The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts with tag 'productivity'

    Live Asynchonously

    Quincy Larson of FreeCodeCamp recently posted an article about work productivity: Last year I turned off all my notifications. I stopped booking meetings. I started living asynchronously. Now instead of being interrupted throughout the day — or rushing from one meeting to the next — I sit down and get work done. Using one of the most awesome webcomics on the subject of interrupting a programmer as a starting point, he does the usual attempts at convincing people that open floor plans are bad, and that meetings are better replaced by asynchronous communication.
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    Todon't

    Jeff Atwood posted another one of his controversial, opinionated articles on his blog, this time about To-Do lists. It’s a long rant about the failure of To-Do lists. As a former Remember The Milk user and fan, I can totally relate. I just stopped using To-Do lists altogether a couple years ago. I just didn’t need them anymore – I knew what I needed to do most of the time:
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    Consolidate instant messaging accounts into your Gmail

    Everybody knows that Gmail is great for consolidating multiple email accounts into one place that’s easy to search, organize, backup, and get out of. What less people know is that it’s also a great place to consolidate your instant messenger accounts, too!

    Watch out, this article is pretty long and gets quite nerdy at the end.

    Some background information (and a few rants)

    We’re going to talk about merging accounts from different instant messaging services (Gtalk, MSN, ICQ, etc.) so let’s get this out of the door first: yes, I could use programs like Pidgin or Trillian to log into all those networks simultaneously, but I’d still have to search in at least two places when it comes to past communications, and that’s without considering problems like chat history being only stored locally on one computer, which means I then have to sync that with my other computers using Dropbox or Mesh. Also, it’s really way to simple for my tastes. There’s a better, more complicated and geek-fulfilling way.

    Google made the very good decision of using Jabber, a.k.a. XMPP, an open protocol, to implement their own instant messaging system Gtalk. As usual with Google, though, they didn’t quite follow the standard entirely but it’s compatible enough for what I need… mostly. The other good thing with Google is that they integrated the whole thing into Gmail so that chats are searchable along with emails, which is what I’m after, here. Some people may be uncomfortable with the privacy implications, but those people probably don’t use Google services anyway (why would you trust them with your emails or videos or pictures but not chats?). In fact, people worried about privacy probably don’t use many web services in general, unless they’re one of those weirdoes who actually read the whole terms of services and really compare them (I don’t even know if such weirdoes exist). Besides, when you start worrying about privacy, you generally end up setting up your own email server, which then makes you worry about other things like backup, whitelisting/greylisting, encryption, etc… Anyway.

    So what then? Well, the XMPP protocol has things called “transports” who basically translate to and from other IM networks like MSN, Yahoo and others. That’s the way we’ll consolidate all our IM networks into Gmail!

    There are a few tutorials out there that explain how to set that up, so I’ll quickly walk through the first steps and then get to what I did differently, which is the good part.

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    Some more contacts love

    There’s been a lot of improvement in communications in the past few years, from better services to brand new ones, but I still feel like contact management is lagging behind. I mean, isn’t it important to be able to find how to contact somebody in the first place?

    Here are a few things I think could be better.

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    Labels and quick links work together

    I just realized that the 2 GMail Labs experiments “Go to label” and “Quick links” work together, which makes quick links all the more useful. So say you have 2 labels named “Newsletters” and “Notifications”, and one quick link named “ALT.NET” (which finds all the posts from the ALT.NET mailing list). If you summon the “go to label” popup and start typing “n”, it will show all three: Now, you ask, when should you use a label, and when should you use a quick link?
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    Sync multiple Google Calendars with your iPhone

    If you have an iPhone, or any other smartphone for that matter, you will probably by now have set up Google Sync with it so you can synchronize your contacts and calendar. However, if you’re a bit hasty and follow the simple tutorial that Google provides, you will end up synchronizing  only your main calendar with your phone. It’s easy to miss the fact you can actually synchronize up to 5 (at the time of this writing) calendars.
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    Visual Studio Tips & Tricks

    Stephen Walther recently blogged about tricks that every developer should know about Visual Studio. Most of those he mentioned I use on a daily basis, so I highly recommend them. It actually surprises me how many other programmers don’t know about those features. Somehow, most programmers know Visual Studio as much as they know Microsoft Word: there’s a big space in the middle to type your text, and then maybe they know a couple of menus and shortcuts and that’s it.
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    RSS feeds and the zen of the newspaper reader

    I see a lot of articles on the internet these days about ways to trim down your RSS subscriptions, how to manage your time to read through all your items, etc. My opinion on this is the complete opposite. I say: subscribe to many RSS feeds. Leave most of them unread. Or set them as read after merely glancing at the article titles. Most RSS feeds have crappy articles (insert a snappy joke about this one here) or, at least, articles not relevant to you.
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