Always render Markdown in DEVONthink Pro

April 19, 2015, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

While perusing the DEVONthink Pro manual for information on variables (to be used in a Markdown based annotation template) I stumbled on this little gem:

defaults write com.devon-technologies.thinkpro2 RenderMarkdown True

This will make DEVONthink Pro always render Markdown per default and so inverts the Best Alternative (CMD+ALT+P) function. This means that you’ll be required to toggle off the rendering so you can edit a file.

I definitely prefer to toggle off rendering to edit a file over having to toggle it on everytime I want to read a file, since I search and read notes more than I write them in DEVONthink.

Instapaper Highlights to nvALT action with IFTTT

June 17, 2014, written by Nikolaj Raahauge     Save to Instapaper

I read stuff all the time. In the morning, in the evening and in between, when time allows. I feel most comfortable reading on my iPad and secondly my iPhone (but not for longer periods of time). I have 3 primary sources when I read:

  • .pdf files which I read using iAnnotate on my iPad or PDF Expert on my iphone.
  • the Kindle app for both iPad and iPhone.
  • the Instapaper app which gives me access to my Instapaper account.

With some of the stuff I read (specifically the non-fiction stuff) I do highlights. Now, as I’ve described in earlier blog posts I use DEVONthink Pro to manage all kinds of information, including .pdf’s, web archives, Office documents and what not.

I also use nvALT for jotting down smaller notes, often formatted in markdown, and I’ve configured it to use a Dropbox folder for storage. This enables me to let iOS apps (like Notesy, Nebulous Notes or SimpleNote) access the notes when I’m on the go. As part of this setup I let DEVONthink Pro index my nvALT folder, which will include it’s contents in the database along with all the other files.

I also like to import my highlights to DEVONthink Pro. For the Kindle website and .pdf’s I have Apple scripts which gets the job done. So my Instapaper account was the odd one out.

But just the other day, IFTTT released a new Instapaper channel which enables a couple of triggers.

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Writing with Scrivener, Devonthink and Zotero

March 6, 2014, written by Nikolaj Raahauge     Save to Instapaper

As mentioned in a previous blogpost, I use DEVONthink Pro (DTP) as my Information Management system. Basically, this means that I throw all kinds of information, in all kinds of formats, into DTP for indexing and archiving. Be it blogposts, .pdf articles, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations or plain text files. DTP does it all.

This post won’t cover DTP that in-depth, but rather the proces it is part of when actually producing some kind of writing based on, or including, the information I keep in DTP.

And that’s going to introduce yet another Mac app favorite: Scrivener produced by Literature and Latte.


Now, Scrivener ought to, I imagine, be a writers idea of heaven. I don’t write novels or long form literature. But I have spent the time required in Word to handle 40 to 50 pages more than once. And honestly, it was a pain. My top 2 of personal annoyances include:

  • being forced into a sequential writing process; sure, you can copy/paste and see an outline. But moving stuff around? Better not hope it’s too complex.
  • the inherent focus on form, not content. I find this even more stressful than looking at blank sequential pages. This might be personal, but I think Microsoft Word sits squarely between being a wordprocesser and a typesetting tool. I dare you to use it with a focus on content alone! So for me, I prefer using Word as a typesetting tool in the very end of the process.

Not so with Scrivener. In my perception, Scrivener is all about the content. Sure, you can muck about with fonts and margins. But it’s not something that jumps into your face or is required. Choose a font. Make your headings bold. Write.

Scrivener main window

I’m just going to explain the primary parts of the interface along with the ‘compile’ feature, to give you an impression of Scrivener. It won’t be in-depth per se, but should give you a general idea and inspiration as to trying the app. Yup, free trial at the Literature & Latte site.

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★ Twitter, can you hear me now?

February 15, 2014, linked by Nikolaj Raahauge    

Read this post at the New York Times ‘Fashion & Style’ section and I think it brings a nice and critical perspective to the way some people use Twitter. Or, in fact, many other social media.

