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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Micro.blog.

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Want something? Write it down

Mark Boulton, on asking people to formally write down their requests:

Next time someone asks you to do something, try it. I bet 3 times out of 10, they say ‘oh it doesn’t matter’. You’ll have that time back. They’ll be a little wiser and have a lower heart rate.

Good post. Jump over to his blog and read it. I may take something from this and instill it in my new job.

/via Jeremy Keith.

Best of 2017 as told by me

To create this list I sat down and wrote from the top of my head the things I could remember being awesome in 2017. The list isn’t exhaustive. It is just what made an impression on me as being “the best” in each category.

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

Evee consistently writes well-researched, readable, diatribes on topics that could otherwise be boring yet are fascinating and I hang on every word. Here are a few posts from 2017 to get you started:

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

When I awarded this to Jason Santa Maria so many years ago it was due to his use of color, contrast, typography. But design isn’t limited to how something looks but also how it works. Colin Walker has spend much of 2017 tweaking his blog’s features in subtle ways to work just the way he wants it to. I’m sure he’ll continue to fiddle with it throughout 2018 but I think we can all learn from Colin’s iterative approach. Keep tweaking.

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

I’ve known about Brand New for a long time and have stumbled across a post or two over the years. But this year I’ve been pushing myself to learn more visual design and one way was to subscribe to more blogs like this. I find these posts, and the community, to be an excellent resource.

Best service: Spotify

This year I’ve used both Apple Music and Google Play Music to see if I could move away from Spotify. Spotify is in a league all its own, the other two don’t even compare well. Spotify’s machine learning robots just do an amazing job at surfacing music that I would like. It is so good it is eery.

Notable mention: Google Photos. I’ve switch from Apple iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and I’m consistently being surprised by how much better it is.

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a tough call. I read some pretty great books this year. But the one that keeps coming up in conversations, the one I’m sharing the most is Ready Player One. I think it is the sci-fi novel that I read this year that most feels like it could happen within a few years.

Notable mention: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling has made the biggest impact to my productivity and cognitive load than any other app, technique, or method this year. My “version” is slightly different than the default but I’m loving it.

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

I’m cobbling together my notes for a “review” of the Pixel 2 XL in the coming weeks but I can say, unequivocally, it is the best phone of the year. For me. I know the Samsung Galaxy Note8 made many people’s list and of course the iPhone X deserves a mention – but for the price, the quality of the hardware, and the software the Pixel 2 XL is an easy winner for me.

Before I get email, know that I have an iPhone X (Eliza’s phone) and I’ve tried the Samsung models. For me it came down to the camera system (which is actually better than the iPhone X in everything but the second lens), the software (Android 8.1 – Samsung is way behind) and the price. The iPhone X will be better next year and, hopefully, iOS 12 will be much, much better than iOS 11. But, as of today, Google is killing it.

One other side note: Google as a personal assistant is so much better than Siri it is jarring. I may have used Siri a few times per month in the past but today I use Google about 10 times per day with nearly zero mistakes.

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

If you’re not a fan of The West Wing this choice may not land with you at all. So, for you I would suggest Song Exploder. If you haven’t yet listened to TWWW I suggest starting at the beginning and also watching The West Wing along the way.

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

When I deleted my social media accounts and didn’t even look at them for a few months the one I missed the most was Instagram. The platform continues to be one of the best and they continue to add great new features all the time while somehow keeping the app’s history in tact. The day may come when they add a feature that is terrible but so far they’ve done pretty well.

Side note: The algorithmic timeline almost pushed this one out for me. It is nearly inexcusable that this isn’t optional. I sincerely hope they find a way to allow users this option this year.

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

Perhaps this should be “most improved browser”? Quantum is a great name for the strides Mozilla has made with Firefox. They continue to improve the browser.

Oddly, Firefox is not my “daily driver”. I am using Chrome due to my switch to Android. (I’m ecstatic that I now can choose a default browser) I may, though, give Firefox a try across the board again soon.

Notable mention: Safari for turning off auto-play videos and ad tracking by default.

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

Though I’m now using Android I have to list Apollo as the best app. If you ever kill time by looking at Reddit (which I do a few times per week) I have to suggest you try this app. It is so well made you’ll wish it’s developer made every app you use.

Notable mention: Snapseed and Google PhotoScan (search App Stores).

