On the Short Life of the Sound Bites Podcast

On Sunday October 2nd I launched a new Podcast: Sound Bites (follow link for episode list). These are short audio stories from my surroundings.

The format is entirely different to my current podcast Breadcrumbs. Each episode is only 30-60 seconds in length and contains no narration.

October Daily

This is my project for the second month of my Daily Challenge. As with my last challenge, I wanted to dive into something I'm interested in but know little about with the goal of learning something on multiple levels.

Where in September the goal was to learn basic perspective drawing techniques and explore the possibility of sketching in my iPad Pro, this month I'm learning the basics of sound design and improving my recording and editing skills.

With these dailies it has never been the goal to put out perfekt work. That's impossible to do in a day for something I've never done before. Rather they tell the honest story of someone who's learning by doing – and often by failing as well.

We are wowed by those who are world class at something, but often forget they've put in their 10,000 hours. What I'm doing here is the story seldom told – showing what may be the first 10-15 of those hours.

A Premature End

This month I didn't make it to those 15 hours. I have discontinued my daily prematurely, ending on episode 20.

A good friend of mine once said:

Principles are great until they work against you.

Now that probably shouldn't be the motto to live your life by, but it helps me question the things I hold on to. The primary reason for giving up on my daily is that my current workload has been starting to affect my health.

I was tempted see Sound Bites through till the end of the month on principle alone, but that would be working against me. October has never been my best month healthwise and the twofold responsibility of work (I still have a day job) and studies (Masters started in September) taxed me further.

I never understood the people who compensate for stress and poor sleep by taking medication. However, last week I found myself downing a pill when I woke up with a headache after a poor nights rest. That gave me pause.

The most important checklist in my life kicked in and I have been sleeping much better since. I had been driven by my to do list and have given myself permission to just let some things go for now (fixing up this website being one of them).

What I learnt

Another one of the things to go is Sound Bites. Looking back there is a good and bad side to this choice of daily.


  • it's fun hearing everyday sounds augmented
  • gives a new awareness of surroundings
  • cutting a short audio-story together is fun (provided the material is good)
  • it really is a great way to learn about recoding, sound design, and editing


  • requires two steps: recoding & editing
  • it isn't a contained task (eg. simply 10min)
  • it affects the rest of the day (taking recorder)
  • lacks obvious daily improvements/skills learnt
  • dosen't really go far enough to teach sound design (never got to music)

The cons list is in stark contrast to the September Daily of drawing every day. There I had a single task that was contained by a rough 10 minute time limit and I could see my skills improve quickly. Sound Bites was not only more work but also less rewarding.

Taking it slower this past week has already reaped great rewards and given me a clarity over some big decision coming up. I'm going to take the rest of the month off from dailies and will be back in November.

On Why I Switched to WordPress

My website looks a little different today. I'm no longer using Squarespace and have switched to a self hosted WordPress site. I haven't yet ironed out all the kinks, but am already happy to have made the move.

I got Squarespace exactly a year ago so my subscription was up for renewal. Squarespace was great for the purposes it served, but I needed to move on.

When Squarespace is not the best fit

Last November I got my iPad Pro with the goal of doing everything with it, ideally being able to retire my 2011 Mac Book Pro. That didn't go so well as the Squarespace backend does not currently support mobile devices.

Additionally, there isn't a good way to publish more complex posts quickly. I have been transfering all post and pictures to my Mac and publish from there. However, the need to reduce my publishing time was a main take away from my 30 Day Challenge of publishing every day.

I really enjoy using my iPad though. All the more now that I am working with it every day as I have recently started a Masters in Industrial Design (more on that at another time).

Unlike my iPad, I don't enjoy working on my Mac anymore. This lead to a post free 222 Days and is one of the main reasons the Podcasts Universe hasn't been updated. Ok, I can't just blame the setup, but when starting something new it is paramount to have a low resistance workflow.

Don't get me wrong, Squarespace is a great service and I still recommend it highly. It's just not for me. Like the highly competent candidate that just isn't a fit for the company.

Who is Squarespace for?

Squarespace's great strength is offering exactly that no-friction process, which you need to get your blog or homepage off the ground. I created Muffin.Works in about three hours. And what's more, it's hard to make an ugly Squarespace website.

