7 Years

Today marks 7 years since I registered mitchellhislop.com. Though it is now just redirecting to this site, mph.io, it marked the beginning of a journey that lead directly to where I am today. 

I think I was sitting in a class at Hamline when I actually registered it. 

I was 2 months into my college career, and decided that it would behoove me to own a domain, mostly because I thought it would be cool to have my own email. So, using Google Apps, I secured mitchellhislop.com. Apps setup was easy enough for someone "techy" like I was at the time - I read a few Google articles, did some searches, and made the MX record changes with crossed fingers. Since that went well enough, I soon found myself on WordPress.com starting the first iteration of this site. 

That lead to wanting to self-host WordPress, which lead to wanting to learn more about development and system administration, and gave me a home to test out online marketing experiments. Flash forward, and it snowballed into jobs, a career, speaking engagements, and surprisingly strong opinions on protocols like DNS (which I firmly believe will cause the death of the Internet at some point). 

Now, the email goes to FastMail (as a bastion of non-Google in my life), and site is now hosted on Squarespace, in what was a near-complete blowout of old writing. I still have it all, sitting in Markdown-formatted text files, but I think it may just stay there. I've been struggling with what to do with it all - it represents my sort-of "teenage years" of the internet, where I was a college kid trying WAY TO HARD to make a name for myself online. Now, as that name turns 7, I find myself more content in my own niche. This site is a collection of me - some business, some pleasure, some opinions and ramblings, and some sharing of things that inspire me, or that I just think are cool. 

This site has been through a lot of iterations, on quite a few platforms. Off the top of my head:

  • Wordpress.com
  • Wordpress.org
  • Tumblr.com (still found at tumble.mph.io)
  • Octopress
  • Jekyll
  • Ghost
  • Before Squarespace, I also considered Grav, Tumblr, Octopress, and Wordpress. 

I like not self-hosting this site. I have various services backing up my writing, so I don't have many concerns over a third-party being the front-end. It lets me devote a bunch of time I spent worrying about my setup and tinkering with configs to actually writing, or even getting off the internet. I'm not in a development role right now, and have no real need for an always-on server right now. Personal sites shouldn't be a burden. 

The Name Change

I've always loved my initials. I've long had a theory that they at least influenced my name choice - my dad was a mechanic for 20 years before he went into technology. I knew that I would never be able to snag mph.com, so I settled on mitchellhislop.com and kept my eye out for opportunities. I grabbed mph.name when it came up in a search, but nothing else really fit what I was looking for. Then, on May 6th, I saw a thread on Hacker News about .io TLDs being treated as top-level domains, and found out that mph.io was available. I immediately jumped on it, and ended up in this multi-site setup where I had mph.name hosting a flat HTML site that was a psuedo business card, and mph.io which pointed to my Ghost blog.

After considering it for a while, I decided to go all-in on mph.io. It really is the perfect domain for me. I've now got just my one home online - the central hub for my digital self.

 

(Would I ever make a run at mph.com if I made stupid money? In a heart beat.)

My Love-Hate Relationship with "Hey, Siri"

What cannot be overcome is, whatever you ask Siri, will be heard by someone else. Even an innocent question to get the sports score can be something to fear asking in public. Someone will hear, and then you will have to converse with that person about your team.

Ben Brooks does an awesome job summing up something I am working on trying to get myself used to. I am a massive Bluetooth lover, and while using BT earbuds/a headset/headphones helps this somewhat, there is still an element of "where am I?" when you are thinking of using Siri, and that is a real limitation. 

This is further exacerbated by my lovely fiancée converting to the Apple world, so we now have 2 devices that listen for "Hey, Siri" 100% of the time, and a third that joins the fracas when it is plugged in (my iPad Air 2). It can be fun to pit them against each other, but it would be cooler if they could figure out which is closest to me...

 

Why Analog

Sometime back when I was in High School, I got my first fountain pen. It was kind of on a whim - I thought they were cool. That is literally it. From then, I was hooked. This, despite being a Millennial, having a Palm Pilot/Phone/Laptop, and planning on going into technology at the time. 

These days, I have somehow ended up even further down that road. I currently have 11 pens/pencils (7 fountain pens) in my bag, as well as 3 notebooks. I have an analog watch on my wrist. 

Why?

In this world, where we have things like Inbox, Trello, Sunrise.AM, and Slack, am I still writing down thoughts on dead trees with ink? I could write the same exact thing into Evernote, where is would be backed-up, synced, searchable, and theoretically protected. 

