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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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

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Kevin Nealon has a YouTube channel where he goes hiking with famous people. 2018 y’all.

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.

 

 

My creative energy (audio)

I’m not blogging as much. But that’s just because my creative energy is being poured elsewhere. Here’s what I’m up to.

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YouTube’s Most Popular Videos of 2017

Brandy Shaul writing for Adweek:

Collectively, the top 10 trending videos for 2017 have more than 633 million views and have been watched for over 40 million hours. The channels behind the top trending videos have more than 55 million subscribers in total.

The most popular videos on YouTube each year are seldom the most interesting. I find that the videos that are mildly popular, say with single millions of views or hundreds of thousands of views, are the most interesting to me. They have a broad enough audience that the creator is getting paid well and they generally are not flashes in the pan.

iPhone X’s new margins

Brian Voong on his excellent YouTube channel Let’s Build That App:

With the introduction of iPhone 10, we as developers are now faced with another option for our apps to be displayed in. Fortunately, Apple has provided us with the necessary APIs to get around the unsafe regions of this phone. We do this by using the new safeAreaLayoutGuide anchors in our code. Enjoy.

Great overview of the very easy to implement adjustments.

Side note: If you’re jumping into iOS development I highly recommend subscribing to this channel and going back through his videos. It is a trove.

Curry Caputo quits vlogging

Curry Caputo, cousin to vlogging legend Casey Neistat, is hanging up his hat when it comes to recording, editing, and publishing daily videos and will now post whenever he feels like it instead.

It was an incredible run. Kudos to him for doing it as long as he did.

VR180

Frank Rodriguez:

VR180 video focuses on what’s in front of you, are high resolution, and look great on desktop and on mobile.

I think this looks like an excellent format. As I’ve mentioned in the past, 360 video is very difficult to follow if there is a narrative. While 360 might be good to virtually put you somewhere, 180 will be better to help tell a story.

Rodriguez goes on to explain that VR180 is easier to create and can be much higher resolution. Me likey.

Live streaming video, by the numbers

Dan Kimbrough:

Facebook makes sense as the leader. More people use Facebook than YouTube. And by that, I mean we consume a lot on YouTube, most of its traffic is viewing videos, not creating. I think that most companies and influencers have a big enough audience that they can stream anywhere and their followers will…follow.

Facebook should be able to hold this top spot for some time. Their live video platform is easy to use and very, very good. Couple that with the massive audience and they have the killer live video product for a while. Also, a little birdie told me to expect Instagram-like Stories coming to Facebook soon as they are already testing this in smaller European regions. If they do that “Stories” video is going to go through the roof.

YouTube, on the other hand, is still only dabbling with live video. It seems they care more about live video for events than pushing live video from users. I’m sure this is a conscious choice. Perhaps, they’d prefer their live video to be of higher quality when they promote it. However, I just recently noticed their app has a tab (not a navigation item) for live video. I used it to watch to a few “radio” stations and someone playing a game. It was a very good experience. If, like Facebook, YouTube added that navigation item (and allowed directly sharing through Facebook and Twitter) I’d bet their numbers would sky rocket.

Dan also mentions the absence of Instagram Stories in the numbers:

Another note, I’d of thought Instagram would at least make the chart, but it’s live functions are only two and half months old. I think that they have the potential to move into third place, maybe even second.

He’s right (as always). The charts in Dan’s post are from polls conducted in November 2016. Instagram Stories hadn’t even existed yet (can you believe that?). EDIT: Instagram Stories launched in August 2016. It was Instagram Stories w/ Live video that came later. Thanks Leni. END EDIT. Already Instagram is crushing Snapchat so I expect the live video numbers to be also representative of that. By the time these polls are conducted again I’d expect Instagram Stories to rank very highly.

