Granting permission for an app or service to upload our contacts can be quite useful. It can also be dangerous to the privacy of everyone involved, and people are understandably losing trust in large parts of the tech industry.
But what if it wasn’t a binary, all-or-nothing permission? What if we could limit access to a specific set of contacts?
Maybe it’s a group we add contacts to, maybe it’s a switch we could flip on each contact (something like ‘Shareable’ or ‘Public’). It would be nice if we could also flip this switch on our own cards, for when we share them with someone new.
An obvious drawback is that the onus is on the user. I might be willing to flip that switch when a friend or colleague asks, but I wager a lot of people wouldn’t want to bother. It might lesson the very meaning of having this mechanism. A possible logical conclusion of all this might be some kind of centralized service for storing, sharing, and controlling our contact information (setting aside my distaste for the business side of Facebook, it does have some great options here, right down to controlling which friends, if any, can see each personal detail such as your home address, email, and phone). But that’s another discussion.
I don’t think these controls would be a panacea, but they might give more people the flexibility and privacy to use contact-powered apps and features. Between some of my contacts being my various doctors and a few friends who don’t want their information uploaded to most services (for good reason), I would certainly like to see more attention spent on these problems.
From a friend of mine, in a chat thread about portable battery packs:
Fun fact: when we’ve had amputees test myoelectric limbs we’re developing, they often volunteer that they’d like a USB charging port so they can charge their phones from the big battery in the limb. We then explain that it’s a big engineering challenge to get the limb to last all day on a charge, as things are, so there’s not residual capacity for phone charging. They inevitably reply “If I have to choose between my arm working or my phone, I’m going to choose my phone.”
I think a lot of hate for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar comes from I Hate Change-ism or just plain group-think. I think this happens with a lot of new products and tech, and I find it to be obnoxious and repetitive. There, I said it.
Anecdotally, I’ve struck up conversations with a few strangers in cafes and lounges, and they’ve had positive, unique perspectives on it. Generally they like it, they don’t miss the F keys since they “barely” or “never” used them, and they have fun discovering the new or previously hard-to-access features that apps place in the Touch Bar.
But there are also plenty of happy experiences and positive anecdotes to be found. Here’s a brief selection of links I’ve been collecting:
- The Touch Bar makes the Mac more accessible to me – by Steven Aquino
- I really love the Touch Bar as an online grad student – by Reddit user Gigantic_John_Stamos
- I love my 2016 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar – Beardo01
- A tip from Dave Murdock about Safari, the Touch Bar, and Picture-in-Picture mode
I hope these can help some people see how the Touch Bar is an improvement for good portion of users.
Blendle is an attempt at micro-transactions for news. Whether you use the website or its iPad and iPhone app, you can pick your favorite topics and publications, dump a few bucks into your account, then skim a tailored selection of stories Blendle thinks you want to read. You get to see headlines and brief summaries. Clicking through to read an entire article will quickly and silently pull anywhere from 15¢ to 50¢ out of your balance.
As much as I want to help news get as far away from advertising as is pragmatically possible, I think Blendle’s approach to curating articles could use a pivot. Or maybe it just needs an alternative interface for people like me who want to skim all available news and cherry pick what we want to read.
In other words, I wish Blendle had the option of looking and working like a traditional newsreader a la Fiery Feeds, NetNewsWire, Feedly, and their ilk.
I have around 350 feeds in my Feedly Pro account, organized by topic across some two dozen folders. I use Fiery Feeds to read, so my typical approach is to tap a folder like Apple, Game, or Photography and skim through headlines and brief excerpts from the sites I follow for each of those topics. When a headline grabs my attention, I tap it and read.
I like this approach because it allows me to quickly get at least a basic snapshot of the happenings in any of my interests and industries at any time. Algorithmic, curated content has always proven to miss things that I deem important, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Blendle.
I like Blendle’s overall mission, and I’d like to see it grow and gain more of a foothold. I’d also like to see more experiments in this space. At the least, give it a look, maybe a try, and share it with some friends who might like the way Blendle serves up news and interesting articles.
