Daniel Eran Dilger
Random header image... Refresh for more!

John Gruber gets a little too daring with his fireballs

Daniel Eran Dilger

I like to skewer pundits who deliver arguments that are factually wrong, only present part of the whole story, and invent things under the premise of having “sources.” That leaves me open to the same kinds of criticism. But if you’re going to attack my work, get the facts right, tell the entire story, and don’t assail sources that you don’t know anything about as being nonexistent and fraudulently invented when you really know that’s not the case at all.

Considering Sources

In the last couple weeks, John Gruber of the Daring Fireball has explicitly stated that my reporting was “flat out wrong” or based on sources that I had fraudulently invented. Both of these accusations were not just incorrect, but actually purposely misstated the facts in order to falsely undermine my credibility.

The first targeted a report for AI detailing the multitasking user interface in iPhone 4.0 shortly before it was officially unveiled.

AppleInsider | Apple’s iPhone 4.0 to support multitasking via Expose-like interface
Daring Fireball: Why Does AppleInsider Make It So Easy for Me?

Gruber knows that Apple’s original user interface design for iPhone 4.0 multitasking was originally more like Exposé than the task switcher design the company ultimately unveiled. So when we reported that sources had described the new system as similar to an element on Mac OS X, and specifically that it would resemble Apple’s Exposé feature, he knew that was accurate, if outdated, information from a source familiar with Apple’s plans.

In attacking the advanced report AI filed however, what Gruber purposely omitted what the fact that we specifically stated “the new mechanism [for presenting background apps] currently presents just each app’s icon. This renders the feature more similar to the basic Command+Tab app switcher than Expose itself as a desktop feature,” an explanation which was correct because the final implementation is indeed very much like the Mac OS X app switcher.

The sources we communicated with were tainted by their exposure to the previous implementation which more closely resembled Exposé, so they continued to describe the interface using that brand name rather than say, Dashboard, which is more likely what a pristine mind who saw the user interface for the first time ever might describe it as. But regardless of the label the source used, the information describing the interface was correct as it was presented in the report.

For this reason, Gruber had to go out of his way to gerrymander select portions of the article that fit his conclusion that “where by [sources] ‘familiar with the design’, they meant ‘making shit up’, unless by ‘Exposé-like’, they meant ‘not at all like Exposé’. [sic incorrect use of quotations]”

Gruber was not only wrong in saying we made the information up ourselves, but he knew he was wrong and he knew he was not accurately nor honestly presenting what AI had actually reported. That’s far worse than “making shit up.”

In fact, that’s a lot more like Wired interviewing sources, then ignoring what they said and just presenting their own opinions and attributing them to other people. In other words, completely fraudulent journalism hypocritically masquerading as insightful critique. That’s the worst thing a journalist can do, because it undermines that person’s credibility as a legitimate source of information.

Japanese “hate” for iPhone all a big mistake

Microsoft’s Vapor & Android’s TasKiller

A second critique, included in Gruber’s original piece on multitasking in iPhone 4.0, opened with a paragraph from a second article I wrote for AI which related Apple’s motivations for iPhone 4.0 SDK restrictions with the unique features of the API Apple was working to push, specifically its new multitasking APIs.

AppleInsider | Apple’s prohibition of Flash-built apps in iPhone 4.0 related to multitasking
Daring Fireball: ★ Mobile Multitasking

In my article, I characterized mobile multitasking on other platforms as “simply allowing any number of apps to run,” necessitating manual intervention by users to kill offending background tasks that were unnecessary or undesirable. I specifically stated that Android and Windows Mobile were “notorious for needing TasKiller or some other sort of manual process manager to keep battery life and performance in check.”

Gruber said this may apply to Windows Mobile, but that it didn’t matter because Microsoft was abandoning its existing mobile platform for the new Windows Phone 7. But wait, that’s vaporware that won’t congeal until the end of the year at best. And Microsoft can’t simply throw away WiMo 6.x because that’s what its enterprise customers use for their dwindling bunch of custom mobile apps that won’t ever run on new WP7 devices. That’s why the company is now euphemistically referring to WiMo 6 as “Windows Mobile Classic.”

