I don’t care how much your app cost to make

There’s been a lot of chatter (again) about Tapbots charging for a Tweetbot update. This happens every time Tapbots releases anything it seems.

They lead the market in charging for their products, and people decry the prices or that they charge for an update at all. And others say that Tweetbot should cost so Tapbots can stay in business.

They are all wrong.

I don’t care how much time Tapbots worked, other than to be glad they put a lot of effort into the product. I care that the product brings value. That’s it.

A lot of people spend way too much time working on things that don’t bring much value. Tapbots spends a lot of time working on Tweetbot, which is an immensely valuable Twitter client, for people that rely on it for some of their work.

I love Tweetbot, and have loved it for years. I won’t blink at a $4.99 update or a $9.99 update. I didn’t blink for the $20 Mac app or whatever it was. I’d pay another $20 right now for it to crash less lately (but it’s still better than anything else).

I’m glad they can be a sustainable company because of their pricing, but it’s not why I pay. I pay because the app delivers value to me every day. That they are supported by it as an indie developer is just a bonus.

Self-employed people are ignored by the government

This was a (bit of an unconventional) “Note” on my Post Status Club private blog and newsletter, and I wanted to share this one a bit more publicly.

Folks can critique the Affordable Care Act for over-reaching spending or being unaligned with their personal beliefs on the role of government in healthcare, but it absolutely helps self-employed folks in the situation I describe below, who previously were in a tougher spot to “go for it” and quit their job, with few healthcare options available. That 8.8 million people are now insured that were not before is testament to that.

Sara Horowitz — who is the founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union — makes a compelling argument for how important freelancers are to the American economy.

She highlights just how big the freelancer economy is:

For better or worse, freelancing is becoming the new normal in America. There are now 53 million freelance workers nationwide, according to a 2014 study that the Freelancers Union helped commission. These workers include 38 percent of millennials and they contribute $715 billion annually to the United States economy. As jobs that long sustained the middle class grow scarce, the freelance economy is revolutionizing the way that we live and work.

And she notes just how underrepresented freelancers are:

We are in the midst of a historic shift that rivals the transition from farms to factories. And yet, despite making up more than one-third of the American work force, freelancers don’t have access to the essential benefits and protections that come with traditional employment. This is the central challenge that our political leaders have failed to address.

In the freelance economy, workers inevitably face periods without pay. But unemployment benefits are not available to most freelancers, so they have virtually no safety net. Even when they are working, freelancers don’t enjoy the essential health care and retirement benefits associated with salaried employment. While the Affordable Care Act is helping freelancers with lower incomes gain access to insurance, some who do not qualify for subsidies are struggling to cope with rising health care costs. And it’s nearly impossible for many freelancers to plan for retirement when they are forced to dip into their savings during periods between jobs.

In response, we should develop a new system of portable benefits that reflects the realities of episodic income.

Sara goes on to highlight specific initiatives for change — some realistic and some not so much. But the broader point is so true: freelancers are a big deal and America isn’t particularly supporting of self-employed folks.

She specifically highlights “freelancers,” but I prefer to put the conversation in the context of people that are self-employed or run what I call “micro businesses.”

The term “small business” in America doesn’t mean a damn thing: the Small Business Administration defines a small business as less than 500 employees in a manufacturing environment or less than $7 million in annual revenue for less resource intensive industries. These numbers are ridiculously dumb.

By this definition, an overwhelming majority of American workers qualify as working for small businesses. And in that context, truly small — micro businesses — are lost and ignored. There is little help or attention given to those that are building the modern American freelancer/self-employed economy — and it’s an economy that’s growing rapidly despite the challenges.

Non-Americans will be most baffled by our healthcare situation, as American healthcare is most often a benefit of big-company employment. While that’s changing under some new healthcare laws, it’s still extremely expensive and incredibly daunting to be health insured in America without at least one person in the family able to provide lower-cost plans from an employer.

Families where nobody works for a company with comprehensive health benefits (much less other big-company-only benefits) are often at an extreme disadvantage. And that makes America much worse off than it should be for supporting American entrepreneurs, who so often start off as freelancers or as micro businesses.

