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Nov. 14, 2018, 6 a.m.
Live from Swift by Northwest

This episode was recorded at the Swift by Northwest conference in Portland, on October 19, 2018. It’s a panel discussion with people from outside Omni, and we’re stretching a bit from our usual content — but we think you’ll enjoy it anyway!

Show Notes:

Before the panel, your host Brent Simmons emailed the panelists to ask them about things that provoked strong feelings — positive or negative or both — to use as topics. These did not have to be strictly technical topics, and they weren’t.

The panelists:

Kaya Thomas is a writer, iOS developer at Slack, and the creator of We Read Too app, a directory of children’s books written by authors of color and featuring characters of color.

Daniel Jalkut is a blogger, podcaster, and the developer of MarsEdit, a blogging app.

Jaimee Newberry is a writer, speaker, and the CEO of Picture This Clothing, which makes dresses based on hand-drawn and -colored designs — in other words, kids can wear their imaginations.

Note: be prepared — the audio is a bit weird in some spots, since it comes from a live recording and Brent is walking around the room. We apologize for that.

Also: thanks so much to the conference organizers — the Klein family — for inviting us!


Brent Simmons: You’re listening to The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind The Omni Group’s award winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. Music.


Brent: I’m your host, Brent Simmons. Today’s episode was recorded at the Swift by Northwest conference in Portland in October. It was a panel discussion, and the panelists were Kaya Thomas, Daniel Jalkut, and Jaimee Newberry. And so, what follows is not your typical The Omni Show, but I hope you enjoy it.


Brent: What I did in advance was email the panelists, and ask them if they have any topics that they feel very strongly about, either positively or negatively or both. And I expected stuff about Swift generics or whatever, but no, it was entirely different. Actually I wasn’t expecting anything about Swift, but very, very roughly, Kaya was interested in topics about representation, Daniel was interested in topics about democracy and decency online, and Jaimee was interested in things about inspiring, especially inspiring kids. Now there’s an awful lot of overlap between all these things, but I wanna get started by talking to Kaya Thomas who works at Slack, correct? Everyone loves Slack, round of applause of Slack. And Kaya has made something called We Read Too, and I wonder if you talk about that a little bit.

Kaya Thomas: Sure. So I, in 2014, created an app called We Read Too, which is a mobile directory of children and young adult books written by authors of color. And the background story really in creating We Read Too, was that I’ve always been an avid reader, but growing up going to the library and in the bookstores, I felt a lot of times that the books that I was reading didn’t represent me, where I was never mentioned and there was no characters that were mentioned to look like me or be like me. And it started to really affect me. So that when I actually started to learn how to code, I thought wait what if I could create some type of easy resource where you’re able to find these books of kids of all different types of backgrounds. So whether they’re Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, all types of backgrounds, and they’re written by the authors of those same cultures.

Kaya: So that was really important to me, and so I’ve been working on that for the last couple of years, and it’s been great to talk to not only parents but librarians and educators who have been able to use the app to expand their classroom libraries and community libraries, so that everyone can be exposed to more diverse books.

Brent: That’s really awesome. And your app was featured in the app store at one point, that must have been super rewarding very cool, lot of publicity all at once.

Kaya: So that was in February, and when that happened I got 13,000 downloads that week. Before I had like 50 or 60,000 over the years but it was like I got a huge chunk over the one week after being featured in the App Store.

Brent: That’s really cool. This segues a little bit into one of Daniel’s issues. So Daniel is very interested in the democratization of tech, and yet here we are, working on iOS and Macs which are not necessarily the most democratic platforms. We keep seeing prices go up and up and up, whereas Android phones, for instance, cost less. So Daniel what can you say about that?

Daniel Jalkut: The main thing that strikes me is just, there is this kind of rift between the ways that I view the merits of Apple products. I think in their own way, they’re setting standards that are then imitated by cheaper, more accessible things. So it’s possible for me to sort of keep using my thousand dollar iPhone and say, “well, eventually everybody’s gonna get something like this.” I think in some ways that’s accurate but it could also be me just sort of pasting over the fact that I’m uncomfortable with this extremely inaccessible technology that I’ve backed my entire life.

Daniel: I’ve put my entire career into supporting a company that makes stuff that the vast majority of people on the planet cannot buy, new anyway. And I just think that’s kind of an interesting opportunity for all of us to think about, well all of us in this room I think are similar to me, at least more invested in Apple than the average person. And so I think we owe it to ourselves just to kind of ask, is Apple working to make technology that is accessible to all, not in an accessibility way, but in a financial sense? Are they, and if they’re not, is there anything we can do to help expand that? And I’ve often felt like — I guess I sort of fantasize about there being the $99 iPhone or something, it’s old but it would still be awesome for a lot of people. And I guess that’s about as far as I’ve gone with it in my thinking so far.

Brent: So Apple has sold how many iPhones?