Microsoft is actually going to be selling both for some time, just like it struggled to sell Vista while it kept licensing XP. Sure, it’s fun to talk about WiMo in the past tense, but no matter how pathetic WiMo has become, it’s still larger than Android, something Android fans don’t often like to acknowledge.

In blowing off the importance of Windows Mobile’s current architectural problems as irrelevant and inconsequential because he’s not personally interested in the platform, Gruber indicates that he prefers to live in Paul Thurrott’s Vaporware Land, where only Microsoft’s announced plans of one or two years hence can be compared to Apple’s actually shipping products. This is, as Gruber himself might say, an {expletive profanity}.

But now on to Android: Gruber wrote that I was “flat out wrong about Android,” and since all I said about Android in this context was that it was “notorious for needing TasKiller,” I can only assume that’s what he thought was in error. But that is not wrong at all.

“In both iPhone OS 4 and Android,” Gruber wrote, “users should never need to quit apps manually.” That may well be the case in the World of Ideological Purity, but there’s a reason why, as Gruber admits in the next sentence, “there are task manager apps in the Android Market.”

In fact, there are likely more task managers for Android than there are significant games or other non-hobbyist apps. And anyone who has ever perused an Android forum of any kind knows that the top recommended app is TasKiller, not just in the category of utilities for killing background tasks, but across the board. It’s the number one app.

Android users recommend installing TasKiller in the same well meaning way that old Mac users recommend fixing file permissions. Except that installing TasKiller and using it to kill off offending background processes actually makes a big difference in usability to many Android users, which is why it is so popular and so widely recommended.

Even so, Gruber insists, “the Android system doesn’t come with one [a task manager app] and doesn’t need one. And I strongly suspect that Google’s Android team is annoyed that these task manager apps are in the market, because their existence creates the impression that they’re necessary or useful. I’ve spent a few weeks on a Nexus One, and background apps don’t slow the system down and don’t need to be quit manually.”

One thing to remember is that the Nexus One is Android’s latest, fastest and most luxuriously RAM equipped phone. Gruber knows that RAM plays a huge part in making background processes feasible on a mobile operating system, so surely he should be able to deduce that his experiences with the Nexus One, which ships with a whopping 512MB of RAM (twice as much as the iPhone 3GS) are not representative of Android users in general.

Most Android phones have between 192MB (the original G1) and 256MB (Motorola Droid) or 288MB (HTC Hero). Gruber is basing his observations on how Android works using a model that is not characteristic of the majority of Android phones in the installed user base.

He’s also ignoring vast, well documented reports of actual Android users who are clamoring for a way to make their phones work decently, and who are subsequently finding apps like TasKiller essential in making Android’s implementation of multitasking functional on phones with relatively limited RAM.

Note that Apple’s solution to this problem is simply to not offer multitasking as a feature for users with phones that lack at least 256MB of RAM. One can credibly criticize Apple’s position and say that the company should just install a TasKiller-style manual process manager and let first generation and iPhone 3G users struggle to make multitasking work just like Window Mobile and Android have for the last few years, but that isn’t the Apple Way.

But calling me out as being “flat out wrong” for saying what is actually the case, while pontificating about how things should ideally be based on a fantasy world where all Android users have the expensive hardware they don’t actually have is just more bad journalism.

Gruber presents lots of interesting web links and many of his own insightful and original thoughts on a variety of subjects in his blog. Let’s hope for more of that and less desperate and outright misleading personal attacks where none are warranted.

  • http://mrturtle.com mrturtle

    It sure seemed to me he was less than charitable. Interesting that today he quotes someone who notes that task managers on Android _are_ needed.

  • RidleyGriff

    Love reading both of you guys, Daniel, and I definitely agree that his blog calling out AI like that seemed very, very odd. Gruber would do well by posting a retraction / apology.

