There’s never been a better time to get back into RSS. – John Gruber
I recently started using NetNewsWire on both my Mac and my iPhone to consume news via RSS feeds.
I made the change just before everything kicked off and the world got turned upside down, but it’s proved to be good timing.
I had previously been using Apple News to both keep up to date with the wider world, as well as follow specific sites.
But right now I can’t take it – the sensationalist headlines, the click bait, the fear mongering. I don’t need more of that in my life.
RSS isn’t a new technology, but it’s making yet another resurgence, and for me it’s because of one app – NetNewsWire.
NetNewsWire – the beautifully simple RSS reader for iOS and Mac
NetNewsWire shows you articles from your favourite blogs and news sites — and keeps track of what you’ve read.
It’s like podcasts, but for reading.
If you’ve been going from page to page in your browser looking for new articles to read, let NetNewsWire bring them to you instead.
NetNewsWire is free for both platforms, and it’s open source. Don’t be fooled by the term “open source” – it can often be misconstrued as synonymous for “designed by developers and decided by committee”, but that couldn't be further from the truth here.
NetNewsWire is an unbelievably great piece of software – opinionated , fast, light, accessible, and beautiful, and it’s unapologetically native. 
It’s apps like NetNewsWire that make me want to learn to code – to think that one day I could build something as great as this.
If you’re looking for some serenity in your news reading habits, and you’ve got an iPhone or a Mac, I implore you to go check it out.
Opinionated software tends to trump "please everyone" software – especially when you agree with the opinions of the decision maker. Brent Simmons, the creator of NetNewsWire has a fantastic blog where he shares his thought processes for many decisions he makes in bringing this wonderful app to life. ↩︎
Every year, the pressure to outline dramatic resolutions mounts as January looms.
But every year I grow older, and hopefully a little wiser, and this time I’m not throwing out my previous resolutions, I’m just evolving them.
I feel extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can choose what to buy and where I buy it from.
In the last few years I’ve grown increasingly aware that I can vote with my wallet and choose to actively seek out the shops I want to support, the products I want to buy, and to actively choose to avoid the businesses I don’t agree with.
This year, I intend to focus on this further – rather than just consuming less – less meat, less alcohol, less plastic, less electricity – I also want to ensure the meat, alcohol, products, and energy I consume are better.
Better for me, better for the environment, better for everyone involved.
Last year I tried creating more.
Creating more certainly helps you build habits, and it helps you maintain your craft.
But I couldn’t bring myself to meet the schedule I set to myself – I found myself creating just to hit a self-prescribed goal. Perhaps I aimed to aggressively – trying to write something new on a daily basis for a few weeks.
I’m done with creating in quantity for now. I want to focus more on quality – on deeper thought, on more unique writing, art, and design.
This year I want to create more, but not too much more. What I really want to do is create better.
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to see one of the first screenings of General Magic in London.
Since seeing the movie, I've been telling everyone I meet about it.
It’s a story of one of the greatest teams of product, engineering, marketing, and leadership people coming together to build a device eerily similar to the iPhone, but in the early 90s.
The movie pieces together with original footage how this incredible team came together, worked their socks off, and ultimately failed to deliver what they set out to achieve. It’s a story that makes you question the definition of failure – a ridiculous number of people from General Magic went on to practically define the world we live in now, and the ideas behind the device were spot on – they just took longer to get here than orignally thought.
Just a few of the people who were involved with General Magic:
Tony Fadell – joined General Magic as an intern, co-inventor of iPod and iPhone, founder of Nest.
Marc Porat – the CEO of General Magic, and visionary of the original device.
Megan Smith – became CTO of US, and VP at Google.
Andy Hertzfeld – member of original Macintosh team, also co-created Google Circles.
Joanna Hoffman – another member of original Macintosh team.
John Sculley – former Apple CEO, also launched the Newton to compete with Genral Magic.
Kevin Lynch – former CTO of Adobe, creator of Dreamweaver, VP of technology at Apple.
