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This is my last podcast episode before Christmas, and I wanted to give a challenge for everyone heading in to holiday time off: Rest well.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to come back from holiday vacation with energy and motivation to do your best creative work? Wouldn’t it be awesome to come back feeling fueled up and energized instead of tired and worn out? It’s easier said than done, to be sure.

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Wednesday, December 17

Noah Lorang:

When you compress things down to a shareable size, you miss a lot. What you don’t see is the unglamorous parts: the sharpening of the chisels, the unclogging of your glue bottle, or the parts that don’t fit together. You don’t see the days where you are too tired or unmotivated to go down and work on anything at all, or those cases where life interferes and a ‘easy one weekend project’ ends up stretching to six or twelve months. [...]

Any creative endeavor is highly non-linear, but the sharing of it almost always skips a lot of the actual work that goes into it. That’s ok; a clear progression makes for a good story that’s easy to tell. But don’t judge your reality against someone else’s compressed work.

Doing our best creative work is never easy. But when we live in a culture where instant gratification is celebrated and stories of “overnight success” are on every headline, it can lead to disillusionment regarding our own work and creative process. We see these compressed, linear stories like Noah is talking about, and we see those as the ideal for our own work. But, as Noah points out, there’s so much to the story we don’t see.

Tuesday, December 16

I sat down (via Skype, of course) with the folks at Tom Bihn for an interview about the (team)work that goes in to building and publishing Tools & Toys and The Sweet Setup.

Just after GTD apps, Mac email apps have been far and away one of The Sweet Setup’s most-requested reviews. So we asked the inimitable Jason Snell to tackle it.

Our pick? Mailbox.

Airmail is also one of our top choices, especially for folks who prefer more keyboard shortcuts and power-user features. I’ve spent time with Airmail, and it’s pretty rad, but it never totally stuck for me — I kept going back to the default Mail.app. And I had written Mailbox off altogether because it has a much more simple approach. But after Jason suggested it as the best alternative for most folks, I started using it on my Mac and I’m actually very impressed. The UI is very basic and understated, and the lack of most bells and whistles actually is calming — there’s less to think about when it comes to mowing through your email, and so you actually end up doing something about it.

So, thanks to Jason, I’ve moved all my personal email over to Mailbox on Mac and iPhone.

Monday, December 15

What a fun (and so very Apple-like) story. Espen Haagensen didn’t even know Apple had bought a license for his photo until he saw it in use in the promotional material for the iPhones 6.

Scan and OCR directly from your iPhone or iPad camera using PDFpen Scan+ from Smile.

Swiftly scan batches of pages and do post-process image editing.

Crop quickly and precisely.

Easily copy post-OCR text content for use in other apps.

Automatically upload scans to Dropbox and iCloud.

Share your scanned PDF, complete with OCR text, by email or via your favorite cloud service.

PDFpen Scan+ 1.5 improves the camera layout and adds support for image stabilization and iCloud Drive.

PDFpen Scan+ is available on the App Store.

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My thanks to Smile for once again sponsoring the site this week. Scanning and saving documents from my iPhone is something I do often. I use my iPhone to capture and save almost all of my business receipts. PDFpen Scan+ is one of the best scanning and OCR-ing apps out there. It’s super fast, easy to use, powerful, etc. Once you’ve “scanned” a document (by taking a photo of it) then what’s great about having the scanning and OCR all happen in-app is you can upload to Dropbox (or Evernote, or iCloud Drive, or Google Drive, or your own WebDAV or FTP server). It’s then easy to sort, search-for, and find those documents later if and when you need to.

Friday, December 12

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly I’m joined by my former podcasting partner in crime, Ben Brooks. We talk about (a) what sort of camera you should buy if you want to upgrade from your iPhone, and (b) how to increase your chances of snapping a few awesome photos of friends and family during the holidays (and pretty much any other time).

Sponsored by:

Wednesday, December 10

Holiday Wallpapers for iPhone, iPad, Mac

I took some of my original photography and put together a set of holiday-themed wallpapers. There are a whole slew of files, with sizes to fit your iPhone, your iPad, and your Mac/PC.

The set includes 15 wallpapers for iPhone, 10 unique wallpapers for your Mac, and 12 wallpapers for iPad. They’re sized for iPhones 5 through 6 Plus, and work with the parallax effect in iOS 8.

I’m selling the pack for just $2 on Gumroad.

When you buy a camera, the included accessories are usually pretty lame.

The included SD card (if there even is one) is likely to be slow and unreliable. The shoulder strap is likely to be too small (unless you want to wear it around the back of your neck with the camera hanging down in front of your belly button). And the camera bag (or pouch) may not suit your taste. Etc.

