Sticking With It (podcast episode 100!)

It’s hard to create one of something, but it’s a whole other level of challenge to make something over and over and over again, all the while keeping yourself and your audience engaged.

BirchTree is my 3rd blog, and this podcast is my 4th podcast. None of my older projects got off the ground, partially because they weren’t great, but also because I wasn’t invested in keeping them going.

On today’s show, I talk about how I personally keep myself working and why it can be hard to keep up sometimes.

Subscribe to The BirchTree Podcast here.

Why USB-C Headphones Aren’t a Thing

Why USB-C headphones aren’t, and likely never will be, mainstream – The Verge

The most obvious factor working against USB-C headphones is that the two biggest smartphone makers don’t need them. Apple’s iPhones might lack a headphone jack but they also don’t have a USB-C port, while Samsung retains the 3.5mm port, so neither the iPhone X nor the latest Galaxy S9 family are in need of USB-C earphones.

USB-C headphones are not going to be a thing unless the 2 phone makers who really matter make them necessary. Apple and Samsung account for 64% of the US market (38% Apple, 26% Samsung) and neither of them makes phones where wired USB-C headphones are useful.

I really think that wireless is the future, and it’s the present already for many people, but wireless needs to get better and cheaper before articles like the one run by The Verge can stop being written. AirPods are great, and solve almost all the problems with wireless, but they’re too expensive. Yes, they’re selling great, and they’re reasonably priced for what they offer, but the whole category of good wireless headphones is priced too high.

Phone makers should be able to bundle in “good enough” wireless headphones into each phone they sell, instead of shipping wired buds. Audiophiles scoff at EarBuds, but the truth is that they sound totally fine to most people. They were good enough for Apple to feel good about shipping them in the box with every iPhone they sold, all while making a profit. Cheap AirPods would not be something Apple could be just as proud of, and they could not maintain margins while including full on AirPods with every iPhone.

I think AirPods cleared the threshold where they are a clear win over wired EarBuds in every single way: besides cost. I hope the tech that makes AirPods so wonderful can be commoditized to the point where $30 wireless headphones can deliver a good enough experience to make people not even miss their wired earbuds of old. Until then, we’re going to keep seeing people lamenting the loss of the headphone jack on most mainstream phones1.

  1. Notably minus the Galaxy lineup. 

Big Changes on the Horizon!

This may not really be that important to anyone reading this, but I thought it was at least worth sharing a few changes I’ll be going through in the near future.

First, I’m moving this week! My wife and I are ready to move to something a little more spacious, so starting Tuesday this week, I’ll have keys to a new place that has all the things our current apartment lacks. Private entrance, laundry, central air, etc. It’s all there. I’m even going to have an actual office to optimize for podcast recording. No more recording in my living room!

Considering 3 short years ago we were living with my wife’s parents for a while, we’re super excited to have moved on.

Some of you may know that I currently live less than a mile from my work, so I usually walk there (15 minutes) or bike (4 minutes). This new place is a few miles away, so I’m going to have to start driving to work again. I’ll definitely miss the walk when it’s December and these Midwestern roads are icy as all get out.

And finally, we’re almost certainly getting a dog in the next few weeks. I’ve never owned a pet bigger than a goldfish, but I love dogs, so in a way I’m actually more excited about this than anything else.

TLDR: I’ll try to keep up the podcast on a regular clip, but posts here may slow down for a week or two 😜

My Siri Shortcuts (in iOS 12 beta 1)

I think the most exciting thing Apple announced at WWDC last week was Siri Shortcuts. It looks to me like a brand new way to interact with our iOS devices and I am way into it. It’s as if Workflow and Launch Center Pro had a baby and Apple built that into the operating system. Apple is also aiming to make Shortcuts more than just the sum of its parts by adding some AI to figuring out when you want to do these shortcuts.

In the first iOS 12 beta, Shortcuts isn’t really implemented, but there are a few apps (mostly Apple apps) that will appear in the Siri settings already. This only scratches the surface of what will be possible, but I’m trying out a few shortcuts already and the benefit is pretty amazing.

Being able to say “scale image” in the middle of writing a blog post for BirchTree, select an image to scale to 1080p, and paste it straight into my blog post is amazing.

Saying “show me my mail” opens Mail to my universal inbox takes me to the top level of Mail, no matter where I left off last time I was using the app.

Saying “show me my stats” shows me BirchTree’s daily stats, saving me a few taps in Safari.

There’s not a ton here yet, but the first few simple shortcuts I have been able to make have made iOS feel more personal than ever. I’m really excited to see what else is possible when iOS 12 actually comes out this fall and app developers have built in the hooks needed to make more possible with Shortcuts.

Podcast #99: Auditing Your Digital Workflow

People have a tendency to always be looking for the latest and greatest software to do their work with. They want something new, something shiny. And while tools are important and when possible you should try to use the best tool for the job, this quest to always find something better will not magically make you better at what you do.

Photoshop doesn’t make your ideas any better. Ulysses doesn’t make your writing magically more profound. OnmiFocus won’t make your more productive on its own. But we sometimes tell ourselves this is the case. We think we can get out of a slump by getting a new, cool app to work with. That may lead to a temporary surge, it’s only temporary.

Focus on what tools remove friction from your life. That is my main motivator for software and I’m trying to get better at optimizing for that over looking for the new and flashy stuff.

Subscribe to The BirchTree Podcast here.