It can sometimes be really difficult to get the grasp of a social media and it’s inherent etiquette, but like I mentioned yesterday, keeping it real with integrity is paramount. You will not get succes by spamming people with tweets, favorites, likes or whatever currency the given soclal media has.

Some quotes stood ou to me, and should be part of any basic introduction to social media:

But a random appeal to Twitter royalty is only one of several gambits by which users of the site blur the lines between good and bad manners. Some Twitter users, on seeing that something they’ve tweeted minutes ago is gaining no traction, will wantonly fire off a spray of retweets or Favorites (similar to the Like option on Facebook) in a desperate attempt to prompt reciprocity.

But if there’s no algorithm for determining when self-promotion has crossed the line, are there any general principles to be considered? Two come to mind. First, self-promotion becomes unseemly when it is viewed as repetitive. Your followers probably are willing to tolerate two or three newspaper reviews of your new monograph about combat ethics of the Boer Wars, but not 17. Second, readers are turned off when they’re made more aware of a tweet’s strategy than its content. We were so wowed by the fact that you’re sending the tweet to @madonna and @GwynethPaltrow and @RinglingBros that we lost the fact that you just secured your first booking as a yoga clown.

Ms. Li suggested a third metric: usefulness. “Your content has to be useful to people,” she said. “If it doesn’t have value to your followers, then it’s seen as spam or self-promotion.” Under this guideline, Rod Stewart’s tweet about having a child from each decade would seem to justify its swagger, because it’s information that his fans can share with others, or perhaps bait their grandparents with.

My takeaways on publishing your content on social media:

  • Trust in the quality of your content
  • Don’t push yourself in front of peoples faces
  • If people did not react the first time, spamming will not help

★ Designing blogs for readers

February 14, 2014, linked by Nikolaj Raahauge    

Interesting piece by the venerable Matt Gemmel:

I don’t think there’s any reasonable way, or any need, to separate vanity and ego from a personal blog. Writing is inherently about its author, and is a product of their personality and opinions – that’s not something to be shy about, and we shouldn’t try to change it either. So, write for yourself – and hold yourself to an appropriate standard, because you’d better believe that others are judging the person as well as the piece – but as soon as you publish your views, you’re inviting readers to take a look. I think that the needs of the reader and the author are more aligned than many blogging systems seem to believe.

I haven’t really thrown myself 100% into the art of blogging, but I’m pretty sure that if I do, it has to be real. Not that it isn’t now, but I don’t spend much time on it, resulting in a few bursts of posts every now and then. Which means I also have very low expectations on readership. But quality still matters the most.

And I know, from the blogs I follow, that I need a nerve that shines through, giving me a sense of who the person behind the blog is, for it to be really interesting. Otherwise, I will probably know sooner or later from someone in my RSS feed.

There’s plenty of sites out there, just bouncing the echo of the few and talented, as it is. So be real (even if that’s boring), for the sake of integrity and the readers you might have accumulated. And if that mens no readers, so be it. You don’t want Trent Reznor calling you ‘a copy of a copy’ (because he’s badass).

Citation Workflow for Editorial

January 24, 2014, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

When I write on the Mac I use either Byword or Scrivener, depending on the size and complexity. On my iPhone, Byword is my preferred editor along with Notesy which is my nvALT replacement. All well and good. I also use Byword on my iPad, but for a long time I felt like more was needed for more complex things. And then Editorial by Ole Zorn came along. Many (like the infamous @Viticci from have heralded this app as a giant step in the evolution of editing/writing on the iPad.

I tend to agree, that is, if you like building nerdy workflows to amplify the tool and your writing. I think that for bloggers, especially those using their iPad as their primary device, it’s a godsend. Some of the writing I do is not just for blogging, but also for more serious stuff (like work) which requires reasearch and maybe even citations. For bloggers, citations are often links to other blogs, and this is of course where the build-in browser of Editorial is pretty darn good. But when it comes to citations, most people I know, use a bibliography manager, not a browser.

