8apps Invites

Though there are many ways to socialize on the net (too many), I recently revisited this invite only site, 8apps. They’ve added a few more apps to the planned 8, so there’s a few more things to check out. Not meant as a review, as I honestly haven’t spent enough time on the site to give justice, suffice to say it’s a very slick site, with a lot of potential. It’s simply up against stiff competition.

That said, if you’d like to check it out, I’ve got 40 odd invites available, just leave a comment and I’ll be sure to send one. Only thing I ask is that you after sign up, look me up (miklb) and add me as a contact, as the system doesn’t automatically add invites to your contact list.

Custom Style Sheets and Basecamp

I’ve mentioned that I primarily use BaseCamp these days with the company that I work with to manage the many sites they handle. That’s all good, but whenever I log in, I am overwhelmed with many, many, late milestones and upcoming milestones. Sure, some of it’s relevant to me, however most is not. Even what is relevant, I’m well aware of my tardiness. I don’t need a constant reminder 🙂

Enter a handy little Firefox extentsion, Stylish, that I became aware of after adopting Hicks Designs handy Mac OS styled Google Reader style sheet. (Note, there are instructions for using the style sheet with other browsers).

Another quick use of the Web Developer extension (I couldn’t live without this extension), I was able to determine the class of the milestones on the dashboard (.milestones – go figure), and add a quick display:none to a custom style for the company’s Basecamp dashboard.

The Stylish extension easily offers you the option of using the style for a URL, a domain, or a global style, so I can be sure that it’s only being used where and when I want. The extension author recommends using the !important declaration, however I found no need for that with Basecamp. Certainly worth checking out if you are looking to hide some annoying element of a site you often visit.

Edit: I went ahead and changed my style to only drop the upcoming milestones, and left the overdue ones there, as that seemed more relevant to my job. The class for that is .Dashcal. That way, I can still see what’s overdue, and potentially avoid issues. Upcoming milestones I’ll leave to the project manager to advise on.

More About Email

So quickly I’ve discovered (or been reminded), that using a Mail.app rule to move right out of the Inbox removes the notice in the dock. Not a big deal, but if I’m away from the computer when the hour is up, I might not see that I have new work email, so I’ve employed Mail Badger, so that I can create a custom icon notice in the Mail icon in the dock just for that work’s email. So far so good though with the system.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged ,

Speaking of BaseCamp and GTD…

My previous post mentions BaseCamp and GTD, what I’d really, really, (no, really) like is a way to export my todo’s from BaseCamp. Most specifically, to the new Omni Focus, or even better, iCal, which then could be exported to some other format, be it Google Calendar, which supports Remember the Milk, or, as I mentioned, Omni Focus. (Which reminds me, I haven’t been using it as much as I’d like, due to the the subject of this post). Perhaps if my new system works out, I can use the quick add from Mail.app to OF as part of the system…hmm, might just work.

Tracking Time Spent on Email

So I work with a company that uses BaseCamp, which is great. Each project is easily separated, has it’s own todos, writeboards, etc. But as someone who works with all of the projects, I get cc’ed on every message posted. Some require my attention immediately, some will require me to be familiar with the project at some point. I’ve never been able to manage my time recording for this internal activity, and I know I’ve lost a few dollars because of this. SO today, I’m testing out a new system. I’ve set my mail app (Apple Mail), to only check mail once an hour. I then set up a mailbox just for these emails, got a timer on the dashboard, that can be started and stopped, and will start the timer, read the emails, follow up on BaseCamp on any immediate issues, pause the timer, and wash, rinse, repeat the rest of the business day. At some point I’m going to have to decide that this company has business hours, (I work from home), and not read anymore messages until the next morning, where I can track the time. I figure after a week or so, I’ll have a pretty good idea of how much time I’m spending on this, and might actually be more productive, as I’m not constantly logging into BaseCamp to see what new has been posted, and reading messages that have already been sent to my inbox. I also hope that after a week or two, it will be a habit, and I’ll have a pretty good average of the time spent, so I can simply log those hours either weekly based on the experiment.

I read a ton of productivity blogs, (which can be counter-productive, go figure), and it seems little issues like this always trip people up. I know that the GTD ethos is if you can do it in under 2 minutes, then do it, but that’s assuming you’re not getting 10 messages an hour, each with their own 2 minutes.

