Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

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Adam Roberts

Writer, newsletter producer (SitePoint)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Adam Roberts, and I produce Versioning, a daily subscription newsletter for tech folk. This curates the best resources for devs and designers every day, as well as specific posts/emails on relevant and emerging subjects, plus fun stuff like media guides. It's a mix of subscriber-only content (people join for a monthly/annual fee), and free content available for everyone.

Basically: I open a lot of tabs to find the best stuff, so you don't have to. I also run a few other weekly newsletters for SitePoint, focused on blockchain, back-end dev, and design/UX, respectively.

I'm a New Zealander living in Melbourne, Australia. I like Star Wars, NBA, fancy craft beer (and brewing).

What hardware do you use?

I have the requisite 13" Retina MacBook Pro checks system report from 2015. It's fast enough, pretty enough, and capacious enough for my needs, even when I've got 50+ Chrome tabs full of advertising open. I have a 4K monitor, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I don't need or want more. I'm a simple man! I used to have my Mac in front of me to use as a keyboard/trackpad, but for some reason that's incredibly harsh on my neck - don't do this!

Also important: I have a set of Bose Quiet Comfort noise-cancelling headphones for work, a set of AIAIAI headphones for home and transit, and then some $5 earbuds for when I don't want either of those over-ear ones. I sometimes do an impression of someone DJing (at home!), so the AIAIAI are great for this too. They also look amazing.

I have an iPhone 6 which is a little slow but is still going strong! I don't have a case because I'm incredibly boring and am unlikely to drop it. I might get a new phone but I just don't know whether I'm ready for a detailed 3D scan of my face to be somewhere, even if it isn't sent to a server as Apple promises.

And what software?

I spend the majority of my time inside a browser - currently Chrome because I keep putting off changing to Firefox. Since most of my time is spent finding a link, absorbing that link, then - if I like it - moving that link to a doc to write about it, I've found it much simpler to keep all those steps in the one app, rather than using a native text editor to write. I write in Markdown because simplicity, and use StackEdit as my .md editor for the newsletter, because it has a great preview function I can use to paste formatted text somewhere else. For non-newsletter writing, I'll write in .md in Atom, purely because of the gentle vibe I've cultivated there.

I have many great extensions in Chrome!

The Great Suspender, which 'suspends' any tab that hasn't been touched for a while. This stops sites with a lot of scripts and other guff from killing your computer, and can act as a prompt to decide whether you actually care about a given site.

Tab Counter has a little number indicating how many tabs you have open. It too serves as a subtle prompt to take a break from CMD+click for a while.

OneTab lets you gather up every tab you have open and chuck them into a list. These three extensions make a powerful team!

If I see something interesting in my downtime on my phone or a desktop, I'll save it into Pocket with a 'versioning' tag. I'll begin the day by going through that list. I also find content in my email, in Feedly (RSS FOREVER), on Reddit, on Twitter (Twitter lists + TweetDeck = good Twitter). Also, Slack groups, also other places. I try to keep my sources diverse and a mixture of algorithms and people.

I use Substack's CMS to prepare Versioning. I use Campaign Monitor for other newsletters. Both are fine?

Anything plan-ey, or collaborative, I'll write in Google Docs, then share it with other ~ stakeholders ~, then discuss it, then never open it again. I have a lot of docs.

macOS-wise:

I use the Display Menu menubar app to make my screen high-res and therefore tiny and hard to read. I know a dev who worked with such a set-up, peered at his screen from 6 inches away. He was a really excellent dev and so I’m hoping the set-up will help.

I use BetterTouchTool to toggle windows to different sizes with a keyboard shortcut. This unbelievably handy tool lets you do things like full-screen a window or divide the screen in half between two windows in a couple of key presses. I love it with all my heart.

I also have a couple other menubar apps that help keep me sane. Aware displays how long I've used the computer without stepping away, and Degrees displays the current outside temperature, so when I step away from the computer and head outside I know what to wear.

Oh, and F.lux plays with the color of my Mac's screen to stop it keeping me awake forever.

I'm also writing a non-work-related book, and for that I use Scrivener.

iOS:

I use Oak Kevin Rose's meditation app, for meditation and breathing exercises. Sometimes I do these on the tram to work, because I'm weird.

Vesper is where I write notes.

Overcast is how I listen to podcasts.

Remote Mouse is an iOS/macOS app that I use to control my Mac from far away.

I also use the standard stuff people always use: Fantastical for calendar-ing, LastPass for password-ing. Oh, I use AnyList for composing and sharing grocery lists which is kinda life-changing.

What would be your dream setup?

I know everyone is terrified of AI taking over, and I kind of am too, but I'd love to have a little AI friend (or a real friend, but the logistics are harder) looking over my shoulder all the time to be like, "na, don't bother reading that, the headline's misleading" or "yeah that's a pretty good pun, but do you remember that Biggie song? You know how the lyrics are kinda similar to the situation with Uber? You see where I'm going with this...? Right!?" I'd like that.

Or, more realistically: a slightly better version of what I currently have.