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

April, 2008

Email Insanity & the 0.001 Challenge

Via a Toot by Jeff Atwood comes this thoughtful post by Tantek Çelik on how email is no longer working for him. His first reason is a biggie:

1. Point to point communications do not scale.

All forms of communication where you have to expend time and energy on communicating with a specific person (anything that has a notion of "To" in the interface that you have to fill in) are doomed to fail at some limit. If you are really good you might be able to respond to dozens (some claim hundreds) of individual emails a day but at some point you will simply be spending all your time writing email rather than actually "working" on any thing in particular (next-actions or projects, e.g. coding, authoring, drawing, enjoying your life etc.)

This is one reason I'm getting attracted to using Get Satisfaction as a way to expose help issues to a large group of helpers and helpees (BTW, we're just getting started on GS -- FAQs and more will be coming soon). I'm also realizing that this is why I (and Jonathan Coulton and probably you) struggle with holding up dozens of one-on-one conversations -- it locks up your attention and its fruits in thousands of inaccessible alcoves. And truly, that does not and will not scale.

But, y'know, as I read Tantek's post, alongside his "Communication Protocols" notes, I found myself returning to a pet theory that I've been too embarrassed to lay out in a real post. But what the heck, I'll capture some notes and you can tell me what you think:

I suspect that email encourages people to act insane.

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Admin: 43f caching blip fixed

This afternoon 43 Folders had a temporary caching problem that resulted in some posts being inaccessible to users who were not logged in. Sorry about that.

I think this problem is fixed now. If it's giving you any trouble, please don't hesitate to let us know.


Clutter War II: Attack of the Giant Baby

As of next Sunday, our lovely daughter will have been with our houshold for six months (Happy Half-Birthday, Eleanor). It's a good arrangement, and we're all pretty happy about the whole thing so far. But, to look around our house, you'd think we were raising a small army of babies, each of whom has their own Amazon Prime account and an addiction to things that are shaped like giraffes.

Oh my, the stuff. The baby stuff. Everywhere. Means of conveyance, swingy seat, Bumbo, squeaky toys, fuzzy toys, toys for biting and bending, jammies, jackets, socks that do and don't look like shoes, amusing hats, blankets, books, rattles, pacifiers, cleaning supplies, extra diapers -- plus of course, there's the raw tonnage of stuff belonging to the caretaking adults that has been displaced or disused as a result of the occupying baby's needs. It is a scene, man, I can assure you. And there's not an iota of blame to place on the actual baby; it's all us (and mostly me). [By the bye, for an illuminating look at the perils of the creeping ParentCrap industry, have a look at Parenting, Inc. It's chilling. And, for me, personally damning.]

At any rate, as we approach that august 183-day mark in our little girl's life, you might be able to guess where my head is right now. Yep. It's on clutter, and on what I need to do to get my face back into Peter Walsh's excellent de-cluttering book as a means for regaining domestic sanity and striding toward the possibility of a life without tripping, piling, or losing what's left of my sleep-deprived mind.

But let's start with first principles:

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Jobs on 43 Folders for April 21st

43 Folders Jobs

You’ll see your company or organization on 43 Folders when you post to the 43f Job Board. Featured jobs will appear in periodic posts like this one.

Many thanks to all our job posters.

Our Featured Jobs

Post your job »


