How Instapaper made me cry big tears of joy

I use Instapaper every day and the day the app was updated to add highlights was a very happy one. Today’s update adds, among other things, notes that sync! Yes, Instapaper made me cry big tears of joy today.

Love this app! Look, there is even a happy demo video:

Applications Web/Tech

Ubuntu, Debian and other Linux things that confuse me a little

I just read a newsy post about Ubuntu 15.04’s release and Debian 8.0’s release tomorrow and it reminded me about something that I’m curious about as a Linux user: is it possible to run Debian on top of Ubuntu or are they mutually exclusive? Is it more appropriate to talk about replacing Ubuntu’s UI with GNOME? I think I remember something about Ubuntu being based on Debian?

(Did I just commit some form of heresy?)

From what little I understand, part of an Ubuntu experience is the underlying system and another part is almost like a skin that can be swapped out for, say, Mint. I’m just not very clear on how this stuff all works. Any insights for a newbie?

Applications Mindsets


I love it when brands create more playful versions of error pages and app update texts. The usual “bug fixes and improvements” narratives really don’t inspire much passion. Instapaper is one of those brands that has some fun with messages like this maintenance placeholder.

I see most of these fun variations in app update narratives on my devices. This Medium app update narrative is pretty good too:

Poetic Medium app update narrative

Very poetic!

Applications Social Web

Facebook Groups as big as WhatsApp

I’m working through the announcements at Facebook f8 and one of the slides that really stands out for me is this one:

This F8 is all about the future of sharing.Facebook has gone from being one blue app on your phone a few years ago to…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Notice how Facebook Groups is as big as WhatsApp? Facebook Messenger isn’t that far behind in terms of user numbers. I didn’t realise Groups is so popular!

Applications Useful stuff

Bookmarking into the void

I was reading a post titled “I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing” and a comment the article’s author made about the Web Clipper got me thinking about bookmarks:

Because I saved each article with the Web Clipper, I have the entire text of the article and the source link right there, plus any highlights and notes I’ve made in each. This is light years better for me than just pasting the links to each article, or trying to write everything down myself into one giant note. Plus, by creating an entire notebook, each note functions as an item in a to-do list, which makes finishing the project much easier.

This tip isn’t exactly news to anyone familiar with Evernote but it reminded me that although I bookmark stuff fairly frequently in Pinboard, I don’t remember the last time I went back to Pinboard to find something I had bookmarked. It is pretty much a one way flow of information and that isn’t an indictment on Pinboard, it is a commentary on what I think I use Pinboard for and what I actually use it for. It could just as well be Delicious.

I have over 8 000 bookmarks in Pinboard which I have accumulated over the years. A substantial number of them come from Delicious when I used it as my primary bookmarking service and I have several workflows set up in IFTTT to automatically add more links to Pinboard. All that stuff works brilliantly except I have probably gone back to Pinboard to find things 2 or 3 times in the last year.

I capture stuff I want to read later into Instapaper (sometimes Pocket) so I don’t need the “read later” feature in Pinboard. I use the Evernote Web Clipper frequently to capture stuff I find (although the experience of reading in Evernote isn’t even close to Instapaper or Pocket so Evernote is mostly a reference system for me with working notes coming a close second).

On the other hand, I look for stuff in Evernote several times a day so I started thinking I should just use Evernote to bookmark stuff, in addition to capturing just about anything I may want to refer back to later. It is interesting that bookmarking services are going beyond just capturing links and tagging them. Pinboard and read-it-later service, Pocket, both offer premium users an option to capture the content of pages they bookmark and to archive that content for future reference down the line.

It sounds like a good idea, in theory, but I wonder how manageable it will be. The key thing is to be able to import those 8 000+ bookmarks into a specific notebook and not have them run through my Evernote Inbox for later processing because that will never happen! I also have this nagging feeling that adding all these bookmarks would just add way too much clutter to my Evernote notebooks, especially if the import doesn’t include tags and notes from the source Pinboard bookmarks.

