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Josh Centers: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Many years ago, I was working a fairly normal, boring desk job with a long, stressful commute, and one of the ways I stayed sane was by listening to tech podcasts. I’d listen to TWiT, John Gruber’s The Talk Show, Mac Power Users, and all of that. On work breaks, I’d catch up on the latest tech news, especially whatever was coming out of Apple.

I developed a distant dream of becoming one of those Apple media people. Being published in Macworld magazine. Making the front page of Daring Fireball. Being interviewed on Mac Power Users. Maybe even publishing a book.

One day, I was leaving work with a deep sense of despair. I had been promoted to an accounting job for which I was not qualified, and it was a total disaster. I had a long-term relationship that had been slowly decaying, and I had just met a new woman, Hannah. I had no idea where my life was going or what to do. As I pulled up to a stop light, I looked down and asked for a sign. Then I looked up and saw a pickup truck emblazoned with “Hannah: Making Your Dreams a Reality.” I took a picture because I figured no one would ever believe me. Even with the picture, they still don’t!

Hannah truck

As comedian Bill Engvall says: “Here’s your sign.” We were married within a year.

In my spare time, I started a little blog and became an Apple blogger without really intending to. It’s just what I was driven by and was thus compelled to write about. Glenn Fleishman noticed one of my posts (see “What’s Behind Mysterious Cellular Data Usage in iOS 6?,” 29 September 2012), which led to being invited to contribute to TidBITS. My first TidBITS article was “Apple TV Update 5.1.1 May Fail over Ethernet” (2 December 2012), and amazingly, I still refer to it from time to time because Apple never seems to test Apple TV Ethernet features as much as Wi-Fi.

After I contributed enough articles, Adam and Tonya brought me on as TidBITS Managing Editor (see “Please Welcome Josh Centers as Our New Managing Editor,” 6 May 2013). Following that, I released my first book, Take Control of Apple TV, which I just updated (see “Take Control of Apple TV” Streaming in TidBITS,” 4 November 2013), and I made the front page of Daring Fireball (the first of several times). I contributed to Macworld twice just before the print edition was shuttered, and I moderated a panel of distinguished guests at what was to be the very last Macworld Expo (“Impressions of a Macworld Newbie… 2014 Edition,” 9 April 2014). A few years after meeting David Sparks at Macworld, I was invited to be a guest on Mac Power Users.

During that time, Hannah and I had three kids: Harris in 2013 (see “Canon EOS M Combines Quality and Simplicity at a Low Price,” 23 August 2013), Stone in 2018 (see “TidBITS 2018 Holiday Hiatus: Rest, Recover, and Recharge,” 17 December 2018), and Betsy in 2021 (see “No Email Issue on 21 June 2021 for New Staff Onboarding,” 14 June 2021).

Stone, Betsy, and Harris in their Halloween costumes

The pickup truck prophecy had proven true. My dreams had become reality. I had done everything I had ever set out to do, leading me to wonder, “Now what?” I had no more worlds to conquer. But I do have a family to feed.

Thanks to Adam’s flexibility, I’ve had opportunities to dabble in many side projects. I trained to be a blacksmith, which, it turns out, isn’t a growth industry (but is nice to have in my back pocket in case industrial civilization collapses). I’ve long been interested in preparedness and survival, so Jon Stokes invited me to become an editor at The Prepared. I did that for a couple of years and then launched my own Substack, Unprepared, which has been insanely fun—and sometimes just insane. I also created Apple Buying Advice (see “New “Apple Buying Advice” Website by Josh Centers,” 21 February 2022), which I desperately need to update. Beyond the kids, I’ve also ended up with a small farm to run. As Adam would say, I’m juggling a lot of cats.

I’m approaching 40, so I’m due for a midlife crisis. But instead of carrying on with a woman half my age and buying a tiny sports car, I’ve been deeply examining myself and my life. How do I want the rest of my life to look? What motivates me? What inspires me? What do I truly believe?

One thing I realized is that when I first became obsessed with the Apple space, it wasn’t Apple itself I found compelling, it was the community around Apple and all the people who were building great things in Apple’s playground. Developers like AgileBits, Bare Bones Software, Marco Arment, the Omni Group, Pixelmator, Rogue Amoeba, Smile (now TextExpander)—and so many others I don’t have room to mention here—are what made the Apple space special for me.

I’ve long admired TextExpander, both as a productivity tool and as a company. They’ve sponsored TidBITS for many years, and not once have they asked about conversion rates because their marketing team is smart enough to understand that effective brand marketing is a long game. If you’ve consumed any Apple-related media, you’ve heard of TextExpander, and it’s likely the first tool you think of when you think about text expansion.

