∞ Digital hygiene – Seth Godin

As usual, Seth Godin says it better

Every day, we’re at our machines, clicking and swiping and typing.

And it’s entirely possible that the methods you’ve developed are costing you at least an hour a day in wasted time.

The solution is fun and simple: find a smart person and have them watch you use the computer for an hour.

She’ll share ten shortcuts and principles that will amaze you.

Want me to have a look at your computing habits? Give me a ring!

Seth’s Blog

Tools – Text Expansion


If you’ve known me for a while, I’ve probably bothered you to use a Text Expansion program. Since my efforts have not yet resulted in many conversions, I’ll try to inspire you here…

These programs help you typing oft-used phrases, correct spelling and can even be smart in the way they help you. In this article I will share the way I use TextExpander, but you can substitute this with a lot of other programs (for some reason, more for the Mac than for Windows). It’s one of the best reasons to use a computer instead of this:

Image: “Selectric II” by Etan J. Tal – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Wth[ What the Hell is Text Expansion

A Text Expansion/replacement system lets you set abbreviations for text that you type. This combination is called a snippet. So, I type the abbreviation, and my ‘special key’, the [ and the computer spits out the right words, numbers or sentences.

Wth[ What the Hell do you need this for?

Well, you don’t need it of course. However, it can help you save quite a bit of time. My simplest example is my name. Whenever I have to type it, I key in mxv[, which expands to “Marnix van de Veen”. That’s 14e[ fourteen characters saved. If you count pressing the Shift button, it’s even more! By the way, anything italic that ends in [ in this blog post was typed using a snippet. Below are some simple snippets everyone should use in my opionion (text between parentheses is optional) and I’ve used Sherlock as an example:

sh (initials) Sherlock Holmes (full name)
s (first initial) Sherlock (first name)
st (221b) Baker Street Street
pc NW1 6XE Postal code
net (the) Netherlands
You know the drill
em e-mail address
url homepage
iban new way too complicated bank number
iphone iPhone
kr, Kind regards,

Longer snippets

Using these snippets will not only save you time, but also prevent spelling errors. That’s a great start. But… Text Expansion can do more! You can create multi-line snippets, so I can quickly type my e-mail signature sig[:

Marnix van de Veen
+31 6 19 410 888

If the field accepts html, I’ll use sigh[ instead:

<p>Marnix van de Veen<br>
<a href=""></a><br>
+31 6 19 410 888<br>
<a href=""></a><br>
<a href="">@m_a_rnix</a></p>

See? That will give me nicely formatted html… This works in any program/browser/environment.

Special characters

You can insert special characters into your snippets. This means when I type kr[, it doesn’t just expand to “Kind regards,” , but also inserts a ‘return’, so I’m starting a new paragraph after that. The same goes for tabs, and you can even choose where to put the cursor when you’re finished. So when I have to type a http: etc, I type h[ instead, and get and my cursor will be inserted at the right place.


TextExpander is smart. Ever need to insert the current date? Just type t[ and you’ll get 6 augustus 2014. Need a different notation? ymd[ gives 2014–08–06. W[ gives me the current week. Atm[ At the moment that’s 32. I can never remember that one. 


Most of you know I’m not a coder. I can’t remember html for the life of me! I do most of my typing in Markdown (something for another blogpost), but when I need an html link I type link[, and I’ll get  with the cursor in between > and < and my clipboard contents pasted in between the “s.


When I start a new motivation letter for a job opening, I type moti[ (en is for English, I have a Dutch snippet as well) and get the following. The cursor is on the line below “Dear Sir/Madam,”. You see the date, multiple lines and cursor positioning.

Utrecht, Augst 6 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’d love to show my skills and enthusiasm in person.


Marnix van de Veen
+31 6 19 410 888

Getting started

As with all timesaving apps, it’s impossible to implement everything at once. So start simple. What are the things that you type most often? Start with just 5 snippets. My recommendation:

  1. Your name
  2. Your company name
  3. Your personal e-mail address
  4. Your work e-mail address
  5. ?

See how this works out, and expand from there.


There are many Text Expansion options for the Mac:
– Built-in text replacement. Just go to System Prefererences >[ ➔ Keyboard >[ ➔ Text and you can create simple snippets. No fancy stuff. They sync to your iOS devices over iCloud. A great place to start!
– TextExpander by Smile Software ($34.99). The old guy. You cannot go wrong with this one. Also syncs with an iOS counterpart which will get a lot better with iOS 8.
– TypeIt4Me by Ettore Software ($19.99). Has most of the tricks of TextExpander. No iOS counterpart though.