Daniel: What is it, a billion I don’t know?

Brent: So yes, it’s not the most democratic platform, but a billion is a pretty large number, right?

Daniel: A billion phones but like one million people.

Brent: ’Cause we all upgrade every thousand seconds or whatever.

Daniel: There are so many un-democratized iPhones, $600 iPhones sitting in drawers collecting dust.

Brent: That’s true, I think I’ve got all of them.

Jaimee Newberry: The forced upgrade thing and the reduced battery life over time, you have to upgrade, like I do have iPhones for my kids, but I don’t wanna get them new ones, they don’t take care of it, they don’t appreciate it, but the battery life doesn’t last. But you bring up such an important point.

Daniel: So I think it’s just kind of like, that’s something just to stew on, cause to be honest I’ve never been attracted to Android, but you gotta hand it to Android. They are accessible at all levels of ... obviously they’re many people who can’t even afford the cheapest Android phone, but as far as the tech market goes, Android covers the entire spectrum from dirt cheap to premium, like you got this Pixel 3, like a premium version of an iPhone 10 or approximate. I just think that’s interesting and it works really well for Apple’s marketing and branding and their image, to not be in the budget market at all. But we have to sort of accept that that’s our lot, that’s who we threw in with.

Brent: Yeah right. How many people here do Android development? A few. How many people do or have done web development? How many people here would say, I pretty much just done Apple stuff and that’s all I’m ever gonna do? A few of them too. I’m mostly in that camp though I’ve done some web and even a little Windows 15 years ago, forgive me. So We Read Too is also a web app or...?

Kaya: Android. So there’s iOS and Android, there’s no web component. I worked with someone to do the Android version, I didn’t do that myself. And I thought about it a lot because the Android version just came out about a year and a half ago, almost nearly two years ago. And so I had the iOS version out for two to three years, and a lot of folks were like, “Well, this is great! We want an Android version.” And that’s something I thought about a lot too, cause it’s like this is suppose to be a resource, right? A community resource, but it’s only on iPhones right? Which, like you said, is a barrier. So I’m really glad now there’s an Android version to kinda combat that, but yeah, I agree it’s something I think about a lot, cause the hardware is not as accessible to so many.

Brent: Right. Now, Picture This [Clothing] is just an online ordering thing basically, right? So anybody can get to it.

Jaimee: Anybody can get it, but it’s interesting because it is a topic I think about in this exact capacity, because our product — we have shirts and dresses, and they’re 50 bucks. And I know that that’s not accessible to everybody. Now on the contrast, when we started this idea, the first dress I made, I spent three days and 12 hours and I sewed all of these pieces together, it was $100-plus in fabric and materials, and when we looked at that idea it wasn’t scalable at an excess, but we would have to charge like $300 a dress or outsource overseas children to make it. And that wasn’t something we were interested in.

Brent: Imagine that scandal.

Jaimee: So we thought, how can we do this in a way that’s as accessible as we can make it and still build a small business. And so we did that, and we’re at $50, $49 plus shipping, per product. But it’s also this magical experience. So it’s not just a shirt or a dress, on one hand it’s a little bit easy to justify it in that way, because when you see those reactions and these kids are like, "It’s the dress I need!" you see these video reactions that parents send us and stuff and it’s just like, oh my god that’s exactly what we wanted to capture, but we want it to be accessible for more people. We wanna reach urban schools. Every child has an imagination to share, not just children with parents who can afford a $50 dress or shirt, and it kills me. We’re working on that, we are working, this year has been the year of trying to bring our costs down. Bringing our manufacturing in house, so we’re working on it, but it’s a big task sometimes.

Brent: When you were starting this company, how strong was that aspect of, “I will be inspiring young people to make things that then become real.” You’re thinking that might affect their future lives and the way they think about things, was that a big part of why you did this?

Jaimee: It is the why. Just like a little overview of the story, I made this dress for my daughter, I was working from home, it was Christmas break, she brings me this picture of this rainbow dress that she drew, super proud of her, and I’m like, you know I think we can make that. And I have like 4H level sewing skill, old sewing machine in the back that I bust out once in a while to stitch some things. So we made it, we spent some time together, we made it, we had the cats helped, and sat on everything the whole time, it was just like, this is a really cool experience.

Brent: Can’t make anything without cats.

Jaimee: But here was the moment, I put this on her, and I was gonna finish it up a little more, but I needed to see how it was fitting, so I put the dress on her and she goes, "I’m wearing my imagination!" And it was just like, that moment, and it wasn’t that moment that we said, "we’ve got a business" it wasn’t that, it took like three months of her wearing it, and having it to peel it off her body to wash it, and not be that kid. It was just that moment though. So everywhere we went people were like, "Oh my gosh where did you get that?" And she’s like, "I designed it with my mind!" and it was just amazing right? And so my boyfriend was like, "you got something here you should do something with this" and I said I’m not sowing for dozens of kids or hundreds or whatever. Not gonna do it.