Squarespace is great if:

  • you need a website right now
  • you have non-tech people editing it
  • you want low maintenance
  • you want a professional-look (without the work)
  • you need something affordable
  • you only need it temporarily (for events like weddings etc)

Squarespace is not great if:

  • you work from mobile devices
  • you want your files on your own servers
  • you need more granular control
  • you want to automate the publishing process
  • you need a fast load time

What I've done

I am now hosting MuffinWorks on a virtual private server through Linode. Yes, that's diving right into the deep end. With the click of a button I can now actually turn off the "computer" that's hosting my website. It took about eight hours over two days (coming from minimal hosting and no VPS experience) but now I have all the options.

I've already got ideas about what I can do controlling the backend, like improving the feedback buttons and resurrecting the podcast universe map. And simply being on WordPress means I can edit my website from my iPad and publish from within Ulysses (OMG – so good).

Thanks Squarespace

Kudos to Squarespace for offering an export feature (specifically for WordPress). That made the switch a million times easier and will earn them many more a recommendation from me. Goes to show they don't see themselves as competitors to WordPress, which they aren't.

Squarespace's business model is to remove all barriers in going from idea to creation – especially those of inability. You still have to learn WordPress, but you don't have to learn Squarespace. But in doing that they make a lot of decisions for you. Where WordPress is the DSLR, Squarespace is the camera app.

Those Kinks

Thanks for reading and your interest in what I do on MuffinWorks. If you spot anything broken or weird here please let me know on twitter and I'll iron it out (not by email, forwarding is currently broken).

On 30 Days of Drawing

For the month of September I gave myself the challenge of drawing every day. I wanted to learn sketching and try using my iPad pro and Apple Pencil to see if that was something I could use for designs in the future.

How was it?

Educational on more than one level.

Honestly, it was a bit embarrassing. I felt like I was publicly learning violin and people could hear me practice my screeching scales. I had never done this before. But with time I got used to it and the accountability definitely kept me at it. And I actually learnt something, even just in the last couple days.

Here’s an overview of all my sketches:

The 30 Sketches of September 2016 The 30 Sketches of September 2016

It feels really good looking back at this, however uncomfortable it was at the time. I learnt something and can now do something with a degree of confidence completely foreign to me only 30 days ago.

If anyone is on the fence about starting to draw (or do any other creative pursuit) I can only encourage you. Go for it. Try something new. You don’t have to publicise it right away, but do at least something every day. Small improvements add up.

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Start Small – Little Lessons Learnt

If I want to make exercising a habit I should start with doing one push up a day because no matter how late I am, I always have time for one push up.

This works. I mentioned it in passing in a conversation with a friend. A couple months later I find out he actually did it. He was at 40 push ups a day.

Too often I get bogged down in trying to find the perfect system for or getting the right tools to do some grand task. These can be organization workflows or productivity iPhone apps. I think big because I don’t want to half-ass it. No one wants to be mediocre.

The ironic thing is, in aiming so high, I completely miss the target. I’ve learnt that I am a person who finds comfort in a system. This can be to my detriment though, as I come to rely on a system to get started.

Too often the energy in pursuit of systems is wasted, as the system is never completed or I change my mind and want to pursue a different goal. Just getting started would have shown me that much faster.

Having learnt this I now try to start with small actions immediately and do the “preparation” as I go. Starting small but immediately has several benefits:

  • provides a fast feedback loop
  • motivates as progress is made
  • makes it easier to pick up & stay disciplined
  • eases letting go of misplaced goals (no sunk cost fallacy)
  • small steps compound to substantial progress

Breadcrumbs 04 & 05

The next two episodes have now been added to the project page:

04: I Am a Clipboard Guy

Aug 26, 2016

Sean and EJ talk about productivity – from their physical workspaces to how they use their iPads Pro and Macs.

05: I Put It on the Table and It Automatically Gets Done

Sep 2, 2016

In this sequel to the productivity episode, Sean and EJ talk about task management, covering Getting Things Done and other systems they have used. Things get heated when the topic of snoozing email comes up.

