Mailbag – Separate Evernote Notebook or Tag + Saved Search?

Evernote Party - Slide Lounge

The ruggedly handsome Dennis of ncaahoops.net asks:

How do you decide whether to group items in a notebook, or to give them a tag and have a saved search? Is this a personal preference, or is there an advantage to either one?

It depends if you’re adding a lot of content on this topic or just retrieving and reading what you’ve already collected. Let’s explore both of these, shall we?

Creating Content

When you’re creating a new note on the desktop, it’s trivially simple to select a specific target notebook or to input a few tags (or both). However, when you’re creating a new note on one of the mobile clients, like on the iPhone, selecting a notebook is a much easier step than typing in a series of tags. Generally, most people have a smaller number of notebooks than they do tags, so it’d be a longer process to thumb-flip through, say, 100+ tags to find the one you want than to flip through a handful of notebooks.

I would say that, when using the desktop clients for Windows and OS X, it doesn’t matter. Viewing the contents of a notebook and the results of a saved search are both extremely simple operations (the first requires a single click, the second may require two clicks if the Saved Search area is collapsed).

Retrieving Content

If you spent a summer poring over books of quotations from various historical figures and amassed a collection of you favorites in Evernote (just for the sake of argument) and you frequently return to this content for inspiration, then a Saved Search is the clear winner. Saved Searches sync across all of your Evernote installations, so you won’t be faced with the burdensome task of inputing a complex search query on your mobile phone. Once you’re in Evernote, accessing your favorite Churchill quip is a matter of tapping a few menu options instead of typing “notebook:Archive tag:Churchill tag:quote” into the search field.

This also brings up another interesting point (which I explore in a bit more depth in Evernote Essentials) about separate notebooks. In my humble opinion, the only discrete notebooks you should really have beyond the “Inbox” and “Everything” notebooks are for projects or tasks that are of immediate or ongoing concern. A good example of this would be resources for a current project at work versus an archive of accolades you’ve received from your boss. The former container is ostensibly something you’d need to both review and update frequently, so keeping the number of interface actions needed to get there as small as possible would be in your best interest. Conversely, the latter collection isn’t something you’re going to be updating regularly or reviewing a whole lot, so a unique tag and a Saved Search would get the job done quite nicely.

This crap is all about what works best for you and your situation in the end. If you love having a pantload of notebooks, then by all means, create a separate notebook for frickin’ everything and revel in the knowledge that it’s getting done your way. I’m simply suggesting that, in terms of the number of actions you must perform in order to get/put the relevant data, shorter is better.

Photo by thekenyeung

I love hearing from you guys – if you want to ask me anything about all this tools junk, shoot me an email at brett@brettkelly.org.

Talking Tools: David Chartier of Macworld.com

David Chartier with Dog and Problem

Talking Tools is an ongoing series of interviews with people whom I respect as creators, communicators and craftspeople. The goal is to dig deeper into how these people work, what their toolboxes look like and how they engage in their own processes.?

Today’s unfortunate victim is tech journalist to the stars, David Chartier. Ol’ David has a pretty impressive résumé having written for Ars Technica, Wired Magazine and The Unofficial Apple Weblog, as well as serving as Chief Media Producer for Agile Web Solutions (makers of the venerable 1Password). These days he finances his Apple store purchases as Associate Editor for Macworld.com. I’ve been pestering David online for a good while now and he finally agreed to talk with me if I stop sending him my daily homemade greeting cards (which are awesome).

As a writer for Macworld, it stands to reason that most of your equipment would bear a certain fruit-shaped logo. But, for those following along at home, please tell me a little bit about your hardware.

I have a late 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro, so the dual-video-card generation, but before they could swap without requiring you to log out and back in. Since I work at home, my primary machine is a 2010 27-inch iMac core i5. I also have an iPhone 4 and an iPad which I am writing with more frequently.

What is your writing tool of choice? Are you a word processor guy or a text editor guy?

I’m a word processor guy, even though I have some web design chops that I picked up in school and through tinkering off and on. But to me, code and writing are two different beasts. When I write, I want to see the paragraph the way the readers will; I want to see the flow and rhythm of the text, and where links appear as they will look in the final products. Having to parse HTML code, or even the much slimmer Markdown, ruins that experience for me.

What kinds of applications and services do you use to track potential stories and articles? How do those differ from what you use for pleasure reading?

I use a variety of tools like Google Reader, Evernote, and MacJournal (my word processor of choice). For pleasure I read plain old bookmarked webpages, sometimes in Instapaper, as well as in iBooks and Kindle.

Do you do any type of versioning or incremental backups of your pieces that are in progress?

I don’t use anything like Git, but I do use Time Machine, CrashPlan for offsite backups, and Dropbox. I’ve never been very happy with change tracking features in word processors. If I finish a first draft of a longer piece and think I might want to change it significantly, I’ll duplicate it either as an inpidual file or as a second journal entry in MacJournal so I can compare the original and the second draft side by side.

