When I saw the video, I thought I’d give it a watch, since I’ve found other Rich Roll episodes to be pretty interesting. Well, I was right, I found it to be a fascinating interview. One full of lots of intriguing little tidbits, and things I didn’t know before, or at least not fully understood.
I’d encourage you to watch the interview, I also decided to write about three things that I took from the video that I found to be interesting.
We tend to think that dopamine is a chemical that is released whenever something big happens, and that it’s a kind of pleasure/reward response. While that is true, dopamine is also a chemical that rewards behaviour so that we are encouraged to repeat it.
The lack of dopamine can also cause you to quit an activity or behaviour. Which is why mentally celebrating small milestones is very beneficial. As this makes your brain release small hits of dopamine, which then in turn pushes back your desire to quit, and reassures you that you are on the right path.
He also touched on the reliance of external dopamine triggers, and how that they can negatively affect you when they disappear. And when you perform an action that you have become accustomed to receive external gratification for, and therefore triggering a dopamine release, if that does not happen, then your likeliness to quit increases. As that behaviour does not trigger the same reward as it used to, so your brain will treat it as it has a lower value. This behaviour somewhat ties into addiction, which he explained in the latter parts of the video.
Mental Focus Follows Visual Focus
Our eyes are part of our central nervous system, and can be seen as being part of the brain. One chemical that is apparently key to visual focus, is adrenaline, as it causes your pupils to dilate, and allows you to focus better on one thing visually. Your body releases adrenaline as a response to stress, so you can better deal with the situation at hand.
He also said that this level of focus after a release of adrenaline is most likely what some people nowadays are referring to when they mention some kind of “flow state”. And once you are in this state, it will trigger your brain into cognitive focus.
On the other hand, when you are in a non-stressed state, your brain allows for a more panoramic view, which in turn allows for more awareness of your surroundings.
Time perception is also apparently linked to our level of focus on our physical space, with the more focused we are, resulting in a perception that more things are happening in a shorter period of time. And conversely, when your focus is more dilated, it appears as if you have more time, and everything is spaced apart.
I found it interesting that he said this was not the same as time itself going faster or slower, just the rate of which things happen appears to change.
How to Decompress
One thing that maybe most of us are slightly aware of is that taking breaks can allow for decompression, and help recover our energy levels. But it’s also important what we do on those breaks that matter.
I’m sure a lot of us are aware of context-switching, and how it can take time to adjust our mind to different contexts. This is also relevant when taking a break too, as if you want to decompress, switching to another activity where you’re in a focussed state will only make it harder to refocus back on your main activity.
Instead, it’s better to take regular breaks where you are not partaking in any activity that requires any substantial focus, and instead by having a more panoramic view of your surroundings.
Then, just as I mentioned above, your mental focus will follow your visual focus, and your body will be more able to recover energy.
It also means that you require less energy to refocus your mind when going back to what you were doing.
I started thinking about what my hopes were for iOS 16, and the ways I think iOS could be improved. Mostly with the intention to end up with one of the stereotypical wish list posts that most bloggers write about this time of year. Nevertheless, I could only think of six things. All of them inspired by my recent use of the Google Pixel 6 and Android 12.
That isn’t to say that these are the only things that will excite me about iOS 16, they’re just the only ways I can see iOS 16 improving. I’m sure there are various ways in which Apple could innovate, and bring something new to the OS. However, the OS has, without doubt, matured, and every year there’s a lot less low-hanging-fruit. Which is probably why innovation seems to have slowed (for both iOS and Android), and changes seem to be either iterative or being adaptations of existing capabilities of another OS.
With that in mind, here are the six things that are inspired by Android 12, that I think Apple should bring to iOS 16:
Some form of universal messaging support. Whether it is iMessage for Android (which I think is unlikely), or the adoption of RCS as a fallback instead of SMS. It’s clear that communication between iOS and Android devices shouldn’t be via SMS.
