February 4, 2017

Kubbchucks at 2017 Loppet Kubb Tournament

It was a surprise to me that this was our 6th year playing in the Minnesota Kubb Winter Tournament. When we were getting ready to play there was some discussion about it, and I thought it was our 4th. A careful accounting of the years brought it to 6 though, and as Eric Goplin started the tournament, we gave a loud shout when he called out any teams that had been there for six years, which is how old the tournament is.

Kubbchucks at Minnesota Kubb 2017 Tournament

Garrick, Jim and I made our way to the pitches and took our spot in Group D. We played We B Kubbing, Ice Kubb’s YouKubb Channel and Little Lebowski Urban Achievers in the round robin. The Lebowski’s were the 2016 Consolation Champions. We were the seed into the group with our T-9 place from 2016.

We were able to make it through the round robin 3-0. Our match against the Little Lebowski’s didn’t complete, we were ahead 1 game to 0 and ahead on the baseline when they called time. We were close to closing it out but didn’t get it done. The winter tournament has strict 45 minute time limits for round robin matches. The Ice Kubb’s we finished pretty quickly with a 2-0 win and were able to retire to the warming tent for some chili and a beer. We B Kubbing we started ice cold with and couldn’t hit anything. We lost our first game but the batons came back, and we finished it out 2-1 with plenty of time left.

We went into the championship bracket and the round of 16. This is dangerous territory for the Kubbchucks, it’s where we typically fall apart and lose terribly bad. We steeled ourselves for it and went in throwing well. It all worked out, and we took a 2-0 match against a team that I can’t recall the name of. All of the round of 16 games ended quickly, so we moved quickly on to the next round and played Strike Without Warning in the quarterfinals.

Strike Without Warning took us down so fast we hardly knew what was going on. They hit pretty much everything they threw at, and we were out 0-2 within about 15 minutes. We didn’t have a chance. They also went on to win the entire tournament.

We had a great day of Kubb and left with our best place ever, T-5. We’ll get a nice seed next year which hopefully we will use to our advantage for a 7th year showing! If you’re looking for something fun to do in the winter and live in the area, you should get yourself to the Minnesota Kubb Winter Tournament!

August 22, 2016

Collaborative GTD?

A friend of mine that has been on the path to GTD for a long time now recently emailed me about using GTD in a collaborative environment. His specific question was pretty direct:

OmniFocus is awful in a collaborative environment. What gives?

I’ve been down this road, and his question prompted me to peel the layers back a few times on this issue.

What is GTD?

Let’s first start by taking a look at how Getting Things Done describes itself.

Getting Things Done (GTD) is the proven path to getting in control of your world, and maintaining perspective in your life.

We see a focus on your world” and your life.” Nothing about collaboration there. Let’s continue.

Much more than a set of tips for time management and organization, GTD is a total work-life management system that transforms overwhelm into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.

Now we see some other concepts like work-life” and stress-free,” but again nothing about collaboration.

I’m highlighting this definition just to level set on the objectives of the GTD method. I revisit this because like my friends question I have many times thought that it sure would be great if I could extend my GTD system to my colleagues at work. Wouldn’t it be great if the Waiting for” context could be seen not just by me, but those that I’m waiting for? It seems like a little step to make, but when you extend it further, I think it’s a step too far.

GTD is Personal

I’ve been practicing GTD now for several years and if there is anything that I can guarantee it is that every person has a slight personalization to their GTD system. I use a combination of OmniFocus, Notes (built-in Apple version) and Due. Within those tools, I have a system of contexts, projects, and folders that optimized to my way of managing my activities.

I can guarantee that my structure of tools and the way that I use them is different from yours. Even if you use the same tools the way that you use them will be different. This is part of what makes GTD work for a wide variety of people. It isn’t prescriptive on the how, just the what. Go ahead and use note cards and a physical inbox or use electronic tools. It doesn’t matter.

To use a GTD tool in a collaborative environment would need commonality. It would require that we agree that the context Work → Computer” is a valid context and that it means the same thing. Without the freedom of tooling and configuration, I don’t think people would be as successful in using GTD.

GTD isn’t Project Management

While GTD has many of the nouns and verbs of project management, it isn’t. It’s easy to look at the list of projects in your GTD tool, and the associated next actions and think of it like you are doing project management. However, you are not. This is a very lightweight version of project management.

Extending GTD tools into a collaborative environment is attempting to turn them into a project management tool. Leave this to the world of specialized tools like Microsoft Project or OmniPlan. GTD tools don’t have the proper capabilities (and should not) to do this type of work. I would suggest that when people ask about collaborating with GTD, they are asking about doing project management across a team.

What you can do!

I don’t see a good way to extend GTD tooling to a collaborative environment, but that doesn’t mean we are stuck only to use GTD methods alone. There are many things you can do.

  1. I routinely share my GTD experiences and tooling with colleagues. I share the Getting Things Done book with people and will highlight GTD rituals like a weekly review.
  2. I use GTD language, such as asking people what their next actions are for a project.
  3. Use your GTD system to interact with others, but always through a discussion. I will routinely bring up an OmniFocus perspective and walk through items during a status. The other person often is doing the same. We have different tools and labels, but it works just fine.

I do think that groups of people who use GTD together will be more efficient. However, I would hold on using a tool to solve the problem. Let everyone adopt the system that works for them, share the concepts and language.

Getting Things Done and GTD are ® trademarks of The David Allen Company.

June 21, 2016

Vibe - Stats for OmniFocus

I downloaded Vibe and gave it a run and got this fun display.

