From Things to 2Do

I have a long history with various productivity systems and was always eager to try a new app and/or system. But for the past three years I mostly relied on Things. After a short stint with paper notebooks I moved over to 2Do.

Things is an extremely stable task management application that worked particularly well for me when I was still a student: Having the inbox and a loose sorting of tasks within projects and areas of responsibility merged everything into one perspective for me: the “today” list. It synchronized flawlessly across all my devices. Here and there I pondered on missing some sort of sub-tasks. But aside from short dives into Wunderlist and Omnifocus I was quite happy with Things.

But once I started working full-time this changed a bit: I wanted to have a better separation between work and personal stuff. And also there were way more circumstances in which I wanted to jot down subtasks. So I started using paper notebooks again. Inspired by the Bullet Journal I was using one page a day where I would write down the todos of a day. Stuff I didn’t do yesterday would be on the start of todays list again. For planing longer ahead I would try to make notes into my calender.

I still liked this system a lot and carry a paper notebook with me every day. But should I really have to use two separate systems? The analog day-to-day solution made me feel overwhelmed from time to time when planing out the week ahead. So after listening to CGP Grey talking about 2Do I decided to give it a try. And after the trial expired I still stuck around with it and finally migrated all “Someday” tasks and projects over to it.

There are two three particular features that make the switch worth it:
(1) Timed reminders: Things only knows due dates, with 2Do I can also set due times, often it’s nice to be reminded at a specific time.
(2) Sub-tasks: In Things projects felt like an organizational overhead, but here it’s much more convenient and I use it more like a task – sub-task kind of thing.
(3) Differentiating between different perspectives: I use the List Groups as my kind of personal-vs-work filter, so I won’t constantly stumble over the fact that I should grab some lightbulbs for my kitchen when finishing a work project.

I am just a few weeks into using 2Do and probably still have to find the sweetspot for when to use which type of task/project/list/subtask. And of course I am looking forward to the long-awaited Things 3, but for now I have a system that works quite well for me.

The Renaissance of E-Mail Newsletters

development

Just as the weekend rolls around and I start clearing out my inbox from the stuff that has accumulated of the week, I find myself enjoying a particular kind of mails: Curated newsletters.

Over the past couple of months I subscribed to a growing number of newsletters. Newsletters which mostly feature a digest of what has happened in technology this week, allowing me to be aware of what’s going on in the world of (web-related) technology.

It’s a funny prank of history that email became one of my sources of information again. As that’s also how it all started for me. When I started getting into development I signed up for e-mail lists, although mostly to observe whats going on, I can’t recall actively participating in discussions. Later RSS rolled around where I would find myself in a list of well over 100 individual subscriptions and especially falling for blogposts including lists like “21 awesome items of something (which you will never need)”. With the dead of Google Reader, RSS died for me as well. At that time I picked up on all the various social media channels as a substitute: subscribing to more Twitter accounts than anyone could seriously follow. All for the main premise of knowing what’s “important”. A few years ago I started clicking through Hacker News and skimming through Reddit and Medium on a regular basis. The godfathers of timesinks.

I still fall for these way to often, but I try to avoid them. The current cure for my Fear-Of-Missing-Out comes from e-mails on a relatively fixed schedule. They all feature a similar structure: A categorized list with a small number of links and short explanation or quote. This also allows me to often just skim the mails completely and still satisfies my inner completionist.

So here some of my current favourites:

Talk @ OOP 2016: An Agile Project Review

Talks

Christian and I gave a talk at this year’s OOP conference here in Munich. It’s full German title was “Agiler Projektbericht: Entwicklung eines Content Delivery Repository für innovative IoT Umgebungen” – essentially it took pieces from my talk at the PHP Usergroup and extended it with a lot of information about how we actually work on this project.

Given that we overall follow the SCRUM process, it was nice to actually take a step back and see where we diverge from the idealistic agile process and where we found our own patterns. The discussion following the presentation allowed us to also get an understanding on how other teams and companies solve similar challenges.

