Switching task managers is meta-meta work

Rob Milanowski:

I was spending more time on meta work instead of real work

As someone who frequently switches task managers, I can relate to this. The problem is that switching task managers is just another form of meta work. It’s meta-meta work.

I’ve rationalized changing task managers in more ways than there are task managers. It’s always some feature or other that I need and the current tool doesn’t have. Or it’s that the iOS version is so great. Or it’s that it needs to be cross-platform, or any number of other “reasons”.

Fact is, I switch task managers when I get bored and doing so is way more fun than doing actual work.

Sticking with Org Mode

I tried moving away from Org Mode four days ago. Doing so required finding replacements for the following:

  • Email client
  • Task manager
  • Code/text editor
  • Note-taking app
  • Outliner
  • Publishing tool (PDF)
  • Git client
  • Daybook/Journal

I have favorite apps for all of the above, and I love using them, but it means that I end up with my “stuff” spread all over the place. I get hung up deciding where to write things down. Should it be a note in the Things task? or in Bear or just a note in DEVONthink?

In Org Mode I don’t have that problem. Everything is just text and notes, and TODOs can be mixed together any way that suits the task at hand.

Also, Vim keybindings will always be my favorite way to edit text. With Spacemacs and “evil” mode, every bit of text I write can be written using Vim keybindings; Email, notes, git commit messages, everything.

So, after just a few days away, I decided to stick with Org Mode.

Org Mode is weird in that while putting everything in it feels “open” and future-proof, it also sort of locks me in to using Emacs for everything. I’m OK with that1, because the everything-in-one-place-ness of it is worth it.


  1. For now. I’ve been through all this before. Recording my thought process when I go through things like this helps. [return]

Replacing Google Analytics with Piwik

I’ve been running Shaun Inman’s Mint since 2005 and it’s always been more than enough to let me know that almost no one visits my site. I like Mint.

Shaun stopped supporting Mint some time last year, but I thought I’d just keep running it indefinitely. Unfortunately, after a recent server update, it stopped working. Rather than trying to figure out what went wrong I decided I’d find a replacement.

The obvious answer is to use Google Analytics. I’ve been using Google Analytics for various sites since it was an expensive self-hosted package called “Urchin”. Google bought Urchin in 2005 and since then it’s pretty much become the de facto standard for web analytics.

I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with Google owning so much of my data so I thought I’d look for an alternative.

Back in the day I used AWStats. I like the idea of analyzing actual server logs rather than relying on pings from embedded JavaScripts but let’s face it, AWStats is homely and cumbersome. I’ll pass this time.

I decided to try Piwik. The basic version is free, open source, and looks to be very capable. I like that it’s self-hosted so I own all the data. In less than ten minutes from hitting the download button I had a fully-working installation of Piwik on my server.

Piwik is overkill for the handfull of visitors coming to this site, but it’s better than a broken Mint installation and it’s way better than handing everything over to Google.

Maybe click a few links so I can give it a workout.

Sticking with Apple

It has become trendy to question our allegiance to Apple.

There are certainly times I wonder why I continue to use Apple products. Between a bunch of little things always breaking and my disappointment with the new MacBook Pro I grow frustrated and threaten to leave Apple completely. I become curious about how the other half (or two-thirds, or whatever) live. I like to shake things up now and then, so this all leads to hedging my bets against Apple.

To this end, I’ve been using fewer Mac-only apps, more web apps, and have gone all-in with Emacs and Org Mode. You know, just in case one day I decide to switch to Linux or Windows. In recent months I’ve been this close to buying a fast Linux laptop and an Android phone, just to see how it would feel.

Fact is, that’s crazy talk. I can’t imagine I’d ever actually switch. Avoiding everything that macOS and iOS have to offer, just in case I change my mind some day, seems foolish.

My use of the iPad Pro has increased, and the updates in iOS 11 have cemented that trend. The relatively seamless integration between my Mac and my iPad is pretty compelling.

So, for now I’m clearing my head of any thoughts of switching platforms and will be moving my stuff into my favorite Mac and iOS apps.

For now, those are:

  • TheBrain for managing projects and files and connections
  • DEVONthink for storing everything in an eminently searchable way
  • Things for managing tasks. This one is new, and so far I like the v3 upgrade.
  • Apple Mail for email. At least until I run into too many things I don’t like.
  • BBEdit for text processing and editing
  • Bear for taking notes. I may end up using Apple Notes or nvAlt’s replacement but for now, Bear is pretty great.

My concern is that as great as the above apps are, Org Mode really is the best all-around productivity tool I’ve ever used. I may end up missing it too much to leave out of the rotation, and once it’s back in the rotation, it eats everything else.

Marquee

Marquee (2017. Elk Rapids, MI). Nikon F3. Tri-X.

