237: Indie Software Development in the Time of Coronavirus with Greg Pierce

Greg Pierce, indie software developer and creator of Drafts for iOS and Mac, joins Brett to talk about software development, finding a sustainable pricing model, and some TV, film, and literary favorites.

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Greg and Brett

[00:00:00] [00:00:00] Brett: [00:00:00] Alright, so this is our second try. Um, welcome back again, Greg.

[00:00:07]Greg: [00:00:07] Thanks for having me again.

[00:00:09] Brett: [00:00:09] I had a, I had a call recorder mishap. Last time we tried to do this and ended up, uh, curtailing our conversation so that we didn’t have to repeat ourselves right away again. Um, I’m, I’m glad we get a second opportunity to do this. Um, for people who don’t know. You are the creator of drafts, which is a, a note cap.

[00:00:32] How would you a text capturing application? How would you, how would you describe drafts?

[00:00:37]Greg: [00:00:37] The primary purpose of it, I think is to be a sort of Swiss army knife for texts, just a place to jot stuff down to, um, have it sync to all your devices and then to be able to manipulate it and send it to other places.

[00:00:51]Brett: [00:00:51] Yeah. All right. So we will, we will be talking quite a bit about drafts as we go, but, uh, the last time you were on this show, Which [00:01:00] is so long ago that that it’s almost out of memory, but it was in January of 2014, which in March, that seemed like a long time ago. Now it seems like forever ago.

[00:01:11]Greg: [00:01:11] It does time is a lot has changed since then.

[00:01:16] Brett: [00:01:16] Yeah. Do you have, uh, do you have kids,

[00:01:19]Greg: [00:01:19] I have three kids. Yeah.

[00:01:21] Brett: [00:01:21] I’m curious, are they school age?

[00:01:24]Greg: [00:01:24] Well, I’ve got twins that are 18 and are about to head off for their freshman year of college. And then I have a 13 year old who’s going into eighth grade.

[00:01:34] Brett: [00:01:34] Oh, so you’re in the thick of the debate over whether school should open right now.

[00:01:39] Greg: [00:01:39] Um, yeah, I, I am, we’re see both sides of it. As far as our middle schoolers, K through 12, we’re not ready to go back to school. And I don’t think that there’s any reason he’ll be going back to school for several months, at least. And, you know, until we see how things go, um, But we did decide to [00:02:00] let the college age kids go off to school.

[00:02:02] And I feel like they’re both going to, you know, competitive elite universities that, uh, have a lot of, you know, Science on campus and are, have pretty good strategies in place to keep things under wraps and some ex some aspects, maybe the test case for what we should be doing nationally with a lot of proactive testing and quarantining and contact tracing and stuff that we should be doing much more broadly.

[00:02:35] But they can actually enforce on a campus and hopefully keep things safe for them.

[00:02:41] Brett: [00:02:41] I’m realizing that we really don’t know what we’re talking about, not you and I specifically, I’m not gonna, I, not that, not that I know what I’m talking about, but as a country, Like we think we have figured out how to contain this and we just think we’re not doing it. But then I look at States [00:03:00] like Georgia, that really, I haven’t had any mass mandates or are they in, they opened up pretty early and there are teas below one.

[00:03:09] Now Michigan has had a mass mandate for a month and they’re not declining in cases. So I feel like everything’s kind of an experiment still at this point.

[00:03:18]Greg: [00:03:18] Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true that, that, uh, you know, you look across the world and we try to take examples from other countries that have kept it under control or whatever, but yeah. They’ve all had different strategies in some way or another. There’s no one silver bullet to, to say that’s exactly what we should all do.

[00:03:37] Brett: [00:03:37] Yeah. So I take kind of a, I’m very liberal politically, but I’m willing to say. That we have a lot to learn and, uh, and I’m not going to people that are willing to take their chances. Aren’t as crazy as, as they’re made to seem. I think there’s a certain amount of, everyone’s just giving [00:04:00] up anyway.

[00:04:02] Greg: [00:04:02] Yeah, I think there’s a lot of that. I think that the. It depends on what circles you travel into the demographics, like anything else in this country, the demographics of the disease affect the way it’s getting treated as well. And I think there are a lot of people in the more sectors of our socioeconomic system that haven’t seen it affect them directly.

[00:04:24] Um, you know, haven’t had a very close relative in the hospital because of it or whatever, and, uh, it’s harder for them to. You don’t take it seriously. I think.

[00:04:35]Brett: [00:04:35] Anyway. So since 2014 back then you had, you had several applications. Tally was one that I really appreciated. Uh, our, are, are all of your applications still being maintained? Are you focusing mostly on drafts now?

[00:04:52]Greg: [00:04:52] I’ve discontinued several apps that I would have had active then, or we’ve been working on. Then I still have [00:05:00] my dictionary app terminology and, and tally are both still in the store, but I’m not actively developing them. I’m just kind of doing a compatibility releases here and there to make sure they keep working.

[00:05:12] I basically spend all my energy on drafts these days.

[00:05:16] Brett: [00:05:16] Yeah. Well, and you did release, uh, the dictionary for terminology as a macOS dictionary.

[00:05:23]Greg: [00:05:23] Right. I mean the original project that, the reason I did that project was I stumbled on word net, which is a open source semantic dictionary that I thought was really cool. And I started messing with it back when I was that kind of terminology came out in 2010, it was my first significant. IPhone iPad app.

[00:05:43] And, uh, you know, I was just playing with ideas and manipulating that data set. Um, I had some experience with it. So since I was already doing a bunch of data prep on that, I decided to export it as a dictionary. You could use in the macro S [00:06:00] version as well.

