2 days ago

The negativity loop

After leaving social media for over a year, I realized that one of the worst aspects of it is that it rewards you for being negative. Every complaint, gripe and grumble can be a piece of content. Complaining about something makes you look and feel like someone who knows better.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. You complain about something, people agree with you and you feel good. Since there’s always something to complain about, we’re all sitting on a cornucopia of hot takes that we can help ourselves to endlessly.

I’ve been there myself. Now that I’m back on (parts of) social media, I’m actively trying to be more positive, constructive and understanding. Shouting never-ending criticism into an endless void of an approving audience doesn’t cut it anymore. Neither as an author, nor as a consumer of such content.

January 23, 2023

Likes are out, reactions are in

My friends and I have been using Goblin Mode for over a month now. At first there was no way to interact with others at all. You could update your status and read the ones from your friends. That felt okay but we somehow thought that at least a bit of interaction could be a good addition.

Then I added likes which resulted in an significantly improved experience. People felt a little better connected to their friends. The problem quickly became that likes are a bit one-dimensional. You don’t want to “like” that somebody has a bad day.

So I took the chance and replaced likes with reactions while refactoring the whole thing. Reactions are basically the same list of tags you can add to your status updates but you can now use them to add one as a little piece of communication to somebody else’s status.

On the one hand this enables to react with better fitting communication-nuggets. On the other hand it enables micro-humour by allowing people to search for and react with funny reactions. Stuff like “This is my step count, what’s yours?” is now possible as well.

Based on the two days since this feature was released I’d say that the overall amount of interactions has decreased while the quality has increased. Receiving a reaction is far more valuable than only receiving a generic like.

Next up: Image attachments.

I’ll watch the very last episode of Seinfeld tonight and I already miss it dearly. What a great show about nothing.

I noticed that my current implementation of… basically everything results in me not being able to create good Firebase security rules for Goblin Mode. So I‘m refactoring… basically everything. What sounds like a pain in the ass is actually a lot of fun. The next iteration will be so much better. Hopefully.

January 8, 2023

Work in progress: Goblin Mode

A lot has happened since I shared these two posts about the project I’m currently working on. I figured it’s time to let you know what has happened in the meantime. Here’s the short version: I learned a lot. Like A LOT. This is my third app ever and it’s the one where a lot of previously vague concepts finally clicked. I’m injecting dependencies, juggle with types and create view models like there’s no tomorrow. It’s so much fun!

What was supposed to be a placeholder icon has grown on me over time

A couple of weeks ago I invited some friends to try out the app and see if the overall idea works. This was a huge moment for me. People signed up for something I programmed. They created literal user accounts saved to a database I connected to an app I coded. Crazy. It got even cooler after that: They started using the app. And somehow they didn’t stop. I’m not sure if they’re only using the App because they want to be nice but it feels like they enjoy sharing one-off status updates with a closed and private group of friends. No endless timeline, no fame, only letting people know what you’re up to.

Let me give you an overview of how the app looks like at the moment.

This is the main view. You see your own current status and how old it is. Below that you’ll see all current status of your friends.

I wrote the code for all of this like three separate times. The first two iterations didn’t care about the amount of database requests at all. They worked but they weren’t scalable. I’m now using Firestore realtime updates and it’s amazing. If a friend updates their status while you’re in the app, the status automatically gets loaded from the server and displayed on top of the stack.

But what happens when a friend hasn’t updated their status since midnight?

SPIDERS!

They become stale. I like the idea of having a predefined tabula rasa moment. Each day starts with a clean slate. If you post something one minute before midnight that status will only be fresh for one minute. Slightly weird, but I kind of like it.

Speaking of likes: I implemented a system to like status. It works well and is fun. I’ll probably replace it with a system to react with a tag, though. Liking feels wrong when a friend posts a status about them being tired, feeling empty or being sad. I want to be able to react to these with “🤡 Clown”.

There are more than 130 tags now. I built an admin area and support for admin accounts into the app and can CRUD tags and tag categories in seconds. New tags and categories show up on user’s devices without the need for an app update. It’s all in the cloud, baby!

I also build a system for tags and tag categories that are behind the paywall. My current idea for monetizing the app would be to put most of the cool tags behind a subscription of some kind. Those server bills need to be paid!

With the ever increasing amount of tags my friends asked for a tag search feature. That has been implemented as well. For those moments when you need to share your shower thought quickly.

