Omnifocus 2 Release Day and Revisiting Some Other GTD Apps

If the internet is to be believed, Omnifocus 2 is being released today. In the course of beta-testing OF2 over the past month or two, I thought a lot about how I use the app and how I approach my work in general.

I've found that the more I use GTD, the more my perspective on it changes, and with that comes new perspectives on how to use the different tools available. After using Omnifocus across OSX and iOS for well over a year, and since switching to OF2 would essentially be switching apps, I decided to take the opportunity to make sure I was be switching to the right app.

Which is all a great way to post-rationalize the wreckless and wasteful fiddling I allowed myself to descend into.

My first stop was Things. Things was the first task management app that stuck for me. And while it still feels great from a simplicity standpoint, it's feeling dated. The product hasn't noticably changed in over a year. The iOS apps haven't been updated for iOS 7, and they look so old that they almost feel ironic. But it was after a visit to their forums that I knew for sure I couldn't go back. There still simmers a great discontent over the glacial pace of Cultured Code's development cycle. That was part of the reason I abandoned ship in the first place, and I didn't want to rejoin that particular torch and pitchfork mob. I do miss their sync solution, though. It's so fast.

I also fired up my old Nozbe account to see how it feels nowadays. Michael Hyatt still uses and evangelizes Nozbe, so it must be pretty good. The biggest problem with it is that the desktop client is still lacking in keyboard shortcuts. A forgivable shortcoming for a free or inexpensive app, but it's a problem that is difficult to overlook with Nozbe's fairly pricy subscription model. A productivity tool that is slow to use because it requires using a mouse seems like an oxymoronic characature of Soviet technology. "In Soviet Russia, management tasks YOU!"

And to be honest, there's only so much brown that I can look at in a day.

I checked out Todoist after seeing that Mike Vardy has started using it. It seems fine, I guess. They advertise a lot of basic functionality, like adding notes to tasks, as "premium upgrades." The handicapped free version makes it hard to get a sense of what it's actually like to use on a daily basis. And while they offer a money back guarantee on upgrading, I didn't feel like shelling out the dough only to have to jump through the hoops a day later to get a refund if I didn't like it. Ultimately, it seems like it's the most Omnifocus-like system for people who need Android or PC compatibility. I'll take another look if I end up on Android at some point.

And then there was TaskPaper.

TaskPaper I love.

Plain text, easy to input projects and tasks, no fields to tab around in or scrolling date pickers to mess with, super simple to move things around and reorganize, multiple tags and contexts on projects and tasks, accessability from any number of apps that handle txt files.

It almost got me.

I've been switching back and forth from the Omnifocus 2 Beta and TaskPaper over the past month or two. I nearly went with TaskPaper full time, pulling Omnifocus off of my dock. But what I realized is that my system requires a longer view. I need to be able to punt things into the future without further complicating my calendar or having to look at them constantly. I need some tasks to be repeating without necessitating an Applescript hack. I need a solid sync solution that won't create file conflicts like I experienced a time or two with TP. And the biggest thing, the feature that drew me to Omnifocus in the first place, is the ability to forward emails with attachments into my system. I work in an email intensive environment, and having to check for tasks in more than one app was making me anxious.

So I've committed to Omnifocus 2. I miss the flexibility in TaskPaper to apply multiple tags to tasks and the ease of slicing and dicing lists with the search query system, but getting it to work well requires an awful lot of hacks across Applescript, Text-Expander, Keyboard-Maestro and Editorial. Omnifocus might be slower by its very nature, but it just works.

I won't write a full review of Omnifocus 2 here. Sites like Macsparky and Shawn Blanc will do a much better job of that. But I really do enjoy using it.

I'm still trying to figure out how to work the new forecast view into my day-to-day, but the app itself seems like it's easier to navigate and manipulate. There's been a lot of talk about the wasted verticle space caused by having two lines per task. Ken Case has mentioned in the forums that they're looking into rolling out the option of a single line view after the initial launch, but I'm not bothered by it. Oh, and having the inspector tied into the main window makes things much easier to navigate from a keyboard perspective.

