E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

Productivity Tools

My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #2

Gran Canaria - La Culata's surroundings

I never thought I would be enjoying this much putting together this series of blog entries around my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week as I am currently doing at the moment. More than anything else, because of the trip down the memory lane from over 8 years ago till today to see whether my own work habits and productivity hacks, while on the move, have evolved a fair bit, or perhaps not so much. Or whether, maybe, I have completely changed my own user behaviours so drastically that it has morphed into something completely different altogether. Quite an interesting and intriguing journey, if you ask me. As I get to write down today’s post, it makes me think that, perhaps, for the core group of tasks I do on a regular basis I haven’t really changed much my own habits, which seems to confirm, pretty much, how hard it is to just change for the sake of it, but somehow it’s the good fun around the edges that I’m enjoying the most so far, as I get to explore new apps and new ways of getting work done. After all, it’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder, even in a mobile world, right? 

One of the several things that I have found rather enlightening, and eye-opening at the same time, is how, instead of having a single app to perform a specific action, or complete a particular task, I almost always have a handful of apps to handle such kinds of interactions without really having a single favourite one, since I enjoy all of them for what they do and the overall user experience they provide me with. It’s happening to me, for instance, with apps around photography, RSS news feed readers, blogging, podcasting, note taking, drawing / sketching, mindmapping, web browsing, maps / traveling, etc. etc. So I am hoping that, over time, I get a chance to share them all over here as well with an opportunity to indicate what makes me want to keep using multiple of them based on their different nuances, because somehow I feel they all contribute into a richness of productivity hacks I suspect some of you may find useful as well. So, we shall see how that goes as we move further along … 

For this week, though, it’s now a good time to share my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week, indicating whether they are available for iPhone, iPad, or both and explain with a single one-liner or two the main reason as to why I use each of those iOS Apps. Thus without much further ado, here we go: 

  • Blogo: On my MacBook Air, I don’t have a single doubt in terms of my favourite offline blogging app and for a good few years already. It’s MarsEdit. On iOS things change substantially, because I don’t have a single favourite one, but multiple of them, so I suppose, over time, I may have a chance to include them all in this series of blog entries and explain why for each of them. For now, I will start with the one I like quite a bit lately and that I have been using extensively to draft my blog posts while on the iPad Pro. It’s Blogo.

    There is also a desktop app, but again MarsEdit does it for me, so for those folks who may be looking for alternatives or new options, Blogo may well be worth a try. What I like the most about the iOS app is that’s incredibly focused on the act of writing blog posts, no interruptions, no distractions, no fuss, just cut to the chase on ideas you may want to jot down and develop further and keep on writing those drafts further along. The set-up process of WordPress blogs is a gem, too! So easy and user friendly to do that anyone can start their own blog right away! Oh, and the use of images in your blog posts is rather cool as well with tons of options you can toy and play with, if that’s what you are into heh.

  • Feedly: Yes, 2016 and I still read RSS news feeds. Every single day, actually. I spend a significant amount of time just browsing through my RSS feeds while I continue to prune and re-build my own blogroll, which I am hoping to share it along in the next few weeks… And in terms of iOS RSS news feed readers, and like I said already, I have got multiple apps I use on a regular basis and for different purposes, mostly whether it’s an app I can use offline or not, for instance. Right now, one of my favourites is Feedly, more than anything else, because it’s one of the most popular and extended ones and because it allows me to syndicate online as well as offline resources given me something I quite enjoy: choices! 

    One of the little things I appreciate the most from Feedly at the moment as well, ever since I got it working again on my iPad Pro, is how much it feels like just reading a news paper, an online one, to the point where there is only one other app that makes it a superiour user experience than what Feedly provides, but that I’ll talk about that app in an upcoming post. Still, at the moment, for online RSS news feed reading, Feedly does it for me. 

  • Pocket: You could say that Pocket is also a fancy RSS news feed reader and I would probably have to agree with you on that one. Not like Feedly or other traditional RSS news feed readers, but it certainly does the job of helping you curate content you bump into that you find relevant and equally interesting but that perhaps you may want to read at a later time, specially, when offline and disconnected from the Internet. This is where Pocket excels in terms of providing one of the most enlightening user experiences for browsing the Web while offline, if I can say that. But there are a couple of other things I enjoy a fair bit from Pocket that have made it an indispensable productivity and learning tool for yours truly. 

    As a starting point, it allows people to share across their recommended reads, so, in a way, you can connect with other people who may share similar interests to yours and read each other’s recommendations. Pretty nifty if you would want to nurture your networks based on content you all may be mutually interested in. And the other rather nifty feature is how pervasive it is. I use it on my Web browsers on my Mac or the desktop app to save items to read later. I use it on my iOS devices, but what I like the most about it is that it’s fully integrated with other apps, like Tweetbot, allowing me to go through my Twitter feeds and save for later links shared by my networks that I may find of interest. Then at the end of the day, usually, I will go through them, read along, save, recommend, share across, etc. etc. The combination of Tweetbot and Pocket to curate interesting links is a killer. Loving it.  

  • Haiku Deck: On my MacBook Air, Keynote is the main productivity tool I use to put together presentations I then use for public speaking events or for client work. I often use Keynote for complex presentations where I need to follow certain flows, do hands-on demos (with screen shots) or more complex visuals, etc. but when it’s a presentation that needs to become very visually appealing to go further along with a powerful story then I resort to one of my favourite iOS Apps out there: Haiku Deck. 

    You put together the words, the story, and Haiku Deck gathers and presents you with plenty of absolutely stunning visuals you can then toy with to make it one of those presentations to remember. What I like the most about the app? Well, it allows you to craft beautiful presentations without too much wording or far too complex visuals / graphics in them, so death by PowerPoint can be happily avoided and save you tons of unwanted headaches. It just works: a powerful story + a handful of powerful images and off you go to rock the main stage! Perhaps the way presentations should have been framed all along…

  • Telegram: Yes, there are tons of Messaging & Chatting apps out there. Probably, far too many to count them all with both hands and still fall short! Yes, we all know that WhatsApp perhaps dominates that market at the moment. Yes, we know that plenty of the big players (Google, Facebook itself, Microsoft, etc. etc.) keep trying to debunk it and, eventually, they keep failing. Well, there is one Messaging App out there that has certainly done the magic for me, helping me move away from WhatsApp itself and still use, rather heavily, messaging for both work and personal use. It is Telegram.

