Eliminating Distractions

Dan Counsell wrote an excellent post about removing distractions. In the post he talks about how he removed distractions by removing social media apps such as Twitter and Facebook from his iPhone. He’s done other things too such as reading a book instead of checking Twitter, and he started a “No Technology Day” on Saturdays, which is something I think I might start doing as well.

Over the last year I too have been eliminating distractions in my life by spending more of my time doing what I love and changing the way I use social networks. Changing the way I use social networks is one of the reasons I wrote my app Cross Post. With Cross Post I can share pictures, thoughts, and comments on Facebook, Twitter, and App.net without the worry of being distracted by those sites. Cross Post sends updates to social media sites, but it does not read the time lines or streams from those sites. Cross Post is a tool for making, not reading, micro-blog posts, hence it’s ability to help eliminate distractions.

I did one other thing to help me eliminate distractions. I turned off notifications on all but the most important apps on my iPhone1. Unlike Dan I did not remove the social media apps from my phone. I still want to be able to reply to mentions via my iPhone, which is why I left the apps installed. And in the case of Facebook, it’s the easiest way for me to get news about my family via my sister down in Mississippi, so I still check Facebook once or twice a day. But I do not receive notifications from any of the social media apps on my phone.

So how can you start eliminating distractions in your life. I suggest starting with Dan’s new website, The Great Disconnect. It contains articles, videos and information about how to remove distractions by living a less connected life. Check it out because we all can benefit from being a bit less connected these days.

  1. Examples of app that are important to me and which I still have notifications turned on are ones for my bank and credit cards. I want to make sure I’m alerted if a fraudulent charge is ever made against one of my accounts. Slack is another app that I use with notifications turned on since I use this for work purposes. Beyond that, I have notifications turned off. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I let sites like Twitter notify me of mentions via email, and I only check email a few times a day.

New kirbyturner.com Site

I have owned the vanity domain name kirbyturner.com for a long time, but I didn’t anything with it after buying it. That changed back when I was writing Learning iPad Programming. My publisher asked that I setup a website that talks about me, so I finally put kirbyturner.com to use. Unfortunately I never liked the look of the site. I used a bland template to create the website quickly. The site was ugly, but it served its purpose. Then Justin Williams created a new “professional web site” for himself.

My first thought after seeing Justin’s new site was, “Wow! That looks really nice.” My second thought was, “Man my site sucks donkey balls.” So I spent the last couple of days working on a new look for kirbyturner.com. I just finished the site, and I can say with 100% certainty that the new site looks much, much better than my old site. Thanks for the inspiration, Justin.

Take a look at the new and improved kirbyturner.com, and let me know what you think.

Posted in general, tech, work.

Snow is White, Not Brown and Green

This screen shot says it all.

Posted in family, general.

Goodbye Fitbit Ultra, Hello Fitbit One

On November 15, 2011, I started using my Fitbit Ultra, and after only 1157 days I have finally switched to the Fitbit One.

The Ultra has been an outstanding device, and it’s darn tough too. Mine has bits of plastic missing and the casing has separated on one side. And yet the thing continues working. The only problem is the button, which stopped working two days ago. That’s why I decided to upgrade. Still, the Ultra has been one of the best little devices I’ve ever owned.

Together the Ultra and I have taken 7,625,047 steps, climbed the equivalent of 22,711 floors, walked 3,401.97 miles, and burned 5,035,126. My Ultra was with me on my Long Trail thru hike as well as countless other hikes. It’s been with me to New York, San Francisco, Paris, Amsterdam, Montreal, and many other places. It’s the last thing I pull out of my pocket each night before bed, and the first thing I put back in my pocket after waking up. In all that time I’ve left my Ultra behind for fewer than 5 days. But as of this afternoon I’m no longer using my Ultra. I’m now using my new Fitbit One.

I’m excited to use the One. It certainly has features not available on the Ultra, most notably the ability to sync wirelessly over Bluetooth. The Ultra requires plugging in to sync, and often times I would go 6 or 7 days without syncing because it wasn’t convenient for me to plug in. But with the One and the option to sync via my iPhone, I will be syncing more frequently.

The One is smaller than the Ultra, and I have to say I’m really digging the smaller size. The display on the One is better than the Ultra too, but then again the display on my Ultra looked good when it was new. My Ultra has been through a lot and the wear and tear is showing on it. That might be why the One’s display looks much better to me right now.

