Instapaper V Pocket v2

After more than 6 months of trying both products side-by-side for my article reading needs/wants. Here are a few of my main take-aways:

  • Reading things on my Kindle isn’t the end-all-be-all
  • Being able to sign-in or link accounts to a platform is nearly more important than stripping ads for me now
  • Curated articles are almost always things I don’t care about from either platform
  • The current Pocket eco-system is something I find easier
    • Mainly because I’m been using it more
    • From the pocket home page, I’m easily able to edit my list
    • I can easily send things to other pocket users from within the app
    • Once I log in via my browser of choice to my various platforms I’m good to go I don’t have to resign in
      • Instapaper seems to have fixed this but I do have to usually log-in on a weekly basis. Where in Pocket its based on my personal browser settings so if I haven’t cleared cookies I’m logged in.
    • Sponsored content within Pocket is clearly marked.
  • Deleting items from my Pocket list is easier and can be done en masse
    • On the website in Instapaper (unless I’m missing something) its a one-by-one process. I tend to save 5-15 articles per day while I’m working. Someone sends me something or I browse for a few minutes during my break and I save it for later after work. Then after work, I’ll see what I’ve got and if I really want to read it. I’m probably getting rid of half of the stuff I saved from earlier.
  • Send to Kindle is a hassle regardless of the platform
    • Now with Instapaper its a premium feature so I’m not interested right there
    • To do it via pocket there are a few workarounds but also not easy and sometimes the articles are formatted in a really wonky fashion. Kindle needs to solve this on their end if its going to be a truly viable option. Till then I’ll read my articles in night-mode on my phone or tablet and just use the Kindle for books.
  • The sources that I’m going to have improved their in-app reading experience to the point where I’m using Pocket/Instapaper a lot less
    • I use the Athletic, NYTs, and WaPo for most of the things I read. All three of these have acceptable reading interfaces now.
    • The Athletic’s app is how it should be everywhere.
    • NYT is pretty good
    • WaPo has made leaps in the past 12-months but still is slightly below average UI experience via the App

Currently I think I am going to step away from Instapaper. If they bring back the premium for free I’ll look at it again. For now Pocket has won my read-it-later business.

Gutenberg Test 2.0

Gutenberg has been in the wild for a few months now.  I’ve been writing posts using this platform and trying out the different block.  I dig it.  Being able to play with the formatting and testing out different blocks has been fun.  A month or so into I stumbled upon Atomic Block and I’ve been working in their fun stuff too. 

Favorite Parts of Atomic Blocks

Free

Being able to add flair

Getting the different pieces to play together

Adding intrigue

Easy to edit and change

There are elements to the individual special blocks that don’t always work smooth.  I’ve had some more issues with the Atomic Blocks after the most recent updates.  I imagine there will be another round of updates to the specific plugin.  I can’t complain for a free product.  The ability to add interactive features, call-outs to specific buttons, galleries of images, video clips is just so slick and easy.  I don’t do a lot of development with my site.  I keep it simple because its really just a publishing platform in my eyes.  Simple tools that look clean, are easy to use and make for a fun back-end and front-end experience are all I’m interested in presently.  I don’t want to spend hours making something work.  I only have a few minutes play with this site in my “free” time.  

The embeds don’t always work for me.  Usually its a YouTube clip that I want to chop into a post.  Or a GIF that I want inline.  So far I’ve been able to either find simple work-arounds like using Vimeo instead of YouTube or taking an embed from Instagram instead.  I haven’t goofed around with a YouTube embed since the update this week.  I should try that again today or tonight and I’ll update this with a call-out if I do try it.

Overall, I think the Gutenberg editor is ready to be the default.  I think that the Atomic Blocks are a great addition to expand the array of blocks you have to work with.  I like dropped the accordion block in for fun.  Takes your post from Web 1.0 to 2.0 instantly.  In the few months I’ve been banging around with this I haven’t broken anything to an unrepairable level.  I’ve found it much easier to add interesting and interactive elements to my posts.  Now they just need to add Gutenberg to the iOS app and everything will be simple for me.  

Code Keyboard

I write a lot at work.  I try to put out two to three reports a week that tend to be between 50-200 pages per report.  I’m using my keyboard constantly.  If its not typing, editing, retyping, its researching.  I’ve been at my current position for just over five years.  In that time frame I’ve burned through four keyboards.  Years ago I found a basic keyboard layout and design I like and I’ve just gone back to that well constantly. 