These two episodes kind of go together. We talk about how we use technology to get work done. Perhaps surprisingly, both of us tech nerds have been using analogue systems recently.

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Starting Daily – A 10 minute Daily Habit on a Monthly Cycle

Day one of my new challenge. This is as far as I got in 10 min. First sketch tomorrow. #dailysept16
Day one of my new challenge. This is as far as I got in 10 min. First sketch tomorrow. #dailysept16

Today I’m starting what I alluded to at the end of my last 30 day challenge post. I’m starting creating something small everyday that takes me about 10 minutes to put out.

These will be posted on my social media and not here. This is an experiment and the idea is to try this for the remaining four month this year, with a different topic each month. This first month I’ll be posting over on Instagram.

In September I’ll be sketching on my iPad. 10 min isn’t long enough to do a full drawing or design sketch, but I’ll post whatever I do each day. Maybe by the end of the month I’ll be doing some original designs. At the beginning I’m focusing more on getting to know the app (Concepts by TopHatch) and learning the basics of drawing & sketching.

To help with the latter I’ve got the book “How to Draw” by Scott Robertson. I started it about 6 months ago but never got very far. I even did draw everyday for a while, but didn’t keep it up. That’s why I’m making it my first daily.

How do I pick what I do each month? Well, ideally it’s something I want to do/learn anyway and can simply use the accountability of the internet as extra motivation to get to it. On top of that, it should be something shareable and easy to break into 10 minute pieces.

Besides that I also don’t want any friction in the whole process. It needs to be a simple task that I can pick up and simply do, no prep required. That’s why I’m sticking to one drawing method (digital) with one app (concepts) rather than using this month to be testing a bunch of drawing apps.

Why digital? From a conceptual standpoint, I see great benefit in being able to do my designing digitally. I know it’s not ideal on many levels, but think the potential upsides make it worth giving a shot. Several months ago I set myself the goal of going paperless within the year and haven’t really gotten anywhere yet. So in this too I can use this first daily to try something new.

Who knows, maybe I’ll find iPad drawing and designing just doesn’t work for me and be happily working analogue in the end, but this is the best way to find out.

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Breadcrumbs 03: Trained Like Jason Bourne but Verbally

Episode 3 of the Breadcrumbs podcast is up on its project page.

In this episode Sean and I talk about communicating as introverts. Among other things, I share some stories of what I’ve learnt about communication in business.

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Breadcrumbs 02 : The Added Feature of Very Sticky Keys

Episode 2 of the Breadcrumbs podcast is up on its project page.

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On the Past 30 Days

Today is day 30, the last day of my 30 day challenge to show up and post something here every day.

How was it? You may ask. Well, that’s what this post is about.

I’ve been keeping track of a lot of numbers this past month that paint an interesting picture of my undertaking. Here I’ll be sharing them in tables and graphs together with my subjective take on the experience.

30 Days in numbers

First for some total numbers:

  • Words written: 14,330
  • Hours Worked: 69,1
  • Hours Writing: 37
  • Total “Likes”: 79 (only of 30 Day Posts)
  • Total Page views: 471 (only of 30 Day Posts)
  • Average words written/minute: 6.45
  • Average hours slept/day: 6,7

Time has to come from somewhere

So I spent an average of just over 2 hours a day on this project. It defintily felt like more. That’s because I feel the extremes of a 4-5 hour day and forget the quick post that’s up in 45 min. 2 hours isn’t hard on one day, but try carving that time out every day for a month. The time has to come from somewhere.

I used to read a book about 20-40 minutes every evening. The past month I read for 10 minutes and that only a handful of times. On a normal weekday I’ll get between 7-7.5 hours of sleep and 8-8.5 on a weekend. On average I slept 30 min less this past month. Again, it definitely felt like more. I feel the extremes. But even then, the sleep deficit did add up:

Besides the sleep and reading, the time came from work at my day job and cleaning up my apartment. I am glad to have a job where I can come and go as I wish, provided the work is done. The past month I worked half an hour less on most days, only making up the deficit on several business trips. I have no exact numbers for the time spent cleaning up, but know everything got messier as time went on.

It goes without saying that this isn’t sustainable.