    To me, it’s one of the most powerful chatting and messaging apps out there at the moment, allowing me to be on top of the conversations I have in it without getting too overwhelmed by the different notifications from each of the group / individual chats, but if there would be a feature that I’d enjoy the most it would be how pervasive it is. There is a Mac desktop app, so you can continue with your messaging along while at your desk; there is an app for iPhone and for iPad, fully in sync with each other, so depending on what you may be doing you can pick and choose whatever may suit you best, something that, for instance, WhatsApp doesn’t seem to handle too well, never mind the fact there isn’t one for iPad. Oh, and Telegram handles with grace the ability of mixing work and personal use, so you get to experience a bit more of a biz app than, say, WhatsApp. I tell you, if you are looking for a pretty decent messaging app that does a beautiful job at it, Telegram it is!

And that is it! That’s this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps for me that you can take for a spin yourself either on your iPhone or iPad and let me know what you think about them in the comments section below. Oh, and if you’d have some additional suggestions or recommendations of apps I should give a try and share my twopence on them, please do let me know as well. I’m always open to try new apps and see how they would fair further along with my day to day work routines.

Hope you folks enjoyed this week’s selection as next week there will be some more!

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #1

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

It’s been nearly 6 years since the last time I have put together an entry over here in this blog, where I was recommending some of my favourite Productivity & Social Apps for iOS, in order to get work done more effectively, that I keep using on a regular basis, even to today. Since I am about to embark on resuming that series of articles, once more, as I mentioned on the recent write-up about my initial user experience with my iPad Pro, I am very aware that some things may have changed so much I doubt those blog posts from back in the day would relate much to this upcoming series. And perhaps that’s good news on its own, we shall see… 

As a starting point, I’m no longer a salaried employee, but a freelancer, which will change perspectives a fair bit in terms of defining both my needs and wants as an independent mobile knowledge (Web) worker. I have also transitioned into becoming a digital nomad versus being attached to a single work location (usually, my home office), as I was till not long ago, and, most importantly, the devices and Apps I use nowadays have upgraded themselves to such level of perfection that my very own user habits are no longer the same. You will see what I mean shortly, but, for now, let me just say I’m really excited to resume the ‘My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week’ series. Are we ready? I surely am. 

But before I get started with this series of blog posts I should also state that I’ll be blogging about my favourite iOS Apps that would be suitable for either my iPhone or my iPad Pro, or both! And, at the same time, I will include a single one liner, or two, as to why I have got them installed in the first place and why I use them on a more or less regular basis, at least, multiple times per week, if not daily. That way you folks may well be able to get a good glimpse of what my daily productivity and social collaboration activities are like. Of course, I will also be looking forward to hearing about your suggestions and recommendations on Apps I should check out in the comments section and I’ll be more than happy to take your advice on board, take them for a spin and report back on what my user experience has been. I am certain that’s going to be one of my favourite follow-up activities from this series. So let’s get busy! 

  • IBM Connections: There are a number of different Apps in the realm of Enterprise Social Networking Tools that I use on a more or less frequent basis. Of course, I will be adding them accordingly over the course of time into this series, but, so far, the one that overtakes every single one of them, and, by a long stretch, is the IBM Connections App, as I have mentioned in another blog entry, since it’s the main ESN tool I use with my clients at the moment, both to work together in various different initiatives as well as to provide support as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation.

    What I like the most about the App is that, with it, I can get done about 95% of my client work inside the App itself without having to go through a desktop Web browser and in terms of ESN Apps it’s probably as good as it gets. Oh, yes, I am using a whole bunch of them at the moment and time and time again I keep resorting back to my desktop browser, which I guess doesn’t help much if you want to continue using the iOS Apps themselves. So a big plus for this App on its own, as it continues to allow me to work & be mobile, regardless of where I am and, as a mobile knowledge (Web) worker myself, that’s not only a good thing, but an imperative. It does the job beautifully
     

  • Slack: Over the course of time I will have a proper chance to share some additional insights about how I make use of Slack for my day to day work activities, but for today suffice to say that in terms of using a team collaboration tool for both synchronous / asynchronous messaging and communications where you get the exact same user experience whether you are using the desktop app, or a browser or the iOS App, Slack is as good as it gets. Its user interface is just superb, where you hardly need to have any kind of enablement done before you can make extensive use of it.

    However, my favourite features that I can also experience through the iOS app are both the outstanding searching capability and the different various integrations with other apps and services allowing me not having to go elsewhere to get my work done. It gets done in context, right there, in the conversation(s). You should, definitely, look no further if you would want to enable and facilitate small teams to work together in a very effective manner on a single project where plenty of great fun is an integral part of how people communicate with one another. 
     

  • Tweetbot v4: Over the course of nearly a decade I have used tons of different Twitter Apps either on the desktop or via mobile devices and ever since I discovered Tweetbot I haven’t walk back to anything else ever since. I’m currently using v4 of Tweetbot both on my MacBook Air, as well as my iPad and iPhone and I would probably be able to state it’s the best Twitter client out there and by a long stretch. Yes, it may sound as if it is a bit too pricey, since it’s not free, but if you are really interested in Twitter and making the most out of it, it’s totally worth the investment.

