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In lieu of original content (or: On jailbreaking)

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

(Originally posted by me on Clint’s blog, and slightly edited for grammar)

Clint Ecker on John Gruber’s criticism of Erica Sadun’s series of articles on Ars Technica:

… Typically John does really good work and I like a lot of his writing, but these semi-regular, off-kilter criticisms of Erica Sadun’s articles don’t do his site justice.

First, just want to get it out of the way: John’s sniping is childish and unprofessional. If he doesn’t like the article, he shouldn’t link to it.

However, I do find Erica’s consistent referencing to the jailbreak toolchain a bit irksome. In her book, she talks about private methods and frameworks which is immensely helpful when attempting to debug or use the public APIs. But she’s been subtly encouraging users to jailbreak their phones for a while — not merely mentioning it, but I’ve come away from a number of her articles with the feeling that she is advocating it, or at least suggesting you consider it.

That’s not something a publication like Ars should be doing. I’ve always admired Ars for its classy, no-nonsense tone and technical content that doesn’t subscribe to the myth that you have to dumb things down to appeal to a large number of readers, but Erica does not provide the adequate caveats that jailbreaking your phone is very dangerous, can lead to many headaches, and most importantly of all, will totally invalidate your warranty.

Even further still though, it irks me as a fellow developer on a personal level. I play by “the rules” that Apple’s set. They’re arbitrary and restrictive and definitely get in the way of doing cool things, but by abiding by them I get something in return: The ability to play ball in the App Store and have my work seen on every iPod touch and iPhone. That’s a legal contract, but it’s also a social one, and breaking it is important, and here’s why: Apple and 3rd party developers are not always on the best of terms, and I and others (especially me) complain a lot about it. Doing stuff like advocating jailbreak to users with wanton abandon is only proving the people inside Apple right who say that 3rd party developers are dangerous and should be locked down, making the possibility of something like a Mac App Store even more likely, and the likelihood of iPhone App Store restrictions being lifted less likely. Showing Apple that as 3rd party developers we can play by their rules is important if we ever want those rules to change in our favor.

Comments

  1. Albert Willis replied on January 4th, 2009:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I was pretty surprised that Ars would publishing something that implied jail breaking was okay or something. Thanks for the write-up.

  2. Geoff Pado replied on January 4th, 2009:

    Not to mention that after jailbreaking your phone, it’s apparently ridiculously easy to break the DRM and pirate any App Store application. I can’t see a way that that’s not horrendously bad for developers.

  3. Geoff Pado replied on January 4th, 2009:

    Not to mention that after jailbreaking your phone, it’s apparently ridiculously easy to break the DRM and pirate any App Store application. I can’t see a way that that’s not horrendously bad for developers.

  4. Geoff Pado replied on January 4th, 2009:

    Okay, I’m not sure why that double-posted.

  5. Gabe replied on January 4th, 2009:

    “John’s sniping is childish and unprofessional. If he doesn’t like the article, he shouldn’t link to it.”

    What? Why shouldn’t he post something to criticize it?

  6. Colin Barrett replied on January 5th, 2009:

    Gabe: There’s a line between criticism and being catty. John is usually on the right side of that line, but in this case I don’t think he was.