A debate between Matt M and DHH

Recently REWORK podcast recorded and published a fascinating debate between the two people I admire and respect, Matt Mullenweg and DHH, about tech monopolies and power of the open-source.

I look forward to another show on Venture Capital and funding. Hopefully, they are able to record it sooner!

Messaging app with VIP features

It is 2019 and I wonder why there are no messaging apps that will let me choose the people from whom I wish to receive notifications. Right now, the notifications are all or none deal and I default to none. Which is better, but not best. As people start getting detached to devices and start prioritising their offline lives, I think there would be a lot of demand for a user-centred notification system.

The closest I know is of the VIP feature in the iOS Mail app. But that’s not good enough. My dearest people will not email me; they either call or text.

I’d be very willing to open my wallet for such an app. Let me know if you know of any. Although I am sceptical that someone will build such a user-friendly app, I’d be thrilled to be proved wrong.

How to quickly add tasks to your to-do app

The usual workflow to add tasks to any to-do app involves loosely a few steps:

  • Find the app on the computer
  • Open the app
  • Find the Inbox folder
  • Click the Add task button
  • Type the task name
  • Hit Enter to add task

These manual steps of adding tasks are way better than not having a to-do system in the first place. But the problem with manually adding tasks is the number of steps it involves. The six steps I listed above don’t even include deciding the project of the task, priority, due date, labels et al. The basic six manual steps are hard to do (and hence easier to skip) especially when we are busy doing other things. This often meant, I missed adding some tasks or had to distract myself from my current task and take a detour to my to-do app just to add the tasks.

This has been my biggest problem with how I used Wunderlist. Until I discovered Zapier early last year.

Zapier is a tool that allows you to connect apps you use every day to automate tasks and save time.

After seeing some of my colleagues use Zapier for automating some work tasks, I got curious and started exploring it. This lead me to learn about zaps.

A Zap is a specific link between two services you’ve connected on Zapier.

Zapier provides a ton of app integration ideas. You can start from here: https://zapier.com/apps/integrations/ and explore some integration ideas depending on the apps and services you use.

My recent move from Wunderlist to Todoist wasn’t complete until I have also moved some Todoist zaps on which I rely a lot for work and personal life.

For work I use the following Zaps:

  1. Add new starred emails to Todoist as tasks (so when I just star a Gmail, it appears as a task in my Todoist with the link to the email for the context)
  2. Add new starred Slack messages to Todoist as tasks (so I just star a Slack message, and the message would appear in my Todoist with the link to the Slack message)
  3. I use Alfred a lot. So I setup Zapier for Alfred workflow which allows me to add tasks to my Todoist from the Alfred window.
  4. Unrelated to Todoist, but I also set up an Alfred workflow to add events to my work calendar right from the Alfred window, through a Zap in the background.

I also have a version of all the above zaps (except the Slack to Todoist zap) to work with my personal email, calendar and Todoist lists.

All these zaps allow me to add tasks to Todoist or calendars without having to stop what I am doing and without leaving the keyboard.

Regardless of which apps you use, there are a ton of zaps and Alfred workflows that offer myriad options. But a word of caution though: too many options means often we end up using none! After experiencing this for a long time, I optimized my workflows for simplicity and inexpensiveness in terms of both my money and cognitive energy. This means, I use Zapier’s Free plan which allows me to have only 5 zaps, and each of those zaps can only connect two apps. And I can use only 100 tasks per month. This seems to be sufficient for my needs and is working pretty well for me.

Likewise, if you use Alfred, you will find many sophisticated workflows that allow you to set tasks labels, priorities and other details right from Alfred window. While these options are good, it also means I need to learn those options and remember them. This often requires mental bandwidth and energy. This mostly lead me to stress and confusion and as a result, uselessness. So again, I optimized for simplicity and just use a basic workflow that sends whatever I write in Alfred window to Todoist’s Inbox from where I will triage later, so I don’t have to remember much or leave what I am doing. This works well for me rather than trying to use complicated workflows that require me to learn and remember their options.

Alfred workflow for managing windows in Mac

I am constantly looking for better workflows and today I stumbled upon this useful workflow to manage the app windows in Mac using Alfred.

I set it up and used a few times. I loved using it!

Thanks for making and sharing it, Paweł.

I am also on the lookout for better Space Manager apps and ideas. But more on that later, when I find a solution that I love.

An important lesson

Okay, this post is a bit late as I have been busy with other cool, important and exciting things. But I’d rather publish this post late than never because it is a good lesson and importantly, a lesson I believe and follow.

Kindle, Kano and a money lesson

I bought a Kindle Paperwhite and Kano Computer Kit while I was in the US last week. I also did not buy an iPhone 8 Plus.

My first attempt to buy Kindle was at the end of 2010. But that Kindle was lost even before it reached me along with my friend’s lost checked-in baggage.

Over the years I have been reading a lot on iPhone, iPad and physical books borrowed from the library. But I felt like I could benefit from Kindle in the following ways:

  • Easy to carry.
  • Gentle on eyes for reading in the night.
  • Distraction-free reading.
  • Can add notes and highlights.
  • Cheaper books.
  • Longer battery.
  • Fewer barriers between me and my books which should result in more reading.

I also had my eyes on Kano computer kit for a while. So as soon as I saw it on the store shelf I knew it will be a great buy. I bought it mainly for my son as a birthday present, but I too am excited to learn a thing or two about computers. We will unbox it once my son turns seven in June. It is my attempt to get him excited about creating rather than consuming things with computers.

I am also glad that I did not give into my impulse to purchase a new iPhone. I use iPhone 7. I was thinking about the iPhone 8 Plus for a few months. The trade-in deal Apple Store people offered means I will get the iPhone 8 Plus for $600 NZD cheaper than buying it in New Zealand.

But then I recalled an important financial lesson: No discount is too good for the things you don’t need.

The price of iPhone 8 Plus in NZ is $1450. But if I buy it in the States, I could get it for $850 NZD by trading-in my pristine iPhone 7. That’s a good deal but only if you need, not want, a new phone. If I took that offer I would have spent $850 on a phone that I didn’t really need. Sure, I get the latest large screen phone with a good camera. But they are not really game-changing features for me given how I typically use my phone. So eventually I walked away from the Apple Store without buying anything.

I can tell that it was a lot of inner struggle to think clearly and not giving in to the temptation of a shiny new iPhone. I felt particularly hard to resist the urge while standing amidst all the cool gadgets in the Apple Store and with cash in my bank. But in the end the feeling of exercising some choice and thought while standing right amidst the temptation made me felt like a super-hero. If only I exercise my choice in a few more areas of my life.

Gave up on Mac’s Hot Corners

I recently learned some Mac tips and one of the things I was excited about and tried is Hot Corners. But after a few months of trying them they proved to be Annoying Corners. I often accidentally send my mouse pointer to one of the corners of the screen and invoke them inadvertently. So I disabled Hot Corners today.

I am hoping to instead add a few more multi-touch gestures to my finger memory. Multi-touch gestures are intuitive, fun, and make me feel like I am a pro Mac Book Pro user. So far I am loving the gestures which means I will practice them more.