Natural, shmatural - Aeon

Molly Hodgdon in Aeon:

Now, I’m aware that Diet Coke is not exactly a health tonic, but blithely calling it poison in a voice cracked with the tar of innumerable organic butts speaks to a certain cognitive bias. The soda was bad purely because it wasn’t natural, and the cigarettes were good purely because they were. I refrained from asking her if she enjoyed lots of other natural things, such as cobra bites, poison ivy, malaria, and diving headlong into 100 per cent organic molten lava.

I don’t mind when people prefer organic or other “natural” foods and processes. That’s fine and dandy. What I do mind is when they apply a blanket policy of “naturally-occurring is always good and everything else is bad”.

I snickered at her depiction of the imagined Big Ag scientist:

The man squints down at his Ayn Rand day-planner where there are only two items in his to-do list:

  1. MURDER NATURE
  2. $$$ PROFIT $$$

She closes sensibly with:

Nature can seem as inspiring, beautiful, strong and nurturing as a mother, but it would be foolish to believe that this ‘mother’ loves us. There’s no reason we can’t celebrate her glorious natural gifts while also appreciating the important ‘unnatural’ improvements our fellow humans have created.

Keeping my Medium membership -- for now

Colin Walker:

Although my Medium usage has significantly dropped off I had intended keeping my membership going. Then I realised something: I’ve only read one or possibly two members-only, funded stories.

Like Colin, I question the value of my Medium membership.

I became a Medium member the day memberships were announced. Since then, I’ve been tempted to cancel, simply because I don’t feel I’m missing much if I skip the “members only” content. The other members-only features are not compelling on their own, either.

Unlike Colin, I’m opting to keep my membership active – for now.

I admire that Medium is trying some new things. I like the idea of Medium. I can cancel any time, but for now $5/month is a small contribution toward their experiment.

Netflix’s DVD Subscription Is Still Great, Dammit

Andrew Karcher:

The solution: Netflix DVDs. In the eight years I’ve had the service I’ve never had an issue obtaining a copy of a movie or TV series I want.

I finally killed my Netflix DVD subscription in 20151. I’ve been missing it. The problem with streaming services for me is that I often end up spending an hour watching trailers and never actually watching an actual movie.

Being forced to make a decision on what to watch is what I liked about Netflix DVDs (and Blockbuster).

What if I canceled my streaming services and watched rented DVDs only? That would make it hard to just lose a weekend binge watching stuff. I also couldn’t spin my wheels watching trailers agonizing over which movie to choose.

Now Karcher has me thinking about getting DVDs in the mail again.

Participation when using a static website

One of the factors1 causing me to bounce between publishing using a static blog generator (Hugo) and Wordpress is the option to have conversations. To participate.

Wordpress makes this easy with a number of Microformat and Indieweb plugins. Generating, receiving, and displaying comments and Webmentions is easy.

On the other hand, a static site (this one, at the moment) doesn’t provide these tools. Comments are available via JavaScript using things like Disqus but I’d prefer comments to be mine2. I know there has been some movement toward using hooks in Github for comments, but I also don’t want to have to host my site at Github.

Are there any Indieweb tools or techniques for static sites that I should know about?


  1. There are many [return]
  2. I honestly may not even want comments on my blog but I want them within my control if I do [return]

I had Emacs open and it just happened

Remember that time I decided to move all of my blogging to baty.blog? That was fun, right?

I had Emacs open today and wanted to post something about playing with Known so I just hit the usual key binding for a new blog post and started typing. When finished I typed “make deploy” and poof!, it was published… to the archived blog.

So in keeping with my history of never deciding anything for very long I put the original theme back on baty.net and let it happen.

Now I have two blogs, I guess.

Nick Cave

Nick Cave. Picture: Josh Robenstone

I got to see Nick Cave last night at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. A Nick Cave show has been one of my few bucket list concerts and I was not disappointed. He’s charismatic, funny, brutal, and honest.

My favorites were…

Jubilee Street

The Ship Song

Stagger Lee

Pausing my experiment with WithKnown

Known (https://withknown.com/) is described as “a social learning platform,” but it seems to work pretty well for publishing a microblog (or any blog for that matter).

I have been testing it at snippets.baty.net and it works fine. The thing is, it doesn’t offer much over a standard Worpress install, so I don’t see the point. It also feels as if Known is accidentally a decent indieweb-enabled blogging platform. I’m not comfortable relying on something for which my primary use case is a side effect of the tool.

So, I’ll be suspending my use of Known and archiving the few posts I’ve published with it. For now, I’ll publish either to this blog or micro.blog while I figure out how I want all of this to work.

My Blog from 2002

This blog (baty.net) goes back to sometime in 2000. I was poking around the Internet Archives and ran across jackbaty.com from 2002. It looked like this…

jackbaty.com

I can’t explain why those old posts aren’t here, but I’m grateful that the Archive has copies. Wouldn’t want writing like that to disappear, now would we?

