The Coin’s Uphill Battle

Twitter and Facebook were all a-flutter yesterday with links to the product page for Coin. If you’re not familiar with it, Coin is a credit card-sized device that can store all of your payment cards and, when swiped, can act like any of the cards it knows about. Maybe click over to the page linked above and watch the excellent Sandwich video.

Let me start by saying that I think it’s really great that people are taking steps to alleviate the fat wallet problem. Heck, I hadn’t carried a wallet for years and only just recently bought a Supr Slim wallet.[1] Products like Coin and the Supr Slim are designed to solve a problem with which I can absolutely empathize.

That said, I think Coin is in for some challenges.[2]

[Read more…]

5 Apps That Make Evernote Even Better

New to Evernote? Tens of thousands of people have used Evernote Essentials to get up and running with Evernote quickly. Grab it today, have Evernote working for you by tonight.

Many of you have been bitten by the Evernote bug. Heaven knows I have.

As you get beyond the Evernote basics and your love affair with Evernote deepens and you start keeping more and more of your life and work inside it, you’ll almost invariably come to the conclusion that you might be able to do even more with Evernote.

Well, you’re in luck because you totally can thanks to the thriving community of smarty pants developers who have built some really great applications that work with Evernote. [Read more…]

A Smattering of iBookstore Publishing Tips and Gotchas

While listening to the first few minutes of this week’s Accidental Tech Podcast, I heard John Siracusa—one of the hosts—wondering aloud about certain aspects of publishing to the iBookstore. Since that’s something I have recent experience doing, I figured I’d bang this out real quick in the hopes that it would help more than just Mr. Siracusa (otherwise I would have just emailed him).

Anyway, hope this helps somebody.
[Read more…]

An Inside Look at My Crazy, Huge Customer Service Mistake

What follows is a post-mortem/explanation of a really dumb mistake I made. Hopefully, it helps somebody or at least gives you all a chuckle at what a doofus I really am.

Every now and again, people ask me if they can give away a copy of Evernote Essentials on their blog, usually as part of a contest or promotion. Normally, I’m happy to oblige such a request.

I was in the process of fulfilling a couple of these complimentary orders last night when I made a pretty fantastic mistake — a mistake I’m going to describe for you now.[1]

This will make more sense if I give a quick overview of how the plumbing of my sales process works.

When somebody buys Evernote Essentials, the sales and CRM software I use (called Office Autopilot) does a few things automatically:

  • Creates an username and password on the customer WordPress site where they can download their purchase.
  • Adds them to an automated email sequence that immediately sends them their download instructions, including the aforementioned login, and sends a follow-up email a couple of days later.
  • Tags them as a customer (so they can be grouped later, as needed for product updates and such).

(To clarify, tags are just text labels that can be applied to contacts within the software, but they can trigger all sorts of actions when applied — as you’ll soon see.)

These actions were pre-programmed by me to happen without my direct involvement. Normally, the whole setup works extremely well. Normally.

For giveaways, I have a special tag that, when applied to a contact, tells the system that they’re essentially a paid customer and to take the same actions as it would if the person had paid (create the login, send them the download email, etc.). This also works really well. Unless I totally screw it up, of course.

Which brings me back to last night.

Instead of applying the special “comp” tag to the people who had been awarded free copies of the book, I inadvertently applied the tag to many, many thousands of people including customers and newsletter subscribers (many of whom had never purchased Evernote Essentials).

You can probably see where this is going.

I had moved on to other things when I started noticing my email inbox was filling up with out-of-office replies, a common occurence when I send out a newsletter or a product update. In a bit of a panic, I switched back to my sales system and started looking for the problem. It didn’t take long to discover what I had done and it took even less time for me to imagine what the fallout would be. There may have been a little bit of crying.

Imagine you’re on the receiving end of one of these emails. An email appearing in your inbox thanking you for purchasing something that you either purchased a long time ago or had never purchased would probably raise a few red flags, right?

“I didn’t buy this! What the poop?”

“Did your email thingie get hacked?”

“I bought this thing [interval of time]s ago; why am I being charged again?”

Red flags. So many thousands of them.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re one of the people who received this errant email, please know that the following statements are true:

  1. If you’re not already a customer, you didn’t buy anything. No transaction took place nor was any credit card charged.
  2. If you are a customer, you weren’t charged again or anything like that.

The moral of the story is summarized nicely by a proverb I’m going to get tattooed across my frickin’ forehead later today[2]:

Measure twice, cut once.

I’m really sorry for the confusion. If anybody needs me, I’ll be answering emails for the next couple of weeks. If you’re affected by this whole debacle and need help, send an email to this address. If you want to make fun of me, leave a comment below :)

  1. This is partly to help folks understand what happened and part cathartic effort for me.  ↩
  2. No, not really.  ↩

Brand new and available now: Evernote Essentials 4.0

Friends and neighbors, I’m ecstatic to announce that the latest major revision of my best-selling eBook, Evernote Essentials, is available right this very second. I’m calling it “4.0” and it’s the biggest and best version of Evernote Essentials yet.

It’s a little different for a couple of reasons:

  1. In addition to the PDF version that’s been around since the beginning, Evernote Essentials is also available as an DRM-free ePub (which you can read on many different devices including the iPad and iPhone using iBooks) and a Kindle-compatible .MOBI file. All of these files are included in the download you’ll receive after purchasing Evernote Essentials.
  2. By very popular demand, Evernote Essentials is now available in the iBookstore!

Included in this new version are several new chapters, including two special chapters that my customers have been asking for since pretty much the beginning:

  • How to set up a new Evernote account
  • How I use Evernote

And, of course, the text has been updated to include all of the latest* features and updates to the Evernote applications. It even has a fancy new cover!

If you purchased Evernote Essentials before today, this will be a free update. Watch your email boxes for how to download your free update (send an email to if you don’t receive your download instructions).

Tens of thousands of satisfied customers can’t be wrong — grap your copy of Evernote Essentials today!

*(In the interest of maintaining personal integrity, you should know that Evernote 5 for Windows shipped after Evernote Essentials 4.0 had “gone to press.” It’s not covered in this version, but I’ll have an update out soon that covers Evernote 5 for Windows. That update will be free to existing customers, of course.)

Why I bought another iPad mini

A few months back, I published a couple of posts describing why I bought“”and then subsequently returned“”the iPad mini. You can go back and read those posts for the full story, but the short version is that, at the time, it really didn’t fit my needs well enough to justify ditching my full-size iPad.

Things have a way of changing, though.

I recently bought the iPad mini again. I mentioned this on the Twitter and a few people were curious what prompted me to reinvestigate a device I had previously tried and dismissed. Hence, this post.

Reconfiguring my computing life

My computing configuration has undergone some changes recently. As of a month ago, my primary Mac is now a laptop (it was previously an iMac). Since I work from home and spend a great deal of time at my desk, I really like to be able to work other places, particularly in the evening. The iMac isn’t exactly portable and I would routinely take my iPad to a coffee shop or a bar and work there. The iPad, combined with a Logitech Ultrathin keyboard case, became a somewhat crude laptop stand-in; it worked quite well for writing, task management, email and other basic computing tasks.

Now, I have a laptop that I can easily take with me wherever I decide to go. As a result, the iPad has slid into more of a consumption device for me. Not completely, mind you, but I do a great deal less typing on it than I did in the iMac era. These days, my iPad is used for reading books and comics with my kids, watching the odd movie and only occasionally for writing.

New iPad accessories

For what felt like a long time after the iPad mini came out, there was a noticeable dearth of serviceable keyboard cases. The device has Bluetooth and can be used with any keyboard and the best solution I found during my first go-round with the iPad mini was to use it with an inCase Origami (non-affiliate link) “” a case for the Apple Bluetooth keyboard that, when unfurled, provides an easel-like stand for the iPad. It worked well enough and I still use it on occasion, but it was annoying for three reasons:

  1. It has to sit on a table top or the iPad will fall backwards out of its little slot. I often type with the iPad sitting on my lap, so this is a big-ish problem.
  2. When used with the iPad mini, the bottom half-inch or so of the screen is obscured by the keyboard’s cylindrical battery compartment.
  3. I hate carrying around two things. Yes, that’s a dumb complaint, but it bugs me and I’m not going to say it doesn’t.

I was glad to discover that, since then, Logitech has made an Ultrathin specifically for the iPad mini (non-affiliate link). I’ve written most of this post using it, actually. It’s definitely small and using it requires tolerating a few non-trivial annoyances, but I’ve used and loved my full-sized Ultrathin for quite some time and was confident that the smaller version would perform roughly as well as its big brother.