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

VS Code has improved a lot over the last year and has now overtaking Atom as my default text editor and code editor for all projects. While I still build native apps in Visual Studio most of my web work and text editing happens in VS Code.

The shared workspaces are the big feature for me this year. I can combine several code repositories into a single workspace and use Spotlight to launch all code related to a particular project in less than a second. It also has git and terminal integrated so I’m usually able to do all of my work in a single window.

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

Specifically, Hot Ones. First We Feast has an interview show called Hot Ones that I just discovered this year and I can’t get enough of it.

Notable mention: MKBHD

Those are all of the categories I wanted to feature this year. Again, I simply pull this list together from the top of my head. Just like all years I saw so many amazing things it’d be very hard to create a real list. I suggest following my blog for all of 2018 because whenever I see something worth linking to I do so.

There are, however, some other companies, people, and products that I think deserve a shout-out. Here they are in no particular order: SpaceX, Khalid, Tom Hanks’ lost gloves tweets, The Last Jedi hype, Chris Stapleton, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE Podcast, Amazon Kindle and library loans, letgo, Google Maps, OK Google, Logitech MX Master 2S, USB-C, cast iron pans, Amazon Prime.

See you next year.

 

 

Scott McNulty’s 31 TNG posts

Scott McNulty:

To celebrate the 30th anniversay of a show that has had a large impact on my life I’m going to write a TNG related blog post every day this month. Why? Why not!

TNG being Star Trek: The Next Generation. Let’s see if he keeps it up. I’m rooting for him.

Colin Walker: “Should replies be posts?”

Colin Walker, in a post on whether or not replies to other posts (or, comments) should be their own posts:

There has to be a line, a point where a comment is just that and not a reply. It’s a question of semantics but not everyone’s answer to “what is a comment and where does it belong?” will be the same.

I struggle with this a lot.

It is likely the point I should have made in my post regarding Micro.blog becoming a commenting service (and the fact that I don’t like that). I don’t want to reply on my blog to every reply to my posts on M.b because then I would have dozens and dozens of posts on my blog that would be very tough for readers to follow contextually. I believe the commenting mechanism that has been around for decades, even un-threaded, is far more useful than dozens of desperate posts stitched together loosely with a link that says “in reply to”.

Webmention attempts to bridge that gap between post and reply but that also is tough to follow along if the thread gets unwieldy.

However, I also don’t want to reply to every reply on my posts directly on M.b either (though, I do from time-to-time) as that isn’t much better than using any other silo like Twitter or Facebook. Should M.b go away, all of those conversations would be lost.

This isn’t a new issue nor is it exclusive to M.b. If I replied on my own blog to other people’s posts on their own blogs (like I am in this post to Colin Walker’s blog) then one side of the conversation could disappear at any time. I can only control my side of the equation. But at least if I have my own blog I have control of that one side.

I think it is good that these topics are being discussed again. The same debates have been swirling since blogging began, they swelled again when the indieweb movement began to take shape, and I think they are happening again as a result of M.b’s growing community. I do not believe there is one single answer to many them. You have to do what is right and sustainable for you.

For now, here are my personal rules for replying to posts. These will most definitely change over time.

  • If I want to say a quick “congrats” or “excellent post” or something of that nature I will leave a reply directly on their blog. If they do not have commenting turned on I will attempt to email. If they do not have email publicly available I’ll say nothing at all.
  • If I have something substantive to add to the conversation, or if I would like my “followers” to see the post I will quote the post on my blog with my additions to the conversation. Like this post.
  • If I simply want to direct people to the content I will use my new repost tag that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve seen others use the “a post I liked” type post. That could work too.
  • If people reply using M.b, Twitter, or Facebook I will not reply on those services*. But I may reply on my own blog.
  • If I would like to keep my reply private I will attempt to email.

As an aside: I know some of you do not want to leave a public comment. I love getting reader emails. I get a fair number of them. And some of them have been excellent conversations. So please don’t hesitate.

* I no longer have a Twitter or Facebook account. I do have a M.b account but I’m beginning to wonder if I need one as I have my own fully functional weblog. If I didn’t and I wanted a microblog and didn’t want to use Twitter, I could see having an account. If I wanted a more fully featured blog I still believe WordPress is the best tool for that. Also, I’m sure as the M.b community grows it could mean that my content would be discovered by more people. I think M.b may end up being a thriving, well run, community and service. It is why I backed Manton’s efforts via Kickstarter. But, if I have my own blog, and if I really don’t care much about my content being discovered, then I see little reason to syndicate to it. For the time being I’m still going to as I want to see how the service matures.

