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
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.
August 4, 2014
It’s crazy, I know, but we finally got around to watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi. And wow.
Though the documentary tells the story of Jiro Ono and his sushi bar, it’s actually not about sushi. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about art, craft, dedication, and passion.
I read a lot of interviews with creative folk. Sites such as The Great Discontent, and publications such as Offscreen and Insites, are all insatiably fascinating to me. And one of the common themes you find running throughout these interviews has to do with “consumption”. Writers need to read; musicians should listen to music; photographers should get out there and experience the world. Etcetera.
We know that’s true, but why? Why should writers be avid readers? Shouldn’t we be spending our free time writing?
Jiro Ono, perhaps the world’s greatest sushi artist, explains why:
“In order to make delicious food, you must eat delicious food. The quality of ingredients is important, but one must develop a palate capable of discerning good and bad. Without good taste, you can’t make good food. If your sense of taste is lower than that of the customers how will you impress them?”
If you spend all your time only making and never improving your own palate, you’ve placed a ceiling on the quality of work you’ll ever do.
Your homework for the week is to take time out and experience something incredible. Enjoy it and allow it to mold and improve your own taste.
Monday, August 4
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).
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
July 30, 2014
In my article a few weeks back regarding working from home, I touched on the importance of staying physically healthy. Especially for those of us who sit at a desk and do pixel-related work all day.
The boiling point for me came about 6 weeks ago. My legs were to the point where they felt sore pretty much nonstop because of poor circulation. This was a combination of sitting all day and sitting in a not-great chair.
And so, I took action. I turned my desk into a standing desk, started running, and made a few small changes to my diet.
If you’re like me, sometimes you get paralyzed by indecision. There are so many options and opinions for how to stay healthy that it can be daunting. And so we put off making any sort of choice because we’re afraid we won’t make the perfect choice. Something I’ve learned over time is that when you’re facing a decision and you know you need to act, it’s often best to just do something — anything — and then figure it out as you go.
And that’s what I did with my health. My health changes have centered around three areas: diet, my desk, and doing something active. Of course there are other answers to these problems, but this is what I’m doing right now. And, perhaps, if you’re in a similar boat this will give you a spark to give something a shot and see where it takes you.
While physical activity is important, it’s only part of staying healthy. And for those who want to lose weight, they say that what you eat is more important than what your exercise routine looks like.
I’m not on a special diet or anything like that, but I have made a few changes to my eating habits. I’ve tried to cut out sugar and white flour as much as possible. This is a surprisingly easy way to improve what I eat. Instead of counting calories or any of that stuff I just don’t eat or drink things that have sugar. In the past month I have had sugar twice.
Additionally, for breakfast, I make this shake (thank God for our Vitamix):
- 1 medium cucumber
- 2 cored apples
- 2 big handfuls of spinach
- 3 ribs of celery
- 2-3 small carrots
- 1 teaspoon ginger root, peeled
- Juice of 1 lime
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
The lime and ginger dominate. And cucumbers, apples, and carrots are naturally sweet when juiced. So it’s surprisingly refreshing and sweet. It’s a bit thick, but that’s okay.
It makes about 32 ounces. Which is enough for 2 or 3 people.
And for lunch, after my workout, I have this:
* 3/4 C non-fat milk
* 1/4 C non-fat greek yogurt
* 1/4 C natural peanut butter
* 1 big banana
* Two big leaves of kale, or a big handful of spinach
* Giant handful of blueberries
* half scoop of protein powder if you have it (hopefully strawberry flavored)
* ice to taste (5-6 cubes perhaps)
This protein smoothie is sweet and delicious. It’s full of dairy, protein, and fiber. It’s low in calories. And since the peanut butter, banana, and blueberries dominate the flavor, it tastes like a milkshake.
Back in 2011 I converted my IKEA Galant into a standing desk. It lasted about 6 months before I went back to sitting. I felt better when standing, I worked better, and it was great to come downstairs after a day standing at the desk and to sit down to relax for the evening.
But standing while writing never felt right to me. I preferred the more “contemplative” posture of sitting.
Six weeks ago I once again converted my IKEA desk back to the standing desk. This time it has been different. Perhaps writing full-time for the past three and a half years has removed my sentiment that sitting while writing is best. Because I’ve been getting great work done while standing here. (I’m standing right now!)
