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On Creative Work in a Coffee Shop
JF Martin / Posted: Sat, 27 May 2023 20:53:30 GMT
Going to the coffee shop to study isn’t something new. This popular trend started in the late 20th century. Millennials popularized this habit even more with the availability of technology like laptops and WiFi. I find this a fascinating movement.
I love spending time in a coffee shop with my iPad or MacBook Air. I usually go in the afternoon, right after lunch. I’ve been doing that for decades with more or less regularity. I’m unsure when it all started; maybe around the mid-nineties. I usually spend half an hour to two hours in a coffee shop. I visit at least one coffee shop in each city while travelling abroad. Fun fact: I have always been more into coffee shops than my wife and past girlfriends. Even though men are bigger coffee drinkers than women, according to this article covering the Australian market, strangely, based on my experience, it seems that the coffee shop moments is more popular among women. I might be wrong on that, don’t quote me.
People may prefer to work in a coffee shop because of the ambient noise, which can help them focus, and the atmosphere, which can be more stimulating than a quiet or sterile workspace. Additionally, being around other people can provide a sense of community and motivation.
I’m wondering why I prefer going to my coffee shop, which is close to my house, instead of staying home in a quieter place. I’m not the only one that prefers the environment of a more or less busy coffee shop. Why do people go to the coffee shop to study, work or read? I mean, coffee shops can be busy places with a lot of noise, right? Well, according to a few studies, coffee shops are the right place to find the following:
- It’s a 3 minutes walk from my house.
- It’s a bright, spacious and well-designed place.
- People of all ages visit the place: teenagers, young adults, students, workers, older and older adults with kids and grandkids; it feels like a family place.
- The music is good, not too loud.
- Coffee and healthy food selection are great.
- And for the smell of the coffee, obviously!
- Because caffeine helps the brain better focus;
- It’s a source of inspiration and creativity because of some unfamiliarity found in coffee shops (people, objects, noises, decor, etc.)
- Being outside the house, a place so familiar and sterile for creative work, coffee shops offer variety and a sense of creative community.
“Coffee shops have the recipe for success – warm lighting, caffeine, and ambient noise.” "Research shows that coffee shop ambiance increases creativity, alertness, and learning ability.” “Research shows that a semi-distracting background helps you think more broadly and outside the box. Rumor has it the selfie stick was even invented in a Starbucks.”
The Strange Scientific Connection Between Coffee Shops And Creativity
“a study has found that individuals came up with more creative ideas when exposed to ambient sound at 70 decibels - the average volume of a bustling coffee shop.” “While extreme quiet lends focus, the kind you need to do your taxes or proofread a paper, the Times reports, it inhibits creative thinking.” “a touch of noise, a pinch of distraction, and a sprinkle of conversation can cause a helpful disfluency, which, research suggests, spurs you to think on a more abstract level.” "Enough stimulation can help you get deeper into your work–but too much can pull you out.”
“Less comfortable than home, but still optimally comfortable.” “Some students prefer cafes and public places like Starbucks — the constant movement in the background provides ample white noise instead of anxiety-inducing silence or the piped music from headphones.”
“…it has been proven that when exposed to new stimuli, possibly including the sounds and scents in cafes, the brain tends to create new mechanisms to accomplish tasks.”
“Having a coffee shop day has become something my partner and I look forward to every week. We alternate the coffee shops we visit, trying a new shop every few weeks. It gets me out of the house and acts as a way for me to focus on writing a blog post. It brings some variety and pleasure into my life at the same time as accomplishing my work. If you haven’t tried a coffee shop day as a way of getting your creative work done, I’d encourage you to do so. It’s a nice way to mix productivity and pleasure.”
Each time I go to a coffee shop, I take a few notes, for fun, just like the following ones.
- Most clients use a notebook, a vast portion being Apple MacBook of all models.
- Some people use iPad, but a big portion uses an iPhone.
- Many are using AirPods, but it is not the majority. I guess to isolate themselves. Why go to the coffee shop, then?
- Many students seem to have difficulty concentrating; besides their open books, they stare at their iPhones. So why do I think they aren't productive? It looks like there fighting against themselves.
- I find it fascinating to see others use their computers, be it an iPad or a MacBook. However, observing others while not looking like I’m trying to read their screen content is hard.
- After setting up my MacBook for work, I often open AirDrop in the Finder to see who’s there. Naturally, I don’t know anyone from the list of available devices. It’s just for fun.
- It is sad to see people sitting at the same table, with their smartphones in hand, and constantly staring at their screens without exchanging a word for long periods.
- When you see someone with noise-blocking earpieces, it’s clear they come for the food or the coffee, even though they work. Otherwise, I don’t get it.
According to some queries done to ChatGPT, here are three fun facts about coffee shops:
- Birthplace of Innovation: Coffee shops have been historically associated with fostering creativity and intellectual discussions. In the 17th century, coffee houses in Europe were gathering places for philosophers, artists, and thinkers, where they exchanged ideas and engaged in lively debates. Famous figures such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Benjamin Franklin frequented coffee houses, making them hubs of innovation and enlightenment.
- Third Place Phenomenon: Coffee shops often serve as a "third place" in people's lives, distinct from home (first place) and work (second place). They provide a welcoming and comfortable environment for socializing, studying, working, or taking breaks. Coffee shops have become popular spaces for individuals to meet, connect, and relax outside the usual confines of home or office.
- Latte Art: Many coffee shops have mastered the art of creating intricate designs in the foam of espresso-based drinks, known as latte art. Baristas skillfully pour steamed milk into espresso, creating patterns, shapes, or even portraits on the surface of the drink. Latte art adds an aesthetic and creative touch to the coffee experience, making each cup visually appealing and unique.
From my personal experience, I do enjoy creative work while in a coffee shop. Of course, my productivity level is highly variable, but it’s ok. Observing people around me, listening to the ambient noises, and having a great cappuccino is all it takes to be happy and enjoy a Saturday afternoon.
For RSS Feeds Junkies Out There — Follow Me!
JF Martin / Posted: Fri, 19 May 2023 10:49:32 GMT
If you’re one of those RSS feed junkies, read carefully.
To get a complete view of my publishing journey as it happens (
visual stories), consider subscribing to the following megafeed: https://feeds.numericcitizen.me (from there, your RSS reader should figure out the feed for yourself, but if you want a specific format: XML | JSON | HTML).
Why should you use this “megafeed,” you might ask? Well, besides getting access to all my content in one place, if I ever change one of my web hosting services or any of the domain names, you won't have to update anything on your side! I’ll make sure to update the feed configuration behind the scenes. That’s the future, now!
Moreover, because I’m a nice guy and want to provide you with maximum flexibility, you can (and should) selectively subscribe to my content with the following feeds, depending on your desires.
Space — My main website with longer posts: https://feedpress.me/numericcitizen-space (XML | JSON | HTML)
Blog — My blogging place with short posts: https://feedpress.me/numericcitizen-blog (XML | JSON | HTML)
Musings — A place of thoughts about subjects outside of any of my comfort zones: https://feedpress.me/numericcitizen-musings (XML | JSON | HTML)
Photos — My photos wall shared on Glass: https://feedpress.me/numericcitizen-photos (XML | JSON | HTML)
Videos — Videos produced and shared on my YouTube channel: https://feedpress.me/numericcitizen-videos (XML | JSON | HTML)
Visual stories — Visual stories composed from a selection of my best photos accompanied with little stories and shared on Exposure: https://feedpress.me/numericcitizen-visualstories (XML | JSON | HTML)
Again, if you are already a subscriber to one of my previous feeds, please, consider updating your subscription. Thank you.