I’ve chosen Zotero as my bibliography manager, as it works really well with my general information management workflow (documented here), which is the basis of most of my more complex research. In general I also keep my documents in Dropbox to ensure that they are available from all my devices. Bottom line is, I’ve long wanted to have access to my references (from Zotero) when I happen to be writing from my iPad, either in Editorial or Byword.

Zotero in action

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★ Why We Procrastinate

January 22, 2014, linked by Nikolaj Raahauge    

Ever a person to face the threat of procrastination, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about this devil. And this article from is a good primer on why we procrastinate. I especially enjoyed this quote:

Or, as in the case of Parfit’s smoking boy, we can focus on that version of our self that derives pleasure, and ignore the one that pays the price.

Personally, I’ve discovered that most of my procrastination has two primary causes:

  1. When I loose focus on the task at hand, it’s often because the activities ahead of me are too big, unpleasant or lacking in fun factor (e.g. I’m not motivated).
  2. Other times I don’t even get to evaluate if I’m willing to pay the price of my procrastination, I simply act on impulse.

And this is where I find the quote spot on. Because when you dive into whatever your impulses tell you that you’d rather do, this is exactly what happens: You let the future version of yourself pay the price by giving in to impulses which gives us pleasure. The hard part being that it’s very difficult to visualize the future you in the actual situation.

This is also referred to by Clayton M. Christensen in a Harvard Business Review article,1 as ‘giving in to the marginal cost’:

The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails.

So it seems, that science and clever men agree that we’re not in touch with our future self, when we procrastinate. What to do?

A method which helps me is a simple 4 step method from the book ‘Search inside yourself’2 by Chade-Meng Tan . The method is called ‘S.N.R.R.’ which is an acronym for: Stop, Notice, Reflect and Respond.

The critical first part is stopping and being aware of the procrastination taking place. The second part is noticing the feeling you have in the situation. The third part, is actually reflecting upon it. Do you want to do this? Does it contribute to your goals and the future version of you? Last is responding according to your choice. So you see, during parts two and three, is where you should keep the future version of you in focus.

Another interesting read for me has been ‘Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It’3 by Kelly McGonigal, because it’s a really great mix of research, theory and practical appliance. She focuses a lot on three primary tenets: I will, I won’t and I want. These should be treated as the primary aspects we should constantly know for ourselves. So that when we get to evaluating the price of a given procrastination, we know what to compare it against.

I really recommend both books I’ve mentioned. They give many insights on the subject of self control as well as the neurology and research involved. Another aspect they cover is meditation, which will help you become even more aware of the desires and priorities of your future self.

So dive in before another pleasureful impulse leads you to letting down your future self!

  1. Harvard Business Review. (2010). HBR’s 10 must reads on managing yourself. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press. Amazon

  2. Tan, C.-M. (2012). Search inside yourself: The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace). New York: HarperOne. Amazon

  3. Mcgonigal, K. (2013). Willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters, and what you can do to get more of it. [S.l.]: Avery Pub Group.Amazon

★ The best Calendar app for iPhone

January 16, 2014, linked by Nikolaj Raahauge    

Over at The Sweet Setup they’ve just declared Fantastical 2 their pick for best iPhone Calendar app. A choice I can only agree with, having been a user of the original Fantastical app as well.

In a nut, what makes Fantastical the best pick is its great design, superior natural language text entry, and its support for iCloud reminders. The only thing we dislike about Fantastical is its lack of an iPad version.

If you do not know about Fantastical, read the review1 and give it a go, especially if you’re tried of the Calendar App supplied by Apple. What I really miss there, is better integration with Reminders, but Fantastical takes great care of that. Plus, it’s got really great integration with URL-schemes which makes it pretty powerful in conjunction with e.g. LaunchCenterPro.