The answer is one that I have had trouble putting into words. My best guess is a combination of a few things: 

  • I am just at the edge of the "Digital Generation". I joined Twitter in 2008, and Facebook back in 2007. However, I didn't grow up with them. I didn't have a laptop until my Senior year of High School (tip for parents: if you can, getting your child on a laptop BEFORE college eliminates a whole host of issues that can crop up during what is already a stressful time)

  • It lets me focus much better. When I am in a meeting, or was in a class back in college, I find that if I have my laptop, my mind will drift. I don't care if I have the newest, fanciest, most-prodictivity-inspiring, distraction-free-zone app running, I'll still end up checking emails, or getting reminded of something else to do, or seeing whats going on Twitter. That doesn't happen with paper. When I sit down with just a notebook and a pen, all of that friction is removed. 

  • Speaking of friction, paper means I can get my thoughts out in whatever form they take. I tend to end up doing some light mind mapping, capturing lists, and generally working with text in a way that the top-down, side-to-side nature of text editors falls down at. In addition, its all right in the same place - rather than having long text in Evernote, lists in Wunderlist, and mpas in MindMeister, they all exists in a notebook

  • Ubiquity. As I have posted about before, I care (way too much) about always having what I need. If I am going out into the woods, or out to a bar, or generally away from the saftey of a desk, I tend to not want my laptop with me. However, a Field Notes/Index Cards in the back pocket and Fisher Space Pen means that I will always be able capture whatever I need.

I end up spending more time in places like this than I do in Best Buy or the Apple store. (Bromfield Pens in Boston, taken on a late night walk during #INBOUND15)

Calculated Metrics Come to Google Analytics

Wrote this for the work blog, but it gets me excited enough that I also wanted to touch on this here. Google Analytics has rolled out support for calculated metrics, which means we can now define custom metrics (such as Revenue per User) inside of Google Analytics, rather than needing to pull this data and process it with a spreadsheet before reporting. 

This is the kind of move that makes me happy to still be firmly hitched to the Google Analytics wagon. I still have yet to find a better analytics suite, and it has hit the point where I have very little fear of Google Analytics going the way of Google Reader. This is the perfect example of that - little by little, Google has managed to fix or enhance pretty much every deficiency within the suite, and has rolled out some great features in the process. Demographic data, Social data, Multi-Channel Conversion information, and Real Time are features and reports I rely on daily, and they are all features added within the last several years (primarily, with the rollout of Universal)

 

Always Be Prepared

Note: This is the unplanned first post in what has become a series of posts laying out how I approach "doing things". I've realized there are a couple tenents I follow pretty closely, and I want to figure out why. This post was a spark of inspiration after a sub-second power outage, so there may be a delay before the future posts.

There is one thing that I give myself permission to #humblebrag about: I am an Eagle Scout. I spent the majority of my childhood as a Boy Scout, starting as a Tiger and following it through until I was achieved the rank of Eagle. It remains one of the biggest and most difficult things I have achieved in my life. I can distinctly remember the moment I realized I needed to buckle down and get-shit-done or I would fail at it: I was in my bedroom, sat bolt upright in bed, turned my lights on, and wrote out the list I needed to accomplish, and the timeline. 

I tend to take the core tenent of anything, and try to fall back to it at all costs. I may let my GTD system slip, but I always remember the core tenet of getting things out of my head and into a system. I did the same thing with my Scouting career. "Always Be Prepared" is so ingrained into my life that I rarely actually think it anymore. My default state is to think "What is the most likely thing that could screw me next?", and then try to hedge against it. This has lead to what I see as a healthy focus on the stuff I use everyday (others call it the same thing, but roll their eyes a lot more), and trying to build redundancies in my life. I'm not a Prepper in any sense of the word. Rather, I just want to head off the stuff with the highest (Likeliness/Input)*Screwing ratio. This ratio weighs how:

  • Likely something is to happen: Prepper-level event probably won't happen. Internet being out for 2 weeks? Thought it was low, until it happened to me, and changed my view of Internet Access. 

  • much Input is required for something to happen. This is a rather vague metric - since this is a mental model more than anything - referring to the resources and timing required for something to happen. It balances out the "likely" part of the equation, weighing things that are likely on paper, but require some alignment to happen. It should also help raise the value of things that are random, but you have to make sure to think of them. 