Empowering My Reading Workflow With Inoreader
JF Martin / Posted: Mon, 15 May 2023 11:29:30 GMT
Here’s a quick overview of Inoreader’s features.
Inoreader is a web-based RSS reader and news aggregator that allows users to subscribe to and organize news feeds and content from various sources such as websites, blogs, and social media. Inoreader provides a customizable user interface that enables users to filter, categorize, and tag content according to their preferences, and it offers features such as keyword alerts, article translation, and social media sharing.
Inoreader offers both free and paid versions of its service. The free version includes basic features such as feed subscriptions and limited filtering options, while the paid version offers more advanced features such as unlimited subscriptions, advanced filtering and search options, and integration with third-party services such as Evernote and Pocket.
In addition to its web-based interface, Inoreader also offers mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, which allow users to access their feeds and read articles on the go. Inoreader also provides a browser extension for Google Chrome that enables users to save articles to read later and receive notifications for new content.
Inoreader is a powerful tool for managing and staying up-to-date with news and information from multiple sources, and it offers a range of features to help users customize their reading experience.
There are a few unique features that set Inoreader apart from other RSS readers and news aggregators:
- Rules - Inoreader allows users to create rules that automatically filter, tag, or categorize content based on keywords, author, and other criteria. This can be a powerful tool for managing large numbers of feeds and ensuring that users only see the content they are interested in.
- Active search - Inoreader offers an "active search" feature that allows users to set up keyword alerts and receive notifications when new content matching their search criteria is published. This can be a great way to stay on top of breaking news and other topics of interest.
- Article translation - Inoreader has a built-in translation feature that can automatically translate articles in a user's feed into their preferred language. This can be especially useful for reading content from sources unavailable in a user's native language.
- Integration with third-party services - Inoreader integrates with various third-party services, such as Evernote and Pocket, allowing users to easily save and share articles across platforms.
Overall, Inoreader's advanced filtering and search options, built-in translation, and integration with other services make it a powerful tool for managing and staying up-to-date with news and information. At the time of publishing this article, Inoreader was at version 13.4.3.
You are reading a special report that required many long hours to put together. It’s more than 7000 words that explain what Inoreader is and how it is helping me be more productive at consuming valuable content. The last three sections of this report are exclusively available if you are a subscriber to this website. Finally, an exclusive 60-minute feature video is available. You’ll see me exploring Inoreader features so that you can judge for yourself.
Without further due, let’s dive in!
News Explorer has been my go-to solution for reading RSS feeds for many years (I switched from Reeder a few years ago). It runs on all Apple devices natively. It’s not the most talked-about RSS reader. The problem: the more I subscribed to RSS feeds, the more content I was exposed to, and the more I needed a way to filter out the noise. The lack of powerful content filtering features in News Explorer has triggered my search for alternatives.
What’s missing from News Explorer
Let’s recap the missing features of News Explorer that, over time, made me look elsewhere.
- Advanced feed filtering features;
- Text highlighting and annotation;
- Integration with Readwise for saving content;
- A web version, just like Google’s old RSS reader back in the old days;
- Mastodon native source integration;
- A more up-to-date visual design.
I discovered Inoreader while reading “The Best RSS Feed Readers (Because the Internet Is a Mess)”. When I seriously started looking at Inoreader, I discovered a powerful RSS reader and a powerful content-reading service with features that I was looking for in News Explorer: content highlight, tags and non-RSS content ingestion capabilities.
Inoreader seemed so powerful and features-rich that it could even make me forget about Readwise’s Reader or Matter. In fact, it did!
I’m really looking into augmenting my reading workflow in the following ways:
- Acting as a reading hub with support for sources that I depend on (RSS, Reddit, Telegram, and YouTube as a bonus);
- Having text annotation features like annotation, highlighting;
- Helping me with some form of automation;
- Support for some form of integration with other apps or services (Safari extension);
- Support for third-party clients;
- Having a read-later capability.
Inoreader replaced News Explorer, the closest competitor in the field of RSS feed consumption. But Inoreader achieved much more than that; it prevented me from going further on the road of new players like Matter (which I liked a lot until they removed some important features) and Readwise Reader as someone who consumes most of its content online through RSS feeds, Inoreader kind of became the best choice for me, thanks to its processing and automation power.
Inoreader has become my RSS reader of choice, my newsletters consumption app, my YouTube subscription browser, and my read later service.
I wasn’t looking for a native app for my devices but a service that I could use comfortably on all my devices; this is quite different. This article is not a review of the Inoreader.app.
Understanding Inoreader Information Processing Flow
Most sophisticated services or apps are built on an internal process that dictates most service abilities and behaviours. This is why it is essential to pay attention to understand and be able to describe visually what is happening behind a service like Inoreader. This is the goal of the following diagram.
When consuming content on the web, the time spent in the past year tells me that I’m an RSS-type-of-guy rather than anything else. In other words, I usually consume small pieces of information, not long articles. Matter is an excellent service for the latter, but I’m not subscribing for now. My reading habits don’t justify it. So, this is where Inoreader comes into play: it is fundamentally a powerful RSS reader which can also import long articles and act as a read-later service. It is pretty powerful, but it comes with goodies like the possibility to read newsletters, Reddit, and YouTube, which are not consumed through RSS feeds per se.
I started testing Inoreader by exporting my subscriptions from News Explorer in an OPML file which was then imported flawlessly into Inoreader. By default, Inoreader brought articles dating back 30 days in less than a few minutes. Using the feeds management feature, I quickly made some cleanups of feeds that were no longer valid or didn’t publish in a while.
The Many Faces of Inoreader
Both Inoreader and News Explorer support similar sources, but the former adds Telegram and Google News. Independently of the source, they are all treated the same in Inoreader: sources generate articles. When a website adds new content, it becomes an article in its RSS feed for Inoreader to ingest. An article is the basic information element of Inoreader. Not only can you tag, annotate or create highlights, but you can also search across articles within all your RSS feed subscriptions or extend your search within all publicly available articles that Inoreader is aware of, thanks to its community of users. That’s pretty powerful for information junkies like me. Let's see each supported content source.
As expected, adding RSS feeds is easy using the “+Add new” button on the sidebar (on the web version). The add feeds screen allows you to search for feeds using either URL or by browsing their discovery feature.
When using a website URL, Inoreader will do some magic to find the RSS feed. But not all websites support RSS. For those who don’t, Inoreader can help here. Take, for example, a website built using Craft.
Selecting the Create RSS feed, Inoreader will crawl the website and try to find patterns in the site’s structure that can lead to individual articles. The Craft-based website found candidates possibly containing more than 20 articles. Inoreader was good at guessing this one out; I clicked the Follow button. When Inoreader can’t guess, a manual process can be used, but I didn’t test it.
That is something that I didn’t have access to within News Explorer. In Inoreader, you can enter queries for Google News and get a list of results updated continuously. I'm using it for things like searching Google News with the keyword “Apple”.
For those who want to monitor Facebook page content, there you have it. I couldn’t care less because I’m not on Facebook. I thought it was important to mention it, though.
Posts from Reddit are presented like normal articles. Moreover, each subreddit is available as an RSS feed which is consumable by Inoreader. I use this to get content from many different subreddits of interest to me (like /r/Craftdocs).
