Svbtle Is Marching On


Just a quick update: we’ve recently raised a round of financing from great investors like SV Angel, CrunchFund, Betaworks, and more (including, previously, Y Combinator). Now we have the resources and absolute focus that will allow us to build not only a great collection of people, but also a new kind of media destination that approaches journalism differently–maybe we could call it the future of journalism, but we’re not entirely sure what that is yet, exactly.

I’m not sure if they are going to open up to the public in the future. Right now, it’s an exclusive platform where renowned personalities are invited to blog in.

Many have claimed they are going to define the future of journalism, but i’m more interested in how are they going to monetize the site.

At the very beginning, when questioned about this, he replied.

Dustin Curtis:

If the Svbtle Network works as well as I hope, there is nothing stopping me from building an exclusive ad network similar to The Deck. I haven’t really thought about it, but that would almost definitely be the best way to monetize this platform.

Having an exclusive ad network will give Svbtle control. Given the history of Dustin in building something for absolute control, it could be a real possibility.

Because Svbtle has a network of established and well known bloggers using the platform, the perceived credibility they have is very much at the pinnacle.

With the funding, they are going to hire developers to improvement the platform, copyeditors to curate and edit the content. With the way it’s going, it’s not a surprise if they implement it as a subscription model for its content. It may never reach mainstream popularity, but i’m pretty sure a sizable percentage of the readers on Svbtle are willing to pay for this service.

A Workflowy Review

Everything can be a list.

From our daily groceries shopping to writing a new chapter on your latest novel, everyone and everything can benefit from having a list.
But the problem with most note-taking software and app is this – they often have redundant features that most of us don’t need, don’t want, or hardly use them. Most of these force you into a structure-like interface. The rationale of taking note is of course to take the task out of our mind, so we can focus on other things. Organizing can come later.

Most apps however, forces you to define the task, organize them, and tuck them nicely into a particular place. Maybe that’s the reason why people don’t stick to note taking app for long, it’s too rigid.

I have used several such apps in the past, in hope that i will be more productive and efficient. But none has stuck with me for the long haul. It’s either too complicated or cumbersome to maintain, and eventually i stopped using them altogether.

Then comes the change

workflowly 2

But all these thoughts change when i chanced upon workflowy some time back. It’s like a giant white depository to store all your thoughts, ideas, words. Anything. It’s so simple in concept, but so many other apps fail to execute properly. It’s clean, its typeface is easy on the eyes, and it’s extremely user-friendly. Register, sign-in, and start right away. Before you know it, your lists will be growing bigger and bigger. Of course, you can always delete or cross out completed items.

The beauty of this app is of course you will always turn to it when you have something to note down. Many apps failed to take off in this area – users download them, but eventually they will turn to other alternatives for their note taking. This is where workflowy execute it brilliantly and getting users to use their app for all their needs.

The app is available on the PC, iOS and Android. Make a list and it auto-saves your progress and synchronize automatically to the rest of your devices. The heavy footwork is being done in the background, so you can just focus on taking note. Right now, you need a net connection for it to work but the paid version promises to allow offline access in the future.

An app for everything

Fire up workflowy and you will be confronted by this giant white space. It can be daunting, nothing but white area enveloping your sight. But this is what makes it so powerful. You are deprived of all other distractions. No unnecessary due date crap, no title to fill in. Just you and your words. This is also what makes it so flexible. It doesn’t impose any restrictions on your list, so you are free to write and create list in any way you like. It’s a list in a list within a list. Take for example, you are writing on a new book. The main list is your book title, follow by the chapter’s name. Sub-list in your chapter’s name is your ideas, character’s development. All these can be further subdivided and move around as you go along.

In essence, workflowy is like a giant list, and you can create sub-list under it. Within this sub-list, you can have nested list and so on. You can further zoom into one of this list by clicking on the bullet point, after which you will be taken to a new page. Sublime.