Hopefully in a week or two I can report back on how the little experiment went.

edit:Funny one of those blogs I mentioned has a little post about email and procrastination, certainly appropriate.

Technorati Update

It seems that Technorati finally was able to index the site, as well as fix the issue with the site regarding new claims for sites not supported with the their quick claim. Not sure why I was actually waiting for the claim before blogging more here, but it worked out, as I was out with a medical issue the past few weeks, so timing is everything. I really look forward to blogging, and now I have no excuses.

Special thanks to Christian(aka h0bbel) for expressing a similar concern about Technorati’s handling of this situation.

Technorati Update

It seems that Technorati finally was able to index the site, as well as fix the issue with the site regarding new claims for sites not supported with the their quick claim. Not sure why I was actually waiting for the claim before blogging more here, but it worked out, as I was out with a medical issue the past few weeks, so timing is everything. I really look forward to blogging, and now I have no excuses.

Special thanks to Christian(aka h0bbel) for expressing a similar concern about Technorati’s handling of this situation.

OmniFocus

I just got my invite for the alpha testing (yes, alpha, not beta) of OmniFocus, and I can say with certainty that I love it, and am ready to buy it now. It just seems to be intuitive enough with just the right amount of features (and it’s not done). I certainly hope that the main interface doesn’t get clogged up like many other GTD apps have done trying to be too many things to too many people. I especially like that you can group projects. I’ll blog more once I’ve really had a chance to dig into it a bit more, but if you are Mac using GTD’er, you really should sign up for the beta-announcement list, especially if you are not happy with the other options out there.

Technorati and Habari

Technorati
Profile

Seems Habari can’t use Technorati’s quick claim process, so I was asked to paste a little code in a post, so the claim process could proceed. Hopefully this will be quick. I will say that Lev with Technorati was very nice and apologetic regarding the issue, and offered any more assistance necessary.

h2 tag inside anchor tag

I’m confused. I set an

< h2 >

tag with an #id, and give it a background image. I want both the image and the text to be a clickable link. Thus, I want to wrap the

< h2 >

tag inside the anchor tag. Validator tells me it’s not valid HTML. I set the anchor to a class of .block, which is defined as

.block {display:block}

. Still doesn’t validate. Do you see the logic? Or, am I just making a mistake?

Live Designing

In the true spirit of blog design, I’m doing it live on the site, vs working offline. Not that anyone really ventures to this domain yet anyway. If you have stumbled in, thanks, and hopefully things will be functioning normal by the end of the weekend.

Designing with Grids

I’ve been reading more and more about the concept, and have tried using some Photoshop tools for helping with the concept when doing up a layout mock, but watching and listening to Khoi Vinh and Mark Boulton talk about it from their session at the SXSW Interactive helped immensely. You can read more about Khoi’s presentation, as well as download the slides in .pdf format on his blog, Subtraction, and download the podcast from the official SXSW site.scroll down about 2/3 of the way for the link. Certainly a lot of good information in the comments on the blog as well, particularly links to books about the subject.

For Real This Time

OK. I’m officially going to start blogging here at bloggingmeta, to what ever degree that means. It may just be a few things web related, and setting up a lifestream, but I will relegate my personal domain for just that, personal blogging, be it political or what not, but all things internet/blogging/web related will go here. I’m really excited about using Habari, and have wanted to start using this domain for some time. Now that the DB is somewhat stable, and not as many chances of having to dump the db, I think I’ll be fine. Here’s to the rest of my life while I’m at it.

Gravatars 2.0 and Skippy’s Gravatars Plugin

I had heard that Gravatar 2.0 had been released, but hadn’t really paid much attention. Today, while doing a little housekeeping around the site, I noticed that none of my gravatars were showing up. After doing a little investigating, I realized it had to do with caching, among other things. First thing I did was dump the cache on my gravatars folder in wp-content. Second, I logged into the gravatar site, and re-associated my gravatar with my email that I use for that account. Still no gravatars, mine, or anyone else’s.

So I looked at the settings on Skippy’s gravatar plugin (which I like as I can set a local gravatar, vs using a default one from the original site), it was set to use caching. I turned that setting off, and voilá, gravatars are showing back up. Hopefully that could help someone else (though, from reading a few blogs, and the comments on the main site, there’s no guarantees the main site will be with fail).