Productivity in Numbers

The following is a graph of the work that went into each post, divided into writing, creating, and publishing.

The three tasks can be summarised in this pie chart:

In total, I spent just over half the time at the keyboard and about 30% creating content (other than writing). Spending 15% of the time publishing is very high. That’s equal to 10.5 hours, or about 20 minutes a day. This is where a good workflow and publishing system can go a long way. Optimising my publishing is definitely something I’m going to look into.

Another observation: there are four posts that took over 300 minutes to complete. However those minutes were spent quite differently in the latter two. The longest time spent writing was for the post On Discipline Equals Freedom. I remember that well. I had to postpone it a day as I wasn’t done with it.

All my writing benefits from “sitting” a while, I’ve found. This means the quality is much better if I write 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the evening, than if I write 60 minutes in one sitting.


The feedback I’ve received has been great. The feedback buttons work well and are being used more than I would have thought. Thanks for that.

Here’s a bar chart adding three different feedback sources for each post:

It looks like it was worth spending that extra day on the freedom post. It has received the most postivie feedback to date. Besides that it is also noticeable that every post with no positive feedback is a YouTube recommendation. I guess I’ll be doing less of those in the future.

Looking at Groups

To get a better picture of what these numbers mean, it helps to group the posts. This helps me draw conclusions about what resonates.

I’ve split the posts into the following groups:

Here’s the percentage for the number of each kind of post I did:

The total time spent per group is surprisingly even:

It shows here that recommendations are the easiest of posts. I only spent 8% of the total time on 20% of the total posts. However, they also got the lowest amount of positive feedback with 6%:

Thoughts posts and cool tools fare much better. I wouldn’t judge the projects too harshly, as it was only the one post and quite recent. Besides that, the feedback I received for the podcast was the best of all. That is something this chart does not account for.

Quality over Quantity

An interesting yet unsurprising observation that came out of my analysis is that there is a greater appreciation for the posts I spend more time on. Both the like and page view count rise with the time spent on the post (I don’t trust that blip down in view counts at >240 as the likes go the other way).


Was it worth it?

Without a doubt. I’m sure I worked a good hour more a day than I otherwise would have and it’s exciting to get so much done. I accomplished more in 30 days than in the past 6 months.

What now

First, I’m taking the next week off. I just need this break.

But then I’m interested in keeping this up – not daily though. I can imagine doing two posts a week. This will still be challenging, but by committing to it I will be a lot more motivated. I’ve noticed how that helps.

I’ve also realised the power of doing something daily and gathering momentum in getting stuff done. After my break I will try to find something I can do daily that takes about 10-15 minutes. This will most probably be something to help me practice design.

The current thought is to find a different 10 minute exercise every month, which I do daily till the next month. This will be something I post everyday, but probably only on social media . It’ll be an experiment at first and I haven’t figured out the details yet.

I’ll keep you posted though. Thanks for reading.

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Ortlieb Panniers – Cool Tool

Ortlieb have made what may be the perfect bags for cycling.

An Ortlieb classic pannier attached to a bike
An Ortlieb classic pannier attached to a bike

A pannier is a bag that hooks onto the rack of your bicycle so you can ride backpack-free (or just take more stuff).

What’s special about Ortlieb panniers is that they are nigh indestructible and have a clever latch mechanism. The latches hook around the top bar on the rack of your bike but release on lifting the pannier. Check out this YouTube review for more details.

The latch mechanism on an Ortlieb pannier
The latch mechanism on an Ortlieb pannier

The panniers are made from tough canvas and are completely waterproof (if closed right).

I took two on my trip to the UK last year, when I cycled form Edinburgh to London. Now I use them everyday going to work. Besides that I take them shopping, as they are a great way to transport heavy items for someone who doesn’t have a car.

You know how you can usually tell how serious a hiker or cyclist is by their gear. Well in Germany all serious cyclists use Ortlieb panniers. You can just count them going by or in the bicycle coach on trains.

Where to buy

Depending on where you are, you can get the panniers at the local sports or big outdoors store. It may be easiest to get them online, but only if you know what you want. Ortlieb has tonnes of options and your choice will vary depending on your use case. This is the one I have.

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