Speaking of interviews, Michael Lopp’s recent interview with Marco Arment is fantastic. Marco shares a lot of info and backstory about Instapaper, plus this fantastic bit of business advice:

The biggest design decision I’ve made is more of a continuous philosophy: do as few extremely time-consuming features as possible. As a result, Instapaper is a collection of a bunch of very easy things and only a handful of semi-hard things.

This philosophy sounds simple, but it isn’t: geeks like us are always tempted to implement very complex, never-ending features because they’re academically or algorithmically interesting, or because they can add massive value if done well, such as speech or handwriting recognition, recommendation engines, or natural-language processing.

These features — often very easy for people but very hard for computers — often produce mediocre-at-best results, are never truly finished, and usually require massive time investments to achieve incremental progress with diminishing returns.

If a one-person company is going to build a product, it can’t have any of those huge time-sink features. At most, I can afford to have one or two components of moderate complexity, such as the HTML-to-body-text parser and the Kindle-format writer. But even those are barely worth the time that I put into them.

Michael Lopp Interviews Marco Arment

Ian Hines, the man with the original idea for OmniFocus Aid, talks briefly about the business model of the whole idea:

The obvious concern from OmniGroup’s perspective is that offering a “lite” version would hurt overall OmniFocus for Mac sales.

I think Ian’s conclusion is spot on. In that, having a low-cost utility like this would ultimately increase adoption of the OmniFocus suite more than it would decrease sales of the desktop app.

On another note, a lot of people are suggesting it be called OmniFocus Lite. But I think that’s a bad term and allows for too much scope creep of the project. Calling it OmniFocus Lite would imply that it more or less should offer you all the same access to your tasks and projects that OmniFocus does, but with less features.

The whole foundation of this simple utility is that it needs to be act as an assistant. It would be meant for those who use OmniFocus on their iPad as the main version, as well as those who work a lot from a non-Mac computer.

Ian Hines on OmniFocus Aid

HiTask is a friendly and easy-to-use task management tool that anyone can start using right away. HiTask combines simplicity with powerful enterprise features such as task sharing, assignment, reporting, and time tracking. You can organize tasks by project, then share them with or assign them to co-workers, family and friends. Get reminders sent to your phone, and even synchronize your tasks and projects between your desktop browser and iPhone/iPad app. Shared tasks and projects seamlessly synchronize between team members.

[Sponsor] HiTask

Rising Early

Nicholas Alpi, a Ruby developer, shares his story of transitioning from night owl to early bird. He made the decision a year ago and has stuck with it. Now he’s so glad he did.

Also, Leo Babauta gets up at 4:30 each morning and has written about the benefits of rising early.

I love being up early, but I hate getting up early. I am not a morning person.

Some folks are natural morning people — their heads pop off the pillow with little help from an alarm. I am not one of those people. I am a night owl and have been for 30 years.

But just because I’m naturally prone to stay up late doesn’t mean nights are my most productive time of the day. It’s the opposite actually. Mornings are my most productive time. They are also my favorite time of the day.

In the morning my mind is more clear; there is not yet the accumulation of “mental clutter” from the activities and worries of the day; the whole day seems like a blank canvas. And because of the endless possibilities the morning brings with it, I feel liberated and comfortable to do some of my best work of the day. Also it’s the time of day when coffee tastes best.

There is something magical about the early morning. It’s a time when the world belongs to only those few who are awake. And we walk around like kings while others remain unseen in their beds.

Rising Early

Idea: OmniFocus Aid: A Capture Utility for the Mac

Ian Hines posted an idea to Twitter earlier this week:

Thought: it would be nice to be able to input content on the desktop, without having the full desktop client (OmniFocus). Just Inbox.

The premise of Ian’s idea is two fold. Assuming you already own the iPad and/or iPhone version:

  • Perhaps you can’t afford OmniFocus for the Mac.
  • Perhaps you don’t need OmniFocus for the Mac.

In either of these scenarios, it would be great to have a capture-only utility for the Mac that could sync action items to your iPad / iPhone versions.

