Tuesday, 23 August 2016

More on writing tools

When we last left our hero, I was doing a (relatively) good job posting. But like usual, I picked up a gig and dropped the habit.

But with the release of Scrivener, and having had plenty of time to work with IA Writer and Notability, it seemed like a good opportunity to jot some things down.

IA Writer is still a fantastic writing app. At first the non-WYSIWYG approach was an obstacle, but eventually I recognized that it forced me to focus on the actual writing – as opposed to fiddling with formatting.

Notability is also a great note-taking app (I’ve also noticed it’s one of the top 10 apps in the App Store, and for good reason). The Apple Pencil performance is great, and it really feels like putting ink to paper. It’s just that smooth.

Where both are still disappointing is in organizing documents. I know if I sat down and really tried to figure it out, I could get comfortable with how both apps handle it. But it’s still not as natural as good ol’ folders in Finder. To be fair, I think Google Docs folders are kind of wonky, too. And to be even more fair, I know via my on-again-off-again flirtation with iOS development that the OS doesn’t make creating such a system easy, if even possible.

Which brings me to Scrivener. Several months before the iPad Pro became my weapon of choice, I was using Scrivener on my MBP for all my writing projects, paid and not. Scrivener for iOS was finally released a couple months ago, and I got around to buying it today. I’m about to sit down and see if I can get IA Writer, Notability, Scrivener and Google Docs all working in the same workflow.

(I’m using Google Docs as the endpoint because generally, and specifically with the place I’m gigging at now, it’s the file depository of choice.)

I’m going to jot down issues as I encounter them:

1. Syncing issues.

IA Writer syncs to iCloud (how I have it set now), but Scrivener doesn’t. According to the dev, it’s partly because they were developing for both iOS and Android, but mostly because iOS has peculiarities that prevent proper syncing. Fair enough. Keeping everything in a single cloud would be nice, but I guess I’ll have to use Dropbox.

As for Notability, I can backup to Dropbox or export pdfs copies directly to Scrivener. NOTE: A Scrivener project must be open for this to work.

2. Figuring out a workflow

The key concepts I need to remember are that IA Writer and Notability are for composing, and Scrivener is for organizing. In a perfect world, I would be able to compose in IA Writer and access that file from within Scrivener. As it is (remembering that I’m still messing around with all of this) I have to a) compose in IA Writer, then b) export that file to Scrivener…


Okay, so I think I’m getting a handle on what’s going on here. Scrivener appears to save all its data in a propietary format. Individual files aren’t saved as such in Dropbox. In other words, I can’t look in Dropbox for ‘ATextFile’ and open it up. I can, however, send a copy to IA Writer and edit it there.

Frankly, I don’t think there’s an easy way to do what I’d like. I think my options are limited to two choices:

1. Compose in IA Writer and send a copy to Scrivener.

2. Compose in IA Writer and save it to Google Drive. If all files are saved there, it provides some preservation of files – if I can overwrite existing files, that is.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Another day, another death by cop

A guy selling CDs outside a convenience store was shot and killed while restrained in Baton Rouge.

Cops say it was because they were responding to a call claiming that he waved a gun at somebody, and there was, indeed a gun. But some of the details should raise eyebrows.

The gun was in 43-year-old Alton Sterling’s pocket, and eyewitnesses say that he never reached for it. It was the police that removed it, after they shot him. But the really curious part is how the cops responded in the first place.

They were supposedly called in because he had a gun, but they chose to throw him on the ground and grapple with him before they knew where this gun was or if he even had one. It wasn’t until they were on top of him that one shouted, “Gun! He’s got a gun!” as if they were surprised. And even then, they decided to shoot him. Execute him, to be accurate.

I wonder if there was actually a call. I can’t help but think they were just driving past, decided to roust Sterling and shit went bad.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Welcome To The New Politics, Same As The Old

Bernie Sanders and his supporters have been shouting about the Democratic primaries being rigged ever since Nevada (probably longer), but this story is a real eye-roller:

A Bernie Sanders staffer pitched using double-sided coins for breaking ties in Democratic presidential caucuses, according to a new report.

