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(writer on Skype call) Yes, yes, I'm aware of the irony of missing my deadline for the piece on task management software.

Wanted: a task manager manager

Wanted: a task manager manager published on No Comments on Wanted: a task manager manager

Last night, I finally watched the Mythbusters’ finale, in which they revisited one episode’s explosive destruction of a cement truck. The myth they’d been testing: that you can clean off hardened cement inside the truck’s mixing barrel by throwing in a stick of dynamite.

They concluded that you can clear out some debris, but not a big slab. (The episode ended with lots of little pieces of truck scattered across the terrain; the finale used about six times the amount of high explosive and ended with much smaller pieces of truck.)

I think of that when I think of task management software. I have a bad habit of treating it like the stick of dynamite I toss into my congealed pile of to-dos and half-dones. I always hope the detonation will somehow sort them into a cogent framework of tasks that — and this is where the software always lets me down — will then do themselves.

Thing is, you need a methodology. Many tools have one (or more) in mind: a lot of task management software is explicitly built around the Getting Things Done methodology, for instance. With others, a methodology is just assumed. But a lot of it (hello, Apple Reminders) just kind of lets you flail around, unless you impose some kind of order yourself. Even worse, if one of your guilty pleasures happens to be exploring software, you can quickly head down the rabbit hole of trying out every new task manager that comes along.

The things I’ve learned are:

  • First, no tool is likely save you from yourself.
  • Second, every tool will require you to make at least minor changes to your workflow so you can capture, track and report tasks as you go.
  • And third, the right tool for you won’t require you to bend over backward to accommodate its idiosyncrasies.

By the way, in case you’re just dying to know, my weapons of choice these days are Reminders, OmniFocus and Vitamin R. I like using OmniFocus to break big jobs into smaller ones, and Vitamin R to keep me focused on days when I have a whole lot of scattered, discrete tasks.

So today’s cartoon is dedicated to two people who’ve helped me steer clear of the rabbit hole, at least to some degree, and small-g-small-t-small-d get things done:

  • Alexandra Samuel, whose deep dives into these things put me to shame (and by the way, just assume every cartoon is at least partly dedicated to her), and
  • and Mike Vardy of Productivityist, whose podcast episodes and blog posts were the carefully-calibrated stick of dynamite I needed a few years ago (the truck survived).

And with that, I can check “publish cartoon” off my to-do list.

(dad with daughter playing cymbals and drums while mom records a podcast) Oh, riiiight. You're recording. But you can just fix that in Audacity, right?

The Business of Podcasting #2: Sheer Audacity

The Business of Podcasting #2: Sheer Audacity published on No Comments on The Business of Podcasting #2: Sheer Audacity

Here’s the second in a series of eight cartoons from the fab new podcasting bookThe Business of Podcasting by Donna Papacosta and Steve Lubetkin. Check back every Monday for the latest one!

And one of the tools that has been making podcasting so easy for so long is Audacity, the open-source audio editing software. True, it could be easier to use (case in point: for license-compliance reasons, you need to separately install a geeky program or two so you can import and export audio formats like MP3). But the sheer power of the thing is crazy.

Ditto The Levelator, a simple utility to optimize audio files. For thousands of podcast creators who didn’t have the technical chops to tweak their levels in something like Audacity, and more to the point, for their listeners, The Levelator was a lifesaver.

And now for a quick game of six degrees of separation.

  • The Levelator was created in part by Bruce and Malcolm Sharpe.
  • Bruce Sharpe oversaw the video recording and editing of keynotes at the 2009 Northern Voice blogging conference.
  • One of the keynotes he edited together was mine.
  • And in my keynote, I talked about… podcasting!

Yes, there is video. The podcasting stuff starts at the 5:00 mark.

And what the hell does this function “Arrrrggghhh-ulk!!()” do?

And what the hell does this function “Arrrrggghhh-ulk!!()” do? published on Purchase print

I will consider it a personal failing if I can’t get a Ouija board with a pipe character, angle brackets and shebang up on Etsy by the end of the year.

By the way, the Ouija board was one of three options I was considering for this caption. I’d sketched up a corpse being reanimated…

sketch of a corpse being reanimated

…and a seance…


…but landed on the Ouija board. That was partly on Alex’s recommendation, and partly so I could draw it while the kids were falling asleep without scaring them into a night’s insomnia if they happened to catch a glimpse.


Certified! published on No Comments on Certified!

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb

So, speaking of certification:

Becoming an Eagle Scout is a big deal. It’s a lifelong title, and involves not only earning a fistful of merit badges, but organizing and leading a community service initiative. So returning that Eagle Scout badge in protest is a big deal, too… and as of today 150 one-time scouts have done it, in protest against the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to uphold its anti-gay membership policy.

I found out about it when fellow speechwriter Hal Gordon, who wrote for the Reagan Administration, blogged the letter he sent to the BSA (along with his badge), and linked to this Tumblr blog, Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges. Have a look – the letters vary widely in tone, but I was struck by the passion and, very often, sadness.

On a happier note, have you checked out Mozilla Open Badges? To make it easier for people to get recognition for the skills and knowledge they’ve gained, Mozilla has created an infrastructure that allows organizations to issue and manage badges that people who earn them can display across the web. (Naturally, the first badge you earn is the “I really get badges!” badge.) You collect your badges in your Badge Backpack, and the idea is you’ll be able to display them on your blog, a company web site or your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. It’s still a work in progress, but this could be the beginning of something awfully great.