Don Melton, former Engineering Director of Internet Technologies at Apple, talks to Guy and Rene about assembler on the Apple II, open-sourcing Mozilla, building Nautilus, creating WebKit and the Safari browser, teaching bears to dance, and cleaning cusses from code bases.
- Bitsplitting Podcast Episode 1: Guy English
- Code Rush documentary
- Nautilus file manager
- Keeping Safari a secret
- Safari is released to the world
- Why I retired from Apple
- Regarding fake projects and loyalty tests
Don Melton: Will this be Debug number 11?
Rene Ritchie: Yes.
Don: Wow, that's great because then Debug goes to 11.
Don: Wish we had show tunes.
Rene: I'm Rene Ritchie and joining me is my co-host Guy English. How are you, Guy?
Guy English: Great. Thanks.
Rene: We are absolutely thrilled to have with us today Don Melton, formerly of Apple, and whom you may know from projects like WebKit and Safari. How are you Don?
Don: Itchin' absolutely.
Rene: We are literally using your work as we engage in this conversation.
Don: Yeah, that's both flattering and frightening.
Rene: How did you get started with coding? How did you get into this business?
Don: It's funny I started thinking about that again the other day when I was listening to Guy appearing on Daniel Jalkut's new podcast Bitsplitting and you were talking about your first computer being an Apple II. I thought that was funny because of the timeline you were talking about. Just out of curiosity how old were you then?
Guy: I was about seven to eight then.
Don: OK. What year was that? That was around...
Guy: Eighty one, eighty two.
Don: Yeah. So I got in at the same time with the same computer Apple II Plus. Of course, a slight difference in age. I was 24 at the time. But it was kind of funny, learned on that. But see, my background, I was already at the age of 24. I was going to school to become a minister. Really long story.
Guy: Really? Wow.
Don: I was working almost full time. I was working about three-quarter time at the "Orange Country Register," which is the big newspaper in Orange County, California.
That's where I was putting myself through school. I was a commercial artist there. Graphics artist, that's my background in journalism. I've had a really weird life and strange jobs and things like that.
Anyway, I was getting bored and disillusioned with the whole religion thing. I wasn't sure I was going finish my degree, and I thought, I really need to get something here to hang on to. I thought, I'm going to finish this year of college and decide what I'm going to do, and I got to get more into this graphics thing that I already am. I thought, "Well, computer graphics! That's the way of the future. I got to learn how computer graphics."
So I decided to get a computer and teach myself some of that computer graphics stuff.
Guy: That's very forward looking for the time, because computer graphics at the time were like 80x20 or 80x40 screens.
Don: That's probably the only time in my life I've ever been forward thinking. That's about as organized as I ever get, in a way.
So I borrowed this enormous amount money from my dad, and I bought an Apple II with the whole set-up. Two of those clanky-ass disk drives and...
Guy: With the machine-gun noise when they would start to...?
Don: Yeah. Thank God I didn't have a pet at the time, because it would just traumatize the pet.
You know, 48K of RAM, it was huge. I got this whole set-up and everything. I had it for a week, and then I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I couldn't do anything that I sort of imagined that I could do with this thing. I was really disappointed.
I didn't want to go back to my dad and, you know, "Remember that five grand you lent me? Oops!"
So, it languished in my room at this house I was sharing with three other guys off-campus at college for six months. I mean, I played video games and stuff with it and do a few other small things. I got really good at Nasir Gebelli's "Space Eggs"? You guys remember that?
Guy: I do yes, that was fun.
Don: Until I got sick one three day weekend. I forget if it was Labor Day or Memorial Day or something like that. I was just sick enough that my roommates didn't want to have anything to do with me so I was banished to my bedroom.
I was just well enough to be bored out of my mind and because I never throw anything away. My room is filled with all kinds of crap; I had all the manuals and everything else with the Apple II laying out there on the desk.
In those days they actually, when you bought a computer they...
Guy: They told you how it worked.
Don: Yes they showed you how it worked and it was this nice little bound book, everybody that had an Apple II remembers this, introduction to Apple Soft Basic. I thought, Saturday morning, what the hell I'll just open up the book and start going through it. By the end of the day I was a basic programmer, I could do that.
I didn't know you couldn't learn it in a day.
Don: It was a lot of fun I actually I stayed up late that night and Sunday morning I skipped chapel and I was typing away like crazy at the Apple II. I bombed one of my programs into the machine language monitor, you remember that right? It's like what are all these numbers with letters in them.
I had to take a little break there and learn hexadecimal and conversions and stuff like that and went you can dissemble a code. Then because it was a three day weekend, by the end of the day Monday, I had started teaching myself machine language programming. I was writing basic programs with data statements and writing machine code, hand code it on a piece of paper once I figured out how the instructions worked.
I shove them into the data statements and I call them and then hook them up via the Ampersand Vector that I had noticed that you could do in the back of one of the appendices of the manuals and I was calling out.
I didn't know you couldn't do that, you couldn't learn things like that I just...
Guy: You went on a three day fever fuelled vision quest? Came out an assembly programmer?
Don: Because you've probably seen on my site that one of the things I define myself as being is a tinkerer. I love to tinker with things and I was just curious and I kept tinkering and I kept tinkering. I finally got where the programs I was writing were semi-useful, at least to me and they didn't crash all the time.
Then I started learning, I can't remember whether it was Forth next or Pascal and then I was learning C. Which C on an Apple II computer was just a real pain in the ass. It's the eight bit processor.
Guy: What was the compiler for C on the Apple II?
Don: I cannot remember this was, I think it was Astexy, no it wasn't Astexy I forget what it was called.
Guy: But it was commercial there was no...
Don: Yes it was commercial. I wasn't into the hacking crowd yet because I didn't know enough people who did that.
Anyway, several months later I ran into one of my friends who was going to City College. He was actually taking programming course and this whole time that I'm working around like this on my computer in my bedroom and at home and stuff like that. I had no illusions, I'm not professional I don't really know what the hell I'm doing.
Anyway, I talked to him I'd say hey how's the course going, because I'd love to be able to have time to do that. He was in the second year and he said "this is like really tough, I'm really struggling here." I said "can you show me one of your books, I'd love to see one of these things." He was showing me some of his exercises and I started looking at it and realizing that the man could not write a four loop to save his life.
This stuff was just incredibly simple or at least simple to me by then because I'd taught myself this stuff. It was after that, meeting him at lunch and looking through the thing and realizing this, I went maybe there's something in this for me. I got really, really interested in it and just went deep and that was the start of it all.
Then became a real fan-boy, because I had the Apple II, and when the Mac came out I went...what's the name of the store. It was right in downtown Costa Mesa. They were demoing a Macintosh, and I wrote the last 200 dollars in my checking account as a down payment on a Mac when it came out.
Guy: So you got straight into the Mac, right?
Don: Right into the Mac, when it first came out. I had no idea how I was going to make the payments on the Mac.
Guy: Just a leap of faith.
Don: Yeah, Just a leap of faith.
