Category: Personal (page 4 of 5)

The New Workflow

When I first started using the iPad full time the automation app Workflow was an up and coming app that allowed power users of iOS make some serious changes in how they did their work. Creating and finding Workflows to meet my needs were worth their weight in gold, and sometimes allowed you to make using your iPad more favorable than the Mac.

I, for one, felt that Workflow was so good at bringing together apps that don’t normally talk to each other. Seamlessly moving items from one app to another all while maintaining the integrity of the file was a game changer. Workflow was the singular app that made me want to pull out my iPad over my Mac. That is until Apple acquired it.

When Apple announced the acquisition of Workflow my heart immediately sank, I felt that Apple was trying to squash Workflow and other automation applications for iOS. Instead, a new iteration of Workflow was created with some advanced features that control first party applications and settings.

Honestly, this news still hasn’t sunk in that an app that is a unicorn in the iOS platform has gained so much capability. While I only have been using is for a few days, it is clear that Siri Shortcuts has revitalized my excitement and delight in working with iOS.

Siri Shortcuts hasn’t changed much from its Workflow origins as far as how the app works and the things you can do with it, but something about this makes me more excited than ever to automate and simplify the complex things I do with my iPhone and iPad. Working in this app has allowed me to see the true potential of the iPad again and has made me leave my Mac unopened on my desk. I believe the reason I am so infatuated with this app is because the worry I had when Workflow was acquired has subsided. Between the announcement of the acquisition and the announcement of Siri Shortcuts I felt I was in between a rock and a hard place where I wanted to use Workflow’s powerful tool but I also didn’t want to sink time into an app that seemingly had a likely demise. I didn’t want to use Workflow as a crutch to do my work on iOS because if Apple decided it would “sunset” Workflow my entire computing workflow would be null.

As we now know that was far from the case, and having that subconscious mental block leave me I have been using Siri Shortcuts every moment I can to build and play with the things that it can do. It reminded me of when I started Tablet Habit a year ago and had delight and excitement every time I would open my iPad, I finally felt that again with the iPad thanks to the revitalization of using powerful automation tools to make the tedious work on an iOS device as simple as a single tap.

I plan to share a lot of the Siri Shortcuts I have built over time, and if you have any questions or requests from me feel free to contact me on Twitter or email me and send any and all questions my way!

Why Podcasting Should NOT Be Free

Nir Zicherman writing on Medium:

For almost every single podcast Anchor hosts, the cost to us is less than 10 cents per month. That means that hosting your podcast for an entire year costs Anchor around one dollar. If Anchor were to charge you $10 per month for file storage and basic analytics, we would either be grossly exaggerating our costs, or grossly overpaying our vendors.

Anchor benefits greatly from economies of scale. The easier we make it for everyone to make podcasts, the closer to zero we can drive the average price of hosting everyone’s podcasts. Our per-user costs drop every time we reach a new growth milestone, and will continue to do so. This is because the incremental price of variable costs (like hosting) go down the more we host, and the static costs (like servers) are split as tiny fractions among the many podcasts on Anchor.

People may ask “So if you’re not making money off of me to host… what’s your business model?” We are not in the business of charging you, the podcaster. We want to work with you to help you make money off your podcast, in which case we all win. And that 10 cents per month to host your podcast becomes a negligible cost compared to the revenue we can all earn together as we advance the medium of podcasting together.

Anchor has long been on my radar as a podcasting platform, but their model isn’t what podcasting needs. Hosting costs isn’t the problem with podcasting. It is the fact that companies like Anchor, Sticher and Blog Talk Radio are taking the content that you publish, making it only accessible on their platform, and then pumping ads in it.

I pay $12 a month on Simplecast for both Getting Caught Up and A Slab of Glass. I do it happily because I know that I am supporting developers with my money for hosting, a website, technical support, and download statistics that they share with me on how my shows are doing. I don’t have to hope and pray that Anchor makes their money with ads in order to keep my content alive.

Another point that gets me is the fact that they need a large base of active users to make their model work.

Manton Reece on Micro.blog:

Anchor seems to be going for the YouTube model. They want a huge number of people to use their platform. But the concentration of so much media in one place is one of the problems with today’s web. Massive social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have too much power over writers, photographers, and video creators. We do not want that for podcasts.

