Cingleton deux: Day two
The second day of the second annual Cingleton Symposium -- Ç deux -- was all about the presentations. With Guy English serving as master of ceremonies, a series of all-star developers, designers, media, took turns on the stage to discuss the general theme of scaling.
Michael Jurewitz, formerly an evangelist at Apple and currently a director at Black Pixel kicked things off with a look inside the App Store -- how to work with Apple and how to value your work. He explained that developers shouldn't see their relationship with Apple as one of equals, but likened it more to animal husbandry. One of the best things in the world for a developer is to get featured on the App Store and the way to increase your odds of that is to embrace iOS and OS X's newest features as quickly as possible in a way that delights users and brings value to the platform. He also, bluntly, told developers that while there are issues with the App Store -- like no trials or paid upgrades, sandboxing, Gate Keeper, etc. -- that they need to get used to it and deal with it, because that's the world they currently live in. He also told developers not to undercharge for that apps, and asked them if doubling their price would cost them less than half their user base, because if it does, it's ultimately more money. And an un-successful app is a dead app, for developers and users.
Molly Reed, a vice-president at the Omni Group, talked about how they handled scaling their company. She used the example of her puppy growing from a tiny size to fill the projector frame. At Omni, they chose to grow very carefully, making sure employees matched their culture and goals, could work locally, and could always feel like their voices were heard. They had to give up working on some older projects, like Omni Web, to focus on their new projects, including going all-in on the iPad, but always wanted to make sure they provide great benefits back to their employees -- including fun and games, and sometimes even going outside.
Marco Arment of Instapaper and The Magazine challenged himself by presenting without slides. Using the same mix of keen insight and fun he brings to the Build and Analyze podcast, he talked about his last -- bad -- experience presenting at a show, and then dove into the terrifying subject of scaling a career. His overarching point was to take initiative, do things without asking for permission, and force yourself to survive by becoming great, using his own path from developer to writer to editor as an example.
Serenity Caldwell of Macworld and TechHive talked about ebooks, and how Amazon [screwed] up their head start in the field by sticking to black and white digital copies of black and white print books, until Apple came along with colorful, interactive, WebKit-based iBooks and kicked them square in the complacency. She laid out how Macworld struggled to scale their ebook efforts to an increasing range of formats, and the compromises that had to made along the way, in terms of toolsets, workflows, and her own perceptions. And she also laid out those things that shouldn't be compromised.
Brad Ellis of Pacific Helm talked about what it means to be a designer, both in terms of the different skill sets possessed by visual, product, interface, and other types of designers, and in terms of the perceptions towards designers and design in general. Using a flabbergastingly awesome Quartz Composer program, he then went through an example of using math to solve a design problem, namely a navigation bar that had to look great no matter the color or platform it's deployed on. Combining formulae for waited average to flip text color from black to white depending on the background with an explanation of blend modes, he explained how to avoid having him make fun of your desaturated interfaces by properly using color burn and linear burn.
Glenn Fleishman of Macworld and TidBITS talked about love and money -- including the love of money, he won't judge -- when it comes to creating products. He elaborated on business models and practices that aligned developer and manufacturer needs with those of customers, and then dove deeply in the crowd-funding and micro-investment trend, including Kick Starter. He explored why some crowd funding efforts succeed, why success can be its own challenge, and why some fail or simply don't suit the model.
Michael Lopp, formerly of Apple, currently of Rands in Repose and Palantir talked about how careers change every three years, even if you stay within the same company. He then set the table for the engineer, he designer, and the dictator. He spoke of the importance of the engineer, who solves problems and strives for the perfect system, and designers who make sure real things work for real people, and of the tension between them. He also spoke about the value of the dictator who makes the tough choices, including the toughest and the most important -- saying "no". Steve Jobs was an obvious example, as were several of the heads of the various divisions inside Apple. He also focused on Natasha Lampard of Webstock and her singular drive to make everyone and everything awesome, and of Microsoft who succeeded under Bill Gates' dictatorship but has floundered under Steve Ballmer's lack thereof, even if some divisions like Xbox have shown individual signs of dictatorial brilliance.