Summer 2018 Hit List

I’m trying something new, both to serve as my own mini seasonal to-do list, and something I can share with others easily. I’m going to start keeping my own seasonal ‘hit list’ of places in New York. (My master to-do list in foursquare is now…nine hundred and thirty-six places long.)

Some of the places in the hit list are new and some old; some of them we’ve already been to (and we love) and some we want to try. I think making one for a full season makes the most sense, as it is easier to group places on outings when, for instance in summer, you want to take an afternoon to explore the sun in a new neighborhood.

Ahead of this Memorial Day weekend, here’s the Summer 2018 Hit List (in progress): https://foursquare.com/naveen/list/summer-2018-hit-list

Use FYI

FYI: There’s a new tool I’ve been using for the past few weeks and that I have been absolutely loving. It happens to be called FYI.

As someone that has to navigate documents across a few different Google domains (personal ones, side projects, companies) and probably as many Slacks, it’s always been frustrating to find the right document at the right time. It never seems to be there where you are.

I’ve seen coworkers come up with unique solutions, from bookmarking frequently-used ones to saving links on their Desktop, as well as my all-time favorite hack: leaving all the docs open all the time in all the browser tabs.

For all of Google Search’s power searching the web, something big is missing in experience when it comes to searching Google docs and spreadsheets. Nothing is intuitive.

Navigating to docs.google shows you docs – but not sheets. Strangely, the search feature in docs attempts to autocomplete results for sheets too. Of course, it will only show you five randomly-sorted results with no other context within. Navigating to sheets.google shows you sheets, but not docs. And at least it is consistent: you can search and have it autocomplete results for docs in this view. Going to drive.google is cool, sort of, because you finally have the concept of folders, but still have no idea how to look for them or use them. Which ones are private to me alone and which ones are folders that we’re sharing with specific teammates? If a file is shared with me, why do I have to “Add it to My Drive” to find it later?

Add to this that we’re all increasingly sharing Google docs links and PDFs in Slack – yet one more application and interface to search for the thing you wanted.

Enter FYI, a tool designed as a Chrome extension that allows you to search for documents across Drive, Slack, Dropbox, tabs and others.

Looking for a document for one of your weekly 1:1s? Find it from within Chrome, either through the Previous 7 days list or by quickly searching for it. Looking for a document you’re all working on because it has had updates since the last time you saw it? There it is: top of the list view. Sent out a Google Form and people have filled it in since last night? Same: under Today, first in view so you can catch up on all the new data collected.

I particularly love that it is designed as an extension and that it just takes up your ‘New Tab‘ view. When you’re about to open up a new document, you start by opening a new tab anyway, so this is a perfect way for a product to intersect behavior.

It’s the best use of ‘New Tab‘ action since…well, ever. I’ve tried various Chrome extensions over the years, but always seem to uninstall them after a week: they don’t provide enough value, and they take up too much memory and slow things down. FYI was the first one I immediately understood and wanted to keep.

By bundling the first version of the product as a Chrome extension, it plays nicely with where I spend most of my time and where I go first to look for documents. Each new Chrome profile I spin up (I have one for each domain) has the extension loaded locally within the profile. By having authentication at the Chrome-level instead of on a website somewhere, FYI keeps things cleaner and more efficient.

When it comes to document search now, I no longer have to keep switching between different apps to figure out where a thing was. It got me thinking that perhaps this is the start of an interesting trend in unbundling. Take a common feature from apps that hasn’t been doing the job (in this case, the search box and, in this case, for years) and pull it out to make it more useful.

I only occasionally write about new tools that I love, and this is one of those times. I’m not at all surprised it was created by friend Hiten and his colleague Marie at Product Habits. The care taken to understand the user, the problem and the experience that one would want shows immediately. It hooks you in from the first-time experience by clearly laying out what it is solving, and by showing the solution and document search results on first try. It’s a product where your first go-around is likely to be the same as your one-hundredth go-around, so once you see it that first time, you’re hooked forever.

Saturdays Sunday

A Sunday stop at Saturdays on Crosby Street.

A day at Rockaway Beach

It was only Miles’ second time at the beach, and boy, was he ever excited. It was nice to get out there and find the beach mostly empty (there may have been more surfers in the water than people hanging on the sand).

The Fox and the Found(er)

I’ve been reading all the analyses and backstories and the opinion pieces of the Disney-Fox-Comcast situation. (Who doesn’t like a big deal?)

The Comcast offer is the larger of the two deals, by a lot: if someone gives you that offer, you should probably take it (you’ll also have to take a chance on increased risk of the deal being vetoed). Walking away from the Disney deal now will mean a $1.53b break fee for 21st Century Fox, but you can make up for that by taking the higher Comcast deal and paying Disney back. (And Murdoch could still use the extra leftover money from the Comcast deal to buy even more shares of Disney and have both toys!)

However, if you founded a firm, ran the firm, and still control a big piece of the firm, the Disney deal makes way more sense. My favorite take on why Murdoch presently favors the Disney path is the one from Felix Salmon, shareholders be damned:

The official answer is that Disney-Fox is a “horizontal” merger, while Comcast-Fox would be a “vertical” merger, and well-paid readers of antitrust tea leaves consider the former to be easier to do than the latter. The increased chances of the government vetoing a Comcast deal mean that it makes sense for Murdoch to just go with Disney instead.

[…]

Once the Disney deal closes, Murdoch will be Disney’s largest individual shareholder and will have a direct line to Iger; he might even have a son, James, in a senior position at Disney. The combined Disney-Fox will include a huge amount of Murdoch DNA, especially when it comes to television production, and Murdoch will be justified in taking the occasional victory lap if and when Disney goes on to ever greater strengths.