Micro.blog podcast hosting isn’t free. It’s $10/month. But for that price you get not just a podcast feed but also a full hosted blog with support for microblog posts or longer essays, photo blogging, custom themes and CSS, posting from a bunch of third-party apps and our iOS microcasting app Wavelength, and most importantly everything at your own domain name so you own the content. The competition for Micro.blog isn’t Anchor; it’s Squarespace and WordPress.

Some things are worth paying for. I share Nir’s goal that podcasting should be more accessible and more affordable to more people, but it’s dangerous to give one company too much control over podcasting. Anchor’s business model demands scale. It’s still unclear how that will play out.

Demanding scale in your model is a lot like demanding a raise before you get offered a job. It isn’t practical and it’s actually really insulting to the users of your platform.

I consume YouTube and even have a podcast co-host that posts on it regularly, but YouTubers will be the first to tell you that this model isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. There are issues, and when it is being run by one of the biggest companies in the world and still having problems, there is no doubt this “free to play” model isn’t perfect.

We need to start putting out money where our mouths are when it comes to the things we care about, and podcast hosting is one of them for me. I have tried tons of podcast hosting services and I have seen other “free” options come and go the last 7 years I have been doing this. the only ones that stick around are ones getting capital from their users instead of making them the product.

Minimal iPad: 2 Weeks Later

When I started this minimalism challenge I said that I was overwhelmed, and that was one of the main reasons I decided to make a change. After 2 weeks I can say that my overwhelm has subsided some, but not all.

I was expecting this to be like lifting all the weight I had on my shoulders off in one fell swoop but that was not the case. I think i was a little naive with that idea, of course there isn’t an easy way to reduce stress in your life. If there was, everyone would be doing it!

After some time in this challenge I noticed a few patterns that I want to share with you.

My iPhone seems to collect more apps than my iPad

Everyone reading this probably isn’t surprised by this statement, I wasn’t surprised either. It is obvious that the device I use the most would have a larger net to cast when fishing for apps. Plus, my iPhone is more of a technological Swiss Army Knife while my iPad is primarily for writing, editing, and other administration work for Tablet Habit and Getting Caught Up. I use the two devices differently and my phone is more convenient to track when my packages are going to arrive with Deliveries and handling my music and podcasts. To be honest, there really isn’t much overlap between my iPhone and iPad. They seem to be on their own islands.

In total, I would guess that I have downloaded twice as many apps in the past two weeks than my iPad. I wish I was more cognizant of keeping track of what apps I downloaded to which device, that way I could give you the nitty-gritty statistics. Sadly, that isn’t the case.

Safari Still Distracts Me

Another big reason I decided to removed everything from my devices was to have less distractions and allow myself to focus more. One of my biggest distractions is YouTube. I consume YouTube more than Netflix, Hulu, and Cable combined. YouTube is my sanctuary of video content and has been for years. However, I noticed several months ago that it began to be a place I went to when I was procrastinating from writing or hammering out a big project for one of my areas (Tablet Habit, Getting Caught Up, or freelance podcast editing). Something needed to change, so I deleted that app off my devices entirely.

My plan was that if I only watched YouTube within Safari I would be adding those extra steps to get to it that I would have time to rethink my choice and instead go back to working on something more productive, I was wrong. I almost immediately saved YouTube as a Favorite in Safari so it was just a tap away every time I opened the app. It was just there, staring me in the face begging for me to press it. Much like the sailors in the poem The Odyssey by Homer I was being lured by the Sirens towards shipwreck, or in this case opened a browser.

I haven’t been noticing a huge difference in my output

Finally, I thought that this experiment would relieve friction to allow me to produce more content and have less decisions to make. The complete opposite happened in this department. I did find myself with less friction from my devices thank to no apps to immediately shut my brain off, but I was still not producing more content. I was finding myself contemplating and battling with myself on decisions on where to go next. It got a bit existential for a bit, but the main bread and butter of what was bothering me was that even when I didn’t have any excuses to write more, I still found myself making excuses.

While this was all going on I took to Twitter to try and get my mind off things and that was when I saw this.

