First!

The race to be the first to post a story online [1. Or, more often, regurgitate a story.] frequently causes problems. For example, this morning I saw a headline on Boy Genius Report (BGR), “New Jersey bans texting while walking“:

“Fort Lee, New Jersey passed a new law earlier this year that fines walkers $85 who do not stop prior to texting. ‘It’s a big distraction,’ Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli said. ‘Pedestrians aren’t watching where they are going and they are not aware.'”

BGR linked Huffington Post as the source, so I clicked the link for more of the story. HuffPo’s headline reads, “Texting While Walking Ban: Fort Lee Imposes $85 Fines On Dangerous Texters [CORRECTION].” As soon as I see “correction,” I think, “Uh-oh.” The HuffPo story begins with a link to a story at MSNBC, entitled, “New Jersey town’s police chief: No, we didn’t ban texting while walking.” Oops.

I can forgive HuffPo for this gaffe, as it appears to have been the starting point. Its writers simply got it wrong. But BGR parroted the story without hesitation (as did many others). Plus, as of this writing, BGR hasn’t updated its headline or story.

This happens all the time. Yesterday there was a story going around that Best Buy had just put Apple Macintosh computers on sale. Before we posted it at TUAW, I called Best Buy and was told that the sale has been going on for “over a month.” So yes, the Macs are on sale but no, the price drop isn’t new.

I realize that every tech blogger can’t independently confirm every single story. Still, it took less than five minutes for me to call Best Buy. I’d rather be right than first any day.

The blogging cycle – back to the beginning

I’ve noticed an interesting shift in blogging. In short, there’s a trend moving away from hyper-focused niche blogs, back to what I’d call “personality” blogs. It makes me think of when I started writing online in 2000, and I like it.

Twelve years ago, I first read the word “weblog” on Splorp. I had no idea what it meant, but I liked the site’s chronological listing of updates and the personal voice. After reading for a few weeks, I realized the site’s proprietor, Grant Hutchinson, and I liked some of the same things: photography, vintage Apple hardware/software and design.

I read Splorp often because Grant and I had those shared interests. In fact, the site inspired me to start a blog of my own, which I built and updated by hand using Adobe GoLive. It was fun but a lot of work.

As blogs matured, people realized they could earn money with focus. A niche blog attracts an engaged audience. Don’t blog about cars, blog about blue coupes made in Detroit between 1960 and 1965 [1. Forgive my ignorance of the automotive industry.].

The niche blog thrived and soon the blogosphere was full of hyper-focused sites that explored a single topic, all day, every day. And it was cool, especially for fans of Detroit coupes.

Today I see the “personality” blog returning. Consider Daring Fireball, The Loop, Shawn Blanc.net and 512 Pixels, to name a few. You could argue that each is a “tech site,” but that’s not the whole truth. Daring Fireball is John’s voice, personality and interests. He’s as likely to write about the New York Yankees as he is the new iPad. The Loop reflects the interests of Jim, Peter, Shawn and the the other contributors. The same is true of Stephen and Shawn Blanc.

The niche blog will never be replaced, of course. I’ll always check my beloved Van Halen News Desk, Swiss Miss and so on. But I also “follow people,” as Jim says, and it’s a lot of fun. In other words, I’ve been at this for a long time and I’ve seen the definition “pro blog” change. It’s interesting to watch the pattern, and I’m glad personality blogs are swinging back into popularity.

Diversions

If you look in the sidebar you’ll find a new item called “Diversions.” Here’s what that’s about.

Today I had the great privilege of recording the 100th episode of The Bro Show on the 70 Decibels network. Terry Lucy, Myke Hurley, Peter Cohen and I talked about Mike Daisey, the new iPad and Tim Cook’s performance as Apple’s CEO. That was great, but I was struck by something Peter said about The Loop.

Peter and Jim Dalrymple have been running The Loop for some years now, and it’s one of my all-time favorite sites. That’s because, as Myke noted, it feels like “Jim and Peter’s blog,” despite its size and reputation as a professional and highly-respected site. Peter answered by saying, “The Loop is the same schtick Jim and I have been doing in our professional and personal identities straight back to MacCentral.” That’s exactly what I love about it. It’s obviously written by real, live people with diverse interests and passions.

Jim and I have talked about this before, and I’ve been considering it out loud on Twitter lately. In turning 52 Tiger into a professional venture, I succumbed to idea that it must focus on a small handful of topics, and avoid a casual tone. The truth is, my interests expand beyond Apple’s products. And I’m a huge dork.

The Diversions sidebar item will display quick-hit links to anything I find interesting enough to share with you. Stories, products, photos and so on that I love. It will be updated very frequently. It’s not in any of the RSS feeds, so don’t worry about me cramming your reader.

I’ve noticed that I like reading people more than products. Shawn Blanc vs. Mashable, for instance. That’s why I read The Loop, 512 Pixels, Ben Brooks, Daring Fireball and Brett Kelly among others. If  you do, too, here’s hoping you’ll put Dave Caolo on your list.

MacStories to go comment-free

Cody Fink:

“In consideration of the reader, how we want the site to look, and due to the amount of time we can spend keeping an eye of this stuff, we will be removing comments from the next iteration of MacStories.”

