A vague Notion of a more productive system

Notebooks, and task lists

I spent a little time in my Pocket recommendations, and found this great post by Marie Poulin titled “One Tool To Rule Them All” and her, and her partner’s search for a more effective, more complete productivity solution. Along the way, she considered Bullet Journals.

I wanted to get on the bullet journal bandwagon, but the sheer inefficiency of hand-drawing the same lines, shapes, numbers, and tasks week after week, and month after month made me twitchy.

Looking at some of those bullet journal masterpieces made me wonder, how much of bullet journaling is just…productivity porn? Are people creating entirely separate accounts for their bullet journaling as a creative outlet, or to distract themselves from actually getting shit done?

Marie Poulin

I’ve been curious about bullet journals, too, but I found myself having similar doubts about how effective the method would be for me. I much prefer digital productivity tools, largely because I’m really apprehensive about having a productivity solution without a backup and sync option.

Also, I really have to watch out for my tendency to go down a complete “productivity tool testing” rabbit hole, and literally lose days testing solutions without actually getting anything done.

Poulin and her partner settled on tool called Notion, that looks pretty promising. I like how flexible the service seems to be. I like how Evernote uses a notebook metaphor with fairly free form notes as a way to capture information. That said, I don’t seem to use Evernote all that much lately (for a couple reasons).

If you do think that Bullet Journal is the option for you, definitely read Jamie Rubin’s post titled “Bullet Journal: One Book to Rule Them All“:

I recently began using a Bullet Journal. Longtime readers who recall my going paperless days might find this odd. My going paperless experiment was just that–an experiment to see how far I could go without paper. Eventually, I decided that there were good reasons (for me) to continue to use paper. I’ve been carrying around Field Notes notebooks for years. I use notebooks for work, and large Moleskine notebooks for my journal/commonplace book. So why a Bullet Journal, and why now…?

Jamie Rubin

For the time being, I’m clinging to a semblance of productivity with Remember the Milk as my main task list. Now and then, I’ll use Evernote to add a task to RTM by syncing between the two services.

The benefit of this approach is that it enables me to associate a task with a note containing relevant materials. Like most things in my life, it’s very much a work in progress that’s hampered by my erratic discipline.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Matt Ragland

Watch this if you’re still on the fence about the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg)

If you’re still unsure about the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg), it’s worth watching Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word keynote at the recent WordCamp US 2018 event in Nashville.

You can find links to parts of the talk, along with slides, and commentary in Matt’s post, here:

I’ve been using the new Editor almost exclusively lately, not because I work for Automattic, but because it’s actually a pretty enjoyable way to write posts.

I still prefer to write longer posts in my text editor, and then add the posts into the editor afterwards (I’ve always been a little twitchy about my only version of long posts being in an online editor, just in case something goes pear shaped and I lose it all).

The new Editor isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good! It does work a little differently in some respects, but that isn’t a bad thing (necessarily). Also, it’s improving (I can add galleries that work the way they’re supposed to! Yay!) all the time.

Unfashionably still an Atom editor fan

I’ve loved the idea of the Atom editor since I saw the initial announcement video three years ago:

I used it on and off as a text editor since it was released. Sure, it was sluggish, but I didn’t think too much of it. I used Atom for a text-based productivity system a couple years ago, when I couldn’t find a cross-platform task management system I liked. At some point, I decided to try something a little more responsive, and lightweight.

All the cool kids seem to be using Visual Studio Code, and they love it. There’s certainly a lot to like about Microsoft’s (mostly) open source code editor. It’s lightweight, extensible through a range of really good extensions, it’s cross-platform, and free.

I used it for a while, and enjoyed it. As a newbie coder, it gives me a lot of feedback as I poke around at my coding projects. This can be really helpful, for sure. That’s probably one of the reasons I used VS Code for as long as I did (and why I still have it installed on my laptop). Of course, another reason why I used it is that a number of developers I follow have raved about it.

I initially moved off VS Code, and returned to Atom earlier this year when I started using a more powerful MacBook Pro, and felt drawn back to Atom for some reason. Part of the reason was that a Markdown extension I relied on in VS Code stopped working for me (at least when I used it in conjunction with Alfred.app that I use heavily for my work).

When I came back to Atom, I noticed how well some of the packages I installed seemed to fit into how I worked. The Markdown Writer package, for one, has become one of my favourite packages, just because it makes it easier for me to write in Markdown.

There was certainly a point where I was concerned about Atom’s ongoing development, and how seemingly simple issues didn’t appear to be addressed. I received some good feedback on this, and moved on.

One of my colleagues recommended Sublime Text, so I spent some time testing it out. I love how quickly it starts up, how similar it is to Atom (well, more the other way round). At the same time, I’m not sure I can justify paying the cost for Sublime Text because Atom does want I want to do, with less of the fiddling I need to do to Sublime Text to configure it for how I like to work (mostly keybindings, and Markdown support).

It’s not that Sublime Text isn’t worth the $80 license fee, it really is (and I agree with paying for good quality software). Even though it took me a few weeks to configure it to work pretty well for me, there are little features that I absolutely love. One little one that I discovered is how it automatically closes HTML tags when I start typing closing tags. These little things are awesome, and bring a little more joy to my day.