I haven’t really looked into the Windows side of things, but this Lifehacker post should get you started.

Thats it! Have you got any great snippets I should use? Which of my ‘boring’ tools should I cover next? Let me know in the comments!

Permanent Beta Day 4


Permanent Beta wants to improve the world with a combination of Arts, Science and Technology. June 30th they organized Permanent Beta Day 4, a day full of presentations, workshops and other exciting stuff. I was there from 9.45 until 21.15 and had a great day. I had no problem keeping myself entertained. There must have been over 50 presenters! My most memorable experience was the day itself. The fact that it’s possible to ‘organize’ an event like this (50 speakers, about 300 visitors) by creating an open invitation and letting everything sort itself out is amazing. What we got for free today was much better than a lot of costly conferences in my opinion. This shows how easy things become when you let them happen. On to the my personal best of #PBDag4.


Alette Baartmans (@AletteBaartmans) wants to change education. By following the money she wants to know how the €,- that we pay for education each year is being spent. Her arguments about innovation in education are as follows:
* It’s impossible to monitor the current state of education. The only things that can be checked are the reports that are generated from the bottom up, not the actueal performance of students.
* Every organization (in education) should answer a few questions, such as (we generated these in the session):
– Why was I instituted? Which goal am I meant to achieve?
– What can I do to make myself superfluous?
* There should be room for experiments in education. If we can’t try new things, how can we improve? Just as important, there should be room for failure in these experiments.
I was already inspired by Alette when she spoke at TEDx Utrecht in April. She has an original concept and might actually change the world!

Helping our Hosts

De Nieuwe Stad/The New City (@DeNieuweStad) hosted the event, for free (€ 0,-). The complex consists of (among other things) an old toothpaste factory. It’s an inspiring environment for a day of knowledge exchange, but I wouldn’t want to work in that factory day and night…

The hosts asked us to help them activate their renters. De Nieuwe Stad is not their project, but that of the inhabitants. They are the ones who should do whatthey want. But how do we get them to realize that they are in charge? We talked about this in the MKBuzz. This was the most interactive session of the day. We advised the entrepeneurs to help their inhabitants create the city they want to live in by:
* Helping them find out what they want to change
* Showing them it’s okay to go and do stuff
* Facilitating sessions to help the inhabitants get to know each other
* Communicating the why of De Nieuwe Stad instead of the what. The why is something people can get behind, while the what is something nobody knows yet.

I hope the founders of De Nieuwe Stad will find our suggestions useful. Good luck!

I don’t know either…

Maarten den Braber (@MdBraber) spoke to us about the creepy side of big data. Maarten was one of the first people in The Netherlands who was into quantified self. Now he’s having doubts… What happens to the data your FitBit/FuelBand/Jawbone Up collects? Who really quit WhatsApp when they were acquired by Facebook? Is it necessary to improve everything? And what is the cost of that improvement?

I really like that Maarten didn’t preach a solution. He only tried to get people to think about the data that they create and share. It’s actually shocking to see the lack of thought about this in a crowd of frontrunners. What about society at large?

Who wants to live forever?

Berend Watchus told us about the quest to live forever. There are actually two kinds of life extension: creating a better life for the 120 years we’re programmed to be alive, or extending life to make it longer. The second group can be divided into two groups again, one that wants to enhance our bodies to live longer, and one that wants to leave our bodies for a digital environment (transhumanism). There are exciting developments:
* Did you know we can regrow fingers using a special powder?
Cryogenics and subsequent reanimation has been succesful on a frog?
* Scientists have transferred memories electronically between rats?
* There are animals that are biologically immortal (this means they don’t die unless there is a trauma?

Fascinating stuff to think about! Would you want to live forever?

If you can’t beat them, use them

Brenno de Winter (@Brenno) was tired of the inadequacy of the Dutch Government when it came to ICT-projects. So, he corralled some public servants from multiple institutions and started doing it another way. Dropbox is insecureopaque and very foreign. Time to build a local alternative that’s localsafe and well tested. Localbox is born. And not just born, but in time and on budget.

According to Brenno, the fact that the government is inadequate when it comes to ICT-projects means we have to do them ourselves. A big problem is the lack of capability when it comes to the supervision tasks the government is supposed to carry out. There is no way for the people to perform the tasks of the CBP for example.

