New experiment – no Twitter or Facebook on mobile

Yesterday I noticed how many notifications I got from these two apps. And I wondered – rather than disable notifications what if I just removed the apps? Would I care? Notice? I enjoy both services but will now need to access these via laptop which means once or twice per day.

So I did. And now let’s see if my world is a little less cluttered, a bit less noisy.

Unified calendaring – can we have this yet?

Like many people I have multiple calendars – I have two work calendars (don’t ask) and a personal calendar. This isn’t that weird when you think about the fact that you get a calendar with Gmail and often at work you’re forced¹ to use some form of Microsoft Office (either on-premise with Exchange or online with Office 365). And maybe you are an advanced family and have a shared calendar somewhere as well – although this scenario is not common, most families still use a whiteboard or post-its on the fridge.

The problem occurs when you want to schedule time with someone – you have a single view of your calendars thanks to iPhone, Android, etc. but you cannot see their free/busy since a) it’s often not shared and b) it’s split between multiple services.

Hailstorm – in 1999 we worked on a variety of cloud services (we didn’t have that term yet) one of which was MyCalendar. The idea behind MyCalendar was that it would pull the data from each of my different calendaring services and make them into one. That way anyone wanting to schedule time with me could see my free/busy (with permissions of course) and schedule appropriately. Hailstorm was a great idea canceled too soon². But here we are in 2018 and we still have not solved this scenario.

There are a few services out there that try to help:

  • Doodle – this is more for group scheduling and isn’t very useful with how people really want to schedule time.
  • Calendly – great service when you need to ask someone to book time with you – but it still doesn’t work for *their* calendar service which is what is needed. I pay for this service especially as I interview a lot of people and need to not spend time emailing back and forth asking for open times.
  • AI services like – these are tackling the problem a different way i.e. having an AI bot handle your multiple calendars and the rigamarole of emailing back/forth. These are basically trying to replace a bad system (calendars) with a bad solution (human assistants). Opinions vary on how well these assistants really do; I’ve seen things work well and I’ve seen conversations go off the rails.

The Solution

Why doesn’t someone build Hailstorm’s MyCalendar. It’s a simpler problem to tackle today then it was in 1999. Most calendars are online. Most export free/busy. Many can be integrated today using OAuth as witnessed by Doodle and Calendly. Given that I am paying for Calendly now I’d be happy to pay for a service in which I could tell people “my calendar URL is here, grab whatever time you need” and it just worked.


¹ No one chooses to use Office – it’s a decision that is steeped in corporate lore and at this point it’s a barnacle. If you start a new company you might get to use a decent collaborative tool but if you have an existing large business it’s too late, you’re trapped in the 90’s forever.

² Hailstorm was canceled for many reasons. We pitched an ad-based business model but Microsoft wasn’t ready to accept that concept; to be fair Google was still a year or two away so who knew it could work? Many teams were also worried about canibalization e.g. Exchange worried about lost sales if we did Email in the cloud. Oops, turns out that was going to happen anyway. And there were legitimate concerns that we couldn’t actually build and operate the services we were promising.

My February habit

After a reasonably successful January (let’s call it a C+) I am moving on to February. Given all the awfulness in the world and how scared I am about our current crop of horrendous elected officials I wanted to work on something positive. Some options I considered:

  1. No social media: the trouble is I use Facebook to keep up with friends and Twitter to find good humor.
  2. Gratitude journal: I’ve tried this before, it wasn’t all that great. I’m not sure it worked for me.

So I’m trying a 28-day “no complaint” challenge. I first heard about this from Tim Ferriss‘ podcast. The ground rules:

  • No describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem.
  • No unwarranted bad language i.e. no cursing.

I’ll use my Habit app to track this. If I don’t see it happening I might switch to the ‘band’ approach mentioned in the article.

xkcd: Time Management | Bricin

xkcd: Time Management It is almost cliché now to post XKCD if you are a geek, but I assume this one is a free pass.