Guy: Now, programming the Mac is lot different than programming an Apple II-style thing, because of the way the event loop and all that works. Was that a big leap?
Guy: You have to invert your thinking a little bit.
Don: Yeah, especially when you learn like me. I don't have any classic training at all in data structures or algorithms and things like that.
But it was very useful, in the sense, the way that I learned, because you learn early on, especially when you're learning to write assembly code and everything else, you understand what a pointer is. You understand how things work in memory.
Whether you've been formally or classically-trained in data structures, you understand what these things are. Believe it or not, when the Mac first came out, the only programming environment on it was BASIC. It was Microsoft...that was the only thing I could get.
I was doing the same dumbass thing, which...DATA statements. Doing 68K assembly language programming that way, until the Consolair Assembler became available, and then Consolair C, and then I was off to the races. I still have my day job as the graphics artist at the Orange County Register, and I was not getting paid to be a programmer or anything. My first job, paid programming job.
Do you guys remember, well obviously, MacWrite, everybody remembers MacWrite, don't you? There was this add-on that was sold by Chrichton Development called MacSpell Plus, and the guy who was the primary developer on it was a friend of mine in the Orange County hacker crowd, Christo Rossi. He wound up later on working at Apple and other places.
I guess he had gotten a tiff with Chrichton Development and walked off with the source code to the thing. Lo and behold, a new version of MacWrite comes out, and the way MacSpell Plus worked, I think that's what it was called, was it dynamically patched MacWrite, which is grotesque.
But everybody did that, back in those days. A friend of mine who was basically admin project manager over there, that I knew from school of all things, not through the hacking crowd, asked me if I could figure out how to fix it, and save their bacon.
I went, well, I don't know, bring it over, and I watched what it did, dropped it into MacsBug, and thought, OK, the big problem here is this one section. Insert a few no-ops and a branch, and that kind of stuff, and patch the binaries.
Guy: Straight-up binaries patching.
Don: Yeah, well they didn't have the source code, so I took their old binary and I patched it for them. So, that's the way that I came from, programming. The crowd that I hung around with in Orange County was, that was the crowd that started the Mouse Hole. A bulletin board for hackers back then, trading wares.
Also out of that, sprang up MacTutor. I remember the old MacTutor magazine, and I started writing for them, MacTutor. I'd written two or three articles, and I decided after almost eight years at the Orange County Register, which is the longest I'd ever had a job until I worked for Apple years later, was I've got to get out of Southern California.
I've got to get to Mecca, which was up north. I've got to find a job up there, and I didn't have any...sure I'd patch the binary of MacSpell Plus. I didn't have any [indecipherable 0:14:35] , so I couldn't get a job as a programmer up here in Silicon Valley, but I came up to be their computer graphics specialist at the San Jose Mercury News.
While I was standing around at some conference, I don't know what it was, and Andy Herzfeld was speaking, and I was a real fan-boy. I would later, strangely, work with Andy Herzfeld, but I was just standing in a crowd and I forget what dumbass question I asked him, but there was a guy standing behind me who tapped me on the shoulder and heard me ask.
Lo and behold, it was a guy I had known since I was 15 years old, I had no idea he was in the area. He was trying to break into the business as well, and we had an epiphany. Let's start a company. You know entrepreneurs.
Because I was a graphic artist, I really designed these business cards, back in the days when business cards mattered, that were kind of eye-catching and my friend Mike who now works at Google, the whole world is connected in a way when you think about it. Pin the things up on various boards around the Bay Area, and Tops. Does anybody remember Tops File Sharing?
Guy: You know I'd heard of it, but during this period, I was more into the PC stuff.
Don: Oh, you traitor!
Guy: Yeah, I know, I know, I'm sorry. [laughs]
Don: I did that myself later. Some recruiter for Tops saw it, and went...oh, we need some warm bodies, these guys look like they might do it, and I went in for the interview with Gary [indecipherable 0:16:29] , the guy who was one of the founders of Tops.
Guy: Just for the audience, it's basically NFS for Macs.
Don: It was like Apple File Sharing that wasn't Apple File Sharing, or NFS. And he had read my MacTutor articles and used one of the techniques in Tops. So, I was in. That was my first job when I got out of the newspaper business.
Guy: Was it natural, or did it...I imagine you still do, enjoy illustration and drawing.
Don: That's funny somebody asked me that the other day and I can't remember when the last time I drew anything other than that little avatar you see at my face...
Don: ...online. People go, "What you don't draw anymore"?
You don't realize I started drawing when I was four years old. My parents had discovered that I could draw at that age, and they were amazingly nurturing of it. Again, it was one of those things where it was a rainy day, and I'm bored they gave me a pencil finally instead of crayons, thinking that I might just not poke my eye out with it and some paper.
I sat down and I started drawing things that were on the table in front of me. They discovered when I was around four or five that I could just draw whatever I could see. It was just something that I could do and later on when I started going to school, I think it was in the first grade. I never went to kindergarten. I can't remember why, but I never went to kindergarten.
I remember we got some class project. You're supposed to draw something. I sat down, I just drew, and looked around at the other kids, and they were struggling. It was some stupid thing, it was like a pumpkin and other stuff.
These kids couldn't make a circle and I realized that I had a super power. It's like one of the X-men! Of course, it still didn't mean that people didn't beat the crap out of me and take my lunch money and stuff like that.
Guy: But you could at least draw the perp.
Don: Yeah, I could do the police sketch. Years later, I would wind up doing some things like that.
Guy: Oh, really.
Don: I just really got into it. When my brother figured out that, I could draw. His plan for my life was to draw comics. He drew me into the whole world of comics, and then that's what I wanted to be when I was a kid. A comic book or comic strip artist and then draw, draw, draw every day. Then I got a job in the underground comics back in the '70s.
Guy: Back in the '70s, if you're going to do underground comics that's a pretty good time for it.
Don: Yeah, and I the stupidest thing, this is my acute business acumen. I stepped away from comics just about the time the entire thing heated up and everybody became bazillionaires. I'm just always great at that, just picking the wrong time to change.
Guy: I'm going to go with technology over comics.
Don: I don't know Avi Arad, I knew that guy when he was that dumpy snotty nosed kid standing under the stairs at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Guy: Oh, really? Wow.
Don: I can't remember whether I was at the second or third, I didn't make it to the first Comic-Con, but I remember working my ass off all summer to save money, early summer, to go to the third Comic-Con.
This was back when it was in the El Cortez Hotel in San Diego. I think this was the first time it was at the El Cortez Hotel, and I remember going down a few weeks before to Shelldorff's Comic Book store out near the ocean front, and going in the back of the store and collating programs with the other schleps off of a mimeograph machine or something like that.
Comics, comics that was the whole thing, but in the early '80s that changed for me.
Guy: Did you get sort of an endorphin rush from illustrating or drawing? Did you start getting it from programming instead?
Don: Yeah, in a way it's the same kind of thing, because it's a different kind of tinkering but it's also something that ego maniacal people like myself have. You're able to create and control entire worlds. With drawing you're creating the characters. You're basically God, right. You're saying what they look like, how they behave, what they say.
