Incremental Updates

Every time Apple update something in their line-up that doesn’t quite live up to people’s expectations the finger pointing starts. Words like “incremental”, and the lack of “innovation” start being banded around along with the “should have been an S year statements”. I don’t agree with these statements in relation to the iPhone 13, however even if that is the case for you, these small steady steps forward are the best thing for everyone.

I struggle with the urge to upgrade more than most people. I obsessively get a new iPhone each year (yes even the iPhone XS) and more than occasionally look back and regret it. Each year the new phones indeed offer me something, however small, but I have come to terms with the fact that the drive for me to upgrade is one of habit and ego. When it comes to the device I use the most I just like something new, constantly. The sheer fact that I buy the pro phone each year is because it is new but being mindful of this allows me to see just how truly stupid it is.

This so called “lack of innovation” or “incremental updates” are exactly what our consumerist culture needs. Small updates each year help to dispel the myth of needing to constantly upgrade. Indeed, the actual benefits of newer models are becoming so small that when talking to others it is easier to put people off than ever. Leaving room for you to question the line up and be far more objective about stretching to upgrade. A positive further enforced by a line-up that contains overlapping features and, at least perceivably, very few compromises at each price point.

Sure, there are more capitalist ideas behind releases than I want to think about. There must be technical reasons but simple things such as moving camera lenses to new positions could be interpreted as making sure to show off the new phone. You can be sure each year there is also a new flagship colour too. However, a line up where you can get 90% of a phone at 70% of the cost is one that I applaud. Long may small incremental updates keep coming and someday even I might not feel the urge to buy, but I doubt it.

On Your Face Again

Very few times in my blogging life do I have to go extremely far back in my archives. Perhaps a year so to reference in newer posts but usually not far at all. Today I had to go right back to 2016 where I urged people not to put a computer on their face. Of course, referencing the now infamous Google Glass which had been floating around for a few years previously, but at the time the latest thing was Snapchat Glasses.

As I said previously, there are few things that really worry me when it comes to technology but being surrounded by other people’s recording devices on their face is chilling. Without doubt the improvements made to smartphones, particularly cameras have helped the world at least feel a bit safer. If you’re in any doubt you can pull out your smartphone and record what is going on. The effect being a small degradation of privacy with a positive benefit to life. Whereas Google Glass and Snapchat glasses felt like more than a step too far.

Indeed, it was like reliving the past when Zuckerberg lauded up their latest innovation along with esteemed Sunglasses brand Ray-Ban. They not only look pretty much the same as the Snapchat version, but with a much premium build quality, they are also set out to achieve the same thing – record as much of your life as possible. It’s at this point I start to think if I right in the thoughts I have about a product or am I just a grumpy old man that doesn’t ‘get it’. As much as I hate the approach of Living life through a lens, I must accept that that this is just how the world works now; but putting it on your face just doesn’t sit well with me.

I am pleased to see that thought has been placed on some of the privacy issues. An LED light when recording or taking an image at least instills some confidence in me that I am not being recorded all the time. Facebook of all people have thought about the push backs that people had against previous attempts to face computers and implemented safety as best they could. Sure, it doesn’t take much to stop the LED from working or cover it over, but this is less likely with you are stumping up at least £300 for a pair. Indeed, I do question if a pair of Ray-Bans on their face say more about the intended use than cheap plastic Snapchat ones? However, that is not only amazingly pretentious to say, but is also difficult to draw conclusions from.

Some technology I just don’t understand, and Face computers are one of the things I will never get. This is because the product is not for me, it’s for people that want to capture more things. Which in today’s world feels more understandable than it did even 5 years ago. I have no issues holding up a camera to take pictures, and I feel much more comfortable with people having to do the same. Indicating to me that my image is being recorded and making it easier for me to protest should I need to. We do indeed live in a world full of cameras, so camera glasses and no doubt AR ones are unavoidable. It’s weird that Facebook have allowed me to be at least a little more accepting of them, but I still have hope that they don’t take off.

What If Twitter Is Actually Empty

OK. Hear me out before you reply and do as Twitter says and read the post before commenting. The bottom line is, I don’t believe all the things in the post, but I do find it interesting to think about in the age of the modern web. Throwing around ideas and then debunking them in your own mind is a good exercise for finding truth when people are trying to deceive you — like they are on Twitter.

A couple of days ago I was introduced to a conspiracy theory that at first glance seems pretty out there. As with all of them, you’re never quite sure if people actually believe it or are just messing with others. The basis of the idea is that the internet died five years ago. Most, if not all, of the human created content you see online is populated by artificial intelligence and all the actual humans are gone.

If you search the phrase i hate texting on Twitter and scroll down, you will start to notice a pattern. – Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic

Seems out there doesn’t it. However, how many people on Twitter do you really know? Like in person know, a handful, more? As a percentage of the total people you follow I’ll bet it’s low — well all the others could be AI bots couldn’t they. Sounds bonkers, but when you consider that the PPC estimates that in 2020 at least 37.2% of all internet users were robots, and in 2016 they were responsible for 52% of the web traffic. Suddenly you start looking at the people you follow on Twitter with a side eye.

white robot near brown wall

It wouldn’t take much to fool us. There are already bots pretending to want to date you, pretending to be helpful customer service assistants, and much more besides. It wouldn’t take much artificial intelligence to tweet interesting things often enough for us to follow them.

What about other interaction I hear you all say. What about the blog posts, photos, and perhaps even videos that they also post online? The unwelcome news is that other content is pretty easy to fake too. Remember Tom Cruise playing golf? Ask yourself if that person you follow, interact with, and look up to could be fake and the answer is usually a high possibility.

