October 5, 2022

Spotify is Making it Easier to Find Misinformation on their Podcasts

Mitchell Clark writing for The Verge:

Spotify is acquiring Kinzen, a startup that specializes in using machine learning to analyze content and report potentially harmful statements to human moderators. In a press release, Spotify says the acquisition is meant to help it deliver a safe, enjoyable experience on our platform around the world,”

[…]

Spotify has already been working with Kinzen, claiming that it’s been partnered with the company since 2020 and that the startup’s tech has been critical to enhancing our approach to platform safety.” According to Kinzen’s site, its tech is capable of analyzing audio content in several languages, and it uses data from the internet and human experts to figure out if certain claims are harmful. (It even claims to be able to spot dog whistles, seemingly innocuous phrases that actually refer to something with a darker meaning.)

It’s interesting that there is indeed software that not only spots misinformation, but also finds dog whistles (a term I didn’t know about until today). To add to this, I can’t help but think that Kinzen is forever going to be adding to the database of misinformation to ensure it’s the most up-to-date it can be.

According to their website, Kinzen uses a blend of human expertise and machine learning to provide early-warning of the spread of harmful content in multiple languages.”

My issue here is: I’m not sure just how effective it will be to notify, or even eliminate, misinformation on Spotify. One of the biggest being Joe Rogan, who has come under fire after multiple instances of misinformation and dog whistling. Since all he got was a virtual slap on the wrist for his antics before, I doubt they will turn up the heat on their cash cow.

Twitter and Facebook have added misinformation notifications since Covid-19, but I’m honestly not sure how well they have thwarted people from believing the lies and deceit they see on their timelines. In fact, I think it may have caused anti-vaxxers and QAnon followers to flock to the flagged information.

The option of doing nothing, which is what Substack does, has become the go example of what not to do as a platform. While it gave Substack millions, it also created the ongoing problem of allowing harmful information to be shared as fact. In fact, it’s partially why I decided to leave the platform.

There isn’t an easy answer to deal with misinformation on media platforms, but I am interested to see what comes of this acquisition (if anything).


September 21, 2022

Focus on your platform, not someone else's

Lee Peterson:

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and it’s apparent lack of care for it’s users. To the platform you are a potential revenue maker. Selling you to advertisers and not putting in controls to stop hate and harassment.

I’ve been looking to remove myself from it, then it dawned on me. Why are we adding value to the very platform that doesn’t respect us? Wouldn’t it be better to build this content on our own platform. My platform is this blog, instead of sharing my thoughts on here I’ve been adding content to Twitter, something I’m going to be doing less of going forward.

When ever I get back on the blogging horse I invariably have the thought that I wish I stuck to a single platform. Had I done that it would have been easier for people to view all of my work in one spot, and on my platform no less. Who knows, maybe it would have even grown my readership, or at the very least retained more people. I have tried my best to migrate my work every time I move platforms but I am sure there are plenty of things that fell through the cracks over the years.

I decided a few months back to hide the Twitter app from my home screen and turn off notifications. I can say without a doubt that it has absolutely limited my Twitter usage. Now, I spend more time in Reeder looking at the blogs I have followed for years and seeing what they have to say on their platforms.

Even places like The Verge has made it a point to link out to other publications and blogs, which I feel is a refreshing take on how news” should be shared.

Nilay Patel on the new Verge:

Our goal in redesigning The Verge was actually to redesign the relationship we have with you, our beloved audience. Six years ago, we developed a design system that was meant to confidently travel across platforms as the media unbundled itself into article pages individually distributed by social media and search algorithms. There’s a reason we had bright pink pull quotes in articles and laser lines shooting across our videos: we wanted to be distinctly The Verge, no matter where we showed up.

But publishing across other people’s platforms can only take you so far. And the more we lived with that decision, the more we felt strongly that our own platform should be an antidote to algorithmic news feeds, an editorial product made by actual people with intent and expertise. The Verges homepage is the single most popular page at Vox Media, and it should be a statement about what the internet can be at its best. 

So we sat down and thought about what was really important to us and how to make our homepage valuable every time you open it. We also thought about where we came from and how we built The Verge into what it is today. And we landed on: well shit, we just need to blog more.