  • Sqe

    Gruber began disagreeing with you when you said Apple was fair how they treated iPhone developers. That was the beginning of all the personal attacks. With things like ‘such bullshit it hurts my head’. And ignoring your request to link the rightful original article (from you). And now he is twisting facts to make you look bad. What a douche!

    Dilger on the other hand is a good journalist/blogger. He keeps it professional by not giving personal attacks out of the blue and correcting Grubers wrong accusations.

  • ArtDecoDalek

    I read Gruber’s blog a couple times. One of the things I read, he was ranting about how Apple Mail handles threading and quotes, and kept talking about the “right way” to quote original messages in replies and such. I went to leave a comment pointing out that he was stating his opinion as if it were some universal truth, and then realized, “oh, he doesn’t allow comments. Hmm.” Which led me to realize how pretentious the name “Daring Fireball” is, especially when he’s not Daring enough to allow comments.

  • Josh

    It seems to me that you are correct on the second point and overreacting a bit on the first. Despite the sources, I don’t see how iPhone 4.0 multitasking is at all like Expose or any other user-based switcher. On the iPhone, the user is not in control of the task switching at all, aside from pressing the home button. And when applications are suspended, only a limited amount of background tasks are available: audio, VOIP, and GPS. There really is no good comparison with any aspect of Mac OS X. What you were describing was closer to Android’s multitasking system than the one Apple ultimately implemented. So you and Prince were both wrong about this, even if Gruber was being a dick about it.

    On the second point, it looks like Gruber has grudgingly acknowledged that Android does, in fact, require a task manager due to some unruly apps.

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    Was wondering if you’d fire back on this one. Nice rebuttal.

    At least you share political outlooks, so there’s that. ;)

  • stefn

    Grubber grubbing, clearly.

  • Per

    Well I don’t like seeing you two fighting. Go back to your normal duties of making fun of Enderle and Thurrot, the both of you.

  • iLogic

    So that’s what happens when you buy an Android phone? You remove the packaging, you turn it on, and you install a system utility? Sounds a lot like a PC buyer.

  • cairnwalker

    “In other words, completely fraudulent journalism hypocritically masquerading as insightful critique. That’s the worst thing a journalist can do, because it undermines that person’s credibility as a legitimate source of information.”

    Man, I just love it when my two favorite liberalista Apple tech writers start bitch-slapping each other in public, claiming journalistic integrity. (all the while basking in the reflected glory of MSNBC-style objectivity.)

    Keep it up, both of you. You are the best at what you do, really. I read both of you regularly, and flush your political waste right down the toilet.

  • ChuckO

    Yea, He owes you an apology. I emailed him about the task killer entry after he blogged the update (sort of) admitting he was wrong and not giving you an apology.

    Your dead on about his blog. He posts some interesting stuff but it’s hard to enjoy a lot of it because he such an enormous dicknose (to quote himself) and twerp. He clearly has an axe to grind with you and AppleInsider.

  • cxc

    Whoa, touchy touchy. Take a chill pill, Mr. D… Gruber may be a jerk but he isn’t the enemy.

    One careless, off-the-cuff insult doesn’t warrant such a long and whiny response. You could learn a thing from Gruber’s brevity (and thick skin), just like he could from your thoroughness.

  • ChuckO

    I also should have said “Nice Job, Dan. Like shooting fish in a barrel!”.

  • Mark Hernandez

    I hate it when my two dads fight. I love both you guys. Is it my fault?

  • ChuckO

    @cxc 12, Your wrong. Gruber makes a point of taking potshots at Dan and AppleInsider.

  • Extensor

    Grub grub grubbity grub. He needs to apologize.