[00:06:00] Brett: [00:06:00] Yeah. So many of my own projects have started as a result of discovering. Something open source that I saw some crazy potential in. And, uh, just having the, having the data or, or in some cases, just the source code available sparks, uh, so many ideas for me. And I think, uh, I think it says a lot about open source culture in general, that that’s kind of the, the way, the way things begin.

[00:06:31] Greg: [00:06:31] Yeah, it’s interesting. That word net project is something that came out of linguists, uh, in, in Princeton. And they had originally developed it more and it’s more used in applications like artificial intelligence and such to help with. Understanding relationships between words, not just provide definitions of words.

[00:06:53] It’s very, you know, so terminology was well suited to being a writer’s dictionary where you weren’t [00:07:00] necessarily looking for what you get out of it, the source, you don’t want synonyms, but you might want. The kind of relationships that are in that data set, like more specific words or less specific words, um, or other related words like that.

[00:07:15] Um, you know, it was something I got very interested in playing with and curious about it was fun to wrap that up in an app.

[00:07:24] Brett: [00:07:24] so still available, but not being actively developed.

[00:07:27] Greg: [00:07:27] Right, right.

[00:07:29]Brett: [00:07:29] and you’ll keep tally going for a little while.

[00:07:32] Greg: [00:07:32] I will, I’ve toyed with it. I, I really liked the app. It’s a simple little app and I keep telling myself I’m going to carve out time to update it, but I’ve been so busy with drafts. I haven’t, I kind of hope I’m hoping sometime early next year, I can free up some time and use rewriting tally as a better way to dive deep into Swift UI.

[00:07:55] Um, You know, excuse to, uh, [00:08:00] really, uh, go deep on that, that, and see where I can use it moving forward. So hopefully next year it still works, though. It works for what it does.

[00:08:08] Brett: [00:08:08] I don’t need it to do anything else. I just need it to continue functioning. It’s like for when I need an app, like when I’m counting anything, that’s going to. Uh, B uh, set of timed out such that I’ll forget where I was at, or I’m counting high enough that I’m going to forget where I was at.

[00:08:29] Just having a clicker is, is all I need. And it’s perfect for that.

[00:08:34] Greg: [00:08:34] I actually get a burst of sales and attention for the app over the course of the pandemic, because there was a number of people approaching me who were having to control. Crowd numbers, you know, like stores that were counting people when they came in and went out and stuff like that. It was interesting to see them looking for technical tools to keep up with that stuff.

[00:08:58] Brett: [00:08:58] I, uh, I was at a [00:09:00] garage sale. No, I was at ax man in Minneapolis, uh, which is, uh, a surplus store, a lot of medical surplus and electronic surplus. And I got a door. It was like a, it was a laser beam kind of, or just a light beam. And every time the beam was broken, it would. Take a counter use that like supermarkets to measure foot traffic. And a, and I brought that home and I reread it so that instead of the little 12 bolt trigger to the counter, it would actually trigger an X, 10 switch. So I could make a, I could, instead of having a motion detector, I could actually have basically a trip wire for my home automation that, sorry, that was tangential.

[00:09:44] I just, I think of these things now. And then.

[00:09:46] Greg: [00:09:46] No absolutely.

[00:09:47] Brett: [00:09:47] miss. I miss the old days of home automation when everything was very much MacGyvered

[00:09:51]Greg: [00:09:51] Yeah, I don’t do much of anything with home automation, just because I don’t know. I think I toyed [00:10:00] with it a little in the early years and it just seemed like a frustration and I’m sure some of it’s gotten better, but I see enough people, you know, bitching on Twitter about, uh, the thing’s not working.

[00:10:11] Right. Or it seems like you said more time fidgeting with it than you do benefiting from being able to. Tell tell your Dingus what to do.

[00:10:19] Brett: [00:10:19] it’s, it’s, it’s far more the realm of people who are, who live alone because home automation is painful enough for one person, but when other people have to deal with your home automation, that’s where you get into trouble. Uh, nothing, nothing upsets people who live with you more than not knowing how to turn on the light in the bathroom.

[00:10:41]Greg: [00:10:41] Yeah. Got good. Old switches, always

[00:10:43] Brett: [00:10:43] or the light in the bathroom just suddenly going off on them with no explanation.

[00:10:47]Greg: [00:10:47] I have a, I have two home pods and I basically, they’re just music players. Um, and my wife curses at them all the time because she just can’t get Siri to understand her. [00:11:00] And I don’t know if it’s just something about her voice or her accent. She seems to speak normally to it, to me, but it never understands her.

[00:11:07] And I’m like, she will not enjoy, you know, and maybe, uh, Maybe the Amazon one would work better for her or something, but I don’t think she would enjoy being able to do that all through voice.

[00:11:19] Brett: [00:11:19] My use of the Amazon one is primarily budgetary. Yeah. Um, but I do find she is. I don’t, I can’t remember the last time she misunderstood anything. I asked her and, uh, and she’s always, she’s prompt with the, uh, the information I need, uh, does pretty good job with home control devices. Yeah. I, I, if, yeah, if all else fails, I would say, get yourself a, a dot and, and see if she understands better.

[00:11:48] Greg: [00:11:48] Yeah, I haven’t really voiced control is still weird for me too. I don’t use a. Use Siri that often for things, even with the home pods, I tend to just [00:12:00] start something on my phone and send it over there with airplay. I don’t talk, talk to it that often, except for, to turn up and down the volume when I’m like cooking and my hands are dirty or something.

[00:12:11] Brett: [00:12:11] I love asking for music that’s for all of my, all of my assistant devices. I think the thing I use them for most often it’s Hey, play that song by so, and so it’s amazing to me to just be able to say that into the air and have the song play. I’m old enough to remember that that, that has always, that that has not always been a thing that has been far from a thing for a long time.