For me its been some general variation of the Logitech k550.  I’ve tried their solar powered version but I didn’t really like the shallow keys.  I settled back in for their middle of the road option.  The best part was its was cheap.  I could get a keyboard and a mouse combo at Costco for around $60.  I’ve purchased said combo probably twenty times for myself and other people within our office.  When Costco changes the keyboard then I change.  People within my office like those solar boards so we’ve been buying them online because they are no longer offered at our local Costco.  Buying those keyboards online ends up running closer to $75 per board.  Last week my K560’s left shift key quit working consitently.  I’m left handed I have a hard time using the right shift key.  Then control started working in a more spotty fashion.  I looked to see what keyboard was at Costco, they had moved to a more ergonomic design and it was $10 more for the set.  I decided to look elsewhere.  

Being mindful that I’ve replaced my keyboard roughly every 1.25 years I decided the status quo should change.  A keyboard is a tool that just has to work accurately on a daily basis.  I don’t need frills or added features.  I just need quality.  The typing experience isn’t something that I generally worry about.  Does the keyboard work is the first priority.  Does it have a few media keys so I can turn the volume up, down or mute it quickly.  My keyboard didn’t have backlit keys and this wasn’t a must.  My keyboard needs to have a tenkey and it needs to have function keys.  Otherwise, I’m not that picky.  

Once you open the pandora’s box of keyboards you will be amazed.    I think that is part of the reason I had constatly just gone with the cheap and easy solution.  I don’t want to spend time oiling my keyboard.  If I need to replace keys that usually means I’m getting a new board.  I’d seen the Code Keyboard since its inception.  I had always thought wow that’s cool but I’m not dropping $150+ for a keyboard when I can get the keyboard/mouse combo for less than half that figure.  Now, I’m looking at the four dead keyboards totalling roughly twice what the Code runs and I’m thinking okay maybe it makes sense.  I read some reviews, look around for other options and decided I’d give it a shot.  I’m sure there are better values to be found.  I was able to get the Cherry MX Clear keyswitches.  I don’t want to announce to the world how much I’m typing or how amazingly hard I hit my keys.  I just want to type.  I wanted to sort of get into mechanical keyboards but I didn’t want to build one I just wanted to buy one that was set-up and ready to rock out of the box.  

Today, it arrived.  The board is amazing in its minimalistic spendor.  Just a black appearance.  Most people are going to come into my office and be like cool you’ve got a cheap keyboard on your desk.  I’m banking on that “cheap” keyboard lasting 5+ years, really hoping for 10.  Not just because I spent closer to $180 to get it to my desk but because I also don’t want to be throwing stuff in the landfills constantly.  I like the idea that if the shift key goes out on this one I can possibly just replace it.  I also like the idea that if the slight noise (sounds more like a type-writer than a keyboard) gets old I could spend $20-30 for key dampeners.  By changing my personal perspective on the keyboard I’m hoping to extend the life of the device.  Possibly I’ll get more out of the keyboard too.  Instead of just a thing I mindlessly punch at maybe it’ll become more of a three-dimensional tool.  Even if it doesn’t I’ll be able to find it at night.  

After typing on it for a few hours I had to write this post.  The keyboard is smooth, it is buttery, and it feels more relaxed on my fingers.  The downside would be it is loader than i had expected.  Its pretty quiet but the keys bounce back up and there is audible noise from that.  The keys have this really satisfying pressure when you press them.  The feedback is great.  Part of that feedback is wanting to then kit the keys in a satisfying fashion.  That satisfying attack leads to them being slightly louder.  Its a type-writer on my desktop.  I feel like I’ve been fooling myself with a different experience.  I legit enjoy typing on this thing.  As long as its duribilty holds I can see using it for years and I’m less than two hours in.  The keys are a little more spread out or have more travel between than my previous keyboard or than the small form factor one I’ve been using while I waited for this beauty.  The quick review is its worth it.  The long-play we’ll see.  The added features we’ll see but right now they are gravy to me.  

Alpha Test of Zencastr

Aaron and I are getting back into the podcast game.  We just recorded a test episode on Zencastr.  Couldn’t be easier.  The only thing to do other than click the link is run the health-check within the webapp.  Aaron needed to turn on notifications to be able to allow for his audio to record locally.  Slick and easy.  

