Don’t look at what you’ve got to do, look at what you’ve got

This is really interesting. It’s crouched behind whatever the opposite of a come-on title is – it’s called The Power of Asset-Based Approaches – but it is fascinating. The core of it, or at least the core that immediately appeals to me, is that taking stock of what and who you’ve got produces better results than you all bitching about what problems you have to solve.

Do you know, when you put it that way…

Writer Donnie Maclurcan puts it differently:

The underlying message is that when we start by exploring people’s strengths, we value people as human beings. When applied to community development, the asset-based approach is one of the most powerful ways to mobilize for social change because it proposes that everyone has something to offer and therefore everyone is needed. It shifts thinking to building from opportunities rather than responding to problems, and in the case of group processes it reduces the kinds of participant fears that often lead to unhealthy behaviours (such as power plays and passive aggressive behaviour). Equipped with such knowledge, groups can then move forward in a respectful, highly productive way with the work that attracted their member’s involvement in the first place.

The asset-based principle is also transferable to project planning. When you design a project that starts by highlighting its participants’ strengths, user uptake rapidly increases. Similarly, an article that starts with positives or neutral facts will draw-in and retain more readers than one that starts with a controversial opening statement, even if that controversial statement appears later on in the article. Highlighting this phenomenon in the real world, the U.K. sustainability communications agency Futerra compiled a 2009 report demonstrating just how important it is for climate organizations to begin their arguments and reports by ‘selling the sizzle’, i.e., focusing on what’s going well.

The Power of Asset-based Approaches – Donnie Maclurcan, Post Growth Institute (9 September 2014)

Read the full piece, I recommend it. And thanks to Angela Gallagher for the heads up.

You don’t have to be creepy about it

But do your homework about people. I just had a terribly fun meeting with someone – er, I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did – and before I got to her, I'd read her blog. I'd seen her professional pages, I'd read what she did, I had an idea of some of the work she did.

I intended to stop there. The idea of coming to a meeting entirely cold makes me wince but equally I'm there to meet you, I'm not there to show off my deep research. I really want to meet you: easily the best part of journalism is that you get to bound off and say hello to people you might otherwise never come across. Utterly love that.

And I stopped intentionally looking into this woman's background. But I've been trying a free iPhone app called Mynd and it did some digging for me without my realising it.

Mynd is like a calendar assistant; I found it because I was exploring calendars and looking for why I nearly missed an appointment recently. I also found it because it got mentioned a few times by Katie Floyd on the Mac Power Users podcast. All it does, I thought, is show me my entire day in one screen: how many events I've got to get to, where the next one is, what the weather's like today. I also found that it calculates how long it's going to take me to drive to somewhere and it will say so right there on the screen: you need to leave in 10 minutes if you're going to make the appointment. Sometimes it sounds a notification too. I haven't figured out why it's only sometimes.

But I have figured out that it believes I drive everywhere when really it's more that I drive almost nowhere. So I got a Mynd notification that I ought to get out of Dodge and start the car right now when I was already on a train to London.

I was going to ditch it for doing that. I have Fantastical now that does all the work I need of managing my appointments and events. (Fantastical 2 for iPad is £6.99 UK, $9.99 US. Fantastical 2 for iPhone is £2.99 UK, $4.99 US. The iPad prices are launch offers and will shortly increase by about 33%.) Plus I don't care about the weather and when I do have a mind to wonder about whether it's going to rain, I ask Siri.


There is a panel on this Mynd screen called People and up to now it has always been blank. Today it showed a photo of the woman I was meeting. And it got that photo from LinkedIn. When I tapped on that photo, it showed me her short LinkedIn bio and then it had options for calling her. If you're running late, you open Mynd, tap the person's photo, then tap to send her a message. If you've got the number of her mobile, anyway. Or an email address.

That would be spectacularly handy if I were ever late for anything but usually I'm cripplingly early. Still, it's impressive.

What was even more impressive is that I scrolled to tomorrow, saw the first meeting had a fella's photo there – and behind it was a list of related Evernote documents. It's just reminded me of the last note I made when talking to him. Right there. I'd forgotten I'd ever made a note but there it is.

It's like Mynd gives you a personal briefing before you go to meet someone. I don't think that means you should skip looking in to them yourself, but I feel wildly efficient about tomorrow now. And I won't feel wildly stupid if he mentions the topic of my last note.

Mynd is free for iPhone on the App Store. There's no iPad or Android version.

