Category Archives: Snippets

On Internet Trolls

DON’T FEED THE TROLLS, AND OTHER HIDEOUS LIES” is a great article by “Film Crit Hulk” on our collective failure to respond properly to internet trolling culture.

A Twitter follower reminded me of a line in the famous parable from Bion of Borysthenes: “Boys throw stones at frogs in fun, but the frogs do not die in fun, but in earnest.” Defenders of trolling insist it’s all just a joke, but if trolling is inherently designed to get a rise out of someone, then that’s what it really is. In many cases, it is designed to look and feel indistinguishable from a genuine attack. Whether you believe what you are saying or not is often immaterial because the impact is the same — and you are responsible for it, regardless of how funny you think it is.

I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of trolling. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t done for the lulz. “It’s just a joke” is an obvious cover for bad behavior.

It reminds me of an episode from my youth. In high school I had a friend who had a stash of Playboy magazines that he got (I think) from an older brother. Somehow we found out about them, demanded to see them, and teased him about them as we thumbed through them together. “Why do you have these” we would ask, teasingly, knowing full well why he had them. My friend’s face would grow bright red and we would stammer: “because they’re so funny”. When pressed, he would double down on it: he would swear, up and down, that he had them because they were hilarious. Sure they were.

It puzzles me, why we act as if it’s even possible that verbal abuse on the internet is “just a joke”. A decent response to “it was just a joke” is “it doesn’t matter”.

The biggest mistake we ever made with trolls was making the question of abuse about how to placate and fix them instead of how to empower the people they hurt or manage your own well-being in the face of them. Like so many abused people, we thought the solutions involved walking on eggshells and not provoking them back. But instead, we must acknowledge “that we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about who we pretend to be.” And that means acknowledging the awful, terrifying power of jokes and the immunity we seek in “not being serious.” This is exactly why people troll in the first place. Because deep down, they know it’s serious, and that’s exactly why it makes them feel powerful.

In the online world, people who violate community standards should be banned from those communities. Gathering spaces online are not public spaces: almost all of them are owned by private companies or individuals. Freedom of speech is up to the owner of the space; the level of discourse there directly reflect’s the owner as well. By law, they might not be legally responsible for the content of their site, but they are ethically and morally responsible for it, regardless. Owning and running a site where terrible things happen should be a black mark on a company’s or a person’s reputation—and that should matter.

It would be nice if people started to care about reputation again, and if bad reputations led to lower profits and lower stature in the global community. Sadly, we are in a time, right now, where that does not seem to be the case.

Re-committing to Pinboard, after many months away

I’m re-committing to Pinboard, after a year or more away from it. I’m happy with what I am doing now, and thought I would document it in case anyone else wanted help understanding how to use the Pinboard effectively, especially if their usage lapsed, as mine did.

What is Pinboard?

Pinboard is an “antisocial” cloud bookmarking service. You can keep all your bookmarks there and use its barebones website or third party apps and browser extensions, all using an open API, to access them. It’s a paid service, run by a single person, with a clear and straightforward business model. When I signed up, I pre-paid for ten years of service. Part of my impetus for using it again now, after having abandoned it for, well, nothing, is the sunk-cost fallacy. The other, more important part of that impetus is that I really like the simplicity and speed of Pinboard, and I like the Pinboard iOS client I use, Pinner.

What do I use it for?

I use it for three things:

  1. To host my bookmarks in a cross-platform, always accessible way. I can get to the same bookmarks in Safari on my Mac and iOS, and in Chrome on Windows.
  2. For research and archival purposes, especially for programming projects I am working on. I can search these bookmarks on keywords, title, or description to review the best of the web pages I previously read on a topic of interest.
  3. As part of a homegrown “read it later” service. I can send article URLs to Pinboard from various apps, and read them later using Pinboard’s website, an app or browser extension on my Mac, and an app on iOS or Andriod.

Number 3 used to be the primary purpose of Pinboard to me. I had signed up as part of an effort to get replace Pocket with something more privacy focused. After many years of using Pocket (formerly “Read It Later”) to collect articles I was interested in from the huge stream of RSS feeds I parsed every day, I wanted a change. Primarily, this was because I became uncomfortable with Pocket’s business model: Why was it free? How did they really make money? What were they doing will all the data they collected on me?