What you can see from this app is a bird’s eye view of all the tasks you have written. You can organize them, prioritize them and execute them. You can zoom in to a particular task and add notes to the entry. It’s extremely functional, it’s very fluid and it’s great when you want to have an overview with regards to a particular task. Browse through them and you have an idea, and from there you know what’s missing.

Nothing is too small for a list. Your observations from watching the cartoon show with your kids could be the platform for future blog post. The contact number you have just gotten from your neighbor. Everything is part of a bigger thing. Every list is part of a bigger list. The possibilities are endless, i bet even with the same content, no 2 workflowy looks the same. You can tweak, organize them.

Some apps are targeted at specific audience. Some are better at project management tracking, some are good at reminding you to complete a particular task at a specific timing and date. All this have their places, but workflowy is like the jack of all trades. And this jack does everything competently. It can be as simple as you want it to be, or it can be a never ending tunnel. Everyone and anyone can benefit from it. You can easily master it, because the fact is, you just open the app up and input things.

Hash-tag and Sharing

Some of the neat features included are hash-tag #. It can be your GTD. Label them such as #Today, #Work, #Personal or #Important. Make a list that should be completed today and cross them off as you complete them. Nothing more satisfying than crossing tasks off your working list and knowing that there’s one less task to worry about. Sharing capability: You can share the list with the ones that you want. Say you are planning a picnic with your friends. Send them the list of items to bring on the day. You can choose to allow them to edit the list, or for just pure viewing. If you are ambitious enough, the cross platform sharing is ideal for virtual team collaborations too.

The normal version allows you to create up to 500 list per month. You can gain more space by having referrals or upgrading to their Pro version. Each referral gets you additional 250 items monthly. I’d rate myself as a moderate to heavy user and I create list for just about anything. With 750 items to play with monthly (thanks to a referral), I have yet to hit the limit.

Seriously, I have nothing but praise for workflowy. It’s understated, but words and already getting around. If you are already a workflowier, hello there. If you are sitting on the fence, get your feet down and try it out.

You might just be a advocate, like me.


Choosing What To Exclude Is The Hardest Thing

Tim Cook:

What we’re reading is that it’s a fairly compromised, confusing product, Cook said. One of the toughest things you do when making a product is to make hard tradeoffs. That’s what we’ve done with the iPad, and the resulting user experience is incredible.

Apple understood hard decision must be made. The rationale is not being good at everything. Their philosophy is to be great at something. The built quality of Ipad is still second to none. They understand to keep the form factor slim and sleek, they have to sacrifice retina screen for ipad mini.

Microsoft didn’t quite do that with Surface, Cook implied, and the market will recognize that. “You could design a car that flies and floats, but I don’t think it would do either of those things very well. … People will look at the iPad and at competitive offerings, and I think they’ll conclude the iPad is the better choice.”

MS is trying to please everyone. Here they have a device trying to fit into the needs of different type of users. Users are confused with what Surface can do for them. The fact is, the future is not looking exactly bright for them.

There is no denying that Windows are on a downward fall.

Once the snowball starts rolling, it picks up pace at a frenetic pace. Apple build and retain their customers around the core ecosystem. Microsoft may have to learn a thing or two because the barrier to exit is even more potent than the barrier to entry these days.

Practise The Art Of Self Control

It is interesting to read the impact of smartphones have on our lifestyle. At the same time, it is also very depressing to acknowledge the fact that our habits very much revolve around the smartphone.

Stephen Hackett:

The problem is that five years of reaching in my front right pocket any time I’m free has created a strong habit, and I need to quit cold turkey. 

I’m similar, only because my iPhone sits in my left pocket instead of the right one. I’m also guilty of reaching for my phone consciously or subconsciously  The action action i’m likely to do when i’m idling is to reach into my pocket. It’s like an addiction, or an assurance, whichever way you look at it. Assurance because it keeps me occupied when i’m aimless.

It’s the habit we are cultivating that is dangerous. Thanks to the advancement of technology, being bored is the least of our worry. We are being entertained anytime, anywhere. And being bored is actually vital, and essential for creative work.

