Plugging Master of None Season 3

Denise & Alicia, waiting for Darius to “fill the cup”

So I really enjoyed watching the third season of Master of None. That is partly because the headliner & comedy act Aziz Ansari is present for about a whole 15 minutes in the entire season (I really am not a fan of his reedy voice), but also because Denise’s story is so, so much more interesting than Dev’s constant whining.

It’s a nuanced and lovely portrayal of lesbian love, and as a straight man, watching it is very rewarding: what I took away from it, more than anything is that love is love, with all its complications and ugliness, and hurt, and drama, and reconciliation, and bittersweet moments. Naomi Ackie is absolutely excellent as Alicia, and Lena Waithe continues to be brilliant as Denise, both have given some of the best on-screen acting that I’ve seen in a TV show. And Cordelia Blair… wow, Nurse Cordelia absolutely stole my heart.

I’m not going to dig too much into the plot because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it’s definitely a must watch, filled with long silences, and just evocative moments where nothing really needs to be said or done for us to feel, really feel, what the characters are going through. Absolutely brilliant screenplay, and amazing cinematography: I found myself just staring at the screen, and noticing all of the hidden detail in its slowly moving shots. I’ll leave you with a bunch of scenes that I found particularly moving.

PS: If you’d like to read a spoiler-full review, I recommend this one, but really, sincerely, go watch this.

You’ll love Denise & Alicia’s story.

Joining Automattic

Starting tomorrow, I’m joining Automattic to work on I’m excited! It’s going to be a fun journey, and a new chapter in my career: it’s the first time I’ll be working in a company this size: Automattic is now over 1000 folks, and it’s still entirely distributed. It’s pretty amazing that a company built on the principles of open source software has grown and survived this long. I strongly believe that the Automattic mission is crucial and important: we cannot let big corporations hold our content and attention hostage, and the best way to do that is to enable even non-technical folks to self-host, whether it be blogs, eCommerce, or their social network. There’s obviously still a long way to go to achieve this mission, but I see very few companies still committed to the open Internet of the 90s, and I’m lucky that Automattic is one of them.

Leaving Doist

As is the case with every one of my previous companies, leaving is bittersweet. It was wonderful to work on Todoist, the simple todo-list that so many people love (and rant about), and Twist, which I believe will be a sleeper hit in the next few years (it’s so, so much better than Slack). Saying goodbye is always difficult, but I leave with fond memories 🙂

A Look Back & Forward

It’s been a long story for me & WordPress: I started this blog on B2, and switched it over to WordPress 18 years ago. I learnt a lot of good PHP by reading WordPress code, and it’s what made writing a blog (all in vogue then) possible. While my Twitter presence has largely diluted both the quality & quantity of my posts here, over the years, I’ve realized the importance of writing in a place you control, and using these social networks just for communication and publicity. I still believe—more than ever—that the best thing any young professional can do for their career is to write, and WordPress is still the best way to get started.

And now I get to contribute, at least a little bit, to the WordPress story. And this time, all in the open through Calypso and Gutenberg. Here’s to the next adventure!

Sharing a File Link from iCloud Drive

In more ways where iCloud Drive is becoming more useful and a viable replacement to Dropbox, here’s how sharing links to files stored in iCloud Drive is a pretty cool experience when you are on a Mac. Here’s a short video demo:

As you can see it’s a pretty surprising experience:

  1. I’m just clicking a link from an Obsidian document. It can be any app that supports a hyperlink, there’s nothing special about this.
  2. There’s no interstitial browser popup. macOS seems to figure out it’s an iCloud link, fetches it in real-time if it’s not downloaded, and opens the associated app.
  3. It’s super fast, probably the fastest way to hyperlink to files on a Mac I’ve found.

Now, Creating these Links is Clunky

As you can see it’s a weird process:

  1. It’s only available through the Share menu in Finder.
  2. And it’s only available if you make the link publicly available to anybody. There’s no way I’ve found to easily share a link visible only to yourself.
  3. I really wish there was a Google Drive-like “Copy Link” right-click item for any file in iCloud Drive.

But it’s pretty cool the way it works now, and the tight integration with macOS is a winner!

Moving Downloads to iCloud Drive

If you have an iPhone, you’ll notice that any downloads from Safari creates a Downloads folder in iCloud Drive.

However, all Macs have a default Downloads folder that is not in iCloud Drive, and is just in your home user folder. This means that unlike Documents and Desktop which is shared between Macs and iPhones, Downloads isn’t. Especially if you have multiple Macs, here’s a trick to make sharing downloads more convenient:

  1. First: right-click your Downloads folder in iCloud Drive and click Make Alias. You’ll get a new folder with a wiggly arrow around it called Downloads Alias.
  2. Next, move this Downloads Alias to your home user folder, the same folder that has a Downloads folder.
  3. Now, move all Downloads from your original folder to the new Downloads Alias folder.
  4. Next, delete the Downloads folder and rename your alias back to Downloads.
  5. That’s pretty much it, now all your Downloads will be shared between Macs and iPhones.

