20 Years of "Let Go" by Avril Lavigne

2nd July 2022

One way that I've been realising my age recently, is the amount of anniversaries for music that I used to listen to when I was a child.

The most recent one is Avril Lavigne's album Let Go, that has now reached it's 20th anniversary. Which obviously means, a new anniversary version has been released, and I'm listening to it right now.

Listen on Apple Music or Spotify.

The Early Internet is Breaking

2nd July 2022

I just watched this great video on the early web - The early internet is breaking - here’s how the World Wide Web from the 90s on will be saved. It's relatively short, but it shows what the web looked like in the 1990s, and how prevalent personal website were. And also the measures that some people are taking to try to preserve early and current websites.

I wish personal websites were still as popular nowadays, the web sure was a fun place to be when they were.

Blogging Like It’s 2010

Matt Bircher has been taking time away from Twitter, and spending more time writing on his blog. I find his reasoning very convincing, and I think I will also try to share more things on my blog, rather than condensing thoughts into hot takes on Twitter.

I Hope The Nothing Phone Does Well

1st July 2022

If you haven’t heard, there’s a company called “Nothing”, and they’re very close to releasing their second product, the phone (1). It’s a company that seemingly loves hype. And I think it’s worked well for them, as they’ve been getting a decent amount of press.

As far as I can tell, it’s an Android device (with a custom launcher), that looks a bit (from the front) like an iPhone 12, but with a whole new back design that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

They call it the Glyph Interface, as you can see, it’s full of lights. The one near the power connector will show the current charge when plugged in, and you can also assign various light patterns to ringtones, which Marques Brownlee made a great video showing off. Maybe that sounds a bit useless to you. But to me, it just seems fun, a bit quirky, but overall definitely something different.

The problem I’ve already started to see with this phone (that isn’t even released yet), is that some are already asking “Is this the iPhone killer?”. Let’s not beat around the bush. The Nothing phone (1) is not the iPhone killer. Nor will it kill any popular current major smartphone. And it doesn’t need to.

I want this phone to exist in a wide marketplace of different offerings from various companies. I want devices that exist to have a bit of character, not just be a minimal slab of glass with a generic camera square at the back. I think there should be loads of smaller niche devices that cater more towards certain markets or tastes. Because if everything is the same, then it’s just boring.

I really want this phone to succeed because I think it will encourage other companies to do something similar. To me, it seems like the big phone manufacturers are just trying their hardest to reach the phone design singularity, where you can have the smallest bezels, the thinnest body, and the best camera. But they don’t seem to make anything fun, or unique, or even just plain interesting.

There’s a big chance I won’t end up purchasing a phone (1) when it’s released. I just hope enough people do, so that the smartphone market starts to become a bit more diverse.

The Evolution of Twitter Fascinates Me

24th June 2022

Twitter has just started to roll out a new composer tool, Twitter Write, which adds the support to write long-form content. It allows users to write a note, which can essentially be seen as a blog post, just hosted on Twitter itself. There are still limits to what you can write in a note, with the title being limited to 100 characters, and the body having a limit of 2,500 words.

In some ways, I find this feature to be an obvious addition to the platform, especially given the number of Notes app screenshots, or “TwitLonger” links shared on the platform. There’s clearly a demand to share more than 280 characters.

However, I think this feature is a lot more than just a mechanism of increasing the character limit. Especially if you think of the other features that have been added to Twitter in the last year or so.

To some, Twitter should be used as a pure chronological timeline, of tweets from the accounts that you follow. But it’s clear that Twitter as a platform is becoming more of an ecosystem, in which multiple social networking services exist.

Just to name a few of the recent additions, there’s got Spaces that brings live audio conversations to the platform, Communities that allows groups of people to create dedicated places for people to connect, Shopping is a recent experimental addition, and soon people will be able to post longer written content via Notes. For a platform that was originally designed to share tiny pieces of text, it’s evolved substantially.

On top of all of that, there’s Twitter Blue, Super Follows, Tips, and a ton more that I’ve forgotten about.

It’s fascinating to me to see the visible evolution of the platform. And while the big elephant in the room is Elon Musk, I’d still prefer to keep a positive mindset on the situation and think about the ways the platform could still improve.

You Can Now Transfer WhatsApp From Android to iOS

21st June 2022

Back when I got a Pixel 6 to try out, I was pleasantly surprised with the initial Android set up process. Especially as there was a way to transfer WhatsApp data (chats, history, media, etc.) from an existing iPhone.

However, when I decided to switch back to my iPhone being my primary device, I discovered that the reverse process just wasn't possible. Which wasn't exactly the end of the world, but as I'd only switched for a few weeks, but would certainly be a much bigger friction point if there was a lot more data involved.

Thankfully, this is now supported. So depending on versions, the Move to iOS Android App will also include steps to include your WhatsApp data in the transfer.

This process will sign you out on your old device. Until you delete the app, of course. But it sure would be nice if WhatsApp allowed you to be signed in on multiple devices at the same time. It would make transferring between platforms even easier.

Parts Unknown

14th June 2022

Only a few years ago, after his passing, I was made aware of Anthony Bourdain. Ever since then, I’ve watched a lot of his television shows, and read quite a bit about him. I’m not sure I’m able to describe him in words, but one of my favourite aspects of him and his work was his focus on real people. Not large population statistics, or generalisations, but individuals.

And now, thanks to Nick Heer, I’m now aware that he used to have a blog on Tumblr. The first post I read, Parts Unknown, has to be one of my favourite blog posts I’ve read.

Here is the beginning of the piece:

Before I set out to travel this world, 12 years ago, I used to believe that the human race as a whole was basically a few steps above wolves.
That given the slightest change in circumstances, we would all, sooner or later, tear each other to shreds. That we were, at root, self-interested, cowardly, envious and potentially dangerous in groups. I have since come to believe – after many meals with many different people in many, many different places – that though there is no shortage of people who would do us harm, we are essentially good.

I think that quote gives you a glimpse into his feelings on people, but I’d still urge you to read the full piece.

I’ve since read more on his blog, and I’m constantly left amazed at his writing. Not only because of the stories he told, but also how he wrote, and the type of things that he wrote about. I wasn’t blogging much in the “good days” when things like Google Reader existed, and when RSS apparently wasn’t dead, but if people’s blogs were anything like his, then I can only imagine how much I missed out.

Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman on the Rich Roll Podcast

24th May 2022

I came across an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast the other day, with the guest Dr. Andrew Huberman, who is a neuroscientist and associate professor at Stanford University. I had seen some clips of him on social media, mainly do’s/don’ts on certain behaviours, and how activities can affect your brain, etc.

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.

Change Your Brain: Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman | Rich Roll Podcast

Dopamine can be a tool for motivation

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.

There's a ton more that I found interesting in the episode, but I didn't think anyone wanted to read a book. But if what I took from it is at all appealing to you, then I'd recommend starting with this episode first, but to also have a look at the rest of the podcast.

The Improvements That I Want to See in iOS 16

14th May 2022

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!