You can link your YouTube subscriptions to Inoreader too. YouTube videos are treated like articles, so you get the video at the top and the description underneath. Somehow, I find this to be more useful than what YouTube offers in the Subscriptions section on the left sidebar on YouTube.
Telegram is something that News Explorer didn’t support. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, I re-enabled my Telegram account to follow news sources related to the conflict. I’m glad to get this content within Inoreader. After quitting Twitter, being able to consume content from Telegram into Inoreader is certainly a nice addition.
Twitter is no longer supported following Twitter API rules changes, and I’m no longer on Twitter either.
You can save a bookmarklet in Safari’s Favourites bar to easily access saved articles in Inoreader. The Safari extension works fine but feels uninspired with minimal functionalities. You cannot add a tag or annotate the article when using the bookmarklet. The browser extension is way better on Firefox. I couldn’t find the same bookmarklet for Firefox.
You can use the Inoreader built-in inbox feature to send all your newsletters to Inoreader instead of your personal inbox. It works great in general, but I found out that Mailbrew-generated newsletters are not well rendered.
Content Display Formatting
These are a few formatting options for displaying content while viewing a list of articles.
Depending on the article's nature, it may be more appropriate to show articles as cards, like in the following example. It's great for consuming high-velocity feeds and photography-oriented sources like the following one. For text-oriented content, a simple list view might be more appropriate.
Article content layout options
Formatting articles within the article viewer allows for a more personalized reading experience, as shown here. Options are a tad limited. The following settings are the ones that I’m using.
The sidebar on the left can be hidden to maximize the content area. Folders in the sidebar can be rearranged manually. Four color themes are offered. I’m using the Sepia version.
Inoreader allows you to set the start page when you log in. It can be a folder or a feed. There is a dashboard feature that allows for content areas to be configured in many different layouts. It’s useful to have a single pane of glass of your content going through Inoreader.
Consuming & Processing Content
Consuming content in Inoreader is the most important part of using the service. In a feed content list, if you rarely visit the feed, you may end up with a long list of unread articles. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to mark unread articles as read using a dropdown menu like the one below. It’s easy to clean up the list and start reading only recent content if you wish. You can control how long articles are kept within a feed by entering the enclosing folder properties.
While reading an article, you can do things like tagging the article, writing notes and highlighting text sections. Notes can be tied to a specific text highlight too. It’s handy when analyzing an article for a research project.
Tagging content wasn’t part of my initial search for News Explorer alternatives, but I take it as a bonus. I use tags when I read an article that I find interesting enough to keep it for further processing. For example, one of the tags I use is “LinkPost”, which is assigned to an article to which I will write a link post in the near future. Another set of tags that I’m using is for tagging articles that may end up in my Numeric Citizen monthly newsletter. These tags start with the “NCI” letters followed by the target section name, like “NCIClimate”. Inoreader maintains a smart folder for each tag, so it’s super easy to track articles with a specific tag.
Text highlighting is the most sought feature for me to consider leaving News Explorer behind. Inroad, in that respect, doesn’t disappoint. However, certainly missing is a Safari extension with support for text highlighting what saving an article in Inoreader.
Notes are available at the article level or the annotation level. Once the text is highlighted, a note can be added at the top of the article, where all the highlights and notes are gathered. Notes are always private. Comments at the end of an article are public and can be “broadcasted”. More on that later.
Notes are great, but they are not exportable or shareable. Text highlights in an article can have notes attached to them. However, when Inoreader sends highlights to Readwise, associated notes don’t come with them. I visited the export data option and see these notes cannot be part of the export file.
This lack of data portability is a major concern to me.
Annotating articles is one of the reasons for switching from News Explorer to Inoreader, which offers a simple and effective annotation tool. You can write annotations in two places: at the article level or at the text highlighting level. Inoreader offers a smart folder (oops, a system folder in Inoreader terms) with a list of all the annotated articles. It’s very handy as more and more content is processed. All annotations are private and can’t be shared, something that could become handy, like in Readwise or Matter, but I’m not in Inoreader for the social side of it. Also important to note: Inoreader can sync text highlights to Readwise but not the attached notes. It’s kind of a bummer. These annotations aren’t exposed to IFTTT either, which is another bummer.
Commenting on an article with Inoreader is like commenting on a blog post or a YouTube video. Inoreader offers a social side, but it doesn’t seem to get a lot of traction. I’m not using this feature.
Inoreader offers a powerful search engine. All incoming articles into your account are fully indexed. Searching is done via the search bar. From the search results, you can filter out content based on tags, sources, feeds, folders, content from subscribed feeds, or all known feeds to Inoreader. If you don’t find what you are looking for, you can extend the search scope to all public articles that Inoreader is aware of (this is my understanding). If too much content is returned with a specific search, you can set a narrower scope by focusing on a specific folder or feed. You can decide to use the search keywords to become monitored keywords from the search results. Inoreader will then constantly do its magic in the background. Searching is fast. It’s flexible and powerful.
Inoreader also supports complex searches created using an advanced query builder that is very simple to use. The query builder received a major rework during my service’s initial trial period (Making complex searches easy with our new query builder).
As seen below, the query itself can be converted to a feed. This means that filtering content of the feed can be applied, like removing duplicate articles based on the title, for example. Coupled with colourful text highlighters, the end results are useful for tracking certain subjects. The next step could be to create a rule for triggering a notification when the query returns a matching article.
Once you get to the point of subscribing to dozens or hundreds of sources, Inoreader really shines in helping you take control of your feeds. In the following screenshot, you can see how granular source updates can be, your engagement level, and the recent health status of any feeds. For low-engagement feeds, it might be the right place to consider removing the feed altogether using this list with a trashcan at the right.
What Goes in Must Go Out
Besides RSS feeds, Inoreader supports many third-party services like Blogger, Telegram, Buffer, Evernote, LinkedIn, Hootsuite (yep, really), Pocket, Google Drive, Instapaper, OneNote, Hatena Bookmarks and Dropbox. It’s certainly a long list of services, but the problem is that I don’t use any of them. I recently cancelled Buffer and Pocket. I’m surprised to see Blogger but not WordPress or Ghost. I wish Raindrop.io or Notion would be supported; after all, both services offer APIs. Too bad because, in general, with integration often come more efficient workflows. Let’s see each of these in more detail.
As your number of feeds grows, you’ll need a way to put some order into this potential mess. Folders are an important building block for organizing your feeds. A feed can be in multiple folders. You might group feeds within a folder representing a subject and another folder for regrouping feeds from a specific source. For example, you can have a Reddit feed stored in a “News” folder and a “Reddit Sources” folder. It’s very flexible. This is something that I couldn’t do in News Explorer. Possibilities are limitless. When browsing content within the Inoreader web interface, focusing on a folder will display a list of articles from all sources contained within that folder, interleaved by the publication date.
Folders are nodes containing feeds that can serve as an RSS source to RSS clients. It can replace services like the defunct rssmix and rss.app. Let me explain. The popular Reeder client doesn’t support Telegram channels as a source. By subscribing to the folder in Inoreader, they can now access new source types.
As you can see, folders are a group of feeds that, in turn, can be used as an RSS source. People can subscribe to a folder once the RSS feed link is enabled, provided that you share the RSS feed link. In that case, users will get content from the folder sources merged into a single source. I’m using it to bundle all my content publishing sources to allow people to subscribe and everything I do in a single source. Pretty clever.