Jaimee: And we just let it soak for a while, and Ken came back and he said, “What if they actually wore the drawing rather than trying to recreate the drawing?” And then he came up with the concept of this coloring sheet, you just print out a coloring sheet, they color it, and what they put on that coloring sheet is exactly what they get. Exactly. We don’t cut things off, we don’t edit it, we don’t alter. It’s their imagination, they design it. And yes that was it, it was that magic, and teaching them they can have an idea and bring it into the world. That’s what I want my kids to know, I want them to see, like, look we had an idea and we made it a company. We had an idea we made a dress. You can bring ideas out into the world, and if they learn that now, what will they accomplish when they’re older?

Brent: That goes a lot to what you’re doing with your directory. Young people hopefully are inspired to write their own books or do whatever.

Kaya: Yep. Exactly. That’s one of the reasons that’s important to me too that the authors are also from the cultural backgrounds that they’re writing about, because then the kids can see is like, not only is someone in this book is like me, the author is, as well. I have stories inside of me and I can get those out and get them out to the world, just like you’re saying.

Jaimee: I love that so much. I love that so much.

Brent: So Daniel, have you inspired any kids? Are they all blogging now?

Daniel: I think I have to go now.

Jaimee: He showed some cool drawings today in your...

Daniel: All right well I only inspire my own kids.

Jaimee: You've got to start somewhere!

Daniel: I’ve done a few things. On that topic, another really cool thing that I participated in, that I really encourage everybody to get involved with is Hour of Code. So like just within my community I participate with Hour of Code at the elementary school level. Fascinating to see what kids do, it's probably similar to the reaction you probably get Jaimee seeing all the art come in from these kids. It’s just fascinating to see kids who often have never coded anything before, and then like 15 minutes later they’re doing looped drawing routines with the stuff that’s on Hour of Code.

Daniel: I think that what you’re getting at, and what Kaya and Jaimee are both getting at is, and it might be kind of anecdote to what I’m getting at with the guilt, shame of Apple involvement is. On the other hand — so Apple technology is inaccessible, but a lot of times I think schools do have them. And then in the context of the schools they’re accessible to everybody who’s at the school. And so one of the things I was really kinda charmed by too with speaking of kids, is I volunteer in the library at my kids elementary school and they use iPads, so cool that they use the movie trailer feature of iPad, is it iMovie? I guess it’s part of iMovie. It has a template for making movie trailers. “In a world…,” you know.

Daniel: This librarian just adapted it so all the kids, every year, make a book trailer. I live in Massachusetts. They make a book trailer for one of award nominees for the state youth author thing. And I remember seeing these kids do that, and this is something you would never get from an Android tablet. You would never get that level of... that magic thing that Apple does where they give you just enough tools and just enough of a head start, that you feel like some kind of creative genius just by following a few steps. And the kids put in, “Produced by Boogers,” that is their joy in life, and it’s all just empowered by these iPads, as it happens, are available there for everybody.

Jaimee: I think that the operative there was the tools. It’s like you create these tools that give people the ability to do magical things. And it’s an important role, and I think we all possess the power to do that, in different ways. Everybody in this room, we’re making stuff, we have the ability to make tools that kids use. And maybe this is very aspirational, but they could change the world, kids, our futures are in their hands. I feel like we have so much possibility there, to enable them to make things better.

Brent: And I think it is worth remembering, though, that even adults can be inspired and learn to make things.

Jaimee: No.

Daniel: Adults are a lost cause.

Jaimee: It's too late!

Daniel: It's too late. It's too late for adults.

Brent: You're all a lost cause. Does anyone in here write software for kids? Few hands.

Jaimee: [whisper] App Camp for Girls.

Brent: Kelly, what do you do?

Kelly Guimont: I belong to an organization called App Camp for Girls to teach iOS development to girls who [inaudible 00:17:15] going into 8th and 9th grades.

Brent: Cool awesome. Round of applause for that.

Speaker 5: We’ll talk about it later, if you wanna come hear about how we developed App Camp.

Brent: Awesome cool, so stay tuned for that later. Were there other hands about the software for kids that I missed?

Daniel: I think you should give people the mic when they talk if they do talk.

Brent: I probably should give people the mic instead of making them yell.

Daniel: Cause otherwise you’re not gonna have a great podcast my friend.

Brent: Thanks man. So another topic, and I think this could be a little controversial, and maybe not. Daniel was interested in the fact that online, people should actually type out the word “y-o-u” instead of just using “u”. In other words-

Daniel: This is my cause!!