I’m assuming you use multiple devices when writing – how do you make sure you’re always working on the most recent copy of a given article or post?

I write almost everything in MacJournal, and its documents sync quite well over Dropbox. I still have to remember to quit it on one machine when switching to another, but it’s become habit by now so I rarely run into trouble.

How do you capture and track ideas for articles or blog posts?

A good chunk of my writing is news, so many times if we find something, I have to jump on a story right away. But I have a lot of ideas for original content too, and for a long time I’ve been using Things for that stuff. The Quick Entry feature is great for getting an idea out of my head and into a task inbox for dealing with later. I’m probably going to switch to OmniFocus though, now that it’s out for the iPad, which in light of your sync-related questions, should make things a lot easier for my workflow. I won’t have to be in the same room as one of my Macs to sync OmniFocus on my iPhone or iPad, and I won’t have to worry about ruining my task list by leaving Things open on one of my Macs.

What about general tasks and projects?

Whoops, guess I jumped the shark there. But basically it’s the same answer: I’ve been using Things, but I’m pretty sure I’ll switch to OmniFocus.

Tell me a little bit about how you “do” email.

I use Mail on my Macs and i-devices. I have a personal MobileMe account and a work account for Macworld, which is powered by Google Apps, so I have decent webmail interfaces for both accounts should I ever need to fall back on them. I don’t have an intricate system for my email, and I am not constantly chasing “inbox zero.” I do, however, use a few Smart Folders, and I like to frequently create Smart Folders and regular folders for projects, usually working with a source or PR on a news story or review.

One of my Smart Folders is simply “Unread,” which displays nothing but unread messages from both of my inboxes. It’s great for the occasional session of pounding though a backlog, since even if I don’t delete a message (maybe I need to flag it for followup or just keep it around for acting on later), it disappears from that Smart Folder once I select another message.

I have a Flagged Smart Folder for obvious reasons, but I usually also create Smart Folders for a specific person or product’s name if I’m going to be working even for couple days on it.

I also have a few key regular folders, such as “Coverage,” into which I toss messages that I want to make sure we cover. We often email links, PRs, and story pitches to a an editors and bloggers list, and if there’s something that needs to get covered, even if we have to wait on it for a day, I add the original message we send to that Coverage folder to maintain a sort of running checklist that I can compare against our published and upcoming stories.

During the course of a day, if there’s a message that I need to act on a little later, maybe it’s my next story or a reply I need to draft once I finish a story I’m already working on, I’ll double click to open it in a separate window that sits in a specific place on my display where I keep messages like this.

Of all of the folks I know, you’re a pretty outspoken proponent of Tumblr as a blogging platform. Can you tell me a bit about why this is?

Tumblr brings the most unique mix of simplicity and style to the table, and I’m not really talking about the themes. It’s stupid-simple to sign up and start posting, but I really like its concept of different “types” of posts, like links, media, and plain old text. Sometimes all you need to do is link something you found – you don’t need or want to say anything more – be it a photo you shot or cool site you found. On Tumblr you can do exactly that – you can post a photo with no title, caption, or forced blog post required, and you can link another page so the headline becomes a clickable link to that page. Tumblr lets your blog be as simple, flexible, or involved as you want, which is refreshing in a market of me-too, gimmicky WordPress and Blogger ripoffs.

Kindle, iBooks or dead trees (and why)?

iBooks and Kindle (apps), I’m a digital man – I read on my iPad and iPhone now, and I only get a dead tree if it isn’t in digital form yet or there is some significant extra media that you can’t get in the digital version. I get a little nostalgic for physical books every now and then, but the advantages of digital outweigh the longing for yesterday. I love being able to search books and have them all with me on the train. I’m thrilled about the potential for a much more engaging and informative experience that rich media books are beginning to explore, and I feel a lot more comfortable with my collection knowing that Apple, Amazon, CrashPlan, and I have backups in case I lose a device or my house burns down.

Do you have a favorite band or artist to listen to while you work?

I’ve been relaxing and focusing with instrumentalists like Bonobo and Amon Tobin. I love the grooves and rhythmic soundscapes that they produce, and as I’ve slowly grown away from some of my college music tastes I’ve come to find lyrics in music to be really distracting. It might be because I still love to sing and play music, so I want to play along in my head to more “traditional” rock sings with a lead singer. But give me a cool, layered track with a heart beat and I’m a happy worker bee.

You’ve spent a long day hunched over the keyboard, tapping feverishly. The work day is done, you’ve got a tall glass of something cold within arms reach and a Mac in front of you. What are your favorite ways to unwind online?