Folder properties are where you can set the number of days to keep articles. By default, it is set to 30 days. It’s more than enough for me. Note that tags can be a source of a user-defined RSS feed that can be shared too.
HTML clips for content embedding into a web page is interesting. I could embed a clip of my recent publications into a Ghost newsletter edition by adding an HTML block.
You can manage feeds and Folders, Tags and System folders deep within the Preferences section. For example, for a Tag, you can enable Feed output, which will tag all the articles with a specific tag in the output RSS feed. The same goes for Folders.
Note that folders and tags cannot be of the same name. Weird.
Bundles are fascinating as they allow the aggregation of different sources into one bundle that becomes an object from which you can share the link. People can then subscribe to this bundle from within their Inoreader subscription.
The Channel / Broadcast feature was initially available on Matter but was later removed. I like this.
They allow OPML file distribution for others to import into their favourite RSS feeds reader. Inoreader can get a great reader view of your bundle with a header image, description, etc. Getting the link to the bundle file is super easy. You can test it with this link: Numeric Citizen Publications bundle on Inoreader, available on my Numeric Citizen Inoreader Profile Page .
The last thing I want to share details about is the broadcast feature. When I read an article, I can “broadcast” it, and it will be shared on my Inoreader user profile page. You can access this page here (you must be registered to Inoreader to visit this page). It’s a social side of Inoreader. I got one follower. I don’t intend to maintain this per se, but I find the feature interesting. I guess those working on a team can use this to “share” what they find interesting enough to put on their profile page.
Other things that can be seen on the profile page are recent activities, bundles, followers and connections (provided some are configured).
Email digests can be created on many different objects: a Tag, a Folder, a Monitored Keyword, the Read Later folder, Liked Articles, and Saved pages. Sadly, this feature is only for Enterprise subscribers. Meanwhile, I couldn’t test email digests which is too bad. In the next section, you’ll see that upgrading your subscription will gain the Enterprise tier, which comes with email digests.
Automation is one of my most significant interests in switching to Inoreader. In the following section, I’ll explore each Inoreader’s unique feature in the automation space. Besides IFTTT, a service outside of Inoreader, Filters, Rules, Highlighters, and monitored keywords are different content-processing tools that come with an Inoreader subscription. In addition, a certain amount of filters or rules can be defined for the active subscription tier. The following screenshot is my current consumption of these features.
These limits can be upgraded individually, which is flexible but can become quite expensive. In the following example, my Pro subscription would be upgraded to Enterprise tier with the addition of two adding (20 more duplicate filters and 20 more rules would bring the monthly cost to 22.99$ a month).
One of the reasons to switch away from News Explorer is to be able to filter out some content coming from my RSS feeds. Inoreader is pretty powerful in that respect. Here are some of the possibilities.
Filters act on incoming feed articles by keeping or dropping articles. You can also apply a filter to remove potential article duplicates on a feed or in a folder. In any case, filter goals are available to remove the noise. For example, the first filter I created was to remove articles acting as advertisements. Some websites are notorious for generating articles that are, in fact, ads. AppleInsider is one example of such a website.
Another use case for filters is to keep only articles containing images from a photo-related RSS feed.
Filters for keeping or removing articles are mutually exclusive. You either create a filter to remove or save articles, leaving the rest out. Deciding which type of filter to create depends highly on the feed’s content and consumption goals.
Rules are another layer of content processing automation. In a rule, you set a condition similar to the one you can put in filters, then an action if the condition is met. For example, you can create a rule to star an article and add a tag if the title contains a specific keyword. Rules can have many actions, like sending a notification to the mobile application or saving in Pocket.
I set a few rules for particular use cases, like when a new article contains rumours about the 2024 iPad Pro or when an article from a specific author appears in the feed.
When reading articles, it can be helpful to have a word or set of words to be automatically highlighted in the text. That is the purpose of highlighters in Inoreader. I currently use one to have the “iPhone 15” text highlighted in the feed articles list.
Finally, monitored keywords, when used with highlighters, provide a great way to bring more focus to particular articles. Monitored keywords are created from the search bar. The search scope behind monitored keywords can be my subscriptions or all sites known to Inoreader and restricted to a specific feed or a group of feeds within a particular folder. It’s utterly flexible. Using the Advanced syntax, a complex query can be built for monitoring a set of keywords. It’s important to note that the monitored keywords can become RSS feeds, just like folders or tags. It’s really powerful.
Inoreader and IFTTT integration offers interesting potential. I can see at least two opportunities. One involves Raindrop.io, and the other is Google Sheets.
Using Raindrop.io for saving links for future linkposts, IFTTT can take articles with specific tags. I created an applet that creates a new bookmark in a Raindrop collection called “Possible Link Post” for each recent article tagged with “LinkPost” on Inoreader. It works. But then, I dropped Raindrop.io (pun intended) in favour of Anybox, which doesn’t support API and automation. Oh well.
The question now becomes: is this automation really useful? Is it overkill? The only problem is that Raindrop.io is not fully integrated into my workflow. Annotations and notes are not available via IFTTT (and in Raindrop.io). I need to refer back to Inoreader to find the notes.
I use Google Sheets to save links for future link posts, which I do to keep my Micro.blog posts.
If Craft support for Apple Shortcuts was more extensive, it would offer exciting possibilities, as explained in this article. But, sadly, it’s not the case.
For now, my Inoreader automation with IFTTT is more theoretical than practical.
Using a Third-Party RSS Reader Client
Inoreader doesn’t make a native macOS client. Using the Inoreader iPad app on macOS is not exactly the best experience. The app hasn’t been tested for the Mac, and it shows. Scrolling down to load the full article content is hard to trigger, if not impossible. For this reason, I usually use the web version on the Mac.
When I’m using a third-party client for a faster reading experience, compensating for the Inoreader less than an optimal client, I tested two applications: Reeder and ReadKit. Both offer support for all of Apple’s platforms. They all feel and act as native applications on their respective platforms. Both support subscribing to RSS feeds from within Safari. Comparing the two applications in the following screenshots show how similar they look and present content.
This article is not about reviewing RSS clients per se, but I wanted to share a few important details about those two apps.
Here’s the funning thing: I was a big fan of Reeder before using News Explorer. I switched to News Explorer, as explained in this article because of its more extensive support for sources other than RSS.
Reeder can connect to Inoreader, which is nice because Reeder is a great RSS reader that offers a better reading experience than Inoreader’s app. Unfortunately, many Inoreader extras aren’t available, like tagging, highlighting, etc.
This RSS reader is renowned for its outstanding design, yet it does not offer filtering rules. Additionally, it does not provide per-feed viewing options, which would benefit reading photo-related feeds with a more visual approach than text-oriented feeds with a denser view. Unfortunately, this is not a deal-breaker, but it is a shame.
ReadKit is an excellent multi-platform (in the Apple ecosystem) RSS reader. Still, a few issues that aren’t deal-breakers must be considered: user-defined filtering rules don’t sync across devices. In addition, the same limitation regarding per-feed view formatting options applies here, like for Reeder. Overall, ReadKit presents content with more visual density.
Is it a tie?
