Sam Harrelson



Sam Harrelson

Putting the Days to Bed (My Paper Notebooks)

If you’ve met me IRL, you’ve probably noticed I have a notebook either in my shirt pocket or in my hand (or a stack of index cards tucked away somewhere). All of them make awkward appearances when I hear a good quote, someone has a question I need to look up, if I was trying to record a student’s robot time trials, or if the spirit moved me.

I’ve long been a doodler since my time in Mrs. Hinson’s 3rd Grade class where we learned that sketching helped with creativity (I might have made that up… but it stuck). When I got to Wofford College, my mentor Larry McGehee kept that alive by talking about his doodling process during staff meetings and other such nonsense. That was inspiring to me at the time, but his tips and tricks on the doodling life hack helped me survive countless staff meetings as a teacher myself as well as Board meetings and team meetings and all the meetings we have to go to when we decide to throw ourselves into grown-up world.

I’m at the point in my life now where I don’t have to attend so many mandatory meetings and for that gift I feel blessed (looking back, I do feel some regret for how immature/bored/inattentive/distracting I was during teacher staff meetings… I’m sorry Dear Administrators, but I do feel that I added spice to our gatherings by throwing out bombs to get everyone riled up and awake such as whether cursive was really necessary in Middle School). But with that gift comes a clear place of loss in my creative process. I have to make time to doodle now. It’s weird how you spend years thinking “Oh great, another meeting… it’s Doodling Time!” and then you find yourself secretly giddy because you know you’ll have 4 extra minutes to sneak in some surreptitious doodling while your toddler finishes their breakfast. But here I am.

So I’ve been thinking a good deal about my paper notebooks and my doodling and my journaling and all those Instagram posts that I heart on a daily basis displaying some young person’s admirable bullet journal or Panda Diary or a Mom’s Moleskine Menagerie (wow, that’s a great name… Moleskine can run with it… I’m just the idea guy). I’ve spent too many hours thinking over this issue and watching YouTube videos comparing GoodNotes and Notability on the iPad Pro while jogging off the extra weight I gained sitting in meetings and doodling and reading blog posts that compare paper journaling to “digital” journaling.

The issue is complicated by the fact that I’m typing this on an iPad and I do love this form factor and device. The iPad Pro really has become my main computer when I’m not chained to a laptop working on a piece of code or having to review artwork in Adobe Illustrator for a brand client (but the iPad is getting there!). I’ve always been the “digital” guy or “techy teacher” or the preacher that preaches with an iPad (I’ve also preached from a Blackberry, a Palm T5 (loved that thing), and a Palm m100 over the years), or the consultant who has all the fun tech toys. So when I show up with a paper notebook, it’s a little jarring to some people and frequently leads to a conversation about my note booking style or journaling preferences or the types of pens I prefer. I’ve bonded with many clients over the benefits of a Pilot G2 Extra Fine 0.5mm refill cartridge compared to the competition.

But year after year I go back to my paper notebooks when it’s time to put the days to bed on another year. This year is going to be no different it seems. I’m an old man stuck in his ways, what can I say? “I’ve got my drip pan, ready for my nap” as Lightning McQueen says at the ends of Cars 3 (again, I have a toddler). But there is magic in opening a new journal and getting ready for the year while looking back at all the collected thoughts, doodles, dreams, failures, completions, incompletions, interceptions, and incantations from the previous trip around our closest star. It’s really magical in a self-serving and privileged way to pull down a notebook from ten or fifteen years ago and do the same. There is probably some magic in doing the same with a backup file in Dropbox of a PDF exported from GoodNotes in 2013, but magic, like notebook and pen preferences, is subjective.

So my prayer for me and for you in 2019 is… Blow up your tv, throw away your Twitter, go to the country, find you a home, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own… and do some doodling.




The Apps You Should Really Be Concerned About with Your Privacy

After examining maps showing the locations extracted by their apps, Ms. Lee, the nurse, and Ms. Magrin, the teacher, immediately limited what data those apps could get. Ms. Lee said she told the other operating-room nurses to do the same.“I went through all their phones and just told them: ‘You have to turn this off. You have to delete this,’” Ms. Lee said. “Nobody knew.”