With a computer, that's a very similar thing. It's the addiction and the ability to control your environment when you can't really control your real environment. That's why a lot you meet a lot of creative people who are just complete spazzes, but they can do all these other things because that's where their focus is. It is very addictive. I say on my website now, I'm a recovering programmer.
Guy: Yeah, I love that description.
Don: I'm sure I'll fall off the wagon again. I go to the meetings and I haven't programmed in...
Guy: You got you 30 day chip?
Don: Yeah, 30 day chip and stuff like that.
Guy: Why are you recovering? What are you trying to recover from? An all consuming, constantly running virtual machine in your head or what?
Don: No, the thing is, I was very fortunate to make some career changes in my life and they seemed to work out very well. I like the idea of change. In fact, the idea that I worked at Apple for over 10 years is mind boggling to me in retrospect, because I have the attention span of that four year old kid.
I have the ability to focus very, very deeply but I also I see something, oh, bright and shiny, I got to go play with that.
To me, it's not required of me to do the same thing my whole life. Also I know that I can do it. It's like drawing. I know that I can draw. OK I solved that problem. Let's move on and try the next thing. Why wouldn't you do that? You only get so many years at this. I've burned through 56 of them so far. I've got to be a little more judicious about this.
The thing is that I know what I can and cannot do, and while I was never the world's greatest artist, I was never the world's greatest programmer either. I was good enough to do what I did, but I'm also not the super creative inventive type that's going to come up with the next app or this or that or whatever.
Especially after working at Apple for 10 years, I was around so many smart people. You've got to understand, my goal was to hire people smarter than me, which was not that hard but these people are just brilliant.
When you've got people like Darin Adler and Kinka Shinden, Richard Williamson, Machi Stilloviach, Dave Hyatt, Adele Peterson and people like that working for you. You've got geniuses.
Then you have to look at my management chain. When I started at Apple, I worked for Scott Forstall, who worked for Patron Serlay, who worked for Aveta Veinion, who worked for Steve Jobs, right.
Guy: Right, an all-star stack going on.
Don: Yeah, and those guys are just the crème of the crop. You had to bring you A game every day. There was sometimes I thought, boy they're going to find out I'm a nitwit and I'm just gone. Later on, I found out everybody except the most delusional person out there has days like that. When you're around that kind of people, it's kind of daunting.
The other thing I wrote a few weeks ago when I talked about why I retired from Apple. I was just tired. Not burn out. People online assumed I meant I was burnt out. No, I know what burnt out is, I was not burned out.
Guy: Yeah, just time to move on.
Guy: You were done it sounded like.
Don: Yeah, I was done. Stick a fork in it. Go do something else. You have to understand that I'm an incredibly lazy man.
Guy: Some of the best programmers are.
Don: Yeah that's probably...
Guy: Hopefully, I don't mean that in a negative way.
Don: They get the machine to do it for them, right.
Guy: Looking at the stuff that you've worked on, I think a common thread is that you sort of try to enable creativity. I don't know if you've made these choices intentionally or not. You've worked on Director, Illustrator, vendering engines for the web.
Guy: Is that something you're conscious of or something you're drawn to, or is that just happened stance?
Don: Probably the later, happen stance. I didn't end up working on a lot of tools that were creative tools, and that was because of my background as an artist. One of the attractions I had when I left Tops and what was then Sun Microsystems, because they did acquire Tops, to go work for Macromind, it was called then before it was called...
Guy: Oh, right! I forgot...
Don: That was when it was in the old building on the corner of Fourth and Townsend. That was a great building by the way. It was a four-story building, we found out later on, we wondered why the floors sloped in the building, and you couldn't put a pencil on your desk without it rolling off.
We found out the floors sloped because it was a slaughterhouse at the turn of the century, and the floors were sloped to drain the blood off into the catch pan.
Don: We thought, "Isn't that the perfect environment to program in"? The history is so rich it's bleeding you out there. I went there because I wanted to do something that was not low-level file sharing stuff. Although I do love networking and stuff like that, that's a lot of fun.
I wanted to work on something creative, then when I went to Macromedia to work on Illustrator, which was like coming full circle for me, because I had used Illustrator, when I was a professional illustrator. To be able to meet the original creator, someone I had respect for was fantastic. In a way, it's kind of like that, but it's also dumb luck.
Like I said my life plan a lot of it has been, oh, bright and shiny I'll go over there for a while. I wound up at Netscape, not because I was trying to go and do something marvelous with the web. I was out of a job. I got laid off from Adobe, and this other place I ended up working at in between. I thought Netscape was doing something interesting and they were doing a lot of hiring, so I went there. Dumb luck.
Guy: Was that your first introduction to working on web stuff?
Don: Yes, well it wasn't my first introduction to the web, I had a little bit of that at Adobe, but certainly working on web stuff it was.
Guy: On the engine.
Don: I planned to write about the story on the blog in a few weeks, but that's where I got my nickname and met a lot of fantastic people. I got to be in a documentary there.
Guy: You were there when Netscape open source navigator, which was a huge deal. Like you said, there's a documentary about it. Was it as crazy as a documentary makes it look?
Don: Oh no, not at all! It was much crazier than that. Before we started the recording session, just to tell the audience here, I asked Rene and Guy, "Do you bleep me? Is it OK if I drop a few F bombs or something else here?"
Guy: Everybody here is a sailor.
Don: Exactly. One of the ways I got my particular assignment for the open sourcing of Mozilla was my familiarity with, you might say, colorful metaphors. They had decided...We were just getting crushed by Microsoft and Netscape, obviously...and Driesen just pulled out of his ass this Hail Mary idea of open sourcing Navigator, and then we realized "oh God, we've got to do this."
I was a manager there and I was on the mailing list that night as we were discussing how the hell we are going do this, and what some of the tasks were.
One of the things that came up was, "Oh God, we've got to clean up the source code if we're going to open source it." Somebody might've said shit or hell or damn. I was like, "What, are you kidding?" We had one source file that used the word "fuck" repeatedly as sort of a line separator between sections of the source. It was the engineers' way to comment on what he thought of the code.
And they said, "Well, we've got to correct the source and search for those seven dirty words. You know, George Carlin's seven dirty words. Find those and we'll be good." I was like, "What, are you kidding me? What about..." and I rattle off thirty in the email.
The entire management team was on the mailing list, and Driesen was reading it too, my boss and everybody else. This was Netscape, and I wasn't spanked for that. It was like, "Oh yeah, Gramps is right. You're in charge! Don, your job is to sanitize the source.
They say, 'Only Nixon could go to China.'" Cleaning up the source, and obviously shepherding the Mac version through. And cleaning up the source was really hard, it actually turned out to be easier to get rid of the F bombs than getting rid of all the things that were proprietary code. That was just maddening.
Guy: I remember a scene in the movie where somebody just ends up calling Steve and getting an OK to ship something that was basically Apple's.
Don: I was in the room at the time! So, that was nuts, with days, if not hours to go.