I do have a couple of minor issues with the One. First, the wireless sync might mean I forget to charge my One as frequently as I did the Ultra. Time will tell if this is a valid concern or not for me. The other issue is that I rarely clipped my Ultra onto myself, but I did do it from time to time…mostly in the morning if I walked around the house in my boxers. I would clip the Ultra to my boxers until I put on pjs, shorts, or pants. The One comes with a clip, but since I rarely need the clip I’m not planning to use it. But there will still be those rare early mornings when I wish I could clip my One to my boxers. Maybe I’ll keep the clip on my nightstand next to my bed so it’s easy to grab when I do need it.

Hmmm, so it seems I don’t really have any issues with the One…at least not yet. And based on my experience with the Ultra, I don’t expect to have any issues with the One either. I’m hoping the One is as good, if not better, than the Ultra. Time will tell. I’ll try to remember to write a follow up about my One in, say, 1157 days.

Posted in fitness, general.

No Plans For A Third Edition

A number of people have recently asked if there will be a third edition of Learning iPad Programming. The short answer is no, there are no plans. There are many reasons why I decided to not update the book, but a few key reasons stand out more than others.

I Enjoy Writing, But I Don’t Love It

Writing a tech book was on my bucket list for many years, and writing has long been an interest of mine. But writing a book like Learning iPad Programming takes a lot of time. The first two editions of the book consumed most of my time and life for nearly two and a half years, and this left me feeling stressed and depressed. That’s when I came to the conclusion that my time is better spent doing things I love and cutting back on doing things that I only enjoy.

If I had all the time in the world, then I certainly would consider updating the book each year or two. But my time is limited, and writing apps, snowboarding, spending time with my family, and going on outdoor adventures are all things I love doing. And those things leave me with little extra time to do things I only enjoy.

No Financial Motivation

My company was booming just before I started work on the first edition of Learning iPad Programming. I saw a steady increase in product revenue year after year for five straight years, and I was becoming less dependent on consulting and contract work. In other words, I was on track for making a living selling my own products. In fact, that’s partly why I agreed to write a book in the first place. In my mind the book was another product in my expanding line of diversified products. But it turns out writing a book is hard. And writing the first edition was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I had never written a book before, so I ended up spending a lot of time learning how to write a book. I also tried a number of different systems to get me into the habit of writing. All of this extra time spent on learning to write, how to get pass mental blocks, how to stay motivated, how to make daily progress, even the smallest bit, took my focus away from my company. And at one point I knew the only way I would finish the book was to devote 100% of my time to it, so that’s exactly what I did. I stopped working for a few months so I could work on the book full time.

All the time spent away from my company resulted in lost revenue as my product sales started a downward trend and I had zero time to offset the drop in product revenue with consulting. That meant I had to start living off of borrowed money. By the time the book was done I had well over $50K in credit card debt. And while sales of the book were great1, the royalty payments I received were not enough to pay down the debt, debt that I’m still working on paying off today.

Mistakes and Mishandling

The third and possibly the number one reason there are no plans for a third edition were the mistakes and mishandling of both editions of the book by the publisher. The publisher’s decision to release the second edition two weeks before WWDC 2013 was the final straw for me. Apple announced iOS 7 with its new look at that WWDC making the second edition obsolete only two weeks after hitting the bookstores.

There were other mistakes made throughout my time working with the publisher, from production problems to not completing planned projects. But it was the handling, or as I call it, the mishandling of the second edition that led to my decision to not continue updating the book.

If the book were self-published, then things might be different. But as it stands Learning iPad Programming is owned by the publisher, and everything other than the final manuscript is controlled by the publisher. I certainly have some say and can provide input, but I don’t really have any control once the manuscript is turned over to them. And given the past mistakes and mishandling of projects, I cannot see myself working with the same group for a third edition (my editor and her assistant excluded - they were outstanding to work with).

There You Have It

So there you have it, the main reasons there are no plans for a third edition of Learning iPad Programming. I admit it makes me rather sad when I think about it not doing new editions of the book. I poured my heart and soul into the first two editions, and I had high hopes that there would be many more editions for years to come. But at the end of the day it just not worth struggle, stress, and toll that the first two editions took on me, my family, and our financial wellbeing.

  1. Of the millions of books available on Amazon, my book was in the top 1100 for a few months. This is an outstanding and rare achievement for a tech book, and one of my proudest moments during my career.

Posted in general, life, writing.

Checkout The New Rowan T Site

If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to checkout the new Rowan T website. I moved it to Jekyll, updated it with a new site template, and I’ve starting sharing more about what’s going on with Rowan…after a two and a half year hiatus. So pop over to www.rowanturner.net and see what the kid has been up to lately.

Posted in general.

15 Minutes Of Writing

My friend, Greg Raiz, talks about using a system to achieve goals. The particular goal he wants to achieve is writing more.

