Merlin Mann

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pages: 267 words: 78,857

Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff by Dinah Sanders

A. Roger Ekirch, Atul Gawande, big-box store, Boris Johnson, carbon footprint, clean water, clockwatching, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, credit crunch, endowment effect, Firefox, game design, Inbox Zero, income per capita, index card, indoor plumbing, Internet Archive, Kevin Kelly, late fees, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, Merlin Mann, post-work, side project, Silicon Valley, Stewart Brand

Keep some index cards or other small note-taking supplies with you and put them next to the phone and the computer. Write yourself notes. Leave yourself voicemails. Send yourself emails. It’s fine. No one remembers everything. Really. Symptom #6: Procrastination Solution #6: Bottom Line: Deeds are Better Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging. —Merlin Mann, productivity guru and humorist You have a choice Ah, procrastination: the villain in so many stories of the great adventures we might have had—if only. Here’s what’s certain: You do not always in the moment want to do what you know most serves your goals in the big picture. You drag your feet, check email and social messaging services “just once more,” follow that link to the funny YouTube video, flip through magazines or TV channels, anything but buckle down to the task in front of you.

The principles aren’t too different: Set up groupings that make subsequent actions easier, move things to the appropriate group the moment you decide what it is, and repeatedly use quick laps to knock down big or constant projects. This section includes many tips particularly relevant to email for work as well as ideas that will help you build a better relationship with your personal email. Email basics First, a few basic principles (and a thank-you to Merlin Mann and others who have taught me many things about managing email): Start your day with energy, not email. Take a moment to clear your head, jot down any lower priority loose ends that are distracting you and throw them in your inbox (physical or digital) to address later. Then, get to work on one of your three top tasks for the day. Devote the first 30 minutes of your day to a burst of progress on one of your highest priority projects or to the removal of specific distractions in order to improve your focus for the rest of the day.

Dive in, knock out a task appropriate to your current resources and energy level, then surface and check email quickly before diving in again on the next prioritized task. By “quickly,” I mean “processing.” For anything that generates a new task for your list, only ask the question, “Is this more important than what I was planning to do next?” If the answer is no, which it usually is, carry on as planned. Merlin Mann said it beautifully: “Don't let the blur of movement try to replace one elegantly completed task.” Pay for checking email. If you find yourself checking mail far more often than actually results in a change in your plan of action, start forcing yourself to complete the next task on your list before you are allowed to check again. Quit the mail program if you need to keep yourself from auto-piloting back into your inbox.


pages: 32 words: 10,468

Getting Things Done for Hackers by Lars Wirzenius

anti-pattern, Debian, Firefox, full text search, Inbox Zero, Kickstarter, Merlin Mann, security theater

Allen published his first GTD book in 2002, and for the next few years, there was quite a lot of buzz about it on the Internet. Something about GTD spoke to geeks, and they blogged about it, and dived into endless discussions about which color pen to use to write things down, or which software to use to keep an outline on what color computer. By 2007 the buzz had mostly died, and those who liked GTD kept using it. An influential blogger during that era was Merlin Mann, and his most important creation was “Inbox Zero”. It’s an elegant condensation of the GTD system for dealing with e-mail, and that may be all you need. Many of us hackers pretty much do everything via e-mail, so if you get that under control, you’ll be fine. Go read. Technicalities This book is written using an Ikiwiki instance at https://gtdfh.branchable.com/, hosted on the Branchable service.


pages: 114 words: 27,996

Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte

en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Merlin Mann

We realized it would have been irresponsible of us to ask our visitors to download all that extraneous HTML, marking up content that they’d never see, much less benefit from. And I don’t say that just out of concern for mobile visitors: regardless of whether our visitors were on a phone-or a desktop-based browser, we would have been penalizing them with extra markup. Meet “mobile first” When you have a free moment (and a stiff drink in hand), I recommend browsing through Merlin Mann’s “Noise to Noise Ratio” Flickr set (http://bkaprt.com/rwd/46/). These screen grabs showcase some of the most content-saturated pages on the web: the pages are drowning in a sea of cruft. And the actual article, both paragraphs of it, is nigh unfindable. While the sites in Merlin’s gallery might be new to you, I wager the problems they demonstrate are pretty familiar. What’s more, I think this trend informs some of our preconceptions about designing for “mobile” users: namely, we assume mobile users need less content in part because desktop users can tolerate more.


pages: 313 words: 95,077

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Andrew Keen, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, c2.com, Charles Lindbergh, crowdsourcing, en.wikipedia.org, hiring and firing, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, Internet Archive, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Joi Ito, Kuiper Belt, liberation theology, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, Merlin Mann, Metcalfe’s law, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, Picturephone, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, prediction markets, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social software, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Vilfredo Pareto, Yogi Berra

If we want large systems where attention is unconstrained, fame will be an inevitable by-product, and as our systems get larger, its effects will become more pronounced, not less. A version of this is happening with e-mail—because it is easier to ask a question than to answer it, we get the curious effect of a group of people all able to overwhelm one another by asking, cumulatively, more questions than they can cumulatively answer. As Merlin Mann, a software usability expert, describes the pattern:Email is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn’t take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that’s taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move, even if you wanted to do it over a few dozen trips. But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can’t handle that one tiny thing.

Two interesting pieces on social networking are: danah boyd’s “Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace” (transcript of her AAAS talk from 2006 at www.danah.org/papers/AAAS2006.html), describing the forces that led to the success of those services among teens; and an untitled weblog post by Danny O’Brien (www.oblomovka.com/entries/2003/10/13) describing the tensions among public, private, and secret modes of conversation in social media. Page 94: Email is such a funny thing Merlin Mann offered that description of email at “The Strange Allure (and False Hope) of Email Bankruptcy” (www.43folderscom/2007/05/30/email-bankruptcy-2/. ). Page 99: “Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.” Cory Doctorow offered that observation in a blog post on BoingBoing.net entitled “Disney Exec: Piracy Is Just a Business Model” (www.boingboing.net/2006/10/10/disney-exec-piracy-i.html).


pages: 349 words: 95,972

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

affirmative action, Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, assortative mating, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Basel III, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Broken windows theory, call centre, Cass Sunstein, Chris Urmson, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, crowdsourcing, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Erdős number, experimental subject, Ferguson, Missouri, Filter Bubble, Frank Gehry, game design, global supply chain, Googley, Guggenheim Bilbao, high net worth, Inbox Zero, income inequality, industrial cluster, Internet of things, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Merlin Mann, microbiome, out of africa, Paul Erdős, Richard Thaler, Rosa Parks, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, telemarketer, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Turing test, urban decay, William Langewiesche

And it is no accident that computer filing systems use a spatial metaphor—manila folders nestled inside other manila folders—to help humans keep track of documents that are, in reality, chopped up and scattered across the surface of some hard drive. Keeping things in their places will help you keep track of your keys and your corkscrew. Yet it will be much less help in dealing with your documents or your e-mail, because the system will buckle under not only the volume of incoming information but its fundamental contradictions and ambiguities. Merlin Mann, a productivity expert, has skewered the desire to over-organize a list of tasks in a fast-moving world. Imagine you’re making sandwiches in a deli, says Mann. The first sandwich order comes in and you start spreading the mayonnaise on a slice of rye bread. But wait—the lunchtime rush is coming. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop and check whether any more sandwich orders have arrived? Gosh, yes: two more sandwich orders.

Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri, “The Economic Value of Cultural Diversity: Evidence from US Cities,” NBER Working Paper No. 10904, November 2004, http://www.nber.org/papers/w10904. 9. LIFE 1. Franklin’s discussion of his virtue journal is in Part Two of his autobiography (New York: Henry Holt, 1916 ed.), available online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20203. 2. John Bach McMaster, as quoted ibid., n. 70. 3. Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind (London: Penguin, 2015). 4. Merlin Mann, “Inbox Zero,” talk delivered at Google Tech Talks, July 23, 2007, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk. 5. Jorge Luis Borges, “John Wilkins’ Analytical Language” (1942), Selected Non-Fictions, ed. and trans. Eliot Weinberger (New York: Viking, 1999), p. 231. 6. Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman, A Perfect Mess (London: Orion, 2007), pp. 156–157. 7. Maria Popova, “Order, Disorder, and Oneself: French Polymath Paul Valéry on How to Never Misplace Anything,” Brain Pickings, October 30, 2015, https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/10/30/paul-valery-analects-order-disorder/. 8.


