April 27, 2022

The Reason CNN+ Failed

The average housefly can live for around 28 days, which means that there are literal bugs that will have outlived CNN+ as they close their streaming service on April 30th.

An Explanation of What Happened

Better journalists than me have explained what happened with CNN+, and I would much rather you learn the details from them.

Two come to mind after reading dozens of articles on the matter:

Alex Sherman, writing for CNBC, explained the timeline of CNN+ leading to its demise; it is worth your time to read in its entirety.

Chris Licht wasn’t supposed to start his new job as CNNs chief until May.

But on Thursday he found himself addressing about 400 full-time CNN+ staffers, some in person and some through a remote video feed… Licht told employees the project they’d been working on for the past six to nine months, the subscription streaming service CNN+, was ending April 30…He acknowledged that many would lose their jobs.

- Alex Sherman, CNBC

John Koblin wrote in his New York Times piece explaining the difficulty of launching CNN+ during a merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery. This merger could be part of the reason we learned about the measly 10,000 daily users I shared in my last issue of Clicked. That reason, allegedly, wasn’t because a disgruntled CNN employee leaked the numbers, but rather from Discovery executives trying to shut the service down through negative PR.

CNN executives were dismayed. And they grew suspicious of their new superiors from Discovery, believing they had leaked the data to create a pretext to shut down the service.

- John Koblin, The New York Times

This isn’t the whole story, there are still some underreported things missing here, the first being the other group that deserves the blame.

The McKinsey Problem

Sherman mentioned this firm in his explainer article, but McKinsey & Company deserves a fair share of the blame for CNN+ shutting down. Their track record should have been a dead giveaway.

For those unfamiliar with McKinsey, here’s a quick blurb about them from Wikipedia (sources are linked):

McKinsey has been either directly involved in, or closely associated with, a number of notable scandals, involving Enron in 2001, Galleon in 2009, Valeant in 2015, Saudi Arabia in 2018, China in 2018, ICE in 2019, an internal conflict of interest in 2019, and Purdue Pharma in 2019, among others.

One more thing you can now add to the list of others” is CNN+. It turns out that CNN hired McKinsey to consult on the service’s launch.

McKinsey essentially told CNN what they wanted to hear, claiming they would accrue 2 million US subscribers in the first year and 15-18 million after four years. CNN reportedly garnered just 150,000 subscribers in the first few weeks.

That said, it was only getting about 10,000 daily users. Something doesn’t add up here, and it is evident that McKinsey was not just off by a bit but utterly incorrect. The problem here is that McKinsey has already moved on to its next project without any consequences or repercussions coming to them.

One could argue that getting 150,000 subscribers in the first month is excellent. To that, I say if you compare it to HBO Max, which has over 75 million subscribers (including cable subscribers), CNN+ isn’t even worth Warner’s breath, and the Discovery execs knew it.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that CNN+ is officially shutting down this Saturday.

That’s where many people stopped reporting, but I think that the people directly affected by this decision deserve some light shed on them as well. Hundreds of people are now without a job because of a shitty consultant firm and bad decisions made by the executives upstairs.

The Fallout

CNN pulled the rug right out from under hundreds of workers, many of which joined after recruitment from CNN. They decided to overturn their lives and, for some, move across the country. All employees look like they will be getting 90 days’ pay as severance. From there, they have three months to figure out what is next within the company, or they must hit the road.

Some will be lucky and find employment within CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery, but not all. Journalists take risks every day, but I don’t think anyone who accepted a position at CNN+ would have foreseen just how fast things turned on its head.

The crew members that were hired to work in the new studios and the marketing team are all but surely out of a job, and there was no warning. In fact, Chris Licht, CNNs chief, was shaking hands with staffers just days before announcing they are no longer employed.

The Times is reporting that those who do not find a job within the company will be getting an additional six months of severance, which is a good start in my opinion.

If you think that 9 months of severance is worth a few weeks of work you clearly aren’t caught up on the difficulty of finding a place to live. Whether it is an apartment or a house you are going to have a hard time finding something within 6 months and you will most likely be paying more than you want. My heart goes out to those affected and if anyone finds a GoFundMe or something similar to help those affected I will happily donate to help them.


April 25, 2022

The Man Behind iBeer

Steve Sheraton went from making a silly video online where he was drinking a beer with his iPhone into a full-fledged app, which then became a breakout star when the App Store launched.

Quinn Myers writing for MEL Magazine:

Before the App Store was even a concept, Sheraton started selling the beer-drinking video file for $2.99. It was just a little video file that people had to hardwire in and download via iTunes,” he says. But I probably made around $2,000 a day for the longest time from that.”

By the time Apple came knocking, Sheraton knew he was onto something — he just needed to figure out how to code the video to Apple’s new device. I have a lot of experience in film and photography, and I wanted to make the beer look as realistic as possible,” he explains. So rather than doing animation, I chose to make assets from looped videos and image sequences — that’s why the foam looks so real.”

Sheraton then programmed the looped videos and image sequence to interact with the iPhone’s accelerometer. The accelerometer is constantly measuring the phone’s angle versus the horizon, so by tethering the line between the liquid and the foam to the horizon, you can move your phone in any direction and it looks like it’s filled with liquid,” he tells me. From there, the rest is just a series of if statements,’ so if the tilt of the phone goes beyond X,’ then the program should switch to different loops of foam and liquid that make it look like the phone is emptying.”

Sheraton called it iBeer, developed under the name of his company Hottrix, and priced it again at $2.99. We shot to first place [in the App Store] on the very first day and stayed there for about a year,” he says. Apart from its visual humor and sort of appealing to the lowest common denominator, iBeer was a large success because it allowed people to show their friends what the phone was capable of.