We lose track of our surrounding, only to be too focused on what’s happening inside our smartphone.

If twitter is taking up too much of your time, delete it. It’s drastic, but action has to be taken for the good of our well being. If the twitter app is right in your screen, you can put them in a folder.

This solves 2 issues:

1) If you can’t see them as much as you do now, you are less likely to have the urge to click it.
2) It takes more than one click to get into the app. In other words, it makes you work harder to get into the app.

On my screen, i have productivity apps like Dropbox, Simplenote, iA Writer and Day One on my main screen. All games are hidden in one folder, and they are not sorted according to genre.

Ben Brooks:

When I stopped using Twitter in favor of, I noticed that I just stopped caring about checking either that often. My feed is so slow that I can catch up every few hours, in a few minutes.

With the abundance of apps craving for our attention, it is not surprise to note we are struggling to keep up with the hectic pace generated by our interests. Feeds unread, emails unopened, tweets unreplied, it all adds up.

We all have a choice, the choice to change our lifestyle.

It’s The Details That Matter

Philippe Starck:

We never retouched the project which means that from 2007, to the launch this year it is basically still the same,” Starck said. “We spent just one day every six weeks, for five years, on refinements. Millimetre by millimetre. Detail by detail.

So delicate, so precise, right down to every minute detail.

There is not a single useless item inside… not a single useless pillow, or a useless object. In that sense, it is the opposite of other boats. Other boats try to show off more and more. Venus is revolutionary. It’s the extreme opposite.

Job’s design process is not to remove everything right down to the bare minimum. Rather, it’s about building things from the bottom up. If things ain’t necessary, they would be left out.

Big or small, yacht or nano, it’s reflective of its obsessive personality for simplicity.

The Dawn Of A New Era

A few days back, i bit the bullet and ordered a MacBook. A Retina MacBook Pro 13″ to be exact. I figure out for my needs, a 13 inch would be sufficient and i don’t need the high end processor and nor the graphic power that the 15 inch MBP offers.

I went with the stock configuration, and that means i only have 128gig of space to work with. Gone are the days where i have tons of hard disk space, waiting for me to fill them up.

Speaking of which, as i recall the bitter-sweet memories of the past decade, i am struck by how awesome the technology world has enabled the world to be a better place. Involuntarily, memories came flowing back like raging river.

  • I hang out a lot in Xtremesystems
  • I was fascinated with heatsink design. My favorite is from Zalman, an exquisite work of beauty and performance. To top it off, they operate in nearly silent mode.
  • I like fans, namely 90mm ones.
  • I was obsessed with benchmarking. Superpi and Prime 95 were my playgrounds.
  • I sourced for the best BH5 ram. I still remember trying for 2-2-5 @ 250mhz.
  • There were many occasions where i ran case-less.
  • I would wait at the newsstand for the latest issue of Atomic and Maximum PC.

Those were the days. The memories shall remain beautiful and I will always recall them fondly.

The dawn of the next era is here, and it starts with iPhone and MacBook Pro.

A List Of Sites I Adore

I have always been a fan of sites that have clean design and writing with a personal touch. They represent what is good about the self-publishing scene and the advancement of technology.
I’m grateful for the design, ideas, insights and thoughts they have given me. I have learnt a big deal from them, and i feel i’m just at the start. I’m pretty sure as i embark on my own adventure, i hope to leave a trail like the ones mentioned. It’s a massive privilege to be able to acquire knowledge and pick up a few tips or two from these guys.

In no particular order, they are:

Shawn Blanc
Chris Pearson
Pat Flyn
Jamie Brittain

Rafal Tomal
Dustin Curtis
Alex Rister
Design by Front

And of course:
Leo Babauta 

The Difficult Choice

After a few weeks, i’m still pondering over which Mac to get. It’s going to be my first Apple product and i’m really excited (and anxious) about it.
I really like the experience of using Iphone 5, which ironically, is my first Iphone. I like the close integration of Apple’s ecosystem and i believe having a Mac will increase my productivity and workflow.

