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For this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I’m just coming back from 2 weeks away in Colorado and Louisiana. And so, before getting back into the daily swing of things I wanted to have a more fun, geeky episode talking about a few things that are awesome and are related to what I’m working on now.

Sponsored By:

It’s Labor Day weekend. Time to recognize the hard work and achievements we’ve done in the past year while taking time off to grill some steaks and go camping.

Delight is in the Details is all about doing our best creative work, sweating the details, infusing delight into our products, and building something truly great that we are proud of. And so, I wanted to celebrate this Labor Day weekend by offering a discount on The Complete Kit of Delight is in the Details.

You can get 25-percent off The Complete Kit for Delight is in the Details, now until about Midnight on Monday, September 1. Have an awesome weekend.

Tuesday, August 26

Our latest app review and recommendation over on The Sweet Setup is for VPN clients. Aside from rolling your own, there are basically two main players in the VPN space for iOS and OSX: Cloak and TunnelBear. We prefer the former because it’s quite a bit easier to use even though it’s a bit more expensive than the latter.

Erik Spiekermann:

Every craft requires attention to detail. Whether you’re build­ing a bicy­cle, an engine, a table, a song, a type­face or a page: the details are not the details, they make the design. Con­cepts don’t have to be pixel-perfect, and even the fussi­est project starts with a rough sketch. But build­ing some­thing that will be used by other peo­ple, be they dri­vers, rid­ers, read­ers, lis­ten­ers – users every­where, it needs to be built as well as can be. Unless you are obsessed by what you’re doing, you will not be doing it well enough. Typog­ra­phy appears to require a lot of detail, but so does music, cook­ing, car­pen­try, not to men­tion brain surgery. Some­times only the experts know the dif­fer­ence, but if you want to be an expert at what you’re mak­ing, you will only be happy with the result when you’ve given it every­thing you have.

Tapes lets you share a recording of your screen in an instant—press ⇧⌘2, select an area you want to capture and press it again when you’re done. Tapes will immediately put a shareable link in your clipboard, all while the video is uploading in the background. Each tape can be up to 3 minutes long (your recipients will thank you) and you can record up to 60 minutes each month. Your videos are kept forever in the best possible quality. Tapes costs $9.99 — pay once and save time for every long email you would’ve sent without every having to pay again.

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My thanks to Tapes for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. It’s a very well-done implementation on a very simple idea: that sometimes we want to share a screencast and not just a screenshot. Tapes is one of those apps that does one thing and does it very well. Just $10 in the Mac App Store.

Sunday, August 24

Last Year in Football (Part II)

Hello! This is Shawn’s cousin, Nate, continuing to guest post while Shawn is on vacation at an undisclosed location. Some of you may remember me from the last time I wrote some guest posts. This time around I’m doing a mini-series on recent events in soccer. Or as 2 billion people call it, football.

Welcome to “Last Year in Football”. Below is part II. If you missed Part I, it’s right here.

If you have any feedback or comments about these football articles, you can email me here.

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I’m going to cheat a little bit here because in the last article I said I was going to talk about the Spanish Premier League. What I’d really like to talk about is the story of Atletico Madrid.

Quite a few of the big cities in Europe have more than one professional football club competing at the top level. I’m probably going to embarrass myself by trying to list some (and leaving others out) but here goes:

  • Manchester, England has Manchester City and Manchester United.
  • Milan, Italy has Inter Milan and AC Milan.
  • Munich, Germany has Bayern Munchen and 1860 Munchen.
  • Madrid, Spain has Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
  • London has somewhere between 4 and 13 clubs playing in or near the top flight at any given time!

Typically in these pairings, there is a dominant force and a lesser one (although there are exceptions). Think the Yankees and the Mets and you’ll get the picture. In Milan the balance swings back and forth over the years, but in Madrid there is always one big club: Real Madrid.

In my prior piece on the EPL, I mentioned that Liverpool are one of the clubs that seems to have to sell their players once they become superstars, rather than attracting superstars. If that is the case, Atletico Madrid have been a breeding ground for superstars and potential superstars in recent years. I’ll define a superstar in practical terms: a player that most big clubs in the world would sign if they had the money (Messi, James Rodriguez, Ronaldo, and Zlatan); a potential superstar would be someone who has shown that they can perform at that level, but maybe the big clubs are waiting on some consistency, or to see if the player can avoid injuries for a season or two, or the player seems to need to mature as a human being to achieve their full footballing potential (Balotelli, and, err, no one else springs to mind right now).