  • much I will be Screwed if the thing happens. This is also kind of vague, since the screwing can take many forms. I try to overvalue hits to the "foundation" and undervalue hits to things I should be caring less about. 

This mental model has been ingrained into me, through years of packing for trips thinking "What is going to end it early?" and "What will cause it to just Suck", and trying to plan against them. This automatic way of approaching it has led to it only really coming up when something in my system FAILS

When this Failure happens, it is immediately obvious. It stops me in my tracks, grabs my focus, and my mind immediately begins to work on it. Normally, the fix/hedge/redundancy is obvious, and it was the situation I missed. This happened tonight, and it finally connected a few dots that really upped the ratio for one particular scenario: short power outages. 

It's currently that very-nearly-storming kind of weather outside, not raining but the wind is starting to whip. I was working with The Office in the background, and then it happen: the power blipped for less than a second. However, in that sub-second outage, my entire aparement went down hard. I heard that slightly horrifying sound of everything shutting down, that split second of eerie silence of technology, and then everything spinning up at once. The outage was sub-second, but the total downtime and annoyance was at least 8 minutes, and then it got my mind working. The worst thing is that the fix is super simple: I need a UPS for the office and a UPS for the living room. An extra few hundred dollars during my last trip to MicroCenter would have prevented this, bridging the gap and keeping everything up. 

The UPSs also would prevent me from the thing currently scaring the shit out of me: hardware death due to lightening (and really terrible luck). This isn't referring to a surge down the power line - that is all surge protected as best as possible, although having a UPS in there would make it all the better. No, the thing scaring the shit out of me is the memory of a father and son duo I stood behind during a MicroCenter trip a few years ago (Yes, you are seeing a theme: I like immediate satification, and I like double-checking my plans with their employees to catch any oversights). They had 2 PC builds in their cart, identically arranged in the corners of the cart. They had 2 different sets of keyboards and mice. It was a decently long line, and I mentioned that it looked like they had a fun day ahead of them. They then told me how they got there: Lightening struck something near them, it got into the cable, and fried their PCs through the network. It was at this point I noticed the suber beefy surge protectors and UPSs on the bottom of the cart. 

I just moved, and am getting everything setup to a totally new power system. Combine this with the fact that I try to run everything on Ethernet leads to several thousand in damage, and untold hours of lost productivity, all due to something 100% out of my control, and could happen at random. Until tonight, the story had mostly slipped my mind. Now? Figuring out when this week I can get up to MicroCenter. This is the exact type of thing that I should ALWAYS BE PREPARED for.

Pause: A Relaxation App for iPhone

After opening the app, you simply place your finger on the screen and slowly and continuously move it around so that the airy orb of color floating beneath your finger gathers smaller orbs like itself, growing larger and larger until the screen is filled.

I've been playing with this app for a few weeks, and have found myself really liking it. It's a great way to create some space for your brain to catch up, and figure out what to tackle next. While it seems really simple, it also works really well.  

My Pen Loadout: Mid-October 2015

I tend to switch pens too much. I don't know why I do it, but I will regularly find myself swapping pens mid-page for no real reason. I don't have an official "system" to what I use for any given task . I figure doing a post whenever I change my main pen load out would be a great way to keep me honest, and track my usage over time. 

The Pens

My Loadout, Oct 2015. Pictured on a Nock Co Steno Book and Levenger Circa Junior. 