  • okli

    Hallo… Is it still about multitasking or about multitrashing???
    Criticism works only if you can dairing some your self…
    that help you realize your mistakes …
    and make you stronger for the future…
    may be non of them… who cares ?
    but its better then both of them
    its their Apple evolution

  • jpmrb

    Like i guess most here, i love you two guys, so don’t hurt each other too bad! There is something though that i’d like to mention: what the f*#k is wrong with the spelling in many comments? “it’s” for “its”—and the other way around— “your” for “you’re” (Yuck!), aso, various deranged orthographies, i end up each time having to take a walk just to chill out. A lot of people say that “the content is more important than the form”—sure, but it does not absolve us of sloppiness in the way we present ourselves: ask apple! (And now that everybody hates me…)

  • http://lantinian.blogspot.com lantinian

    Hey Dan, I really though for a second that Gruber had you pinned there, but you walked out like a PRO. With solid facts.
    You could even further your argument about the RAM and compare not total RAM but actual available RAM. Since the OS itself is loaded into the RAM increasing the it from 256MB to 512MB does not just double the free memory.

    My Original iPhone has 128MB RAM but only 45MB free at best. Which means that the OS takes 83MB. The iPhone 3GS OS probably takes 90MB because of the extra features running but that still leaves 166MB free RAM which is almost 4 Times as much as the iPhone 2G or 3G.

    If someone has info on how much RAM Android 2.1 takes?

  • http://lantinian.blogspot.com lantinian

    BTW, this is the best piece I have read on iPhone OS4 vs Android multitasking. Very informative, very neutral in tone and fully supportive of Dan’s arguments ;)


  • http://www.computingnotes.com/ David Chin
  • jomi

    Hi Daniel,

    please don’t waste your time writing angry retorts to John Gruber. He’s one of the good guys and I like reading both of your blogs, so please go back to writing about tech (or politics ;) although some people may not like that…)

    “Gruber knows that Apple’s original user interface design for iPhone 4.0 multitasking was originally more like Exposé than the task switcher design the company ultimately unveiled.”

    Do you have any proof for that?

    [Yes I do]

    Regarding Android: According to all the technical stuff I’ve read comparing multitasking on iPhone OS 4.0 to multitasking on Android (including the piece lantinian linked to in comment#20), Android shouldn’t need a task manager, either. However, in a linked item John later admitted that Android needs a task manager under certain circumstances.

    Finally, let me say that you do have a habit of insulting people. Therefore it looks a bit strange when you react that harsh to criticism yourself…

    [I welcome criticism. What I have a problem with is falsely being accused of things when the accuser knows that isn’t the case. Gruber can pit his opinions against mine any day, and can call me out for mistakes. But when he portrays me as a liar and sets up a series of “why do they make it so easy / fish in a barrel” complaints that have no merit, I have a problem with that because lots of people believe what he says without thinking.]

    The hidden irony of course is, that it looks like Apple will include a simple task manager in iPhone OS 4.0 according to this article:
    (includes this screenshot: http://www.ilounge.com/assets/images/articles_iphone40apps/3a.jpg )

    I do applaude them for that, because it is a simple, very useful and very obvious implementation!

    [That’s not a task manager, it’s a way to quit apps (because the old way to quit apps isn’t there anymore). The main problem on Android is that you have background Services that can stick around indefinitely with a call open to a server, which leaves your 3G or WiFi on until the battery drains. Apple designed apps to work in the background differently, so there are no background Services like Android. – Dan ]

    Lastly, Daniel, I would love to read an article from you about Palm being up for sale. I could certainly think of some reasons why Apple could have an interest in buying Palm (mostly IP and people). What do you think about that?

    [I have very low optimism for Palm. Look at NeXT+Apple in 1996: you had the ideal buyer and the ideal seller, and it still took half a decade to get that together. Palm’s circumstances aren’t the same, an you could say that Palm is a lot like NeXT, but where’s the ideal buyer? All I see is a lot of sort of interested companies that would probably end up doing to Palm what Palm did to Be Inc: put its IP in a drawer and continue to fail. Same thing that would have happened if Sun or IBM had bought Apple in the mid 90s.]

  • mark

    get a room you guys!

  • G4Dualie

    Fireballs and Frostballs,
    colliding over the air,
    gets everyone wet.

