Wiser Web Wednesday – A nod to 100

Is it wrong to celebrate publishing my 100th post with a WWW link post? Hopefully not, given that is exactly what I have done. My son suggested I do something special for this milestone, however in the true style of not really knowing what that “something special” would be – I have decided to simply go with what was coming up next anyway.

Have I anything special to say about reaching 100 posts? Not really, perhaps with the exception of feeling some sense of accomplishment at having stuck it out and made it this far. Beyond that, a post written not so long ago reflects on my progress to date and thoughts on possible future plans.

Otherwise, I will leave it to Matt Gemmell, (one of my favourite writers on the internet), to describe one of the many truths about the process of sending your work out there:

The downside is the vulnerability and culpability, which is what makes people run for the anonymity of pseudonyms, online nicknames, or no names at all. I understand that; truly. I’m a little bit afraid every time I publish an article, and I vividly remember when I was a big bit afraid.

Read the entirety of his post (linked below) on taking credit (and assuming accountability) for the good, the bad, and… well, probably sometimes the ugly.

On with list for this week:

Shawn Blanc
As always an eloquent post from Shawn on the fairly significant update to Flickr for iPhone. I’d give you my own thoughts were it not for the fact that over the past few days I have failed to get past the login screen, changing passwords, Yahoo logins and generally encountering all manner of troubles. I am sure I will resolve these issues however repeatedly have come to the point of “I’ll just do it later”.

In spite of such challenges, from what I can see, given the 1TB storage that has been available on Flickr for some time now, it has the potential to be a very useful auto-uploading off-site photo back up:
Flickr 3.0

CJ Chilvers
Speaking of photos, perhaps given the ongoing boom-bust of many a photo management service, we should simply go back to a nice photo album for displaying those precious memories:
The Best Photo Management Tool

Reckoner
Ask not why tech blog Reckoner published a review of a slimline wallet; ask why they do not do more – James Croft on solving the age-old problem of carrying just a few too many cards. Jettison the ballast!:
Review: Capsule Wallet – The Minimalist

The Brooks Review
Although I derive enjoyment from using pen and paper, were I after a fairly minimalist (and paperless) workflow for my desk – something along the lines of this would be it:
Improving My Workflow: Desk

David Smith
If you are at all interested in how the App Store could be made a more enjoyable and functionally relevant place to visit, there are some compelling ideas in this list of fourteen recommendations:
Towards a Better App Store

The Newsprint
A view on one of my favourite writing apps, with its minimal interface, Markdown support and ability to publish directly to WordPress:
On My Screen: Byword for iPad

Matt Gemmell
A short, highly recommended read from a great writer:
Taking Credit

Wiser Web Wednesday

This week’s links of note I’ve collected from around the web.

Informal Scribble
What’s not to love about a great blood orange fountain pen ink with an equally good drying time:
Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki

The Newsprint
Do you use the little red badge icon in the Drafts App? It appears there may be a few of us around who track unprocessed notes this way:
On My Screen: Drafts for iPhone

Quartz
Further to my recent post which touched on coffee pods, Nespresso have come to an agreement with French anti-trust authorities to honour the guarantee on its coffee machines for consumers using non-Nespresso branded capsules:
Someone is finally forcing Nespresso to open source it’s coffee pods

CRS Coffeelands Blog
As a coffee consumer, I constantly hear about traceability and farm/roaster relationships. Just what specific grower incentives produce the most reliable results for both the farmer and the consumer? US-based Counter Culture coffee propose a model with what appears to have considerable merit:
Counter Culture’s new approach to quality incentives

Macstories
Federico Viticci outlines the new features in the update of Unread, my favourite RSS Reader for iPhone. The best new feature for me? Mark as read on scrolling – if I’ve scrolled past I’ve seen it. Consider it read unless I say otherwise:
Unread 1.2 Adds Image Viewer, New Gestures and More

I hope you find something of interest in the above.

My 2013 in a flash

Oh yes, another [Insert best / worst or other appropriate adjective] of 2013 list for your reading pleasure.

If the first line of this post mocks a list of this nature then why create another of my own? A valid question, however my irreverent tone is only due to the sheer number of these lists currently circulating my Twitter timeline (many of which I have duly re-tweeted), RSS Feed and everything in between – the concept is one I have never really had an issue with. If anything, I find these types of lists to provide a reasonable summary of the year gone by, and often serve as a reminder to go back and check out those [again, insert appropriate item here] that were lost in everything else that occurred throughout the year.

The original draft of this post was in fact a very structured list format. In the end things became a little too regimented and lengthy. Hence, the end result is a much briefer, and hopefully less boring version of few things I enjoyed throughout the year. There is also a high likelihood I have left a few things out, though as I sit here and write, below are a few things that spring to mind from the past 12 months. All were not necessarily new in 2013 but are simply what I personally may have discovered in the past year, or used a lot more of over the same period.

