43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

May, 2007

Kinkless.com and "The Kinkless Desktop"

Kinkless | Productive Creativity

My pal, Ethan, is a photographer who's probably best known in the Mac-o-sphere as the author of "Kinkless GTD," the AppleScript for OmniOutliner Pro that caused a sensation last year among Mac productivity nerds and helped lead to the development of the OmniFocus task management app (disclosure: it's a project to which Ethan and I both currently contribute).

Well, if you haven't visited Ethan's Kinkless.com site in a while, you'd do well to pop by for a fresh look, because you're in for a treat.

In addition to doing a re-architecture and redesign that's one of the most eye-catching I've seen on a Drupal site, Ethan has begun writing some very useful tutorials (in addition to the screencasts for which he's becoming well-known).

For example, he's recently completed his "Five Steps to a Kinkless Desktop" series, focusing on how to "clean up, prettify and streamline the usage of your desktop." He starts with "The No-Mercy Cleanup":

So we have an undifferentiated mass of stuff on the desktop. This is the point at which a lot of organization self-help tells you to sort through it file by file. I am not going to tell you this. Why? Because I am lazy and realistic. You are just not going to clean up your desktop right now. Why? It’s overwhelming. So we’ll use a trick I call the “No Mercy Cleanup”

If your Mac and your brain need a dose of strong medicine, don't miss this.

I'm really enjoying seeing Ethan contribute his thoughts on productivity -- I've learned from working with him over the past few months that he's very thoughtful and deliberative about this stuff. Despite being a taxonomical animal, he's always focused on sharing first-person changes that will bring real, non-fiddly benefits to the lives of creative types. Looking forward to seeing where he takes this.

iTunes Plus, DRM-free tracks, arrive on iTunes Store

iTunes Plus (iTunes link)

iTunes Plus now available

For help getting set up with "iTunes Plus" (giving you access to buying/upgrading EMI's DRM-free tracks), don't miss this handy helper from MacUser.

The DRM-free features are being billed as “iTunes Plus”: in order to turn it on, you have to click on your account name in the top right corner of the iTunes store. You’ll be prompted for your password, and then brought to the account information page. The top button on that page now reads “Manage iTunes Plus.” Clicking on that will let you choose whether or not iTunes will show you DRM-free tracks when available. Click the checkbox and hit “Save Changes” and you’re ready to rock.

The strange allure (and false hope) of email bankruptcy

E-Mail Reply to All: 'Leave Me Alone' - washingtonpost.com

"Email bankruptcy" was a term I first heard in the context of Lawrence Lessig deciding to throw in the towel by telling everyone to whom he owed email that he was starting over (and that important stuff should be sent again).

Last week, the Washington Post had an article on the practice that traces its origin (or at least its naming) to the end of the last decade:

The term "e-mail bankruptcy" may have been coined as early as 1999 by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who studies the relationship between people and technology.

Professor Sherry Turkle said she came up with the concept after researching e-mail and discovering that some people harbor fantasies about escaping their e-mail burden.

Turkle, who estimated that she has 2,500 pieces of unread e-mail in her inbox, is one of those people. A book she has been working on for a decade is coming out soon. Turkle joked that it would have taken her half the time to write it "if I didn't have e-mail."

The wonderful access to one another that email gives (or, put differently: that it causes us to cede) can be a great thing. But I have to admit that bankruptcy alone may not even be enough to save me (or you).

read more »

Reviving a moribund project with Doodle

Doodle: Scheduling meetings

Maybe this is the GTD-er in me, but I have to admit a frustration with projects that peter off because there's no one person near the helm who's dedicated to defining and managing the group's actions. It's a Project Manager role, and if a group doesn't choose and empower one person to take care of it, stuff simply won't get done. Whether it's deciding on a good night for dinner with friends or organizing the next board meeting, we all need a little help turning generic good ideas into real-world coordinates for action.