So we’re back to basics with something we’re calling the Storystream news feed, right on our homepage. Our plan is to bring the best of old-school blogging to a modern news feed experience and to have our editors and senior reporters constantly updating the site with the best of tech and science news from around the entire internet. If that means linking out to Wired or Bloomberg or some other news source, that’s great — we’re happy to send people to excellent work elsewhere, and we trust that our feed will be useful enough to have you come back later.

I am not saying that blogging is getting a new resurgence. What I am saying that as someone that thinks a lot about platforms it’s cool to see more people to care less about going viral on Twitter and care more about making their corner of the internet the best it can be.

Link

September 20, 2022

Blot Image Shortcut

After getting my Blot theme shared on Do By Friday, I thought it might be fun to share my most used shortcut. This Shortcut will automatically resize, upload, and create a markdown image link for you to paste in your favorite text editor.

You can get the shortcut here and make it your own if you want.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Shortcut

July 10, 2022

Mobile Games Are Trash and We All Know It

Matt Birchler:

I love video games, and I love some mobile games (Alto’s Odyssey, Holedown, Grindstone, Golf on Mars, to name a few), but we all know that those games aren’t what Mobile Games are all about. Mobile games are a shit industry with shit companies making shit games that don’t exist to entertain, they exist to extract as much money as possible from a few whales who will spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Fun is not the point.

Compare this to the top selling non-mobile games of May 2022.

[…]

This is why I roll my eyes when someone says, actually, iOS is the biggest platform for video games because the most money is spent on mobile.” Okay, fair enough, but it’s the absolute worst part of the industry, even if it is profitable. I really appreciate game-makers who avoid the Mobile Game B.S., but they’re few and far between, and all the mainstream stuff is whale hunting junk.

I could not agree more with Matt here. There are a number of games I do play (mostly Zach Gage games). Aside from a few handful of games, the large majority of games for iOS and iPadOS are just shitty cash grabs.

Link

June 6, 2022

My Note-Taking System with Craft

It’s rare to find a productivity app that does everything perfectly—no matter what kind of app. There will always be pros and cons to each. For example, I recently have been in the market for a notes app, and my journey involved 11 different apps and dozens of hours of seeing what worked best for me. I have finally found a system that allows me to write three issues of Clicked a week. So here is my workflow for capturing content, making notes on them, and using those notes to create original content for Clicked.

What I Need in My System

The first thing I did to find a notes app that works with me was figure out a system. I wanted a place to save links to read later, a place to save ideas and thoughts, and a way to make connections with the permanent notes I make.

Read Later

When it came to picking a place to save links for reading later, I decided to go with Pocket; it is a read later app I enjoy using, and it has never been an issue for me at any point. Instapaper and Matter are also good options, but Pocket has been my read later app of choice for years now, and I decided to stick with what I knew and focus on other things with this system. So any articles, media, or tweets I like, I send to Pocket either on my phone or my Mac. Thanks to the Share Sheet on iOS and Pocket’s web browser extensions, it’s super easy.

Anything I save in Pocket is not in my notes system, and for a good reason. Not everything I save deserves to be a permanent note in Craft. For me, notes are kept for only things written in my voice. I don’t want to copy and paste someone else’s words into my notes because it doesn’t allow me to comprehend the writing thoroughly.

Also, I only create notes when I feel they can be used for future ideas and projects. For example, a short article about a new Apple rumor will likely not make it into my notes system because it is an unfounded rumor and will be less relevant as time goes on. My goal when I create a new note is that it adds to my overall knowledge and insight into something rather than being just a timeline of things that happened.

Daily Note

I have also found a daily note to be critical to me. When I have a fleeting thought, task, or idea, I just put it in my daily note so that I have captured that thought in a trusted system to be later processed. Then, I try to process those ideas and fleeting notes made throughout the day to keep things organized and limit the backlog to a minimum.

Fleeting notes have proven to be the buffer I need between an idea and a full-fledged note. As David Allen, creator of the GTD system, says,

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

- David Allen

Making Connections

Finally, having everything in Craft allows me to make connections and link back to other notes or ideas as a way to have new ideas and things to write about possibly.

Thanks to backlinks, I can also see the links I have made to the note I am in. For instance, if I am looking at a note about podcasting, I can see all of the notes I have made linked to the podcasting note at the bottom. This allows me to see connections I might not have seen otherwise.

What I Learned

After trying numerous notes apps and tweaking my system, there are a few things that I have learned, and feel can be helpful for anyone getting started in content creation.