A year of upgrades

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

A fairly major upgrade for the family in the latter half of the year was the purchase of a Mac Mini (Late 2012 Model; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB RAM; 500 GB Hard Drive) as our home computer. I have particularly enjoyed the level of integration achievable with my iOS devices since firing up the Mac.

When Apple released the Retina display equipped iPad mini a little earlier than expected in November with somewhat limited supply, I managed to pick up my desired model (WiFi; 32GB; Space Gray) through the Apple on-line store.

Speaking of upgrades, I was quite impressed with the iOS 7 upgrade in September. OS X Mavericks was also released in October, though in itself had minimal impact for me personally, given I was learning OS X for the first time anyway.

What would a tech roundup be without a couple of accessories for the little space gray pocket rocket…

Hit the link and check out the fantastic piece of design and function that is the Twelve South Hi-Rise for iPad mini / iPhone 5s, which looks great and performs perfectly on my desk.

A surprising addition here comes courtesy of Aldi, with what is probably best described as a shameless rip-off of the Jawbone design, this Bauhn rechargeable bluetooth speaker (sorry, couldn’t find a link) is right on the money. For the princely sum of $29.99, this speaker is exactly what I have been searching for, without having to pay in excess of $80.00 plus for the established “brand” models. It pairs like a champion and sounds great.

I have also enjoyed writing much of this post with my new Logitech Ultrathin keyboard mini. Although some touch typists may find the keyboard a little cramped, I find my decidedly unrefined four finger typing well suited to this device.

Apps

Well, where to start. There are numerous best of and must have lists of apps floating around. Many of which I have saved in my Pocket queue for later reading.

Firstly, for what it aims to do and ultimately does, 1Password is without peer on both iOS and OS X. If you do not use this app to create and store robust passwords, go and buy it now.

The integration of Fantastical and Siri on iOS continues to amaze me. The fact that I can simply tell Siri “I have a meeting with X at 9:30 on Friday at the Y” and have the exact entry appear in my calendar is brilliant. As I have previously mentioned , I continue to write 90% of my posts in Editorial for iPad, simply because I find the workflows immensely useful and the added features make this an outstanding app, worthy of its inclusion in the App Store’s Best of 2013.

Many of my favourite apps such as Omnifocus 2 for iPhone and Tweetbot 3 for iPhone received ground up re-designs for iOS 7, and I cannot praise the developers highly enough for what they have achieved here.

Many apps have also become integral to various workflows I have now set up, which are by no means complicated, but certainly work well for what I need. I have begun to utilise Drafts to create lists which I then send to an Inbox list in the native Reminders app, which are then automatically pulled into Omnifocus (with a task automatically created from each line in the original Drafts list). Again, the use of URL Scheme automation in iOS for examples such as this is pretty amazing.

I have also used Pinboard as a bookmark repository on an ever-increasing basis. Articles I save in Pocket to read later are, upon archiving, automatically sent to Pinboard with tags preserved by an IFTTT recipe.

Finally, I have really enjoyed using beautiful interface of Flipboard to read articles of interest. It is also a great way to scroll through Instagram or Twitter, and of course I have created a couple of my own magazines with articles I intend to refer back to as well.

Out and About

Another great year for coffee in Brisbane.

Strauss
Strauss – Elizabeth St Brisbane CBD

The opening of Strauss in Elizabeth Street brought a new class of establishment serving great food and specialty coffee in this fine city. I highly recommend a visit in 2014 if you have not done so already. Another venue just over the bridge at South Brisbane is also worth your time and taste buds – Merriweather Cafe.

The common denominator of the above cafés being the coffee served originates from Cup Coffee Roasters, which began in West End and has expanded to a larger roastery at Woolloongabba. It was here I recently attended a Brew Class, on filter based brewing methods which was a fantastic experience and highlighted how much I don’t know about such things.

For great Italian espresso, Bar Linea continues to be my mid morning saviour for a quick 10 minutes of solitude and a brain recharge.

My home coffee roasting (as regular readers will note) continues unabated, and I have been pleased with my overall set-up, which provides a fairly efficient way to go from green to roasted bean. I am certainly beginning to refine my tastes and roast profiles and look forward to seeing what comes through Ministry Grounds in the new year.

Next Year

Although there will be no resolutions listed here, I do have some ideas about what I would like to make some progress on next year.

I plan on improving my home roasting skills and continuing to provide family and friends with some of the results – possibly recovering some costs along the way. I’d also like to visit a lot more of Brisbane’s great coffee hotspots, particularly those in the outer suburbs. I do not plan on reviewing these establishments, however will happily recommend visiting those that are of a high standard.

In the technology realm, I will continue to learn as much as I can to improve my iOS and Mac workflows, and in particular am keen to improve the organisation of my photo library. Probably the biggest achievement of 2013 was commencing this blog in May, and that is another area I plan to work further on. My initial aim was to sign up to WordPress, pick a theme and few widgets and focus on content, with the look of the site to be attended to later. Apart from registering a domain name, that is pretty much how things went, so it is probably time to put in a little more effort on the design front.

