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Matthew Bischoff

They design & develop apps at Lickability and post about tech & culture here.

Absolutely Crushed →

Absolutely Crushed album art

In more mb-media news: earlier this year I launched a new podcast with my friend Syd Andrerson, called Absolutely Crushed. It’s a bi-weekly comedy interview show in which we gossip with a guest about their biggest celebrity or character crush and hilarity ensues.

Imagine you’re at a sleepover with your closest friends talking about that hot person they have a crush on and lightly teasing them about it while figuring out what makes their crush so attractive. It’s like that, but with interesting guests and crushes you know. This week’s guest is Syd’s girlfriend Quinn Rose, and we cover her crush on Aaron Tveit. It’s a great episode to start with.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or wherever fine podcasts are downloaded, and let us know what you think on Twitter.

Filed to: CultureTagged: , ,


I’ve been a fan of beestung magazine, a quarterly publication publishing poetry by nonbinary writers since I discovered it a few years ago. This week, they published Issue 12 on the theme of trans futures, guest edited by Cavar.

I’m honored that two of my poems are included in the issue alongside fantastically inventive work by other nonbinary poets. It would a lot to me if you gave it a look as it’s the first time any of my poems have been published. ❦

Filed to: Culture, ShorterTagged: ,

The Travel Focus Mode

Last summer, I visited Toronto to see my wife after being separated by pandemic-related border closures for months. While preparing for the trip, I realized that no matter how much I travel, it’s always a little stressful and now moreso with the addition of necessary safety measures like testing and vaccine checks. Add the difficulties of quickly finding boarding passes, managing delays, and tracking bags while my phone buzzes with irrelevant notifications and my heart rate skyrockets. So, I decided to use the trip as a test of the iOS 15 Focus feature and make travel less anxiety-inducing in the process.

I set up a focus mode called Travel that I manually activate or switch into automatically when I launch a flight tracking app or arrive at the airport. When I’m in this mode, a few things happen: my home screen switches to a (usually hidden) page that displays widgets for apps I always find myself searching for when I fly, my Apple Watch shows a special travel watch face, and notifications silence except for the people and apps that I’m expecting to interact with while traveling.

I found that this automation made the process of international air travel a lot smoother, and I’m looking forward to using it again when I fly to see her again soon 🤞. In the interest of sharing, here are my settings in case you want to use them as inspiration to build your personal travel focus mode.

Travel Focus Mode

Set up in Settings → Focus

Travel Focus Settings Screenshot

🔴 Allowed Notifications: Messages from friends, family, Find My, Kindle, Flighty, App in The Air, Uber, and any time-sensitive notifications
⛔️ Focus Status: Off. I don’t need to telegraph to the whole world that I’m unavailable because I still check other notifications, just less frequently
📱 Home Screen: Enable the custom travel page and disable all other pages
📍 Name & Appearance: I use a purple map pin icon because I wasn’t using purple yet, and there’s no airplane icon
🎛 Turn on Automatically: While at JFK, LaGuardia, or Toronto Pearson and when using Flighty

Travel Home Screen

Create and hide a home screen via the page dots while in editing mode

Travel Home Screen Screenshot

I include widgets from:

✈️ Flighty: My gate, check-in, departure, and arrival time
🧳 Find My: The location of my suitcase (via an AirTag), so I know when it’s nearby if I’ve checked it
📒 Notes: A note called “Travel Documents” that always contains my boarding pass, COVID test, and anything else I may need to board
🌨 Weather: The current conditions in my destination city
Clock: The current time at my destination (useful if changing time zones)
🔋 Batteries: Reminds me when I need to charge my devices or where I need to conserve power during delays

Apple Watch Face

Set up in the Apple Watch app or on your watch, then use Shortcuts automation to change to it when in the Travel focus

Apple Watch Lock Screen Screenshot

The watch displays what I need to glance at most while in line or moving around the airport. I use the Infograph Modular face to pack a lot of info on screen at once.

🌎 Earth: Looks cool and reminds me I’m in the travel mode
✈️ App in the Air: Flighty doesn’t have a watch app, so I use this to check boarding info from my wrist
💬 Messages: It’s handy to have a one-tap way to message Kate that I’m delayed or arriving!
🧳 Find My Items: A faster way to locate my suitcase
🌥 Weather: Will I need my coat or umbrella when I arrive?

I hope when you’re able to travel safely again, a focus mode like this will make your trek less of a headache. For a discussion of how Myke Hurley and CGP Grey have adopted this idea in their travels, listen to episode #124 of Cortex.

Filed to: Me, TechTagged: , , , ,

5 Shortcuts I Use Daily

This Friday, I spent an hour and a half chatting with Matthew Cassinelli about using Apple’s Shortcuts app to simplify my work and life. We went through 13 of my 156 shortcuts, showing how they work, explaining how I built them, and answering questions from the chat. As promised on the stream, here are 5 of those shortcuts that I use every day, with a brief explanation of why they save me so much time and links to download them.