Just Pick a Notes App

I chose Craft as my notes app, but there are a ton of other options that I think can work for someone looking to make their own a system. Among the apps I tried, these are some of the ones I felt were great but not the best option for me.

If I am being honest, there are things that some of these apps do that are better than Craft; but as a whole, I chose Craft because it fits the most of my needs and wants in a notes app, and I let its shortcomings fall to the wayside. The same thing could be said about any of the note apps above because — like I said — there is no perfect app for storing and organizing notes.

Also, stick with your notes app because a note-taking app is only as valuable as what you put in it. If you don’t stick with a notes app for long and hop from one to another, you are losing the actual value of a notes app. The value isn’t the features or the bells and whistles it has; the important stuff is the content you bring to that app. That content and those connections you make with them are exponentially growing in importance every time you add to that notes system.

So once you pick an app, dedicate yourself to it for at least six months to a year. I put my money where my mouth was and paid for a year of Craft Pro. That $48 a year I spent locked me into this app because I invested my hard-earned money, and I want to get my money’s worth out of it.

Final Tips and Further Research

I hope this has helped you understand how I work on Clicked, and more importantly, I hope it has helped you know what a note-taking system can be.

If you want to learn more about the features a notes app has or compare different apps to choose what is best for you; I highly recommend going to NoteApps.info; it is a beautiful site to use to find and compare features in a notes app.

If you want to learn more about Craft you can read my article Why Craft is the Note Taking King.

Until then, I will see you Wednesday, June 8th, with links from the past week I found to be interesting, entertaining, weird, or all of the above.

Note Taking

May 11, 2022

What it Means to be a Creator

On May 9th Jason Kottke announced he would be taking a sabbatical after over 24 years of blogging. He started his blog in 1998 and has been regularly posting and sharing links to intriguing things online ever since.

In fact, Kottke was one of the reasons I decided to give this newsletter a go. I felt that I, like Kottke, liked to dive into rabbit holes and make connections along the way. I also enjoyed allowing the internet to regularly take me to new and fascinating places.

In my view, Kottke is a pioneer in blogging, and I will miss him as he takes time for himself.

Why is he taking a sabbatical? I think I will let his words speak for themselves.

I’m burrrrned out. I have been for a few years now. I’ve been trying to power through it, but if you’ve read anything about burnout, you know that approach doesn’t work.
I support a lot of individual writers, artists, YouTubers, and bloggers through Substack, Patreon, and other channels, and over the years I’ve seen some of them produce content at a furious pace to keep up their momentum, only to burn out and quit doing the projects that I, and loads of other people, loved. With so many more people pursuing independent work funded directly by readers & viewers these days, this is something all of us, creators and supporters alike, are going to have to think about.

Kottke brings up a point that I have dealt with repeatedly as a creator: consistency.

I have tried writing when I felt like it, only to go months without posting because I deemed what I was writing wasn’t good enough.” I have written on a schedule of two or more newsletters a week only to quickly burn out and feel like my writing was a chore and not worth my time.

I currently write this newsletter once a week. Full disclosure I am writing this in my pajamas at 11 p.m. the night before I need to post this. I have allowed this writing to sit in my head without taking action for two days now, and I am terrified this will be some of the shittiest writing I have ever written.

But guess what, I have to send this out Wednesday at 9 a.m. before I leave for work. I promised a weekly newsletter to you all, and by golly, I will give you a newsletter.

With the thought of burning out and being a creator comes the cost” of creation.

In the superb piece The Cost of Creation, Shaun Gold, writer of Youtopian Journey, talks about what you must pay to be a creator.

There is a cost of creation and that cost is far too high for the multitude to pay.

And what is this cost?

It is the agreement with yourself to constantly create, to dedicate yourself to becoming a manufacturer of your mind. Yet this factory of facts that you have setup within your head does not have a union. It does not have off hours or holidays. It does not have benefits. It has only you, the foreman, the CEO, the president, the creator.

This piece by Gold had me go down a rabbit hole about Charles Bukowski, and I learned a lot about him, but I think two things sum up my takeaways from him.

The first is a video from the Pursuit of Wonder YouTube channel, which gives a biography about Bukowski and some astute speculation about why his tombstone reads DON’T TRY.”


