Categories
Business and work Mindsets

Stop taking detailed notes in meetings

Khoi Vinh’s post titled “Remembering What’s Important After Meetings” touches on a better approach to participating in meetings and highlights a pretty useful IFTTT applet to facilitate that.

For one thing, taking copious notes in meetings isn’t always the best approach. You risk focusing too much on your notes and missing opportunities to be meaningfully participate in the meeting and just be present.

Instead, he recommends making note of the meeting highlights afterwards:

This advice absolved me of the pressure I previously felt to write down everything. Without that distraction, I’ve been able to generally stay more focused and absorb more of what’s said in meetings. And with fewer notes, the act of searching them later becomes much easier too.

I tend to take a lot of notes in meetings and capture those notes into Evernote afterwards for future reference. I prefer handwritten notes because I’ve read that handwritten notes tend to be more conducive to actually absorbing what you are writing about.

As useful as it is to have comprehensive notes of your meetings, I’ve also noticed that other meeting participants tend to find it a little frustrating sitting opposite someone who seems to be writing down everything they say instead of being part of the conversation.

Something to think about in my next meeting.

Image credit: Stickler Mule

Categories
Applications

IFTTT v Pinboard – BFFs again

After a little drama and consternation, it looks like the IFTTT people and the Pinboard person have reached some sort of agreement on the way forward. There aren’t many details but IFTTT sent out an email on Thursday (31 March) which largely apologised for mistakes made, lack of clarity about certain aspects of the new platform and confusion about the terms and conditions.

Hello Pinboard Customers,

We’ve made mistakes over the past few days both in communication and judgment. I’d like to apologize for those mistakes and attempt to explain our intentions. I also pledge to do everything we can to keep Pinboard on IFTTT.

IFTTT gives people confidence that the services they love will work together. There are more services in the world than IFTTT can possibly integrate and maintain alone. We are working on a developer platform that solves this by enabling service owners to build and maintain their integration for the benefit of their customers.

The vast majority of Channels on IFTTT are now built on that developer platform by the services themselves. We made a mistake in asking Pinboard to migrate without fully explaining the benefits of our developer platform. It’s our responsibility to prove that value before asking Pinboard to take ownership of their Channel. We hope to share more on the value of our platform soon.

I also want to address Pinboard’s concerns with our Developer Terms of Service. These terms were specific to our platform while in private beta and were intended to give us the flexibility to evolve our platform in close partnership with early developers. We’ve always planned to update and clarify those terms ahead of opening our platform and we are doing so now. We are specifically changing or removing areas around competing with IFTTT, patents, compatibility and content ownership. The language around content ownership is especially confusing, so I’d like to be very clear on this: as a user of IFTTT you own your content.

I truly appreciate all of your feedback, concerns and patience. Helping services work together is what IFTTT does. We respect and appreciate the open web. This very openness has been instrumental in enabling us to build IFTTT and we fully intend to pay it forward.

Linden Tibbets
CEO, IFTTT

There were certainly mistakes made although I’m not so sure about the other stuff. That said, this is certainly a positive development and Pinboard’s Maciej Cegłowski seems to agree:

It’s not clear how much longer Pinboard will remain connected to IFTTT. I imagine the parties came to some sort of agreement about modifications to IFTTT’s terms and conditions and requirements for integrating Pinboard into the new IFTTT platform. The approach for now seems to be a “wait and see” approach but it’s a step in a better direction.

With all that, we can probably return to our regularly scheduled programming or work and carry on. As for my complaints about Cegłowski’s apparent lack of empathy, his sarcasm is growing on me.

Yup.


If you missed the saga, you can catch up here:

Part 1:

IFTTT v Pinboard

Part 2:

IFTTT v Pinboard Redux – Contracts and Condescension

Image credit: Pixabay

Categories
Applications Semantic Web

IFTTT v Pinboard

Never mind Batman v Superman. Now it’s IFTTT v Pinboard and I’m caught in the cross-fire.

I use Pinboard daily in some form or another. I also use the great “connector” service, IFTTT, daily to automate a host of little tasks like adding Instapaper highlights to a text file in Dropbox and many more.

