Great piece by Steven Aquino for The Sweet Setup:

There is a misconception about accessibility on iOS, which is that the accessibility options are only for users who have special needs. But that’s the furthest thing from the truth. At its core, accessibility is about access — hence, iOS’s accessibility options are tools with which users, regardless of physical or cognitive ability, are better able to access their devices. This concept is not one that’s limited to only disabled users. By looking at accessibility in a more holistic context, one can easily see how accessibility software can prove beneficial to everyone, not just the assumed demographic.

Accessibility Features on iOS

Regarding the Olympus 25/1.8 Lens and the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4

There are now two nifty fifty lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system: the infamous Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and the new Olympus 25mm f/1.8.

Some of the initial comparison reviews of the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens are in and they’re not what I expected them to be. It seems the choice between either the Panasonic or the Olympus lens isn’t an obvious one.

The Panasonic 25/1.4 is my favorite lens for M43. And it’s not just me — this lens has long been heralded as one of the finest pieces of M43 glass you can get.

However, as you may recall, when I bought my E-PL5 in the fall of 2012, I went with the 20/1.7 pancake lens as my daily shooter. For me, the size was a very important factor and at the time I didn’t want to have both the 20mm pancake lens and the 25mm.

But, after renting the 25/1.4 for the second time this past Christmas, I decided to just buy the thing (along with the new E-M10).

What I like about the 25/1.4 is that it has a much faster auto-focus than my 20/1.7 pancake lens1 and produces a more shallow depth of field with creamier bokeh. Also, the 25/1.4 has a distinct character to it — not only is it a handsome and well-built lens, it takes great shots that have a contrast and look to them which I think is great.

Then, Olympus came out with their own 25mm lens: the 25/1.8. Ugh.2 The Olympus lens comes in black, it is $130 cheaper than the Panasonic 25/1.4 lens ($399 and $529 respectively), and it’s a bit smaller. Anyway, I decided to stick with my Panasonic lens because it is about 2/3 of a stop faster (f/1.4 vs f/1.8).

A few comparison reviews have now started rolling in, and it looks like the Olympus lens is almost as great as the Panasonic.

If you check out Robin Wong’s side-by-side comparison shots, the difference between the two lenses is not as distinct as I would have expected. The images from the Olympus lens look great and have a character all their own, even when set side-by-side with the Panasonic lens.

Though I will say that I prefer the images from the Panasonic. Also I think the Panasonic is a better looking lens on the camera itself — as awesome as the Olympus lenses are, they are also, unfortunately, kinda ugly.

But that’s not the whole story. The Olympus lens has better corner-to-corner sharpness and its auto focus speed is even faster and quieter to that of the Panasonic.

And so the big question is this: is the extra cost and extra size of the Panasonic lens worth it? Well, Steve Huff says no:

The Panasonic is slightly sharper here but not by much at all. To me, the benefits of the Olympus ($129 less, smaller, faster AF, silent focus, more neutral color) beat out that small miniscule [sic] sharpness difference.

A year and a half ago, when I originally decided to go with the Micro Four Thirds system, my decision was predominantly influenced by the lens selection. Though mirrorless cameras have all come a long way since then, the M43 system continues to have one of the more impressive and affordable lineups of awesome lenses and compact bodes.

While I won’t be trading in my Panasonic lens for the new Olympus, for those who’ve been holding out on the former and waiting for the latter, it looks like it was worth the wait.

  1. The 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens does have notoriously slow auto focus. I’ve talked with people who have experience with nearly every single M43 lens, and the 20/1.7 has the slowest AF of them all.
  2. The worst thing about being into photography is also the best thing: there are so many darn choices for amazing gear!
Regarding the Olympus 25/1.8 Lens and the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4

Designing emails that look beautiful, render perfectly and drive strong response is increasingly difficult. That’s why Campaign Monitor compiled the top 100 emails of 2013 into a free eBook, alongside tips on design and content. The Top 100 Email Marketing Campaigns eBook features brands like Fitbit, SmugMug, Panic and includes:

  • High performing newsletters with open rates of more than 50%.

  • Examples of great layouts & responsive designs.

  • Emails that go against best practices and still drive top results.

  • Campaigns that saw open rates improve by 20% after A/B testing, and more.

Check out the free eBook at

Campaign Monitor makes software that lets you create and send beautiful emails. Today more than 800,000 designers, agencies, and amazing companies across the globe rely on Campaign Monitor to manage their email marketing.

* * *

My thanks to Campaign Monitor for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

Sponsor: Campaign Monitor

The 2014 Membership Drive and Giveaway

Yes! Welcome to the Fourth Annual Membership Drive and Giveaway. Everyone loves winning free stuff and I love giving it away.

