Favorites of 2021

I’ve been doing this post for 8 years now, and this year I was finally smart enough to keep a running list right from the beginning of the year. And I’m glad I did, because for some of my picks, I forgot they came out this year!

As a refresher, at the end of the year, I like to list my favorite technology pics (gadget, app, and thing I learned), as well as media pics (book, movie, music, TV show, and podcast). This year was especially good!

Technology Picks

Gadget: iPad Mini

This one was a no-brainer. As soon as Apple announced the new iPad Mini, I picked one up. It’s the perfect size for reading, watching videos, research, sketching, and note-taking. I wrote all about in back in October.

Since then, I’ve also created a great workflow for reading and taking notes with Quick Notes. It’s been by my side since the moment I got it, and love doing my morning routine and triage on it. It was also a great companion in the hospital after my daughter was born.

Honorable Mentions: Honestly nothing even comes close to the iPad Mini for me this year, but I did pick up some other cool gadgets. I’m enjoying my M1 MacBook Air, my Stream Deck continues to impress, and I love my Lutron Dimmer Switch; I plan to get more soon.

App: Craft

As Federico Viticci mentioned on AppStories, 2021 was a bit of a renaissance for note taking apps. It’s also the year I switched away from Evernote for all but one very frustrating thing. I also moved away from Bear Notes, which has been my favorite notes app for a few years.

Craft has been the perfect way for me to capture ideas, do long form writing, and work out content and plans. It’s perfect for me and the way I think. My only request: Zapier integration. Then I could leave Evernote forever.

Honorable Mentions: Todoist and Parcel. Both of these apps replaced what I thought were irreplaceable apps. Todoist is the final result in my multi-year sojourn for a task manager I actually use. Omnifocus was great but got too crowded. Things was fine, but too focused. Todoist is just right. The ability to add projects but only surface what I want to see, create sections and tagging, view Kanban boards, AND it has Zapier and Shortcuts integration.

Parcel is a delivery tracking app; it replaced Deliveries, an app I loved, and for one reason. Parcel automatically pulls in Amazon deliveries.

Thing I Learned: You can’t send too many emails.

To be honest, this topic is getting a little stretched these days. I came up with it when I was in my mid-late 20s, at a new job, constantly learning a new programming language or coding process. Now I’m learning in the open, and it’s mostly around running my business. Nothing felt concrete all year…until Black Friday. And it’s only loosely technology-based.

Over Black Friday I learned something every business owner needs to learn: you can’t send too many emails. I elaborate on this in my Black Friday Wrap podcast episode, but every email I sent (9 over a 5 day span, 10 over a 2 week span) lead to at least one sale.

Emailing your list is the best way to make money. So build it, and don’t be afraid to email them.

Honorable Mention: Skip the Grind and everything I learned there. From micro segments to product ladders, I gained a ton of actionable advice that changed the direction of several of my offering, as well as my podcast.

Media Picks

Book: Stop Asking Questions by Andrew Warner

This book is definitely helpful, and came at the right time: as I was working to update my podcast. Back in July, I released an updated trailer to better reflect the show’s mission. For 2022, I wanted to make big improvements to the format and the interviews.

Stop Asking Questions got me thinking differently not only about how I approach guests, but research, membership benefits, and more. If you do any interviews for your podcast, this book is a must.

Honorable Mentions: Honestly, I read a lot of great books this year, all of which you can find on my Goodreads profile. Some I’d recommend:

TV Show: Wandavision

The first TV show I watched in 2021 set the bar so high that even in TV’s new golden age, nothing dethroned it.

At first I thought it was weird and didn’t really get it. But after my brother Robby told me to get to episode 3, I was hooked. Like drop everything and watch as soon as I could hooked.

WandaVision set an incredible tone for Phase 4 of the MCU and and the mind-bending topics it’s going to tackle. The show was beautifully shot, and incredibly performed. I have not a bad thing to say about it.

Honorable Mention: Loki was a very close second. Tom Hiddleston is one of my favorite actors and Loki is such a great character that I was psyched to see him get his own series.

I also just finished my first viewing of Newsroom, and let me tell you: it’s better than West Wing, which I didn’t think was possible…especially watching it in 2021. The parallels are haunting.

Music: Lifeforms by Angels and Airwaves

As a guy who grew up in the 90s, and whose musical coming of age was 1999-2001, 2021 seemed like a resurgence of old school pop punk that saw people like Avril Lavigne make a big come back, and Machine Gun Kelly release a successful rock album1.

But as a huge fan of Blink 182 and early Angels and Airwaves, Lifeforms is a return to…well, form…for them. I love the album and basically had it on repeat for the month of October.

Aside: No honorable mentions here, but I switched away from Spotify for Apple Music this year, and I really miss Spotify Wrapped. The best thing I can say about Apple’s “Replay” is it exists.

Movie: Spiderman: No Way Home, Probably.

Look I’m just going to be straight up with you here: I intended to see No Way Home before the arrival of our 3rd child, but she came a few days early so I haven’t seen it yet.

But like…it’s going to be my favorite, right? How can it not be?

Honorable Mention: Otherwise, thanks to direct to streaming2, I got to watch several movies I probably otherwise wouldn’t have: In the Heights, Encanto, Luca, etc. As I write this, next up is Matrix: Resurrection.