Note: if you have large file downloads, you can easily eat up the space in your iCloud Drive. But for me, this is an added layer of convenience as I never have to remember if I downloaded a file in my work Mac Mini or my personal laptop, or on my phone. It also gives you a good excuse to regularly prune your Downloads folder for things you don’t want in there (for e.g. large OS disk images, videos or RAW images).

Saying Goodbye to

I have decided to switch away from the email service by Basecamp. I started using it because I wanted a good independent provider that was not from Google, and I’ve been trying out several different alternatives over the years. Plus, it was from the folks at Basecamp, and I’ve always liked their minimalistic UIs and product thinking. I’ve used Hey for the last year or so, but recently decided it’s not for me. Here’s why:

The Screener

One of the headline features of Hey is what they call the Screener. It’s definitely a new concept in email, where you personally have to vet emails from new email addresses you receive. A better name for this would have been the Bouncer, because that’s exactly what you find yourself as: forever at the start of a never ending queue of spam or unsolicited email. In fact, this feature is just ass backwards: Hey’s spam filter seems to let in more email than any other service, and it’s just ridiculous the amount of email addresses you have to vet and manually categorize.

Instead of having one place to check for new mail (your inbox), you now have 2 places: the Screener queue (where you read the mail and move it to the Imbox), and your actual Imbox where you hopefully receive most new email. To add to the thoughtless design, any new mail that you read and move to your Imbox in your Screener queue is again marked unread in your Imbox, prompting you to read that mail again. Some days, it’s just infuriating.

Only Three Folders For You

Hey has three buckets by default, the previously mentioned Imbox, and then Paper Trail and The Feed. It is honestly a decent enough classification, and takes care of the majority of a normal person’s email needs. There is however, absolutely no other flexibility. There are no tags, or labels, no other folders or any other buckets of organization.

In addition, most of the work of organizing your email into these buckets falls unto you: so there’s no automatic organization here, and that brings about another burden of classification: what should I put in Paper Trail? Is it all non-human communication? What about important items like my Bank OTP emails? Should I put my blog comments notifications in the Feed? It’s honestly a lot of hand-wringing and useless decision-making that should either be obliviated by a smart computer that does auto-organization (the Gmail approach), or: a more flexible tagging or labelling system that lets you group email in multiple buckets (the traditional IMAP approach). Hey has neither, and this weird opinionated system of just 3 folders doesn’t work for me.

It is Slow & Ugly

So much of Hey’s interface feels slow. Clicking through email threads, searching, opening up attachments, the Electron wrapper Web application, the clumsy mobile apps, all of them feel just slow, clunky and ugly. How much of this is Basecamp’s insistence on SPAs being bad is a question for another day, but it’s a low bar when I say that some days it feels slower than Gmail. And to add to that, the absolutely horrendous color choices. Especially in dark mode.

So Many Crucial Features Missing

Custom domains: Hey took such a long time to release custom domains, and when it did, it did a shoddy job on its personal plan. For a privacy preserving, anti-lock-in alternative, Hey is surprisingly locked in. There is no concept of multiple identities in the personal plan, and when you add aliases, you are not sure if the email the identity was sent to is the one you’ll reply from. There is also no way to set up a default identity.

Proprietary Clients: You cannot use your own email client to access Hey. The stated justification for this is just lazy imo. Even Gmail which launched with a then unique labels and smart organization still allows IMAP support. The Screener could very well have been a mapped IMAP folder, and you could just move to Inbox to accept new emails in. When you build on top of an open protocol and then refuse interoperability, it reeks of an old Microsoft playbook.

So Many other Features that You Probably Won’t Need

There are some thoughtful features in Hey: the ability to find any file in your email for e.g. is useful, or bundling multiple senders into one identity that I hope other email clients adopt. But a surprising number are just innovations for the sake of doing something new. Here’s a few of them:

I can go on, but some of the redesign and rethought really seem to be because-I-could pat on the backs rather than having any actual user utility. Which brings me to the last reason.

It’s Easy to Switch

Hey has a free forever email forwarding service for anybody who subscribes even once, so it’s easy to switch to a different provider.

The Controversy

You can’t write a blog post about Basecamp’s products without thinking of the controversy, but I jotted down the notes for this one way before the current kerfuffle. Frankly the product is dismal by itself, and doesn’t need further buttressing from Basecamp’s political stand.

If you are looking for a good alternative, I recommend Fastmail, another independent provider that has been around since 1999. I’ve used them since ~2006, and they are fast, reliable, spam-free, and just a no-nonsense email provider. Less opinionated of course, but you get more work done.