Of course, this conspiracy theory goes much deeper into talking about the agendas of those that control the bots and the “various corporations that are in cahoots with the government to control our thoughts”. Which at this point I am surprised there isn’t some lizard people involved. However, let’s not forget that operations by organisations have been proven to influence not only election results but also general feelings around sensitive subjects. There isn’t much of a leap to suggest that corporations and more ‘friendly’ governments are using similar tactics.

I think you would be surprised how many bots you interact with daily, and these kinds of topics are interesting to think about. Then again, I could be a bot and this is simply to distract you from what is really going on!

The optional module, imagick, is not installed, or has been disabled – Digital Ocean

Before I start, the full disclosure is I don’t think this error message makes much difference. After resolving this I have not noticed any improvements with image handling, but some-people (me included) just like clearing warning messages! So, if you’re like me and just want to get rid of the bits of red on your WordPress health check then here’s some help.

The Error:

When running a WordPress health check you will get the following error

The WordPress Hosting Team maintains a list of those modules, both recommended and required, in the team handbook (opens in a new tab).

Warning The optional module, imagick, is not installed, or has been disabled.


What does Imagick do?

To use their own words “Imagick is a native php extension to create and modify images using the ImageMagick API”. it will enable you to edit your images much easier with the ability to add in loads of different effects and customisations natively in the WordPress media gallery.

It is also used to optimise the image you upload to WordPress and create different version fo images for different situations. Imagick also works with a larger range of image types and is thought to produce higher quality images overall. With that said, WordPress functions perfectly fine without it so installing is at your own risk and completely up to you.

The Fix For Digital Ocean Hosting:

On Debian/Ubuntu SSH into your server using terminal and do the following:

$ sudo apt install php-imagick
$ sudo systemctl reload apache2

If you run the PHP-FPM service, you also need to restart PHP-FPM service for Apache.

If you are hosting on anything else, or don’t have access to your server please consult with your host to solve this issue. Also note that the module is optional and not required, to reinforced what I have said previously I have noticed zero difference and merely did it to get rid of the warning – do so at your own risk.


The Death Of A Newsletter

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of a good friend of yours. The Greg Thinks Thing newsletter sadly passed away in its sleep because of neglect. It has a good run, reaching the ripe on age of fifty-two editions, and leaves behind much of its content in the form of blog posts ‘retconned’ into my blog as if it has always been there.

But seriously it’s gone. I tried my best to keep it going but since no more working from home and more blogging going on, I just don’t have the time to write it. Many of the resent things I tried to write specifically for the newsletter felt forced, or rehashes of blog posts so I will leave this excellent platform to those more suiting of sending things straight to your email inbox.

It served a great purpose though. I sailed along at the boom time when everyone and their pet hamster had a newsletter and wrote more during what was a tough time for me and my family due to COVID and national lockdown(s). It gave me something extremely specific to aim for and make sure that despite everything going on around me I published something very personal and got a lot of things off my chest. Sending them to people that really wanted to read them.

Which brings me to a larger point about the purposes of the things that I do. Newsletters started off very personal things, sent straight to us directly without messing about online. Like a direct message from a friend filled with thoughts and ideas. However, this has changed, newsletters are now a massive industry with top notch writing that is only available through email. Often linked to more controversial publishing Substack has also managed to gather up some writers that want to stand on their own and publish exclusive things only to the people that want to read them. Hiding everything away unless you pay for it.

Whereas I want the opposite. I have fallen back in love with writing again and long may it continue to bring my joy. I want people to get my thoughts however they want. Social Media, RSS, reading apps and there are even service out there like Mailbrew that will package it back up to an email if that’s your preferred method. Reading and writing is the most important thing for me, and the small thoughts that maintained more than fifty editions of my newsletter will just be blog posts now.

Thank you to those that read the editions. Or didn’t, you just signed up and that was enough. I enjoyed writing them immensely but it’s time to focus on different things and let those that can write better than I take you money and ping your inbox.

Refill My Glass

How do you write a follow up post? Especially one where you’ve changed your mind just because someone on the internet said you should have stuck it out? Or do you avoid writing it at all and just hide away in blissful ignorance. Those are questions for other days, but today I will write it because I did change my mind and return to using Glass and I am glad I did.

I did the same thing with Hey — the now divisive email app — and flip flopped around before diving in for a year. Glass is different though, I don’t really know what to do with it but I can’t leave it because it just looks so good. I missed looking at the awesome photographs in one of the best designed apps I have used for a long time. It was simply the lack of being able to find such an enjoyable experience anywhere else that lead me to begrudgingly stump up the £25 entrance fee and post a photo.

I don’t want to write about Instagram again, because all those words have been said. Yet the lack of every other existing service is the very reason I was pushed again to Glass. As much as the lack of interaction on my photos was annoying, and the same appearance of the photos I saw is still true using a different service with different aims takes a change in mindset.

I don’t want Glass to be another social media service where I follow everyone that I know (obviously I will do) I want it to be something different. I just want to look at nice photos that people are proud off and at the moment Glass is chocked full of them.

As everyone posts their best photos from their highlights and no doubt catches up with all the great photos, they have taken over the years I am impressed by the standard of shots. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to post some of mine, because they don’t feel up to the excellent standard of those I am scrolling past.

I have deleted so many photos that I thought were great at the time, and fine on Instagram – but now I am playing photographer I am not so sure!

Minimalism And Big Phones

Try as I might to be a good minimalist, I get lost along the way every now and again. I am never sure if I am doing this right, not spending too much time on taking instruction or being aware of how others deal with things. Yet there is one thing that I see constantly around those that title themselves minimalists and that is their aversion to technology and particularly phones with big screens.

