Nick Harris

Archive for September 2014

Differentiating on Privacy

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When Apple announced their new privacy policy site and the fact that data on iOS 8 devices will no longer be accessible to police even with a warrant, the first thing I did was share the link with some of my former Glassboard teammates (on our shared Glassboard of course). I was pretty excited, and a little bit astounded by the move. It’s a bold statement that I believe only a company with Apple’s clout can successfully make.

Glassboard was created with privacy as its core principle. Our respect for our users meant that every piece of Glassboard – from cloud storage and API design all the way down to other users being able to see the email address you signed up with (they cannot) – was designed and implemented with privacy foremost in the decisions.

When we put our first privacy policy together we even had a discussion about the part allowing law enforcement access with a lawful warrant. I can’t speak to the why the final decision was made to include it, but I don’t believe we could have left it out or say out right that we would not honor a warrant without running into costly legal issues.

Apple’s decision to make it impossible to decrypt data on the device without the users password is the real reason they can say no to warrants. This was another idea we had tossed around. It would have been a paid feature where the board would be encrypted from end to end with only the chairperson having the keys. I had a plan for this and pushed it but didn’t win over the team on getting it built.

But what really made me happy about the announcement was that Apple validated our belief that privacy is a major differentiator in today’s world. We knew Glassboard was ahead of the curve, and I’m very hopeful that more companies and software developers will use privacy to set themselves apart from their competitors. My privacy is important to me, and I’ll gladly support those who make it important to them.

Written by Nick Harris

September 19, 2014 at 3:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

NetNewsWire – Time to Breakup

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When I started at NewsGator there was one client side RSS feed reader in house called NewsGator “Outlook Edition”. My job was to take over development of it as the company moved to a backend sync system that kept everything you read in sync. It was 2005 and I was just learning about blogs and this new medium of RSS. Reading blog posts in NewsGator “Outlook Edition” or on the NewsGator “Web Edition” and having their read states sync was cutting edge to me. Writing the very first app to sync with the new backend platform was an incredible challenge.

My second week at NewsGator I went to lunch with Greg Reinacker, Lane Mohler and Nick Bradbury. Nick, of course, had written FeedDemon which I had never heard of at the time. I had spent a year at my old job using TopStyle so I did know his name. It was the first time I met someone who single handily wrote software I used. It was cool, though I didn’t make much of it. We all just wrote software.

Further down my timeline at NewsGator, we had a guest in the office. My co-worker Gordon Weakliem recognized him as Brent Simmons, the creator of NetNewsWire. I knew that NewsGator was actively pushing the new sync platform to current RSS reader developers. I’m not sure if it was before or after that day when Gordon and I were in Redmond, WA with Gordon trying to pitch Dare Obasanjo (RSS Bandit creator) on it, but I was there and knew the pitch.

I believe it was about 1 month for NickB to join, then 5-6 months after I had started that Brent actually came onboard. I was part of the new team of RSS client devs – Nick, Nick and Brent. Affectionately called “The Nicks” for sometime since no one at NewsGator had a Mac nor really cared about Mac development.

I was completely concentrated on RSS for Outlook, but NickB, Brent and myself often tossed ideas off of each other for improving user experience. It was around this time that I wrote a series of blog posts about user experience and how I had improved NewsGator Inbox (its new name by then) based on all the wonderful discussions NickB, Brent and I had and code I had actually shipped. Unfortunately that was on a company blog that has since been retired.

As NewsGator pivoted to a more Enterprise focus it was decided to shutdown the RSS sync system. The backend of polling RSS feeds and delivering data was still going well, but the market for RSS client apps was coming to a close. With the release of native support for RSS in Outlook it was decided to shutter NewsGator Inbox while transitioning NetNewsWire and FeedDemon to a Google Reader backend. In addition, I was moved to the NewsGator platform team. It made sense. I was already informally in charge of the the API at that point so formally making the switch was a natural transition.

Around this time I had also taken it apon myself to learn how to write apps for iOS. I believe Pocket Euchre (my first iOS app) had been out for a bit and was doing rather well. With the release of the iPad coming up fast, I was invited by Brent to help with NetNewsWire iPad. It was an amazing experience. I worked on all the cool animations and UX that Brad Ellis designed while Brent worked on stability. It launched on day one. A very proud achievement of mine that I never talk about.

This also marked the time when I moved from Windows to Mac fulltime. NewsGator recognized my iOS skills and put me to work building the first mobile apps for Social Sites. Later on I was invited to be part of Sepia Labs using both my platform skills and iOS skills to build Glassboard.

All that time I continued to use NetNewsWire. Even with the demise of Google Reader, and its purchase by Black Pixel, I’m still using NetNewsWire as my desktop reader. But that time has unfortunately come to an end.

I need read state sync and a multiple device experience. I want to be able to click links to blog posts I see on twitter and have them marked read in my RSS app. Really I want to spend less time dealing with read state – something I was spoiled with at NewsGator.

Its not easy. Its an incredibly difficult problem to solve. But it is solvable. The problem is if the solution is profitable. I love Black Pixel and have many dear friends that work there, but its not their bread and butter. A problem like this needs focus and daily attention.

As Brent stated recently, blogs are incredibly important and will outlive any social network. I completely agree.

So I’m looking for suggestions.

Where can I spend some time/money either literally helping someone write code or just supporting efforts that do this well? I wish I had the solution, but after 7+ years working on the problem I came up short.

Written by Nick Harris

September 2, 2014 at 3:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized