Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process.

Jul 4th, 2014

A Beginning

After several weeks of kicking an idea around, I decided to take the plunge. It’s time for this guy to learn how to build apps.

The reason for the hesitancy is reality; this will be no easy feat. When starting anything new, there is a level of naivety … you don’t yet know what you don’t know. But I hope I have no disillusions here. Developing apps for OS X or iOS is an arduous task, a craft to be learned.

Nonetheless, this is a step I want to take. I simply have to take a high level, long term approach. This is a new skill I’m learning and it could be years before it bears any fruit. With that in mind, I decided I would journal the experience and share it with others. the greatest aspect the Internet has given us is access to knowledge. Education. I hope to share with others for the purpose of helping them learn along with me.

Siteleaf is fantastic! Using the Liquid syntax, it’s easy to pick up if you’re familiar at all with CMSes. And with Markdown support, it’s a nice writing environment.

To do this, I created a new site. I could have simply included the content as a section here on my Kirby install. But I decided to give it a bit of separation and I’ve been looking for an excuse to kick the tires on Siteleaf.

If you’re at all interested in developing for a Mac, or seeing what’s involved, please follow along. You can subscribe to the updates here. I’ll be sharing what I’m working on, where I’m struggling, the resources I’m using to learn as I go, and hopefully, some tips from the amazing community of developers out there.

I’d love to share with you!

Jun 28th, 2014

Persona

Celebrity is a funny thing. Wanted or unwanted, it changes the life of the person who has it. And it often changes the person as well.

Internet celebrity is fairly new to our culture … I think many of us are still unsure how to approach it. This seems to be true whether it’s our own celebrity, or someone else’s.

Just Like You

When I was younger, it was easy to put people I looked up to on a pedestal. Bosses at work, pastors at church, my favourite bands. That is easy to do from afar, but the closer you get to people, the more you see the real person; the flaws, the hurting, and the mess as much as the good things.

As you age (I’d say mature, but the two do not always come hand in hand), you learn from these past experiences with people. But even though you learn that people are not always what the appear from the distance, it’s still very easy to put them on that pedestal.

But if there’s anything my career on the web has taught, it’s that we’re all regular Joe’s. Man or woman, 150, 1,500, or 150,000 followers — we’re all regular people. We have strengths, but we have weaknesses. We’re all working our backsides off to pay bills, support our families, and create good things.

I had a chance to spend a day with Justin Jackson this week. Over lunch, we talked about this new type of celebrity. And Justin is the perfect example of this: he has thousands of followers, a reading list even bigger, has sold successful books, and regularly chats with the bigger names in the Saas wordl. And yet, he’s a humble, down-to-earth dude who seems just as happy talking to local tech minded folks about the blog they should start …

He’s real people.

The first conference I went to where I could meet some of the celebrities I look up to, I was nervous. Thankfully, once I met a couple, what I already knew was confirmed … we work in an industry of good, solid, and (mostly) humble people.

And we’re all on a level playing field.

Getting Past the Persona

I remember my first company wide get together at Campaign Monitor. I was really looking forward to seeing my North American teammates for the first time. And despite working side by side five days a week, that first face-to-face meeting is always a little bit of a shock.

It’s because the avatar we look at every day is only a two dimensional, shallow representation of the fully fleshed human being it represents. And although we all tend to present only one side of our lives online, the attractive bits and bobs, I prefer the real person. Truth is, we’re all annoying and unattractive at times, but I’ll take real over polish any day.

When our team gets together, the conversations and fun times that happen are what carry me through the chat room for the rest of the year.


I’ve really enjoyed getting a glimpse of the lives of so many people in the past 6 years. But as good as the persona can be, I much prefer to get to know the person. That’s why nonferencing is so popular now — the conversations trump the content. They are the content.

I’ll be at the last Brooklyn Beta this year. Please come and say, “Hi!”

Jun 19th, 2014

Faith Requires More than Intellect

Recently, Paul Boag shared how he came to a belief in God and His Son, Christ Jesus. He gave his story in response to those who often react in surprise when discovering his faith; those who do not believe in God cannot understand how a rational, intelligent person could believe such things. Paul’s article was built around the idea that believing in God and the person of Jesus Christ is intellectually sound.

I was thankful to see Paul write and share this article. He’s a very well known and well respected member of the design community. And if there’s been one aspect of being involved in the web that has surprised and delighted me the most, it’s been in discovering that I have so many brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul’s article was another reminder of that.