I don’t use minimalism as a destination. I am not as crazed as some people that visit the sub Reddit and constantly worry about ridding themselves of more stuff, I just like having less things. What I do have, and what I do, gets some thought put into it and I only purchase what I really need in my life.

When it comes to tech, I love new things. I can’t help it, it’s my one weakness, and at this point I have given up fighting it. I spend quite a lot of my life online for my job and enjoy using my phone more than most minimalists would let themselves and I am perfectly happy with that. To me, my life is about making informed choices, being aware when those are being taken away from me and being willing to take a step back when needed. Which brings me to my feelings towards using big phones.

Hey look, you do you, but I used to give myself a tough time whenever I used one (that doesn’t sound like me at all does it). Sure, a smaller phone in general makes me much happier, but when you put thought into a purchase and having something bigger adds value to you, these feelings shouldn’t exist.

I constantly think about the people that worry themselves silly because they feel that minimalism means they must have less and less at the detriment of themselves. These is no end point, or goal to achieve, simply some rough things for you to think about whenever you think about bringing new things into your life. Being mindful of the things that you do, and the things that you buy to ensure you get the most amount of value possible. If a bigger screen on a phone does that for you, or I, then that’s great.

I have flaws in the way I approach tech in lots of ways. I am mindful of the way it can manipulate me, but also open to new way of looking at things. I like having a bigger phone because it is one of the devices, I use the most. I communicate on it for my job, my personal life and I write much of my blog on it. Couple this with the fact my eyesight isn’t what it was, and a bigger phone just gives me more value and I am sure it would do for others too.

I wrote many of these thoughts as a process for myself to understand why I am thinking about getting a max when then new iPhones come around but feel free to use these as your own excuse to not feel bad.

Writing Consistently

It’s hard work writing all the time. Some people seem to find it impressively easy and set off my imposter syndrome constantly. Yet for the most of us having the inspiration and then sitting down and actually writing the thing can become a mammoth task. Even more so when you do it constantly as there are so many things in life that can get in the way. When a friend of mine asked recently how I write so much, I looked bemused because I don’t write that much really. Not much that sees the light of day anyway, but perhaps my targets are much more than others.

There is no easy fix for publishing. A lot of the time you simply have to get out of your own way, and stop trying to fulfil demands you can’t meet. Everyone has big ideas, and can promise themselves, and others, to meet a level that they think they need to. However life always has a habit of getting in the way, and being present in the day to day things is more important that staring at your computer urging yourself to write something.

My writing comes and goes. At the moment I am publishing more regularly, but I am not worried when at points I don’t have much time to sit down and write something to publish. I don’t put pressure on myself to achieve certain levels, Mainly because I don’t make any money from my blog despite a few adverts and despite the fact that I like people on the web, my personal life is much more important to me.

I make loads of mistakes. Typos galore, and my grammar is never up to some many peoples standard (I have been turned down for so many writing positions it’s crazy) but that’s OK. Despite my imposer syndrome I have gotten used to just hitting publish and not worrying about it.

Sitting In The Chair is my most important, and most read, bit of advice to date. Simply writing stuff is the key to publishing more online. Much of what I write day to day is for me, formulating thoughts, recording things and linking ideas together. This could be journalling, putting things into Day One, or making daily notes, the most important thing is that you (and I) are writing things out.

It might sound like a meaningless tautology, but the reason I write so much is because I write so much — and you should too.

Early Xbox Gamepass Thoughts

The future is finally here. No you still can’t work on an iPad, but game streaming is finally good and starting to remove the need for hardware. You should already know going into this that I am already well on the boat with cloud services like this, and a heavy Stadia user. It was the service that got me playing games again, and although I feel no affiliation to the service, I like it very much.

This morning for some strange reason I noticed that I can sign up for Gamepass ultimate now for a £1! Whilst still in beta, the service allows for anyone to sign up following a pretty lengthy closed beta period. I don’t own any gaming hardware at all, so cloud services are all I am really interested in currently. Despite my love of Stadia I have alway had half an eye on Gamepass Ultimate. It contains a few games that I would want to play, and seems like it should put Googles dalliance with cloud gaming into the shade.

The two services have lots of crossover parts, whilst adopting two pretty different approaches to gaming. Stadia wants to be your everything, provide you with free games for a small fee and allow you to buy others from them. Whilst Microsoft simply wants you to pay a subscription and be allowed to play games from studios it owns or works very closely with. There is no facility to buy games outside of these provided with your subscription.

With Stadia, games do rotate in and out of ‘pro’ (which costs £8.99) but once you have claimed the games you can continue to play them — as long as you keep paying the subscription of course. With Gamepass you’ll never own anything, presumably games will stay on the service and more will be added, but if you stop paying, no more gaming. Where as Google will allow you to keep playing any games you have purchased without paying a penny, all be it at 1080p and not 4K like with the pro service.

With all this said, Gamepass is actually amazing value for money, and even more so if you own an Xbox or a gaming PC. Included is Xbox Live Gold and EA Play in the £10.99 a month subscription. If you have hardware you will also get more games — for example you can play FIFA 21 on Xbox or PC, but not cloud streaming for some strange reason. However the quality of game available for free is much larger on Gamepass.

Ultimatly it all boils down to Microsofts ability to do what Google wanted to do. It has the power to make games available because it has been doing this longer, and owns its own studios. Google have shuttered all of its first party studios despite spending millions on them, and instead are to focus on partnering with others the develop or port over games, with varying success.

Although Gamepass is the much better value for money, I am reluctant to jump in without being able to buy other games. this may lead to me having both services until that happens, or as MS no doubt will hope, I buy an Xbox. I see Gamepass as a huge edition if you have an Xbox or a gaming PC, and will only get stronger over time. However for someone like me I could run out of games I actually want to play fast and then have no where to go. 