Freeform Home Screen layouts. There are many things that made me give the Pixel 6 a try, but a main one was the same old Home Screen. There’s been the addition of widgets, but everything still needs to follow the same grid structure. And for some reason, you can’t just put an icon where you want. Which seems stupid to me, since the size of phones nowadays are pretty large.
Multiple audio channels. This isn’t something that I’m desperate for, but it’s certainly irritating for me when you go to a website and a video/ad starts playing automatically and your song stops. Imagine going to a website on your Mac and an autoplaying video, stopping the song you’re listening to. Also, you should be able to alter the volume of specific apps/channels.
New widget sizes. Widgets are cool, but I don’t think the information density warrants them such a big place on the Home Screen. Why does the weather forecast need to take up the space of 4 app icons? A 2×1 and 1×1 size option would be very much appreciated by me. And I’ve also greatly appreciate resizable widgets, rather than fixed sizes that you have to replace manually.
Better notification grouping. For me, Android has always had better notification support than iOS. But something I find very useful when I use my Pixel is the grouping of notifications. As in, a certain app can have have multiple categories of notifications, which the user can control individually. Which means you can turn off some of the more marketing style notifications, and keep the important ones.
Auto-unlock in safe locations. This is a feature of Android that I love. The Pixel 6 that I use has a fingerprint sensor in the screen, and while it’s pretty fast, it’s not instant. However, there’s a “Smart Unlock” feature, that allows you to add trusted places, where your phone will always stay unlocked. I know Apple like to tie a lot of this auto-unlock stuff to the Apple Watch, but I don’t wear one of those. I’d like just like to have my phone unlocked whenever I’m at home.
Those are the improvements that I can think of, but I’m sure there are a ton of others. So fingers-crossed they announce something exciting at WWDC!
As you probably already know, Avatar: The Way of Water will come out at the end of this year. However, the logo won’t be in the same Papyrus typeface as the original. Instead, John Roshell at Swell Type was commissioned to create a new typeface for the upcoming film.
They have written about the process on the Swell Type blog, which is a relatively short, but fascinating read nonetheless. I was initially surprised that a new typeface was created, instead of the logo being designed. But when you think about how many places this typeface will be used—the film, websites, marketing, social media, etc. it makes sense.
Talking about the new typeface itself, I think it suits Avatar very well. It has a clear evolution from Papyrus, but adds a bit more character.
I’m now going to be hyper-aware of this typeface whenever I see anything relating to Avatar, but I wonder if normal people will notice anything different?
In his post, he explains that there are some tasks that, although can be worth doing, aren’t easy to start. I bet quite a lot of people can relate to that.
Sometimes it can be chores that need to be done, or it can also be an activity like reading a book, which may take some initial effort to get into.
One of the things I wrote about in my previously mentioned post, was that I tried to forget about the “bigger picture” of a certain task or activity, and focus on something easily achievable:
So if I want to tidy up the kitchen, I’d tell myself, “I’m just going to put away all of the rubbish in the bin and then I’m done”. If I’m writing a blog post, I’d probably aim to write either a first sentence or maybe even just to get an idea down somewhere. No matter what it is, I find forgetting about the big picture for a second can help. The goal is to get that one thing done, and then you can either finish or just one more thing. After a while, it creates a snowball effect, where after every small task you complete, you’re more likely to do the next thing and the next thing until you may as well just finish it.
That was my approach to starting more chore like activities, but it might not be the best attitude for everything.
This is where I believe Shawn Blanc’s method is much more flexible, as his rule is that he decides to commit just 5 minutes:
I’ll spend 5 minutes putting away the dishes; 5 minutes warming up; or 5 minutes writing whatever crappy prose comes to mind. Then, after those first 5 minutes, if I’m still not into it I give myself permission to move on to something else. But most of the time, it only takes a few minutes for the momentum to kick in.
