Github Projects vs Zenhub

Github has announced new features that make it easier to collaborate on projects.

A whole new GitHub Universe: announcing new tools, forums, and features

Github Issues is my tool of choice for tracking tasks and bugs on bigger development projects, and we rely on notifications in the Slack project channel & Zenhub to overlay a Kanban view and workflow. Continue reading “Github Projects vs Zenhub”

Exporting Kindle notes from the iPad

A book as a resource is fairly un-actionable because what sits between it and one’s faulty memory is… nothing.

So I’m searching for ways to better organize thoughts that were triggered by the experience of reading a book, and consistently using the Highlight feature of the Kindle app is one small step in shaking loose the bits that I want to collate with other things later.

Today, I discovered that the “export highlights” feature in the Kindle app results in a local file.

Tbh, I’m not quite sure what to do with it but at least it’s nicely formatted and it’s not locked up in an app…

List of highlighted sentences on the iPad app
What your highlights look like on the iPad app
The error you get if you don't have an email account set up on your iPad
The error you get if you don’t have an email account set up on your iPad
Open this e-mail...
Open this e-mail…
End result! It's an HTML file that you can open in a browser.
End result! It’s an HTML file that you can open in a browser.

On Soulver, a visual approach to calculating figures

It’s quicker to use than a spreadsheet, and smarter and clearer than a traditional calculator.

Soulver is my calculator app of choice on my laptop and iPhone.

Initially, I balked at spending so much cash for a calculator — what kind of fancy calculation was ever going to do!? — but was quickly sold on it by Chris, who showed me how he used it to make estimates.

InterestRates
A screenshot from their website that shows off the variable and conversion functionalities

That was more than five years ago, and since then we’ve picked up the habit of storing the Soulver file as supplementary documentation alongside our proposals, so that the internal calculations can be traced later on.

Soulver lets me play around with numbers without losing track of what I was trying. I tend to use it to calculate costs and resource projections (fun!) and always take a moment to appreciate the ingenuity of this approach 🙂

Try it out!

Review: Stillio, automated screenshot tool

Stillio is an automatic screenshot service. With Stillio you can make daily screenshots of webpages to create, manage and share a pixel perfect archive of websites and social media channels.

Here’s why I’m interested in automating the act of taking screenshots:

  • As someone who launched a website, I want to be notified when a client has updated a key template after I’ve left the project, so that I can better evaluate the impact of my work.
  • As someone who is creating a website, I want to be notified when a benchmark site has been re-designed, so that I can investigate their design decisions.
  • As someone who has continuous releases on websites, I want the changes to be captured automatically, so that I can track them down later for sharing purposes.

As you can see, URL-based automatic screenshots would be quite useful.

Stillio is easy to set up, does what it says, and has reasonable pricing — or it’s whatever you might as well pay, if you’re going to pay for screenshots.

Evaluation: Stillio takes daily screenshots and that rhythm didn’t work for me. I set it up and forgot to check in for a few weeks. When I did go and take a look at the screenshots (which were beautifully taken without any fuss), it was too much of a fuss to inspect the small thumbnails to see if something had changed or not.

Conclusion: I let the free trial run out, with a pang of disappointment. I sent in my opinion but didn’t receive a reply, and I would guess it’s not the direction they want to take the product. I understand that it would be tricky to determine if there were changes. The search continues.

My solution for not finding the perfect podcast app

My tween-age love for my radio walkman neatly transferred to podcasts a long time ago, and the recent mainstream acknowledgement of podcasts as an interesting medium makes me happy. I’m sure I’m not the only long time Slate and NPR fan that felt smug when Serial exploded and we started seeing articles like The future of media is podcasting.

And it’s not just for entertainment. The role that podcasts play in my professional development has grown in recent years, as new ones pop up and subject matter experts share insights in a way that’s different from blog posts and conferences.

However.

The medium is still primitive — it’s an audio file that gets pushed through a stream — and it’s tricky to consume.

  • My list of subscribed podcast keep growing
  • My list of un-played episodes keep growing
  • I stop launching the app because the “un-played” number is scary/annoying​

The hack I’ve hit upon is to use two apps — one for work-related podcasts that I want to keep up with, and another for everything else. I use Overcast for the former because it’s the best app I’ve tried so far.

As I head out to work in the morning, I launch Overcast and let it play during my commute. Once a week, I’ll manually delete all the episodes that I hadn’t chosen to play — a “maybe later” is not helpful. In the Apple Podcast are a jumble of different podcasts, and I just let the episodes accumulate and dip into on the weekends.

The insight was to “physically” separate content between two modes – learning and pleasure, for lack of better words – because my listening behavior is different, and that distinction was more powerful than theme-based categorization.

I still can’t keep a record of what I listened to, easily do “second screen” browsing, link an episode with notes that I took, or share clips with a friend… but in the meantime, this solution helps to develop a steady, listening habit.

On writing systems

My previous post touched upon how systematizing the process of writing enabled more consistent blogging. In this post, I’d like to expand on this topic.

I didn’t have a writing problem. I had a habit problem.

It was an article on Riskology about the system of writing that provided a breakthrough, and the right vocabulary to understand the problem. I realized that I had a hard time getting into the groove of writing because I was writing, editing, uploading photos, and tweaking HTML at the same time. In actuality, publishing a post has several distinct steps, and doing them one by one streamlines the whole process. Most importantly, it distributes creative energy to where it’s most needed.

My process is a simplified version of what Riskology proposes but there are still three steps: 1. Plan 2. Draft and 3. Publish. The tip is that each should be done on a different day.

So on the days that I’ve made time to blog, I will work on two posts – one that’s in a Planning phase and another that can be Drafted or Published.

Plan
Planning is the burst of inspiration, and takes the shortest amount of time. I’ll map out the post and do some Googling so that the research is more or less done.

I keep a list of ideas and assign one day in which I’ll do the planning for the next post:

  • what is the topic?
  • why do i want to write it?
  • what is the outline?
  • research
  • links

For example, here’s the Plan for this post:

It helps to keep the planning out of the actual CMS. I’ve been using GatherContent, which I’ve hacked to use as a workflow tool.”.
Draft

Drafting is the actual act of writing. Because there’s already an outline, it’s really easy to start putting down words. And there’s no pressure to finish it – I just want to get to the end of the post.

This step takes the most time and involves the following:

  • create the page in WordPress
  • upload photos
  • upload cover image
  • write the first draft – get to the end!

The first draft happens in WordPress because I like stylin the body as it expands. In the future, I hope to graduate to a markdown editor so that I decrease the amount of time spent checking the preview.

Publish

Publishing includes making the final draft with a fresh pair of eyes, and hitting Publish. Initially I had four steps, but three days are long enough to spend on an article… better to just get it out.

  • finalize the draft in WordPress
  • publish it
  • schedule a tweet

So that’s what I’ve been experimenting with in the past few weeks. There will be refinements for sure but it’s a good enough foundation!