I expect Gamepass to very quickly outshine Stadia and hopefully push it to get much better. Or kill it off completely.

A Question Of Platforms

When publishing a link post yesterday about blogging feeling more away from regular social media, the main point picked up on was comments on my posts. As Curtis Hale points out there is no provision for people to leave comments on my posts, other than replies on micro.blog.

I chose micro.blog recently due to its social side and also the nature of the platform allowing me to post everything in one place. I didn’t spend any time wondering where does this go, and put short ‘tweets’, Instagram style photos and long blog posts all on one blog. Making the experience a bit more personal.

In exchange for this I get a much more rigid platform than the WordPress one I came from, and rely totally on one persons vision for what he wants. Manson does an excellent job of running micro.blog but that’s not really the point, that is to say that I have given over a large portion of control to another person. Much like Facebook and Twitter dictate what I can and can’t post, micro.blog controls the way the platform works and how it moves forwards.

When thinking about comments the only thing that works are micro.blog replies. I should be able to pull in replies from Twitter using bridg.y now, but it has never worked. I no doubt could look at other options and try and run a stand alone commenting system, but this would be hacked on rather than an integrated solution. Giving over this large level of control sometimes feels freeing at times, but in equal measures frustrating.

If the platform decides to go a direction that you don’t want to then you are at its mercy, or you pack up and leave. Something that should be easy to do, but often at times isn’t. Perhaps something more open is better suited to what I want to achieve, or where I want my blog to go.

I am lucky in the fact that I can usually mold things to get to where I want to be and if I think about comments and the potential of avoiding the trappings of social media, my current platform does not provide it. I guess its important to think about these things when you give over control, and rember that needs can change a lot faster than platforms do.

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 Back Links

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!

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!

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.

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.

Where Do Your Values Fit?

I am making my way through the wonderful book “Think Like a Monk” by Jay Shetty. It’s hard going, because there is so much to think about I have to stop and digest much of what is being introduced. One of the largest ideas I have found beneficial is the idea of a ‘Values Audit’. A dedicated time where you asses where your perceived values fit into your life, and make some conclusions towards your actual values.

For example someone may claim their values are spending time with their family, but can’t put their phone down to interact with their children. Or you claim there is no time to exercise, but spend hours a day watching TV. This can lead you to be self critical, but there is no need, really what comes from this is more shaping of your actions to display what you value the most.

As my granddad would always say to me “talk is cheap, actions pay the bills”. It’s free and easy to outline the inner working of yourself in words, but your actions quite often display other things. A recent book I read on called Ruined by Design by Mike Monterio discussed a similar thing when designers do things they don’t want to do, but fail to stand up for their values. Leading to a large portion of companies implementing manipulative practices, but this doesn’t just apply to designers.

How many of us would take a position or a job that doesn’t fit in to our values. To use myself as an example, would I design for a company that portrayed dark patterns? Would I write for a company that tracked its users and showed loads of adds? Would you?

Of course many of us would. Taking a job simply because it is with a company we want to work for, but doesn’t display any of our values. There is a certain amount of fighting from the inside you can always do working for a company that doesn’t stand for you, and there is no shame or accusation in that. However it’s important to be aware of whats happening and do these value audits regularly.

Being mindful about the practices you have, your outlook on the world around you and most of all, your output into the world. If at all times we can ensure our true inner values are being portrayed and supported, the world would be a much happier place and you will be a much happier person in it.

My Obsidian Set Up

For the last few months I have been using Roam Research as the powerhouse behind almost everything I do. I’ve written previously of my love for the way it allows me to record my thoughts and everything that goes on in my life. It links very heavily in to both my writing workflow and my reading workflow, and as such has been a huge boost to my working and personal life.

Even with all this praise, I have still always looked for something else. Although it has proved valuable, I don’t love the £195 a year price tag, and I also hate it is only semi available on mobile, and has no offline mode. I’ve tried alternatives, including Obsidian, but nothing else quite fit the bill, but this time something stuck and I’d like to share my current Obsidian set up, what it does for me and how it could help you.

What Is It

Obsidian is, in there own words, a powerful knowledge base that works on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files. It takes many of the things I loved about Roam (I have no idea which one came first), particularly the network of thoughts that link themselves together but makes it local.

This is a huge benefit when you consider that access to something as important as your network of thoughts should be available at all times. I have not experienced issues accessing Roam, but other online apps have had these issues. Also consider that I have lost work because Roam has updated itself and not saved my document — and I am not alone with these issues, as rare as they are.

Instead Obsidian builds on top of plain text markdown notes that are stored locally. Granted, this means that you rely on things syncing between devices, so if an internet connection is in short supply you will still have issues. However is means you can create and edit files wherever you are and don’t rely on the cloud. I have my ‘vault’ (more on that later) set up in iCloud that syncs to all of my devices quickly and easily. The text files are kb in size so I have, as yet, not had a single issue.


My Set Up

As with most platforms promising to boost your networked thought, Obsidian can be as simple or as powerful as you want to be. At its base, you simply point it at a folder, called a vault, containing text files and Obsidian displays them for you. You can put these files into folders of unlimited depth and set them up however you wish. By clicking on a file you display the text within it.

You can link these files together, by using the now very familiar double square bracket ([[]]) or the hashtag #. This allows you to link notes together in non hierarchical order. As in, they can link backwards and forwards as well as to whatever else you wish. Your file name is automatically searched through the vault and any mention of the same thing will be surfaced as an un-linked reference. These can be people, books, films, thoughts, in-fact whatever you want them to be.