Guy: It was a pretty short time span between when the decision was made to open source it and when it actually went open-source, right?
Don: It was less than three months. Driesen made the call in the first week of January, and then March 31st, three-three-one day, that's what we had to hit. It was like, "Couldn't you have made it June?"
Guy: You just picked a date, right? And everything had to happen?
Don: Yeah, we did it. Up until the time, that was probably one of the most fun things I've ever done, I made friendships that I still have this day...great people. It was fantastic being there and being part of that, and saying you got to change the world.
Which is one of the reasons when I got the opportunity to go to Apple, and they wanted me to do a web browser again, that was one of the reasons I did it. The idea of being able to do something crazy, if it's really, truly nutty, and sometimes even hopeless, I was like "Whoa, I'm in! That sounds fun." That's one of the reasons I did it.
Guy: Let's put pause on that Safari project for a little bit, because in the middle there you did something kind of crazy and kind of fun. You tried to do Nautilus, which is a file browser for Linux. With Andy Herzfeld, who you spoke about earlier, that's why I want to bring up.
Don: Well, to get to how I got there to Eazel, Andy Herzfeld and Bart Decrem's company, they were the two cool founders there...I started at Netscape in 1996. I just missed the IPO, so I was not a "Bazillionaires" there like everyone else. That's what we called them, "Bazillionaires." AOL had acquired Netscape by that time, and AOL was very slowly but methodically running the company into the ground, and worse, the soul of the company into the ground.
Guy: As they do.
Don: I was getting really tired of it because I'd been there for a while, four years, because I earned my sabbatical. I went on my sabbatical, this was fall of 2000, I was gone for six weeks on vacation and I came back and I just had to stick a fork in my leg every day to go to work. I was just not enjoying myself. The fun that we had from doing navigator in the early days, of open sourcing Mozilla; AOL wasn't behind it the right way.
One of my engineers had just dropped out and left about the same time I took my sabbatical. He went off to do the startup of, I didn't know what the name of it was, but one day he sort of called me out of the blue and said, "Gramps, we need some help over here. We need some managers who know what they're doing over here." and I was like, "Well, what the hell are you calling me for." He said, "No, you could this." I had gotten into Linux at the time because I was really disappointed with where Mac was going.
Guy: This was 1997-ish?
Don: No, it was 2000.
Guy: OS X still wasn't out.
Don: OS X still wasn't out and although by this time Scott Forstall had convinced [indecipherable 0:38:27] Burtron and Steve to do Carbon, nobody had it and nobody knew about it at the time. I didn't know that was going to be the way forward. While I liked YellowBox, which was the Cocoa machine, and I love Cocoa, I told, when I was at Netscape, the Apple guys, "What, are you out of your mind? Am I going to rewrite a million lines of code on Navigator and move it onto this new OS? That's not going to happen."
So I was really disillusioned and although the Bonding Mac's had just come out and the "Think Different." campaign had come out, a lot of us old guys from the old world didn't think much of that. We thought it was kind of...this is kind of stupid in retrospect, which shows you what excellent judgment I have about marketing...I just thought, "Wow, this is desperate. This is not good."
Guy: In all fairness, Mac OS 8 and OS 9 were not compelling for anybody who knew their stuff.
Don: It was not the next big thing. I knew that the other operating system efforts had failed, because everyone talked to those people. So, I'd gotten into Linux and I liked the environment, but the desktop was still crap.
I went over and interviewed at Eazel and what their goal was to remake and make money from the desktop on Linux. I actually didn't pay much attention to the business plan because I just wanted out. I thought it was the coolest thing that I got to interview with Andy Herzfeld and he was like one of my idols. Just a total teddy bear, probably one of the most fun interviews I'd done in my life.
The other guy I got to interview with who was going to be my boss, the hiring manager, Bud Tribble. Good God! He was the guy who ran the original Mac software team back in the early 80s. He's a super-genius as well, a medical doctor, and an exceptionally good bass player, too, by the way, when he gets to play.
I got to interview with Darren Addler. I was going to be his boss, and I was also one of Darren's fan boys. I've got to tell you, of all the interviews I've done over the years, that was the one I probably sweated the most and worried about the most. Darren was one of the fiercest damn interviewers; I still give him grief about that to this day.
Guy: Really? Technically or just?...
Don: You have to know Darren. Darren was doing a really good job. He was trying to find out, "Do I really want this person as my boss? What does this person know about management?" Up until that time I'd been a manager at a couple of different companies by then, engineering manager, but nobody had really grilled me on it like Darren had, and he was good; which I would leverage later on certainly to interview other people over the years at Apple.
He was a real tough interviewer and I was nervous about that because Darren was the guy who started the "Blue Meanies" back at Apple in the early 90s. He went on to some fame at General Magic with Andy. He's a really good guy.
I took the job at Eazel and they were already pretty far along. Well, not far along enough with Nautilus. A lot of the big decisions had been made but they just couldn't seem to get the damn thing done, so I came in as the director of client engineering, my first job with that title, Engineering Director.
Bud had to go worry about investors and all kinds of other things, and he told me "Your job is to get this thing done." We didn't have enough engineering management talent, so I had like twenty-five people reporting directly to me. If you ever want to go nuts as a manager, you do that.
But they turned out to be some of the most fantastic people in the world. Not only Darren, but Maciej Stachowiak, John Sullivan, Pavil Shisler. Ken Kocienda was there, too. Ken didn't report to me, he eventually became the other server-side director of engineering, I directed client and Ken and I became really good friends. When I did wind up going to Apple later on, after we went completely toes up at Eazel, I knew who I was going to fill my team with. A lot of those guys.
Guy: Eazel seems like one of those companies that had a lot of stars packed in all at the same time.
Don: Brian Croll was also there, he was the head of marketing. Brian also went to Apple, he's the head of OS X marketing and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun. I went there because it was going to be fun and all these smart people were there, and it was not Netscape. I just wanted to do something different. Even though it was a fool's errand, we got Nautilus out on time, and then a day and a half later we laid off half the company.
It was one of the worst things ever. We're going up towards the deadline for bringing Nautilus out and working these enormously long days. I get to work early in the morning and Ken Kocienda meets me outside and is like, "Oh, the shit's hit the fan." and I'm like, "What?" "We have no money. The funding didn't come through."
So we went inside and the entire board was inside, in the board room we had, and they wanted to talk to us and said, "We've come up for a plan to keep going." The entire board, and my boss, all the executives were going to basically not pay themselves.
I'm thinking to myself because I had a mortgage right then, it's like, "Will Ken and I get paid," just as a little aside there, "if you do this?" They said, "Yeah, but we're only going to do this if you guys stay here." I said, "Well, thanks for thinking of us like that. I'm not sure if your priorities are completely right."
They said, "We're going to have to lay people off." and I go, "Oh, crap. Well, who were you thinking about?" and they show us a list of people and I went, "OK, we'll do it if you keep paying us but one more qualification, you've got to let us pick who's on the list, because these are the wrong people on the list." Ken and I did one of the worst jobs you'll ever do as a manager.
Guy: I've had to do that, it's horrible.