📡 File a Radar

As a power user of Apple software and developer of apps for their platform, I have a lot of, shall we say, feedback. So whenever I run into a paper cut bug or an API I wish existed, I run this shortcut to file a new feedback report (née radar) and then pray it gets addressed in a future OS update.

⬇ Download “File a Radar”

💻 Change Mac Wallpaper

My MacBook sports a daily random wallpaper illustrated by the supremely talented artist David Lanham, whom I’ve followed for decades. But sometimes, macOS chooses an image that doesn’t fit the day’s mood. It’s times like these I run this shortcut to have the OS change my wallpaper to another random image from David’s collection without waiting for the following day when it will refresh again. The clever AppleScript it uses was written by a user of the MacWorld forum.

⬇ Download “Change Mac Wallpaper”

🗓 Move Calendar Events

I hyperschedule my day in Fantastical, blocking out events for everything from work meetings to workouts to leisure reading. But sometimes, I get delayed (or overly ambitious), and I need to shift a whole bunch of events later in the day. That’s where this shortcut comes in. It’s so much faster than tapping through every event individually. Tell it how long you want to delay things, tap the events you want to move, and you’re done.

⬇ Download “Move Calendar Events”

💬 Update Slack Status

We use Slack statuses at Lickability to communicate all kinds of things: lunch breaks, doctor’s appointments, vacations, and more. This handy shortcut from Jake Bathman, which I’ve lightly customized, lets me update my Slack status from anywhere without even opening the Slack app. And it’s even better than that! I can even use it from within other shortcuts to automate my status. Jake has written a detailed setup guide that makes it super simple to use.

⬇ Download “Update Slack Status”

🔋 Power Down

At the end of the workday, I like to step away from my desk and start unwinding. I run this shortcut from a button on my StreamDeck. It quits all my apps, turns on my favorite screensaver, and mutes my computer so notification sounds don’t draw me back into work. A little simple ritual for leaving my Mac how I want it for the next day.

⬇ Download “Power Down”

That’s all for now! I hope these shortcuts speed up your workflows as much as they have mine. If you enjoyed this post, let me know on Twitter, and maybe I’ll share more in the future.

Filed to: Appearances, Me, TechTagged: , , , , , , , ,

Stacking the Deck

A photo by Ben McCarthy of Matt presenting a slideshow onstage

PowerPoint presentations get a bad reputation. That’s because most of them are terrible—they’re boring, they’re too long, and they’re full of tiny text and awkward animations.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the highly-produced Keynotes from Apple that have been agonized over by legions of designers to sell you the company’s latest products. These decks are so intricate that they seem impossible for mere mortals to put together.

So it’s no wonder I don’t see many slide decks working on small software teams. The few I do are usually delivered by professional hypesters pitching startups, to cringes from the designers and developers in the room (or the Zoom, as the case may be). But earlier in my career, I used decks to great effect, and you know what? I miss them. In 2022, I’m bringing decks(y) back.

When my longtime friend and collaborator Brian Capps and I worked as iOS engineers at The New York Times, we noticed something concerning. There were a lot of intractable technical problems in the organization that seemed unsolvable due to politics and inter-team communication roadblocks. Everything from bug reports, to performance issues, to new features that needed newsroom buy-in got backed up this way.

So, as people who cared deeply about the quality of the products we were building, we searched for any way to get product people, designers, and business folks all on the same page about what we wanted to fix in the iOS app. The best tool we found (after trying many) was the humble slide deck.

Here’s what we did when we really wanted something to get fixed:

Brian and I would book a conference room together in the middle of the day, write an outline of what we wanted, and then develop a well-designed and straightforward slide presentation to make our argument. (By the way, we never told our bosses we were doing any of this.) We’d rehearse our spiel and then, we’d presell the idea by showing the deck to just a few people we knew would be critical decision-makers and solicit feedback, editing the deck as we heard their objections. Finally, we’d book a meeting with everyone in the organization who would need to be on board if we were going to make the change.

For example, once, we wanted to make sure that the NYTimes iOS app rendered all advertisements at the proper resolution on the new iPhone 4. We knew we’d need to convince a designer, the head of sales, an ad trafficker, a product manager, and our engineering manager. So we invited all of those folks to a meeting, dimmed the lights, and pitched our hearts out. For the first time, everyone in that room saw the blurry non-Retina ads for what they were—ugly and unbecoming of The Times. Everyone came out of that meeting jazzed to solve the problem, and together, we did!

This technique worked so well that we used it repeatedly, improving the app along the way. Our little slideshow sideshow became so familiar that it earned us a nickname: “the twins”. In fairness, we did have a bit of a Ringling Brothers vibe going on at the time.

Presentations are perfect for persuasion. Solid slides make information digestible; they show that you’ve thought deeply about the problem. And putting effort into them shows that you’re serious and that you care. Anyone can write an email, post a Slack message, or toss a meeting on the books. But few people will take the time to prepare a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and persuasive deck.

The next time you want to convince your coworkers, despite their differing priorities, to commit to working on something you care about: open your slideshow app of choice and make your argument in big type, one slide at a time. I bet your slides will change more minds than you expect.

Filed to: Culture, Management, TechTagged: , , ,