Huge thanks to Emma Sinclair for arranging a screening of this movie, and to Sarah Kerruish and Steve Jarrett for the fascinating Q&A after the movie.
If you're interested in the history of computing, you want to see a wealth of on-the-ground footage from one of the most influencial teams of people in technology, or you just want to be inspired by the willpower and hard work of an incredibly smart group of people, you have to watch this movie.
At the start of this month I tried writing every day, but I can’t do it.
More importantly, I feel I shouldn’t do it.
I believed by forcing myself to write every day I’d naturally improve, but after two weeks, the pressure to write every day, without fail, was forcing me to churn words out that I felt were a compromise on quality.
I was inspired by Seth Godin’s recent piece on “streaks” – where he’s written over 3,000 posts over the course of his blog. Very few people can claim to have that level of stamina for writing.
But I am not trying to be Seth Godin. I am trying to write to articulate my thoughts more clearly, to help me form my own thoughts, and hopefully to share any lessons I learn with others.
So far, by trying to write every day, I’ve learnt something valuable – that it doesn’t encourage me to do my best work.
Instead, I’m going to change my goal – try to write more, but try to write better, longer, more thoughtful pieces.
My new goals for writing:
Don’t try to write every day.
Spend more time thinking, before the writing.
Once a week > once a day.
Read what I write. Edit. Read again. Publish.
I also took some time to update the look and feel of the site. I love the Ghost platform for blogging, but I was frustrated to still be using essentially a default theme.
Great design is near and dear to my heart – it runs through everything in my life – so I don’t wish for any part of public presence to look substandard.
I can still do a whole lot better with the design of my site, but for now I’ve taken a few cues from the latest updates to the GoSquared brand, including using the wonderful Inter typeface, and working on a stylised version of my initials for the first time.
I treat this site as a test bed for my design, writing, and for sharing my thoughts. I hope you’ll like what’s to come.
It’s so easy to think you know what your customer experience is like.
Whether you sell a piece of software, you run a government department, or you’re putting on an event, it’s all too easy to think you’ve catered to your customer’s needs.
But we are all customers. And we know how many businesses don’t cater to our needs.
Today I had to go to the passport office in London.
I had an email to the head to the apartment office – it told me I had an appointment to collect my passport at a specific time, and to get there no earlier than 10 minutes before my appointment, and obviously no later.
But upon arrival, I found there were two entrances – one for “appointments” and one for “collections”. Where does one go for an appointment to collect their passport? For those waiting in suspense, the answer, apparently, is collections.
The whole situation made me realise – it’s so obvious in my shoes how this could be improved. But within the organisation – especially one as complex as the UK passport office – I assume nothing is obvious or easy.
I would imagine very few people speak to each other between departments, and I would imagine it’s a rarity that anyone who can impact the situation ever experiences the flow from a customer’s perspective.
The same concept applies to almost every business – at your event, is the agenda clear upon arrival? In your cafe, is it clear where the restroom is? In your restaurant, do you sit at a table or wait to be seated? When you sign up for your software product, is it clear what you should do first to get value?
It’s not hard to know what your customer experience is like, but it’s very easy to think you know it.
Try being your own customer today and see what you find – you’ll be glad you did!
If there was an event where Apple expressed the importance of telling stories, it was their services event earlier this year where they launched Apple TV+. Every other word at their March event was either “Services” or “Storytelling”.
But everyevent features storytelling from Apple. They’re incredible at storytelling. And I always enjoy seeing the stories they want to tell with each product announcement they make.
Yesterday’s event was no different.
From a product perspective, it’s hard to get excited about year-over-year device upgrades these days – when phones are objectively “more than good enough” for the overwhelming majority of customers.
How do you make people want something new when what they have is good enough? You tell a great story and make sure millions of people hear that story.
Here are the stories I took from Apple’s September event:
iPhone 11 Pro: this is a professional video and stills camera in your phone. Stop thinking you need a camera and a phone and get this.
iPhone 11: the new iPhone is tough as nails and the battery lasts longer. It’s also a bit cheaper. What more do you want from us?