[00:12:33]Greg: [00:12:33] Yeah, I still, I gave up on vinyl years ago, but I still think about the level of convenience that you basically, you put on music and you got 10 to 15 minutes of music before you had to get up and go flip the record or.

[00:12:49] Brett: [00:12:49] do you miss the record scratch like the, that, that when you first dropped the needle, that little crackle before the song.

[00:12:56]Greg: [00:12:56] Um, I don’t think I do. I do miss the [00:13:00] ritual of it. And I do miss the social aspects of records to some extent, you know, that was a. Big part of, a lot of my friendships was, was sharing music and stuff. And you know, you go over to a friend’s house now, and there’s not a shelf of records to flip through and talk about and, you know,

[00:13:19] Brett: [00:13:19] I think, I think there’s room for an app that just adds. A crackle before every song it plays

[00:13:26] Greg: [00:13:26] yeah.

[00:13:26] Brett: [00:13:26] has no special music control or, or you can make it even a more obtuse music controller where you had to actually like drag the needle onto the song to get it, to start playing and you get the crackle, get that ritual back for people.

[00:13:39] Greg: [00:13:39] Yeah, and it

[00:13:40] Brett: [00:13:40] when you’re

[00:13:41] Greg: [00:13:41] randomly every once in a while. Loops a half a second till you pick up your phone and shake it or something.

[00:13:48] Brett: [00:13:48] when the song ends, it just plays the last, like five seconds over and over again. Um, yeah. So when you’re done, when you’re done working on drafts, that’s, uh, we can collaborate on that app.

[00:13:59]Greg: [00:13:59] I [00:14:00] was thinking about, uh, Vinyl in general a lot lately, my son’s gotten it. One of my sons has gotten into vinyl quite a bit. And I took that time. I had a jukebox in my house growing up. My parents bought a old Seaberg jukebox, which was a very cool, fun novelty to have, but I, I sat down and I asked my parents and my sister to work on this too, but I tried to document everything we had in the jukebox and make a playlist of it for a.

[00:14:30] You know, nostalgia’s sake and to be able to play that through something that added the noises of the things switching records and going back and forth would be fun.

[00:14:39]Brett: [00:14:39] Um, okay. So the, the conversation is naturally moving towards drafts, obviously. Um, I would describe drafts as, uh, and I think you use it as a tagline at some point, but the home for text. Kind of like the place texts starts.

[00:14:59] Greg: [00:14:59] Yeah, the [00:15:00] tagline I still use is where text starts. And that was, I mean, the original core concept of the app was to be that place, to jot down things, to not have to think about where it went. Um, just kind of have any time. You’ve got an idea you want to jot down, you just launch the app. It’s ready to type.

[00:15:18] And a new in a new note and you jot it down and you can put it away. You can deal with it later, you know, I’m sure it was inspired by GTD stuff. Um, and all, and having a capture system. But a lot. I was finding, I needed a medic capture system because even if you had a task manager with an inbox, not everything went into a task manager, you know, some things were messages and some things were tweets and some things were destined to go in a journal or whatever.

[00:15:47] And I just wanted one place to open it up and jot that stuff down. And I think most people, the vast majority of people who have really adopted drafts over the years, use it primarily for that. Um, that’s the [00:16:00] first purpose of it is to capture that stuff. And then, you know, the outcropping of that was to provide ways to do something with that once you captured it.

[00:16:10] Brett: [00:16:10] Right. And the sensibility you added to it.

[00:16:14] Greg: [00:16:14] And that’s where the action framework came in and that’s where it’s grown the most over the years, it’s just providing more different, more powerful ways to manipulate your texts and get it out, published somewhere or into the system.

[00:16:27] Brett: [00:16:27] the thing that’s always appealed to me is it takes away the choice. When I opened up my phone with the intention of, of taking a note or sending a tweet or, uh, adding a, to do item the, that paradoxical moment where you have to figure out which app to use. And to just have drafts in my dock and just be able to always know this is where I start.

[00:16:51] This is where I get it out of my head, and then I can do anything I want with it. And it’s, it’s always served that purpose really well.

[00:16:57]Greg: [00:16:57] Yeah, and I think it helps a lot of [00:17:00] people keep. I don’t write the, it doesn’t keep your phone in your pocket per se, but keeps it from staying out of your pocket for too long. You know, you’re out at a restaurant, you have an idea or something, you know, you need to remember later and you want to jot it down.

[00:17:16] But you don’t have to sit there and assign tags to it and put it in the right list and your task manager and ignore the people you’re with for 10 minutes doing it. You know, you just get it out, jot it down, put away your phone and you’re fine. And you deal with it later.

[00:17:31] Brett: [00:17:31] And you don’t get distracted by all the other items on the, to do list. You’re adding it to

[00:17:36] Greg: [00:17:36] Yeah. I mean, I use it for Twitter that, that way all the time, because you think of something you want to tweet and you just don’t. If you open up the Twitter app, you’re, you’re gone, you’re done for, for 20 minutes, but if you just type it up and tweet it without ever leaving drafts, you don’t have that problem.

[00:17:53] Brett: [00:17:53] So what, what other big changes have happened in the last few years for drafts?

[00:17:57]Greg: [00:17:57] Um, well, I mean, [00:18:00] when we talked in 2014, the app was about two years old. It came out in 2012 originally, and I kind of grew it to a certain point. I did several major release upgrade versions, uh, along the way. And then a little more than two years ago, I relaunched it. Um, As a new app on the store, a new skew with a subscription model and.

[00:18:26] Along with that version and the updates I’ve been doing since it’s become much more of a full featured note storage environment, as well as being a capture tool, you know, with tagging with the workspaces, which are sort of saved filters and views of your drafts. A lot of people have been using it more and more as their soul.

