Excellent post – Markdown workflows for scrivener, blogging and Evernote

I just came across this excellent post – “MY **MARKDOWN** WORKFLOWS FOR SCRIVENER, BLOGGING AND EVERNOTE” – on the Hunting Down Writing blog. It’s both excellent and thorough and I urge Scrivener and Evernote users to check it out. I’ve had difficulty working out how best to use markdown as my default formatting method and the workflows presented here are great.

Ady

 

New Word of the Day, 5th November 2013

I love the English language – the way that it so easily accommodates the creation of new words. Today, whilst clearing down my blog feeds, I came across

voluntold

used in the phrase

[He] was voluntold to take the lead on performance tuning.

I love it.

Hat tip to The Daily WTF.

Making eMail excellent: A long-overdue rethink and a much anticipated application

Email client applications are all much of a muchness; some do more than others with tagging, highlighting and rules, but in the main they ultimately allow you to read email.

From a ‘Getting Things Done‘ (GTD) perspective, email has been the one ‘inbox’ (in the sense of GTD) that has been incongruous to the rest in my system; I’ve found it really difficult to smoothly integrate emails in my inbox into my GTD workflow.

How to: Communicate your plans effectively with Short Calendar


Email can be a terrible way to communicate. One such occasion is when trying to communicate planned time. As Nathan Cahill puts it:

“Plans are not easy to communicate over email. Whether you are planning a short trip or having a relative visit, you need to write it in calendar format.”

Logo for the Short Calendar web service - stylised drawing of a calendar

And, fortunately for the rest of us, he went ahead and created Short Calendar, a web app that allows you to do just that – create your plan on a calendar and email it to whoever you need to.

Simple, free. Excellent.

Thanks to Brent Sordyl, who’s blog post brought this service to my attention.

How to make the Pomodoro Technique excellent – a wish

Here’s what’d be really excellent – if my favourite Pomodoro application and my favourite Task Management application would combine forces.

I use the Pomodoro application to manage my time-boxing and Wunderlist for my To-dos. What I’m lacking is the ability to fully manage my pomodori online – currently, if one’s truly following the Pomodoro technique – I have to write each task down on a piece of paper (I use index cards for no reason other than I have several spare boxes since we moved our sprint planning online) indicating how many Pomodori I think it’s going to take. And then I use the Pomodoro application to record success, failure and interruptions.

Now, if Wunderlist included the ability to mark up each task with the number of pomodori and then run the pomodori, recording interruptions, etc., I’d be a really happy chappy.

Bit.ly stats. What’s going on?

Yesterday, I tweeted a twitpic of some weird stats from my Bit.ly account. It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered this anomaly, but the first time I’d bothered to mention it in public. To be honest, I thought that I must be mis-understanding the information somehow.

So here’s the deal. When you have a bit.ly account, you get an ‘Analyze’ page that shows you lots of information, including a bar chart of clicks over time. You can select a bar in the chart and it drops down the details for that bar. See the screenshot, below.

What I don’t understand is how I can have had 2 clicks on 7 links. I mean, if there’s been 2 clicks they can, at most, be clicks on 2 links, surely? So either I don’t understand what “2 Clicks on 7 Links” means, or it’s wrong. I’m happy if it’s the former, but not if it’s the latter.

Has anyone else seen this? Do you know what it’s all about?

Screenshot of my bit.ly stats today

Screenshot of my bit.ly stats today

Excellent customer support: Alfred

Just wanted to run off a quick post to sing the praises of the people behind Alfred. I’ve been using the OS X add-in for quite a while now (can’t remember how long – years?) as a way to speed up my interface with the computer and the web. I won’t go into all the stuff it does, as that’s more than adequately covered by their website, and suffice it to say that I think it’s fantastic; I’ve got a custom search set up for greplin and others and find myself using the calculator far more than I ought to. I bought the ‘Power Pack’ upgrade more because I thought the guys deserved the money than to make use of the extra features (although I do use them now I have them, of course); the free version is powerful enough to suit most people’s needs.

Not only is the application good, but I’ve just had some of the best customer support that I’ve ever received. I rolled off a tweet, and within a couple of minutes was in a conversation with them trying out some stuff to see where the problem lay. It looks like the problem may be with Apple’s APIs but I’m more than happy with the response and outcome from the team at Alfred.

If you are a Mac user and have not had the opportunity to try Alfred, I heartily recommend that you do – it certainly fits in the ‘excellence in the everyday’ theme of my blog.

Ady

(I am not affiliated in any way to Alfred or the people behind it.)

These are a few of my favourite feeds

At the last count, I subscribe to nearly 140 RSS feeds. Admittedly, quite a few of these are notification feeds from project management and software development applications, but the vast majority are blog-based.

I use NewNewsWire to read my blogs (Apple only – sorry, D0nny), and I link it up to Google Reader (not compulsory) so that I can read subscriptions on my iPad, too (using FlipBoard). I tend to skim through the titles of new posts and then read the preview of those that interest me. If it’s really worth reading past the preview I’ll either read it there-and-then, or stick it in Delicious and Pinboard as research or reference material.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite blogs. ‘Favourite’ is a difficult thing to quantify, as my reading is quite diverse and what makes one blog better than another is difficult to pin down, if indeed possible. So here are my top 10 blogs, based on the number of articles that get to the final stage of being read and/or bookmarked – a statistic that is really easy to get from NetNewsWire:

(All title links lead to the blogs’ home pages.)

