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2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett

2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett


    2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

    Many of us appreciate the devices in our hand, on our laps and upon our desks. Few understand their heritage. Now heritage may seem like a strange choice of word for describing technology, but as the industry of personal computing matures, its history becomes more and more important, as do the people who truly know and understand their evolution. One such writer, a man so dedicated that he has Clarus the Dogcow tattooed on his ankle, is Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels fame. The site that is named after the number of pixels across on the original Macintosh (which boasted a 9-inch, 512×342 monochrome display for those of you who aren’t running to Wikipedia).

    Now with heritage and history often comes with an air of pomposity. Hackett has none of this. In fact, in both his writing and his various podcasts, the guy is relatable, inventing and often outright hilarious. He has the knowledge, but not the airs. His passion for technology encourages you (or at least me) to learn more about the devices I take for granted on a daily basis. If you’re at all interested in technology, journalism or design, you won’t do better than his 512 Pixels blog. Or the newly created 512 Podcast along with fellow 2×4 alum, Myke Hurley of the 70 Decibels network for that matter. His passion for knowledge also goes beyond technology and into a variety of (often unusual) topics on his podcast, Ungeniused.

    Without further ado, here’s a look at informative look at the world of Stephen Hackett.

    Creativity

    Have you always considered yourself a creative person?

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    I have. As a kid, I always was writing or sketching.

    What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate toward to realize your creative goals?

    Sometime between 7th grade Art Club and giving up on my art degree two years in to it, I thought I could become some sort of artist as a living. You know, a hip graphic designer who could draw and paint, too.

    It turns out while I am pretty handy with a Wacom tablet and Adobe software, I can’t draw or paint. Not even a little. I can, however, write. So I suppose my mediums of choice are the pixel and the written word.

    If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

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    2011 marked the first time I ever really wrote a lot of personal posts on 512 Pixels. That said, I am super proud of Two Years and The Fifth Floor, which are both posts about my wrestling with the fact that my three year old has brain cancer.

    Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

    While I’m sure most people would say “Don’t give a shit about what others think,” for me, not caring what I think is more important in many ways. I often find myself dismissing one of my own ideas before I act upon it, censoring myself. Sometimes, that can be good, but for me, it often means that I don’t do things that I probably should.

    Productivity

    Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

    Sure. First and foremost, I’m a husband and the dad of two small kids. With our son still in and out of the hospital for various tests and things like physical therapy, we’re busier than the average 4-person family, I believe.

    From 9-5, I work for The Salvation Army as the IT/Multimedia Director for The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. The building is currently under construction, and is slated to open late this year. I oversee all of the IT, audio video and multimedia stuff. If it involves data, pixels or electricity, my department is there, ready to work.

    How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?

    I get it wrong all the time. I am late to work because I can’t tear myself away from breakfast, but I check work email before bedtime. The system I outline below helps, and I’m trying to be more intentional about separating work from home.

    What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

    I say this often: my life is in OmniFocus. I have folders for home, work and the website. Inside those folders, I have dozens of projects, with lots and lots of tasks.

    For capture, I use Field Notes notebooks. There’s always one in my back pocket. A couple times a day, I take any tasks and move them in to OmniFocus. When in the car, I use that Siri-on-the-keyboard feature to get things in to my OmniFocus Inbox without crashing my truck.

    Notes and reference information live as plain text files in Dropbox. I get to them via nvALT on my Mac and Notesy on my iPad and iPhone.

    What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

    Something like OmniFocus isn’t going to help you get off the ground. Get some colored index cards, assign a color for work, home and other and go to town writing stuff down.

    More by this author

    2×4: An Interview with David Sparks 2×4: An Interview with Myke Hurley 2×4: An Interview With CJ Chilvers 2X4 Interviews 2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead 2×4: An Interview With Brett Kelly

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    Last Updated on May 14, 2019

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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