Posts From February 2011

The B&B Podcast is a brand-new technology talk show co-hosted by Mr. Benjamin Brooks and yours truly. It’s a lot of fun and the logo is amazing if I do say so myself.

The name B&B is for Blanc and Brooks. But it also pays homage to a hole-in-the-wall diner back in my hometown of Castle Rock, Colorado: The B&B Cafe. The B&B Cafe is where my grandfather ate breakfast every day for about 30 years. The folks are friendly, the food is homemade, and you can sit and talk for hours.

Ben and I record on Fridays, so new episodes will be posted Mondays or Tuesdays.

Here’s the link to subscribe via iTunes. Addition subscription options are on the site. And please, take a moment to rate the show and leave a comment in iTunes. That’s the best way for potential new listeners to discover the show.

The Story Behind the Shawn Today Broadcast

For the most part, I had all the details of the Membership launch ready to go about three weeks before I announced anything here. All the content was written, the membership drive giveaway prizes were lined up, and the whole signup process with PayPal and the IPN was in place. 1

Back in early January, when I decided to do the membership, my original idea for the perk was a members-only email journal. It was going to be a once-a-month email with written content just for members — primarily the Members Showcase, the Q&A, and then something called “The Cut List”. 2

However, there were several problems with an email journal that, in the end, didn’t sit right with me. Primarily, I didn’t want what I was writing to be hidden behind a paywall. Nor did I want to force you guys to have to get another email.

Though I liked the idea of some sort of members-only communication that had a personal touch, doing it via email, private forums, or an authenticated RSS feed just didn’t make sense.

In part because it would have made it more difficult for you, and in part because I didn’t want to have to draw the line between what writing went on shawnblanc.net and what writing went to members only. I wanted it all on the website.

Why should I put what may be some of my best work behind a paywall and then make it more difficult or annoying for members to access it? If anything it should be easier for members. And the only way I know of to keep it easy is to publish it publicly and let you continue to access it the way you have been.

So I canned the idea of the members journal. Which left me very few perks: the Members Showcase, the Q&A, and the promise of doing some giveaways to members throughout the year.

But something was still lacking. I mean, clearly, the whole point of becoming a member is to support the main writing that I do here on the site. But I still wanted a cool and exciting perk for the members.

And then, just less than a week before the announcement, I had the idea for Shawn Today. Why not do a short, daily broadcast just to the members? The premise is that the members are the truest of the true fans. So why not talk to them, “check in” with them, and let them know what’s in the pipeline for the website that day or that week.

Or, to put it another way, if shawnblanc.net is a movie, Shawn Today is that Disc 2 which contains “The Making Of” and “The Director’s Commentary”.

Having it be audio (and sometimes video) meant it was a unique enough format that any member who loves my writing but isn’t interested in the broadcast wouldn’t feel like they were missing anything. And it would be personal enough so that those who do love my writing would feel like it would be the icing on the cake.

It was the final piece of the whole puzzle that made me feel proud of the members-only perks.

What I did not expect was what a huge hit Shawn Today would actually be.

Currently more than 90% of members are listening to Shawn Today. And in the past week I have gotten more email from members regarding the broadcast than any other topic. Some have written in with responses to topics or questions I’ve thrown out during various shows, some have written in just to say how much they love it.

What current members are saying about Shawn Today

“Shawn Today is fast becoming one of my top podcasts. Concise and full of great content.”Orin

“You guys are really missing out on @shawnblanc’s Shawn Today.”Ben Brooks

“Dude, I know you must be hearing this a bunch. But I am loving Shawn Today!”Myke Hurley

“Really enjoying listening to Shawn Today on my way to work. Great work!”Stephen Hackett

“Just signed up as a member and wanted to let you know I’m really digging the extra members-only content. Already enjoyed your blog posts, so it was an easy decision.”Alex Knight

“I listen to @shawnblanc’s Shawn Daily as I’m getting started in the morning. It’s like we’re hanging out. It’s nice.”Dave Caolo

Sample episodes

Here are a couple of my favorite broadcasts so far:

  • Thoughts on Fanatics: Thoughts on fans vs. true fans (fanatics), and how I haven’t yet had a chance to read the latest Apple rumors.

  • Hot Coffee: Stories of brewing coffee at Anna’s grandparent’s house in northeastern Colorado.

  • “Aren’t We All Just 8th Graders?”: Debunking that feeling of “once I get big enough then I’ll start pursuing my idea.”

If you’d like to get access to Shawn Today you have to become a subscribing member. Your membership will help me take shawnblanc.net full time.

Ideally the value and enjoyment you already get from shawnblanc.net is worth 3 bucks a month to you and the perks like Shawn Today are just icing on the cake. But whatever your reason may be, I would love to have your support as a subscribing member.


  1. I had been putting off writing “Beginning” though. I didn’t write that until the night before. Mostly because I was so nervous about this whole venture and writing and publishing that article was the final step that would seal the deal and make it official.
  2. The cut list was going to be a list of links that never made it onto shawnblanc.net for one reason or another. The name for The Cut List was Sean Sperte’s idea.

NoteTask is a fast, clean, and simple note taking application that presents your text as tasks, completed tasks, and sections. By default it recognizes lines starting with hyphen and spacebar as tasks, and lines starting with exclamation mark as completed tasks. (You can customize this behavior.)

You can think of NoteTask as a simplified version of the popular Mac app (and iOS app), “TaskPaper” by Hog Bay Software, plus Simplenote syncing. We position NoteTask not as a complicated task management system to replace famous Things or OmniFocus but as a simple note app plus simpler task solution.

A website by my friend Josh Ink. Using the API, pretty much anything you can do from within the app you can do on this site (except take pictures and apply cheesy filters to them).

For those who’ve been asking for an option to pay for their membership by the year instead of the month, I have just set up an annual membership subscription option. It’s $36/year instead of 3 bucks a month and it comes with all the same benefits, etc.

So get this: I had never even heard of Fruit Memory until Paul Mayne booked this sponsorship to promote it. I like to check out what is being sponsored, and after checking out Fruit Memory it may be my new favorite game for the iPad. It’s just plain cute. And it’s just a buck in the app store.

I’m not really a game person — I don’t own a video game console and I rarely play games on my Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Mostly because they’re addicting and I can think of other ways to spend my free time. But I like games like Fruit Memory because it’s chill, non-addictive, and still high quality and entertaining. And the multi-player gameplay is very well done.

Oh yeah, and thanks Paul for sponsoring the RSS Feed!

The new MBPs have “huge leaps in performance”, yet still ship with 5400-rpm hard drives? True, the average consumer still assumes that processor speed is the number one factor to get a faster computer. But performance is more than how fast you can crunch a video, it’s also how fast you can boot up your library, move files around, etc… You and I both know that once you go SSD you never go back.

So why not at least make 7200-rpm drives the baseline? Is the price and performance difference between a 5400- and 7200-rpm drive really that different?

Speaking of SSDs, I put a Mercury Extreme Solid State Drive into my 3-year-old aluminum MacBook Pro last fall and it was like buying a new computer. In fact, thanks to the SSD, the specs on my old MBP match almost identically those of the brand new Air’s.

Versions, Resume, AirDrop… what used to be the geeky power-user’s add ons and hacks are becoming mainstream features.

This thing is stupid fast — 20 times faster than a USB 2 connection — plus it supports data, power, and video I/O simultaneously.

Just a buck in the Mac App Store. I rarely, rarely do video chat on Skype or iChat. And I always text my friends first before calling them on FaceTime. It just seems so personal — much more personal than a casual phone conversation.

Membership Drive and Giveaway

Beginning the first week in April I will be writing shawnblanc.net as my full-time gig.

It is hard to put into words just exactly how excited I am about the days ahead — I’m equal parts giddy and petrified over here. There’s that feeling of: I’m actually going to do this! Um, wait. I’m actually going to do this!?

In order to make this happen for longer than a few months, I need the support of you, the reader.

And so, leading up to my first day on the job, I am hosting a PBS-style membership drive. Which means that, for the next three and a half weeks, I’ll be talking somewhat regularly about the membership. (Though I promise that it won’t be all I talk about between now and then.)

Ideally, you are signing up to become a member because you feel like this site is already worth 3 bucks a month to you. The members-only perks are a nice bonus of course (Shawn Today seems to be a smash hit already), and the fact that your membership will be a significant contributing factor to my ability to go full time is the icing on the cake.