I only wish they'd lose the purple. The purple is terrible. Though it's not nearly the dealbreaker that Nozbe's brown is.

The TV Guys Won - Agencies are Still Making Videos

Does it seem twisted, or sadist, or disappointing to anyone else that Burger King has taken what is arguably some of the best interactive creative that's been ever been done for a brand — Subserviant Chicken — and turned it into a video?

Rick Webb, co-founder of The Barbarian Group, sure does:

The downside isn’t the creative, it’s the context. Seeing the same creative on the Web ten years later? If you had asked me back then what a digital campaign would look like now, I would have expected holograms and VR or something. Ten years ago the chicken was a software app. Now it’s a youtube video and some share buttons. This really drives home to me how boring and bloated digital production has gotten. A million kids are making video games, robots, lasers, drones and billion dollar startups. Agencies are still making videos. Except now they’re longer. Also, the rental fee on the cast trailer in the background alone is more than our entire budget. The TV guys won.

Via Digiday

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True?

As a married person with kids, I often find myself in a position of trying to change someone's mind about something that they couldn't be any more wrong about. Taste in music, television shows, whether or not bowties should exist outside of the 19th century in any context other than the necks of Ph.D.s ... you get the idea. It's my cross to bear, as they say.

Maria Konnikova has written a piece at The New Yorker about the research of several academics who have set out to understand what it takes to change people's minds when they are empirically wrong about something.

What they're finding is that, surprise, surprise, facts and evidence are of little use in changing people's minds. Evidence to the contrary can even help to strengthen incorrect opinions:

They had followed a group of almost two thousand parents, all of whom had at least one child under the age of seventeen, to test a simple relationship: Could various pro-vaccination campaigns change parental attitudes toward vaccines? Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked. The first leaflet—focussed on a lack of evidence connecting vaccines and autism—seemed to reduce misperceptions about the link, but it did nothing to affect intentions to vaccinate. It even decreased intent among parents who held the most negative attitudes toward vaccines, a phenomenon known as the backfire effect. The other two interventions fared even worse: the images of sick children increased the belief that vaccines cause autism, while the dramatic narrative somehow managed to increase beliefs about the dangers of vaccines. “It’s depressing,” Nyhan said. “We were definitely depressed,” he repeated, after a pause.

They now believe that beliefs take root within our self-perception. They help us to define ourselves. And just as we have a natural tendency to rationalize away people's criticisms of who we are as people, we are good at deflecting criticisms of our beliefs. So the more ideological a belief becomes, the more difficult it'll be to change it:

The campaign against smoking is one of the most successful public-interest fact-checking operations in history. But, if smoking were just for Republicans or Democrats, change would have been far more unlikely. It’s only after ideology is put to the side that a message itself can change, so that it becomes decoupled from notions of self-perception.

Myth and Rarity

From Elvis Costello's December 2013 interview in Esquire:

People can’t really understand that now, when everything is available and everything is annotated, but you used to watch a television show and it was just gone. You really had to pay attention. Its mythic power came down to the fact that you saw it once."

Via Phenomenal Work

Seeing the Creative Woods for the Data Trees

Barry Meade writing at Polygon:

I am arguing that this is what we have forgotten in our chase for mobile profit, that we can’t see the creative woods for the data trees. For all our mountains of information we’ve collected about user habits and sales, the gut-level ability to give joy and inspire our audience remains the job of our industry’s creative people first and every other industry role second. Our ability to communicate to, reach and inspire the people that we make things for is the foundation for everything any artist or craftsperson ever produced.

For all of the bleating about big data and analytics, the most successful creative work, digital or otherwise, still seems to be coming from talented people doing cool stuff.

To bastardize one of my favorite Mark Fenske quotes:

It doesn't matter how much data you have if your idea sucks.

