Writing

  • Outlook for iOS Icon Update

    Microsoft’s Outlook for iOS released a major update to the user interface back in January when they slowly rolled out the blue header and streamlined interface. Two days ago, they followed that up with a redesigned app icon.

    Outlook for iOS Icon Update Screenshots

    from the OnMSFT Blog

    Microsoft’s Outlook app on iOS is the first Office app on the platform to get the redesigned icons that Microsoft unveiled a couple of weeks ago. The new Outlook icon is actually superposed on a white background, and the result is something that looks quite similar to other iOS apps like Gmail (most icons for Google’s iOS apps also use a white background), or Microsoft’s own To-Do app.

    Let me start by saying that I love the new app interface. It’s much cleaner, feels more in-line with where iOS overall is heading, and it’s just well designed. However, I really don’t think this new icon is a good option. In their release post, they highlight that other apps have a white background, but they ignore the fact that those are paired with a simple icon on that white field.1

    By itself, the new Outlook icon is a decent looking logo, BUT it fits primarily within the context of Windows. The multi-layer styling doesn’t mesh with any other iOS logo. They would have been much better off using the blue envelope icon without the small “O” logo off to the side. The current result feels crowded and nothing is distinctive.

    Simplicity in iOS icons is essential because you get a relatively small window to identify your app in a screen crowded with apps.2 It’s easy to confuse apps with each other if their icons are too similar or aren’t clear enough at a glance. Especially when viewing the icon in a notification.

    And what’s more, they appear to understand this given the simplicity of the icon for the Microsoft To-Do app they highlight as an example. Just simplifying the icon to one “iconic” (pun intended) graphic would do wonders for Outlook.

    Microsoft To-Do App Screenshot

    Just today I confused the new icon with the icon for Facebook Messenger when a new email came in. It was a little off-putting.

    All in all, the overall update to Outlook for iOS is a good one, but they just missed the mark on what makes an iOS app icon distinctive and effective.

    1. We’ll have the “doing it cause the other kids are doing it” debate another time. 

    2. This is particularly an issue when you place it on your dock and you lose the text label. 




  • Libraries are Essential

    Libraries have reinvented themselves, and one of the things that is so striking about them is that the local staff has the capacity and agency to develop programming that works for the community that they’re in. The library can lend tools, it can lend seeds, it can lend clothes to people who you know need better clothes for a job interview. It can do programming and all kinds of languages.

    99% Invisible - Episode 346 - Palaces for the People

    As the son of a public librarian, I’ve often been left with the task of justifying their existence to people who feel that they are not necessary. Their reasons are myriad, but almost always include:

    • No one reads paper books anymore
    • They are a waste of tax dollars
    • No one goes there anyway

    While these reasons might be legitimate reasons for those individuals, that does not apply across the board. I’ve witnessed people getting help finding jobs, learning new skills, kids discovering reading and technology, and people bettering themselves through the help of a community space.

    As the author of the book featured in the podcast, Palaces for the People, points out, social infrastructure like libraries and parks are essential to the development of a community identity and helping to combat inequality.




  • Super Blood Wolf Moon

    Super Blood Wolf Moon - January 20, 2019

    Tonight, I enjoyed some quality family time with our neighbors standing outside in the cold staring at the sky…this was awesome! I am fully in awe of God the Creator and how I am constantly surprised by the beauty around us. Remember to take time to just look around each day an appreciate.




  • Atomic Habits | Notes from Chapter 1

    I recently got a copy of Atomic Habits by James Clear. I haven’t gotten very far in the book1, but I’m already blown away by the simplicity of the idea and the immediately actionable steps he lays out.

    If the number of notes, highlights, underlines, and take-aways from chapter 1 alone is any indication, this will be an incredibly impactful read.

    Below are just a few of the snippets I took down from chapter 1.2


    “The aggregation of marginal gains…” - Dave Brailsford

    Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

    A very small shift in direction can lead to a very meaningful change in destination.

    You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.

    The compounding nature of a 1% change occurs in both positive and negative changes.

    You have to get through the Plateau of Latent Potential to see the true results of your habits.

    Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

    Progress is not linear, results take time.

    If successful people and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.

    Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment.

    Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.

    1. Gotten through the intro and chapter 1 and it’s hard to not just keep going, but speed doesn’t equal true comprehension. 

    2. My goal here is not to just copy out great things the book contains, but to share how it impacted my thinking. This will come later…I hope. 




  • iOS 11.3 Preview→

    UPDATE

    In the full release notes document, Apple indicates the addition of Messages in iCloud to the 11.3 Beta. (Thanks to Federico Viticci) However, these notes were only available to registered Developers and not in the Public release notes.

    Apple Previews iOS 11.3

    Saw this today via a tweet from Dan Frakes of The Wirecutter1. As someone still using my trusty iPhone 6, there hasn’t been much to get excited about in iOS 11 so far.2 I like several of the features that have been introduced, namely the ability to drill down in the Storage pane in Settings and fine tune what’s being stored on device.

