As you may have seen on Twitter, over the past few days I’ve been creating various wallpapers. I had a goal of coming up with 10, and I’ve finally hit that goal, so it’s about time I made them available.
I’m making these available as a paid offering (my first on the blog I think) which you can purchase via Gumroad. The price is £3, which equates to roughly just over $4.
Here’s a preview of what each wallpaper looks like:
All of these images are squares, and the intention behind that is to allow you to choose your own crop and positioning when setting them as your wallpaper. Each image comes in two sizes - 6,000 x 6,000 pixels, and also 12,000 x 12,000 pixels, because why not.
My intention with these was to create a collection of wallpapers with various styles and colour schemes. So I hope there’s at least a few in there for everybody.
Twitter have officially announced Twitter Blue, their first subscription, which will give users access to a few extra features and perks. It has been rumoured for a while, so it’s not exactly surprising. But it’s still good to see it officially. It’s only available in Australia and Canada now, but at least we can get a preview of what will be included.
As for features, there are three that will initially be part of the new paid subscription - bookmark folders, an undo tweet option, and a specialised reader mode for threads.
Bookmark Folders are pretty easy to get your head around, it’s just a way to organise bookmarked tweets. Although I think this should be available for all users.
The Undo Tweet feature is a bit interesting. Because it may seem like it’s just another way to delete a tweet, but instead, it’s probably better to think of the feature as a customisable tweet delay. Matt Birchler had this idea not long ago, and his reasoning was that a delay could give you time to rethink whether you really wanted to tweet something. This won’t allow for a huge amount of consideration, as the maximum delay will be 30 seconds. But you’ll definitely be able to quickly stop a tweet from being posted that may contain a wrong link, image, or spelling mistake. I think this could be quite useful.
As for the Reader Mode, this is a way to condense threads into a single view so you can read them much more seamlessly. Rather then manually scrolling through tweets, and getting replies from other people in the way.
There are a few extra perks for subscribers, and they are custom app icons, colour theme options, and dedicated customer support. I haven’t seen any of the app icons or themes, but I’m definitely up for some customisation.
Twitter only announced the pricing for Australia and Canada, with them being $4.49 AUD and $3.49 CAD. But with the way In-App purchases work, you can see what the app offers from the App Store page. And from that, I can tell that Twitter Blue will be £2.49 a month in the UK. Which I don’t think is that bad, and I’m 99% sure I’ll be signing up whenever it’s available.
I've never really been that interested in freestyle skateboarding, but Andy Anderson is becoming one of my favourite skaters. I think I'll always prefer street skateboarding, but Andy certainly makes it enjoyable to watch. Especially when you add in his creativity, style, and attitude towards skateboarding and life in general.
This film, "SEEN HIM", presented by Powell-Peralta, is 25 minutes long. And while that may seem a bit long, considering it's a skateboard movie with one skater, it's a lot more than just a skate part.
I've been trying out a new delivery tracking app recently called Parcel, and it's been absolutely fantastic to use. And while it's a lot simpler than the popular Deliveries app, it does a few things that for me, make it a much better choice.
One main annoyance I had with Deliveries, was that Royal Mail (the main postal service in the UK) deliveries weren't supported properly. You could add them, but it would just redirect you to the web if you wanted to actually view the details. Fortunately, Parcel supports Royal Mail deliveries like any other, which makes it instantly better.
That's not it though as Parcel can also automatically track Amazon orders, which is incredibly useful. And while it's not automatic, there's also support for Apple Store orders, just use the order number and Parcel can fetch all the details.
So while it may not be the most feature packed app, or have the most custom design, I think it's fantastic.
If you want to try it out, then Parcel is free on the App Store, and if you want to track more than three deliveries at once and also have push notifications, then the premium subscription is just £2.99 a year.
Okay, so maybe productivity isn’t the best word. But instead, I want to talk about a few methods that I’ve found that helped me to get things done.
I’ll start with a tiny bit of background information, in that I am an incredibly lazy person. So you could say I need as much help as I can get when it comes to being productive. This is why I’ve started to learn ways in which I can trick myself into starting activities that my usual lazy self would definitely not want to do.
I’m not sure if this quote is actually true, or if Bill Gates was even the one who said it, but I do think there is at least a hint of truth in the following quote:
I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.
I think that’s where I am right now. Although I’m not always finding the objectively easiest solution, what I’ve learned is that I need to find the solution that fits me.
A lot of the time, when people talk about productivity, they talk about the efficiency of getting work done and, in general, how you can fit the most value into the smallest period. And while this type of stuff may be helpful to others, my issue is rarely how efficiently I perform tasks or deal with deadlines. My problem is putting in the required effort in order to actually start something.
