Don’t ever say or think ‘that’s good enough’

Brian Grazer, producer of 24 and Arrested Development on how there are no rules to how you achieve success – except maybe on.

“Every once in a while I rationalize quality,” [Brian Grazer] continued. “There are so many decision you make, and you’re trying to do excellence. We know what excellence is. We know what better food is versus not good food. But there’s a rationalizing process—that’s good enough. Anytime the light bulb goes, that’s good enough, it’s shitty!”

Brian Grazer Talks ’24,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ and Regretting ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ at Aspen – Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic (4 July 2015)

Read the full piece.

Writers’ notes: how to write a CV

We are taught – if we’re taught at all – that we write CVs in a certain way with chronology of work, every detail in sequence with gaps explained. References. Interests.

Bollocks.

Do this instead:

1) No modesty. There’s a difference between boasting and going too far the other way. Of avoiding boasting by instead lying by omission. You got on the New York Times Bestseller List? Say so. It’s a fact. Don’t qualify it (all US book writers were on strike that week), just state it.

2) Nuts to academic good practice: you are not applying for a university post, everything they tell you to do on CVs is wrong. Nobody gives a damn about how you’re interested in ballroom fish photography, they want to know you can do the job. Tell them that by leading with your latest work and then follow with the next most relevant thing. Divide it up into sections if that means you can group two long-apart events without looking strange.

3) Remember that the job of the CV is to get you an interview. Don’t put so much in there that they can effectively interview you on the page. The CV gets you in the door, nothing more than that.

4) Be plain, be simple, don’t go over a page.

5) References. Let them ask for those. Have them ready if you can and if you must but nobody needs them to take a look at you.

And that’s all a CV is for. Now it’s up to you with your writing and your pitching in the interview.

Fantastical 2 for iOS updated

Fantastical 2 for iPad and iPhone is today updated to version 2.1 and unless you’ve taken steps to stop it, the app has already updated itself on your iOS devices. Because it’s automatic, it’s easy to not realise that it’s a significant upgrade or actually to notice that it has happened at all.

But the maker says that this version:

ONE NEW APP, MANY NEW FEATURES
• Reminders!
– See your events and dated reminders together in the main list
– Add reminders directly from the Reminders list or new event screen – just flip the switch to toggle between events and reminders
– Set dates, times, and geofences (when I arrive/when I leave)

• Significant new parser features, including:
– Create reminders by starting your sentence with “reminder”, “todo”, “task”, or “remind me to”
– Expanded, expressive repeating events such as third Thursday of every month, every weekend, last weekday of the month, and more
– Create alerts with phrases such as “remind me tomorrow at 3PM”, “alert 1 hour before”, or “alarm 3PM”

• All-new event details, including a map to show your event’s locations and better repeating event options
• An elegant week view when you rotate your iPhone to landscape
• Background app updating allows events, reminders, and alerts to be pushed to Fantastical 2 even if you don’t launch the app very often
• An extended keyboard when creating new events or reminders, providing instant access to numbers and symbols for dates and times (only for 4″ screens)
• Birthday options – tap on a birthday to see contact information or send a quick greeting
• TextExpander support
• Many other refinements and improvements

I don’t use Fantastical 2 for reminders and this won’t change my habits. But otherwise I swear by this app and recommend it hugely.

Plus, for a brief introductory period, the new version 2.1 is reduced in price by 50%. (Just like the Mac version.)

So that makes Fantastical 2.1 for iPhone currently cost just £2.99 UK or $4.99 US and Fantastical 2.1 for iPad now £6.99 UK or $9.99 US.

Apps We Can’t Live Without

This is the video that opened Apple's WWDC: it's a paean to the app developers of the world, without whom I wouldn't now be talking to you. (Just to say this to you, I'm using Editorial, Safari, YouTube and WordPress on iPad).

Marco Polo lost again – if you’re a woman

Previously… Marco Polo is a new 69p iPhone app for helping you find your phone when you've left it around the house. Just shout “Marco!” and your iPhone will reply “Polo!”.

The trouble is, it doesn't work for women. Or children. Or the Bee Gees. Hats off to The Unofficial Apple Weblog for bothering to test it out – and hats off to the app's maker, Matt Wiechec, who's taken TUAW's criticism and is dealing with it.

Read their coverage of his response and hear their test of the app too.

