43 Folders

Back to Work

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

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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


David Weinberger: Blogs and salad bars

David Weinberger has a short, funny commentary on the explosion of blogs -- and of the expectation by anyone who starts a blog that everyone they know should be keeping up with every word they post.

Very funny and true, but this wonderful sentence in particular jumped out as the best summation of modern media bloat I've heard in a while:

read more »

Focus is cash in the economics of attention

Metroactive Features | Techsploits ["Attention!"]

Annalee on overstimulation, bad soccer calls, and the new currencies that comprise "the attention economy:"

But the researchers found something far more interesting. Subjects who made incorrect decisions under "noisy" conditions tended to have extremely high confidence that their decisions were right. They were far more confident than the subjects dealing with a noncluttered image.

"These results have practical implications for perceptual decisions in everyday life," wrote the authors in their paper. "They predict an increase in high-confidence errors when decisions are made in cluttered environments...."

And, later:

Consumers and producers of the attention economy are the inverse of those in the cash economy. Attention producers are users, and attention consumers are companies.

Attention producers need software that works like the Federal Reserve. It should keep attention inflation low by making it easier to get the right information quickly.

Nicely put. Someday I hope to serve honorably on the Federal Attention Reserve Board.

Hawk Wings: Me on Mail.app

Hawk Wings » Blog Archive » Talking Mail.app: Merlin Mann

Tim Gaden's been doing a series on various Mac folks' usage of Mail.app. He's talked with folks like John Gruber, Mathowie, and Ethan Schoonover about what they like (and don't) about OS X's default mail application, as well as the ways they'd like to see it improve.

Tim was kind enough to ask me as well, and the results are up at Hawk Wings:

read more »

Flow: How action and awareness get things done

A few good links and snippets on Flow -- a topic that's come a couple times before here and on the group, but which seems more germane than ever given a lot of what [the royal] we have been talking about lately. More deets on buying the book at the end, although there seem to be plenty of chewy resources on the web if you just want an introduction.


From c2:

"Flow" is a mental state of deep concentration. It typically takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted study to get into a state of "flow", and the constant interruptions and distractions of a typical office environment will force you out of "flow" and make productivity impossible to achieve.

From wikipedia:

As Csikszentmihalyi sees it, there are components of an experience of flow that can be specifically enumerated; he presents eight:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernable).
  2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time - our subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is not too easy or too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.

Not all of these components are needed for flow to be experienced.

From The Man Who Found the Flow:

Of the eight elements, one in particular emerged as the most telling aspect of optimal experience: the merging of action and awareness. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence sounded a similar theme, when he wrote that "happiness is absorption." As the thirteen-century Zen master Dogen pointed out, in those moments when the world is experienced with the whole of one's body and mind, the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life discloses an intrinsic richness and joy in being. For Csikszentmihalyi, this complex harmony of a unified consciousness is the mode of being toward which our own deepest inclination always points us.

From Interfaces for Staying in the Flow:

In summary, interfaces that are targeted at improving user's ability to stay in the flow shouldn't underestimate the importance of speed in supporting creativity, quality, and enjoyment. Every time there is an interruption, literal or conceptual that gets in the way of users concentrating on their tasks, flow is lost. Slow interfaces, which I define as any that get in the way of users acting on their work as quickly as they can think about it, are problematic.

Online places to pick up a copy of Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

Open Thread: The "43 Folders" of health and fitness sites?

Over the last six months or so, I've gotten a lot of requests via email from people looking for (yes, thanks, more than one person called it this) "the 43 Folders of (health|exercise|fitness) sites."

Naturally I set my Google fu in motion, fully expecting to turn up dozens of excellent sites on how to stay motivated about workouts, how to eat properly, and how to psych (or "hack," if you prefer) yourself into straightening out, losing weight, and getting that fat ass in motion.

Funny thing: I came up pretty thin -- and not in that good, healthy, slender kind of thin way. In at least three sittings of searching over the past few months, I just did not turn up more than a couple of independent sites that really blew me away. Really surprising, and maybe I was just looking in the wrong places. Like under a 12-pack of beer and a rib roast.