But my IKEA retrofit wasn’t ideal. Primarily it was about 1 inch too short. I’ve been at this desk for nearly 4 years now, it was time to invest in something better. So I got one of those electronic adjusting desks at the recommendation of my friend, Ben Brooks.
The adjustable-height desk I got is this Jarvis desk. It is sturdy, fast, quiet, and amazing. I wish I had bought it years ago.
You can get just the legs and put your own desk top on, which is much cheaper. While it’s pricey compared to a cardboard box for hoisting your keyboard up on your current desk, the Jarvis is quite affordable when compared to many other options out there.
When I ordered mine it was shipping free on Amazon Prime. Currently it’s not available on Amazon.
I got it about a month ago and had it set up in an evening. I’m glad I got the electric version and not a hand-crank version. If anything, having the precision of getting the desk to exactly the right heigh for standing and sitting each time is huge. I can tell if it’s not quite right and that precision is worth it.
(And while you’re at it, be sure to get an anti-fatigue mat.)
I’m at my desk probably 6-8 hours per day. I stand for 4-5 of those. For the times I am sitting, I need a chair that will help encourage circulation in my legs and better posture. In fact, it was the poor circulation in my legs that brought this whole thing to a boil in the first place. At the end of the day, my legs would be sore because they weren’t getting enough activity and circulation.
I haven’t yet gone to a fancy chair dealership to sit in the different ergonomic chairs, but it’s on my list.
From the age of 7 to 18 I practiced martial arts, and was extremely active in my later teen years. I was at the Do Jang 5 nights a week, my friends and I competed in the Colorado Karate Association, and I taught regular classes at the studio.
All those years kicking and punching took a toll on my joints. When I was 18 I found out I had rotator cuff tendinitis in both my shoulders. This is something that has severely limited my ability to do too much physical activity that involves my arms.
Finally, I asked a friend of mine who is a personal trainer if he would help me get a weights routine that would accommodate my shoulder pain. I’m not trying to buff up, just want to be fit. Also, having the set workout plan that he drew up is so helpful. I know what to do when I go to the gym, and that in and of itself was a huge obstacle to overcome.
Also I started running. I run on the elliptical machine because it’s significantly easier on my knees (which are also bad thanks to martial arts). At first, I assumed the elliptical machine was for wimps and so I avoided it. But boy was I wrong. Every time I’m at the gym it’s always the huge football dudes who are on the elliptical machine.
Thoughts on going to the gym instead of going outside
This past month is the first time I’ve ever gone to the gym to work out. Growing up in Colorado all my activity was outside. But for the past month, going to the gym has proven to be great.
For one, it’s an excuse to get out of the house every day. The 10 minute drive serves as a transition time to let my mind get pumped up for my workout. If I’m not in the mood to work out, I tell myself that at least all I have to do is show up and I don’t have to go running once I’m there.
But once I’m there and I’m around others who are working out, I feel ready to exercise. That community aspect is a great motivating factor to do my workout.
And, to top it all off, the gym offers a discount to businesses. As a self-employed LLC, I brought in a copy of my business license and get a deal on the monthly rate. Which also means that my gym membership is a tax-deductible expense.
Using the iPhone at the Gym
Apps: Having a plan for what to do is huge. I started using this Couch to 5K app, and I love it. I’m also slowly building a good workout playlist in Rdio.
iPhone arm band: I got this Belkin sport armband because it’s the only option they had at Target. It’s fine I guess, but I bet there are better options out there. The plastic cover over top of the iPhone isn’t snug against the face, and so it takes a bit of focus to tap on buttons. Which, when you’re running and this thing is strapped to your arm, it’s not exactly easy.
However, when running on the elliptical machine I don’t use the band because I can just set my iPhone in the cup holder. Of course, then I don’t get all those step counts in Pedometer++. Ah well.
Earbuds: Finding good earbuds was a must. Over the past month I tried my go-to RHA buds, the Apple buds, and some Sony buds. The Wirecutter recommends the Relays, but I wanted wireless because three weeks with wired earbuds and I was going nuts every single run.
These JayBird BlueBuds X were the Wirecutter’s 2nd recommended (and didn’t take top place because of their price). They’re not cheap ($150). But when I asked about them on Twitter, I received a significant number of replies from people who use them and love them. Nothing but positive reviews. So I picked up a pair and am very happy I did.