I haven’t used a particular app in a little while. I just got a new Mac and I wanted to start fresh with it, so I had to re-download said app.
As it turns out, the app received a major paid upgrade since I last used it. The bad news is that I can’t find a download for the previous version for which I have a serial number. Now I need to spend $40 if I want to use this app again. Hooray?
By comparison, I re-downloaded a subscription app from the Mac App Store. I started it up, and it found my App Store receipt/account whatever and started working right away. No serial numbers. No $40 dead-stop paywall. No digging through email. No contacting support. It Just Worked.
I’m not trying to make a grand blanket statement about one business model or another. This is a large, complex discussion, and there is no One Business Model to Rule Them All.
But in this particular instance, I need to spend $40 I wasn’t planning on spending if I want to get back to work. From a user perspective, this sucks.
In 2015, I switched from a 13-inch MacBook Pro to a first-gen, 12-inch MacBook. In my enthusiasm for iPad and all things thin and light, I figured I could get by with the tiniest retina MacBook yet, running what was basically a netbook CPU.
For a couple years, I did get by. But it can’t keep up anymore, especially since a growing amount of my client work requires more intensive tasks. Thanks to AppleInsider, I found a killer deal on a 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (Space Gray), on which I typed this post.
This thing is amazing. I know the first gen redesign in 2016 had some keyboard problems, but I hear the 2017 model much improved on that issue. Overall, I really like what Apple did here. The 13-inch Pro body dropped at least a full pound with this form factor, which makes it nearly the same weight as a 13-inch Air.
I think I’ll need time to understand the Touch Bar. Coming from an iPad, I’m certainly interested in the potential of a section of my keyboard that can adapt to the task at hand. Already, in a couple apps, I found shortcuts in the Touch Bar for which I didn’t know the keyboard shortcut; that was quite useful.
But then, just now, I wanted to use one of my favorite shortcuts—Command + Mission Control—to shove all windows aside and get something on the desktop. But the Mission Control button wasn’t there, it was a typing suggestion bar. Yes, I can tap the keyboard control on the right side to unfurl that ‘section’ of the Touch Bar to get the Mission Control button and trigger my shortcut. And yes, it’s still faster than manually minimizing or moving everything. But it is a bit of new friction that wasn’t previously there for this somewhat infrequently used shortcut.
Update: Toph Allen on Twitter pointed out that a 4-finger pinch outward can also invoke this command. After a little practice, I’m getting that down pretty well. This might be a good solution for me.
We’ll see how this plays out. I know there are a few ways to customize the Touch Bar’s behavior, so I’ll have to explore those in the coming weeks.
I’m a day into using this, but so far I’m really happy. This new MacBook has the screen space and horsepower I need to work, and I didn’t have to sacrifice too much in size or weight to get it.
👍🏻 👍🏻 for the 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar so far.
I’ve used Day One for years as a straightforward, personal journal. More recently, I started cataloging my work milestones and failures in a secondary Day One journal, and my internet likes in a third.
But this idea and short series from The Sweet Setup is quite interesting:
A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.
The idea of expanding Day One (or insert your journal of choice) into these broader realms, especially things that influence me and sheer observations, is really interesting. I think I’ll give it a shot by putting it in the Dock on all my devices and see how it goes.
For a little while now, I’ve been focusing on building healthier habits. I’ve used a combination of creating a morning routine and the habit-tracker Streaks to regularly remind me of things I want to do. More recently, though, I’ve started tinkering with what I call ‘anti-reminders.’
The idea is to create a task or reminder in whatever app to nudge you to not do something. Don’t have your regular morning coffee before that doctor appointment. Don’t have more than two drinks at next month’s family gathering. Don’t play games next Wednesday when you really want to work on that side project. Set the reminder to ping you shortly before or during an event, and it could help keep you on track.
It isn’t about being negative. I think of it as the other side of the habit coin–there are good habits to build, and bad habits to break. Or sometimes there are just healthy or neutral routines to… sigh, ‘disrupt’ when it matters.
