By Shadoe Huard

June 4th 2011

Forging Relationships   

John Gruber, in an interview with Brent Simmons and Daniel Pasco:

What I remember about NetNewsWire back then is that it single-handedly made me spend more time in Mac OS X. At the time, and for a while after that, I had two machines: one running Mac OS 9 and one running Mac OS X. OS X was the new frontier, shinier, the one with a future. But it was slow. Mac OS 9 was clean, fast, and familiar. And most of my favorite apps at the time ran on both, making it relatively easy to switch or dual-boot.

But not NetNewsWire.

Another bit of symbiosis was Daring Fireball’s inclusion in NetNewsWire’s list of default feeds. New NetNewsWire users became new Daring Fireball readers just by launching the app. That was the biggest and most consistent driver of traffic growth in Daring Fireball’s early years.

What’s most striking about this interview is the conviviality of the three parties as they reminisce about the history of a software application. There’s something about NetNewsWire that seems to strike a chord specifically because it seems to have been around so long and part of the personal history of many a people from Gruber’s generation. It’s fascinating to think how much impact something as simple as an RSS reader can have.

10 years from now, I’m pretty sure people from my generation will be talking about Instapaper with that same sense of fondness and appreciation.

Posted at 5:13pm and tagged with: daring fireball, gruber, instapaper, net news wire, one column, rss, tech, readlater,.

May 27th 2011

Instapaper as a Writing Tool   

Up until recently, I couldn’t come up with a reason to purchase Instapaper, Marco Arment’s popular reading archive application. From all the recomendations I was hearing, I had downloaded the free version of the application last year to try it out. After doing the initial setup, I never went back to it. I never had the urge to “read later”. Shame on me.

I thought the reason might lie with my own habits not lining up with those of the typical user. When browsing websites and blogs, I tend to read articles on the spot. If I don’t have the time, I simply leave the browser open, bookmark the page or remember roughly where I found the article. It seemed redundant to use Instapaper when I was also using applications like Reeder, which already stored all the articles of my favorite writers in one place. I really wanted to like Instapaper. It has a great interface and Marco has obviously put alot of thought and passion it. I simply could not justify it.

Until I started writing.

Doing research for this site, I’m always collecting articles and news items from all over the web for future use, sometimes for projects I don’t plan on writing for weeks. When the time would come for me to refer back to them for the piece I’d be writing, I found it really distracting having to switch back and forth between my text editor and my browser to look up some piece of information in my browser history. As I collected more and more articles, trying to remember what was what from all the bookmarks I was accumulating was becoming cumbersome. I needed a better solution. Which is when I turned back to Instapaper. I realized I could use it as a giant virtual folder for storing research instead of things I wanted to read for leisure. Now, whenever I find an article I might want to use in some future article, I save it to Instapaper. I can then fire up the application on my iPhone or iPad while I’m writing on my desktop, where it’s much easier to refer to and less distracting while I’m writing.

It turned out that I was looking at Instapaper from the wrong paradigm. As silly as it sounds, I’m more interested in Instapaper when I think of it as a writing tool rather than a reading application. It’s a semantic distinction, but it’s what allowed me to finally see the value of it.

Posted at 11:27am and tagged with: instapaper, writing, tech, one column,.

May 12th 2011

Fresh Squeeze   

I’m terrible at pressing juice. It once took me about 12 oranges to extract enough liquid for a glass. Much easier from concentrate.

I’ve realized I’m the same with using software.  I tend to stick to the basics, never exploring further, never peeking under the hood.  I use a few shortcuts here and there and I almost never customize the applications I use.   I don’t even try to really explore the breadth of apps that are available for the things I do.  

Just add water. The convenience of using what’s built into my computer is comforting.  Why do I need an app launcher when the dock is always there? What’s automator for again? There’s already noise reduction baked into Lightroom, thanks but no thanks on that plugin.  Instapaper? Just leave the browser window open until I come back to it.  Why does my computer need to be better at doing stuff? It’s fine as it is.

I poke fun, silently, of people endlessly optimizing their workflow, incessently analyzing which hand grip squeezes the orange hardest. They’re doing all that work and I’m lounging, cup of juice in hand. If you’ve had that freshly squeezed nectar, your might be thinking “Wait, you don’t want your juice to taste better?” 

I do. I’m stubborn.  I’ve been reading thousands of articles on the web for a decade. I started using RSS last week. Pretty tasty.  I’m drafting an article about changes I’d like to see made to iTunes and some of them already exist. 

Will you look at that.

Change is hard. Don’t mention oranges near my forearms. Everyday, I’m told from people who’s opinions I value all the ways X, Y & Z makes their lives easier. Fresher, more nutritious.  

I’m not listening. Too busy stirring syrup-ice in a jug.

You know what I’m about to tell you, but I need to get it out. I need to tell MYSELF. 

Try things. Add another app to the dock, even if you think it’s one too many.  

It’s ok to do things your way.  To have a process.  Just remember to build upon it.

Kool-Aid is delicious.  Fruit Presses exist too.

You might like them. With some practice, I will too.

Posted at 3:40pm and tagged with: work, apps, change, instapaper, automator, improving, mac, tech,.