From a design perspective, Reeder wins by a small margin (very subjective); it feels more organic to me, which I like. ReadKit’s smart folder capabilities are nice but could be redundant to Inoreader’s rules. Unfortunately, none of these clients can access Inoreader system folders; it’s probably a limitation of Inoreader’s APIs. Lastly, one thing we rarely mention these days is memory consumption. In my experience, Reeder consumes 30% less memory than ReadKit. This is something to consider on a MacBook Air with only 8GB of memory, even if the M1 system-on-a-chip is efficient at moving things around internally.
A free and open source alternative: NetNewsWire
I use NetNewsWire for a specific use case with Inoreader (more on that in the workflow improvements section). It’s a lightweight, no-fuss-free RSS reader available on all Apple platforms. Articles content rendering is not as good as with Reeder, though.
The last thing to know about using a third-party RSS reader with Inoreader is that articles consumed through them aren’t considered as interaction with Inoreader. I wouldn’t bet on this affirmation, but this is an educated guess. Engagement is available through the web version of Inoreader.
Observations After Three Months of Use
The last three sections of this article contain a personal take based on my experience with Inoreader throughout three-month. Moreover, I expose a list of things I like to see added or tweaked in Inoreader, again based on my experience and use cases. Finally, I share how Inoreader influences my workflow as an information consumer and a content creator.
These sections are available to subscribers only. Don’t worry; subscribing to this website is free, but if you feel my shared experience is valuable, you can decide to subscribe with a paid tier.
Friday Notes #104 — The Price of Experience & Being Relevant
JF Martin / Posted: Fri, 12 May 2023 12:00:55 GMT
Here’s a short story.
A giant ship's engine broke down, and no one could repair it, so they hired a Mechanical Engineer with over 30 years of experience.
He inspected the engine very carefully, from top to bottom.
After seeing everything, the engineer unloaded his bag and pulled out a small hammer.
He knocked something gently. Soon, the engine came to life again. The engine has been fixed!
A week later, the engineer mentioned to the ship owner that the total cost of repairing the giant ship was $20,000.
"What?!" said the owner.
"You did almost nothing. Give us a detailed bill."
The answer is simple:
Tap with a hammer: $2
Know where to knock and how much to knock: $19,998
The importance of appreciating one's expertise and experience… because those are the results of struggles, experiments and even tears.
If I do a job in 30 minutes, it's because I spent 20 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.
— Author Unknown
I relate a lot to this story because of my late father and my late mother and the professional life they had (and endured). I heard so many stories when they were discussing (or arguing) about client prospection or when they had to justify the charges they were asking for their work. I always felt sorry for them about that. At the beginning of my father’s career, I could understand the lack of experience as being a solid argument to challenge pricing on a project but after thirty or forty years? No way.
Thankfully, I’m not subject to these challenges for many reasons. One of them is that my job is in a high-demand field and is highly respected and valued by the population in general. The information technology field looks arcane and even mysterious to the vast majority of people and business owners. They are willing to pay the bills when we fix their business problems.
But now the question is: with AI being all over the place (it’s coming near you, if not already there, pay attention), how long before I’m being challenged myself? I recently had a conversation with a few people (using Wavelength) who are anxious about the increasing place of AI in our society. I’m not anxious yet, but I can understand their point.
👉🏻 Disclaimer: This blog post was entirely created by the author and is free of any AI-generated content. 🙂
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading me. 🙏🏻
Did you know that you can subscribe to all my publications using this consolidated RSS feed? Recently shared articles and blog posts (open in a browser for a better viewing experience)
Why It’s So Hard to Make Up My Mind About Digital Tools?
JF Martin / Posted: Sun, 07 May 2023 12:00:10 GMT
This article, posted back in 2022, was a glimpse at a great moment of confusion. Following the publication of “Things That Don’t Stick With Me”, the next logical thing to do now is to talk about my seemingly permanent state of confusion with my choices of many digital tools.
In short, the problem is that, in many cases, I use different apps to do the same thing. The worst case to come to my mind is RSS feeds readers. After many years with News Explorer, I tried NetNewsWire, Reeder and Inoreader. Oh, I forgot about ReadKit too. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight because News Explorer is now out. After discovering and experimenting with Inoreader, I concluded that News Explorer no longer fit my needs. One of them being the text-highlighting capability. That is one less app to use or consider. NetNewsWire simplicity makes the app attractive. Reeder’s design is also beautiful. I do use Inoreader with Inoreader web service. I’m not decided yet on the following steps: which one should I keep?
Twitter vs Tweetbot was another example. When I was on Twitter, I constantly switched between those two. The funny thing is that for those still on Twitter, third-party apps for Twitter are all dead. This would have fixed my issue! Now, with Mastodon, it’s worst because of the plethora of available apps. There are too many to list here, and the list keeps expanding. Thankfully, I don’t use Mastodon much, but if I did, you know the drill by now, right?
On Micro.blog, same issue. I’m constantly moving between the original Micro.blog app and Gluon. Both are great, but the latter is a bit more complete.
Box and Dropbox used to be examples of my indecision before I went all in with iCloud Drive a few years ago. I still use Google’s Drive for storing Google’s Sheets updated via an IFTTT automation. But, that, I’m no longer sure about its usefulness.
Clipboard managers were another source of conflicting views. There were three apps in that space: Copied, Pastebot and Unclutter. I’ve settled on the latter because it is so much more than a clipboard manager. Yet, it took me too long to decide which one to keep. As a result, I don't use a clipboard manager on the iPhone anymore.
- Here's another one: Apple’s Notes, Notion or Craft. I use Craft 95% of the time, Notes 4%, and Notion 1% for the rest. Oh, I forgot to mention Tot, a nifty tech editor! So what is preventing me from settling on Craft for everything? I use Notion for storing information about a sideline project because Craft is not as good for that type of information.
- For my photo processing and retouching needs: Acorn 7, Pixelmator Pro, Photomator, Adobe Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic are installed somewhere on my devices. I should probably drop Adobe Suite, but It would be a mess to retrieve all my photos backed up to the Adobe Cloud. I’m being lazy here. I’m really enjoying Photomator on my iPad and iPhone. This application is better designed than Apple's Photos for photo editing. Photomator is coming soon to the Mac, too, apparently, to make matters worst, I guess. I'm on the waiting list for a TestFlight invite.
- As a computer performance enthusiast, I use utilities like Sensei, iStats Menu, iStatistica Pro, and the open-source project “Stats” available on GitHub. I use iStats Menu on my Mac mini, Stats on my Mac Pro (used for my SDDCbox project) and iStatistica Pro on my MacBook Air. Sensei should probably be dropped.
- Reddit, Apollo, Slide and Comet. There are all Reddit clients. They all offer nice and different things when consuming or interacting with Reddit content. For example, Slide comes with the best widgets but lacks active development and isn't the best at browsing content. Comet hasn't been updated in two years. Apollo runs on Apple Silicon Macs but suffers from some display bugs.
- Password Managers, another story of indecision and laziness: 1Password and Apple’s Password Keychain. I should move from 1Password to Apple’s solution once and for all. Maybe if Apple had a discreet password manager? I’m undecided.
- Tasks managers represent another case of spreading myself all over the place. For personal to-dos, I depend on Apple’s Reminders. For my creative workflow, I depend on Things 3, but there was a time last year when I tried using Craft as a to-do manager. It didn’t go well, and I decided to bring back Things 3 in my workflow. I documented my change of heart in this video. One comforting thought, I know that I'm not alone in my quest for the best tools. This documented case with Things 3 and OmniFocus is a good example.