I love these types of rules because they’re simple enough to perform and to remember for the future, and it’s also great when they’re effective, too.
I’m a pretty lazy person when it comes to doing chores, and also starting fun activities, but tricks like these usually get me over the initial hurdle. And from there, it’s definitely a lot easier to carry on.
When you agree with yourself that you are going to commit some effort, but only a limited amount of it, it’s very liberating. Since you aren’t tied to any precomposed expectations of what a task may entail, and you have an easy way out.
I have a few life goals written down, where I think if I would achieve them, would signify a very satisfying life for myself.
One I would like to share today, is that I would like to not need to set an alarm on a day-to-day basis. I want to be able to wake up naturally, and go about my day as I see fit.
The biggest and most obvious hinderance to me achieving this goal is my day job. And for most people attempting to achieve something similar, where they have more control over their day, this problem would probably be the same.
The essence of the goal is mostly based on having control over my own timetable, but at the same time, I don’t want this to mean that I can’t work. I’m happy working, but I want to do it on my own time. Maybe that’s expecting too much, but I have a feeling that many people would like to control their day a little more.
This actually came back into my head recently with the news that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, and also based on commentary from LD Stephens, and Mike Rockwell.
But the idea that triggered it the most was from LD Stephens, where he mentioned how it would more negatively affect the northern states, with darker mornings in the winter months. While I won’t pretend to understand the geography of the U.S. or the opinions of its citizens, it is interesting to me that even inside a time zone, not everyone experiences the same day. I haven’t quite figured out if I think this is a problem, or if it’s just a situation that we have to get on with. But intriguing to me nonetheless.
Where this ties in to my idea about controlling your day, is that because timezones are experienced differently based on where you are within that timezone. So while it may say 8 am on everyone’s clocks, maybe in one place the sun has risen, and in another it hasn’t. That’s probably not a big deal to most. But when you add the context of a normal day job starting at roughly the same time, then it has a more visible effect.
I have many questions in my head regarding why we need to start work at a certain time, and why working hours aren’t adjusted on a hyper-local basis. But I guess the answer is mostly that it’s simply easier this way.
When I think about Daylight Savings Time, it does at least attempt to counteract the varying sunset/sunrise times over the year. But I don’t think the “solution” to this is in the concept of time itself, but how we base our lives on it. For example, if you normally start work at 8 am, but now the sun doesn’t rise until 8:45 am, why can’t you just start work at 9 am instead? Why do we adjust time to compensate? I’m guessing because “it’s easier”.
I’m not sure that this would work for everyone, but I think a more flexible approach to working hours would be widely accepted.
Before the pandemic, I started coming into work earlier, starting at 7:30 instead of 8:30. However, while this may seem flexible, I’m pretty sure there would have been a bit of friction if I asked to start at 7:45 instead. It’s also not flexible, as in I have had to agree this new time, I couldn’t have just arrived one day at 7:30.
What, I think, would be a good solution for most people is if your starting time wasn’t fixed. But maybe there’s an hour window, and then your working hours start from whenever you arrived at work. Perhaps one day you woke up 15 minutes late, and therefore arrived “late” to the office. Why treat it as a problem of being late? Why is there not a general acceptance of the fact that you arrived 15 minutes later, and that you will just leave 15 minutes later as a result?
Personally, I think the best solution for people and companies (where the job allows), is if your entire working hours were flexible. For example, you could be contracted to work 8 hours a day, but you are free to fulfil those 8 hours between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm. Maybe one day you have plans later on in the day, so you choose to start at 7 am, and have a short lunch. But another day, you want to go have brunch with friends, so you could start later, or perhaps you just take a long break?
To go even further on this idea, what if the entire week was flexible? What if you could fit in 40 hours of work as you see fit throughout the week?
I think this idea of control, and having your working hours work around you, instead of everyone conforming to the same schedule, would result in a massive feeling of freedom.