The challenge for the quants is going to be the same one that research and strategy groups in creative settings have always faced: It's not enough that you have the information. It has to be made compelling to the creative process. Helping the work get better is the only way to get a seat at the table.

On the flipside, the creatives that learn how to really have fun with data will continue driving the future of their respective industries.

Via MacStories

VCU Brandcenter Seeks Lead for Creative Technology Track

The VCU Brandcenter Creative Technology track has been churning out some amazing people over the past few years. We're lucky to have one of them, Jeff MacDonald, here at Martin. In fact, he's so good and such a nice guy that he was featured on Forbes' 30 under 30 this year.

Anyways, his (and my) alma mater, the VCU Brandcenter, is looking for someone to lead their Creative Technology track. It's the chance to work with some of the scariest, capable and most socially awkward talent that you're going to find within 100-miles of the word "brand." I'm jealous of each and every one of them for what they are able to do.

Mission or Goal of Unit

The Brandcenter, through its groundbreaking Master of Science degree program and executive education programming, seeks to provide the advertising and marketing industry with strategic and creative leaders – men and women of integrity, enthusiasm, imagination, and uncommon vision who will lead the industry to new heights.

Preferred Qualifications

Information architecture, web design, programming, behavioral analytics, contextual inquiry, usability studies, research methodologies, rapid prototyping, and user journeys.

Fluency in Experience Design production tools include, but are not limited to, Omnigraffle, Axure, Visio, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Cinema 4-D, After Effects, 3D Max.

Sound like you? Click through for the details.

My Own Personal Waterloo

Things have been a little slow around here lately.

I decided to move the blog portion of my website to some sort of flat-file CMS. Idealistic dreams of dropbox powered writing workflows, the freedom to write with any text editor, being forced to learn to code in a practical was all so beautiful.

It hasn't been going well.

I started working with Statamic back in December. The idea being that I'd get everything moved over in time for the new year and that I could relaunch the site along with a new podcast.

But that was a different time. A time of optimism, open evenings, and reckless underestimation.

It was also before our baby became crazy colicky at night.

It was without understanding how deep the rabbit hole of learning to code my own site would actually be.

It was before weekly snow storms and resulting daycare closings. Days full of kids, nights full of catch-up work, and weekends in recovery.

But I've finally made progress.

I've got my Statamic theme working.

I've exported all of my posts from Squarespace, and formatted most as markdown files.

My server is now symlinked to a folder in Dropbox, so posting will be as simple as creating a new plain text note on OSX or iOS.

The only thing left is to try and make some sense of my mess of RSS feeds. They've piled up over the years like the Pacific Garbage Patch. It's time to clean them up. Feedburner is long overdue for the ol' heave ho.

This has been my own personal waterloo.

But it hasn't been without positives. I've spent tons of time working with the command line in Terminal. I've navigated through a few different hosting companies and products before figuring out what I really needed. And I've finally had a good reason to dig in, really get immersed, in coding. It took a real project to do it. Sites like Code Academy are great in theory, but without a good motivation to spend late nights problem solving and pulling your hair out, I've found those learn-to-code sites to be a little more idealistic than useful for my needs.

The new site should be ready to go soon. You'll know when it happens because 10 repeat posts will go out over RSS. Apologies in advance...

Some Other Platforms:

I spent some time with a few different platforms while working this out. Some brief thoughts on each: is a great idea, but it doesn't have the depth that I want (and probably don't need). seems like a ghost ship. It's there, it looks like a good solution, but I can't tell if anyone is still at the helm.

Skrivr uses wonky file names, and honestly I'd like to self host.

Dropplets doesn't work on mobile.

Markbox is still really immature.

Ghost is SUPER buggy when posting from iOS.

Kirby required a bit too much PHP for my taste, and I just couldn't get it to work without fiddling around with htaccess.