    What I like the most though? Well, the fact that due to the very own Twitter API restrictions plenty of the new distracting features and capabilities from Twitter are not available, which means that Twitter remains for me a rather powerful social networking tool vs. just another media tool. I suspect the moment Tweetbot gets terminated or is no longer available that would probably be the time where I’d question, really hard, whether I’d want to spend more time in Twitter at all. That’s how much I heart this iOS App. Without it I would have probably walked away from Twitter a long time ago … 
     

  • Instagram [ iPhone Only ]: One of the many activities I have taken up just recently, as I became a freelancer, and which I’m quite fond of at the moment, is that one of photoblogging, where almost every single day I share a snap shot of something I may have experienced or witnessed, or something that may have piqued my interest whether it’s back at home in Gran Canaria, or while I’m on the road, on a business trip, vacation, etc. etc. And my favourite photoblogging app at the moment is Instagram, although I should probably add that this is due to a very specific capability Instagram has that other apps just don’t have: the filters.

    If it weren’t for the gorgeous filters, I would have probably abandoned the app a long time ago, more than anything else, because it just keeps destroying the overall user experience itself introducing silly algorithms and capabilities that just don’t work, or trying to copycat other social tools just because it thinks it can, instead of focusing on what it does best: photoblogging! My mantra using that app has always been, even to this day, the following one: ‘An experience not captured is an experience not lived!
     

  • Flickr: And, finally, I had to share across what has been, perhaps, one of the oldest iOS apps I have been using so far. Pretty much like Instagram, I still make use of Flickr on a regular basis as it powers each and everyone of the blog posts I shared over here with the daily picture, but also because when I’m interested in photoblogging a snap shot out there without filters I always resort to Flickr.

    I have now been using this social networking tool for over 11 years and, to date, it’s still one of my favourites, even to search for images I can reuse with CC licenses for some of my presentations, to the point where I can see how my days of Instagram use may be numbered, as it keeps insisting on killing itself by adding some silly capabilities no-one needs, yet, I can see myself making use of Flickr year after year to no end, even if it is just to enjoy and treasure the good old Web 2.0 spirit.

    Oh, and do you know what I love the most about the Flickr app? Well, using it on my iPad Pro, specially, the ‘Explore’ capability. On a 12.9-inch screen with some pretty amazing colours and incredible resolution it’s just like having the real thing: a photograph in your hands, just like in the good old days! Pure delight! Highly recommended, in case you may not have experienced it just yet. 

And that’s it for now! I don’t want to extend myself any more than what I have already to give you a glimpse of some of the reasons as to why I have chosen this initial set of iOS Apps for the series of blog entires on my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #N’. Hope you folks may have enjoyed reading through the blog post itself, just as much as I do making extensive use of these iOS apps and, as always, I shall be looking forward to your comments below and further suggestions about other apps you think I should consider that may be worth while using regularly to help improve my over all user experience as a mobile knowledge (Web) worker. So, which app(s) are your favourite ones so far? Oh, and, most importantly, why? 

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Top 10 Tools for Learning 2016

Gran Canaria - Charca Maspalomas

Every year, and for the last 10 years, which is a huge achievement in this day and age, if you ask me, Jane Hart puts together this wonderful list of Top 100 Tools for Learning, where she encourages everyone to fill in a form, or tweet further along, or even create your own blog post, where you’d be listing your Top 10 Tools for Learning, indicating whether each of those tools would be fitting in under the following categories: 

  1. Top 100 Tools for Education – for use in schools, colleges, universities, adult ed 
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning – for use in training, for performance support, social collaboration, etc.
  3. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning – for self-organised learning

Now, I guess it’s never too late to dive in into such an interesting exercise that would definitely help you question how you learn, at work or in one’s own personal life. I mean, even though Jane has been running this exercise for a decade I think this is the first time I’m chipping in. I suppose better late than never, right?

The voting for this year is well under way and folks can cast their vote(s) till Friday 23rd, September 2016. So I thought for today’s blog post I’d put together my own list and share it further along. I can’t wait to see what that list would be like say, in 5 to 10 years from now, and whether my tools selection I’m sharing across today would differ much over time. Something tells me that a good number of them won’t even have a place anymore in the landscape of options I’d go for to accommodate my learning needs, but we shall see.

Needless to say it’s been a bit of a challenge as well to try to summarise my own Top Tools List for Learning down to just 10, more than anything else, because of how varied and mixed my very own learning needs and wants have become over the course of the last few years. So from the initial list of 40 different tools I eventually came down to the following 10 for 2016, where I have just selected them based purely on learning terms versus other key elements such as productivity, life hacks, curation, content management, etc. etc. 

I have also taken the liberty of adding a brief paragraph for each of the tools themselves to explain a little bit how I use them to help cover my learning needs, but I’m pretty sure that, over the course of time, I will be talking plenty more in detail about each and everyone of them, plus the other 30 I have left behind for now, in order to share across how I, eventually, get work done WHILE I learn, because that’s what matters at the end of the day, doesn’t it? Adapting to living live in perpetual beta, as my good friend, Harold Jarche would say… So here we go: 

