Logging Off.

The past weekend we managed to grab some time away as a family. It’s been a long time coming as we booked this in March 2020, so the release to finally get away was huge. The break away wasn’t anything lavish, but even a couple of days with zero to worry about and we can enjoy some activities together was fantastic. For the long weekend I chose to not take any connective technology with me, and it can’t tell you how both weird and wonderful it felt.

The day we arrived whilst waiting to order some food, twice in fairly quick succession I raised my wrist to see what the time was. Only to see a faint tan line and in indent from my Apple Watch. I let out a small groan due to lacking the ability to check the time, and wondered why on earth all of my tech was at home a couple of hours drive away. I didn’t need it, I didn’t want it, yet my brain still tried to play through the tried and tested route of fixing a small period of boredom with a gadget.

As much as I am aware that it is not the internet that does these things to me, it is becoming harder and harder to mediate them with the reliance I have of both working online and enjoying spending time connected. I am currently managing to live in an in between space where I try and limit the time I spend with gadgets, but not miss out on what they can do for me.

Pandemic Issues

There were a few issues. When we left each other for even a small period of time, such as walking to the shop to fetch some breakfast, my wife couldn’t update me on what she needed. Of course this wasn’t a huge deal, but I also couldn’t use the NHS COVID app to track me being at several facilities, and as such felt a bit out of place. I could have done this manually, but I am not comfortable leaving my personal details on a random forms, so opted to just rely on my wife scanning the QR code.

All of the attractions we visited also required ordering of food and drink from a smartphone app which again I had to lean on my wife more than usual. The pandemic has placed a reliance on our connected lives and the smartness of our devices far outside the ability to contact with others. I am under no illusions that me being without a smartphone for a longer length of time just wouldn’t work out, but it’s nice to dream a little.

The lack of Apple Pay, messaging and everything else my phone does for me didn’t crop up as much as I thought it would. Most obstacles could be overcome with a little thought, but having a computer in your packet is just so much easier. However the silence from my need to check social media and the reduced pocket space needed made for a much more enjoyable break away. What first was an annoyance of not being able to find out the time became something I enjoyed and instead focused on other things.

I have not decided when I will return yet as I am enjoying a break away for the next week. I did open Twitter today to be greeted with 13 notifications. All of which are spam to try and get me engaged in the platform again. So I swiftly closed it again. I miss it, but not in the ways I expected. It’s great to log off for a bit every now and again.

I might realise how much I miss it…. Perhaps.

Using Craft For Daily Notes.

One of the most beneficial habits I have gotten into is taking daily notes, and I really wish I had started it earlier in life. My initial foray into Roam Research gave me the inspiration to start recording my day, simply because it is right in your face whenever you open the page. This practice has gone with me to my new home on Obsidian, then a few weeks ago Craft launched something so of course I checked it out.

Craft is a strange app that I cant really work out. When it first launched it was pitched in a strange place that didn’t quite do 100% of anything I needed. It wasn’t quite a writing app that did everything a paid app should, but had a weird wiki kind of vibe to it. I can only describe it as if Notion and Bear Notes had a baby.

Having tried, and not liked very much, Craft a couple of times already, it was only the update to include daily notes that peeked my interest. While I am no stranger to jumping around apps, I wasn’t quite ready to start messing around with my set up again. However there is no harm in trying things out without getting invested and this update is a huge one.

By introducing a redesigned sidebar, Craft have allowed you to separate these notes away from everything else you want to write. Daily notes is a practice that I preach to almost anyone that will listen, the one thing that remains from my time using Roam Research. In these I record almost everything that happens during my working day, such as telephone calls, things I am thinking, interactions I have had and anything else I think I might need to refer back to later. This allows me to just get things out of my brain at the time they pop up so I can act on them later, or refer back to them if needed.

