Airbnb will build a new tech hub in Atlanta

From Protocol:

The company chose Atlanta for its future growth for one explicit reason: In order to meet its hiring goals for technical teams with a diverse range of perspectives, the company needed a location that produces diverse and creative talent and would continue to attract more. No other city could surpass Atlanta’s potential to do that, Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president for global policy and communications, told Protocol.

The fallout from Covid-19 accelerating work from anywhere has a large number of California-based tech companies looking for other places to search for talent. Atlanta has a ton of ingredients – relatively low cost of living, good weather, good local talent pools and a very diverse workforce – that make it appealing to any company looking outside of SF for talent.

With Trump’s Acquittal, The Fragility Of America’s Democracy Is Even More Clear

From FiveThirtyEight:

The Democrats, already divided in some ways on ideological grounds on issues like Medicare for All, now have another big question: How do they try to defend American democracy against rising anti-democratic forces largely centered within the GOP? That debate is likely to center on to what extent Democrats should adopt more hardball tactics to try to reduce GOP power, including steps such as getting rid of the filibuster or adding justices to the Supreme Court. That debate will also have an electoral dimension, as the party must figure out whether conservative voters wary of Trump and Trumpism constitute a big enough bloc to make it worthwhile to court them, even if that means sidelining some of the policy goals of the party’s more progressive wing.

Democrats gave Republicans every opportunity to disavow Trump and move on to retake their party but they’ve chosen not to. Given where polling stands for Republicans on Trump, impeachment and who they would vote for in a 2024 primary, it seems that they’ve chosen not to “retake” their party because they don’t want to.

I miss having a center-right party in the US.

Distributed-First Is the Future of Work at Spotify

From Spotify:

The future of how we work has been a popular topic inside the walls of Spotify for a while now. Our leadership team has long championed the idea that digitalization and globalization are massive drivers for a more flexible workplace that better suits both our band and our business.

Add another company to the list. One interesting tidbit is their focus on paying NY/SF salaries no matter where the employee chooses to live. I’m really curious to see what the Covid year does to our industry as well as current tech centers like NY and SF.

Reminders App is All I Need

From The Brooks Review:

During the week of Thanksgiving 2020 I upended my task management life and moved away from Things (which I have been using for a while) and moved all in with Reminders.app.

Interesting take by Ben on how Reminders hits the mark for him over more-fiddly options like OmniFocus and Things. I’m a big fan of using Things but there are definitely times where the relative simplicity of a native app like Reminders appeals to me.

Why doesn’t “Look Around” cover more areas?

From Justin O’Beirne:

If Apple is unable to algorithmically identify POI information in static images (taken in ideal weather conditions), then how will Apple successfully augment reality?16

And what happens if Apple’s rumored AR headset is ready before its map is?

The short version is that it appears that the sheer volume of POI data in the US is slowing down the rollout of look around. And if that’s the case, Apple is really going to struggle to keep these enhanced maps up-to-date, let alone roll them out in a timely manner. I really love the overall Apple Maps look & feel but I do find myself using Google Maps for most POI searches / quick trips and Apple Maps more for longer car trips where I already know the gist of where I’m headed and want traffic/time info (and a nicer looking map). I don’t think Look Around is a “killer feature” but the underlying lack of trust in their POI database is going to be a problem if they can’t get it sorted out.

On another note, these articles by Justin O’Beirne are so fun to read. I love how he builds toward a conclusion with tons of examples and really nerds out on the map data he’s got access to.

I Subscribe to Way Too Many Newsletters…These are my Favorites

From Matt Birchler @ Birchtree:

I haven’t done a good List of Things I Like post in a while, so here goes! Here are some of the newsletters I subscribe to and enjoy basically every time they hit my inbox. And by doing this, I realized…wow, I subscribe to a lot!

This is a great list of newsletters to subscribe to if you’re a tech/design/gaming focused person.

Ever since I switched to Feedbin and can subscribe to newsletters with a custom email that then shows up in my RSS reader (thereby skipping my inbox entirely), I’ve really gone all-in on newsletters. I spoke about this a bit last year, when I tried to replicate some of HEY’s screening functionality by forwarding a ton of stuff to Feedbin and I can report it’s working great.

Everything New in the iOS 14.5 Beta

From Macrumors:

Apple today seeded the first betas of upcoming iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 updates, and while the new software serves as a deadline for when app developers must comply with App Tracking Transparency rules, there are also a handful of other changes worth noting.

The headline feature is the ability to unlock your phone with a watch when you’re wearing a mask. It’s also nice to see Apple getting into the habit of shipping features when they’re ready instead of rushing to get them all out at once. 

