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My Manifesto: Time is precious

Time is very precious. More precious than money. One can always make more money but one can’t have back this moment… Or this one.
To me, the logic seems simple. Money can always be replaced. Time can not be replaced. There is, therefore, no price you can place on time. Time’s value is immeasurable. If given the choice between time and money, choose time.
This entry in my manifesto is a reminder of that. It is a reminder to heavily consider how I am spending my time. It’s inherent value. To make sure that I am not trading it for any less than it is worth. A reminder that, even in the pursuit of money, my time is spent in a way that is productive and has meaning. If not, then no amount of money in the world is worth it. It is for this reason I refuse to spend even one moment too many in a job I do not like or doing something that I do not enjoy. The work we do should add value to our lives in the form of growth, compassion or fulfilment.
Time is precious enough to me not to waste it. Not to waste my time or the time of the people I encounter in the course of this life. I value their time just as much. I have wasted too much in this life and want to make sure to work every day to not feel as if I have wasted any more.
You may notice that time is a reoccurring theme in my manifesto. There is good reason. It is that important.

Design Decisions: Inspiration

I would be lying to you if I told you that all of the ideas for the latest version of patrickrhone.com sprang fully formed from my oversized noggin. It would also be a lie if i told you I was inspired by any single website or idea.
With that being said, here are some of the sources of the inspiration for this design:
B-list
I mentioned before that I was inspired by this post by James Bennett at B-List. What I have not mentioned is that I was also inspired by the idea of having navigation to last and next entires in a minimal way beneath the post itself:

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Ryan Tomayko
In the post mentioned above, James Bennett references a post by Ryan Tomayko regarding minimalist design and what the great Edward Tufte refers to as “Administrative Debris. This was also a huge influence, especially in the arena of navigation choices:

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Memo
Memo is a graphic design firm in New York City. I am really inspired by their website which features just a bit of contact info and pictures of their work, all on one single page:

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Seed
Wow. How can one not have been inspired by the single page design concept for the last Seed Conference. Stunning in both the idea, execution and honoring the past while being fresh at the same time:

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Of course, those are just a few. There are way too many to list them all here. These are just the ones that stand out the most to me right now. This is just my small way of saying thanks to all of the great web designers who continue to take great care with the craft and continue to inspire and impress.