But let’s face it: everyone loves free stuff. And, to be honest, I really do love to give things away. And so there are things to be won if you sign up to become a member.

If you haven’t signed up for a membership yet, here’s the link.

The Membership Drive

Starting yesterday, and running until midnight CST on Sunday, March 20, anyone who signs up to become a member of shawnblanc.net will be entered to win a prize. These are all top-notch prizes from some of my friends and heroes in the creative professional community.

  • A 20×30 print from photographer Jorge Quinteros: The winner gets to pick any print they want. These are my three favorites: 1, 2, and 3. ($50)

  • First & 20 t-shirt: 5 of these fantastic t-shirts. I’ve got one and love it. ($20 each)

  • Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly: 5 copies of Brett’s definitive guide on Evernote. ($25 each)

  • Fusion Ad Burst: The Fusion Ad network is giving away one Burst Campaign. This prize will only be given to a member with something relevant for the Fusion Ad network. ($500)

  • A signed copy of Being Geek by Michael Lopp ($25).

  • A signed copy of Managing Humans by Michael Lopp ($25).

  • Cameron Moll’s 24×16 Signed Colosseo Poster: This thing is gorgeous. ($100)

  • A Redeye Bundle from Idea Cafe: Includes a plain pocket Moleskine, Action Journal, and Dot Grid Book. ($40)

  • MarsEdit 3: A license of the best blogging software on the planet ($40).

  • Limited Edition, Pre-Production, Proof-of-Concept Coffee Mug From Yours Truly: I have no clue how much these will be selling for once they’re available, but I have an extra pre-production model that I’m giving away.

  • Icon Resource: A video training pack of high-def movies, project files, photoshop samples, and more from the world-class icon designer Sebastiaan de With. ($130)

  • Learning ExpressionEngine 2 by Ryan Irelan: Two bundles of the complete series basic training screencasts for EE 2. ($48 each)

  • MySQL and ExpressionEngine by Ryan Irelan: Two copies of this screencast primed to help you do some customizing of EE 2. ($12 each)

  • Securing ExpressionEngine 2 by Mark Huot: Two copies of this ebook which details the steps you can take to make your installation of ExpressionEngine even more secure. ($10 each)

  • LittleSnapper: 5 licenses of Realmac Software’s popular screenshot library tool. ($25 each)

  • Pixelmator: 2 licenses of this top-notch, image editing application for Mac OS X. ($60 each)

  • Flux: 1 license of The Escapers Web-development software. ($113)

  • Canned: 10 copies of Sky Ballon Studio’s iPhone app for sending pre-built text messages. ($.99 each)

  • Canned Email: 10 copies of Sky Ballon Studio’s iPhone app for sending pre-built email messages. ($.99 each)

  • Attachment Tamer: 5 licenses of Lokiware’s Apple Mail plugin. ($15 each)

  • Flare: 5 copies of the brand-new photo effects editor from the Iconfactory. ($20 each)

  • Due App: 10 copies of this great timer and reminder app for your iPhone and iPad. ($5 each)

  • Clyppan: 5 copies of this clipboard history manager for Mac OS X. ($5 each)

  • TrackTime: 5 copies of the time tracking application especially built for freelancers and creative professionals. ($25 each)

The total value of all these prizes is over $2,028. Thank you to all of you who have donated to make this giveaway possible.

How to Win

  • Anyone who signs up for a membership by midnight CST on Sunday, March 20 will automatically be in the runnings to win something.

  • You do not have to live in the United States to win — international members are most welcome and most eligible.

  • I’ll be setting up a way for you to request a certain prize if there is one in particular that you’d love to get.

  • The drawing will be sometime the last week in March. Winners will be contacted by via their PayPal email address.

If you haven’t yet signed up to become a member, now would be a good time.

Clearly this is the week for launching new projects. Dave Caolo has his first book coming out in just a few weeks: Using Your iPad as a Business Productivity Tool. Dave is a fantastic writer and communicator and he knows his stuff. This book looks great!

It’s available to pre-order for just 5 bucks for Kindle, but I’m holding out for when it comes to the iBookstore.

Speaking of great companies releasing awesome new products, these Stickto’s just came out today. They’re portable, sticky-note-style to-do list from the awesome guys at Paste. And better yet, they’re for sale at Idea Cafe.

