Tag Archives: Web

Life Behind (Menu) Bars

Well! I finally figured out how to use a web browser’s bookmarks toolbar. And it only took me twelve years of daily usage!

It used to be kind of a mess of links and bookmarklets that either I placed there to try out, but almost never used again, or bookmarks that were placed there by accident when I intended to save them into a folder or something.

Screen Shot 2015 10 15 at 4 43 05 AM

Yesterday, I wanted to install the MarsEdit bookmarklet (current tab becomes the raw material for a new “link”-style post on your blog). But of course there just wasn’t any room for it.

Screen Shot 2015 11 02 at 9 24 43 AM

So I removed everything and started over. Now it just has the three buttons I need immediate access to, when I’m using the Web as a tool:

  • Twitter bookmarklet that tweets the URL of the current tab. Mostly for sharing links to articles I’ve written.
  • MarsEdit bookmarklet, when I want to dash off a comment about an article I’ve read. Like this one.
  • Finally, a plain old bookmark for the Sun-Times’ CMS.

Then two and only two folders for actual bookmarks. The name of my pain, as you can tell from that second screenshot, is when I’ve got loads and loads of pages open, because they’re related to a topic I’m researching or fact-checking or I want to remember this article as a potential column topic. So I just keep opening tabs, hour after hour, until everything slows to a tectonic speed. Then I have to spend fifteen minutes closing tabs I don’t need and Evernoting the ones that are still part of an ongoing project.

No, I just never got into the habit of manually organizing bookmarks. By the time it comes to that, I’m preserving brain bandwidth for other functions.

But now, there’s a new mission rule. I “put aside” a useful page by dragging into this lone bookmarks bar folder. Unlike a search through History, each link here has been “blessed” by my as “worth coming back to,” and the fact that the folder is in the menubar keeps it at the forefront of my consciousness. At the end of the month, I move that folder into the Bookmarks menu and create a new one for the new month.

I’m also in the habit of saving interesting photos and artwork that I encounter. Usually comic book and animation art, fine art, NASA photos, and vintage photos like this one:

Tightrope Walker

But those images go to my home NAS, so I can get at them from anywhere (and they don’t choke my MacBook’s little SSD). When I had to clean my web desktop, it took me ages to label and organize them. And remember, usually the trigger event for the cleanup is “I desperately need to get some work done but my Mac is getting all snitty and punishing me for only having about ten gigs of free space”

So now the links go into the folder, and I can download and organize them later, when I have time. Actually, it’s more likely that I’ll just write a script to automate the whole thing.

I’m really pleased with all of this. One of my chosen tech mantras is that when you choose to buy or revamp gear, it’s not worth the time or money unless it creates opportunities or solves problems. This little reorganization does both. Chrome (at least for the past 24 very busy hours) rarely has more than four or five tabs open, and it’s now super easy for me to work with the Web. It’s like emptying your whole office, putting in the new table and shelving units you always wanted, and then the only stuff you move back in are the things you know you need.

Life On MarsEdit

Quick followup on my day with MarsEdit. The big takeaway was that I’m a colossal dope for forgetting it existed. Some apps are terrible. Most are simply “not right for your present needs” or, at worst, “clearly written by a serious and dedicated team, but not quite ready yet.”

I was a little amused when WordPress (which itself has come a long way) did the helpful thing I’d told it to do, and automatically found and linked other blogposts I’d written that talked about MarsEdit or blogging apps. In 2007…nnnno, clearly MarsEdit wasn’t right for me, for whatever reason.

I’m digging the hell out of it in 2015, though. It’s super-quick to just flash out a post. Is it because of the simplified, bespoke app, or is it simply because of my mindset? Who knows and I don’t care.

My friend (and MarsEdit developer) Daniel Jalkut offered to send me out a new promo/review code. I don’t need one. I downloaded the free 30-day trial direct from the app site — you can do that when you’re not selling it through Apple’s App Store — and if I’m still using it in a couple of weeks, I will be happy to pay him $40 for a license.

I feel like I’m doing a good thing when I pay a proper amount of money for a great app. As a way of saying “I like and respect the work that you’ve done,” throwing money at someone is a facile solution. But  not all facile solutions have the side effect of allowing someone to go out for a nice dinner.

MarsEdit isn’t the ideal that I had imagined. What I really want is a system-wide hotkey. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, tapping it causes a little note card window to pop up. I type a few sentences, maybe click a Twitter-style icon button to drop in a photo or paste in a link (which the app automatically grabs from the frontmost browser window), click the “Post” button, and then I’m back to what I was doing before I had this brilliant idea for a quick post.

The distraction of the WordPress webapp is a problem for me. I can’t count the number of times when I’d intended to just post a link to an interesting article, but then spent an hour writing 2000 words.

Sometimes, I’d read it back and think “Oh, neat…that’ll do for my next column.” But it’s not helping me form, sharpen, and then let go of a thought quickly. I admire and envy the authors of Sixcolors and Daring Fireball and The Loop, I’m proud of my longform stuff but wish I could develop the kind of skills required to maintain a frequently-updated blog. I’ve got the people who like to read long pieces but I’m doing nothing to help people who like to read lots of shorter things, too.

“Envy” isn’t a shameful thing if you remove the “jealousy and anger” component and pack the void they leave behind with Inspiration and Ambition. So I’m grateful to Jason Snell, John Gruber, and Jim Dalrymple for their fine examples.

The Devastating Effect of Ad-Blockers for Guru3D.com

The Devastating Effect of Ad-Blockers for Guru3D.com

(Via Guru3D.)

As I’ve said and written elsewhere, everything that’s happening with adblockers is just a war that definitely had to happen sooner or later, and will leave the world in better shape. Part of the problem has been that websites with terrific commercial content have never charged for what they publish.

And by that, I mean that they never explained the transaction. If there’s a paywall up, well, that’s crystal clear, isn’t it? “If you want this, here’s what you need to do.” If not, then the site is simply “free” and the users lack any sort of awareness about what the publisher needs to have in order to keeps the site operational.

The upsides of adblocking (controlling the threat to personal privacy, making browsers run faster and more reliably) have always been obvious. Thanks to posts like Guru3D’s, users are being educated about a big downside that affects writers to whom they probably feel a great deal of affection and gratitude.

As for the publishers, I hope they change their site scripts to clearly lay out the “deal” they’re making with readers. If you want to read our stuff…you’re going to have to whitelist us.

When I found out that Teslas cost $70,000 I didn’t scream “unfair!” I nodded and simply acknowledged that the price of admission wasn’t something I was willing to pay. Similarly, there will be readers who, on a case-by-case basis, are fine with enabling trackers and blockers on certain sites but not others.

I’m not saying that this will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for all. But it’ll surely replace the old, unworkable foundation with one that will let more people succeed in publishing.

And finally: thank God that the ad industry is finally seeing large-scale pushback. That’s often what’s necessary. An industry (or a business, or even just a person) assumes that you’re OK with certain behavior and policies unless you somehow communicate that you aren’t. Let’s see if all of this leads to some new self-restraint.