Design Decisions: patrickrhone.com 2.0

I thought it would be useful and fun to walk through some of the choices I made while considering the new design of this site. My goal was not to create a site that was even more minimal, simply for the sake of doing so. My goal was to honor the idea of having everything the site really needed and nothing that it did not and to put the content first are foremost. Especially on the front page.
In the previous version of the site, the front page was a splash page of navigation choices:
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This actually was a popular design and was featured many places including online web design features and even in a real honest to goodness print magazine (the dead tree kind).
The question I often asked myself was if anyone actually used this. As a matter of fact, this question was a driving force when coming up with the current design. I did not want to assume the answer to these questions because, if it was used and I removed it, I would hear about it from visitors to the site.
Therefore, I decided to take a look at Google Analytics, which is a service used to monitor traffic to, from and on a website. I have had it installed on the site for a while in order to have some idea of where my traffic was coming from. That being, a map of where people are clicking on your site, how much they are clicking one site element verses another, and also how long of a time they are spending once they get there. Here is what I found: No one really used the front page navigation.
Most people would either click on “journal” to go to the blog or they went to the blog directly (via a bookmark or a link from another site). That being the case, why not land them on the blog directly? So now, patrickrhone.com lands you on the main journal page.
Next came the question of the navigation on the journal itself:
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Once again, noted for it’s design. By 37 Signals even!
The question must be asked though. Did anyone use this? I mean, I was pretty sure if they were not using the navigation on the front page they would not be using it here but what about the navigation to the individual categories? For instance, surely there must be sometimes people want to see all of, and only, the productivity posts. Once again, the analytics told me that it was used from time to time, but not often enough to warrant it’s inclusion on the front page. As it turns out, you know who the biggest user of the category navigation was? Me. And even I did not use it enough to warrant it’s placement here.
That being said, it was being used sometimes (i.e. mainly by me) so I did not want to lose it completely. Therefore, I moved this navigation to the archives page, where I could also provide a more complete navigation to the rest of the site.
Furthermore, I asked the question, what content were most people coming to the site coming for. The answer I found was that, more often than not, people were coming to see the latest post. Those that subscribe via RSS are subscribed for that reason – to be notified of, and read, the latest post. Therefore, why does any other post beyond the latest post need to be on the front page? If someone wants to see other more recent posts, why not simply provide a link to the post before (or after as the case may be) directly under the post itself? Then again, if someone wants to see a listing of more recent posts, why not provide that on the “archives” page? So, this is what I did. Hence the “one post” design.
The status section was a neat idea to me at one time that apparently, from my research, no one else (outside of friends and family) ever really looked at.
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This functionality for them has been largely replaced by Twitter which, even at only 140 characters per post, provides a much more detail rich account of “what am I doing” than this ever could. Therefore, it was dropped.
So, what then to do about the colophon and contact sections:
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Believe it or not, people actually did look here from time to time. People who wanted to get in touch or find out a little more about the site design (i.e. “Is there a template I can download?” or “I love it. Do you mind if I ‘borrowed’ it?”). Therefore, it was important for me to keep this information but it did not have to be broken out into two separate pages. Thus, the info page was born.
Not all of the changes happened on the front, user facing, end of the site. Some of them happened on the back end. The move from Moveable Type to WordPress being one of them. There were several reasons for the move. The first one being that I was on an older version (3.3) of Moveable Type to begin with. So I knew I would probably want to upgrade to MT 4 as part of the redesign. If I was going to have to do a major upgrade anyway, it would be a good time to switch if I choose to. After having done several WordPress installations for clients with Michael, I had grown to enjoy the interface and more intuitive (to me at least) admin management features it had to offer. Also, since it is in wider use and is open source, there seems to be far more in the way of plugins and extras available.
Well, there it is, some of the design choices I made when coming to the current look and feel of the site. Once again, comments are off for now but I welcome feedback via e-mail or Twitter.

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Welcome to patrickrhone.com 2.0

If you are reading this on the website, and you have visited before, you probably notice some changes. If you are reading this in a RSS reader, I invite you to come take a look at the website because the rest of this post will be meaningless to you otherwise.
I have been thinking for quite some while about how to take an already basic and minimalist design and further reduce it to the bare minimum of what I feel it needs to be. This was further inspired by this post by James Bennett that really got me thinking about blog design and what it most important (and what is not really important at all).
What I desired was a design that put the content first, above all else, and let the rest of the site elements mostly disappear. This also meets many of my deeper beliefs about simplicity and being in the present. What you see here before you is the realization of that goal.
Here is the new road map to help you get around:
* The front page contains only the most current post. That’s it. One post per page.
* Navigation to to the previous and/or next posts is directly below each post.
* Navigation to categories, a list of recent and popular posts, info about the site, contact information, etc., has been moved to the archives or info pages respectively. These are found at the bottom of each page.
* A link to the RSS feed is also in the bottom navigation.
* For those that care, I have also switched blogging engines from Moveable Type to WordPress.
* Comments have been turned off for now. I am still trying to come up with a way to do them that is in fitting with the new design and, more importantly to me, reduces spam (boy was I getting a ton). You can send comment to me via e-mail or Twitter for now.
Speaking of comments, I would welcome any that you have about the new design. Special thanks go out once again to my friend, web guru and all around Badass™, Michael Armstrong.