BUT. I'm sure they're out there, and I can't think of smarter people to ask than you, so you tell me: what's your favorite website or blog about getting healthy? What are your favorite apps for tracking progress and watching a diet? Who's got the best "health hacks?"

Post your faves in comments and help your geeky friends get as theoretically fit as they are theoretically organized.

TOPICS: Links, Vox Populi

Washington Post: Why do we carry so much around?

Burdens of the Modern Beast

What’s in my bag: Yes, I will cut you.Washington Post on the growing amount of crap people carry around (present company very much included).

The increased quantity of carry-on items for our flight through life, he says, reflects "the tendency of our society to dispense with sources of shared stability -- the long-term job, neighborhoods, unions, family dinners -- and transform us into autonomous free agents."

The Walkman, introduced in 1979, Hine says in an e-mail, "probably set the precedent; it allowed people to be physically in a space, but mentally detached. The plethora of 'communications' devices we carry are also tools of isolation from the immediate environment. And, in the words of the recruiting ad, we each become 'an army of one' carrying all our tools of survival through a presumably hostile world."

It's the perfect posture for the Age of Insecurity. We fret about our jobs, families, country, manhood or womanhood, ability to be a good parent. We believe someone is out to get us. And to get our things. So, like the homeless, we carry our stuff with us. Just in case something, or anything, happens.

[ via Joe Ganley on The Google Group ]

So what should you carry, hmmm?

If you're looking to shed (or, perhaps, more efficiently augment) your on-board crap pile, check out these fun pages from the 43F wiki:

Gorgeous, Mac-centric Firefox themes

GrApple - Aronnax`s Firefox Themes

Dang, these Mac-o-phillic Firefox themes are yummy. I've actually been using "GrApple Eos Pro" for some time now, but I'd never realized just how many subtle variations were available.

I'm not sure if it's just a Mac thing -- or even whether it's necessarily always a good thing -- but I really believe the chance of a product's wider adoption amongst Mac users is greatly enhanced when it looks like something we're used to using. Thanks to the broad range of talented hands contributing to open source projects these days, we're starting to see more top-notch work like this from people like Aronnax; stuff that keep us snooty 5ish% very happy and visually dazzled. Good on you. (And a tip of the Mac to Jon for supplying their hosting and cool domain name.)

GTD: Boing Boing Mark gets it

Mad Professor: Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done has occasionally been criticized for lacking a focus on what I call Capital Letter Nouns -- as an action-based, tactical toolset for managing life's verbs, it was never intended as a top-down treatise on generating Big Life Decisions. I happen to think that's a big part of what makes it so appealing to people (esp. the techies who crave "actionable items") -- it takes you as you are and says "Okay, let's get to work."

But, funny thing: the folks who stick with GTD past the experimental try-on phase often discover it gives them sharper insight into their goals and values than some of the theoretically more lofty systems that are out there.

It's always satisfying to see folks make that big breakthrough, and that's what I hear Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder saying over at Mad Professor:

I bought the book and read it last year, and incorporated a lot of what I learned into my daily routine. But I re-read the book recently and came back with a deeper understanding of what the book is really about. The best summary is on page 19: "The real issue is how to make appropriate choices about what to do at any point in time. The real issue is how we manage actions."

That's the GTD process in a nutshell. It's about setting up a system that allows you to quickly review every single thing you want to do -- large (writing a book) and small (changing the wiper blades on your car) -- so you can decide on the best next physical action you can take to elicit the changes in your life that you desire.

Get those verbs under control, folks, and it's a shitload easier to even see the big nouns.

SFGate talks with the father of "patterns"

To be a good builder, you need a feel for what surrounds you. Christopher Alexander knows. [SFGate.com]

Berkeley's Christopher Alexander -- author of A Pattern Language -- talks with Chron art critic Kenneth Baker in a 2-part feature discussing his career and his 4-volume collection, The Nature of Order (official book site)

read more »

Real Simple: Plugging money leaks

Money-Saving Secrets: RealSimple.com

This article from the March, 2006 Real Simple has some handy tips on plugging the "money leaks" in your life. Leaks to plug include:

  • Paying bills by snail mail
  • Paying the minimum on credit cards
  • A cell-phone plan that doesn’t match your needs
  • Eating out on vacations
read more »
TOPICS: Links, Money, Tips



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


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. »