One kind of winding involves gaming, which is arguably anything but unwinding. I have a PS3, but I’ve always preferred gaming with a mouse and keyboards, especially FPS games, so during my downtime gaming I bounce between Mac OS X and Windows a lot to play games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Exploring all the interestingness and craziness that comes out of the Tumblr community and sifting through non-work-related feeds in Google Reader are also high on my list. Even though I’m not using much of my multimedia design degree, I still like to read a lot of design blogs like Motionographer, Iconfactory, PhotoJojo, and Jeffery Zeldman. Then there is of course my Twitter account and Facebook for keeping up with the gamut of readers and friends.

Big nerd ups to David for taking the time to talk with me. You can check out David’s writing at Macworld.com, 1FPS (his personal blog) and you’d be a fool to not follow him on Twitter. A fool, I say.

Check out lots of other great Talking Tools Interviews.

Creating an Ebook – A Tour of My Toolbox

Toolbox

Now that Evernote Essentials has shipped and the dust is starting to settle, I thought I’d spend a little time talking about how, exactly, it went from an idea to a completed project. Many different applications were instrumental in the production, sales and fulfillment processes and I wanted to outline exactly how I did it and what I used. Cool? Cool.

Brainstorming and Drafting

Believe it or not, the vast majority of the writing for Evernote Essentials was done, in fact, in Evernote. My requirements weren’t terribly stringent; I need to be able to write mostly plain text, occasionally add some basic styling (bold, italics, etc.) and have the ability to work on it from both my office at work on my lunch break and at home in the evenings. The idea of schlepping a USB drive around with the only copy of my work on it was quickly dismissed in favor of Evernote. The only potential drawback to using Evernote for this was the lack of real versioning of the files, which would give me the ability to revert to any previous version if I needed to. Evernote hadn’t yet released the “Note History” feature, but even that doesn’t create new versions every time a note is changed. This was something I was willing to forgo, as I was only in the beginning stages of writing it and was more concerned with getting my ideas down “on paper”, so to speak, than I was with creating a full-blown Development Environment for my frickin’ ebook.

Evernote was also where I would save screenshots, miscellaneous notes and ideas and any other odds and ends that were related to the project. Portability, again, was the primary reason for this.

Review, Editing and Collaboration

Once I had what I felt was a solid first draft of Evernote Essentials, I was going to need to recruit some friends. I needed people other than myself to read it for things like mechanics, spelling, continuity and, of course, technical accuracy. For this, I used the Writeboard facilities within Basecamp. I’d been using Basecamp for many other projects at that point, so it wasn’t any big deal to dump each chapter into it’s own Writeboard and start inviting friends to read it. Not only did it make sharing simple, but I now had proper versioning for each chapter, so I could easily roll back any change that was made by any of my intrepid proofreaders. My only complaint with Writeboard was the manner in which it exported the text; when I opted for a plain text export, I got a file full of forcibly-wrapped lines that I had to go through and fix individually. This was definitely an annoyance, but hardly a reason to not recommend Basecamp for similar projects.

After all of my buddies had taken a crack at the text and it was time to put together something resembling a final draft, I migrated each Writeboard into a single, massive document on Google Docs. I had, by this point, amassed a rather large number of screenshots that were to be included in the final product and Google Docs made adding them a snap. This document would ultimately be what was sent to my unstoppably talented designer for the final layout.

Selling and Fulfillment

The sales page for the book lives on the very same domain that is serving these words to you. It’s powered masterfully by Tumblr, a choice I’ve already defended once before and won’t belabor here, but there are a couple of other services that handle actual selling and delivery of the product.

E-junkie.com is a service I’d heard about from several of my friends who also sell ebooks. Essentially, you pay a flat rate, upload your digital wares, set the price and other details about said digital wares and they give you the HTML for a button to put on your site so people can buy your crap. Seriously, it’s not much more complicated than that. When somebody buys your product, they send you an email with the buyer’s information as well as the details of the transaction (if they used a coupon code, what currency was used, etc.). They also send the buyer an email containing a link where they can download the thing they just bought. You can create coupon codes, single-use links for free product and even affiliate programs (stay tuned, those of you asking about that). It’s very slick and, frankly, I can’t see how they make any money with how little they’re charging me.

PayPal is where the cheddar ultimately ends up. Just about everybody is familiar with the oft-vilified-but-incredibly-ubiquitous kings of online purchasing — a few people have actually emailed to tell me that they would love to buy my book but refused to use PayPal — but the setup and maintenance couldn’t be simpler. They take a small cut of each transaction automatically and the rest of the cash is available for me immediately after the transaction completes. Horror stories aside, PayPal has been great so far.