Top 10 Tools for Learning 2016

  1. IBM Connections: [ Education and Personal & Professional Learning ]  Like I have blogged just recently, ‘Learning is the Work’, and since IBM Connections is where I spend nowadays vast majority of my time, while working with clients, it would be my number #1 tool for this year. And more than anything else, because, a long time ago, I realised that one of my main sources where my learning comes from is, basically, the clients I work with. They are my main source that keeps feeding my brain on a daily basis and that, thanks to them, plenty of the blog posts you see over here, in this blog, are direct reflections of those key learnings. At one point in time, I believed rather strongly that the moment you stop learning from your clients, that’s the moment that you are in trouble and it’d be a good thing to perhaps move on to better things. IBM Connections becomes then my number #1 Learning tool for 2016.
  2. Twitter: [ Education, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] Coming up, and pretty close, as my number #2 Learning tool, it would be Twitter. And for obvious reasons, specially, after I did a little experiment, which I blogged about under the heading ‘Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die – The Unfollowing Experiment’. There will be a specific blog post coming up where I will talk more in detail about what has happened in the last year since I embarked in that experiment, but suffice to say that Twitter has become my main Personal Learning Network of choice and for absolutely everything, whether it’s work related, personal, global events, news items, etc. etc. It’s become my main glimpse into the Pulse of the Planet, as I used to call it back in the day. I have always sensed the moment I decide to leave Twitter behind, for whatever the reason(s), that’s the moment a little bit of me will die off as well. It’s become my preferred method of just pure learning, whether work related or not, just for the sake of it, which would probably explain a little bit further along why I’m so picky with it in terms of defining how I would want to use it to get the most out of it outside from the standards and expectations everyone seems to be conforming with.
  3. Slack: [ Education, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] Ok, I realised I haven’t blogged much about Slack per se, unless it’s been in connection with something else, but right now, for 2016, it’s my number #3 learning tool of choice and for multiple reasons… If there is a single word I could utilise to describe my own use of Slack, it would probably be flexibility, more than anything else, because I’m using Slack for work with different project teams, as well as participating in a number of different communities of practice, or of interest, as well as one of my favourite use cases, that one of a personal knowledge hub, but I will blog plenty more about it over the course of time, not to worry. For now though, it’s my number #3 learning tool for this year.
  4. WordPress (blogs): [ Education, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] It’s been powering this blog for over a decade and still going strong! It’s this blog that I have always considered an extension of my own brain, my own reflections, ideas and thoughts, along with experiences, about everything that I learn on a daily basis, so, of course, WordPress had to come up within the Top 5 tools list for learning and, in this case, at number #4. It’s also the main blogging platform that vast majority of the blogs I follow through my blogroll are using at the moment. To me, a non techie, it’s the easiest and most effective blogging platform out there, with a huge community to offer support and learning along the way and, above all, the most effective tool, in the long run, to help your manage your own personal knowledge. That powerful.
  5. Feedly : Education and Personal & Professional Learning ] Since I rely quite heavily on reading and commenting on different blogs, as well as receiving news items from different various Web sources, one learning tool that I just can’t do without, and which, in this case, comes up as number #5, is Feedly, my preferred RSS news feed reader. Yes, I still use RSS feeds and quite a lot! Remember them? From the good old days of the Web 2.0, it’s still very much alive and kicking and, to me, an integral part of my day to day learning activities to keep me in the know about what’s going on with the blogs and Web sites I am subscribed to. I mostly use Feedly on my iOS devices (both iPad Pro and iPhone), but on the Mac I don’t use Feedly, but Reeder, which is also available in iOS, where I’d only use it for when I’m offline for an extended period of time, like being stuck on a plane for several hours on a business trip. The great thing about RSS news feed readers is that there are tons of choices out there, and it’d be just your own personal choice to go for the one that works for you the best, pretty much like you would do with your own Web browser of choice. 
  6. Pocket [ Personal & Professional Learning ]: Coming up as number #6 is one of my all time favourite Apps, accessible via both the regular Web browser and iOS, it’s become an essential application to help me keep up with #longreads, or more in-depth items, I’d want to read and learn from with more pause and while disconnected, taking my time, allowing me to reflect on a deeper level what I am learning about. At the same time, and since not long ago, it acts as a superb tool for curation where you can recommend the best reads you may bump into that you’d want to share across, so your learning becomes everyone’s learning. It’s got a gorgeous user interface making the learning more focused on what you are reading, rather than trying to figure out the tool. Essential for the toread-later fans. 
  7. SkypeEducation, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] I think I may have been using Skype for well over a decade and, despite everything that may have happened throughout all of that time, it still remains within my top 10 list of tools for whatever the purpose. It’s the main learning tool I keep using on a regular basis for both audio and video conferencing, for podcasting, for vodcasting, for reaching out to people (either 1:1 or 1:many), so I can keep up with them and learn what they have been up to and despite other noteworthy efforts, like WhatsApp, Google Plus Hangouts, Blab, Viber, Tango, FaceTime, Zoom, Fuze, WebEx, Vyew, GoToMeeting, etc. etc. (It’s a far too long list already!) Skype is the only one I can continue to use reliably with good quality of both video and audio, and, most importantly, knowing it will always be there, while some others just don’t manage to pick up enough steam and therefore disappear into thin air over time, sadly. 
  8. Instagram / FlickrEducation, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] Back in the day, over 11 years ago, for number #8 I would have selected Flickr as my preferred tool to learn about how people live AND experience life, both on a personal and work levels. But in 2016, while I still use Flickr a fair bit, things have switched and I would now have to go for Instagram. It’s my photoblog where I try to share what I experience during the course of a given week, not just when I’m on the road, traveling, but also while living in Gran Canaria. It’s become my window to show the world a little bit of my world and therefore for me to learn plenty more about everyone’s world. I’m a visual animal and can then spend a fair amount of time learning different tidbits about the different photos people share through my Instagram feed, more than anything as an opportunity to help me cultivate and nurture my own social capital skills, so I can then put them into work when meeting up wonderful folks face to face to talk, share and learn about those mutual experiences of the pictures we share. Yes, I know, you may have noticed I got a thing for Instagram, and I surely do. It’s the only social networking tool from the Dark Social Web (a.k.a. platform monopolists) that I still use on a regular basis to keep me on my toes and remind me why I left that Social Web behind a long while ago (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pulse, Slideshare, Uber, Airbnb, etc. etc.) and why we still have got a long way to go to realise the so-called Web 2.0 spirit in its full potential and reach.
  9. Haiku DeckEducation, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] I am pretty sure that plenty of folks would probably choose between either PowerPoint or Slideshare as one of their preferred Top Tools for Learning in 2016. Perhaps not only for the creation and curation of their own presentations they may have done for a particular conference event, or a client engagement, but also to learn about a whole lot of different topics by curating other people’s decks. Well, in my case, it’s been nearly three years since I last uploaded a presentation into Slideshare and quite a long while ago as well last time I went there to learn about specific subject matter or themes. For the creation of my own presentations, I don’t use PowerPoint either, but rely more on Keynote (Mac & iOS), specially, if offline, but since I’m mostly online when crafting a presentation or learning about other’s presentations I usually resort to Haiku Deck. It’s my preferred learning tool to put together different stories that then, eventually, end up in a presentation and the reason why I heart it quite a bit is because I can always manage to find some stunning visual aids that would go really nice with the story, in a heartbeat, and therefore makes the job of having to find that perfect snap shot painless. That’s why Haiku Deck is my number #9 top tool for learning in 2016. 
  10. YouTubeEducation, Workplace Learning and Personal & Professional Learning ] And, finally, my top tool number #10 would go to YouTube. Yes, I know and realise most of you would be a tad surprised I’ve picked up YouTube as one of my Top Tools for Learning in 2016, but I use it quite frequently, either on my MacBook Air, iPhone or iPad for almost every type of learning aid: whether it’s a podcast, a vodcast, a screencast, a tutorial, a MOOC, a review, a presentation and / or a dissertation, interviews, book reviews, music videos, funny videos, etc. etc. and you name it, YouTube does it for me. And since there is a lovely hack everyone can use to download either the video or just the audio of the clip for offline watching it makes for the perfect companion when being disconnected for a while and having to catch up with a particular presentation, video, podcast / vodcast, etc. Yes, indeed, YouTube makes it into my Top 10 list of learning tools for 2016. 

