Tag Archives: Macdrifter

Be Direct in Email

Who is this for? Those who feel that their email messages are not received clearly or do not yield the desired response (or any response at all).

From Gabe Weatherhead of Macdrifter:

Email is a necessary evil of the modern world. It’s the best self documenting collaboration tool I’ve used. But there are no rules or guidelines and it’s easy to make a mess of things.

We focus so much of our energy trying to figure out how to better manage our email. We spend too little determining better ways to communicate our needs.

Here are some direct suggestions from Gabe on writing a short clear message that’s likely yield a short clear answer. Not only will it make you a far more enjoyable person to receive email from, it’s should lead to far less email that needs to be managed.

Evernote and Editing

I love it when smart friends make cool things. This week there are two new projects that I believe to be worth your time.

Evernote Essentials – The Definitive Guide To Getting Started With Evernote

I’ve always said that I use Evernote “wrong”. To me, it’s mostly a very smart filing cabinet. To many, it’s much, much more. While I may only chose to use aspects of it, Evernote is a powerful tool, especially when you know how to wield it.

Evernote Essentials 3.0: If you’re looking to get more out of Evernote (or want to use aspects of it better), you want Brett’s comprehensive guide . As I said yesterday, you can’t buy a workflow, but that you should look to those who make the most out of applications and learn from them. When it comes to better ways to do better work in general, there are few more sensible than Brett Kelly. When it comes to doing more with Evernote, there’s no one better. If you’ve been looking for a way to get more out of the app or aren’t quite sure where to get started, you’ll want to check out the latest version of Evernote Essentials. And since Brett is crazy, if you buy Evernote Essentials once, you get free updates, forever.

CriticMarkup – Plain Text Change Tracking

I love writing in plain text. I love the simplicity of it and the fact that I know that years from now, I will have little to no compatibility issues with the words I create. I love Markdown for the ability to format my documents in a way that make it easy to post my thoughts to the web. What I don’t love is the need to take my beloved plain text and place it inside of an application like Microsoft Word whenever I need to collaborate with others on edits. As my writing grows, the need for feedback from others grows along with it.

CriticMarkup: To date, the best way to do this is to take something that is future proofed and move it into an application that isn’t. Fortunately there are smart people like Gabe Weatherhead and Erik Hess who are hard at work on the problem. Much like Markdown looked to make it easy to format plain text for the web, their newly released CriticMarkup looks to make it possible to use plain text for change tracking. Gabe and Erik are doing it right. They have released tools for apps like BBEdit, Sublime Text, they’ve created macros and snippets for Keyboard Maestro and TextExpander, they’ve also created OS X System Services and a Command Line Preprocessor (although I’ll admit, I have no idea what that last one is). This is early days, but I can see this being highly useful for those of us who use plain text, especially as the syntax is finalized and integrated into applications. It’s worth a look, even if just to see the polish and thought that Gabe and Erik put into their projects (you may remember that they also created NerdQuery.com).

Both of these are great projects being created by great guys. If you’re looking to do more with Evernote, check out the latest version of Evernote Essentials. If you’ve been trying to figure out how to collaborate on text outside of Microsoft Word (and if you aren’t, please do), take a look at CriticMarkup. It’s worth it if only to support guys like Brett, Gabe and Erik, who create useful things for those of looking to do better work.

Note: This post includes affiliate links, because I’m shameless and stuff…

Expertise Does Not Have Units

Actually Getting Big Things Done is a series of guests posts on how to make things happen from those who know how to… well… actually get big things done. Today’s post comes from Gabe Weatherhead of Macdrifter. I’m an unabashed fan. Not only is Gabe an all-around nice guy, he’s wicked smart and is very generous with his time (read: he puts up with far too many of my annoying emails). Gabe is a creator, a maker of things. He has an annoying habit of turning his ideas into a reality. He leads by example, and it’s an example I strive (yet struggle) to follow.

We measure length in feet[1], weight in pounds, time in seconds and expertise in failure. The problem with becoming an expert is that often there’s no beginning and no end. Worse, there’s no measure we can use to perceive our progress. This is my attempt at a retrospective measurement of my journey.

What does a ten-year-old know about success? Well, if you were an uncoordinated oaf that had been repeatedly placed in special education programs by lazy teachers, you believed success was synonymous with respect. You believed that there was a magical point in your awkward progression where the world would take you seriously and believe in you. You knew nothing about success.

I began studying chemistry in the 5th grade. I read science books that I brought home from the library and idolized the scientist mythos in popular culture. I wanted to be an old gray man with wild hair that alternated between a tweed blazer and a lab coat. So I started a methodical progression toward becoming a “scientist”.

Over the years, chemistry became an escape for me. It was a topic that supplied an endless stream of ideas and small joys. I could play with thought experiments in my head as easily as normal people carry a tune. While I loved chemistry I never felt like a chemist. To me a chemist was still that gray old man in a lab coat shouting “Eureka!” and scribbling on a blackboard. So I continued on.