In my few years as a professional photography enthusiast, I’ve found it to be a delightful and rewarding activity. And, at least for me, a lot of that has to do with the ancillary gear I use. Though accessories are not nearly as critical as the camera you buy nor the time you make to get out there and take photos, I do think having better gear can make a difference.

Justin Terveen captured some incredible photographs of yesterdays ultra-foggy Dallas. Check out his Flickr home page. Just gorgeous. (h/t to the Perrys.)

Tuesday, December 9

Whoa.

This photograph was taken this morning by American Airlines mechanic, Mike Alvstad, on a flight into DFW. (Via Derek Nelson)

Speaking of Tad Carpenter and interviews, Tad was featured on TGD a couple years ago:

The fact that I grew up in the hallways of Hallmark Cards really shaped my voice as a designer. A lot of us think of Hallmark Cards as a place where fluffy bunnies and sentimental flower cards are created—there’s some truth to that. But outside of Pixar maybe, there’s nowhere that has this much creativity in one location.

Made in the Middle is a fantastic new website built by Tad and Jessica Carpenter. It just launched yesterday, and it’s all about the creative community here in Kansas City. The site features interviews with local creative professionals — designers, photographers, chefs, architects — every Monday.

You don’t have to be a KC local to appreciate the site — the interviews are well designed, and conducted with some extremely talented and thoughtful folks.

When I quit my job as a marketing and creative director to begin writing for a living, the creative community here in Kansas City was smaller and far less vibrant than it is now. In the last 3-4 years, it has exploded. (No doubt it has something to do with the fact we’ve got some the best coffee shops in the world and along with some of the fastest internet.)

Fantastic, as usual, essay by Paul Graham:

And yet while there are clearly a lot of mean people out there, there are next to none among the most successful people I know. What’s going on here? Are meanness and success inversely correlated?

Steven Levy on the iPhone 6 Plus:

The smartphone as we know it (i.e. the iPhone and its followers) is only seven years old — and already it has seen dramatic changes in form. There’s nothing that indicates that we’ve frozen the form factor. Companies like Apple, Google, Samsung and others yet to be founded are going to try all sorts of sizes and shapes. The functions of our phones and tablets will probably be portioned out in wearables, in spectacles, and maybe even tie tacks.

The Normal earbuds are a pretty wild product. Using their iPhone app, you take a few pictures of your ears. Then, they 3D print the earbuds to be a custom fit. If they don’t quite fit, you take a few more pictures with the earbuds in place, they’ll make adjustments and ship you new ones.

Tyler Hays wrote a review of the whole process and the earbuds themselves for Tools & Toys.

Over on The Sweet Setup, Dropbox is smack in the middle of Mac apps we think you should be using.

And our senior editor, Jeff Abbott, wrote an excellent guide to using Dropbox. The guide covers the basics of how to get up and running, and it outlines how to get additional storage space for free. But it also covers expert-level tips such as syncing your application support files, setting up symlinks, integrating with 3rd-party services like IFTTT and Wufoo, and so much more.

There are also organization tips for how to best keep your synced files and folders free from chaos and clutter. Plus there are three bonus documents that cover photo sharing and how families can get the most out of Dropbox.

The guide is brand new, and this week it’s on sale for 25% off. Not to mention we’re bundling it with another great ebook by Bradley Chambers: Learning to Love Photo Management

You can read more about the guide here, or go ahead and buy your discounted copy right now.

Monday, December 8

Mandrill is an email infrastructure service that started as an idea in 2010. That idea became reality in 2012, when Mandrill cannibalized a crew of MailChimp’s best engineers. Isolated from the rest of the team, they turned the idea from a skunkworks project into a product that outperforms competitor services. Growing fast and innovating faster, Mandrill is now the largest Email as a Service platform on the market, with more than 250,000 active customers.

Use Mandrill to send automated one-to-one email like password resets and welcome messages, as well as marketing emails and customized newsletters. Mandrill is quick to set up, easy to use, and ridiculously stable. We made it for developers, who love documentation, integrations, high delivery rates, webhooks, and analytics. If you’re not comfortable with code and APIs, we recommend finding someone who is before getting started.

Mandrill comes with a beautiful interface, flexible template options, custom tagging, and advanced tracking and reports. Mandrill is the only email infrastructure service with a mobile app that lets you monitor delivery and troubleshoot from wherever you are. It’s also powerful, scalable, and affordable. But you don’t have to take our word for it.

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My thanks to Mandrill for sponsoring the site this week. Sponsorship via Syndicate Ads.

This week’s setup interview is with Tom Carmony, the design director at Black Pixel:

In recent months, I’ve made a concerted effort to use as many stock apps as possible to better simplify my workflows. I’m generally pretty happy with that move, and regularly put Reminders, Notes, Mail, Contacts, and Calendar to use on both desktop and mobile.