My set up is very simple in terms of folder structures, I have one for book notes, one for article notes, one for random notes, and a few others for People, Templates and Podcasts. This is not needed, all of the text files can be left in the root of the vault, but I like a nice clean look on the side. Everything can be searched for anyway, and in many ways you don’t even have to see the files to link them together.

Daily Notes

My biggest strength now is recording absolutely everything that I need, or want to refer back to later. I used to save these things sporadically in Apple Notes and also Ulysses. Now Obsidian is open constantly while I am at my mac. Every time I open Obsidian it is on my daily note, this contains my daily tasks, meeting notes, Journal entries and almost anything in my life.

When I first sit down in the morning I type out some Morning Notes. This has been my practice for months now and just helps me surface whatever is going on in my brain that morning. I don’t think very much about these, I try and get out of my own way and let my thoughts flow out. Admittedly some of this is repeating trends of how I am feeling, but quite often these thoughts turn into blog posts or just something I work on personally.

My daily note also contains my Routines, these are simple things I am bringing into my daily routine to make myself better. Really simple things like walking the dog, meditating, exercising and anything else I am working on. You create a task by typing - [ ] Task name.

To set up daily notes turn this on in the core plugins. There are also some options in settings to customise this a little. I set up my daily note to start from a Template, so I always have the same headings and tasks to tick off.

I have another area for my aforementioned day notes, this allows me to take brief notes on meetings, telephone calls and also anything else that crops up in the day. I can’t tell you how beneficial this is for emptying my brain and writing down all my tasks.

Plugins

While we talk about turning on plugins, now the real power of Obsidian starts to come out. You can use a whole range of plugins created by the community of developers out there that are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Plugins are split into ‘core’ and community. The Core plugins are optional things that Obsidian can do if you wish, and Community plugins are downloadable extensions to do extra things, some simple, some really powerful.

You can also install plugins outside of the app that are easy to discover in their thriving community or their Discord channel. From my experience most people don’t stray outside of the Community plug ins. I use the following heavily.
Calendar: This shows a calendar in the right side bar, allowing you to go back to daily notes from those days or make daily notes on dates in the future.
Natural Language Dates: This allows you to easily tag things with dates by using @today or @tomorrow or even @next week.
Text Expander: Does exactly what it says on the tin. Allowing you to customise short codes and replace them with regularly used bit of text.
Kindle Highlights: Syncs by book highlights into my book notes folder in a similar fashion to Readwise.

I have tried to make things as simple as I can, but also molded things to my usage. There are hundreds of community plugins to do loads of things and you can spend days of your life trying them out! One non community plugins that I have to mention will follow because it is the basis of how I get things done.


Tasks

As mentioned about you can set tasks up really easily in Obsidian and there are load of plugins to help you manage these and keep ticking those check boxes off. To add a date to a task you simply tag it so for example.
- [ ] Do this thing #2021-12-25

This will make a task for you to complete that will be linked to the daily note on the 25th December 2021. You can go further and further with this and customise this until your heart is content, but this is task management in Obsidian 101.

Wait, there are plugins though! After using Obsidian GTD for a little while I opted to use Tasks. The benefit of this was that I can get my set up to display the tasks I have to complete in a way that works for me. I have a note titled tasks that contains code to display my priorities that are overdue, need doing today and those that are upcoming. As well as having an Inbox of sorts by surfacing any task I have not allocated a date to.

Tasks also allows me to set up repeating tasks and displays the date I completed each task next to the item with a nice green tick emoji — I like that! I leave my Tasks note open in a second page by CMD + click.

Book & Article Notes

Ever read something and thought it was great but immediately forgot all about it? Yeah me to, until I started making notes about it. When I read anything in Pocket, or on my Kindle at night, the highlights go into Obsidian for two reasons:
1. For me to refer back too later if i need to
2. For me to go over and expand on at a later date

These notes may sit doing nothing, or may be expanded on and stored for later reference, either way they are not taking space up in my brain and have not been lost. The Kindle highlight plugin allows me to do this whenever I have finished a book and want write a little about it, if only a mini review. However I transfer over my Pocket highlights once a week or so for reference.

Making notes in this fashion quite often comes out in my daily notes, or my writing later on, because a quick search or a glance at the links tab in the right sidebar will surface any relevant information to me. With a few keystrokes I can make sure these thoughts are connected up and begin to see my knowledge graph forming before my eyes.

I tried this also with Podcast notes, which can be really useful when sycnced through the app Airr. However since my listening declined these have stopped completely.

I was initially dismissive of making notes like this, and still do shy away from going as deep as I could. Some of this is trauma from University and making hours of notes, but some of this is just not what I use Obsidian for, but with that said it’s amazing the difference it has made. Simply by having them there and padding some of them out my recall of the topics discussed has been improved tremendously. If there is one thing I can’t stress it’s don’t me as dismissive as I was. Make loads of notes about everything.

Writing

This is one of the biggest things that I always wanted Roam to be. A place I could write out anything and it be stored and linked to if those topics come up again. Try as I might, I just never got there with Roam. There are options to turn it of, but first and foremost it likes things in bullets and blocks which felt to rigid and strange. Whereas Obsidian is text editor at its core, so writing is a delight.

Everything I have ever written in in a text file in my writing folder. Published or not it’s there and can come up again whenever the time is right. Whats more is that all my documents are written in my beloved markdown. So I can type away and never click a mouse button if I don’t need to! My search for a perfect writing app has changed back to storing everything in Markdown in Obsidian, so no more subscriptions. Publishing is as easy at copy and paste into micro.blog and put in my images.