Tracking

I wanted to be able to keep tabs on the site and traffic the day the book launched. Google Analytics is nice and all, but doesn’t refresh their analytics data for 24 hours and I wanted the real-time scoop. A friend of mine recommended Clicky and after about 30 seconds of watching it work, I was hooked. Clicky lets you watch visitors on your site and what they’re doing in real-time, shows you from whence they came, even what country they’re browsing from and with which browser/OS combination. They also have a slimmed-down iPhone interface, which came in handy while I was up in San Francisco and not necessarily in front of a computer. Best $30/year I’ve ever spent.

It was an interesting process, certainly. I’m sure that every other ebook author on the planet has their own special set of tools and techniques for creating their work, but these worked pretty well for my first pass at this. My next project will probably require a bit more in the text-editing department, so Evernote may be supplanted as the primary writing platform in favor of something more specialized. Other than that, there wasn’t much about this project that felt sluggish or inhibiting. We’ll see how I feel after the next book, though. :)

Photo by dkspook

Talking Tools: Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity

chris meetup 2 (1 of 1)

Talking Tools is an ongoing series of interviews with people whom I respect as creators, communicators and craftspeople. The goal is to dig deeper into how these people work, what their toolboxes look like and how they engage in their own processes.?

Today, we’re talking to Chris Guillebeau. Chris writes about unconventional strategies for life, work and travel at his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. In his spare time, he travels the world (like, all of it) and is preparing a huge North American tour in support of his first print book, The Art of Non-Conformity, which comes out this fall. Chris is a friend and unofficial mentor of yours truly and I’m excited to share this with you guys.

Let’s start with computers and things that are computer-shaped. Tell us a little about your hardware.

I use a 13″ MacBook and a cheap-ass netbook from Best Buy. The netbook is mostly a backup””pretty much the whole operation is on the MacBook. I’ve thought about getting a desktop setup for the house, but I don’t like buying stuff, so I’m sticking with the mobile setup for now.

Since writing is how you put food on the table (and your own hindquarters in countless airplane seats), what types of tools do you use when composing/editing? Do you use different applications when writing for your blog than when you were writing your book?

I write almost everything in OpenOffice, and do the initial outlining in a paper notebook. I also use Evernote to keep ideas and notes. With writing, I think the important thing is to make sure the tools serve the craft instead of the other way around.

Being a successful web-based entrepreneur undoubtedly involves a great deal of email. Tell us a little bit about your email toolbox and how you keep a fountain of an inbox at bay.

Yes, I process quite a bit of email. The first thing to say is that I like email””the trend of autoresponders, virtual assistants, and outsourcing is not something I’m interested in. When people care enough to write me a relevant message, the least I can do is respond.

Getting off the soapbox and answering your organization question, I use Gmail for almost everything. The Offline feature helps a great deal when I’m traveling, at least when it’s working. I’ve thought about migrating to Apple Mail, but the couple of times I’ve tried it, it hasn’t worked well for me.

Obviously, you spend a whole lot of time away from home. I imagine you check in with your wife on a somewhat regular basis – can you talk a little bit about your phone situation?

Yep, I check in with Jolie, and also have to do various work calls from time to time. I don’t have any kind of world phone, though””I just use Skype.

Do you have a specific piece of software or hardware that you use to keep track of the places you’ve been? Your living room slideshows must be frickin’ ridiculous.

We need to improve that, actually””right now the tracking is pretty minimal. I have a guy who’s working on some kind of tricked-out thing that is built with Google Maps.

I spend most of my day with a paper notebook open on my desk between myself and my keyboard. Do you employ any “analog” tools in your work life? If so, in what ways are they better for you than digital tools?

Yep””same here. I find it easier to keep data in two locations, even if there’s some overlap. I don’t have my laptop everywhere, but I always have the paper notebook.

How do you fill the time during those insanely long plane rides?

I catch up on email (with the help of Gmail Offline), I write, I read, and once in a while I’ll watch a movie. I don’t watch TV or movies elsewhere, but in the skies I’ll take a look and see if something is decent. Right now I’m drinking coffee and writing these answers for you from the FRA-DEN Lufthansa flight. I came in to Frankfurt last night from Almaty, Kazakhstan. I was tired due to the 4:00 a.m. departure from Kazakhstan””with a 4:00 a.m. flight, you basically get no sleep whatsoever due to checking in at 1:00″”but after I slept for the first couple of hours of this one, I woke up and got to work.

Most bloggers I know spend as much time reading as they do writing – RSS feeds, books, magazines, all that stuff – how much of this is true of you? What types of things do you enjoy reading and how do you go about it?

I’m not sure of my ratio between reading and writing, but I certainly read a lot. I subscribe to about 10 magazines””The Atlantic and The Economist are my favorites. In terms of books, I try to read at least one a week, mostly business, travel, and literary fiction. Lately publishers have been sending me a ton of books in hopes of blurbs or reviews. This is a little challenging, because most of the books are good and I don’t want to disappoint a fellow author, but if I read them all, I’d never read anything else. So I have to triage somehow, and I do give the rest to other bloggers so that they can check them out.