Vibe Screenshot

What a fun project to take the data from OmniFocus and give you some nice visuals. I’m not sure these are real actionable data points but it’s a fun start. It would be pretty amazing if OmniFocus had an API that 3rd parties could access to do some interesting visuals like this.

May 3, 2016

Technical Downsizing

Around ten years ago I ran my own servers at home. I had a free-standing half-rack with several machines rack-mounted in it along with the necessary UPS and network equipment. Even a fancy KVM at one point. I ran my websites on those machines and even my own mail server. It was fun to run this stuff and my equivalent of having a garden to tend or a workbench to tinker with things. However, it was a lot of work and the costs of maintaining it all was too much.

Long ago I decided that running your own website was no longer something a mere citizen” should do. Email is a massive war of spam and phishing” and it’s hard to do it well. I’ve been a happy customer of Fastmail for years now and am very satisfied with that.

The same trend has happened with other services. For a while, I ran Fever for my own RSS system and after struggling with that shifted to Feedbin, and it works great.

I got rid of the servers years ago and moved my infrastructure to VPS instances at Linode. Linode has been a great host, and I like their service. However, while the physical side of running hosts goes away maintaining a couple of Ubuntu boxes takes time and I have too little of that.

I’ve decided that it’s time to hang up the sysadmin jacket and no longer run my own servers.

Learning

The primary reason I still host everything is to learn. I like having first-hand knowledge of Ubuntu, nginx, WordPress, MediaWiki and many other systems and open-source software projects. However, at some point, the act of learning goes away, and you aren’t getting more value out of it (at least for me). After a while, you’ve absorbed that, and now you have chores. Time to update software. Time to debug a failure. Need to restart something? All maintenance with no learning.

The reality is that there is a certain minimum amount of work needed to responsibly be connected to the Internet. You need to keep an eye on systems to make sure bad things haven’t happened. You have to apply security updates. You need to upgrade your software. If you don’t do these things, you are running on borrowed time and will have a problem in the future that you are very poorly prepared for.

Right now I should have a task to upgrade Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04. I’ll pass.

Pay for Services

For me this means I shift the effort and costs I’ve put towards running my infrastructure to service providers. I’ve already moved my blog to Squarespace who does an incredibly better job than I ever could running a blog. Why did I switch from WordPress? That’s a different blog post.

I continue to like Fastmail and Feedbin.

What about all of my sites?

One of my favorite productivity quotes goes like:

Saying no to things lets you say yes to other things.

It’s a good reminder that time is a zero sum game. I’ve had a lot of fun building different sites and playing with things, but you need to say goodbye to this stuff to say hello to other, yet to be identified, things.

One thought would be just to let them sit and not pay attention to it but I have two problems with that. First, I don’t think it’s responsible just to have servers connected to the web on autopilot. Second is that I experience a lot of cognitive load from things I’m not doing. Even with years of focus on GTD, I’m not very good at just having something deferred or paused forever reviewing monthly. It still takes up mental energy. I want to reclaim that energy!

Over the course of the next month, I’m going to be archiving and turning things down. Most of my sites are like hobby projects that very few people know exist. I’ll just archive those and shut them down. There are some bigger ones that I hope someone else will decide to host instead.

April 30, 2016

Deleting Old Tweets with Tweet Delete

I’ve been a long-time user of Twitter (user #82,903 joining in December 2006) and while I’ve had ups and downs with the service and generally think of it as a guilty pleasure I continue to use it. However, I have always thought of Twitter as ephemeral. Tweets to me are very different than blog posts. They often do not stand on their own but are really meant to be understood in the context of the moment.

Many years ago, before the Twitter API introduced OAuth requirements I used to run a script on one of my machines that would delete tweets after a while. This became annoying to manage after the API changed and I stopped running it.

Tweet Delete Logo

Now there is TweetDelete! I found this service via another user and it does exactly what my script used to. You authenticate the service, tell it how long you want your tweets to live, and then they delete them after that period of time. I set 90 days for mine. TweetDelete is free and is a service from Memset. I did check the TweetDelete privacy policy and terms of service and was pleased to find this clarification in the terms:

We never store any of your tweets on our servers, we only delete them on your behalf.

How terrible would it be if a service like this actually archived the tweets and then sold it for advertising purposes to 3rd parties. Terrible, and in the modern Internet it would be completely unsurprising so I was glad to see this stated clearly in their very human readable terms of service.

But what about archiving? While I do view my Tweets as ephemeral I do keep them for myself. I see little to no value for others in what I tweeted 10 years ago, but I do like to have a diary like record for myself. That is where Pinboard comes in! Pinboard has always had a feature that archives the tweets of up to 3 accounts and I’ve had that on for several years so I still have a personal archive of everything which I like. By the way, it’s an archive I pay for and know isn’t shared with others. I love the ethos of Pinboard!

I would encourage you to ask if there is a reason you want your old tweets around and if not have Tweet Delete take care of it for you. Think of it as helping poor Twitter not have to keep so much data around.

March 16, 2016

Email Rule to OmniFocus Action

I get a large volume of email and I try to find every tool I can to better manage it. There are a number of systems that notify me of actions I need to take via email. These clutter up my workflow and I never process these messages like email from people. For example, someone submits an expense report and I need to approve it so Concur sends me an email.

For emails that are always actions, I’ve found it nice to route them straight into my OmniFocus Inbox using a rule. The Omni Sync service has a Maildrop feature that will route from an email address directly to your OmniFocus Inbox.

mail rule - forward to omnifocus

I use a rule like the one above route these system emails around my email and then close them out in my task workflow in OmniFocus. It’s a great way to keep email clean and automatically get these next actions in my system.