I don’t know what the scouts at Atletico Madrid have been eating, but in the last ten years or so they have been identifying players even before they get to that potential superstar level. Whatever they are doing, they’re doing it right, because they have been finding exceptional players on the cheap, developing them into world-class players, and then selling them as the offering prices become too high to resist. Sergio Aguero, Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, and Diego Costa are the most notable players who have come up through Atletico recently, which they’ve eventually had to sell. Atletico have also had other world-class players that were perhaps not superstars anymore, or maybe they never were quite at that level, but whom Atletico made good use of nonetheless — such as Diego Forlan, Maxi Rodriguez, and Jose Antonio Reyes.

The point is that Atletico have been doing more with less for quite a while now. When you’re constantly taking risks on new talent, the best you can usually hope for is to be a perennial also-ran (see: Arsenal). But every once in a while the stars align and you get a team with two or three genuinely world-class players on the come-up and a solid team around them, and the right coach for the job.

That’s what happened at Atletico last season. With Diego Costa as the main man, and Diego Godin, Juanfran, Turan, Miranda, and Courtois all playing solid or spectacular football on a weekly basis, Atletico shot out of the starting gate with menace and then, to everyone’s astonishment, kept up pace with the two giant Spanish teams Barcelona and Real Madrid all season. The toughest part of the season for smaller clubs is the end, because they don’t have the depth on the bench that the big clubs do, and Atletico had everything in place to give them an easy excuse should that prove the case. On top of competing for the Spanish title, they were also deep into the Champions League tournament, playing against the best teams on the European continent.

To every football lover’s delight, Atletico just flourished under this pressure, first knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League, and then the English Club Chelsea. This was particularly sweet, because Chelsea had previously nipped one of Atletico’s greatest players, Fernando Torres, for a fee 20 million pounds more than the cost of Atletico’s ENTIRE starting 11 for that game!

Then a weird thing happened. Just like in England, none of the teams in contention seemed to want to win out at the end of the season. Atletico itself was in a seemingly unassailable position with three games to go, whereupon they lost and drew the first two.

This set up one of the most nailbiting ends to any campaign in history: their last game, which determined the winner of the Spanish League, would be played against Barcelona AT BARCELONA. All they need is a tie in the game to win the league. And then a week later, the Champions League final to be played against their cross town rival, Real Madrid. Oh, the drama!

Then the worst happens. Early in the game against Barcelona, their star man Diego Costa limps off the field. Then Barcelona takes the lead. Barcelona is notorious for being impossible to get the ball from once they have the lead.

But DRAMA! Atletico Madrid scores to tie the game, and holds on to finish at 1-1. Atletico wins the league! I have to admit that even as a Barcelona fan, I was pulling for Atletico.

Now every Atletico fan, and every neutral fan who wants to see a great game, begins to sweat Costa’s fitness going into the Champions League final. Weird reports of horse placenta treatments surface. Then finally the news: Costa is going to start the game. NNNNNGGGGHHH YEAH.

Then: tragedy. It was all for naught and Costa limps off again early in the game. Doomed, everyone thinks. Barcelona wasn’t particularly consistent this year, but Real Madrid had been tearing up the Champions League, annihilating the former champions and making it look easy. But Atletico wasn’t done yet — they draw first blood! The tension rises to a fever pitch as Real look for a way back into the game, but as the time rolls into stoppage it looks like Atletico will have pulled off the most incredible double of all time. OF ALL TIME.

Then: tragedy strikes again. Freaking tragedy, you suck! Sergio Ramos delivers a beautiful header to tie the game in the last minute of stoppage time, and Atletico’s heroic resolve finally collapses. Real Madrid scores 3 in overtime to win the game.

Alas and alack. It was still a heroic effort and season from a wonderful team, and everyone saluted them. All good things must come to an end, unfortunately, and Chelsea (who else) bought the agent of their torment, Diego Costa, this summer.

Another tragedy to come from this story is that we didn’t get to see a fully (or even minimally fit) Diego Costa at the World Cup this summer, his injuries at the end of the season coming too hard on the start of the World Cup. Tune in soon for the next installment in . . . Last Year in Football (and by last year I mean last season and summer), to hear about this year’s World Cup.

Friday, August 22

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I wanted to talk about “the just checks”. We know constantly unlocking our phones throughout the day, every day, hinders our ability to focus. But I think it also hinders our ability to rest and unwind.

Sponsored by PDFpen for iPad: Powerful, Mobile PDF Editing.

Monday, August 18

PDFpen for iPad lets you edit PDFs anywhere you are, and it supports popular Bluetooth styluses.

Draw directly with precision on PDFs using the Jot Touch, Pogo Connect, JaJa, and Wacom Bluetooth styluses.

Sign a contract, fix a typo, correct a price list, or fill out a form while you’re on the go.

Take PDF documents with you, and add notes, highlighting, and other markup during your downtime.

Sync PDFs with PDFpen for OS X using iCloud or Dropbox.

Grab and save PDFs using Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, and Transporter.

PDFpen for iPad is available on the App Store.

