Omnifocus 2 Release Day and Revisiting Some Other GTD Apps

If the internet is to be believed, Omnifocus 2 is being released today. In the course of beta-testing OF2 over the past month or two, I thought a lot about how I use the app and how I approach my work in general.

I’ve found that the more I use GTD, the more my perspective on it changes, and with that comes new perspectives on how to use the different tools available. After using Omnifocus across OSX and iOS for well over a year, and since switching to OF2 would essentially be switching apps, I decided to take the opportunity to make sure I was be switching to the right app.

Which is all a great way to post-rationalize the wreckless and wasteful fiddling I allowed myself to descend into.

My first stop was Things. Things was the first task management app that stuck for me. And while it still feels great from a simplicity standpoint, it’s feeling dated. The product hasn’t noticably changed in over a year. The iOS apps haven’t been updated for iOS 7, and they look so old that they almost feel ironic. But it was after a visit to their forums that I knew for sure I couldn’t go back. There still simmers a great discontent over the glacial pace of Cultured Code’s development cycle. That was part of the reason I abandoned ship in the first place, and I didn’t want to rejoin that particular torch and pitchfork mob. I do miss their sync solution, though. It’s so fast.

I also fired up my old Nozbe account to see how it feels nowadays. Michael Hyatt still uses and evangelizes Nozbe, so it must be pretty good. The biggest problem with it is that the desktop client is still lacking in keyboard shortcuts. A forgivable shortcoming for a free or inexpensive app, but it’s a problem that is difficult to overlook with Nozbe’s fairly pricy subscription model. A productivity tool that is slow to use because it requires using a mouse seems like an oxymoronic characature of Soviet technology. “In Soviet Russia, management tasks YOU!”

And to be honest, there’s only so much brown that I can look at in a day.

I checked out Todoist after seeing that Mike Vardy has started using it. It seems fine, I guess. They advertise a lot of basic functionality, like adding notes to tasks, as “premium upgrades.” The handicapped free version makes it hard to get a sense of what it’s actually like to use on a daily basis. And while they offer a money back guarantee on upgrading, I didn’t feel like shelling out the dough only to have to jump through the hoops a day later to get a refund if I didn’t like it. Ultimately, it seems like it’s the most Omnifocus-like system for people who need Android or PC compatibility. I’ll take another look if I end up on Android at some point.

And then there was TaskPaper.

TaskPaper I love.

Plain text, easy to input projects and tasks, no fields to tab around in or scrolling date pickers to mess with, super simple to move things around and reorganize, multiple tags and contexts on projects and tasks, accessability from any number of apps that handle txt files.

It almost got me.

I’ve been switching back and forth from the Omnifocus 2 Beta and TaskPaper over the past month or two. I nearly went with TaskPaper full time, pulling Omnifocus off of my dock. But what I realized is that my system requires a longer view. I need to be able to punt things into the future without further complicating my calendar or having to look at them constantly. I need some tasks to be repeating without necessitating an Applescript hack. I need a solid sync solution that won’t create file conflicts like I experienced a time or two with TP. And the biggest thing, the feature that drew me to Omnifocus in the first place, is the ability to forward emails with attachments into my system. I work in an email intensive environment, and having to check for tasks in more than one app was making me anxious.

So I’ve committed to Omnifocus 2. I miss the flexibility in TaskPaper to apply multiple tags to tasks and the ease of slicing and dicing lists with the search query system, but getting it to work well requires an awful lot of hacks across Applescript, Text-Expander, Keyboard-Maestro and Editorial. Omnifocus might be slower by its very nature, but it just works.

I won’t write a full review of Omnifocus 2 here. Sites like Macsparky and Shawn Blanc will do a much better job of that. But I really do enjoy using it.

I’m still trying to figure out how to work the new forecast view into my day-to-day, but the app itself seems like it’s easier to navigate and manipulate. There’s been a lot of talk about the wasted verticle space caused by having two lines per task. Ken Case has mentioned in the forums that they’re looking into rolling out the option of a single line view after the initial launch, but I’m not bothered by it. Oh, and having the inspector tied into the main window makes things much easier to navigate from a keyboard perspective.