Don: We went to this dive bar Japanese restaurant place in downtown Mountain View, it had the worst damn tea. We sat there, and writing on a napkin we figured out who was going to live or die, and then we had to get Nautilus done.
I remember the night we were trying to get done, it was after midnight, it was like one o'clock in the morning, and Ken and I are managing the bug reports sitting in this room and this young kid, one of the QA engineers, runs in the room and says, "I've found it, I've found the last bug that was holding us up. We can run the build now because John's got a fix." Ken says, "That's great!" Kid runs out, shuts the door, and Ken slams his head on the desk. That's one of the guys we were going to lay off. So, that sucked. If you ever get a chance, don't ever do that.
So, I was out of a job and we were still trying to save the company. We were trying to sell it to RedHat and do all sorts of other whacky things. I knew I had to find some place to work because I knew my wife wouldn't want me lounging around all summer, kind of like what I do now.
I started trying to look around at what was out there. I remember we were focused on gnome because Nautilus was a gnome file manager. I started looking at KDE and I was playing with KDE, and I got re-exposed because before I went to Eazel I had been kind of a KDE guy, and I got re-exposed to Conqueror. I thought, "Yeah, they did a pretty good job here while we weren't paying attention."
Guy: Which was their file manager, sort of Windows-style where it was based on a lot of web technology?
Don: Exactly, and it was using KHTML and kJS, as core commands. I looked into it a little later on. I thought, "That's pretty good, but there's no money in KDE, I got to find something to make the..."
Guy: Got to pay rent.
Don: Yeah, I got to pay rent. Just then Mac OS X Cheetah had come out, and Andy Herzfeld sat across the isle from me and I said, "Andy, what do you think of Mac OS X? Did you play with the developer preview? Because I really hadn't played with it." and he said, "No, but Don, if you're interested in it, do you want to borrow a machine?" I didn't really have a Mac, anymore, and Andy lent me one of his G3 towers to run Cheetah on.
Guy: One of the blue ones?
Guy: Oh, one of the beige?
Don: No, it was either blue or right when they went to the first ones with the grey. Anyway, Andy's the most generous guy in the world, a wonderful person. He lent me one of those and I was using Cheetah at the very last developer preview when I started playing with it, and I went "Wow, they did a really good job here. It's slower than shit, but..." It was really good and I thought, "This could be something. I would like to work on this."
I'd become a real expert on the old operating system, basically system 7 era. Working at Tops doing system software, I had my own hand-annotated dis-assemblies of parts of the ROM. You had to do that back in those days, and this was something completely different, and I was excited by something new.
I didn't really want to go back to classic Mac-style program. I went over and talked to Bud and I said, "Bud, you obviously still know people over there." Because Next had acquired Apple, that's what we had all deemed what had happened. Even when I was at Apple, that's what we had called what had happened.
I said, "Can you get me a gig?" The funny thing is, going back to your thinking, Guy, is Bud thought I'd want to do the creative stuff. So, he got me an interview with the iPhoto team, which strangely enough, was being run by my old friend Glenn Reid from Adobe. It was a pretty easy interview and stuff like that.
As much as I like Glenn and stuff, there were some tells about the organization and stuff like that. I didn't want to work on iPhoto. I wanted to work on the core. The interview was pretty good. I went back and told Bud, "I'd really like to work in Systems Software," He's said, "Well that's funny because somebody over there wants to talk to you, apparently." I went, "Oh really? What the hell do they want to talk to me about?"
So I went over like a week later and that was when I met Scott Forstall, yeah.
Guy: Not a bad person to meet.
Don: Yeah. I was not aware, at the time, that he was the man behind Carbon but I found that out talking to him. It was a really funny interviewer. I went...
Guy: Actually have to overlook quite a bit is that like one of the old Next guys is one of the people that pushed for Carbon to be in there.
Don: Yeah, which is totally crazy. But that's the great thing about Scott. I mean, he's just totally the world's most pragmatic guy.
Don: He got it. He gets it. That's part of his genius. So we did an interviewer with him and I had to sign a non-disclosure to do the interview, which is like no big deal. But we are sitting in his office, Scott's interviewing me, and he's asking me questions, kind of probing. Like, if we wanted to do this how would you?
I'm like, "You want me to do a web browser?" He was like, "Hold that thought." Runs out of the room, gets his admin. They bring in another NDA.
Don: Go through the whole rigamarole, signing, witnessing the NDA, stuff like that. His administrative assistant leaves the room. We watch her leave the room. Shut the door. Scott turns to me and says yes.
Don: Then, I talked to him about how we'd do a Web browser and how they would do a Web browser. They just thought it was nutty, right?
Guy: It did seem crazy at the time. When the project was announced, it seemed to come out of left field.
Don: Yeah, we surprised a lot of people especially like I said, we punk'd a lot a people with what we'd use. It was in that original interview with Scott that when he asked me, "How would you do it?" I was just full of piss and vinegar that day I guess and I thought, well, I'd base it on Konqueror. He was like, "Really? And not Mozilla?"
I was mostly doing it to be snarky and silly and stupid, but that's what we wound up....I told him why at the time, but that's eventually what we wound up doing. After I looked at every technology there was early on, that's what we decided to do.
Guy: I want to get into that a little bit, because I think that's one of the four big software choices that Apple has made that's really paid off for them. First, is using NeXTSTEP for Mac OS. The Quartz compositing over the display postscript -- I think that was a huge, huge move even though it was as slow as hell, KHTML, and using Cocoa and [indecipherable 0:54:33] for iOS is the fourth one.
Honestly, maybe you were just trying to be wacky in that interview, but choosing Konqueror as the basis for Safari and WebKit is a huge decision. What drove you? Because you'd worked on Navigator. You'd worked on NeXTSTEP. Nautilus didn't use Konqueror. What was the impetus behind it?
Don: Here I am. I'll tell you some of this and I'm going to ruin yet another blog post that I have in draft, but I did promise people a story. The impetus? You have to remember what Mozilla was like at the time. It was huge. It was several million lines of code.
Now, WebKit is that size now, kind of amusing me, but that was an enormous amount of code. It was code at that time written in a style that was very obtuse. The Gecko rendering engine. I think it was Ken Kocienda made a joke that it had this object model that had objects to represent all the bits almost that was really, really complicated and slow.
One of the early goals of the project was not only to build a web browser, be able to use the technology that we use elsewhere. Which was one of the things that Apple couldn't do with Internet Explorer for the Mac. You couldn't take the engine out.
In the interview process and of course on the job, I met Bertrand Serlet who was Scott's boss at the time. I knew that Bertrand wasn't going to let several mean lines of code into Mac OS X. It wasn't that big at the time almost. I had to come up with something lighter-weight than that. So that was one thing.
The other is it was not exactly a star at performance either at the time. It was pretty slow. There were also some very subtle issues thinking about it in a kind of Machiavellian way. I knew that we were going to have to do this project quietly.