Yesterday I kicked off this year’s membership drive with a heartfelt note. If you haven’t yet read it, please take a minute to do so. The annual membership drive kickoff note is one of the most difficult things I write all year. It’s important to me that I get the words just right to communicate just how grateful I am for the support of all the subscribing members.

Many of you have read yesterday’s article already, and to all of you who have signed up for a new membership in the past 24 hours: thank you! But it’s not just about encouraging new members to sign up. It’s also about reminding current members just how valuable their ongoing support really is. And so, to all the current members who continue to keep their membership active: thank you. And, of course, to those about to join: thank you, too.

I could not be writing here full-time without the generous support of the members. It means the world to me that readers are directly supporting the work I do here.

Ideally, you are signing up to become a member because the value and enjoyment you get from is worth it to you, and the members-only perks are a nice bonus of course. But my job is to try and sweeten the deal as much as possible. And so, I’ve put together some things to be won if you sign up to become a member.

For those of you who have not yet signed up to be a member, there is, as they say, no time like the present.

Seven Boxes of Awesomeness

This year I’m giving away something different. Over the last several months I have personally collected a stash of awesome items, and put them together to make seven unique gift boxes, each with its own theme.

The Seven Boxes of Awesomeness are:

1. Coffee Box A

An Awesome Box

A pair of custom coffee mugs, hand thrown and fired in Denver, Colorado by my friend Matt Jorgensen and which I commissioned specifically for this giveaway; a Hario V60 pour over coffee dripper with filters; and a Kyle Steed print.

2. Coffee Box B

An Awesome Box

A pair of custom handleless coffee mugs, hand thrown and fired in Denver, Colorado by my friend Matt Jorgensen and which I commissioned specifically for this giveaway; an AeroPress coffee maker; and a Kyle Steed print.

3. The Productivity Box

An Awesome Box

A Field Notes Pitch Black pack; one Best Made Co. Famous Red Notebook; a Behance Action Runner in blue; three Signo DX 0.38mm fine-tip gel ink pens (my personal favorite pen); and an Origami Workstation for iPad.

4. The Games Box

An Awesome Box

Includes the Dominion base game and the Puerto Rico board game. Both are favorites here at the Blanc house.

5 & 6: The Dapper boxes

An Awesome Box

A custom silk pocket square courtesy of Need; a silver tie stay, also courtesy of Need; a hardcover copy of the Eighteenth Edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

7. The Pixel Pusher Box

An Awesome Box

A signed copy of Mike Rhode’s Sketchnote Handbook; a 10-pack of Triplus Fineliner marker pens; a ruled Moleskine notebook; and a United Pixelworkers hat and standard issue patch.

How to Win

  • Anyone who signs up for a membership by midnight CST on Sunday, March 2 will automatically be in the runnings to win something.

  • Current members are, as always, automatically entered to win as well. In short, if you’re an active member as of Sunday night, March 2, then you’re entered to win.

  • You do not have to live in the United States to win.

  • The drawing will be the first week in March. Winners will be contacted by via the email associated with their membership (which is your PayPal email address if you’re a longstanding member still on the PayPal system).

  • If there is a certain box in particular that you’d like to win over another, please fill out this form. I will check it once the winners are drawn and try and assign each winner their first-choice if possible. You do not have to fill out the form to win, only to request a particular prize.

If you haven’t yet signed up to become a member, now would be a good time.

Update on March 3, 2014: The membership drive has come to an end. Thanks so much to all who signed up over the past two weeks, and to all the longstanding members who have supported this site for the past several years. For those who are not signed up as members, you can, of course, sign up at any time. And when you do you get instant access to the members-only podcast, Shawn Today, as well as access to the reruns page which features every show ever recorded (currently 485 episodes and counting).

The 2014 Membership Drive and Giveaway

Reader Supported for Three Years (And Counting…)

Sitting in front of my laptop’s camera, I felt so out of place and a little bit out of my mind.

That was February 2011, when I first announced that I would be quitting my day job to begin writing as my full-time gig. I knew I couldn’t keep writing full-time without some monthly support from a subscribing membership base.

And so I dressed up in my only suit, put on a tie, and recorded a video using the iSight camera on my old, aluminum 15-inch MacBook Pro. I didn’t know what to say then, and, three years in to things, I still don’t know what to say.

I spent several days making that video, trying to get the wording just right. How do you ask people to pay you to write about software, technology, and creativity and stuff?

Well, like this: You just ask. Put your hat out there and leave yourself to the — cough — generosity of your readers. And so here we are. This will be the fourth time I step out from behind the keyboard and hold my hat out and ask for your support.

It boils down to this: I’m writing and publishing the websites I want to read; I am giving all I have to do the best creative work that I can; and I couldn’t do this as my full-time gig without the support of this site’s subscribing members.

It has been an honor and a privilege to write for you, dear reader, these past three years. Though I don’t know what the next three years hold for this website, I hope — and believe — that my best creative work is still before me.