Using the very geeky comandline universal converting service Pandoc and the accompanying plugin, I can also export my work documents and things I am working on to docx and pdf as and when required. I don’t really want to get in to setting this up because it is boring, but I might do at some point.

Mobile

I am lucky enough to have the beta version of the iOS app to test (it is available on Android too). This is a full featured app that works exactly like the desktop version. Meaning I can type in my notes, pull up any information I need, or even work on my iPad!

The fact that a free service got here before a £195 one like Roam did is baffling to me. Bravo on the developers and the community to getting to this stage and deliver such a full featured app with very few caveats.


Conclusion

And there you have it, my very simple setup in a nut shell. I’d like to cover concisely why Obsidian stuck for me this time, but I really have no idea. Many people I follow have started using it, and as such I gave it a little more time. It’s not Roam Research and that’s ok. I love it even more because its simple to pick up and you can get as geeky as you like.

I have recently discovered some more plugins that I am experimenting with for creating templates and moving things even further forward. But for now the real benefit I get from this is being able to open it each morning and use it all day for the things it does best — recording my thoughts and linking them for me.

My Podcast Feed

It’s been a while since I listened to podcast as intently as I used to. Somewhere in 2019 I fell off a bit as I didn’t have to drive as much, and the pandemic just killed almost all of my listening. The empty space I used to fill with talking and chatting about tech is not just empty but I’t still consuming up a little while running or walking the dog. Chris Wilson pestered me into writing about what I am listening to, so here it is!

Wired UK

The only Tech thing I listen to now is a good round up of tech news that is actually interesting. It got a bit too much in the pandemic due to talking about research and related things to do with COVID but its back to its best. No spec stuff, no wild rumors to get emotional about, just stories and insight about how tech is changing the world. If you like the magazine, you’ll love the podcast.

Duncan Trussell Family Hour

My favorite person, perhaps on the planet (don’t tell my wife) never fails to entertain. With in-depth talk about life, reality, religion, psychedelics and almost anything goes. His insight into how he looks at the world has affected me deeply since discovering him on Joe Rogan a few years ago – I never miss an episode.

Vox Conversations

This is a new one for me, I have only been listening a couple of weeks but have gone back and devoured a lot of the back catalog. It’s very political in places, and offers a very slanted view of the world, but has introduced me to some really good books and interesting people. I particularly enjoyed the recent episode on Satanic conspiracies in the US.

Tim Ferris

What more is there to say about this podcast, it’s really great. I do dip in and out due to not having the attention or time for a 2hour + conversation but they are always a great listen. Tim has a great way of interviewing and bringing the very best our of people. His show with Yuval Noah Harari changed my outlook on life completely.

Darknet Diaries

If you’re following me and not listening to Darknet I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. This is one of my very favorite. It scratches my tech itch but in a completely different way. The story telling behind some of the greatest hacks in the world, and also some you’ve never heard of ,never fails to grab me.


Others worth mentioning:
Louis Theroux Grounded, The Missing Crypto Queen, Aubrey Marcus, Project Human

How To Do An EE Digital eSim Swop

Despite it being a standard feature in many Android phones it took Apple until the iPhone XS to implement a dual sim of sorts. Even then you need to have one as an eSim and that limits the networks that can support it. Thankfully EE were one of the first, so for the last few years I have been using two sims in my iPhone, one for work and one for personal.

One major pain is dealing with moving phones. I do that quite a bit, so ordering a paper EE eSim each time became a pain, not to mention an expense at £1.50 a time. Preplanning helps a little, but there has still been times I’ve been without service because I’ve broken my phone and can’t just pop my sim in another.

Thankfully EE have a solution, and you can now download an EE eSim for your iPhone in seconds! Here’s how to do a digital EE eSim swop.

You will need your current sim to be working to receive a text message, and also have already set up your new handset and downloaded the My EE app.

Once you’ve done that on your new phone in the My EE app, open the menu and go to Settings > Device and SIM > Replace my SIM > and select your number.

You will then have two options on supporting devices, SIM card — Post (2 to 4 days) at a cost of £1.50. Or eSim — instant download at a cost of 50p.

Tap on eSim, then select this device, and you’ll be on your way to transferring your number.

You will then get a notification that the eSim is ready to download, and then you can go through the normal set up options. This gives you the facility to choose labels for the numbers, which iMessage number is used and lots of others. Once completed you will need to activate the new sim by receiving a text to your old phone, put the supplied code into the app on your new phone, and you’re ready to go.

This is usually instant but can take unto an hour, turn your new phone off and on again to refresh everything, and you’re good to go on your new handset with a new EE eSim.

Head into Settings > Mobile data to change any of the options you’re selected on set up. If in any doubt call 150 from a working EE phone.

The Great Podcast Doors Are Closing

Following Apples move to offer Podcasters subscriptions to help increase revenue for podcasters, and also grab some cash for themselves, the doors will begin to slam shut. Granted we’ve already seen some try and muscle into exclusive podcasts, Spotify tries to tie up some creators and podcast producers buy up applications, but I have a feeling it’s going to get a lot worse.

Instead of offering something built on top of a secure RSS feed, Apple have chosen to close it down entirely. Should you choose to make your Podcast more premium and charge your listeners, you will have to upload the audio straight to Apple. Closing off any chance of the show being available in another app, and removing RSS entirely.

Anchor The Feed

I am no lover of podcast platform Anchor, and have been outspoken about their practices, but this recent post from its founder seems to be the most sensible move. Instead of launching a service to tie everything down, he talks about the love of the openness of the RSS-based industry, but also the issues that comes with it.