Have a look at the Mynd website too. It proposes using the software as your sole calendar for a week and I've just learnt that you can do that. Bugger. I think I'll continue using it as an adjunct to Fantastical but it's handy to know that all the ordinary calendar functions are in this Mynd app as well.

Ten months 0% finance offer at Apple

Apparently only available in some parts of Europe – I just checked, the UK is one of the parts – this is a nice deal from Apple. I bought my office iMac through a similar deal last year and it was handy to keep my capital and only pay out a portion each month.

Mind you, it was also nice when the months ended and I could call the iMac my own. Just about the day my ten-months interest-free payment ended, though, Apple brought out a new iMac. It's as if they knew. The cunning rascals.

There are terms and conditions on this deal and you should eye them up carefully. See for details.

But the key points begin with the fact that you can only get the deal on hardware (seemingly you might include some software through the store's attempts to upsell you). Next, it's 0% financing for ten months and this is separate from Apple's longer-term financing deals. I don't know anything about those. But they don't get any of this 0% lark.

Last and maybe a killer point: you have to spend over aproximately £450. But then this is the Apple Store, you can do it. The iPad Air that I raved about here the other day starts from £399 but I would (and did) spend more by getting one with greater capacity. The new iPad mini with Retina display starts at £319 but bung in more capacity or a Smart Cover and you're away


New project coming: “Learn Omnifocus” with Tim Stringer

This is so new it isn’t here yet. But Tim Stringer of is launching a Learn OmniFocus project which will be a mix of videos and tutorials about this software. I’m actually in two minds about this because I’m the type that prefers to learn on the job, to find out how to do things because I need to do them. And it works: I now feel I know OmniFocus very well. But partly because the promise of video tutorials is a good one and partly because I want you to know I’m not the only nut for OmniFocus software, I wanted to show you this link:

That’s an announcement about the new programme and it includes a sign-up form. I’ve signed up.

But it’s an interesting time to be doing this. I’ve mentioned OmniFocus before and doubtlessly will again but there are three versions of it and at this specific moment they are in a bit of flux. The iPhone one was only recently updated so that’s done, if you like, but the iPad and the Mac have a ways to go.

Less so the iPad one. That is by far the best version of OmniFocus and if you can buy only one, that’s the one to only buy. Except the iPhone version was dramatically improved by its being updated for iOS 7 and you have to expect that the iPad one will get the same or a better update too.

The Mac one is harder to explain. OmniFocus has been on the Mac for years and it shows. It just feels old. Looks old. And it is comparatively hard to use: it’s very powerful and I’m glad I got into it right alongside the iPhone and iPad ones, but it’s unquestionably harder to learn. So early this year I was very glad to sign up for the beta test of OmniFocus 2 for Mac and eventually along came a beta version. I liked it very much. Found lots of problems, as you’d expect and presume from a beta, reported them all back, saw at least most of them fixed. And then it stopped. I assumed the firm was done with the beta testing and the final product would be out presently.


What really happened is that Apple had unveiled its drastically reworked iOS 7and The Omni Group paused the Mac development and instead focused on getting a new iPhone app out in time for, and to exploit the features of, iOS 7. They did it, they did it well, and the very first thing I did after updating my iPhone to iOS 7 was to buy the new OmniFocus.

But it was a purchase. It wasn’t a free update. And I am fine with that, I am more than fine with that because OmniFocus has saved, my bacon, kept my sanity and even – yes – lifted my heart. Of course I’ll buy the new one.

Except, the way the Apple App Store works, there can’t be any free or reduced upgrades for even new users. If you bought OmniFocus for iPad today and a new one came out tomorrow, you wouldn’t be happy. I think you’d be happier than you expected because the iPad one is so good. But you wouldn’t be happiest.

So reluctantly, I’m saying hold off buying the iPad one for just a while yet if you can.

The Mac version is different: so long as you buy it directly from the company, The Omni Group, instead of via Apple’s Mac App Store, you’ll be fine: buy version 1 now, get version 2 free (I believe) when it comes out – whenever it comes out. The Omni Group store is here:

But there wouldn’t be a need for OmniFocus 2 for Mac if the first one weren’t hard to use so it’s tricky to recommend you buy something that’s difficult, that you may get very frustrated by and which will be replaced at some unknown but soon time. 

You might be best off buying the iPhone version and just enjoying that for now. But oh, the iPad one is a treat to use.

