Casey and I did the Whole30 nutrition challenge program together from August 1st through today, and it was an interesting experience. While I was a bit reluctant in the beginning, I'm happy we did it. In fact, it's likely something we're going to do at least once a year in the future.[Read more...]
I’ve been a heavy user of Google Reader for over seven years, so I was a little upset yesterday when I saw that, buried in a “spring cleaning” blog post, Google quietly announced that it was
killing retiring the web-based RSS reader on July 1, 2013.
RSS never went mainstream, so Google Reader was always sort of a geeky niche product. But, the people who used it, used it. It was (and is) one of the best way to efficiently scan and consume large amounts of information. If you were the kind of person who still used Reader in the age of Twitter and Facebook, you no doubt depended on it, making the announcement of its closure really sting.
And yet, the end of Google Reader was inevitable. Its user base was tiny in comparison to search and maps, and Google never made an attempt to monetize the product or make use of the massive amount of data it had on users and their subscriptions. Plus, it distracted from the company’s headline social project, Google+.
Life after Google Reader
Google Reader started its life as a web-based feed reader, but over time, its real value became its ability to act as a centralized place that other applications could sync against. Take, for example, the excellent Reeder app for iPhone/iPad. It1 lets me scan through my feeds quickly wherever I am and allows me to read items or take action on them (“star” it, send it to InstaPaper to read later, save the link to Pinboard for archiving and search). New items and read items are synced across all my linked reader applications and the Google Reader web app, so they’re always consistent.
Despite Google Reader effectively killing off competition in the market, there are other web-based feed readers available, so I think we’ll be fine on that end. In fact, I agree with Marco and think we’re going to enter the golden age of RSS readers:
Now, we’ll be forced to fill the hole that Reader will leave behind, and there’s no immediately obvious alternative. We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.
It may suck in the interim before great alternatives mature and become widely supported, but in the long run, trust me: this is excellent news.
What we need going forward, however, is a canonical feed store/sync API to replace what Reader had evolved into. That way, any number of web, mobile, and desktop apps could tie into it and share feed information with each other. That is what made Google Reader so great, and so powerful.
The opportunity for App.net
In episode 13 of Glenn Fleishman’s “The New Disruptors” podcast (now my favorite interview show), Glenn talked to Dalton Caldwell, the creator of App.net (ADN). The big revelation for me was the discussion about what ADN really is. It’s not just the Twitter-like application they’ve built in alpha.app.net. It’s really about the infrastructure and tools they’ve built that allow developers to build other, more innovative applications on top of. As Glenn says, they’re more a Amazon Web Services competitor than a Twitter clone.
ADN already has programming APIs for messaging, file storage, and places. I think a “feed” API would a great addition, and allow for some interesting possibilities with the built-in App.net social features.
In fact, I noticed this morning that I wasn’t the only one with the same insight:
We’ve already made the mistake of entrusting an important piece of infrastructure to a free product. This time around, let’s put it in the hands of someone who’s interests are aligned with customers and developers, and who will charge some money for it. This is the perfect opportunity for ADN, and I hope they take it.
Specifically, the iPhone version ↩
I’m going to be honest — I’m not in great physical shape right now. I’m not here to make excuses, but I am going to tell you how I’m going to change this and get into the best shape of my life.
Being a nerd is an odd thing. We’re really particular about things that never even occur to The Normals. Take, for example, text editors.
For a web developer or a writer well-verses in Markdown, selecting the right text editor for the task is a Very Important Thing. IDEs and GUI applications often get in the way of development, and Word is almost always overkill for writing plain text that’s ultimately just going to be copy and pasted into a text field in WordPress anyway.
On iOS, there’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to text editors. You want one that syncs to Dropbox and has Mardown editing features? You have 18 to choose from. Me? I alternate between Byword and Elements depending on the task, and have started using Drafts to quickly capture text that I later want to edit later.
The text editor situation on Windows was bleak for a long time. Notepad++ was far better than the built-in Notepad, but was never something I felt like investing time into learning or looked forward to using.
I’ve even attempted to teach myself VIM on a yearly basis so I’ll know more than the basics, but haven’t been able to suffer through the learning curve to get to the point of proficiency.
And don’t get me started on Emacs. That thing is inscrutable.
This brings us to Sublime Text. I can’t remember how exactly I first heard about it, but looking back through my email shows that I purchased my license for Sublime Text in March 2011, so I’ve been using it for at least 1 1/2 years at this point. It was a respectable version 1.x text editor, but even at the beginning, I was in it for the early beta version of Sublime Text 2. The final 2.0 version was released on Tuesday, and it is magnificent.
