An email newsletter of links

We all seem to share a lot of links with other people and I think more people in the world would also like to look at those links. And let’s face it, as a species our only purpose on this planet, now that the internet exists, is to click on more links. Always more links!

So I built a fun thing –

It’s a website that supports a weekly newsletter (on Sunday night at 8PM CST). My hope is that the email newsletter will be the product, not the website. So, if like this first edition, you can register your email at the top-right of the page. Don’t feel obligated, I’ll only hate you forever if you don’t sign up. Maybe, if you like the second edition, you can recommend it to a friend. If you like the third then make it the required action of one of those Facebook chain letters where the person reading it has to also signup otherwise Facebook will sell all of their personal data to Osama Bin Laden’s ghost. Those still exist, right?

I took some cue’s from a great new site The Synopsis and some from other link blogs around but I really want this to be about the email newsletter.

I plan on enlisting the others I work with at Webster to help compile, vote for and disseminate the links. It may not ever expand outside our office and that’s fine too.


On my profession

During a past episode of Back To Work Merlin called himself a web whacker in reference to his previous jobs. I had been saying that I build websites for years rather than affixing a professional title like Front-End Developer or UX Designer to my name, even though I could probably pass for either today.

I did not study computer maths or design in college and my first paying web job in 2006 was building email templates. I had a working knowledge of 2001 era HTML (perfect for the email templates) and I didn’t know a thing about CSS – View Source was my best friend.

I had many job titles in many different roles between 2006 and 2014. Some were in IT, some in sales, one in commercial real estate. My last job title, 3D Application Specialist, was one of my favorites. The entire time I freelanced as someone who builds websites but I never claimed it as my profession. It was, however, an addendum to my explanation of how I earned a living.

Today my profession and what I do for a living are one in the same. I work for a small agency and I’m involved with anything that doesn’t have to be printed. My title is Digital Director and I’d say that 80% of my job is building websites (from concept to live site). I’m able to be a technology consultant, an IT person, a sales person, an account manager, a coffee brewer, a researcher, and a student the remaining 20% of the time.

Unfortunately, Digital Director is ambiguous and I don’t want to list 10 things every time some one asks what I do for a living. This takes me back to “I build websites.”

On my profession

Text file naming convention

Most of these come from the naming convention described by Merlin Mann during MPU Ep. 46

I take a lot of notes on anything I think I may need to refer to again in the future. I keep them in Dropbox and access them through a combination of nvALT, Byword, Drafts, and Editorial.

runx [title] – any text file that will be edited and appended on a regualar basis. Examples of file names are "runx blog ideas", "runx media list".

refx [title] – a mostly static text file that contains information I would like be able to refer to later. Eg. "refx markdown syntax", "refx GTD Fast notes".

blogx [title] – a text file of a blog post I’m working on that moves from outline format to full post. Eg. "blogx spray on tans for beginners" or "blogx Macramé made easy".

webx [title] – a text file that relates to a Webster specific project or meeting.

ideax [title] – a text file that expands on a thought or idea that I have. These sometimes turn into blog posts or projects or sometimes they remain ideas and put on a Someday/Maybe list.

pplx [person] – a text file about a person I care about containing facts or conversation points that I want to remember.

clx [checklist] – a text file of a checklist that I want to be able to refer to when preparing for something. Eg. "clx camping trip", "clx cleaning house". I’m using Clear or Reminders in place of this most of the time

randx [title] – a text file that contains random thoughts when I just let my mind wander. These are often created after a few drinks.

tempx [title] – a text file that I use as a temporary scratch pad, a draft for an email or text that I want to move from one place to another

Text file naming convention

Syncing play positions between Spotify for Mac and iOS

Thanks to Sean Heisler for giving me the motivation to play around with this.

Setting the scene

You listen to music through Spotify. You listen at work, on your Mac, and when you leave for lunch or at the end of the day, you connect your iPhone to your car stereo or EarPods to listen to Spotify on the commute home.

The Problem

You were listening to a specific song, on an album or playlist, and you want to continue listening from where you left off. Sean had asked me if there was a simple way to do this and after we both explored the app and the forums we determined that there wasn’t something already out there.

The Solution

In short: I wrote some AppleScript that builds and sends a Spotify URL of the current track in Spotify for Mac to your iOS device. You can run this directly from the script or build a Service using Automator and tie it to a keyboard shortcut.

Fork it on github here – – or copy and paste the AppleScript below in Script Editor on your Mac.

Setting it up

I’m going to focus on setting this up as a Service using Apple’s Automator app. There are many other ways to get this script to run but I like using the built in tools as everyone already has them.

