Aug 01, 2021
9 mins read
The summer is already flying by and July is now behind us. But that means it is time to post another summary of what I've been up to this past month.
It has been a busy month in my personal and family life, so I have not made quite as much progress as I had originally hoped, but looking back, it has been far from an underproductive month for my personal projects.
I currently work as a consulting manager for a team of technical and integration specialists in an organisation specialising in HR and Payroll solutions. In that role, and my previous consulting roles, I regularly end up writing articles and blog posts for our company web site, but I have been encouraged lately to see if I can extend our reach in other ways. To that end I have had a couple of articles published this month through some industry sites, and they have been getting some positive feedback in the industry.
eLearning Industry: Adapting to Post-Pandemic Learning Practices
This is an article about how learning and development made a huge shift during the pandemic as large swathes of the global workforce transitioned to remote working. Now people are returning to their workplaces, while others remain remote. How does learning delivery deal with this split? My article attempts to offer some practical advice on this.
Global Payroll Association: Why Organisations Like Yours Outsource Payroll
This article explains the top ten reasons that organisations take into consideration and could trigger the desire to outsource payroll. The article also includes a summary infographic I put together to summarise the article.
On my own website, I managed to push out several posts this month. With the exception of a repost of my post-pandemic learning practices article above, this months posts have all related to the personal knowledge management application, Obsidian. This is an application that I am using for maintaining several sets of personal notes and documentation. It is hugely flexible, and I know that I will have more posts on this application in the future.
Obsidian is an app that many people use by applying the Zettelkasten method popularised by Niklas Luhmann. This is not a method that I am applying to my work, and while it is seen as a panacea by many, I go through some of the points whereby it is not something that fits how I work at the moment, and why that is okay. I figure that there are lots of people out there who are getting in to personal knowledge management (PKM) who are trying to shoehorn this approach into situations where it is not actually an ideal fit - just because so many are touting it as this solution to all of your knowledge management needs.
Obsidian has this great plugin architecture, and one of the best plugins, in my humble opinion, is one called Templater. This is a more powerful version of Obsidian's core templating plugin. While I am a big TextExpander user, Templater also enables me to go deeper on some things in Obsidian. In this post I go deep on how to use Templater to build, link, and file, a new Obsidian note. If you are looking to raise your Obsidian game, then this I think is a post you would enjoy.
It did turn out however, that there was an assumption in my previous post. That was that anyone who installed Templater and read its instructions would "get it", and so be able to follow along on my more advanced foray. As one of my Twitter followers pointed out, that was not necessarily so. Some may in fact find Templater's instructions somewhere opaque. To that end I wrote an introductory post covering what the Templater plugin is for, how two install it, how to build templates, and how to use those templates.
You can check out all of my Obsidian related posts via my Obsidian page.
My Alfred app workflow for the Drafts app, Doctor Drafts, was updated to v1.3.0 this month. There were a handful of new features as well as a few small bug fixes. I would recommend that everyone updates their installation.
The new features are obviously the most interesting, and include a new option to paste the content of a draft at the current cursor position. I added a use case showing how you could use a snippet and a preset draft UUID to work like a TextExpander or Alfred snippet, but where the content is pulled from Drafts.
In addition to this I added two options that produce HTML reports that will open in your default browser.
The first report is a set of self-diagnostic tests. There have been a few instances where people have not got things set up correctly on their Mac, and initiating this diagnostic will generate a report about what is set up For Alfred, Drafts, and Python, and advise you on resolving whatever may be missing. Hopefully, this will reduce the number of queries I get about people having issues with their set up, or at least give me a super quick first response where the workflow can analyse the set up itself and advise the end user.
The second report came out of some of my suggestions and thinking about pruning content in Drafts, in response to Greg Peirce's (@AgileTortoise) request for comment on the topic, over on the Drafts forums. This report scans key areas on your storage drive for Drafts content and reports back on how much space is being utilised. My own manual checks gave me quite a surprise for just how much content I had hanging around in terms of old backups, my Drafts settings being to backup everything and not automatically clear out older ones. But the idea is so that you can see how much storage is being taken up by Drafts. I'm a heavy Drafts user, but I think the fact that I'm fast approaching 1 GB of storage space with most of that being backups suggests I might just be able to do some housekeeping there; and probably should.
Behind the Scenes
I have several more Obsidian posts in various stages of writing. My super early Saturday morning excursions to Starbucks have provided me with more writing time, but my terrible typing means I haven't had enough time to dump everything out of my head that I would have liked to.
I have been making a few updates to my Drafts library and Drafts actions groups, but nothing that is ready for a release yet. I've been trying to put out some sort of update every month, but the last couple of months, my focus just hasn't been on this, and sop there's still nothing ready. I feel bad about it, but that release schedule is only a contract with myself, so while there's no harm in it, I do still feel like I should be doing more on it. Perhaps a concerted effort this next month will yield something share worthy? I hope so.
I've been researching social media tools for the past few months as HootSuite is becoming more restrictive on its free tier, and I really want to do something to up my social game across my personal Twitter account, my professional (work) Twitter account, and my LinkedIn account. One app that kept coming up to the top of the list, but was just fractionally over the budget of what I was willing to invest on a monthly basis is SocialBee. Then just as I was giving up hope, AppSumo had an offer of 1-year of SocialBee absolutely free! I signed up, and while I've only dabbled with it so far, I'm slowly working on building up my social posting content so I can have a more active sharing presence with less effort. I still want to build out more interactions too, but I think that will come from raising my profile through these efforts. Or at least I have just under a year to try and do that with the help of SocialBee.
As one comes, another one leaves. After well over a decade as a premium subscriber to Evernote, and a user for even longer, I have finally unsubscribed. For the longest time I was an avid supporter of Evernote (did you know tagging mails to be processed by Evernote was an idea I gave to Phil Libin on an AMA session?), but the company, and more importantly the product, has lost its way. I've given them time and support since the new CEO stepped in and the product shifts began, but the shifts seem to be making things worse for my use rather than better. I am retaining my account and my many thousands of notes, but I expect at some point in the next year I will find some time to assess what I will do with them. Obsidian is not a solution for this, but maybe something like DevonThink might be. I have a lot of file content - but I'm not always at an Apple device, so it does get tricky. Evernote has been a fantastic platform, but for me it is very much has been. My purposes have not changed, but Evernote has, and it can no longer service my needs.
Of course, it is also beta-season on the Apple platforms. I am beta testing several iOS/iPadOS apps at the moment, but I'm holding off on the OS updates. Particularly after some comments seen on the Drafts Slack recently! I'm hopeful I will be able to get on the macOS beta before the end of the summer. I really want to spend some time understanding how Shortcuts on the Mac operates and will change things. I have quite a bit in mind around Shortcuts and building on my existing shortcuts library, which has been languishing for more months than I would care to admit. But, if the Mac makes it even easier for me to manage and create Shortcuts shortcuts (which I think it will), then I some revamping will be applied before too long.
I have some annual leave coming up this next month, but also more things are beginning to surface for my attention at work as well. I'm not sure how this next month is going to pan out in terms of my personal projects. What I do know is that I have some content and updates sketched out and even partially done. I get the feeling August will be a bit of a wrap-up month in many ways.
Hopefully, there will be some more Drafts and Obsidian related things coming out, and maybe even some more social media activity.
Stay safe, and I will be back next month with another update.