Apple News+ is Actually Good

Last fall, I came across a deal where you could get 4 months of Apple News+ for free. I figured I’d give it a shot to see if it was worth the $10/month as I’m a big believer in paying for quality news. Currently, I get most of my news from RSS, the New York Times, and Google News. I tend to send a lot of of those articles to Instapaper for reading later. I also listen to a ton of podcasts about sports, politics, news and other general-interest NPR-style content in Overcast. Was there a spot for another source of news & entertainment? I wasn’t convinced, but figured I’d give it a shot.

What You Get From Apple News+

Apple News+ is a section of the Apple News app that gives you access to hundreds of current & past issues of top magazines as well as audio versions of many of the top articles read by professionals. While you can get a lot of content for free with the base version of the app, the plus version is centered around full magazines and audio content on top of the basics.

Looking over the roster of magazines offered by News+, I quickly spotted a dozen or more publications I’d gladly read if I were to start using the service. Users are able to follow magazines they like, and you’ll see them show up when new issues are available. You’re able to set up notifications for when new issues are available, as well as download them for offline use if that’s your thing.

The News+ Magazine View

In addition, specific stories are recommended based on your reading history and taste both within the News+ interface and the main news feed when you’re browsing. I’ve found the recommendations to be pretty solid overall, and being able to give the stories a thumbs up/down have helped to weed out sources I don’t really enjoy.

On the iPhone, you can also access the audio versions of many top articles. There’s a tab to browse all audio stories, but the service also recommends stories to you much like it does within the main News+ section. What’s neat about the audio tab to me is the ability to create a playlist of stories to listen to.

News+ Audio Page

I’ve found that I’m spending more time listening to these articles over podcasts in the past few months, and I think I like it a lot better as audio entertainment because it’s “tighter” (and therefore much shorter but more informative), doesn’t have ad reads, and allows me to catch up on articles when doing chores or going for walks with my dog. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening to podcasts, but I was genuinely surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed the News+ audio feature, and it’s one of the things that has kept me as a subscriber.

The Reading & Listening Experience

Reading articles can be done 2 ways in News+: either by jumping into individual magazine/newspaper articles via recommendations on the main feed, or as a complete magazine via the News+ tab. A few of the magazines are basically glorified PDFs and the readability on those is sub-par, but the majority of the issues are formatted for a screen like the iPad and are a pleasure to flip through.

While the reading experience is great, the interface to browse the magazines you follow is suboptimal – I wish there were a list you could access to view all of them instead of a small carousel at the top of the section. Overall, navigation in Apple News isn’t great – I wish you could configure tabs on the sidebar or hide things completely as well. It can be very tedious to organize or sort through everything even if the actual reading experience is pretty solid. Don’t even get me started on the Mac Catalyst version of the app. Honestly, I wish there were a web version for when I’m at my computer during the day. The MacOS app is that bad. Then again, you could say that about literally any app that is using Catalyst.

The listening experience is really nice – having a running playlist of stories you can listen to is super easy to get going with and you can reorder the queue in a way that’ll make any Apple Music users feel right at home. You can select any article and either play it now, play it next or play it last in the queue. Swiping in the queue will give you a few options to remove, “thumbs up/down” or move the story to the top/bottom. When playing you can select a few playback speeds (1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, 2x) but I’d like more granularity there if possible. Another neat thing is the ability to tab a button to take you the actual story in text form, right where you were listening at. This can be helpful if you need to jump back and forth between audio and text.

Why I’m Sticking with News+

The sources I use other than News+ won’t change after messing with this service for a few months but I do think I’m going to stick with it. What I like about News+ is how it makes the experience on my iPad and iPhone in particular so much nicer. On the iPad, it’s more of a “lean back” experience where I can flip through magazine articles, save things for later and enjoy the reading experience more than I can on the web. On the phone, the audio stories mean I’m getting to enjoy more journalism than ever in those times where I’m not sitting down and focusing solely on reading.

I feel like I’m consuming less “junk food” in the form of click-baity blog posts and rambling podcasts and I’m a lot happier and informed as a result. If you haven’t given News+ a chance, I’d recommend you give it another go.

The iPad is Now 11 Years Old

[edit: I wasn’t paying attention and initially said the iPad was 10 today. Corrected it in a few places. Sorry!]

11 years ago today, Apple announced the iPad at a special keynote. Jobs posed the question of if there was room for a “third device” between a computer and a smartphone. Tablets, and specifically the iPad, was their answer.

Jobs mentioned this 3rd type of device should be better at certain things than both desktops and phones. I think it’s a mixed bag 10+ years in: browsing the web (no), email (no), photos (yes), video (definitely yes), music (maybe), games (maybe), eBooks (yes, but still not as good as the Kindle). I have an iPad Pro and use it as my “personal computer”, but the jury is still out on if it’s truly better than using a computer in most cases.

Still, I’m excited about the improvements in both hardware and software over the next few years as there’s so much untapped potential while Apple attempts the delicate balancing act between ease of use and “computer like” functionality.