Regarding Retina”¦

In the aforementioned post, I cited the lack of a Retina display as one of the iPad mini’s biggest drawbacks. To be honest, I’m still not thrilled with the idea of a non-Retina display, but I’ve chosen to just deal with it. The comic book reading experience isn’t nearly as nice on the iPad mini, but Comixology makes it more pleasant with their fancy Guided View technology (which displays a single panel at a time instead of a whole page).

Why I didn’t just keep my big iPad

Honestly, it started feeling huge and heavy. It could be that I’m growing doughier and weaker and I’m just not the strapping chap I was a few months ago, but I decided I wanted something smaller and lighter. You’ll recall from the aforementioned post that the size and weight of the iPad mini were my favorite features, so this shouldn’t be altogether surprising.

Moreover, the iPad mini pretty much obviates my need for a Kindle. I would occasionally read while walking around my neighborhood””something that has perpetually vexed my pal Michael“”but I rarely do that anymore and having a smaller device to read on made more sense and is more comfortable.

Lastly, I just wanted a change of scenery. I’ve been a rather heavy iPad user for the past couple of years and the siren song of a different form factor was more than I could resist.

In Conclusion

I haven’t sold my large iPad yet and I have 30 days to return the iPad mini plus accessories if I decide to, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable furture.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click them and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission. I’ve also placed non-affiliate links immediately after all affiliate links, so choose whichever one makes you more comfortable. Know that any affiliate product I recommend is something I personal purchased, use and love enough to tell you about.

The Fastest Way to Capture Stuff in Evernote (I Swear)…

New to Evernote? Tens of thousands of people have used Evernote Essentials to get up and running with Evernote quickly. Grab your copy today, have Evernote working for you by tonight.

I love Evernote. You probably do, too. Heck, why wouldn’t you? Evernote is freakin’ awesome. If it’s worth keeping, it’s in Evernote — that’s my motto.

I also like to quickly capture ideas, thoughts and other stuff when I’m out and about. My iPhone is quite adept at letting me do just that thanks to Drafts, one of my favorite iOS apps ever. Seriously, if you have an iPhone (or an iPad) and you take any kind of notes and you’re not using Drafts, you’ve made a critical error. But that’s another rant for another time.

With Drafts 3.0 (which is out today[1], by the way), I can quickly append/prepend to my Evernote notes without leaving Drafts. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me and I’m going to show you how it works.

[Read more…]

The Answer to Your Writing Prayers

I’ll keep this brief.

If you’re reading this, chances are quite good that you write things, particularly for the web. There are two ways to write for the web (in my opinion, of course):

  1. Using Markdown.
  2. Some other dumb way that’s probably hurting your liver somehow.
Lots of people ask me about Markdown; what it is, how to use it, why they should bother using it, etc. Keep reading.

The shortest Markdown description ever

Put very simply, instead of writing this:

I found the <strong>largest</strong> cheesecake <em>ever</em> by searching <a href="">Cheesecake Finder</a>!

You can write this:

I found the **largest** cheesecake *ever* by searching [Cheesecake Finder](!

Markdown is awesome and you should be using it.

How to learn Markdown

This part is even easier.

My good pals David Sparks and Eddie Smith have just released the newest addition to David’s series of awesome MacSparky Field Guide ebooks called Markdown (non-affiliate link). That’s how you learn Markdown. If I didn’t already know it, I would after reading this book (which I did and, believe it or not, learned a few things myself).

Oh, and it’s not a book in the sense you’re thinking. It includes over 90 minutes of video demonstrating how to actually use Markdown, an additional ton of audio interviews with several preeminent Internet writers and, of course, the actual book text. It’s more of an experience than simply a book, if you ask me.

Grab your iPad (you can also get it as a PDF if you don’t have an iPad) and pick up your copy of Markdown (non-affiliate link). Because you’re awesome and David and Eddie are awesome and Markdown is awesome. Just so much awesome.

Go. Be awesome.

Want it for free?

I have a free copy of this ebook (iPad version) to give away. Leave a comment below with your favorite lawyer joke (in honor of my friend David who is also an attorney) and the best one gets the book. Void where prohibited or whatever.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click them and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission. I’ve also placed non-affiliate links immediately after all affiliate links, so choose whichever one makes you more comfortable. Know that any affiliate product I recommend is something I personal purchased, use and love enough to tell you about.