And that’s a wrap! That’s my list of Top 10 Tools for Learning for 2016. But before I let you all go I wanted to mention, perhaps, how my favourite learning tool this year, and without a doubt, although it doesn’t have much to do with software or a specific service, is a piece of hardware, or, better said, two pieces of hardware: my iPad Pro and my iPhone. Why am I saying that? Well, because for the very first time in a long while 2016 is the year where I have gone mobile with my own learning, regardless of whenever, or wherever I may well be and that’s, probably, as good as it gets as I can now take my own learning where I’d want to, or need to, and not be attached to a specific setting, computing device and what not. Just me and my own learning activities on my own space, the way it should have always been.

How about you? Have you put together your own Top 10 Tools list for Learning for 2016 yet? What are you waiting for?

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2016 – The Year I Went Mobile Only with My iPad Pro

iPad Pro - My new main computing device 😎 #mobilefirst

In a recent blog entry I referenced an article Euan Semple published a few days back under the heading ‘Being at work’, which I can strongly recommend re-reading through it, if you haven’t just yet. There were a number of different themes that caught my attention back then and I thought that, perhaps, for today’s article, I’d focus on one of them I didn’t mention the last time around. This one, to quote: ‘Ten years later, having experienced over that time the joy and increased effectiveness of being a freelancer in charge of my own productivity, […]’, although I would have added as well the following tidbit: ‘and computing environment’. Because that’s what freelancers do, right? Always looking for that final productivity hack within their own computing environment that may well take one’s own effectiveness into the next level. Well, I think I may have found my own: The iPad Pro.

According to coconutBattery, my MacBook Air is 1733 days old, even thought it’s still in perfect working order, except for a couple of keyboard keys I can no longer read, as they are too worn out, and a battery half way through its capacity. It still works. Perfectly. It’s been my old time favourite computing device to get work done, even when I was a salaried employee at IBM. What I love the most about this machine is the fact that despite all of the heavy computing and business traveling I have done with it over the years, it still works flawlessly. And I hope it continues to be like that for many moons to come (knocking on wood, as I write these few words down…). 

However, a few months back I came to terms with the fact I might need to update my own computing environment for when the MacBook Air is no longer there. And, at the time, I had to question whether I was ready to go mobile only or still rely on a laptop. I was really keen on confirming whether 2016 was the year of mobile or whether it was just another frustrating experience like the one I blogged about nearly 5 years ago. Mind you, for the kind of work I do, you can imagine I don’t require a very powerful machine. So perhaps I was ready to make the jump into #mobilefirst.

Indeed, I was and still am! Back in February this year I decided to jump the shark and purchased an iPad Pro, the 12.9-inch one, with the whole intention of making it my main computing environment for my daily work and take it for a spin to see how things would work out eventually. I could always back out of it and carry on with my MacBook Air till it would break apart and get another laptop, but so far, I can tell you all I am loving it! Next to my iPhone 6S Plus, it’s perhaps the best purchase I have ever done. 

I just didn’t buy the iPad Pro alone, by the way. From my user experience with other iPad models in the recent past, I knew I’d need to buy the Smart Keyboard, so I did purchase one. And I also quite fancied getting my hands on the Apple Pencil to see how much creative I could get writing again on a screen. So I got one, too! And, eventually, my new computing environment, that you can see on the above snap shot, was born.

Back in 2011 I put together a blog post under the title ‘My Top 10 Reasons Why I Bought an iPad 2’ and, while re-reading through it, I found it rather amazing to see how little my own needs and wants for a computing device have changed over the course of the years. Yes, iPads have gotten incredibly better in terms of specs and what not, but, if you look into those reasons I shared back then, they were down more to my own behaviours, habits and work practices than anything else. And in 5 years, very few different things have changed, apparently, even though I have moved from being a salaried employee at a large IT corporation like IBM to becoming my own CIO looking after my own productivity and computing environments. 