With no real sight of success or money or fame — or even just creating a living from writing — Bukowski continued to write nearly every day before work for years of course we know how Bukowski’s story ended. He’s being spoken about right now as a writer; a renowned, successful, and important enough one to be spoken about with significance decades after his passing. To be considered one of the greats of all time…Only after a long-continued attempt at writing did Bukowski’s work finally become noticed and appreciated by an audience…Arguably, perhaps, this is where the most important idea can be found, not in just Bukoski’s work but in his life.

The second is a quote from another video I stumbled upon where KCET features Bukowski. He performs readings of his work in it, and in between each reading is a short interaction Bukowski had as the camera crew followed him around for a day.


One thing that stuck with me in this video was when he was discussing his poetry and how with poetry, the realities are never explained, and then he said this:

The reason I kept writing was not because I was so good but because they were so damn bad.

- Charles Bukowski

That quote reminds me of another great creator, Ira Glass from NPR. In a short piece called The Gap, Glass explains how when you start, what you make isn’t what you thought it would be, and you know that because you know what is good.


Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

The thing I would say to you with all my heart is most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have this special thing we wanted it to have. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

- Ira Glass

Whether it’s writing, making videos, painting, or sculpting, creating will take some time to learn and even more time to perfect. If you want to create, especially if you’re going to do so regularly, you must have an inextinguishable need to do so. If you don’t have that, you’re screwed. The temptations from TikTok, Netflix, that book on your nightstand, or the latest podcast you downloaded will envelop you like a net in the ocean catching a school of Mackerel.

If you do have that flame under you pushing you to create, you must make that thing you have wanted to make. Whether or not it is good isn’t in the equation, and neither is how many people will see it. Creating is for you, and you deserve to have that waterfall of dopamine after finishing what you set out to do.

So make the damn thing.

Creativity

May 10, 2022

The iPod is now dead.

Apple has officially said that the iPod is no more. You can still buy one, but only while supplies last.

Since its introduction over 20 years ago, iPod has captivated users all over the world who love the ability to take their music with them on the go. Today, the experience of taking one’s music library out into the world has been integrated across Apple’s product line — from iPhone and Apple Watch to iPad and Mac — along with access to more than 90 million songs and over 30,000 playlists available via Apple Music.

I remember when I got my first iPod, it was the original iPod Shuffle. After that, I got the first iPod Nano, the wide iPod Nano 3rd generation, and eventually bought the iPod with video.

The iPod with video was my pride and joy, and it was also my first encounter with handling digital video. I learned about different video formats, how to download videos from the web, converting those videos to fit the settings needed to have them play properly, and the beauty of the internet. There were many times I would be scouring forums and chats to figure out how to get Handbrake to output the right video I needed or how to rip music from YouTube and get it onto my iPod.

Now, as someone that does video production for a living, I am happy to have had that experience.

The iPod was also my first Apple product. I grew up in a PC home, like most in the early 2000s. I remember getting that magical experience of flipping my thumb over the wheel of an iPod to select from a list of menus and options. I had my entire audio library in my pocket, and the best part was it would never skip as a portable CD player did. It would be several years before I’d get an iPhone or Mac computer, but the iPod was what sold me on Apple, the company.

While the iPhone has replaced the iPod for me — and has for the better part of a decade — it’s still sad to see the end of an era here.

Link

May 4, 2022

Why I'm not Leaving Twitter

Twitter has always been my social media platform of choice. The atmosphere was fun, making me instantly fall in love with it. In addition, I was able to find other weirdos like me to talk about Apple products, Batman and have open conversations with them. Over time, with my newfound group of online friends, I felt obligated to stay. It was my internet home, after all.

After billionaire Elon Musk buys Twitter for $44 billion, more and more discourse about free speech” continues to bleed into everyone’s walled gardens. Some have even begun talks about leaving Twitter altogether. This is a mistake, in my opinion.

I am not here to say that Elon Musk will be good or bad for the company; that is yet to be determined — if the deal ever goes through — what I am saying is that Musk’s recent tweets and statements are alarming many.

Furthermore, Twitter employees have raised their concerns in a recent all-hands meeting. Casey Newton wrote about the meeting and shared several items discussed between Twitter employees and Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal. One thing I think is indicative of what Twitter’s leadership wants from this deal is Agrawal’s final statements in the meeting:

Agrawal concluded by asking employees to embrace change.”

Let’s embrace change. Let’s embrace uncertainty,” he said. If we see this as an opportunity, it will manifest as an opportunity. If we see this as doom and gloom, it will manifest as doom and gloom.”