Links of favor for April 18

  • NEAT Receipts Scanner - Sharp-looking receipt scanner for the Mac, coming soon. I tend to avoid one-off gadgets that have any kind of permanent footprint on my desk, but this looks pretty handy if it works.
  • Footers In Modern Web Design: Creative Examples and Ideas | Design Showcase | Smashing Magazine - Inspiring collection of ways to use the space at the top and bottom of a web page. The first advocate for this approach that I can recall is Derek, who always uses his footers to such lovely and functional effect.
  • A Pattern Language for Productivity - Gah! I feared I'd waited too long. I've totally been meaning to start something like this on the 43f wiki for a couple years. (curses self). Nice start, here. Should be useful for folks.
  • The Fishbowl: Twitterpated - I get a surprising amount of flack for not following more people on Twitter. Which dumbfounds me. It's like being angry at someone because they aren't watching enough TV. Anyhow, some of these hyper-following people strike me as either nutjobs or cynics, e.g. "in one case, 34,000. If you were truly following all these people, and they updated only once per day on average, you would be reading a Twitter message every two seconds." Yeah. That sounds really fun and enriching. [via anarchaia]
  • Word Spy - speed mentoring - "Getting advice in a series of short conversations with experts and other mentors." I need me more of this.
  • BENTWOOD by contexture design workshop - My gosh, what a lovely idea; a wooden bangle that turns into a coffee cup sleeve. Smart. [via Erika]
  • Ten typographic mistakes everyone makes | Life, Tutorials - Guilty as charged on a number of these. I think the one I'm laziest about is straight quotation marks (""") where I really mean inches (""). I do love that people care this much about this stuff (most of the time).
  • Mac Mini Media Centre / journal / hicksdesign - Jon has been sharing how he's setting up his Mac Mini as a home entertainment juggernaut. This post outlines his basic setup, the apps he uses, etc. He also has a companion Flickr set. I'd love to hear more from folks on workflow. How -- hypothetically -- an AVI from out in the wild gets downloaded, encoded when necessary, and then dropped into the "~/Movies" folder. Maybe Automator? As a new Mini owner with the same goals, I'd love to hear your tips here in comments.
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (Event Video/Audio) | Berkman Center - Clay's book is justifiably hyped right now, because it's just so damned good. If you enjoyed seeing the Claymeister General on Colbert, you might want to catch this swell talk, where he gets a bit more room to say his piece on a world where things get organized without organizers.
  • Spark | CBC Radio | Disaster Preparedness Kit for your digital life - "...Nora and Merlin Mann (of 43Folders fame) are putting together a 'Disaster Preparedness Kit' for your digital life. Do you have a tip, trick, or tool that puts your mind at ease and keeps you from worrying about data loss?"
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TOPICS: Daily Links

MacBreak Weekly 85: Wombats, Pystar, NBC's Buggy Whips, Mitchell & Webb, and hacking Time Machine

MacBreak Weekly 85: You Look Mac Today

Hosts: Leo Laporte, Merlin Mann, and Andy Ihnatko

Wombats, Pystar clones, Back to My Mac, Aussie iPhones on Vodafone, and more.

Here's a direct MP3 download of MBW 85.

This week my Audible pick is That Mitchell and Webb Sound, and my application pick is TimeMachineEditor. The former is a wonderful radio series by two British comics that I'm currently obsessed with, while the latter is a very handy app for manually setting how often Time Machine backs up your Mac.

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Know your smoke

Is your car smoking from the exhaust pipe?

Reader wemerson was kind enough to correct me on my metaphor in the previous post about tracking down the sources of whining in your life. Turns out that my use of "white smoke" was incorrect. Many thanks -- and I made the correction.

To share the information and prevent future slightly-appropriate-metaphor-makers from repeating my error, here's how to tell what's wrong with your car based on the color of smoke coming out of your tailpipe. From trustmymechanic.com:

  • White smoke: White smoke is caused by water and or antifreeze entering the cylinder, and the engine trying to burn it with the fuel. The white smoke is steam...
  • Blue Smoke: Blue smoke is caused by engine oil entering the cylinder area and being burned along with the fuel air mixture. As with the white smoke, just a small drop of oil leaking into the cylinder can produce blue smoke out the tailpipe...
  • Black Smoke: Black smoke is caused by excess fuel that has entered the cylinder area and cannot be burned completely. Another term for excess fuel is "running rich." Poor fuel mileage is also a common complaint when black smoke comes out of the tailpipe.

Related: in the event that a conclave at the Sistine Chapel has been voting on who the next Pope shall be, here's what Wikipedia says to watch for in terms of smoke (emphasis added):

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Whining, Blue Smoke & the Mechanics of Getting Unstuck

I've been working on a bunch of (non-43 Folders-related) stuff lately, but I started feeling that hankering to come back and write something new here. To get the engine started, I went through some old posts and turned up a few (oddly self-inspiring) ideas that I want to re-share. The topic? "Getting unstuck."

  • Hack your way out of writer's block - "Literally. Put five completley random words on a piece of paper. Write five more words. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page."
  • Solve problems by writing a note to yourself - "Seriously, open up your email program, type in your own email address, then choose a brilliant subject line that perfectly encapsulates your particular problem."
  • Do a fast "mind-sweep" - "And as long as you let that stuff accumulate as chunky deposits on the edges of your perception, it’s very unlikely it’ll get done since — well — they won’t get done until they’re been captured and properly started, right?"
  • Cringe-Busting your TODO list - "Per cringe item, think honestly about why you’re freaked out about it. Seriously. What’s the hang-up? (Fear of failure? Dreading bad news? Angry you’re already way overdue?)"
  • Patching your personal suck - "Every patch that fails teaches you a little something that might come in handy some day. Mistakes, as they say, can be a buddhist gift."

I guess all I'd add -- since it's on my mind today -- is that I'm learning how much it pays to listen whenever you hear yourself mentally whining.

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Posts, posts, posts.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

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This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »