I have been following Shawn Blanc's "Sweet Mac Setup" series when it was still part of shawnblanc.net and pretty much from the first post. As for many I find it interesting, inspiring and sometimes intriguing how others have setup their Mac or iOS working environment.
The resulting popularity of the setup posts has led Shawn, together with a number of good and well-known friends, to create at dedicated site and expand the concept to include The Wirecutter-like Mac & iOS app recommendations and lots of helpful little tips.
As with many things that you follow and admire for a long time, you are humbled and honoured if all of a sudden you make an appearance. Thanks to Shawn Blanc and Stephen Hackett to have me and my Mac on The Sweet Setup.
I am really honoured that Nathan Lucy took the time to drawn up my OmniFocus GTD® Contexts from "A Fresh Take on Context" on a chart with OmniGraffle.
Check out his accompanying post and download the OmniGraffle source file.
The hype really started when the Pebble watch started what became a record breaking Kickstarter campaign. Every media outlet was pleased to have a new technology to hype and many investors grateful for a new market. While the Pebble watch should remain one of the most cited examples of "wearables", another category really excelled in consumer interest: Fitness trackers like Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband or fitbit. When fitbit had to recall its Force wristband device earlier this year due to risk of skin irritation some unit numbers emerged that were rather impressive.
Yet all these "wearables" are rather redundant in terms of the functionality and value they provide. When I was a kid the local DIY store sold "step counters" which costed less than 5€ (10 Deutsche Mark at the time, approx. 6 US$), where equipped with a very simple display similar to the ones used in digital watches in the 1980s and a mechanical step counter you could even hear doing its tick-counting-tock-job. They did one thing: Showing you the number of steps you done on a day. For 6 US$! In the 1980s!
They did not greet you with your name, had no ability to convert the steps in to calories and there was certainly no concept of synchronising any data, let alone wirelessly. Yet the core functionality has not changed in 30 years.
Modern fitness tracker trick you with fancy industrial design, impressive displays and all sorts of mathematical bluffs. Approximate calculations of the calories you burnt, an "*"analysis" of your sleeping pattern and motivational messages to get you to your daily goal.
All of this is just based on whether there is movement detected. The rest is some common knowledge, popular science and formulas paired with a Bluetooth chip selling for around a 100 US$. The price point, by the way, is well chosen by the manufactures: Between 100-150 US$ seems to be the amount people are okay to spend on their health (!) and to be trendy. It must be more of the trendy aspect — showing you care about your health because of a rubber band with a display around your wrist — since the step counter from your Dad and an Excel file would already provide the same health value of today's fitness trackers.
While I tried a fitbit One myself, I firmly believe that fitness tracker provide a false sense of security when it comes to health. They certainly help people that sit too much and do not move on a regular basis to get going. But if you want to really work on your fitness you need to seriously move and sweat. Most, if not all, of today's fitness trackers have no ability to distinguish between a stroll and a run. If you want to live healthy walking 10,000 steps a day is a good start, but by far not enough.
The biggest bluff to me is the sleep measurement that fitness trackers offer. Again, all they decect are movements. They will tell you how long you slept (once you told them by a press of a button that you are going to bed!) and how much you moved while you slept. You could have pretty much the same information (without the fancy dashboard graphs though) by using the timer on your regular watch or by just looking at the clock when you go to bed and when you wake up. Just measuring movements is not telling you a lot about the quality of sleep you get and if you are not getting enough sleep you may already know that because you go to bed at 1am and get up 6am.
A month or so before the alleged announcement of Apple's wearable the fitness tracker market is full of well designed devices that add little to no value compared to a step tracker from the DIY store, a simple watch and an Excel sheet. One reason why Apple did not rush into this market as they knew they would not be able to provide their customers with a compelling device that adds a lot of value.
While people welcome a "wrist extension" to their smartphone like Pepple or the Samsung Gear — if the battery capacity is appropriate — the holy grail of value-adding wearables are defiinitely sensors. I can only hope that Apple, after a number of high-calibre hires in the medical sensoring and measuring sector, is in a position to take the wearable market to the next level by capturing everything you can capture from the wrist of a person.