This is why I get so damn tired of politicians (of both parties!) talk about how much they care about job creation and small businesses and blah blah blah — because none of them are doing near enough about it where it really matters.

Even the processes for creating small businesses and staying on top of what is required of your business is really hard in some states. In my home state, Alabama, I find it incredibly difficult to be educated on what I’m required to do or to know what state opportunities I may have to support my tiny business.

Not to mention, while we are in a budget crisis in Alabama, one of the most agreed-upon tax increases (if taxes indeed get raised) is the “business privilege tax” that’s charged to any corporation. That’s right, it’s my privilege to do business in this state. Well screw that! I say it’s any state’s privilege to have citizens willing to risk their livelihood and financial security of traditional employment to start a business and literally build up a small economy around them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s BDS, about 20% of new jobs in a given year between 1980 and 2005 were created by startups with one to four employees, a substantially larger number than larger sized companies grew.

I wonder what would happen if the government actually thought about these people, created a support structure for them, and gave them tools to help them grow? Or what if the government at least helped them be on an equal footing to larger businesses! I think we’d see a lot more people taking the risk of building something new versus sticking it out in corporate positions.

I know Europe and other parts of the world have a lot of challenges too (the new EU VAT rules alone are proof), but I don’t know as much about your situations as I do my own, and am not in a great place to rant for you.

Excuse my rant and tone, but that New York Times article stoked my fire.

Engineering in hospitals

The New York Times profiled a university hospital in Utah that’s tracking costs and benefits of everything they do. It’s classic Industrial Engineering (my college major), but whenever you see these kinds of articles people act like it’s revolutionary.

It is amazing what tracking and data analysis can accomplish, but it’s not revolutionary.

And unfortunately, most hospitals have long considered their Industrial Engineer’s “non-essential” staff; I was warned about working in such an environment when I was in school, because a non-medical employee is the first to get cut when budgets are tight.

But now, thanks to a project Dr. Lee set in motion after that initial query several years ago, the hospital is getting answers, information that is not only saving money but also improving care.

The effort is attracting the attention of institutions from Harvard to the Mayo Clinic. The secretary of health and human services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, visited last month to see the results. While costs at other academic medical centers in the area have increased an average of 2.9 percent a year over the past few years, the University of Utah’s have declined by 0.5 percent a year. “We have bent the cost curve,” Dr. Lee said.

A combination of programming, common sense, and guidance from medical professionals, some pretty incredible gains can be made. As an example, a few years ago, people said tests weren’t the big waste some were politicizing them to be:

With their new computer program, executives at the Utah hospital are also finding some simple ways to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

When internal medicine doctors looked at their costs per day, they were stunned to see how much they were spending on lab tests. Each was cheap, $10 or $20, but the total bill came to about $2 million a year.

Studies have found that 20 percent to 50 percent of hospital lab tests were completely unnecessary, ordered by residents with no questions asked. Most insurers were paying a lump sum for patients’ treatment so the cost for extra tests was borne by the hospital. Patients were getting so many blood tests that some became anemic.

The Utah doctors decided to require residents to justify each lab test. Orders plummeted. The hospital saved $200,000 a year.

That’s one efficiency gain, with no quality of care consequences, from one hospital.

Some were skeptical the program would make a difference, Dr. Bull said. But costs fell by 30 percent because patients spent less time in the hospital and had fewer complications. Letting nurses initiate treatment meant patients got needed medications faster, and the emphasis on “perfect care” meant the most important things got done.

“When I first started working in health care, like everybody I thought: ‘Oh, my God. It’s such a tough problem,’ ” Dr. Porter, the Harvard economist, said.

Now he has changed his mind. “I have no doubt we can solve it,” he said. “We know exactly what we have to do.”

It’s good to see this is happening in one or two hospitals, but it’s time to get serious about making high quality care more efficient across the country.

2015-08-25 14.28.12

Evan Wade

My son, Evan Wade Krogsgard, was born on June 22nd, 2015. The last two and a half months have been an incredible journey. Before he was born, I hardly recognized the difference between a newborn and a one year old, but I see changes in him on a daily basis.

He’s growing, healthy, and wonderful. We are so very happy to have him in our lives. A post here is long overdue, but I haven’t been neglecting posting about this journey; we’ve been logging our memories on a dedicated site for him (and also on Instagram).

