Tweaks for Better Twitter

This is another attempt to speak a little grace and hope into the way you think about social media, particularly Twitter. If you use Twitter instead of Facebook, you already have an advatage. Twitter doesn’t require a follow back or “friending,” and this means you can follow whoever you want. Conversely, people can follow you without you having to follow back and see everything they post.

If you are frustrated with Twitter itself, chances are some of your frustration could be allieviated by changing a couple settings: uncheck “show me the best Tweets first” and use the mute feature.

First, I don’t think many people realize that Twitter allows you to mute certain words or hashtags. This means you can filter out just about everything you dislike about social media. For example, I have #SCOTUS, #POTUS, and the word “Trump” muted. Chances are that my Twitter experience is much better than yours because of three simple mutes. Anytime there is an annoying flare up of tweets you don’t like, just add another mute word or hashtag. It takes about 10 seconds. To access the mute settings go to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > scroll to the bottom and you will see Blocked accounts, Muted accounts, and Muted words.

Second, the Twitter app tries to show you the tweets they think you will be most interested in based on those you interact with most. You can adjust this setting in the Twitter app, but I don’t think many people know (1) that their timeline isn’t in chronological order by default and (2) they can change it. In the Twitter app, go to Settings and privacy > Timeline and uncheck “Show me the best tweets first.” Now, if you are following a live event, your timeline won’t be interrupted with old tweets. More info on adjusting your timeline settings can be found here.

The only remaining hurdle is ads (“promoted tweets”), and to fix this problem you will have to turn to an app like Tweetbot. Tweetbot is a solid, great looking app that can do all of the above and more. Check out their website for more info.

Twist for Reading Team Communication

The company that makes Todoist just released a team messaging app called Twist. I love Todoist so when a friend messaged me about this I was definitely interested. Having used Twist for a couple days, I’m not so sure if it is going to work for us.

He and I have used Todoist over the past year to keep up with a shared reading plan, and we used the comment features in Todoist to discuss the readings. Todoist was fantastic for keeping up with our shared reading plan, and the way we used the app for discussion was OK. We would create a task for each major section of the book, and then simply comment on that task, turning it from an actual task to a hub for discussion. Not ideal, but functional.

I know a reading team of two is not exactly the sort of team Twist is intended to help. The app may be overkill for our purposes, but I wanted to try it out because it could potentially make our discussions a lot easier to keep up with. If you google twist doist you will find that the headlines describe it as something like “a less distracting take on Slack” (Engadget, for example). I’ve never used Slack, but everyone I know who uses a team communication app does. I’m confident that since Doist is behind this app it will get better and likely be a (the first?) genuine rival to Slack.

Here’s my take after a couple days. At this point, Twist is frustrating, but we’re bearing with it. Part of my frustration comes, no doubt, from the fact that I like to keep my app game as simple as possible, and I’m just experiencing new app growing pains. There are a few other things, however. First, every time I send a message I get a pop up asking me if I’m sure I want to notify everyone in the channel. This happens anytime I comment on anything, and I do not see a way to make it stop (update: a friend showed me that if you only have individuals of a team selected and note some variation of “everyone” the pop up goes away). Second, our reading team of two is now a reading team of three because Twist automatically adds “Ada Bot,” a messaging bot that I can’t figure out how to kill. I asked it, “How can I delete you.” It said, “I need a lot more training. Please contact support …” Just seeing that silly bot everywhere is so annoying. Finally, I’ve struggled a little navigating the various portions of the app — teams, groups, channels, threads, and comments. For me, it’s a bit cumbersome. I’d be interested to hear from Slack users what they think about the Twist UI.

I do like the inbox feature, which allows me to see a list of every post no matter what channel it is posted in. And again, I love that Doist is behind it. Todoist is spectacular, and I expect Twist will be too within a few months.

Twist website

Moving from Google Photos to Apple Photos

Why

I’ve used Google Photos as an automatic photo backup since 2011. I didn’t start using the iCloud/Apple Photos combo until late in 2015. I spent downtime during the past few days making sure copies of everything pre-2015 was moved over to Apple Photos because I’m think about taking all my pics and videos out of Google. Why? Because I am becoming convinced that Apple is more concerned about my privacy than Google is. Exhibit A. I’m also tired of giving Google ten dollars a month for storage.