* * *

My thanks to Smile Software for again sponsoring the RSS feed this week. The folks at Smile have a long history of making some of the most useful, well-though-out, and well-built apps for iOS and Mac. And PDFpen is no exception — it is one of the best PDF managing and editing apps available for the iPad.

Love this bit regarding how his ideal setup would look and function:

When it comes to software, I believe we are just starting to see what is possible. More integration, more standards, and more versatile user interfaces and experiences are in our future. Remember where we were 10 years ago and now try to imagine where we will be 10 years from now.

Thursday, August 14

John Carey:

Like the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, or the houses we live in, our photographs are another vehicle to which the world judges us because the world expects to see proof of our beautiful, happy lives and we have grown to crave that attention. In this light, photography has grown vein in its old age. [...]

The solution here is obvious and most of us are already well aware of this tune, don’t shoot to share, shoot because you love what your shooting. Shoot to remember. Make your photographs in your own image and personality.

Very high praises:

So many products lack of focus and an opinion today and respect for the craftsman has been replaced with a chase of fads. There are so many craftsman that I see everyday, with the potential of making masterpieces. But we are all reduced to making more of less rather than more with less.

Monday, August 11

I would assume that a type designer’s handwriting has more to do with her personality than it does the typeface’s she has made. Of course, those typefaces were designed and formed from that same personality, so perhaps the two are linked after all.

(Via Paul Mayne.)

Say hello to the brand new podcast network from my very good friends, Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett:

It makes sense for us to have a single home for all of our work; starting a network is the right decision for us. At launch, we are featuring four returning shows and one new one. We have lots of plans for the future, and can’t wait to get to work making those dreams a reality.

A huge congrats to them and all their show hosts. It take guts to leave something that was doing well and to build it back up from scratch. Not to mention the metric ton of energy that goes in to building something like this.

You can read more about the behind-the-scenes on Stephen’s post here, Casey’s article about his new show, Analog(ue), and Myke’s article about why they chose to build this new network.

Friday, August 8

On today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, we’re continuing on in the Shawn Today series about The Power of a Focused Life. Today’s episode is about lifestyle practices.

This topic is, to me, one of the most important issues of my life. I have a personal commitment to live with intentionality in as many areas of my life as I can. I want to be intentional in how I raise my boys, I want to be intentional about building meaningful relationships with my spouse and my finances, I want to be intentional about the creative work I do, about how I spend my time, how I spend my money, what my diet is, and more.

Elliot Jay Stocks:

I learned that despite all of our wonderful web fonts, everyone still loves Georgia.

And, speaking improving your imagination and investing in originality, here’s Seth Godin:

Confronted with the gap between your vision of perfect and the reality of what you’ve created, the easiest path is no path. Shrug. Admit defeat. Hit delete.

Of course, the only path to amazing runs directly through not-yet-amazing. But not-yet-amazing is a great place to start, because that’s where you are. For now.

I love that sentence: “The only path to amazing runs directly through not-yet-amazing.”

Speaking of good taste and improving your own palate, one of Marty Neumeier’s rules of genius is about improving your imagination:

Originality is more than judicious plagiarism. It’s the ability to dream, to disassociate your thoughts from the linear and logical and end up someplace new. And like many skills that were once thought to be inborn, it must be learned.

Wednesday, August 6

There are three top shelf RSS apps for the iPad: Reeder, Mr. Reader, and Unread. All three are excellent — each in their own way — and I’ve used all three extensively over the years.

In our latest app review for The Sweet Setup, Robert McGinley Myers compares these three apps, hits on each one’s pros and cons, and lays out our reasoning for why we think Unread is the best of the bunch for most people.

Monday, August 4

Jason Becker:

A large monitor, keyboard, and mouse is key to a happy life. I always think it’s funny when folks treat the part of a computer they touch, feel, and see as an afterthought.

I couldn’t agree more.

Friday, August 1

This week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly is part 4 of the new series I’m doing on Shawn Today.

Today’s show is on the importance of having a vision for your life. Even though the topic sounds so intense and grownup, there has never been a generation more in need of having vision for their lives than now.

Some follow-up to my article, Fit.

I mentioned in that article that after several weeks despising my wired earbuds, I bought the JayBird BlueBuds X for use when running.

The BlueBuds seem to get nothing but high praises from bloggers, Amazon users, and Twitter folk. I’ve been using them for two weeks now and will add to their accolades: the BlueBuds X are a great pair bluetooth workout earbuds. The sound quality is superb, the fit is pretty great (they actually stay in your ears while running), and having no wire between the earbuds and my iPhone is priceless (well, actually, it’s $150).

JayBird BlueBuds X with Comply Foam Active Tips

After posting about the BlueBuds I got many recommendations right off the bat from people saying to get these Comply earbud tips to replace the rubber tips that come with the BlueBuds.