Colin Walker on thinking out loud on his blog

Colin Walker:

It’s always a little weird glancing at my visitor stats and seeing that someone has read a post that no longer reflects my position.

100% agree. Most of my posts are out-of-date and my opinions have changed slightly since I’ve written them.

I love this bit:

This is why I always refer to the blog as an ongoing conversation with myself – it is the public manifestation of working things out in my head.

That is why I say that writing is how I think. See also.

A list of words being used too often in news headlines lately

  • Finally
  • Blasts
  • Destroys
  • Braces
  • Defends
  • Smashes
  • …and you won’t believe what happened next

Information water torture

Emily Lakdawalla, on taking a writing sabbatical:

I feel less and less satisfied doing rushed news-update-style reporting, and am more interested in spending more time to explain science or engineering in depth, in articles that will be useful over time, not just this week. (I am really enjoying writing the book, when I can find time to do it!) I also want to do more work to develop resources to help people get into the art and science of space image processing, building resources that will have value for people for years to come.

Social media is beginning to feel like information water torture. I find it both useful and draining. And it has certainly gotten worse in the last few months with every thing I see being thin, fluff, possibly fake, or hate. I’m wearing out.

It is an important time in this information age. Tools need to become better. But, more importantly, we need to become better curators of our own information intake.

I applaud Emily for stepping back, focusing on her book, and also taking that time to reflect on how she can bring even greater value when she returns. (By the way, she has already brought immense value to the community. I am really looking forward to her book and return.)

Stop worrying, hit publish

Jen Simmons, on her blog:

So I have nothing much to say in this post. Or more honestly, I have so freaking much to say, I don’t know where to start. So I’m going to start here. I just need to break the silence. And get into a habit of posting. So I’m posting this. And I’m going to publish it without thinking about it. Without proof-reading it really. Without thinking about how it will be received.

Stop worrying. Hit publish.

Me, in September:

My blog archive is a source of both pride and head shaking. Why did I write about that? Why did I allow myself to publish that? But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yup.

Owning my words and photos and audio bits

Jeremy Keith wrote on his blog about owning his words, or, being willing to publish his words (snarky or otherwise) on his own site under his own name. I recommend you read his entire post.

But this bit stood out:

I wish I could articulate how much better it feels to only use Twitter (or Medium or Facebook) as a syndication tool, like RSS.

I feel the same way. I sort of tried to articulate the more tangible results of publishing from my site first in Observations about “tweeting” from my site. But let me get into a bit more detail here about not just tweeting but publishing in general.

By publishing to my own web site first…

  • I feel like I’m curating a library rather than throwing loose papers into a raging torrent.
  • I have the ability to quickly move to another platform if I so wish
  • I can choose how things look and feel
  • I can track, or not track, any metric I’d like to
  • I can publish several different types of media: photos, audio
  • I can turn discussion on or off

As Jeremy said, I own my words and photos and audio bits. I love it. As I said in the observations post and even as I wrote earlier this morning; I wish everyone did this.

Everyone should write (or, blog?)

Deanna Mascle wrote on her blog on why all teachers should write. In it she says this about why students should write in every class every day:

Reflective writing at the beginning of a class or before a lesson can help students access existing knowledge and build a foundation for new information. Writing activities during a lesson can reinforce new knowledge and help students connect it to their existing framework. Writing after a lesson can serve multiple purposes from supporting knowledge transfer to fostering memory development to demonstrating comprehension. Plus, creative projects can increase engagement which in turn improves learning and retention of knowledge. Writing (if you do it right) is active learning. Writing (if you do it right) is fun. Writing (if you do it right) is meaningful.

See also this bit I linked to from Mascle about one year ago.

I think everyone should write. And I also think everyone should write publicly. So many are willing to write SMS messages or Facebook status updates… but what if you took just one of those ideas and fleshed them out? What if you took the time to take one of those tirades about the cost of strawberries at the local market and examined it from all perspectives; farmer, distributor, grocer, customer? By doing this you’d be teaching yourself, as you write, and if you still felt compelled enough with your argument to hit publish, everyone would be better for it.