Piques of the Week – Volume 6

This week, I’ve been enjoying two great podcasts.

Science Vs

I really like the Reply All podcast from Gimlet Media. If you haven’t listened to that show, make sure you go listen to it. At the end of episode #71, they had a preview of the second season of a podcast I had never heard of, Science Vs I listened to the preview, which was the first half of the “Fracking” episode, and I was hooked.

Hosted by Wendy Zuckerman, the whole idea of this show is to take a topic, break down the key points, and scientifically back-up or refute the validity of said points. The topics range from fracking to diets to medical marijuana. In the latest episode and first in a two-part series titled “Guns”, she tackles a fiercely debated topic dealing with guns in America. It points out where some of the groups that use statistics get it wrong, and shines some light on how some of these figures get collected. The difference the podcast brings to the debate is that it’s not from a passionate point of view, but rather a scientific one to help understand what is really going on. Is it a problem? Is it a problem with incorrect statements of fact?1 I’m really looking forward to part two.

A nice touch in the beginning of the episode: she gives the telephone numbers for two suicide prevention and crisis hotlines, and even more in the show notes. This is a touch of class that I have not experienced while hearing another podcast, and given the subject matter, was the perfect way to start the show. Bravo, Wendy.

I’m happy that Reply All featured a segment, and I’m going back now to binge-listen to season one. I highly recommend you do the same.

Science Vs on iTunes

Reply All on iTunes

The Black Tapes

I don’t remember how I heard of The Black Tapes, but ever since listening to the first few episodes, I’ve been enjoying this serialized docudrama. The show features Alex Reagan sharing her journey, along with her producer Nick and the focal point of the show, Dr. Richard Strand, through a complex web of a story. The show deals with the “Black Tapes”, a series of tapes that cannot be scientifically explained. It covers elements of the supernatural, demons, the occult, and other topics; some of the are downright terrifying, and often makes me thankful this is an audio-only show.

I should state now that this is not a show for kids, or even listening to it with kids in the car. It can be more intense than other docudrama podcasts, with the background soundtrack adding effects that can make you feel a bit uneasy (but adds to the ambiance of the show). The story starts from the first episode, so if you want to get into the show, you really do need to start with episode one. I’ve really enjoyed this podcast, and if you enjoy Lore, I would definitely give it a shot.

The Black Tapes on iTunes

Lore on iTunes

  1. I’ve often hear this statistic: “90% of all statistics are false.”

Something Different, Something New

I often can get stuck in my ways. I might find something I really like, and use it until it breaks. And then I’ll go get the same thing to replace it. The exception is apps: I like trying things, even if I only end up back where I began. And when I find a great app, it usually makes me want to use it often.

For a long time now, I’ve used Drafts for all of my writing. I absolutely love Drafts: I’ve written about my love for it and the amazing things it can do multiple times over. I write and process posts through Drafts, using a combination of keys, actions, and Workflow to get them published. If my dreams come true for the next big version of Drafts, it will further cement it as the single app on iOS that I can’t live without.

There are three main ways that I use Drafts on a regular basis (for writing):

  1. short snippets of text that I need to transform into something else in another app
  2. my daily journal entries (typically short)
  3. my website (usually too long)

The first two are made easier with Drafts, due to the custom workflows I have set up to make them happen. But having a dedicated app to concentrate on my website, where I don’t get distracted — by notes, calendar entries and tasks that reside in Drafts before they are sent elsewhere — is extremely appealing to allow me to write in a more focused manner.

So in the year of great writing apps, and my own interests with trials and experiments, I began feeling like maybe I should sit down and really give some dedicated apps a shot. Am I using the right tool for the job? Are there things that I’m missing or could improve upon by not trying something different, something new?
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Trials and Experiments

There are many times with many things where I can be afraid to try something new. Trying something not in my comfort zone can be downright frightening. Other times, I’m plagued by the friction that comes from doing the new thing. But for all of the reasons not to do it, I still want to try them: I’m curious about new things, new possibilities, and wonder if there are better tools out there for me to use. And I’m easily distracted by new, shiny things.

Recently, tried using new task management apps.1 There have been updates to several apps, most notably Todoist and OmniFocus. I wanted to see what benefits they could offer me over my current app, 2Do. There was a huge group of people that really started loving 2Do on iOS. Many users switched over. But for many [private] reasons, there had been a slowdown in development. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me a bit; after all, it’s one person doing the entire app.

So in this slowdown, I wanted to experiment to see what else was out there. The first point of friction was moving select things over; most apps don’t have easy ways of export/import. The second was the nomenclature: can often get lost with naming conventions until I have an equivalency to something that I know, something that is familiar. With those things out of the way, I could try doing things in a new way.
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The Daily

Slack has recently become a focal point of my daily interaction: I have many friends who use the service, most of which I’ve never met in real life. It’s been a valuable personal communication tool with them, and I’ve appreciated every second of the time with most of the groups I’ve joined.

But while Slack touts it as “Team Communication”, it also has become a great tool in becoming my personal information center. I get information from many sources through Slack. There have been several apps that I’ve just flat-out replaced by using Slack with other integrations. Things like RSS readers, daily weather alerts, and even notifications of new Drafts actions are all piped in to various channels in my personal Slack group.[1]

My friend Seth and I were conversing about how we could use Slack more in this way. What information could we have delivered to us? What could we include that would eliminate a need for this? Productivity is always a discussion that needs to be revisited, but you need to have a discussion about why you need something, if it can be thrifted from your daily life, or if you can make it better.

Seth came up with a brilliant idea: What if we could take several things — calendar, tasks, and notes — and combine them into one note into a specific channel, and that’s the first thing we look at in the morning. This would be run before settling in for bed, so that you can capture those last minute thoughts before passing out sleeping.

And with so many things that Seth and I talk about, it sparked some thoughts of how this could happen. After a little bit of time, I had a general concept of what I call “The Daily”.

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