However, after reading the piece, something didn’t sit quite well with me for the rest of the afternoon. While taking this analytical, logical approach to defend having faith in the Bible and the claims it makes about God can be helpful, it’s not enough.

Faith is not wholly intellectual

In order for a human being to believe that there is a God and that He has revealed Himself to us through His Word and in the person of Jesus Christ, there has to be more of a change. A sound, convincing logical argument is not sufficient to make this change. Because we’re not talking about changing the mind, but rather changing the heart.

The Bible is filled with language about the heart of a man. What is it referring to? Certainly not the muscle and tissue that pumps blood through the body. I’m no expert theologian with a Masters of Divinity, but I’ll attempt my own definition … when the Bible talks of the heart, it’s referring to the essence of a human. It’s a combination of what he/she believes and how she/he acts.

Christ alluded to this when the religious leaders of His time were so concerned about what people put into their bodies, or if they ate with unwashed hands. Their premise was that unclean food or hands would make the people themselves unclean. Christ responded in Matt 15 and explained it this way:

Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

Christ knew it’s the heart of a man that directs how a person acts and behaves.

Who’s In Control?

My slight discomfort with Paul’s article is that, if read the wrong way, it could come across as if he has made this decision based on his intellect, based purely on sound rationale. There is no need for God to help him in this decision, because it’s perfectly rational. I don’t believe that to be true.

In order for a human being to have faith in God, God Himself has to get things started. He changes the heart, then everything else follows. Here are a few statements that lead me to make this claim.

Romans 8:7

… because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.

Eph 2:8,9

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Ezekiel 11:19,20

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

Only after this change of heart occurs can the mind follow. And it is God who works to make this change.


I have no idea how Paul Boag feels about all this. It’s certainly possible he agrees. I simply walked away from his article feeling like credit needs to be given to God … for me personally, my faith comes from Him. Before my thinking could change, my heart needed to change. Big time!

I am incredibly thankful that He did that for me.

Jun 12th, 2014

New Tools: Launchbar 6 and Flat Tomato

Tools do not make the craftsman, but they can make the job more enjoyable. And the availability of good tools for OS X has always been a draw for me, and a favourite subject for my writing. Here are a couple of apps that I’ve been enjoying of late.

LaunchBar 6

I’ve been using LaunchBar as my main app launcher and digital Swiss Army knife for quite a few years. It’s already been 4 years since I did an extensive comparison of all the options and concluded that LaunchBar was the best of the bunch. I haven’t even considered the alternatives since then.

Alfred was not yet an option and I know many folks love both the app and the people who make it. Our team at Campaign monitor certainly do. But I’m old and have very little desire to switch tools these days.

The good news is that the most recent version of LaunchBar, available yesterday, takes a good tool and improves on it. I’ve been beta testing this version for the past two months and love it. The funny thing is, functionality aside, LaunchBar 6 looks right at home with the aesthetics of the upcoming Yosemite.

And the change I enjoy the most with this version is the UI. LaunchBar is bigger, bolder, and uses larger text, making the contents of the window much easier to see. Look and feel aside, there are some functional improvements to the app as well. Most important are the updates that coincide with OS X, allowing you to index Finder tags and the like as well as fully manage your Contacts and Calendar without having to open those applications.

But truthfully, my usage with the new version is exactly as it was with the previous. My custom shortcuts all work with version 6 and so I’ve continued on as normal, with a modified interface. Reading through the launch page has been a good reminder that I’m only using LaunchBar at a fraction of what’s possible!

Flat Tomato

I chuckle every time I see the name of this app. The backstory: I enjoy the Pomodoro technique. It’s not for everyone, but it works well for someone who does support for a Saas product. If you’re not familiar with Pomodoro, check it out.

I need that reminder to walk away from the desk and stretch, as well as to focus on something other than solving people’s problems. Sometimes reading internal documentation or working on a team project for five minutes is essential for shifting gears and getting your head into a different space.

I would do that in the past, but the end of the day would approach out of nowhere and I realized I didn’t accomplish a couple of tasks I had set down, or my steps for the day would be alarmingly low. So I’ve been looking for a decent timer to track this a little better.

Two sad truths were revealed to me.

First, searching in the App Store is a fruitless endeavour. Usually, that’s not an issue as the apps I’m interested in are brought to my attention via Twitter or blog posts. But egg timers and Pomodoro apps don’t seem to be all that popular in the circles I travel.

Second, there are far too many egg timer/pomodoro apps. Many of poor quality. But I finally found one I’m enjoying; Flat Tomato. If you’re able to live with the flat-design-and-long-shadows look, you might enjoy this as well.