Now, I am not going to go through all of the various different reasons again explaining how the iPad Pro fairs in comparison with the iPad 2, more than anything else, because, like I said, those very same reasons would still stand, and very accurately, for the iPad Pro itself as well. Instead, I will just list them all over here and go ahead and add another 5 more reasons as to why I truly heart such brilliant mobile computing device. So, the initial round of reasons were as follows: Speed, Quality, Design, Cameras, Games, Friends, Price, Early Adopter, The Apps, Mobility. Go ahead and read through the blog post itself from back then for a short explanation for each reason, if you’d want to read some more about them. For now, let’s go and dive into the 5 new reasons…

  • The Speakers: The audio on the iPad Pro is just simply stunning! I spend a good chunk of the day watching or listening to rich media, whether it’s podcasts, vodcasts, presentations, speeches, talks, interviews, news items, TV & films, etc. etc. you name it, and the quality of the sound coming out from my iPad Pro is like no other! Even my good old MacBook Air can’t even come close to such level of quality when I am doing, for instance, video / audio conferencing with tools like Skype. And if you are into listening to music, while you work, because, you know, amongst several other things, it helps you concentrate better and work more effectively, using Spotify on the iPad Pro is just a treat to the ears! 
  • The Screen: I never thought I would be saying, or writing, this, but size does matter and in a computing device, no matter what they tell you, the bigger, the better. I realised about that when I went from the iPhone 5S into the iPhone 6S Plus and have never walked back ever since. The rest are just toys! That’s why I went for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch versus the 9.7-inch. It just makes you feel like you are working with a laptop (if you have a keyboard with it, of course), which means it’s a whole lot easier adjusting your own computing habits to the iPad even when you know it’s not a laptop anymore. It would not be the first time, nor the second, or even the third time that when I am, occasionally, still using the MacBook Air, without realising, at a certain given point in time, I start touching the screen and go silly when I realised it doesn’t do anything. Of course, it doesn’t, it’s a laptop! Grrr See? That’s how bad the iPad Pro has already shifted my own habits using computers. Still, having such a large screen makes me feel I’m cheating a little bit thinking I’m not using a tablet, but my own laptop, after all heh
  • The Apps: Oh, yes, it’s always been about the Apps. And now that I have got a bigger screen, the apps are all that matters. With the recently introduced multitasking capabilities, ‘Split View’ is a must-have. It makes all the difference in terms of how you interact and get the most out of your iPad Pro. It’s by far, one of my all time favourite capabilities from iOS. And if you have used it yourself, you will know, exactly, what I mean. Either way, it’s all about the Apps. It’s the main reason why I keep using iOS over the last few years and why I haven’t moved elsewhere. Remember when I used to write ‘Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week – Week #N’? Well, I am hoping to bring that back, sharing with everyone what are some of my preferred and favourite iOS Apps I use on a regular basis on my iPad, specially, nowadays with the emphasis of being a freelancer and having defined already, pretty much, my own computing environment with them all in a single page or two. So, stay tuned for more blog posts to come along where I’ll write down short reviews of those Apps and why I use them on both my iPad Pro and my iPhone. 
  • The Smart Keyboard: Yes, it’s a keyboard. Actually, to be more accurate, it’s a keyboard for the iPad Pro, but, boy, do I enjoy writing along with that keyboard?!?! I love the touch and feel, I love the speed my fingers pick up as I type along coming pretty close to what I can do on my MacBook Air. I love how I can dispose of the keyboard as I may see fit and get another one. That’s just portability taken to the extreme and I quite like it! It’s as flexible as it can get! Oh, and it’s seamless. Hit a keystroke and off you go! Ideal for when you are on the road, traveling, and need to jot down something quick while your phone just run out of battery. But, again, what I enjoy the most about it is the touch and feel of the keys making it sound much more natural, less mechanical, or metallic, than the typical laptop keyboard. It’s as if you are typing on the skin! Unreal!
  • The Apple Pencil: Finally, there is the Apple Pencil. Now, I was very skeptical about this gadget initially, because I wasn’t totally convinced it was something I’d make extensive use of. After all, I’m not a designer, I can’t draw, nor paint, properly, and all along I much prefer to do my note taking through Apps rather than writing. It’s how they stuck in my memory. But, at one point, I thought, why not? Buy it and take it for a spin and see how it would work, if at all. Well, so far, I’m enjoying it! Perhaps not for the main use cases most people are thinking about (drawing, sketching, designing, etc.), but so far it’s become an extended part of my hand, just like a regular pencil, or pen, for when I am browsing Web sites, checking different media tools (for text, photos, audio, video, etc), typing along, etc. etc. It just feels almost natural. One of my favourite use cases for it at the moment, for instance, is for mindmapping. And another one for sketching, doodling and learning how to draw, specially, after watching this stunning video clip on the topic (It claims everyone, yes, everyone, including you!, can draw no matter what). The end result is that I never thought I’d be making use of the Apple Pencil and now I just can’t go anywhere without it and my iPad Pro. 

Now, I realise this may well be a too simplistic blog post on its own to confirm whether you may be enticed to purchase an iPad Pro yourself, or not, but I am seeing this article as an opportunity to put together a series of entries around how I make the most out of my own computing environment, as a freelancer and digital nomad, to perhaps suggest and share further along with you all how it works for me and to demonstrate whether going mobile only with both my iPad Pro and iPhone does eventually make me more effective in the work I do than when I was using a computer / a laptop. So if you’d have any burning questions out there that you would want me to answer sooner rather than later, or share my feedback on, drop me a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I possibly can, while I get to work on the different blog posts from this series as time goes by.

Finally, one question to open up the floor, if you wouldn’t have to do tons of heavy computing tasks for your day to day job, that would require you to use a powerful desktop or laptop, would you move into mobile only and rely on an iPad Pro? If so, if you have already done it, what’s been your user experience so far? Is 2016, at long last, the year of mobile computing

Something, 12.9-inch large, tells me it may well be … What do you think?

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10th Year Blogiversary – The Unfinished Journey of Blogging and Why It Matters

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Remember the good old days when people were writing about the death of blogging thanks to social media tools? When they wrote, rather prolifically, about how Google Plus, Tumblr, LinkedIn’s Pulse, Facebook’s Notes, Medium and a whole bunch of other platforms were just going to kill our own ability to have a personal Web Journal of sorts where we would be able to host our own thoughts, have conversations, learn and overall  build, over time, strong online communities about topics we were all passionate about and that we would keep on writing about for years to come? Well, 21 years later, blogging is still alive and kicking, thank you very much! And on October 10th, 2015, I just made it through my 10th year blogiversary for http://elsua.net. Who knew… The Death of Blogging? Hummm, I don’t think so!

