Build your own home on the web

02 Nov 2019

In the age of social media, why should you bother with a website? And in the age of website builders and content management systems, such as Squarespace, Wix or Wordpress, why should you bother with coding your site yourself?

The answer to the first question is simple: you don’t actually own anything you upload to social media. You basically give it all up for the price of maybe being noticed. Social media should be used to broadcast your stuff, but the things you make should be somewhere that’s yours. Get your own domain and build a website.

The answer to the second question is a bit harder. These days, you don’t need to know anything about HTML and CSS to build a website that you own. Or rather, you own the content. The templates being used (and the underlying code) is only on loan. That’s not good enough for me. I want to possess it all, and thus be in total control.

When GDPR went into effect in May 2018, it became obvious to me that I really didn’t know if and how Squarespace (that I was with at the time) complied with the new rules. What information did it collect from visitors? What cookies did it set? Did it set them before asking? Matters became clearer after a while but I still felt uneasy. It was then and there I decided to ditch Squarespace and build my own online home from scratch. I now know my sites don’t set any cookies, because I wrote all the code. As an added bonus, I also save some money since Squarespace isn’t cheap and I now pay nothing for website hosting and content delivery network services. Well, I pay in time (the time I spent learning to code this stuff), but I also happen to enjoy learning to build things like this.

So, this website is built with Jekyll (a free static site generator, that automates the creation of individual HTML pages with templates and scripting) and is hosted by Github pages. My photography site, hertze.com, is also built with Jekyll, but I host it on Netlify and use Cloudinary for media storage and dynamic image delivery. Is writing my content in Markdown flavoured text files and manually uploading photos to a content delivery network as convenient as logging on to a web based control panel? Definitely not, but it’s beautifully lean, like Hemingway’s prose.

Alfie the for the web

19 Oct 2019

A few years ago I wrote a simple Python script that lets you make diary inserts meant to be printed, punched and used in your (Filofax-style) binder. I’ve used it ever since on my own computer to make all my dated inserts in various formats and layouts. I always dreamt of making this into a handy web app, but simply never learned enough code to get it done. Now, Hagen Trinter made my dream come true and actually built it! Play with the web app here, and—if you feel so inclined—have a look at the code at GitHub.

Trying out a new kind of A5 diary layout

29 Apr 2019

It seems it is time for my annual tradition of trying to transition from my personal size binder to my lovely A5 Gillio Compagna in that lovely older Epoca leather that patinas so much better than current offerings. I have failed this transition ever year so far, due to that A5 binder being so much larger and due to the fact that I have not really found a diary insert that suits my needs (or to be more accurate, wants).

To be honest, I do not really use my diary for much scheduling. My family and my workplace use digital calendars and trying to resist the advantages of accepting that system is futile. I jot down the few important personal dates in my paper diary (always in pencil) and then use the rest of the page as a log for how things went and how I felt about that (always in ink). Therefore, what I need are wide margins, rather than rigid and detailed diary layouts. For this years attempt I tried to design a diary insert just like this. I am only a few days in, but it feels rather good!

Paper productivity

25 Mar 2019

I discovered David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) back in 2005, when my wife and I had just become parents for the first time. We lived in a rented apartment i Malmö back then and I was busy doing my internship in psychiatry. If I remember correctly I discovered it through Merlin Mann’s website 43 Folders and it seemed to be the favourite computer nerd pastime of that era. In 2005 there were no computer applications available for GTD. The closest you got was by using a collection of AppleScripts together with Omnigroup’s OmniOutliner (that collection was Kinkless GTD, which heavily influenced the development of Omnifocus). There were no smartphones either (I had a Motorola Razr, which could hold MP3 files!). GTD seemed awfully convoluted to me, but I decided to give it a try, and I bought myself a Filofax slimline Finsbury and marked up a few dividers with appropriate labels.

This first setup worked well. I had problems with GTD of course, the same problems I think many people have, namely doing the actual work involved with collecting, clarifying, processing, reviewing and doing the tasks. For some reason I always got anxious when it was time to sit down and make decisions on all the stuff I had collected, which meant I did not do these reviews nearly as often as I should have. My brain likes to rebel against any structure imposed on it, even when it comes from itself.

When the digital systems matured and smartphones entered the equation I jumped on them in the hope that they would fix my troubles. I have flirted with Omnifocus and Things these past ten years and I can confidently say they never fixed anything for me. While they are wonderfully fun, and while they make it so much easier to collect information arriving digitally, they obviously do not do the actual work for me. I quickly realised one of their greatest strengths also was one of their greatest weaknesses: since you can toss an unlimited amount of stuff in them, things quickly start to pile up. They are all Tardises—small on the outside but big on the inside. When things pile up, my mind tends to go numb and I stop seeing the important stuff. I tried to fix that by setting deadlines and flagging (or staring) things, but if skipped checking in on my GTD app for a few days all those missed deadlines started piling up too. All those Peters crying wolf made my mind grow even more numb.

In the end I simply do not want to be too dependant on digital systems to support my memory and decision-making. I strive to keep it as simple as possible. For the past few years I’ve relied on a paper diary I make myself and a few lists that holds my projects, action lists and my someday/maybes. I keep all this in my ring binder, that goes with me most places. Sending my future self information is no more difficult than placing a post-it note on the appropriate diary page, or if it is far, far in the future on a sheet if paper that I put in the binder section that I review for future projects. When I have crossed of all the actions on a specific page I get to physically tear it out and toss it, which is an immensely satisfying feeling. I never had that feeling with digital systems, where lists fill up as quickly as you check items off and simply seem to go on forever. I also find my analog system more forgiving than Omnifocus or Things. Things stay where I put them, even if I do not check in on them for a few days.

There are difficulties with an analog system too, of course. The biggest one is handling all the emails, texts and other digital information that comes your way. I have not found a satisfactory way of dealing with this yet. For the most part I just leave the digital information in their system and write a reminder in my binder.

All in all, my paper based system has proved itself to be more robust than all the digital systems I have tried. It supported me throughout my thesis work a few years back and if it can handle that it can handle anything.

Punkt MP02 not ready for use? #

05 Feb 2019

Reddit user u/obrien654j:

“Because the phone has no left/right buttons, you sometimes encounter (android) dialogs that you cannot make a choice on (without the use of a computer and adb to inject keyevents). […] Standby time is surprisingly bad. emailed punkt about this. they told me that there’s a known issue with an app that is not closing properly and they have a fix in the works. […] The t9 engine appears to be re-ordering words based on usage using an unknown algorithm. […] Randomly t9 will stop completing the word I’m typing and start a new word.”

I think I’ll hold on to my MP01 for a while longer.