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Alternative V

OK, here’s the tl;dr before the jump:

  • I’m joining Apple full-time as a Software Engineering Author, starting Monday 7/23/18.
  • The Xcode Treasures book is now complete, with my having just turned in the last chapter to my editor.
  • Given corporate policies on outside activities, I won’t be blogging here anymore.
  • I also won’t be speaking at conferences.
  • Not sure about the livestream, which is on a Summer hiatus anyways. It might return, but in a very different form.

Obviously, you should unfollow me on Twitter right now, because I won’t be tweeting about development topics anymore, which means my posts will be nothing but anime and complaining about parenting.

So, I haven’t been too public about this, but I’ve actually been working for the last year as a contractor in Apple’s Developer Publications group. Earlier this year, they asked if I wanted to interview to come on full-time, but I said I wanted to finish Xcode Treasures first, because I thought it was an important book and I wanted to see it through. So, as the book work was in the final stretch last month, I went out to Cupertino for a round of interviews.

1 Infinite Loop plinth

So, why board the mothership? Well that should be obvious: to get in on the sweet employee discount before the Mythical Modular Modern Mac Pro comes out next year. 20% (or whatever it is) off a $7,500 configuration is serious coin, bucko.

But seriously, I actually like what they’re doing with developer publications. It’s not my place to say why they’re doing things the way they are, but if you step back and let yourself compose a thoughtful and complete understanding of the form, state, and use of developer documentation, you may realize what DevPubs is up to is the right thing to do.

Now I know there are people out there who are all like “But… but my wall of API diffs that I look at every WWDC Monday night and then never again!” Trust me — the other 364 days of the year will eventually be worth it.

(Also, anytime you’re going to take one of these “the big company doesn’t get it, but I do” stances, I think it’s important to commit: either full-on TRON cosplay as you shout “I fight for the users!”, or see if you can get Bruce Boxleitner to come on your podcast.)

Of course, for me, there’s also the idea of job security, which is reassuring after facing challenges with the ups-and-downs of the app economy over the years. With two kids, one of whom has severe medical issues, getting on a company health plan will be extremely helpful to our family’s financial well-being.

Consequences

That said, surely you’ve noticed that all the people who leave the public sphere to work at Apple get real quiet. That’s to be expected. Obviously, they can’t talk about anything secret they’re working on.

But even if I’m working on, say, some ancient thing in Foundation, does my publicly expressing an opinion on URLConnection (It sucks! Migrate to URLSession already!) mean that my employer is saying that? Of course not. But people will take it that way. In particular, some people with an axe to grind with a company will find the most contentious thing any employee has said and try to hang it on the employer. And it often works. Best way to avoid getting fired over saying something stupid? Don’t say it in the first place. (Did I mention I really need health coverage?)

But I’ve been particularly public for the last decade, after coming over from Java to Cocoa. So here’s the plan for all the stuff I’ve got out there:

  • This will probably be the last blog post for the foreseeable future. While this is a “digital media development blog”, according to the banner, the whole topic area hits too close to Apple’s businesses for comfort. For example, the rivalry of HEVC, VP9, and AV1 would be fun to write about, but Apple is very much involved in that fight (having adopted HEVC, but also being on the board that guides AV1), so even talking about those topics in an objective manner is likely a conflict of interests. Good thing Streaming Media just covered the codec wars in a new article.
  • I submitted the final chapter of Xcode Treasures a few days ago, and will clean up the remaining errata and as much tech reviewer feedback as I can before going pencils-down on Monday. I don’t feel like this book has found its audience yet, and I regret that I won’t be able to promote it further, but since the changes in Xcode 10 are rather modest, it shouldn’t need updating either and may have a pretty long shelf life.
  • I don’t know what I’m going to do with Invalidstream. I really enjoy making it, but the viewership is nearly zero, and I obviously can’t do a half-hour of iOS/Mac developer lessons every week anymore. In fact, even the second segment—let’s plays of iPad games—is a conflict of interest, because of the whole “@invalidname said Madden NFL for iPad is boring-ass lootbox garbage, so now I’m mad at Apple” problem. Maybe I’ll bring it back as PS1/PS2 retro-gaming, anime reviews, and/or visual novel read-alongs, I just don’t know. Let’s see how I feel once summer’s over.
  • Obviously, I’m going to lay off the tech tweets and snark about Apple and the iOS/Mac APIs on Twitter, so you really, really should unfollow me. This means you, Marco. Six months from now, my Twitter posts may consist entirely of fast food wine pairings, and excerpts from my five-volume Muv-Luv fanfic / epic takedown of Trumpian white nationalism.

You Talk Too Much

The other obvious thing I’m dropping is speaking at developer conferences, but to be honest, I did that months ago. When I was asked about participating in Swift By Northwest, I said I was happy to help promote it, but was not interested in speaking anymore.

Pop Team Epic meme. Offstage: Will you ever speak at developer conferences again? Pipimi: (extends middle finger)

This was a decision I came to after the poor reception to what I thought was one of the better talks I’d ever done. Since so many of these conferences use “Swift” in their name now, I thought it would be disingenuous to just do a random cool-new-framework talk, so to do something really about Swift, I dug into the idea of how Apple’s media frameworks push Swift farther than it is currently able to go, and what we should do in the meantime until Swift matures.


The reaction wasn’t what I’d hoped. Attendees found the jokes unfunny (or even inappropriate) and didn’t really care for the message that there are some things that, for now at least, should still be written in C or C++. But the real killer was that people weren’t interested in my speaking at all. There aren’t a lot of feelings quite as bad as people deliberately fleeing you, but that’s exactly what happened to me at the single-track Swift by Northwest:

So, yeah, what I’m selling, nobody’s buying. Sounds like a perfect time to close up shop.

The Good Fight

It’s good to keep challenging yourself, to never get comfortable (usually not a problem for me, but still). On the Xcode Treasures book, editor Tammy Coron has pushed back a lot harder than most of my previous book editors, and has a strong sense of process, so that’s been good for me to work through. (Also, the interview I did with her and Tim Mitra for the Roundabout: Creative Chaos podcast is easily the most interesting of the few interviews I’ve ever done, so it’s nice that exists).

At Apple, the rigor I’ve been put through by mentors and editors is like on a whole other level. It’s really exacting, from the top-level strategy of docs, articles, and sample code, to the nit-picky ground game of copy-editing. You really have to think through what you’re doing, how it works, and what your readers are going to get out of it. You can’t finesse or hand-wave your way out of problems in your narrative; you have to face them head on. It takes a lot of work to get things to a point where all parties approve them.

But hey, at my age, learning new things is not something to be feared; it’s a challenge to be embraced.

And again, don’t forget to unfollow me on Twitter if you haven’t already (but you probably already have).

Comments (2)

  1. John David

    Long time lurker and follower/rss subscriber, sad to see the blogging about apple/programming coming to an end, the media framework posts is what brought me here (stayed for the anime references), but totally understand, congrats and best of luck at the mothership!

    Never had a chance to watch the livestream, but “PS1/PS2 retro-gaming” sounds right up my alley, so keep us posted! =)

  2. Charles

    Congratulations, Chris! When I was on Twitter I used to follow you, and I always thought life would be easier for you at the mothership. Also re: your comments on giving talks, I saw your slides for that Swift + AU talk, and they were great. All the best

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