A 2-post collection

When messy is meticulous: cleaning clutter like Gmail

When it comes to cleaning a house, or a room, few are quick to consider the strategy of throwing everything together, or at least they don't consider it a strategy.

That's too bad, because frequently it's exactly the thing to do. Too often I think, we plod through the task of organization without a realistic regard for impact on time. Programmers attempt to see things differently. Consider organization as a function of time spent vs. time saved.

A hundred labels on a hundred envelopes for files you'll only access a few times is a colossal waste of time, despite the deceptively sly title of "organizing". In precisely the same manner, tossing together and tucking out of sight odds and ends you seldom use is fantastically practical.

Go ahead and gather up all of the clutter in your workspace! In your home! At your office, and wherever else you spend your time. Stick it all together haphazardly, in clear containers perhaps. Yes you may need to hunt, but rarely—that's why it's clutter. Furthermore it's together, and your workspace is clear of all but items relevant to your recent goals, enhancing your focus.

Often we're at a loss with what to do with our stuff, it's not worthless or we'd throw it away, it's unique or miscellaneous or we'd know where to put it. It could be organized or filed but it's awaiting our input. Throw it together! Sweep it into a box! You need it, you want it, but you haven't gotten to it, you don't want to see it and it's not immediately relevant. Instead of agonizing over organizing, reallocate your time, spend it on searching and not on sorting. Though it might seem inefficient in the long run, there will be no long run, as you search for an item to deal with it.

Gmail envelope

Obligatory technology tie-in: Everything has parallels in technology (and everything else), consider GMail's "don't sort, search". User interfaces are again similar. Items of frequent use and relevance are close by, and commands shouldn't be buried in otherwise empty multi-tiered menus in an inconvenient obtuse attempt at organization.

The user interface of your life: you, where you are, and the items around you that help you reach your goals—could use metrics of its own. Without mental measurement, are you sure you're building a time saver, or wasting time? Are you sorting when you should be searching?


Breaking free from "sparkle before speed" with Windows Mobile

As a Windows user and a programmer it's not a huge surprise that I have a Windows Mobile cellular phone, also AT&T (iPhone) hasn't quite established service in my area yet.

It's true that at first blush Windows Mobile offers an inferior experience. A stylus?! You must be joking. Scrollbars and miniature controls. Can you be efficient, have fun, keep up with the pace of life? Not so much.

Can you do stuff though, if you try really hard and take the time? Yeah, and just about everything. So much in fact, why, wait just a minute… you could even fix that horrible interface!

I'm not the first one to make that realization, there is a large and thriving Pocket PC community for both GSM and CDMA hardware.

Even among enthusiasts though I'm not quite sure they understand what they really want. "I customized this with a focus on speed and aesthetics." Okay, maybe a few more CPU cycles, but the animated transition ("aesthetics") between each of the phone's general functions is really cramping its speed, or are you not counting that? Well you should be, it relates to how fast you reach your goal doesn't it?

I'd much rather have my powerhouse of a phone working instantaneously than looking pretty. This isn't the old classic Windows vs. modern Windows comparison, because modern versions have the available hardware to run just as quickly while looking beautiful.

Do phones have the same luxury? Absolutely not. Yet what keeps occurring? Faster hardware, therefore… faster phone? No! Newer glitzy animations? Yes! It's great that we can have 3D support, but let's play with it when it doesn't have a noticeable impact upon performance.

TouchFLO 3D Email tab

It reminds me of a conversation I once had with my dad:

Hey dad, I upgraded your operating system!

Oh really? So it should run faster then?


Exactly. Of course this is fine when hardware is upgradeable, but the cell phone is very different, an existing paradigm is being transfered where it does not apply.

I hear the argument that it's what your average cell phone toting texting teenager wants, the demands of the market, but I disagree. Give them a phone which responds instantly and ask which they'd truly prefer, I have a suspicion even that demographic would capitulate. (Provided the phone can do interesting things in the first place.)

Of course I know what I want, and have the capability to achieve it. I'm right at home with Windows Mobile. It may take me day after day of installation and configuration—a deep flaw, admittedly—to have a device both incredibly powerful and highly usable but I get there, and I can enjoy it. A couple applications to achieve nearly full control of every hard button and strong consideration given to minimizing required input and I've got a device which doesn't rival the iPhone, but blows it out of the water. Well except for that awesome capacitive touchscreen, Apple's really got me there.