  • John

    I read Direball too. But his occasional use of expletives and a slight whiff of arrogance mean that I prefer Dan’s commentary.

  • ChuckO

    Dan and Gruber are doing different things. Dan is far more detailed about the history of Apple and the WHY of Apple’s strategy and Gruber’s WAY more about the politics of Apple and the politics of making himself queen of the Apple centric blogs.

    There’s a lot to like about Daring Fireball but I personally find it hard to appreciate a lot of the time because Gruber’s giant ego looms over it blocking out all the light.

  • ChuckO

    John 25, almost put it perfectly except there’s more than a whiff of arrogance it more like a pervasive stink. IM(notso)HO.

  • jfatz

    – Do you have any proof for that?

    – [Yes I do]

    I don’t know if this is a “not wanting to reveal sources” matter, but it comes across as simply he-said-she-said declarative statements to the rest of us, with no way to judge and no context to pull from.

  • Per

    Dan, have you been talking trash about Stanley Kubrick? We all know Gruber’s sensitive about his favorite director.

  • nougat

    Hi Y’all, this might be a good time to mention I’m selling daring anus (asterisk) t-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, ipad sleaves, and embossed leather snap on s&m wrist thangs on café press.

  • addicted44

    C’mon, admit it Dan. We all know how you and Gruber are drinking beers together laughing at how many hits your little war is driving towards each other. :-)

    On a more serious note, When Gruber posted that first item regd. the Expose thing, I immediately sent him an email, pointing out that he had missed how you guys had stated that the iPhone version would only have icons… Also, I think you are not giving your sources enough credit by calling them out of date. Lets not forget that the folders implementation is exactly what you guys described. Expose with icons. Maybe they were looking at folders and thought it was the multitasking UI.

    Also, I was inclined to believe Gruber regarding the multitasking, and just figured you had jumped the gun a little bit. However, he himself posted a link describing exactly what you were emphasizing, i.e. how unusable most Android phones (including the Nexus One, actually, if you run certain apps) are without Task Killer. Additionally, you are right in that Android lets any app run willy-nilly in the background. The major difference it seems (and I may be wrong here, since I am going by some 3rd party sources, viz the one linked by Gruber) is that Android kills the main app, but allows a service app to continue running. iPhone OS 4.0 wont even allow this, unless the app is calling the predefined services, like Music or GPS.

    I second @Per. Did you accidentally let it slip that 2001 A Space Odyssey, while a technical marvel, was quite boring, while Gruber was around? He really seems to hate you nowadays!

  • addicted44

    @Josh, #5, Prince McLean is Dan’s pseudonym out on AI. i.e. Prince McLean = Daniel Eran Dilger. When Dan initially started writing at AI, a lot of his haters gave him a lot of crap for this, but I never saw what was wrong with that. I guess they never realized that even Mark Twain, wasn’t really Mark Twain, but rather Samuel Longhorne Clemens… I just saw it as a way for Dan to distinguish between his personal self (i.e. as represented on this personal blog of his) and his professional self (as represented on AI, where he presumably gets compensated for his services).

    When Dan says “we”, here, I believe he is talking about Kasper Jade (which also sounds like a pseudonym, but I dont know) and himself.

  • addicted44

    Also, lets read the first paragraph you guys posted under the subheading “Iconic Expose”

    “Those familiar with the design of iPhone 4.0 said that the user interface will resemble Apple’s desktop Expose feature, in that a key combination — reportedly hitting the Home button twice — will trigger an expose-like interface that brings up a series of icons representing the currently running apps, allowing users to quickly select the one they want to switch to directly. When a selection is made, the iPhone OS zooms out of the Expose task manager and transitions to that app.”

    I cannot actually think of a better way to describe Apple’s implementation (outside of maybe not using the word expose, but you clarify in the next paragraph that it wont be like Expose on the mac).

  • ChuckO

    I thought the same thing when Gruber posted the put down of Prince and Kasper’s Expose on the iPhone story. The description sounded close enough to what was delivered to me. That’s what’s pathetic about these Gruber posts they’re just plain mean spirited and petty.