One thing that Craft now does really well is the ability to take meeting notes. After you have granted the app permission it will display any calendar events and allow you to start a meeting note with one click. Information from the calendar event is populated into this, and the note then shows up in the daily note and also the in app calendar. I like to distribute the notes I have made later to those that have attended, or invited so being able to do this in PDF, docx or whatever method you need is really handy. If you adopt Craft for work, you can also share these with the users you need to and even mention them in the doc itself.

Craft works with the now very popular method of back-linking meaning you can link notes together if needed and refer to them at later points. This is the real benefit of me being able to refer back to things I have recorded later on. This could be some bits of information that led to a meeting, or something as simple as an idea that I later turn into a blog post. In the screen shot above, I make a note at the end of the meeting to reference a new one set up (we usually agree on this and arrange the event in the meeting) so this then shows up when I start in the new meeting note. I can then open the note in split screen or a new tab and refer back really easily.

Backlinks are also really handy when building out some knowledge and making notes around topics. Amazingly handy if you are studying something, but also useful for daily life. I get ideas quite often that pop up during my morning pages that i write out when first at my desk. I can then start to link recurring topics together really easily by using [[]] and searching for the old note. This isn’t as useful as the implementation in Roam or Obsidian, but its not far away and is a little more approachable.

One update I would really love to see is the inclusion of unlinked references, and also improvements to the ability to search for individual block references inline. I don’t like taking my hands away from the keyboard when typing things out on morning pages, so this would be much better. However I realise that this isn’t Obsidian to I am happy to take some compromises.

Actions

More often referred to as tasks, Craft has inbuilt checklists for you to be able to add in meeting actions in markdown or using its / command. Although Craft is no replacement for a task manager, you can use this as a sudo one for recording things to do. Each day will highlight any outstanding tasks next to the date. You can of course put these actions into your task manager of choice, Craft works really well with Things 3 providing a link back to the note in the tasks set up.

With all that said, if you intend to use the tasks inside Craft please note that there is no easy way to see all set up items in one place. The only place these are highlighted is in the daily notes. I have reached out to the developers and they are intending to implement this soon.

There you have it, a very brief dalliance with daily notes in Craft. It isn’t as fleshed out as I would like but it’s pretty robust if you are going in with no expectations. I am sticking to Obsidian for the time being, but will have half an eye on any updates coming out.

Force Some iPad Into My Life.

When I think about all of the hardware I have owned over the last few years there are far too many in that list that I care to admit. I do switch around phones every so often for reviews, but my personal computer life takes on huge dramatic swifts every now and again. Since prosumously ditching the iPad after more than 5 years as my computer I have gone backwards and forwards switching out laptops, for iPads, and back again. I think it’s time to stop.

In fact I think it was time to stop a while ago. I am really starting to struggle with work and life separation due to only having one Mac now. So much so I don’t want to open my laptop at home. I know that I will dive in to things that I, granted need to do, but don’t need to do when I wanted to write a journal log.

I have some inspiration to thank for my meandering thoughts. Jack Batty wrote about wanting to try and make the iPad his everything, and this part particularly stuck out.

But, iOS is calmer than macOS, and right now I need a little calm. - Jack Baty

To use the word that tech commentators hate to hear — when I am ‘working’ on an iPad (e.g. writing a blog post or editing a photo), it feels different. As Jack puts it, using iPad OS is calmer, it never feels like work. Granted sometimes it’s a full time job trying to work out how you do somethings that are simple on a Mac but the simplicity is so refreshing. The iPad feels computerish without feeling like the rest of my waking life.

So, here’s the ‘forcing’ part. I am going all in again. Apart from my work day, which I can do nothing about, I am using an iPad for everything else. I haven’t spent anything, it’s a 2018 12.9” iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard I have had for a long time so I have nothing much to lose. I am actually quite excited.

Wheres The Downside To Mail Privacy Protection?.

At Apples WWDC 2021, Apple focused very tightly on improving the security of their products. Many people dismiss this as a “marketing line” and although there are some worrying trends in the way they are going about things, this is the Apple way I approve of. One of the biggest push backs has been against their improvements to Apple Mail that removes tracking and spying tactics used by marketers.