Thing is this is not the first time I write about this very same topic, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last one either. It’s also not the first time I share across the many benefits as to why blogging still rules in the social / digital tools extensive landscape. But what I find the most baffling from it all is while a few people keep claiming that it’s now a dead medium for online publishing and personal journaling several other dozens more keep talking, and writing extensively, about the many perks behind having your own blog, whether it’s a corporate blog or not. The articles with dozens and dozens of tips can get quite overwhelming, but then again I keep getting dragged into reading through all of those listicles, because, you know, we are always going to be drawn upon them, whether we like it or not, so we better try to enjoy them and move on, don’t you think? Phew! That linking exercise I just did above to curated blog posts I have enjoyed in the last few months alone! has just been exhausting!  Oh, don’t worry, I don’t expect you to go through all of them. It’ was just an opportunity for me to highlight how blogging is alive and kicking if just a sample of the articles linked above contained hundreds of different blogging tips, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced blogger. Mind you, if you are starting your own blog, or think you could go and learn some new tricks, put some time aside to go through some of those. I can recommend reading through them to learn a new trick or two. I did. 

Anyway, see how silly the whole argument about the death of blogging really is? Here we are, 2015, and we are still talking about it. Yet, we keep on blogging. Regardless. And that’s a good thing, more than anything else because, if anything, blogging should be about just that: you writing along as an extension of your brain, of your thoughts and ideas you would want to share out there with the world. Just because you want to, not because of whatever other people may tell you otherwise. It’s about a unique opportunity, we all keep taking for granted, it seems, about having a voice (your voice!) and an opinion on a particular subject at your own place, that you care about and / or are really passionate about. Blogging, essentially, writing, is all about you. You are what you write. It’s a personal craft that takes years to master, if at all, and nothing, nor anyone, should be able to take that away from you. Ever. Don’t let them.

See? Writing in your blog on a more or regular basis can be both therapeutic and rather healthy, but perhaps, most importantly, cathartic and while you are all going to tell me you keep on writing on multiple different venues, i.e. social tools, with exactly that very same flair writing in the long from in your own blog where you reflect deeper on a particular topic of interest can well be a rather intimate and overall engaging activity of you yourself and your idea(s), before you allow the world to get a glimpse of them and do something about it.

David Weinberger (@dweinberger) put it brilliantly in this particular article under the thought-provoking title ‘Why Blogging Still Matters’: 

But, we thought, the most important challenge blogging posed was to the idea of the self in self-expression. Blogging was more about connecting with others than about expressing ourselves. Truth, we thought, was more likely to live in webs of ideas and responses than in the mouth of any one individual braying from soapbox, whether that soapbox was The New York Times or a blogger read by five people. By linking and commenting, we were consciously building a social space for voices in conversation.

 To then continue with this other rather relevant quote: 

We bloggers are still there, connecting, learning from one another, and speaking in our own flawed human voices’.

And that’s where I am myself, after 10 years of blogging in this blog, and although I have been blogging for nearly 13 years now in total plenty of other blogs I have had in the past have come and gone, whether on Intranets or not; and whether using various other different platforms for online publishing the thing is http://elsua.net still remains that special place I always call Home. A place, over the course of the years, I can always return to and be just my self

‘[…] a place for the sound of the individual’s own flawed voice in open conversation with others, building something bigger than itself.’

Thank you very much for sticking around throughout all of these years, faithful readers of this blog, and for allowing me to show and share with you my special place, my blog, my home. Thank you for being an integral part of quite an amazing, yet unfinished, journey!

Welcome on board! 

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Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From

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When I first got things started with #elsuahackstwitter, the experiment where I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter and instead move on to using, exclusively, Public Lists, I knew, right from the start, that I’d have a bit of a challenge in terms of not necessarily grouping people together, but what names would I pick up for each of those lists, so that a) they’d be rather representative and meaningful, and b) would not offend the people included in them (for whatever the reason). It wasn’t easy. It took me, eventually, a good few days to figure it out what I would go for in the long run. I knew I didn’t want to pick something vague, overhyped or just simply buzzwords du jour along the lines of gurus, ninjas, #SocBiz experts, influencers, future-of-work, digital-transformation, etc. etc. So I decided to look deeper, in retrospect, and try to define for myself the kinds of relationships I have built over the years with the people who I used to follow on Twitter and see how I would be able to group them accordingly. Finally, after a good few days of tinkering Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From were born. 

Ever since I was first exposed to Twitter Lists a good few years back, I knew they were going to be something rather special. It’s, by far, my favourite feature from Twitter from all along. An opportunity for the end-user to be, at long last, in full control of the flow of tweets going by, according to your own criteria in terms of people added to them, timelines (no longer a limit in there!), conversations, insights shared, etc. etc. vs. having to rely on the system to do it for you. I have been a huge fan of Lists. Currently, I have got 25 of them I, usually, check on a more or less regular basis. All along, though, most of them have always been, and still remain today, private, just for me. And for a good reason: I didn’t want to expose them, nor the folks grouped in each of them. 

The whole thing changed though, when I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter, and somehow I started to feel the urge of exposing, openly, where I usually spend my time on nowadays while tweeting away. Somehow I felt I needed to show the world a little bit of my Twitter world. The time of hiding is over and while the private lists are there I decided not to pay much attention to them anymore and instead focus on the public ones I created a few weeks back. Those new lists would become my new timeline(s) and, contrary to what was happening before, they are now exposed to everyone out there who may be interested, since they are publicly listed and people can subscribe to them, if they so wish to.

In a way, it’s some kind of brutal exercise around working out loud and openness, because, all of a sudden, everyone can now peek into my daily flows of tweets going back and forth and get a glimpse of what I’m exposed to, without having to even ask me, if they would want to. Yes, it’s both exciting and rather intriguing not knowing anymore what may well happen next, because one of the unexpected highlights from having run this experiment was that even though the lists are my lists some people have decided to subscribe to them as well. So, all of a sudden, I have transformed into a curator of connections, relationships, triangles to close, and good, relevant content on what matters to me. And share it with the world. 