I’m a very bad RSS reader””I only pay attention to a couple of blogs there, and catch up on the rest once in a while.

Let’s say you’re sitting in your hotel (or the local equivalent) after a long day. You’re pretty much out of gas, but you’re not quite ready to hit the sack and you’ve already seen the episode of Magnum PI that’s on television – what are some of your favorite digital distractions?

Twitter, checking on things (statistics, shopping cart, mailing list growth), and just hanging out online.

What (if any) parts of your workflow would you like to streamline? Is there a mystical tool that you wish existed for accomplishing a certain task or filling a specific need?

I’m continuously challenged with the imperative to get online all over the world. I never know before I’m going how good, if existent at all, the connection will be. The funny thing is that it’s not always the developing places that are most difficult. Last year I was in Irbil, Iraq, and the airport had free WiFi on a fast connection””something that my home airport of Seattle didn’t provide at the time.

Then last month I was in Germany and went to stay at the Marriott so I could catch up on a lot of online work. My theory was, well, at least I know I can count on a fast connection at the Marriott. But it turned out they were changing over the system or something, and the entire Munich Marriott had no internet for 36 hours. So much for that plan!

If you can fix this problem with a mystical tool, I’d be grateful. :)

Super nerd thanks to Chris for taking the time out of an excruciatingly long flight to answer my goofy questions. Be sure to check out his blog and be sure to assume the position for his Daily Ass-Kicking on Twitter at @chrisguillebeau. Oh, and if you haven’t already pre-ordered The Art of Non-Conformity, quit dorking around and go pay $10 for what should cost like $50.

Photo by jenlemen

Check out lots of other great Talking Tools Interviews.

Honing Your Reflexes and Cutting the Cord

Mousetrap

We all do things reflexively; turning on light switches, pressing the gas or brake pedal, sticking our arms out when falling backward in when log rolling – everyday stuff. These are tasks that we do, thanks to repetition or subconscious reflex, because our brain knows the appropriate action given the situation. If we were to stop, think and decide to do any of these things when we did them, then they’d take a whole lot longer and, more importantly, our faces would absorb all of the impact of our log rolling mishaps.

Reflexive action is the lifeblood of any serious computer user. Things like sending an email, copying some text or running a macro in your favorite office application – after you perform these actions a few times, the physical movements are programmed into what’s called  ”motor memory”; you don’t actually think to yourself “time to hit Ctrl+C to copy this text” – you just do it because you’ve trained yourself to react that way when your brain realizes it needs to copy the selected text. It’s this motor memory that I go out of my way to train properly; when it comes time for me to do *anything* that I do regularly, I want my brain and fingers to take care of it because I’ve got better things to think about. Some examples:

  • Indenting a piece of text
  • Creating a new email message
  • Creating a new note in Evernote from anywhere

There are many more, but you get the idea.

The first step in building effective reflexes is realizing what’s inhibiting you. In this case, it’s your mouse.

One of the primary reasons I avoid using the mouse at all costs is that it *requires* that I pay attention. It doesn’t matter how many times in my life I’ve clicked on a button in an application because I still need to take my hand off of the keyboard, grip the mouse, *figure out where the mouse cursor is* and move the mouse cursor on top of the button, click the button and put my hand back on the keyboard. That part about figuring out where the mouse cursor is? That’s the problem. Because I can’t rely on the mouse cursor being in the same place when it’s time to click the button, now I have to stop what I’m thinking about and look for it. I’ve left reflex mode and am now fully engaged with the mini-task of locating a picture of an arrow somewhere on my display. I don’t know the neuroscience that governs this, but I can tell you anecdotally that having to repeatedly make this series of movements is a serious drain on both my focus and my productivity in the long run.

Think about it for a second – the amount of time it takes me to tap a series of keys (at once or in succession) without breaking stride versus that whole mess of steps I described before that necessarily moves my attention a little bit further away from my work. It may sound dumb, but when you spend as much time typing as I do (and I’m sure many of you do), little things like this can really add up.

My challenge to you: pick an application that you use frequently and find one task that you can do with the keyboard instead of the mouse. There are the obvious ones like cut, copy, paste and such, but I’m talking about things like putting your cursor in the address bar of your browser or initiating a new search within Word. I think you’ll be surprised at just how much you can do with your computer without ever touching the mouse.?

Photo by Mark Louden

Doing it Right: iPhone Photo Sharing with Posterous

I'm a mobile phone photographer, not a terrorist

As many of you probably already know, I’m a father to two beautiful little kids. I also have a propensity for photographing amusing things throughout my day (bumper stickers, food labels, street signs, strange people and so on). When you mash these together, you get a guy who posts a pantload of photographs on the Internet. Being an unapologetic efficiency junkie, I’m constantly on the lookout for a better way to do things like this. Pretty sure I’ve found it (at least, for now).