  • Retro 51 Tornado "Liftoff" Special Edition: Found this one at Paradise Pens well after I assumed they would all be sold out. They had 2 left in their system, and this one came from Chicago. I spent a few years living within walking distance of their store, and at that point I was known as a "regular". I tend to always have a Retro 51 around - they are the perfect rollerball to grab and go. 
  • Pentel Kerry Sharp: A more recent addition, due to my rediscovered love of mechanical pencils. While fountain pens are my main love, I have been a mechanical pencil fan since I was first in school. This one was a recent addition, as a sort-of direct contrast to the Rotring. Currently using .5mm 2B lead. 
  • Rotring 600: The pencil that re-ignited my love of mechanical pencils. I heard the Pen Addict guys talking about them on a recent podcast, and figured I would try one for myself. This is, in my mind, the perfect pencil. Also using the same .5mm 2B lead - I threw some into a recent lead order, and fell in love. 
  • Lamy 2000, F nib: This was a Massdrop purchase, after years and years of lusting over one. I fell in love with this pen back in high school, and it wasn't until I saw it in a Massdrop email that I pulled the trigger. It has since become one of my two go-to workhorse pens. Currently loaded with Private Reserve Blue Suede. 
  • Pilot Vanishing Point, M nib: The first >$100 pen I ever purchased myself (back in 2011), there has rarely been a day that I haven't had it with me. It even made the cut for a recent business trip to Boston, my first time ever flying with pens. This is the other workhorse pen. I can't think of the last day I didn't use either this or the Lamy. Currently filled with a Pilot Blue/Black cartridge, which is a Top 5 Ink for me. Come to think of it, it is the only ink that I have ever had in this pen. 
  • Retro 51 Tornado Fountain Massdrop Special Edition, B nib: The newest addition to the bunch, this is the first time I've had it inked up. I tend to carry the two workhorses and one "fun" pen, and this finally came up in the rotation. Up until today, a Faber-Castel e-motion Pure Black previously held this spot. This was a pen "designed" by the Massdrop community, and it looks absolutely beautiful. I decided on Mont Blanc Toffee Brown for it's first inking
  • Kaweco Al-Star Sport (Stonewashed), EF Nib: This is my out-and-about pen, for those times I just grab a Field Notes and head out the door. It serves that role beautifully, able to tuck away regardless of my outfit choices that day. This is also the pen I tend to fiddle with most at my desk. 

This is one of those setups that sort-of happened naturally. I realized that my load out had been static for a few weeks, and that I was really satisfied with it. A good mix of new blood and Tier 1 gear means I haven't gotten bored with any of it. 

The Supporting Cast

I'm just as indecisive about what I carry my gear in, and what I use with it, as I am the gear itself. I like everything to have a place, and nothing to have any unnecessary stress placed on it in my bag. To carry my daily setup, I have recently landed on 2 Nock Co cases that combine to cover my needs:

Nock Co Makes My World Go Round

The Nock Co Hightower is my main "Pouch Office". Seen here in the limited Kickstarter-only "Myke in the USA" Green and Yellow color way, this holds:

  • The Lamy 2000 (Or Pilot VP, depending on which one is tempting me more)
  • The Rotring and Kerry
  • The Retro 51 Liftoff
  • My active Field Notes Notebook
  • 5-7 Nock Co Notecards
  • 2-3 Business Cards

This case is setup to be the one thing I need to grab to have most of my needs covered. I can take notes, leave notes, or share contact info. I keep whichever workhorse is currently in my top spot in it, which also gives me a handy bit of redundancy - unless I lose my entire backpack, I won't lose both my favorite pens. 

The Nock Co Lookout holds the rest of the pens. In this case, it tends to have the VP, Retro 51 FP, and Kaweco Al-Star tucked away inside. This case has been in near-constant use since my Kickstarter order shipped - it just does such an amazing job of keeping 3 pens safe. It's slim, easy to open/close, and exactly as simple as it needs to be. 

Notebooks

There is a more full post on notebooks in my future, but I would be remiss not to at least include them in this post. I tend to hand-write the vast majority of my notes and plans, and have developed a taste for nice paper. On a daily basis, I'll end up using the following main notebooks:

  • Levenger Circa Junior: Levenger is another one of those brands that I have loved for years, and only recently become a customer of. This Circa is the main home for meeting notes and prep, capturing thoughts, and really anything else I'll want to hang onto. I'm a full-on convert to the Levenger world, with my punch seeing a ton of use (my fiancee has also joined the train, so I keep having to steal it back)
  • Nock Co Steno Pad: I first bought these because they seemed interesting - I'd never used steno pads, and I love supporting Nock Co whenever I can. I discovered they are perfect for my day-to-day todo list making. Despite being a huge Todoist fan, I end up falling back to a paper todo list most days. These steno pads, with their fantastic paper, handle the task beautifully. I always felt a twinge of guilt using the Levenger for these lists, knowing they were going to get tossed. I just received 6 more of these in the mail, so I should be stocked for a while.
  • Field Notes: I just love these little notebooks. They are great for tasks, capturing thoughts on the go, and being the always-on notebook choice. Recently, I have been carrying books from the Workshop Companion edition - they have a really fantastic fountain pen-friendly paper, and the design is top notch. I ended up buying a few extra boxes to stock up. 
  • Nock Co Notecards: Rounding out my Nock addiction are their notecards. These are super high quality, FP friendly notecards with their awesome dot-dash grid. I try to always have a few of these near me as well, for taking or leaving notes. 