pages: 132 words: 31,976

Getting Real by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson, Matthew Linderman, 37 Signals

call centre, David Heinemeier Hansson, iterative process, John Gruber, knowledge worker, Merlin Mann, Metcalfe's law, performance metric, post-work, premature optimization, Ruby on Rails, slashdot, Steve Jobs, web application

Far from damaging your credibility, this demonstrates the care you bring to your decision-making. You're not going to just say words to sound smart. It also levels the playing field by reframing the question as a collaborative conversation. By learning how exact your estimate needs to be (and why), you can work together to develop a shared understanding about the true factors behind the numbers. —Merlin Mann, creator and editor of 43folders.com Solve The One Problem Staring You in the Face My absolute favorite thing to happen on the web in recent memory is the release and adoption of the "nofollow" attribute. Nobody talked about it beforehand. There were no conferences or committees where a bunch of yahoos could debate its semantic or grammatical nature. No rfc that could turn a simple idea into a 20-line xml snippet I'd have to read up on just to figure out how to use, and then not use because I wasn't sure if I was formatting for version .3 or 3.3b.


pages: 223 words: 63,484

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

centralized clearinghouse, index card, lone genius, market bubble, Merlin Mann, New Journalism, Results Only Work Environment, rolodex, side project, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, Tim Cook: Apple, Tony Hsieh, young professional

The exercise in itself will help quench everyone’s impulse to do everything themselves and will streamline your team’s operations. Use a Responsibility Grid to decide who does or does not need to get involved with whatever comes up. Create windows of nonstimulation. To achieve long-term goals in the age of always-on technology and free-flowing communication, create windows of time dedicated to uninterrupted project focus. Merlin Mann, founder of the productivity Web site 43folders.com, has called for the need to “make time to make.” It is no surprise that Mann is also known for begging people not to e-mail him (in fact, he refuses to answer any suggestions or requests via e-mail). After years of writing about productivity and life hacks, Mann realized that the level of interruption increases in direct proportion to one’s level of availability.


pages: 394 words: 118,929

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg

A Pattern Language, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Berlin Wall, c2.com, call centre, collaborative editing, conceptual framework, continuous integration, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Santayana, Grace Hopper, Guido van Rossum, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, index card, Internet Archive, inventory management, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Larry Wall, life extension, Loma Prieta earthquake, Menlo Park, Merlin Mann, Mitch Kapor, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Potemkin village, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Ronald Reagan, Ruby on Rails, semantic web, side project, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, software studies, source of truth, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Therac-25, thinkpad, Turing test, VA Linux, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

As geek mutated its way toward respectability, it was joined by geek out. Author Neal Stephenson explained in a 2005 New York Times op-ed: “To geek out on something means to immerse yourself in its details to an extent that is distinctly abnormal—and to have a good time doing it.” True geeks have a capacity to geek out on almost anything—even kitchen cleanup. An enthusiast of productivity software named Merlin Mann, who in 2004 started a blog called 43 Folders that quickly became a cult favorite among programmers, once composed a love letter to a book he was reading called Home Comforts: “Some deranged fold of my lizard brain gets most turned on by nine detailed pages on how to wash your dishes . . . . I think my wonderfully tidy (and endlessly patient) girlfriend has probably resigned herself to the fact that I only get really interested in something when it involves some kind of fancy system with charts and documentation.”

“Geek: A person who has chosen”: The current definition of geek from the online Jargon File (source of the Hacker’s Dictionary) is at http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/G/geek.htm. “To geek out on something”: From Neal Stephenson, “Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out,” New York Times, June 17, 2005, and also at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/17/opinion/17 stephenson.htm?ex=1276660800&en=a693ccc4ec008424&ei=5090 &partner=rssuserland&emc=rss. “Some deranged fold of my lizard brain”: Merlin Mann on his 43 Folders blog, September 15, 2004, at http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/15/home-comforts-illustrated-housekeeping-pr0n/. Jennifer Tucker, Abby Mackness, Hile Rutledge, “The Human Dynamics of Information Technology Teams,” in Crosstalk, February 2004, at http://www.stsc.hill.af.mil/crossTalk/2004/02/0402 Tucker.htm. “A lot of people feel that”: Abby Mackness presentation at the Systems & Software Technology Conference, Salt Lake City, April 2004.


pages: 270 words: 64,235

Effective Programming: More Than Writing Code by Jeff Atwood

AltaVista, Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, cloud computing, endowment effect, Firefox, future of work, game design, Google Chrome, gravity well, job satisfaction, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, loss aversion, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Merlin Mann, Minecraft, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, price anchoring, race to the bottom, recommendation engine, science of happiness, Skype, social software, Steve Jobs, web application, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

We typically overestimate how much we’ll actually get done, and multi-tasking exaggerates our own internal biases even more. Whenever possible, avoid interruptions and avoid working on more than one project at the same time. If it’s unavoidable, be brutally honest with yourself — and your stakeholders — about how much you can actually get done under multi-tasking conditions. It’s probably less than you think. Merlin Mann@hotdogsladies “Good thing you’re tagging all those “Low Priority” tasks. God forbid you’d ever lose track of shit that’s not worth doing.” 12:43 PM – 1 Feb 12 * * * Become a Hyperink reader. Get a special surprise. Like the book? Support our author and leave a comment! III. Principles of Good Programming The First Rule of Programming: It’s Always Your Fault Jeff Atwood@codinghorror “We should endeavor to fix ourselves before accusing the world of being broken.” 12:22 PM – 30 May 12 You know the feeling.


pages: 323 words: 95,939

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff

algorithmic trading, Andrew Keen, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, big-box store, Black Swan, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business cycle, cashless society, citizen journalism, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, disintermediation, Donald Trump, double helix, East Village, Elliott wave, European colonialism, Extropian, facts on the ground, Flash crash, game design, global pandemic, global supply chain, global village, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, Inbox Zero, invention of agriculture, invention of hypertext, invisible hand, iterative process, John Nash: game theory, Kevin Kelly, laissez-faire capitalism, lateral thinking, Law of Accelerating Returns, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Merlin Mann, Milgram experiment, mutually assured destruction, negative equity, Network effects, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, passive investing, pattern recognition, peak oil, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, Ralph Nelson Elliott, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, Y2K, zero-sum game

Freeman Dyson, From Eros to Gaia (New York: Pantheon, 1992), 341. 3. Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 49. 4. Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (Lakeville, CT: International Non-Aristotelian Library Pub.; distributed by the Institute of General Semantics, 1958), 376. 5. Ibid. 6. Productivity guru Merlin Mann is the originator of the term “inbox zero,” but the idea was first posed by Mark Hurst in his 2007 book Bit Literacy. I have used both their systems with success but have found myself differing with them on the question of email—most likely because email and the ways we receive it have changed over the past decade. 7. Mark Hurst, Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload (New York: Good Experience, 2007). 8.


pages: 518 words: 49,555

Designing Social Interfaces by Christian Crumlish, Erin Malone

A Pattern Language, Amazon Mechanical Turk, anti-pattern, barriers to entry, c2.com, carbon footprint, cloud computing, collaborative editing, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, game design, ghettoisation, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, if you build it, they will come, Merlin Mann, Nate Silver, Network effects, Potemkin village, recommendation engine, RFC: Request For Comment, semantic web, SETI@home, Skype, slashdot, social graph, social software, social web, source of truth, stealth mode startup, Stewart Brand, telepresence, The Wisdom of Crowds, web application

Many people consider these awards tacky and pushy, but they do represent an innovation invented by users and permitted (but not directly supported) by the Flickr UI. In this way (with or without awards) groups can function as a browsing “pivot” for users, taking them from the image of a friend to a related group, and then on to other images (see Figures 2-4, 2-5, and 2-6). Figure 2-4. A caricature of Merlin Mann in the style of da Vinci’s “Vetruvian Man” prompts an invitation to a group dedicated to just such parodies and variations. Figure 2-5. The Vitruvian variations group showcases a series of images with a common theme. Download at WoweBook.Com Palimpsest 23 Figure 2-6. Another image in the group then prompts this further invitation that appears to facetiously parody the whole “Hi, I’m an administrator for a group called…” social interaction.