Now and then, I encourage a reader to ask for help in TidBITS Talk because I don’t know the answer to their question, and they express surprise that they’ve been reading TidBITS for years without ever checking out TidBITS Talk. It’s perhaps unsurprising—many people interact with TidBITS solely via email, where they wouldn’t see the TidBITS Talk-hosted article comments that follow each article on the Web. (That said, every article in the email issue does have a comment counter at the top so you can see the extent to which the article is being discussed.)
To give you an idea of the popularity of TidBITS Talk, it’s currently receiving about 1300 posts per month and garnering about 220,000 page views each month. That may sound overwhelming, but the Discourse software does a good job of showing logged-in users what’s new and relevant. Even still, the best bits are often individual posts hidden within larger threads, and two of those are what I want to share today.
TidBITS Memberships Help “Unlock the Commons”
Thanks to Eng Aun Chen on TidBITS Talk for linking to the insightful essay “Unlocking the Commons” by Tim Carmody at Neiman Lab. In it, he points out that some sites fund themselves much like we do with TidBITS memberships, where donations are voluntary and enable TidBITS to remain free for everyone. But why do people contribute under such a model? He writes:
Fans support the person and the work. But it’s not a transaction, a fee for service. It’s a contribution that benefits everyone. Free-riders aren’t just welcome; free-riding is the point. This, I think, is key to understanding the psychology of patronage….
I don’t just want my money to buy an object; I want it to support institutions and individuals I like, and I want it to support the common good….
This is one of the weird things about patronage. As a consumer, your first thought is to your own benefit. As a patron, it’s to the good of your beneficiary. Likewise, as an artisan supported by patronage, you tend to think more about what’s best for your patrons and audience than you do yourself.
Well put, and Carmody’s pull quote nicely sums up the underlying motivation that I hear from many TidBITS members:
The most powerful and interesting media model will remain raising money from members who don’t just permit but insist that the product be given away for free.
Gmail iOS App Supports Non-Gmail Accounts
In the “I Didn’t Know That!” category for the week, Doug Miller mentioned on TidBITS Talk that the Gmail iOS app now supports non-Gmail email accounts. I’ve tried a bunch of email apps on the iPhone over the years, but none have stuck for me other than Gmail. I don’t like waiting for email to load in Apple’s Mail, it was too easy to mark messages as read in Spark (so I wouldn’t see them on my Mac later), and all the other email apps I’ve tried have suffered from one problem or another.
I don’t personally have any use for this feature since I forward mail from all my extra accounts to my main Gmail account, but many people do need to check multiple accounts and might prefer to do that in the Gmail app. The process turned out to be easy, with a few caveats.
- Whenever I use an iCloud account for email, I prefer the mac.com domain variant. However, both that and the me.com domains threw a “Couldn’t open connection server” error, whereas icloud.com worked.
- When I tried to set up an iCloud account, the Gmail app required that I create an app-specific password for it. It links you to the Apple ID site, and the process isn’t difficult, but it’s a somewhat fussy extra step.
Here’s what the process looks like—click the screenshots to expand them.
In very limited testing, it seems as though everything I’m accustomed to in the Gmail app works with an iCloud account much as it does with Gmail, with several exceptions:
- Since we’re talking about IMAP here, you won’t have the instantaneous sync of a Gmail account. The default sync frequency is 15 minutes and is configurable for longer times. You can always use pull-to-refresh when you’re at the top of a mailbox list to load new messages.
- Note that the Gmail app stores only a user-defined range of email from 1 to 90 days (the default is 30). Older messages won’t appear when you’re browsing, but searches occur on the server and do find messages that aren’t stored locally.