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For much too long email has been the main medium for communication at work. While email isn’t going away, team communication platforms like HipChat are allowing for more collaborative and productive communication experiences between co-workers.

HipChat combines every communication method you’d ever need — IM, group chat, screen sharing, file sharing, link sharing, video and voice calling — into a single solution. Working remotely, working across time zones, and working with the person right next to you becomes infinitely simpler and more efficient.

Create a chat room for your team or project so you can brainstorm, discuss work, or share files all in one place. Everything in HipChat is archived and searchable by keyword so you go back to a conversation whenever you want. @mentions allow you to bring your co-workers instantly into a conversation so you can get all of the right people involved in the discussion.

Best of all, HipChat is completely free for unlimited users. The Basic plan offers everything you need to get your team started: group chat, IM, file sharing, unlimited users and integrations. And if you’re interested in video chat and screen sharing, HipChat Plus is just $2/user per month.

Get your team on HipChat, sign up for a free account.

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My thanks to HipChat for sponsoring the site feed this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Friday, January 23

Last week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly was about technology. And, more specifically, how technology helps us to do our best creative work.

This week’s show is about another aspect of doing our best creative work: our inner work life.

When we have a healthy inner work life then we are poised to be at are our best in terms productivity and creativity. And so, how do we stay happy and motivated so we can be productive and creative? That’s what today’s show is all about.

Sponsored by:

Thursday, January 22

Macminicolo has been hosting mac minis for ten years, and they’d love for you to join them. To celebrate the milestone, the Decades Promo is just $10/mo for ten months.

Low cost. High performance. The perfect Mac server.

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My thanks to Macminicolo for sponsoring the site this week. These guys are the industry leader in providing world-class hosting and data center services exclusively for your Mac mini server. They host a ton of Macs minis, they’re located at one of the most advanced data centers in the world, and their Decades Promo is one heck of a deal to help you get up and running.

Over on The Sweet Setup we just posted our latest app review, and it’s for shared lists.

We chose Wunderlist as our favorite because it has great apps for every major platform (so you can share your lists with folks who aren’t as Apple-nerdy as you are), it has great and reliable sync, and a lot of extra features to make collaborating with others very simple.

Or if you want something more basic (like just one, maybe two, lists that you and your spouse share), then Apple’s Reminders may be the way to go.

Tuesday, January 20

In response to yesterday’s article about The Core Curriculum, a few people asked me how I intend to put together my notebook. Well, I don’t know yet. But, I have a pretty good idea.

The first question is the most important: should your Core Curriculum be digital or physical? Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

What’s great about a digital notebook is that you can add to it at any time. You can edit it, rearrange it, and tweak it. What’s bad about digital is that, well, you can add to it at any time. I fear that a digital notebook could be the enemy of the necessary brevity that would make the Core Curriculum manageable.

What’s great about a physical notebook is that you’re removed from the distractions of a glowing screen. You can write in the margins, make notes and highlights, and add your own insights as you go. But the disadvantage is that if you lose your notebook or you’re in trouble. And if you want to add to it or rearrange it, it could be difficult.

All that to say, I’m leaning towards a physical notebook. I’m going to put together my core curriculum as a Pages document and then print it out like an old fart. And to solve the issue of being able to rearrange pages and add new pages if I need to, I’m going to use the Levenger Circa System.

And, speaking of Levenger Circa…

After having a nice camera for two and a half years, I finally settled on a camera bag: The Ona Bowery. And it is awesome. It’s one of the most usable, handsome, and well-made camera bags I’ve ever come across.

Friday, January 16

On this week’s episode (episode 50!) of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about how even though technology can be a cause of distraction for doing our best creative work, so too can it empower us — not to mention enabling us to build an audience, a business, and to make a living from our creative work.

Sponsored by:

Thursday, January 15

There’s an excellent interview in the latest issue of objc.io with one of the coolest guys around, Loren Brichter.

Regarding software today and where it’s headed:

Personally, I’m tired of the trivial app stuff, and the App Store isn’t conducive to anything more interesting. I think the next big thing in software will happen outside of it.

And regarding raising a kid:

I’m going to be crazy strict in terms of limiting screen time, which maybe is ironic given what I’ve done for a living. I’m not sure when it happened, but my perspective on the mobile revolution shifted. It used to be really exciting just to see someone pull out an iPhone. Now it’s like, “Hey kid, stop staring at your phone!” And apps, apps everywhere! Apps for wiping your butt. I’ve become an old fogey. Get your apps off my lawn!

(Via Viticci.)

Wednesday, January 14

Seth Godin:

The argument goes that making software powerful rarely pays off, because most users refuse to take the time to learn how to use it well. The violin and the piano, though, seem to permit us to create amazing music, if we care enough. The trick is to be both powerful and simple, which takes effort.