I proceeded through college throwing myself into the lab and plowing headfirst into graduate level coursework. I was no genius. I often floundered and struggled to keep my head above water. But I was single minded. I needed to become an organic chemist.[2] I completed every graduate level organic chemistry course with top grades by the end of my senior year (but nearly missed graduation by not completing humanities coursework). I didn’t attend a single party and spent every holiday in the lab, but that was OK because I was almost a chemist.

By my measure, I was half-way to my goal. I was 20 years old and knew more organic chemistry than I had ever imagined. I knew enough to get a job doing chemistry for a paycheck. My days were work and my nights were books. I focused on the small bits that are often left as floor shavings when a boy is turned into a college graduate. Half of every pay check was reinvested into chemistry textbooks and half of every day was reinvested into becoming an expert. Four years of work and study saw me off to graduate school and I was almost a chemist.

Now at this point, most reasonable humans would consider that I had reached some significant plateau. However, organic chemistry is a deep and subtle science, chock full of history and anachronistic legacy. We speak in combinations of English, German, French and Polish. We name things after old dead men who ceased being mortal and became gods. We prize minutia and celebrate knowledge of the obscure. At 25, I was ignorant and absurd and still not quite a chemist.

Graduate school was a playground full of the hardest problems I had ever faced. I was consumed by becoming an expert and the world around me disintegrated. I emerged six years later with another degree, far less hair, and a keen mastery of organic chemistry. I overshot my goal.

Sometimes, the problem with achieving a goal set for you by a ten-year-old is that you have no idea what to do at the finish line. The world changed and I missed it. I was an expert and I was tired and bored. For me, the sweet spot of expertise hovered around the 70% mark. Being an expert is boring. While there’s always more to learn and new problems to solve, nothing is so thrilling as problems that make me fail. The moments when I struggled the most were the moments when I was scientist. I was at my best when comprehension was just out of reach.

Expertise is a funny thing. There’s no way to measure our progress towards obtaining it, yet we always feel far from our goal. When I did finally feel like an expert it hardly felt valuable enough to hold on to. I only learned afterward that expertise is not a destination but a vehicle. It’s the golden ring that makes us jump higher and reach further. In the end, it’s just a ring.

I can’t blame that little boy though. How could he know that he was already a scientist?

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  1. Sorry world. I’m an American. We use logical measurement standards like the appendage of a long dead ordinary human from the Roman empire.  ↩

  2. Organic chemistry is the study of carbon-based chemistry, not an aisle in Whole Foods.  ↩

The Three Things #14

The Three Things, is a weekly series where Gini Dietrich from Spin Sucks, Howie Goldfarb and myself share the one thing that captured our attention and that we believe to be worthy of yours.

The Generational Podcast – Curiosity and Analytical Thinking with Dr.Drang

Michael on Analytical Thinking: I’m an unabashed fan of Gabe Weatherhead’s Generational podcast (and his site Macdrifter for that matter… and Gabe himself, now that I think about it). Not only is Gabe a natural conversationalist, but the subject matter is always right up my alley. His format and his guest choices (with one notable exception) offers a perfect mixture of tech and thoughtfulness. The latest episode with Dr. Drang with Dr. Drang is no exception… actually scratch that, it is an exception… it’s even better than usual. While some of you may not be into the geekier parts about scripting, their earlier conversation surrounding the relationship and differences between curiosity and analytical thinking is well worth your time.

Newtown Conspiracy Theories

Howie on Thinking Globally: What a bizarre article, but it highlights how easy it is to be micro- vs macro-focused. The world is big: Nearly seven billion people and counting. It is way too easy to look at a You Tube video and see 25 million views and say wow! Or, as this article shows, three million crazies tuning in to TV or radio and think, “How can so many listen or view?”

That is easy when you compare with 300 mil people in the United States, but we are global now. There are probably three billion people- or more – with Internet access. YouTube has almost a billion unique viewers. Then things are in perspective and you see how little these numbers actually are. Sometimes it makes you sad because you realize Justin Bieber has fewer fans than you think he should. And in the case of this article you are happy knowing that less than a percent of people are truly crazy. Yes, still too many. But not so many you start spying on your neighbors.


Gini on Fiction: It won’t come as a surprise to you that I love fiction. Not only does it transport you into a world that lets your imagination run wild, it helps your creative thinking (and writing) skills immensely. I read a ton of fiction – to the tune of a book a week. But it took me my entire holiday break to read 11/22/63, Stephen King’s masterful story about going back in time to change the outcome of Kennedy’s assassination. I am not a Stephen King fan, but I loved this book. It’s a must-read for anyone who loves history, loves storytelling, and loves a good twist on facts.

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This Year

This year, more than any other, I found mentors. I sought out people who represent qualities I admire, strive for and struggle to achieve.

This year, I set my sights on learning everything I could from them.

This year, I learned more from the people around me.

People like Myke Hurley, who works so hard to hone his craft.

Aaron Mahnke who has cultivated so many skills and talents.

Brett Terpstra who creates and ships in the face of distractibility.

