Who Influences You?

March 26th, 2007

MacTech is running their annual voting process for the People’s Choice MacTech 25. This is basically an opportunity to recognize some of the important members of our technical community. While most of the world is more interested in the highest ranking members of the Macintosh community (people like Steve Jobs), we developers and technical types who live on the front-lines probably appreciate the actions of more day-to-day leaders. People whose projects or community presence helps us to do our jobs or appreciate the platform we work on.

Sooo… I’m encouraging anybody who hasn’t voted yet to do so, and to vote for people who influence you directly. I voted for three people from among the following names which I present merely as memory toggles for you. The problem here of course is I’m sure I’ll forget somebody. But at the very least I feel comfortable proposing any of these names as worthy recipients for an honor such as this. These names all strike me as being particularly appropriate this year. All of these people go out of their way to develop a personal relationship with the community on top of a professional relationship. Any three of them are deserving of your vote:

John Gruber. I probably don’t have to convince most of you that John is an influential part of our lives. Whether you read his content or not, his opinions push developers, users, and the press to reconsider their views on all things Mac. This past year was an especially influential year for Gruber, having dropped some serious food for thought in his HIG Is Dead speech at the C4 Conference.

Aaron Hillegass. Every year, Aaron’s Big Nerd Ranch “vacation” boot-camp for aspiring Cocoa developers churns out a new batch of programmers freshly-versed in the “right atittudes” to get started programming on the Mac. My belief is that more developers on the Mac will ultimately make all developers on the Mac more successful and happy. We’ve got a great community, and as new members are successfully indoctrinated into the group, our shared resources become larger and larger. I expect that as the years go by, more and more of the Mac developers you meet socially will have in their pedigree some kind of training from Aaron and the rest of the staff at Big Nerd Ranch.

Paul Kafasis. As CEO of Rogue Amoeba, Paul has had his hands full. But he still found time over the past year to write several thought-provoking commentaries on the Rogue Amoeba blog, prompting debate about terms like “Delicious Generation.” He also serves up repeated doses of “good indie software sense” in blog series such as Should I Exhibit At MacWorld. On a personal note, Paul’s advice to me has been invaluable as I’ve gotten to know him and tried to learn from his experiences in successfuly building Rogue Amoeba into a robust young business.

Leo Laporte.I grew up listening to Leo on SF Bay Area radio. At the time I was more into Amigas and Sun Workstations than Macs, but I still found Leo’s show fascinating. The fact that all these years later I’m still listening to him, and he’s still pushing the Mac, is pretty awesome. Leo’s This Week In Tech podcast is the most popular tech show online, and his empire continues to grow as he adds other podcasts, videocasts, and satellite radio to the collection. Most of Laporte’s shows are not Mac-focused, but he always has Mac in his mental repertoire, which no doubt leads many of his listeners to consider giving the Mac a shot. More Mac users equals more Mac customers. And that’s good for the developer world.

Merlin Mann. Merlin Mann tirelessly (OK, I’m sure he gets tired!) promotes the Mac as tool numero uno in the battle against productivity failures. Through his world-famous 43 Folders blog, he uses his playful writing style to remind the world that there are tricks and techniques to an organized life, and that the best ones require a Mac. Merlin’s influence on productivity software can be witnessed by the growing trend for “Getting Things Done” applications. As advisor to The Omni Group during the development of their “OmniFocus” GTD application, his opinions will no-doubt help establish some of the standards for all such software in the future. Merlin Mann is also an integral part of the Leo Laporte podcast MacBreak Weekly, the one show in Laporte’s empire which is dedicated to Mac and Mac alone.

Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch. Wolf has been personally influential to me for a few years now, as his work within the developer community on projects like mach_inject have made him well-known as a highly skilled Mac OS X developer and consultant. But this past year, Wolf turned the corner and became incredibly influential by launching a new Mac developer conference called C4. Even in its maiden year, the conference left attendees unanimously satisfied and eager to return for more fun and englightenment in the coming years. Wolf has been working hard on planning the 2nd C4, and I’m sure his influence will continue to grow as the conference becomes even more renowned.

