Appearance: Automators Episode 73

In my second appearance on Automators (part of the Relay FM network),1 I’m back to talk with David Sparks and Rosemary Orchard once again about Drafts. We dive in on some of the new stuff from version 26 which introduced custom themes and syntaxes. We also touch on a few other updates from the first version to now as well. I hope you enjoy it.

There were a couple of things in the episode that I wanted to follow-up on here, including the homework assignment David gave me. I’m thrilled that the time spent with David and Rosemary gave me the idea, which made me reconsider some things with my personal journaling and changed how I’m doing it going forward.
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First Time Tooter, Long Time Tweeter

Joe Steel, Writing on his self-titled blog:

In conversations I’ve had over the past week, it’s become clear that there’s nothing very self-explanatory about Mastodon as a social network, and that in many ways Twitter users are both prepared and unprepared for the experience.

With the state of things at Twitter the company and with Twitter the service, I’d be remiss if I didn’t think about moving to a new social network. The idea of going completely dark doesn’t seem like the right choice for me, but I’m not enjoying Twitter as much as I used to anymore. This was true before they #BrokeMyTwitter, but it’s even more so now that some of the features I enjoyed – like activity and certain notifications – are no longer part of the apps that I use. I loathe the Twitter app, so it’s just a horrible experience for me now.

Even though I have no idea what the hell Mastadon is all about, I did end up signing up for an account. I was able to get one on, under the same handle as my Twitter. I haven’t “tooted” a single thing yet,1 and I’m not sure when I’ll start. But I’m glad that Joe has taken the time to write an explainer. I have a much better understanding of what is going on with all of it than I did before, all parsed down to a single post.

The idea of leaving Twitter – one of the largest social networks on the planet – isn’t really the answer I’m looking for with all of this. I’m looking for Twitter to take a stand against wrong-doing. I’m looking for them to curtail abuse and the spread of misinformation. I’m looking for them to improve their app experience, while simultaneously not being a dick to the developer community that made them who they are today. They need to be better, and everyone who uses (not abuses) the service deserves that too. But unless there are some major changes ahead, it doesn’t hurt to have one foot in another door.

  1. I find this whole “toot” thing hilarious. There’s a lot of fart jokes to be made here. Yes, I’m a child. 

Lazy Markdown

No, this isn’t a new fork of Markdown. This is just a better way of doing things.

Jeff Mueller recently came up with a clever way to use Workflow to help pull in links after writing a post in Drafts. It’s seriously a fantastic idea that I wish I had thought of before.

After he sent it to me to check out, I thought of another use of Markdown links that I use: Blink affiliate links. After some quick changes to Jeff’s original workflow, I came up with a new one that allows you to select where the link is coming from: you can choose Search, Blink, or manual entry of the URL (note that this requires Workflow 1.5.1 to work).[1]

This is extremely helpful for writing. As Jeff said:

“I love these workflows because they let me focus on writing. The research can come later.”

And he’s 100% right. Little hooks like this allow me to focus on writing, rather than doing all of the little things. It’s the reason why Drafts is my main text editor, and I keep finding more and more reasons to keep using it.

  1. I am hopeful that the same functionality will come with a future update of Associate and that Workflow will implement this quickly so I can incorporate Amazon links too.  ↩

Alternative Methods

Seth Clifford posted a fantastic article titled “The Similarity of Differences” on his website the other day about how Apple and Google are approaching similar solutions to the complex problem of virtual assistants. He wrote:

It’s a very interesting and important time in personal technology. Data moves through our lives like air. We want to protect it (some of us, anyway), but we want the value that sharing it can provide us. We want the future we were promised in our childhoods, but the changes we find occurring around us can be discomforting. This kind of change is everywhere, and it continues to move like perpetual motion, unstoppable. It’s beautiful and frightening. But it is inevitable.

I couldn’t agree with him more. This change is coming whether we want it or not. Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was a kid, I was fascinated with how the computer would pick up a command, even if Scotty’s accent was thick and it’s hard to understand.[1] I wanted that in my life then, and it’s taken years to get there. And we’re really at the start of where this is headed.

Having alternative methods of approach is a good thing, and is the way humans (and groups of humans) approach problem solving: you may have a solution in mind, while others might approach the problem in a completely different manner. You may use an app like Drafts 4, while others use Workflow or Pythonista to get the same thing done, and vice versa. The specific difficulty with machine learning is that people are complex, and can have entirely different ways of thinking.

I’m not looking at who’s going to win or lose this perceived battle: I think there’s going to be multiple ways of solving multiple problems, and the users will just have to find what’s right for them, just like we do with iPhone vs Android. No matter what, with respect to these new devices and AI-like interfaces: it’s a great time to be alive.[2]


  1. not to mention Chekov’s “wariables”.  ↩
  2. Assuming that the impending doom of Skynet doesn’t kill us all…  ↩