Apple Watch: this watch will change or save your life, or both. And we’ve got the watch for you – pick from a thousand variations.
Apple Retail: everything is fine despite Angela Ahrendts leaving. To prove it, here’s two new initiatives and a beautiful redesign of our most famous store.
AppleTV+: We are taking this content thing seriously. We’re not messing about and one way or another you’re going to end up watching these shows.
iPad: This is a platform of its own now. It’s not a bigger sibling of the iPhone. We’re going to keep pushing the price down at the low end and keep pushing the tablet paradigm to its limits at the high end.
Apple Arcade: Families, we get you. Don’t worry about the slimy games out there trying to nickel and dime you. We’ve got fantastic, exclusive games for you, and for just $4.99 / month you don’t need to worry about your children racking up a huge credit card bill for fake coins ever again.
The stories Apple didn’t tell
The Tile competitor: a new way to find the stuff you own. Never lose another gadget or item around your house. Seamlessly integrated with your existing Apple devices. Tiny price compared to the iPhone you’ll be buying soon – why not buy a pack of 10 Apple Tiles? They’ll make a great stocking filler.
The pro story for anything other than iPhone. Mac Pro, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro all are waiting for their time to shine.
Every September, Apple announces new iPhones without fail. Here’s a QuickTake of the 2019 iPhone event.
Apple kicked the event off with a beautiful introductory animation that many would describe as an artistic homage to the soon-to-depart Jony Ive. Regardless of the meaning behind this animation, it's utterly delightful.
Apple's first focus was to talk about Apple Arcade – the gaming subscription service announced earlier in the year. Some great games, nothing too much new other than official release date and official price of $4.99 / month.
Because Apple controls everything here, it’s going to be available in 150 countries on launch. Relatively easy for Apple to do, very hard for anyone else.
Apple’s Netflix competitor was also announced earlier in the year, and Apple has been teasing more and more trailers in the last few months.
Nothing new to report from the event except: Apple is aggressively pricing this. Not only is the service $4.99 / month – half of Netflix – but they’re also giving everyone a free year on any new purchase of an Apple device.
Aggressive pricing is perhaps required here – Apple is playing catchup, and their catalogue is tiny right now. They’re building from zero.
But with original content there’s a lot to be said for having 10 incredibly well produced and popular shows over 100 mediocre ones. Only time will tell whether Apple’s high quality production will equate to popularity.
The lowest end iPad gets an update. Apple also took the time to remind us that the iPad has its own OS now. I’d expect the really exciting iPad news to be about the iPad Pro which were massively overhauled in the last year – maybe there's time for an October event before Christmas.
The headline for the Apple Watch is health. Health health health.
The heartfelt stories Apple shared about customers whose lives had been impacted and / or saved as a result of wearing Apple Watch were nothing but heart warming and made you want to well up. The story is clear: Apple Watch is not a product, it’s a living, breathing example of technology serving the human race for good, not evil.
It's very easy to get caught up in the emotion but then you do need to remind yourself it's a consumer device that costs $399 or more and will last for approximately three years before it needs replacing.
The Series 5 features an "always on" display while maintaining all day battery – I didn’t realise this was possible today with current tech. Very cool to see it shipping in a device that I thought was still at least another generation out.
It never fails to amaze me how Apple comes up with new visuals to promote
Within a team – whether you’re five people or 500 – bad communication is often the top reason for things to fall apart.
If you can communicate better you can operate better.
But it’s extremely easy to under-communicate. To assume that everyone knows the plan, everyone knows the reason we exist, everyone knows the pricing, everyone knows the roadmap, everyone knows the mistakes you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learnt from them.
But in reality, most people on the team don’t know the same information. They probably have far fewer things clear in their heads.
If you’re in a position of leadership then you’re probably in a position of immense power to communicate more, and to communicate better, with your team.
I’ve made this mistake too many times – to assume everyone “gets it”. To not repeat what you feel is already obvious.
But what you think is obvious as a leader may be clear as mud to some on your team – especially if they’ve just joined your company.