Dubbed Mail Privacy Protection, it nullifies the tiny little trackers in emails you receive, ones that relay loads of your private information to servers without your knowledge.

Presumably Apple will route emails through a proxy and load tracking pixels on their servers before serving the email to you and I am really struggling to find a downside to this. There will be loads of people waiting to tell me how wrong I am, just as they did last time I pointed at them. I am happy to be proven otherwise, but most of they people that speak up are ingrained in a business that needs this data, but my conclusion is drawn from three areas.

  • If your newsletter is free, you don’t (or you shouldn’t) care if people read it or not, because the work involved in producing it is exactly the same.
  • If your newsletter is paid, you are paid by the people that sign up to receive it. Thus it makes no difference if people actually read it or not. The cost of production is the same, and you get paid the same regardless.
  • If you send marking emails, you will need to see if your emails are successful or not. This is the only area where tracking would matter to you, and to this is say tough. Full disclosure I am involved in this area of business and I am still happy Apple are turning off the tap to those more predatory than myself.

You see, there is nothing inherently wrong with tracking if an email is opened or not, it can be useful to know. We have it in message services such as iMessage, and you have been able to do this optionally in Exchange email for years. However these are transparent and something the end user has to agree to. Presumably using the method detailed above, all tracking pixels would be marked as opened anyway, and then it is up to the user to read it or not. However most tracking doesn’t stop at this.

Take a look at most marketers email dashboard and you will be able to see not just when it was opened and what links are clicked on but also how many times and where the person is! Data that should be protected unless a user opts in to share this with you. Pixel tracking is one of the many scourges of the internet and I trust Apple to lead the fight against it.

We cant say for sure if the open rate metric will no longer be valid, but with certainty everything else will be killed off and I for one am overjoyed!

Changing Decisions .

Seth Godin on making a new decision:

If we’re going to go forward, it’s because something has changed. It might be that our situation is different, that the story we tell ourselves is different, that the times have changed or that your offering has. It might be that we trust you more.

There is a lot of differing opinions when people change their decisions. The weirdest for me is when some think that changing your position makes you weak, or that you can’t be trusted. When in fact it shows a much larger ability to be balanced in your thoughts.

The common derogative term is “flip-flopping” and while never being set on your position is a bad thing, or as my Granddad would say “always being on whatever boat is floating” — when the situation changes there is absolutely nothing wrong with changing the way you approach it.

In fact it is the correct thing to do.

Work And Home Digital Separation.

We’ve has a huge shift at work, returning to more of an office based environment for at least a little while. I am really excited to be building up a larger team around me to push the company forward, but my trusty iMac Pro has been donated to a returning member of staff more in need.

Due to my indecision in knowing what to do I am not left with only one computer. I know ultimate first world problem right! My working machine is my personal laptop, one that is with me almost always. I do love my 13” MacBook Pro though, I purchased it a few months before they switched to M1 and it looks awesome working on a nice big display.

Anyway I digress slightly. The point I am trying to make is that due to this shift, my computer is now everything. Personal things and working things are all done on the same laptop. So where I could separate my life slightly from my laptop to my iMac, that’s no longer possible. I never set up emails on my personal machines before and installed very few working apps. That is no longer possible, my home and office have merged, everywhere I turn working is always in my face.

For most of the time this is fine. I love the work I do, and I often have ideas for design bits or some inspiration at the weekends. Being able to jump straight into Illustrator or Figma is a blessing for those sorts of situations. For every other time when I just want to open up my laptop and do some personal tasks, my emails and other work things are just right there staring at me!

If I thought I had lots of Twitter muscle memory, I have even more for work tasks. I just find myself replying to emails on a Sunday afternoon, or managing tasks for the upcoming week without even realising it. Much like my working office being the same as where I do my personal things, it gets to the stage where there is no separation and I never feel like I am away. Some personal rules or spaces need setting up I think. Perhaps two users for my laptop. Or maybe I just need to get an iPad!

Speak, Don’t Stomp.