It’s not an easy decision, but I think it’s the right one. 52 Tiger has never allowed comments and it never will (not while I’m in charge, at least), for all the reasons that Cody lists:

  1. Moderation is time-consuming
  2. Many comments are garbage
  3. Comment systems can break, requiring time-consuming fixes
  4. It’s not easy to respond to comments left on posts that are months old
  5. Staying ahead of spam is a hassle

For more on why 52 Tiger does not allow comments, look here. The most glaring reason is that most people leave remarks that have nothing to do with the post, and adolescent, immature behavior is almost inevitable. Comments, in my opinion, are best avoided.

I can’t blog from the iPad

I can’t blog from my iPad, and it’s entirely due to my workflow. I’m hopeful that iOS 5 will solve the problem.

When I’m writing an article, I like to refer to research material, like a source, supporting articles, etc. Typically that means hopping between browser tabs or text documents. Neither is really feasible with the iPad.

When I open a critical number of browser windows in mobile Safari, the inevitable re-load starts to happen. Plus, as convenient as iOS multi-tasking is, hopping between apps is a hassle when you do it as often as I do while writing an article.

Mobile Safari will feature tabs under iOS 5. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to hop between them easily, and finally start blogging from my iPad.

Blogging with Scrivener, TextMate and Markdown [Updated]

Here’s a great post from Chase Reeves, in which he describes how he blogs with Scrivener, TextMate and Markdown. I’ve been using Scrivener for a while now, but only recently added TextMate and Markdown. I’m going to adopt Chase’s workflow with one alteration.

Instead of copying the HTML from TextMate and pasting it into a browser-based compose window (he uses Posterous in his screencast), I’ll copy my Markdown post from Scrivener, open a Markdown blog post template in TextMate (via the Blogging Bundle) and then publish with Control-Command-P.

In fact, I’ll see if I can create an Automator workflow to further automate the process, even though it’s pretty quick as it is. In the meantime, check out Chase’s post.

Update

I’ve gotten several comments and questions about this setup, which I’ll address here. First of all, I’ve learned the hard way that composing blog posts in a browser is a bad idea. Unexpected crashes, network outages, etc. can destroy your hard work. So I’m after alternative desktop software.

Many of you suggested MarsEdit. I’ve tired to get into it several times without success, but I couldn’t tell you why. After much prompting from Brett, I downloaded TextMate, mostly to take advantage of his Blogsmith Bundle for TUAW blogging. It’s so obscenely useful that I couldn’t imagine working without it at this point. Bundles add a tremendous amount of functionality to TextMate, and Brett’s work is a prime example of that. It’s a huge time-saver.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a large writing project since November with the help of Scrivener. While TextMate is the race horse, Scrivener is the meticulous jockey who ensures that everything is in order before hitting the track. I’ve begun using it for organizing long posts on TUAW and 52 Tiger. I can’t publish directly from Scrivener, but that’s OK, as publication isn’t its  job.

TextMate might seem like overkill for blogging, but I’ll argue that’s not the case. The time-saving benefits of bundles can’t be overstated. For my personal blogging, I use Brad Choate’s Blogging Bundle [1. Here’s an overview screencast.] and this Markdown plugin for WordPress. [2. Incidentally, if you like writing in WordPress’ compose field but still want to use Markdown, check out Brett’s WordPress plugin for doing just that.] Once a post is pasted into TextMate, I can do so much more with it than simply publish, including saving local copies, drag-and-drop image upload, etc.

Lastly, don’t forget that I’ve set up Scrivener to sync with PlainText for the iPad for cloud-based, on-the-go editing of works in progress.

I’ll admit that I am bothered by the copy-and-paste step, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker. If you have any other questions or comments about this workflow, please let me know.

What’s this?

52 Tiger is the realization of an idea I had long ago. In 2005 I told a friend, “I want to write about Apple for a living.” Thanks to Aol, I’ve been doing that at TUAW, and I love it. I’ve gained a bit of an audience (let me say, “Hello!” if you read my work at TUAW) and increased my writing skills significantly. I have tremendous gratitude for everyone over there, especially Mike Rose and Victor Agreda, whom I’ve known the longest and have always supported me. Thanks, guys.

Recently I re-listened to the talk that Merlin Mann and John Gruber gave at SxSW in 2009. Two things struck me. First, Merlin said (I’m paraphrasing), if you’re going to do something, do the shit out of it. For years I thought, “Someday I’ll have an opportunity to write long-form articles about Apple for obsessed fans who appreciate the value of taking time to sit quietly and read.”

What was I waiting for? That day is today. It’s right now.

I was also struck when John said that he means to “…own every pixel” of Daring Fireball. I absolutely get that, and I want to own all of 52 Tiger, from the upper left-hand corner to the bottom right.

My promise to you

It’s simple: I will bust my ass. Expect thoughtful articles about Apple’s hardware and software. My wife often tells me, “Your voice changes when you talk about Apple. Your whole body posture changes. You become a different person.” That person will be here every day.

What do I ask in return?

I ask for the most valuable thing you have: attention. If an article looks interesting, send it to Instapaper and when your schedule permits, offer a few minutes of your time to me. You’ll find that I’ve worked to make each and every post worth your attention.

This is what I want to do with my life, and hopefully it will support my family. If you like 52 Tiger, tell a friend. Tweet an article. Share a link. I’ll appreciate it tremendously.

One final thing: This is the last post of this type that you’ll ever see here. If you got this far, you’re probably the type of person who sits through PBS pledge drives. Thank you.

Now, let’s talk about Apple.