There is hope
I might sound like a tormented person, but I’m not. I would say that I’m not as focused as I should be. But there is hope because I do make decisions from time to time when things become clear. Let’s see a few examples.
- On the publishing platforms front, things are improving. Thankfully, this year, I’m focusing. There used to be WordPress, Micro.blog, Substack, Ghost, Blot and Write.as. WordPress is out. Substack is out. Blot is out. I’m down to two publishing platforms: Ghost and Micro.blog. That’s it. Sure, I cross-post some content to Mastodon, Bluesky and Flipboard. But that doesn’t count.
- On the photography side, at some point, there was 500px, Smugmug, Unsplash, Glass, and Exposure. 500px is out. I decided to move out of Smugmug by the end of my subscription (next year), so that I can focus on Glass and Exposure.
- I recently dropped Pocket, Matter and Readwise Reader. So, you see, there is hope!
- For bookmarking, at some point, I was using Apple’s Safari Reading List, Pocket, Craft bookmarks, Apple’s Quick Notes, and Mailbrew saved items. I dropped all of these in the last year to focus on Anybox. I couldn’t be happier. Oh, I sometimes use Micro.blog bookmarking feature to archive articles that I can highlight and then create a linkpost using these highlights.
- Since I got my M1-based Mac mini, I bought a M1 MacBook Air. I constantly use both of them. One thing that I like to do is to use one app on one Mac and another competitive app on the other Mac. For example, I use “Stats” on my MacBook Air and on my Mac mini, I use iStats Menu.
- iPad Pro vs MacBook Air: because reasons. I love both but in different usage scenarios. I’m fortunate enough to have both.
- My reading workflow was ||is|| in a state of flux: https://numericcitizen.micro.blog/2022/05/07/my-reading-workflow.html. But, thanks to my decision to drop traditional read-later services like Matter or Pocket, I'm more focused now on that area.
I should update this article occasionally because my digital toolkit constantly evolves. So you probably should keep an eye on my documented toolset that I keep up to date.
Friday Notes #103 — I Would Go Back to University For This Simple Reason
JF Martin / Posted: Fri, 05 May 2023 12:00:23 GMT
I’m a curious and easily fascinated type of guy. I love to learn new things. I often think that I could or should, one day, return to study something new at the university.
I completed a master’s degree in computer science in 1993. I’m proud of this accomplishment. What I learned and did at that time is still with me today, at work and in my personal life too.
University studies, these days, from what I’m seeing with one of my young adult kids, feel familiar but so different too. Compared to today, what was it like back in the day to do post-graduate studies?
The Internet was primarily experienced through freeware or shareware apps like Gopher for browsing content, Usenet newsgroups , the ancestor of Reddit, Mail and FTP to exchange files, all running on a Mac SE, for me at least. I shall remind you, dear readers, the maximum speed to connect to the internet was with a 14400 bauds modem, a small fraction of today’s internet access speed.
To read literature and research on a specific subject, scientific articles from other universities had to be ordered from the university’s library on a non-computer-based system as far as I can remember. Once ordered, we had to wait from 5 days to many weeks before we could get our hands on them, depending on their sources and origins. It wasn’t a free service.
We also had to go to the faculty administrative offices to get our semester schedule. Then, to get our semester scores, we also had to go to the teacher’s office to look at the billboard on the wall beside their office door.
I would return to study anytime to experience what it is like to learn and use modern tools like “The Modern Internet”, and powerful apps like Notion, Obsidian, Tana, Logseq or Craft to manage newly acquired knowledge. Today, a student must use the university’s website for many things, like reserving a service, getting an appointment with a teacher, or verifying a course schedule. Study assignments are given online too, and results are also submitted online. Back in the day, it was already possible to exchange emails with anyone in a community, but now, there are more ways to meet and discuss virtually. It must be such an empowering environment, or is it?
I wonder if all that technology would be too distracting for me. I can see myself spending countless hours trying to devise a PKM system, switching from one app to another, and trying to strike the right balance between effectiveness and simplicity.
Finally, returning to university to study the same subjects I did in the late nineties but in a much different context and with much more advances in knowledge would be fascinating. Provided that I remember the experience, comparing the two would be educative. But, that being said, If I ever return to school, it will be to learn something new, something that would add a new dimension to what I already know or think that I know.
A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode
JF Martin / Posted: Tue, 02 May 2023 11:25:11 GMT
I met my sister-in-law this past weekend for a family dinner. We had a discussion following a question she asked me about a problem with her iPhone. Oh boy, I didn’t know what I was getting into.
It all started when she explained that she had a long-standing issue with her iPhone X: some lack of space preventing her from storing more photos. This is how she described her “issue”. She gave me her device to quickly look at it in case I could find an explanation.
First thing first: what version of iOS is this iPhone running? iOS 13. Yep, iOS 13 🙄. She has a 64GB iPhone X with less than 4 GB of free space. Weird, she should be able to take pictures (but I hope she has enough space to complete any future iOS upgrade!).
Upon further examination of her device, the following issues were found. First, in Settings, her payment info was flagged as needing an update. Of course, Apple Pay wasn’t configured. The iCloud Photo Library couldn’t sync nearly 1700 items because her 5GB free-tier iCloud space subscription was full. Ah! That’s the problem.
Since her iCloud backup was turned off (because she was tired of getting warnings about her iCloud storage being full), I decided not to upgrade her iPhone to iOs 16.4.1: no recent backup, no iOS upgrade. Just in case something goes really wrong during the upgrade. Instead, I gifted her a little note in the Notes.app containing the following instructions:
- Fix your payment info;
- Upgrade to 50GB of iCloud storage;
- Enable iPhone backup to iCloud;
- Wait a few days so that iCloud Photos Library can sync past-due items and have a complete backup of your iPhone;
- Upgrade to iOS 16.4.1;
- Wait a day for the next backup to complete;
- Add one of your credit cards to enable Apple Pay;
- Call your brother-in-law to say: thank you very much for your guidance.
A few observations. She didn’t want to pay a subscription to get more iCloud storage, but she had photos she didn’t want to lose in case she lost her iPhone. Something has to give. She reluctantly agreed to subscribe.
Sometimes I think technology is failing us. Sure, she has to pay to get some cloud storage which would fix most of her issues, and she dismissed important warnings, but most of the issues could have led to a disaster if she ever had a fatal problem with her iPhone. So how can Apple improve the user experience? Can some AI-based behavioural analysis be added to the base OS and the Tips.app be brought into play here to help guide the user to fix the problems?
Complex devices like the iPhone these days require some minimum attention and manual management. Is your iPhone having a similar issue? Look at it and fix it now!
So it was really a time bomb silently waiting to explode.
Say Hello to the Apple Rumors Hub
JF Martin / Posted: Sat, 29 Apr 2023 12:38:51 GMT
I’m happy to announce the official release of the Apple Rumors Hub.
The Apple Rumors Hub aims to inform future buyers of Apple technology about what is coming in the future so they make the best buying decisions at the right time.
This website has been long in the making and was previously only accessible deep within my digital garden. By popular demand, I decided to give it a promotion and build its own website for better accessibility and visibility.
Rumours have been an integral part of the Apple aura for as long as I can remember. The importance of Apple rumors lies in the fact that they can give us a glimpse into the future of technology. These rumors give us a sneak peek into what Apple has in store for us and what new features and products we can expect from the company. They also generate excitement and anticipation among Apple fans and tech enthusiasts, who eagerly await the release of these new products. Additionally, Apple rumors can also impact the stock market as investors try to gauge the potential success of Apple’s upcoming products and make investment decisions accordingly. Overall, Apple rumors significantly shape the tech industry and keep consumers, and investors informed and engaged.
