Writer and technology consultant Patrick Rhone talks about his path from helping people building websites to helping people incorporate technology into all parts of their lives. He talks about traveling as a parent and he shares how much he’s thinking about the world on a grand scale in the context of how technology should and could be in service of humanity in tackling worldwide problems. And Patrick talks about how his young daughter interacts with technology and how that shapes the way he thinks about the devices we all use.
It was an absolute blast guesting on this one. Levi Weinhagen is a great interviewer and we explored many subjects that I have not written that much about (yet) but have plenty of ideas about. My only wish is that I discussed parenting in this modern age even more. Perhaps he will have me on again.
I don’t do conferences much. They harsh my introverted mellow. That said, I will be at WWDC this year for the first time in a very long time. I’ll only be in town Tuesday afternoon (June 3) through Thursday afternoon (June 5). Mainly coming just to hang out and meet folks. If you are going to be around there, keep an eye out on this space. I’ll likely be planning an informal meet up or two for that time.
I would never suggest that anyone throw out all of their stuff immediately. If you’re interested in living a simple lifestyle, wonderful. But take the fervor that surrounds the movement with a grain of salt, and make the transition at your own pace.
I’m not sure how much Office for iPad will ultimately mean for Microsoft. Beyond Excel, what these last several years have shown many of us is that we don’t really need Office for most tasks (thanks again in large part to Microsoft refusing to release Office on devices like the iPad). We found other ways of getting stuff done.
Like the curtain finally falling from the Wizard of Oz to find just a small, frail, man pretending to be far more powerful and relevant than he really was. Microsoft’s biggest miss was allowing the world to finally see the truth behind the big lie — they were not needed to get real work done. Or anything done, really.
You shouldn’t have to be a computer expert in order to reap the benefits of computers being ever more intertwined with our daily lives. With this guide, I will go though the key things I think most people might not know, but could benefit a lot from knowing.
The author, Robert Falck, has been a long time friend online. I’ve pre-ordered. Looks like it’s going to be great.
Andrew Kim continues to knock it out of the park with these reviews of some of Apple’s older products. I actually still have one of these that I can’t bear to part with. One of the most beautiful objects Apple ever designed.
I don’t need all four camera apps, for instance, and should decide on one “keeper.” The rest are clutter in that they consume precious storage space on my iPhone and clutter my mind, as I must stop and choose one every time I want to take a picture.
As DEVO once sang, “Freedom of choice is what you got. Freedom from choice is what you want”.
One of the most important things that keeps me glued to Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem is the fact that, the vast majority of the time, things just work.
Yep. In fact, I was recently reminded of this too.
I had a client this week who bought her first Mac after years of using a Windows PC. I told her what I tell a lot of people who are making the switch. On Windows, you get used to things being as unintuitive and hard as possible. You run into something you want to do or some setting you would like to change and your first instinct becomes looking for it through some obscure, poorly-labeled, dialog, filled with tabs that change position when you click on them, that is only accessible through a right click. One of the things you have to do, when switching to Mac, is to force yourself to think differently in such situations. You should stop, take a step back, and ask, “In an ideal world, where would this setting be? How would this work? What would it be called?”. On a Mac, nine times out of ten, it is exactly where you think it should be. Things work exactly the way you think they should.
I have given this advice countless times over the twenty years of my consulting business. And, from those I have given it to, almost everyone has told me it was the thing that made the transition to Mac the easiest. That they never cease being amazed by the “magic” of things just working.
I think those of us who have long used Macs forget how special that is.
I write the foreword for this and, as one who has kind of become known as “the guy who writes on his iPhone”, I am featured often throughout. That said, even if this were not true I would say, for only $3.00, this good bang for your bucks.
Following, is the foreword I wrote to give you a peek at what it is all about. Enjoy:
"You’re doing which with what?"
This was, more often than not, the response I got last year when I first mentioned to people that I was writing a book on my iPad.
"So you are writing a book about your iPad?"
"No", I would say. "I’m writing a book and doing so entirely using my iPad."
""Ah, so you must be using one of those fancy Bluetooth keyboards they sell for it."
"Actually, I’m only using the onscreen keyboard."
"OK, that’s just crazy! Why would you want to do that?"
"Several reasons", I’d explain. "I want to prove that the iPad is a perfectly capable computer for getting real work done. I also want to find out how such constrains affect my writing. Would it cause me to work slower, be more careful, and omit needless words? As someone who tries to promote, and is writing a book about, working with just enough of what one needs, the iPad alone seemed enough for the task. Plus, it’s a really good marketing angle for the book."
"So it’s just a stunt then? To sell the book?"
"No", I would insist. "I actually write most everything now this way. I quite enjoy it. In fact, if it’s something that will be a thousand words or less, I most often do that on my iPhone with my thumbs."