Zooming out, I’m excited and hopeful to see this trend continue into 2022 and beyond. I’d be happy to pay a little extra for the ability to watch movies from home…especially now that we have a family of 5. The theater experience is a nice one for certain movies3, but the comforts of home, especially with small (and very small) children, are great.

Podcast: Downstream

I listened to a lot of new podcasts this year, but my favorite is a show that was spun of from my favorite Upgrade segment. It’s called Downstream, and in it, media data analyst Julia Alexander and media enthusiast and podcaster Jason Snell talk about streaming and TV trends, and I love it.

Honorable Mentions: Continuing my motif of Russian Spy stories, Spy Affair is a short run podcast about a Russian woman named Maria Butina, who wants to improve US-Russia relations and ends up being accused of spying on the US. SUPER interesting. Bad Blood: The Final Chapter recaps the Theranos story. As a member, you also get weekly coverage of the trial, which I was all about.

That’s a Wrap on 2021!

I definitely consumed more in 2021 than I did in recent years, and it shows. I’m happy with that pace and plan to continue it for 2022. Though hopefully I’ll actually get to a movie theater.

What were your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

  1. Travis Barker having a hand in both of those! ?
  2. Or going to streaming faster than usual. ?
  3. With as few people as possible because no one seems to have manners anymore ?

Announcing the (Unofficial) WCUS 2020 Speaker Interview Series

I’ve sorely missed going to WordCamps. I love traveling, I love hanging out with people, and I love public speaking. I also know how much time and effort goes into planning a WordCamp, as well as WordCamp talks. I was also super bummed about WordCamp US 2020 cancelling its virtual event (though I totally understand virtual event fatigue).

I wanted a way to give back at least a little to those who worked so hard, so I have a plan…and the first part of it is interviewing potential WCUS 2020 speakers on my podcast, How I Built It.

Saving Wasted Time

I know how much time goes into figuring out a good topic and putting applications together.Because I don’t want that work to be wasted, I’m doing an interview series on the podcast.

I’ll pick 15-20 people who applied to speak to do 10 minute interviews with – it won’t be a formal talk, but they’ll have the opportunity to chat about their topic. I have a decent platform, and I wanted to lend it to some people who were looking forward to speaking.

Send in Your Applications!

I should make it clear that this is an unofficial series – it’s not backed by the WordCamp Organizers or the WordPress Foundation…though I’ve been told by members of the team that this is a good idea 🙂

If you applied to WordCamp US 2020, fill out the form here. Please only submit one form. If you submitted multiple talk ideas, pick your favorite.

If you’re selected, I’ll be in touch. Applications close on August 31st.

PS – if you want to get news on what else I’m working on, join my Build Something Weekly newsletter using the form below!

Podcast to Learn New Things

Last week I told you how you can build trust through podcasting. This is a great external benefit (and perhaps the main reason) you should start a podcast. But it’s not the only reason. In-fact, that wasn’t the reason I started How I Built It. I started my podcast to learn new things and level up as a business owner. And you can too.

Read More “Podcast to Learn New Things”

100 Words 038

Last week, Wisdm Labs published an interview I did with them and I think it turned out great! One thing that struck me was Namrata, the interviewer, asked me 4 questions that were specific to me. One was “If you weren’t a Front End Developer, you would be…” I chose photographer.

I really enjoy taking photos and just bought the Nikon D3300, which I love so far. It served me well in California.

I can write a lot more than 100 words on this, but I’ve been trying to shoot manual. It’s a challenge but I think the photos turn out better.

Rebooting the TIL Podcast

About a year ago, I started a podcast called the TIL Podcast, where a few friends and I sat down and discussed whatever topic we decided on. It was a lot of fun recording but eventually got a bit hard to keep a consistent group of people to record every week. We got out 13 episodes before taking a hiatus. I’m happy to say that I’m going to reboot the show.

Read More “Rebooting the TIL Podcast”

Projects Roundup for February 7th.

I’ve had quite a productive week as far as new work, releases, and new projects go and I’d like to share them here on the blog. A few weeks ago I made a decision to revamp the way I work, learn new things, and even adjusted my work schedule a bit to make me more productive. This is the first full week where things really came together and I think it’s shown!

Read More “Projects Roundup for February 7th.”


Employers and Colleges Asking to see Social Network Activity

This morning a read a story on MSNBC that got me all fired up: Govt. agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords.

It talks about potential employers and schools asking for access to view facebook/twitter accounts either by logging in during an interview or by friending an official.  This is not OK; it shouldn’t be happening on any level and the fact that it’s going on is an invasion of privacy.

If you go through the time to set certain things on private, they should stay private. If you can’t ask personal questions during an interview, Facebook should be off limits as well, so long as it’s set to private by the user.

Everyone should be aware of what’s happening and of your rights in these cases. Unfortunately, there isn’t a law against this yet (unless you can make the argument that it answers illegal job interview questions) but you can always ask the interview why they want access and how it applies to the job. If they can’t make their case, kindly refuse their request and remind them about the kind of questions that are off limits during interviews.

If you’d rather not deal with that kind of confrontation, you could always say you don’t have a Facebook account, or create a “professional” one that you use to show interviewers. The point, however, is that employers and schools should not be asking for this information in the first place.