Brent: This is where we get to make fun of Daniel. But it was beyond that too, it was also about respect and civility and, yeah those two things. Now the problem with calling for respect and civility, is that very call can itself be weaponized, right? So sometimes you have to say a truth that is rude, and maybe that has to be spoken very loudly and in a uncivil way. But it needs to be said. Like a simple example is, if someone’s hitting me and I want them to stop, I’m gonna say, "hey stop hitting me!" And if they continue, I’m gonna be less and less civil, right? If you’re being hurt, you’re gonna yell about it, you’re gonna possibly use uncivil words. Nevertheless, in general, I think Daniel argues, that civility online respect, are good and often missing things.

Daniel: Well I think what’s interesting is, I think everybody would agree if you just should you be civil and should you respect people? Well all the civil and respectful people would think so and would agree with that. But I think what’s interesting to me, I use the letter ‘U’ as you as an example because it’s one of those things I get some people it’s just kinda part of their colloquial chat speak cause that’s just how they type it, and they’ve been in the habit of typing it that way for a long time.

Daniel: But a lot of times I see it used, and I think it’s being used in a way to dehumanize the person that’s being spoken to. And so it’s one example where I think, you can see if you look on something horrible like Twitter, you can see the spectrum of respectful to disrespectful speech, and very, very rarely is hugely disrespectful speech fully spelled out and punctuated. And so I think you get an an association with disrespectful speech, if your thing is to say, “u wrong” or something-

Jaimee: With eight exclamation points.

Daniel: Right. It comes across as to me — again I wanna reiterate I think that there are two uses of it, and one of them is... I never wanna type that way ever, I never do and I never will. But I get that some people like it and they think it’s cute or they think it’s just more playful less formal, etc. I think though that if people made more of an effort to communicate with fully spelled words and punctuation, I think it might come across as less abrasive and less... people might just be more respectful when they write that way. And I just think that’s interesting because we have a lot of problems, in a way I’m laughing at this being a topic because it’s kinda the least of all possible problems, whether you spell out the word you or not, but to me it reflects kinda lack of care that is associated with the lack of care for the other people involved.

Brent: That’s fair. Kaya, you’re a writer. Do you have strong feelings about this subject?

Kaya: I think it’s really interesting. I do agree that when you look at hate speech or disrespectful things on social media platforms like Twitter, often times they’re not using punctuation or correct spelling. But when you talk about the other example of the colloquial... I think about AIM [AOL Instant Messenger], throwback to AIM and that kind of chat speak, and how I grew up using those type of things. But I don’t personally type like that on my Twitter or anything like that. I do think that there is a level of care that can go into the conversations that you have online, but I don’t know if it’s something that we can expect at this point, just because the way social media is and the growth of the platforms, I think that there is a lack of thought that sometimes that goes into a lot of the conversations or things that people put out there. So I don’t know if we will ever get the reverse where everyone’s —

Jaimee: Not to derail totally, but where is your stance on emojis?

Daniel: Oh I love emojis, because it’s a form of respect.

Jaimee: Depending on the emoji.

Daniel: But you know, on that note, because it comes back to the kids again, cause we gotta teach these kids to spell out the letter.

Jaimee: It’s a parenting conversation, I feel very much that way with my kids. I’m like, “you can do that once you’ve proven to me you know how to spell the word, then you can communicate like that with your friends, that’s fine. But you have to prove to me that you know how to spell first,” that was my policy.

Brent: That seems fair. Or are we moving toward an Egyptian hieroglyphic system, where you won’t have to spell at all?

Kaya: I mean sometimes with emojis, people type out sentences in emojis and I’m like, “What does that mean?”

Brent: It's like a rebus.

Kaya: Yeah, maybe.

Daniel: And sometimes they are disrespectful, actually.

Brent: Alright we had some questions. I’ll move back this way. Over here this one.

Speaker 6: Okay I have, I wanna be a devils advocate for a second, and I’ll preface this by saying I agree with everything you’re saying about being respectful, right? But as a devils advocate, who are we, as adults, to say what the kids growing up should think is disrespectful? If they don’t think that using the letter ‘U’ is disrespectful, why should we be teaching them that that’s disrespectful, and not allowing them to develop their own culture, and not be hampered by their own fear of what other people are thinking that they’re speaking, when they already have this confidence and lack of fear?

Kaya: So that’s a great question. I don’t have kids, I'll preface with that. But I’m thinking back to, I think that there is a certain thing where adults telling kids, "oh you shouldn’t do that way" or "you shouldn’t write that way." But I also think that when I was on AIM and stuff like that, the way I would type there, I would never have typed that to my mom or to any other adult. So I think it’s like a time and place thing, knowing when things are appropriate and when it’s not. I don’t think that we’re in any place to say, "you shouldn’t talk with your friends like that," or in your comfortable safe spaces when you’re talking with other people your age, “you shouldn’t talk like that.” I think that’s... whatever kinda culture they create together is that’s them. But I think that it’s still okay to say, when you’re having a professional conversation or with your teachers or with other adults, you don’t do that.