Siri + Reminders are my vehicles for anti-reminders right now. “Hey Siri, remind me to not have coffee next Thursday at 7:30am.” I also want to tinker with a Streaks feature called ‘Negative Tasks’–don’t smoke, don’t bite nails, don’t eat bad food, and you can make your own. These actually start each day as complete, and you only mark them if you miss your target and partake in the thing you want to avoid.
I’m not generally one for new year’s resolutions. But I do pay attention to those times one has to draw a line in the sand to start something new. I’m going through a few of those times right now, so I’d like to share some thoughts and tools that might help you with your goals.
More journaling for me
I highly recommend journaling. Learning to catalog more of my life for me, not social media, has been great for posterity, being honest with myself, and when I need help remembering how far I’ve come or grown. I occasionally feel stuck, personally or professionally, and I find that my journal entries increasingly help me get unstuck.
Speaking of getting unstuck, I need to get in a better habit. I’ll admit to sometimes thinking I don’t have time, or punking out because I thought I need a cohesive thesis or “have it all thought out.” Maybe it’s ok to have a stream of consciousness entry or even just notes about an event. I can always clean it up later. Or not.
Toward this goal, I put Day One in my Dock on both iPhone and iPad. I’ll also tinker with a couple reminders to help me get in the habit.
Another tool I added to my first home screen is One Second Every Day. It’s a clever app that collects video clips and even Live Photos. It can then build a video overview of a week, a month, or the past year of your life. Neat idea.
Temper news in and out for my health
The United States, indeed the world, are a mess right now. I don’t want to unplug and shut it out. But for the sake of my emotional health and sheer productivity, I can’t stay plugged in all the time either.
I deleted my Facebook account last year (more on that in a minute). I’m also going to try four things over the coming weeks and, likely, months:
- Unfollow a few news-heavy accounts on Twitter – Some people and publications use their Twitter accounts as a 24-hour play-by-play of the nightmare unfolding in the U.S., and that’s fine; I still like Twitter for some news. I also feel there’s a time and place for everything, but “always” and “Twitter” for news and politics aren’t quite my thing right now.
- Stop posting so much of this nightmare – People know how to find news when they need it, and I’m not Rachael Maddow. I don’t need to contribute to the nightmare, but from time to time, maybe I can contribute to spreading positive help.
- Filter my newsreader – Feedly is my reader of choice, and Pro accounts have the option to filter all feeds for keywords and phrases. I’m going to start using them. One catch: filters can only be set in the web app, hopefully just for now.
- Find a healthy way to stay informed – I don’t know if that will be some kind of periodic roundup service or what. But some balance is in order.
More conversations with people
Social media can be fun (can), even useful. But I’ll cop to letting it nudge out some of my personal, direct conversations with friends and peers. I want to reverse that this year. More real conversations. More face-to-face time, or at least FaceTime.
To that end, I have a tip I’ve started to use and want to share. I like sharing things directly with multiple people, but not always in a group chat. I use iMessage for most conversations, and there is finally an iOS app that makes it easy to send the same individual message to multiple people.
Interact Contacts for iPhone and iPad is a contact management and messaging app from Agile Tortoise. It has a number of great tricks, including actual contact group management! A handy one is its app extension, which can send just about anything you select to multiple, individual conversations. Yeah, it’s pretty great.
- Use the Activities/Share Sheet on something, pick Interact
- Select a few friends, use the search option if necessary
- Tap the multi-message button at the bottom (the icon of multiple chat bubbles, not the individual icon)
Like this post. I’m going to write more on personal and professional levels. I want to help more people with tech, explore how all this stuff is affecting us, and try to share a little more about some personal struggles.
For a while now I’ve written nearly every word in Ulysses for iPad (and iPhone). It’s great for writing, organizing, and publishing directly to WordPress and Medium. Like this post.
Create art, even if it’s just for me
IPhoneography. I really enjoy mobile photography. It’s a great way to explore Chicago, I love that I can do it anywhere, and it’s a little cathartic.
Tinkering with pixel art has also been surprisingly fun, and this year I want to spend more effort and maybe even create a few things worth sharing. I use Pixaki for iPad with an Apple Pencil.
I hope that helps
Even if you don’t have much more than a loose idea for something to start in 2018, I hope this can help move you one step forward.