What I like about this app is the way the sessions are displayed. The clock shows the current time, but also displays your current session with the following session in a muted color and dashed border. A quick glance can tell me that I’ve just started a 25 minute work session and that a quick 5 minute break is to follow.

And it works in the other way as well. If I’m in the middle of a 15 minute break, the next working session is shown in the same fashion.

As you progress through the day, you can see your completed sessions around the edge of the clock. Each session also sees a shift in the background color, a nice visual indicator to remind you of the change. You can assign various tasks to assign to a session; I do not use that feature myself, but I can see that it could be useful.

This is one of those categories of apps where App store quantity surely trumps quality, so it’s good to find an option that I enjoy. The functionality of a Pomodoro app should be sparse. If it looks good as well, that’s a bonus. Flat Tomato does the trick.


Two good tools, check them out. It’s these kind of utilities that make being a Mac user so great. If you’re into software that delights, I’ve been writing on this subject in my weekly newsletter. Sign up if you’d like to hear more each week!

Jun 6th, 2014

Reading with Intention

Several weeks ago, I read an article from Nathan Hale on how to do a better job of hearing from God when reading the Bible. It’s a short read, but putting it into practice has given me a lot of benefit. And not only in my devotional time.

Nathan’s main thrust was something known as Lectio Divina, a Latin term for Divine Reading. It involves four steps; reading, meditation, response, and contemplation. Each step is taking carefully and with consideration; please use the link above to read about the idea in more detail (a relatively short read).

Intellectual Reading vs. Something Deeper

Regular Bible reading has never been a problem for me. I enjoy it! But it’s so very easy to read something intellectually, giving it little thought apart from the immediate context of the text. This process helps you to slow down. During the meditation of the text, you consider what the text is saying and what it would have meant to the author, the original readers, and to yourself thousands of years later. Let the text speak back to you.

Taking the time to slowly ponder the text has been a wonderful shift in my reading. Unless I was preparing a Bible study or Sunday school class, my reading did not look like this. How much better it is to take the time to allow God to speak to me through His word.

Not only for those who believe in God

Of course, not everyone who reads this site holds to the same beliefs that I do. But I would say this concept is not only helpful for reading the Bible for the purpose of hearing from God.

How often do we read a book or article, only to cross it off our long reading list? When you read a book, do you take time to meditate on the text, to consider how it might change your thinking or the way you live your life?

Putting this idea into practice has helped me to be more mindful of all my reading. Now when I do my devotional time, I keep a journal of what I’m reading or praying. Similarly, I’m journaling the items (books or blog posts) I read that cause me to think. Highlighting certain passages is a good practice period, but even without that, the simple act of reading slowly and digesting the words is something I would recommend to anyone.

Jack Cheng nails this (as he often does). He outlines the problem:

When things are packaged into a list, we have a habit of reading one thing, nodding and moving on. When the next bit of juicy advice is just a few lines down the page, it’s effortless to tilt our eyeballs the extra millimeter. In our quick-fix culture, lists are the Taco Bell of knowledge.

And also shares his solution:

When you find yourself saying “that’s a really great idea, I should try that,” stop reading. Pick one thing from that list of fifteen. Don’t worry about finishing the rest of the book. Try it. Practice it, repeat it, until it becomes routine. Remind yourself to consciously think about it on a regular basis. When you make that one item a habit, you can come back to the source and learn something else.

I feel this fits well with Lectio Divina. Take time to read, re-read, and meditate on this piece of human thought you’ve chosen to ingest. Truly ingest it; if it resonates with you, allow it to change you. This is what I want to do with Scripture, but also any topic that I enjoy; web design, typography, woodworking … you name it.


This means not learning or reading something that is of interest to you. But in order to have the time to change, this is a necessary step.

Our culture fights that very idea. Make the time!

May 22nd, 2014

Being a Leader

It can be hard to define the characteristics of a leader in our modern age. Many in leadership positions are corrupt, giving a bad example to follow. In younger generations (mine included), we often struggle to lead at all. Frozen by indecision, or worse, distraction, is a regular occurrence for many of us in the 20 to 40 age range.

We struggle to even identify what makes a good leader. And yet, there are those who just lead. We know it when we see it, although it can be difficult to articulate why. A true leader simply leads; it’s part of what they do.

And there are different styles of leadership. The one that has been praised and sought after in the corporate arena in recent years is that of a servant leader.