Once we were done recording 90 or so seconds of audio we ended the call.  Instantly the MP3 from each of our individual calls was put into my Dropbox folder.  I wasn’t planning to do this today so I didn’t have a halfway decent mic at my office.  I recorded on some five or more year old Skullcandy earbuds that have an inline mic.  Tinny at best man.  The ease of use really needs to be called out.  I put the two files into Audacity real quick, threw on our 3-2-1 intro (that is dated and non-specific), made it an MP3 and uploaded it.  I haven’t done any post besides adding our lame non-intro intro.  The ease of recording and having the MP3 files essentially instantly is amazing.  Here is to hoping this helps us get our show recorded a little more regularly.  

My Welcome to the Gutenberg Editor a Piece in Many Parts

When you install the new Gutenberg editor this page is generated for you.  I’m keeping it around just so I can go back and play with it.  Nothing special really.  

Initial Thoughts

  • The look of the editor is a game changer.  It has a clean aesthetic that hasn’t been WP for as long as I can remember. 
  • Getting used to blocks might take me a few days.
  • Wish I had kept on this development cycle so I wouldn’t have posted stuff this week before upgrading/changing the editor.
  • I can’t wait to put together a post.
  • I don’t expect this to drive more traffic to my site on its own (also don’t care about traffic) but I think my ability to make more dynamic content will probably catch a few more eyeballs. 

Here ends my initial thoughts

Of Mountains & Printing Presses

The goal of this new editor is to make adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. This whole post is composed of pieces of content—somewhat similar to LEGO bricks—that you can move around and interact with. Move your cursor around and you’ll notice the different blocks light up with outlines and arrows. Press the arrows to reposition blocks quickly, without fearing about losing things in the process of copying and pasting.

What you are reading now is a text block, the most basic block of all. The text block has its own controls to be moved freely around the post…

… like this one, which is right aligned.

Headings are separate blocks as well, which helps with the outline and organization of your content.

A Picture is worth a Thousand Words

Handling images and media with the utmost care is a primary focus of the new editor. Hopefully, you’ll find aspects of adding captions or going full-width with your pictures much easier and robust than before.

Beautiful landscape
If your theme supports it, you’ll see the “wide” button on the image toolbar. Give it a try.

Try selecting and removing or editing the caption, now you don’t have to be careful about selecting the image or other text by mistake and ruining the presentation.

The Inserter Tool

Imagine everything that WordPress can do is available to you quickly and in the same place on the interface. No need to figure out HTML tags, classes, or remember complicated shortcode syntax. That’s the spirit behind the inserter—the (+) button you’ll see around the editor—which allows you to browse all available content blocks and add them into your post. Plugins and themes are able to register their own, opening up all sort of possibilities for rich editing and publishing.

Go give it a try, you may discover things WordPress can already add into your posts that you didn’t know about. Here’s a short list of what you can currently find there:

  • Text & Headings
  • Images & Videos
  • Galleries
  • Embeds, like YouTube, Tweets, or other WordPress posts.
  • Layout blocks, like Buttons, Hero Images, Separators, etc.
  • And Lists like this one of course 🙂

Visual Editing

A huge benefit of blocks is that you can edit them in place and manipulate your content directly. Instead of having fields for editing things like the source of a quote, or the text of a button, you can directly change the content. Try editing the following quote:

The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

Matt Mullenweg, 2017

The information corresponding to the source of the quote is a separate text field, similar to captions under images, so the structure of the quote is protected even if you select, modify, or remove the source. It’s always easy to add it back.

Blocks can be anything you need. For instance, you may want to add a subdued quote as part of the composition of your text, or you may prefer to display a giant stylized one. All of these options are available in the inserter.

You can change the amount of columns in your galleries by dragging a slider in the block inspector in the sidebar.

Media Rich

If you combine the new wide and full-wide alignments with galleries, you can create a very media rich layout, very quickly:

Accessibility is important don't forget image alt attribute

Sure, the full-wide image can be pretty big. But sometimes the image is worth it.

The above is a gallery with just two images. It’s an easier way to create visually appealing layouts, without having to deal with floats. You can also easily convert the gallery back to individual images again, by using the block switcher.

Any block can opt into these alignments. The embed block has them also, and is responsive out of the box:

You can build any block you like, static or dynamic, decorative or plain. Here’s a pullquote block:

Code is Poetry

The WordPress community

If you want to learn more about how to build additional blocks, or if you are interested in helping with the project, head over to the GitHub repository.


Thanks for testing Gutenberg!

👋