Source: Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret – The New York Times

Everyone is afraid of what Google and Facebook “know” about them and how much information they’re sharing with these services because of poor media coverage.

While those two services need to be investigated and questioned, it’s the “bottom half” of the advertising industry connected to seemingly innocent apps that you install on your mobile device to give you the weather or locations of gas or local sports scores that are really the most alarming in how they treat your personal location data.

Good report here by the NY Times (we need more of this type of journalism in the tech-sphere).




Welcome back, serifs

I’m a font nerd. I’m constantly working with (and sometimes against) clients who want a particular “look” for their website or app or presentation and trying to push them to look ahead. One of those conversations typically has to do with fonts.

One client I didn’t have to fight with was Guy Sayles. His new site is one of my favorite designs I’ve done in a long while. Part of that has to do with the font Adamina that was used for headlines. It’s whimsical and full of motion but also conveys wisdom and experience. It reminded me a great deal of Guy’s personality, so I had to use it. I think it looks just beautiful on the new From The Intersection site, and I’m glad he trusted my push to use a serif font for the design. We just launched the redesign this week.

The “design world” has been quickly re-adopting serif fonts for ads, apps, and websites over the last couple of years after they were mostly maligned in the early to mid 2010’s. However, as “mid-century modern” has come back into vogue stylistically for furniture and dress, we’re seeing the resurgence of serifs.

I installed iOS 12 betas on my iPhone and iPad this week for testing, and low-and-behold there are serifs! Apple is famous for its attention to detail and its use of Helvetica and then its own San Francisco font. Apple lead the way on San-serif fonts (such as the body text here), so it’s wonderful to see the serifs returning to apps like the renamed Apple Books (formerly iBooks), which makes sense. Apple has even created a new font titled “SF Serif” to mark the occasion.

So, keep in mind that even though you might think you know what “modern” is, there’s always a corner to turn. Find a good guide. And never ever use Comic Sans or Impact. For anything.

A few images from my Apple Books collection showing the new font:




iOS 11.4 with Messages in iCloud

Lots of good updates today for your iPhone and iPad, but Messages in iCloud is definitely something I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced last year. Better late than never.

Messages in iCloud is also now available as part of iOS 11.4. This feature lets you keep messages across devices in sync sort of like modern email. If you delete a message on one device, it will go away on all your devices. And if you set up a new device from scratch, your messages will appear without needing to do a full restore from an iCloud backup.

— Read on 9to5mac.com/2018/05/29/ios-11-4-airplay-2-homepod-stereo-messages-icloud/




10 most downloaded iPhone apps in the world

It might be surprising to Americans, but neither Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube is the most downloaded app on the iPhone anymore. As we continue to move into the 21st Century, we’re seeing the rise of Chinese apps and companies. This will only escalate in the coming years, especially as the US seems more preoccupied with tribalistic policies.

“Known as Douyin in China, Tik Tok is a music video and social media app. The app lets you shoot and edit short clips, then add music and special effects to them. Tik Tok is owned by the same parent company that bought social video app Musical.ly for $1 billion last year”

Facebook-owned apps dominated the App Store charts during the first three months of the year, but a Chinese-made music video app called Tik Tok took first place – Business Insider




Why doesn’t turning off Bluetooth on iOS actually turn off Bluetooth?

Another reason I tend to prefer Android is the ability to control things on a granular level. Does every user of a mobile device need that? Certainly not. Is Apple “wrong” for this “feature” design? That’s debatable.

But it’s interesting to see how Android and iOS continue to develop along their own trajectories when it comes to designing software for the Lowest Common Denominator of users…

Users can still completely turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi by digging into the devices menu settings, but essentially the button does not do what a user can reasonably assume Apple says it does, and that’s because Apple doesn’t trust you. This decision is the next logical step for what has always been Apple’s design ethos: It thinks it knows what you want more than you do.

via Apple Doesn’t Trust You – Motherboard




Apple fires back against Spotify

“We find it troubling that you are asking for exemptions to the rules we apply to all developers, and are publicly resorting to rumors and half-truths about our service,” it reads. “Spotify’s app was again [i.e. after being resubmitted on June 10] rejected for attempting to circumvent in-app purchase rules, and not, as you claim, because Spotify was simply seeking to communicate with its customers.”