For good reason!

What is Servant Leadership?

Simply put, it’s seeking the best for those you manage. Wikipedia says it well:

Servant leadership is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

That last statement is a key component of the servant leader, especially in the area of a career. The leader (manager, supervisor etc.) wants to see the employees that he/she manages succeed, to have a fulfilling, satisfactory employment that challenges their abilities and allows them to put their gifts to use while at the same time learning new skills. This type of leader takes a protective stance towards those he/she watches over, defending their needs, championing their causes, and being their voice at different levels of the organization.

In my experience, it’s far easier to sing the praises of this approach than it is to live them out.

So what makes a good manager? Rich Armstrong, who has been writing on this topic recently, sums it up perfectly:

… they should first want to help people.

Imagine that … going through life helping others is the way to lead.

Whatever a person believes of Christ and the Bible, everyone agrees He died for His cause. It’s the resurrection that gives people pause.

This is not a new idea in any sense. The wikipedia article linked above mentions that this concept of servant leadership has been around for thousands of years. My thinking was the same; I know of no greater example of servant leadership than that of Christ. When His own disciples were following their natural inclinations and striving for position, this was His response:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “ You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

His willingness to serve for the better of others led to the grave. Which fits well with His teaching overall. As the apostle Paul stated:

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this:“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is the heart of servant leadership; if you love your charges as you love yourself, you naturally seek out what is best for them.

Leading From Within

But what if you’re not in a position of leadership? Personally, this is a situation I find myself in currently when it comes to my career. I’ve led teams in customer support, in application support, with large implementation projects. I’ve run a small team when owning my own business. And I’m in leadership positions elsewhere; my home and my church are excellent places to constantly improve as a servant leader.

But at Campaign Monitor, I’m a member of support team in a fairly flat organization. So how does servant leadership apply when you’re not in a leadership position?

Exactly the same way as when you are in a leadership position.

It’s taken me a bit to fully wrap my head around that. Working for CM has been an amazing time and great experience, but it’s also been a change for me personally. After years of progressing through an increasing amount of responsibility, I came to a position where I had no vision to set or people to direct. That was a big change.

But the truth is, you (and I) can adopt a servant leader mentality no matter what position we’re in. Doing everything you can to ensure your coworkers succeed is the best habit we can all adopt. You may not be setting the vision for your company or assigning work, but you can put energy into making your teammates the best they can be.

And if a leadership position comes your way one day, you’re already practicing the most important aspect of being a good leader.


Truth be told, servant leadership is hard. We’re selfish. I have often been a bad leader, whether it’s at home, at work, or in other areas of my life. Putting the needs of others first, loving others as much as we love ourselves, is hard work.

But so worth it.

Hat tip to my own supervisor Mathew Patterson, a good servant leader himself, for the links to Rich Armstong’s writing.

May 14th, 2014

The Twitter Web Interface

The below was written originally for my weekly newsletter. Enjoy items like this each week for less than one coffee a month.

Things change as you get older. I’ve been using Twitter for over 7 years now (7!) and my love for the service is the same. I don’t put a lot of value in how the company is run, but the service itself has thankfully remained the same over the years.

And up until very recently, I considered Tweetbot to be the ultimate Twitter experience. It took that mantle from the original Tweetie apps (back when they were Loren’s and only Loren’s). Simple, clean, easy to use and even a little fun. Over time, the Tweetie apps got worse and the web interface was a mostly terrible experience.

That has changed recently. I’m probably partly affected by the changes from iOS7. Tweetbot on my phone is still a very lovely (especially once they gave List support it’s proper place) experience. But most days I find myself spending most of my time with the web interface.

It’s clean, attractive, and for the most part, doesn’t have issues. I like the inclusion of follows, RTs, and faves in the Notifications panel, where as Tweetbot only shows replies. It comes with the bonus of being in my browser, so any links or media I want to view is done in the ideal environment. On my phone, I often send items to Reading List simply to view them when I’m on my laptop.

In short, it’s pleasurable.

This is not a change I would have predicted. I’m not sure how much of the credit should go to Doug Bowman, but my guess is heaps. The web interface has improved in functionality, looks, and performance in the last year. On the desktop, my launching of a 3rd party client are increasingly rare.

Kudos to the design team at Twitter for delighting unexpectedly.

Apr 24th, 2014

Hoban Cards

It’s been a long time since I had a business card. Since I moved from the world of corporate IT to writing and design work online, I’ve had no need for them. When you’re separated by a large chunk of geography, face to face meetings are few and far between.