Source: xkcd: Time Management | Bricin

The things that catch me about this post are:

  1. XKCD has been doing this for at least five years. Wow, never occurred to me.
  2. This pretty much sums up 50% of the blog posts I write.
  3. Did I tell you about Wunderlist + Pomodone, my “get it done” method? I will. Soon.

Too much in Slack defeats the purpose

“It’s putting content into a useful pre-made notification format that really works for our clients.”

Source: How Storyful is turning Slack into an extension of its newswire » Nieman Journalism Lab

The summary of this story is that Storyful integrates with Slack and can pump their content straight into a Slack feed. I have a few RSS feeds and other integrations that push ‘news’ into Slack and from that I know that:

  1. The Slack UI is not a lovely experience for news feeds. While it can subscribe to RSS and pull in content it quickly gets overwhelmed when the feed is fairly rich e.g. 10 or more articles.
  2. The Slack UI is not a lovely experience for comments and discussions. It’s not meant to be, it’s a stream of work and chat. There are very few UI elements that help with lengthy discussion and for the most part Slack channels are designed to be forgotten (other than as archival / search tools).

Good luck with this push, but it seems like Storyful has a hammer and now everything looks like a Slack nail.

15 Things

15 Things

First weekly dietcheat

Yeah, it’s Saturday and the slow-carb / Tim Ferriss plan says I get to eat whatever I want. Not only can but I need to. So here I go. The foods I plan to eat today include, but are not limited to French fries, baguette (lordy living in Paris and not eating baguette has been tough), pizza, And probably some more French fries and oh yeah, the is a bag of potato chips sitting in my cupboard with my name on them.

I weighed in this morning at 93 kilos so I am down about 1.5 kilos this week. I ran once and did some nifty Kinect workouts but really I didn’t do a whole lot and lazed around a bunch. So we’ll see how it goes next week but for this week I am pigging out!

Questions about Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb Diet

I am exploring the slow-carb diet during the month of January with a specific emphasis on avoiding potatoes (my kryptonite). The book, The 4-Hour Body has a lot of information and much of it is boiled down to simple rules. But I still have questions.

  1. Why no bread? I think I understand why no bread from white flour, but why not whole grain? Why not sprouted grains.
  2. What about corn? I don’t eat HFCS in any way (easier to do in Europe) but what about just pure corn on the cob for instance. Is that a grain? A veggie?
  3. Is yogurt considered part of the “no milk” clause. I think cheese is, but I am unsure. Cutting out milk is fairly easy, cutting out yogurt is hard as it’s one of my favorite breakfast foods.
  4. Potatoes are out. What about turnips? And parsnips? These are fairly starchy foods too, are they in or out?
  5. Squash and pumpkins? Veggies or not?

Windows 7 –> Gmail hack

It also works in WINDOWS 7 if you open up the Registry Editor and navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT -> mailto -> shell -> open -> command -> (Default)
Right click (Default) and click Modify Copy and paste the following info (don’t forget to change USERNAME to your profile’s username): “C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataLocalGoogleChromeApplicationchrome.exe” –app= This works great for me!

Mail To links go directly to GMAIL – Google Chrome Help

If like many people you are using GMail as your personal emailer, here is a way to make mailto links work in Windows 7.

Note: I use a custom domain on GMail and the link doesn’t working pointing to But setting this to works for the custom domain anyway.

Too Fast

I took a look at my Google homepage today and saw this quote:

If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough
  – Mario Andretti

Great, that seems like a nice message I thought. I will send that link to my team at work. I clicked through on the link. And what did I get:

phpBB : Critical Error
Error creating new session
SQL Error : 1114 The table ‘phpbb_sessions’ is full
INSERT INTO phpbb_sessions (session_id, session_user_id, session_start, session_time, session_ip, session_page, session_logged_in, session_admin) VALUES (‘497809708fbc98d2325f29eedf8f51b3’, -1, 1200377006, 1200377006, ‘534daa1e’, 0, 0, 0)
Line : 187
File : sessions.php

How great is that! They apparently decided they weren’t going fast enough so they lost control.