I think there are two elements which form the foundation of a successful creative business: creative freedom and financial stability. Therefore, I define creative success as having the opportunity to do work we’re proud of and the resources to keep doing that work.

In that vein, I consider a success. There isn’t a specific website, blog post, ebook, or podcast episode, that I would point to as being “it”. But that’s the point. I hope that over the past three years, I have contributed a little bit to the ever expanding and ever improving creative space we’re a part of.

I would be glad if I had done no more than to have helped carry on and facilitate our conversations and motivations for doing awesome work, making fantastic things, and feeling empowered to take risks.

For all of you who have been generous with your time over these years, coming here to spend a little bit of time reading, I thank you. And especially to those who have been generous with their money and have signed up for a membership. Your support of this site means the world to me and it serves as an indescribable encouragement that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

Now, that said, let’s talk briefly about this year’s Membership Drive.

A preview of this year’s membership drive and giveaway

This is the fun part… as usual, I’ll be doing a membership drive and giveaway.

Now, I’ll be posting more details about the giveaway tomorrow, but for now let’s just say that it’s very different than anything I’ve done here before.

Instead of hundreds of smaller prizes, I have instead put together just a handful of substantial prizes: Seven Boxes of Awesomeness, put together by myself. Each box has a select few items related to a few specific themes.

A note to current members

All current members are automatically entered to win, of course. The giveaway is not exclusive to new members only.

Secondly, and somewhat unrelated, last year I moved the membership software off of a PayPal-based system and onto a new, Stripe-based system. The new Stripe-based membership is significantly better in many ways. For those of you with memberships still being billed through PayPal, I encourage you to migrate over to the new Stripe system. You can find out all about the why and how right here.

Act now! How to become a member

If the value you get from this website is worth $4/month to you, then I hope you’ll consider signing up to become a member. As a member you’ll get access to my daily podcast, Shawn Today, and you’ll be directly contributing to the work I do here on a daily basis.

Moreover, signing up for a membership now means you’ll be entered to win one of the Seven Boxes of Awesomeness.

Sign up here. Then, tell your friends to sign up, tell your mom to sign up, and give yourself a very high five.

Reader Supported for Three Years (And Counting…)

On this week’s episode of my podcast, The Weekly Briefly, I’ll be joined by my long-time pal, Patrick Rhone, to talk about the state of writing online today, publishing our stuff, trying to make a buck, doing better work, etc. If you’re a writer at all — professional, hobbyist, aspiring, whatever; “status” here does not matter — please take a minute to answer a couple of the survey questions. And if you have a question for Patrick and I to answer on the show, then submit it and we’ll answer some of them.

Weekly Briefly Survey: On Writing

This is a pretty massive update to what I consider one of the most impressive apps on the iPad. I have used Diet Coda many, many times to make edits and updates to my sites from my iPad.

Of the highlightable updates in Diet Coda, I think the biggest is that you can now locally store files related to a site and sync / backup those site files using Dropbox. But, this is not the same thing as using Diet Coda as a Dropbox syncing writing app — you can’t browse your Dropbox folders an open any ole Markdown file in Diet Coda like you would with Byword or Editorial.

There are also some new themes, font options, and additional syntax highlighting as well. However, I was a bit surprised to see that this update didn’t involve the iOS 7-ification of Diet Coda. The app still uses iOS 6-style keyboard and UI elements, but that sure won’t stop me from continuing to use this fantastic app.

Diet Coda 1.5

This week we have one of the most detailed and interesting sweet setup interviews to date:

I’m Charlie Smith. I’m a record producer, instrumentalist, composer, and arranger. I work out of Studio Nels in Seattle. My partner, Robb Davidson, designed and built this place from the ground up. It’s a special place. We both feel lucky to be able to make records at our own studio.

We do all sorts of things at Nels. We make records with great artists, ranging from synth-pop to jazz to hip hop and more. We also do advertising work and a lot of radio production work with our other partner, Bart, at Bart Radio.

The Sweet Setup of Studio Nels

Finally, a calendar app for iOS that is a real tool, not a toy.

Appoint 2.3 is primarily aimed at people with busy schedules and little time. The app’s clever auto-completion engine prefills information based on past events. That means less typing in favor of a few, quick swipes. Awesome.

  • Enter time naturally (“9-12am”, “1:30pm”), even in international locales

  • Discover scheduling conflicts and resolve them in a tap

  • Drag & drop to reschedule or duplicate events

  • Powerful search and filter functions in any field, and any view

  • Works with iCloud, Google, Exchange, or any service supported by iOS

Appoint sports professionally designed color palettes that fit in beautifully with iOS 7 — or you can create custom themes yourself. Version 2.3 just released.

* * *

My thanks to Appoint for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

Sponsor: Appoint: the calendar that works for you