Fears of the IndieWeb

Some of my favorite memories of writing online were during the early days of Blogger, prior to the Google acquisition. Personal journals were still a fairly new idea, with fairly few people publishing them. We were a community of people and of writers and we had a connection to each other and a desire to share, help, and enjoy unique content online. This feels like that.

Sometimes the IndieWeb movement feels like that couple of guys starting to learn WorsPress again.

I’ve removed Google Analytics from my websites. Since I use 1Blocker to stop trackers following me around on the web, I don’t want to be a hypocrite by also having trackers on my site. Now I don’t even have JavaScript here other than for TypeKit where my webfonts are loaded from.

Icon nightmares

Then Apple screwed it up by starting to fetch random weird URLs on the website for its precious iOS icons. Then webmasters complained and so this linking standard started. Apple went overboard in supporting every single possible pixel-perfect resolution. Then Microsoft decided that was neat and added their own new incompatible formats for the stupid Start menu tiles no one uses anyway. And here we are.

Just finished adding “icons” for Decoding last week. Safari uses at least 3 type of icons on macOS and iOS together:

  1. one for pinned sites and web clips on your iOS home screen
  2. one for pinned tabs (which is an SVG by the way)
  3. and the usual favicon.ico.

And this is just Safari, I don’t have icons for Windows or any other browser for that matter. Somebody should really provide a better way to deal with all that crap.

Aquarelo: A Beautifully-Designed Mac Color Utility

From MacStories:

Type an RGB or HEX value or color name into each text field, and Aquarelo generates a range of colors between the two you entered. You can even drag a color into the app from the system color picker. One small quibble I have with dragging colors into Aquarelo is that you can only drag them onto the text fields in the app. I think it would feel more natural to drop colors onto the endpoint colors in instead.

You can have thousands of ways to represent a color. Since I’ve just started doing iOS development recently, I need to tool to convert hex colors into UIColor. Aquarelo just does that, and also looks nice.

The Weekly Review is the hardest to implement from GTD, but it’s the most important routine to get myself familiar with. Here’s why:

  • I have a basic anchor once a week, when I became mindful with my commitments and that gives me a relief so I can trust in my system. Nothing slips.
  • Reviewing my waiting fors then pinging people keeps that loop alive. People start to feel I demand stuff from them and they can’t escape from their responsibilities. At least from those that involve me.
  • Reviewing my stuff feels like mindfulness meditation. I pay attention what’s on my mind, then I make proactive decisions about them. This way I can relax.

After weeks of messing around with Swift Playgrounds, I’m ready to deep dive into a new iOS project. Although using my iPad for learning Swift made want Xcode more for iOS.

The Future of Transmit iOS

Panic has announced the “suspending” of Transmit for iOS:

My optimistic take: we hope that as iOS matures, and more and more pro users begin to seriously consider the iPad as a legitimate part of their daily work routines, Transmit iOS can one day return and triumph like it does on the Mac.

Getting enough revenue from an app that you’ve developed is hard, but as a user of every Panic software on macOS and iOS, I’m angry. I’ve already made my comment regarding this change, so I’m not going to repeat it, just quote:

I know iOS is hard, but why not charge more or add subscription or something? This is not the first time you guys complaining about developing iOS apps, but I’ve never seen any new business model tried from Panic, so can’t really feel sorry yet. Paid up front and thats it. I mean there is Omni Group, they’ve transformed every Omni app to “try for free then pay a reasonable price” model last year. They also delivering reasonable upgrades constantly. On the other hand Coda for iOS still missing a lot of basic features, like Open in Place support and a simple Quick Open. And don’t get me started on the “still in the works, but it’s coming in the next 100 years” version of Coda for Mac or Panic Sync which is still buggy and way more annoying than the old iCloud Sync, which you’ve dumped…

Transmit on the other hand works fine, I use it daily, but sunsetting an app which I rely on that much is just annoying. Coda’s file management isn’t the same. For example there is no share extension which I use a lot, especially with Workflow. So instead of complaining about iOS app business models all the time, you guys should put more effort into developing iOS. I’m a customer, I’m using and loving all of Panic’s products. I would even pay for the Panic Creative Cloud monthly, but apps needs to be kept updated with new APIs and usable features know from the desktop, not treating them like “baby software” as Steve said.

Leaving Twitter

Ben Brooks on social media:

And that’s what makes the end of 2017 stand out so much to me, because it was during this time where I read article after article about how negative social media as a whole is for people. That’s general people, meaning all of us. Social networks are not good, and have not been designed to be good for you. Sure, you could cherry pick arguments all day long, but there’s simply not been a compelling case made for these networks being good.

