3 Great Productivity Apps

I've come to realize that my big computer productivity losses happen when I switch between my keyboard and mouse or when I get distracted by the endlessness of the internet. The following apps (all free) have helped me immensely with both of these problems.

1) Spectacle : How often do you manually put two windows side by side so you can compare / contrast them? Spectacle lets you do this without touching your mouse-- you can split your screen into halves, quarters, or just let one window take up the entire screen with only keyboard shortcuts. Really helpful for people with laptops / small screens. I don't know how people live without this. Big thanks to @eczarny

2) Self Control : Its just too easy to open up Chrome and find that 3 hours have passed browsing the internet. Self Control rocks here by killing this habit at the source. When its on, opening your browser to any website that you've blocked (you determine the sites you want to block) results in a blank page. Since using Self Control, my blocklist has grown to >40 sites. Thumbs up to @SteveLambert and @charliestigler.

3) Kibako : This is a newer addition to my utility belt but its already becoming indispensable. With Kibako, sharing is made very easy. You copy (?+C ) whatever you want to share (images, text). Then, ?+Shift+\ produces a shareable URL, linking to the original item, that you can message or email to anyone (e.g. https://up.kibakoapp.com/euuaSA9xo8). Its kind of like a keyboard driven bitly for your local files / test. Shout out to to @reddavis and @nickj89

I used to be a big user of LaunchBar. When I got my new laptop though, I started using Spotlight and haven't felt the need to reinstall LaunchBar.

Which apps helps you stay productive?

Confessions of an advertising man reading 'Confessions of an Advertising Man'

This week I read Confessions of an Advertising Man. I hadn't thought to read Confessions of an Advertising Man until very recently. Even though I've spent my last 4 years in ad-tech, I never really considered myself to be in advertising. My ad-tech life was always a separate world from the Mad Men-esque image that pops into most peoples minds when advertising is mentioned.

Nevertheless, I'm glad I took the plunge and read it. For one, the first half is about starting a company, getting clients and keeping them happy -- all things that are top of mind since I founded Rockerbox. Ogilvy gives candid accounts of what worked and didn't work as he grew his agency -- I found myself jotting down lots of his one-liners throughout the book.

The thing that shocked me most was Ogilvy's true love and passion for the art of advertising. This was especially surprising given my ad-tech roots, where advertising is often dismissed as "just a medium" through which we get the opportunity to solve fun and difficult technical problems.

For Ogilvy, his obsession was advertising, going so far as to give his son the following career advice :

The psychiatrists say that everyone should have a hobby, The hobby I recommend is advertising...

I don't see myself switching to a full-time advertising hobby, but I have to give Ogilvy credit -- he knew what he loved and spent his life building on it.

I could write more but Ogilvy does a better job. Some good lines from the book :

The surest way to overspend on advertising is not to spend enough to do a job properly. It's like buying a ticket three-quarters of the way to Europe; you have spent some money, but you do not arrive

Nowadays it is the fashion to pretend that no single individual is ever responsible for a successful advertising campaign. This emphasis on "team-work" is bunkum -- a conspiracy of the mediocre majority.

Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It sets up before a man the goal of a better home, better clothing, better food for himself and his family. It spurs individual exertion and greater production

I believe in the Scottish proverb, 'Hard work never killed a man', men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work

A day with Hemingway

"When I'm writing it, I'm just as proud as a goddam lion. I use the oldest words in the English language. People think I'm an ignorant bastard who doesn't know the ten-dollar words. I know the ten-dollar words. There are older and better words which if you arrange them in the proper combination you make it stick. Remember, anybody who pulls his erudition or education on you hasn't any"

Foundation Series

I just finished the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Its a 3 book science fiction series taking place far off in the future. This was my first time really reading science fiction and my first time reading Isaac Asimov books (I was lured into the series after reading his short stories The Question and The Last Answer).

Without going into too many details, the series takes place at a time when :
1. There are quadrillions of human beings
2. Humans live across the universe on multiple planets and in multiple galixies
3. Inter galaxy space travel is fast and cheap
4. Nuclear fusion is widespread and very small ( smaller than iPhone)

Overall, the series was a great read. It touches on the rise and fall of civilizations and empires over time and has awesome technology (think personal body-armor shields powered by your own nuclear power plant). I'm surprised Hollywood hasn't turned it into a trilogy yet (think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings).

One concept from the series that stuck with me is the potential for a loss of societal-knowledge over time. I initially thought that humanity continually improves upon the foundation of the past (at least from a scientific / technical perspective -- certainly not always from a social perspective). This idea is well conveyed in the popular Newton quote -- "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

In the Foundation series, the "shoulders of giants" tend to disappear rather frequently. For example, worlds regress from nuclear power to coal / oil power as their society either lost ( through war) or forgot (through laziness of future generations) the base knowledge needed to even maintain existing technology.

When has this occurred on earth? One instance I can think of is languages disappearing as future generation stop using them. Another is knowledge lost in a Lighthouse of Alexandria type situation. Any better examples (especially of technical de-advancement)?

Even more, what can be done to avoid this outcome? Putting moe knowledge on the internet (until something causes all of our hard-drives to go dead)? Having humans on multiple planets (especially for the humanity-ending meteor type losses of knowledge)? Making giant vaults of seeds?

Or is it just a theoretical problem that we'll only regret not focusing on after the fact? I'm betting that I won't be around long enough to find out.

Advertising Power Plant

An idea came to me on my Citi Bike ride home today. It's not throught through but I decided to share anyway.

Advertising as distributed computation power

Include a "Power Pixel" on every ad served. The pixel would fire off a request to a third party Power Platform that returns some computation that needs to be complete. The computation returned can be optimized based on the website / device being used (ads are likely on page for longer on content sites versus photo sharing sites where you just skip from photo to photo). If the computation is completed in time, a solution request is sent back to the Power Platform with the answer at which time another computation request could be returned. The Power Platform also has to determine which computation to respond with based on other computations that are out / unanswered.

Open Questions :

- Is the energy needed to run the Power Platform greater than the sum of all the disparate computations performed by individual PCs? If so, it's make more sense to just run the computations in the Power Platform itself.

- Who pays for this? Is it the company that needs the problem solved? Are they paying the advertiser, the publisher or the user?

- Is it worth it to distribute a problem into such small pieces as to be actually suitable for this sort of a solution? Pretty sure the answer is yes here.

- Will the time an ad is on page be enough to actually answer any meaningful computation?