Declaring “watch-later” bankruptcy

I’m sure a lot of people get to this point … it’s a form of procrastination, clicking on the tempting little Watch Later mini-clock-face.

“Of course I’ll watch you”, I say to the little thumbnail.

Fast-forward a few years later, and there are now about five hundred of these. Surprise.

Given that the average length is about half an hour (if it’s five minutes, I either watch now or watch never), this is several months of dedicated watching time. Not going to happen.

I could painfully prioritize these, figure out what I really meant to watch, and what I was just lying to myself about.

I don’t need to do that. I know I was lying to myself most of the time I clicked that little button.

So the next best option: start over.

Unfortunately, Youtube hasn’t allowed for this possibility.

I found a hack on StackExchange1. It involved moving some playlists around. Painful, but doable.

Doubly unfortunately, this doesn’t work anymore. The Watch Later playlist is an append-log now. Your pile of misery cannot be allowed to shrink2.

There seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel: by suitably obscure Javascript, you too can wipe your slate of false optimism clean. It was an innocuous looking short one-liner3.

I tried it, didn’t work for me.

I tried reverse-engineering it, but couldn’t hack and cut my way through the mass of divs that characterize modern web pages. Javascript is the new assembly language of the web, deal with it.

I got more desperate, tried out other, more unwieldy snippets4.

I did find some kindred souls5.

Anyway I’ve been on-and-off this quest, with no success. Still looking for that “magical snippet” that will work for me.

(@Youtube, Y U No Let Me Delete My Watch History ?!)


  1. From a comment on that page: the clearly bewildered response of “These instructions are unclear”. You don’t say. ↩︎
  2. Okay, it can, but only if you watch all of them and then click on “Remove watched videos” ↩︎
  3. Retrieving a bunch through the right call to getElementsByClassName, then looping and calling click on them ↩︎
  4. This one in particular, successfully crashed Safari for me after a few tries: javascript:var tmr = window.setInterval(function(){var _this = document.querySelector('ytd-playlist-video-list-renderer #button > yt-icon'); if (_this){_this.click();document.querySelector('#items > div > ytd-menu-service-item-renderer:nth-child(2)').click();}else{window.clearInterval(tmr)}}, 1000); ↩︎
  5. As this reddit thread says, “‌Um, I have a YouTube hoarding problem. I have 2,335 videos in my Watch Later list.” Yikes, worse than me by far ↩︎

The weirdness and awesomeness of long-form YouTube

I found myself listening to this recently:

From the description:

This is the ambient electromagnetic signal of our Sun and Neptune which have been combined with each other and then deepened and smoothed out quite a bit.

Now I don’t know how exactly this audio version was derived, but … hey, it works for me for my “white noise needs” (certainly well enough to consider cancelling my Brain.fm subscription, more so because I’m consolidating subscriptions these days and trying to get rid of as many of these yes-its-“sub-$5”-but-do-I-really-need-it ones).

After this “space noise”, I discovered “engine noise”, which comes in a huge variety as well:

  • The ambient engine noise from the Enterprise (TNG):

 

  • Ambient engine noise from the Nostromo:

 

This is why I don’t think I can live without Youtube (deadly serious here).

I can find substitutes for Gmail, for Docs, even Google Search (DuckDuckGo has been my default on iPhone/iPad/MacBook for over two years now, I use gmail but primarily through MailMate, and I really only use Docs at work).

When it comes to Youtube, I go the opposite way: I’m willing to pay some token amount — beacuse I’d listen to engine noise without advertisements 😁

On Airtable and Numbers

I tried out Airtable for a year, for a simple personal spreadsheet that I’ve been keeping for a few years now.

It’s slick, and quick to enter data, but in the end I’ve decided to go back to Numbers.

Yes, boring.

Things I liked:

  • I really liked being able to easily add images when needed
  • Having single-select and multi-select lists are useful and intuitive. I miss this the most in Numbers.

Things I didn’t like:

  • To do something as simple as making a little chart, I needed to pay $20 a month! Yes, the Pro plan had far more than charts, but I just cared about this one small feature, and it seemed ridiculous to me.

Things I didn’t care for:

  • I realized I wasn’t going to use the 3rd party Airtable plugins or integrations.
  • There is an intermediate Plus plan ($10/mo). I expected to use it, and would’ve been okay with it, but surprisingly didn’t hit the size limit on my bases.

Adaptations in Numbers

I was able to get most of the way to a single-select box by a combination of

  1. Setting the data type for the column to “popup”
  2. Adding a conditional highlighting (this is surprisingly easy to do)

Conclusion

I’ve always been one to try out new apps, and new tools, because there are always ways of doing things better, and the satisfaction that comes with that.

Recently though, I’ve been very sensitive to my personal info becoming siloed in a bunch of different places, and I want as much of it as possible

  1. Open format
  2. Local
  3. Index-able

Moving from Airtable to Numbers involves giving up a few features, but it satisfies these requirements I’m placing on my tools these days, so I’m quite happy about it 🙂

Sky Guide

Showing Jupiter and Saturn in the sky together.