I haven’t really tweeted much for months now, and I have no desire getting back on Twitter. It’s big, crowded, full of annoying people and hate. And I don’t want to be a part of that. I’m not deleting my account as I did with Facebook, because I know a couple of people from the early days of Twitter and sometimes I receive DMs from them. But, I won’t be on it, I even deleted Twitter from my iPad and my iPhone back in October.

I was an initial Kickstarter backer for Micro.blog, but haven’t paid much attention to the service since then. As you can see I’m moving my stuff over to this blog — this is why I’m posting this much today — which is mine and I can use Micro.blog to share my content to a new community which at the moment feels like Twitter back 10 years ago.

Web Development On An iPad

However, you can combine an iPad with a VPS (Virtual Private Server) to have access to the best of both worlds. In essence, a VPS is a remote computer where you have full access to an Linux system. You can install all the web development tools you normally use on your laptop or desktop. Then you use your iPad to SSH into your VPS, giving you full access to your remote system through the terminal.

After using my iPad Pro with a remote VPS to develop Rails apps for more than a year now, I can safely say that it’s totally doable and even cool to use this thin and light device as a Rubist (or for other type of web development work). It works the best when you setup a remote server with mosh and Blink. You can even switch over to another device like an iMac and continue from there thanks to tmux. Here’s a detailed guide how to do all of that.

Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6

Whether you blame Google or the often slow moving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the results have been particularly evident throughout 2017. Google has been at the center of a lot of “works best with Chrome” messages we’re starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10’s default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Google Meet, Google Earth, and YouTube TV are also not supported on Firefox with messages to download Chrome. Google has publicly promised to support Earth on Edge and Firefox, and the company is “working to bring YouTube TV to more browsers in the future.”

I usually refuse to use a service when it’s Chrome only. This whole situation is annoying and just bad for the web in general. Also don’t get me started on the “working to bring YouTube TV to more browsers in the future” part. To be honest, Chrome is just a big blob of crap after years of adding features. Even for web development I still prefer Safari’s inspector because it’s way cleaner and nicer.

I love Workflow and Working Copy together! I've just migrated my blog over to Jekyll, and created a workflow which grabs a piece of text like this, creates a file in my git repository with Working Copy, commits it automatically, then pushes the code to the server. All this from Today view or a Share sheet in Ulysses.

My Notebook System (part 3): Field Notes Pocket Notebook

There is a bit analogue cult going on nowadays. Lot of people are returning to paper based note taking. I get it, having a phone is great, but it is also a trap of lot of things: instantly forgetting why you took out your phone in the first place. Pocket memo books are returning and I'm really glad they are back. Finishing up the third instalment of my notebook usage series, I'm going to talk about how I use my pocket Field Notes.

I love GTD. It is the best way for me to get everything in control and lose the fear of forgetting something. I'm not going to write about how GTD works, David Allen has already did that, but I have to mention the steps of Capture and Process, since this is what I use my pocket notebook for. There are a lot of ways to capture things digitally, but those things are usually coming from external sources. I work as a web developer, so I have to deal with clients, bug reports, and emails every day. I need to have a frictionless way to capture those, and I have that in a form of Siri or Drafts. But what about my ideas, my internal noise, how's that gets captured?

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This is where my pocket Field Notes comes into the picture. My EDC usually contains my phone, my watch, and my pocket notebook. I can capture things on my phone, which I do sometimes, but there is so much noise. I don't want to deal with that when I'm writing down a great idea. Those are the moments when I'm really glad that I've got into the habit of keeping a Field Notes memo book with me all the time. They are bringing back those times when a tool just did one thing. I'm fine without my phone for a while, but capture is critical. When something comes into my mind that I have to write down, I instantly grab my notebook.

I also have a big Steno at my desk, but I'm not carrying that around. My pocket notebook is basically with me for those moments when I not working at my desk. Sometimes I even just throw it out on the table while we are having a meal with my girlfriend. We usually eat together once a day, that's when we discuss about stuff to do. My Field Notes just sits on the table waiting for capturing stuff. I wouldn't do that with my iPhone.

At the end of the day I just open my Field Notes and go through each item I've written down. I usually just make lists starting with a dash, which later turns into a plus when it gets processed. I've stole this idea from Patrick Rhone's Dash/Plus which is a complete system for marking up lists. It's pretty great if you keep your task lists on paper. Everything in my Field Notes gets moved into my digital task manager. I define projects and next actions needed for the current item. If it's non actionable but I want to keep it, then I transfer it into Notes which contains my project support and reference material. When I'm done, I just convert the dash into a plus in my notebook. When I processed everything, I make a double line at the end which marks the current processing point. It means next time I will just deal with things coming after this line.