Communicate the big and important stuff clearly. Communicate frequently. Then make it clearer. And then communicate it again some more.
Communicate the same thing over and over and over until it’s painful to repeat it again.
It’s extremely hard to over-communicate as a leader. And the risks of under-communicating far outweighs the risks of over-communicating.
I had an encounter with a business the other day where I felt frustrated by their marketing approach.
They sent me snail mail without my consent, and even had the misfortune to send their mass mailing out with a typo in the headline.
I messaged them to tell them about the typo but also to politely ask them not to send me such mail in the future. Aside from being mail I didn’t want, I thought it was against the GDPR ruling we’ve had in Europe for over a year now.
Apparently their approach was still legally compliant with GDPR, and they have no intention of changing it.
But it made me realise – some individuals, and some businesses choose to scrape by and meet the rules.
While some people and some businesses think the rules don’t go far enough – they choose to set the example, and enforce a higher standard than the laws ever could.
Some rules are there to be broken, but some rules and laws are there to protect customers, society, the environment, and more. Those kinds of rules can be obeyed, or they can be exceeded by each of us.
The companies that exceed the rules, tend to exceed customer expectations. And those companies have a bright future.
If you can be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, then you can start to act on them.
You don't necessarily need to improve where you're weak – just admitting that you're weak in a specific area can help you to decide if you should get better there, or find another solution.
For example, if you're running a business and you're weak on financial knowledge – you can choose to improve there, or you can choose to give that role to someone else. The only option you can't pick is to continue to be weak in that role and hope something changes by luck or magic.
The only caveat to improving all your weaknesses is you end up in the age-old situation of being a jack of all trades and a master of none. In the early days of any business, this is not necessarily a problem. But as soon as you have a team – of even, say, five people – it's time to start thinking about what you want to be a master of.
Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? If not, don't be afraid to ask those around you. People are often very nice, so it's likely they won't be forthcoming with your weaknesses. So make it easier for them – if there's an area you feel isn't your strength, simple ask those around you "Others have told me I could improve in X area – would you agree?"
Once you're clear on your own strengths and weaknesses, and you know where you want to improve, then it becomes a lot easier to worry less about your weaknesses and shortcomings.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying hard to box out my time each day of the week.
One of the challenges I struggle with, and from speaking to many other people – both founders and anyone working in a small team – is it’s hard to switch between the hundred different tasks you have each day.
It’s widely understood that constant task switching destroys your productivity, but it’s so hard to escape when there’s a constant torrent of new tasks to be accomplished and decisions to be made.
But escaping the torrent and becoming productive requires you to be in charge. You need to take control of your time.
Control your time
If you can control how you spend your time you can do so much more.
I was always sceptical of this, but since putting a concerted effort into boxing out my time during the week, I’ve become dramatically more productive, less stressed, and I’m able to spend my energy on the most important work – not just the most urgent.
How can you start to take more control of your time?
One simple change I’ve made is to book in my calendar the time I would normally leave as empty with an event – perhaps it’s titled “Map out our plan for Q4” or “Deep creative work”.
It doesn’t matter too much what tasks you put in – what matters is you treat your “free” time in the work week as protected time.
If a meeting deserves to get a fixture in your calendar, why the hell doesn’t the most important work you do get to feature there too?
A chance to reflect
As a bonus – it’s one thing to map out your week ahead of time, but it’s another to reflect on where your time went.
During the week, stuff comes up. Priorities change. "Urgent" tasks – even when we try our hardest to avoid them – tend to take priority.
I’ve been trying to keep track of my time throughout the day retrospectively by adjusting my calendar events based on what actually happened.
None of this is highly scientific. None of this is necessarily “industry standard”. And none of this requires any fancy tools or software. It just requires a calendar and a mindset change.
Do you feel in control of your schedule? If you do, I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to accomplish such an achievement.
When was the last time you gave someone you work with feedback that was more than just “nice one!” or “great!”?
If you don’t give direct, constructive, helpful feedback you’re doing your team a disservice.