My former podcasting partner in crime, Ben Brooks, wrote an awesome review / gear guide for us on Tools & Toys. He covered basic EDC knives, outdoor knives, and hiking knives. I’ve long been a fan of Spyderco knives — I’ve got one of my own that I keep on me, and whenever I’m in doubt about a gift to give to a friend, the Sage 1 is my go-to pick because who doesn’t like a(nother) great pocket knife?

Friday, December 5

The Twelve South SurfacePad iPhone 6 Case

To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable using my iPhone 6 without a case — especially now that the colder winter weather has arrived. And so, I’m trying out a few different cases for the first time ever. This is literally the first iPhone I’ve ever owned that I’ve sought out a case for.

And so, in this week’s episode of my podcast, The Weekly Briefly, I talk about the two current contenders:

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Sponsored by Symbolicons: Vector Icon Sets for Awesome Designers & Developers. Use use this super special link to get 40% off the master bundle (that’s every single icon from Symbolicons). Or use code TOOLSTOYS to save 20% of any individual icon set at symbol icons.com

Tuesday, December 2

Seth Godin:

The thing is, everything worth doing is done to excess, poorly, immorally, inefficiently, by someone. But that doesn’t change the fact that the very same thing done right is worth doing.

I’ve been publishing my writing online — a.k.a. “blogging” — for almost a decade. And I’ve been doing this professionally for almost four years now. During that time I’ve seen and spoken with a lot of would-be writers who gave up (or quit before they even started) because they’re cynical and angry at all the folks out there who are contributing only to the noise.

If you’re waiting for all the shovel blogs and all the waste-of-bandwidth websites to go away before you start doing something great, you’ll never get started. Don’t let the spammers or the jerks or the goof-balls steal your dreams.

Speaking of big reviews recently published on our other websites, over on The Sweet Setup we spent a bunch of time using different apps and services for easy file / link / image sharing.

Dropbox, CloudApp, and Droplr were the main contenders and the latter is our favorite:

The Apple ecosystem has no shortage of ways to share files. There are countless apps and services that aim to make this as easy as possible. With a lot of the articles we write here at The Sweet Setup, we are comparing apps and services that are virtually identical outside of user interface. With this category, that is not the case. These apps, while appearing similar, all have a different focus.

With a plethora of options, what is our favorite cloud service/app for file sharing? With an incredible feature set, active development, and a sustainable business model, Droplr is our favorite way to share files, make simple annotations, and track links.

Over on Tools & Toys, Josh Ginter reviewed the DDC Stuff Sheath.

Monday, December 1

Symbolicons are a family of icon sets designed by Jory Raphael. They’re simple, friendly, and styled to visually match one another, which means they can be used pretty much anywhere to add flavor and style. With nine icon sets and over 2,400 icons available, the possibilities are endless.

As a thank you to Tools & Toys (and shawnblanc.net) readers, use the code TOOLSTOYS to get 20% off any individual icon set.

Or, use this super special link to get 40% off the master bundle (that’s every single icon from Symbolicons).


My thanks to Jory for sponsoring the site this week to promote his truly awesome icon sets, Symbolicons. We use the Symbolicons web font over on The Sweet Setup, and it’s awesome.

If you need something for your app, your eBook, your website, your printed publication, your poster — whatever — the Symbolicons sets should be the first place you start looking. Naturally, the icon files are all neatly organized and professionally packaged. And the promotion you can get this week to save 40% off the master bundle (All 9 sets! 2,400 unique icons!) is an amazing deal.

Great interview this week with Kyle Gray over on The Sweet Setup. Kyle’s a full-time business marketing student and web developer at his university.

Some excellent ideas and advice here from Lucy Beer. It’s targeted towards customizing the WP Admin area for clients after you’ve built a custom site, but it’s just as relevant for those of us who run our own WP sites and want to clean things up to have easier access to the areas of the Dashboard we use most.

I used to never write in the browser, but WordPress has grown and improved significantly over the past couple of years. It’s now far more than just a good CMS, it’s also a good Web app.

The new site for 2015’s Circles Conference is now live. And, I’ll be there, giving the opening talk on the first day.

I attendee the very first Circle’s Conference in 2012, and it was fantastic. Kyle Steed gave the the opening talk on the first day, and I still remember what he said. He talked about the chasm between surface-level creative output and the truth of where creativity comes from. Drawing a contrast between things like using photoshop vs. actually solving design problems.

I missed the 2013 and 2014 Circles Conferences because my wife and I had a son and I went to XOXO (respectively). I’m very much looking forward to going back, not just as a speaker but as an attendee.

This next year’s lineup is absolutely fantastic. And I know that the crowd of attendees will be some of the nicest, funnest, most-creative folks you’ve ever met. So, mark it on your calendar. I’ll see you there.

P.S. The early-bird pricing runs through to the end of the year. If you register today, you can save 15% if you use the promo “CYBERMONDAY”.

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