Here is the video of the whole thing (in German):

Use Docker Machine with Mounts from a Second Drive

development, docker

Last weekend I fiddled with some HipChat data and ElasticSearch and Kibana a bit. The Docker ELK stack is a great way to use the latter locally. I’m using it already on my work machine, so I happily checked it out and ran docker-compose up … only to get some odd error on my private Mac now:

System error: not a directory

What? I check my work machine: No problems there, same versions of all components. Odd. Turns out, I’m not the first one to encounter this. It seems to be the mount of the Kibana-config-file which causes this issue.

No “easy” fix in these links, so I jumped in and added COPY statements to the Dockerfile. Rebuild the image over and over till everything worked the way I wanted it to work. With each rebuild I tried to get closer to the problem or find a workaround not involving copying on build.

In the end it was StackOverflow to the rescue: Turns out docker-machine only mounts a main dir into the machine, making all path references fail which are not beneath this mount. In my case (on a Mac with a second HDD) it only mounted /User, but my project files were in /Volumes/HDD. Hence the reference in docker-compose couldn’t be resolved and resulted in the error above.

The solution:

  • Manually add the second drive as a Shared Drive in VirtualBox
  • Mount the directory in your docker-machine with the fullpath as it has on your machine (e.g. /Volumes/HDD/)

Fairly easy once I figured it out and while I cost me half a Sunday, I know a fair bit more about the underpinings of docker-machine and docker-compose. See Andi’s StackOverflow answer for all specifics.

Giving my first talk

Talks

On wednesday I gave a talk at the PHP Usergroup Munich. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably read about it. It was the first talk of this kind that I gave and I liked it. There is no video recording of it, but you can still have a look at the slides on speaker deck.

I want to share some personal thoughts not only on the talk itself but on the whole process behind it. Mostly because the whole topic of public speaking interests me for quite some time now.

First off it definitely was some out-of-comfort-zone kind of thing for me. I played with the idea of giving a talk here and then as I liked to do presentations at university. But I never settled on particular topic, let alone actually doing it. This time Scandio hosted the event and there was the chance to fill the open spot. Perfect chance to make something from it.

The talk itself was not focused on code but more a lessons-learned from the project I have been on for the last year. I found this to be the most challenging part: To frame the rather abstract concepts and ideas of how our system works in a short presentation while also trying to get into technical interesting topics. And - at least according to the feedback I got - I managed to do it reasonably well.

The Preparation

While preparing for the talk, I watched Zach Holman’s Talk on Talks again. Of course only after giving the talk I would understand some of his points.

So I had a rough outline and a first draft about two weeks prior to the event. But I only finished the presentation a few hours before it. I shuffled bits and pieces around until a few hours before the meetup. Most of the content was created on the weekend leading up to it. I just felt easier to sit down at home with a cup of idea rather than trying to force it while being at the office. I would definitely try to get it settled earlier the next time.

Giving the Talk

I was in the last spot after two more code-related talks. This circumstance allowed me to reference the stuff that has been presented earlier. Nonetheless I was a bit nervous, not to a negative extent, but enough to find myself rushing through some parts where I had a different idea of what to say.

My only sort-of test runs happened the evening before, and it lead to a few changes in the structure. For the next time, I would definitely try to do such iterations way more often. Overall it helped to just talk about it, because often enough I realized that something wouldn’t work. In most cases some information was missing to follow my line of thoughts. Or I would overcomplicate things. While I’m sure there still were enough rough parts in the presentation, I was hopefully able to eliminate the worst ones beforehand.

After the talk

Once I closed the lid of my laptop I felt some sort of relief and pride at the same time. But until then there were a few interesting questions from the audience, even technical ones which I hoped for. The people were nice and it was a good end to the day to discuss some other stuff over a beer afterwards.

Bottom line

It was a fun and educational thing to do for me. I will definitely try do it again. Overall it helped to bring all the information into a proper strcuture to get back to what we’re actually trying to achieve in this project. Also it’s now way easier to explain my friends and family what I’m doing all day long. I love this refreshed perspective and I’ll try to take it as a learning from this whole thing: Go back to the start and try to give a proper presentation of things to involved people, just so I get a clearer understandin myself.