I also wasn’t crazy about some of the UI changes made to Pocket over the years. I wanted more control over the reading experience, too, which is something that using a web service with an open API would give me. It helps that, at the time, Safari’s Reader View debuted, and I thought it was fantastic.

I was pretty obsessive about channeling all the articles I read through Pinboard, so I had a one-way workflow from discovery to reading to marking read. I never deleted anything from Pinboard, either. I thought I wanted a history of all the articles I ever read, in case I wanted to search through that history later. (Of course, I never did that.)

Why did I stop using it?

I stopped using Pinboard for three main reasons:

  1. I started reading Twitter more than actual articles linked to from it. The constantly updating timeline was incredibly addictive, and less mentally taxing to follow than reading complex articles from actual publications. (I have since given up Twitter because it was too addictive for me to handle responsibly.)
  2. My wife and I had kids, meaning that I no longer had a bunch of downtime after dinner to catch up on all the articles I had bookmarked to read later. I would still send stuff to Pinboard to read later, but I would never actually read the articles.
  3. My wife and I subscribed to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. I started reading from those publications, from their apps, a lot more than scouring RSS feeds for articles from a dozen sources. Reading from their apps did not fit very well with my Pinboard workflow.

Overall, Pinboard became a graveyard for links I didn’t actually want to read. Instead of a useful resource, it was a junk pile full of stale content.

Digging out of a mess

I took the following steps to return Pinboard to a useful utility for me:

  1. I deleted everything I had in Pinboard—over 3,000 bookmarks that were doing me no good. Most of these were articles I imported from my RSS reader (Reeder) or Twitter (via Tweetbot), read once, and then just left in Pinboard.
  • I installed Shiori on my MacBook Pro. Shiori is a Pinboard bookmark launcher and editor. It’s like QuickSilver for Pinboard—hidden until you need it, only a keypress away, and accessible from anywhere. I set it up so that Control+Option+Command+P brings up the bookmark search window (from anywhere), and Control+Option+Command+B brings up the bookmark editor.
  • I set up Pinner on iOS. Pinner is a full-featured Pinboard client. It will open Pinboard bookmarks in Safari or within Pinner, via Safari View Controller. It has two app extensions for creating bookmarks. The first extension, “Quick Pin”, has no UI, and is for quickly adding bookmarks to read later. The second extension lets you edit, interactively, all the metadata associated with the bookmark prior to saving it.

My workflow

I developed a new workflow to work with Pinboard, so I don’t end up with a mess of useless bookmarks again. Honestly, though, calling it a workflow is an exaggeration. I basically decided to manage Pinboard with a simple set of rules.

I will continue to use Pinboard both for permanent bookmarks, which mostly involve specific technical documentation about Swift and iOS development, and for a read-it-later service, which are bookmarks I want to keep around temporarily, some of which I plan to keep long term.

  1. Bookmarks I would keep in Safari, for sites I would log into (banking websites, personal websites, blogs, GitHub, BitBucket, etc.), are stored as private bookmarks with tags. All of these bookmarks are also tagged “Safari” so I can pull them all, as a group, with a Pinboard search.
  2. Bookmarks for articles to read later, and everything else, are saved with the “read later” flag set to “true”, primarily by using Pinner’s “Quick Pin” extension or the “send to Pinboard” command within Reeder (my RSS reader app of choice).
  3. I regularly use Pinner or Shiori to browse my “read later” list. Basically, I had to kick the Twitter habit.
  4. After I read articles marked “read later”, I delete the bookmark, or choose to save it. I am pretty ruthless about deleting bookmarks now, which is the opposite of how I used to be. If I don’t read something after a few days, I will just delete it.
  5. Rarely, I will choose to save the bookmark. If I do so, I edit the bookmark’s metadata to remove the “read later” flag and to add keywords and a description. I open copy the first paragraph of the article to the bookmark’s description field, so it’s clear to me later on why I saved it.

So far this workflow has been working well for me. I collect “read later” bookmarks throughout the day, read through them in the evening, and delete almost all of them at the end of the day. My Pinboard bookmarks list is much smaller than before, but contains only good stuff that I want to act on, either now or later.

