Take pictures with your mittens on

A local urbanism blog is encouraging the sharing of sidewalk-shaming photos (good!) and it occurred to me that not everyone knows you can take a photo from an iPhone without ever using the touchscreen.

  1. Just say “Hey Siri, open the camera!” if you have “Hey Siri” enabled. Otherwise, press and hold the home button or the button on your earbuds to wake Siri up, then say it.
  2. Compose your shot.
  3. Press either of the volume buttons to take the picture.

And there you have it. You can access the camera without unlocking your phone, and take a picture without ever using the touchscreen. Great for documenting unshoveled sidewalks, as well as snapping pics of dogs in their cute little winter sweaters and booties.

Thinking with paper

When I’m trying to figure out what I think, to unravel something new, I use paper.

Email makes you think like email. Pick some people and tell them something. But maybe I don’t need to tell anyone anything. Maybe I need to make a to-do list, or write up a list of questions and add them to a meeting agenda.

Word makes you think like Word. Make a document, 8.5 x 11. It probably needs a title, a heading, paragraphs laid out one after the other. Fine, maybe. But what if drawing a picture would do me better?

Neither let you start in the middle of the page. Or work upside down. Or backwards. They don’t easily accommodate doodles, sketches, a scratchpad for the thinking that’s not fully baked yet.

I’m using paper as a metaphor here. It could be a whiteboard. A sandy beach and a stick. The iOS app Drafts is like paper, in a way: it lets you capture words before you have to decide what they’re for or where they’re going. It’s where I started this post.

Sometimes I’m intentional about how I use the paper, other times it’s just a scribbly mess. But it’s always a good place to start when I don’t know what I think. Hooray for paper.

Links of late | 2018-06-01

  • New version of Ulysses is out. Lucky 13. Nothing I’ll make immediate use of but I see the appeal of the colored keywords, especially for a larger project like a book.
  • A recent episode of 99% Invisible about Curb Cuts jumped right into their top ten for me. Design, usability, political activism, shitting on Jerry Lewis. All the good stuff. (Excellent article at that link, too, if you’re not much of a podcast listener.)
  • NE Minneapolis flags for sale. I didn’t buy one because I don’t know where I’d display it, but I did buy something related. More later.
  • I’ve been admiring Apple’s approach to editorial curation in the App Store for a while now, but I hadn’t fully noticed how much custom illustration work they’re using until I came across this article.
  • Walking or biking to wherever probably takes less time than you think. “About 90 percent of their estimates were too long by at least 10 minutes.”
  • Put some more diverse faces into your next set of wireframes or design personas.

Tiny habits with Streaks

I tried Streaks (what an awful name) a while back but it didn’t stick, I think because I picked overly-ambitious things to track. The gang was talking about it recently on Do By Friday and I gave it another spin. It’s clicking this time.

This is my current mix:

I’ve been try to pick habits that are accessible throughout the day without having to plan for them. I can just pop Streaks open, pick something, and do it with either just my body, or with my phone or iPad. Playing piano is the trickiest one but there’s a mobile flashcard thing in the Simply Piano app I’ll use in a pinch.

For me the primary advantage is less about building any particular habit as it is about grounding my days in something positive and regular. It’s too easy to just go home from work and start working again all night, or to veg out to Netflix until I fall asleep. A day where I accomplish all or most of these things (and my health stuff on the other screen like taking my vitamins and getting my steps) is a pretty good day, regardless of what else happens.

A very useful iPad button

In case you‘re as unobservant as me, I thought I’d point out this useful button on the iPad keyboard. I didn’t notice it for at least a month:

A quick tap in the bottom-right minimizes the on-screen keyboard. This is essential in making stuff work in your web browser. Form fields and the like are frequently hidden under the keyboard in mobile Safari.

A tap-and-hold of this button lets you undock and/or split the on-screen keyboard. I don’t find undocking useful on my 10.5” iPad (there’s not really anywhere for it to go), but splitting is nice for handheld usage when it’s implemented correctly.