I only wish they’d lose the purple. The purple is terrible. Though it’s not nearly the dealbreaker that Nozbe’s brown is.

The TV Guys Won – Agencies are Still Making Videos

Does it seem twisted, or sadist, or disappointing to anyone else that Burger King has taken what is arguably some of the best interactive creative that’s been ever been done for a brand — Subserviant Chicken — and turned it into a video?

Rick Webb, co-founder of The Barbarian Group, sure does:

The downside isn’t the creative, it’s the context. Seeing the same creative on the Web ten years later? If you had asked me back then what a digital campaign would look like now, I would have expected holograms and VR or something. Ten years ago the chicken was a software app. Now it’s a youtube video and some share buttons. This really drives home to me how boring and bloated digital production has gotten. A million kids are making video games, robots, lasers, drones and billion dollar startups. Agencies are still making videos. Except now they’re longer. Also, the rental fee on the cast trailer in the background alone is more than our entire budget. The TV guys won.

Via Digiday

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren’t True?

As a married person with kids, I often find myself in a position of trying to change someone’s mind about something that they couldn’t be any more wrong about. Taste in music, television shows, whether or not bowties should exist outside of the 19th century in any context other than the necks of Ph.D.s … you get the idea. It’s my cross to bear, as they say.

Maria Konnikova has written a piece at The New Yorker about the research of several academics who have set out to understand what it takes to change people’s minds when they are empirically wrong about something.

What they’re finding is that, surprise, surprise, facts and evidence are of little use in changing people’s minds. Evidence to the contrary can even help to strengthen incorrect opinions:

They had followed a group of almost two thousand parents, all of whom had at least one child under the age of seventeen, to test a simple relationship: Could various pro-vaccination campaigns change parental attitudes toward vaccines? Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked. The first leaflet—focussed on a lack of evidence connecting vaccines and autism—seemed to reduce misperceptions about the link, but it did nothing to affect intentions to vaccinate. It even decreased intent among parents who held the most negative attitudes toward vaccines, a phenomenon known as the backfire effect. The other two interventions fared even worse: the images of sick children increased the belief that vaccines cause autism, while the dramatic narrative somehow managed to increase beliefs about the dangers of vaccines. “It’s depressing,” Nyhan said. “We were definitely depressed,” he repeated, after a pause.

They now believe that beliefs take root within our self-perception. They help us to define ourselves. And just as we have a natural tendency to rationalize away people’s criticisms of who we are as people, we are good at deflecting criticisms of our beliefs. So the more ideological a belief becomes, the more difficult it’ll be to change it:

The campaign against smoking is one of the most successful public-interest fact-checking operations in history. But, if smoking were just for Republicans or Democrats, change would have been far more unlikely. It’s only after ideology is put to the side that a message itself can change, so that it becomes decoupled from notions of self-perception.

Seeing the Creative Woods for the Data Trees

Barry Meade writing at Polygon:

I am arguing that this is what we have forgotten in our chase for mobile profit, that we can’t see the creative woods for the data trees. For all our mountains of information we’ve collected about user habits and sales, the gut-level ability to give joy and inspire our audience remains the job of our industry’s creative people first and every other industry role second. Our ability to communicate to, reach and inspire the people that we make things for is the foundation for everything any artist or craftsperson ever produced.

For all of the bleating about big data and analytics, the most successful creative work, digital or otherwise, still seems to be coming from talented people doing cool stuff.

To bastardize one of my favorite Mark Fenske quotes:

It doesn’t matter how much data you have if your idea sucks.

The challenge for the quants is going to be the same one that research and strategy groups in creative settings have always faced: It’s not enough that you have the information. It has to be made compelling to the creative process. Helping the work get better is the only way to get a seat at the table.

On the flipside, the creatives that learn how to really have fun with data will continue driving the future of their respective industries.

Via MacStories