My Manifesto: Thrive in the Present

The past serves us only in having taught us the lessons needed to thrive in the present and strive towards the future.
I came up with this manifesto entry when I was going through a particularly rough period in my life. I wont go into details but let me suffice to say that every day seemed like a worst day than before it. I had very little motivation or desire to get out of bed, and when I did I regretted it or felt forced to and, therefore, resentful of existence itself. Despite the several reasons I gave to it at the time, what was the root cause for most of this malaise? Living in he past.
A lot of us spend a lot of time saying words like “if only” or “I wish” or “I could have”. All of these thought processes are natural but unhelpful because all of those thoughts are in the past. The past has happened. You can not change it. You can only learn from it. And most of those lessons have already been taught. We all wish that terrible thing that happened in the past – a failed relationship, a death, a lost job, etc. – never occurred. The question is, who has that made you today and how do you use that new found strength? What made that last relationship fail and how can you put it to good use in your current one? Same thing in the job. Death is inevitable and no moment in this life is guaranteed. Therefore, what can you do to ensure you treat each moment as if it is the last.
I know a lot of this sounds a bit obvious and perhaps even contrite. That being said, you would be surprised at how difficult most people find it, myself included at times, to not think about and second guess the past. By meditating on this entry in my manifesto, it helps me remember how important it is to use those lessons right here, right now to consistently become better.

Followup to iPhone Shifts The Paradigm

Thanks to all who commented on my last post titled iPhone Shifts The Paradigm. There were several items brought up in the comments that I feel require further addressing in more depth here on the main page.
First of all, I still have my last Newton MessagePad 2100. I actually owned every model of MessagePad at some point in time. I even have a wireless card for it. There is still a very active user community that continues to develop for it (including wifi drivers). I used it regularly until a couple of years ago. I would likely still be finding a use and purpose for mine today if the battery would hold a charge. I have been too lazy to get one off of eBay, and now, with the iPhone, likely will not bother. It is still all set up though. Plug it into power and I can still download e-mail, surf the web, take notes, etc. I can even sync it with Address Book and iCal in Mac OS X.
Here is a picture of my 2100, which was the largest of the Newtons made:
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It is sitting on top of the paperback edition of “The War of Art” which is, from a width and height perspective, a fairly average size for most current paperbacks. In fact, the original Newton MessagePad was the size of the smaller, older style paperbacks. Give me a suit jacket or cargo pants and I guarantee I can find a pocket that the 2100 would fit into.
I agree that there are still several things that the Newton MessagePad has that the iPhone (still) does not. For instance, in my original post, I made mention of the handwriting recognition. Well, the very same handwriting recognition technology in the Newton is actually built in, by default, to Mac OS 10.5. It has actually been there since 10.3. It is called “Ink” and it shows up when you plug in a drawing tablet. It is baffling to me why this was not built into the iPhone and, at the least, offered as an alternative to the built in keyboard. The first generation Newton was widely maligned for the handwriting recognition (which did “learn” and therefore improve with use, just like the iPhone keyboard). By the MessagePad 2100, improvements to the algorithms used as well as increased processor speed made the handwriting recognition near perfect out of the box. Since the iPhone runs Mac OS X, it is a mystery to me why, to this date, Apple is not leveraging this technology (besides the Steve Jobs “computers need keyboards” thing).
Oh, and speaking of computers needing keyboards, I agree that the iPhone would greatly benefit from being able to be used with the small and highly portable Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. Once again, seems like a no-brainer, easy to fix, sell a few more peripherals, move for Apple. Kind of strange that it has not been implemented. What I don’t agree with is that being a “must have” for most applications. I see that as a “really nice to have” if I needed to write things like longer blog posts while mobile. That is not a need I have but can see it being a killer application for those who do (and the paradigm shift will happen a bit later for those folks).
Oh, and don’t even get me started on copy and paste… Suffice to say that Apple already had the right way to do this on the Newton and there is no reason to do it any differently on the iPhone.