So, lately, I've found myself informally assuming this role, driving a surprising number of gone-fallow projects just by using Doodle to propose a simple check-in. The bottom line is that this process of getting a stupid 15-minute call on the calendar of several busy people will tell you so more than you can imagine about where you and your project stand. But where's Doodle enter in to it?

read more »

Ze Frank on creativity and "morphological synthesis"

cecil vortex: An Interview with Ze Frank

Cecil Vortex recently talked with with Ze Frank about the creative process, including how he came up with new stuff every day for The Show. Lots of good stuff to glean from this short interview, including how Ze employs an association trick called "morphological synthesis."

read more »

Pick of the Week: Plain Text Wiki bundle for TextMate

plain text wiki (20 May 2007, Interconnected)

TextMate users in search of a simple wiki should check out Matt Webb's new plain text wiki bundle. He's made it very easy to quickly generate new "pages" and links using nothing but TextMate, the Finder, and CamelCase words:

This is exactly what I need: A bunch of text documents that I'll be able to read at any point in the future, in a wiki structure that will be simple to implement in most extensible text editors.

I'd also note that Matt's bundle works handsomely with Quicksilver's venerable prepend/append and new file functionalities, so, once you've taken the requisite 45 seconds to set this up, you don't necessarily need to even be in TextMate to make additions. You gotta love text.

Nice work, Matt.

Edit 2007-05-22 17:36:17 Forever confusing my British Matts; This bundle is by Matt Webb not the also-wonderfully-talented-and-funny Matt Jones. Many thanks to jjg for the correction. 43 Folders regrets the error.

NYT Magazine on Coulton, Hold Steady, and "Artist 2.0"

Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog

Fun story by Clive Thompson in today's New York Times Magazine about what some people are coming to call "Artist 2.0" (or "Music 2.0") -- the post-plastic-disc world of musicians like Jonathan Coulton and The Hold Steady, who are actively engaging with their fans and not relying on the old school "spray and pray" approach to music marketing that's still in practice by the majors and their foundering artistic properties.

Selected quotes from Clive's article (plus clickable video of my interviews with Jonathan Coulton):

read more »

Net Net: Drill down with 'Corporate Ipsum' widget

Corporate Ipsum - Dashboard - Developer

As we all learned from Equus, we don't get to choose the things in life that fascinate and repel us, and, in retrospect, if I could have chosen to avoid the avalanche of empty businessspeak I've been exposed to over the past dozen or so years, I certainly would have. Alas, I could not. And, so here I am, alternately repulsed and amused by the twisted patois of nonsense that passes for communication in offices and boardrooms today.

If you share this sad affliction, you may enjoy the pleasures afforded by the Corporate Ipsum Dashboard widget, cleverly (and pointlessly) designed to generate paragraphs and paragraphs of empty insight for your next pitch, presentation, or VC meeting.

In one instance, this paradigm-shifting functionality was a solution-provider for the following bit of kimono-opening stone soup:

Synergistically engage cross-media human capital for out-of-the-box convergence. Objectively generate fully tested meta-services via market-driven sources. Interactively underwhelm long-term high-impact convergence rather than future-proof convergence.

At the end of the day: awesome. Sand Hill Road, here I come!

Many thanks to jwines' bookmarks on del.icio.us

Nocturne: Free "night vision" app from the maker of Quicksilver

nocturne:nocturne [docs]

Fans of working in troglodyte mode should have a look at A1c0r's latest creation, Nocturne, an application that generates a "night vision mode" for your Mac -- similar to looking at a negative of a photo.

For years, you've been able to do something similar by hitting "ctrl-opt-cmd-8," which invokes "Switch to black-on-white" in Universal Access options (go ahead and try it, then hit it again to return to normal).

While A1c0r's improvements on this may seem subtle, they're very useful for allowing you to tweak your own preferences and minimizing distracting, full-color solarization effects.