Each platform that hosts content will have no choice to make a grab for premium content creators. Not because that is who they should be appealing to, but because they can’t miss out on it. Left unchecked Apple could not only take money from subscribers. They will also cut out advertisers, hosting platforms and even apps in their own App Store.

It’s understandable that some podcasters will start to get a bit jumpy, but most of these things are motivated by continued attempts to control the market. Open podcasting won’t go away, but the type of content that is available for free, or indeed in the place you want to consume it will dry up over time. We are well and truly in the boom time of audio focused content, which after a year of stalling due to COVID-19 could be a refreshing change.

However, I have a feeling the market will right itself. This has happened to TV, video and blogging before, but there was still enough out there to consume. Perhaps those of us that have been listening for years have just had too much time in the sun? I don’t believe its time to get worried, there are a huge number of podcasters out there that are working away for free that deserve to be better supported. It’s time to wait and see, and support the creators you think need it most.

The Problem Of Scale

One thing that constantly surprises me on micro.blog is how nice people are. This has something to do with the barrier to entry being a bit nerdy, but everything to do with the scale of the platform. Although everyone seems to think that abuse and harassment is something unique to the main social networks, it’s actually a problem of scale.

You see I love micro.blog (it took me a while) with my main appreciation being that it’s not where everyone is. Sure, I’d like more people to post it, I’d love to follow more interesting people, but with all the noise comes issues. My feed is filled with thoughtful comments, far too much debate about what platform to publish too, and nice photos. There is a positive vibe to the place, so much so that there appears to be no movement towards thinking about moderation.

The platform can be independent of the publishing platforms, so a swift move to remove cross posting would be easy to do, as well as removing hateful comments. This lax approach seems to be shared by every new approach and always fails to work, at scale.

I would already kill for better timeline organisation. Sure there is no incentive to move to algorithms that engage users more due to the paid nature of the platform. Stepping away from micro.blog, it’s obvious where the trend goes for almost every other social platform that attempts to be moderation free. I am lucky in the fact I have placed my eggs in a basket I trust, Manton and the team have no reason to do anything other that tend to this nice positive garden they have created. Others are not so lucky.

Almost every platform that attempts to be a safe place for a certain type of person falls flat on their face with this problem of scale. You can promise to be moderation free, or simply not have the time to do it, but the fact is it’s impossible to run a platform that doesn’t have to do moderation.

Start with the spam you’ll inevitably get once there are enough users. Then the things you legally have to take down — abuse, copyright material etc. Once you reach a critical mass of users, then comes the algorithmic feed decisions due to lack of engagement and inability for users to keep up. This too is an inevitability as users can’t decide if their posts will be seen or not and start to post less if action isn’t taken.

All platforms that need engagement or show adverts will devolve into the same state eventually. Nothing will ever ‘fix’ social media. Scale kills almost everything, there is a huge benifit to not being where everyone is. Stay small.

What Do I Really Want?

I’d like to say this was in my younger years, but until fairly recently I bought loads of stuff because I thought I wanted it. Wasted thousands on tech purchases and waved any dismissive thoughts away with the reasoning that it was my only vice. Upgraded my phone, tablet, computer, and anything I could get my hands on almost constantly in a search for something better. When in fact it wasn’t better it was looking for, it was an answer.

The next model of iPhone was always the one that would fill what I was looking for. No? It must be the next one coming in a few months then, or maybe I needed an iPad to go with it. Whatever the feelings left after the hit of dopamine had subsided, it was explained away with buying something else.

That wasn’t what I was searching for though, I wanted something to fill another hole in myself. It didn’t matter what the hole was, but I filled it with buying tech. Simply because I thought it made me look cool on the internet. Although every upgrade offered me something, these things are not what I needed. What I, and load of people like me, needed was to get to the root of what I really wanted. What was I trying to mask and fill with buying things?

It wasn’t until discovering minimalism that I became aware fo the feelings I had. Like many people I talk to, the Netflix documentary introduced me to a way of looking at the more essential things in life. Thinking much harder about the things I choose to put in it. This isn’t an advert for minimalism, but the message given is a powerful one. The thing I needed was not a thing at all, and for different people it is different things — but one thing links us all, it’s not stuff we need.

These feelings haven’t gone away, I don’t think they ever will. They are still there, I bought every size of iPhone simply because I could, but how I deal with them is different. Being aware of feelings and the reasons behind them has been an important step in improving my overall happiness and seems to have curbed the never-ending search for fulfilment. Much simpler things make me content now, and when these pangs of purchases come I ride them out and think about what the root cause really is. It’s me.

It’s Easy To Wish For Something Else

The world online would have us believe that everyone else’s life is better than ours. No matter how great the universe is when you look around you, there are always ones that appear better. You can stare at the photos, read the words and watch the videos and never fail pick out things you wish for your own. It’s easy to see positives in others but not in yourself.

Even if the portrayal is far from the truth. Others internet lives are, on the surface, perfect. Everyone else is always living their best life, enjoying things better than your experiences or doing a better job of it anyway. Almost everything appears better on the outside. The grass always appears greener, but the grass is fake.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see — Henry David Thoreau

The surface is an easy place to observe, it’s the place easy for us to understand, free of the complexities that lie just beneath it. We cannot take everything in, there is simply too much information for us to process, so we focus instead on what we wish to see, and when a lot of what we see is airbrushed it’s impossible to see negatives.

This isn’t a new problem, it’s easy to blame the internet, but the internet is full of content others publish. After all, why would you want to show pictures of yourself not in the best light, or having a bad time? What a weird Instagram that would be if the images were what people were actually doing every day. As much as the modern phrase of “it’s OK to not be OK” is spoken, it is not OK to not be your best on the internet.