Canned is an iPhone app for sending pre-written text messages, and I use it every day. It’s one of those apps where you’re not quite sure if or how you would use it until you actually do and then it becomes indispensable. (Like Pastebot, for example.)

And now, the fine fellows at Sky Balloon Studio have just released a version of Canned for email. Only a buck in the App Store.

A Quick Update

This morning, around 7:00 am, I was just sitting here in front of MarsEdit with the announcement written and ready to publish. And I just sat here. Too nervous to hit Publish. It was probably just a minute or less, but it felt like half the morning.

In some ways I thought today would never come. And for those few final moments before I published “Beginning” I had this uncanny feeling of sheer excitement coupled with total fear. I was giddy at the thought of letting you guys know about such a huge and exciting change. And simultaneously afraid at what trolls may come out of the woodwork to criticize my decision or poke fun at my (admittedly) bad video.

My wife, Anna, was this site’s very first reader back in July of 2007. She has proofread, edited, and given constructive feedback on every major article I’ve written — I never post those things without her feedback first (I figure if she likes it, and I like it, then it can’t be all that bad). Anna also helped me behind the scenes in the early days of this site by giving suggestions on questions I should ask certain interviewees — such as asking John Gruber what he eats for breakfast.

It was some time right after this past Christmas, just before the 2011 New Year, that Anna and I were having dinner at home and I pitched the idea to her about actually taking shawnblanc.net full time. I’ve tossed it out there before over the years, but it was always somewhat casual. But this time I meant it. And she meant it when she said she would be 100% behind me.

I brag about the readership of this site quite a bit. And I mean it when I write how amazing and talented you guys are. But, with all due respect my fellow nerds, this site would not be the site it is today without the support and encouragement I have received from my wife.

Thank you, Anna, for everything.

Also, I want to thank you guys, the readers. The support and positive feedback I received today has been absolutely phenomenal. Many of you have been helping spread the news on your website or via Twitter as well as writing in to say congratulations. Please keep it up, because so far sign ups are looking good.

It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet, so I really have no way to know if things are going really well or not. But I do know for sure that there is still a long way to go in order to make the memberships a viable enough source of income for me to keep the full-time aspect going for longer than the summer.

Those of you who have signed up already, thank you! If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Current Members: Regarding your Perks and Info

For some reason unbeknownst to me, PayPal won’t let you build or customize the autoresponder emails that are sent when someone becomes a subscriber. Which means that the information about your perks as a member are given out on the final page stage of the subscription process. This includes the information on how to subscribe to the members-only broadcast, Shawn Today.

This was, by far, the most frustrating piece of the whole membership puzzle for me. There are many alternate options and workarounds, but I opted for what I felt would be the easiest for me to maintain and the easiest for you to access.

If you’ve signed up for a membership and accidentally missed this information during your subscription check-out, please email members@shawnblanc.net from your PayPal address and I’ll send you the info you need.

Coming up next: A Membership Drive With Some Sweet Giveaways

A little surprise for tomorrow: some extremely amazing and generous folks have donated a handful of prizes and gifts as bounty for a membership drive that will kick off tomorrow.

In short, between this morning and midnight on Sunday, March 20th, anyone and everyone who signs up for a membership will be eligible to win some amazing prizes. And these aren’t just hum-drum giveaways. They are top-notch, drool-worthy, items. But more info on that tomorrow morning.

Beginning

This is a sentence I never thought I would publish: Beginning the first week in April I will be writing shawnblanc.net as my full-time gig.

When I began shawnblanc.net in July of 2007 it was with the intention of enjoying and exploring that place where creativity and computers come together — I am fascinated by that blend of the artful and the technical. And for almost four years now I’ve been exploring that place while writing this site on the side, as I’ve been able.

But writing on the side, as I’m able, is no longer enough for me.

I simply have to go full time. And so I’m jumping in head first. I’m actually doing it. And I can hardly believe I’m saying this.

After four years and hundreds of articles it all feels like the beginning. As if the hundreds of thousands of words that I’ve written here so far are simply the prologue. I cannot wait for what is next.

The Next Chapter

In many ways, shawnblanc.net will be the same as it has been. The focus and direction of this site is not changing.

