Friday, 2 May 2014

Introducing ‘Expand’ – My Twitter-driven Newsletter

Each weekday morning I publish 3 actionable messages – on Twitter, LinkedIn, – to inspire you to make dramatic improvements in your professional and personal lives.

On Friday afternoons, I count up the reposts, favorites, and replies for each of these 15 messages across all 3 social networks. For the 3 messages receiving the most, I write up an expanded version and send it out.

If you’d like a sample, here’s last week’s newsletter:

Expand Newsletter – Week of Apr 28:

“You don’t need a new tool. You need to commit to getting more out of the ones you have.”

54 retweets, 33 favorites, 1 reply

Every few weeks a new video gadget comes on the market promising to make it easier to watch Netflix or your other preferred streaming video service on your TV. Each successive gadget has a smaller price tag than the previous one and so I look. Then I remember – I have a TiVo. It’s been doing all that internet video streaming for 7 years.

My MacBook Air is 3 years old. Every few months, I think I should switch to a Linux desktop and buy the latest Ultrabook model. Then I remember I have VirtualBox installed and, if I really wanted to use Ubuntu or ElementaryOS everyday I could while completely hiding the underlying OS X interface and not spending a dime.

Last year, I picked up a half dozen Python books as step 1 to learn how to write Python. I haven’t even cracked them open, as I remembered that I already know Ruby, PHP, and Javascript. Knowing Python a little bit might help me a little bit. Putting that exact same amount of effort into knowing Ruby, PHP, Javascript better will provide me a faster return.

In Merlin Mann’s seminal work, ‘Make Believe Help and Old Butchers’, he discusses the stages of becoming an expert in a skill. He argues that the media’s continual promotion of the latest life hack and iPhone app are actually stalling skill development at ‘Advanced Beginner.’ The only way to become an expert is to commit to a tool, a technique, a process, until it fails you spectacularly. Doing that means ignoring the latest shiny gadget and committing to the work with the current tools, learning where they’re insufficient, where they excel, and incrementally building out your toolbelt accordingly.

“If it has a deadline, it’s not your most important work.”

12 retweets, 19 favorites, 2 replies

Finishing my journalling project, making my wife feel loved and appreciated, making each of my kids feel loved and appreciated, staying healthy, calling my mom, reviewing my 5 year goals, researching my family history, figuring out what I want my life to be like in 25 years, identifying and pursuing my best clients.

None of these have a hard deadlines associated with them. Though if I ignore them, they’ll very likely go pear-shaped very quickly. I don’t want that, so I commit the time and energy to them they deserve. Surprisingly, none of these require a regular, multi-hour, contiguous block of time.

Contrast that with a stereotypical day job; requires 8+ hours of your energy for at least 5 days and includes regular hard, stress-filled, and perhaps artificial deadlines. I say artificial because the deadlines for all my best client projects were far more malleable than they first appeared. A few days or weeks is far less of a concern than being happy with both the progress and the results. The opposite is also true – all the projects I’ve been involved with drop-dead-hard deadlines were some of the worst. While work concluded when the date on the calendar was reached – no one was happy with the result. This has happened so consistently that if I’m talking with a prospective client about a prospective project and they declare a specific date they want the work completed by – I politely decline. An arbitrary date is obviously more important to them than work of any significance.

“To do lists are the inventory. Calendars are the means of production.”

6 retweets, 11 favorites, 1 reply

This morning 2 people asked for a meeting sometime a few weeks for now. I looked at my calendar, picked a day and time that worked and replied requesting confirmation that it worked on their end as well. Both did. Booked. Two potential To Do items: ‘Schedule meeting with David’ and ‘Schedule meeting with Lee’ were completed before they even made it to a To Do list.

I don’t have a To Do list, I have a calendar.

I put every promise and commitment on my calendar. Not just doctors appointments, client meetings, and special family outings. I also schedule reminders to review my bank accounts, to visit the gym, for the next action in my quarterly goals. Every project, every promise, every next action is scheduled in my calendar. Yes, this means my calendar is completely booked for the next 2 weeks and becomes less so the further out I look. But I also know the answer to any question that starts with ‘When’. When and I going to work on this project? (tomorrow morning, 9:30-11:30), on that project? (next Tuesday, 8:30-noon), when am I taking time for myself? (Friday afternoon, 1-4p), When am I cutting my hair? (Saturday 7:30a).