While I have personally been working throughout the entire pandemic, I have now done so from home for two full years. I start going back to the office on the week starting 28th March, for 2 days a week. And I imagine a lot more people will be starting to go back to the office as well, if they haven’t done so already. It will certainly be very fascinating to see what cultural changes have happened over the period of the pandemic, specifically regarding commuting into a city to work after working from home for two years. Especially since it appears that people are at least attempting to “go back to normal”.
I guess the question is, “what is normal now?”. A while ago everyone was predicting significant changes to how people work, how they socialise, and their entire priorities and attitudes towards their lifestyles. But surely at some point we’ve got to see this take place? Or has it already happened, and we’ve already accepted it as normal?
Back in early February, I decided to treat myself to a base model 14” MacBook Pro, upgrading from a 16” model from 2019. I had it in my head that I was going to write a big post on my experience of using an M1 Mac compared to an Intel. From both a user and developer perspective, and go over any adjustments that I would have needed to make. Turns out, that won’t be happening, as it’s been a completely seamless experience. This machine is great, and to be honest, it’s surprised me a lot.
Why I Got the Base Model
My last machine had an 2.6 GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, 32 GB memory, 1 TB storage, and a 16” screen. So, this time, I imagined that I’d probably need around the same spec. Except I didn’t really know what to expect from Apple’s M1 chip. I had heard it was better, but then when I was asking on Twitter, and watching reviews on YouTube, it still seemed like developers “needed” the higher spec M1 Max chip, and definitely 32 GB memory or higher.
Based on the feedback I got, and the reviews I watched/read, it seemed like the model for me was the 16” MacBook Pro with the M1 Max chip and 32 GB memory, so it was looking pretty expensive.
But then I remembered how well received the original M1 MacBook Pro/Air machines were, even the models with 8 GB memory. So, I decided to look at it from another perspective. I wanted one of the newer models (14” or 16”), so I started with the base model 14”, and decided that I’d only choose an upgrade if I was certain that I’d need it.
The screen size was easy, I’ve had many 13” models, and the size was always perfect. I went with the 16” last time because I wanted to experiment with a larger screen, but I can’t say it ever added much value for me. So, 14” it was.
Which M1 chip to get was the hard choice. The base chip seemed to be so much more powerful than my current Mac, so it seemed straight-forward. But I still had the recommendations in my head that developers needed the M1 Max chip, or at least a very powerful M1 Pro chip. I then came across the XcodeBenchmark project on GitHub. It’s essentially a very large Xcode project, from which build times can be measured, and various MacBook specs can be compared. My Intel MacBook Pro built the project in 242 seconds, so that was my baseline. When I noticed that the M1 8-core Air took only 128 seconds, I knew that whatever model I got, I’d be getting a substantial upgrade in power. The base M1 Pro chip in the 14” model was even faster at 109 seconds. That was enough reassurance for me, so I decided that I could easily get away with the base M1 Pro chip.
The memory became a lot simpler when I discovered that the Mac I use at my day job only had 16 GB, and I had never encountered an issue. And the storage was never really an issue since I don’t really use much storage on my laptops, I have a load of stuff in iCloud, and a load more on my NAS.
All of that meant that I didn’t actually need any upgrades. Turns out, the base model was all I needed.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, my experience with this machine has only been positive. It’s by far capable of what I’ve been throwing at it, whether that’s been compiling and running iOS/macOS apps or playing games like World of Warcraft. I can’t say that I’ve ever pushed this machine anywhere near its limits. Which both makes be pleased I chose this model, but also confused why I was seeing so many recommendations for various upgrades.
The keyboard was a big surprise for me. I’m not sure if I didn’t know, or I’d just forgotten, but I didn’t realise that the keyboard had been upgraded in the new models. The key travel is much better, the keys are so much more responsive, and they feel really sturdy. I was also expecting to be slightly disappointed by the lack of Touch Bar (I was one of the few fans), but that didn’t happen at all. The downsides of not having a few contextual actions available near the keyboard really don’t outweigh the responsiveness and ease of physical keys.