Carl Barenbrug on being rational

Upon reflection, it is entirely someone’s prerogative to block me for whatever reason they may have. That’s not something I’ll lose any sleep over. But, you know what would have been a little more rational? Taking the time to email me and explain their issue. Open an asynchronous dialogue like a decent human being where you can give your words and actions a little more consideration

I might start a movement about slowing down and thinking instead of reacting to the barrage of stimulus we get on a daily basis. I’ve done it, as will have most of you, when I should have opened I dialogue and tried to talk.

I’ve also been blocked by people that I follow very closely and took it amazingly personal, when they could have had a number of reasons to ban me from their timeline!

I am a huge proponent of talking to people that think different to you, and in in many ways don’t like you. If nothing else it gets you used to living with people that oppose you so you don’t live in a bubble.

The Simplicity Of The iPad Is Its Biggest Attraction.

I seem to be writing about the iPad a bit more, simply because people are thinking and talking about it more following WWDC2021. You can guarantee this always happens at two points, following release of new hardware, and after software updates. Amplify this double of Apple have released a new iPad and then talked about a software update that hasn’t met imaginary predictions. So, currently we are in the middle of a perfect storm, or I guess an imperfect one.

The common consensus seems to be that the iPad needs to move forward and be more like the Mac. There is some long held belief that the iPad Pro must start to deliver everything to everyone, becoming more like a traditional commuter — when in fact the opposite is true.

I love having a iPad because it can do everything I need. If I want to chill out on the sofa and read a bit, or I want to scribble some notes in a meeting it is perfect. I also know that of I need to draw out some design concepts, illustrate a document or connect a keyboard to write out a blog post it can do all that and more — with ease, and most of all simplicity.

I can get in depth and have side by side windows, Slideover ones and picture in picture stuff going on, but I can also open an app in full screen by default and everything else gets out my way. No docks to hide, no menu bars or anything else to worry about — a procrastinators dream.

Some of these feelings come from working on a Mac all day. The iPad feels different and more relaxed, but even when I used an iPad as my main computer I just loved the way it was simple to understand and got where I needed it to go. I wasn’t trying to force a square peg in a round hole, I wasn’t expecting it to do anything more that I needed it to, because when push comes to shove, better tools are available.

I must applaud Apple for achieving this mix of power and simplicity for iPad OS. Every time “someone familiar with the matter” starts to talk about making the iPad like a desktop computer I feel a little bit of dread that the iPad will loose its charm. Push too far towards the work, and loose its way with everything else it is great at. I wish Apple would bring the iPad out into the sun with feature parody, but it doesn’t need anything else to be a great iPad. For everything else, there’s a Mac for that.

Will The iPad Ever Move Out From The Macs Shadow?.

Before we get anywhere into this post, I absolutely refuse to start this stupid debate again. I love the iPad, I used it as my only device for years, and now I use a Mac because it fits my work life better. It is because I love it so much that I appreciate everything it can do for users.

As many others did, I sat and watched WWDC2021 and expected the iPad to go up a gear. It did in many ways, but the updates still left many wanting more. I don’t believe users should be up in arms at the exclusion of “pro apps” and screaming for the myriad of features that were never promised by Apple — but with that said the iPad still feels a little stagnant.

Apple can’t or won’t make the iPad too powerful because they want you to buy a Mac too. For proof of this look no further than the upcoming Universal control. A feature which feels like an extension of Sidecar, allowing you to move your mouse across the many screens you have at your disposal. Be those Macs or iPads. Yet even this feature isn’t universal at all.

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You can only use this control from a Mac. So if you were thinking you could use your iPad and move your mouse across to grab a file from a Mac, you have another think coming. Unfortunately Apple still view your iPad as Mac adjacent. A supplementary device that is amazingly powerful but just not quite there.

I worked from an iPad for around 7 years, since before the iPad Pro was even a thing. So I know what an iPad is capable of and I know where it’s limits are. You will get no wild claims from me about where you can and can’t work. Yet the iPad still seems to exist in the shade of the Mac. Not quite achieving its potential.