Brent Simmons. What can I say, the man had a huge impact on me this year :) As the person who was instrumental in putting me on NewsGator’s radar as a potential buyer for MarsEdit, I am very grateful to him. He also deserves your vote because of the ways in which he helps to define the Macintosh user experience through his development of NetNewsWire, and through his participation in the developer/user communities.

Scott Stevenson. Scott Stevenson has long been a valuable resource in the Cocoa community in particular, serving up delicious tutorials on his Cocoa Dev Central site. He upped the ante recently by adding an editorialized take on the world of Cocoa blogging, in his Cocoa Blogs digest. Scott’s writing style combined with his passion for the Mac and an ability to spot quality are turning his content into the first-stop for quality Mac development information.

15 Responses to “Who Influences You?”

  1. Kevin Walzer Says:

    Gruber is an interesting case: he’s a pundit who’s not a developer. At least, he doesn’t ship any Mac applications that I’m aware of. (Isn’t he more of a web developer/designer/Perl/CSS expert than anything else?) This leads some people to not take him seriously. However, he’s an excellent writer, and he’s framed any number of timely issues in a thoughtful and thought-provoking way.

  2. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Kevin: I was surprised to learn that Gruber actually has a CS background – but only because like you say he has more of a reputation as a writer.

    His development of Markdown is a pretty significant contribution, even if it’s Perl-based and not Mac-specific.

    I tend to think that it’s Gruber’s understanding of software development combined with his desire to write for regular people, that makes his content so successful.

  3. Julian Cheal Says:

    Good list of people Daniel, I would agree that even in my short time exposure to the Mac and Podcasting, the people you mentioned would definitely be my list of influential people to me.

    However I’m not just saying this as its on your blog, but I would also count you highly among a personal list of influential people.

    The reason being, you have worked for a company that I hope one day to work for (Apple).

    Secondly and most importantly, you are now an independent developer. Something that I would like to become one day also.

    I like the way that you are obviously very cleaver and a good developer, but you also have the skills to be able to talk to people and explain things on an easy level.


  4. anonymous Says:

    I’m so sick of John Gruber. Sure, he posts interesting links, but when you get to the meat of his blog, it’s him finding anyone who’s badmouthed apple in the past 7 years and making them a “jackass of the week.” So lame.

    I’d use my real name, but I don’t want to get blackballed by the self-congratulatory mac shareware circle-jerk scene when my cocoa app finally comes out.

  5. Erik Buck Says:

    My nominations:

    Scott Anguish – Stepwise, “Cocoa Programming”, Apple’s Technical Publications Group, frequent contributor to mailing lists

    Malcolm Crawford – Apple’s Technical Publications Group, one of the key people who trained Apple’s own Cocoa engineers, frequent contributor to mailing lists

    Ali Ozer – AppKit and Quartz Graphics and probably a lot more I don’t know
    Mike Ferris – TextExtras, Project Builder, Apple’s developer relations
    John Randolf – Look up -jcr on Apple’s mailing lists and/or slashdot

  6. Paul McCann Says:

    Dear anonymous,

    try reading for *content* next time. And if an item contains the word “jackass” in the title, well, just skip on by. This sort of content is at the lower end of the difficult-to-avoid scale, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Bookmark this blog entry and drop down to my comment for a refresher course as required.

    All the best,

  7. Simone Manganelli Says:

    John Gruber is definitely on my list. The thing about him is that while he doesn’t have any Mac-specific development background or experience (at least not that he’s let on), he doesn’t write about or get into arguments that require Mac development knowledge. He usually writes about the Mac from a user and UI perspective, with which he has experience (Markdown being an obvious product that aims to improve the user experience with writing on the web). You’ll note that while he got into the debate about the supposed Wi-Fi hack, he raised questions that were completely within his knowledge and experience: why were Ellch and Maynor backpedaling, why did they give inconsistent statements to Krebs and to other reporters, why didn’t they demonstrate the hack live, why didn’t they demonstrate the hack on stock Apple hardware, etc., etc. These are valid questions that anyone can come up with, even if they lack Mac development experience.

    For me, I would add Amit Singh to the list. He’s ridiculously knowledgeable about the innards of Mac OS X, and he has demonstrated as such with his utilities that allow other Mac developers to access the MacBook Pro’s ambient light sensor, the accelerometer in all of Apple’s laptops, and the awesome piece of software that is MacFUSE. And when he writes about this stuff, he makes it fun to read, even if some of the stuff I don’t necessarily understand.

