Amazon shuts down Special Occasion Reminder, adding birthday to address app in OSX

I received an email from Amazon at 3 am EST this morning telling me that they are shutting down the Special Occasion Reminder service. They are converting these reminders to their (new?) Friends & Family Gifting service. I understand that they are trying to encourage people to buy things from Amazon for these birthdays as gifts, but do they have to externally rename the service? If you have been a long time Amazon customer like myself, some of the very old reminder setup did not have a marker to say that the reminder is for a birthday. Those older reminders will not be converted. What to do? I can add those reminders back to the new service, or I can add the birthdays to my address book database on my Mac. I updated my address book on the Mac. This is how:

Adding Birthday field to the Address book app on the Mac

  1. Go to the Preferences menu
  2. Click on the Templates button
  3. Click Add Field and select Birthday
  4. Voila ! Each contact in the address book now has a birthday field


Talent from Understanding


What is Talent? Do I have it? How do I get it? This is an often asked question. My son attends the Boston Ballet School. His teacher, a well loved and well known teacher, Luciano, recently explained his thought on talent. My students parents often ask me, "Does my little Holly have talent in Ballet?" he said. His answer is right on:

Talent is a Gift

Some say talent is a gift. There is some truth to that. Having the right body type, or the right physical ability, helps. Especially with something like Ballet. However having the gift sometimes make the student works less hard. Pay less attention. Things come too easily. In the long term, having the gift along is not going to translate to success. In fact, if managed wrong, it could hurt.

Talent from Practice

Practice makes perfect. The Russian ballet schools sometimes share this philosophy. Talent from repetition. Again, there are some truth to this view. But repetition alone is not going to make your great.

Talent from Understanding

70% of talent is going to come from understanding. It is coming from your head. You need to understand why something is done, understand how your body works, understand the ecosystem of your particular field. With understanding, you will know how to leverage your gift. With understanding you will know what to monitor during practice. What do you need to improve.

I totally agree with this view. It goes far beyond ballet, or music, or tai chi. Try it yourself.

Index Cards, the Ultimate Multi-Touch Interface

James Bond

Turns out, 007’s new multi-touch comm device has nothing on the decades old index card. Index cards are a great communication tool. Use them to present website designs, create conceptual layouts for applications, and brainstorm ideas in general. These two pictures were taken from one of our client meetings, when we are trying to organize different functional areas into groups for visual design.

Whether you are a technical person, a design person, or a business person, it is easy to get  a complete picture of the information at a glance. Index cards are tactile. Don’t like something? Pick it up and move it.

Why are index card more effective than say, a whiteboard? Whiteboard is a common meeting tool. But whiteboard has its disadvantages. Erasing and redrawing takes time. A sketch will deteriorate over time as it is being designed and redesigned. Only one person can have the marker at a time unless you have a wall-to-wall set of whiteboards. Whiteboard is finite. How many times you walk into a conference room and see “Do not erase” written on a board? You will need a lot of surfaces. We use a set of FIVE rolling whiteboards ourselves, giving us ten different surfaces to keep track of things. We also use “evernote” an iphone app to take snapshots of whiteboards and have them automatically upload for sharing.

Computer software programs, such as XmindMindjet, and Inspiration are useful for presentation and communication. Until we have affordable high resolution projectors, their usefulness is limited in a meeting setting. Same for interactive whiteboards -- SmartBoard is the grand daddy of interactive whiteboard and are expensive and not easy to setup. The latest innovation, using technology from Anoto, are promising. The Eno boards from Polyvision, and UPIC portable board from Plus will eventually drive the cost and functionality down. But currently they are still expensive to install, partly because of the need for a good projector.

Having different tools to communicate is important but ultimately the idea is to have a clear method to brainstorm in a group. Collaboration should be simple and leave little room for confusion from either party.

The point is, until we reach the likes of Minority Report or Quantum of Solace technology, the index card provides a simple way to convey what these new technologies are in the process of mastering.

Things on the iPhone now Sync with Desktop

I meant to blog about this for a long time. is, IMHO, the best GTD app for the Mac. I have been using the beta for a very long time. In fact my GTD system is on it. When the iPhone 3G is announced, the folks at CulturedCode started working on a version specifically for the iPhone to make use of the different user interface. When iPhone 3G came out, the iPhone version, called Things Touch, was available at the App Store. While the desktop beta is still free, the iPhone version is $10, and it does not including syncing with the desktop ! Current users and potential users were scratching their heads, but in short, CulturedCode wanted to get their name out there, and banked on the loyalty of their current beta-customer based to pay the $10 for the iPhone version, assuming that syncing will be coming out very soon.

Did it work? Are people that crazy about this app that they will pay $10 and then wait for the feature that they need? You bet. After the guys being all but promised that syncing will be available really soon now, even I paid the $10 as a vote of support.

Well, tonight the App is updated. I just synced my entire GTD list to my iPhone. Now I have my entire GTD system available both on my desktop and my phone. Pretty cool huh? The syncing is done via wifi network. So both devices must be on the same local wireless network. Start the iPhone version, go to the desktop version and go into preference, click iPhone, and follow the instructions.

There are some missing feature still on the iPhone version: Context is not available, which makes it a little less GTD friendly.

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Design Notes from Omni Focus demo video

I took some notes on one of the video explaining why the Omni Focus application design is so nice. I liked the analysis, but I actually gave up on the product itself. I now use Thing. However, these are the interesting design points: Application's feature is "shrink to fit" -- The feature set is not overwhelming for the user. The user see what is normally usable for him. The user does not have to jump thru hoops just to get started. The features can expose themselves as needed.

The UI tightens the user's field of vision -- the "focus" feature of Omni Focus

The application has *invisible* scaffolding -- The application provide a structure for the user to do GTD time management, but does not get in the way.