It just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t say something here about how incredibly fun of an adventure we have begun.

Cutting the cord

I just cut the cord on our cable.

We’ve paid Charter around $150 per month for years, to get their high(er) speed internet, cable TV, and HBO.

Charter’s on demand service stinks, and Charter isn’t a supported provider on Apple TV for HBO Go, meaning we haven’t really gotten what we pay for from HBO.

Today, I cancelled our TV service and now my Charter bill will be $59 per month for internet. I will sign up for HBO Now for $15 per month, and be able to watch all HBO content from Apple TV.

I also signed up for 3 months of Sling TV, for $20 per month — and the 3 months up front comes with a half priced Roku 3, which I’m really excited to try after reading The Wirecutter review.

Considering we have Amazon Prime, I was tempted to go with the Fire Stick, but a couple of Roku features took me over the top. Roku merges content from the apps I’m subscribed to so I can search everything from one device. Also, the remote has a headphone jack so my wife and I can watch shows without bothering each other if one of us is asleep.

I also like that the Roku is agnostic to services, and between that and the Apple TV, I should be in good hands as various companies continue to compete in this sphere. The Apple TV alone isn’t ideal because I don’t have a good way to take advantage of Amazon Prime, and the Roku seemingly has just as good (and less intrusive) support for Prime as the Amazon Fire TV.

Between internet, Prime, regular TV, Netflix, and HBO, I was paying nearly $170. Now, I’ll get basically the same stuff for $113. And we can easily cancel any of these services or add future ones.

It seems Charter is aware of their problem, too. They pitched me hard for a new service where you pick any ten channels, get internet, and HBO, for (I think) $86. It would be tempting but for the fact that their HBO on demand still stinks (as does their entire cable and on demand interface) and the full HBO app isn’t available on Apple TV.

I’m sure I won’t get away with doing media this way for cheaper forever. Internet pricing will go up as ISPs still don’t have real competition. And the al a carte model will be more expensive as I inevitably get tempted in the future by other channels’ future subscription offers.

But for now, I get more flexibility, a better interface for watching TV, and it’s way cheaper. That’s a win.

Science and God

Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Through science, we discover more about the world.

Faith: strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

Through faith, we believe in God as the creator of the world.

If we have faith in God, then science is a process for discovering God’s creation, and therefore learning more about God himself.

To run away from science is to run away from God. Embracing scientific discovery in the world is to discover God himself.



Don’t solve problems like Major Payne

At the beginning of Major Payne, Major Payne solves a problem. A wounded soldier has a hurt arm, and he offers to help the soldier take his mind off his arm, in a way that, “works every time.”

He breaks his finger.

It solved the specific problem temporarily, but unfortunately just gave the soldier more problems.

Don’t solve problems — including software problems — like Major Payne.

“Off the Record”

Recently, I was listening to Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, and they were talking about the difference between “off the record” and “on background.” The show notes reference a 16 year old story debating the terms.

The term “on background” is pretty new to me, though I’ve used what it means a good bit. Basically, you can use the person as a source but you can’t implicate them in any way (and how/if your source is referenced at all is debated).

Apparently the definition of “off the record” isn’t very clear at all — even to journalists — and its common assumption has changed over time.

Previously, “off the record” was most often determined to mean its not to be talked about or written about at all, like a tip to then go figure the story out yourself. The “off the record” person is not a source at all.

Now, apparently a lot of journalists basically take it as something you can use but can’t implicate the source in the piece in any way. I find that odd.

I get told I’m “off the record” — yes, in our little WordPress news world — all the time, and it’s pretty annoying to be honest. I’m glad I’ve learned more about the “on background” terminology, because I’ve always treated “off the record” as “go figure it out yourself,” unless I clearly request permission for the parts I want to use, unattributed.

It’s probably time to be a bit more clear in these conversations.

Source: For the Record, What “Off the Record” Means (from 1999 but still an excellent resource).

The Agency

From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities.

I was late to read the story about The Internet Agency in the New York Times. But I finished it last night and it is a crazy story that really sheds a light on how governments are trying (and sometimes succeeding) at gaming the internet.