Automatic For The Person
MartinPacker 11000094DH Visits (4976)
Many people know I’m a bit of an Automation “nut” but like most such people I feel a smidgeon of guilt that I might:
But let’s dismiss Item 2 straight away; Fun is an enabler and motivator in the best possible way.
There’s little more satisfying than seeing well-targeted automation doing its thing.
Doing it well, consistently, quickly, in a tailored fashion, and with only the minimum amount of human interaction.
By the way this post follows on from Automatic For The Peep-Hole.
Where It All Gets A Little More Difficult
But what if the number of users is frustratingly small? I could, for instance, develop a piece of automation and find no other takers, despite offering it as a “token of love / esteem / whatever “. I’ll come back to trying to answer that in a moment.
Let’s consider why you might end up with “an audience of zero”:
All these factors can lead to a “dinner for one” situation.
Still further, I’ve bought a lot of software on iOS and Mac OS; Most people around me - immediate family excepted - won’t have access to this software. The same is true of hardware.
So I stumble across irritations that others don’t, and vice versa. More positively, and more relevantly, people see opportunities for automation in a somewhat haphazard way.
An Example Of A Hyperspecific Piece Of Automation
One of the reasons it interests me is you can import Taskpaper text into Omnifocus and have it parse it into new tasks.
Here is an example:
where the dash at the start of the line says “this is a task”, “Finagle The Wotsit” is the task name, and “@due(+2d)” says “the task is due in 3 days”. Simple!
This is an incredibly simple example of a Taskpaper format task. But note even this contains some nice date maths.
The scenario I thought up has two components:
I got this working with a pair of very simple Keyboard Maestro scripts.
So here it all is in action 2 :
Here the text to be turned into a task is highlighted.
Here the Keyboard Maestro dialog is displayed. (It is very basic HTML but could be fancier.)
Here the highlighted text has been replaced by a Taskpaper task - as a result of selecting “OK”.
And here’s a screenshot of the task added to Omnifocus.
Note: There could be several tasks in a set of meeting notes processed this way, so it is faster and better than doing it by hand.
While I can believe other people might benefit from this automation, I’d think them thinly spread around the globe.
By the way, I got really frustrated just now with all those links: I’ve decided any URL I use should be in a file in Markdown format - ready for pasting into anywhere. The process of acquiring those links and massaging them is tedious, fiddly and error-prone; I could build lots of automation around that .
Obscure automation opportunities like these abound in my life.
What Is To Be Done?
It seems to me people could get a lot out of automation. The key point of this post is that often you have to build it yourself, for yourself.
So, what can self-confessed automation freaks like me usefully do for others? I can think of two things:
In this post I think I’m doing the latter. I hope you feel encouraged.
And a parting thought: Some of you might think “why spend your own money and time on automation that only benefits your employer?” My, admittedly fiscally unoptimised, point of view is the removal of frustration is well worth the cost. Besides, as I said, it’s good clean fun.