1. The Wall

“Social, marketing, media: Blogged”. The Wall is part of Brand Republic. The vast majority of the stuff I read from here is social media related. It’s a UK production aimed at marketing, media and comms industries. They have a large and varied selection of contributors and I find that I’m usually ‘in tune’ with their opinions.

2. Think Vitamin

“A Blog for Web practitioners Designed, Built and Curated by Carsonified”. Aimed pretty much exclusively at the development community. Lots of good stuff, though they are pushing their members-only content quite a lot. Curated by Paul Boag and Ryan Carson, amongst others, so quality is the order of the day.

3. Simply Zesty

“Online PR & Social Media”. Lots of interesting articles around the major social media / networking companies, along with info about advertising / marketing campaigns making use of social media. I’m not selling it well – it’s really good!

4. O’Reilly radar

“Insight, analysis, and research about emerging technologies”. Number 4 on my most read list. I really like their daily “Four short links” posts highlighting ‘interesting elsewhere’ articles.

5. Smashing Magazine

Design (print, online, anywhere) and Coding. Lots of good stuff about UX, UI and mobile. Plus, every month they have a desktop wallpaper calendar post in which designers put forward desktop wallpapers for download. Some great inspirational stuff and loads of useful insights, tips, tricks & techniques.

6. PublicTechnology.net

“PublicTechnology.net is the news and analysis resource for ICT leaders in the UK public sector.” (original emphasis). A must-read for me. Lots of interesting, mainly work-related stuff.

=7. The Public-i Blog

“… the place where we talk about what we do.” This is somewhat unfairly down at number 7, as I read every post – there’s just not as many of them as there are on, say, The Wall or Think Vitamin. This is my company blog, so it’s pretty much expected that I’ll read it. That said, it’s an interesting read. If you want to know what Public-i does, then this is where you want to start.

=7. Curiouscatherine’s Blog

“Thinking about using the social web to do democratic things…..”. Catherine’s blog comes in equal 7th in the Ady’s most visited blogs top 10. Again this is very unfair (on Catherine) – I read every post. Admittedly I understand about 1 in 10, but that’s not the point. Mainly based around her PhD work, the blog continues to show how far down the intelligence scale I actually reside. Excellent analysis of where online meets offline and formal meets informal, along with identity, privacy, co-production.

9. Time Management Ninja

“Helping you win the battle against wasted time, disorganization, and all other things evil…”. This is one of many time management / GTD type blogs I subscribe to, and is the most read. (And the one I’ve commented on the most.) Craig’s posts are excellent: sometimes challenging, sometimes obvious (after the fact), always worth reading if, like me, you get a buzz from time management.

10. Carl’s Notepad

“Thoughts and observations on the world around me”. Carl Haggerty is the Digital Communications Manager at Devon County Council. I made his acquaintance through work, started reading his blog and have found it to be a great read. Again, this doesn’t deserve to be in 10th position, as I read most, if not all, of Carl’s posts.

So there you go. My top 10 most read blogs. This time next week it’ll probably have all changed. It’s a very small percentage of the number of blogs I subscribe to, so I hope to highlight some of the others, which are just as interesting, in future posts.

A Quick Review of Scrivener

In a previous post I mentioned that I was starting to use Scrivener to manage the authoring of larger documents. (By larger, I mean anything that you have to think about and structure – regardless of it’s actual word count, I guess.)

I’ve just finished using it to create a document (2000 words) and I have had a really good experience.

A pile of books I no longer use

Image by Ady Coles (flickr)

I started, as I always do, with a mind map (MindManager) of what I wanted to write, and used this as the basis for the structure of my Scrivener project. As I was going through the process of writing the sections, I messed around with the structure so that it made more sense on paper – the mind map was structured (categorised) in a different way to how I wanted the information to appear in the document. Fortunately, this is really easy in Scrivener. Actually, ‘fortunately’ isn’t the right word, since Scrivener’s USP is that you can do just this – create your document as a series of snippets and then move them around to your heart’s content.

Once I had the (empty) structure, I used the cork board view to add synopses to the various sections of the document. I think this was the only time I made use of this view, though I can see how it would be used more for creative writing projects. Or maybe my document was just too small for me to need to go back there.

Things I found really useful were:

  1. The split screen. I had a horizontal split with the outline view of the document in the top part. The bottom part contained the document or section (as a scrivenings view) that I was working on.
  2. Word count targets. If you have a feel for how much you want or need to write, being able to set targets is great. How ‘well’ you are doing is shown in the outline view and you can set growl notifications if you are really going for it (or don’t have a split screen in order to reduce distractions).
  3. It saves your work. I know that this is the OS X Lion way of the future, but not many apps yet support it. Scrivener supported it pre-Lion and it’s nice not to have to worry about it (another distraction removed).

I found it really refreshing to be able to see the structure and the content easily. And I can’t stress enough how natural and easy it was to move items around.

 

The only area I was let down was with the finishing. But this is not scrivener’s fault. Scrivener is designed for ‘serious’ writers – of books, scripts, etc – and it’s formatting options (called compiling options, in Scrivener) are geared to the creation of proof copies, final copies for publishing, ebooks etc. In the end I created a custom compile and output as RTF. If I’m going to seriously use this application (and I’m fairly sure that I will) then I’ll need to come up with some document templates and compilation options of my own.

The manual is second-to-none and I would also recommend “Writing a Novel with Scrivener” [Kindle Edition] by David Hewson, which is very readable and useful.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about Scrivener in the future but, for the time being, that’s all. If you’ve found this post useful, or wish to add your experiences to mine, please leave a comment.

Ady