And last but not least: I revamped the whole follow/unfollow system I talked about here. It became clear that asynchronous following isn’t the right concept for an app that’s meant for you to share semi-private status updates. Now there’s a whole screen dedicated to see who requests being friends with you. If you accept a request you become friends with the other person and you can both see the status of each other. If you cancel a friendship both ex-friends stop being able to see the respective status. Fair and easy.

I’m toying with the idea of limiting the maximum number of friends each person can have. Just to drive the point of the app home. That didn’t work out very well for Path back in the day but maybe times have changed. Who knows.


That’s it for now. I still don’t know if I’m going to release this to the public at any point. I’m still a novice coder and my implementation of everything related to Firebase has a big potential to suck. I’m generally cool with my code not being the best but in this case it could result in me racking up an enormous Firebase bill. That would not be fun at all.

As I said: Who knows. I might find a way to limit the app features enough to let people try it out without me becoming poor while allowing people to pay to cover the database costs. It sure would be an interesting problem to have.


Do you feel like there’s a Goblin Mode shaped hole in the lives of you and your friends?

Happy new year, friends! I’m a little late to the party but there you go. In case you waited for me to welcome you to the new year, you can now feel wholly welcome.

December 26, 2022

2022 step by step

Earlier this year I decided that I’m not walking enough. It’s supposed to be healthy and my average daily step count for 2021 looked like this:

That’s obviously not good enough. An average of 4000 steps is not only embarrassing but also a far cry from the 10,000 steps you’re supposed to walk if you trust some company’s advertisements. Or science.

I tried walking 10,000 steps a day previously and found that it’s basically impossible to do if you don’t have a commute or two hours a day to walk through the city. Since I’ve been working from home for six years now and I didn’t plan on walking through Berlin Mitte two hours each day, I needed a better solution.

My friend Luise told me about her WalkingPad. A slow treadmill you can put under your standing desk to walk while working. A worthwhile investment, as you can see by my stats for 2022.

If you want to walk more in 2023, make sure to check out Stoins. It’s a step counter I designed and programmed that lets you repair your walking streak by collecting Stoins. It’s a whole thing.

December 18, 2022

Added follow/unfollow and eyecandy

I’m guessing wildly how a performant and thought-through data structure is supposed to look like but this one is mine and it works and I’m proud of it. I had another breakthrough in understanding why MVVM makes sense while working on a feature related to this, by the way. What seemed like a lot of files and complicated connections between things that could just live in one file now makes sense.

Oh and I think I found the name for this project but I have to live with it for a couple of days first before I’ll announce it to the world. It was called “Shmood” for the first couple of days but I decided that that name doesn’t feel right.

And while we’re at it, here’s a bit of eye candy, featuring POW.

December 15, 2022

Uploading, fetching and async-awaiting

I’m having the time of my life over here. Without getting too much into what my next app will be: Look at this! All the data gets fetched from Firebase. Creating a new tag uploads it to firebase. The categories are documents in Firebase as well. The view showing categories and tags together is based on an array of objects that combines both. I’m juggling with data!

I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this a couple of months ago. We’re looking at a logged in user, authenticated through email and password, that has an isAdmin flag set to true. Only admin users are able to see the tag management section and are able to create new ones.

Databases! Optionals! ViewModels! Aysnc/Await! Everything comes together.

This is so much fun that I have to force myself to stop working to get a good night’s sleep.

December 12, 2022

On intentionality

I’m thinking a lot about intentionality lately.

Most people are drifting. Passively cruising along a path defined by others. Not even some specified “others” with a plan, playing us like puppeteers. “Others” as in an amalgam of randos with ill-conceived opinions and products.

It’s just so delightfully easy to ditch responsibility and with it many forms of constructive friction.

True intentionality is perhaps the quality I have come to value most in others. People who thoroughly think about the what, why and how of what they spend their severely limited lifetime with.

Embracing constructive friction, not accepting what feels right but isn’t, may be one of the most essential and attractive qualities of a person.

It certainly is the quality I try to live by.

December 11, 2022

“How fucking slick is that?!”

Some of you might have guessed it: I’m a big fan of the internet. The simple fact that I could work through this amazing seven(!) hour video about SwiftUI and Firebase by Stephan Dowless for free is still mind-blowing to me. It is free knowledge. Potentially life-changing information just lying around on the internet and all you have to do is consume it.

Stephan is an incredibly enthusiastic instructor who made the time fly by. Even though he obviously doesn’t do this for the first time, he still bursts out stuff like “How fucking slick is that!?” all the time. I felt thoroughly entertained. This is easily one of the most helpful courses I’ve worked through.

