The Power of Habits

Back in December I read an interesting article in WIRED about habits and software design. However habits also impact our daily lives. Many fitness trackers and health related apps promise to help us develop good habits. Habits can be heard to make and hard to break. Sometimes we like our habits and other times we dislike them. However we engage in them so often they can define who we are.

The hard part of a new habit is trying something for the first time. I like Matt Cutts idea to try something new for 30 days. However it does not solve the issue that mentally trying something completely new can be exhausting. The best way to tackle this is to plan out what you are doing. If you are making a new breakfast food you should know where the ingredients are and have the instructions ready. Leave extra time for screw-ups. First impressions matter and a bad first experience can ruin trying to create a habit forever.

Small changes over a long period of time are much easier to do than large changes at once. This is why I think things like diet and exercise plans fail. Some people enjoy re-inventing themselves but many of us do not have time for that and do not find it fun. However doing something like going to bed 15 minutes earlier or eating a bagel instead of a muffin is not overly aggressive.1 If you do not like your new habit it probably will not last so you should find a different better habit that will stick.

  1. The caloric difference between the muffin and bagel at Dunkin Donuts is 150. It need not be a bagel, just something else you enjoy that is more nutritious. 

My Favorite Mac Software

One of the things that I find odd is how averse many people are to paying for software. The Mac has tons of neat applications that save time or do useful things. Here are some of my favorites:

1Password - I use this daily on my Mac and iPhone. It keeps all my passwords, bank account information, and software licenses in one place. It automatically captures the data when I input it into my browser and syncs with iCloud.

OmniFocus - I use this on my Mac and iPhone as well. It is the ultimate to do list application. The best part is setting up a universal keyboard shortcut to create a to do item from the webpage you are on. It makes it easier to close those pesky tabs. I also use the location based reminders in the iPhone version to remind me about what credit card to use at stores and restaruants to maximize my rewards.

Tweetbot - This is a twitter client for twitter power users. I like it because it keeps my timeline sync’d between my iPhone and Mac.

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop - Adobe sells this under its Creative Cloud Photography plan. It has more features and is overall a superior photo management and editing experience than iPhoto. I got it specifically to use Lightroom. If you want to stick with iPhoto then I recommend Pixelmator for photo editing.

TextExpander - This is useful for saving typing effort by having shortcuts to paste blocks of text. I use this for frequent e-mail replies or if I have to reptitively fill out an online form.

Fantastical - This is an easy to access calendar application that lets you quickly add events using natural language.

Page One New York Times Documentary

Last night I watched Page One the documentary that was released about the New York Times. It was a worthwhile watch for two reasons. The first is that it focuses on David Carr, who recently passed away. The second is that it provides some interesting background on some of the more fascinating topics of coverage from the past few years.

One of the issues the documentary explores is how the New York Times and journalism will survive in the new economy. David Carr mounts a vociferous defense of the Times throughout the video and in many ways I think he is right. It appears that an increasing amount of revenue for New York Times is coming from premium digital subscriptions. Furthermore the quality of the free coverage online in the blogs was not always up to the quality of what was in the newspapers, and so we now have this next generation of online news websites like Vox and BuzzFeed that are developing higher quality content.

There seem to be two emerging models. Vox has venture money and targets premium advertisers while BuzzFeed seems to pull in ad revenue from having a long tail of content that people engage with. Ultimately I think it would be great if online ad prices reach a point that they can sustain freely available journalism. However, I believe that a hybrid between the ad model, the monthly subscription model, and micropayments through things like bitcoin will make them work.

Kara Swisher Interviews Barack Obama

Kara Swisher does a great job of interviewing Barack Obama on important issues in technology policy and law including encryption, diversity in technology, and immigration:

Connecticut's Draft Open Data Policy

The Chief Data Officer of the State of Connecticut has posted his Draft Open Data Policy for public comment on the Connecticut Data Portal. I will likely share my thoughts once I finish reviewing and formulating them, but overall it seems to follow many of the best practices espoused by the public data community. It is good to see that this is being taken seriously by someone in state government, but also disappointing to see the lack of views and engagement by the general public. I hope you will take a look and add your comments to the Google Doc.

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