I've decide that, after all these years of resistance, this blog may begin to see more and more gear-related posts. I have accepted that this (and EDC, and Bags, and Wallets, and Watches...) is a hobby, and I've ended up with a ton of opinions on things. While I'm not sure I'll be doing reviews, and I'm not sure how broad I will go (E-cig gear?), this is the first attempt at this kind of post. 

Emerald of Chivor

I have been absolutely in love with this ink since it first shipped. While it is in no way an every day ink, I've taken to using it for my weekend todo lists - makes me all that much more likely to look at it.  

It seems like it is way more well behaved than my bottle of Stormy Grey is - it took a lot less shaking/rolling to get the gold flecks flowing. They really knocked it out of the park with this version. It's a dark-horse candidate to sign my wedding certificate with. 

Chromecast and Spotify - Together at Last

As someone who owns multiple Chromecasts, including one for his bag "just in case", this is huge news for me. I had figured they were just not going to support it, and was planning on just using Bluetooth speakers everywhere. Kudos to Spotify for finally listening to its users, and to Google for (it seems) integrating Spotify Connect to make them happy.  

New Home

I realized that a big reason I never wrote here is that it didn't feel like "home". And it wasn't. It was a line item on a much bigger list regard my entire online lifestyle. Do I want a personal cloud? Should I host it myself? What should run locally? Should I use a hyper-techy Markdown-powered static site? But then I can't easily post from my phone - like I am right now. 

Well, this is one decision I was ready to make. I'm tired of constantly switching to the new popular self-hosted platform. I don't need something as huge as WordPress just to run my own site. Now that I am no longer a developer by day, I want to spend less time working on my site and more time witting on it.  

So, as off today, this site now runs on Squarespace. They offer a great writing experience, solid mobile apps, and I don't have to worry about the site. Their templates are great for a non-designer like me, and when I go to build my wedding website soon, it is super easy to add on a site. It took less than two hours to migrate over here as well, which is pretty much the fastest I have ever been able to pull that off. It is kinda odd to not have this domain pointing to my own server, but now it feels like home. 

Nuked It All

I finally went ahead and did it. I nuked all my old writing. Posts going back to 2008, back when I was just learning all this stuff. 

I was in college, dying to stand out, and happened to grok WordPress really well. That was my in - I was in marketing, could code a bit thanks to classes I had taken, and could make my name by being young. Thinking back, it was a bit crazy - I only got kicked out of one bar for being at an event while I was too young, but trying to break into marketing at 19 is tricky, when nearly every event revolves around booze.

5 years later, it just didn't feel right to bring all those posts back. So, it is time to start anew. This time, I am not going to limit myself to posts that will make me look like a strategic though-leader looking to bring busines to social while socializing business. I did save a few of my old posts, most of which were recent. 

So, here you will find my long-form stuff, and anything a bit meatier. You can find me as mitchellhislop on most social sites, where I post the less-important stuff. You will also find it under the 'MPH' moniker, if I am able to secure that.

2015 - Whats in Store

Inspiried by all the other "2015" posts I have seen today (especially Patrick Rhone's, I figured I needed to call out what I wanted to accomplish this year. It's a hodpoge of resolutions, goals, and general themes, in no particular order.

  • Read more + read better. I used to read a ton, and then the internet happened. These days, I read far more on Reddit than I do just about any other source. I am going to start with a 1 book/month goal, and start to carry my Kindle. I tend to do well with physical reminders, so schlepping it around should get me to pull that out, rather than my phone

  • Stablize my personal system. Late in 2014, I realized I had mostly been, well, lucky to not forget anything. My previous GTD based system had long devolved into a bunch of random lists. For 2015, I am back on the wagon (not letting go of the "Weekly Review" concept really helped here). The main hub is my Levenger Circa, and various services (Trello, Sunrise.AM, Evernote) will feed it. I have a post in the queue about why I love analog things so much, which should explain it a bit more in-depth.

  • Use this site. This poor site. I've had a blog since 09, and I have never landed on what its...for. Recently, I have been getting an itch to write more. I haven't fully landed on a list of topics, but it will likely start as a mix of pen/gear reviews, productivity thoughts, links I love, book reviews, and personal thoughts. 

  • Journal. Related to the above, I have never kept a personal journal/log/etc. I've spent a lot of the last year reflecting, and not being able to look back at anything has hindered that a bit. 

  • Grow fjorge. This new role is my biggest yet, and I really want to see some "up and to the right" by the end of the year. 