In particular, I use a number of IFTTT recipes that include Pinboard in various little workflows that make my life easier and now it seems that is going to come to an end in just a week or two. I received this alarming email from IFTTT:

I rushed over to the Pinboard blog to see what Pinboard’s creator, Maciej Cegłowski, has to say about the matter. It turns out, he has quite a bit to say in his blog post titled “My Heroic and Lazy Stand Against IFTTT”. He cited two reasons for this little impasse:

Because many of you rely on IFTTT, and because this email makes it sound like I’m the asshole, I feel I should explain myself.

In a nutshell:

  1. IFTTT wants me to do their job for them for free
  2. They have really squirrely terms of service

It’s entirely IFTTT’s decision to drop support for Pinboard (along with a bunch of other sites). They are the ones who are going to flip the switch on working code on April 4, and they could just as easily flip the switch back on (or even write an IFTTT recipe that does it for them). Weigh their claims about Pinboard being a beloved service accordingly.

I understand his concerns and I agree with him that he shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel at his cost to satisfy IFTTT’s requirements to remain connected to the service. Surely IFTTT could have come up with a more developer-friendly way to migrate to their new platform and help developers make the transition at a lower cost?

I would also have reservations about the contract they want developers to agree to as part of their transition to the new platform. Requiring developers to agree to the sorts of terms Cegłowski quote seems pretty unreasonable given what the clauses would seem to be saying.

At the same time, I’m caught between these two providers I rely on for various tasks. I don’t like the approach IFTTT seems to be taking but I love the service they provide. It literally makes my life easier in so many ways. I have also been using Pinboard for a while now as my personal bookmarking service and I even pay for the archival service. It is a simple and effective service.

This IFTTT v Pinboard impasse between the two companies just hurts people like me who either have to switch to some IFTTT competitor to address the soon-to-be introduced gaps in my workflows or just abandon those workflows altogether. The effect of that is to diminish the value of both services for me, just enough to leave me with that sick, disappointed feeling you get in times like these.

I hope this situation is resolved in some form or another but, if it isn’t … well, that just sucks.

Postscript:

IFTTT v Pinboard Redux – Contracts and Condescension

Categories
Blogs and blogging Tutorials Useful stuff

Is Medium just a RSS reader?

The general consensus on Medium seems to be that Medium is a publishing platform, essentially. Rian van der Merwe has a different take on Medium which he explains in his post “Medium as RSS reader”:

But then it dawned on me… Indie publishers have been thinking about Medium all wrong. We’ve been thinking about Medium as a thing that eats all the world’s content with zero regard for publishers. But Medium is, in fact, nothing more than a next-generation RSS reader.

It is an interesting idea and I’m not sure I agree or would want Medium to become a fancy RSS reader. That said, his IFTTT recipe for automatically publishing his blog posts to Medium offers an alternative to the buggy Medium plugin for WordPress which I stopped using on my site.

View at Medium.com

Looking at Rian’s Medium profile, the IFTTT recipe seems to be working pretty well although I’m curious whether Rian needs to do any post-publication editing to fix formatting issues? I usually have to delete extra line spaces and fix quotes when I import my blog posts into Medium. If not, this is a good option for, at the very least, republishing blog posts to Medium.

Categories
Applications Business and work Tutorials Writing

How Instapaper could be an even better research tool

Instapaper has become so much more than a reading app to me. It has become a fantastic research tool too. As good as it is, it could be better (or, at least, it could do one thing better). Bear with me, I’ll explain.

As you may know, Instapaper introduced highlighting and commenting (or Notes) some time back. If you are using the “free” service you are limited to just 5 notes a month but if you become a Premium user for a mere $29.99 for a year (or $2.99 for a month), you have all the awesomeness that is Instapaper available to you.

My work involves a fair amount of writing. I typically write around 3,000 to 4,000 words a week in the form of blog posts for my employer’s blog. I also write guest posts for industry websites now and then and edit blog posts that my colleagues have written. My writing tool is Byword and I am a big fan. Reaching the point where I write those articles usually means doing a fair amount of research. That involves finding useful materials, saving them to Instapaper where possible and later going through my saved items in Instapaper to review them more closely.