This trick of being both powerful and simple is where many of the best iOS apps shine brightest. Take for example apps such as OmniFocus, Drafts, Fantastical, VSCO Cam, Diet Coda, or Unread. These are world-class, desktop-quality apps. They are extremely powerful, yet because they’re built for the iPad and iPhone, they are also quite simple to use and navigate. Now, combine that with the one-window-at-a-time workflow of iOS and you’ve got an even more “simplified” user experience.

Lukas Mathis:

I’ve been playing around with a Firefox OS phone for a few weeks now, and I really like it. I think the most interesting thing about it is how simple everything feels. It feels like the first iPhone, with some additional modern amenities.

Tuesday, January 13

Today we published a fantastically written and photographed review of the GORUCK GR2 by Álvaro Serrano. When we were working on the redesign of Tools & Toys last fall, articles like this were exactly what we had in mind: equal parts helpful, informative, entertaining, and visually rich.

Monday, January 12

Dash is a web app for building and sharing realtime dashboards. They look great in a browser tab, on your phone, or on a wall-mounted TV through Chromecast.

To help you get started quickly, Dash has pre-built dashboard widgets for all kinds of services like Google Analytics, appFigures, GitHub, Google News, and Twitter. There’s also an API to display data from Dropbox or the web with custom widgets like speedometers, charts, tables, and leaderboards.

In a couple minutes you can set up a Dashboard to monitor your web servers with widgets for Pingdom, Chartbeat, and realtime Google Analytics. Or, you can track your fitness New Year’s resolution with pre-built widgets for Fitbit, Strava, and Withings Scale. You can even keep an eye on your online mentions with Twitter and Google News widgets showing the search results of several different phrases.

Dash’s pricing model was designed to encourage data sharing within the community. It’s a lot like GitHub. If you make your data public, Dash is completely free. If you want to keep your dashboard private, you’ll need a pro account for $10 per month.

Dash is currently running a limited time promotion. If you sign up for a free account now, you’ll also get one private dashboard free forever. No credit card required.

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My thanks to Dash for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. I spent some time this morning setting up my own custom Dashboard for Tools & Toys and it’s awesome. There are a lot of drag-and-drop widgets, and you can write your own data to power any custom widgets (like charts, lists, etc.) The Dashboard I set up acts as a one-stop-page for me to see incoming tweets, current traffic numbers, and more. Dash is giving folks one private dashboard for free forever — definitely worth checking out.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Speaking of uninterrupted work time, Paul Graham’s essay about how makers and managers use and schedule their time differently is always worth a read.

Michael Lopp:

Who understands the compounding productivity interest earned with each consecutive uninterrupted minute of work? It is there in those hard to capture collective minutes where your best work is happening.

It’s not just a challenge to get uninterrupted work time when in an office environment. It’s also a challenge in the most isolated of work spaces. Because our minutes are interrupted from without (co-workers, incoming phone calls, and other notifications) as well as from within (our tendency to check twitter real quick or to keep our email app open in the background).

Friday, January 9

It’s been 90 days since the re-design of Tools & Toys went live, and when comparing the most recent numbers to the same quarter last year we saw a 3x growth in pageviews, unique visitors, and site revenue.

And so, on today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly I wanted to share more about why we decided to redesign the site, what our goals were, and what we think has contributed to the site’s growth (beyond just the new look).

Sponsored By:

Wednesday, January 7

Wow. This is a brilliant and fantastic new feature to Gumroad.

I use Gumroad to sell Delight is in the Details, and I couldn’t be happier with the service. As a seller, Gumroad is extremely affordable and very easy to set up. And the user experience for the buyer is just as great — I wouldn’t be selling with them if I thought otherwise.

With their new email workflow stuff, you can set up scheduled emails and automated email campaigns that go out to your customers. It can be as simple as a thank-you email after someone has bought your product, or a whole series of communications.

I’ve been use Zapier to connect Gumroad with Mailchimp to do something similar, but I’m paying $785/year for those two services. Gumroad now includes it for free. Though with Mailchimp I do get quite a bit more control of my email designs and flexibility as my email list grows with folks who are interested in my book but who haven’t yet bought it.

Sounds great, but… rollover data only carries over to the next billing cycle, and it’s only for those on the Mobile Share Value plans. And the Mobile Share Value plans only get their discounted pricing if you pay full price for your smart phone or have AT&T Next (where you “lease” your smartphone).

But it does sound like an awesome step in the right direction. Remember when mobile phone plans were all about how many minutes and how many text messages you got and data was unlimited (because who uses data?) Now that’s basically flip flopped.

And speaking of AT&T data usage, last week I was logging in to my AT&T account to update my billing info. Before making it to my account settings page, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade my plan from 10GBs of shared data/month to 30GBs. Below, in smaller print, was a link to see my average monthly data usage. So I clicked that only to discover that my wife and I use about 1.5 GBs of data per month. So instead I downgraded from our 10GB/month plan to the 3GB/month plan and we’re now saving $40 (!) a month.

Something we didn’t put to our 2015 Tech Resolutions article was to check in on and evaluate our cell phone plans. Mobile carriers are changing and reconfiguring their plans all the time; how many of us are on older plans that are charging us more than we need, but don’t know any different?