Jaimee: I think there’s a really good point there, in what you’re saying. And my own approach to parenting is often, that way is like, we try to teach our kids to do it the way we were taught in a lot of ways, and I really try to hold myself back from that, in a lot of ways, because I don’t wanna limit them with my limitations, I want them to do better and be better, and maybe I learned from that. I’d see it a lot with my company, parents that tried to help their kids with the designs, and it’s one of those things that I’m like, “Who are you to decide if this is good art or bad art? You’re just filtering it with your grownup brain, and you’re ruining it.” And I feel like I really relate to what you’re saying. I have such strong feelings about good grammar, and proper grammar, and spelling and all of that, and I want my kids to have that. But at the same time, I feel like I really hear what you’re saying, maybe we need to let go a little more and see what happens out of it. I don't know if that's what you're saying.

Daniel: I think one thing to keep in mind, I think it’s a really great point. But what struck me is when you ask, shouldn’t we let kids just invent their own values? Of course they’re totally entitled, but I think there’s no getting away from, with humanity, we are always participating in multiple generations of society. We can throw all the kids on an island and let it be like Lord of the Flies or something. But every kid is going to grow up and have in them a combination of values that were instilled in them by society, by their family, by their friends, and probably, frankly, just stuff they came up with themselves, you know. And we’re all examples of that up here, saying how we feel about things, you all have things that you feel strongly about. Who are we to tell the kids what to think or how to value things? Well, we’re the only people around who can, because to whatever extent society and culture needs some elders to pass down values to youngers, we’re the ones, or at least...

Daniel: As a 43 year old now, I’m of course living both, I’m taking values still from people more senior than me, and I’m passing values down. And I am a parent, I have a 10 year old and a six year old, it happens at the 10 year old to six year old level too. 10 year old is passing values down to the six year old. And sometimes the six year old is passing values up, to be honest. But nobody gets to just invent their own value system and have that be the ultimate authority. At least they don’t get to do that and get along in our society.

Kaya: To piggyback off that, I think that’s such a great point, because I think it does a disservice to them to not teach them what society values in some way, or have them aware of that, because even if we said okay you can use ‘U’ and all these different type of grammatical things you want. If they still go to school or they’re in society in other ways it’s not gonna be acceptable, right? So I think you have to manage both.

Jaimee: I love that, it’s a thing in our household is, I want you to know the rules and that this was my practice as a designer as well. Know the rules so that you know when it’s appropriate to break the rules. That was just how we lived.

Brent: Got some more questions here, I wanna get to. There's one down this way? Hey.

Speaker 7: With regards to the whole “you” versus ‘U’ thing. So I’m actually dyslexic, so I have a lot of problems with arguments about using proper grammar, and using misspelling as a sign of disrespect. I have friends who have heard data scientists who have PhDs in statistics, and people read their writing and think, “You’re not educated.” And so it can be a very troubling— I don’t that is what you’re saying, I think there’s definitely a correlation between misspelling and how much time someone gave to reflect on what they wrote. But I do think it’s a slippery slope when people start reading other people’s writing and judge their ability to write as a sign of their intelligence, cause that doesn’t correlate as well as people think.

Daniel: I think that’s a really really good point, and I did not consider that at all when I made this suggestion. And you bringing it up I think is really important and it also reminds me, at the core here, we have this situation where as a society, we deal with people and we pick up cues from people, and we make assumptions about what people’s intentions are, like you said what their intelligence level is, maybe how much they care about what they’re doing or how they’re expressing it.

Daniel: And what you say reminds me, of course, there’s people also with all kinds of different personalities, their brains function in different ways that cause them to communicate with others in ways that would be misperceived as hostile or antisocial. So what you say is really good food for thought. I think it’s a good balance for those people like me, I have a reputation kinda like of being up on my high horse about some of these things.

Brent: No!

Daniel: And it’s probably something I should consider. But what you say, the feedback that you give on this particular subject reminds me that I think everybody has an equal obligation to do the best they can to respectfully communicate with people. And then on the flip side, everybody has a responsibility to assume the best intentions and to consider the wide variety of things that might be going into somebody behaving the way that they are, or communicating the way that they are. And so maybe that’s the best compromise we can get.

Brent: Looks like several questions here, we'll pass it to Arik first.

Arik: I definitely feel like, people trying to be respectful and civil is in general a good thing? But I did wanna mention kinda an alternate perspective to the dyslexia point, is that using different spellings has been used by minority communities as well, for various reasons, and in some cases as a political statement in some cases just as a cultural statement. And the proper use of a language can very easily be weaponized to lead to a lack of opportunities, code switching and things like that, and having to learn two languages in your own country and things like that, so I think it’s harder online obviously because, to your point, like it really can be very hard to tell and to separate your own whatever you bring to the table when you’re reading something to separate that from whatever the person was bringing to the table.