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I usually use a Field Notes memo book for 3-4 weeks, depending on how much I travel. When I'm away, I fill them so much quicker, so I have a lot to spare. I also keep an empty one with me while I travel – you never know when your are going to run out of a Field Notes in the middle of writing down something great. It's also important to carry this memo book around with me all the time. There are a couple of items always in hand reach for me, and my pocket Field Notes is one of them. I even bring it with me when I go for a walk. I leave my phone at home, but my Field Notes and my Fisher Space is with me all the time to capture ideas.

These small memo books have really changed the way I write things down, and also how much mindful I am using my phone. Since I don't use it for capture anymore, I have a less chance to go down into the rabbit hole of distractions. I've started treating my devices as tools, not as something that controls me. Going back to paper was really successful for me. It is easy to use, peaceful and a natural way to express our ideas into external stuff, which can be transformed into the real thing.

My Notebook System (part 2): Field Notes Byline

At first I wasn't impressed by the Byline. It has a great design, but my trusted Steno is bigger and it isn't a limited edition. I don't have to worry about getting a new one, it's always available. But, a couple of days ago I finished my Steno, so it was a great opportunity to try a pack of Byline. Looks like it was a good decision.

A Scratchpad, where thinking is transformed into next actions

I've never really kept journals. I've heard that I should write a general one, where I reflect about my stuff every day, but to be honest, it's not my thing. I make small notes about things I saw or heard in my pocket Field Notes, but that's all I do. I'm way better at thinkering while I take a walk. But for work, I find that keeping a journal is key. Looks like it's better to have a specific topic to journal about, other than writing down random thoughts and waiting for something to happen. My work journal has two important practical applications:

  1. I have to track my time because I'm a freelance developer paid hourly. I tried so many time trackers, but at the end I settled with notebooks. It's so easy to use, I don't need linking projects to clients, invoicing and all the other noise that comes with time tracking apps. I just want to know when I started and finished a work session, what I did, and to whom.
  2. I have to have something that I can use as a scratchpad on my desk. A pad of paper where I can list my current thinking and make connections between different stuff. I make diagrams and outlines, I even do quick calculations here. (Quick tip: if you are dealing with lot of math through the day, just buy a dedicated calculator. It's so much easier to use than hunting down your phone somewhere in your bag or in your pocket.)

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I always have my Byline (or a Steno) opened on my desk next to my iPad ready to write. At the beginning of a work session, I make a note of the project, current time, and what I'm going to do. While I work, I make lists of upcoming tasks, notes and outlines used to solve problems.

I'm not really a visual type of person, so instead of making mindmaps, I usually make a list of thinking. The Byline's narrow, long format really supports this type of thought organization. I've used to indent my outlines multiple levels, but nowadays, I just use a different mark for headers (#) and notes (-).

At the end of a work session, I go back to the beginning and mark the end with the current time. Later, I transfer these hours into my work log spreadsheets.

Calls

I do a fair amount of calls over Skype and FaceTime related to my job. Meetings aren't my favorite activities, but one thing which changed so much about them is keeping a notebook open and making notes while I'm on a call. Here is what a short and productive call looks like:

  1. have clearly defined topic or goal to talk about,
  2. share ideas and collaborate,
  3. organize this thinking,
  4. have a set of next actions at the end, then move on.

Also I keep them short, around 15-20 minutes. Having my Byline at hand while I'm on a call is really helpful.

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Clients feel weird at first about me writing down almost everything, but this is so important, because it's really easy to slip over something small which later can cause a bigger problem. Making notes of every have to's and should do's is also making people stop and think for a second. And it's not just about things I have to do. Knowing facts and why's automatically triggers our natural planning mode which makes ideas, and I want to be ready to capture them. Because of this, I also ask way more questions than before: externalized things — like notes I make on a call — trigger more planning in front, and I'm all about measuring twice and cutting once.

Also, there is a new behavior during meetings which I wasn't expecting to emerge: a need to have clear understanding and decided next actions about everything we talked about. Before I started using a notebook on meetings, I was afraid to ask lot of questions because of embarrassment. I'm not sure it's changed because I use my Byline on calls, but nowadays, I'm not afraid to ask seemingly stupid questions or be annoying to understand something clearly. I don't want to waste my time later down the road because we didn't clarified a small detail. This behavior usually triggers asking "why" in my clients too. They have to stop and tell me the reason behind a decision. The more information I have about something, the better I became delivering the final product.