What would make me upgrade my Series 1 Apple Watch

I love the Apple Watch. I didn’t always, though. When I first tried on a Series 0, a couple weeks before it was released, I quickly made the decision not to buy one. I thought it was too expensive and that it was not immersive enough. I had been expecting an iPhone for the wrist; what it was instead was a wristwatch with some extras. Six months later, however, I relented and bought one, mostly because Target was offering the Space Gray Sport model at a deep discount, and I wanted to pick a holiday gift for myself that my family members could chip in for.

I quickly grew to love the Apple Watch, despite its slow speed and lack of viable third-party applications. The first-party Apple Watch applications alone—such as Messages, Workouts, and Weather—pleased me very much. Caller ID on my watch was great for avoiding telemarketing calls at dinner. Something as simple as having the temperature always available on my watch face far more useful than I had anticipated.

I have a Series 1 now because my Series 0’s screen popped off due to battery swelling after almost two years. Apple covered it under an extended warranty and sent me a Series 1 for free. The Series 1 is much faster than the Series 0, and is not going to be obsoleted by Watch OS 5 in the fall. Still, it isn’t as fast, and consequently as useful, as the Series 3. I fully expect a new Apple Watch model to be released later this year, which will be even faster.

If I still had the Series 0, I had planned to upgrade this year, for increased performance alone. Now that I have the Series 1, I am not so sure. My Series 1 has great battery life, but is starting to show performance problems. Workouts, for example, take a long time to start. Third party apps are still, largely, useless for me, for the same reason. Despite these problems, most of the features of the Apple Watch are still working just fine for me.

The main feature that would tempt me to upgrade, at this point, would be new or better health monitoring features. The idea that the watch could save my life, by monitoring for irregular heartbeats, is very compelling to me. I would welcome and pay for any additional features in that area. If they are confined to newer hardware, I would definitely upgrade to get them. I care more about that sort of thing than I do about increased speed, cellular or GPS connectivity, or (if the rumors are true) a larger display area.

“Recess” and “Good Bones”, or selling the world to my children

There’s more beauty in this world than you can guess

Recently, with the help of someone on Micro.blog and Apple Music, I have turned my family on to the music of Justin Roberts. His band plays children’s music in a power pop style. His music is really catchy, and his lyrics are wry, funny, very kid-friendly (my daughter sings them all the time), and sometimes also play to the parents on emotional level as well.

My favorite Justin Roberts song, by far, is “Recess”. Like the best power pop songs, this song has more hooks and ideas in it than most albums do. The lyrics are cleverly and consistently written from the point of view of a bored kid stuck in a classroom, waiting for the recess bell to ring:

Can’t you hear the blacktop callin’?
Classroom clock is stuck or stallin’
There is nothing that will pass the test
Unless it’s recess

In the second and third pre-chorus endings, the lyrics expand out beyond the tedium of the elementary school classroom to the wonder of the outside world:

One more dotted I
One more crossed T
Then we’ll be runnin’ free
There is more beauty in this world than you can guess

That last line resonates powerfully with me. Seeing the beauty in this world is something children do naturally. I think we forget how to, as we get older, and our knowledge of history and current events expands, and our experience of life evolves from dreaming of what our lives might be to actually living them day-to-day. Our dreams get smaller and more finite as time passes. As we get older still, we relearn to see the beauty, in a different way—with a wonder that is tinged with sadness. As an adult, I see that the splendor and joy of the world is counterbalanced by its disappointments and horrors.

The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, though I keep this from my children

The line “There is more beauty in this world than you can guess” always makes me think of the contrasting sentiment expressed in the poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith:

Good Bones
BY MAGGIE SMITH

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

This is a profoundly powerful poem that I read in college and have never forgotten. As an adult and a parent, I return to it often. It has always made me feel, in some way, like a teenager who concludes, upon first entering the adult world, that I have been sold a bill of goods: nothing is as nice or easy or fair as my parents and mentors (and, let’s face it, TV and movies) told me it would be. This poem distills all the disappointment and disillusionment that experience and maturity bring into seventeen simple and somewhat humorous lines. I love how it ends on a note that is somehow both cynical and hopeful: “You could make this place beautiful.”

Selling the world to my children

It’s my job, as a parent, to sell the world to my children. I want to tell them the good—now, while they are young—and the bad—later, when they are older. In both times, now and later, I have to remember that Justin Roberts and Maggie Smith are both right about the world. It contains all the beauty that has any meaning. It also contains all the horrors that have ever befell anyone. The most important thing I have to teach my children is that they can make it better—they just have to try, even after the veil of childhood innocence has fallen, and they see the world for what it really is.