Arik: But I think that I would lean more heavily personally on the idea of what you said about trying to be respectful and trying to be civil rather than enforcing a specific usage pattern, there’s also immigrants, there’s just so many reasons that someone spells something in a different way or so many ways people communicate and you get situations where people feel threatened or people feel attacked by stuff that was totally harmless and would be understood by someone else in a completely different way. I just think it’s useful to remember those things.

Daniel: That’s a really good reminder too.

Kaya: Yeah to speak on that, I think it’s a important thing to broach, and personally I think when you mention code switching, that’s something that I do every day of my life, and I think often times you learn ways you speak at home or in your community, and then ways that you speak in a professional sense or you speak in an academic sense, are very different. And I think often times as being a person color, I know how to speak with certain people in certain ways. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but that’s the way it is. And I think in terms of thinking about how we judge people how they speak. I do it as well, like everybody does it, and you read something and you make all of these assumptions about the person from how they spoke to you. Whether it’s because English is not their first language or the way they learn English is different than you and everything.

Kaya: We all make these assumptions about people, but I think the point that you made is just giving everyone the respect they deserve, so like even though you have your biases and you have your assumptions, not bringing that out, and not saying, “I read that and I’m making this judgment, so I’m gonna treat them this way.” Still bringing them respect and treating them with respect regardless of whatever your own bias is and judgments are versus what they said.

Jaimee: That’d be so awesome if everyone did that.

Brent: There were more hands over here, yeah.

Speaker 9: So I have three little things, I have a friend who for 15 16 years was an editor with Merriam-Webster dictionary, and she said there was this big debate in the dictionary community about being prescriptivist, where you tell everybody how they should speak, versus descriptivist, where you basically say, the language is the language and it rolls along. Just picking up stuff along the way. So I just wanted to throw that in there.

Speaker 9: Number two: I do sometimes weaponize intentional misspellings, I think the ultimate example of this is when somebody has something fulminating about something and you just go, "u mad bro?" And the third thing I wanna talk about is: how do we deal with life when we get to a place where people just communicate with GIFs?

Daniel: First we have to agree how to pronounce that word. I found that very disrespectful.

Brent: Who in here says “jif?” Alright, and everyone else says “gif,” right? Cause that’s correct.

Jaimee: Yeah, “gif.”

Brent: Prescriptivist versus descriptivist.

Kaya: I think that’s really interesting. I remember seeing, I think it Merriam-Webster, didn’t they say like the word of the year was like an emoji? It was something like that. I think that’s really interesting, when dictionaries come into play, cause it’s like a dictionary is what you would think is the judgment of the language, but now that they said— a lot of times I see Merriam-Webster on Twitter, like they’re pretty funny.

Daniel: They’re even political.

Jaimee: They're even at the gas pump.

Daniel: Are they?

Jaimee: The little screens?

Daniel: Who says we’re not a literate society.

Brent: Did we have more questions? Yeah. You. Excellent.

Daniel: We don’t have to talk about the letter ‘U’ versus “you” the whole time.

Brent: But you can, just to make Daniel uncomfortable.

Jaimee: It's a good topic.

Speaker 10: I’m gonna have to agree that the ship has sailed on a lot of this. It makes me cringe when I see what I read online. And what my kids say, I think a more valuable lesson to pass on at this point is that what you say is essentially permanent from now on. I grew up saying all my stupid stuff on Usenet and bulletin boards. That’s gone, thank God. But now if you say it, it’s likely there forever, and you gotta teach your kids to be real careful before they say something.

Brent: That’s a good point. Facebook’s gonna know everything about everybody forever.

Daniel: I think an interesting carry over from that is the question of what is considered shameful behavior I think will necessarily, because of that, and it already has, shifted in a way that... there’s so much evidence out there of shameful behavior, to some extent or other, because of what you describe it’s all permanent it’s all out there. I don’t think the stuff that’s commonplace that you’d be judged for having out there now, if it was out there 20 years ago, you probably be judged more harshly, and you’d feel more embarrassed by it. And it’s just like as a consequence of everything being out there and being permanent, because it’s one of these things where it’s like, well you can be embarrassed and ashamed by something if you’re the one person out of 400 people who does it. But if 200 out of 400 people have stuff out there that’s exhibiting the same behavior, then I think that’s gonna be an interesting thing to see, what is the future of being ashamed? I don’t know.

Brent: That could be a whole talk: “The Future of Shame,” by Daniel Jalkut. More questions?

Speaker 11: Just wanted to point out that it’s a room full of engineers and we haven’t proposed an engineering solution for this yet. Clearly there’s a software translation opportunity here. It seems like communication’s always gonna be really challenging between people, and that’s something that at least until neural link comes out with some hardware solution for that but... Maybe we can come up with software that can better maybe read back to the person writing possible interpretation of what they’re saying, and let them verify what they mean before it gets sent, because, like people have pointed out, maybe they’re using the letter ‘U’ in a way that they don’t see as disrespectful, but the person who reads it does see it as disrespectful and so there’s a miscommunication there, it’s not an intent of disrespect, it’s just a miscommunication. So Siri’s getting better in intents, maybe we can work with that.