Grass doesn’t grow any faster when you’re pulling it

The last talk I attended was that of Boer (Farmer) Bos (@BoerBos), a recovering business man who decided to take over the farm of his parents after all. A wonderful story about sheeppeople and letting things happen. He reminded me a little of the Dude…

I would like to thank the organisers of Permanent Beta Dag 4 again for their initiative and their enabling of the people to create a wonderful day together. I’ll take the inspiration and try to spread my new enthusiasm.

If you want to read more about the day, head to Twitter and search for #PBDag4.

World Travel Gear part II – Electronics


I find it hard to imagine travelling without all my toys. All the surprises would be lovely, but so is being sure the driver is actually taking you to your hotel…

This is the second part of my Gear post. You can read the first part here.

Electronics on the road

Ahh, electronics for travel. It’s a very nice contradiction. You leave to get away from it all, but you bring your electronics to stay in touch, or make your frenemies jealous when you return. If you’re like me, you want to make photos, triage them, book hotels, create blogposts, navigate and a whole lot more. We used the following stuff.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100 (three versions by now)

In short: the best camera that you can fit in your jeans pocket. A sensor that’s a lot bigger than those in other cameras makes everything better. Combine it with a f:1.8 wide-angle lens and low light photography, depth of field and dynamic range become best in class. If the best camera is the one you have with you, I’ll happily bring this one. By the way, The Wirecutter agrees with me:

If I could have any point-and-shoot camera under a grand, the one I’d get is the Sony DSC-RX100 II. It’s $750, which puts it in the price range of cheap DSLRs, but make no mistake—this is the best pocketable camera out there for less than $1,000 thanks to its large sensor, fast lens and small size.

There are three versions, all great. Get the one you can afford.


If you bring a small camera, you can also bring a smaller tripod. We haven’t used our gorilla pod often, but when we did it was super nice for selfies and night photography.

Phones and Pads

We’re a pretty Apple-centric household (because of me). We brought our iPhones for navigation, reading, music and hotel booking. The iPad mini got used for triaging photos, reading and exploring TripAdvisor. Which brings me to apps. We couldn’t do without:

  • Content creation
    • Drafts: Where all our blogs started life. Also perfect for writing down those wi-fi passwords.
    • Tumblr: Where all our blogs got published.
    • iPhoto: This made sure we came home with 15000 photos instead of 25000.
  • Exploring
  • Booking
    • Agoda Best prices, but you pay in advance.
    • (and their Tonight app for discounts): 
    • Air Asia, Nok Air, etc.:Flights!
  • Communication
  • Entertainment
    • DS File: Yes, we downloaded complete movies…
    • Spotify: Mister music, will you play?
    • Pocket Casts: News and entertainment for me.
    • Reeder: This has to be the most used app on my phone.
  • Information
    • 1Password: You don’t know what this is? Buy it and let me help you change the way you live.
    • Dropbox: Keeping all of the above together.

It’s surprising how little we used things like and the various weather apps. Usually you’ll deal with the weather when it gets to you…

Sometimes we put the phones into a waterproof case by Lifeproof. The Frē model for the iPhone 5 sucks! It has a vanity window at the back so you can see the Apple logo. After a month, this had fallen out, so no more waterproof joy for me. The version for the 4(s) is fine.


Yes, we brought an electric toothbrush (actually, we brought two!). It will be hard to brush three times a day, so you might as well do a good job of it. It’s a shame all electric toothbrushes are so terribly designed, but that’s a different rant (watch this space).


All Those electronics need a steady stream of electrons to keep them going. That’s why we bought the ‘mother of all chargers’. This is a USB charger with 6(!) ports. Have you got an iDevice with a Lightning port? This device will make your touchscreen feel adventurous, since it becomes wildly inaccurate. Still, it’s a lot better than bringing six chargers… And you can share with fellow travellers!

We also brought a world plug and a triple plug plug of course.

Would we bring it all again? I would, although I’m not sure about Jacqueline…

Have you read read the first part of this blogpost?

Keep your door open by having a drink


This is a really simple Lifehack. A few weeks ago we got a little pirate on loan. His name is Joey. We’re used to keeping all doors closed, and now we have to give the little cat a route to his private toilet. We were afraid we would inadvertently close the door on the cat when nature calls. However, we don’t have one of those gadgets for keeping the door open.

After a minute I came up with an idea: let’s put a cork in the doorframe. It’s invisible, always there and free. And we already have a few in the house. If you want to customize the open ‘angle’ of your door, you can cut the cork. If you’re not satisfied with the result, have another bottle of wine…

Have you got any tricks with wine bottles or corks? Tell me in the comments!

A headshot of Marnix


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