  • Proper color correction in monochrome modes - you don’t lose all your blues or reds when you tint the screen.
  • Window shadow toggling - if glowing windows aren’t your thing.
  • Background removal - hide the desktop picture so you don’t see a inverted version.

I love that you can pick your own tint for how the monochrome image is colored. Want an old-time sepiatone writing environment? No problem.

My tip? If you enjoy sitting outside with your laptop, but the sun is making your screen almost illegible, try flipping Nocturne on -- the contrast and darker backgrounds should help make reading and navigating much easier.

Like all Blacktree's stuff, Nocturne is free of charge.

[Direct download]

Macworld: HandBrake for converting TV episodes to AppleTV

Playlist: Ripping episodic DVDs

Let's say you've hypothetically picked up a DVD of hypothetical episodes of The Larry Sanders Show, and now you want an easy way to watch them on your hypothetical Apple TV. Well, Macworld's handsome Chris Breen comes to your hypothetical rescue with the help of HandBrake's new "Queue" functionality:

From the Title pop-up menu select the first episode that you’d like to rip (if it’s a TV show it will be 20 - 60 minutes long). In the Destination area you’ll see a File field. Give your file a unique name—BlahEpisode1, for example. Click the Presets button at the top of the window and, in the resulting Presets pane, select the appropriate preset (HB-AppleTV if you intend to rip that content for Apple TV, for example). Finally, click Add to Queue.

Wikipedia on "ratholes"

Ratholing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ratholing is a used to describe a conversation or process that has deviated from its original productive purpose into a generally unproductive but long and winding detour that eventually comes to a dead end. The original discussion purpose may be to agree on a course of action. However, if one or more people rathole into a specific point of the discussion then the discussion stalls with no actionable outcome. This term is frequently used on the Macbreak Weekly podcast, resulting in the eventual creation of the "Rathole!" jingle[1] and subsequent full-length song.[2]

I first heard "rathole" used in the developer meetings run by my old boss and current friend, Richard Ramsay. Any topic that could be better handled offline or that took the group off the meeting's stated agenda would be declared a rathole, and we'd immediately move back into the subject at hand. (Richard was great at this, by the way -- one of many things I learned from him.)

Of course, as anyone who listens to MBW has figured out by now, our ratholes are usually the most interesting part of the show. I think of it like "You Bet Your Life," where the "news" is an icebreaker for letting us talk about more compelling stuff than who sold the most chips the preceding week or whether the rumors of Apple's iLawnmower carry any weight.

In any case, I salute Richard for teaching me this fine term, and -- owing to my own fragmented attention and general lack of interest (or ability) in typical Mac punditry -- I'm proud to have a role in bringing ratholes to a broader audience.

(Here's The Official Rathole Jingle)

[via scottgladstone's bookmarks on del.icio.us]

Unclutterer: Get your shred on

Unclutterer: Paper clutter begone, part 4

Handy tips on what to shred and when.

Shred Now:

  • Credit card applications
  • Any piece of unwanted paper that contains: addresses, account numbers or access information, birth dates, budgets, copies of “never shred” documents listed below, drivers license numbers, employment information, envelopes and address labels, estimates, legal papers, luggage tags, medical information, passwords, report cards, signatures, social security numbers, transcripts, travel itineraries, used airline tickets, and anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable having a stranger read
  • Expired credit cards, bank cards, passports, visas, and identification cards (college, military, employee badges, etc.)
  • Credit checks on tenants or other home employees (contractors, nannies, etc.) immediately after evaluating the information

And I couldn't agree more about picking up the best, fastest, securest, and highest-volume shredder you can afford. If you buy purely on price (picking up one of those drug store models that's the size of a guest bathroom's wastebasket), you'll regret it immediately.

Treat yourself to a multi-page monster that can gobble CDs and staples, and you're much more likely to use it in a regular and timely manner -- as in every day, when you pick up that pile of credit card applications with your info all over them. As suggested, I second the motion to shred that crap the second it arrives.

Posts, posts, posts.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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