I am going to look curious at what Apple will reveal — maybe early September, maybe later. Until then the "wearable" I will continue to use is a 400 US$ Garmin fenix 2 Multisport GPS watch. It does not measure steps or my sleeping habits, but it measures
- How far, fast and high I run, cycle or hike
- How far, fast and efficient I swim (indoor pool as well as open water)
- My heart rate during any exercise (with HR chest monitor)
- All supported by high-sensitivity GPS positioning, 3-axis compass with altimeter and barometer
Even though this watch has a high price tag the cost-value-equation comparing to a trendy fitness tracker is clearly in favour of devices like the fenix 2. Of course the fenix 2 or similar sport/GPS watches from Garmin or other manufactures synchronise with your smartphone and online platforms via Bluetooth and some also provide some basic smartphone wrist extension functionalities. But that is not really the point. These watches create true value by using more advanced sensors (GPS, heart rate, cadence) that really inform you about your fitness and health status.
My German-speaking readers might also be interested in listening to episode #UC001 of Der Übercast where Andreas Zeitler, Patrick Welker and I discuss wearables in depth.
Nick Wynja and his blog Hack/Mack are great sources for thought-provoking writing. In his latest piece called "Paradox and Perspective" Nick shares his struggle of abandoning his productivity habits to live a richer life centred around people.
My perspective was self-serving and the basic way I saw things needed to change. Productivity was only ever about myself and though I’ve been seeking something more significant, clinging on to old “attitudes and behaviors” held me to minor changes in how I can impact others.
I can relate to many aspects of what Nick writes about, also in his original post on the subject.
Luckily I managed to leverage the modest level of mastery I achieved in productivity to not take on more of the same, but to make room for other things, people and myself. So Nick is right when he writes that "[t]he behaviors or attitudes themselves weren’t to blame" but the decision where you focus the time and energy you gain from being more efficient.
At some stage of my search for more or better productivity I stopped optimising every aspect of my workflow, went beyond all the books and "hacks" to arrive at a system that works for me. Some may perceive my present approach and setup as fairly lax, but the levels of control and most importantly perspective, as Nick calls it, that I gained over the years thought me to no longer obsesses about how I do what I do but about what I do.
Personal productivity is not about Six Simga and from a certain point onwards the incremental returns from further optimisation and "hacking" are nowhere justifying the time you put in for them.
Zach Holmquist has a challenge memorising TextExpander abbreviations like me and many other users of this great tool. TextExpander is a real time saver and the more snippets you have the more time it saves. Often used abbreviations become muscle memory, but others are harder to remember. Was it ;sdate or ,sdate or .sdate? Or did you just double the leading character as in eemail?
To be honest I have changed my snippet naming convention too often and still carry a lot of "legacy" with me. If I cannot remember the abbreviations I use TextExpanders search function which I mapped to a global keyboard shortcut (^⌥⌘T). But that obviously defeats the original idea of TextExpander a little.
Zach scratched his on itch and came up with something that should help a lot of people with memorising these abbreviations.
The idea is that if I need snippets about me, such as phone, email or address, then I know those snippets start with “me”.
I need my email? me.email
My full address? me.home
My phone number? me.mobile
The concept is very expandable
char: char.apple ( ), char.cmd ( ⌘ ), char.sarcasm ( § ), char.hattip ( ↬ ), char.the ( Ћ ), char.shift ( ⇧ ), char.del ( ⌫ ), char.skull ( ☠ )
But in some examples I am not sure how much you are trading off
That said, there is a lot of logic to Zach's approach and it resonates very well with me. It certainly reminds me of classes in modern programming languages and I will have a deeper look in how I can adapt it for my purposes when I eventually sweep my snippet library from all my legacy abbreviations.
Talking about TextExpander: You should also check out Mac Power User episode 203 where David Sparks and Katie Floyd share a lot of tips around Smile's helpful little tool. It also appears that David's snippet naming convention is not free of exceptions.