Why it’s worth grabbing free apps

The rule is that Android users get free apps, iPhone users pay for them. I am an iPhone user and I am more than fine with paying for apps. The amount of use I get from them, the pitifully cheap prices, it’s not a debate. But I do get free iPhone apps and specifically I do often grab paid ones that are briefly on offer as freebies. I’ll do that in part because all those 69p purchases add up and I’ll do it mostly because I’m often poking around an area, looking for a type of app rather than a specific one. And then I also do it because there is a specific advantage:

Free is cheaper than paid.

Okay, there are two specific advantages:

Once you have an app, you have it forever

Actually, three:

Once you have an app, you typically get free upgrades

So if an app that I definitely want then I’ll just buy it. But if there’s one I fancy trying or that I think I will need at some point, I’ll grab it when it goes free – and I may even delete it immediately. Without opening it even once. Because I’ll open it when I need it and all I have to do now is download the thing. Actually, you don’t even have to do that: starting to download it is enough, as I found when I went through the Channel Tunnel part way.

Once you have officially bought the app, you can delete it and know that you are able to get it again whenever you want. For free. Even after the price goes back up, most of the time also after the app has been upgraded later. Some apps make their new versions completely new apps that you have to pay for again and there are apps that do vanish forever. You’re out of luck with those but otherwise, this all works. So, for instance, Lonely Planet made a lot of its travel guide apps free last year and I grabbed the lot, deleted the lot – and then brought back ones when I was actually going travelling.

Quick story? I once advised on an app that was so bad I gave the maker a list of 19 reasons it could not be released. They ignored me, submitted it to Apple, and Apple rejected it with 20 reasons. I still kick myself over the one I missed. But the maker sort-of addressed those 20, enough to get it on sale anyway, and I was required to have it on my iPhone. But it was so bad, I mean it was still so embarrassingly bad that I deleted it. Whenever I’d be in a meeting when I was asked a question about it, I’d just re-download it from the App Store, slog through trying to work out the answer, then delete it again. One day I was asked a question by one editor in the company and couldn’t get it back: another editor had approved it being removed from the App Store forever. I don’t know who that was, but he or she made me look bad in that meeting. And I applaud him or her for doing it. That’s how bad the app was.

But you want to know how to find when apps go free. Try an app way: download the Apps Gone Free

Marco Polo found – on iPhone

Maybe you have to be a Doctor Who fan to be alert to any news with the words “Marco Polo” and “found” but that's how I just discovered a new app that I can't make my mind up about.

Get this new app, run it on your iPhone and the next time you lose your phone around the house, just shout the word “Marco”. Your iPhone will reply at top volume: “Polo!”

I have no idea why the maker chose those words. You can change the “Marco” bit but you won't because there's no changing the Polo response.

Take a look at it on the App Store and be ready to spend your 69p UK, 99c US.

Grab Word Lens right now – it’s suddenly free

It's the app that looked like a joke: point your iPhone camera at a sign written in French and on the screen, you see it in English. It's the universal translator of Star Trek or the Time Lord Gift of Doctor Who except that it is real. Like many, I downloaded the free app just to see if it were true and it was. But you get only a kind of demo limited unless you buy packs such as English to Russian. I can't remember how much those cost but it was enough that I put it off until I was going to a country. I never once remembered to do that.

Except.

Now we don't have to: the whole thing, in-app language packs and all, is free.

It's free because the development company has just been bought by Google. The mark has turned everything free and I am downloading it all right now.

I'm sure it won't remain free for long. I'm not sure whether it will continue as a separate app, though: you can well imagine that Google is intending to incorporate this technology into its other offerings. Fine. Good, even. But the current Word Lens app may not survive so grab it while you can.

Word Lens on the iOS a App Store

Running iPhone apps on Android

It’ll never happen. Google wouldn’t give a monkey’s but Apple would. And I don’t know that I’d want it to happen anyway: it wouldn’t be much of a step from that to having every phone run the same software and then where would we be? I don’t like using Android phones but there’s no question that iPhone has benefited from there being competition. Though plainly Android took nothing from iPhone, nooooooooo.

Still, it could happen in theory – because it is happening today, it is just now just about possible to run an iPhone app on an Android phone:

…six Columbia University students have bridged the gap between the two platforms with something called Cider (via The Next Web). Not to be confused with the other Cider software (for OS X), the Android version of Cider essentially fools iOS applications into believing they’re running on an actual iPhone or iPad.