  • Fix my teeth - I have always only been "OK" when it comes to my teeth, and relatedly, have always hated the dentist. I need to get my wisdom teeth out, and generally get it better integrated into my routine.

  • Manage my finances better. This year, I will log every transaction in YNAB (something I have tried and failed at before), and pay down debt. Not being as paycheck-to-paycheck anymore has lead me to a spot where I haven't made much progress on my finanical goals, rather have just been comfortable. 2015 will see me tackling those goals. 

  • Get outside more. I spent most of my youth outdoors (Thanks to a comboniation of working on my Eagle Scout, climbing, and having trails nearby). Most of my adult life has been behind a screen. I want to end up in a better balance this year. 

I've hit a point that big, year-long themes don't fit anymore - there is no big glaring One Thing Wrong like there was previously. Turning 26 and seeing the downhill to 30 has focused me around cleaning up the things in my life that I am not happy with, in an effort to form the habits I want to have 5/10/50 years from now. 2015 is the start of all of this.

A More Personal Cloud

This last weekend, I got a bug to redo my personal infrastructure. I was thinking that I needed to have a home for all my data on stuff I owned, rather than just on all the various cloud services I used. I figured that this was as good of time as any to try out Ghost, a Markdown based blogging platform (which is awesome, as most of my posts are in Markdown from playing with Jekyll and Octopress) written in Node.js. I like that it runs on the server, rather than it being laptop dependant. I've always thought node was a really cool language, so having a site running it seems even better.

I need to do a design for it, and finish some of the supporting infrastructure, but this marks the re-lauch of my home on the web over to mph.io. This is without a doubt my favorite domain that I own, and everything is going to be centered around it. I am setting up a personal analogy to all my main cloud services, so that I can either run them in paralell, or use one as a backup. Some of the stuff I have setup:

  • Contacts/Calendars/Files/Photos via OwnCloud
  • RSS via Selfoss
  • Monitoring via linode-longview (which monitors all my main servers) and monit(to help keep node.js alive, and to monitor a bunch of other stuff)
  • IRC bouncing via ZNC
  • This blog, running Ghost
  • GitLab, to host repos for me

I still havent decided what to do about email just yet - I think I may point all my personal domains to Fastmail, and run them through there. As much as I want to run my own mail server, I really dont want to deal with running it, keeping it off blacklists, and spam. Fastmail is the most trustworthy email company that I have found, and they have been powering my non-GMail domains for a few years now. 

It was a fun experience getting everything up and running on a VPS (2GB from Linode) within one evening. While some final config and tuning is required, everything is online and responding.

New Beginnings

I just turned 26. When that hit me, an internal alarm sounded. The "if you want to do something big/risky/major, do it in the next few years" klaxxon was ringing. I've been slowly moving out of pure development, which I have been doing for the last few years, and moving back into interactive marketing, where my career began. 

This started with moving into the Digital Strategist role at Irish Titan early this year, which mostly happened because I realized that I was getting burnt out as a developer. I've been working on the same types of apps and sites, in the same frameworks, and it was just wearing on me. I'm relatively certain that I don't want to be a full-time developer - I love development, but the development that excites me the most is when I am playing with new things, or scratching my own itch. I want to build things to automate my apartment, or run my own cloud, rather than another CakePHP CRUD app. My true love lies at the intersection of Business, Technology, and Marketing, without being too deep into one. The catalyst moments happen at the edges, not deep within. 

A couple months ago, one of my mentors approached me with an oppertunity to get back into the interactive world, have a bit of freedom, and really get my hands dirty. 

It is time for me to take the next step on my journey. Today is my last day at Irish Titan. They have been fantastic, and I wish them all the best. 

I'll be writing more about the new role after I transition into it, but it is just the big/risky/major move that I need to make right now.

Switching Sides

This Post was originally written back in August of 2013. I decided to save when when I purged my blog.

I have recently made a major life change: I left the halo of Apple, and moved back to the halo of Google.

These days, you are not just picking a phone OS, you are choosing an ecosystem. You are slaving yourself to a system of devices, accessories brands, and apps that will hold you. This is exactly by design - the halo effect in action - but it can leave you in a bind. Whether you go to the land of Apple, inhabited by the likes of The Omni Group, hot social photo sharing startups everywhere, and Belkin, or choose the path of Android, with Samsung and Motorola putting their own twist on that lovable little robot, and apps that make you hopeful for the future of the tribe, you are choosing a side.

