Business and work Useful stuff

Cross-platform or best platform?

What is better? A cross-platform productivity system or the best productivity system, even if it is only available on one platform? I was thinking about this some more after I published my previous post this morning.

A productivity system for autonomous adults

The answer mostly hinges on whether you can be reasonably assured that you will be able to use the device/operating system of your choice going forward or whether you need to cater for an environment where you could find yourself working on whatever your employer gives you?

My employer, like many companies, issues Windows-based laptops to its staff. I have been a Mac user for about a decade and I use a number of apps that are only available on the Mac. That said, much of how I work on my Mac is also possible on other operating systems. I write in plain text using MultiMarkdown and I can do that on just about any device and OS. We use Google Drive for internal document sharing and that is available from any modern desktop browser and most smart devices.

One of the reasons I really love MultiMarkdown is because it is truly cross-platform and it doesn’t matter what you are using to write, it will work because it uses the most basic format: plain text. I’m going through a phase right now where I wish I could just do everything in plain text files and easy to migrate and sync files. I want to explore some sort of alternative to Evernote. Evernote is my primary reference repository for my stuff. I have a lot of data in there and I am a bit concerned that Evernote might go away one day and I won’t have an independent and similar system I could switch to.

So the question which has guided many of my productivity system choices has been whether to focus on a cross-platform system or on the best system available to me?

  1. A cross-platform productivity system would be something like Asana, Trello or even a plain text file with some customised syntax to reflect tasks and actions on tasks (I had a pretty interesting system running in Atom for a while).
  2. The best productivity system available to me at the moment is OmniFocus but its value is entirely dependent on me being able to use a Mac and iOS devices day to day. I’m using my MacBook Air for work at the moment but that is primarily because I returned my underpowered, office issued laptop and it hasn’t been replaced yet. This works well enough but if my MacBook Air were to decide to take a vacation on me, I’d have to switch to something else and my efforts to set up an effective productivity system using OmniFocus would be rendered useless.

At the moment I am leaning more towards using the best system available over cross-platform, primarily because nothing else is as good, intuitive and effective as OmniFocus on my Mac and iOS devices. I’ve discovered that “good enough” isn’t always good enough and carries a fair amount of aggravation with it.

The underlying question still remains, though.

Image credit: Pexels

Applications Blogs and blogging Mindsets

Open source WordPress app on all platforms is good news for the open Web

I like the desktop WordPress app. It has improved quite a lot since it was first released and the only real difference between the desktop app and posting in the Web interface is that the app doesn’t include additional plugin functionality like Yoast SEO which I use on this site.

Anyway, I noticed that WordPress has now released versions of its app for all 3 major platforms: Mac, Windows and, last month, Linux. Automattic has also open sourced the WordPress desktop app. This is good news for the open Web in a time when there seem to be more high walls around platforms.

Source: WordPress Tavern

Business and work Mindsets

Build your own platform

I’m sorting through notes in my oversized Evernote inbox and I came across a quote from Rian van der Merwe’s article titled “How to do what you love, the right way” which I mentioned in my post about doing what you love a while ago. How often does doing what you love seem to translate automatically into “quit your job and go build a new business in a coffee shop”?

That might be the way to go for you. Often, though, doing what you love may well be possible in the company you already work in and you just need to think a little differently about it:

Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job and starting a coffee shop. Most often, it means building your own platform, and crafting your own work, one step at a time.


Heading north on the Gautrain – part 2

As I wrote the other day, my wife and I took the train north for some family admin. I just finished processing my photos from the trip and I’m still a fan of Gautrain platforms and stations. Here are a couple of my photos from the album. I used the opportunity to experiment a little more with some of the images. The results may be technically incorrect but I like the effect, especially the one with the security guard and the commuter.

Business and work Mindsets Travel and places

An intriguing Uber platform play

Imagine Uber, the on demand driver service, that has been gaining traction here in South Africa wasn’t just about being able to call a car to get somewhere pretty much at a whim? What if that is just a proof of concept for a broader platform strategy?

This thought came to me during my introductory chat with Uber’s Neeraj Singhal almost two months ago and it remains a pretty fascinating, if largely hypothetical, model for this intriguing service. The idea of Uber as a platform isn’t new, I just read a 2012 post on HBR about the challenges of establishing Uber as a dynamic pricing platform. What struck me is how interesting it would be if what Uber really becomes is a localised and distributed transportation platform and the “town car” model we are accustomed to is just the first step to prove the model?

Imagine an Uber courier model where you can check the mobile app for nearby courier/delivery vans that you can call to your office within half an hour to pick something up and deliver across town? I occasionally need to deliver a document and the current options are getting in my car and taking it there (or sending a team member instead) or calling a courier service and arranging for a pickup sometime later that day or the next day.

Uber moves into a city, partners with local providers to operate its service. Uber trains the local drivers, equips them with apps (and devices?) and manages the payment side of the service. The result has subtly revolutionised not just your idea of a taxi service but also the idea of car ownership. In the process, this creates tremendous opportunities for smaller operators willing to join the local Uber opportunity.

If the “on demand” and micro delivery model is feasible for courier services, it could completely disrupt the current bulk/batch collection and delivery model for a substantial share of the current courier business model. It could mean dispensing with the need to batch deliveries and invest heavily in planned routes and, instead, fuel the growth of small scale delivery services using bicycles and motorbikes which can usually only handle smaller loads. It also lends itself to highly localised services which don’t need to service large regions to be viable.

The use case is may be pretty specialised (say, only lawyers with particular delivery requirements) or open up to a wide range of deliveries subject to size constraints, for example. In many ways, it is pretty close to the Mr Delivery service except being food.

Another option which I find pretty interesting is a drone/UAV model where relatively cheap and remote-controlled drones are used to deliver small packages like medication from pharmacies to homes using GPS co-ordinate and specially designed receptacles. You could use the same system for small document and package deliveries generally. No need for petrol, drivers (and salaries), just some sort of receptacle that a drone could recognise, dock with and drop its package. Heck, Uber could do something like this itself in collaboration with a new industry of drone makers and operators.

This on-demand platform we see emerging in our cities has local knowledge, is enormously flexible and is likely to disrupt a number of existing services. If you can add elements of the Internet of Things and a future generation of programmatic contractual interactions, our future commercial work could look pretty different.

For the time being, Uber is worth watching carefully. For me, I just need to actually use the service!