As of now, it seems not many people have left the platform, and some say most will stay on the platform even after Musk takes control. The reason for this is, as Jeremy W. Peters says in his New York Times piece, is Twitter is too big to cancel.

The way both ends of the partisan spectrum are perceiving the Musk deal probably oversimplifies the reality of what his leadership would do to the platform — not to mention how it could be a folly to predict the whims of an eccentric billionaire whose political views are rife with inconsistencies.

I can’t help but agree with this sentiment. Leaving after just an announcement of Elon taking over, Twitter is putting the cart well in front of the horse. Of course, the other side of that coin is true for those who were encouraged to join after the announcement.

It’s nearly impossible to tell what Musk and the rest of Twitter’s leadership will do in the next six months after the deal is done. Hell, it is impossible to know what Twitter or Elon will do tomorrow.

Content Moderation is not Censorship

After talks about buying Twitter began, Musk tweeted this in hopes it would explain his stance on free speech,” when in reality, it poured gasoline onto the proverbial fire.

I feel that Eric Newcomer explained things much better in his piece, Why Are Reporters So Opposed to Free Speech”?.

Newcomer continues in his piece where he delves into the heart of his question and explains how reporters and journalists have disdain for Musk’s version of free speech.”

Newsrooms debate passionately about what stories deserve the highest billing on their homepage. But social media companies have just been distributing whatever superficially appeals to readers. The idea that social media sites take so little responsibility for the quality of content that’s being pushed to millions or billions of people is endlessly frustrating to journalists who spend far more time worrying about what they publish to their much smaller audiences.

I spend hours every week curating, researching, writing, editing, and fact-checking this newsletter I send once a week. I take it seriously because it is crucial that I get things right and have the knowledge and sources to back up my claims and takes.

When I stated that I hope Twitter keeps moderation on the platform, I didn’t mean that they should block and report anyone with differing opinions. On the contrary, nuance and discussions from different perspectives are essential — healthy even. What isn’t healthy are situations like misgendering someone just for the sake of hurting them, hateful comments against women a la Gamergate, antisemitic remarks, and pro-KKK positions — all of which are legal in the United States. It is one thing to have a meaningful discussion about something respectfully; it is another thing to have a superiority complex over someone because of their gender, race, or religion.

With that in mind, you’re damn right I don’t want Twitter to be filled with legal” content that includes fascist propaganda for Nazis, the KKK, trans hate, and other awful but lawful content.

I am staying on Twitter because I don’t think the platform is doomed because of Musk. That remains to be seen. I am staying here because this is my home online, and I will continue to treat it as such.

I am sure there will be more and more skepticism regarding this Twitter deal as things progress, but I feel that this will be my last piece directly about this Musk and Twitter deal, that is until something is put into motion.


April 27, 2022

The Reason CNN+ Failed

The average housefly can live for around 28 days, which means that there are literal bugs that will have outlived CNN+ as they close their streaming service on April 30th.

An Explanation of What Happened

Better journalists than me have explained what happened with CNN+, and I would much rather you learn the details from them.

Two come to mind after reading dozens of articles on the matter:

Alex Sherman, writing for CNBC, explained the timeline of CNN+ leading to its demise; it is worth your time to read in its entirety.

Chris Licht wasn’t supposed to start his new job as CNNs chief until May.

But on Thursday he found himself addressing about 400 full-time CNN+ staffers, some in person and some through a remote video feed… Licht told employees the project they’d been working on for the past six to nine months, the subscription streaming service CNN+, was ending April 30…He acknowledged that many would lose their jobs.

- Alex Sherman, CNBC

John Koblin wrote in his New York Times piece explaining the difficulty of launching CNN+ during a merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery. This merger could be part of the reason we learned about the measly 10,000 daily users I shared in my last issue of Clicked. That reason, allegedly, wasn’t because a disgruntled CNN employee leaked the numbers, but rather from Discovery executives trying to shut the service down through negative PR.

CNN executives were dismayed. And they grew suspicious of their new superiors from Discovery, believing they had leaked the data to create a pretext to shut down the service.

- John Koblin, The New York Times

This isn’t the whole story, there are still some underreported things missing here, the first being the other group that deserves the blame.

The McKinsey Problem

Sherman mentioned this firm in his explainer article, but McKinsey & Company deserves a fair share of the blame for CNN+ shutting down. Their track record should have been a dead giveaway.