Source: Apple returns fire on Spotify, calling out ‘rumors and half-truths’ over App Store rejection | TechCrunch

Ouch.




Spotify and Apple at odds

Spotify declined to comment; Apple hasn’t responded to request for comment.

For the past year, Spotify has argued publicly, and to various regulators in the U.S. and Europe, that Apple’s subscription policies effectively punish third-party music services that use Apple’s platform, while boosting Apple Music, the home-grown service it launched in June 2015.

Source: Spotify says Apple won’t approve a new version of its app because it doesn’t want competition for Apple Music – Recode

Well, this is not going to end well.




Thoughts on Evernote’s price hike

Evernote

Evernote has been one of the leading note-taking services for some time, with clients for the Web and every major OS. The company recently announced sweeping changes to its “freemium” pricing strategy, which puts a big limit on the “free” tier and raises prices across the board for new and existing users.

Source: Evernote limits free tier to two devices, raises prices 40%

I’ve been an Evernote user since March 28, 2008 (got in before it launched in beta in June 2008) and immediately signed up for their Premium option when it opened up.

I was eager to support the app / service early on, because I saw the utility of being able to access my notes and create new ones from whatever device I happened to be on. That was already possible with the early iterations of services like Google Docs that had previously been Writely, but Evernote felt “new” in the sense that it was post-iPhone and looked ahead to a world where apps became the driving force of interaction, especially on mobile (after Steve Jobs relented on allowing apps to be installed and an app store for the iPhone).

Over the years, Evernote became more things to more people than just a note taking app. There were checklists, and document syncing, and PDF OCR, and business card storage. As a result, there were more and more calls for Evernote to get back to its roots and avoid bloat. I know I suffered through some of the “bloat” in 2011 and 2012 when Evernote seemed to really take off and started acquiring smaller and focused apps such as Penultimate, Skitch (still one of my favorites), Readable etc to round out their offerings. Then, there were the partnerships with the “offline” world such as Moleskine and Post-It Notes. We even saw an Evernote branded line of coffee mugs, backpacks, and lifestyle gear.

It was all too much.

I welcome this new period in Evernote’s story. I’m hoping they do “slim down” to some extent and even focus more on things like the current web version’s Google Drive integration (rather than being a document storage platform themselves). I’ve always thought of Evernote as more of an “Operations HQ” that ties into other apps I use like Trello or 1Writer on the iPad than a place to store all of my documents, pictures, and files.

I use Evernote everyday, and more so now that I’m trying to use iPad Pro as my main computer. It serves as my note repository, the place where I put PDF’s that I need for OCR, and a quasi-database of ideas for clients and research. It’s indespinsible to me, and I’m not sure how something “free” like OneNote or Google Keep could replicate that. I’m hopeful they continue to push forward on the excellent web version as well (and that doesn’t affect free members, which is a nice incentive for people to give it a try).

It’s painful when anything “goes up” in price. But the economic reality is that costs go up as we demand more from services and companies compete for skilled developers. Evernote did see the loss of a number of devs over the last few years, but I’m hopeful they’ll get their mojo back.

So, sign me up for another year of Premium.




Be careful with Emoji on different platforms 😁

emoji

Just seeing the difference in emoji presentations is revelatory in itself. But then it gets even more interesting. GroupLens researchers asked subjects to rate 22 anthropomorphic emoji from five platforms by sentiment, using a scale that ranged from strongly negative (-5) to strongly positive (5). And here’s where you start to see where “grinning face with smiling eyes” goes so very wrong. Apple’s average sentiment ranking was almost -1, while Microsoft, Samsung, LG, and Google all were 3 or above.

Source: That Emoji Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

My wife (and almost all of my close friends that I’d use emoji with) is an iOS user and I’m an Android user… that’s led to a few miscommunications before we realized that the emoji we were sending “cross-platform” didn’t carry the same intended meaning.

Perhaps that’s one of the beautiful aspects of emoji and symbolic language additions… the meanings are left to the receiver to first decrypt and then to import meaning into based on their own background, experiences, culture (and operating system).