    And then there’s John Siracusa, who tirelessly reviews each major revision of Mac OS X. Mac bloggers are useful when new releases of Mac OS X come out because they can give you the occasional tip or reveal the occasional hidden feature. Most Mac news sites, though, are entirely worthless when it comes to Mac OS X reviews — they all want to get a review out ASAP, so they end up simply rehashing all the bullet points on Apple’s website without really using them and looking at them in depth. This, however, doesn’t apply to ArsTechnica, solely because of John Siracusa. He creates reviews that have page numbers running into the three digits, and he relentlessly and tirelessly exposes all the crap and/or awesome new functionality that Apple has introduced into the new OS. His dedication to this annual (or biannual, now) review of Mac OS X and to beating the UI drum also gives him an easy spot in my top three list.

  8. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    anonymous: You probably don’t run around venting against people all the time, but you should consider finding a way to mask your work IP address if you’re going to do so. I’m pretty sure I could figure out who you are at this point, if I had a strong reason to (I don’t!). But if you were to vent on the wrong blog it might get back to you in unwanted ways.

    Also, I find your comments sort of reek of jealousy and spite, and the way you phrase your personal attack sort of turns it into an implicit attack against anybody who does enjoy Gruber’s work, including myself. So I take some offense to your comment, even if you only intended to vent against Gruber.

    I’m pretty sure calling the Mac community a “self congratulatory circle-jerk” scene would increase your odds of being blackballed. Who would want to have you at the party?

  9. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Erik: I agree that most of the names you list are well deserving of the public’s respect and admiration. Unfortunately, many of them are Apple employees and can’t officially be recognized by this particular contest.

    In particular, Scott Anguish’s public role over the past several years shares qualities with both Scott Stevenson and Aaron Hillegass. The authoring and public education aspect of these guys’ work has been really awesome. I still enjoy Scott’s Stepwise, which is not updated so much for articles, but has an active links section.

    Seeing your comments here is a great honor. I would rank your contributions in Cocoa Programming as also very influential, and I only wish we’d had the good fortune of seeing the design patterns book come to light.

  10. Taybin Says:

    If I had to choose, I’d say Hillegass, Stevenson, and that guy who runs the Late Night Cocoa podcast.

  11. Anonymous II Says:

    I’m not sure I would include any of the names listed there.

    It looks like a bit as if the rule is to list the members of your own family. DJ is listing mainly people from the Mac blog family. EB is listing veteran from the NeXTStep family. It’s like auto-congratulations. While some of these persons did write some interesting articles, I would not consider them as influential as the Apple’s teams working on the iLife/iWork applications. Because that’s where I believe the influence is coming from : Brushed metal, Side bar, smart lists, media browser, etc.

  12. Jan Says:

    Daniel Jalkut is an inspiring example of an Indie Mac Developer. He maintains a number of cool apps for your favourite platform and is very open about the process. He shares technical insights, business decisions and a lot more on his blog. He also encourages other developers to write about their experiences; among them the famous Paul Kim. Like Scott Stevenson he’s a valuable resource for the Mac developer- and user communities.

  13. Erik Buck Says:

    Anonymous II: The question is “who influences you?”
    It seems natural that “you” (plural) will identify “members of your (plural) own family.” Those are the people who most influence you, right ?

    After all, you (singular) nominated people from your family, user interface themes and styles e.g. brushed metal, side bar, smart lists, media browser, etc. Obviously, that is what you (singular) care about most so people involved with that most influence you (singular). Am I right ?

  14. Paul Kim Says:

    I appreciate the comment but I’m not sure if I’d describe myself as famous. Jan, maybe you are confusing me with my namesake?

    My vote goes to Ali Ozer. His influence goes back to the NeXT days and the fact that he’s still working on the Appkit shows an amazing dedication (or maybe Steve is blackmailing him). Plus, from what I’ve heard he’s a really nice guy which I was able to confirm from my brief encounter with him at the last WWDC. In any case, he’s an Apple employee so he’s not eligible but I thought I’d shine the light on someone who works behind the scenes and is influential without having to say a word.

  15. Jan Says:

    Paul, nope, meant you, sorry :-)

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