Seemingly for the fear of cannibalising Apples computer market. The taste left in many users mouths is one that all the moves Apple make are to entice customers to purchase more devices. Hey, they’re a company, that’s the way companies grow. But after years of users waiting and wishing for things I am starting to get the feeling that the prayers will always go unanswered.

Undeniably the iPad makes strives forward each year - some small, some large. Yet the potential is never met, and perhaps never will be. I dream of a world where the iPad steps into the sun and becomes its own thing, because it’s only Apple holding it back now.

Hate what you hate, and enjoy it.

One of the best things about blogging and sharing things on social media is the constant changing environment and shifting your perspective. Yesterday I shared a few thoughts on what I am going to try and stop on Twitter. The level of what about this can get annoying, so stopping it myself is a worthwhile endeavour.

Most people seemed to share a similar outlook, and the tweet below from Andy made me think a little more or letting people enjoy the things they enjoy - but also hate whatever they want to hate.

This wasn’t directed at me, but seeing as I had not long shared my post, I took it as a sub tweet or at least something to pay attention to. Well, he’s dead right.

It’s important that everyone has a way to vent when they want to. If the prevailing opinion is that you should let people enjoy whatever they want, then we should be letting people hate whatever it is they want to hate.

Hate what a political party is up to at the moment? Let it out. Want to tell others have stupid Apple is? Go for it. Enjoy the release without 17 replies telling you how wrong you are.

But what about....

There are so many things I love about Twitter. It was the first social network that clicked for me, despite having a Facebook account for a while before hand. The fast moving pace of updates and the activity levels of people that I enjoyed following just made it a place I wanted to be.

When I first started using Twitter I was hacking the iPhone and had a pretty successful side hustle unlocking them and helping others develop Cydia hacks. I was also really deep into Android Twitter building loads of friends that I still speak to all over the globe. I had a place, a constantly changing environment surrounded by people I wanted to deal with. I got hate from Apple fanboys but I didn’t care. This was me and I loved it.

The user base then felt like it was tiny. People that I spoke to in real life didn’t really use Twitter that much, but fast forward to now and it feels like everyone is here. It’s still fast moving, but it’s huge and often times exhausting. So I’ve tried to quit, more than once. Yet I keep coming back once I feel better, and then it got too much again, and the world goes around because I never learn.

Trying to work out what is so exhausting is the puzzling part. Partly it is the speed of information flowing past, slowing down always proves effective. However I have never really ever managed to put my finger on why, until today.

Listening to an episode of ‘You’re wrong about’ recommended by Gabz the concept of “What about…” was given as becoming exhausting and it instantly clicked of me. I love hearing other peoples opinions on things, expressing myself and giving far too many of my own outlooks in replies to tweets — and this is part of the issue. Opinions are something everyone has, and should be happy to share them with others, but when there is so much noise it gets frustrating.

As the host points out, When you tweet your three favorite bagels, someone will come back “but what about Poppy seed..”. The solution is not to stop people from replying to tweets, or limiting them in anyway, because that’s just not Twitter. To be honest I don’t think there is a solution, apart from not using Twitter so much.

I am certainly going to be more aware of the replies I make to others, and simply enjoy the sharing of opinions.Maybe write a blog post or two instead. Replying only when I have something to add, or a question is asked. This isn’t going to stop me going down rabbit holes and wasting time, but it should help my mental health a bit.

I Love The Journey.

It’s amazing how easy I am to sway into using something else. I’m perfectly happy using obsidian, bar a few tiny things, yet here I am setting up Craft because it got daily notes.

It’s not that I have anything to gain, and it’s not marketing hype, I think I just like playing with new things and trying out other ways.

I guess it’s a bit of a waste of time but it give me quite a bit of enjoyment so what’s it matter. I enjoy the journey of transferring my information, setting things up to work for me. Those little “a ha” moments when you find a little feature that works are as enjoyable as finding a robust system and sticking with it.