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    I just noticed DF now has “Insightful and not negative” as the site’s subtitle. Let me kick off suggestions for a RD response: “Eyes Wide Shut stunk like a house built from chicken crap stuffed with dead dogs”

    Too long/soon?

  • gus2000

    I like DF, but view only occasionally. For Apple-related snark, I’m more a fan of the Macalope (after RDM, of course).

  • ChuckO

    Hmmm, DF’s sponsor today is…ADOBE!

  • PhilipWing

    One way to avoid using a Task Manager on a WiMo 6.x phone is to just turn off and turn back on the phone… :) One of my coworkers had to do that while using one of our misbehaving internal apps. When they work, they can be powerful tools, but they are like Apple’s old handheld registers. At least our stock is up significantly from the April 1st IPO (yes, that’s real, guys… :) )

  • Hypothesard

    Grubber is more of an relay/proxy for other people’s educated opinions, while Dan is educated (History and technicalities beyond CSS/HTML) and has It’s own opinions and is able to think and explain even behaviours he doesn’t agree with.

  • aftershave

    Team Dilger!

    Gruber is being kind of a dick as of late. Steve Jobs mentioning his blog in the developer email has inflated his ego even more. The personal attacks against AI and RDM make him look really petty.

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Neil Anderson

    Whoa, sounds like Gruber’s got a grub stuck somewhere.

  • http://joemacstevens.com phogasmic

    I hate when you guys fight.

  • gslusher


    When one rants about other people’s spelling and/or grammar, one should make absolutely certain that one has not committed such “sins” oneself. I found what I think are ten spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation or usage errors in your short message. There may be more. I may be in error on one or two, but some are egregious. (I do not claim to be an expert. My degrees are all in mechanical engineering, not English.)

  • airmanchairman

    I love you all (DED+DF+Macalope) because, emotion aside, you keep each other to the highest journalistic standards in the manner of Solomon’s Proverb: “as iron sharpeneth iron, so one man the countenance of another”.

    The implications of your writings lead to sudden revelations as well, and the way you especially (Dan) have explained this issue gives me the hope that we may yet see in the App Store Task Managers and Backgrounders that the iPhone 3G could use to multi-task under OS 4.0. (I own both 3G handsets by the way, so that would be Win-Win).

  • SteveS

    Regarding Gruber… I think he’s arrogant and a bit of a coward for not allowing comments on his blog. With that said, given the nature and accuracy of his posts, he does have more credibility than Daniel.

    Daniel, I don’t understand why you’d go to the trouble of writing a long winded rebuttal that essentially does nothing to support your case.

    The crux of your first argument boils down to your claim that “Gruber knows that Apple’s original user interface design for iPhone 4.0 multitasking was originally more like Exposé than the task switcher design the company ultimately unveiled. ”

    Yet, you fail to produced any evidence which supports that claim. Without that evidence, it comes down to who has more credibility and Gruber wins that by default. If you have evidence that Gruber was aware of Expose like task switchers on the iPhone, then present it. Otherwise, why would anyone believe you? I want to, but don’t simply on your word. Sorry.

    Your second rebuttal regarding Android’s need for a task killer didn’t fair much better. The fact is, you lumped Android in with Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc. when discussing the need to kill tasks. The evidence you site was the existence of apps like “TasKiller” for Android. However, the fact that an app exists doesn’t mean it’s needed for the platform. Do Macs need anti-virus software? There are plenty of choices to choose from. No? Then Gruber was right for pointing out that Android uses a different model. Android’s approach is much like what Apple is doing with iPhone OS 4.0.

    I think Gruber can be an arrogant ass and I don’t like the manner in which he called you out. That said, you would have been better off ignoring his comments than to provide a long winded rebuttal that doesn’t effectively correct anything he’s said. That does more harm than good.

  • Peter Boling

    I never regret reading your articles Daniel. Classic takedown.