Let's be blunt and secret. Nobody could know about this. I am going to go off and do this for a year or 18 months. I'm going to come out -- ta da. We based this all on Gecko and we forked it. We would just get -- flayed -- by that because the Mozilla community was so huge.
If I based it on a smaller project that nobody knew about, smaller community. To be perfectly honest, the hangers-on were less rabid. I had a chance of pulling that off politically. It was actually harder to do with Mozilla that way.
Getting back to the size of the code. There was a really important thing, with the size of the code, was getting the engineers to wrap their heads around it.
Ken's the first engineer on the team, but he started that same day as I did at Apple. Technically I did not hire him. I made sure he was on my team when he got hired. Richard Williamson was the first guy that hired him a month after we started.
I had to get these guys to wrap their heads around a code base. I knew from working on Gecko myself, you just don't go into that lightly. I mean it's a monster. I had to get something that they could grok. That was another reason.
It turns out the code at the time certainly was much more...shall we say hackable than Mozilla and Gecko was. It was much more pliable and it was simpler. I wasn't fooling myself. It was not complete. It was not as standards compliant. It didn't render everything as well. It was not as accurate, but it was a good basis.
That's one of the reasons I did it, so I picked that. When I say I picked it, I didn't like -- Don comes down from the mountain -- and says.
I stood around. Actually, Richard had the office across the hall from me and Ken had the one next to me on the same side. I think we were actually standing in Richard's office at the time because we had some things on his whiteboard.
I said we got to do this. We got to pick one of the solutions we've been investigating. I said I got to go tell Scott, and Bertrand, and Javie what we're going to do here. We're going to lay out the plan. I said this is what I want to do. Are you guys in? Do you buy this? They were like yes.
I was not going to pick this without those two saying yes we're going to do this. I certainly wasn't going to go that way without approval from my management chain.
That goes back to another thing. I say in my blog, by the way, credit where credit's due, that I started the project. Technically when you look at it, Scott Forstall started the project. You can argue everyone at that management chain, Scott, Bertrand, Steve they all started the project...
Don: ...but I was the one...
Rene: You drove it.
Don: Yeah, I drove it, and drove it like a vicious psycho crazy person at the time.
Guy: I was going to say, one year between picking Konqueror, one year and 18 months, and shipping Safari 1. That's a lot of work. Safari was quite a bit ahead of Konqueror when it did ship, in my recollection.
Don: Yeah. We had fixed in all...I'll go into some of the things we'd fixed, especially the performance aspect of what we changed, in my talk. Here, he works his plug into the conversation at the Úll Conference next month, where I talk. My talk, 25 minutes of gramps talking about how we made Safari fast.
One of the things we did were some speed improvements to KHTML and KJS, but also some correctness improvements, and things like that.
Guy: One of the things you keep hearing about the Safari project is that you have performance-based tests. If a commit makes something slower, then it gets yanked.
Guy: Was that your doing?
Guy: I can imagine, when a deadline is looming, you may be tempted to let that slide a bit.
Don: I never did. There were times when I was the most hated person on my team for that. This is actually the point of my talk next month, it's that that is the key. You can never go backwards. That's the Safari secret. That's become the culture. If I have a legacy with Apple, it's that would be a big thing there you never...
Guy: Sometimes before.
Don: Yeah. And you have to turn it into a religion.
Guy: Yeah, it really has to be the one thing you won't [indecipherable 1:02:59] . I think you have to pick one thing that you will not sacrifice and you've got to stick to it. Otherwise, everything can get turned into a mush.
Don: Yeah. It was a hard thing to do, because like I said it doesn't make you well liked with your own team, and not everybody will understand the process at first, but it's not an issue anymore, because the entire team became...
Guy: Now it's part of the culture, aren't that right?
Don: Yeah, it's like a jihad.
Guy: The other interesting thing about Safari is that you are one of the very few teams in Apple that open-source in a pretty big and loud way. I suppose just using Konqueror means that you had to be, right?
Don: Yeah, because it was LGPL.
Guy: Was that a hard sell to management?
Don: Yeah. In a way, the hard sell was not the initial one, because we were also considering resource for open-source. But the hard sell was becoming truly open-source. In other words, when we first came out, we were just throwing tarballs over the wall periodically. We didn't have a [indecipherable 1:04:23] people think of the way WebKit is run right now, it's a very high-visibility, very, very open and, we hope, transparent system, but it wasn't like that the beginning.
Who we have to thank for pushing to do it that way is Maciej Stachowiak and David Hyatt. They were the ones really pressing Darren and I. Darren, of course, was for it. I went to Scott and Scott approved. Bertrand was the one who made the call and allowed us to do that. Part of it is because Apple did have, certainly, a history with open-source. It was much easier to do with Apple than it would be at other companies.
Guy: Really? I think people would be surprised to hear that, because Apple is so well known for being very secretive and closed, despite the fact that they do actually have a lot of open-source.
Don: A lot of open-source. Look at Clang, look at LLVM, look at Darwin. There is a huge history of that there. That's how we could get away with that. Was everybody happy about that? Not always, but not everybody was happy about the engine choice that I took the credit/blame on with KHTML and KJS.
You have to remember, when it first came out, Safari was really not very compatible with the Web, partly because its brand-new engine WebKit brand-new engine and it was not IE.
It had some of the same problems that Firefox had when it first came out and the new engine. Worse, because it was so obscure, which is why the User-Agent string, which is probably the lasting thing that's still in the code that I did that's in there, why it's crafted that way to be as compatible as possible.
But, for a while, there were some, not my management chain, not the team, but there were some, and well-meaning people, I don't dislike them for doing this, they were trying to do the right thing, but they would second-guess me, like, "Oh, we should work with," something more compatible...
Guy: There's always going to be some kind of bias no matter what you...
Don: Right. And then, later on, we did the iPhone. Richard went off to start the Mobile Safari team -- Richard Williamson should be credited for starting that project. [indecipherable 1:07:19] and others wanted to do that. When that came out, it was very clear that we could not have used Gecko at the time, because it was just too huge for the platform.
WebKit was the perfect choice, KHTML and KJS, and I was a genius again. Then, when Google decided to do Chrome, then I was a knucklehead again, because it was open-source and they could walk off with it. You get a real thick skin in this business. The whole time, you stay the course. As I told my team over the years, "Your plan, our plan, is to take over the world."
Rene: What was it like for you, looking...I was using a lot of mobile devices back then, and there was WAP browser, there was Pocket IE, there was Blazer on Palm, and none of them could really show you the Web. You really seem to have a goal of actually making the mobile Web useful.
Don: In retrospect, you can see that was the goal. At the time, when Richard went off to do the project and to do this, we were just trying to get the bear to dance. We were just trying to get it on the device and get it working and have an experience that would fit on that size of a screen.
I think the innovations at his team came up with where the way you navigate, working in the other gestures, the way pages rendered. Some people hated it at the time, but it was the way that we could get the performance out of it, the...
Guy: The tiled?
Don: The tiled stuff, the other subtle things with the way the chrome...and I use the word chrome generically. I hate that Google picked that name for their browser, because for a decade I've been using the word chrome just to describe the box that's around the web content. That's forever screwed now.