Kaya: Yeah. Apple has... On the accessibility point, if you are dyslexic Apple has typing suggestion to help you out with that. So there are not necessarily in terms of the respect aspect adding that kinda sentiment into the suggestions, but there are some engineering solutions too.

Brent: I wish you were a preference in my Twitter client, translate all these into the regular kind of English that I like.

Daniel: We’re gonna have Clippy giving us advice on offending people.

Brent: There was another hand.

Speaker 12: I’m a big fan of language being used properly and proper grammar and good spelling. But I don’t feel any less disrespected if an obscene or threatening DM is spelled well. And that’s the reality for a lot of women and people of color on a daily basis. Incremental change happens, small things that we can all do to improve respect in little ways matter. But a lot of us in this room have probably very different experiences online with regards to respect and civility, and so thinking about how that all interplays, I don’t know exactly what my point is, but I know what you’re saying and I get it and I appreciate it, but at the same time I’m like, it’s kinda the least of my concerns.

Brent: It’s the least of her concerns.

Jaimee: You and your ‘U.’

Daniel: I know. Well I just wanna point out, this is not my champion issue. This is something that came to mind when Brent emailed us, and...

Jaimee: We got a lot of conversation out of that.

Daniel: It is really interesting the stuff that’s some out of it. And I think that the stuff that’s come out of it so far has been very provocative in a good way, to make those of us who maybe lean towards feeling the way I presented this, think about it a little bit more carefully.

Brent: Cool. We’ve got more questions here, going to Liz.

Liz Marley: So you talked a lot about kids and raising kids right and, I don’t have kids. So I was trying to think about how to bring it back to some of us who don’t. And I think there’s maybe a similar, maybe a different, I’ll let you comment, opportunity with how we interact with people who are newer developers, or people who are new to Mac and iOS software, or coming from Objective-C to Swift or vice versa. So maybe you can talk about what opportunities or responsibilities we have there.

Kaya: I think that’s a great point to bring up. One thing when we were emailing back and forth, that’s really important to me is how, as engineers and with the skills that we have, how do we foster those skills to others? So not just kids but everyone, because everyone has the opportunity to learn how to program and figure out how to apply the technical knowledge to the things that they do in their life. And I do think that we have a responsibility on how we approach that, because I think that there are certain engineering committees that are really exclusive, and it’s really hard to become a part of it because of the language and jargon that’s used. And so I think learning how to talk about technical topics and relay technical topics in layman’s terms in a understandable way is so important in how we talk about things.

Kaya: Whether you’re writing a blog post, there’s so much information out there. Similar to what you were saying in your talk, right? There’s so many blogs, there’s so much information and documentation. But when you’re doing that, when you’re getting that information out there, how do you do it? Is it accessible to folks who are just interested? Or do you have to be an expert to just even read your blog post. So I think we do have a responsibility as engineers to make sure that how we talk about technology is not inaccessible to people who might be interested in it, because I’ve been in — whether it’s classes, or reading information, or going to a meet up, and you start off your talk by talking about all of this jargon and you just lost so many people in the audience, right?

Kaya: And so making sure that how you’re actually talking about technical terms is accessible to people who might just be interested in it, right? It’s like the same concept when, if you went to school and you’re in a class and the first day, the professor’s like, "Well, if you don’t know this, you probably wanna drop this class," right? It’s like that weeding-out culture. And I think a lot of that is in our community, as engineers, like we want to weed people out, and it shouldn’t be that way. We should try to make technology more accessible to folks who they might be interested in it, they might have a bunch of apps on their phone, and they might wanna know how to do that, how are apps made? Why can’t they know that, and why shouldn’t they know that?

Brent: Alright, Olaf.

Olaf: Just historical perspective, and especially to what Daniel’s talking about, about the financial accessibility for Apple platforms. Apple has never been the cheapest, or that’s never been an immediate goal for Apple, but it’s always been a goal to make computing more personal and more accessible to everyone, not for financial reasons. So I gotta say, as long as we’re focused on the mission of changing the world for the better, the tools we use, that’s kind of an implementation detail. So Kaya, your app increasing representation started out on iOS and people pointed to it and say, “Hey that’s good idea! We gotta spread it wider.” We are a great platform for putting our stake in the ground of, “Hey, this is a good thing, let’s start here and spread and change the world.” ... I love you all.