It’s so tempting to use To Do lists like grocery lists and write out everything you could possibly ever want with no concern for available capacity (money for the groceries, and time for To Do items). I’m very aware of how constrained my time capacity is – this means I better be working on the most important things I can in that time. Yes, things get shifted around. Knowing my capacity and having everything on the calendar means I can be flexible. Frequently, at the end of the day, I’ll review the activities I’ve scheduled for the evening and compare them against my level of energy, and I’ll frequently move things around. Life happens – so I frequently shift things around. In fact, just this week a big meeting I had scheduled for Thursday afternoon was rescheduled earlier – to Tuesday afternoon. To accommodate that, I needed to shift my Monday and Tuesday priorities. Now, I suddenly had unexpected capacity Thursday afternoon. Which was promptly filled by a new client meeting.

Scheduling has the added benefit of reducing my cognitive load. At the end of a long day, I don’t stare exhausted and overwhelmed at a lengthy To Do list. My calendar says I’ve committed to 1 thing and I should get started.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Client Launches: Now Responsive

From the official press release on my recent work with the team

“‘Our goal is to provide readers with a positive, consistent experience and easy access no matter where they are and regardless of their chosen device, be it a desktop computer, laptop, e-reader, tablet or smartphone’, says Jamie Martin, Experience Life’s digital initiatives manager. ‘Mobile traffic to our site has increased significantly over the past two years, with more than a third of our traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. Our new responsively designed site allows for the flexibility readers want and deserve.'”

Also includes this quote from me:

“One of the most cost-effective ways for web publishers to make sure their sites offer real functionality no matter their users’ choice of platform or screen size is through responsive design.”

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Introducing – The Minimalist Writing on All Your Devices

“the perfect web based writing tool.” – Patrick Rhone

On any given day, I’ll be interacting with 4-6 different internet-enabled devices (multiple laptops, a handheld, a couple of tablets) the only quality they share is a decent browser and I wanted a fast, simple way to update my writing across all of them.

All the existing apps I found were filled with distractions, didn’t work across all devices, required learning a wonky syntax, didn’t deal well with long form text, or some combination of thereof.

So, I built recreates the simplicity and unbiased opportunity of a blank sheet of paper.

Like a blank sheet of paper – has one feature – Save.

It works brilliantly on mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone, and even the HP TouchPad. There’s nothing to install, nothing to download, and nothing between you and your writing.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Introducing: The Daily Reality Planner

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nov 14, 1957

If you’re like me, you’ve continually struggled with answering 1 question:

“Where did today go?”

To Do lists are helpful in identifying what should be done. Assigning those To Do items a date and time on the calendar declares when they should be done.

But then – reality interferes.

Some things take more time, some things take less. Some hit a brick wall. Not to mention unexpected phone calls. Unexpected interruptions. Unexpected opportunities.

Too many productivity solutions make it frustratingly difficult to both plan for the day and respond to the day.

The Daily Reality Planner is comprised of 3 columns:

  1. Proposed
  2. Reality
  3. Proposed Tomorrow

Each column goes from 900-2300 hours, graduated in 15 minute increments.

How to use the Daily Reality Planner?

  1. Each morning I block off the first Proposed column with my fixed appointments, and the big things I want to accomplish during the day – each with their own time block – just like the fixed appointments.
  2. After that – I look at the clock, draw a line across the corresponding time and write down what I’m starting on.
  3. When I move on to something else, or I’m interrupted, I draw a line across the current time and write out what I’m doing.
  4. Things that don’t fit today’s Reality are assigned a time in Proposed Tomorrow – the 3rd column.
  5. Tomorrow, I’ll review that 3rd column and migrate anything still relevant to the first Proposed column of a new Daily Reality.

Simple, flexible. Handy. Real.

