Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: iMessage lock-in lessons, attrition-rate fixes, and more on Mozilla.
1. ‘Never Date a Green Texter’
First up this week: The weekend story getting the technorati chattering was about how Apple iMessage denizens pour scorn on Android users—identifying them by their “icky” green chat bubbles. An iPhone user’s message gets a “proper” blue background, y’see.
Amusing though the story was, the writer seemed to be hell-bent on proving some sort of Apple C-suite-led “conspiracy to lock in.” The reality is far more mundane—but it teaches important lessons for DevOps.
Analysis: Unintended consequences FTW
Could your DevOps team make a trivial engineering decision that pays unexpected dividends? While lock-in might be distasteful, seemingly irrelevant design or technical choices can have huge ramifications with users.
Tim Higgins: Why Apple’s iMessage Is Winning
[The] pressure to be a part of the blue text group is the product of decisions by Apple executives starting years ago that have … helped to cement the iPhone’s dominance among young smartphone users. [It] encourages people to pay the premium … and remain loyal to its brand.
Teens and college students said they dread the ostracism that comes with a green text. The social pressure is palpable. … Jeremy Cangiano, who just finished up his MBA, … tried to cash in on it last year by selling his own merchandise that touted, “Never Date a Green Texter.”
The blue iMessage bubble was born out of a simple engineering need, according to Justin Santamaria, a former Apple engineer who worked on the original feature. … The idea that it would keep users locked in to using Apple devices wasn’t even part of the conversation at the time, he said.
And then the other shoe dropped—via Ron Amadeo:
Google took to Twitter this weekend to complain that iMessage is just too darn influential with today’s kids. … The company is hoping this public-shaming campaign will get Apple to change its mind. [But it] probably has the least credibility of any tech company [because it] has released 13 half-hearted messaging products since iMessage launched in 2011.
Google … seems to have learned nothing from its years of messaging failure. Today … the situation is an incredible mess, and no single Google product is as good as Hangouts was in 2015.
Ouch. With a sociological perspective, here’s Christina “filmgirlcw” Warren:
iMessage is incredibly popular with certain demographics. … It’s an in-group signifier—the way teens have always had in-group signifiers (when I was in high school, it was AIM, a Nokia, and wearing Abercrombie). … It’s always fascinating for me to go to other countries and see a ton of iPhone users not using iMessage but something else because that app has become the in-group signifier. … Every teen I know uses Discord more than they use almost anything else.
It isn’t about lock-in or regulation or technology. It’s about fashion.
2. How’s your Attrition Rate?
A study published this week says DevOps orgs and other internet companies rank third for attrition in the 38 industries surveyed. And if you lump that category together with “enterprise software,” it would be in clear first place.
Analysis: We’re #1! Oh, wait …
But some companies get this right—how can you be one of them? Culture, innovation, recognition and remote work. It’s definitely not only about pay.
Donald Sull, Charles Sull and Ben Zweig report their fascinating study: Toxic Culture Is Driving the Great Resignation
Between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American employees left their jobs. [But] while resignation rates are high on average, they are not uniform … from less than 2% to more than 30%. … More-innovative companies … are experiencing higher attrition rates than their more staid competitors.
Pay has only a moderate impact on employee turnover. … A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of … attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation. … Job insecurity and reorganizations are important predictors of how employees rate a company’s overall culture. … But it is surprising that … the more positively employees talked about innovation at their company, the more likely they were to quit. … Employees are more likely to leave companies that fail to distinguish between high performers and laggards [or] that tolerate underperformance.
Our analysis identified … actions that managers can take … to reduce attrition. … Lateral career opportunities are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions [and] 2.5 times more powerful [than] compensation. … Company-organized social events, including happy hours, team-building excursions [and] potluck dinners … are a key element of a healthy corporate culture. … Unsurprisingly, when employees discussed remote work options in more positive terms, they were less likely to quit.
And the flipside of resignation? Hiring replacements. Let’s turn to the equilibrium of Nash Reilly:
It’s only gotten harder in recent months [and] I think I know why. … You need to offer engineers some combination of these three things to pique their interest: Cool stuff to work on, smart people to work with [and] some degree of repeatability.
You can’t really prove to an engineer that you can give them things like good management, minimal churn, and decision making authority [so] let them talk to your employees. … Also, figure out a way to let your team “backchannel” to the candidate. [If] your product is not that cool … play up the things you can offer them: smart coworkers, and a stable working environment. … You can afford to be honest about what it is that you do offer to a candidate, [so] pitch them the truth: that you want to do good work, sustainably, for as long as you can—ideally with them on your team.
Perhaps the smart money is already skating to where the puck will be? Here’s echelon:
Engineering salaries are … one of the biggest expenses. … Companies love that they can now hire remotely and pay adjusted cost of living. They’ll hire as many workers in middle America as they can, and once enough of the workforce is concentrated outside of expensive cities, you’ll see them stop hiring in SF and NY entirely. [And] startup capital is already beginning to shift to … emerging markets. Employment will eventually head there too.
Make your money now while the iron is still hot.
3. Say Something Nice About Firefox
After accusing Mozilla of jumping the shark last week, perhaps I owe the Firefox folks a positive inclusion this time? The release notes for Firefox 96 certainly sound good.
Analysis: Improved sound; better perf; stronger anti-CSRF
Outside the Apple walled garden, Firefox is about the only non-Chromium browser. A browser monoculture can’t be a good thing for anyone—not DevOps nor users.
Michael Gariffo: Firefox 96 update focuses on noise improvements, main thread efficiency
On the desktop side of things, Mozilla’s latest release made “significant improvements” to the browser’s built-in [sound] noise suppression and auto-gain-control features. These improvements are aimed at web-based video chat users.
The second tentpole feature in version 96 focuses on reducing main-thread load, which should help the browser function better on older, slower, or congested systems. [And] a new enforcement setting for cookies … will, by default, apply the “Same-Site=lax” policy. Mozilla claims this will help better defend users against Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks.
Mozilla also acknowledged that it is working on correcting the performance of detached videos being played in full screen on macOS devices. … No timeframe was mentioned for when it might be available again.
Okay. Sounds good. But not to Tetch:
Never mind all that fancy stuff. … Any reduction in crashes?
FF crashes for me several times a month. … I always take the trouble to fill in the “What were you doing immediately before the crash?” section of the crash submission dialog, and never hear another thing.
But more efficiency on the main thread? Tell me more. ksec:
Such an important detail that deserves at least few more sentences of marketing message or explanation. But the whole release note just feels like they couldn’t be bothered anymore.
The Moral of the Story: A weasel wishing Happy New Year to a chicken harbors no good intention.
You have been reading The Long View by Richi Jennings. You can contact him at @RiCHi or [email protected].
Image: Moritz Knöringer (via Unsplash)