[00:18:48] Note taking store, um, which has kind of changed the profile of the app. And of course, along the way, last year, I brought it to the Mac as well, which was a big piece of, of making it a [00:19:00] complete solution for a lot of people for.

[00:19:03] Brett: [00:19:03] Turns out nobody wants to take notes on just one or the other and not have it accessible on both.

[00:19:08]Greg: [00:19:08] Yeah. Yeah. And it, you know, the transient nature of the way people, a lot of people use drafts bait it, you know, it’s still was it worked for them on just iOS, because it was their convenient thing on their phone to capture stuff and send it somewhere else. But the more you start to store stuff in it, the more you want to be able to get to it everywhere.

[00:19:29]Brett: [00:19:29] Yeah. I mean, appending to a Dropbox file is, is okay. But having the full search and workspace capability of drafts on your Mac is, uh, ideal in comparison.

[00:19:41]Greg: [00:19:41] Yeah. I mean, it’s something I’d wanted to do forever, but I really had to do a lot of rearchitecting to do so when I released what was originally drafts five in. Early 2018. I had rewritten it from the ground up and along the way, the [00:20:00] core framework stuff like the editors and the data storage, I had built it all across platform to be ready for that.

[00:20:07] It was a multiyear journey, but it was worth it.

[00:20:10] Brett: [00:20:10] So speaking of the Mac app, I think that you, you added, um, uh, kind of, uh, integration for Marked’s streaming preview, which allowed people to see their markdown notes in rendered format as they typed. Um, the biggest issue was that the current version of Mart flashes every time you type a key now,

[00:20:37]Greg: [00:20:37] Cause you’re reloading the HTML every time.

[00:20:41] Brett: [00:20:41] So I, uh, I, because of your integration, I created our, I rewrote the entire. Update system for the preview. And it’s currently in beta. By the time this episode goes live, it’ll probably be out of beta and live on the app store, but I’ve got it down now [00:21:00] where it updates fluidly with, with no flashing and, uh, and drafts was the big inspiration for me finally, getting to, uh, to rewriting that.

[00:21:09] So I’m excited about that.

[00:21:11]Greg: [00:21:11] Sorry. I created work for you.

[00:21:13] Brett: [00:21:13] Oh, no, it needed to be done. Uh, the only thing stopping me from doing it was I had at least a dozen features in Marked that kind of depended on the DOMz refreshing with every update. Uh, and it was a lot of mental gymnastics to figure out how to not break everything. But once I got into it, it turns out I’m not the worst programmer in the world and it was all, it was all salvageable and, and it, like, it was the first time I’ve gone into code that was over five years old and not hated it. I did, I did something right.

[00:21:52]Greg: [00:21:52] That’s cool. Sometimes you surprise yourself. Sometimes you run in fear at the stuff you’ve done in the past, but.

[00:21:58] Brett: [00:21:58] I tend to, every [00:22:00] time I start a new project between the last project and the new one, I’ve learned like a new pattern or a new framework or a I’ve gotten better at, uh, anything from one liners to, uh, general algorithms. And so I’ll start with a fresh slate and I’ll be writing all my code in a new pattern.

[00:22:22] And then by the time I get to the project, after that, I hate everything that I had built. Like I’m ready for a whole new pattern. And I don’t like to go back and work on anything I made before, such as life of coding, I guess.

[00:22:35]Greg: [00:22:35] Yeah, it is frustrating.

[00:22:39] Brett: [00:22:39] Is it, or is it, is it a fun challenge? I think it’s a fun challenge.

[00:22:43] Greg: [00:22:43] Well, I don’t think we’d be doing it if we didn’t find it a fun challenge. It is frustrating at times though.

[00:22:48]Brett: [00:22:48] So I’ve, I have two, two questions, both related to drafts, one from me. And one from another guest who heard you were going to be on a first off, I’m [00:23:00] working on my own note taking app that will admittedly be a competitor to drafts, but setting that aside, we’re trying to figure out if we want to go subscription or not.

[00:23:13] And we neither of us. Like the idea of going subscription. Um, we want to just sell the app and let people own it, but we also need ways to handle free trials and paid upgrade paths. And the app store doesn’t really offer us much other than subscriptions. So we’re leaning that direction and Drafts is, one of the, one of the apps that I subscribed to, and it doesn’t bother me.

[00:23:39] I’m wondering how that’s worked out for you.

[00:23:41]Greg: [00:23:41] So I, I was very hesitant about it as well. You know, I I’m a person, I think like everybody else, you do get fatigued by it. You’ve got all these streaming services and other things you subscribed to, and you start to realize those bills add up. Um, and you know, in the more [00:24:00] software has gone that way, I have more and more of those subscriptions.

[00:24:03] And I always hesitant about it too, but it. It was a decision that was kind of a make or break for me for drafts. I was at that point, uh, rebuilding it a couple of years ago, I had, you know, was, was the existing version making money? Yes, it was making some money, but it was not making enough to support me, spending.

[00:24:26] The time on it. Right. So I could have said a new version as an upgrade again. Yeah. But that’s also something the app store doesn’t handle excessively. Well, you know, to move to a new SKU, you know, you’re breaking a history of URLs and links and reviews and stuff that are detrimental to your app. It’s very difficult to move users and to, to migrate them if you do that.

[00:24:52] So a lot of pain points and I, I did launch as a new SKU because I wanted to support my existing users for awhile and [00:25:00] not force people to migrate to the new version immediately. If, if they didn’t feel it was a fit for them. Um, so I took that step. I also made a generous free version because I felt like the nature of drafts is not something people always just get, like your light bulb moment with drafts is probably not going to happen in a seven day free trial.

[00:25:24]So I wanted the opportunity for people to experiment with it, you know, play with it for a few months or continue use it forever for free. If that meets their needs and hope sometime down the road, once they’ve got it integrated in their tool set, they’ll decide some of those pro features are worth the addition.