The Lost Picture Show

The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence

The most chilling prediction I heard came from a top technician at Technicolor. "There's going to be a large dead period," he told me, "from the late '90s through 2020, where most media will be lost."

This sort of thing terrifies me. I still feel that film stock has a much better chance of survival than digital files, especially for the creators who can’t afford to constantly migrate to newer formats ever few years.

“We know how long film lasts,” says the USC archivist Everett. “And archives were designed to store things. They’re cool, they’re dry, and they have shelves. Put the film on the shelf, and it will play in a hundred years.”

“Put the film on the shelf, and it will play in a hundred years”. It may not be easy to maintain the shelves, but at least it’s feasible.

Micro.blog

I now have an account on Manton Reece’s new micro-blogging platform Micro.blog.

Micro.blog is a new social network for independent microblogs.

I’m here: jack.micro.blog. It’s a hosted blog, meaning I can post and host there. It’s a paid option ($5/month) and seems to work well so far. I need this because creating and publishing short, title-less posts using Hugo just isn’t worth the effort yet. I like having a quick and easy web UI for posting.

There’s also a timeline of sorts at micro.blog/jack. I’m not completely clear on the differences between this and jack.micro.blog. I guess I can think of jack.micro.blog as a micro blog that could be anywhere, but happens to be at micro.blog.
It feeds into my micro.blog timeline just like any other RSS-enabled micro blog could. I’m still figuring all this out, and Manton has not yet enabled all of the features so things will probably become clear over time.

I love the idea of publishing somewhere “mine” and having it just flow into Micro.blog and end up as part of both my and others’ timelines.

The more tools based on the “open web” we can move into, the better.

I Wish I Loved Digital Photography

I recently bought a fantastic digital camera, the Fuji X-Pro2. It’s fast, well-constructed, and works in a way that a camera should work. It looks and feels great. In fact it feels almost like using a Leica film rangefinder. I take more photos with the Fuji than with film cameras and nearly all of them are exposed correctly, in focus, and contain 24 Megapixels of raw data to work with.

Popping a card into a computer and playing with the infinite processing possibilities using Lightroom is fun. I can make technically fantastic images that way; simply and quickly.

And yet, I don’t enjoy shooting digital. I wish I did. Making photographs would be so much easier.

I sometimes poke fun at film photographers claiming that they dislike digital photos because they don’t have the same “soul” as film photos. And yet I have to admit that I agree with them.

The difference is having a negative.

When viewing a scanned film photo on my phone or computer, I know that there’s a film negative in a binder somewhere containing a permanent, physically-rendered image created by light originally reflected off the photo’s subject. For me, having a negative imbues film photos with a sense of realness not found in digital. I don’t care that shooting film is difficult, more expensive, and sometimes a complete pain in the ass. I don’t care that there are fewer “hits” and that sometimes the image is scratched or has dust spots or is grainy.

My film images mean more to me than my digital images That’s why I go through all the trouble of shooting film.

Mastodon

After a couple of weeks on Mastodon I’m cheering for its survival. That’s not correct, Mastodon is federated, so any single node (instance) is only part of the network. So maybe it’s better to say I’m cheering for whatever new thing gets us on the federated bandwagon. Right now Mastodon is the strongest contender.

I have accounts on three instances, and I’m using each of them differently.

The first is @jackbaty@mastodon.social. Since this is the flagship instance, and the first one I’d heard of, it’s where I first joined. They’ve since disallowed new signups and that’s probably a good thing. Best not to think of any particular instance as the One True Instance. I am not using this much yet. It was just about the only option so I made sure I registered my favorite username, is all.

The second is @jackbaty@mastodon.technology. This was one of the early “other” instances and, well, “technology”. I like the Home feed on this one as it’s fairly tech-focused. This is where I’m doing the things I would otherwise do on Twitter. (Note that most people on Mastodon refer to Twitter as “birdsite” which I refuse to do as it strikes me as insider nonsense.) If the instance stays up, I’ll likely focus there.

I began doubting the sysadmin chops of the person running mastodon.technology (which turned out to be entirely unfounded), I looked for an alternative. I noticed Leo Laporte posting on mastodon.network so that seemed as good as any. Plus, the instance was running on a couple of load-balanced servers which is a good sign. I’m now there as @jackbaty@mastodon.network. I’m using this one to post photos and other photography-related topics.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of this yet, but I’m having fun figuring it out.

Mastodon

Also, timelines are chronological, as any user-respecting timeline should be.

Hope to see you there.

UPDATE 04/21/2017 “the person running mastodon.technology” is Ash Furrow (Ash Furrow) and while new to Mastodon hosting, he appears to be active, smart, and a fast learner. He’s also actively contributing to the community and the code. I’ve made Mastodon.technology my home and signed up as a Patron to help keep things running. Patreon/ashfurrow.