OmniFocus Aid would be lightweight, easy to use, and built for the sole purpose of throwing tasks into your OmniFocus database when at your Mac. Or, put another way, it would be a utility that consisted of just the top-notch ways that OmniFocus for Mac currently lets you capture action items:

  • Quick Entry Pane (not unlike the one that already ships with OmniFocus)
  • It knows your projects and contexts
  • Supports clippings, Mail rules, and bookmarklets

It should install in the Menu Bar to be accessible for those who don’t swear by the keyboard, and it should sync in the background. It could sell for a few bucks to anyone who purchases the iPad or iPhone versions.

OmniFocus Aid would would make a fantastic counterpart to the iOS suite of OmniFocus apps. It’s a fantastic idea, and I would love to see it get some attention from the Omni Group.

Update: I’ve received some feedback on Twitter and in email that also having a Windows- or web-based version of OmniFocus Aid would be great for those who are not on their own Mac all day. I use my MacBook Pro for work and personal; in the office and at home. I forget that not everyone rolls that way.

Idea: OmniFocus Aid: A Capture Utility for the Mac

This week’s RSS feed was brought to you by Due, a fantastic timer and reminder app for the iPhone. You can set reminders for yourself for things which need to be done at a certain time, and you can save common timers. For instance, I use Due just about every day as the timer for my French Press. Also, for power naps.

The latest version of Due added over-the-air sync via Dropbox. If you’ve got the app installed on multiple devices it will sync your timers and reminders.

For further praise of Due, check out Dave Caolo’s three reasons why you should use it.


Pulizer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon reflects about blogging after week of doing it for the Atlantic:

Blogging, I think, is largely about seizing opportunities, about pouncing, about grabbing hold of hours, events, days and nights as they are happening, sizing them up and putting them into play with language, like a juggler catching and working into his flow whatever the audience has in its pockets.

So blogging means you have to be thoughtful, quick, articulate, correct, and relevant, all in real time.

Since I don’t write shawnblanc.net full time I simply don’t have the time to pull all of those elements together simultaneously. I’ve chosen to focus on being thoughtful, articulate, and correct — hoping that what I what is thoughtful enough to make itself relevant. I usually let other sites worry about the real-time pouncing.

(Via DF.)

“Blogging is Largely About Siezing Opportunities”

So at first this sounds like, well duh more people are watching Netflix on their Apple TV than on their iPad. I mean, it’s obvious that people will prefer to watch a movie on their big screen than on their iPad.

Just a few weeks ago I bought my first TV. Before that, whenever Anna and I would stream a Netflix movie it would be in the living room watching on the 15-inch MacBook Pro, or in the office on the 23-inch Cinema Display. Never did we stream a Netflix movie using the iPad. Now, streaming to via our Apple TV is superb.

But what’s so intriguing about these iPad and Apple TV comparison numbers is that the iPad is almost a year old and has sold 15 million units. While the new Apple TV is 4 months old and has sold just over 1 million units. There are one-fifteenth the amount of Apple TVs, they’ve been available for one-third the time, and they’ve already surpassed the iPad.

Jason Snell says it’s (at least in part) because Netflix on the iPad is less than great.

I’m curious how many Apple TVs have led to new Netflix subscriptions. The Netflix Shareholder Report (PDF) states 3.08 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2010. If every single Apple TV purchase also led to a new Netflix subscription there would still be an additional 2 million Netflix subscriptions coming from other channels. You can gather from the report that Netflix attributes a lot of their growth to the new streaming-only plan — one-third of all new accounts are the streaming only.

Apple TV Surpasses iPad in Netflix Streaming Popularity

My Sister is Getting Married

It’s not too often that I share personal tidbits here, but this one is worthy.

My one and only sister, my younger sister, is getting married this coming Sunday. My future brother-in-law, Mark, is a stand up guy; I couldn’t be happier.

The wedding is here in Kansas City, and family has already begun to arrive. Which means posting on shawnblanc.net will be slim this week because family always, always comes first.

So if and when you check this site and you don’t see anything new, say a quick prayer for Elise and Mark and their new life together.

My Sister is Getting Married