I just imported all my bookmarks into Google Bookmarks for good measure, while I decide what to do. As if I’d do nothing in the meantime.

Of course another option is to just use Pinboard more often …

Applications Business and work

How sandwiches switched from email to Slack

It is starting to seems like everyone is using Slack for internal comms within teams. I have at least two clients using it and I know of a couple other small teams using it too.

(On a related note, the Slack referral program which gives you $100 in credit when you sign up expires at the end of November 2014 so click on this link if you want to take advantage of that)

I’m experimenting with how I can tie into my clients’ teams and use Slack to collaborate with them rather than our usual email+Skype+Hangouts channels. I also switched to a beta version of the desktop app which better supports multiple teams (the stable version allows you to switch between teams which also works), thanks to Richard Oakley.

I am not a huge fan of email but it works (most of the time). I do like the idea of using chat-style services for communications with clients. Email can become pretty painful when you just want to have short conversations in close to realtime. I also like the idea of not using email much for work comms too and Slack is a great service to use for that.

I had a discussion along these lines with Nathan Jeffery recently and the one thing that came up was whether it is productive to switch to more realtime comms with clients. We have become accustomed to pretty fast comms with email, calls and chat. Email still has a semblance of a lag because it is still asynchronous so you can manage expectations to a degree. If you switch to a realtime option like Slack, you risk creating an expectation that your responses will be realtime simply because the tech enables it. That means you spend all your time chatting and not enough time working. At least that is the risk. I’m not sure that shifting to something like Slack is the end of productivity. I think managing expectations goes beyond what the channel enables but it is worth thinking about.

One of the companies that moved over to Slack is Sandwich Video Inc. The story about their transition is documented in a Slack blog post which is a great read. It is, ironically, a series of emails between Slack’s co-founder and CEO, Stewart Butterfield, and Sandwich Video’s CEO, Adam Lisagor. Sandwich Video created an awesome video (as you would expect) explaining why they moved and beautifully animating their enthusiasm for the product. I had to share. Watch the video in HD. You may need to watch it more than once, it’s that much fun:

I’m curious how many people are using Slack. It is easy to look around your local bubble and think everyone is doing it and forget about the world outside that bubble.

Applications Useful stuff

iOS 8 just made Flipboard much more useful to me

I haven’t used Flipboard all that much lately for one reason: the built in sharing options for articles I read and wanted to share have been too limited. Sure, you could share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn but that involved a lot more time than using something like Buffer and Buffer enables me to share using different profiles on each service (for example, I have a Twitter profile for my business and my personal one – Flipboard only supports one profile on each service).

I realised this morning that Flipboard supports the new sharing options that comes with iOS 8 that connect with other apps installed on my devices, like Buffer. Other apps I use like Reeder and Feedly have supported a variety of sharing options for a while now so I’ve tended to use these feed readers as my primary news aggregation sources. Now, Flipboard has just become a lot more interesting for me and I’m pretty pleased about that!

Here is a quick guide to using those sharing options in 3 steps. Just bear in mind that the iOS sharing options leverage installed apps on your devices and you may need to activate the apps in the extended sharing menu.

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Removing the annoying blinking cursor in Firefox

One of the reasons I stopped using Firefox as my primary browser was something pretty small, but annoying: a seemingly random cursor on the screen. I couldn’t work out how to stop it from appearing when I clicked on the screen until I found this forum post titled “Firefox shows a blinking “edit” cursor in the body of all websites when I click” –

Clicking a button within a webpage puts a blinking text cursor in the body of the site, as if editing a Word document. It’s not causing any other problems besides being really annoying and distracting, but it only just started today. I’ve tried restarting Firefox with add-ons disabled, as well as reinstalling Firefox clean.

Fortunately the solution turns out to be pretty simple:

This is likely caused by switching on caret browsing and you can toggle caret browsing on/off by pressing F7 (Mac: fn + F7).