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.


A Sandwich, A Wallet, and Elizabeth Taylor's Cousin

Poor, poor Sebastian

Being a Parable for the Edification of Independents Seeking Independence


THE OSTENSIBLE CUSTOMER enters a deli and saunters up to the counter. The deli is tended by its rakishly handsome owner, THE SANDWICH GUY.

"Hi," says The Sandwich Guy. "What looks good to you today?"

"Slow down," says The Ostensible Customer, as THE LUNCH RUSH starts trickling in. "Lots of delis want my business, so, first I need to really understand what you can do for me."

"Well," says The Sandwich Guy, "I guess I can try to do what I do for everybody here and make you a customized version of any of the 15 awesome sandwiches you see on my menu. What're you hungry for?"

"Easy, easy, Ricky Roma! Before I make any decisions here I'm going to need to know a lot more about my options. Why are you so obsessed with 'what I want?'"

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Kutiman, Big Media, and the Future of Creative Entrepreneurship

So amazing, so illegal. What are we going to do with you, future?

That's my pal, Jonathan Coulton, remarking on the disruptively talented Kutiman, who has made an astounding series of YouTube video remixes that's lighting up the web and (one imagines) generating a lot of wood amongst our nation's libidinous entertainment litigators.

Here's Kutiman's "The Mother of All Funk Chords" (link includes credits for each video):

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Ideas, Execution, and the Rare Auteur

Idea Man.

ideas are just a multiplier of execution - O'Reilly ONLamp Blog

Derek Sivers' short blog post from 2005 has been making the rounds lately -- it came to me via Chairman Gruber -- and I have to say, I can't stop thinking about it. I think this is really profound thinking around the fundamental misunderstanding many people have about the value of ideas.

In a nutshell, Derek says ideas are valuable only inasmuch as they can be multiplied by execution. So, if you remember your 3rd grade arithmetic, you can figure out the product of even the most fantastic idea when it's multiplied by zero execution.

I, too, frequently encounter this attitude of "Sign the NDA! Sign the NDA!" any time someone wants to tell me about their squirrelly idea for making a bajillion dollars on the internet, and I almost always end up saying the same six things to The Idea Men:

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TWiT 133 with Jonathan Coulton and "Rock Bad"

TWiT 133: Jonathan Coulton - Functional And Elegant

Hosts: Leo Laporte, Jonathan Coulton, Merlin Mann, Veronica Belmont, Ryan Block, and Tom Merritt

Jonathan Coulton and niche broadcasting, HD DVD finally kaput, YouTube goes down, frozen RAM and more.

Here's a free, direct MP3 download of TWiT 133.

Man, I really loved this episode. Jonathan Coulton's music and performances are inspiring in themselves, but as a fellow (albeit, much more modestly successful) "microbrand," I have huge respect for how he runs the business of his career. (more after the jump, including why we were all on this episode together in the first place)

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Solving problems outside your comfort zone

I sometimes think that one factor in success as a business or as a human being has a lot to do with what kind of problems you're comfortable solving -- and how you get better at addressing the stuff that falls outside that comfort zone.

History is littered with revolutionaries who couldn't run the country they'd overthrown, Generals who've insisted on re-fighting the last war, talented programmers who were promoted to becoming ineffective (and very unhappy) managers, and, of course, there's the countless companies that just couldn't make the leap when technology or cultural change rendered their comfy old business model moot.

Seems like there's a thread here that's worth thinking about.

How do you get better at knowing when you’re trying to solve the wrong problem?

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Amazon launches sale of DRM-free MP3s

Daring Fireball: The Amazon MP3 Store and Amazon MP3 Downloader

Given the Amazon MP3 Store’s audio quality, prices, and user experience, I can’t see why anyone would buy DRM-restricted music from iTunes that’s available from Amazon. And given that Amazon is quite a bit cheaper than iTunes Plus, you might as well check Amazon first. I plan to.

I'm with Gruber -- this is a welcome and fan-friendly addition to the marketplace. And, frankly, I'm glad there's finally somebody out there who can really give Apple some competition in this area.

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NYT: New data on the problems of "multitasking"

Slow Down, Multitaskers, and Don’t Read in Traffic - New York Times

'The Myth of Multitasking' by timothymorgan on Flickr

Yesterday's New York Times front page ran an article pulling together the results of several recent studies looking at how interruptions and attempts to multitask can affect the quality of work as well as the length of recovery time.

Here's one bit that really grabbed me:

In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.

“I was surprised by how easily people were distracted and how long it took them to get back to the task,” said Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft research scientist and co-author, with Shamsi Iqbal of the University of Illinois, of a paper on the study that will be presented next month.

And, from a PDF of another of the studies cited ("Isolation of a Central Bottleneck of Information Processing with Time-Resolved fMRI"), here's a telling snippet from the article's abstract (yes, most of the rest of it is well over my head):

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Productive Talk Compilation: 8-episode podcast with GTD's David Allen

Download MP3 of "Productive Talk Compilation"

As promised, here's the single-file compilation of the Productive Talk podcast interviews I did with David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done. The final version's eight episodes clock in at a considerable one hour and twenty-six minutes, so this should give you plenty to listen to while you're in line at the DMV.

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David Allen on GTD's future (and why it just works, as is)

Productive Talk #08: GTD 2.0?

43 Folders and The David Allen Company present the eighth in a series of conversations that David and Merlin recently had about Getting Things Done.


In this episode, Merlin asks David one of the most popular questions about GTD; if he could write the book all over again today, what would he do differently? David addresses how people’s understanding of GTD evolves on repeated exposures, as well hinting at future plans for making GTD easier for people to start and maintain. He makes some great points on learning to pay attention to your "higher altitudes," and wraps up by underscoring the importance of not having to rethink every task throughout the day. (13:11)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen here (after the cut).

Merlin's comments

If you bend David Allen's ear for more than 30 seconds about GTD, you'll hear some variation of a phrase that I heard a lot over the couple days we hung out in Ojai: "It's all in the book!"

Say what you will about The David, but he is not a man who suffers from The George Lucas Complex. Much to the consternation of his publishers, his fans, and -- one suspects -- even some of his colleagues, David feels like he has already written the complete and definitive work on the Getting Things Done system. And he very clearly has no desire to futz with that basic system without a good reason; it's sound and complete, as is, and there you go. Next subject.

And, I have to say, in a lot of ways, I've come to really admire this.

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HOWTO network without becoming a disingenuous weasel

Business Networking Advice: Merlin Mann from 43Folders.com - Interview

Josh asked me two interview questions about business networking, and I answered them. [Spoiler: historically, I've not been such a big fan of business networking]:

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

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