  1. For more review glory, check out the review at Macstories as well.

Hypersmart stimulation

January 5, 2014, written by Nikolaj Raahauge     Save to Instapaper

In the December issue of Wired Magazine (UK Edition) there’s an interesting article on Hyperstimulation. The topic is gaining a lot of traction these days, with many notorius names expressing their opinions, ranging from Sir Ken Robinson and Daniel Goleman (with his new book “Focus”) to David Price and his book “Open”. What seems to be on everybodys mind, is how we, and especially kids, manage in a global world which is rapidly changing, driven by technology. And in a sense, technology is rapidly changing our culture, while challenging the recommendations and practices of previous generations.

The Wired article written by Tom Cheshire, whom you can follow here, goes in-depth, with a focus on how kids and teenagers manage while subjected to hyperstimulation. As the following example shows, hyperstimulation is something we’ve all come to experience, in some form or another, whether it be through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram:

Zena Williams, a 13-year-old from Redbridge who wants to be the creative director of a video-game company, tells Wired: “The suggestions pile up and you can scroll down for ten minutes.” Musa Kazim, nine, says: “I literally can’t hear anything when I’m on the computer. I’m just in the zone.” Theo Merten Manser, a 16-year-old, says he regularly uses “ten or 12” social networks at the same time. Young people everywhere are reporting similar hyperstimulation.

The big question is, of course, what consequences this will bring in the future? Today, a lot of tech bloggers are having fiery debates on the social consequences of Google Glass and what its impact will be. Or whether or not the rumoured Apple watch is better. But actually, we already have a big challenge on our hands. As another quote from the article shows, it might not be good with all this hyperstimulation:

What is hyperstimulation doing to children’s brains? Surely nothing good: Manfred Spitzer, a German neuroscientist, calls it “digital dementia”. According to him, a generation is voluntarily lobotomising itself with digital hyperstimulation, reposting Tumblrs until catatonia comes.

On the other hand, not much research actually exist on the subject and I suppose this is why it’s mostly met with concern and a tinge of fear. What seems to be the way forward, since social media and frequently switching between different tasks isn’t going away any time soon1, is to teach kids, and ourselves, strategies to control the hyperstimulation:

“What we should be focusing on is ways of helping kids develop strategies to manage attention.” It wouldn’t be hard to do, either. “Absolutely this is something that schools should teach,” Thompson says. “The great news is it’s pretty teachable. You could comfortably put this in the curriculum for elementary and secondary schools… Learning to deal with social media – they’re chasing it out of schools, but that’s exactly where they should have kids interacting with social media.”

It’s going to be interesting to follow how this all develops. But it is so absolutely critical that we embrace new technologies to get the best out of them, especially since the technology fastrack of our times isn’t letting up. And neither should it. But it also calls for new approaches, most of all, in the classrooms.

As David Snowden has said2, ‘best practice is by definition, past practice’. It’s time to keep up.

  1. No, multitasking doesn’t exist. And no, it’s not gender specific either: Then there’s what many people think of as “splitting” attention in multitasking, which cognitive science tells us is a fiction, too. Rather than having a stretchable balloon of attention to deploy in tandem, we have a narrow, fixed pipeline to allot. Instead of splitting it, we actually switch rapidly. Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

  2. Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (2007). A leader’s framework for decision making. Harvard Business Review, 85(11), 68.

★ Markdown: For general writing I really don’t get it

December 29, 2013, linked by Nikolaj Raahauge    

David Hewson wrote this post about Markdown and it’s usability and worth for writers. I think that it’s good to see more debate about this, because right now, Markdown seems to be in fashion. Here`s Davids argument:

“I’m a big fan of ‘if it works for you then stick with it’. So if Markdown really does unlock something for you then stick with it. But we need to get away from the idea that creativity can be found in gimmicks. Markdown was never meant as a replacement for an industrial strength word processor. It’s a superb minimal markup language for people dealing in computer code or writing for the web.”

And the thing about using ‘whatever is in fashion’, is that fashion changes. It might just be shifting your focus away from actually being productive, to instead, implementing yet another tool or writing process. Which is pretty lame, especially as Markdown is a plaintext format which would imply the simplest of tools.

A boon with Markdown, or essentially, all formats based on plaintext, though, is longevity. The formatting is caused by markup in a plaintext file, as opposed to arbitrary formats like thise of Apples Pages and Microsofts Word. But that still does not make it the best tool for all writing purposes, which often is an effect of being ‘in fashion’.

★ Training Science - Fitness vs Rest

June 20, 2013, linked by Nikolaj Raahauge    

I’m currently trying to kick myself into gears and get back to training; not always an easy task! The Flamme Rouge site really helped me understand acronyms like: TSS, ACL, CTL and TSB with their in-depth articles. It’s mostly focussed on cycling, but with these specific terms, it’s equally fine for running.

This particular article is about the important relationship between training and recovery:

Training is a combination of effort and recovery. Just as the effort has to be at the right intensity, so does the recovery. Intense Recovery may seem an oxymoron, but we have to pay as much attention to our recovery as we do our training. Not everyone does.

So how do you ensure you hit the right numbers and maintain constant, sustainable, measurable progression? As you’ll see from other supporting factsheets in this thread; each training session you undertake elicits a training stress on the body. To be of value, we need to measure or define that stress and make use of the information it gives.

Research with DEVONthink, Zotero and Dropbox

June 3, 2013, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    
Sean Connery doing research!

To be honest, I find it hard to identify the relevant stuff, zapping through different folders, which always gets messed up, with a lot of duplicates and forgotten documents as a result.

As part of my work I often read a lot of articles (typically .pdf’s of blog posts) which I use as inspiration for workshops, presentations, white papers and other assignments.

I most often use my iPad for reading and annotating with Dropbox as storage for the files. I also depend on a bibliography manager for citations and keeping track of authors, publication date etc.

When it comes to the actual writing, I like to toy around with the outline to get the disposition right, pull up an editor and write in fragments, drawing on notes from the various sources I’ve collected.

In the coming sections I’ve described my considerations and choices for my own research & writing workflow.

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Change Management

December 16, 2012, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

Just went over this post at The Slate. Not sure how serious it is as a media channel, but this article caught my attention. It goes through President Obamas ground game during the election campaign and describes how the Romney campaign had already ordered the fireworks for the victory celebration, but had their numbers wrong.

In summary, they underestimated, the article claims, the vote turnout of African-american and Latin-american voters while targeting independent voters, who they believed would be required for Obama to win.

“We did everything we set out to do, says a top strategist about the Ohio effort. We just didn’t expect the African-American vote to be so high.African-American participation in Ohio jumped from 11 percent of the electorate to 15 percent between the 2008 and 2012 elections. We could never see that coming.”

One of the weapons of the Obama campaign was the amount of offices in major states, keeping alive the personal relationship between the voters and the campaign; as the good old Covey states, without involvement, there can be no commitment.

Getting an organization up and running, that can actually address the issues that matters most to individual groups, at a personal and group level (e.g. for young people, student loans and same-sex marriage, for Hispanics, deportation of children of illegal immigrants) is of the utmost importance if you want to connect with people.

Managing change

This relates in many ways to stakeholder engagement on even smaller scales than an American presidential election, e.g. when implementing change initiatives in organizations through programmes or projects.

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October 5, 2012, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

I’ve recently started using Scrivener for writing larger documents. Scriveners ability to export and compile in plenty of output formats (.rtf, .odt, .docx, .ePub and even Latex) combined with it’s arrangement and research features, are the biggest takeaways for me.

Multimarkdown is also handled nicely, and combined with an app like Marked, previews of the end product is quickly available.

I’m not writing per se but am currently using Scrivener to produce training material for PRINCE2 courses, as well as longer blogposts and whitepapers. I find Scrivener really liberating compared to good ol’ Microsoft Word, essentially because the focus, as in Latex is much more on content than appearance.

In the screendump I’ve got some quick references up (3 in total, the ones with the black ‘HUD’ around them) as well as the main document in the right hand side.

I’ve chosen Nighthawks by Edward Hopper as my backdrop along with a style for the editor that is reminiscent of Solarized by Ethan Schoonover.

Thoughts on artists and their music

October 2, 2012, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

The other day I saw the below video where Maynard James Keenan explains his perspective on the relationship between an artists personality and the art itself. The gist of it all, to me at least, is that progressing and maturing as a person is part of his process; and to be honest, seeing the above video in contrast to this one, I think there’s plenty of evidence of change.

Another facet of the discussion is the extent to which artists are ‘allowed’ to change the formula that laid the foundation of their stardom or success. Plenty of artists have been critizised for messing with that specific formula, but in truth, the artist and the actual music are only part an equation that has many variables that are not static over time.

Some of these variables are the actual state of popular music culture at the time (I don’t imagine Slipknot being popular in the fifties for example), whether or not you are in a band, how your bandmates see things (would Tool ever be able to create Puscifer?).

Sometimes the genre of music that the artist performs in will change as well (Metallica is still around but plays rather differently than e.g. Meshuggah or ISIS). In other words, for the artist, the artistic process or the art that is the output of it, to change, is in many cases something that will happen, just like the reception in musical culture of that product, might change.

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PRINCE2 and Agile

August 4, 2012, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

My mind got triggered on the ever ongoing discussion of ‘PRINCE2® versus Agile’ and how these approaches can, or cannot (which is what most people argue), work together. In my opinion, there is no ‘versus’ here, just a matter of tailoring to achieve a common goal.

To me, what PRINCE2® provides on top of Agile Product Development ideas like Kanban and SCRUM is clarity (I will not go into DSDM here, since it’s already well integrated with PRINCE2).

Overall, PRINCE2 describes 3 levels in the project lifecycle: Directing, Managing and Delivering.

Where Kanban or SCRUM fits in from a PRINCE2 perspective is the Delivering level. This is the domain of the team (which may be working in a SCRUM or Kanban context) and this is where products are produced, in the Managing Product Delivery proces.

In PRINCE2 (remember the generic approach) work for teams or project resources is issued or sanctioned through the use of Work Packages. Basically, Work Packages are what you in the Agile world would call agreements on Iterations or Sprints; a defined period of time with a definite start and end, containing a set amount of hours for development (capacity) on specific products (ie. sprint goals), with set agreements on escalation and communication (how to handle impediments, SCRUMs or stand up meetings) and tolerance on the delivery scope (adding or removing Backlog Items during a Sprint).

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Introducing: The Paradox of Choice

June 7, 2012, written by Nikolaj Raahauge    

In this excellent TED talk, american psychologist Barry Schwartz talks about the “Paradox of Choice””. The premise being that freedom in the western world today, is best represented by having many choices or options.

According to Mr. Schwartz this is not always so, as a high amount of choices often introduce a certain amount of paralysis as well. In effect, we are paralysed and have a hard time deciding out of fear of it being the wrong choice. In return, once we do commit to a choice, we often experience a lessened sense of happiness since what if the other choice had been better?

His generic advise is to have low expectations so that there is room for surprise and less room for feelings of failure. To some extent I think this can also be seen in the challenge of relationships in our day and age.

It is socially acceptable to change partners regardless of kids or family thus introducing the option of the grass might just be greener on the other side so why should I settle for less? In other words, the golden age of perseverance seems to be over (and that is true for many areas, not just relationships).

This widespread tendency is also seen across the royal houses of Europe; even princes and princesses gets divorced nowadays (and that might be a good thing) but it does prove that the public opinion of what is socially acceptable as right or wrong has moved a lot in the past years. Which, as a little side note, reminds me of a quote from The House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski:

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”

I guess that in our day and age, having patience and also the will to suffer for a period of unhappiness or stress, to realize potentially great benefits in the end, is something most people are unwilling to do. Maybe change of this kind brings with it an increased sense of happiness in peoples lives, but it most certainly also leaves families and especially kids, in stressful situations.

In some cases, staying together also has its issues, so it’s up to all of us to find that spot, in between the slow death or the quick change of partners when issues arise. Anyways, give it a go, it can’t hurt to actually reflect a little, can it? :)