Apps on our smartphones get a bad rap for wasting our time, and deservedly.

It’s true that most are either harmful or neutral, or a distraction, or a minor convenience.

One set of apps that are genuinely something that exist only because we have “computers in our pockets” are apps1 like Sky Guide, which have this magical ability to tell me which stars are in the sky, highlight them for me as I move my phone around, and display helpful connecting lines, the ecliptic, etc

I can’t believe I paid the price of a cup of coffee2 for something that’s mine to use forever, and that works so well and is delightful every single time I use it!


  1. A larger list of similar apps here ↩︎
  2. $2.99 on the AppStore right now. Compare with a Grande Freshly Brewed ($2.10) or a Tall Caffe Latte ($2.95) at Starbucks ↩︎

On “… the terrible beauty of maps”

This captures so well what I sometimes feel about visual note-taking (basic mind-mapping, as well as more flexible, powerful tools):

(Source)

I’ve gotten to the point where I generally use outline as my default. The problem I have with maps is that they cue an aesthetic response that overrides other concerns, and I have trouble setting that response aside. A map is either beautiful and this creates a barrier to revision, or it is ugly and making it attractive becomes my priority. If I leave it ugly, then I find it hard to work in the file unless I stop using the map. Outlines short circuits this enormous weak spot in my mental make-up.

(Also, a nice phrase!)

On Narration, Tinderbox, and other things …

It’s hard to say what is so good about this video. It is many things.

It is a generally well-made ensemble, a slice of art criticism, a slice of philosophical questions and concerns, it is a demonstration of “thinking through a tool”, it is a demonstration of “showing through a tool“, it is a demonstration of one such tool (Tinderbox), an autobiographical account, and probably more …

Some thoughts on notes, with DevonThink

I should write about my opinions on “artisanal software” separately, but I have mentioned some of the tools I use, and DevonThink is pretty central to a lot of ways I “augment myself”.

So, here’s a series1 of posts with some ideas on using notes, that mention DevonThink (and OmniFocus):


  1. by Kourosh Dini, and if you liked this, he has a book on more of this. ↩︎

On note-taking, the meaning of notes, and what I use

Context

(FYI, this is the sort of thing that’s re-hashed over and over again …)

Some words mean many things — and while not quite as versatile as God or Fuck, Note is surely high on the list.

There are many takes on this, many apps, many opinions on what you should use, how you should use it, and so forth.

Noise

Some random articles. More random articles. Yet more random articles. We can go on. And on. And on.

I’ve found notes serve many different uses: notes can be tasks; notes can be memos; notes can be reminders; notes can be snippets of code; notes can be documents; notes can be links; notes can be transcripts; notes can be summaries; notes can extracts; notes can be snapshots.

You get the point, I hope: there will never be a final answer here; there are as many uses are there are people, maybe more. So all I’m going to do here is briefly mention what I either am using, or have used, or might use.

As it turns out, I have (1) tried out a lot of apps (occasionally falling into the “trap of the perfect” in the past too), but also (2) only use a small number of apps day-to-day.

What I no longer use

  • Evernote
  • OneNote
  • Wunderlist
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Notion1
  • Bear
  • (lots more that I don’t remember)

What I use

DevonThink: the one indispensable tool for me, for the past several years … this is where pretty much everything is indexed for me.

Omnifocus: This is where al my tasks live, also where all Reminders flow into. With folders, projects, tags, and more, it has all the customizability I’ll ever need.

Tinderbox: Currently my go-to place to diagram, contextualize, link together stuff. Minimalist, spare, yet fully-programmable, with a uniform structure, and open storage format, I think of it as “the Emacs of note-taking software”2

What I might use3

Curio: The most feature-fun of the lot! But I don’t really have a use for it right now.

TheBrain: AFAICT this is a visually appealing, cross-platform, opinionated mashup of Tinderbox, Devonthink and Roam (at the cost of being proprietary).

RoamResearch: Used it a year and half ago, I see the appeal, but (at least right now) I don’t want to use a cloud-only product.

Notion: widely used tool now, but I’m conservative with the number of apps I use, so I’ll need to see where it fits in for me.

Looking forward

If I remember, I’ll do this again in a year, and … it’ll be interesting to see what’s changed by then. I’m quite sure DevonThink and OmniFocus will continue to be the bedrock for me, but the rest is … up for debate 🙂


  1. I still have a bunch of notes for this one, and of this list, the one I liked the most … except, I felt it didn’t do anything I can’t already do with what I have ↩︎
  2. Here’s a brief overview; five years old but still accurate ↩︎
  3. FYI, if I don’t use something, it’s not because I don’t like it, but usually because … I’m already using something else, and am no longer wiling to do any unnecessary migrations ↩︎