    The one feature I was excited about after WWDC 2017 was iCloud Messages. This would finally free up multiple gigabytes of space off my device because I’m someone that does NOT delete messages. And with thousands of messages from iPhones going back to the iPhone 3G, message attachments take up a lot of room. So the idea that our messages could be stored and synced via iCloud was very attractive to me.3 But during the Beta period, that feature was removed and I have been eagerly anticipating it being put back into place. So when Apple defied it’s own convention and posted this preview of what’s to come in 11.3, I read with hope that iCloud Messages would make it’s return.

    I’m all for Apple continuing to make improvements and I definitely want them to take the time to get it right and not release a feature that is buggy and untrustworthy; but iCloud Messages was a major feature announced at WWDC 2017 and I’m sad that it has not yet made it’s way to my iPhone.

    1. One of my favorite sites and one that would not be unfamiliar to anyone reading this post. 

    2. In fact, most of the features are focused on the iPhone X, which is understandable. 

    3. Also that it might fix the annoying issue where Messages on my Mac tend to come in random order after starting up for the first time in a while. 




  • Daily Plan Bar

    First Daily Plan Bar Attempt

    From Mike Rohde

    The beauty of the system is that it’s simple, and I like the morning ritual of laying my day out. I appreciate how this analog approach frees me from constantly looking at my calendar on my Mac, or on my phone.

    Today I’m trying out the Daily Plan Bar idea of planning your day. I might make this an end of day task for the next day, but right now it’s nice to start the morning by thinking through my day.

    What might be helpful would be to identify at the end of each day what my “Priorities” are for the following day 1 and then use the first few minutes of the morning setting up the day itself utilizing those priorities.

    No matter when I end up choosing to do, I’m realizing that having structure is important because it frees you up to be able to handle the unstructured stuff that invariably comes up each day.

    1. Hat Tip to Shawn Blanc and Ross Kimes for the reminder of lowering activation energy on the planning end by doing it the night before. 




  • Be Your Own Curator

    As we are inundated with content from every direction, it’s so important to be thinking about the source of that content. Last year, in the lead up to election day, my wife and I had several discussions about being critical consumers of news. Not just reading and regurgitating, but thinking critically about what we’ve read, where it comes from, what else they publish and most of all the veracity of what they say.

    This is still true. More so now than ever. And part of that solution is to stop only getting our news from walled gardens and algorithm controlled news feeds. Relying on Facebook’s judgement of what you should see, who you happen to see in a promoted post on Twitter, or what the trending topics/accounts are on Instagram is a recipe for being mislead and getting a silo’d view of the world.1

    So in addition to reading content with a critical eye, it’s time for us to be our own content curator.

    2 From Mashable: Stop reading what Facebook tells you to read 3

    “As for why you should do it: It’s definitely not simple, nor insignificant. By choosing to be a reader of websites whose voices and ideas you’re fundamentally interested in and care about, you’re taking control. And by doing that, you’ll chip away at the incentive publishers have to create headlines and stories weaponized for the purpose of sharing on social media. You’ll be stripping away at the motivation for websites everywhere (including this one) to make dumb hollow mindgarbage. At the same time, you’ll increase the incentive for these websites to be (if nothing else) more consistent and less desperate for your attention.”

    Rather than reading just what’s been put in front of you by Facebook, Instagram and those you follow on Twitter, be your own content curator. Find people you trust, news outlets who have proven themselves to be dedicated to truth, and organizations that inspire discussion and collaboration rather than vilification and isolationism.

    Hat tip and further reading:
    CJ Chilvers & Josh Ginter at TheNewsprint.co

    1. This is one of the many reasons I still use a third-party twitter client (Tweetbot) to read so that I still get a chronological feed rather than Twitter determining what content I see and in what order. 

    2. Forewarning, there is some NSFW language in the article. 

    3. I do have to acknowledge the irony of Mashable publishing an article encouraging everyone to skip out on getting your content from Facebook. I remember a time when 3 out of 5 items in my news feed were from Mashable. 




  • Chris Bowler’s Favourite Reads →

    From Chris Bowler’s Weekly Review

    As we got closer to the end of the year, I wanted to take a moment to share the articles that inspired me the most. They cover a few of my favorite topics, ones that are discussed here regularly but are worth revisiting often.

    I’ve become really grateful for guys like Chris that have done great work pulling in good content.1 I love the current set of “year in review” posts many writers are posting. It’s not only an opportunity to be exposed to more quality content, but it’s also an interesting window into the kind of things that inspire the writers I love to read. I’m only a few articles into this list, but my Instapaper queue is getting full fast.

    1. Chris is from British Columbia, hence the superfluous “u” in favorite! Interesting that it doesn’t appear in the quoted text :-) 




  • Just to say Hello!

    It’s a brand new year, well almost. Inspired by the likes of Ross Kimes, Chris Bowler and others, I’m going to make an effort to write more. And one major incentive was that I could put it up here rather than it just staying in Bear and never being seen again. I’d like to write about faith, what I’m learning about life and productivity and about technology, but we’ll see where this goes. Many writers and podcasters that I admire have repeatedly said that the only way to become a better writer is to write often. So that’s my goal.