My first blog and my Twitter account were my calling cards once I started getting involved in the Internet community. From those came Fusion Ads and a change in my career. In the 6 years since, I’ve never needed a card until this past year.

Even getting together as a geek community at a conference or festival didn’t require a card. I was there to connect with the people I already knew, a reversal of the situation where a card comes in handy.

It wasn’t until my wife and I started considering a move to another town that the need arose. Once I started to connect with locals who were remote workers or involved in the startup community, I realized having something to hand out with my contact details would be useful.

That’s where Hoban Cards comes in.

Do It Right

If you’re going to carry around several pieces of dead tree with your name and details on them, they should look good. Evan Calkins has been doing that for people for several years now over at hobancards.com. I’ve long wanted to put in an order, but the lack of actual need had always kept me from pulling the trigger.

I’m glad for that.

The cards are printed on a sturdy stock of paper that gives a feel of quality. Of course, the nice type and letterpress print lend to that feel as well. Handing these out to people will be a pleasure.

And while the end product is a quality item, the process of putting in your order is also a good experience. Evan is fast to respond to any questions or modifications and pleasant to interact with. He’s a swell guy!

His service is genius. If you’re a designer and want to craft your own unique look, he’s your printer who can make your design sing. Just send him your design and he’ll get you the cards. But if you’re not endowed with Illustrator skills, he’s got you covered as well with the templates listed on the Hoban Cards home page. Anyone can have a well designed, attractive calling card for a good price.

I can’t recommend the service enough.

Apr 17th, 2014

For the Love of Pen and Paper

As I have moved from one digital task management tool to another over the years, one habit has stuck with me consistently. That is the use of pen and paper in conjunction with my current app of choice. No matter piece of software is saving, archiving, and (in modern times) syncing my projects, my day to day tasks have been scratched out on paper.

Why? If the tasks are captured in my digital tool, why repeat myself on paper? Why take the time, a longer amount of it as I type much faster than write by hand, to copy them down on a dead tree? Simply put, because I like it.

Here’s why.

Time to Process

A large reason I’ve kept up this practice is because I appreciate the time it requires. Especially the way I keep this habit. It’s a sort of weekly review.

For me, the key is to take 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon or evening and plan my week. I start with a new page in my notebook and draw the days of the week out vertically (Saturday and Sunday share the last row). Then I start to review; first my calendar, then the page from last week, then OmniFocus.

For each day, I find two or three big rocks (Most Important Taskss) and write them on the left with a number beside. Then, I add a couple of less intensive tasks, administrative type things, to the right. Each of those has a letter beside.

This is my prioritization, but also gives me things to do in all moods and energy levels. There are never more than 3 MITs for a day (usually no more than 2 these days) because more will simply result in frustration as I know they will not be completed.

Now, I realize this could all be done in OmniFocus. I could tinker with perspectives and get a view that is very similar. But I cherish the exercise and taking the time causes me to closely consider each task and whether it’s a good use of my time. Sometimes the slow way is the better way.

A Good Filter

Another benefit is that every task considered and captured in the moment is not necessarily a good idea. Ideas will come, but not all a ones I want to act on. Some are triggered by caffeine, some from outside influences. Not all are worth my time and energy.

Check Patrick Rhone’s Dash Plus system. I’ve longed used it, with some modifications of my own. But an X beside an item on your list indicates that the task was not completed, but simply dropped.

At the end of the day, I like to capture all my ideas … but I also greatly enjoy scratching some of with an X beside. Paper is a good filter in that I take that 30 minutes on Sunday and contemplate each item. It’s at my most unplugged time of the week, which means I’ve been able to walk away from the firehose and remember where my priorities lie.

My tasks should mirror those priorities.

Manual Labour is Good for You

Writing with pen and paper is obviously not quite manual labour. The actual physical work and energy burned is probably the same as typing these tasks out. But still, there’s something about the act of using your hands with physical objects.

I take pleasure in writing with a nice fine tipped pen on a quality piece of paper.

Fetish Much?

On a similar note to the last point, I like notebooks! Finding a new brand of book with the right kind of paper and a nice grid is always a pleasure. And cracking open a new notebook is much more pleasing than starting a list or project in a digital tool like OmniFocus.

Each new book is filled with promise. Each new page has so much potential and can take a bad week and make the next that much better.