The calm before the WWDC storm

WWDC is in a little more than two weeks. As a hobbyist developer, I don’t go to big, expensive conferences 3,000 miles from my home. But I do eagerly await it each year. Last year I was so excited about it that I went as far as calling it “nerd Christmas”. This year, though, I’m not looking forward to the keynote, the new APIs, the betas, and so on.

There have been no substantive leaks about what will be announced, and no one’s predictions so far have been that compelling. That’s in stark contrast to last year, when I practically knew what iOS 11 would bring to the iPad, based on rumors and speculation. This year, the most exciting leak we got is that a cross-platform macOS/iOS development framework will not be announced this year.

As a user and a fan, I basically want Apple to announce a rebuilding year. iOS 12 should be a maintenance release. They can make their software faster and more stable. They can make Siri a lot better. They can fix bugs. Other than that, I don’t want a radical UI overhauls of any of their operating systems (as if the latter would ever happen). On the hardware side, I’d love to see them refresh the MacBook Pro and iPhone SE sometime this year, but my expectations for an announcement at WWDC are very low.

As a developer, I don’t really want to worry about having to support new frameworks or features. Just upgrading from one iOS framework to the next one can sometimes take days of work before all the kinks are worked out. Even upgrading Xcode to a new major version is, as a Swift developer at least, a little scary. New versions of Xcode have not been stable or bug-free for me since Xcode 8 was released. The recently released Xcode 9.3.1 has been working really well for me, though, and I’m loath to give it up anytime soon. I’d love WWDC to be about Apple fixing the numerous, relatively minor, UIKit bugs that I’ve had to work around, but past history leads me to believe that iOS 12 will just have another set of odd bugs to work around.

Premature Optimization

In programming, there has long been a warning in computer science to avoid premature optimization. Donald Knuth called it “the root of all evil”. I find myself thinking about this all the time—not so much while programming, but when I’m thinking of spending money on myself, or telling people how to spend their money on me, as for birthday or Father’s Day gifts.

I’m at an age now where I have everything I would ever want. But…everything I have could still be a little bit better. To wit:

  • I have awesome headphones that I love. I want better ones. And different ones.
  • I have a home server that is underpowered, but quiet and extremely reliable. I would love one with enough power to could run virtual machines, but I don’t really need it.
  • I have a clicky mechanical keyboard that I love. I want a better one—that lights up, unnecessarily, or has colorful keycaps.
  • I have an Apple wireless keyboard for my Mac. I want to replace it with the Apple Magic keyboard, even though I already have an Apple Magic keyboard for my iPad.
  • I have a Series 1 Apple Watch that I love. I would love, even more, a Faster Series 3.
  • Let’s not even talk about iPads and Macs.

These few things are some of my material obsessions. What they have in common, for me, is that they have all been satisfied by things I already own, upgrading to newer or better versions would cost a lot of money (way more than anyone would spend in a gift for me), and the upgrade would be only marginally better than what I have, so I’m not sure if it would even make me happy.

Despite knowing all this, I can’t stop thinking about upgrading what I have to something better. I always want to optimize my experience with the things I enjoy. But, until the things I have break down and are no longer useful, it is too early to upgrade them. Doing so would be indulging in premature optimization, which be wasteful, which is “the root of all evil” to me.

Someday, my headphones will break, my keyboards won’t be compatible with my computers, my server won’t support the OS I want to run, and Apple won’t support my hardware anymore. That’s when I will upgrade these things—after I have extracted every bit of their value. Until then, I will just daydream about, and feel a little guilty about obsessing about, premature optimization.

Strategies to increase diversity on Micro.blog

Jean McDonald, Community Manager of Micro.blog, posted an essay today entitled “Diversity and Inclusion at Micro.blog: Where We Are, Where We Want to Go“.

The question comes up regularly: to what extent is there diversity in the Micro.blog community? We only ask for a name and an email address to register, so we don’t have any demographics on the users in our community. But I do know, based on skimming the names of those who register, that the percentage of users with typically female names is very small. When I look at users whose avatars are photos of themselves, I suspect the percentage of people of color is also very small.