The retina screen will be good to have, but i’m still not exactly sure if that’s a game changing factor in itself. The cost of having a retina screen is definitely a big issue, and i believe many people are also sitting on the fence on this issue. By marketing terms, the early adopters of this technology have to fork out more, and in this case, a substantial amount to enjoy the full glory of retina display.

The issue is further complicated by the imminent release of the new IMac, which i have taken a keen interest in. In fact, the reason why i’m holding out is because i’m leaning towards the purchase of the 21.5inch imac. There are only 4 choices, but the more i think about it, the more indecisive i become.

  • MacBook Air 13inch
  • MacBook Pro Retina 13inch
  • MacBook Pro Retina 15inch
  • IMac 21.5inch

It’s a choice i’m going to make eventually.

Working From Home

The idea of working from home is definitely intriguing.

Picture this: You wake up naturally in the morning, without the annoying buzz of alarm clock jerking you up alarmingly from your deep sleep. As your eyes slowly accustom to the warmth of the morning, accompanied by the beautiful ray of the sun seeping in from the window, a new day has arrive.

You take a slow walk to the bathroom, started brushing your teeth while checking out for zits in the mirror. Next, you grab the morning papers and browse through the daily happenings. Before long, the toasted bread is ready for consumption, together with your lovely cup of coffee and orange juice.

Sounds perfect.

Still in your pajamas, you switch on the laptop and follow up on the things that are supposed to be done.
Wait, are we missing something here? Don’t you have to report to office? Don’t you have to tussle with the crowd to get into the bus? And how about the bosses breathing down your neck, and your superiors watching your every move?

Our concept of the workplace hasn’t caught up with the needs of modern society, or what tools today can empower us to. Virtual work has to be valued and rewarded. It has to be featured in the media and it has to be socially desirable.

According to a recent study, workers consider themselves to be more productive when they are working away from the office. It implies that the boss trusts them enough to work where they feel is appropriate to deliver the output expected of them.

Away from the office, we have more opportunities to expose ourselves to different things. It opens the experience of working in more environments, meeting different people and potentially delivering more innovation solutions as a result.

Once empowered, individuals or/and teams can then select the best location to suit the tasks or activities.

I’m sure many of us could resonate with the lists above, but the benefits of working virtually extend far and beyond that.

It increases your productivity

We can be more productive when working from home. The endless meeting are time consuming, and the biggest expense for any corporation are spent on meeting. A 2-hour meeting involving many executives, many a time without serving the intended purpose of holding a meeting in the first place. It all adds up, and the time can be better use somewhere else.

It saves employer money

Rentals are increasing, sometimes to the level that is forcing many businesses to relocate or even push them out of contention altogether. Is it necessary for the company to house all of its staffs in a confined space? By properly delegating the work, I’m pretty sure most of the things can are done in office can be accomplished at home.

It eliminates redundant travel time (and eases traffic congestion)

Every day, we spend so much time traveling.The biggest waste of resource is the unproductive time, energy and money wasted into getting people to and fro office.You are also directly, and indirectly, helping the cause of saving the environment and easing the problem of traffic congestion by working from home.

Makes us more creative

Creative works are often produced when we are in a relaxed state. Seldom are works of creative nature produced under pressure-cooker environment. When we are working virtually, we could be in our favorite places. Having lunch in the quiet restaurant round the corner, with a moleskine and pencil, you begin to draft out the storyboard of what will be the beginning of a great plot.
We all need our personal space for discovery to take place. Allow your creative nature to strive in this kind of environment.

Having said that, social interaction is extremely important. It is vital to catch up with one another, update colleagues on the progress. Human interaction is what builds strong relationships. And strong relationship is the fundamental building block of our basic needs. Take some time, drop by the office. It could be anywhere, an informal meetup at your favorite coffee place and bar would suffice.

Working from home is for the minority.
Working from home and office is for the majority.
Working anywhere is the future.

Would we be better off, if we could just wake up and log into our work anywhere?