Don: Yeah, you've got to go lower case "c", chrome.
Guy: They've co-opted it.
Don: It was what I told Mike Pinkerton and Ben Goodger, "Well, way to go to screw up our vocabulary." That was great. That just drew you in. And getting the gesture stuff right, they did a fantastic job with that. While Richard was responsible for the front end and did the initial version, obviously, of getting WebKit to work on there, because they had to do some other stuff, we eventually folded all that back into the main Safari projects. By the time I left Apple, I was responsible for that.
Guy: It was interesting because some people had tried to do proxy browsers where they'd render everything on their servers and then push it down to you as an image. And some people just prioritized the content so the entire interface would lock up while it tried to render things. But mobile Safari always seemed to want to retain that immediacy and the liveliness of the web.
Don: Oh yeah, and that was the total goal. Steve was very clear that that's what we had to do. That's what he wanted. There were a couple of glorious hacks that Richard's team did that enabled part of that. We had stuff going both ways that we folded back into desktop Safari for some of that responsiveness.
I am so glad people were...it was great to see people delighted by it and being able to browse and do things on a device that small. I think mobile Safari where my favorite environment to use it is actually not the phone, it's on an iPad. I just love that way. It's just buttery smooth. That's what I love about it.
You're talking about the proxy thing. My friends over at Danger -- I think it was Danger -- tried that experiment first. Was it Danger?
Guy: Danger did it. Rem did it. Opera did it.
I looked at that and was like, "Well, that's not going to scale. That's not going to last." Then it was a couple of years ago Amazon brought out...they touted their...
Don: Silk, thank you. Talk about silky smooth. They talked about a Silk browser. There were lots of smart people at Amazon. I thought, "Whoa, they've figured it out." I had my guys go out. We bought a couple of the devices just to check it out. I went, "Nope. Still not there yet. Still does not work."
Guy: You reminded me. Do you remember those Internet accelerators that they used to try to sell, because dialog was so slow.
Don: Oh, yeah.
Guy: It seems like it's filling slack in the market, that this is a problem that the natural evolution of technology will solve for you more quickly than you will gain any acceleration in the market share.
I remember at both the iPhone event and the iPad event, Internet communicator and a better web browser, it was such a cornerstone of Apple's pitch for these devices that I can't imagine it being anything other than a core part of the experience.
Don: Yeah, the whole responsiveness. If we ever had a hang in any part of the phone, that was total anathema. We had to fix that. In the early testing, we were told to pay very, very close attention to this.
We were worried about not only Safari, but other applications. When you've got a lot of data in them, would they slow down manipulating that data? This was a problem, actually, in Safari. If you had an enormous number of bookmarks or an enormous number of items in history, Safari would start to get slow. We worked really hard to fix those kinds of problems.
Rene: Yeah, that's a weird kind of problem that you don't necessarily think about. A giant history is not the thing that you're thinking about making fast when you've got a whole web browser to port over.
Don: The axes of...the things you have to worry about with performance in a Web browser are so vast, it's staggering. Getting back to the Amazon Silk thing, I said they didn't solve that problem. They came closer to solving that problem than anybody else had. But I think the correct solution is faster web browsers and smarter caching.
You don't have to get...to a certain extent that's what Silk is, is smarter caching, and server-side caching and trying to leverage things like AWS and stuff like that. We're getting pretty damn fast right now. One of the other legacies at Apple was starting the second browser war, a different kind of browser war, which was the performance war.
I like to think that the Safari team was one of the reasons that Mozilla really got serious about performance. They did a really good job getting serious about performance. Firefox has improved tremendously over the years that way. I know when Dean Hachamovitch took over the IE team at Microsoft, he was also really serious about it. And certainly the Chrome guys are nuts about that, too.
Rene: I was going to ask, so is that where most of the gains have been had, and is that the future of performance enhancements for the Web?
Rene: You need to look at the whole stack.
Don: Yeah, you have to look at the whole stack. You have to measure. That's the key thing about winning the performance war. Darin Adler had a great expression. He said he's got a 100 percent record of guessing where the next performance bottle is. He's always been wrong.
Don: Which is not actually true. He's not always been wrong. That's the thing, is you don't make assumptions that way. You go out and measure. So I actually have no idea what that is. Also, the nature of Web browsing has changed over time.
I think it should continue to change. I'd like to see it move from...you know, Web browser interfaces from a document based world -- and we've had that forever -- to something that's a little more subtle than that. Right now I think Web browsers have too much crap...
Rene: Too much chrome sort of thing?
Don: Yeah, too much chrome, too much stuff. You're slowly seeing the evolution away from URLs, which I think is a great thing. Obviously the plumbing, I don't ever want that to change. But the fact that people have to type things in like that is just...why do we do that? It's 2013. Or why do we have all these other little doodads like reload buttons, and stop buttons, and things like that? It should be...
Guy: More human?
Don: Yeah. It should be more obvious. Explicit back and forward buttons are a little odd, too. That's why I love the world of gestures and doing things like that. But I am out of the game. Try as I might, I try to stop doing this stuff.
Guy: It's interesting to me that if anyone had told me at the height of Windows and IE 6 that we'd all be walking around with little net boxes in our pockets, and WebKit would be arguably the most popular...not even arguably anymore, the most popular browser in the world. Then you have Safari, Chrome. Palm based an entire OS on WebKit. Blackberry is using Torch WebKit now. It's almost ubiquitous. That's a remarkable sea change from just a decade ago.
Don: Yeah. I was joking with [indecipherable 1:19:19] , before he left Apple. I told him...the joke...you know, Pinky and the Brain, our job is to take over the world. That was the goal. I didn't think we'd actually do it, and we kind of did that.
Rene: Now what?
Don: Yeah, now what? It was kind of stunning to me. I think back to that day and sitting in Scott Forstall's office trying to figure out how we're going to do that, starting a little snowball rolling.
And what's happened? There are people that are much better at this stuff than me. After 10 years they need their time with their hand on the wheel, and they'll be better at it than I ever was, leading that effort.
I left this stuff in Darin Adler's hands, to run Safari and WebKit, the greatest guy in the world to do that. He's got people like [indecipherable 1:20:27] working for him, worrying about that stuff. They're all geniuses. Lots of other people working for him, too, worrying about that stuff.
I still, obviously, talk to them from time to time. If I see something that's stupid, I'm not going to drop a note or call them or whatever. It's like the recovering programmer thing. It's like a recovering Web geek thing. I fall off the wagon every once in a while.
I have lunch with Darin every once in a while, and we talk in vague terms about how things are going. I'm actually much more concerned about people. Darin's not going to tell me what the next project is or anything else like that. I never would want him to do that, or anyone else there. I don't want to know that stuff.
For what we can talk about in the WebKit at [indecipherable 1:21:20] , because that is open source. Like, where is this going? Are we thinking about this? I still do it from time to time, but I don't know whether they even listen to me or not.
Guy: I want to ask you about WebGL.
Guy: Does that scare the crap out of you or what?
