Monthly Archives: August 2005

HipsterCover Web Application

Well, this is a bit of a treat: a web application that will take your uploaded photograph and contact information, and then produce a beautiful PDF suitable for wrapping your Hipster PDA. Great job, Ryan!

HipsterCover Example

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The Lost Art

Note: This is probably the one and only cross-posting I’ll ever do with a million monkeys typing and DIYPlanner.com. It might help to clear up a little bit of confusion as to the focus of the new site, which is due to launch on Saturday morning.

About two months ago, I was sitting in a Tim Horton’s (as many Canadians are wont to do), sipping on an extra-large double-double and pouring through my Day Runner. I was processing my Inbox, correlating my notes, jotting down ideas for this site, making little sketches for layout, and generally chilling out to the rhythm of the air conditioner above my head mingled with some half-remembered tune. Three tables away, a 20-something was tapping away at his Sony Vaio, and every now and then, he would stop and stare ruefully at the laptop’s screen, as if he were pondering where next to nudge the direction of world affairs. During one of these pauses, he stopped and looked in my direction. The sight of my old-fashioned planner seemed to evoke something akin to haughtiness in his cocked eyebrow, and he resumed his imperial air whilst he turned yet again to the grave matter before him.

One hour, another coffee, and a cranberry muffin later, I had a plan for this site. I now knew what I wanted it to be, I knew how I was going to approach it, I knew what sort of team I wanted, and I even had rough sketches for its design. My mind was still reeling with all manner of ideas, many coming so fast I couldn’t write them all down fast enough. The accomplishment spread through me like a warm glow, much like the day when you finally conquer your greatest fear and nothing seems impossible. I jotted down some last-minute ideas, tucked away my pen and pencil, zipped up the planner, and got up to leave.

As I walked past the Vaio user, I couldn’t help but to take a quick look over the lad’s shoulder at the screen, wondering what manner of work could so engage a person. Well, he was directing a civilisation or two, it seems. The game was Age of Empires II, if I don’t miss my guess.

Now, I’m not belittling the need to relax by playing games; I can jump into a good strategy game with the best of them. Nor do I have anything against using computers; I am not a Luddite, and I have been an IT professional for approximately half my life. But it was the look. It was the type of condescending stare that transmits a million base thoughts: he’s afraid of technology; he’s using the same antiquated things my grandfather used; he’s living in the dark ages, never to be brought into modern times.

Okay, perhaps I’m paranoid.

But the look figured into the creation of this site, you see. It helped me see that the use of paper was fast becoming a lost art.

Now, I hear you say: “But billions of people all over the world are still using paper… how can you claim it’s a lost art?”

I became “all-digital” in the late 80′s. From there on in, I attempted to use the computer for everything, including writing, time management, graphic design, communications, photography and teaching. There was nothing I did that didn’t have a digital component, it seems. Nowadays, I look around to see that my friends and family have finally been swept into this modern paradigm. Outlook is often the productivity tool of choice, and nothing is sent from one place to another unless it’s a steady stream of bits and bytes. Even to a casual observer, the implications are obvious: computerisation brings civilisation into its fold, and the more the world adopts PCs, cell phones and PDAs, the more it blots out all traditional and organic means of living and working. The use of paper is slowly being replaced by digital media, and –at first glance– it appears that those people still finding paper useful are adopting a dying art.

Or so it would seem. And so the look in the coffee shop told me. It was then I decided to expand the range of the new site. I had originally been thinking of it simply as a place to offer D*I*Y Planner kits and advice, to leave my poor little blog with something else to discuss, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there seems to be a renaissance in the air. People are suddenly awakening to the fact that we can be just as productive with paper, if not more so. It also brings a sort of intimacy back to living, where we can hold a tangible pen, see the spread of ink, feel the texture of real paper, be linked to an art and method that go back millennia. We know the inked quill of John Dunne, the charcoal of Da Vinci, the sumi brushwork of the Japanese, and the fragile gall-iron and ochre marks upon ancient parchment. There is tradition, there is heritage at work. Yea, verily, even unto checking a Next Actions box!

That’s the rub, I thought: bring back that fading connection with paper. The site should take into account much more than just time management, although that is still important: we need to live our lives as effectively as possible in a fast-paced world. But there is no reason why we can’t think of keeping journals again, to note the quirks and happenstance of our days. Why can’t we track our dreams, collect photos and fallen leaves, expand our ideas in multi-faceted webs, create art or just doodle, flesh out our little creations with something that actually feels like life and living?