[00:25:42] No, you know, Things. So there was a lot of steps to the way I built into that process, but also I was deciding, am I going to do this as a full time job or not? You know, I was not making enough from drafts that I didn’t have. Trying to [00:26:00] create the right words for this. But my vision for the app could not be realized if I, I did not have a steady income from it.

[00:26:06] Um, and the upgrade cycle leaves you in the place I was there, where your income is front loaded. At the time you do an upgrade, your loyal users pay you and then. At the tail end of that, you’re struggling to get, get out that next version. You probably held features that you wanted to do for a year because you need to be able to charge for them, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:26:33] And I just wanted it to be able to. Develop quickly iterate get new features out there fast. I’m not sure I have to hold them for a big upgrade, things like that. And I, I just think that this model fits for what drafts is because there’s a lot to be added. And I think that that’s part of the nature of it too, is that it is an app that lends itself to constant iteration.

[00:26:59] I think that [00:27:00] there are some apps that have gone to a subscription model that are more or less feature complete. And you it’s harder to see the value. You know of them maintaining it. Yes. There’s a lot of work to continue to maintain that software, do OSTP compatibility and stuff like that. But, um, it’s not, it’s not as visible to the user.

[00:27:21] It’s not stuff they understand. They’re getting as a benefit for continuing to pay. So, you know, it’s a matter of the nature of the app, uh, and what I wanted to do with it, but I haven’t gotten that much pushback. I mean, there was people who just don’t want anything to do with subscriptions. And I understand that, and I may have lost some of those customers, but what I did get was enough customers to make this sustainable and who are happy with.

[00:27:50] The development, pace and stuff. So yeah, you know, you got to cut your losses in some areas, you can’t please everybody, but so far it’s [00:28:00] been out and it’s been able to make it my full time job. And it’s, you know, without that subscription income, I wouldn’t have been able to bring it to the Mac. I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the additions I’ve done to the app.

[00:28:10] So.

[00:28:11] Brett: [00:28:11] I think, uh, I think for us right now, because we’re not converting, we’re like we don’t have a paid version out there that we’re going to disappoint a bunch of people. Uh, I think it’s way easier for us to. Launch with a subscription model and just anyone who doesn’t like it, anyone who’s diametrically opposed to subscription, we might not get them as a customer, but I do like the idea of having, as you put it a generous free version.

[00:28:42] Cause I think those people might change their mind over time.

[00:28:45]Greg: [00:28:45] Yeah. I’ve had people told me they had drafts on their phone for six months, a year or whatever, before they really either clicked with them what they were supposed to do with it. Or somebody else talked about it on a podcast and they realized [00:29:00] their use case. They hadn’t thought of before for it. And things like that that eventually.

[00:29:05] You know, and now it’s one of their favorite apps. So I didn’t want those people to be scared away. And you can consider a lifetime unlock too, which is something I’ve gone back and forth on there. There are people who requested, um, it’s a small number of people. And to this date, I’ve decided that I didn’t think it was.

[00:29:25] The right choice for the app. Um, but some people would insist, Hey, I would rather pay you the equivalent of three years of subscription costs upfront than to have a subscription. I felt a little weird about that because I feel like you’re, you’re making a promise that. Uh, he, you know, that, that, and yes, absolutely.

[00:29:48] I’d tend to keep developing this app. I hope it’s going to be great three years from now or five years from now, but should something come up and I decide to quit doing it. I feel like I’ve made promises to those people that I, [00:30:00] you know, they would have been. Better off just subscribing. And if you’re paying for it once a year, you know, it’s not like a monthly thing.

[00:30:08] I mean, you can pay for it monthly, or you can pay the 20 bucks and go ahead and get a year. Um, it’s not like it’s something that hit, it hits your charge card every month. And.

[00:30:19]Brett: [00:30:19] Yeah. I, uh, I have always in every job I’ve had, uh, where I was working for other people. I’ve always documented everything. Yeah, I did thoroughly with, because I wanted to be able to have the peace of mind of knowing I could walk out, um, or something could happen. And I wouldn’t feel like I had let down the job, someone else could step in and do what I did.

[00:30:46] And. I’m I, it goes against the idea of making yourself irreplaceable through obscurity. But, um, but I haven’t, I always liked to have that freedom. It’s been important to me to know that if [00:31:00] something happens, if something changes, I’m not stuck. And I, I think I had the same reaction to the idea of lifetime on locks.

[00:31:07]Greg: [00:31:07] Yeah. Yeah, you don’t, you, you want to put yourself in a position where you’re not going to leave anyone in the lurch. If you decide to work on something else or whatever.

[00:31:17] Brett: [00:31:17] Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know if, uh, if users re understand the level of obligation that most developers independent or not feel towards their users. It’s a, there’s a bond there. We, we feel a responsibility to take care of people who give us money.

[00:31:36]Greg: [00:31:36] Yeah, and I mean, that’s been a great thing about, I think this has come with subscriptions to some extent too, but I think it helped build the, build the community around the app. I think the level of investment increased, I think the mental, uh, participation, you know, I, I have a discourse forum for users to help each other with actions and stuff.

[00:31:56] And I think the level of engagement. Has gone up, [00:32:00] um, with the subscription. And I don’t know if there’s any real psychology to that or not, but I think people are a little more invested in the app. Um, and that, that helps not just, you know, them, but other people in the community and stuff I have. Hey doc, small core set of power users that are great and really help people out on the community forums and help people get the most out of the app.

[00:32:26] And you know that that’s amazing to have that behind it.

[00:32:31] Brett: [00:32:31] Well, there’s nothing like a yearly or monthly reminder that you’re paying for something to add value to it.

[00:32:36]Greg: [00:32:36] Absolutely.