First, the specific problem I’m trying to solve:

I don’t necessarily believe that every picture I take is appropriate for all of the various venues upon which I share content. I’m perfectly willing to post a picture of my half-eaten pork sandwich on Twitter, but not so much on Facebook. I also know that many of my Twitter followers have no interest in a 40-photo slideshow of my children chalking unrecognizable shapes on the sidewalk, so those typically end up on Facebook. Sometimes, though, I’ll find myself in the presence of a video store promo poster containing a hilarious misspelling and think to myself “everybody needs to see this.” You can see how this would be a dilemma.

Obviously, Facebook on the iPhone supports uploading photos natively and there are dozens of Twitter-connected sites that allow you to easily post photos from within your favorite Twitter client application. Trouble is, I’m very tightly-wound and want all of my pictures to be accessible in one place. Also, I frickin’ hate when I try to post a picture to Facebook using my iPhone and I have to keep the Facebook app open for 10 minutes while the upload progress meter trickles toward completion. And, neither of these solutions offer me the ability to upload a photo to multiple sources easily.

Now, the solution:

Enter, Posterous. I’ve had an account there for a long ass time and used to run my personal blog there before switching to Tumblr (that’s another post entirely), so I’m familiar with the service and it’s capabilities. In short, it’s absolutely perfect for what I want to do. Here are the steps I took:

First, I created a new Posterous site at http://media.brettkelly.org and picked a stock theme. Second, I created a new contact in my iPhone address book called “BK Media”, which has 3 different email addresses attached to it: “twitter@”, “facebook@” and “twitter+facebook@”. Whenever I want to email a photo to one or both of these services from my iPhone, it’s as simple as tapping “BK” into the “To:” field in the Mail app and selecting the appropriate address.

This is especially awesome because, despite the new multitasking capabilities of iOS 4, the Mail app will continue sending and receiving messages, even after it’s closed. This allows me to shorten the time between “holy crap, look at this guy’s shirt!” and having a picture of said shirt on it’s way to Twitter to not more than a few seconds. And, because the photo is being sent to a Web site that I control, it’s easy as pie to see how many views its had, allow inline comments, delete the photo altogether and even post it to my other Internet watering holes (like Flickr) with a couple of clicks.

Say what you want about Posterous as a blogging platform, but it was made for posting photos to the Internet.

Specialized Bonus Hack: if you’re a Mac user and use Mailplane (and, if you’re a GMail user, you should consider it because it’s awesome) and Skitch, you can reproduce a very similar variation on this same process by dragging your Skitch screenshots or camera snaps onto the Mailplane Dock icon. This creates a new, blank email with your file attached. Again, I just add a subject and start typing “BK Media” in the “To:” field and I’m off to the races. It’s beautiful.

Anybody else have a super slick way of posting pictures of your propped-up feet to your favorite social networks? I want to hear about it.?

Photo by sunnyUK

Why I Chose Tumblr

Tumblr

Ask any serious blogger which publishing software they use and the vast majority of the time, they’ll say “WordPress”. When I was getting ready to start this site (which I like to think of as a “serious” blogging effort), I considered all of my options, one of them being WordPress, and chose Tumblr instead. This is where I tell you how I arrived at that decision.

The first, and undeniably biggest reason was that I would be far less distracted by things like plugins, theme options and such like. I’ve run several WordPress blogs in the past and have wiled away many hours getting my settings just right, choosing (and subsequently hacking the pudding out of) a theme and installing a pantload of plugins so my posts would do things like automatically update Twitter when they were published. This may be a testament to my lack of focus, but I wanted a platform that practically *forced* me to focus on the content instead of the aesthetics and plumbing. Tumblr fit that bill perfectly. Yes there are plenty of themes to choose from, but that’s where it started and stopped. All of the other core capabilities I needed are baked into the platform itself. And the features I didn’t really need weren’t even possible in most cases and if they were, it meant a non-trivial amount of work (and workarounds).

The second factor was that it was hosted. I have several web hosting accounts where I can install any software I want, but anything I install there must be managed (by yours truly). With Tumblr, I don’t need to think about things like scalability or reliability. I don’t need to make sure my caching plugin is up to date and working because they probably pay dudes to make sure their servers stay up. The fact that I get all of this for free was another big mark in Tumblr’s favor.

I’ve written about this before, but services like Tumblr have almost reached parity with WordPress in terms of core functionality. I can publish posts, create static pages, use tags, all of it. If I want to hack on the code that runs my theme, I’m free to do so (and I have). Yes, I had to sacrifice things like “Related Posts” and a customized archive page, but that’s all fine with me. The way I look at it, if my writing is any good, people will read it. I don’t need to concern myself with all of the in’s and out’s of the likes of WordPress because I’m here to write.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, my decision to run this site on Tumblr was a very deliberate one. And, as I said, I’m aware of the concessions I made in choosing this platform.