Second Crack was made to do exactly what I'd like to do, but installation takes serious server-side acrobatics. I never thought I'd have to use VIM, and I've now seen horrors I can never unsee.

Pelican seems really great, but to say that it's command line intensive is like saying calculus is math oriented.

Newegg Loses to Patent Troll

TQP's single patent is tied to a failed modem business run by Michael Jones, formerly president of Telequip. The company has acquired more than $45 million in patent licensing fees by getting settlements from a total of 139 companies. TQP argues that the patent covers SSL or TLS combined with the RC4 cipher, a common Internet security system used by retailers like Newegg.

I think it was Andy Warhol who predicted: "In the future, everyone will have 15-minutes in court with a patent troll."

Source: http://

Squarespace redesigned on iOS

Whoops...spoke too soon.

After writing another post about the problems of posting to Squarespace from iOS the night before last, they went ahead and released some updates.

We’re excited to announce two brand new iOS apps for Squarespace customers – Squarespace Blog and Squarespace Metrics – as well as iOS 7 updates for Note and Portfolio.

As Squarespace's functionality continues to expand, we’ve focused on creating an entire suite of applications around Squarespace’s core product. This lets us focus each app on specific functionality, providing a clear, targeted interface that helps you accomplish exactly what you need to do on the go.

I'm using the new iPhone app to write this. So far it's working well. And wow is it great to look at. It seems to have the full functionality of the desktop website. Which probably wasn't easy to do.

I was hoping for a URL scheme to work with or some kind of Dropbox integration. There's a lot to be said for being able to write in a proper text editor. Though that probably makes me a bit of an edge case for their target users.

I'm afraid that after looking into so many blogging services that use Dropbox to publish markdown formatted text files as posts, any other method of posting seems a little bit inefficient considering that I'm already doing all of my writing in Dropbox synced text files.

Sven just wrote about moving Simplicitybliss to [Kirby] and I am incredibly jealous. Also, I'm happy to see that one of my favorite bloggers shares my inability to Stay. Put.

More complaining about posting with Squarespace...

Chris Gonzolez put together a Squarespace wishlist that reminded me of some of the frustrations I've written about. He makes a number of great points, but this continues to be my main frustration:

If Squarespace isn't going to update its own app – it's been 25 weeks (!) since the last iPad update – they should open up some kind of public API for 3rd-party apps to use. If I could just publish directly from Byword or Editorial, it would change my entire game.

Their head of operations (I think?) replied to a frustrated tweet of mine with a cryptic "stay tuned," but at this rate it could be years.

I've been thinking of continuing to use Squarespace for a home base, but moving my blog to a platform better suited to day-to-day posting. Tumblr or any of the Dropbox blogging services offer much better blogging functionality.

But maybe if I wait long enough...

Via Unretrofied

If you're paying attention, you're not paying attention...

Those registering lower on a test that measured mindfulness were able to identify more quickly a series of repeating geometric patterns on a computer screen that they were unaware they were learning. This type of unconscious, or implicit, learning is the same automatic mental process used in teaching yourself to ride a bike or that a child marshals in intuiting underlying grammatical rules by listening to the ways a parent strings together sentences.”

Via Scientific American

The Martin Agency Kitchen

The agency is starting up a great new program for creative "types" looking to spend a few months inside an agency making awesome stuff:

Combine 15 overachieving prodigies from the worlds of art, copy, design, film, digital and business, give 'em actual real-world assignments and you get The Martin Agency Kitchen. No, we won't bore you with culinary-puns and hackneyed cooking metaphors. Although that would be kinda fun.

We're here to throw down the gauntlet and ask you if you're up for the challenge to blow people's minds with the kickassest of kickass work EVER CREATED.

So are you ready to bring the pain for three months and come home with three completed projects like: a killer music video, new business, branded apps, art installations and alien-grade inventions? Then read on, amigos.

Check it out here:

Disclaimer: I'm still waiting for my tailored pants.

