Last Week’s News



A huge thanks to my cousin Nate who wrote for the site while I was taking some time off. His football article was incredibly well received, and I heard from some folks on Twitter who watched Primer last night (it’s streaming on Netflix, fyi) and really enjoyed it.

While I was unplugged from work, a handful of things happened. And so here is some of last week’s nerdy news that’s still worth talking about.

Keyboard Maestro 6

When I saw the email about this update I just about laughed out loud for joy. In part because it’s always great to see there’s been a major update to one of your most-used apps, and also because there are some very useful new features in KM6 that I’ll be taking advantage of. Such as the ability to launch a macro when a USB device is plugged in, and the new Safari actions for grabbing a URL and Title.

Every Mac user has a few apps that they just have to have on their computer, without which they feel lost and just can’t get anything done. For me, Keyboard Maestro is one such app.1

Basically, Keyboard Maestro is the app you use to bend your Mac to your will. Don’t like the way Mail handles email signatures? No problem. Wish you could launch an app with just one keystroke? Easy peasy. Wish you could replicate the functionality of an app that’s no longer for sale? Done.

My friend and fellow Keyboard Maestro aficionado, Ben Brooks, wrote a brief rundown of some of the highlights of what’s new in KM6.

If you’re new to Keyboard Maestro, you may want to listen to Ben’s and my 35-minute B&B episode where we share some tips and tricks about the app. For additional primers, see also Ben Brook’s KM series, Rocket Ink’s Multiple KM articles, and Federico Viticci’s review from about 18 months ago.

TextExpander 2 for iOS

Speaking of nerdy apps with major updates, TE2 for iOS came out last week. There are some really cool new features, though I have to admit my primary use-case for TextExpander on iOS remains the same: I use it to supercharge many of the apps I use that work with TextExpander. Such as Simplenote, Scratch, Byword, Poster, and Writing Kit.

New Book: Manage Your Day-to-Day

Manage Your Day-to-Day is a new book by Jocelyn K. Glei, the Editor-in-Chief of 99U.

I read and greatly enjoyed Scott Belsky’s book, Making Ideas Happen. And after hearing some good and interesting things about this new book I pre-ordered the Kindle version — it’s just $4(!), or if you’re on Prime you can borrow it for free. It downloaded while I was on vacation last week. Though I haven’t yet started it as I’m currently finishing up Frank Chimero’s The Shape of Design (which is a post for another day).

I’m not sure that they meant for it to be specifically targeted for the self-employed types who work from home, but this line from book’s description sure sounds apt to me:

Manage Your Day-to-Day will give you a toolkit for tackling the new challenges of a 24/7, always-on workplace.

Michael Schechter has a concise review of the book on Workflowing.

The New Flickr Design

Flickr got a major redesign and I think most of it is pretty great.

If you’re logged in, the Flickr home page is far more usable and interesting. And I think the look of the new profile pages for individual users encourages more frequent uploads without the need to upload gloriously professional shots. And if you’re a free user, there is no longer a limit on the collections and galleries you can have. Instead you see ads on the site as you’re browsing the home page or the Explore collection, etc.

James Hague wrote about the evolution of the design and how it wasn’t a total reworking all overnight. And Cap Watkins wrote about some of the shortcomings he sees with the new design.

I’m hoping the redesign garners more traction for the network because the iPhone app didn’t seem to do that. I’ve been using Flickr for six years, and it’s the main place where I upload my favorite images taken with my E-PL5.

But the interaction and feedback I get on Flickr is close to none even though I have about 800 contacts. And I can’t help but wonder if the low interaction rate has to do with the seemingly high expectation of talent: I don’t want to post images that are crappy, and I don’t want to favorite an image that isn’t something I’d frame on my wall, and I don’t want to comment on something unless I have something deep and constructive to say.

And that’s where Flickr totally differs from Instagram. Not that the former should at all try to replace the latter, but I get significantly more likes and comments on my Instagram photos than I do on my Flickr photos despite the fact my Flickr uploads are 100 times higher quality than my Instagrams. It’s the conversation and feedback of Instagram that keeps me coming back to it, and that’s what Flickr is missing right now.

I hope the new design, if nothing else, will encourage more feedback and interaction amongst the users.

Designing Blogs for Readers

Matt Gemmell wrote some good advice for weblog design. There are some pretty great tips in here for making a website that is readable for the readers:

Having had a decade to think about it, I want to share my views on what I think you do and don’t need on a blog today. Your needs may be different, but perhaps you’ll find something to think about. I bet you could simplify your blog in some way without detracting from the reading experience.

One of his tips (paraphrased) is to get rid of the sidebar and try to fit everything into the header instead. In some ways, I think this is a good idea. Having the text and nothing but the text underneath the header is a clean design for reading a website.

I think Matt’s site design looks great. It’s akin to some other sites, such as Zeldman.com, Marco.org, and zenhabits. But I don’t know that the single column of large serif text on a white background is the route for me. Part of why these site designs look this way is so that they’ll look really well when viewed on an iPhone — which they do.

My site doesn’t wiggle or change if you adjust the width of your browser. If you visit shawnblanc.net on your iPhone, it’ll look exactly like it does if you view it on your iPad or on your Mac. But my site is perfectly readable on an iPhone, you just have to double-tap on the main text column to zoom it in to a comfortable reading size. And that is by design.

When demoing Safari on the iPhone for the very first time at his Macworld 2007 keynote address, Steve Jobs said: “It’s a revolution of the first order to bring the real Internet to your phone.”

The iPhone doesn’t always need a “mobile” version of a website because it’s perfectly capable of rendering many websites as they would appear on a desktop computer. Now, of course this isn’t always the case since some sites (e-commerce websites in particular) are virtually unusable on an iPhone. But for websites where it works, why have a mobile version when the real version would work just as well? And that’s why my website doesn’t wiggle.