It reminds me of the founder mentality at work here: of course, it is about the money, but it is also about your work, your legacy and how best to make sure your company and vision will outlast you. This is true of big companies and small.

Note: Nota bene is one of a few favorite newsletters in my inbox these days. Put it on your list.

A civilization of the mind

One sign of how much you accomplished in life is how many people from all different walks of life remember you when you’re gone. Of many aspects, that’s my most favorite about John Perry Barlow’s life: he’s touched so many people in so many spaces from music, to politics, to technology.

Another is one’s ability to blend two different concepts from two different fields together – that’s how we create new ideas after all. And last is the ability to know things well enough to be able to explain it plainly to others and to use your words to lead. For instance, even though he may not have had a background in engineering, he understood enough to be able to explain it well and in simple terms to others. What a beautiful gift.

I believe Barlow did all three really well. This weekend, in remembrance, I went back to find a few good essays by Barlow (and one podcast h/t @msg).

My favorite is the passage where I believe he was the first to connect the Gibson term cyberspace with what we now know as our present-day global telecommunications network. From Crime and Puzzlement:

Whether by one telephonic tendril or millions, they are all connected to one another. Collectively, they form what their inhabitants call the Net. It extends across that immense region of electron states, microwaves, magnetic fields, light pulses and thought which sci-fi writer William Gibson named Cyberspace.

Cyberspace, in its present condition, has a lot in common with the 19th Century West. It is vast, unmapped, culturally and legally ambiguous, verbally terse (unless you happen to be a court stenographer), hard to get around in, and up for grabs. Large institutions already claim to own the place, but most of the actual natives are solitary and independent, sometimes to the point of sociopathy. It is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for both outlaws and new ideas about liberty.

The words ring just as true now as when they were written in 1990. Large institutions still claim to own the place, just as in the 90s and as with the old Wild West. But there are still natives out there on the edges, working to get out their ideas of freedom.

This must be where ice cream goes to die

Last night, I had a chance to taste the first batch of the season of MilkMade’s Brie Mine. It’s brie ice cream with cabernet caramel swirl. I’ve never ever tasted anything like this before. Diana sold out in two days and now has to make another batch for February. They’re only making one more batch for the month – so get over to the Tasting Room before they’re out!

This flavor joins another on my all-time favorites list: French Kiss – chocolat à l’orange; chocolate ice cream with notes of orange. Be sure to check out the other new ones for February: Brooklyn Ambrosia, Conversation Hearts, That’s Amore.

This must be where ice cream goes to die.

The archives of the heart

In 2015, exploring Teshima, I came across Christian Boltanski’s Les Archives du Cœur. Inside a small beautiful cabin overlooking the bay, you’ll find a work of art that permanently houses recordings of heartbeats of people throughout the world. Boltanski has been recording these heartbeats since 2008; you can record your own heartbeat here and you can listen to the beats of other visitors who’ve visited this place in Teshima. Boltanski’s primary purpose in art has been to remind us of our own mortality. When measured like this, our heartbeats represent not only the passing of time, but our past and our experiences as they become coded into the pace of the rhythms. We like to think our own beats carry a code that’s unique in the world, shaped by our experiences. When we leave our heartbeats behind in Teshima, an island in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea, we’d like to think it’s left behind forever. It’s the first time you think of leaving your heartbeats behind in the world, independent of any agency or hospital that’s recorded yours before, and has owned yours before.

I’ve been leaving my heartbeats behind on the web too. And for the past few years, I’ve been working to archive the heartbeats I’ve posted on various online services. It took me a little bit of trial-and-error to figure out which service to host these on. I eventually just picked Github, because 1) git respects all your original file formats; 2) you can keep a revision history of your data as it grows and becomes richer over time; 3) you can easily push to multiple remote locations to distribute your data and keep it in sync, meaning if Github ever were to go away, you’d have your data in other places too.

Usually, I back up my data privately, because in a few cases, they reveal private information like the email addresses of my connections. Whenever possible, like with del.icio.us (archive-del.icio.us) and my Twitter history (archive-twitter), I’ve been putting them up openly. They were open to begin with, so why not keep it that way?

This brings me to my Tumblr blog, which I used from 2007 to 2017. Tumblr was a beautiful platform for so many reasons. It wasn’t just a blog to me – because there were other blogs and tools out there to host content. At the time, I’d also already had a WordPress blog going. But I used Tumblr for my photos, my early NYC tech scene posts and my foursquare posts. This is largely because Tumblr was New York tech and New York tech was Tumblr.

All the changes at Tumblr the last few years, with Yahoo’s acquisition and with David Karp leaving got me thinking about the great connections and memories Tumblr helped me build, but also once more about the mortality of my work online. I researched a few different backup tools, and eventually found one, tb-ng, that worked well enough to pull the hi-res photos and post content (it won’t pull your likes and reblogs). I pulled all my content out: archive-tumblr. If you don’t want just the archives, but to host them back up on a live blog, you can import your old Tumblr into WordPress like I did.

It was beautiful to take a few minutes to step back through that time.

I started looking around for other tools that could do this for me on other old services, like Flickr, and I came across Archive Team. They’re a group of hackers that, in their words, are:

[…] dedicated to saving our digital heritage. Since 2009 this variant force of nature has caught wind of shutdowns, shutoffs, mergers, and plain old deletions – and done our best to save the history before it’s lost forever. Along the way, we’ve gotten attention, resistance, press and discussion, but most importantly, we’ve gotten the message out: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.

Between efforts like this one and the Internet Archive, it makes me happy to know many other people want to preserve our history like this and to save our creative work from obsolescence and to have us all remembered. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The beauty of the internet is that many different people from all over the world can work together to help you preserve your art and your work. And, depending on the tools used, you can save copies of your data in islands all around the world – resilient to any single node falling over, just as the internet originally intended it to be.