Unpleasant Design

Unpleasant Design is a phenomenon in which social control is inherent in the design of objects and spaces. Park benches with a central armrest where one cannot sleep, blue light in public toilets which makes intravenous injection impossible, (((it’s amazing what one can learn from design fandom))) are just a few common features we regularly encounter in public spaces. In recent years, unpleasant design has become a global fashion with many examples to be found across cities worldwide.


Designing “unpleasant design” is an intricate process. During the Unpleasant Design workshop, participants use persuasive and coercive design techniques to invent a design which targets a specific group, behavior or product. Particular attention will be paid to technologies, which enable discrimination and the role of pervasive technology in urban spaces. Participants will actively explore this change through the application of unpleasant design.

Some might mistake this for passive aggressive design. Or use it as a way to condescend to MBA's who work in marketing. I'm just happy to have a two word term that so neatly describes product strategy in the cable industry.

VIA: Beyond the Beyond

Bill Watterson: Repetition is the death of magic

When asked why he stopped making Calvin and Hobbes:

You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic.

I never got into Calvin and Hobbes, although it seems like something I would've really liked if I took the time. You've got to give it to someone who knows when it's time to stop and has the courage to actually do it.


Vice wonders why "so many social media managers are dipshits"

Tom McElligott, founding creative partner of the great Minneapolis ad agency, Fallon McElligott Rice, once said, and I paraphrase because this was pre-internet 1980s: I would much rather overestimate than underestimate the intelligence of the consumer. That quote really stuck with me in ad school, and McElligott became an early hero of mine. You can see some of his creative work, which includes the brilliant Rolling Stone “Perception/Reality” trade campaign, here.

McElligott was a very smart ad man. Today, many of the social media managers at large and important companies are, by contrast, not very smart ad men. To say that they regularly underestimate their customers’ intelligence would be a great understatement. They seem to believe their customers have the brain power of a baked potato.

This seems to be the question of the hour. Or at least I've found myself having this conversation a lot lately. How can community management be so universally terrible?

I'm not sure it's a question of under-estimating customers - that might be over-estimating community managers.

More likely it's a combination of posting too much without having anything to say, highly creative positions being filled with the wrong people, and misguided expectations from marketing teams.

Source: Vice
Via: Daring Fireball

Defending Marketing Against Fundamentalism

As usual, some good thinking from Martin Weigel:

So until we have identified the specific circumstances and needs of a business, marketing is  -- like Schrodinger's cat -- an ampersand.  It is is everything it can be:

Realtime and fixed

Personalized and mass

Always onand scheduled

Cheapand expensive

Mobile and tethered

Utility and 'image'

In betaand the final product

About small ideas and big ideas

Interactive and one-way


It's easy to fall into the trap of right or wrong, especially in an environment that is slow to change. But his point is valid. The problem justifies the means.

Via All possible states: Defending marketing against fundamentalism | canalside view

When will Facebook be overrun by the dead?

Adage ran a story today (that I happened to see while deleting their unopened email) about teens leaving Facebook but Facebook still having more teens than anyone else.

Marketing and agency people get nervous about things like this because Facebook is an easy way to put impressive looking numbers on charts alongside words like engagement, social, and digital. Facebook is the beard of the marketing world. Companies that are incredibly traditional in thinking can fool their board memebers and stock holders into thinking they're with it and engaging with millennials.

Anyways, I thought the Adage story contrasted nicely with a post that Kottke linked to that tries to work out the point at which Facebook has more profiles for the dead than the living.

Based on the site's growth rate, and the age breakdown of their users over time,[2] there are probably 10 to 20 million people who created Facebook profiles who have since died.

These people are, at the moment, spread out pretty evenly across the age spectrum. Young people have a much lower death rate than people in their sixties or seventies, but they make up a substantial share of the dead on Facebook simply because there have been so many of them using it.

It's nice to know that we'll all end up on the winning team.