re-create the entire platform’s experience. Looking back at how much those early apps made the experience what it is today is really worth celebrating, even if we knew it wouldn’t last forever. Given the fact that they never were able to push ads into those timelines, it’s no wonder that eventually they would shut Twitterrific, Tweetbot and others down.

Apple Music has betrayed its most loyal listeners

From Jason Snell at Macworld:

So this is where we are: Apple’s decision to put things that are not songs amid its collections of songs have made Apple Music’s curated playlists and algorithmic radio stations substantially worse. And at the same time, the Music app has proven utterly unable to help people who don’t want their music mixed in with promos and happy talk.

The way forward for Apple Music is simple: Turn off the ads and promos until your app is capable of letting us opt out from hearing them. But until then, if you insist on foisting this not-music on us, I curse you to an eternity of listening to nothing but the Kars for Kids jingle. You heard me.

I really hope we get the option to disable this type of content in stations and playlists. I haven’t encountered any of this so far but it’s a slippery slope to Apple Music becoming what Spotify is – an app focused on engagement instead of music.

Rediscovering the Mac

From Federico Viticci at MacStories:

The new MacBook Pro with M1 Max is an incredible machine that takes pride in being a computer built for people who want versatility. This computer has a clear identity; you can tell it was designed by people who love the Mac for people who had grown dissatisfied with the Mac over the past few years. This machine is a love letter to win back those users. Everything about the new MacBook Pro – from the screen and battery life to the keyboard and ports and its raw performance – is a testament to how fundamental Apple silicon is and will be for the future of Apple’s computers. If you’re a longtime Mac user, there’s never been a better time to fall in love with the Mac all over again than right now. Apple silicon is the perfect comeback story for Apple’s Mac lineup.

This is a great article, written by someone who has been “the iPad guy” for the past few years. I appreciate the way he walked through what he loves about the iPad and iPadOS and how the Mac gives him options to do things the way he wants to. There’s a lot of good links to tools he’s using and wishes for what the iPad could be if it adopted some of the things that make a Mac great so I recommend giving it a look even if you’re already a seasoned Mac user.

I recently upgraded from a 2018 Macbook Pro with it’s hot, battery sucking CPU, sub-par keyboard, lack of ports and touchbar to a new 16″ Macbook Pro and it has really rekindled my appreciation of the Mac as well. I have an iPad Pro that I use a lot around the house and like Viticci wish I could do even more with it. But at a certain point I think we have to accept the fact that letting each device class be true to itself is actually the best way to work in the Apple ecosystem.