Try it out –
Download the Daily Reality Planner

And let me know how it works for you.

The Daily Reality Planner is released under a CC-By-SA license.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010 “Monetizing Social”

There certainly have been experiments, such as’s “Real Time Ads,” which sells a local businesses widget space to display their Twitter feed. This way, the business directly controls what is displayed on the site and the advertising has the potential to be more effective because of it’s social nature and users can engage it. Plus, the local business gets its social accounts exposed to a larger audience and is able to build a lasting relationship with readers. – Vadim Lavrusik,

Saturday, 4 September 2010 eBook Draft 1 Released

Late last night, I emailed the first draft of the eBook to those that pre-ordered it (hereby known as ‘The Backers’).

This initial draft includes 27 posts from this blog tied into 6 larger themes (“What’s Wasted”, “I Don’t Care What Everyone Thinks”, “Omnipresence”, “Self-Containment”, “Listful”, “Unexpired Potential”). As I mentioned in my message to The Backers – I’m pretty happy with the structure of the book. At this point it feels like a solid series of key frames, or the dots in a connect-the-dots puzzle.

The next iteration will be about deliberately connecting those dots. To get it, all subsequent releases, and become a member of the The Backers’ discussion list, click the ‘Buy Now’ button below.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Pre-Order eBook for Your iPad or Kindle – $25

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed I’ve been pointing to posts written 1, 2,…5 years ago. You may also notice that I’ve been rambling about ebooks as well.

If you suspected I’m reviewing my 6+ year blog archive and curating it for an ebook – I am, and you are most clever.

How will this be different than just reading here or in my beloved feed reader?

  1. Expanded, ebook only, elaboration on the larger themes and ideas explored here.
  2. Access to the ebook-only discussion group, where I’ll be posting drafts and posing questions.
  3. Organization and categorization more usable on ebook readers.
  4. Pre-orderers will be listed in the Acknowledgements section
  5. Pre-orderers will receive an affiliate link to share with friends – and receive $5 for each ebook ordered with that link.
  6. Part of this experiment is to find out.

What about comments?
At this point – I’m not inclined to include the comments in the ebook version unless they provide significant insight or clarity to the topic – in which case, I’ll link to the comment on the live site.

When can I expect it?
I’m expecting to complete this project before Thanksgiving 2010.
For those of you pre-ordering, I’ll send out updated ebooks as each section is completed – anticipating your comments & feedback. Yes, very similar to Pragmatic Programmers’ Beta Book program that I’m so fond of.

Pre-order: $25

Friday, 23 April 2010

Fontue Font Optimization Workflow – Open Sourced

With the Fontue web font server open sourced, I’ve done the same for the workflow scripts I use to to generate the fonts for @font-face use.

It’s a pair of scripts that pipe fonts in and out of other conversion programs like FontForge, sfnt2woff, Batik, and EOTFast. Along the way, doing a little clean up of the font file itself.

These workflow scripts are now included in the Fontue source code.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Kernest’s Web Font Serving Engine – Fontue – Now Open Source

I’ve talked to a number of people and organizations that want to start adding web fonts to their websites – but aren’t comfortable relying on a third-party service for something so integral to their online presence.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to announced that Kernest‘s underlying web font serving engine – dubbed Fontue – has been released under the MIT License.

Fontue is designed to be the lightest, fastest way to serve web fonts to @font-face supporting browsers while saving bandwidth and keeping CSS clean and readable.

Get more information at or download the latest version from Github.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Passenger + Sinatra Tip: DocumentRoot is Always /public

I was getting 403 errors after deploying my newest Sinatra app with Passenger.

Turns out Passenger assumes and requires a /public folder.

This app is so tiny and new, it didn’t have one yet – so I was pointing Passenger at the app’s root. Resulting in the 403 errors.

Solution: Create an empty /public folder and restart Apache. Ta Da. Like magic.

If you’re still having issues – confirm your LoadModule passenger_module path is correct, mine looks like this:

After updating the Passenger gem to 2.2.7, my LoadModule path was way off, not helping the deployment troubleshooting efforts.