Miklb.com turns 2

birthday candle Perhaps a bit late, but just about 2 years ago, I started this domain, which has led me down a life path I can honestly say I didn’t expect. I no longer am cooking for a living, not going to school, and trying to make a go of it doing web design/consulting. Thinking back on it all, I’ve come a long way, and look forward to where things go. To any and all who’ve visited and commented, thanks. I’ve recently tried to blog more in general, and also realized that the site is in need of some overhauling, as I’ve not really done much with the design/updating in almost a year. So as soon as I crank out a new design for Tiny Little Dots, I’ll focus some spare time on the site.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged

Posting From Ecto

Testing out Ecto, a desktop blogging client. I had only tried MarsEdit, and at the time there was no option for tagging. Now that UTW supports inline tags, this should be a better option.

[tags]ecto, WordPress, UTW[/tags]

Following Up on GTD

Well, two months into the year, and I’m still struggling with a good GTD system. I am using Actiontastic still, but for work, I’m using Fresh Books to time track and invoice clients. (For those that care, I’ve gone full time into web work. Mostly WordPress, but I’ve done a fair amount of non-WP work. My working site is Bishop Blog Works. Please understand the design is in flux).

Fresh Books is great, but I can’t get my clients to use the ticket system. Email is still their method of choice for notifying me of needed changes, for both active projects, and site tweaks. Fresh Books says they will have an email to ticket system, but if that doesn’t materialize sooner than later, I may have to look at another option. In the meantime, I try to take the email, add it to iCal as a todo using Mailtags, then sync iCal with Actiontastic, and THEN add those as tickets/tasks in Fresh Books.

Not working out so well.

On a positive note, I’ve streamlined the home office, clearing out a lot of clutter, which I believe makes it easier to get started in the morning and stay focused.

If anyone has a suggestion for converting emails to a time tracking system, I’d love to hear about it. I have started looking at Alex King’s Tracks , as it has an email to task ability, but the demo doesn’t seem to allow for that. It requires running a cron job on your server, and since Alex is setting the demo up on his, I don’t see a way to test that feature. If it works, I could have clients send an email that is picked up by Tasks, and then time track straight from that. But then I’m back to either having two “apps” for time tracking/invoicing. Hopefully Fresh Books will roll out that feature soon, and I’ll be good to go. I then simply forward a copy of the ticket to Mail.app, add it to Actiontastic, and it’s automatically added to a ticket. Or at least that’s how I’d draw it up on paper.

No Longer a Champion of Metro PCS

I’ve long been a customer and ardent “word-of-mouth” supporter of Metro PCS. Heck, they even added web browsing (albeit a handcuffed version). However, after my experience with their customer support today, I can not advocate the company, or will no longer be a customer. I’ve always wondered if their business model was really aimed at low-income people looking for a quick and easy cell phone option, and now I think that’s the case. A genuine desire to hang onto long time customers certainly wasn’t in my experience today.
Long story short, I’m a procrastinator. I simply wait until the last minute to pay bills. Certainly I’m working on fixing that defect, see my post about GTD and a desire to at least know that a bill is due. So last night I tried paying my bill, the last day. Nothing uncommon on my end, I’ve done it routinely since I got the service. However, last night, I couldn’t process the online payment gateway. Tried again today, still no luck, so I called their payment service customer support. First agent said turn off pop-up blockers. I explained I’ve never had that issue before, but humored them and tried. No luck. I call back, this time I’m asked, “are you using FireFox Mozilla?” “Yes”, I replied. Nut shell- they stopped supporting Mozilla. No explanation, just, “use IE.”

I started this some time ago, and it’s been sitting as a draft, so I figured I’d wrap it up as I just mentioned Flickr and mobblogging
After I let the account lapse, I procrastinated some more, not signing up with another service, to the point I figured I’d go ahead and keep Metro PCS for a little longer. I paid my bill, (approx a month later) and service was back on. The next morning, I get a text message saying I need to pay another $60. So I try calling them to find out what was going on. I probably spent an hour just finding a phone number where I could speak with a human being. I finally had to call an authorized reseller in St. Petersburg (I live in Tampa) to get a number. They informed me that though I don’t have a contract, their policy is that you pay for the month of service, even if the phone wasn’t in use. I said that was unacceptable, and wanted a refund. That I did get. But never in the whole process did anyone acknowledge that the whole issue arose from their poor web interface, and offer to simply waive a month, or any reconnect fees to keep me as a customer.