I’ve tried using a system similar to what Greg describes, but I fail each time I try. My system, or goal as I still often call it, has been to write an hour each day. Writing an hour day, often times more, was easy when I was writing my books, but I can’t seem to get into the routine now that I’m done with book writing (for now). I realized after reading Greg’s post that I’ve been doing it wrong.

Greg’s plan is to write about 100 words a day, or for about 15 minutes a day, which is about the amount of time he needs to write 100 words. And that sounds like a much more reasonable system than writing for an hour a day.

I wish I could write for at least an hour a day, but it’s just not in me to do that right now. Sure, if I were focused on writing a book then I would have no problem writing an hour a day. In fact, I would write more. But writing a book not my focus. Writing apps is my focus. And 15 minutes a day sounds like a perfect way for me to get back into writing.

Posted in general, writing.

Made Some Fixes To The Blog Site

Before doing some work today I decided to make some improvements to my blog site. I thought I would be playing with the site for only an hour or so, but instead it took most of the day. Typical when dealing with programming issues in an unfamiliar environment.

This site, as well as my company blog site, uses Jekyll to generate a static HTML version of the site that is in turned hosted on a server for your viewing pleasure. I noticed a while back that categories with embedded spaces, such as cross post, weren’t accessible from the categories list. The embedded space was being replaced with a dash. Also, the RSS feed was not including the time of the post, only the date. So I set out to fix these problems.

I started with the time problem first. I learned that Jekyll does not include the time of the post unless you include the date parameter in the front matter. Adding the parameter is easy enough to do, but I decided I wanted to make it even easier for me. So I created a Rakefile that has a new_post task. I could have used an existing Rakefile, maybe even the one from Octopress, but I decided it would be more fun to write my own. Turns out writing a Rakefile is pretty simple, and I had my new_post task working quickly.

The new_post task I wrote create a new markdown file for the post. The task also generates the YAML front matter for the post including the date parameter with the current local time. This solves my time problem in the RSS feed for new post. I thought about making a fix for older post, but I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Using the Rakefile to create a new post makes so much sense that I decided to add a deploy task the Rakefile. I’ve been using a shell script I wrote a few years ago to generate the Jekyll site then commit it to the gh-pages branch of the site’s git repo. I thought it would be a fun exercise to re-implement this in the Rakefile. At the same time I decided to change how the files are committed to the branch. Instead of working from a single local git repo, I decided to clone the repo to a second _deploy directory, then copy the _site files to that directory. Turns out this was fairly simple to do as well.

With that work out of the way I turned my focus to the categories name problem. Turns out it was caused by a space replacement in the Jekyll plugin I use to generate the categories list. That was the easiest, fastest fix of the day.

With a smile on my face and feeling of success I decided to do one more thing. I decided to update my install of Jekyll. And this is when everything fell apart. The sense of success and feeling of being productive evaporated quickly. Long story short, turns out I had rvm and rbenv installed at the same time, and apparently having both installed at the same time causes problems when updating gems. Unfortunately it took me a long while to figure out what had happened. I didn’t realize rvm was installed, but once I did I uninstalled it. I did another update and made sure I had rbenv-gem-rehash installed.

All is well now. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this post is to make sure everything is working as expected. And now that I have a faster way to create new posts, I’m hoping to post here more frequently.

Posted in general, programming.

Despite A Rainy Start

Despite a rainy start this morning, I was able to get in a few snowboard runs on the hill before crowd arrived. And I had great visibility top to bottom on the last two runs. I think that might be the first time this season I’ve had great visibility top to bottom.

Posted in snowboarding, stowe.

A Tradition Comes To A Close Tonight

On December 22, 2001, I was in Whistler with my friends Dave and Joe. We spent the day snowboarding, then that night we went to see the first Lord of the Rings movie. Little did I know that night would become a tradition of sorts for me.

On December 22, 2002, I repeated the previous year by snowboarding, though not at Whistler, during the day and went to see the second LOTR movie that night. And yep, I did it again December 22, 2003. My wife, who joined me for the second and third movies, was glad the trilogy was over. Snowboarding a full day then going to a long movie that evening made for a long day. But then The Hobbit came out so…

On December 22, 2012, the tradition resumed with a full day of snowboarding followed by watching first hobbit movie. And one year later, December 22, 2013, was another long day of snowboarding and hobbits.

And this brings us to today, December 22, 2014. I spent the day snowboarding and tonight I will go see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The tradition continues for one more day, but unless there are more hobbit movies hitting movie theaters in the future, this tradition comes to a close tonight.