Pre-flight Checklist

  1. As far as I know this only works on a Mac and iOS device (I have tested with an iMac running 10.10 and iPhone and iPad running 8.0.2).
  2. You need Spotify on both your Mac and iOS device (I’m a Premium subscriber but I don’t think that matters).
  3. You need Messages (Apple’s built in IM client) configured with iCloud on both devices (Mac and iOS).
  4. You need to have an existing conversation started with the phone number or iCloud email you are sending the message to.

Creating the Service

  1. On your Mac, open up Automator (in the system Applications folder) and choose New Document from the open dialog box (lower left corner).
  2. Choose Service from the menu that drops in.
  3. Select Run AppleScript from the action menu. You can search for it or choose it under Utilities from the Library (see videos below)
  4. AppleScript in Automator

    AppleScript in Automator with search

  5. Copy the AppleScript above and paste it in place of the (* Your script goes here *) text in your Automator window.
  6. In the text you just pasted into Automator, find the line that contains [Your Phone Number Here] and replace that text with your phone number or iCloud email address that is set up on your iOS device.
  7. Now open up Messages and compose and send a message to that same number/email.
  8. Switch back to Automator and click the Run button (highlighted in the image below). This should bring Spotify to the foreground and send an iMessage with a link in it (see pre-flight checklist if you get errors)
  9. Automator Run Button

  10. If everything ran correctly you will have received the message on your iOS device with the link. Clicking that link will open Spotify on the device and start playing the track.
  11. Jump back over to Automator on your Mac and save the service (File>Save) and name it something memorable. Spotify Sync is an easy choice.

Bonus Step
For a quick and easy way to run the script lets to set up a keyboard shortcut for it. That way as you’re running out the door you can bang on your keyboard and send the song over to your iOS device.

  1. Open System Preferences, select Keyboard. From the menu tabs select Shortcuts and then choose Services from the left menu. Scroll to the bottom to find your newly created service, under General and select it.
  2. To the right of your selected Service you see a button that reads “add shortcut.” Click that button and then punch in the combination of keystrokes you wish to use to activate the Service. Choose something unique so you don’t get conficts. I have mine set to ⌃⌥⌘I


I encountered a few issues when adding the Service on other people’s Mac’s so if you have any problems feel free to get in touch and I’ll help anyway I can.

Syncing play positions between Spotify for Mac and iOS

Excluding multi-day events when displaying upcoming events (The Events Calendar)

Background Notes

  • Using The Events Calendar plugin by Tribe for WP as a community calendar.
  • Need to show five upcoming events in a section on the home page.
  • Only want to show events that have a start date of today or in the future.


The function get_tribe_events would pull in events that encompassed today’s date but had started in the past. The client only wanted events that had a start date of today or in the future to be displayed to avoid a situation where five long spanning events stayed on the homepage as the next upcoming events.



The problem seemed to stem from the way The Events Calendar was handling reoccurring events (or events that spanned multiple days). It would apply a start date of today’s date if today was encompassed in the date range of the event. Therefore, in a foreach loop when you asked get_tribe_events to only show upcoming events or all events with a start day of at least today it would also include these multi-day events.

I tried a slew of conditional statements in the loop to try and ignore the events whose start date was in the past but I just couldn’t get it quite right, the loop still counted these false-positives and I was continually having to update the posts_per_page argument to prevent there from being too many or too few events. It wasn’t until I start printing a second instance of the start date of an event that I learned the loop was behaving normally but I targeting a fake start date.

From reading around it seems like each event (specifically those that were reoccurring or multi-day) were given two start dates in the database and get_tribe_events was pulling the “wrong” one for use in it’s decision on what was an upcoming event. If an event spanned multiple days it would receive today’s date as it’s start date so the loop would know to continue showing it even if the actual start date of the event was months in the past.


Once I knew that I needed to target a specific row in the database I switched across to a WP_Query to utilize the meta_query argument. I was then able to target the actual start date of the event with _EventStartDate and use compare to tell the query to only display events that occurred on or after today’s date.


Here’s the code I used to solve the problem:

Excluding multi-day events when displaying upcoming events (The Events Calendar)

Globo world clock app

This new app solves a reoccurring problem for me. I want to figure out a suitable time to call my Mum in Brisbane, Australia or my Dad in Bangalore, India.

In the past I try to remember how many hours ahead of Omaha each city is and then, literally, count on my fingers. When daylight savings kicks in here, I’m totally lost. My next stop would be the Clock app to check the local time and then count ahead until I hit a time that everyone is available.

I actually started a Treehouse course on iOS development in the hope that I could build this very app, or a dumbed down version of it.

Globo’s top feature, in my mind, is the “set actual time” screen that lets you pick a time, either locally or for another location, and then see what time it is across all locations you have saved. If it’s 10am in Brisbane, what time is it in Omaha?

If you communicate with anyone in different timezones then I recommend you grab this app for $0.99 and never mis-schedule a call or meeting again.