This website is a work in progress. Expect many additions in the coming weeks leading to the next Apple event: the WWDC ’23 conference. One of the things that I’d like to add is a selection of past rumors who played an important role in shaping Apple history. One such rumor is when the story of a lost iPhone 4 prototype was made public. At first, it was portrayed as a rumor.
Please note that you can drop on comment on it by hovering your mouse over any part and clicking the text bubble on the right. If there is anything that you would like to see added, let me know!
Why I’m Leaving Substack Behind
JF Martin / Posted: Fri, 28 Apr 2023 01:20:35 GMT
After closing my WordPress account, as I’m still trying to focus my online presence better, I turned my attention to my presence on Substack. What am I doing there? Is it for personal newsletters subscription only because it’s been a while since I posted meaningful content over there?
After starting a monthly newsletter in August of 2020, a newsletter that never really took off (and that I’m not able to keep alive on Ghost, by the way, and to be honest), Substack didn’t fulfill many of its promises for me. I experimented more or less with every addition to Substack since its inception: Chat, Notes, and the iPhone app, just to name a few. Unfortunately, none of that really made a difference in subscriptions or traction with my “readers”. Strangely enough, even without any new content for quite a while, my Substack gathered new subscribers occasionally (see chart below). Yet, it didn’t influence my desire to move ahead, delete my content and leave my account in read-only mode.
While reflecting on my experience, I have concluded that Substack is probably for a small elite. I never felt part of it, and I never will be. I’m curious to know the subscriber distribution across all writers. I suspect that very few writers gather a vast majority of subscribers. It’s sad if that’s the case and pretty much not in line with the initial goals of Substack’s founders.
Oh, and what about my newsletter consumption? Well, I’m dropping most of them. I’ll keep the following one: Tabletops by Michael Steeber. My content has been merged into this blog and deleted on Substack.
As you can see, it’s not a philosophical reason, only a personal desire to reduce my digital distribution footprint and focus on things that make a difference. Substack was an interesting journey. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you're interested, I shared my experience with Substack in November 2020.
My Life After Twitter: Reflections on a More Peaceful Digital Landscape
JF Martin / Posted: Tue, 25 Apr 2023 00:36:47 GMT
It’s been more than four months since I left Twitter. I'm now ready to share a few thoughts about this. Does four months without Twitter in my digital life make a difference? You bet.
- Quitting Twitter wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it. Many of Elon Musk’s decisions that followed my exit only assured me that my time on Twitter was up. It was probably up for a longer time than I'm willing to admit.
- My digital landscape definitely feels less noisy. I no longer feel the urge to open Twitter and scroll for the latest tweets.
- My fear of missing out didn’t last long. Telegram replaced a portion of what I was looking for on Twitter. More than ever, I depend on RSS feeds. These feeds are now consumed through Inoreader. This proves that Information sources can be found elsewhere without much effort.
- Sure, there was a few Twitter accounts that I could no longer follow, and for a while, before Twitter ended free API access, Inoreader offered me a way to read these accounts. However, it’s no longer the case , and I can live with that.
- Micro.blog plays a replacement role but with a totally different community with a totally different vibe. I get much better engagement with this micro-community than on Twitter. The latter was impersonal for the most part.
- Strangely enough, my interest didn’t pick up even though I was initially enthusiastic about having my Mastodon account. I rarely open a Mastodon client. Some of my content is cross-posted on Mastodon, and I get some feedback from time to time, mostly about my photos coming from Glass, which are cross-posted to Mastodon using Micro.blog cross-posting feature. And that’s about it. And that’s fine.
- Bluesky is coming (a similar service based on a federated social network), and I’m not sure I’ll even pay attention. Who knows. If Mastodon isn't clicking with me, why would Bluesky? I think I'm being more selective with social networks, centralizing platforms.
- Spending less time on Twitter (and skipping the Mastodon phenomena for now) means I have more time for my creative projects. In addition, it is a great way to focus on one of my main goals for 2023 (as documented in my Digital Garden).
- I find it surprising that so many companies are still publishing on Twitter (only half left the platform and are no longer advertising on it, apparently), Apple included. Maybe individuals left in drove (or did they?), but companies? This report seems to say that some are leaving. But is that it? And what about social organizations, media, or government agencies? Is centralizing platforms required for this critical mass to attract these entities?
- One final observation: I find the stories about “verified” users losing their blue check mark pretty amusing. Some are freaking out about this. If I had those guys in front of me, I would argue this: you don’t need to get verified, validated or blue check-marked to exist! Get over it, move on and look forward, for god’s sake! Leave Twitter to those scumbags. Many pundits knew Twitter was about to implode the minute Elon Musk took over. It’s happening right before our eyes—time to move elsewhere. Forget Parler because it is shutting down too. Good riddance.
I couldn’t be happier without Twitter. I’m resisting, without too much effort, I might say, to spend time on Mastodon or elsewhere besides Micro.blog. Doing so would be a waste of time.
You can find my tweets archive right here, thanks to Micro.blog tweets archive feature.
If you are still on Twitter, consider reading My Five Steps Plan for Leaving Twitter. Who knows, maybe you'll find that a world without Twitter is not bad at all.
Friday Notes #102 — Reflections on a Caribbean Vacation: Notes on Plastic Waste, War, and the Meaning of Life
JF Martin / Posted: Fri, 21 Apr 2023 12:00:49 GMT
I recently came back from vacation in the Dominican Republic. The last time I visited the island was in 1994. I stayed near Miches, a small town at 90 minutes drive from the airport. Here are a few notes and observations.
About that beach. Rarely have I seen such quiet and beautiful long beaches in the Caribbean. Yet, the bucolic view of the ocean was stained by reminders of our plastic waste and littering. A reminder that humans are never that far away. I find this really sad and don’t see how it will ever improve. Someone once told me that poor people don’t care about trash, the environment in general or climate change; they care about surviving. I can understand that, and in a way, it’s our fault, developed countries. While walking on the beach, I couldn’t help but try to capture a close-up of what I saw.
On the war in Ukraine. I barely stayed connected, only for sporadic notifications checking and reading news about the war in Ukraine. On that front (pun intended), I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the state of the war. Things aren’t moving in any significant directions. Both sides are losing quite a lot of combat power and capabilities.
I came across the report of a Ukrainian soldier beheading. I saw the first few frames of the video and stopped watching right away. I feared the mental images this could trigger for the remainder of my vacation. Probably utterly disgusting.
The Russian army is fighting hard to beat ISIS on the scale of barbarism.
Too many ideas, not enough time. Being outside of my normal daily routine, taking the time to pause always puts me in an ideas-triggering mode. Being on vacation is when I get new creative ideas about writing projects, digital things to experiment with, photos to take and process and new videos to create. Sadly, I often conclude that I’ll never have enough time to do everything I envision. Is it a good thing? Probably yes.