Tuesday, January 6

We just posted our latest app review over on The Sweet Setup, and it’s for desktop RSS readers. We tried out literally a dozen different apps and Reeder was clearly the best. It’s fast, it’s well-designed, it’s awesome.

Monday, January 5

Managing teams is hard. Imagine it’s Monday morning and your team doesn’t know what they’re working on for the week. Plans change and schedules change with them. Spreadsheets weren’t built for this.

Harvest Forecast is a tool designed to plan your team’s time. Visualize schedules in Forecast and easily adjust them as needed. Forecast keeps your team’s expectations on the same page and helps you move projects forward.

As new projects come in, you’ll know who’s available, and when to hire. Leave behind bloated spreadsheets and begin scheduling in Harvest Forecast with a free 30-day trial.

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My thanks to Harvest Forecast for sponsoring the site this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Great setup interview with Sebastian Green. And I love that The Sweet Setup now has its first Hackintosh featured:

When in my home office, I use what I call a Hackintosh Pro (Yes, you did read that correctly). Before I got bitten by the Apple bug about 10 years ago I used to build my own PCs, and for the past 3 or so years I have been itching to build one again. I had an old PowerMac G5 that finally died, so I decided to strip the case, convert it to fit an ATX motherboard, and build my own machine inside it. Building the machine was the easy part. Getting it to run OS X was the tricky part

Once you go “paperless” you can never go back. It’s great. For one, the lack of clutter is wonderful. Secondly, it’s ridiculously easy to set up some Hazel rules that will automagically sort your incoming document scans for you — making it a nearly-mindless task to file away all your paperwork, instead of sitting in front of your filing cabinet putting one piece of paper away at a time in different hanging file folders. Moreover, with all your documents scanned, it’s very very easy to find what you’re looking for.

All that to say, over on Tools & Toys we just put together a big update to our guide to going paperless. If you want to know which scanner to get, which shredder to get, and how to go about organizing your scans, check it out.

Saturday, January 3

I want to thank curbi for sponsoring all three sites this week.

Curbi offers parental controls for iOS devices, and it’s pretty incredible — especially if you’ve got a family of devices you’d like to help safeguard. Curbi is a way to monitor and restrict the apps and websites your kids use on their iOS devices.

You can flat-out block certain content content (such as porn), and you can set time-based restrictions on other content (like no Facebook during study-time hours), etc.

And curbi can be more than just for kids — you can set it up on your own device as well. Use curbi as an internet content blocker that actually works so you don’t accidentally get slimed with stuff you don’t want to see, and so you’re not constantly entering in a PIN to visit regular sites that iOS doesn’t need to block.

Curbi is free to use for 14 days, and then a monthly subscription is just $6.99 no matter how many devices are in your home.

Friday, January 2

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about the pursuit of “the best”.

Who doesn’t love finding the best tools, the best coffee, the best food, the best experiences? I know I do. But I realize that this can, at times, be an unhealthy pursuit. Too much focus on only ever doing and experiencing “the best” of something can lead to disappointment and complaining when we don’t have “the best”. Which is why being content — and making each unique experience “the best” — is a choice.

Sponsored by:

Welp, it convinced me to finally drop in a dynamic timestamp in all my sites’ footers.

David Sparks:

Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better.

There are just 3 iOS devices in the Blanc family: my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone, and my iPad. They’re signed in with the same Apple ID for the store, and with our own Apple ID for email and calendar. It works great… for now.

Over at The Sweet Setup, we laid out a few ideas for getting your setup up-to-date:

As Apple users, we generally take pride in our computing setup and technology. Technology is always moving forward, so you can’t go years without upgrading or maintaining your equipment. While resolutions generally deal with losing weight or finishing a project at home, our technology setups can also be part of our plan.

I think it’s wise to evaluate the tools we use. Sure, it can be easy to nerd-out a bit too much and be constantly over-evaluating our gear to the point where we never actually do any work. But that doesn’t mean we should never look things over. Are the services, software, and hardware tools we use day in and day out serving us well? Or have our workflow needs changed and would we be better served with a different set of tools? Or is there a newer / better / more-reliable way to do a job that would benefit us if we upgraded?

These are the sort of questions worth asking about once a year. Then, once we’ve solved them, put our heads down and get back to doing our best creative work every day.

Wednesday, December 31

Kyle Steed:

With all these great technological advances swarming around me and an endless amount of information at my disposal, even when I’m sitting still it feels like I’m moving at a million miles an hour without still knowing who I am.

Tuesday, December 30

Over on The Sweet Setup, we just updated our review of Pinboard apps for iOS. After iOS 8 came out many Pinboard apps took advantage of the new extensions and share sheets. And with the 3.0 update to Pinner, it’s become our new favorite.

The good news is, it was such a close call between Pinner and Pushpin that if you’re still using the latter, I honestly don’t think it’s worth switching. Or, if your a nerd like me and you’ve got both installed, you may prefer to use the extension from Pinner and the app of Pushpin (or vice versa).

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