For those unfamiliar with McKinsey, here’s a quick blurb about them from Wikipedia (sources are linked):

McKinsey has been either directly involved in, or closely associated with, a number of notable scandals, involving Enron in 2001, Galleon in 2009, Valeant in 2015, Saudi Arabia in 2018, China in 2018, ICE in 2019, an internal conflict of interest in 2019, and Purdue Pharma in 2019, among others.

One more thing you can now add to the list of others” is CNN+. It turns out that CNN hired McKinsey to consult on the service’s launch.

McKinsey essentially told CNN what they wanted to hear, claiming they would accrue 2 million US subscribers in the first year and 15-18 million after four years. CNN reportedly garnered just 150,000 subscribers in the first few weeks.

That said, it was only getting about 10,000 daily users. Something doesn’t add up here, and it is evident that McKinsey was not just off by a bit but utterly incorrect. The problem here is that McKinsey has already moved on to its next project without any consequences or repercussions coming to them.

One could argue that getting 150,000 subscribers in the first month is excellent. To that, I say if you compare it to HBO Max, which has over 75 million subscribers (including cable subscribers), CNN+ isn’t even worth Warner’s breath, and the Discovery execs knew it.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that CNN+ is officially shutting down this Saturday.

That’s where many people stopped reporting, but I think that the people directly affected by this decision deserve some light shed on them as well. Hundreds of people are now without a job because of a shitty consultant firm and bad decisions made by the executives upstairs.

The Fallout

CNN pulled the rug right out from under hundreds of workers, many of which joined after recruitment from CNN. They decided to overturn their lives and, for some, move across the country. All employees look like they will be getting 90 days’ pay as severance. From there, they have three months to figure out what is next within the company, or they must hit the road.

Some will be lucky and find employment within CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery, but not all. Journalists take risks every day, but I don’t think anyone who accepted a position at CNN+ would have foreseen just how fast things turned on its head.

The crew members that were hired to work in the new studios and the marketing team are all but surely out of a job, and there was no warning. In fact, Chris Licht, CNNs chief, was shaking hands with staffers just days before announcing they are no longer employed.

The Times is reporting that those who do not find a job within the company will be getting an additional six months of severance, which is a good start in my opinion.

If you think that 9 months of severance is worth a few weeks of work you clearly aren’t caught up on the difficulty of finding a place to live. Whether it is an apartment or a house you are going to have a hard time finding something within 6 months and you will most likely be paying more than you want. My heart goes out to those affected and if anyone finds a GoFundMe or something similar to help those affected I will happily donate to help them.


April 25, 2022

The Man Behind iBeer

Steve Sheraton went from making a silly video online where he was drinking a beer with his iPhone into a full-fledged app, which then became a breakout star when the App Store launched.

Quinn Myers writing for MEL Magazine:

Before the App Store was even a concept, Sheraton started selling the beer-drinking video file for $2.99. It was just a little video file that people had to hardwire in and download via iTunes,” he says. But I probably made around $2,000 a day for the longest time from that.”

By the time Apple came knocking, Sheraton knew he was onto something — he just needed to figure out how to code the video to Apple’s new device. I have a lot of experience in film and photography, and I wanted to make the beer look as realistic as possible,” he explains. So rather than doing animation, I chose to make assets from looped videos and image sequences — that’s why the foam looks so real.”

Sheraton then programmed the looped videos and image sequence to interact with the iPhone’s accelerometer. The accelerometer is constantly measuring the phone’s angle versus the horizon, so by tethering the line between the liquid and the foam to the horizon, you can move your phone in any direction and it looks like it’s filled with liquid,” he tells me. From there, the rest is just a series of if statements,’ so if the tilt of the phone goes beyond X,’ then the program should switch to different loops of foam and liquid that make it look like the phone is emptying.”

Sheraton called it iBeer, developed under the name of his company Hottrix, and priced it again at $2.99. We shot to first place [in the App Store] on the very first day and stayed there for about a year,” he says. Apart from its visual humor and sort of appealing to the lowest common denominator, iBeer was a large success because it allowed people to show their friends what the phone was capable of.

Without spoiling it, Myers goes more in-depth about what happens to Sheraton after iBeer’s success.

If you read the MEL article and find that interesting, Sheraton recently did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit where he talks more about iBeer’s success, what he is doing now, and his feelings on developing apps out today.