It’s a wonder someone did not call the proper authorities to have me committed at this point in the conversation…
Nothing crazy about it though, the iPad and iPhone, seem to me to be the perfect writing machines. They are regularly always with you so they allow you to start writing almost anytime and anywhere. When one can let go of the fear and let built in tools like auto-correct help, you might be surprised how fast one can become on the built in keyboard. But, as explained, part of the benefit is that it also can slow one down just enough to be more intentional with the words they choose and careful about the accuracy of the typing. I actually find I make less typos and am more quick to catch those I do when doing so in this way. In short, the iPad and iPhone help me write more often, in more situations, and write better.
In the time since I wrote a book on my iPad, the number of great writing apps available for both platforms has exploded. Many are so good that I prefer them over any of their similar desktop computer counterparts. From minimalist plain text editors to full-fledged word processing and page layout alternatives, there is a writing app out there to fit any need. And, perhaps even more importantly, these devices are seen even more by the general public as equal tools for getting the job done.
This is all to say that one owes it to themselves to give it a shot. Make the effort to realize the powerful creative tool these devices can be. I hope the coming chapters may help you down that path. If nothing else, you will have a new alternative. But, like me, you just may find an exciting new way to write.
The truth is that I use my iPhone more than any other computer I own. And I’m very purposeful about what is on that main screen and in the dock. If something does not get used frequently, it has no place there.
Oh, come on. You wanna see what’s on my iPhone, don’t you?
I’d like to take some time to thank MnmlRdr for, appropriately, sponsoring the site’s RSS Feed this week. I’m not kidding when I tell you this is my new favorite thing. It is beautiful, fast, and works rock solidly with Reeder, my fave RSS client on iOS.
There is still some time to take advantage of the generous 50% off exclusive for Minimal Mac readers. But time is running out quickly. Act now.
In recent conversation with a friend, he asked what I would do with my writing if I really wanted it to last. First, I would strive to write timeless ideas that have a lasting impact and meaning. Which is the ultimate backup — because then the idea is widely shared and preserved in the minds of others. Next, I would write this for the digital using plain text. Then, I would print off two copies on paper. One of these copies I would remove from the printer using gloved hands and put it into an archival quality document sleeve. I would then take the sleeved copy and find a remote cave to place it in. Then, for best assurance, I would write the idea on the cave wall using a vegetable dye.
The point being that, the further you reduce the technology involved in the preservation, the more potential years (centuries, millennia, etc.) you add.
Something to remember the next time you go to write the “Next Great American Novel” in Pages and sell it only as an eBook.
Increasingly, the answer to this question guides whether I dismiss a shiny new technology out of hand.
You see, there are two types of problems that technology is meant to solve.
Problems we know we have.
Problems that we did not know we had but ones that are obvious once the solution comes along.
Far too many products coming to market these days don’t appear to meet the former and the later is so non-apparent it might as well be fiction. Make sure the technology (device, app, service, etc.) you allow into your life meets the criteria and can give a clear answer to that question. If not, pay it no mind and move along.
MnmlRdr is the best RSS Reader/Service I have used to date. Period. And, there is a special deal this week only for Minimal Mac readers to get 50% off the normal rate.
I, like many people, was looking for the perfect replacement once Google Reader was killed. And, despite the huge opportunity this left for others to fill, nothing had come along that seemed an equal replacement — let alone, better. So, I was skeptical when the developer of MnmlRdr reached out to me to let me know about the service. And, to be honest, I kind of put him off for a couple of weeks due to the holidays and all…
Boy was that stupid.
Because, it took no more than signing up for the 7 day trial period and using it for a few minutes to know that I had finally found a true replacement for my RSS needs that was better than what I had been using for years before. It is fast and clean, provides just the features you need, is beautifully designed, and has a responsive web interface so good that one could easily forgo the need for a client. The mobile interface is especially fast and, dare I say, feels native — it supports gestures for cripes sake! That said, the service does support a number of popular clients including:
Fiery for iPhone/iPad
Reeder (1 & 2) for iPhone/iPad
ReadKit for OSX
Mr. Reader for iPad
Read a Fever for Windows Phone
Press for Android
Plus it is chock full of great features like: keyboard shortcuts, tagging, folders, many “read it later” services, fast updates, and more. Plus it is private, secure, and ad free.
I recently updated the available sponsorship slots for the site and the current stats.
Look, it’s simple. Sponsor the site for a week and you get your product or service in front of 225,000 smart and beautiful people — Twice!
But, here’s the deal. Those beautiful people are smart enough to know when I’m selling them stuff I don’t believe in. Therefore, I only accept sponsorships for products I would use myself and are a good fit for the theme of site.