When you first open Sublime 2, it looks deceptively simple. Yes, it’s cross-platform2 and incredibly fast, but you don’t see much more than an empty screen where you can start typing text. But dig in, and you realize just how powerful of a tool this software is.
I’m not going to do a comprehensive review here, but I do want to run-down some of the notable features that makes this my favorite text editor.
The hundreds of settings and key bindings are both stored in simple json files that open right in Sublime Text. User files let you protect your customizations from any changes made to the Default file during upgrades.
You can also create macros, snippets, and auto-completions with similar configuration files — even on a per-file type or per-project basis.
Sublime Package Control
Sublime Package Control is a package manager you install into Sublime Text 2 that then lets you find, install, update, and remove other 3rd-party packages within the text editor. It makes adding new functionality super easy.
The Minimap gives you a graphical representation of your entire file/document, allowing you to quickly “scrub” to the section you’re looking for.
Ctrl + P triggers the Goto box at the top of the window, which lets you open files, switch between files, jump to symbols or specific lines, or search.
Multi-selection gives you multiple cursors on the page to very quickly make changes to multiple items.
Extensible via Python
Sublime Text 2 comes with a Python interpreter and console that let you extend the editor through the Python API. Python is a great scripting language and is very well-known, so expect many programmers to create wonderful extensions for Sublime Text.
Sublime Text 2 resources
Here are some good resources for learning how to use Sublime Text 2:
- Sublime Text 2 Tips and Tricks
- Sublime Text 2 Tips and Shortcuts
- Essential Sublime Text 2 Plugins and Extensions
- Sublime Text 2 — Useful Shortcuts (PC)
- Sublime Text Unofficial Documentation
Sublime Text Packages (github)
- How to Create a Sublime Text 2 Plugin
- Using Sublime Text 2 for Development
- Sublime Text 2 — How to Create Snippets
- Sexy Code Snippet Management With Gists
- The Definitive Guide: Sublime Text 2, a Code Editor to Love
- Some Sublime Text 2 Packages of Note
- Markdown Editing for Sublime Text 2: Humble Beginnings
Yesterday morning I broke away from my work and turned to Twitter right around when the Supreme Court was supposed to announce their decision in the Affordable Care Act case. I, like everyone else, was surprised at the ruling, and followed-up with some instant analysis from my Twitter timeline and on MPR.
Shortly after, saw a tweet1 about people threatening to move to Canada because of the Supreme Court outcome (BuzzFeed has a nice collection of examples). I loved the irony of these comments and remembered that I had earlier read somewhere that the U.S. was alone among industrialized countries in not offering universal healthcare. I did some research and found that it was, in fact, true. This led me to post the following tweet:
I thought it was clever, and was happy to see it favorited and retweeted by several of my followers within a few minutes. I was unprepared for what happened after that. Soon, my iPhone screen was constantly on with a steady stream of people retweeting and favoriting it. When I went home for lunch, I had to plug my phone in to recharge it because the battery was getting drained from the constant notifications.
Still in disbelief, I found myself constantly checking Favstar to watch the counts continue to climb. By the time I got back to the office, my tweet had 500 retweets. By 8pm, it had 1,000. As I’m typing this, the count is at 1,450.
Not surprisingly, I got a lot of replies by people who didn’t get the joke, and thought I had forgot my link to the list of countries. I even had a little fun interacting with a teenager who seemed completely clueless, and heard from a small business owner who claims the ACA will put him out of business.
It made for an interesting day. I’ve never interacted with so many different people in the 5.5 years I’ve been on Twitter. I’m also not expecting it to happen ever again.
A note about semantics
Even though my healthcare tweet was a joke, it’s important to me that it’s accurate. I considered my quick research to be “good enough”, but it’s worth pointing out that my 138 characters message contains two items that are open debate:
- The definition of “industrialized countries”
- The meaning of “universal healthcare”
As best I could tell, there isn’t a single definition for what makes a country “industrialized” or “developed”. Economic criteria (e.g., GDP) are usually looked at, though human development is now often taken into consideration.
The International Monetary Fund classifies 35 nations as advanced economies, a listing that seems to the most current and representative one available.
Is “universal access to healthcare insurance” the same as “universal access to healthcare”? Some would say yes, but I’m not so sure. What is clear is that the Affordable Care Act expands healthcare coverage. Hopefully it will be universal someday, and more importantly, hopefully healthcare will be, too.
