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Matthew Bischoff

I write and speak about technology and culture. I’ve designed and built apps at The New York Times, Tumblr, and now run my own studio, Lickability.

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Where Do We Go From Here? →

The latest episode of 99% Invisible details the history of and hopeful future for bathroom design. With a focus on the needs of trans and nonbinary people, Susan Stryker and the other members of a project called Stalled! have recently won a major victory in the International Building Code that will allow for better bathrooms for everyone. In her words:

What I feel is so elegant about the Stalled! public toilet project is that at some level… it doesn’t matter what most people think about trans people. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you should accommodate people with disabilities… The design of the space just solves the problem.

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: , , , , ,

My Nonbinary Child →

If you’re a parent or thinking of becoming one, read this essay about my friend Sarah (they/them) and how their mom, who’s an anthropologist, responded when they came out to her as agender. I was already crying five sentences into this piece, but the conclusion is what really got me.

I am thankful for their permission to tell a part of their story here. As I think how best to end this essay, I am filled with one upwelling sensation. I am proud to be the mom of a wonderful person—one who works tirelessly for social justice, and who lives as neither a woman nor a man. To love them as they are is a gift of my life.

Filed to: CultureTags: , , ,

WWDC 2020

Apple’s first online-only Worldwide Developers Conference is just a couple days away, and I’m excited to watch as many sessions as I can and chat with new and old friends in the Apple developer community. We’re even opening up the Lickability Discord server so we have a place to meetup and watch talks together. Come join us!

This week, Apple is also under pressure from the developers of Hey and the community at large to change App Store policies on in-app purchase, but I’m not holding my breath on that.

Here’s what’s on my personal WWDC wishlist this year:

✍️ Documentation for all public API
⚙️ Setting default apps
📱Redesigned SpringBoard
🔨 Buddybuild relaunch
🐦 SwiftUI usable in production
📧 Snooze + send later in Mail
💎 Cataylst improvements
💬 Mentions in Messages
🔖 Pronoun sharing in iMessage/Contacts
🖥 Shortcuts on Mac
🔗 Universal Link Settings
🔒 iCloud Keychain Import/Export
🗓 Calendar Redesign
⌚️ Apple Watch Sleep Tracking
🧠 Smart Playlists & Albums on iOS
🧭 iOS Safari Tab Redesign
📲 Customizable Lock Screen Actions
🎛 Control Center Extensions

Filed to: TechTags: , , ,

Black Lives Matter Resources →

Things are changing. People around the country are finally recognizing what black people have been telling us forever: that white supremacy, structural racism, and police violence are endemic in our culture, and it’s killing them. If you’re overwhelmed or having a hard time figuring out what to do right now, my friend Jillian Meehan collected this list of places to start. #blacklivesmatter

Filed to: CultureTags: ,

Jorge Quinteros: FaceTime Shoots Are Not as Bad as I Thought →

If there’s one aspect quarantine life has shown me is that there’s a wide orbit of things you’ll refrain from wanting to do because the results may not come close to what what you’re use to. There’s limitations. The quality may be different. Heck, the actual process of doing this new thing may require a different side of you that you probably haven’t developed yet and on top of that the people you may ask to assist you with it might consider you crazy. In the end what’s mostly permeating through my mind is how can one explore ways to continuing being creative during times where it seems like there’s not much to work with.

Absolutely gorgeous portraiture from my friend Jorge, shot entirely over FaceTime. Another perfect example of constraints breeding creativity.

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: , , ,

Apps for All: Making Software Accessible

What does it take to build software that’s truly usable for as many people as possible?

This morning, I’m giving a talk on this topic at App Builders 2020. The presentation focuses on improving the accessibility of the software we build. Drawing on examples from the fields of architecture and design, as well as my experience, it explores the how and why of iOS accessibility in the broader contexts of ability and inclusion. You’ll learn how to audit your application for accessibility and get started making changes that will open it up to new customers.

Slides

This talk relies a lot on audio, video, and demos, but here are the slides in case you missed something while watching. Download a PDF version here.

Sketchnotes

Felizia Bernutz also posted these incredible sketchnotes from the talk.

Apps for All Sketchnotes

Resources

If you’ve seen the talk and are looking for additional information, here are some of the sources I consulted when writing it.