Saving: 1Password is 40% off

US holiday savings seem to be here in UK too: 1Password for iOS is about 40% off. Between my iPhone, iPad and also the Mac version (not currently discounted)' I must use this password- and credit card-manager about 20 times a day.

It stores all your myriad passwords, credit card details, all sorts. Tap a key and it'll go to a site, log you in and fill out all the credit card details so you can spend fortunes easily and rapidly. Hmm. But I do recommend it. Upgrading from one version to another has sometimes been bile-ful but when that's done or you're buying it for the first time, it is a fine piece of work.

A lot of software and hardware firms are having sales in the US because of Thanksgiving – it's not a huge deal in the UK, we're bigger on the Fourth of July – and it's simply easier to mark applications down worldwide than schlep about through Apple's App Store settings to limit it to the States. But you can be sure the price will go up again in just a few days so go take a look at it now. And if you're undecided, if you haven't got time to check it out now, just buy it.

That's what I did in a sale many years ago. Bought it and meant to use it but just forgot. Then my wife Angela showed me it on her iPhone and within the day I'd moved it to my front screen. Later I used the Mac version and showed her. Now we both rely on 1Password enormously.

Here's the link to the iPhone and iPad version that's on sale:


Reeder 2.1 now out

You can argue whether this is screamingly productive of me or not, but I use Reeder perhaps forty times a day. In case you don't know it, Reeder is a newsreader so when I have a moment standing by my kettle, I'll flick through headlines and read articles there. At least it's quicker than going to each of the 200-odd news sites I read. And definitely quicker than going to them and finding that nope, they don't have any new news since the last time I checked them three minutes ago.

There are many newsreaders: just search the App Store for the phrase 'RSS' as it's that little-used Really Simple Syndication that powers them all. RSS makes news come to us and I can't fathom why it hasn't taken over the world.

But I got into it very many years ago and have used very many RSS apps yet now it would take primacord explosive wrapped around my waist to make me stop using this particular one. Reeder is that good. It used to be even better when there was an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac version and it will be better again in the same way. Some day. Hopefully soon.

In the meantime, Reeder was updated for iOS 7 while I was away on holiday and I bought the new version immediately. You and I hadn't met on here then or I'd have rushed to enthuse about it to you. Instead, I had to tell everyone in earshot and they all looked like thank you, yes, that's really great, William, whatever makes you happy.

Now that you're here and version 2.1 has just this minute dropped on the App Store, let me enthuse about it live. Here's the only bit you really need to know, here's the App Store link:

But I'd also like you to know that among the myriad bug fixes and semi-demi-myriad new features, there is a particular fix I am going to enjoy. Recently when you ran Reeder in the iPhone and there was a new story with an embedded video, no power on Earth would make that play in landscape. It as solely in portrait. This was the only thing that ever made me think I preferred the previous version of Reeder. But now it's apparently fixed. At least on the iPhone it is.

I say apparently because that's how quickly I've rushed the news to you: the update dropped this minute, this moment, and as we've been speaking, the app has been updating itself on my iPhone. Off to watch some video landscape and also to go get it all for my iPad.

Tremendous new book about mastering email

My own book, The Blank Screen, has plenty about when and how to use email so that you get what you want – at least a lot more of the time. And so that you get a lot more time for writing. But David Sparks has just published an entire iBook on emails and it is first class.

I've had email for thirty years and yet before I'd read two chapters of this, he'd changed my mind about the whole thing. I stopped reading long enough to do what he says and then I went right back to it.

Inevitably, there are whole sections that don't apply to everyone: I only use gmail when I have to, for instance, so I've no need of advice on how to make that a better experience. A shorter one, yes. (If you're a gmail fan then let me say first that I know it's very good, I just got burnt with trivial problems that left a bad taste. And since I get such a lot of strong, hassle-free use from Apple's own Mail app, I've not been compelled to try again. Then let me say second and more usefully, you in particular should get this book because it's got oodles of advice on gmail.)

There shouldn't be all that much you can say about email yet it turns out that there is and it turns out to be a very entertaining read. You can hear a lot on the same topic by the same man in the Mac Power Users podcast he does with Katie Floyd but just buy the book. Here's a link to the specific MPU episode:

He does say in that podcast that there is a PDF version: listen to it for brief details of that. Otherwise, Email: a MacSparky Field Guide by David Sparks is an iBooks exclusive that you can get here: