Marco on 34th Street

Like everyone else, I downloaded Overcast yesterday. For 1.0, the feature set and level of polish are really quite impressive.

That being said, for whatever reason, it wasn’t for me. I’m not really sure why, although my best guess is that it might have actually been too feature-rich. Even though I listen to about 35 podcasts on a regular basis, I’ve never used anything like variable speed or even playlists.

But instead of going back to my old favorite, PocketCasts, Overcast encouraged me to try Castro through a list of other great podcast clients Marco included in the settings screen.

And as an aside, yes, this app does have a settings screen.

All of this is to say that Marco’s approach here isn’t new. I know it at least dates back to the 1955 Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street.

If you’ve never seen it:

  1. You should.
  2. The Macy’s Santa Claus inspires some goodwill by referring parents to other department stores like Gimbels when they don’t have a particular toy in stock, rather than selling them something they don’t want.

And all that is to say that even though the approach isn’t new, it’s a wonderful idea. While Overcast wasn’t for me, I gladly purchased the In-App Upgrades, and whatever Marco thinks of next, I’ll best first in line to give it a shot.

Google Minus
I suspect we’ll look back on Google+ as one of the worst strategic moves Google ever made. It has cost them dearly in talent, morale, and the quality of their other products.

Arment nails it — Google Plus was a huge gamble with all that he listed and more at stake. But that’s just it, Google had to make that gamble. It’s not like they could sit back and watch Facebook eat their lunch.

At face value, Google Plus seemed to be a pretty good alternative to Facebook, but in the end attempts at “differentiation”1 like Circles were more trouble than they were worth.

Again, all this is to say that Google had to try.

For their next attempt2 at a social network to be successful, Google will need to start with something more modest. Facebook began as a place to connect with other college kids, Twitter as a place to share 140 characters of plain text, and so on.

An average user won’t spend hours learning how a new service works only to find out it’s basically Facebook. After Google has sold users on a concise vision for a better social network, they can gradually inundate users with bloat, just like the rest — but no sooner.


  1. Or could it have been a genuine attempt at improving the sharing-privacy balance on social networks? 

  2. And don’t worry, they’re going to keep at this until something sticks. 

Sonora 2 Beta

I’ve been trying out the Sonora 2 Beta for a week or so and I can easily recommend it over iTunes.

Obviously, it’s not going to sync your iPhone or play iTunes Radio, but it does a stellar job at giving you easy access to your music without having to deal with all the iTunes cruft. 1


  1. I’ve been loving my new Retina Macbook Pro, but I’ve been disappointed that even after spending upwards of $2000 on a machine, that iTunes scrolling inexplicably lags. No such issue in Sonora. 

Beamer 2 Released

My friends over at Tupil just released a very nice update to their already great app, Beamer and I was lucky enough to receive an early review copy.

Beamer lets you stream any movie file from your Mac to your Apple TV. While you could definitely accomplish this for free with AirPlay mirroring, I’ve found a few main advantages to using a dedicated app like Beamer:

1. Not having to futz around with mirroring settings.

2. The ability to keep using your Mac as usual.

3. An uncanny support for just about any video file I throw at it.

4. Integration with the Apple TV remote.

If you’re interested, there’s some sort of a limited trial available —when that’s over it’s fifteen bucks and well worth it.

Paper for Reminders

The result of a Saturday morning messing around with AppleScript. I hope you like it! 

Accepted

arena-abroad:

The other day I received my official acceptance letter to my dream school in the heart of Rome. I can’t believe it, but this could actually happen.

Four years. In Rome.

I haven’t committed yet, but I’ll be visiting in February and I’ll probably make my final decision sometime after that….

In other news, I now have a travel blog.

Saying Goodbye to AppStorm

As of December 31st, the AppStorm network of sites will no longer be updated. This is the end to around four years of publishing across six network sites. The decision was made after unsuccessful attempts to sell the network, despite its combined subscribership of around 160,000 people. While parent company Envato hasn’t yet confirmed this publicly, the email announcing this change was sent to the network’s writers yesterday.

I don’t usually post “breaking” news here, but I felt this story was worthy of an exception. Although I haven’t written for AppStorm since August, it was my first online paid writing gig as well as one of my favorite sites for app news.

As to why its shutting down, that’s a matter of speculation. My guess is this was just the result of Envato trying to trim the fat. Mac.AppStorm was great, but splitting resources between six different sites no doubt had an effect on the quality of them all. In the end - a few great things are always better than a bunch of okay ones and I think that’s a lesson Envato will be taking to heart with it’s Tuts+ and marketplace sites.

It’s been a great run for AppStorm and I wish their contributors nothing but the best in their future endeavors.

A Listmaking Trifecta

I’ve never been satisfied with any single to do list/note taking application. Every tool I try is either too much, too little, too ugly, or just plain bad. In the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve accidentally developed a “system” for managing my notes and to do lists - here’s what it looks like.

  • Reminders takes care of anything with a hard-and-fast due date or time.
  • The new Simplenote is something of a junk drawer with lists of ideas, places to go, recipies to try, and basically everything else. It’s also where I draft longer articles, but that’s for a different post.
  • Begin is the incoming star of my setup. I won’t go into too much detail on how it works, except to say that I use it exactly how the developer intended, which is rare.

All these apps are stored in a folder in my dock called “Do” and thanks to iOS 7, it feels incredibly smooth and natural to add a task in any of these apps.

In a poor attempt to minimize the apps on my phone, I used to try to consolidate these things into a single app. The reality is that it’s better to have three apps that each do one thing great than one app that does three alright.

Homeostasis

Homeostasis:

Noun: the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements

In business, the thought goes that if you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking. I think this principle applies to the rest of life, as well - especially in the things we own. We’ve got a hard time reaching a homeostasis for stuff.

While 95% of the time we’re rapidly accumulating this stuff, the rest is spent trying to purge ourself of it with the help of yard sales, Craigslist, and curbs. Although I’m something of an aspiring minimalist, it’s becoming to seem like little more than an equal and opposite reaction to all this stuff.

So rather than trying to add or remove all the time, I’m taking an honest inventory of what I’ve got and attempting to get it to a point of homeostasis. Through this, my hope is that instead of a 95/5 split of adding and purging that I’ll reach an more manageable middle point, only adding new things where old ones no longer do the job.

About this inventory, as it’s a pretty huge undertaking I’ve developed a system for creating it, only including things that:

  • Are worth more than five bucks
  • Have some sentimental value
  • Take up a meaningful amount of space

The one thing I’m not yet certain about is just how I should record everything. Bento seems like it would’ve been a great tool, but since it’s been discontinued, I’m considering everything from a simple spreadsheet to FileMaker. Your suggestions and recommendations are welcome.

The End of Oval Office Speeches

It’s all just speculation, but from the point of view of a casual observer, this seems pretty spot on. We’ll just have to wait for the tell-alll in a few years to know for certain, though.