I have been thinking about diversity on the platform since I started using it, the day it opened to the public in December 2017. Jean’s essay inspired me to publish some of my thoughts.

What do we expect?

The Micro.blog service has not been a publicly available for long. At this point, it is understandable that the first wave of users would be primarily composed of fans of its founder, Manton Reece. Manton is an iOS and macOS developer who blogs and podcasts about his development work and the indie web. If you have come across his work online, you are probably very much like him: an iOS or macOS developer, or at least a passionate user; a tech podcast listener; or a passionate blogger or IndieWeb aficionado. This core group is, for reasons related to historical and cultural biases, not a particularly diverse one.

This core group describes me, and certainly does not describe everyone on Micro.blog, but it does describe a lot of the users I found on the service’s Discover page. Manton and Jean have expressed, from the very beginning, an earnest desire to create a safe community of independent micro blogs—”safe” from the abuse that silences disempowered people, women, and minorities on dominant social media platforms. They, along with the users of the platform, have openly discussed how to increase diversity, and the challenges inherent in doing so. I have learned a lot from reading these blog posts and discussions. Like them, I wish for Micro.blog to attract and retain a more diverse user base. The question we all face now is: how?

Here are a few ideas.

Recognize and publicize that community guidelines are intrinsic to the product

Jean McDonald:

No one should feel unwelcome here.

This should be one of the public-facing mantras that applies to the entire project, much like “Don’t be evil” was to Google for many years. Jean’s quote should be atop the “Community Guidelines” page, and a link to that page should be near the top of the “help.micro.blog” page.

I think Micro.blog should put a lot more focus on the community guidelines and whatever technology or processes are used to enforce them. It’s a key feature of the platform. People behaving well together is the core of the product for me, and a key differentiator between it and Twitter.

Refine the marketing message

What is Micro.blog, anyway? To IndieWeb people, it’s kind of obvious. To everybody else, maybe not.

If asked, today, to sell it to someone, I might say: “It’s the good parts of Twitter, with none of the bad parts.” I might explain that microblogging is simply sharing something about yourself in public, and that Micro.blog is a safe, respectful place to do so, because it has protections against abuse, and strict community guidelines. If they are unsure why they should share thing in public, I would explain that it is empowering to do so. It is putting your best foot forward online.

Promote on podcasts

Having a simple, concise marketing message is essential, but that message needs to be spread somehow. One of the best ways to market these days is on podcasts.

Manton has a podcast and a microcast, which have brought a lot of people to Micro.blog thus far. I think podcasts are a great opportunity to promote the open, inclusive, but safe nature of Micro.blog. While podcast audiences may, as a whole, skew white, male, and wealthy, there are tons of podcasts out there that are hosted by, feature as panelists, and cater to women and minorities. I’m sure that Manton is adjacent enough to other tech podcasters to get some guest spots on tech podcasts that feature or cater to these groups.

Ask users for help

Micro.blog users are all, at this point, early adopters, and most of us are especially committed to the platform and want it to succeed. Ask us to publicize the service. Give us some ideas how to do that effectively, and in ways that will increase diversity. Provide incentives for us to sign up new people, such as additional badges (which are free to provide) or free months of Micro.blog hosting (which of course incurs a cost). I’m sure something will come of it.

Closing thoughts

My list of suggestions is by no means exhaustive, and Manton and Jean are likely in a better position than I am to understand what they need to do, and what they can do. I do want to express that diversity is important for all of us, even white, male, Americans such as myself. If all people are treated with dignity and are allowed to participate in something (work, society, etc.), outcomes will be better, and life will be richer, for all of us. I have seen that firsthand at a small scale, and wish to see it at a much larger scale. Micro.blog is a good place to start.

Chicken Sausage and Escarole Soup Recipe

Notes

This is a hearty, pasta-free soup, fit for a winter meal. Lots of vegetables, sausage (either chicken or pork sausage can be used), and cooking liquid from cannellini beans (canned or homemade) lead to a chunky, filling soup with a rich mouth feel.

Developing a fond while cooking the sausage will add an important foundation to the soup’s flavor. Deglazing this fond early, before cooking the vegetables in the same pot, will prevent it from burning.

Ideally, the vegetables should be soft but not browned; if they are not softening sufficiently during the sauté, simmer them longer in the broth, rather than extending the sauté.