[twitter.com/BRIANMBEN…](https://twitter.com/BRIANMBENDIS/status/950123894022619136)

This is a tweet by the famous comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis. If you don’t know who he is, that’s fine (I will say if you want to get more into comics listen to the podcast I Read Comic Books). Just know he is an accomplished writer with decades of work and several awards to prove it. The message he says here saying that writing never gets any easier helped me realize that no matter how focused I am or how many apps I don’t have on my devices it is entirely up to me to make the words come on to a page. Not the app, not the writing gods, 100% unequivocally me. That is refreshing, incredibly daunting, but also refreshing. The mountains I plan to climb are tall and the terrain is less than ideal but I need to make the first step towards it, otherwise what’s the point?

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I know I have unpacked a lot of things that didn’t work or even just some personal things that might not necessarily be your experience, but even with these discoveries I think this is working in many ways. I will go into those more once I finish out the month but until then I will say that this looks like it was absolutely worth doing and it allows me to learn more about myself than before, which wasn’t necessarily my goal but it is something that can help me long-term.

What’s next?

At the end of the month I will have more to say about what worked and my overall thoughts on this challenge as well. I have noticed a lot in the last couple of weeks but I still there think there is more to uncover about myself and what I use my devices for. I plan to see this through the month of January at the very least and then completely assess where I stand on this. Until then though I do want to change one thing: being more intentional with my writing and making time to do it every single day.

Why iPad vs Mac

I love my iPad, so much so that I created a blog for it. It’s clear that I talk a lot about how to use an iPad as a “laptop replacement“” but I never have gone into why I chose to do this.

To explain this there are two schools of thought, one being why I personally chose this and then the reasons that can be universal to everyone.

Personal Reasons

Federico Viticci really changed how I looked at the iPad and is one of the biggest reasons I picked up my iPad for something other than Netflix and YouTube. It all started with him and his blog MacStories and his story of how while he was battling cancer he found a way to write on his blog with the iPad. This lead to him finding ways to use that device for everything he did. Knowing how someone can turn this big slab of glass into a work horse of a machine-made me really rethink of what you need from a computer, even what a computer actually was.

From there it was my curiosity and persistence to throw everything I could at these machines to see what stuck and what didn’t. To continue with the spaghetti metaphor, I found most of what I threw at the wall stuck.

I needed a machine that can handle multiple areas of my life: podcasting, writing, and the occasional image editing. All three of these things were handled in some capacity or another, some with less friction, and others with more. No matter the obstacles I had to hurdle there was a solution to allow me to use this tablet as my main machine, and that was easily the hard part of the battle. I was able to store my laptop away from my desk and accomplish everything I wanted with just my iPad Air 2, and now my iPad Pro.

But my personal reasons are just a portion of why I use the iPad. I also have some more general reasons that I think goes further than just my personal journey.

General Reasons

My personal reasons were much more intimate, but for the general reasons I wanted to list them out and just show how many reasons there are for me, and possibly you, to use an iPad over any other computer.

Portability

Having the ability to carry a tablet that weighs light enough to hold as a book in my hand-made even my MacBook Air seems cumbersome. The iPad is the epitome of a portable computer and having to take my computer with me to work and other places regularly this meant my bag was getting a lot lighter.

Ease of Use

David Sparks of MacSparky has said before that working on the iPad such a “delight.” I couldn’t agree more with him in the regard. Something about being able to move things with your fingers directly on-screen is much more satisfying than using a trackpad on any Mac. It felt like the future when I can actually move a piece of text or part of an image with the tips of my fingers.

There is also something special with the Apple Pencil as an input device. I know there are things you can buy to use a stylus with a computer but The Apple Pencil has no frills or hiccups because it is an Apple product for Apple devices. The Apple Pencil isn’t something I use all the time but when I do I am elated to have it. I jot notes down with it, markup PDFs, even just use to fight RSI when I get cramps on my hands. I posted some other reasons to use an Apple Pencil as well if you’re considering getting one. 

Battery Life

Charging my Macbook was a given when I decided to take it outside my desk, which meant that I also needed to find a place to do my work that had an outlet readily available. Finding a place to work that also has seating at or near an electrical outlet made my goal to find somewhere to work outside my home very undesirable.

iOS Software

Development for iOS is on a much more secure foundation than macOS is in my opinion. Buying a Mac App isn’t as easy as a one-stop shop that is the iTunes Store. The Mac App Store has had its issues over the past several years and it doesn’t look like there is a light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

Ability to Focus

One of the big reasons I love the iPad is because it allows me to focus on what matters. With a Mac or PC of any kind it is way too easy to have your writing app next to a YouTube video or search for things and go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. With only having just one or two apps up and nothing else in the way I can find ways to focus on the things that matter.