Sure, you can use both - an Android phone with an iPad - but you are missing out on something big. In fact, it goes back to something I've written about before - ubiquity. When you are fully in the halo, sporting a PC, tablet, phone, and set-top device from companies that are playing nice, something clicks. The feeling that data is just data, and the devices are just dumb screens that have access to it. This is a concept that sci-fi writers have write en about forever - the idea of people using multiple clients to access centralized data and computing resources, with very little friction between them.

This makes switching sides hard. It is often more expensive than just the device, and it can get tricky to end up with your data in the correct places. When I was in Best Buy, setting up the new phone line, I made a list of the apps that I would need to replace, what had Android options, and how much it would roughly cost. I ended up having to switch back to LassPass from 1Password, since they don't have an Android client, and I'm a sucker for generated passwords. Aside from that, I had done a good enough job choosing ubiquitous services that for my other apps, and I just needed to get the Android client. I am about $20 deep in apps, but I have achieved parity in functionality.

It is important to note that this is not my first switch - I had a Motorola Droid before the iPhone. This meant that I still had access to apps in my account, and was at least familiar with the system.

Having now spent a bunch of time in both worlds, here is where I landed:

Top 5 Things I Like Better About Android:

  • Intents. These are a killer feature, and Apple needs to address this in the next major iOS release. The ability for apps to arbitrarily pass data around, and define default handlers for these is amazing. It is the biggest thing I missed with iOS. When you are able to easily send stuff to Evernote, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest, explicitly define defaults at a granular level, and have things automatically take place based on other things happening, your phone feels like it bumped a few steps in power. 
  • Widgets. I grew up on various flavors of Windows Mobile (the Treo 700w remains one of my favorite devices to this day), and having an information-dense screen makes me happy. I get what Apple is going for with their choice, but the ability to throw stuff on your homescreen makes my life simpler.
  • Google Now. This is one of the best things I have ever used. It is like Siri, but if Siri was smart enough to know what you were doing, and what you would be likely to care about knowing right then. When my phone pings me that I need to leave earlier for a meeting because there is traffic, and it KNEW that so it TOLD me, I legitimately feel like I am on the USS Enterprise.
  • Lack of Bullshit. It is so nice not having to leave the Kindle app to buy a book, or leave the Amazon Prime app to get a video. I like being able to easily install betas. I like that I can replace stock stuff, remove it, and do basically whatever I want to it. I can easily share things with webapps, allowing me to text from my browser. I can easily install an app from my desktop browser (Apple's landing pages do NOT count)
  • Size. I went into this thinking it was going to be just too big of a phone. That screen was massive. However, after about a week I had this weird feeling - it didn't feel too big anymore. It felt right. My old iPhone felt like a phone for ants. And the SuperAMOLED is just amazing. Having the pure-black is nice for the battery as well.

Top 5 Things I Miss About iOS

  • Polish. While Android is getting there with Project Butter and the HoloUI, there are still a bunch of shitty looking apps. My experience tells me that even the shittiest, oldest iOS app still looks a lot better than the worst Android apps.
  • Hardware. The glass and metal is miles ahead of the plastic my SGSIII is rocking.
  • Software. I do still miss some of the iOS - only apps that I was using, and still feel a bit of a twinge when a new one is release that I can't run.
  • ...
  • ...

My next tablet will be a Nexus device, as will my next phone. [Ed Update 6/14: Bought a Nexus 7 a few months ago, love it][Ed Update 10/24/14: Bought an HTC One M8 to replace the S3, still happy to be on team Android]

Pros and Cons of Vim

I am not going to write a "review" on Vim, because it is 50 years
old.


This is going to be the things I like, the things I dont like, and
the things that are still giving me trouble.

Pros:

  •  I can carry over many of the same scripts and snippets I used with TextMate, with minimal changes. This was my biggest worry - would I get super slow without all of my little tricks?
  • The navigation keys (hjkl) are second nature. This is 100% thanks to Google - they use them for all of they applications, so moving to vim means I get to keep those habits.
  • Editing text is so much faster, and the gap increases the more you edit.
  • Fullscreen and vertically split buffers: heaven

Cons:

  • It is a bitch to keep my environments in check. I use Git for all my .dotfiles, which means if I change something on the work iMac, I need to remember to do a 'git pull' on my MacBook.
  • I still have a TON of work to do in my .vimrc file. I need to learn what all is available, and then work on it further. I know that there are some things that annoy me about vim that could be changed with a few 'lets' or 'sets'
  • There are fewer snippets out there for what I do. I am now one of the main maintainers for anything CodeIgniter related for vim, and I have a feeling I may be doing the same for WordPress very soon.


