Ask anyone with more than a passing interest in Apple Computer's products to list the websites they follow on a daily basis and there is bound to be a bit of response crossover: While several sites would be commonly represented (Macnn, Appleinsider, etc) the common element on all of the lists would likely be Daring Fireball.
Written by John Gruber, DF is something of a one-stop shop for all things Apple. (The official byline: Mac Nerdery, etc.) Topics range from advanced tips to general musings -- all written with a characteristic attention to detail (and accuracy) that has garnered Gruber well-deserved accolades. (Topics sometimes stray outside the Loop -- Apple does not have a monopoly on DF, either.) He pulls no punches (when punches are necessary) and it's important to note that he's as likely to call Apple out for a mistake as he is to defend the company against unwarranted (or unfounded) criticism.
Gruber described his role as an author in a July, 2003 column entitled Independent Days:
If asked to describe Daring Fireball with just one word, I would not choose weblog. Rather, I would call it a column. Given a few more words, I would call it as a Mac column in the form of a weblog. To me, the two great formats for writers are the book and the column, in the same way that the two great foot races are the marathon and the sprint.
A good columnist establishes a rhythm, writes with a distinctive voice, and connects to a regular readership. That’s exactly what I’m striving for here. I don’t want to publish it anywhere but right here, on my site. Daring Fireball is more than just words; it is an entire presentation.
It's that established rhythm and distinctive voice that keeps readers coming back -- looking forward to not only his full posts, but also the more casual "linked list" that he updates throughout the day.
In April of 2006, Gruber quit his job at Joyent to focus his efforts on Daring Fireball full time: He now earns his living through a combination of ad revenue (originally, Google AdSense -- currently, The Deck) and membership fees. While all content on DF is free, there are perks to becoming a member, such as a special members-only RSS feed which includes the linked lists. (For many, membership isn't seen as a way to earn such perks -- it's simply a "thank you" for a job well done.)
Aside from the full-time job of authoring DF, Gruber also co-designed Markdown, "a lightweight markup language" which "converts its marked-up text input to valid, well-formed XHTML."
I recently posed 7 questions (all loosely inspired by various DF entries) to which Gruber was gracious enough to send the following responses:
- Superman is Clark Kent. Spider-Man is Peter Parker. Your best guess -- The Macalope is:
I honestly don't know. And if I did, I certainly wouldn't say. I was never all that interested in finding out who Mac the Knife was, either.
- My personal favorite DF feature is the "Jackass of the Week" award -- so many of us debate the absurdity of these pundits with the hopes of scoring a zinger (and/or thinking that they will actually care) but it's obvious that what you say manages to get under their skin. In all your time taking pundits, etc. to task with the "Jackass of the Week" stamp -- who owes you the most money for replacement ink? ("Jackassiest" jackass?)
Rob Enderle, I suppose. I'm not sure I've seen him say something about Apple that *wasn't* jackassed. George Ou seems to be catching up fast, however.
- The archives are full of good examples -- do any examples of extreme Jackassery stand apart from others in terms of absurdity? (I would think the Maynor/Ellch debacle has to rank high on the list, based on longevity alone.)
Not at all Mac-related, but the most absurd has got to be Alton Vern, some guy in Texas who's trying to get "Fahrenheit 451" banned from his daughter's school, and who admits that he hasn't actually read the book himself. It's a book *about* book-burning, which he hasn't even read, and he's trying to get it banned. Jackass of the Week: Alton Verm
The problem with the Maynor/Ellch fiasco is that it's just so complicated. There's definitely a lot of jackassery involved, but it's very difficult to summarize it.
(Interviewer's note: Coverage of these events on DF as they unfolded was as comprehensive a summary as you're likely to find.)
- What can Apple do to lose the digital audio player market and/or what will it take for the iPod to be killed?
At this point I don't think it can be killed. Worst case for Apple at this point is that it just slowly fades away, like with Sony and the Walkman.
- Who suffers more: The Colts if ever they lose Peyton Manning or Apple upon losing Steve Jobs?
Apple losing Steve Jobs. Manning is terrific -- the best quarterback in the league today -- but there are plenty of other quarterbacks. There is only one Steve Jobs.
- Quoting from Think Secret:
Nine months after Think Secret first broke the news of a touch-screen iPod, the first public evidence of the device's existence has emerged in a PDF Apple posted to developers recently regarding the iPod's notes feature. (Source)
Claiming a scoop 9 months after-the-fact when no device has actually surfaced to support your initial assertion: Jackassery or desperation?
Jackassery. There's no reason for them to be desperate. Almost every rumor they publish is wrong, and people keep reading.
- Speculate: Widely reported Apple rumor that is least likely to surface and widely reported Apple rumor that will -- but shouldn't -- surface?
Least likely: tablet computer running Mac OS X.
I can't think of anything rumored that I expect will actually appear, but "shouldn't". Apple has a pretty keen sense of what makes for a good product.
7 Questions is intended as an ongoing series and it's a testament to John Gruber's openness that he responded to my questions almost immediately despite the fact that we've never met or corresponded. I am fairly certain that (some) future hopefuls will greet my request with silence and Gruber deserves a huge "thank you" for making my first attempt a success.
It's rare to stumble upon a column (especially online) that is professional, inviting and fun to read all at the same time -- but that's exactly what happened when I discovered Daring Fireball: Whether you're a long time fan or a first time visitor -- enjoy.
Interested parties can donate to become a DF member.