The 10pm reminder

About 5 months ago I wrote of my woes with time tracking. I tried to find software that tracked my time for me and I specifically called out Rescue Time as a solution. It was not.

The next stop on my quest for better time tracking was a bit extreme. I decided to use a method, detailed by TJ Luma, where my Mac automatically took screenshots every 30 seconds. I could then sort through those screenshots to see what program, file, site etc I was in at any particular time. I ended up with a folder containing seven days worth of screenshots and no desire to look through them.

I solved all of my time tracking problems with a simple reminder. Every day at 10pm my phone buzzes one last time. It’s a reminder that asks “Do you have time to track from today?” For the first week I had things to add to my work log. It was annoying (even with the text expander snippets and Drafts). I started to track my time more accurately while I was doing the work just to avoid the 10pm chore. My reward for building a better habit was that I could go to sleep or read or just relax after 10pm rather than filling out a time sheet.

iPad 10pm Reminder

The reminder keeps my freelance work in check but I just took a position with a design agency and that means accounting for how I spend every minute of my working day. I use Day One as a work journal to handle this. Katie Floyd talked about using Day One on an MPU episode and I always thought it would be a great solution. The software provides a lot more context than a plain text file can with data like weather, photos, motion activity and location. I keep Day One open on my desktop at all times and I record anything I work on with a start and stop time. I’m able to quickly take that info and move it across into the company’s time tracking system.

The 10pm reminder

Using Spaces with dual monitors in OS X Mavericks

Jump to the How to part

I bought a 13″ MacBook Pro in 2009 with the expectation that I would save again and buy a 27″ Cinema Display so I could actually get work done. While I still covet the larger screen I’ve been able to manage just fine with the smaller built in one. How can I get anything accomplished on a 1280×800 screen you ask?


Spaces is a feature of OS X (since Leopard) that enables you to create and switch between multiple desktops. I use three, although you can create up to 16, and I use the different desktops as dedicated places for different types of apps. Safari stays on desktop 1. Coda 2 and Dash are on desktop 2. Photoshop/Illustrator/Acorn are on Desktop 3. All other apps are called up and closed as I need them, no matter what space I’m on.

It’s not a perfect scenario but I’ve found that it works for me and I have established muscle memory for switching between desktops quickly and performing tasks on the active windows with keyboard shortcuts. It’s now just the way I work.

Adding a new dual screen set up

When I started working for Webster I got a different set up. A 24″ iMac and a 23″ Cinema Display as a second monitor. Sweet, I thought, no more switching between desktops I have tons of space now. Turns out, more screen real estate just means more open windows and a huge unorganized mess. Out of habit I would use my keyboard shortcuts while doing web work to try and switch between Safari and Coda and get frustrated when I had to ⌘+ Tab 10 times to get back to the app I wanted instead.

I had tried Spaces with multiple displays before Mavericks and I was annoyed that when you switched desktops both screens would switch as one. I actually said to one of my current co-workers how much I wished that Spaces could be display independent.

I went to Mission Control in the System Preferences anyway and my heart actually leapt when I saw this screen:

Dual Screen setting in Spaces

I could now use two desktops on the newer, crisper iMac screen (for code, browser testing, Photoshop/Acorn etc) and keep the 23″ Cinema Display reserved for DayOne (time tracking), Reminders (tasks), nvAlt (text files) and any window I need as reference for the work I’m doing on the main screen. I’m really happy with this set up and I’m starting to save again for that 27″ display to use at home.

In my experience the multiple display support in Mavericks is a big step forward.

The How To Part

With two or more displays connected go to your machine’s System Preferences and click on Mission Control in the top line of icons. On that screen, ensure that “Displays have separate Spaces” is checked.

Dual Screen setting in Spaces

You can now activate Mission Control by using the keyboard shortcut specified in the lower portion of that same Mission Control settings screen (seen above). Alternatively, you can enable mouse and track pad gestures to call up Mission Control. Just visit the Mouse and Trackpad areas under your System Preferences.

Once you access Mission Control, adding new Desktops is as simple as moving your mouse towards to top right corner of the screen and clicking on the +

Mission Control

Customizing Further

The way I typically switch between my Spaces is by using a keyboard shortcut that moves me to a desktop either left or right of the one I’m currently on.

To do this:

–> go to Keyboard in your System Preferences window.
–> click on Shortcuts in the top menu.
–> Select Mission Control from the list on the left and look for “Mission Control” with an expander arrow on the right.
–> Inside that list you’ll find “Move left a space” and “Move right a space.”
–> Set up your own preferred keyboard shortcut by selecting an action from the list on the right and then clicking on the existing shortcut (it will say “none” if there isn’t a shortcut already set up.)
–> Hold down your preferred key combo and you’re in business – mine are alt + → and alt + ←

Using Spaces with dual monitors in OS X Mavericks