Where do your publishing loyalties lie? Why?

Evernote Essentials is Now Available!

Update: Evernote Essentials has been updated since this post and is now bigger and better than ever!

Click here to grab the latest version.

I’m ecstatic to announce that my first ebook, Evernote Essentials, is now available. This has been in the works for many months now and I’m very pleased with the results. If you’d like to learn more or pick up a copy, you can do so by visiting the product page.

What is it?

Evernote Essentials is a 83-page PDF that will give you a solid understanding of the fundamentals of Evernote. I’ll show you all sorts of tips, tricks and best practices for making the most of your Evernote experience.? It’s also packed with use cases and examples of creative and fun ways to make Evernote as much a part of your daily life as it is a part of mine.

It boils down to this: I know a whole lot about Evernote and I’m sharing that knowledge with you in Evernote Essentials.

Evernote is a fantastic service and I can show how to make it really work for you. Take a closer look at Evernote Essentials; it’s a great way to sharpen your Evernote skills quickly and I hope you’ll consider it.  ?

Evernote Essentials Launches Tomorrow

I wanted to let you guys know that my ebook, Evernote Essentials, will go live less than 24 hours (click here if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

First of all, I’m crazy excited.

If you aren’t already subscribed to the site newsletter, it would be a very good idea to do so now (I have a special surprise in store for? those folks). To sign up, visit the site and plug your email address into the sign-up box on the right.

See you guys tomorrow — and stay tuned for some really great content coming up later this week.

Talking Tools: Patrick Rhone of MinimalMac.com

Talking Tools is an ongoing series of interviews with people whom I respect as creators, communicators and craftspeople. The goal is to dig deeper into how these people work, what their toolboxes look like and how they engage in their own processes.

Today, we’re talking with my good friend and blogging hero Patrick Rhone. Patrick is probably best known for his work as curator at Minimal Mac, but he’s also operating a one-man empire as an independent Mac consultant and writer. Read on to find out more about how Patrick creates, consumes and executes:

When I read the things you produce, it’s clear that you like things clean and simple – do you find that these minimalist tendencies influence your choices in tools, particularly digital tools (for both work and play)?

There’s no question about it. I’m a big fan of minimalist and modern design and absolutely am smitten with software that takes that approach. I think Rands in Repose hit the nail squarely recently when he said “My favorite feature is the lack of features“. That said, a lot of people mistake this idea so I want to be clear. Anything, and software especially, should have exactly the features it needs to be relevant to the task at hand in consideration of your needs. An obvious missing feature is just as wasteful of my time and attention as ten that the myself, and the majority, will never use.

One of the many hats you wear is that of a Mac consultant. As I understand it, you spend a good chunk of time at client sites, away from your home base. What does your mobile toolbox look like these days?

Well, it has certainly changed over the past few months. I used to take my Macbook, it’s power adapter, a bag of sometimes needed but rarely used cables, not to mention my regular assortment of utility disks, notebooks, pens, etc. to each client visit. Now, I take my iPad instead of the Macbook and related accessories in almost every case. Not to be cliché (consider that a warning), but it has been a huge weight off of my shoulders both mentally and physically. Most of what I used the Macbook for when out and about was for access to reference materials for the problem at hand. Also to access Highrise() and Basecamp where I keep client related notes, tasks, and projects. Not only can I more easily do this with my iPad but, because I keep all of my documents and manuals in Dropbox, my reference materials are available to me everywhere.

Do you have a preferred way of managing a backlog of fixes you’ve come across “” some type of knowledge base?

No. Believe it or not, I keep all of that knowledge in my head for the most part. I suppose I should, at some point, start to capture that stuff somewhere. I also suppose it would be different if I were working with someone else so we did not both have to try to reinvent the wheel. That said, for the current time, and the foreseeable future, I am doing neither.

How do you manage your on-site tools (like diagnostics, driver install packages, etc.)?

I keep it all on an external USB key (I have a super tiny one that fits in my wallet) or, in the case of things like DiskWarrior and TechTool, I keep the optical disks in my bag. I like to keep things as portable as possible.

On to your second major hat – writing. You maintain several blogs, notably the increasingly popular Minimal Mac (which I love, by the way). Tell us a little bit about how you write, applications you use, tracking post topic ideas – how does the process work for you?

First, a warning, this process may seem like a lot of added work and tools for some and, in those cases they are likely correct. I’ll try to explain myself but doubt I will have any strong arguments to counter”¦

Almost all of my writing starts in TextEdit. I’m an unabashed champion of it and I think it does not get nearly the credit it deserves. I have it set to default to plain text, 90 characters x 50 lines, Menlo 12pt for my font (after a long flirtation with Droid Sans). Been using basically this setup, except for font changes, for years and have grown very comfortable with it.

Another thing I use is Notational Velocity. Been a NV fan and user for a very long time but the current version is spectacular. I have that hooked up to and syncing with Simplenote so I have access to it on the iPad and iPhone. Also, there is now the option of storing and reading the database from a folder of .txt files. I also keep said folder on my Dropbox. So, I simply save my TextEdit documents to that folder and they automatically show up in NV, Simplenote and then sync everywhere via Dropbox shortly thereafter.

I write everything using Markdown. Therefore, from TextEdit I generally open TextMate and convert it to HTML using the Markdown bundle. Now, there used to be a Mac OS service (humanetext.service) that would allow me to do this right in TextEdit using a key command but I lost it along the way and the developer’s site has been offline for months. That said, I also kind of like doing it this way because the syntax highlighting in TextMate let’s me see really quickly if I have slipped up in my Markdown somewhere and I can correct that real fast. And yes, I know I could just write it in TextMate to begin with and, to honest, writing out all of the steps I actually take for this stuff is causing me to consider that but, as of this writing I prefer TextEdit for some obtuse reason so”¦

Then I copy and paste that HTML formatted text into a new post on Tumblr (which is where Minimal Mac is hosted). Yes, I know I could flip the Markdown switch in Tumblr and skip a lot of steps but it also adds some more if I want to include images in the post and need to change the formatting of those, etc. Therefore, I do it this way for now.

Now, that said, this is the way it works on my hosted sites (Minimal Mac, The Random Post, Practical Opacity) but I have a completely different flow for patrickrhone.com which is a self hosted WordPress site. That flow involves a fantastic app called MacJournal but I’ll save you a rundown of that for now.

I know we’ve discussed this before, but I’d love to hear again why so many of the sites you manage are running on Tumblr – what is it about that service that you find so appealing?

Not only is is wonderfully designed, maintained, and supported, I find the barrier to posting really low. Especially when it comes to the “curation” style format of most of the sites I host there. I can very quickly, using the handy supplied browser bookmarklet, post a link, quote, photo from wherever I happen to be on the web. Easy peasy.

When not working and writing, surely you do a bit of content consumption here and there – are you an RSS guy? Books? Magazines? Tell us a bit about how you consume and what that toolbox looks like.

Um, yes. All of the above.

I actually consider it a part of my duty, for Minimal Mac especially, to “drink from the firehose” and subscribe to far more feeds than I would otherwise do if only doing so for my own personal pleasure. That said, I do have a system for managing them all. My preferred reader is Google Reader, skinned with Helvetireader, as a Fluid app. I send longer content to Instapaper and read it there.

I have long loved magazines. I look forward to the day when magazines are available on the iPad at a reasonable subscription price that is the same, or very close, to the printed version. I have subscribed to Wired for over ten years. I read it cover to cover every month. I even enjoy most of the ads. That said, I usually pay about one dollar per issue of the print copy. Even with the interactive content I find that paying four to five times more than that, and still having ads, is unreasonable.

Other favorite cover-to-cover mag reads are Vanity Fair, Good, and Esquire.

And I try to read the occasional book or two. I almost always read non-fiction. I find book reading to be the hardest and take the longest for me because, for me, it requires large blocks of uninterrupted focused time and I rarely get that.

How much overlap is there between your consumption and your curation for Minimal Mac and your other blogs?

I’d say probably about 50% in some way, shape, or form. For instance, in Instapaper I have two folders “” Post and Reference. I’d say nine out of ten things I read there ends up in one or the other and it’s pretty even between the two. The things in the Post folder get posted to one of my sites or Twitter.

As far as feeds items not sent to Instapaper, I open anything that is post worthy in tabs in my browser and then post accordingly.

Please describe for me your ideal creative situation. What types of things surround you? What implements do you reach for?

Depends on what I am creating but it most certainly would involve paper and a pen or pencil. I still manage most of my lists, take notes, and think using analog tools. If eventually turning into long form writing, I would likely have my iPad too. Although, I have been known to write multiple paragraph posts on my iPhone (consumption, not creation be damned).

So, say you’re sitting at your desk with a glass of wine and you decide that it’s time to kill an hour on the Internet – where do you go?

The huge backlog of items I have in Instapaper would be a good place to start. I often find myself on prolonged historical and religious research ratholes. No particular reason other than those are subjects that interest me. As far a sites that are rocking my world right now, here is a list in no particular order:


Special thanks to Patrick for taking the time to talk with me. In case you missed any of the links mentioned above, you can read Patrick’s writing at Minimal Mac, The Random Post, Practical Opacity, and patrickrhone.com

Check out lots of other great Talking Tools Interviews.