You may be wondering by now then why did I pick up those names for my main three public lists, right? CollaboratorsCooperators and People I Learn From. Well, initially, there is the reason of proximity, just like when I blogged back in the day how I work through Google Plus’ Circles with One50, Two50 and TheRest. However, that proximity nowadays is mostly down to how I view people I used to follow on Twitter in terms of working together or learning together. Long time ago I decided to stop following people just for the sake of following if it meant I didn’t learn anything in the first place. Life is just too short to have a cluttered timeline, I am afraid.

Working together, for me, can be seen in terms of two different types of interactions: collaboration and / or cooperation. My good friend, Harold Jarche, put together, just recently, as he has been blogging about this very same topic for a good while now, a new superb article explaining the main differences between one and the other. ‘Cooperation for the network era’ is a highly recommended read, for certain, as it will make you think twice about the kinds of business relationships, contacts and networks each and everyone of us has been nurturing over time. At the end of the day though, to me, it’s also all about commitment, what differentiates one from the other, that is. 

When you collaborate (closely) with someone (or a group of people), there is a commitment to get something done in a timely manner, to get a deliverable out the door, finish off that task, activity or a project and move on the next one. The proximity and closeness is a notch tighter than when you cooperate with someone, which seems to be a lot less about commitment and more about sharing, connecting and learning. To quote Harold from that same article shared above: 

Cooperation is a foundational behaviour for effectively working in networks, and it’s in networks where most of us, and our children, will be working. Cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate.

To then finish up with this other really nice quote that clearly differentiates what collaboration and cooperation are, and what they are not: 

Cooperation is not the same as collaboration, though they are complementary. Teams, groups, and markets collaborate. Online social networks and communities of practice cooperate. Working cooperatively requires a different mindset than merely collaborating on a defined project.

Organizations need to extend the notion of work beyond collaboration, beyond teams, and beyond the corporate fire wall. They need to make social networks, communities of practice, and narrative part of the work

Here’s something that Harold mentions on the last quote shared above that I think is rather interesting and pretty much nails it for me: ‘[…] they are complimentary […]’. Indeed, in the rather polarised world we currently live in, where it looks like we can only have a winner, a one single choice, a simple choice, yet, time and time again, reality tells us otherwise. Why can’t we have both? – I keep wondering about. Why can’t we have, in a work environment, where both collaboration and cooperation are working together nicely to achieve a certain goal, i.e. getting work done on their own terms (versus ruthlessly competing with one another)? What’s stopping us from doing that? The company firewall and bureaucratic business practices? A business and management system that haven’t changed much fundamentally in the last 150 years or perhaps even more so our very own mindset and behaviours and our inability to change even more so, if for the better?

This is, exactly, what I wanted to do in the first place when I put together these two Twitter Lists, to see if I could combine both collaboration, cooperation and mix them a bit to the point where they would become blurry and, eventually, perhaps a porous, intertwined duality. And then see what would happen next. As a result, and rather unexpectedly, I came up with a third one for another very specific activity altogether: learning. And this is how these public lists came along: 

  • Collaborators: The original description I used for this list was the following one: ’[Some] People I’ve collaborated with in the past, the present & hopefully in the near future as well’. Remember, this list was built up from the list of people I used to follow on Twitter, not the hundreds of people I have collaborated with over last couple of decades, and the criteria was essentially to figure out who would I be able to move over here and feel comfortable about it when talking about collaboration: some of the folks I have collaborated with in the past, or now in the present, or have the gut feeling I will be in the near future. That was the exercise to be done. How close did I feel to those folks in order to collaborate with them all, where needed and accordingly, in a heartbeat. It’s my primary list, the one I check every single day and read every single tweet from and the one where I progressively move people away on to from the other lists to keep it growing over time with folks I do committed work with. 

  • Cooperators: Again, reusing Harold’s definition for cooperation, this is the list of folks I cooperate with at times in different initiatives, and where the commitment may well be there some times, or not. This was the original description I used for it: ‘[Some] People I’ve cooperated with in the past, the present & hopefully in the near future as well’. Again, following pretty much the same flow as Collaborators, except that for this one the proximity is not as close as the one for collaborators. In a way, it’s like my second tier of interactions, the networks, the communities of practice, the weak ties that sooner or later I know I will eventually be doing work together with. It’s also the list I check and read every single tweet from daily as an opportunity to help build my social capital skills with them so I can provoke committed work with at some point in time. I’ll wait for when I feel things are ready.  
  • People I Learn From: While both Collaborators and Cooperators make my primary network of contacts and business relationships (and, of course, friendships!), all along I knew there would be a third one coming, one with people I keep learning from on a daily basis from our mutual tweet exchange and that, sooner or later, I know they will all end up being either in Collaborators or Cooperators. It’s the largest of all three lists and by a large margin. It’s also the one where most of my learning happens, although it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t learn much from the other two. I still do, it’s just on a different level (i.e. I know them relatively well already…). The People I Learn From is essentially the list where I curate, nurture and foster relationships that I will then move on to one of the other two lists and become more involved with over the course of time. Mind you, I still get to read every single tweet that gets shared across. I use each and everyone of them as an opportunity to evaluate whether we are both ready to be moved up and, if so, make the move and carry on with the conversation on a higher level of involvement and intent. 

And from there onwards, I rely entirely on the magic of serendipity, that always seems to know more and way better than yours truly, to do its thing and keep redefining each and everyone of those lists. Helping me as well shaping them up accordingly over time by constantly building a trustworthy personal learning network where not only will I be able to continue learning from in the multiple areas we are all really passionate about, but also work with, whether collaboratively or cooperatively, or both!

It’s all about building the commitment, the intent, the context, and the ability to transform our daily work routines into the networked economy, because, for as long as social networks, communities and teams exist out there, we are no longer talking about the future of work, but the present of work. The continuous today. The one we can all collectively influence each and every time, because, after all, it still is our choice.

It always has been.

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