Filed to: Culture, Longer, Talks, TechTags: , , , ,

Perils of the Overworld →

I’m not much of a gamer, but I am a nerd about the creative process. As such, I’ve really been enjoying Robin Sloan’s new development diary newsletter where he is chronicling the creation of a game called Perils of the Overworld. Consider subscribing if you’re nerdy about maps, game making, typography, sound design, or interactive fiction. 🗺

Filed to: TechTags: , , , , ,

Being Generous with Your Time →

There is no gate keeping, no screening, just a calendar form. I just show up to whatever appointments folks booked on my calendar with hopefully a little context of what they’d like to discuss. I don’t think I’m some industry pundit, but I do recognize that anyone who has been doing roughly the same thing for 10 years might be able to provide advice for someone earlier on in their career. Also, it just feels like the right thing to do to try to give back to folks in this very small way.

My pal and former Tumblr coworker Brian Michel is opening up his office hours to the public and wrote a great post about why experienced technologists should be open to new connections and offering support, as well as some instructions on how to set it up.

If you’re in tech and wanna talk to one of the kindest, smartest folks I know, you can sign up for his office hours here. I just did.

Filed to: Management, TechTags: , , ,

Let’s All Wear a Mask →

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that every American wear a face covering when in public. Masks will be the hot, bold look for summer.

The medical evidence for the practice is overwhelming. The post-SARS countries in East Asia have known this for a long time, and America and Europe are finally coming around. I’ve put a bunch of resources about the medical benefits of mask wearing in a further reading section at the bottom of this post.

But in this essay, I want to persuade you not just to wear a mask, but to go beyond the new CDC guidelines and help make mask wearing a social norm. That means always wearing a mask when you go out in public, and becoming a pest and nuisance to the people in your life until they do the same.

A very persuasive essay from Maciej Cegłowski, the founder of Pinboard, about the whys and hows of wearing masks in public. I started wearing one yesterday for the limited time I was outside, and the medical community seems to now be recommending that everyone do the same. It’s also worth reading Ben Thompson’s take and checking out these simple mask-making instructions from Loren Brichter.

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: , , , , ,

Lickability Blog: Tooling at Home →

While there are lots of great guides on how to work remote from companies like Notion, Zapier, and Slack, we thought share some of the specific tools we’re using to make this easier for our team. Hopefully, if you’re a newly remote employee or manager, you’ll see something here that can help smooth out a part of your workflow.

I wrote a new blog post over on the Lickability blog about the new tools we’re using to work from home better and some tips about how we’re using them. 🛋

Filed to: Culture, Shorter, TechTags: , , , , , ,

Now Page →

Since starting on the site redesign last year, I’ve known I wanted the website to have a now page:

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

I finally had some (quaran)time to make one this weekend, so if you’re ever curious what I’m up to, you can now visit /now.

Filed to: Shorter, TechTags: , , , , ,

MSCHF App →

MSCHF App Screenshot The delightful weirdos over at performance art/tech company MSCHF just launched a new app. The app does what they used to do via text messages until the phone companies starting blocking their numbers: allows you to chat with them and sends you a notification every two weeks when they announce drop their new project.

It’s good to see that even in a global pandemic, the crew over there will continue to bring us absurdly joyful things like All the Streams, Puff the Squeaky Chicken, and MSCHF Box.

Get it on the App Store.

Filed to: Culture, Shorter, TechTags: , , , ,

Helpful Engineering →

Helpful Engineering is designing, sourcing and executing projects to help people suffering from the COVID-19 crisis worldwide.

We are an open community of volunteers without a commercial purpose. We believe that through a utilitarian approach, we can do the most good in the quickest time. Applying unused engineering and manufacturing resources, we can help the world cope with the threat of COVID-19.

I’m super impressed by the speed and organization of this group of volunteer engineers that are working on a number of really useful projects in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’ve got spare time, resources, or engineering know-how, consider joining their efforts.

Filed to: Culture, Shorter, TechTags: , , ,

Boozing in the Age of Coronavirus →

At Patent Pending, a Flatiron coffee shop cum speakeasy, every cocktail order automatically comes with a bag of chips so as to not run afoul of the liquor delivery rules, and any order over $50 gets a free roll of toilet paper, one of the most popular items during this pandemic panic. But despite the quick response to sell delivery alcohol under the new rules, this will not save the bars and restaurants.

“We could survive a month and a half on delivery,” said Nicholas Ruiz, general manager at Patent Pending. “We’re just trying to be a little beam of light for some people.”

