A Note on Blockquotes

Spoiler alert: in this post I will explain why I am changing the way I write blockquotes.

I fully expect 99% of readers will file this into the “why on Earth are you sharing this information with us, literally no one cares” category, and rightfully so. (If you consider yourself in that 99% and would rather leave right now, might I offer this cute video of 5-year-old kids making espresso instead?)

This one goes out to the other one percent—the writers who obsess over stylistic details and think way too much about this stuff. I love you wackos, you know who you are.

 

Bill Carter on Covering 'SNL' and Lorne Michaels for 40 Years

I've loved Saturday Night Live since I was a kid, so this glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes was fascinating and entertaining to read.

[Lorne] Michaels needed to get station clearances up fast or face ratings doom. So he agreed to talk to me — initially on the phone. One thing he said illustrated how sure he was of his mission: “When we do well, we do the best comedy on TV. That's not ego; that's just the way it is.”

As John Gruber put it, “How [The New York Times] let Carter walk away is beyond me.”

Publishing a Day One Journal as a Book

Donnie Ray Jones:

“My wife and I keep a journal of notes to our twin girls in Day One. After a year of journaling, I wanted to print the entries in a physical book for my wife as a Christmas present.”

Interesting idea, and would make a great gift to family members next time Christmas rolls around.

If you need more ideas for journaling in Day One check out my recent, in-depth review, which offers several ideas and a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of the app.

Federico Viticci's Review of the iPad Air 2

Federico's review of the iPad Air 2 is far more than a breakdown of its specs and features. It's a credo for why the iPad has become his primary computing device.

“The iPad’s screen and body are glued together physically and conceptually. [...] as a computer [it] truly disappears in your hands, feeling like a display that you grab and touch and swipe and throw away when you’re done.

[...]

Three years ago, when I was stuck in a hospital bed and I wanted to continue my work, I started using the iPad out of curiosity, challenging myself to get more done on iOS in spite of its limitations and differences from OS X. Today, some of those limitations still remain, but the iPad and new versions of iOS have solved most of my problems in new and unexpected ways.

The iPad is the best thing that happened to my professional life.”

Like Federico, the iPad—mine is the 4th-gen model—is my primary device. In fact, I don't even own a traditional computer anymore (unless you count my wife's Windows 7 laptop, which I avoid using at all costs).

I'm in a better position than most to find any holes in Federico's argument, but I can't disagree with a single word of his review, or more importantly his philosophy concerning the iPad. It truly is an incredibly versatile device. Most shortcomings with it I've ever come across have been due to lack of developer interest, but even that problem is getting less and less prevalent by the year.

Just to give an example, here are some of the apps that help me get my writing work done:

And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. The iPad has limitations, sure, but those are more and more becoming edge cases. Nearly all my needs are covered by the iPad, and I have almost no desire for anything more.

* * *

Further reading: Josh Ginter's review + gorgeous photos of the iPad Air 2 on Tools & Toys.

God is in the Details

No, I am not linking to a religious piece. I have no interest in such things.

This article by Buzz Usborne—UX Director at Campaign Monitor and founder of Prevue—is all about celebrating the importance of obsession over the tiniest details in one's work.

“God is in the details.”

It applied to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe when he was designing buildings in the mid 1900’s, and it remains true in product design today. Though I don’t profess to know much about architecture, another likely commonality with product design is that it’s those same details that are the easiest to forget. But it’s those little things, the tiny minutia of detail, that ultimately make beautiful products, and beautiful houses.

[...] I’m not talking about obvious design things; like colours, drop-shadows or placement. Instead I’m referring to something harder to define; experience and subconscious patterns that help the user feel more at-ease with an interaction. That detail might come in the form of a change in cursor, a “down” style for a button, or a helpful animation.

He focuses on UX design mostly of course, but a careful eye will reveal philosophies that can apply to other kinds of creative work.

* * *

I would be remiss here if I did not also remind readers about my friend Shawn Blanc's wonderful ebook + audiobook + interview bundle, Delight is in the Details. Get this book and really absorb its lessons—your work will be better for it.

Structure

John McPhee, writing for The New Yorker about the evolution of his approach to (and preoccupation with) writing structure over the years:

“In some twenty months, I had submitted half a dozen pieces, short and long, and the editor, William Shawn, had bought them all. You would think that by then I would have developed some confidence in writing a new story, but I hadn’t, and never would. To lack confidence at the outset seems rational to me. It doesn’t matter that something you’ve done before worked out well. Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you. Square 1 does not become Square 2, just Square 1 squared and cubed.”

I enjoyed this little nugget about knowing where to end a piece:

“Look back upstream. If you have come to your planned ending and it doesn’t seem to be working, run your eye up the page and the page before that. You may see that your best ending is somewhere in there, that you were finished before you thought you were.”

"We Both Had a Head Start"

Heather B. Armstrong discusses the true benefit of being a stay-at-home parent, and the requisite privilege that allows such a situation to come about:

“I like babies, they smell good and are very cute, but I very much prefer what it feels like as a parent to witness my child learning. Not learning how to sit up or hold a spoon or how to say a word. Those are all wonderful developments, of course, but being in the room as my child learns about being human is beyond any honor I could achieve in my life.

[...]

I don’t think this scenario is easily replicable. I am more than certain that there are legions of kids out there who have talent that could crush steel if only it had the chance to be fostered, if a parent could take 40 minutes of their afternoon and devote it to walking around a room.”

Amen. I feel so lucky that I've been around for nearly all of my son's social development. I don't ever want to take this privilege for granted, and—like Heather and her daughter—I want him to someday understand how lucky he was to have both parents at home all the time.

What Happens When You Unfollow Everyone on the Internet

Helena Price:

“What if we made more active decisions about how we spent our Internet time? If we weren’t bogged down maintaining our inboxes and social networks, who would we set out to meet or get to know better? If we weren’t so busy clicking links or browsing photos in our feeds, what would we choose to study or learn more about? If we spent these hours differently, what would happen?

I was curious to find out for myself.

So, one night while I was sitting in bed, I un-followed everyone on the Internet.”

The results of her experiment are fascinating, particularly that the action of checking her various feeds was so ingrained into muscle memory that she continued doing it for a while even though nothing was there to check anymore.

I feel that same muscle memory myself all the time. One thing that has helped some is cutting down on my Twitter and RSS feeds quite a bit in recent months. I don't know if I'm willing to unfollow everything just yet, but I do believe there is something to be said for carefully cultivating (and judiciously pruning) one's online experience.

One Month with the Hobonichi Techo

Jenny Mason of The Finer Point writes of her experience journaling with the 2015 Hobonichi planner thus far:

“Every day when you turn over a new leaf of paper you get this great used look. The ink on the page almost creates this rippling effect and when you have gone through a few pages the Hobo takes on a worn feel. I really like this, it feels like I have recorded something worthwhile and interesting. At the end of the year this book is going to look amazing.”