This isn’t for everyone, of course, and for those people looking for useful templates to organise their month, yes, you will continue to find such things here. But to the many of us who are looking to unleash the more creative and intimate aspects of ourselves, there is room here too. And to those who love creating forms and sharing wisdom and questions, there is a place, and also for those who come in a state of confusion to seek a dash of inspiration mixed with a draught of practical advice. The voices are many, the quality of the many volunteer writers superb, the viewpoints diverse. This is a community site, one that is built to focus upon once more regaining a lost art.

This is a long way of saying, “Welcome to DIYPlanner.com.” But now you know why we’re here.

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D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit 0.3

Update : This set, and many more, are now available free at www.DIYPlanner.com.

The most requested item on my D*I*Y Planner to-do list, even more so than the Hipster PDA Edition, has been a source file so that people can create their own templates. I’m not about to release my mass of Adobe Illustrator and InDesign files (indeed, they are guaranteed to frighten small children and reduce husky men to tears), but I’ve been hinting for a while at an OpenOffice.org template that mere mortals might use without fear of drowning in thousands of vector layers. The time has come for a preview release.

D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit (Sample)Below you’ll find an early release of my OpenOffice.org Draw template kit for creating your very own forms, called –ahem– the D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit 0.3. It requires at least 1.1.3 of OpenOffice.org (free at OpenOffice.org), a touch of patience, and a little bit of knowledge of Draw (or at least a willingness to learn it). It should work fine in OOo 1.9.x, but my Linux box is down for the count, so I can’t test it at the moment. (This kit was created with NeoOffice/J on a Mac, a Java-driven version of 1.1.x.) In the package, you’ll find the Draw SXD file, a sample PDF exported from it, and the very necessary Blue Highway fonts. Please make sure you install these first!

When you open up this file, you’ll see a page with a layout that approximates a standard 5.5×8.5 D*I*Y Planner form, and there are a number of graphical elements that you can copy and paste into your own creation. That’s all there is, really: no elite programming or technical skills required, just OOo and enough time to do what you need. My only tip for you: create a new “slide” (i.e., page), copy the whole widget slide into it, delete what you don’t want, and move around the rest, duplicating as necessary. Be sure to plan out your template first (I do mine on paper), and then start experimenting with the kit. The more you use the elements and the application, the more you’ll figure out what’s going on. Sorry, but I’m offering no support for this kit at the moment, nor am I giving any advice on using OOo — that’s what its help is for, and there are tutorials floating around the Net. So use this package at your peril. ;-)

Now, here’s the clincher. The new DIYPlanner.com site is going to launch on this Saturday, but we’d like to let a few template designers into the hidden development site a bit early so that they can upload their templates into our directory for sharing. So if you already have templates that you’d like to share, or if you create one using this kit, please email me (the address is at the bottom of the menu at right) and I’ll let you in. Just don’t mind the wet paint and sawdust, and be sure to keep the address top secret! (There are certain things the public shouldn’t see, not yet….)

Download: D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit 0.3

This package is released under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- ShareAlike License.

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When Reality Knocks – How to be organised

My good friend Steve Sharam, who writes a blog alongside his father called “When Reality Knocks” (that being the name of his blog, and not his father), chimes in with a hilarious piece about How to be organised. Think Dave Allen meets Dave Barry, and you get the idea:

2) Keep a pad by the phone for taking down messages, but no pen. Having a pen would allow people to take down messages, which means you would have to return calls, which just slows down your life. The pad is only for show, as other people think it makes you more organized. Almost everyone who phones you either wants to call your attention to Colonoscopy Appreciation Month or is wondering where their stinking check is. Not worth bothering about.

3) Many people have a ridiculously organized personal planner, which is fine, but you can go too far. I like to keep things fast and loose, to leave myself open to inspirational possibilities. Using this approach, you might well end up checking your bag 15 times before you leave the house to see if you have everything and then walk out the door without any pants. This is part of the reason I have so many adventures.

Apparently there’s a Part 2 coming tomorrow, and I can’t wait to read it.

Disclaimer : I’ve asked Steve to be a weekly contributor to DIYPlanner.com, and he’s agreed. I’m very lucky to have this fellow.

Update : Part II is now up, I see.

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