[00:32:38]Brett: [00:32:38] Alright. So question the second, uh, comes from Eric Linder. He’s wondering if you have any tips for searching in drafts. He’s especially curious about if he knows an exact phrase he’s searching for, he can’t always get the results to come up for an exact phrase.

[00:32:55]Greg: [00:32:55] Um, so I could point them to stuff in the docs, but both in the quick [00:33:00] search and in the search over the list, uh, drafts supports Google style, uh, tokenization. So if you want to find an exact phrase, if you put it in quotes, um, Where you’re going to search, be searching for that entire phrase. And you can also do omissions with the minus sign, like you can on Google.

[00:33:20] So if you want to, uh, you know, find something but omit some related things, and that works with tags as well as content of the draft itself. So you can construct some pretty, uh, pretty intricate queries. Uh, just with those two features. It does not. Um, that is something that I’d like to, to add it there’s a, and or constructs for tag filters and workspaces, but the query string itself doesn’t have, uh, it does not have boolean.

[00:33:53]Brett: [00:33:53] Uh, I, that is that the search syntax in apps [00:34:00] like drafts or the upcoming nvUltra, or even, like TaskPaper. Everyone kind of develops their own query syntax. And I really it’s nice when people Google set a standard and it’s nice when things that work in Google work in your text editor apps. the quoting exact phrases should definitely be a standard for everybody.

[00:34:24] Um, I actually, yeah, our app doesn’t incorporate the plus minus. We have we have, and, and not booleans, but the plus minus would be really handy. I might steal that.

[00:34:35] Greg: [00:34:35] I’ve got it on my list that you better believe in logic. I haven’t got there yet though. It’s definitely something that’s a part of the growth curve of, of drafts, you know, for a long time, people didn’t use it for more femoral things. And now that they’re storing more stuff in it, long term, having support powerful features, there would be great.

[00:34:55] Brett: [00:34:55] So what’s up next? Anything you can talk about.

[00:34:57]Greg: [00:34:57] Um, I got I right now, I’m [00:35:00] in the midst of the OSTP upgrades, you know, implementing the new features are kind of have to be there. Um, for the ULS is, cause drafts is kind of known for being on the cutting edge of, of what you can do. So I working on widgets and, um, I’ve previewed them on Twitter and stuff, but I have.

[00:35:17] Good widget implementation. It’s not working none, you know, just visual upgrades for big Sur, um, stuff like that. That’s the short, short term. And then hopefully end of year, two, beginning of next year, I’m going to finally roll out custom syntax definitions and things, which is kind of in part of the core editor engine.

[00:35:36] I rewrote for. For the current version of drafts all along, but I haven’t rolled out the ability to install your own, develop your own. And I think that’s going to kick open the doors for a lot of things on Drafts, because as it stands, the syntax highlighting that ships with the app, I have several flavors of markdown and a taskpaper and [00:36:00] JavaScript syntax highlighting, but, uh, The engine underneath that is a it’s simplified.

[00:36:06] It’s not a, you know, code programmer level. but it’s meant to be more approachable and it has some flexibility to let people do some cool variance, like, It’s all rejects based and things like clickable tasks can not just be on off, but you can configure your own that have multiple States, uh, things like that.

[00:36:29] And I think, and there’s also been a number of other minor variations. Yeah. So syntax that people want, you know, Hey, I, I write it marked down, but I have this special annotation syntax I like to use. And it, it will be somewhat trivial to. Introduce that as kind of variance and it also supports a more stylistic options.

[00:36:51] I’ve kept the, the default ones that ship with the app, pretty plain Jane, but stuff like, uh, text sizes and [00:37:00] colors and, um, things are all controllable with it. So if you’re the kind of person who wants your markdown headers to be really big, uh, you can do that and syntax definitions on stuff. So that’s, hopefully it ended the year kind of thing.

[00:37:14] It’s, it’s one of the things that, that, that the core technology. So there, but building out the UI is always the chore.

[00:37:21] Brett: [00:37:21] Sure. Absolutely. All right. Well that brings us around to the top three picks. Are you prepared for that?

[00:37:29] Greg: [00:37:29] I am reasonably prepared for that.

[00:37:32] Brett: [00:37:32] All right. Well, hit me with your first one.

[00:37:35] Greg: [00:37:35] All right. Well, can we get very general for the first one?

[00:37:39] Brett: [00:37:39] totally. We can do anything you want.

[00:37:42] Greg: [00:37:42] I pick reading, sounds really lame, but reading fiction specifically, because that’s something I really fell out of the habit of doing, um, you know, I, I was an avid reader in the day and you know, you have. Kids, you get occupied with other stuff at all.

[00:37:58] And I just, wasn’t finding [00:38:00] time to read any fiction at all for years other than what I read to the kids, you know, when they were young and, uh, I read a lot to them, but, um, I didn’t read much for myself. And beginning of the pandemic, I decided I was gonna, I was gonna get back into reading and it’s been great.

[00:38:19] Uh, it’s just such a great way to zone out from the stream of things, you know, and I don’t mean reading an article on, on the web. I mean, sitting down with a book, um, and separating from the, the stream of things.

[00:38:34] Brett: [00:38:34] Are you a Kindle guy or a paperback guy?

[00:38:37] Greg: [00:38:37] Um, I am somewhat begrudgingly, a Kindle guy. And part of this was I bought a new Kindle, uh, at the beginning of the pandemic to support this habit. And it mostly has to do with my vision at this point, you know? I’m 51 years old. I don’t see as well as I used to, I pick up an average paperback book. And even with my bifocal glasses, [00:39:00] I have trouble reading the text in it.

[00:39:03] So being able to blow up the font size a bit,

[00:39:07] Brett: [00:39:07] which Kendall did you get?