Getting past the word-parsing, the entire point is this: The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, spends more on healthcare per capita than all but two countries2, yet unlike its peers, lacks universal healthcare. The ACA doesn’t get us there yet, but it’s a start.
Two weeks ago – May 2nd – Casey and I welcomed the newest member of the Berberich family – Kellen Roger. He was born at 3:54pm, weighing in at 8lbs 5oz.
Kellen’s older brothers are quite happy to have him join our family, too. For the record here are their ages right now: Kael – 6 1/2; Asa – Almost 5; and Jonas – 19 months.
I was able to take over a week off from work in order to spend lots of quality time with the family and to help ease the transition of adding another person to our daily routine. I’m back at work this week, but we’re lucky to have Casey’s mom here with us to help out with the older kids since Casey has a newborn attached to her most of the day.
As always, you can find more photos of Kellen on Flickr.
The other day my friend Sam asked me where I turn to for business and entrepreneurship inspiration, which led to the following thought: “Yeah, good question – where the hell do I get my inspiration from?”.
So after a day of intermittent soul searching, here’s my incomplete list of what’s currently driving me.
What’s Not on This List – Business Books
I spent the better part of my twenties building a personal library containing scores of business books. Many I read, but even more just sat on a bookshelf looking pretty and making me feel smart.
I’ve given up on reading business books. They’re either recycled content learned by pioneers decades ago, or pseudoscientific case study bullshit claiming to show you the way to success courtesy of crafty cherry picking1.
And all of them need to lose the filler, drop to 50 pages, and just get to the damn point already.
Except Clayton Christensen
Clayton Christensen, genius, is the author of the only business book worth reading – The Innovator’s Dilemma2. The book explores the idea of disruptive innovations and how they come to displace established players in markets. This is the most important business book written in the last two decades.
Equally important is Christensen’s more recent work on the Jobs-to-be-Done Theory. In a nut, it says that customers “hire” a product to do a particular job, and this helps explain why they buy one product over another. For example, a Snickers bar is “hired” for a different reason than a Milky Way. You can get a great introduction to the topic in a podcast episode titled “The hiring and firing of milkshakes and candy bars“3.
Merlin Mann and the Back to Work Podcast
Merlin Mann became internet famous for being a productivity guru and coming up with the idea of Inbox Zero. At some point, he became even more interesting when he abandoned the productivity porn racket and shifted into higher level thoughts on creating our best stuff.
The podcast is not specifically business related, which is a Good Thing, because what Dan and Merlin talk about is much more important than that.
Copyblogger and Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio
I find the art of copywriting fascinating, and few do it better than the people at Copyblogger. It’s old school marketing in the spirit of David Ogilvy applied through email, the web, social media, and other modern techniques.
Their podcast, Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio, gives a good introduction to many of the topics and features interviews with interesting and inspiring guests.
Paul Graham is best known for founding Y Combinator, a venture fund/incubator for technology startups. Over the years, he has written a long list of essays on entrepreneurship and programming. Not always applicable to me, but always thought-provoking.
Who else inspires me? Several extremely hard working entertainers come to mind. Nothing highlights the role of practice and perseverance like these guys.
In my mind, Louis C.K. is the hardest working comedian in the business right now. Not only does the guy scrap his routine every year and completely rewrite it, he writes, directs, edits and stars in his own tv show.
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller have spent decades refining their craft, and it shows. They’re the most entertaining magicians out there. The had complete focus on magic, vowing to each other that they would not take a job outside of show business to force them to take any and every gig offered to them. Anything to get up on stage and improve their act.
And then there’s the story of Teller and “The Red Ball” illusion, which he has spent over a decade practicing and refining. An hour a day, every day, year after year. Practicing and refining in order to make something beautiful.
To help celebrate my parents’ upcoming 40th wedding anniversary, our whole family headed down to Disney World last week for a few days of fun in the parks. The kids had a good time, but I won’t lie – with three boys six and under, it was a lot of work.
A lot of time was spent on buses, or waiting for buses, which led to several situations like this:
It was nice being there while Disney was celebrating Christmas, since it added a more festive atmosphere. They know how to put on a show better than anyone else.
You can find more photos from our trip on our Flickr account.
I’m a sucker for well designed products and for energy efficiency technologies. Combine the two, and you’ve definitely got my attention.
Yesterday, former Apple employee and iPod designer Tony Fadell revealed what his start-up has been working on for the last couple of years. It is, of all things, a home thermostat. Called the Nest, this smart thermostat is unlike any you’ve seen before. Yes, its design would be at home with any of Apples current products, but its functionality is what’s impressive.