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Processes not tools

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Posted by Pixelpunker
Sep 24, 2018 at 09:33 AM


I am a long-time lurker in these forums and want to sketch out what a
decade of dabbling with different informational tools has led me to. I
am giving you just the gist here, you miss out on many amusing

1.  I use mainstream tools now instead of artisanal software by single
  developers on single platforms

  I remember writing my master’s thesis in Mellel with o-so-advanced
  typography. I bought that because of a glowing, very subjective blog
  post that compared writing in Mellel to driving a Ferrari while
  using Word was like using public transportation. At the last minute
  I had to send it someone to proof-read, converted it to Word and
  lost my o-so-special formatting. Years later, I needed to buy an old
  Mac Mini to get access to some old Mellel files I could no longer
  read on my PC. While Mellel switched to some XML format later where
  I could have salvaged at least some text, my files were in an older
  binary format.

  I will not mention how many months I wasted on tools, like Tinderbox
  writing agents, instead of well, doing research on my thesis. That
  being said I still enjoy using iA Writer for writing short texts and
  look forward to the release of Scrivener 3 for Windows. In both
  cases it’s very important to me that they are multi-platform and can
  sync across devices.

2.  I say no to tools

  I try to stick with my mainstream tools, although they may not be
  the ultimate best. Instead I try to learn them more deeply. I bought
  books on Sublime Text, Windows 10 Inside out and iPhone the missing
  Manual and find power user features there you may not stumble upon
  in years of regular use.

  May I add that I enjoy using my Remarkable Paper Tablet, the only
  device I know that nails that paper feel and the ease of use of
  paper as well as my adorable Surface Go that finally delivers the
  Apple Newton’s promise of pen computing.

  I got tired of selling stuff on eBay at a significant loss that I
  bought on a whim like an expensive Topre Keyboard because it would
  make me a better writer.

3.  I say no to the Internet.

  That means no more blogs, forums or podcasts. If I ever want to
  catch up on my book reading as well as cull the stuff I already have
  I need to cut out these time-sinks. Besides, many blog posts are so
  superficial and badly written and subjective to the point of being
  totally arbitrary. A good book can provide the essence of thousands
  of such posts.

4.  I embrace the cloud

  Yes, the cloud means some loss of control over one’s information.
  But the primary risk here is I think hackers companies that data
  mine your information for advertising and profiling purposes. For
  the moment I think I am save because I use true 2-factor
  authentication and a respectable cloud provider. I use a paid-for
  service instead of a “free” service. For a long-term perspective I
  try not to rely on cloud services that may be canceled on a whim. If
  I don’t think this service/company will be around in 10 years I
  don’t use it. What I gain is multi-device sync which I increasingly
  rely on. I no longer want my files locked down to a single device
  and then lost.

5.  I try to learn processes instead, let’s call them informational

  I read “The Science of Managing our Digital Stuff” by Bergman as
  well as “Keeping Found Things Found” and find so many insights I may
  elaborate on in a future post. For the moment I will list a few.

  Studies show that people have a tendency to over-keep information of
  questionable value. Keeping decisions are often delayed forever.
  This low-quality information makes relevant information hard to

And to add my personal note here: _none_ of the tools you read about in
this forum will solve this problem of over-keep for you.

  Information has a life-cycle. Being aware of this life-cycle of gather-keep-use-discard helps me get rid of obsolete information:

-  Am I still interested in knowing/doing/having this?
-  Do I know or understand this already?
-  Is a better fresher version of this information likely to come into
  my life soon?
-  If I will use read do this will I do it before it goes out of date?
-  Can I deal with any regret I might have if I throw it away?

To be continued…


Posted by Paul Korm
Sep 24, 2018 at 05:27 PM


Firstly, welcome out from the woodwork.  Glad you decided to post your thoughts.

I can’t say I agree with it all (or any of it) but it’s an interesting point of view.  Even though you have a mainstream-only philosophy it looks like make room for niche approaches (semi-private cloud, IAWriter, etc.). 

One should never buy software just because some blogger or forum (including this forum) suggested it.  If a blogger makes its money from link revenue (as do most of the Mac bloggers) then whatever they say is suspect.  Doesn’t mean the blogger or forum opinion is wrong—just means we should do the homework before buying.

I have no problem with Tinderbox or other “non-mainstream” software.  It’s a terrific application—and I’ve spent years learning it and building value from it.  I wouldn’t be as harsh as the OP in rejecting it.  However, I suspect that well over half of those who buy it have no business using it—because they have no clue what they need *any* software for. 


Posted by Dellu
Sep 24, 2018 at 06:22 PM


Paul Korm wrote:

>  However, I suspect that well over half of those who buy it have no
>business using it—because they have no clue what they need *any*
>software for. 

Or, coming to the realization that the time spent to configure and tweak the tool doesn’t worth it.  I have been in conflict with myself for a long time with regard to TB because: in one way, I can see how the tool solves my problems, on the other, I realize that I spend more time tinkering with it than I solve my problems with it. The technical part of TB always comes on my way of accomplishing sth with it.



Posted by Dellu
Sep 24, 2018 at 06:36 PM


Pixelpunker wrote:

>2) Say no to Internet
>3) embrace the cloud

If you are going to rely on the cloud for your backup, you cannot say no to the Internet.

I also like the idea of saying no to tools. But, I am doubting your integrity because you are actually adopting many quirky tools. your use of Remarkable Paper Tablet especially strange because this tool sounds like the Mellele tool you had bad experiences with. I am questioning if you are genuinely learning from your past mistakes (sorry for being rude)  because I feel like Remarkable Paper Tablet is the same lockdown as the Mellel. The annotations made with Remarkable are not readable by the standard pdf reading tools such as Acrobat. You are more likely to be stuck with it as you had been with Mellel, in the long run.

I also disagree on your inclination towards books. I personally find books to contain more junk (filler stuff) than blog posts.
The point on the blogs is that you have to know where to look.

I always avoid posts by corporate bodies that attempt to sell ads ( use chrome addon to block posts from Cnet and the like crappy sources). Blog posts by private enthusiasts are actually much succinct and more valuable than many of the books. I have seen many of these short blog posts grew to books; often with filler stuff and some more common senses added on it to fill the pages.



Posted by tightbeam
Sep 24, 2018 at 08:01 PM


Just like with books, blogs can be good and bad. And nowadays, when *anyone* can self-publish a book, the line between a book and a blog is increasingly thin. I wouldn’t put much faith in most self-published books. While the internet has saved many of us hours and hours of research time by making so much information readily available, it has forced us to use those hours instead to verify and validate all that easy-to-acquire online research! Progress…

As for tools: whatever works. I look with equal disdain on the Microsoft, Apple, et. al., cheerleaders as I do those “too cool” to use anything but home-brewed tools. The people who piously proclaim “I’d NEVER use Word!” or “I’d NEVER put my stuff in the cloud” (as if their “stuff” is being sought by legions of spies and provocateurs) are good for a laugh, if little else.



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