I don’t know what cascading chemical awesomeness is going down in my brain when it detects and rewards me for the act of building, but I’m certain that the hormonal cocktail is the end result of millions of years of evolution. Part of the reason we’re at the top of the food chain is that we are chemically rewarded when we are industrious – it is evolutionarily advantageous to be productive.
And we’re slowly and deviously being trained to forget this.
For those of us who do not celebrate Boxing Day there may be an alternative I can suggest. I think of it as Re-Boxing Day. If you’ve enjoyed a bountiful Christmas and received presents, this day after Christmas is an excellent time to make room for the new by recycling or contributing something old.
What a wonderful idea. I’m adding it to my calendar to repeat every year.
Chindōgu (珍道具?) is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, chindōgu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. Thus, chindōgu are sometimes described as “unuseless” – that is, they cannot be regarded as “useless” in an absolute sense, since they do actually solve a problem; however, in practical terms, they cannot positively be called “useful”.
I often find myself wondering how many of the things we allow into our lives could fall into the category of chindōgu. How many problems in our lives were introduced by the things we hoped would make it so much better. Especially in the area of technology. The things that do have many useful qualities, yet create many more unforeseen and unexpected problems.
An even better line of thinking may be what useful things become chindōgu because of the way that we use them. Is a smartphone just out of the box useful but, after installing a few dozen distracting and purposefully time wasting apps does it become chindōgu? Was the social network you joined useful when you only followed a couple of dozen friends to keep up with their lives useful but, now that you follow a few hundred people you barely know, is it chindōgu? How about those few blogs you added to a RSS feed reader to stay abreast of a particular subject or save some time navigating to each one? That was useful, I’m sure. Are the few dozen more you added after that? Or is it now mostly newsfotainment™ with little actionable information? Is it now chindōgu?
“Minimalism isn’t about having or doing the very least. It’s about having or doing things simply, when simple is best. I enjoy simplicity, but I also dearly enjoy extravagance and blowing the top off when it’s called for.”—
"The majority of the blog posts I write these days, I write in landscape, using my iPhone, typing with my thumbs," he said. "Why? Well, because it’s what I have on hand all the time, and when inspiration hits me, I could be anywhere."
Nice article in today’s Saint Paul Pioneer Press about the increasing amount people are using mobile tools over traditional desktop and laptop computers. I’m featured prominently but there is also a good bit of others featured using everything from Google Chromebooks to Windows 8 tablets.
Julio Ojeda-Zapata, the reporter who wrote this story also has a new book out on this very subject. I wrote the foreword. You should check it out.
Dashplus is an innovative list and ToDo app that introduces actionable items. Simply swipe lines to the right to change their state, and unlock actions where needed. It is based on the eponym system devised by Patrick Rhone: any item of a todo list is actionable. Having used it for years with pen and paper, we are very excited to bring it finally to a digital implementation, on the iPhone.
Dave Mendels, the developer of the app and long time friend, approached me with the idea of turning the system I created to into an iPhone app. I thought it was splendid and gave my full blessing — but I knew that, in order for it to work as an app, the design was critical. The primary focus had to be on capturing things as quickly as possible and getting out of your way. The secondary focus had to be on processing those items in a way that made sense. The bottom line for me was that it had to be good enough for me to want to use the app instead of just pen and paper as I have been doing for the years since I created it. Short of that, why bother?
Suffice to say that he hit it out of the park. Not only did it meet the goals I hoped for above, but he added so many nice touches that I never could have come up with on my own. For instance, the ability to create reminders for waiting items, or send email for delegated ones to those you wish to delegate the item to, or the option for sending completed items to DayOne, or the “shake to add to Inbox” from anywhere you are in the app. I could list even more.
Seriously, the last thing I needed was another task/capture app. What I needed was this one. I’m glad someone with the talent and skills created it. You should check it out. It’s $2.99 on the App Store.
But, lest I forget, here is the most important reason why you should get this app:
We are selling this app for a ridiculously small price, given the work that went into it. With one main goal: we are partially funding our school-in-a-box initiative with the profits. We brought iPads to a school in a remote Indonesian village that didn’t even have books, and the kids are now showing tremendous progress! To accelerate the implementation we need to put more devices in their hands: the goal is one device per child!
In other words, the purchase of the app is going to a great cause. Better your productivity while doing some real, tangible, good for a child in need. The work the Dave and his team are doing with these kids is amazing.
“When you have Enough, the extra money means very little. I’ve been broke, and being broke sucks balls. Having Enough is awesome. How would I define “Enough”? Enough means that you can take a friend out to a nice lunch and not have to worry about how much it costs. I have hung out with a couple of billionaires—my experiences indicate that being a billionaire is just incrementally better than Enough.”—
I could truthfully repeat this statement as my own. I too have lived well below the poverty level. I too know people wealthy by any measure. Enough is all most of us ever really need and the benefits of having more than that are marginal.