Patrick Rhone who is just so damn thoughtful.

David Sparks who makes doing it all seem possible.

Stephen Hackett who shares difficult things with grace and ease.

Shawn Blanc who shows that, with intent, you can find success on your own terms.

Matt Alexander who doesn’t shy from his opinions, no matter how controversial.

Brett Kelly who is just so frigging good at being himself.

Andrew Carroll who makes success not only seem simple, but doable.

C.J. Chilvers who trusts in his beliefs, but can hear the alternative.

Gabe Weatherhead who cares deeply about the right things, and is damn funny.

Yuvi Zalkow who pushes through self-doubt and makes something beautiful out of it.

Nick Wynja who is just annoyingly impressive.

Justin Lancy who doesn’t fear the change needed to accomplish his goals.

Gini Dietrich who gives and sacrifices greatly to do great things.

Jason Rehmus who shows that it’s not always the loudest of us that have the strongest point of view.

Randy Murray who does the work and pushes us all to do the same.

And, much as I hate to admit it, Mike Vardy who takes risks, but makes smart choices (and puts up with me, which is no easy feat).

This year, I didn’t try to learn from afar. I worked hard to get up close. I attempted (often in vain) to play at their level. To be their peer and, in many cases, to be their friend.

This year, I didn’t just spend time on the Internet, I invested in the people who work there and attempted to work along side them.

This year, I’m proud of what I created and what I learned. I’m proud of what I did and who I continue to become. I’m proud of the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned. And most of all, I’m thankful to those that helped me along the way, on the web, at work and most of all, at home.

This year was a great one. And next year, well, next year I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to make it even better.

How was this year for you? What did you do that you’re proud of and more importantly, what are you going to do to ensure that next year is even better?

Evernote Premium User? Buy The MacHeist Bundle!

Gabe from Macdrifter just pointed out that the 15 months of Evernote Premium that comes with the latest MacHeist bundle not only applies to new accounts, but existing users as well. If you use nothing else, you’re saving yourself a little over $27.

The bundle includes Scrivener, which is a must have for anyone working on larger writing projects and there’s the added bonus that 25% of the money goes to charity.

The sale ends this weekend and while I’m not usually a bundle guy, this was too good to pass up.

Introducing The Three Things

Like my buddy, Gini Dietrich, I’ve always been a fan of Mitch Joel’s Six Links Worthy of Your Attention series. The links he shares along with Hugh McGuire and Alistair Croll often turn me on to things that fall slightly beyond my focus, but that help expand my interests.

When Gini suggested that, along with Howie Goldfarb, we pay homage to Mitch’s concept (read: when she insisted that we totally rip it off), I jumped at the opportunity. They’re both really, really smart and care deeply about things like PR, communication, branding, social media and aliens (I won’t lie, Howie’s into some weird stuff as well). With the exception of aliens, these are all areas I’m interested in, but don’t quite pay enough attention to, so the idea of Howie and Gini offering up interesting things for me to read appealed. While I know they will often fall outside what I talk about here on the site, I hope you’ll find them interesting as well.

So in other words, welcome to the first edition of The Three Things, a weekly series where Gini, Howie and I share the one thing each that we think you’ll find interesting. Without further ado…

The Generational Podcast: Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario

Michael on Technology: As more of our lives exist on hard drives instead of photo albums and filing cabinets, there’s a lot that needs to be considered. Hard drives fail, personal information gets stolen, and essential information for loved ones live behind a myriad of passwords. Two of the smartest (and geekiest) guys I know, Eddie Smith of Practically Efficient and Gabe Weatherhead of Macdrifter, help you understand why you should care about digital planning and how to better manage it. This gets geeky (and a bit paranoid), but it’s too important to ignore.

Do Not Track is Worse than a Miserable Failure

Howie on Privacy: I am a huge proponent of privacy, or at least having proper controls online to manage your presence. It has been one of the bigger beefs I have with Facebook and I champion opt-in versus opt-out in the advertising, marketing, and technology industries. When asked if people care, they do. In a 2009 study by the SSRN, not only do a majority of people reject tailored advertising and being tracked across websites without their knowledge, more than 50 percent felt managers at companies that do this should go to jail.

So it didn’t shock me the Do Not Track voluntary industry initiative has been a failure. What did shock me is companies such as Google who claim, “Do no evil” and Apple allow mobile app developers to watch not only where you go and what you do on your phone, but even see the numbers you dial.

Bearded Sihk Woman Teaches Reddit a Lesson in Tolerance

Gini on Decency: We’ve all done this and now I feel badly (I just posted a photo of the back of some guy’s head because he was cutting me in line). Someone took a photo of a bearded woman standing in line at the airport and posted it to his Reddit page, where hundreds of people ridiculed her. When the woman found out, she acted with grace and charm, while teaching the users a lesson or six about her religion and beliefs.

There you have it. The very first edition of The Three Things. If there is anything you’d like to see us include or do differently, let me know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe for free by RSS or email to get future editions and more from A Better Mess.