Jaimee: There’s so much value in that. And I think if that’s where we’re starting, at least we’re starting somewhere. And I do think we talked about the limitations of my own company,right? Like we were like, “Uhh, it’s $50, it’s kind of expensive,” but we had to start somewhere, we had to see, let’s see if this idea even works, and if people really even want it, and is it worth putting more time and money into, to then blow it out and make it more accessible, yet sometimes you just have to start somewhere and I think that’s such a great point.

Brent: And Apple can really lead by example. For instance, the accessibility APIs and things built into the systems are awesome, and privacy stuff too. The platforms will and should pick those thing up.

Daniel: And in some respects, the things that Apple does— although they’re expensive for the main product, service, sometimes their products — I’m not an expert in the slightest on this, but it seems to me Apple has made a lot of accessibility tools extremely cheap, compared to the very custom solutions that were there before. I sort of remember I went to England once and stayed in a bed and breakfast and the manager was blind. And she had, beautifully funded by the British government, she had a really extensive computer set up, very custom thing. She told us it was like tens of thousands of dollars, I think, for this thing, and it was like, over the years it’s gotten to the point now it’s like, I have Apple watch, this is a very expensive watch, and I think many people use it for accessibility reasons, find it a very affordable accessibility device. And so I think that’s a great point that the ways in particular that Apple’s not only just accessibility in... I love this about Apple that also accessibility it’s not a niche concern, it’s like accessibility is for everybody, is part of Apple’s attitude about it.

Daniel: And it’s all the way from very specific ways to accommodate whatever, physical difficulties, up to and including just accommodating people’s fear of computing, right? And that’s a part of what you were getting at. And that’s something that nobody did before Apple came along. And it continued to do that in ways that, frankly, nobody seems to be getting the clue. Nobody else seems to get the message quite. And so kudos to Apple for that.

Brent: Apple’s always been strong in education, too. It’s been a constant theme. There was a question over here, was it you? Why is Android so cheap? Right, so Android may be inexpensive in one regard, but it is built on selling your data. And in some ways that’s more expensive than an iPhone, right, depending on how you value your data. Nevertheless, a lot of people just don’t have that option, it’s that or no phone.

Daniel: I also think Android’s cheap because it’s openness allows companies with all kinds of public images to make devices and sell them. And the latest Google phone is not cheap, it's Android, it steals your data — I mean uses it to help you. But the fact that there are cheap Android devices is specifically because there’s not one company in charge of Android who is terrified of being associated with cheap products, and I think that’s why we don’t see more cheap... but the other angle of that is, to make something cheap it has to be inferior, usually, typically, the materials have to be not as nice as Apple’s, the longevity, the durability, the quality of whatever the metals are in there, probably down to even how good is the battery, all has to be worse to get a cheaper product. So I think part of it’s just Apple doesn’t wanna make crap, and that’s why we love them.

Brent: Apple’s attitude there is I think inspirational, in the sense that we’re all craftspeople, or artists even of a sort, and we all wanna make stuff as good as that, and we should, we should all aspire to that. Ah, yeah.

Speaker 15: Just off of what Daniel was just saying, I think it used to be more true that Apple would have like a single product to satisfy a certain need. But I think now, you can debate whether they have too many. But we just bought my mother-in-law a new iPad, and it was the cheapest one. And it’s not as good as this big old iPad Pro I have here. But it supports the Pencil, it’s lighter than any other iPad. It’s really good, I think they’ve taken more of kind of the Mercedes Benz model, where yes, they’re all more expensive then they could be, but Mercedes Benz technologies start in the giant S class, and over time they get down to the lowest end one. So I think that might be more of what we’re seeing. And you see the same thing with iPhones. You can buy two or three years ago’s iPhone for comparatively inexpensive money, or if you want, you can get the XS Max, but there’s a range there that never used to be there.

Jaimee: It’s that philosophy, they started somewhere and now they’re able to kinda expand the net, and it started with the iPhone, the first one, and then evolved it over time, and yeah I think that that’s kind of what this gentleman was saying earlier is like sometimes maybe it’s not where we want it to be and we have greater aspirations of spreading a wider net and reaching more people. But at least we’ve started in a really positive direction, and it would be unfortunate if we didn’t acknowledge the progress and the good stuff, you know, like don’t forget what’s good. It’s important to acknowledge what’s good and what has come of the technology that’s out there, and it’s given a lot of people seeds to go then plant and see what crop grows from it.

Brent: On that note, turns out we’re over time, so I’d like to round of applause for Rob Napier. This has been the Capital One Radio Hour. Round of applause of Kaya please. For Daniel. And for Jaimee. And for yourselves thank you so much, it’s been great.


Brent: I hope you enjoyed this discussion that was recorded at the Swift by Northwest conference. I’d like to thank the Klein family and everybody for putting this on, and for all the attendees and people asking questions and so on. I’d also like to thank our intrepid producer Mark Boszko. Say hello, Mark.

Mark: Hello, Mark.

Brent: And especially, I want to thank you for listening, thank you. Music.