Most importantly, in 2014 I get to spend another year with my amazing wife and kids, of whom I am immensely proud of each and every day, and whatever I have (or think I have) achieved would not be possible without them.

CoffeeNotes App

Rarely a day goes by these days without numerous crowd funding projects commencing campaigns to achieve their targets. Most of them have not really been my thing, and I have yet to pledge backing to any projects as of writing this post.

Today I have stumbled upon an app that has been in development for the past year or so which is seeking funding on Kickstarter. Development has progressed over this time on the Android version of CoffeeNotes, with a funding target of $20,000 required by August 8, with $570.00 so far pledged. Somewhat tantalisingly, as an iPhone user, the iOS version will be developed after the Android version, when the somewhat ambitious stretch goal of $80000 is reached. I am not sure what happens if the Android funding goal is reached and the iOS not, however perhaps this may change once the app is in (Android) use.

Untitled

According to the developer:

CoffeeNotes performs coffee analysis on a smartphone so you can brew that perfect cup of coffee and share your recipes with the world.
Never before has it been possible to perform coffee grind analysis on a mobile device equipped with a camera.

Part of the sharing features of the app will involve an open API to allow cloud based data collection and analysis for more accurate brew modelling. The unique feature involves analysis of your grind through a photo taken by the smartphone camera. This is best explained in the summary video on the CoffeeNotes site.

On the balance of things, this is something I will support once I decide on which level to pledge. Should you back this too? That is a question only you can answer, however it is worth a look (with a nice summary video) if you are enthusiastic about your coffee.

Byword

Untitled

There’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing a major update come through for one of your favourite apps, recently the case with Byword. As stated by the developer, Byword is a simple and efficient text editor for the Mac, iPhone and iPad, allowing you to write, sync documents (Dropbox, iCloud), and now directly publish – one of the main changes in version 2.0. What follows below has a focus on iOS, which is where I exclusively use this app.

Untitled

Publish
Via a once only in-app purchase of $5.49 (AUD) which enables the feature on both iPhone and iPad versions, Byword now has an option to publish your words directly to blogging platforms Tumblr, Blogger, Scriptogram, and of course WordPress, which is exactly how this article has been posted. This feature also enables integration directly with the notebooks in your Evernote account. I particularly like this feature as it allows me to easily archive any posts (or drafts that may not have made the cut and will be subsequently reviewed) for later reference. More about this in a future post when I will outline my writing and publishing workflow.

Essentially, posting an article to WordPress is now as simple as opening Byword, drafting the post, adding any required images or links, and choosing publish in settings. You will be asked which linked service you would like to publish to, and for WordPress, be given options for status, tags and categories which you may have set up on your site. The only downside is that the integration does not automatically populate categories or tags, you’ll need to remember what you have set up.

Once done, I can then sit back and marvel at the eloquent prose I have unleashed into the world. Or, as reality would have it, see the dozen or so typographical and grammatical errors I had somehow missed in multiple proof reads, which must then be edited and reposted. Those not requiring post-publish editing have generally been proofread by the dept4 editorial team (wife and children).

Byword Screenshots

Byword Screenshots

Byword Screenshots

Syncing
In what can only be described as a master stroke of irony, this paragraph had been written extolling the virtues of Byword’s syncing abilities, however a few seconds after the following screenshots were taken, choosing to accept the remote (iPhone) copy of this draft resulted in an unexpected shut down of Byword, leaving me with the local copy, containing none of my additions or edits made on this mornings bus commute. Though I cannot completely rule out user error, no incorrect tap should have caused a crash. Hopefully this was just an isolated event occurring on initial use of this feature, and I have subsequently added further text on my iPhone, iPad and iPhone again which have synced perfectly through Dropbox. I have also previously experienced robust syncing through iCloud.

As I have noted above, and is seen in the screenshots below, a new syncing feature is the ability to preview version conflicts, allowing an informed decision about which to keep – a nice addition, as I will often start a post on my iPad, edit further on my iPhone, finalising the article when back on the iPad.

Byword Screenshots

Byword Screenshots

Byword Screenshots

Why Byword?

Quite simply, I enjoy writing in Byword as it provides enough additional features (including an extra row on the keyboard with commonly used Markdown keys, cursor placement, and buttons to insert images and links) to reduce the friction of writing, yet avoids distractions to getting words on the page. Support for writing in Markdown is essential in getting posts up on my site, and I am certainly looking forward to utilising the publish to WordPress feature rather than copying and pasting the HTML to WordPress which was my standard process. Byword is available now in the App Store

Check out a great review (as usual) of this update by Federico Viticci at Macstories, and on a side note, I cannot wait for this.