It’s so much easier to keep your thoughts to yourself – to hold it in and move on with your day, or to try to do the task yourself next time. But neither of these options help you build a great team, and neither of these options help the individual who needs the feedback most.
Two sides of feedback
There are two sides to feedback – the giving and the receiving.
Something we are always working to infuse within the team at GoSquared is a shared understanding of why feedback is so important – it enables each of us to improve and be the best we can be.
The following talk from Kim Scott on Radical Candor is a helpful step in the right direction for understanding why feedback is important and how you can encourage everyone on your team to get better at giving and receiving it.
I'm incredibly proud of her achievements so far, and I can't wait to see where her business goes next.
The whole process has been a huge learning curve for me though – having run GoSquared for so many years, it's refreshing to see a business from inception again.
One key misperception I see with founders just starting out, is that they hold too much back for too long – they wait until everything's perfect before sharing their creation with the world. They believe there will be a sudden influx of customers that will buy their perfect product the moment they launch.
Even for established businesses, having a queue of willing customers is a challenge – for a fresh new enterprise, it's as good as impossible.
Don't hope or even plan for the flood of customers. Time spent planning for that is time you could spend elsewhere.
Just sell one thing to one customer.
Then do it again.
And then again.
You have to start one by one. You'll learn a lot this way, and you'll be making progress each and every day.
If you can sell one candle, you can sell two. And if you can sell two you can sell many, many more.
And the amount of “he said she said” reduced to zero.
We started recording meetings.
At first, it was an alarming change – it felt weird.
Was it a step towards overbearing surveillance? Could this be used against me in the future? We all had concerns when starting out.
But a few months in, and the results have been undeniable.
The inspiration came from learning of Ray Dalio’s approach to running Bridgewater Associates. At Bridgewater every meeting is recorded, and direct, clear, honest feedback is strongly encouraged.
As with Bridgewater, recording meetings is part of a wider understanding across the team that we want to grow as individuals and as a team, and if we don’t hold each other to a high standard then we’re letting everyone down.
Now every individual in a meeting is aware that anyone else in the business has the opportunity to listen at a later date. It encourages everyone to bring their best to every meeting.
Why do we do it?
The key reasons we started to record meetings:
If someone can’t be present and wants extra detail on why a decision was made or how an idea came to be, there’s a place to understand that.
So anyone in the meeting can reflect on their own performance – just as a sports team reviews their performance after a game, it gives us a chance to review our own performance.
How do we record meetings?
There’s nothing complex:
Start the meeting.
Remind everyone the meeting is about to be recorded. If someone isn’t OK with it they can veto the recording any time. Consent is required.
Open the Voice Memos app on your phone.
Remember to hit Stop at the end of the meeting.
To be clear, we don’t record absolutely every internal meeting – private one-to-one catchup conversations with the team and similar situations where discretion is critical are not recorded.
Customer conversations are a different ballgame entirely. There's a huge benefit to recording conversations with customers and potential customers. The emphasis on consent is even greater here, and is a topic for another day.
It’s worth noting that we’ve evolved how meetings are run at GoSquared a heck of a lot over the years. Those learnings are also for another post – stay tuned.
I hope this is helpful, and reach out to me on Twitter if you have questions about our approach.
It was set to 3rd February 1991. Correct date, wrong year. I thought “🧐 that looks odd” so changed the year to 2006 – the actual year we legally started the business (unlike 1991 which was the year I was born).
I received a warning saying “you can only change this a few times” – in itself a poorly worded error. Why can I only change it a few times, and what definition of “a few” are you going by, Twitter?
Either way, I thought this would all be fine. After all, why would I need to change the date again after this? So I went ahead and confirmed.
“Your account is locked.”
This was literally the next thing I saw. A blank screen with one link to a support doc. No buttons or options to undo the change, or change the date again.
What did this change cause?
It locked everyone out of the @GoSquared Twitter account – you cant read the timeline, you can’t post, you can’t do anything.
It instantly hid our profile so it didn’t exist publicly – we didn't show up in search results, and if you went directly to the profile it just told you it didn't exist.