These are great. I don’t know how you’d go about explaining how good they are, but now I’ve experienced these, I can’t listen to any other laptop speakers again.
I’ve had a few Zoom calls on this machine, and I have seen an upgrade in the camera quality. Nothing to shout about, but definitely an improvement.
From what I’d read and watched on the new M1 Macs, I expected that I’d be dealing with Rosetta a lot. Especially when developing apps. But, I haven’t actually had to deal with it at all.
I’m guessing that some apps I’ve used may be running using Rosetta, but I haven’t noticed anything weird. So, I guess it’s all working as expected.
I’m not sure how believable this is for people, given what I’ve seen online, but I honestly never noticed the notch when I’m using this machine. I only remember that it has a notch when I see someone mention it on Twitter, and then I look up and see a black cutout over the menu bar.
My expectations were that I’d find the notch to be hideous and intrusive, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
Overall, I can only reiterate how great this machine is. It’s by far more than I need, and I think the same will probably apply to most people. The base model is so powerful now, I think that if you aren’t aware of any specific use-cases of yours that absolutely require an upgrade, then the base model is most likely more than sufficient.
Consider an alternate reality where the Mac Studio was released in October 2021, and the new MacBook Pros were just revealed yesterday. Apple would have sold them with some variant of "if you want the power of the Mac Studio, but need to move around, then the new MacBook Pro can get you all the power of the same M1 Max in a thin and light device you can take anywhere."
It may sound simple to some, but I would bet that it’s a thought that most people wouldn’t have. I know it’s now one I’ve thought about when trying to determine if I need the new shiny object that appeals to me.
A lot of the time, when something new and shiny appeals to me, it’s normally because it’s new and shiny, not because it’s necessarily better for me than what I already have.
Marketing can work in wonderful ways, but it can also trick you into swapping a product for something new. Simply because they’ve told you how amazing it is, and the assumption is that well, it must be more amazing than the thing you already have.
I recently began using Apple Music. There was something to say for a native mobile app and a native-in-progress desktop app. Unfortunately, that is simply not enough on its own. Here’s why Apple Music doesn’t cut it; and why Spotify does.
Obviously, I’m in no position to discredit their opinion. But the headline had me from the start, since I’m the other way around. I prefer Apple Music to Spotify. However, there are a few things that I think Spotify still does better.
The main points in the article against Apple Music are these:
No Handoff or continuity of playback between devices.
No “download all.” option.
Search on macOS being terrible.
The quality of playlists.
Apparent previous/next button issues.
I don’t want this to come across as a “well, actually…” piece. But I would like to at least offer some perspective on these points. I can’t comment on the last point, as it hasn’t affected me, but that’s not to say bugs don’t exist.
No Playback Continuity
First off, I think I can understand the feeling towards the lack of playback continuity between devices. Spotify does do this very well. However, although Apple Music doesn’t have this feature itself, AirPlay does. From any Apple device, you can send music to another device, or control it at the source.
Although, while I’ve found Apple Music to work better in the Apple ecosystem, with devices such as the HomePod, I’ve found Spotify to work better with Alexa devices.
No “Download All”
The lack of “download all” option is bad, I agree. Ideally, there should be an option to either keep your entire library downloaded to your device. But at least a “download all” button for your entire library would work.
Even so, there is a workaround to keep your entire library downloaded, and I’ve been using it for a very long time.
The trick is to create a Smart Playlist in the macOS Music app that has rules that mean all songs are added. I have it set up to include all songs where the artist is not blank.
Once this is created, you can then set this playlist to download on any device. Then as you add songs to your library, this playlist will update, and it will download on your device.
Search on macOS
Totally agree. This is terrible. The search just doesn’t feel good at all. Sometimes you enter a query and hit enter, and just nothing happens.