Comments and highlights in Instapaper

At that point I use the highlighting and commenting tools a lot to pick out phrases and ideas that I want to incorporate into my articles. I created IFTTT recipes (here and here) that take highlights and comments and add them to running Evernote notes for each article.

The results are nicely laid out Evernote notes with all my highlighted texts and comments. It’s a useful way to aggregate all those highlights and comments in a central reference that I can go back to when it is time to write my article.

Comments from Instapaper collated in an Evernote note

Instapaper has a Notes tab which has a list of all your highlights and comments but I haven’t used that. I’ve been using Evernote for years so it seemed like a good idea to just send my highlights and comments there rather than use the Instapaper option.

Instapaper’s Notes view

I was home sick for a few days last week and my idea of rest was to research and start writing a mini-thesis about ad blocking and different perspectives on it and solutions for the challenges it creates. At one point I was highlighting and commenting so much I received a rate limiting warning from IFTTT telling me that I was about to hit an hourly limit on items sent to Evernote (I didn’t know such a limit even existed).

At the end of my research phase I had a dozen or two Evernote notes with dozens of items in each which I thought would be useful in my article. What hit me is how relatively unproductive this workflow is where I have a lot of material to review after the initial research. Making all those notes and highlights practically useful requires me to go through my Evernote notes and manually extract all of those items into some sort of outline of my article. My favourite outliner is OmniOutliner but any OPML-based outliner would work just about as well.

Usually I don’t use an outliner too because my articles aren’t generally as complex as this ad blocking piece. In this case, an outliner became essential. I was working on my outline and I realised that as terrific Instapaper is as a research tool, being able to automatically export all those highlights and notes into an outline that I could manipulate afterwards would be far more effective than flat Evernote notes.

The benefit of an outliner is that I can drag lines around and re-order the outline pretty easily. I could possibly even create an initial draft of the article in the outliner and finish it off in Byword or another word processor. It would really depend on how I structured my outline and how much of the article I’d want to write in it. In this case, I still did my writing in Byword but I split my screen and placed my outline on one side of my screen as a reference and wrote in the Byword window.

My split screen OmniOutliner-Byword perspective

An alternative to this option is to just use Scrivener which is an excellent writing app. I started my article in Scrivener because it has an outlier function and the capacity to collect research materials in the app itself but I switched back to my Byword/OmniOutliner combo option – I just felt this strong need to stick with plain text in a simpler writing window.

Because my outline was more of a secondary outline after I finished my initial research, I still had to go back to Evernote to find individual quotes and arguments and combine material from both sources into my article. If I had been able to automatically send highlights and comments straight into an outliner, it would have placed all my reference materials into one outline from the start and made it a lot easier to structure that data for reference when I started writing.

So, my wish list for 2016 (I’m putting this out into the ether in case it is possible to make this a reality) is for some option to automatically export highlights and comments into coherent outlines just as I can create a similar workflow for Evernote. One possible solution is to create an integration with Dave Winer’s Fargo.io outliner. It should be something simple and create an OPML file that you can manipulate later to create the basis of an article or similar document.

Image credit: Writing by Unsplash, released under a CC0 dedication

Categories
Miscellany

New look for me

I’m kicking off 2014 with a newish look. The last time I had a beard was when I met my wife about a decade ago.

I’m still getting used to it and it is still growing out but so far, so good. I think I like it.

via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/iWioLw

Categories
Miscellany

Analogue blogging

I did a long overdue clean-up with our kids this morning and found these old Moleskine journals from about a decade ago. I used these journals to capture thoughts, ideas and life drama.

I want to capture these pages and I’m just debating how to do that. A flat-bed scanner is probably the way to go, short of disassembling the books and running pages through my ScanSnap scanner.

via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/iNsHTQ

Categories
Miscellany

Sunny end to 2013

Such a pleasure to see blue skies again after a couple rainy and cloudy weeks.

via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/iLN5Ff

Update: Sorry, little typo in the title. Fixed now.