Why haven’t I moved everything to Apple Photos before now? At first I was taken back by the fact that keeping everything in Apple Photos means you can’t delete pics off your devices and just store them in the cloud. You can in Google Photos. Google Photos also automatically does a bunch of cool stuff with your photos. Without damaging the originals, they will string together a loop of several similar pictures; they’ll create videos of related pics set to music or maybe apply special lighting to a picture they think is a particularly good one. I’ve enjoyed this over the years, but more and more I hear perspectives like the one linked above. It makes sense, and is a little unnerving.

How

Unfortunately, there is no way to move things directly from one cloud service to another. In the Google Drive sync preferences on my MacBook, I selected the folders I wanted to download, waited on the download to finish, and then import them to Apple Photos. I had about 30gb worth of room on my MacBook so I selected only a few months to downloaded at a time, and then after importing them to Apple Photos, I removed them from my MacBook and grabbed a few more months from Google Drive. I added over 15,000 pics to Apple Photos (bringing the total over 20,000) and several hundred videos. 24 hours later, a couple thousand of them are still uploading to iCloud. What’s left must be videos because the last thousand is taking forever. Granted, I’m working with horribly slow internet.

Moving forward

Though not fast, the process was pretty simple. My only lingering concern is that some really important picture didn’t get downloaded. I’ve deleted Google Photos from my mobile devices so I’ll no longer be uploading photos there, but I don’t think I’ll be deleting my stuff from Google Photos for a while — not until I’m absolutely sure every thing has made its way over. I really don’t like the prospect of losing any part of the first few years of my kiddos’ lives.

I’m looking forward to the improved file compression promised in iOS 11, but for the time being I still have enough room on all my devices. It’s nice to know that basically every digital picture I’ve taken in my life is on all of my devices and in the native Apple Photos app. For the first time the data isn’t scattered across two platforms.

One thing I’m still not clear on, however. Apple lets you save space by keeping “optimized” versions of your pics on your devices, while the originals live in iCloud. But what happens when I share a pic or video from one of my mobile devices? Am I sharing the optimized version or the full sized version?

Posts on Writing & Notes Apps

Here are a few posts I’ve written on the four writing and notes apps I use: Apple Notes, GoodNotes, Word, and Ulysses.

I’m pretty happy with this workflow, and each apps seems to be getting better and better. The iOS 11 previews promise a substantial update to Apple notes; GoodNotes has told me about a pretty significant upcoming feature; and Ulysses is king of the hill. Word? It gets a lot of updates, but meh. I hope the iOS app becomes more full features in the future, but it’s fine.

Keeping up with Technology

I want to share a few of my favorite people and places on the internet. If you are looking for a way to keep up with technology news and reviews, these are great places to start.

Each heading links to a Twitter account.

Brian Renshaw

for tech and productivity

Brian is a good friend, and he is at the top of this list because he introduced me to everyone listed here except for MKBHD and Ben Mayo. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog. (By the way, he says Jason Snell should be on this list.)

The Brooks Review

Apple & “the best” of everything

This might be my favorite site on the internet. Ben Brooks writes clear, incisive reviews, often laced with the perfectly placed, hilarious expletive. I read everything he writes — definitely a writing role model. He writes a weekly iPad Productivity Report, which is a highlight of every Monday. Several features of the site are only for members, including the Productivity Report. Membership is $4/month and absolutely worth it.

Federico Viticci

for all things iOS

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Mac Stories and dubbed iPad Sensei by the peeps at Mac Power Users. He is also a cohost of the new podcast AppStories, which is super sweet. I first discovered Federico when Brian Renshaw sent me a link to this legendary iOS 10 review.

MKBHD

YouTube Channel for tech products more broadly

Marques Brownlee reviews Apple and Android phones and tablets, headphones, cameras, drones, and all the rest. His reviews are to the point, balanced, and really well produced. His YouTube channel is one of only two that I regularly watch (the other is Casey Neistat’s).