[00:39:08] Greg: [00:39:08] I got the paper white that the basic Paperwhite, and I’ve been happy with it.

[00:39:14] Brett: [00:39:14] I got the Oasis. I’m really happy with that one.

[00:39:16]Greg: [00:39:16] I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure out the, the variations on it. Um,

[00:39:22]Brett: [00:39:22] um, so what have you read lately? That’s awesome.

[00:39:26]Greg: [00:39:26] um, I’ve heard of a few things that were kind of on my list of wish wished I had read, but never got around to things. I read Philip K Dick’s band in the high castle. Which was a really good, I read Octavia Butler’s kindred,

[00:39:42] Brett: [00:39:42] Yes, I just, I just did that one.

[00:39:44] Greg: [00:39:44] which was pretty amazing read. That’s the great thing about fiction too, is I I’m a person who reads a lot, has always read a lot of nonfiction and analytical articles and things.

[00:39:57] I like to be on top of current events [00:40:00] and whatnot. You can think about things like race, but when you put them in a context of a, you know, Fiction and, uh, especially something that scifi like that, that kind of puts you in, in the sense of place at all. It really makes you think about it differently.

[00:40:16] Brett: [00:40:16] Yeah. Uh, reading Octavia led me to reading NK Jemisin, uh, following the line of, of black female authors. Have you read any of the broken earth trilogy or like the city we became? Any of that stuff?

[00:40:32] Greg: [00:40:32] No, but.

[00:40:33] Brett: [00:40:33] I

[00:40:33] Greg: [00:40:33] Sounds good ones for the list. Um, I’ve also been rereading Ursula, Kayla Gwynn’s or see books, which are kind of her team teen oriented books, but they’re ones I read when I was a preteen and loved, and I was kind of interested in revisiting them in light of the post Harry Potter era and stuff, because they, they kind of have a lot of the same themes that.

[00:40:59] Uh, [00:41:00] that JK Rowling sort of, I don’t want to say ripped off, but, uh, built on it, did it in a different way, you know, a wizard who goes off to Wizarding school, uh, and that kind of stuff. Um,

[00:41:12] Brett: [00:41:12] Okay. I’m not familiar with Ursula. K

[00:41:15] Greg: [00:41:15] look when,

[00:41:16] Brett: [00:41:16] McGwynn. Alright. I’ll have to check that out too.

[00:41:19]Greg: [00:41:19] and she’s written other science fiction. Um, We’re adult science fiction, but a third seat books are a good introduction to her.

[00:41:28]Brett: [00:41:28] All right. Cool. All right. So reading with a lot of sub picks there.

[00:41:33]Greg: [00:41:33] Yeah.

[00:41:34]Other other stuff I’ve been doing just like in media consumption? Uh, I like a light show. I don’t like a lot of sh you know, my wife and I sit down to watch TV usually, and we don’t want to get to. Deep into something. So I tend to watch stuff that’s on the lighter side, I’ve really been enjoying uncle, which is on Hulu.

[00:41:55] I don’t know if anybody’s up for comedy series, but a it’s a, [00:42:00] it’s a British comedy show. Uh, About a, a, not a musician who does not have his life together very well, who is put in a place where he’s taking care of his nephew more often because of his sister’s divorce. And, uh, you know, it’s kind of the, the learning experience of the, both the, the team and the, the uncle.

[00:42:27] And with a lot of good comedy stuff.

[00:42:30] Brett: [00:42:30] Is it, is it typical British comedy? Uh, is it slightly uncomfortable to watch?

[00:42:36] Greg: [00:42:36] yes, absolutely. At times he, he definitely does not realize the responsibilities of taking care of a child in a lot of ways and results in a certain amount of mischief. But, uh,

[00:42:51] Brett: [00:42:51] Um, if you’re looking for a well-written light 30 minute comedy show lately, I’ve been really [00:43:00] into life and pieces.

[00:43:02]Greg: [00:43:02] I have not watched Allen

[00:43:03] Brett: [00:43:03] Most people haven’t, uh, I think it was originally on CBS, but it’s on Amazon prime. Now, if you have prime, a, it’s a fun it’s it’s not, it’s super light. Um, you’re not gonna learn anything from it, but it’s a good, it’s a good filler show.

[00:43:21]Greg: [00:43:21] Yeah, I I’ve been to usually like something like that. I can watch two episodes of that. That’s that’s on the lighter side.

[00:43:28]Brett: [00:43:28] Yeah, I need a long form shows you like.

[00:43:31]Greg: [00:43:31] Um, you know, I’ve given a few, a try during the pandemic that were some of the hit things like Ozark and stuff. And I liked a well enough, but. They never hold my interest into the second or third season. Like I usually find that those, uh, are worn out. I mean, the Watchmen was amazing. It was, and it’s what it should be.

[00:43:53] You know, short run series. They did what they needed to do with it. I hope they don’t come back and try to make more, [00:44:00] um, as great as it was. Um,

[00:44:02]Brett: [00:44:02] feel, I feel like that’s why Netflix cancels everything after two or three seasons. It’s hard to keep people going after that.

[00:44:09]Greg: [00:44:09] Yeah, I just actually been, I had never, although I’d heard great things about it over the years and always wanted to watch it. I had never sat down and watched community and. One of my sons and I started watching it and it is a great show and it was amazing for awhile, but we’re into the last two seasons now.

[00:44:27] And it’s really like, okay, this, I still like these characters and they’re still FID bits in it, but, uh, it is kind of worn out.

[00:44:36] Brett: [00:44:36] Yep. I did. I did, as part of the, my pandemic TV watching, I did go through community and its entirety and it was worth it, but you’re right by, by the last two seasons it’s, it’s wearing thin a little bit. I really feel like a Troy and I bed should have had a spinoff show about that time. About the time that Troy left, they should have, they should have, uh, signed him up for [00:45:00] a second show.

