Andy Baio, Technologist and Blogger


Cool Tools Show 48: Andy Baio

Andy Baio loves making things online. He’s written waxy.org for the last 13 years, helped build Kick Starter, and organizes XOXO — an independent art tech festival in Portland. His upcoming projects include the XOXO Outpost, which is an experimental workspace opening this January, and the reboot of the collaborative event calendar, upcoming.org.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show Notes:

Notational Velocity
“It’s a Mac app, free, and open source … that has search and auto-complete built in. It’s so dead simple. There are no folders or anything like that. You just start typing and it creates a new note. Anything you’re searching is just a full-text search. For me it becomes this dumping ground for project ideas, interviews I do, SQL Queries, to-do lists, anything, and everything will go in there. I have thousands and thousands of little notes, some are stubs, like a wish list … Because it’s full text search, I don’t have to remember what I called something or what folder it’s in, or how it’s organized. I just start typing and it retrieves all of the notes that match those keywords … It’s just great.”

Pomodoro One and StayFocusd
“Pomodoro for those who aren’t familiar is a technique for helping you stay focused on your work. It’s a timer where you take 25 minute stretches of work, working on a single task, then a five minute break. After four of those, you take a longer break of 15 minutes. This has been one of the only things that has worked for me. I’m easily distracted, I’m constantly flitting around the internet looking for interesting things. When I actually need to work for an extended stretch a pomodoro timer keeps me moving and keeps me more likely to fall into flow. This one is a free app, free utility, it’s dead simple. Pomodoro One is one button, it’s a start button, and that’s basically it. It’ll do the 25 minute timer and then it’ll do an alarm, then five minutes. It’s configurable, there are things you can do with it, but that’s how I use it, that’s it, it’s dead simple …

The pairing with that is StayFocused, which is a Chrome add-on inspired by a FireFox extension I used to use, called LeechBlock. For Safari users, there’s a similar add-on called WastenoTime. StayFocused, all it does is a timer that keeps you from … time wasting websites. You define a list of sites that you’re likely to fall into, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, TVTropes, Meta-Filter, whatever your community is that you fall into. You add those to a list, then it watches those as you’re using your browsers and it will give you warnings, ‘You’ve got 5 minutes left, then I’m going to block them.’ If you keep going, it blocks them. At that point you’ve set up these goals for yourself and it’s trying to protect you from yourself.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.58.09 AM
“This is a tool that is relatively new compared to others I use, but has absolutely transformed the way I work and socialize … For those not familiar, it is effectively a incredibly well designed chat room. I think the thing that separates it from everything else is it has a since of whimsy and fun to it. You don’t see that in work collaborative tools. It has all the little playful things like third party integration with animated GIF tools, emoji picker, emoji reactions, it does an incredible job of unfurling links you paste in … It’s just a very natural place to collaborate and throw ideas in and get work done. In practice it has eliminated email for so much of what I would have previously used email for I now do in Slack.”

“This is an example of where I’m always looking for interesting new projects … I built this site … What it does is essentially streams the Twitter feeds from 2300 people. Everyone who has ever attended XOXO. Then it ranks them … It grabs just the links they post. It tosses out everything that is just a Tweet, it grabs just the Tweets that have a link in them. They’re saying, “This is a new project.” Grabs those links, expands them if they’re short URLs, then ranks them based on three factors popularity, freshness — When was the last time it was seen in the database? How many days old is it? — The third looks at the complexity of the URL. The idea is I am favoring shorter, simpler URLs over longer ones … It’s a bit of a flawed technique, but it generally works to favor projects over blog posts, news articles, and so on.”

-- Claudia Lamar 03/28/16