In the meantime, Atom has been improving with each release. Sure, it doesn’t have all the tips and feedback that VS Code, and it loads a little slower (although not as much as it used to). I don’t mind that as much actually. I stick with Atom because it works for me.

It fits into how I write Markdown, works well enough for me when I switch over to CSS, HTML, Python, shell scripts, JavaScript, and so on. On those occasions when I need extra help, I may dip back into VS Code, or give Sublime Text another go.

I’m also just figuring out how to “hack” this “hackable text editor for the 21st Century”, and I really enjoy this sort of freedom with my text editor. There’s still so much I can learn about how to use my editor more effectively. Another colleague pointed out a really cool Emmet feature that just blew my mind.

So, in a time when everyone seems to be flocking to VS Code, I thought I’d add my vote for Atom. I’m still a fan, thanks GitHub!

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Luca Bravo

Pretty excited about Gutenberg

Gutenberg 4.0 has arrived. I’m planning to spend a lot more time using it in the week ahead. I’m really looking forward to it rolling out as the default WordPress editor!

It works pretty well on mobile too! 😁

Scientific papers shouldn’t be published as PDFs

Jupyter notebook examples
Examples of Jupyter notebooks

I enjoyed James Somers’ article in the Atlantic titled “The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete” about how the standard format for scientific papers, namely PDF, is no longer the appropriate format for such data-intensive work.

This is, of course, the whole problem of scientific communication in a nutshell: Scientific results today are as often as not found with the help of computers. That’s because the ideas are complex, dynamic, hard to grab ahold of in your mind’s eye. And yet by far the most popular tool we have for communicating these results is the PDF—literally a simulation of a piece of paper. Maybe we can do better.

The article recounts the history of Wolfram’s Wolfram Mathematica notebook model, and the rise of Jupyter notebooks as an open source alternative that’s also rising to prominence in the space.

I love the idea of more open, more dynamic formats for sharing knowledge, capturing ideas, and promoting access to knowledge.

VS Code has a little too much of the old Microsoft

Update (2018-09-18): I had this wrong. I was able to disable the Live Share and Azure extensions in VS Code. I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the error messages I highlighted below.

You can disable the both the Azure and Live Share extensions by first disabling their dependencies. In the case of Live Share, I first had to disable the Live Share Audio extension. In the case of the Azure extension, I had to disable the Azure Functions extension first.

I like VS Code. That, in itself, still surprises me a little given which company created it. I still remember the Old Days when Microsoft took every opportunity to coerce users to use its solutions, often using pretty aggressive tactics.

Many have said that we’re dealing with a new Microsoft, friend to the FOSS community, trusted custodian of critical platforms like GitHub. That may well be true. At the same time, I still see a little of the old Microsoft seeping through now and then.

I opened VS Code today, to take a look at some code I’ve been meaning to continue working on. I noticed that Live Share updated when I open the app, and then seemed to start running for some reason.

I don’t use Live Share (although the functionality is interesting).

Rather than have extensions running that I don’t use, I thought I’d disable Live Share, along with the Azure extensions that seem to be installed and activated by default. That didn’t quite work out for me.

Can't uninstall or deactivate Live Share
Can’t uninstall or deactivate Live Share

I can't uninstall or deactivate VS Code's Azure extensions either.
I can’t uninstall or deactivate VS Code’s Azure extensions either.

As good as VS Code is, I don’t like being required to keep Microsoft’s extensions installed when I don’t make use of them. I’d expect that from an application that doesn’t hold itself out as “extensible and customizable”.

This just taints the progress the company has made, to a degree. It also leaves me wondering what else is running in VS Code when I use it, that I didn’t enable?

Now even more IndieWebified

Liked Setting up WordPress for IndieWeb use by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (BoffoSocko)
I spent some time this morning doing a dry run through setting up a suite of IndieWeb plugins on a fresh WordPress installation. Going off of a scant outline I talked for almost two hours describing IndieWeb functionality as I set it all up. Hopefully it will provide a useful guide to newcomers to t...

I just watched Chris Aldrich’s tutorial on how to configure a WordPress site for IndieWeb use. In other words, how to setup your WordPress site as pretty dynamic hub on the Web using a variety of IndieWeb technologies and plugins.

The tutorial runs to about two hours, but it was worth watching. It certainly helped me figure out how to make better use of the plugins I’d installed.

One aspect of this that really impresses me is the Post Kinds plugin. It’s become so much more useful to me. At the same time, it’s only really useful if I publish posts using the WP Admin dashboard on my site.

I’d love to be able to map selected Post Kinds to WordPress’ default post formats so I could take advantage of more Post Kinds when publishing posts from other WordPress interfaces (such as the mobile WordPress.com app).

Spending more time with MarsEdit

Replied to Jason Dettbarn by endonendendonend (micro.blog)
@pauljacobson I just bought it like a week or so ago. Still have a lot to learn, so I'll share any more tips I find.

I’ve been using MarsEdit for several years, just not particularly regularly. I do seem to fairly consistently underestimate what @danielpunkass has been able to achieve with it, though.