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Talking Tech with Scott Berkun

Management blog hypertextual called him an idea trafficker. We dig that. Idea trafficking.


For those of you who don’t know Scott Berkun, he’s a writer and speaker who talks about ideas and how they work. His chops have been featured in numerous blogs like The Economist, The Guardian, and NPR (to name a few). He’s also written 4 books. They’re all pretty excellent.

The other day I emailed Scott out of the blue to talk tech. I hadn’t talked to him in a few months, but I love his perspective and heard he’s got a new book coming out. I thought it’d be a good opportunity to get an insight into how an author gets stuff done nowadays.

Without further ado, Scott Berkun’s tech thoughts on tech, etc.

What’s your current tech set-up?

Mac Air, Cinema display, iPhone 4S, Moleskine. [See below]


What’s your go-to mobile app? Top 5?

I don’t use apps much on my iPhone. Google Maps is easily #1. Mail, Twitter and Facebook follow. Notes too.

Favorite place to consume content?

My brain is my favorite place for content consumption. I tried other body parts, but they didn’t work so well.

Tablet or physical book for reading?

Both. I primarily read on an iPad, but I’m not picky. Both have their advantages. Kindle books are amazingly convenient. Print books feel and smell amazing.

With all your writing and tweeting, how do you manage your daily workflow? Got any cool life hacks?

I keep all systems as simple as possible. If I feel lost or overwhelmed I make a prioritized list of tasks for the day on an index card and get to work, and repeat the next day. I try to post once or twice a week but I’m not religious about it. my blogging process is described here. If I’m actively writing a book or working on a new lecture that takes top priority. Twitter just falls in naturally and I explain how I use it here.

What’s your one tech-related guilty pleasure? 

I don’t really have one. Abusing Infinite scroll on twitter might count. I don’t do much trash. Occasionally I’ll watch garbage TVlike People’s Court or Hell’s Kitchen, but I don’t watch much TV. My guilty pleasures are far more carnal.

Browser wars – where’s your loyalty and why?

I have little loyalty for software. I switched to Firefox in 2003. And to Chrome in 2009. I still use Chrome and sometimes Safari. Whatever is simple, reliable and fast usually wins for me for any kind of tool.

What tech product are you most excited about?

No tech products excite me. Well, I wouldn’t mind an iPad Mini but I don’t think about it much. None of my ambitions depend on technological progress.

To end, how about a haiku about how you feel about technology.

Moths fly near the flame

People consume whatever’s new

There’s no difference

You can find details on Scott’s new book, The Year Without Pants, out in September on Amazon. Start following Scott’s inspiring writing on his website.

Talking tech with Erik Hersman

Too many people nowadays mortgage their sense of idealism for the present. Erik Hersman isn’t one of those people. He’s an optimist and a builder.

The Nairobi-based Senior TED Fellow transforms his idealism into productivity. In the past 5 years alone he’s started the AfriGadget blog (named one of TIME’s “Top 50 Sites of 2008”), co-founded Ushahidi (the open source project revolutionising how people crowdsource crisis information) and founded the iHub (Nairobi’s leading innovation hub). Impressive, right? It doesn’t stop there.

The kicker is that, while Erik is a busy and ambitious guy, he’s also one of the nicest people you can ever meet. And he was nice enough to sit down and talk tech with us.

So, what’s your current tech set-up look like?

MacBook Air 11″, iPhone 5, and a notebook plus zebra F-301 pen for when I’m in meetings.  There’s usually a 3g modem within reach too, soon to be replaced by a BRCK.

Erik Hersman2

What are your top 5 mobile apps?

Tweetbot (Twitter) – this is my news stream as well, I find it’s a great filter for what’s important and I also follow enough people who aren’t like me to ensure that I get a good mix of ideas and news that aren’t in my normal areas of interest.

Instapaper – God, I love this app.  I end up traveling a lot, so having articles that I didn’t have time to read when browsing online, available when offline on an airplane, is fantastic.

Alien Blue – Reddit.  That is all.

Camera+ – I take a lot of pictures with my iPhone, and only a portion of them make it to Instagram.  I end up doing a lot of fast post-editing via Camera+.

Basecamp – We use Basecamp for the Ushahidi, iHub and BRCK teams, so this is the easiest way for me to stay on top of everything.  I actually find it much easier to use than the desktop/browser version, especially when I’m testing products and doing quick-hit updates.

What’s your favorite place to consume content?

Twitter.  I’ve been thinking of reviving an RSS feed for myself via something like Newsify on my iPhone, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Is there a specific method to tackling your daily workflow?

Yes, I start and end the day with email, trying to keep it at inbox zero.  That gives me the middle of the day to focus on everything else.  Everything else ends up being focused on two types of days (they don’t mix well for me); days full of meetings, and days full of writing and thinking.  My goal is to have 3 days of writing/thinking each week, and 2 of meetings – I don’t always succeed at this.

