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.


2 ways to make RSS readers smarter

There's two significant features I've been wishing for in my beloved newsreader, NetNewsWire, and the emergence of this cool little ListMixer app will suffice as the prodding needed to toss them out to Brent and the boys upstairs.

1. Per-feed expirations

I'd love a little drop-down menu on the "New Subscription" window (that's also echoed as a section in the feed's "Info for..." window) that lets me select how long I want to subscribe to the feed. It might be pre-popped with, say, 3 months, but the options I'd include are (1 day | 1 week | 2 weeks | 1 month | 3 months | 6 months | 1 year | Forever). "But why?" you wonder aloud, "these RSS feeds, they are so wonderful!"

Well, one of the reasons I ended up deleting all my RSS feeds last month was the fact that my collection had become a disorganized travesty consisting largely of things I'd stopped reading, packages that had been delivered weeks ago, and comment threads that hadn't seen a new addition in months. Noise, noise, noise, and it's all down to me to delete the junk one feed at the time. Screw that. Reset.

I've found an increasing number of my feeds are, by their nature, ephemeral, in that they will lose any value to me within a very short period of time. FedEx deliveries are the canonical example. What in this world could possibly seem more important before it happens, but could matter less once it's passed?

Letting me establish the life of a feed when I add it, but then giving me a cool interface to decide if I really want to delete it would be very cool, and it could come in the way of...

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Flash: "Podfading" ravages the landscape of logorrheic bloggers

Wired News: Podfading Takes Its Toll

The phenomenon has earned its own label, "podfading," coined by podcaster Scott Fletcher in February 2005 when he gave up on two podcasts of his own.

"I liken it to losing interest in a hobby and then coming up with the reasons you don't have time anymore," said Fletcher, a Peoria, Illinois, computer-program analyst who has since returned to the scene with his monthly Podcheck, a discussion of podcasting news.

I don't doubt that people give up doing podcasts everyday, but I suspect it's not simply because they're a huge pain to make (which they certainly are, compared to typical text blogging). I think the problem is the expectations podcasters may have created for themselves and for their audience -- being cleft to this 1st Generation notion of podcasting as "regularly-scheduled MP3 Radio Show."

There's nothing wrong with this, of course, and a lot of folks have done yeoman's work churning out (sometimes really long) shows on a (sometimes nauseatingly) regular basis. But it's also daunting and backward to decide first that you're "doing an hour-long podcast" and second that it will be about....uh...what? Yeah, exactly. That's a lot of air to fill each (day | week | month). If you can pull it off with elan, more power to you.

Me? I like the idea that a podcast is simply another way to post. Nothing more. Same way that Flickr and del.icio.us -- to name just a couple -- let me share something in a way that isn't a traditional blog post, recording audio lets me (try to) make a certain point in my own way and with tone (and, one hopes, personality) that are a contrast with typically dry blog writing. But maybe that's just me.

I understand it's useful to look back toward what new technologies remind us of, but you won't tease out the more novel uses of something until you let it just be what it is, allowing it to evolve without all the herding and expectations. In the fifties, the future always looked like TVs, and in the sixties it all looked like rocket ships. And so, today, podcasts look like relatively easy-to-produce (usually long-ass) radio shows, and that's cool, I suppose.

But if we are to be stuck with this radio mindset for now, I do wish more of the many talented podcasters out there would aspire toward making a series of brilliant poppy '45s -- rather than manufacturing these hour. long. news. casts. Seriously. Just do 3 fun minutes every couple weeks, and then stop for a while. I want "Love Me Do," not "The Ring Cycle."

Raise your bar for quality and way lower your bar for frequency, and I promise you the whole thing will be much more fun for everyone.

Use the Interwebs to Get Rich!!! Promote Your New Product for FREE on Blog$!!1!1!

So, either I forgot about sending out a lot of requests to receive press releases or, more likely, an extraordinary number of people have suddenly decided I should be talking about their product on this site. Lucky me.

My mitzvah to you once and future senders of PR comes in the form of these million-dollar tips for promoting your product. Before you send email to (or, God forbid, telephone) Z-list bloggers like myself, please consider these friendly tips for not coming off as a complete tool:

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Looking back at our fresh starts & modest changes

Fresh Starts & Modest Changes

Henry David ThoreauEarlier this month I began a short series of posts and podcasts called "Fresh Starts & Modest Changes." It was meant as an antidote to the pressure that many of us feel to upend our lives with poorly thought-out new year's resolutions. The idea was to get you thinking less about the unlikelihood of success in mounting sudden, ginormous change, and more to suggest some subtle adjustments for making life just a bit more pleasant, productive, and your own. Tweaking as you go, instead of trying to treat your mind like some kind of a microwavable corn dog.