When Apple first announced its own built-in text expansion feature, I thought, “Oh no, Smile is in trouble. TextExpander is about to be Sherlocked.” But that didn’t happen. Instead, the company continued to grow and was confident enough to pivot to an exclusive focus on TextExpander, recently accepting $41.4 million in funding through Summit Partners. Most every other tech company is slowing down and freezing hiring—even Apple. The fact that TextExpander is growing and hiring in uncertain economic conditions is a testament to the strong business that Philip Goward and Greg Scown have built from what seemed like a simple utility.

After seeing that TextExpander had raised that funding, I started keeping an eye on their job openings because it looked like they were about to grow in a big way. I saw an opening for a Business Journalist position, and on a whim—and with Adam’s blessing—I reached out to TextExpander to ask about it. Within a week, I had an interview, completed a test project, conducted a final interview, and had an offer. My mind is still reeling from how quickly it happened.

So the 14 November 2022 issue will be my last as the managing editor of TidBITS. I’m going to take a little time to tend to the farm and projects I’ve been putting off, like updates to books and Apple Buying Advice. Then, on 28 November 2022, I will become TextExpander’s Business Journalist, where, among other projects, I’ll be responsible for the content on the TextExpander blog.

One of the things that attracted me to the position is that TextExpander wants to publish quality content and not run yet another low-quality SEO mill. I’ll be leveraging my years of experience with TidBITS and Take Control to produce in-depth how-to content for TextExpander, and I hope to make the blog a destination that readers actively want to read.

While I’m excited to start this new chapter of my career, this moment is bittersweet. Hannah was in tears the other day when the reality set in because TidBITS has been a cornerstone of our lives for the entire ten years of our marriage. But I won’t completely disappear: I’ll still hang out on the public SlackBITS, I’ll still be reachable at my TidBITS email address, and I’ll continue to participate in TidBITS Talk. Plus, I’m sure I’ll be unable to resist contributing an article here and there.

Thanks to TextExpander for their vote of confidence in me and this new opportunity. Thanks to Adam and everyone at TidBITS for taking a chance on me and keeping me around for so many years. And thanks to you, the TidBITS readers who have read and supported my work all these years.

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Comments About Josh Centers: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Notable Replies

  1. Allow me to be the first to wish Josh all the best at TextExpander. He has done excellent work here at TidBITS, and this is a great opportunity for him to move on and do something new. We’ll certainly miss him, but it’s also a chance for me to rethink the direction I want to take TidBITS going forward.

  2. I’m a little teary, too, Josh! I remember being excited when I found your work a decade (!!) ago because of the rigorous way you were trying to approach topics that people are often squishy and imprecise around. I will also count as a significant moment in my life that I was able to connect you to TidBITS at the right time, and have you write a wee bit for The Magazine. As someone we both know said, don’t hide your light under a bushel. I’m so excited for this next move for you all, and I will miss your presence deeply over here in the content mines.

  3. Thanks for all the great work, Josh!

  4. Funny, he doesn’t look like a sea-dwelling mammal… ;~}

    Good luck!

  5. I have thoroughly enjoyed your contributions to TidBITS over the years. Best of times with your new endeavors!

  6. All the best to you, @jcenters. I’ve always enjoyed reading your articles and following your insightful remarks here. Here’s hoping for the very best in your next endeavor. Don’t become a stranger. :slight_smile: :+1:

  7. Josh, you are simply the very best of the very best. Your excellent articles and analysis will certainly be missed.

    Cent Anny
    L’Chiam
    Buena Suerte
    Meilleurs voeux
    Complimente
    Rath orbh
    Alles Liebe
    Cofion gorau

    And I’m looking forward to your contributions to this list!

  8. Thank you. You’ve always been very kind to me.

  9. Wish you the best, Josh!

    Great fun story of life’s twists and turns and I hope you’ll keep us appraised of your further adventures.

  10. Congratulations on making this decision to make a change in your work life. Hopefully everything will work out as you hope.
    The title of your article made me smile as I used to say to my students at the end of their senior year, So long and Thanks for The Fish. Thanks for the Douglas Adams reference :+1::+1:

  11. Josh, good man, great to hear you are keeping things fresh and moving. All good and it’s not as if we are losing you!

  12. Dear Mr. Centers,

    You took a photo while driving? What kind of leadership example is that? Hasn’t there been enough news, messages, signs, warnings about in-hand phone use while driving?

    Congratulations on expanding your horizons and redirecting your life’s desires. Good luck with the future work on TextExpander and everything else. As others have said, I’m looking forward to future articles as they come.

    Good choice on avoiding the beautiful cars and fast women (see if you can remember that commercial).

    What fish? I never sent any fish. Did I miss something?

    I know about Douglas Adams, so no need to respond to the final comment.

  13. Congratulations, @jcenters! And thank you very, very much for being such a key part of TidBITS for over a decade, and for the news, wisdom and valuable information you gave us

    Your story is remarkable and inspiring, and I wish you and Hannah and the family joy and happiness, and you great success at TextExpander. They are fortunate to have you on their team!

