Tech, How-to

How to make OmniFocus and Windows live in quasi-harmony using Exchange

As part of my new gig, I get to spend some time working on a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10. That in and of itself is actually rather enjoyable, but when I try marrying my love for iOS-centric productivity tools with my newfound computing platform, things get a bit…messy.

Luckily, there's Breevy for all my text expansion needs, and 1Password has a Windows client. But there's one app that I rely on that doesn't have a presence (or a truly compatible counterpart) on Windows: OmniFocus.

OmniFocus is where my entire life exists in to-do list form. I rely on it to keep up with everything I do, and it's often one of the first apps I check in the morning, and one of the last ones I check at night. It's also incredibly complex -- it's possible to sort different tasks by project, context and even combine whole groups of them into particular perspectives. In other words, migrating to a new, cross-platform to-do list system isn't in the cards for me either.

To make OmniFocus work with the Surface, I tied together a bunch of different features that means I can now use Outlook on my Surface as an inbox for to-do list items that show up on my Macs and iOS devices. To set things up, you'll need an Exchange account, Outlook for Windows, and OmniFocus for iOS.

Step 1: Hook your iPhone or iPad up to the Exchange account, and make sure that the account is enabled to handle tasks. That should create a to-do list in Apple's built-in Reminders app for iOS called "Tasks" that syncs with the list of tasks in your exchange account. (It's easy enough to test this by adding a task in Outlook and seeing if it shows up on your iPhone.

Step 2: Open OmniFocus on your iPhone or iPad, and go to Settings > Capture Reminders. Toggle "Reminders Capture" on, and then check the Tasks list in the list of possible reminders. Now, whenever you add a task in Outlook, it should sync to the iPhone, and then add itself to OmniFocus's inbox.

Step 3: To take that one step further, it's possible to use Siri to add tasks to the OmniFocus inbox by going to Settings > Reminders > Default List and setting Tasks as the default list. Now, when you say "Hey Siri, remind me to take out the trash," Apple's virtual assistant will create a "Take out the trash" reminder in the Tasks list, which will then sync to OmniFocus!

It's not a fully-featured OmniFocus client on my Surface (which I would love) but for me, it's the next best thing.

Linked, Tech

Clinkle Implodes As Employees Quit In Protest Of CEO (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)

Founded at Stanford in 2011 by Duplan when he was just 19, Clinkle amassed a team of smart, driven students at the college despite refusing to show many a working prototype. Duplan’s co-founders Frank Li and Jason Riggs have both since parted ways with Clinkle.

Yet suddenly, the startup was the talk of the town when it managed to raise $25 million in seed funding in June 2013 from top investors including Peter Thiel, Andreessen Horowitz, Marc Benioff, Jim Bryer, Accel Ventures and Index Partners.

But rather than a traditional-priced seed round for equity, sources say Duplan structured the financing as convertible debt. One outcome of that was that Clinkle didn’t need to allow an investor on its board of directors, limiting oversight and keeping Duplan in firm control. The round was raised in small amounts from a large number of investors, which also kept anyone from dedicating more time to guiding Clinkle. Duplan secured another $5 million a few months later bringing Clinkle to over $30 million in funding.

A cautionary tale of woe from TechCrunch's Josh Constine. The story of Clinkle seems to be a crystal-clear example of what happens when someone takes all the wrong lessons from the tech giants of the past 40 years and then...fails miserably.

The founders of Facebook and Google all structured the ownership of their companies so that they could retain total control, even after going public. To me, that always seemed like a response to Steve Jobs's ouster at Apple (and less high-profile examples of the same behavior), which clearly worked out well for Page, Brin and Zuckerberg. On the flipside, we have Lucas Duplan, who structured his funding so that he could retain total control of the company, but didn't have a product, evidently couldn't keep a team together, and seems to have been missing some of the opportunities for advice and growth that come from bringing on more involved investors.

Now, Clinkle is circling the drain, and it seems the only question remaining for the company is how bad its outcome will be.

It's interesting to see this dovetail with Nellie Bowles's reporting on the teens of Silicon Valley. There's a group of young folk who have decided to come out to the Valley to try and strike it rich as startup employees or entrepreneurs, and they're being courted by venture capitalists and Valley luminaries out to harness the next Facebook, Google or Uber.

In the context of Clinkle, I found this quote from Kristina Varshavskaya (who left home in New Jersey when she was 17 to join her sister at Wanelo) particularly illuminating:

“I’ll either meet people who will fetishize it or will dismiss it. The fetish is kind of weird,” Varshavskaya says. “The group of young guys here. A lot of them are treated like gods and wizards and heroes, and all the venture capitalists are waiting for their next magic thing, but they’re not doing anything that special. They’re just really young. I include myself in that.”

Linked, Personal

How to pretend to be happy on the internet (Selena Larson/The Kernel)

You can’t be sad if you’re using the Crema filter on a good hair day, right? Right? If you type enough exclamation marks and happy-faced emojis, no one knows your heart is broken.

Real talk from my friend Selena about keeping a happy face on social media. It hits real close to home for me, since my presence on the web is such a public performance. Especially on Twitter, where the majority of my followers are people who I've never met, I'm acutely cautious about what I say. I'd hate to be That Guy who's a buzzkill on social media.

It's a version of myself, to be sure, but posting tweets, blog posts and other digital items is always an exercise in editing myself. And this, I think, is one of the persistent shortcomings of all social media platforms: I'll never be as real in my posts to Facebook as I am in a private conversation.

Linked, Tech

Illinois Says Rule-Breaking Students Must Give Teachers Their Facebook Passwords (Motherboard)

School districts in Illinois are telling parents that a new law may require school officials to demand the social media passwords of students if they are suspected in cyberbullying cases or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules.

The law, which went into effect on January 1, defines cyberbullying and makes harassment on Facebook, Twitter, or via other digital means a violation of the state's school code, even if the bullying happens outside of school hours.

A letter sent out to parents in the Triad Community Unit School District #2, a district located just over the Missouri-Illinois line near St. Louis, that was obtained by Motherboard says that school officials can demand students give them their passwords.

Does anyone still wonder why Snapchat, YikYak and other "disappearing" and "anonymous" message apps* are popular with The Kids? Stuff like this is why.

But there's a larger problem at work here, too: how can we help students who are being bullied through technological means, without giving administrators the power to be needlessly invasive?

* Scare quotes added for the purpose of noting that content shared through those apps is usually neither truly anonymous nor can it be guaranteed to disappear.

Tech, Linked

A Spy in the Machine: How a brutal government used cutting-edge spyware to hijack one activist's life (The Verge)

An investigation would later reveal that Moosa’s online life was hijacked for eight months. All signs pointed to Bahrain as the culprit, and FinFisher, a mysterious spyware for-hire tool, as the weapon of choice.

This investigation into the use of FinFisher by the Bahrain government (and others around the world) is an important read. It's a good example of what happens when you give oppressive governments the ability to buy powerful spyware tools.

While the company that makes FinFisher has denied selling it to Bahrain, this is a toolkit that makes it easy for wealthy actors to spy on people without having to home-brew the technical know how to do it. If that doesn't spook you a bit, well, I don't know what will.

Tech, Linked

An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media (danah boyd)

danah boyd on Medium:

Let me put this bluntly: teens’ use of social media is significantly shaped by race and class, geography and cultural background.

I've found boyd to be one of the most whip-smart writers on teens' use of social media, and this piece is a worthwhile read for anyone who read or shared the Medium post by a teenager about how he and his peers use social media. His is only one side of the story.