Don: Well it scares the crap out of me in the sense that of making it safe. Does it scare the crap out of me for changing the nature of the web?
Guy: Oh, yeah, no I don't mean that.
Don: No, no.
Guy: I mean keeping it safe.
Don: Yeah, keeping it safe. I mean that's sort of one reason it's not turned on by default in Safari. It's like there are certain cases where you could do that. I don't get to say anymore because I'm not there. But until the parts of the hardware where the operating system that interpret OpenGL are a little bit more stable and can't crash or corrupt your machine or block around memory here and there, I think let's be careful with that.
Guy: Yeah, that seems crazy to me.
Don: So I'm like, I don't want to do that.
Guy: Like you really need like a hardened stack. From the drive all the way up.
Don: Yes, it's from the driver all the way up that's exactly what you need. It's a lot harder than people think it is to do that. Look, you know that day is coming that will happen, and I think that will be great. The key thing with that is to, you know it's like what people thought about with SPG, that's not going to replace HTML and CSS and stuff like that. That would be stupid to do so, why would you do that.
Guy: It's just nice, another tool in the kit basically.
Don: Exactly. It's a way to augment things. I mean you never want to walk too far away from HTML because we haven't completely solved them. But accessibility to the content of HTML has been a problem that smart people have been working on solving for years. If you start rendering text inside canvas blocks, which we also helped enable in Apple, that was a hack that Richard Williamson came up with by the way, that image element implemented the first time. If you do that inside of web GEO content you know you have to be really careful, you have to make this stuff accessible, researchable and everything else like that so let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Guy: Right, yeah.
Don: I would like to move on from that world because you've got to remember I've been involved with web browsers since 1996 and that's kind of long enough for anybody. What I'd like to do is I'd like to learn how to write, it's so incredibly hard to do that well and...
Guy: You're doing a great job so far.
Don: I think part of that is just the subject matter. I'm probably the first guy to break the first rule of fruit club, I talked about fruit club and that's what's drawing readers in. I'd like to be able to compel people to read my stuff when I don't put the word Apple or WebKit or Safari or something else in there like that.
In this last post I did, I think day before yesterday, I...
Rene: It was a good one. I liked it.
Don: Oh, thank you. Well, I had watched that. That was like me being the angry old guy. "You kids get off my lawn." I really have to watch that that I don't do that to often. But I intentionally, when I first wrote that, I had...What was the title? Regarding fake projects and loyalty tests at Apple.
Rene: I loved it.
Don: Then I struck at Apple off the title. The headline wrapped much better with that because it was like, no, just put that up, because that was certainly going to be more SEO friendly to do that. But I could give a rats ass about being SEO friendly or all that other stuff, and things like that.
Rene: I don't think you have to worry about that.
Don: No. So what surprised me, when I first started the blog, was the response I get. I was basically writing the thing for my friends on App.net, Twitter, and Facebook and here and there. I thought they'd find it was funny, right? I had no idea I'd get the response I got. It was like stunning to me.
Also, I must say, that for the most part 99 percent of people online have been very polite and very nice. I've made some new friends that way. Rene, I ran into you that way. I'd never actually talked to you in person, guy. I've admired your stuff for a while.
Rene: Thanks. That's very kind.
Don: I'm glad of the impact for those reasons. I got to meet and talk to people like Jim Dalrymple who I had read for years.
Don: You know Jim's yep, nope.
Don: When I was at Apple, even though I was director, I was clued into everything that we were doing. I'd check LoopInsight to find out what we were actually doing.
Don: I told Jim...I was talking to him on the phone. I said, "Boy, if I ever found out one of my people was a source of yours I would have fired them on the spot for leaking that." But, of course, that's not how Jim does it. That's not how [indecipherable 1:28:15] does it. That's not how any of the smart people do it. They do it using a technique I pointed out in that last blog post. It's like, you watch, you learn, and you slick what makes sense.
Rene: Well, a lot of time the individual rumors are kind of pointless, right?
Don: Yeah, they're. Like the ones going on now are just...
Don: You put the visual aid, you might be me rolling my eyes.
Don: It's stupid. I get real tired of that.
But what I'd like to learn, in terms of writing thing, is how to be more productive. Like, the out put. Rene your output is just...God, how do you do that and stay sane? I mean, write to that...
Exactly what you spoke about with trying and you spoke about with Guy and you spoke about with coding, is I have the stuff in my head. This is my current medium for getting it out of my head and putting it on a shelf somewhere. The blogging is the shelf that I'm using.
Rene: Absolutely. I have like 5 different things that I keep wanting to write up just I can't go anywhere with it.
Don: In my Open GL sucks.
Don: You've got to do something. If I wasn't such a lazy person, I think would do it. I'm sure preparing for the Ull conference I'll wait until the last minute before I write up my whole piece. I'm particularly going to try to perform in blog post, as if it was a blog post.
Rene: A dramatic reading.
Don: A dramatic reading of a blog post. That was good.
Rene: I was happy to...
Don: Yeah, I met Paul Campbell on Monday. He's a super nice guy.
Don: What they are trying to do, it'll be a lot of fun. He had nice things to say about you guys, because I told him I was going to be on your show.
Rene: So where can we find you on the web?
Rene: You know about the web right?
Don: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I said one time, somebody else who...do something really cool. I said, "Yeah, I'm telling you, this web thing is going to catch on."
Don: Just DonMilton.com. That's the blog. I tried to hide it but, you know.
Rene: Lot's of good stuff there, right? I actually enjoyed your [indecipherable 1:30:39] post here.
Don: Oh, right. I did the old man ranting thing again but...
Guy: I like it, I like it. Gosh, it works for you.
Guy: On Twitter your @donmilton?
Don: Yeah, Don Milton. You can just about pick any damn service out there and I've tried to make myself obscure with the whole Don Milton thing.
Don: The same thing happened at App.net. So I hang out on Twitter and App.net quite a bit. Recently it was, myself being sick and my dog being sick, I haven't done as much of that. But I'll probably do that a little bit more.
Guy: You're both on the mend now, right, I understand from your post.
Don: Yeah, she's on the mend right now. We don't know when she will take her next turn. She'll be 16 in June so everyday that we have her...
Guy: Is a gift.
Don: ...is a gift. My wife and I are her long term care insurance plan right now. We are just around to pay back. I'm just around to pay back the enormous debt I owe to her for helping me keep my sanity. She was with me the entire time I was at Apple. There's nothing better than coming home from work and having someone at the door who is glad to see you, which was not always my wife and son.
Don: You know my dogs were, "Wow, dad's home. Does he have anything to eat?" Sit in the floor. You touch your dogs, and all the stress of your life just...
Don: ...fades. It's magical how they do that. So now's my turn to take care of her.
Guy: That's great. Well, we wish them all well. And your whole family.
Don: Thanks. And it was great talking to you guys today.
Guy: Yeah, I had a blast. Thank you so much. Again, I could just keep talking forever, but we'll do it some other time.
Yell at us via the Twitter accounts above (or the same names on ADN). Loudly.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.