A tip I hear (and use) a lot when it comes to making tasks seem more bearable is to break them down into smaller tasks and tackle them one by one. It sounds totally obvious, and it probably is. But I, for one, tend to forget about it most of the time.
However, there is one idea constantly in my head: always try and make things easier for myself. Because when the time comes where I have a sudden burst of energy or that tiny bit of time where I feel like I have nothing else to do, I’m more likely to make a dent in a big task. Additionally, I’ve found my sudden bursts of energy and inspiration to be perfect times to make that start.
The thing that helps me the most in tackling a big task, whether it is writing a long blog post, cleaning the kitchen, organising my office, or anything that just seems like it would require too much effort, is that I give myself a goal. More specifically, I give myself an easily achievable goal. 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.
I regularly use one trick on myself: when I’m waiting for something to happen, whether it’s waiting for something to cook or when I have a few minutes spare, I just start washing a few dishes. Then in a few minutes, I find myself doing a few more dishes, and then I’m cleaning the surfaces, and then the cupboards, and maybe after this time, the bin is full, so I may as well take that out. Most of the time, I just need to do something small, and then I find it easy to carry on with something else.
When it comes to longer-form writing, I find it useful to give myself a head-start there too. Usually, it’s in the form of a really rough outline of the fundamentals of what I want to write about. And if I have time afterwards, I might do some refining or add a bit more detail. So when it comes to sitting down and writing, my brain can use the outline as a trigger, and I find it a lot easier to get a load of writing done in one go.
My biggest takeaway from this would be that it’s far easier to continue a task than starting one. So by making a dent, no matter the size, makes it that much easier to then push yourself on.
Considering everything I said about starting being the hardest part, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of it is always easy. Sometimes you still need a bit more motivation to keep on going.
I’ve found that not only simply breaking up tasks into more manageable chunks helps, but adding in regular rewards can make it even easier to get bigger pieces of work done. For example, while I was at university, I sometimes found it incredibly boring to write some of the reports. But I tackled that by giving myself rewards for a given amount of work. So after I’d written a certain amount of words, I played a game of FIFA. And then, after that game, I knew that all I had to do was the same amount of words again before I could play again.
It definitely relies upon a level of self-control, but it can be very effective once you’ve found the right balance. It can transform a task into being just smaller chunks, into an activity that you’re actually interested in, broken up with occasional tasks. Even with the added motivation, I’m sure that this method isn’t the most efficient way. But if it means doing something over doing nothing at all, then there’s got to be some value in it.
The last thing that I want to talk about when it comes to getting work done is further to the idea of making things easier for yourself. In that, you can create triggers to help put yourself into a certain mindset and to create environments where you’re more likely to be productive.
For me, I do my best work when I’m sat at my desk in my office at home, in front of a monitor, with my mechanical keyboard, lights dimmed to reduce distraction, and usually some kind of music or ambient sounds playing.
Having a good working environment is something I’ve slowly created, and it’s definitely taken some learning along the way to see what works for me.
When I’m doing work on a computer, I tend to find that even small luxuries can make a big difference in helping me focus on getting work done. This includes using a good looking app for my writing, typing on a keyboard that I enjoy, and generally having that extra bit of delight with my setup. It may sound rather silly, but if you make your environment comfortable and have tools you enjoy using, I’m sure that will only increase the likeliness of getting things done.
A few extra things I’ve found to help trigger myself into a work mindset:
Putting shoes on (a recent one, not sure I understand it, though).
Wearing comfortable clothes.
“ASMR Room” videos on YouTube, which can create an environment with some background music, ambient sounds, and some visuals. I’ve found these keep me from having any major distractions.
Opening the window and getting some fresh air.
Setting triggers is something I want to play around with in the future, and hopefully, it’s something I can develop with myself.
If anyone else has had similar experiences when trying to make working a bit more bearable and creating work environments, then I'd be really interested in hearing about them!
I have many thoughts on how thinking like a child can lead to easier learning, less stress, and overall a simpler life. However, this short extract made me think that I've been using the wrong word. Maybe the quality I've been thinking of is foolishness, or more precisely, to be willing to have yourself portrayed as a fool, albeit temporarily.