Deep conversations. Finding the purpose of our lives came up during a conversation between friends while sipping our glass of wine. Someone suggested that life was about creating a magnum opus (see definition below in “What did I learn this week”). My initial thoughts were that I didn’t have one yet if I was strictly reading the definition. On the other hand, my father, an architect, created one in his professional life with all the buildings he designed. That’s pretty obvious. And I’m so proud of his work. Steve Jobs made several wonderful things he put out there that will inspire future generations (at Disney, see “Making Something Wonderful”). Being creative is an essential personality trait for building a magnum opus. After much thought and discussion, it became clear that mine will be about making a difference around me, especially at work, where I find more tangible results. It’s not something physical like my father and Steve Jobs. Does it still count? I like to think the answer is yes.
Miscellany. I want to say hello to all my new subscribers! I’m glad that you are joining me in my writing journey. Disclaimer: This newsletter is mainly made of my original work except for the title and information on how long it takes for a plastic bottle and a leaf to decompose, which were written using ChatGPT.💡What did I learn this week? What is a magnum opus? According to ChatGPT: Magnum opus refers to a great work, especially the most significant single work of an artist, writer, or composer. It is a term used to describe a person's most significant achievement or masterpiece.
Friday Notes #101 — The Need for Creativity in My Life
JF Martin / Posted: Fri, 31 Mar 2023 12:00:14 GMT
Creativity is central to my life. It takes many forms and is experienced in different ways. Writing has been one way of creative expression since maybe I was a teenager. Even today, I’m certainly more into words than pictures, but I constantly go from one form to another.
I recently cleaned up my blog and deleted many old and irrelevant posts. From 766 posts, my blog is now down to 330. Posts were dated from the end of 2018 to 2023. Of all deleted posts, the vast majority were older ones. I’m still unsure if it was a great idea because I don’t like the principle of content disappearance on the web.
My blogging journey has two eras: from 2009 to 2013 and from 2015 up to now. When I returned to blogging in 2018, I had this urgent desire to write about anything daily, even if I didn’t have something worthwhile to share. Some blog posts looked like tweets in content and length. They were destined to be short-lived, ephemeral.
The motivation for all this writing was, in fact, a pretext for feeling creative. It was like practicing to stay in writing shape.
A blogger recently wrote this on his blog, which resonated with me a lot:
Making things and putting them out into the world is something that makes me happy.
For the same reason, I spend so much time in front of a computer, creating things more or less worthwhile for others but immensely worth it for me. From photography to written words and, more recently, to videos, these immaterial pieces are spread on an infinite digital canvas I like to play with. I find satisfaction in the results and the tools I use to create them. This explains why I care so much about evaluating them, testing them, experiencing them, writing about them and sharing my experience doing all this.
This creative habit comes from my parents, especially my mother. My father was a creative person too, but his creativity was directed toward his work as an architect. On the other hand, my mother used her creativity in her leisure time. She had many hobbies at different times (enamel on copper, loom, elaborate gardening, macrame, etc.) Just like her, my spare time is, for the most part, spent on creative activities.
Following a recent heated but amicable debate with my wife about AI, ChatGPT and how humans should consider and use AI in their life, I decided to ask the following question to ChatGPT: “Is creativity something only humans are capable of?”
Here’s the answer I got on the first try:
Creativity is not limited to humans. While humans are undoubtedly highly creative, there are many examples of creativity in the animal kingdom.
For example, birds build intricate nests using a variety of materials and techniques, and some primates have been observed using tools in innovative ways to solve problems. Dolphins have been known to engage in playful behavior and create bubble rings, and some insects create complex patterns in their webs or tunnels.
However, the extent and complexity of creativity may differ between species. Human creativity is undoubtedly unique in its ability to produce highly complex and abstract creations, such as music, literature, and art. Additionally, humans are capable of imagining and creating entirely new concepts and ideas, which may be more challenging for other species to achieve.
In summary, while creativity is not limited to humans, the scope and complexity of human creativity are likely unparalleled in the animal kingdom.
Not bad. It’s an answer that I can live with. If many living species can be creative, humans exercise it in the deepest and broadest possible ways. Of course, not everyone experiences creativity at the same level and intensity; I’m certainly one who does it intensively, thanks to my genetic baggage and the environment in which I grew up.
One last thought. I recently went to see a multimedia exposition on the impressionism art movement. During the presentation, there were many short films of Paris in the late 1800 or early 1900 (like in this video) showing mundane scenes of people at cafes, walking in streets or playing in parks. One thing that came to my mind while watching: the apparent slow passing of time in people’s lives back then. I thought it was both fascinating and destabilizing. To create is to accept to slow down our lives for a moment. Maybe I’m just discovering another reason creativity is such an essential part of my life: it gives me the impression of slowing things up a bit.
This Is a Test Post From Craft
JF Martin / Posted: Sat, 25 Mar 2023 19:22:01 GMT
This small post was written with Craft and, using a Craft eXtension, pushed directly to my Ghost site.
An important limitation of this workflow is the fact that the eXtension doesn’t support setting the post in draft mode, nor does it support setting other metadata. It’s a dealbreaker for me.
Returning to normal programming. 🤖
The content is formatted as a Markdown-formatted block. The post header set in Craft wasn't uploaded either.
Bye Bye WordPress — Hello (Again) Ghost
JF Martin / Posted: Sat, 25 Mar 2023 12:00:16 GMT
Today, I’m happy to announce that one of my objectives for 2023 has been accomplished. After many long hours of hard and meticulous work: numericcicizen.me and numericcitizen-introspection.blog are now united under the Numeric Citizen Space. The numericcitizen.me domain is the one that wins! Now you know why I’ve been quiet in recent weeks. In this process, people who subscribed to my Substack newsletter have been brought in too.
As a subscriber to my newsletter (Friday Notes Series), you probably didn’t know about the existence of my other publishing space: Numeric Citizen Blog (hosted on WordPress since 2015). I no longer believe in the need to keep to separate places. It was time for me to merge both sites and extend the possibility of subscribing to my content to all my blog visitors too. Visitors can now subscribe from the main page or an individual post, which wasn’t possible before.
I’ll continue to share my personal thoughts and stories along with longer-form articles related to my preferred subjects: Apple, photography, privacy protection and climate change. Not all content will be sent by newsletters, don’t worry. I’ll continue to reserve those for the Friday Notes Series or other content that I think will make sense to read like an email.
Moreover, as a result of this merge operation, the site design has been refreshed and vastly simplified, which makes it more responsive, thanks to Ghost’s efficient hosting platform. Finally, consider updating your RSS subscription if you consume this site content through your RSS reader: https://numericcitizen.me/rss/.
Starting next week, I’ll return to a more regular publishing schedule.
Thanks for reading and for staying with me in my writing adventure.
PS. I almost forgot. I do publish much more frequently and much smaller pieces on blog.numericcitizen.me about my preferred subjects, so join me there too!
Special Announcement - Some Important Changes Coming Soon
JF Martin / Posted: Wed, 22 Mar 2023 16:45:21 GMT
To all my dear readers, I’ve been silent recently and it is because, in the upcoming days, this site will see a few important changes. Here are the details.
First, content from my other site @ https://numericcitizen.me will be migrated “as-is” on this website. If you subscribe to this site’s RSS feed, you’ll see a few hundred articles appearing. This is normal. It’s part of the migration process.
Second, once the content is migrated, I’ll start the process of renaming this website domain:
You should consider updating your bookmarks and RSS feed subscription, which will become the new site name followed by a /rss/ at the end.
Third, when newsletters resume, they will come from the new site identity.
Thanks for your attention and your support. I hope you find this change positive and enjoy more of my content in a single place.