Things that are still giving me trouble

Learning commands. There are just so damn many, that it is hard to know what to focus on. I try to learn a new one a day, but it is a big hassle to stop what I am doing and look up if vim has a smarter way to do that. I have been using vim as my sole editor for the last 3 weeks now, and overall I am loving it. Its fast, nice with memory, and does what I need it to. I still have a few more kinks to work out, but I can see why it has stood the test of time. TextMate 2, take you time.

What I Built: Twilio SMS Platform, with WP integration

As many of you know, I compeated in the Overnight Website
Challenge, put on by the fine people of The Nerdery. During this
event, I spent 24 hours with the rest of my team (hell yeah Full
Court WordPress) compleatly redoing a website for our nonprofit,
Project 515. While the designers were designing, myself and the
other developers spent some time figuring out what we wanted to
build. I say wanted because, from a development standpoint, this
was a relatively easy build. We settled on two things: Custom
integration with their CRM, and an SMS engagement platform. I
headed up, and built, the SMS platform. Quick rundown:
-   SMS API: Twilio (They hooked our non profit up with some free
    credit, and were generally awesome)
-   Web Tools: PHP, MySQL, WordPress
-   Total LOC: about 350

This was a really fun build. The basics of the app:
-   A main controller, which handles all of the back and forth
    texting. This is what recieves the text, and figures out what to do
    next.
-   Various sub controllers for doing the action (adding someone or
    unsubscribing), and sending back information (the next event, or
    the most recent blog post)
-   A WordPress plugin, which adds a meta-box that gives them the
    option to send the post to all SMS subscribers
-   A new editing window which lets them fire off a blast to all
    subscribers (also part of the plugin, made them a window in the
    settings page to do this).

The goal of this app was to give Project 515 a great way to stay in
touch with supporters, as well as get supporters engaged. This SMS
direction was chosen because it is simple - they didn't really need
a full mobile app, just a way to stay connected. I have not decided
if I am going to open up the code - I may break out parts (such as
the plugin), but that remains to be seen. As the 24 hours went on,
my coding standards went way down, so I first have to fix
everything. I want to take this chance to thank Twilio for being
such a great service. They had great documentation, and using their
API was the easiest part of the build. I had been wanting to build
something with them for some time now, and this full engagement
platform was just the thing. It is also astounding to me that
someone can take the tools that I did and roll something as
functional as this in less than 400 lines, and within 24 hours.

Ubiquity & Continuity

Note: This was originaly written in March of 2011. With the recent announcement of Apple's Continuity framework, it seemed especially relevant.

Last week, I have been conducted a test. I wanted to see how minimal I could go with my kit, and how much of my life I could do on a device that is not mine.

The first day I was at my office all day. I had picked up a loaner MacBook pro from my dad, in order to test the form factor. I am lookingto upgrade sometime soon, and wanted to know what a MacBook pro felt like. Since it is not my laptop, it seemed like a
perfect time to test my setup.

I was able to do my entire job, as well as the coursework I had to complete, all with only launching safari. This can be attributed to a few things. The first, I was using several different platforms for the longest time. This means that I needed to rely on things
that had a solid syncing systems in place. Thanks to relying on gmail, google apps, Evernote, simplenote, toodledo, and mobile devices, I was able to do everything I needed to do. I had access to all my
bookmarks through pinboard, my notes through simplenote, my tasks with toodledo, and the rest of my tools with google apps.

I then decided to take it a step further, and try to go a whole day without touching my laptops. This means that I would only have access to my iPhone and iPad to go through class, any needed work
tasks, and the rest of the things needed on a daily basis.

I have been striving for years to make my setup as ubiquitous as possible. This is because I am always on the go, and after a few system failures, I got crazy about backup and access. I want to, at a moments notice, and anywhere I may be, have access to all of my
data and be able to do whatever I need.

I also discovered that I can get by with very little. It has lead me to not lug my laptop as much. This, in conjunction with having a
work computer for the first time ever, means that both MacBooks usually stay in the apartment.

Here is what I carried today: 


Just my iPad, iPhone, wallet, keys, headphones, and smokes. Start to remove things from your system, and see where your pain points 
are.