Another thing to note is that Twitter’s Live Video numbers are skewed slightly due to the fact that the feature for users is only available through Periscope and not yet a first-class citizen. Their live streaming video numbers — aside from Periscope — are likely due to their deals with large broadcast organizations and the NFL. If Twitter opens up live streaming video to users I’d also expect their numbers to climb. Historically Twitter hasn’t been very good at running separate brands so I think to do this they should bring Periscope into Twitter.

It is good to keep an eye on these trends as viewership shifts back and forth. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers overlap somewhat but I’d love to see some statistics on how many separate and distinct live streaming video platforms users are getting their content from.

This post edited on February 15, 2017.

E14: Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts, streaming video solutions, Nintendo

On Sunday Danny and I discussed learning Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts, a bit about video streaming services and the value they bring, and also a bit about Nintendo. Here are some links from this episode.

Links:

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YouTube has replaced TV for me (and, how to use the Watch Later playlist)

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube lately. More specifically, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube on my TV lately. Here is how I do it but first, a bit of background on my personal YouTube habits.

For the first few years of YouTube the only videos that I would see were the viral or massively popular ones. Unless someone sent me a link directly to a YouTube video I probably wouldn’t have seen it. Then, a few years into YouTube’s massive growth, it seemed as though the utility of its video library exploded. I could search just about anything and find what I needed to know. Things like how to cook hard boiled eggs or how to properly brew my coffee using a Chemex or how to fix some random household item. Even incredibly obscure things that you’d never think you’d get a result for ended up popping up. Entire days worth of video were uploaded every minute and I’m sure that continues today. A few years later, out of the ooze of that same library, came personalities and talking heads and people putting seriously well-made films on YouTube. That’s when I started to dabble in subscribing to some channels.

But it didn’t stick.

Every person with a modern computer had a camera facing them all day and so some of them used that camera to record themselves talking about various topics. Every single day. But, for me, talking heads are boring. And while some of these YouTube personalities tried different editing techniques to make their discussions somewhat entertaining, I grew tired of them and so YouTube didn’t stick with my daily watching habits. The videos were yet good enough to replace my TV habits and the rest of what was on TV was taken off of YouTube since the major networks still didn’t have accounts.

Then vlogging came along. And vloggers, like the talking heads on YouTube, made videos about their day each and every day. Except, these people went outside and explored and did interesting things. They just happened to record themselves while they were doing it. As someone who was a pioneer in MeToday photos on Flickr and videos on Viddler (where I used to be employed) I really liked this type of content. And, as time has progressed so have the tools. Now, instead of people being limited to recording videos in front of their laptops, they can fly cameras above cities and mountains have stabilized handheld cameras that shoot video in 4K. So now these videos are amazing.

Watch a few of Ben Brown or Casey Neistat’s (who is about to burst past 5M subscribers this week) videos and you’ll see a quality of video that wasn’t even available to commercial videographers just a decade ago. Now anyone can make these types of videos if they learn the software.

Having a YouTube account allows you to upload videos. But it also lets you subscribe to as many channels as you’d like. Effectively building an interest graph for the types of videos you’d like to watch. Far better than TV even with a DVR. Brand-new content is available daily and you can watch any of it whenever you want on any device. My TV, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, mobile phone, tablet, and computer all have excellent YouTube apps on them. I can literally watch YouTube from anywhere and cable TV has yet to figure that out.

A neat feature that you may have overlooked is YouTube’s “watch later” playlist. You can build your own playlists for anything if you’d like, just like a music playlist. But YouTube gives you one that is private by default and you can’t delete it called “Watch Later” and this playlist is available on all of these same devices. So if you see a video you’d like to watch on your TV but you’re on your phone… you can just hit “watch later”. It works fantastically and I use it every single day. In fact, I’m subscribed to enough channels that I cannot watch every video that is published so I pick-and-choose and add videos to my watch later playlist using my phone and then watch them all on my TV.

Best of all, at least so far, is that my TV doesn’t show any YouTube ads. Not one. So I’ve been watching hundreds and hundreds of hours of video that I’m interested in without ever seeing an ad.

If you know of any channels I should be subscribed to please email me.