Or you might take the case of an eighteen-month-old infant learning to talk. Imagine the father leaning over the crib in which his baby son is engaging in what the behaviorist B. F. Skinner calls the free operant; that is, he's simply babbling various nonsense sounds. Out of this babble comes the syllable da. What happens? Father smiles broadly, jumps up and down with joy, and shouts, "Did you hear that? My son said 'daddy.'" Of course, he didn't say "daddy." Still, nothing is much more rewarding to an eighteen-month-old infant than to see an adult smiling broadly and jumping up and down. So, the behaviorists confirm our common sense by telling us that the probability of the infant uttering the syllable da has now increased slightly.
The father continues to be delighted by da, but after a while his enthusiasm begins to wane. Finally, the infant happens to say, not da, but dada. Once again, father goes slightly crazy with joy, thus increasing the probability that his son will repeat the sound dada. Through such reinforcements and approximations, the toddler finally learns to say daddy quite well. To do so, remember, he not only has been allowed but has been encouraged to babble, to make "mistakes," to engage in approximations—in short, to be a fool.
The idea is that this "foolish" behaviour and the freedom to make mistakes were the reason behind the learning.
I may be stretching the snippet that I've quoted here, but I think the concept of being able to make mistakes goes further than just learning new skills. It's a fundamental part of any form of evolution.
Ask a child why they’re building a tower or moving on from the current crayon to choose another color. They’ll just look at you funny or mumble something incoherent.
The real answer is something like “…..because fuck you, that’s why, stop asking dumb questions.”
Studies have shown over and over again that if you take a kid who naturally doodles and draws pictures and then institute a “reward” (reason) for their drawing, they will draw less.
Yet we try to motivate ourselves with reasons.
I think a lot can be learned from the behaviour of children. Especially when trying to navigate the various assumptions and judgement that exists in society as adults. Mostly because children haven't had to deal with the various pressures from society, and aren't burdened by the usual problems that we invent for ourselves.
Some quotes that I think are appropriate to this post:
"Stay hungry. Stay foolish." - Steve Jobs
"Too many people grow up. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don't remember what it's like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won't do that." - Walt Disney
“Even though you want to try to, never grow up” - Peter Pan
One thing that constantly surprises me on micro.blog is how nice people are. This has something to do with the barrier to entry being a bit nerdy, but everything to do with the scale of the platform. Although everyone seems to think that abuse and harassment is something unique to the main social networks, it’s actually a problem of scale.
I've got various opinions on scale when it comes to platforms, social media especially, but they're mainly based on the effect it has on people dealing with that scale. However, Greg has written about another perspective, and that is how it affects the platforms themselves.
The new iPad Pro has been announced, and I've got a few thoughts on it.
Of course, the most significant part of the announcement was the addition of the M1 chip. It brings the obvious added power and increased efficiency that we've seen in M1 Macs. But I think it also signifies something bigger.
Because Apple could have easily just called the iPad chip the A14X or something similar, that's essentially what it is. But they chose to go with the marketing term, M1. And with the M1 name being associated with Macs and desktop computing, I think it shows what Apple wants the iPad Pro to be.
I could be reading too much into this, but my opinion is that we're going to see a much more Pro-focussed strategy for the iPad Pro. And I'm hoping that kicks off with some real Pro applications announced at WWDC, especially Xcode.
The iPad Pro also now comes with more memory, with the 1TB and 2TB options coming with 16GB, and the rest with 8GB. Both options are an increase from the 2020 models, which came with 6GB. I think this will be a significant stepping stone in getting more powerful apps on the iPad.
Then there's the screen. The new 12.9" iPad Pro has a "Liquid Retina XDR" display, which means 10,000 mini LEDs, sorted into over 2500 local dimming zones (The Pro Display XDR has only 576), 1000 nits of brightness with a peak of 1600 nits, ProMotion, True Tone, HDR, P3 wide colour, etc. All of this sounds very appealing and partially confusing, to be honest.
Most of the other features, while mildly interesting, aren't exactly game-changers for me. Things like the USB -C port gaining Thunderbolt support, the curios Centre Stage feature where your camera can follow you, and of course, 5G.
One other thing did pique my curiosity, and that's the new White Magic Keyboard. While my initial reaction was that it would surely wear out quite quickly and get quite visibly dirty. I feel that the White Magic Keyboard combined with a Space Grey iPad Pro could look pretty good together. Hopefully, I can see a picture of it before they're ready to order.
However, all of this excitement also relies on enhancements to iPadOS. The hardware has never actually been the issue when it comes to iPad. That has been steadily improving over time, and it's been pretty powerful for a while now. However, it's now time that the software matched the same level, and I mean that from both an OS perspective and Apple's app offerings. Apps like Xcode, Final Cut Pro, and Logic surely have to be coming to the iPad in one form or another? I'm starting to see little reasons why they couldn't.