I’ve tried multiple times to be a list person, but just can’t seem to get in the habit of it.  The closest I’ve gotten is with “The Hit List”, which I think is an amazingly good app for organizing myself.  I’m just not religious enough with it.

What’s your one tech-related guilty pleasure?

I play tower defense games on iOS, all of them.  If you haven’t played Kingdom Rush: Frontiers, then you’re not living.

Browser wars – where’s your loyalty and why?

Firefox.  I was an early adopter, even have one of the original t-shirts still.  Firefox makes a great browser, and they represent what I love about the web, which is the ability for it to be open and to remake itself when things go wrong.  Everything was going wrong when we only had Internet Explorer, Firefox saved us, I won’t forget that.  I also love that they’re working on amazing new things like Firefox OS and are at the forefront of keeping things open, accessible and fun.

What tech product are you most excited about?

I’d like to get the new MacBook Air that has super-long battery life.

You can learn more about Erik and his work by watching his latest talk below. You should also check out his blog, White African.

Talking tech with Taj Reid

The world needs more of Taj Reid. Seriously, the guy is an inspiration to what it means to be a creative and a kind soul. I met Taj over a decade ago and it’s safe to say, I’m a better person because of him. While his full-time job serves as creative director for wejetset – a modern travel store & creative agency, he’s also a father, husband, proud Philadelphian, app collector and Nike fanboy. Taj and I often find ourselves dreaming up crazy ideas but for today I wanted to dial it back and find out the tricks to his tech-ninja ways.

Taj's workspace at wejetset

What’s your current tech set-up look like?
It’s completely Apple dominated. I use a 27″ iMac at the studio, a similar iMac at home and a MacBook Air for everything in between all kept in rhythm through the cloud (Dropbox / iCloud and Things).

What are your top 5 mobile apps?
My top five apps are VSCOcam, Things, Instapaper, Day One and Tumblr. Oh – and a tie for honorable mention goes to ESPN’s Sports Center App the SC Feed, Letterpress and Dots.

What’s the best hashtag you’ve ever followed?
#FuelBandFriday – 
On Fridays a bunch of us compete to see who can get the most fuel points with our Nike FuelBands. It’s been a blast watching what people will do to claim the number one spot. If you have a fuel band and want to join our madness, don’t hesitate to give me a shout. ( Great times.

Even though email hasn’t really changed in years, which client do you use and any tricks you can share?

“My favorite email client is Sparrow. It works well with my general work flow. Plus it seamlessly integrates with Gmail. Unfortunately for users, the development team was acquired by Google. So, although they’re not doing anymore updates on Sparrow, I am seeing incredible improvements to the Google Mail App. Now if only they’d include a ‘View All Inbox’ option and make a desktop version – that would make me switch and leave Sparrow.

When it comes to my inbox I apply a GTD sensibility to it. I only respond to email at certain times of the day. I use the star mail option and have folders tagged, “”Follow Up”” and “”Noted””. Emails that I can answer in under 2 minutes I do right then. Emails that require more time – I star. Emails that require some additional work like an extra correspondence or I need to wait for something else to happen before I can reply get placed in “”Follow Up””. Then emails that don’t require a response but have some important information in them, I place in “”Noted””. For everything else, they get archived in category specific folders based on project or ideas.”

Consuming content has evolved quite a bit since the days of going to a single website. What’s your favorite way to read content? (i.e. blogs, books, magazines, etc)

I still go to blogs. I love that. I have a folder on my bookmark bar named favorites. I rotate 15 – 20 sites in there and visit them daily. For everything else, I rely on Reeder, Twitter, Instapaper, Tumblr and Flipboard.

Also, our studio definitely still believes in Print Magazines. We have a center table in the office where we stack all our favorite independent finds like The Alpine Review, Megawords, Tomorrow, and Offscreen. We try to rotate the selection every week or so. It’s become a great conversation piece for visitors and co-workers.

Taj Rondo Reid

Taj Rondo Reid

Is there a specific method to tackling your daily workflow?

I heavily rely on Things. It’s a great task management system and their recent cloud integration allows me to keep tabs on what I should be doing at all times across all devices. It’s also great for capturing new tasks or ideas on the fly. Plus, I like the way Things works with Siri & Reminders – it’s fairly seamless.

Beyond the software-side of work, I also believe in Utility Days. Once a week I try to schedule a day where I’m relaxed to review and acquire the ideas, lessons and new tasks that make up my day-to-day work. Utility days usually fall on a Sunday and consists of the following four things:

Relaxing: It may be a long walk, playing with my kids or watching soccer.

Reviewing: I take some time to think about the last week. I go over all of my meetings, notes, tasks, and various ideas that occurred during the previous week.

Acquiring: After I’ve reviewed the last week, I try to collect all the things that need to be done in the upcoming week.

Organizing: I assign 4 tasks to each day that I think will move projects forward, provide new opportunities, or introduce new learning experiences.

The combination of Things and Utility Days really help me maintain my workflow during the week.

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