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Final words

I can't be more excited about the Byline. It's basically changed how I journal in my work and how I do calls. It became the same important tool used for work as my iPad. They actually go together really well as chain of tools for a knowledge worker. Because the Byline is a limited edition, I've ordered 5 more packs. I know they won't be around for too long and after they've gone, I will switch back to the Steno. Meanwhile I just enjoy using them.

My notebook system (part 1): Field Notes 56-Week Planner

I was one of those "paper is dead" guys. We all have some kind of mobile device with productivity apps installed on them, why would you use paper? Actually, my devices got me into using notebooks again. I spend so many time with screens. I'm a developer, so using my iPad for development made me a bit more aware about adding dedicated tools to my tool belt. Couple of months ago, I've read an article about carrying a pocket notebook which instantly made me want to have paper with me all the time.

Since then, I've tried so many Moleskines, but eventually I've settled with Field Notes. I love their quirky designs; their memo book looks like an everyday tool that I can tear apart. Currently, I use three Field Notes notebooks for different things. I like to have a specific placement of my work tools. My iPad Pro is centered. On the left side, I have a Field Notes 56-Week Planner: I use that as a daily planner and a calendar. On the right side, I have a Field Notes Steno used for todo lists, notes, and work journal. I also have a pocket sized notebook always with me used as an inbox to quickly capture ideas.

Field Notes 56-Week Planner

Problems with digital calendars

I've never owned a paper planner — I used those card sized yearly calendars years ago, but it wasn't anything like a full-fledged planner. Nowadays, I use Apple's Calendar app for time sensitive stuff like meetings and appointments, but I've also started carrying around a paper based planner from Field Notes. I've realized that there are things I just don't like about digital calendars (or Reminders or any other task management app).

I usually have a daily plan for things I want to touch on that day listed along with my meetings and appointments. It's a great map to have, but my digital calendar is not going to work for this type of workflow. When I add something to it, I have to specify not just a date, but hours and minutes too. To be honest, my work has a really small part that has anything to do with specific dates and times, so planning things like this doesn't makes sense to me. Sure, I have deadlines of projects, but those more like anchor points of priorities.

My digital calendar is also hidden in an app. I'm all for keeping important stuff digitally, but I also want to reach my calendar quickly. I can open my calendar app really fast, but I want it to be like "look down next to my iPad" fast. Having a paper planner always next to my iPad is exactly what I need.

Writing on paper also feels better than dragging stuff around on a timetable. Digitally stored events are long forms that I have to fill every time I add or change something. Sure, I can use Siri or Fantastical, but that still feels unnatural to me. Not to mention, Fantastical's natural language parser works only with new events. Start to edit existing stuff and you're thrown back to a form.

Field Notes 56-Week Planner Weekly Spread

Going back to paper: Field Notes 56-Week Planner

About 2 months ago, I've started using a small Field Notes memo book as a daily planner. It was great, my only problem was it's size, so I ordered their 56-Week Planner (56 instead of 52 to have a buffer month to order a new one, maybe). It's been great since then. The Planner is bigger than a pocket notebook, it has thicker paper, and more pages. It gives me a weekly spread divided into six equal sections. The last section, representing weekends, divided once more for Saturday and Sunday. I have 7 days worth of space to add plans and events. Also, it has only 10 lines per day which protects me from overplannig my day.

My usage of the Planner is really simple. I review my schedule every morning. First, I look at my digital calendar which contains my hard landscape (I have to be at somewhere at a specific time). I like to keep these appointments in Calendar, because then my Watch pings me at the right time. I also transfer them into my Planner. Writing it down makes me more aware of them. Then I have my next actions list stored in Reminders, which I review and pick a few items that I also write down in my Planner. This way, I'm not setting false due dates for myself in Reminders which causes stress by constantly pinging me at different times through the day. And remember, I just have 10 lines to write for one day which limits me picking too much stuff. Interesting tidbit: I never use pens with my Planner since plans can change, so I use a pencil with an eraser.

I love to work this way. With my Field Notes Planner, I can have a whole-week view of my life. I can easily plan projects and next actions in advance without feeling stressed about notifications through the day. It's also really nice that I can rely on an single-purpose analog tool. Checking things off my Planner gives me the feeling of accomplishment, which is truly the first time since I use a productivity tool.