How poor planning and inexperience yielded me insanely loyal customers

Back in the middle of 2010, I was a few days away from launching the first version of Evernote Essentials. Sitting in my backyard, trying to figure out exactly how the sales process would work, making sure all of the pieces were functioning as expected, etc.

Then something occurred to me: what about product updates?

Would I charge for them? If so, how often? And how much would they cost? And how, exactly, was I going to implement paid updates?

This realization caused me no small amount of alarm; I hadn’t even considered this and I had a scant few days to figure it out before my product went on sale.

So, I decided updates would be free for everybody who bought Evernote Essentials, forever.

That turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business. [Read more…]

The Renaissance of Bridging the Nerd Gap


It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Evernote Essentials 3.0 hit the digital shelves to, dare I say, rave reviews.

I managed to switch my entire business over to Office Autopilot[1]. There were some hiccups, for sure, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent memory.

Finally, my beloved has undergone a serious facelift thanks to the excellent, talented folks over at Creativity Included.

Since all of that happened (and it all happened in the span of about 4 days), my life has been consumed with email, backend logistics and simply trying to keep my head above water. Thankfully, the business has begun to subside and I can try to get back to something resembling normalcy.

Anyhow, that’s all fine and dandy; I wanted to talk about something else today.

This site has, since its inception, had a little trouble figuring out what it wanted to be when it grew up. With fits and starts, it has historically dabbled in technology and productivity and various combinations of the two (with occasional detours into only barely-related topics). Frankly, its ambivalence has caused me no small amount of annoyance over the last couple of years and I recently decided that it needed to approach the idea of being a grown-up site a little more seriously.

So, we had a long chat, this blog and I, and we came to an understanding, which I’ll outline for you now”¦

No more programming stuff

Well, I won’t say no more (because sometimes my status as a pretend programmer can lend itself to bending great applications into unexpected shapes), but this will be kept to a serious minimum. That stuff will, in all likelihood, find its home on my other blog that almost nobody reads.

More about the reader, less about me

One of my small handful of talents in this world is that I am, believe it or not, rather adept at explaining semi-complicated things in digestible, easily-understood ways. I have hitherto mostly invented most of my post topics out of my own head and only occasionally regarded the input and feedback of my wonderful audience in deciding what to write about.

That’s over.

I want this site to be, in equal parts, helpful, entertaining, and thought-provoking. In order to achieve these goals, I need your help, which is why”¦

Comments are back

I know it’s de rigeur to disable comments and loudly decry them as the tool of the devil (heck, I did it awhile back, albeit not very loudly), but if I’m serious about making this whole project reader-focused instead of me-focused, I feel it’s necessary to provide a venue where my attractive readers can become part of the conversation. They’re easy enough to ignore if you hate them, of course, but I think that lots of folks will appreciate their resurrection. Time will tell, I suppose.

Regarding the topics discussed here”¦

I have a note in Evernote somewhere where I had brainstormed a bunch of possible subtitles for this site. None of them ever really expressed what I wanted them to as succinctly as I wanted them to, but the best one of the bunch went something like this:

“Technology, efficiency, and business “” with an Apple garnish.”

The mere mention of business will undoubtedly have some of you recoiling in horror. I understand, truly I do, but the fact is that I run a small business and such topics have become profoundly interesting to me.

Does this mean you’re going to start writing about conversions and copywriting and other such things?!

No. There are plenty of other sites out there that do that far better than I ever could. My hope is that the business stuff will give a new angle to the other two sides of my “topical triangle.”

Speaking of”¦

Efficiency isn’t the same as productivity, if you ask me. Despite often being used interchangeably, I think they’re distinct concepts. I’m going to delve deeper into this in a future post, but suffice it to say that I’m far more interested in how to work better rather than how to simply produce more.

And, since I’m an Apple guy, much of the technology discussed here will probably be Apple stuff. That’s what I know and I’d rather play to my strengths.

“And much, much more!”

We’ll see how all of this pans out. I’m hopeful that it will, but your help in making this place a fun and informative hangout is going to be pretty crucial.

And, using the freshly-minted comment form below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of this stuff. Thanks for reading “” I appreciate your time and will do my best not to squander it.

Oh, and the newsletter is going to be a big part of things going forward, so you should probably just sign up now.

  1. That’s an affiliate link to Office Autopilot. Here’s a non-affiliate link.  ↩