Some irony to that is that when ever I would end a conversation with a rep, they would say “we value your business here at Metro PCS”. Did they really? I think not. I highly suggest looking at other alternatives to their service, as I do not think they care about long term customers, and are more in the business of short term, “turn and burn” clientele.

Not as Painful as I Thought

So if anyone has an “old school” flickr account, they too received an email a while back saying that as of March 15th, they needed to merge with a yahoo id. I had a yahoo id, which I never really use. And like most people, they are probably a bit attached to their online identities. Obviously, I use miklb where ever I can. I was a bit upset at the prospect of losing my flickr account of /miklb. Granted, the yahoo account I have is miklb.online, but somehow that just isn’t what I wanted. So I procrastinated in making the switch. Finally, today, I went about looking into it, as I didn’t want to get locked out of my moblog images. (Currently, I do not have a cell service with a camera phone, but not all of those images are still on my old phone, anyway…) I went to the flickr account, and saw the “merge” accounts option. I went to merge miklb with yahoo id miklb.online. No go. miklb.online was already associated with flickr. Ugh. When did I do that?

So looking at that account, I hadn’t actually uploaded any images, so I saw I could delete the flickr account for that ID. I didn’t know if I could then re-associate it, but what the heck, I figured I’d give it a shot. I deleted the yahoo id from flickr, and tried again to merge, still thinking I’d become miklb.online. In the meantime, I found a flickr export app for the Mac, Flickrbackup, grabbed my images just in case, and then made the association between the old school account and the yahoo id. All went smooth, and to my surprise, I get to keep the miklb account, I simply now log in with the yahoo id. Excellent. Perhaps this will move me to use flickr a bit more, I know I’d love to get a friend of mine to use it, but he’s a myspacer, and I don’t even know what he’s using to host his images. (Goody Goody, I’ll even set you up with a blog if you make the switch from myspace).
So, long story short, it was far less painful to make the switch, and if you haven’t done so, fret not, if you have to be pumpkinpatch6969 instead of your favorite handle, you’ll not loose your flickr name.

This One is for Dr Bacchus

zippyLately I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Habari’s IRC channel, mostly because some really smart people are there, and because Dr Bacchus has a bot on the channel that if you type “yow”, will randomly quote Zippy the Pinhead. I first discovered Zippy while living in Denver in the early 90’s. it was a daily comic in the (I think)Rocky Mountain News. Not long after, being a casual fan of alt-comics, I discovered Fantagraphics, and then soon after they published several collections of Zippy comics. I still own the first 3 issues of the collection somehow (the time soon after moving back from Colorado can be a bit hazy, to say the least).

zippyI don’t even begin to consider myself a Zippy fanatic, and have barely kept up with the comic since those days, but I can’t help but laugh out loud when ever I type those three letters on IRC. No matter how bored, frustrated, or confused I might be with my situation at hand, good ol’ mzuri and his Zippy quotes pick me up, and break the ice just enough to keep going. So the next time you are having a rough time just think of your Zippy, and quotes like:

“Wouldn’t it be great, Zip, if th’ spirit of Halloween could last all year long?”

“Yow! A never ending orgy of apple-bobbing and miniature mars bars!”

WordPress Blank Theme V2beta

While I’m in a blogging flurry, I figured I’d go ahead and share my newest “blank theme”. I do quite a bit of WP work, either converting open source designs, modifying existing site’s design to a WP theme, or custom work, and often have the use for a framework to start. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using my popular Blank Theme, but more and more, I’ve found the markup not to my liking, and as it’s based on Kubrick, a bit outdated code wise. So I’ve cooked up a blank theme from scratch, using much more (hopefully) semantic markup, and a much more streamlined framework. This version currently only has an index, header, footer, sidebar (as an unordered list, which should be widget ready, though I would need to add a function.php file. It also includes a bit of code handy for recent posts), single post, and page template. I also am using Christian Montoya’s comment template instead of Kubricks. I hopefully covered all the elements in the templates in the style sheet, as well as have a few basic global elements set.

Remember, this is a blank theme. It is completely unstyled, and is meant as a framework in which to customize a theme. Also, this is meant for WP >= 2.1.x, as it uses several new template tags.

Update: Download link fixed. (damn typos)

You can download the Blank Theme v2 beta.

I would appreciate any and all feed back, both for missing elements, and suggestions for additions.