You can speak of pressure from beauty standards, advertising, and more modern-day worries until you ar blue in the face. The self-fulfilling prophecy is unbreakable, until you realise that this is all fake. It’s easy to see positives, it’s easy to focus on the worries you already have, and it’s natural to see what you want to see.

Your feed is the edited highlights, and so is everyone else’s. Wishing for other lives, other bodies, others income is easy when all you see are the nice bits.

Time To Slow It Down

My daughters toy says this to me every time I hand it to her. Its nighttime based vocal cues and music prods her towards winding down and going to sleep. For how long who knows, but it helps her drift off. I’ve never really paid attention to this until today whilst thinking about the very same things.

I’m not old, but I’m not as fast as I used to be — me to my wife after a run

Whilst trying to up my running millage now the weather is better, I am forever having to tell myself to slow down. My legs are stuck in this weird pace that I can handle for 10k but not for much longer and I have a habit of blowing up with too many miles to go. A lesson I should have learnt by now, but one that doesn’t just stop at running. I also have a sustained habit of tweeting too fast, thinking too fast and hitting projects too hard too soon.

Try as I might, I just can’t slow myself down some times. I haven’t expanded the internal monologue that happens whist running to the rest of my life. It’s a lesson that I have read quite a few times lately and one I needed to add my support too. I have recently been introduced to the GTD tag of “high energy” and this makes perfect sense to me. Don’t go hard all the time, slow down and go hard when you can.

Slow doesn’t mean as slow as possible it just means slower than you might expect. Doing things at the correct pace is one of life’s biggest lessons. That pace is going to be different for different people, and different times of day and hell even different periods of time. We are constantly encouraged to move faster, work harder and fill every waking moment with something that others deem important. When in fact it’s time to slow down, do things properly and maintain them for longer.

When it comes to tweeting, maybe just don’t instead.

Why Highlights Are So Important To My Reading

It’s only a few months since I covered my reading flow. It’s something that has changed a lot in the last year due. Motivated by my desire to take more advantage of the time spent engrossed in a book or catching up on my queue of online articles. This doesn’t matter when and where I am doing this, but one thing I’ve come to rely on is highlighting and being able to read them back.

Only when testing two new upcoming reading apps (super top secret sorry) that are yet to implement highlights that I realised how important they are. Without even thinking I draw my finger across the screen to highlight a specific sentence or passage that I want to remember. When that doesn’t happen, I don’t feel like I am getting the best I can out of this experience.

Many things slide past without needing to be highlighted, but more than a few times I have had to put the article into another app so I can save the highlights for later. I could try to do this with Shortcuts, but there is something about being able to see what you’ve read and which bits are important. Remember how satisfying it felt to bust out the marker and highlight things on your school texts?

These highlights typically end up on social media, lead to alink post or are saved to refer to later. Readwise definitely helps with pushing these into Roam for me, but there are a huge number of ways to read these highlights back and let the information sync in better. If you are thinking about using a service, or creating a new one, highlighting should be top of your list.

Not everything needs highlighting, but everything needs to be able to be highlighted.

My Phone Has Moved Out

For at least the last 4 years, each night I have taken off my Apple Watch, and placed it on a charger next to my bed along with my iPhone. So for the time I am asleep, or at least trying to be, my phone is within arms reach on a standup charger.

This helps tremendously as I always have a bedside clock on hand that glows with a subtle bump to the table, and I can be at the mercy of my alarm within a few seconds. But it also means that at any point I can reach over and entertain myself when I should be sleeping.

We’ve all done it. “Just Checking” Twitter before going to bed and an hour disappears as you descend a rabbit hole. Or perhaps you see it light up as a notification comes in, and now you’re fully awake because the supermarket had a great offer for you at 2am. Thankfully I am one of the lucky ones that doesn’t need to be contactable at night, but I’ve only just realised that moving your phone into another room is the way to go.

It was only through pure accident that the realisation hit me. I was ‘between’ phones and having to use an iPhone SE 2016 that relied on wired charging. As such it lived in my separate office for a couple of days until my new one arrived. Meaning everything was left until the morning, the extra effort to get out of bed, cross the hallway and retrieve my phone meant that I just left it alone.

That bit of extra space meant I slept better, felt better and the difference was so stark that despite no longer relying on a charging cable, my phone dock now lives in the other room permanently. I hope it likes its new living space, along with all the accessories that go with it. I still do grab it sometimes but much less than before. I wish I had done this sooner.

Write About Anything And Everything

I have seen people over the last few days start to wonder what to write about on their blog. Asking questions about the topics they cover and also publishing posts about what they aim to do. It’s great to see more people typing out words and realising that it really doesn’t matter what you write about.

Personal blogs are a strange thing, they are not new, they’ve been a round since pretty much the invention of the internet. For some reason or another they seem to be making a resurgence. Perhaps it’s the increased distrust in the places that bloggers left for, namely social media and others that aim to monetise you without paying you.

It could be a concoction of many reasons. The positive is they are coming back. Sure, they have never gone away for many people, but lots more are opening up to the idea of publishing things themselves. So many great platforms exist now where you don’t need special skills to publish, and you don’t need to brand yourself either.

The need for a name or logo or fancy design is loosing its trend as publishing gains more relevance from your personal experience and your opinions. Citizen journalism has become immensely relevant as people lose confidence in main stream media, but are also becoming more closed off to outside ideas. So more people writing about more things and their personal experience of them can only lead to positive things.

Pick a platform and do it. Let me know what’s going on in your life, the pictures you take, the articles you read and the thoughts you have on them. There are enough publications out there writing news, or reviews or whatever pays the bills. The internet needs your voice, however you see fit to share it. Cover everything and anything and publish it.