  14. Josh, There isn’t anything I can say differently than those have said before me. I’ll just say “Thank You!”. My best wishes for success in the new chapter of your life. I’ve been a “Mac person” since 1988 when I purchased a Macintosh SE and sent it along with my daughter to college. I learned a lot the first year she was there and even helped her find her way around the Mac. The second Mac in the house was for our son (it was a Macintosh Plus). I didn’t get my own until later and it was the first of many (my latest is a Mac Mini). I have enjoyed keeping up-to-date technology wise thru TidBits as I’m retired and am now 78. Again, best wishes to you (and your farm). Al Porter

  15. You’ve done great work here at TidBITS, Josh. You’ve become so integral to its operation that I’m going to observe what Adam does from this point with great interest. At any rate, best of luck in your new endeavors!

  16. Good luck and God bless, Josh. Thanks for all you’ve done. I hope you enjoy your time with TextExpander.

  17. So … is destruction of the planet by the Vogons imminent?
    Thank you for your contribution to Apple knowledge and best wishes for your new career.

  18. Josh, thanks so much for the tremendous contribution you have made in untangling the knots that blight so many corners of the Apple computing universe. Do universes have corners - crikey, that’s one for Douglas…

    All the best for your new adventure!

  19. I am glad to hear you are going to TextExpander! They have sponsored my podcast for over 3 years and I love telling my listeners that I use TE everyday.

  20. Hey Josh, Best wishes to you.

  21. Sad, but since I love TextExpander I look forward to reading your contributions there.

  22. From the article: “As I pulled up to a stop light, I looked down and asked for a sign. Then I looked up and saw a pickup truck…” So, not driving. :slight_smile:

  23. I know we didn’t work together often, but I always enjoyed the process and I look forward to seeing what you get up to at TextExpander.

    Gentle Readers, if I recall correctly Josh & Hannah’s first date included a visit to a music store where they checked out guitars, basses, and other sundry tools of saving, corrupting, or at least redirecting souls. Sure sign of quality people. :wink:

  24. Merci & bon chance, Josh, from a german living in France!

  25. Thank you Josh for all your excellent work. I look forward to more articles from you and wish you the very best in your new endeavor! Blessings for you, Hannah and those wonderful children!

  26. As The Cat might say, “Aww, that’s too bad! I really liked him!”

    Good luck on your travels.

  27. Josh, best of luck! And Adam, gonna be some tall waders to fill (speaking of fish).

  28. Ahhh. well done following your bliss. Happy Trails. Mike

  29. Josh, all the best to you - I have to say I was a bit bewildered when reading the headline, but what a journey you have had - and you have become such a fixture here! I have enjoyed reading your articles and discussion in TidBITS-Talk. Look forward to seeing you around!

  30. All the best, @jcenters ! Your goodbye article headline was the exact subject line of my mass email to my soon-to-be former work colleagues many years ago. :slight_smile:

  31. Congratulations, Josh! I look forward to following you in your new role. Best of success to you!

  32. Best of luck with your new gig, Josh. It sounds like a great opportunity.

    Blacksmithing may not be a growth industry, but there’s definitely a market with certain woodworkers. Why You Should Work With a Blacksmith – Lost Art Press. If your new job gives you time for some smithing projects I’m sure you can find interested customers!

  33. Josh. I’ve long admired your clear, painstaking, analytical approach to every subject you write about. You and TidBITS were made for each other. Thanks for the fish, and other creatures. All the best for the future. Kevan

  34. You’re a gem, buddy. Love your journey. I echo it. Looking forward to hearing more as time passes. :purple_heart:

  35. Thanks for all your contributions to TidBITS. I wish you great success at TextExpander!

  36. I love Lost Art Press! I first heard about Christopher Schwarz by seeing him on The Woodwright Shop, and that’s also how I first became interested in blacksmithing. My original aim was to be able to make manual woodworking tools. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  37. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the synchronicity. I was lucky enough go to Covington to take Chris’ chair-making class in September. It was a life-changing experience. I never imagined I’d be able to actually make a chair. If you ever decide to make an Avery/Sawyer-style inshave (https://www.lucianaveryblacksmith.com/product-page/inshave), be sure to let me know. They’re hard to get.

  38. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to add RSS to the TextExpander blog!

    Congratulations on your new job, and the best of luck in the future.

  39. I don’t think that would be hard, simply because I could take a common drawknife and beat it into a “U.” The trick would be maintaining the temper. Might have to quench in oil instead of water.

    Looks like they have one, they just need a button for it: TextExpander

  40. Thank you for your great and useful work with TidBITs, @jcenters Josh! Your insights have helped me through a couple of MacJams and (more importantly) kept me out of a couple as well.

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