9to5 Mac

There’s work and there’s work. You would never use this in real life. And I have serious questions about the smartness of university students who don’t know the difference between portrait and landscape: have a look at their video about all this.

It’s when an app fails that you realise how much you like it

TripIt_icon_flatThere are bad apps that you either ditch or tolerate. There are good apps that you use a lot. Then there are great ones that you use so much you forget that you’re using an app, it’s just the way things are. (I would offer that there are then even greater apps that are melded into your DNA: if I’m being harsh then I’d say only OmniFocus is like that with me, but isn’t it great that a tool can become so much a part of your life?)

Right up there in the so-great category for me is TripIt and I only appreciated that this week when it failed on me.

This is what is supposed to happen:

  • Make any travel booking anywhere and get an email ticket from ’em
  • Forward that email to plans@tripit.com
  • TripIt parses the ticket and pops every detail into your TripIt account
  • When you’re travelling, see everything you need on your iPhone

That last doesn’t sound so great but, seriously, it is. I had a thing where I was travelling from Birmingham in the UK to a village in the deepest part of southern France and it meant a lot of train rides and a lot of connections. Many of them were easy and great – I especially loved that I got a couple of hours in Paris both ways – but some were very, very, very tight. There was one where I had six minutes to get across what turned out to be a giant train station on multiple levels and though the guard I asked turned out to speak fantastic English, he also told me the wrong thing. Please picture me running, running and eventually sliding, sliding, sliding Charlie-Brown-like onto my train.

I do remember stopping on the way to help a woman carry an enormous suitcase up some stairs. So, you know, give me credit there: I may have made a mistake booking trains too close together but I’m a mensch under pressure.

What helped me throughout the whole journey was that I could look at TripIt on my iPhone at any time and be shown exactly what I had to do next. What the next train was, where it was, where it was going, what my seat reservation was, any booking references I needed, all that. I could choose to look at any or all of the steps in my journey so if something came up I’d be able to judge if I had the time to do it.

I’m not going to say that it made the journey pleasant when in fact the whole journey was great anyway, but it was a help and a guide and it became automatic that I would check TripIt along the way.

However.

It gets all this information from your email ticket. It parses that ticket: goes through it looking for departure times, train or airline reference numbers and so on. Fine. It’s handy that you just forward your ticket email to plans@tripit.com. (And clever that it’s always that same address: I can show you that address. It’s not a secret one like Evernote or OmniFocus use to let you email details in, it’s a big wide-open for-everyone email address and the smarts are in how it also parses who sent it. If I forward an email to plans@tripit.com, the service sees it’s from me and the details are popped into my account.)

Ticket emails differ between companies, though. TripIt is really good at this parsing but it gets thrown by two things: firstly a company it hasn’t parsed before and secondly if a company changes the layout of its emails. TripIt is an American service and I’m based in the UK so I’m not surprised that I occasionally hit companies that it doesn’t know. When that happens, TripIt sends you a warning that it couldn’t do anything with this stuff and that it has instead kept a copy of that entire ticket email in your account’s notes section. So at least you can see that.

But this week I booked a flight via Tripster and TripIt fell over. It believed it had parsed the email correctly, I got the regular TripIt success confirmation rather than any warnings, but it hadn’t. It believed my flight was tomorrow, it believed there was no seat or airline or reservation number. It was as close to a blank item in my travel itinerary as could be.

But TripIt is so useful when you’re travelling, so very useful, that I’ve taken the time to enter all the details for this trip by hand. Man, it was boring. And the knowledge that I will rely on this detail later actually made me nervous of entering it all, of not making any mistakes.

TripIt usually enters all my details for all my trips and it usually never goes wrong. I know I’m telling you of a time that it failed and that it was a boring time because of that, but it’s made me appreciate how good this app and this service is.

Let me quickly tell you that you can join the TripIt website for free and that there is a free app. I used that free app for years even though I don’t like ad-supported ones: I’d rather pay than have ads, I find them that intrusive. For those years, the choice, though, was between an ad-supported free app or a Pro version that required an annual subscription. I seem to travel more and more, but it’s still not enough for that.

However, at some point the company caved and released an app that you pay for but only pay that once. No subscription. It’s got an ungainly name: it’s called TripIt Travel Organizer (no ads) but it costs only 69p UK or 99c US. When I bought it I paid £2.49 and I still paid up before I’d reached the end of the sentence telling me it existed.

So: I thoroughly recommend, verging on urge you to use the TripIt website and this particular TripIt app.