We're getting to the end of the month now, so I wanted to wrap up with a few thoughts on the value of small changes, but I'd also love to hear about any of your own fresh starts and modest changes -- particularly hoping you'll share the ways you've had the best success keeping on track with the adjustments you've chosen to make.

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RII & "What would Descartes subscribe to?"

Rands In Repose: Repetitive Information Injury

The other day someone asked if all my hot-roddding, organization, and Mac fu have truly made me any more "productive," and I said what I usually say: "Yeah, on most days, absolutely. But sometimes I'm just procrastinating with lightning efficiency."

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Ev Williams: Achieving balance with GTD

evhead: Ten Rules for Web Startups

Ev's ten rules for a startup are all strong, but #10 particularly caught my eye:

#10: Be Balanced
What is a startup without bleary-eyed, junk-food-fueled, balls-to-the-wall days and sleepless, caffeine-fueled, relationship-stressing nights? Answer?: A lot more enjoyable place to work. Yes, high levels of commitment are crucial. And yes, crunch times come and sometimes require an inordinate, painful, apologies-to-the-SO amounts of work. But it can't be all the time. Nature requires balance for health -- as do the bodies and minds who work for you and, without which, your company will be worthless. There is no better way to maintain balance and lower your stress that I've found than David Allen's GTD process. Learn it. Live it. Make it a part of your company, and you'll have a secret weapon.

Right on.

Slightly off-topic, but on my mind...as I commented earlier today, I'm finding myself increasingly uncomfortable framing techniques like GTD strictly in terms of "productivity" (although the ability to be more efficient and productive is definitely a nice perk).

GTD fights stress not by transforming you into a drone or a brainless corporate cog, but by affording a framework for recovering and maintaining smart focus. What you do with that focus is entirely your affair -- clearly people will use it for everything from building a very swell startup to managing their music career and beyond. Gratefully, nowhere does The David say you have to turn into an enormous-toothed White Guy running sales seminars at the La Quinta Inn. In any case, when we're doing GTD right, Ev is right on the money: balance is sewn into every stitch of your week.

Even two years into using GTD, I have to say I'm still pleased -- and sometimes even surprised -- at how well it still works for me. Whenever I fall off the horse, I'm usually just a mini-review away from feeling retuned to my priorities and commitments. I agree with Ev; it's powerful stuff.

I do wonder if there's a better term for GTD's goals and methods than simply "productivity" or even "time management" What do you think? Does it matter?

Baltimore Sun on 'lifestyle tips' sites

Lifestyle tips, from the weird to the useful - baltimoresun.com

Breezy overview of those wacky sites with their productivity and life hacks.

Especially nice to see digital ink for cool sites like Deeper Motive, Tricks of the Trade, and Slacker Manager (as well as the usual suspects). Diversification: good.

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Lifehacker features (and craving more)

Lifehacker - Feature

Our pals over at Lifehacker have a new section of Features where they’re posting longer how-tos and tutorials on all manner of cool stuff. Don’t miss How to set up a personal home web server, How to control your home computer from anywhere, and Professional E-mail Tips. These are all very well done and super-useful.

Permit me to extend two enthusiastic horns of rock toward the Lifehacker domain to celebrate this august move. The crew there is composed of some very smart cookies, and it’s really cool to see them spreading their wings and being encouraged to augment their link blogging with excellent original content. This is good.

Just because no one’s asked me yet, I’ll volunteer a stray factoid: the sites like 43F that I ever visit more than occasionally have some things in common: a) they have an original voice and a point of view, b) the authors make an effort to create and share new content and ideas—or at least present old ones in a new or contextual way.

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Productivity tarbabies and dark nights of the geek soul

Being a whistle-stop tour of 43F posts on the highs and lows of honing your productivity mojo. With special attention to the times when all that fiddling makes you less productive and more stressed out. Sampling from 10 months of posting on keeping your footing when the TODO lists get too numerous, steep, and weirdly fractal.

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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. »