To be fair, there have been instances of the Dem Party putting a thumb on the scales for Clinton. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz found ways to keep things in Clinton’s favor. It should be noted that this was probably due more to her own personal benefit (she protected her Florida Republican buddies by squashing serious Democratic challenges) than anything.

But Sanders’ campaign has been woefully incompetent. The reason they lost Nevada wasn’t because of some organized fraud, but because Sanders’ supporters simply didn’t show up to the delegate seating event – and the ones that did were comically inept.

Off the top of my head, Clinton seated 98% of her delegates. Sanders seated only 74%. Most of the Sanders delegates simply failed to show up, and of the ones who did, most of them either weren’t registered Democrats (there are examples of people who changed their affiliation to ‘independent’ in protest of Sanders losing NY) and/or didn’t even live in Nevada.

Kato’s plan? Cheat. No doubt she thought this would be fair because she thought the process was ‘rigged’. While the two-sided coin didn’t come into play, she also instructed Nevada attendees to stay and create chaos.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that Kato knew the miserable organizational failure that Nevada was going to be. I think she knew that dozens of Sanders delegates simply didn’t qualify for seating, or weren’t going to show up. So her solution was to knock the game board over. You can’t lose if the pieces are scattered on the floor, right?

Playing dirty politics is nothing new. But the real ‘new is old’ part isn’t sneaky political maneuvering: It’s that even in an insurgent, purportedly revolutionary campaign, people can still fail upwards.

Joan Kato is now Sanders’ National Delegate Director.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Thursday, 2 June 2016

When agencies get weird

One of the nice things about freelancing is that you get to see the different ways shops run. Some are very corporate, some are very not. Some have their shit together while others don’t. A couple years ago I encounterd a new dynamic: An agency that treats its employees as a captive audience.

I occassionally get emails from the agency because I think an address was set up for me and made to forward to my gmail account. Every once in a while, on of the partners, a ‘branding guru’, will send out something promoting his new book. Yesterday, one of the other partners sent out an email announcing his new agency – but it wasn’t a company-wide press release. It was written and designed like a spam email, treating all the recipents – even the ones who, you know, actually work for the guy – as strangers.

Very weird.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


adchoices logo

You probably have come across little triangle-shaped icons tucked in the corner of banner ads and, like 95% of people, have no idea what it’s for. Hell, I work in advertising and if I didn’t look it up I wouldn’t know.

It’s the icon for AdChoices, a program run by ad trade groups to allow people to opt out of personalized banner ad placements. Click on it, and the ads fed to your browser aren’t based on whatever tracking info Google, Yahoo and et al. have on you.

That doesn’t mean they’ll stop tracking you – only that the ads you see won’t be customized. Which raises the question: What’s the point? From a consumer standpoint, it’s hard to think of any significant reason to do so. You’re going to be tracked regardless. And as an ad creative, those little icons – with little thought apparently given to where the icon is (sometimes left, sometimes right) – are just ugly, pointless warts. Why does AdWords even exist?

The answer? Illusion. The consumer gets the illusion of control, and big advertisers get to present the illusion that they’re doing something. After all, AdChoices was created as the reponse to the FTC ‘suggesting’ that the industry start self-regulating, which means ‘do something that looks like you’re doing something, but don’t really do anything’.

But we are talking about advertising, so the fact that this is all based on pretending actually makes perfect sense.

Monday, 25 April 2016

You just start

Just start pressing keys. Doesn’t matter if what you’re writing makes sense or is meaningful. Try not to use a lot of pauses in the writing. By that I mean commas and double hyphens. Pauses in thought. Interruptions between words getting on the screen. Out of your head and in front of you. Writing is half the physical act. Waiting for the thought to form is a related but still separate part. And with a lot of focus, a little patience and luck you can get to something worth reading.