Here is me complaining about this issue back in November 2021.
Raises the quality bar: When you open up your work to a broader audience, you naturally do more polishing before you share. When everyone is doing that work for each other, the average for the company goes way up!
Good ideas bubble up: If the ideas are compelling, they will spread. And it doesn’t necessarily matter who wrote it. I’ve seen documents written in a corner of an organization make their way all the way to the CEO and meaningfully influence top-level decisions.
Ditch the “roadshows”: Publish a document to get your ideas out there and it not only democratizes it, it saves time! Docs create a single destination/artifact for anyone around the org to reference and opine on when appropriate or required. I like to call this the ‘YO, FYI” approach. Draft your doc and blast it out with the simple message of ‘YO, FYI” to those that may want to know.
I’m someone who writes a lot at work. For many of the reasons that are pointed out in the above-mentioned list. But if I would come up with the main benefits that I see myself from writing a lot at work I’d say:
Increases chance of understanding - You can spend more time explaining something when writing it out, and the reader can read it at their own pace, and take their time to understand it fully.
Gives the opportunity for more people to gain knowledge - Sometimes when you’re on a call or in a meeting, knowledge stays within small groups of people. But by having a written record, it allows more people (if shared appropriately) to also read it. For example, maybe a new employee wanting to know more about a piece of work/functionality, or someone on the same team that wishes to gain a better perspective of a bigger piece of work.
Showcases your work and knowledge - This can be taken the wrong way, but by offering more detail on discussions, decisions, or any learned knowledge, you can both help others with the shared information, and showcase your work to others. Perhaps it helps your boss to see what you’re up to, and reassures them that you’re on track. Or possibly it shows hard work, and potential for promotion.
Information has a longer lifespan - Instead of staying within the confines of a conversation, information can live longer. And at the same time, it can be used as a living document that is constantly updated.
Saves time - Both as a method of sharing information to big groups of people, and to explain complex topics that may take a while to read and fully understand.
Anecdotally, I have noticed that at my work the people that write more, tend to have a better reputation, and from my perspective, seem to be better at their jobs.
When we use the term technical debt with non-technical business colleagues, they assume, that technical debt is analogous to financial debt. After a few minutes of discussion they are usually relieved to find that there is no actual money problem. Then after not seeing any tangible sign of a fire in the movie theater, they will then conclude that that we either don’t know what we are talking about or we are using the wrong terms or both. Think about their context, how quickly would the CFO get fired if they claimed “we have a lot of debt” but couldn’t produce a balance sheet with lenders, amounts, interest rates and terms?
The article goes into a lot more detail on what the problem is, and also the ways you can explain it better. But essentially, the trick is to explain it in ways that people can understand:
Companies and business leaders don’t care if jobs are hard or annoying or take longer than they “should”. The difference between a user story taking a day or 3 days is negligible compared to its business value. Companies and their leaders care about revenue and costs. They care about customers and growth. They care about time to market. If we want to have our non-technical colleagues listen and act, we need to either improve our use of the financial terms they understand or we need to translate our message into business outcomes that they do care about.
I’ve seen this myself where I work. Every so often it’s regarding technical debt, but typically, I think it’s when people aren’t aware of the context in which they’re explaining something. It’s something I definitely had to get to grips with as well, learning how to talk to various people, what they understand, what they’re interested in, and overall, what matters to them.
This may sound rude, but I think sometimes us developers get a bit stuck in our own world. We tend to use a bit too much jargon, arguing over the stupidest of problems, and not really focussing on the wider business perspective. For example, the value of the product doesn’t get better if you use a different code style.
One thing that helped me at work was to spend time with people like product managers, business leaders, or anyone else non-technical that I had to explain things to. That way I learned their perspective, and adapted my wording to fit. It’s only going to be better for both parties if you can get things across clearly. It avoids unnecessary confusion and it saves time.