Extra Searchable Meeting Notes

The pandemic changed how I took meeting notes at work. With video calls being the new norm, I found myself grabbing screenshots of the meeting window to capture shared slides, documents we were collaborating on, and the latest screens the design team was showing off.

So now, in addition to my detailed text notes, I found myself compiling a visual archive of my team’s communication as designs changed and evolved – as Gantt charts shifted over time.

But where the hell do I store all this stuff? And how do I keep it correlated to the notes I was taking?

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Finder Catalog Numbers

Stick with me, folks. This is going to get super nerdy and may take a while to explain. It’s also going to cover some of my favorite topics: a custom-built Mac app, a small server-side script, Keyboard Maestro, the command line, and URL schemes.

Let’s talk about the stuff you need to do and the files, supporting documents, and reference material you need to accomplish those tasks.

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Roundabout Syncing

I don’t mean for this blog post to only be more complaining. It’s just my dumb solution to a Finder bug I’ve been running into for years. And also a great example of how a little bit of automation can go a long way. (And an even better example of how unique the macOS ecosystem is that tools like this can exist – and how scared I am that (despite assurances) we seem to be headed in a direction where powerful and clever apps are not wanted.)

Anyway, something must have broken in Finder around when Apple integrated iCloud Drive into macOS Sierra in 2016. That’s when I noticed that the files on my Desktop would stop appearing on…my Desktop.

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Talking to OmniFocus

But one significant change I have made is to my morning routine. And it was made possible by OmniFocus’ version 3.4 update last year. I’m sorry that I’m just now getting around to writing about this new workflow because it’s a lot of fun. And it just might be my favorite new feature Omni has ever shipped. As a user, it’s wowing me with the possibilities. And as an Apple developer, I’m amazed at how well done it is.

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Dot Dee Tee

Inline with my affinity for backing up and owning my data, one component of that strategy is avoiding proprietary file formats and databases whenever possible and reasonable. That’s why I prefer plain text (and more recently .textbundle) for all of my notes, and why I’m so meticulous about how I organize my family’s photo archives.

It gives me the agility to move from app to app or even (heaven forbid, it may eventually happen) to a new platform as my needs change. If you own your own data, there’s no lock-in.

So along those lines, here’s a very tiny optimization (is that the right word for this?) that I’ve been doing for years that helps keep my reference material organized and more easily searchable and filterable.

(Oh, and also a quick story about how I effed up someone else’s data.)

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The App That Never Was

While using one of my favorite iOS Shortcuts the other day, it occurred to me how much things have changed in six years.

I say six years ago specifically because it was in 2014 that I made an iOS app called Upshot.

Sadly, Upshot never saw the light of day because I couldn’t get it past App Review for very dumb reasons. Lucky for you though, after I show the ridiculously simple Shortcut that I now use instead, this gives me the opportunity to tell you my very favorite App Store rejection story.

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Shelley

I’ve written previously about using Hazel on macOS to react to a new file appearing in a synced iCloud Drive folder and running commands. But I wanted a faster solution that I could trigger from almost anywhere – including an iOS Shortcut. A way to send a command directly from my phone (or maybe any other device?) to my Mac.

What I came up with is a tiny, macOS menu bar app I call Shelley – because as a friend told me, it’s a Frankenstein of a hack.

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Merging and Deduplicating a Whole Lot of Google Photos

The point of this blog post is to say that I’m preparing for an eventual move to another photo cloud service. I’m also trying to keep my local backups neatly organized. So, I wrote a small command-line tool to specifically deal with the Google Photos backup format that you’ll receive if you request a dump of your data.

It takes Google’s directory structure and all their duplicated files, merges, sorts, and deduplicates your photos and videos into a sane folder structure – the one I’ve been using for over a decade.

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DIY Video Hosting

I’ve been a paying customer of Vimeo since 2014 – specifically, their Pro plan. But when my renewal email arrived in April, myself and other small developers were seeing sales slow down as the pandemic worsened. Another $240/year was a tough sell for the small amount of video content I was hosting with them, and I wondered if there might be a cheaper alternative – either another service or by hosting videos myself.

So this is how I moved off Vimeo and started hosting my own video content.

On average, my bandwidth bill has dropped to $11/month – and that includes videos, static assets, and ALSO binary downloads for all of my Mac apps. Previously, I was paying $20/month just for video hosting on top of the rest of my bandwidth.

It’s definitely a geekier solution that requires more work up front to setup, and I’m not sure I would recommend it for a “real” business, but for my needs it was a fun project and I’m happy to save $200 a year.

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