iPhone Shifts The Paradigm

For a very long time, I was a hardcore Apple Newton user. How hardcore? Well, for about 5 years it was my principle computer. Don’t roll your eyes! Seriously, it was. I used it for everything. I took all my notes with it, used the external keyboard to type up documents and e-mail, managed my schedule and contacts, and, with the introduction of the MessagePad 2000, used it for most of my web browsing. My desktop computers were always simply a backup and data conduit for my Newtons. I did not even own a laptop, my Newton could do all that I needed in a mobile situation.
There were many reasons for this. One of them being that the technology was, for me, the perfect balance of portability and features. It gave me all of the features and applications I really needed 99% of the time and, more importantly, nothing I didn’t. Being about the size of a small paperback book, it slipped very easily into a small bag, cargo pocket, or larger jacket pocket easily. The handwriting recognition was always very good for me and got increasingly more accurate with each new model.
It turned me into a huge proponent of the idea that handheld, pocketable devices were the future of computing. My friend Michael, an ardent Palm Pilot user, and I even produced a monthly, handheld device-format only, digital magazine. This was at a time when the Palm Pilot and ious WinCE devices were catching steam, the Newton MessagePad was at the top of that heap, and it seemed as if this was the direction the world was going. Mobile Phones were something that either came with a car attached or were near the size of a small vehicle anyway – they were hardly what one would call portable. I felt the paradigm was shifting in the computer industry and handhelds would be ubiquitous in a few years time.
Of course, at the time I was wrong. Maybe not wrong, but about 10 years too early. Mobile phones got smaller and more functional, laptop sales increased as their portability and power improved, and handhelds never really caught on. Palm pilots grew up and became phones. WinCE grew up and became Windows Mobile. Then there was the Newton…
Strangely enough, Steve Jobs hated the very idea of the Newton to begin with and made a point of making it the first project he killed on his return to Apple. He stated in several interviews that PDA’s were “stupid” and that people would never use a computer that did not have a keyboard. The Newton was also the pet project of his rival, John Scully, who pushed Jobs out of Apple in a now famous power struggle. Needless to say, the Newton did not stand a chance. Most of its innovative technology was locked away in a Cupertino basement destined never to see light again.
I finally broke down, joined the cool kids, and got an iPhone 3G a few weeks ago. I held out for a long time. I even wrote about my holding out here on The Journal. First waiting for the 3G version that I knew would be inevitable and then not wanting to pull the trigger on AT&T’s confiscatory iPhone rate plans. Fact is, so many of my consulting business clients were getting one, and had questions about them, that I felt compelled to finally break down and do it.
My first thought: I’ll be damned if it’s not, at it’s heart, the Newton Message Pad. If the Newton were left on the market to organically grow along its assumed path, the iPhone is exactly what it would have become; only it would have had a stylus and perfect handwriting recognition (which it still easily could, but I will save that for a future post). It is pretty much everything that Steve Jobs said he hated about handheld devices.
My second thought, after a few weeks of use: This finally shifts the paradigm. Not just for handheld device hopefuls like myself but for almost everyone who is willing to leave their laptops at home (or not buy one at all) and trust the device. The iPhone is capable of every conceivable task I can see myself needing to do while mobile. It is fast, has a great high contrast screen, the keyboard is highly accurate once you learn to trust it, it has a wealth of applications, and it’s portability makes it able to be ever-present. On a recent trip, I took my laptop and found myself, after the fact, wondering why I even bothered. I mostly used my iPhone and, the few times I used my laptop I could have just as easily used the iPhone.
It has shifted my personal paradigm so much that now, with every desktop or web application, my choice is measured mainly by how it interfaces with my iPhone. It is largely the reason I am moving my digital notetaking from Yojimbo to Evernote. One has an iPhone application that syncs data with the desktop and “the cloud”, the other does not. Having the ability to capture short notes and thoughts or having reference material with me anytime, anywhere, is now the standard by which everything else is measured. The iPhone is a game changer in every sense of the phrase.