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: , , ,

Reply All: The Case of the Missing Hit →

A man in California is haunted by the memory of a pop song from his youth. He can remember the lyrics and the melody. But the song itself has vanished, completely scrubbed from the internet. PJ takes on the Super Tech Support case.

I’m way behind on podcasts, but at least I’ve got plenty of time to catch up since it looks like we’ll all be stuck inside for the foreseeable future.

After seeing this recent episode of Reply All recommended everywhere, I gave it a listen, and it’s as good as everyone says it is. Queue it up if you’re interested in music, mysteries, obsessiveness, journalism, or the intersections thereof. Also, if you want more like this, go back and listen to Mystery Show. RIP.

Filed to: Culture, Shorter, TechTags: , , , , , , ,

An App Can be a Home-cooked Meal →

The exhortation “learn to code!” has its foundations in market value. “Learn to code” is suggested as a way up, a way out. “Learn to code” offers economic leverage, a squirt of power. “Learn to code” goes on your resume.

But let’s substitute a different phrase: “learn to cook.” People don’t only learn to cook so they can become chefs. Some do! But far more people learn to cook so they can eat better, or more affordably, or in a specific way. Or because they want to carry on a tradition. Sometimes they learn just because they’re bored! Or even because—get this—they love spending time with the person who’s teaching them.

A very smart essay from Robin Sloan about an app he made for his family, but also about how truly personal software and its creation is powerful.

He reminds us that not all code has to scale or produce market value. Sometimes code can be a way to express yourself, have fun, and make life a little better for the people closest to you. Sometimes coding can be like cooking a meal for someone you love.

Filed to: Culture, Shorter, TechTags: , , , , , , ,

App Builders CH 2020 →

I’m super excited that I’ll be speaking this May at the App Builders CH conference in Lugano, Switzerland. App Builders is one of the biggest European conferences about mobile technologies, and I’ll be presenting alongside a bunch of incredibly smart folks. It’s sure to be a great time, and I hope to see you there! 🇨🇭

Filed to: Talks, TechTags: , , , ,

Tokens Acquired by Gikken →

Of course, we didn’t purchase it to shut down or leave unchanged, so we’re planning a major makeover – Tokens 2.

Most importantly, Tokens will finally start supporting IAP promo codes! On top of that, we’ll refresh the look and make an iOS app to make it possible to generate codes on the go.

Great news for such a useful developer tool that’s been missing from my toolbelt for a while. My only question is whether Apple will approve the iOS app.

Filed to: Shorter, TechTags: , , , ,

Why Restaurants Still Can’t Shake Their Sexist Service Etiquette →

Alcoholism, religious leanings, gender-nonconforming identities, BDSM relationships: All of these factors can mean that snap decisions made by servers can make for very unhappy customers, one reason why many restaurants, including high-end fine dining establishments, are doing away with gendered service in favor of neutral systems like serving clockwise.

One of my favorite writers, Madeleine Holden recently interviewed me and some other folks about weirdly-gendered restaurant service. I couldn’t agree more with her conclusion.

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: , , , ,

A Lawyer and an Accountant →

Your job as a founder or CEO is to run your company and make your customers happy, not to do every little thing by yourself. Work with the pros who will save you time and make you money. Hire a lawyer, hire an accountant, and (if you’ve got room in the budget) get some help with your operations. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Over on the Lickability blog, I wrote about my company’s history of working with outside professionals and have some advice to business owners about what to look for when hiring lawyers and accountants.

Filed to: Management, Shorter, TechTags: , , , , ,

Succession Composer Breaks Down the Show’s Score →

A great video from Vanity Fair with Nicholas Britell who wrote the music for HBO’s Succession. This type of piece where you can watch a creator actually break down the why behind their art is one of the most inspiring types of media for me. Seeing brilliant people work to elucidate their creations never gets old.

See also: Demi Adejuyigbe’s alternate lyrics to the Succession theme.

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: , , ,

The Allusionist: Enjoy →

Last night, I listened to this episode of the podcast The Allusionist from October. As a keen observer of language, the host Helen Zaltzam is often bothered by the cliches of foodservice phrases like “Enjoy!” or “Are you still working on that?”. What follows is a fascinating discussion with restaurant professionals about the origin, meanings, and functional purposes of these and other similar expressions. I’d highly recommend giving it a listen.

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTags: ,