It paused our active Twitter Ads running – of which we spend a not-insubstantial amount of money on every month.
It cut our access to all related Twitter tools including the Twitter Analytics product.
Any Tweets mentions or quoting our own Tweets showed a lovely “This Tweet is unavailable” message.
We were deleted from Twitter.
All this, despite being an active user of Twitter since February 2008 with over 6,000 followers, being a verified Twitter account, and an active paying customer of Twitter Ads having spent many many thousands of dollars over several years.
To make matters worse, the issue arose at around 10:30am London time. I immediately took their recommended action of uploading a scan of my ID, and also submitted a support ticket to Twitter Support. I also reached out to the Twitter Business team via an email address they shared in previous communications. A number of people also mentioned @Twitter, @TwitterUK, @verified, and @TwitterSupport in various tweets to try to drive attention of the issue. We even reached out to any contacts we had at Twitter. But nothing.
Nothing until 8:30pm, and only after calling in a favour from a couple of very helpful people: @KeaneJoel and @Jonah.
I’m not writing about this to moan, I’m writing about this with the hope that no one else goes through the same stressful ordeal.
Don’t change your birthday on Twitter.
Twitter – you have got to improve on so many fronts here:
This is very nearly the most destructive action one can take on their Twitter account. You have to make that clearer to the user at the point they are making the change.
On Sunday of this week, I’ll be running the 2019 London Marathon.
My primary feeling right now is fear, followed closely by nervousness, and a distant third is excitement.
I’m running for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the RNLI – they’re the charity that saves lives at sea. They’re like a fourth emergency service in the UK, except they’re all volunteers. They’re the people that come to save you if you are in trouble at sea or in a river like the Thames in London.
This post is less about trying to persuade you to donate – although if you are feeling generous or wish to show your support in any way, I would appreciate it more than you can imagine. See my JustGiving page to follow along.
The marathon is a distance I have never run before. Doing this is a venture into the unknown – will my body be able to cope? Will I make it to the start line without an injury? Will I be feeling 100% on the morning of the big day? Will I need to go to the bathroom mid-race? Will I eat enough of the right food to ensure I have energy to get me around? Will I hit the infamous “wall” unexpectedly and struggle to finish? Am I worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong?
The only thing certain to me right now is this: I would never have trained or run this far unless I had committed to entering for a place in the London Marathon.
If I can take out just one thing from this experience it’s that you simply don’t push yourself to your limits unless you have a really big hairy audacious goal to aim for.
And there aren’t many goals as big, hairy, or audacious as running 26.2 miles.
Just a few years ago I had barely run 5km. I hated running at school. And now, in just a few days I’ll be starting a race across an absurd distance.
The whole experience has had me thinking: is there an equivalent to the marathon in other parts of my life? How can I push the boundaries of my own abilities in other areas?
Whether it’s running or not – is there the equivalent of a marathon you can commit to to push the boundaries of what you think you can achieve?
Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far – whether with advice, suggestions, or donations. It means the world to me.
The details are not details. They make the design. – Charles Eames
I was lucky enough to get a new Apple Watch this week – the Series 4 Nike+.
The packaging is beautiful as with any Apple product. Compared to my Series “0” original Apple Watch, the packaging is different – being a sport model it's unboxing the Series 4 is slightly less theatrical, but it’s still delightful and the details astound me.
One point that stood out – there’s hardly any documentation, but the paperwork that is in the box is carefully crafted down to the last detail.
Look at the border radius and shape of the paper – look at the border shape of the watch, the screen of the watch, and even the wrapper that goes around the paper. Even look at the previous image and see the box cut-out that holds the paper in place.
They all match up. And that’s not by accident.
Imagine the time and effort it took to ensure that happened internally – from the graphic design of the leaflet, to the collaboration with the printing team to the facility where they cut the paper stock. To the quality control to ensure it always looks perfect and not wonky or misaligned.
All this effort for a detail that almost no one will pick up on. But almost everyone will feel it.