I know now that Firebase is the way to go for what I’m currently looking for. The course went through the whole process of building a low-tech Twitter clone. From signing up to fetching data from Firebase to storing images and writing and liking tweets. Not only do I now understand the basics of Firebase (and how to work with databases in general), I also got a better insight into how slightly more complex apps are supposed to be structured. MVVM is easier to understand when applied to a project with a certain complexity. I didn’t get it when other people tried to explain it with simpler examples.

This was very well invested time and I feel like I’m ready to start my next project. Something with databases! On the internet! How exciting!

My and their life would be better if I could explain static electricity to my cats.

December 9, 2022

Baby’s first steps in Firebase

Today I worked through this tutorial and came away with the conclusion that Firebase seems to be exactly what I was looking for. The Firebase SDK seems to be straight-forward enough to work well with my current skillset.

This code here creates a user that can be authenticated by email and password. Just like that. I don’t have the slightest idea what’s happening behind the scenes but to be honest: At this point I don’t really care. I’m just happy that it works.

func register() {
    Auth.auth().createUser(withEmail: email, password: password) { result, error in
        if error != nil {
            print(error!.localizedDescription)
        }
    }
}

After working through the tutorial I even managed to implement a couple of experimental test functions myself. I’m off to a good start and managed to recreate my motivation by approaching the problem from a different angle.

Nice. I’m hyped.

December 8, 2022

DoubtKit

After spending a couple hours with tutorials and courses about CloudKit, I’m a little deflated. What I found was either outdated or at least not current and while I’m also trying to get an understanding of previous solutions, I want to concentrate on learning what’s going to be the standard of the future.

I kind of hit a wall with CloudKit there. The one very good course I worked through uses Combine but CloudKit offers methods for Swift’s “new” async/await as well. My knowledge of Combine is now larger than ever but I don’t want to go ahead and start building apps with something I feel like will be looked at as outdated code very soon.

There’s hope though. Because I don’t have anyone to pester with questions, I have to rely on good online content. That’s why I’m going to have a look at Firebase. A user friendly SDK and a shitton of noob friendly tutorials might be a better experience for my database needs for now.

Stay tuned for more database related adventures.

If you’re into social networks that don’t want you to pay $8 each month to consume content by far-right idiots, you can now follow this blog on Mastodon. This account will toot out every entry as soon as I click “Publish”.

December 4, 2022

Playing with APIs

After working through a whole bunch of very insightful videos about concurrency in Swift and SwiftUI I needed something to test my newfound knowledge with. Listening to somebody explain something is always easier than implementing the knowledge yourself.

Here’s the result of part of my weekend. An app that doesn’t do much but what it does happens as asynchronously as possible. It’s hooked up to the Google Books API which means it downloads data from some server somewhere! How cool is that?! I even got to use Combine to debounce the search field.

December 3, 2022

My 2022 in music

Say what you want about Spotify but Spotify Wrapped is a fantastic invention and I thought it might be nice to highlight a couple of… highlights of my year in music. Sorry if you’re not using Spotify and these links are useless to you but you brought this problem onto yourself, to be honest.

  • First things first: Just like with every single previous installation of Spotify’s Wrapped playlist, New Slang from The Shins found its place on 2022’s playlist as well. Because of course.
  • A newcomer to my daily rotation and to releasing music in general is Arny Margret. Her music fits my taste so perfectly that she ended up being my most listened to artist this year. I discovered her music in August. That’s less than half a year ago. What a meteoric rise! Cold Aired Breeze, Akureyri and Intertwined are some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
  • Anna Ash, one of my all time favourite artists, released a new album this year. Only Seasonal made it onto my top list though.
Andrew Bird, Metropol Berlin, 2022
  • The list of artists for whom I would take on the awful experience of a concert is short. Andrew Bird is on that list though and not only did he release a new album this year, he also toured and played a concert in Berlin. The album is literal perfection. Seriously. Every single song is a masterpiece. Try Underlands, Fixed Positions or Make a Picture if you don’t trust me. Delete my number and never contact me again if you listened to them, but didn’t like what you heard.
  • Everything else was the expected medley of everything from previous years.
  • Here’s my Marcel’s Top Songs 2022 playlist if you want to listen to perfection. You’re welcome.
December 3, 2022

Bread Pit

There’s something about jokes that result in slight confusion that does it for me. They’re not very popular, trust me, I know, I’ve been around people and created my fair share of awkward silences. But still, since I decided to embrace the awkwardness my life got a little more fun.

Marketing people calling their little advertisements creatives might be the biggest euphemism of all.