Conclusion

So there are a plethora of reasons for me to love the iPad, but this is more about why you love the iPad. I hope these reasons helped explain that. If I missed something or you would like to add to this feel free to comment below!

iPad Minimalism Challenge

Just after Christmas I always feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with packing my gifts away, overwhelmed with decompressing after being “on” throughout the holiday season, and overwhelmed with the amount of things I have to do to get the new year “started right.”

I always have the need to clean up my life towards the end of the year, both physically and mentally, so that I go into the new year with the right mindset and the best possible workstation I can make for myself.

The problem is I very quickly find that I am not able to keep track of everything I need to do and my desk seems more like a storage unit in an episode of Hoarders.

This month I want to change that, I want to stick to keeping my tasks and things I want to do in order. I want to have a space dedicated to my writing at my home. If you’re asking yourself why I suddenly have a fire lit under me about doing this, the answer is simple.

Why I am Doing this

The big reason I am doing this is because of a documentary called Minimalist: A Documentary About the Important Things that opened my eyes about minimalism and about compulsory shopping. The main message was that we simply don’t need as much stuff as we think we do.

I don’t think I will be as minimal as the two main subjects in the documentary but I do think a change is needed in my life because I simply feel overrun when I have too many things on my desk, in my closet, and in my living space.

So the documentary got me interested with minimalism but the message is what had me take action. And the action I’ve taken so far has been very uplifting.

I decided the first thing I wanted to do with my life to minimize the things I needed was with my desk. Before I started this I had a desk drawer filled to the brim with things I habitually threw in there when I thought I would need it someday but not today. The three drawers I had contained things like 4 pairs of nail clippers, keyboards I no longer used, and a small office worth of disposable pens to name a few. Shocker: I didn’t need any of them now.

So I decided to start emptying out the drawers and see with it was that I actually needed. The answer was none of it. I had a dedicated fountain pen on my Bullet Journal for journaling, I had a Smart Keyboard on my iPad for writing, and everything else I need was in my to-go bag I take with me everywhere. The drawers held items that did not need to stay with me. So I packed it away in storage and everything I need in my life day-to-day is either on my desk or in my bag at arms reach.

The feeling of serenity and the weight I felt lifting off my shoulders as I closed my storage closet was something I did not expect, and I wanted to continue this. Minimalism was working, and I began thinking about how I use my iPhone and iPad and the apps that cluttered them.

Which leads me to the challenge I am going to take in the month of January.

What I am doing

The challenge for this is simple: start with the stock apps you get when getting a new device and only download the apps you need and leave the rest behind. Now, there are some rules to this challenge I am setting myself as well to keep me on track and preventing myself from clutter on my devices

  1. Delete any app you don’t use after 48 hours of downloading.
  • If I need that app again for whatever reason I can always re-download it, but the point of this challenge is to have only the essentials. Apps I don’t use after 2 days its initial use are no longer considered essential for me.
  1. Have everything on one screen
  • the main reason for this is because if I limit myself to one screen it leaves me having to really think about what is worth the space on my screen.
  • There are a lot of stock apps I simply don’t need and they can be pushed back in a folder to stay out of sight and refrain from taking up my precious screen real estate.
  1. Document in a journal your feelings and changes every day for the next 3 weeks
  • Doing this challenge and not keeping track of the changes and my feelings on this is hardly a challenge at all. For every experiment there has to be documented analysis for this and daily journaling is something I think will provide that.

Now that these rules are set, all that is left is actually doing this.

What’s Next

With the challenge and the time frame set all that is left is action and analysis.

So for the next week I will be writing in my journal once a day about the feelings I have and the changes that happens with it. Once the week is over I will report back on January 8th to check in. I will do this every week and come back at the end of the month with my thoughts, information on how things went, and anything I would do differently if I did this again.

So for now I am left with an empty desk, an iPhone and iPad reset, and nothing but 21 days of essential apps to use.

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