My “system” is truly hybrid. My day to day task management, for a large part, is done on paper. I’m not simply writing out tasks that I plan to work on, I’m also capturing smaller subtasks that arise from the work I’m doing. I love what OmniFocus does for me, but even planning out a larger project, I tend to brainstorm and sketch and get my ideas out on paper.

The digital tool keeps my up to date and synced across devices. But it’s my manual tools that keep me going.

Apr 10th, 2014

Singular Focus

With the recent announcements made by the Dropbox team yesterday, I wonder if the file storage genius has lost its way a little. As a user of the service who has been paying for an account for 3-4 years, I’ve been a free evangelist since I started using it. I still am today.

But as the news hit , I started to wonder if Drew Houston and his team have started to shift their gaze as they’ve grown. And whether or not that’s good news for the company and their customers.

Too Much Choice?

The primary cause for my thinking is the options that are now available. When I signed up for this service in 2009, there was one option. Just sign up. Your only choice was to use the free account with limited storage, or pay a monthly fee for a lot more storage. Today? My teammate Tim Swan summed it up well in our chat room yesterday:

Dropbox, Dropbox for business, Dropbox teams, Dropbox for personal and work… I’m getting awfully confused by Dropbox.

If a savvy designer who’s been using the service for years feels this way, how will Joe User feel with all the options. Maybe some of the options are not targeted at Joe User, but if Drew Houston wants to compete with Apple as a digital hub for consumers, they’ll have to focus on Joe and his kind.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. As a happy user of the service, whose needs have been met by the original, simple option, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the newer options that have come available the past two years. But if I were yo try to explain to someone the differences between Dropbox for Business and Dropbox for Teams, I’d be at a loss.

Perhaps that’s not an issue at all. Certainly, people who’ve used Dropbox in a team environment have felt the pain points, which is the driving force behind these options being available. But, like a man in a grocery store looking for that one option his wife sent him for, I feel a small bit of pain at the number of choices Dropbox now offers.

Carousel

Creating a separate app for viewing the photos you already store in your account is a no brainer for current users, simply giving them another way to view what’s there (I love that icon). And it’s a potential incentive for those free users, the ones on the 2GB plan, to sign up and pay and move all those photos to a backed up location.

But if you do not use Dropbox to store your photos, I wonder how Dropbox thinks this app will work. Of the three announcements they made yesterday, carousel was most focused on Joe User. The blog post from Drew yesterday was titled, A Home for Life, a clear indicator that the focus is on making the digital lives of the common American easier.

But what if you use Dropbox for work purposes? If you were to add your family photos to your Dropbox account, are they mixed in amongst photoshop comps and design assets for your website? Screenshots you made for that blog post? I guess this is where the Dropbox for Business option comes in handy, allowing you to use the service for both purposes, but with intermixing the two.

But that seems a tad complicated. Personally, I currently store my photo files in Dropbox as a part of iPhoto libraries. But I use Picturelife as a way to have another backup of those files, as well as a way to view the view photos themselves. Will Dropbox and Carousel make options like Picturelife redundant? Perhaps.

I’ve been so pleased with how Picturelife presents my photos to me, that I currently have no plans to stop using it, despite it being another monthly bill.

But I suspect that in time, many people will feel that mixing their file storage needs with their usage of consumable items (photos, movies, music) leaves a bad taste. This might be an example where two separate apps(services) might make more sense. Two options has the appearance of more complexity than one, but that can be an illustion when the one option requires complexity to attempt to meet multiple needs.

Mailbox for OS X

Last, they announced two additional versions of Mailbox. It’s available now for Android, and a long anticipated version for OS X is in the works. If tackling file storage can be considered boring and un-sexy, email is the next logical thing to tackle. And a desktop version is the next step.

Email clients are easily interchangeable as most of us user services that sit behind the client, accessed via IMAP (do people still use POP3?). For this reason, I’ve been looking forward to trying Mailbox on my desktop.

Although mobile email usage is king of the hill, I personally do most of my email work on have desktop, simply using my phone for reading and some triaging. It’ll be interesting to see if the features that made Mailbox popular will have the same effect on the desktop. Or, maybe the Mailbox team has some new ideas for the desktop.


As things currently stand, this utility application is the backbone of my computing setup and works like a charm. The changes yesterday can be a part of a larger focus; to be the hub of your computing setup. And if Dropbox has a vision to be a hub of all your computer usage, tackling file storage and email is a brilliant strategy.

But whenever I become uncertain of how the available options apply to me, I wonder about the overall focus or vision of the company behind them. But if there’s a team other than Apple or Facebook that has my confidence, it’s Dropbox. I have faith.