Dollars to doughnuts

When Apple first switched its iTunes affiliate program from Linkshare to Performance Horizon Group, I was happy with the change. The Linkshare website was hard to navigate, horribly slow, and presented its data in laughably opaque forms. PHG, in contrast, was snappy, with easy-to-read graphs and tables. But I’ve come to learn that PHG’s payment system is holding onto more of my affiliate fees than is reasonable.

Let me say at the outset that the fees I get from iTunes links don’t amount to much and probably never will—I just don’t post very many affiliate links. By the end of 2014, for example, I will have collected a grand total of $207.17 for the year. It pays for the web hosting, but not much else. Which is fine. I know my reach is limited, and I’m not trying to make my living as an affiliate marketer.

But I am annoyed at PHG’s policies for releasing funds. First, there’s the 60-day delay between the sale and the payment of affiliate fees. Given that all these transactions are electronic, I don’t see why the delay is more than 30 days. Second, there’s the $30 threshold that has to be met before payment is sent. I understand that PHG doesn’t want to accumulate the administrative costs that come with lots of very small payments, but Amazon’s threshold is only $10 if you have the money sent directly to a bank account.1 Finally, there’s the fact that PHG applies the $30 threshold not to the aggregate of all fees, but to each individual currency used in the various iTunes Stores.

It’s this last policy that really bothers me. At the moment I have the equivalent of about $100 in fees from non-US purchases sitting at PHG, but because they’re spread across several currencies, I can’t collect any of it. Again, this is not much money, but it is 50% of what I made from the US iTS this year. And there’s the principle of the thing: I made these sales, so I should get the commission without having to wait years before piling up enough AUD, CAD, CHF, DKK, EUR, GBP, JPY, NZD, ETC.

Because I seldom look at my PHG account, I didn’t realize until today that my non-USD fees were also non-trivial. I’d suggest a class action lawsuit, but…

  1. Yes, Amazon’s threshold rises to $100 if you want a physical check cut, but that’s because they don’t want to be in the check-cutting business. 

What is Drafts for?

This morning, I tweeted about the half-off sale of Drafts 4, which is part of the App Santa promotion.

If someone you care about is still using Apple’s Notes app, buy them Drafts 4 before the half-off sale is over.…

Dr. Drang (@drdrang) Dec 17 2014 9:10 AM

Although this was generally well received, I did get a little pushback from people who like Notes or use another iOS text editor.

The argument in favor of Notes was about what I expected: syncing across devices (including Macs) is seamless and automatic. Jason Snell said essentially the same thing on the most recent episode of Upgrade when he admitted to occasionally using Notes to a shocked and disappointed Myke Hurley. It’s not a bad reason for using Notes, but to accept it I have to suspend my disbelief that iCloud syncing really is seamless and automatic. I’d much rather use Notesy or Editorial, which sync via the more reliable Dropbox and let me access my notes using my editor of choice on the Mac.

So if I have Notesy or Editorial, why bother with Drafts? It comes down to something David Sparks (or was it Merlin Mann?) said: “Drafts is the best place for text to start on your iOS device.” There are two reasons for that:

  1. It launches quickly and puts you right into a blank draft with the keyboard up and the cursor blinking. There’s no messing around with filenames or sorting through what you’ve written before; Drafts is optimized to capture your thought right now.
  2. Once you’ve captured it, Drafts can send it pretty much anywhere: Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Facebook, Twitter, Mail, Messages, Reminders, Fantastical. It can create new documents or append to old ones. If your note was written in Markdown, it can format it for you. If the name weren’t already being used by an email client, Drafts could just as easily be called Dispatch.

In other words, Drafts isn’t so much a home for text as it is an incubator, a place for creating and processing text to be used elsewhere. In earlier versions, the processing was done primarily through URL schemes that handed the text off to other apps. With Drafts 4, the processing actions have been expanded, and you can now manipulate the text in a draft in either useful or silly ways with JavaScript. If you don’t feel comfortable building your own actions, there’s a directory of actions built by others that you can install with just a tap or two.

There’s no question but that using Drafts effectively takes more effort than using Notes. But it frees your text from the Notes silo and allows it to go almost anywhere. Well worth $5.

One text editor to rule them all

I ended my post on BBEdit finding with this line:

Serious text editors have a depth that rewards their users.

Of course, to collect those rewards you need to use the editor enough to understand its ways. This is what Jeff Hunsberger has decided to do with Sublime Text, forgoing the special-purpose editors he’s been using for this or that and concentrating on one that can do this and that.

Once upon a time, text editors and word processors typically had their own complicated editing commands, commands that weren’t shared with other editors. Switching between editors was hard, and to achieve any kind of efficiency, you had to choose one and stick with it. If possible, you did all your writing in that one program. In the Unix world, the EDITOR and VISUAL environment variables allowed users to choose the editor that would be launched when a command required the entry of more than just a word or two. Email clients like elm and pine came with their own builtin editors but also allowed users to choose whatever they liked—typically vi or Emacs.

This changed in the 80s as operating systems began to impose standards of consistency in text handling. On the Mac, dragging, double-clicking, and shift-clicking worked the same in every program, as did the holy trinity of ⌘X, ⌘C, and ⌘V. Windows followed suit, but with the Control key instead of Command. X Windows, with its three-button mouse, used middle and right mouse clicks to cut, copy, and paste.

This made it easy to switch between text editors because the basics were the same in every one. The muscle memory developed in one program worked just as well in all the others. And for a lot of people, the basics were all that mattered. The consistency the Mac and Windows brought to computing made it accessible to an awful lot of people.

But if you do a lot of writing, or a lot of manipulation of textual data, you’ll want to move beyond the basics, and that requires a text editor with depth, an editor you can shape to your own particular needs. And once you’ve decided to dive deep, you’ll want to focus on one editor so you can learn it well. It’s true that external utilities like Services in OS X (and whatever is the equivalent in Windows) can provide simple text editors with something like the control you can get with a serious editor, but it’s just not the same. There are still good reasons for doing what Jeff Hunsberger is doing: choosing a powerful text editor, learning it well, and doing all your writing in it.

Which editor should be your one text editor? I couldn’t possibly tell you. Every one has its strengths, and every one has its proselytizers. You’ll have to try a few on for size and see which is the best fit.

By the way, if you’ve been wondering how I could put an LOTR-esque title on a post about text editors and not link to this spectacular article by Kieran Healy, you can stop wondering now.

Atlas insulated vinyl gloves

I don’t believe I’ve ever recommended an item of clothing here before, but there’s a first time for everything. I spent most of the past week outside in the cold, snow, rain, and wind, and these gloves kept my hands warmer and dryer than any gloves I’ve ever had before.

Atlas 460 gloves

They’re Atlas 460 insulated PVC gloves, and they’re neither fashionable nor suitable for detail work. But if you’re going to be out in the weather working for a long time you’ll appreciate them. I used them while moving large pieces of steel and wire rope, and they kept my hands protected and toasty. The PVC stayed flexible in sub-freezing temperatures, was thick enough to keep them from being cut on sharp edges, and the grease they accumulated cleaned off easily with isopropyl alcohol.