Running with Habari

Nothing like a new blog engine to get the blood pumping. Not that I’m jumping ship, just looking to broaden horizons, and see what new and exciting might be around the corner. I’m a big fan of a couple of people involved, not such a fan of a few others. But that’s part of community. But really I’m just testing out the trackback feature on the most recent build. So really, just ignore this post…

New Year and Getting Things Done

This is the first of probably several posts for, primarily my own benefit, documenting my implementation of the GTD system

Well, a bit late in getting a “New Years” post up, but I’m fighting a heavy does of procrastination and a head cold, so I thought “no time better than the present”. Several months ago, I discovered Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders, probably via a link from a Mac site. There I found my first introduction to the concept of “Getting Things Done”, which is a book and much more from David Allen. Like most people, I find myself constantly feeling unorganized, confused, and wrought with anxiety as I’m not “getting shit done.” So I began reading some posts, exploring the multitude of applications discussed, and “lurking”.

The first application that I explored, which isn’t directly a GTD app, but one meant to provide more productivity in using your Mac was Quicksilver. This free application really is something that should be built into the OS, but that’s for another discussion. Suffice to say, once you get a hang of the app, you may never really touch your mouse or use the dock again. (Well, not really, but it is safe to say you will use the mouse much less, and the dock, well, that can be eliminated.)

From there, I began reading more and more about the GTD concept, and decided it was time to get the book. My frugal nature led me to my local library, however, the waiting list for the book was 57 people (I’ve yet to be notified by the library that a copy was available for me). So procrastination took over, I blew off several trips to the book store, and I continued my struggle with knowing what I needed to be doing.

Finally, on New Years Eve, my muse purchased the book for me, and I immediately began reading. It was as if the book had been written for me (I’m sure most people feel that way upon first reading). I’m not going to try and explain the concept, I don’t think I could do it justice, but a brief overview is that it’s intended to get ALL the things that people generally keep in their head, be it work, home, or personal, and put them into a system that allows to track them. It also introduces the idea of breaking “projects”, that is, anything that has more than one step, into “next actions”. So instead of having a to do list with “landscape yard” item, you have a project, and then steps to accomplishing the task. The goal is to remove those from your head, those nagging, “I know I should be doing…” type things, and allow you to concentrate on the “doing”. This should alleviate the stress and anxiety from the daily routine. Sounds perfect.

The next step is to find a system that works for you. David Allen doesn’t necessarily have a specific system, just a concept. Many, many systems exist, some paper based, some electronic, some a mix. As I work completely on the computer now (crossing fingers that sticks), a computer based system seems most logical. So off I went looking for a system.

My first stop was a FireFox extension GTDGmail, which hacks into your gmail account, and provides for project creation, contexts (that is, “where” or “how” you do the task, @phone, @errands, etc). It was a good primer on the concept, and has helped in managing my many emails from clients. However, soon it became clear that wasn’t sufficient enough for me for the entirety of the GTD system.

I’ve looked at ideas for using BackPack, which I like, but ultimately, didn’t seem like the best solution for me. I’ve also looked at several of the wiki hacks, as well as the Kinkless system. Which, seems well done, but as it requires Omni Outliner Pro, I wasn’t ready to invest in more software. Apparently Omni Group is working on OmniFocus, a full fledged app implementing what Kinkless does with Omni Outliner, and worth keeping an eye on.

Which leads me to my final decision. Currently, I’m using Actiontastic, which is still in beta, and will be an app that will have to be purchased at some point. It integrates with quicksilver, so I can easily add items to my inbox without actually moving to the app (for instance, while typing this, if I remember I need to buy TP, I can easily send that to the app with a few keystrokes). I’ve also looked at Tracks, a Ruby on Rails application that can either be installed locally on my Mac, or hosted on my server. Hosting it on my server would give me the ability to access it from any computer, and though I haven’t explored it completely, I’m guessing now that I have internet access on my phone, I could add items from the phone’s browser (or at least via email/SMS). If you are interested in testing Tracks, you can visit a free hosted version at Tracks Train.

No matter which I choose, the bottom line is I need to now actually implement the system, so I can actually start “doing”, which is a caveat of sorts. It really is a matter of dedicating time to do it. It’s really not something that can be done in spurts, or half way. I think that is the real reason for blogging it, a challenge to myself to really get it in gear. I intend on blogging more about the process, as both a way to share, and a means of archiving the process for my own benefit, especially if a new, or better “system” comes along. I’ve all but decided to go with Actiontastic, so the next step will be to nail down the contexts for my system.