It took me 3 days to get the fit figured out, but it was worth it. Though I wouldn’t say they’re perfect (still can start to slip out of my ears towards the end of my run) they are significantly more comfortable, more permanent, and better sounding than all the other options I’d used before. Just gotta remember to keep them charged up. Also, get these Comply Foam Tips to go with the BludeBuds X — they are much better than the rubber tips that come with the JayBirds.
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…
Wednesday, July 23
For the past several months I’ve been head down, working on a huge update to my book and interview series, Delight is in the Details.
My original plan was simple: fix a few typos that were in the first version of the book and have all the audio interviews transcribed. But now that it’s shipped, you’ll see the update includes quite a bit more than just fixed typos.
- Two new chapters
- Two new audio interviews
- A Makers Q&A section
- All the audio has been remastered
- All the interviews have transcriptions
- The Resource Index
Over these past several months as I’ve been working on the update, I’ve been thinking more and more about what it truly means to be creative. I wrote “Fighting to Stay Creative” about two months ago as part of this whole thought process.
The ideas and principles I shared in that blog post blossomed into what has become the preeminent topic that now concludes Delight is in the Details. Which is: how to stay creative and how to build delightful products.
Something that always bugged me about the first version of the book was that it didn’t offer any how-to guides for building a delightful product. Because, really, there isn’t a checklist for that sort of stuff. But in place of a checklist, we have experience and commitment.
Delight is a choice, not a checklist.
And but so, now that we know we want to do our best creative work, what does that look like? How do we inject delight into our photography, our writing, our music, our apps?
I believe I’ve answered those questions (at least to some degree). This version of the book is what the first version should have been.
The updated version is available now.
Do me a favor and set aside 9 minutes to watch this video I put together with the help of my friend, Joel Sorge.
The video is one of three that comes with Delight is in the Details. This one is so great — and I feel the message of it is so important — that I wanted to share it in its entirety.
July 21, 2014
One component to building an audience, growing a customer base, and/or increasing word-of-mouth referrals is by sweating the details. Put delight in your work.
It’s the little things, the moments of delight and the unexpected quality in a product, that prove to our audience and our customers that we care.
When we sweat the details it shows. It’s proof we take our work seriously. And that builds trust with our audience our customers.
In the super-cool hand-drawn chart above, you can see that I’ve dissected what I believe to be the primary components related to building an audience. Seventy-five-percent of the work around building of your audience should be spent on the art itself — the content.
Your brand is also important. I’m not talking about logo marks here, I’m talking about your reputation. How do people perceive you (as professional or amateur; friendly or angsty; humble or self-centered; etc.)? What topic or subject people do people connect to you (design, development, typography, photography, etc.)?
Your content and your brand are summed up as being what you make and who you are. This is true for the individual, the small business, and the large corporation. And over time the two become deeply intertwined. What you make represents who you are, and who you are fuels what you make. Your brand and your content become one and the same.
If you are willing to sweat the details when it comes to all the things you make and all the expressions of your brand, then the overall result will be greater than the sum of its parts.
People notice when we take the time to build something great. They may not always be able to put their finger on exactly what it is, but they know they appreciate it. And they repay us with their accolades, attention, and money.
Thus leading to a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship between the maker and their customers.
The maker is happy because she is building something she’s proud of and is has the financial supported to sustain her work. And the customer is happy because she is buying something that was crafted with mindfulness and quality.
Committing to sweat the details is a commitment to the long game. It means not giving in to the tyranny of the urgent. It means focusing on quality from the start, and being willing to spend the extra time and resources to do it right and do it well.
In the moment, sweating the details often burns. But a month from now, a year from now, a decade from now, you and your customers will still be reaping the benefits.
* * *
P.S. This concept of building your audience and customer base through delight is from one of the new chapters in the update to Delight is in the Details that comes out this wednesday.
Monday, July 21
The first single from Weezer for their upcoming album. Dropped first on YouTube. It’ll be available on iTunes tomorrow, and they’re performing it on The Tonight Show this Wednesday.
Do you have a product, app, service, or company you’d like to promote directly to this site’s readership and visitors? Good news! This week’s sponsorship spot is available. If you’re interested, or have questions about it, email me and I’ll work you a deal.
Friday, July 18
‹ Previously Recently ›
On this week’s episode of my podcast, The Weekly Briefly, I share a lot about some of the most important ideas and values I’ve learned and written about while spending the past several months working on the update to my book, Delight is in the Details.