And so, of course, I ordered some. And I’m sold. The difference between the Comply foam tips and the rubber tips that come with the BlueBuds is significant. The former improve the sound quality (due to a tighter seal), and they are even better at holding the earbuds in place for the entirety of my run. The latter is the most important to me. I don’t want to think at all about my earbuds, I just want to run and have good tunes while I’m doing it.

Two side notes:

  1. I ordered the multi-pack to start so I could figure out which size I needed. Future replacements you can get a 3-pack of a specific size.

  2. There are a lot of different styles of the Comply tips. Whichever style you get, you’ll need to get the 500 series of that style to fit the BlueBuds X.

Over the past week I’ve had a few requests for a team license of Delight is in the Details. And so, here it is. Purchasing a team license for gives you the freedom to distribute all the bundled resources to up to 10 team members. But it’s a deal even for teams as small as five.

The way it works: all the files are DRM-free, so once you’ve downloaded them you can share the PDFs, MP3s, ePubs, etc. via email, Dropbox, your LAN, or even sneakernet. Moreover, the team license version comes with the 1080p HD videos, for showing on a big screen if you want to.

If you’ve got any questions, or have a team larger than 10, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

On a related note, the launch of the updated version of Delight is in the Details has gone extremely well. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I am so grateful. A huge thanks to all of you who purchased a copy and have helped to spread the word about the launch. If you’re curious to know more about the launch day, last Friday I recorded an episode of The Weekly Briefly where I answered a slew of listener and reader questions related to the launch.

Kevin Kelly:

So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet. There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh to have been alive and well back then!”

Thursday, July 31

Matt Gemmell:

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of my first novel. It came out at just over 90,000 words, which was the target I had in mind. It was a strange and emotional experience. After typing the last word, I felt like I’d been suddenly dumped out of that fictional world and back into this one, with an abruptness that almost made my ears pop.

Huge congrats to Matt for making it this far. Matt is is a fantastic writer — I always enjoy the writing he publishes on his site, as well as his articles in The Loop Magazine and Offscreen that I’ve read. I’m very much looking forward to Changer. Also, I’m curious about how the voice in his fiction writing will compare to the voice in his non-fiction writing.

Tuesday night the President dined in at Arthur Bryant’s. Yesterday he had $1,400 worth of Okie Joe’s delivered to Air Force One. Clearly the Secret Service knows the inside scoop about where to get the best BBQ in Kansas City.

Tuesday, July 29

This is a quick note to all the members here. Yesterday I began a new series on the Shawn Today podcast. Over the next couple weeks I’ll be doing shows related to one of my favorite topics: a focused life.

My list of show topics include: components of a focused life; getting a life vision; planning your days; making lifestyle changes to support your goals; having deep personal integrity related to your own commitments; the tyranny of the urgent; and more.

In truth, this is the subject matter for my next book. As I’m in the beginning stages of planning and writing, I’ll be sharing about it on the podcast.

For those members you who haven’t listened to the podcast lately, perhaps you’ll want to check in again. (From what I can tell, about half of the membership base listens to the show each day. Which means half of the membership may not know about the new series.)

For those who are not members of the site, you can, of course, sign up. A membership subscription is $4 a month and goes a long way to support the writing I do here. As a member you can subscribe to new episodes and you’ll get immediate access to every past episode I’ve ever recorded as well. Not a bad deal.

Lifehacker has a fantastically nerdy interview with This American Life host, Ira Glass. From tools, to schedule, to workflow, and more. As you’d expect, the thing is filled with interesting and funny tidbits.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

I’ve got nothing. Reading other people’s answers to this question on your website today made me realize I live my life like an ape. I eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday, both at my desk. I employ no time-saving tricks at all.

Though come to think of it, I guess my biggest life hack—and this is the very first time I’ve attempted to use the phrase “life hack” in a sentence—is that my wife and I decided to live just a few blocks from where I work. We did this because of our dog. Since I spend at least an hour every night walking the dog, I didn’t want to spend another 60 or 90 minutes a day commuting. I don’t have the time. Like lots of people, I work long hours.

And his workflow for how he organizes a big mess of interview tape into a structure and edits it down into a radio story is fascinating:

I find that the important first step to writing anything or editing anything (half of my day each day is editing) is just getting the possible building blocks of the story into your head so you can start thinking about how to manipulate it and cut it and move it.

Reminds me a lot of how Dustin Lance Black writes his screenplays.

Friday, July 25

On this week’s not-so-brief episode, I answer a several reader and listener questions related to the launch of Delight is in the Details.

Some of the questions include:

  • What was the moment in which you said “this is good enough”?
  • What advice would you give for preparing for a launch of a new product or service?
  • And how did the launch compare to your goals and expectations?
  • what factors contributed to the success of the version 2 launch?
  • How many cups of coffee did you drink?
  • What was your process for making the videos?
  • And more…
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