Mac Power Users

Podcast for all things Apple

I listened to several tech podcasts during a recent 13 hour drive and was made keenly aware of just how good these guys are. There are a lot of tech podcasts out there, but most of them are horrid. David and Katie are just a pleasure to listen to. They have been doing this show since 2009(!) and are such pros. Their dynamic is as relaxing and delightful as the content is informative. The shows are super long but definitely worth the time investment.

Daring Fireball

First came across John Gruber via his markdown syntax page. His tweets are great, and his blog is sage.

Benjamin Mayo

I’ve just started following Ben Mayo. He writes for 9to5Mac, and I find his tweets interesting.

Zoom & GoodNotes for Online Teaching

This is a season of lasts. The last Greek 3 class has come and gone, today is the last day of exams, this afternoon will be my last private Greek lesson with two particularly amazing students, and yesterday was the last online lesson with a student I have been teaching Classical Greek.

Two apps have helped make this a successful year of online teaching — GoodNotes and Zoom. Zoom is simply the best online classroom environment I can imagine, and GoodNotes is my favorite digital writing platform.

Zoom

Neither you nor the student nor the student’s family have to be tech savvy. It is as simple as sharing a link and following the instructions. If you meet with a student at a set time every week, Zoom allows you to schedule individual online meeting rooms. If, however, you meet at different times every week, you can just use the personal room you are given when you sign up.

My favorite feature of Zoom is how easily I can use it with my iPad Pro as a digital whiteboard. I normally run the meeting through the Zoom app on my MacBook. When I need a whiteboard, I click a share screen button, choose share iPad screen, and then connect my iPad to the MacBook via AirPlay. It has worked seamlessly throughout the entire school year.

At times I have been without my laptop, and I simply ran my meetings via the Zoom iPad app. This worked smoothly, as well.

GoodNotes

GoodNotes is the digital hub that connects me, the student, and any writing or assessments that are transferred between us. For whiteboard purposes I created a notebook called Greek Scribbles. This is where all our in-class, random notes go. I also have a notebook to keep up with assessments. The assessment workflow goes like this:

  • Quizzes and tests are sent to me as PDFs.
  • I drop them into our GoodNotes assessment notebook.
  • I grade the assessments with an Apple Pencil in GoodNotes.
  • GoodNotes automatically backs up the notebooks as PDFs to Google Drive (or Dropbox or others).
  • I share the assessments notebook PDF via a Google Drive link.

Now the student and the student’s family always have digital access to all of their assessments as soon as I finish grading them.

This is the method I have used all year for three weekly online lessons, and I recommend these apps without hesitation. More on GoodNotes later, but for now, back to wrapping up what is left of this year’s lasts.

RSS in Safari

My feed reader died back in 2013 like everyone else’s. After Google Reader, I tried Feedly and a couple other services but never really settled in. Twitter eventually filled the void, but the problem is that it never stopped pouring. The demise of Google Reader left me drowning in social media.

I killed Facebook as a New Year’s resolution in 2016 — the only one I’ve ever successfully kept — and now I’m trying to take a step back from Twitter by using Safari’s Shared Links feature. I think I would have discovered this feature earlier if it weren’t so poorly named. I have no idea what “shared links” is supposed to mean in light of what the feature does. I’m trying to keep up with pages or posts, not links, and neither I nor the authors have shared them.

The name aside, using Shared Links is simple. Just navigate to a favorite site, click the share button, and select Add Website to Shared Links.

Do the same thing with as many sites as you would like to keep up with, and then click View, Show Shared Links Sidebar (command + shift + 3) to see a list of the most recent posts from these sites.

To view your feed on an iOS device, select the little book icon and the @ symbol.

Adding sites to Shared Links on an iOS device is a little different. Once you are on a site you want to follow, do this:

  • Click the book icon.
  • Click the @ symbol.
  • Click Subscriptions at the bottom of your list of posts.
  • Click Add Current Site.

I like reading posts as they appear on the actual websites to which they belong, and navigating to a post via your Shared Links feed allows you to do this.

One other cool feature: After you finish reading a post, there is an UP NEXT banner at the bottom of the screen that allows you to scroll down and go straight to the next post in your feed.

You can check out iMore for their intro to Shared Links.

Also, Brian Renshaw has other ways of keeping up with sites, but I prefer to just use Safari.