But in some other ways shawnblanc.net will be different. Or, at least, I hope it will be different. I hope that the quality and the pace of the publishing will rise to a new level of excellence. I hope that the community here will be able to grow and connect more. And I hope to expand to new communication methods in addition to writing.

It is hard to put into words just exactly how excited I am about the days ahead. I’m equal parts giddy and petrified over here. There’s that feeling of: I’m actually going to do this! Um, wait. I’m actually going to do this!?

An Invitation

And so, in order to make this happen for longer than a few months, I need the support of you, the reader.

Help me take shawnblanc.net full time

I am inviting you guys to join me on this journey, and help me take shawnblanc.net full time by becoming a member.

A membership subscription is just $3 a month — like a good cup of coffee — and includes some members-only perks. You can read all about the membership and watch a video I made by checking out the membership info page. But here’s the gist of the members-only perks:

  • Supporting the full-time writing and growth of shawnblanc.net
  • Access to Shawn Today, a daily video/audio broadcast of ideas plus what coffee I’m brewing that morning
  • The Members Showcase
  • Ability to ask questions, get advice, etc…
  • Possibility of winning some cool stuff

Hopefully the value and enjoyment you already get from shawnblanc.net is worth $3 a month to you and these perks are just icing on the cake. But however you slice it, I would love to have your support as a subscribing member.

Thank you

Surely shawnblanc.net has one the most amazing readerships out there. Because of you guys this site has been able to grow and mature into what it is today. And that is what is enabling me to take this leap and go full time.

And so now, I’m humbly asking, will you take this next step with me?

Seth Godin:

By trying to reach as many as we could, we were never intimate enough to generate conversations that mattered or ideas that spread…

Seth’s talking about the booth you set up at a trade shows, but I’m applying this advice to my own website. Because, in a way, isn’t your website like a booth at a global event called the Internet? You can try to be the biggest and the flashiest and be the talk of the show, or you can try to develop personal interactions with those who are willing to give you their time and attention.

Fruit is good for your brain and so is Fruit Memory HD for the iPad. This fun, well-designed, memory-matching app is a great huddle game built to play solo or in groups of up to 4 players.

An educational and entertaining memory game that is loved by people of all ages, Fruit Memory was built by the father of 3 toddlers, who grew tired of shuffling and dealing cards on the living room floor. With the added characters, sounds and great design, the Fruit Memory HD experience is well worth the $.99 in the iPad app store. Enjoy!

Many, many thanks to the amazing guys at Resen for sponsoring the RSS feed this week to promote Curator.

Curator is a web app built to simplify and speed up the process of creating presentation docs for your design mockups. You simply upload your designs (logos, webpages, cover artwork, photographs, whatever…) and Curator does the rest and then gives you a high-quality PDF.

I know that a lot of web designers don’t own InDesign or Illustrator in order to build their own presentation docs, or their time is better spent on other things. Curator handles both of those problems. You can upload your designs and build your presentation doc for free, and if you’re happy then it’s just $0.99 for the PDF download.

And speaking of snowboarding, remember this final run at the 2010 Olympics where Shaun already had the gold medal cinched and so his last run of the night was this awesome show-off run where he busted out the Double McTwist 1260 at the end? So electric.

I can’t find NBC’s official footage of the whole run. If you want to see a more professional version of the McTwist 1260, here’s a more official promo video done by Red Bull. But it’s not from that electric Olympic night.

God knows I love the mountains and snowboarding. Doing runs like this seems like a dream come true and a nightmare at the same time. The thrill of being up there and being on runs like that, combined with the sheer terror of flying down those runs makes my heart pound.

Ian Hines conducts a fantastic Interview. And his site, intrv.ws is steadily building some top-notch features. This month, you get to read about me, how I began shawnblanc.net, what I do every day, and other interesting tidbits. Thanks, Ian!

You’ve seen the latest episode of Put This On, right? Good. Now read Jim Ray’s post to find out what and where to buy all that awesome shaving gear. That’s what I’m doing.

I love that the place was intentionally architected to facilitate spontaneous, bumping-into-people-in-the-hallway type of meetings.

Gorgeous looking, widgetized stats board based on Panic’s cool status board. This would look great on a big screen in the Web Team’s office. (Via Jimray.)

Speaking of “Desk Envy”, remember Josh Farmer’s sweet Mac setup?

“I don’t even know what it means to have a handmade desk.”