[00:45:02] That would have been, I would watch that.

[00:45:04]Greg: [00:45:04] Yeah, the last couple of seasons, they’re a little too obsessed with some of the fourth wall breaking and stuff like that. It’s all right. I got that joke, but

[00:45:13]Brett: [00:45:13] Alright. Third pick.

[00:45:15] Greg: [00:45:15] Third pick. All right. I was going to go with a movie for third pick to keep it simple. And this is one, I assume a lot of your audience is probably familiar with, but maybe not everybody has watched recently, but Harold and Maude, one of my favorite movies ever, and I hadn’t watched it in probably 15 years or something and just watched it a couple of weeks ago with my son.

[00:45:37] And it is amazing as ever, um,

[00:45:40] Brett: [00:45:40] Yeah, I haven’t watched that for at least 15 years.

[00:45:43]Greg: [00:45:43] And it is, I mean, I guess the movie is a dark comedy is how it’s usually listed. It’s also a romance it’s it’s a week, you know, so weird story about two very weird people finding each other in the world, which is kind of encouraging. Um, [00:46:00] and it’s, it’s dated it’s from, I guess, around 70, 71. Um, And, you know, has some of the, uh, dated bits because of that, but it also uses music incredibly well.

[00:46:12] Uh, I probably wouldn’t even like cat Stevens if it weren’t for that movie, but I do because it’s so incorporated so well into, into everything in the movie. Um, definitely worth checking out.

[00:46:26] Brett: [00:46:26] Do you, uh, do you, do you ever use Spotify? Not Spotify. Um, Shizam now Apple music’s, uh, auto tag feature.

[00:46:37] Greg: [00:46:37] No.

[00:46:38] Brett: [00:46:38] So like when you’re at home watching a movie or a TV show, you can leave a Shizam open. And it will just start, as music comes on, it’ll just tell you what’s playing. So you can constantly look down. I found a lot of music, a lot of music, like you said, that if it’s well used in a movie or even in a TV show, it contextualizes the [00:47:00] music in a way that just hearing it on the radio wouldn’t and a lot of it becomes more meaningful to me.

[00:47:05] So Shizam keeps like basically I can go back in and see every song that played during an episode of a show. And then you have Apple music links to whatever I want.

[00:47:15]Greg: [00:47:15] And how well, obviously I am a music oriented person. I love music and always have, so I noticed this stuff more than some, but yeah. When it’s used well in a TV show, her movie, it just enhances it so much. And it’s something, I think a lot of directors or whoever the creatives behind off to various shows are just don’t take advantage of, or don’t have an ear for, or get the right consultants, you know, but that right song in the right place, um, Palm Springs did a really good, uh, version that too is some obscure music, not stuff you hear every day on the radio, but, uh, it just fit well.

[00:47:54] And they find their found the right songs and they didn’t just drop it in the mix. You know, they made it a bold [00:48:00] part of the soundtrack really enhanced it.

[00:48:04] Brett: [00:48:04] I can’t remember. I was watching something the other night and my girlfriend and I both commented on how amazingly well. They mixed, like it didn’t stick to a genre at all. It had songs from the eighties, it had covers of songs from the, the OTs. It had a new music that no one had ever heard by.

[00:48:24] Like, I think the national was in there, but it was just this huge array of music. But every single song was one that made you. Take note without distracting from the plot. I were, if I remember what, what we were watching, I’ll throw that in the show notes, but it was worth it.

[00:48:42] Greg: [00:48:42] Have you watched? I am not okay with this on Netflix. That used music really well too.

[00:48:48]Brett: [00:48:48] Yes. You have good taste.

[00:48:50]Greg: [00:48:50] Thank you. They just renewed that for a second

[00:48:53] Brett: [00:48:53] Oh, really? That’s

[00:48:54] Greg: [00:48:54] Hopefully they don’t go off to the sixth season because it will be worn out concept by that.

[00:48:59] Brett: [00:48:59] net it’s [00:49:00] Netflix. There’s no way it makes it to six season.

[00:49:02] Greg: [00:49:02] So true.

[00:49:04] Brett: [00:49:04] Alright, well, uh, anything else you want to add?

[00:49:08] Greg: [00:49:08] No, I don’t. So I struggle with pics to begin with. I’m very, very bad at claiming a favorite. Anything better.

[00:49:16]Brett: [00:49:16] I generally have too many picks, but I did find that recording, even if I was just recording weekly, coming up with three every week. Cause I used to do a back and forth and I would have three for every one of my guests, three pecks. And that, that got to be, got to be a bit much. I can only like so many things that much.

[00:49:38] Greg: [00:49:38] Yeah,

[00:49:38]I’m not very, like, I don’t consume a lot of products, like physical products these days. I kind of have stuff I like, and I don’t, I don’t go out and find a lot of new gadgets and things like that to discuss.

[00:49:51]Brett: [00:49:51] I get it. Um,

[00:49:53] Greg: [00:49:53] just come back every week and discuss my favorite multi-tool and how much I still like it.

[00:49:58]Brett: [00:49:58] fair enough. [00:50:00] Um, all right. So where can people find you out, out there on the web?

[00:50:04] Greg: [00:50:04] Um, I’m an agile tortoise on Twitter and, uh, you can find drafts that get drafts.com.

[00:50:10]Brett: [00:50:10] and, uh, thanks for your time today.

[00:50:13] Greg: [00:50:13] Thanks for having me. It was a fun discussion,

[00:50:15] Brett: [00:50:15] Thanks for giving me a second shot at recording this.

[00:50:18] Greg: [00:50:18] Todd. No problem.

[00:50:19] Brett: [00:50:19] All right. Talk to you later.

[00:50:20] Greg: [00:50:20] Bye.