Without spoiling it, Myers goes more in-depth about what happens to Sheraton after iBeer’s success.

If you read the MEL article and find that interesting, Sheraton recently did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit where he talks more about iBeer’s success, what he is doing now, and his feelings on developing apps out today.


April 18, 2022

The Loyola Project

I don’t remember where I found this teaser, but as a basketball fan, this documentary went right to the top of my watch list.


April 11, 2022

Success and Failure at Pebble

Eric Migicovsky, the former CEO of Pebble, wrote a post recently detailing why the smartwatch company failed.

In the days after our Kickstarter campaign, it was easy for me as the CEO to explain what our goal was. Ship the best damn smartwatch that we ourselves wanted to use. Over the years, I tried several times to reposition the product and company onto a variety of new tracks, but none were based on a strong long term vision.

Startup founder lesson learned — never forget to define and talk about your long term vision for the future. When things are going well, it’s easy to get caught up in growth. But you need this to carry your company through hard times.

Looking back with hindsight, I should not have aggressively grown the company without a stronger plan. We should have just stuck to what we knew best and continued to build quirky, fun smartwatches for hackers. Pebble, the product, was and still is awesome.

The whole article is worth the read if you want to dive deep into the details behind Pebble’s start, rise, losses, and eventual acquisition.

My thanks to Matt Birchler for initially linking this article to his blog.

If you want some supplemental reading, there is an article from Wired back in 2016 after the announcement of the Fitbit acquisition.


April 5, 2022

Mike Tyson Can’t Sell His Weed Gummies in Colorado

Mike Tyson, who famously bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, is now selling THC edibles in the shape of the mangled ear. The name of those gummies: Mike Bites.

ItsTyson20/Instagram

The kicker is he can’t sell them in the US weed capital of Colorado due to a 2016 state law that prohibits marijuana edibles from being shaped like humans, animals, fruit or other objects that could attract children.”

It turns out the ear-shaped gummy indeed falls under that description. I don’t know about you, but a disfigured ear isn’t exactly the most attractive-looking gummy to eat. Nonetheless the law is the law, and Tyson can’t sell his gummies in the Centennial state. However, if you do want to give them a go, the edibles are currently sold in California with future plans to be sold in more states across the US.


April 2, 2022

The Good from Comic Sans

David Hoang shared an article from The Cut about the font Comic Sans and it raised my eyebrows to learn how accessible this abhorrent font is.

Recently, Instagram added to its Stories an option that looks a lot like Comic Sans, a font design people have long derided. A campaign to ban the font has been afoot online since 1999.

[…]

But, as Lauren Hudgins argues for the Establishment, the agreed-upon hatred of Comic Sans reflects a certain navel-gazing, since it’s one of the best fonts for people with dyslexia, including an estimated 15 percent of Americans.

[…]

Interestingly, it’s the idiosyncrasy of Comic Sans that makes it accessible. The irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words,” Hudgins writes. While many fonts use repeated shapes to create different letters, such as a p’ rotated to made a q,’ Comic Sans uses few repeated shapes, creating distinct letters (although it does have a mirrored b’ and d’).” The ubiquitous Times New Roman, with all its serifs, is often illegible.

I love the internet because even something as mundane as hating a silly font can have a turns-out” moment where that same childish font can be helpful for those with different needs.

In fact, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole with this because I remembered there was something one of my favorite apps, Reeder, does that had some connection to dyslexia, but I couldn’t remember what it was.

After some digging, I figured out it was something called Bionic Reading. According to their website, Bionic Reading’s goal is a reading system that supports the reading flow. The eye is guided through the text by means of typographic highlights.”

To explain what it does, they say that it revises texts so that the most concise parts of words are highlighted. This guides the eye over the text, and the brain remembers previously learned words more quickly.”

Where Dyslexia comes involved is further down on their site. It shows that those afflicted with the disability sharing that their experiences with Bionic Reading helped them read more effectively.

10% of the population has great difficulty reading and understanding texts (dyslexia). We have received feedback from those affected that thanks to Bionic Reading they immediately understood the content of various texts the first time they read them, which was impossible without Bionic Reading. This is pure motivation and also a responsibility towards society, which we are happy to fulfill.

If you think this may help you improve your reading, regardless if you have dyslexia or not, give Bionic Reading or Reeder a try today.


September 5, 2021

Sticker Doodle makes messaging fun again

Chad Etzel, who recently went independent, released one of the most fun apps for the iPhone this year.

If you like to have stickers in messages but always wanted to make your own you are now able to with a few taps and swipes. You can use your camera, saved photos, or draw your own! This is honestly the first app that had made stickers fun for me since it was released on iOS.

Best part? You can share the stickers you make within the app.


September 3, 2021

An Artisan Mac Keycap

I finally got a custom keycap for my Keychron K6 keyboard, and boy was it worth the wait.

KeebMonekey’s MAC Modular Artisan Keycap makes your escape key and tab key reminiscent of the Apple Macintosh days allowing the LED light from your keyboard to fill the screen”. Worth every penny.


September 2, 2021

A Conversation with Kotaku's Editor in Chief

Patricia Hernandez, the editor-in-chief of Kotaku, talks with Alanah Pearce about the changes in coverage for Kotaku, online publishing in general, and the state of games media/journalism. A very open and enthralling conversation for anyone interested in online publishing and journalism. For extra credit you can read Patricia’s open letter after taking the EIC position.


September 1, 2021

Goodbye iPad Pro, Hello iPad Air

Matt Birchler ditches his 2018 12.9” iPad Pro for the new iPad Air. His reasoning is great and honestly I am in the same boat as him when it comes to my uses for the iPad.