You can substitute your preferred herbs for the Italian seasoning that I use. If using fresh herbs, add them at the very end, or just before serving.

If you wish to add pasta, ditalini works well. Cook the pasta separately, and add it just before serving, to avoid the pasta absorbing too much of the broth during cooking or storage.

Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz package chicken sausage
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken broth, for deglazing
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 7 oz bag fresh chopped escarole
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, not rinsed or drained
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • (Optional) Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • (Garnish) Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the sausage in 1 tbsp of olive oil for 4 minutes per side over medium heat. This will likely not cook it through, which is fine; it will cook through later in the soup. Remove the sausage and set it aside.

Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup water or chicken broth. Retain this liquid in a cup or bowl; it will be added back to the soup later. If the retained liquid contains any solids, strain it to remove them.

Once the par-cooked sausage is cool enough, cut it into coins and set it aside, to be added back to the pot later.

Dry out the pot and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Sauté the onion, carrots, and celery over medium heat until they are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables are not completely soft after the sauté, that is OK; they can be softened after the liquid is added. Add the escarole and Italian seasoning and stir everything to combine.

Add the chicken broth, and add back the retained liquid from deglazing. Raise the temperature to high until the broth starts to boil; then lower the temperature to medium or medium low, to maintain a low simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, which can take 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the cannellini beans, including their cooking liquid, and the sausage. (These ingredients are added later to avoid overcooking them, which would lead to split beans and tough sausage.) Continue to simmer until the sausage is cooked through, which will take only a few minutes.

Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. If, at this point, the soup tastes dull, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice, little by little, until the broth tastes as bright as you want it to.

Serve topped with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Things I wish I could stop doing, but probably can’t

The beginning of the year is a time for setting goals. I have set some goals, and may post them here later. This list, however, represents my anti-goals—my to-don’t list, if you will.

  1. Lamenting failures rather than celebrating successes
  2. Being more interested in process than product
  3. Talking myself out of things
  4. Planning a project, rather than starting it
  5. Drafting blog posts, but never finishing them
  6. Letting important things pile up
  7. Not letting unimportant things go

These are my bad habits and bugbears, the blocks in my mind that frustrate me and prevent me from achieving my full potential.

These are the vampires that I have let in. They are no longer welcome.

Top posts of 2017

I started this blog in the summer, and since then I have published 30 posts, including this one. As far as output goes, I have met my goal, and I am happy with that.

Most popular posts

In the spirit of publishing year-end best-of lists, here are my top five most popular posts from 2017:

  1. Ulysses, a peerless writing tool, a short essay about my favorite writing software. I love good software, and think way too much about what makes productivity software, well, more productive.
  2. Choosing an iPad Pro Keyboard, in which I compare three of the main keyboards iPad users like me might be considering.
  3. Comparing todo.txt and TaskPaper formats, which are two plaintext task list formats. I love plaintext, love productivity software, and love not having lock-in with proprietary software vendors. I have been using both formats for different planning and task management tasks at work all year.
  4. Three ways to create nested projects in todo.txt, which addresses a common problem with the todo.txt format.
  5. Contexts in Getting Things Done, in which I describe the challenges I faced dealing with contexts in the GTD system.

These posts reflect some of my main interests: productivity software and systems, and Apple hardware. I have also written a little bit about Android, the Essential Phone, and parts of the free and open web that interest me.

Thoughts on the writing process

One thing that I have learned this year, from writing regularly again, is how much work it can be to complete a blog post. I have a half-dozen incomplete blog post drafts in my Ulysses library at any given moment. Shaping them into something worth reading is a lot of work—work that I don’t often complete as quickly as I would like. Even a simple 500-word post has to be written and re-written three or four times before I think it is worth publishing.

The writing process is valuable to me, though. Writing is a lot different than analyzing data (my day job) or writing code (my nighttime hobby). Writing, re-writing, and revising help me think and help me focus in ways that my more mathematically-focused activities do not. Plus, it feels good to communicate to the world, and to own all the content I produce and publish it on my own platform, under my own name.

The future

I plan to blog regularly in 2018, both on this site and on mjdescy.micro.blog. I have even set up regularly scheduled reminders (Apple Reminders, naturally) to help keep me on track. Thanks for reading.