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How to Marie Kondo your digital desktop (and become a genius)

(TECH) You’re a living, breathing human, so you’ve heard of Marie Kondo by now, but did you know her method applies to more than your closet?

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marie kondo your digital desktop

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Digital Desktop

By now, there’s no avoiding Marie Kondo’s magical art of tidying up. She’s fully turned our lives upside down and inside out and she’s shaking every last piece of hoarded junk from our clammy, nervous, fear-of-needing-it-later grasp.

Based loosely on the idea that if the things you possess no longer spark joy, thank them for their service and drop them off at the nearest Goodwill.

And for many of us, it’s working.

It’s remarkable that many of us just needed the push to pay our respects to our old things to finally let them go. So, while you’ve been throwing out t-shirts you’ve had since high school and chucking college tchotchkes, you’ve probably neglected to tackle your workspace.

We get it, workspaces are sacrosanct – they can be messy for a reason.  Geniuses have messy workspaces! There’s a method to the madness (or maybe not)!

However, just as too much clutter can cloud our personal lives and leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, so can clutter in our workspaces.

Personally, I advocate an empty desk.

When I’ve worked in offices, teammates have marveled at my non-commitment to my workspace. How can you keep your space so empty? Don’t you have any pictures of dogs or loved ones? Does anyone love you? For me, an empty desk is a like a primed, blank canvas; it’s the optimal space for discovery and imagination.

However, my Mac’s desktop is another story. Loose Word docs (Who the eff uses Word docs?!), random screenshots of closed captioned scenes from Law & Order: SVU, screen grabs of Tweets I want to reference (For what? For whom?), and PDFs storing confirmation emails for things I’ve received long ago.

Bottom line, I’m hoarding digital garbage and it’s stressing me out.

Most of us know the feeling. We’re holding on to past work for previous clients, drafts of projects that never came to fruition, JPEGs by the tens of thousands for garbage pictures we’re never going to edit, extremely old expense reports, abandoned Keynote presentations and bookmarks by the million for sites we think we’ll be revisiting.

So, what to do? Do just as Marie Kondo asks and determine if these assets spark joy. No? Take them to the trash.

Okay, maybe not all files spark “joy,” but not all are necessary – stop making promises to yourself. Keep files that you’ll really need – such as current work, work you want to keep for your portfolio, and any client records that you’re legally required to protect. For personal items, keep tax returns and ditch the photos of people who are no longer in your life.

There, that’s a start.

Here’s a good rule of thumb I live by as a writer – never keep notes for ideas. Notes are excuses. Notes are lazy. They are reminders of ideas you pretend you’ll keep for another time. However, by the time you return, the idea’s different, gone, or irrelevant.

Want to increase productivity? Make the idea actionable the moment it comes to you and give yourself a firm 24 hour deadline. If you haven’t moved on it, toss it.

By the way, as of this writing, I still have a semi-cluttered digital desktop, but I don’t have any notes. I’m a work in progress and maybe a genius.

Meg Furey-Marquess is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. She has covered tech for The Metro Silicon Valley and The Bold Italic. She was named one of the Top 39 Writers on Medium in 2016.

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Get all your digital organization in one place with Routine

(TECH NEWS) Routine makes note-taking and task-creating a lot easier by merging all your common processes into one productivity tool.

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A desk with a laptop, notepad, smartphone, and cup of coffee settled into an organized routine.

Your inbox can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Without organization, important emails with tasks, notes, and meetings can become a trash pile pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of tools that aim to help you improve your efficiency, and the latest to add to that list is Routine.

Routine is a productivity app that combines your tasks, notes, and calendar into one easy-to-use app so you can increase your performance. Instead of having to switch between different apps to jot down important information, create to-do lists, and glance at your calendar, Routine marries them all into one cool productivity tool. By simply using a keyboard shortcut, you can do all these things.

If you receive an email that contains an actionable item, you can convert that email into a task you can view later. Tasks are all saved in your inbox, and you can even schedule a task for a specific day. So, if Obi-Wan wants to have Jedi lessons on Thursday, you can schedule your Force task for that day. Likewise, chat messages that need follow-up can also be converted into tasks and be scheduled.

To enrich your tasks, notes can be attached to them. In your notes, you can also embed checkboxes, which are tasks of their own. And if you have tasks that aren’t coming from your inbox, you can import them from other services, such as Gmail, Notion, and Trello.

To make sure you can stay focused on the events and tasks at hand, Routine makes it easy to take everything in. By using the tool’s keyboard-controlled console, you can access your dashboard to quickly see what tasks need to be addressed, what’s on your calendar, and even join an upcoming Zoom session and take notes about the meeting.

Routine is available for macOS, iOS, web, and Google accounts only. Overall, the app centralizes notes and tasks by letting you create and view everything in one place, which helps make sure you stay on top of things. Currently, Routine is still in beta, but you can get on a waitlist to test the product out for yourself.

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The paradox of CAPTCHAs: Too smart for humans vs AI?

(TECH NEWS) AI is catching up to our cybersecurity technology and often tricking humans too — so what’s next for CAPTCHAs and the internet?

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Person using phone with laptop to verify CAPTCHAs and code.

We’ve all encountered it before: The occasional robot test that feels impossible to beat. If you’ve felt like these tests, also known as CAPTCHAs, have gotten harder in the last couple of years, you aren’t wrong—and the reason is as ironic as it is baffling.

Simply put, AI are just as good as—and often better than—humans at completing CAPTCHAs in their classic format. As machine learning and AI become more advanced, the fundamental human attributes that make consistent CAPTCHA formats possible become less impactful, raising the question of how to determine the difference between AI and humans in the future.

The biggest barrier to universal CAPTCHA doctrine is purely cultural. Humans may share experiences across the board, but such experiences are typically basic enough to fall victim to the same machine learning which has rendered lower-level CAPTCHAs moot. Adding a cultural component to CAPTCHAs could prevent AI from bypassing them, but it also might prevent some humans from understanding the objective.

Therein lies the root of the CAPTCHA paradox. Humans are far more diverse than any one test can possibly account for, and what they do have in common is also shared by—you guessed it—AI. To create a truly AI-proof test would be to alienate a notable portion of human users by virtue of lived experience. The irony is palpable, but one can only imagine the sheer frustration developers are going through in attempting to address this problem.

But all isn’t lost. While litmus tests such as determining the number of traffic cones in a plaza or checking off squares with bicycles (but not unicycles, you fool) may be beatable by machines, some experts posit that “human entropy” is almost impossible to mimic—and, thus, a viable solution to the CAPTCHA paradox.

“A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, a former click fraud expert from Google. While AI could attempt to feign this same level of “entropy”, the odds of a successful attempt appear low.

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Move over, Clubhouse: Slack adds their own audio chat rooms

(TECH NEWS) Slack planning to co-opt Clubhouse’s synchronous audio rooms has lead to mixed response. Did it really need to be done?

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Woman in green cardigan and headphones listening to audio chat room on mobile, where Slack becomes a competitor.

Slack is adding a synchronous audio chat room feature similar to what Clubhouse already has. While not everyone is happy about it, the addition is true to Slack’s ongoing form—if a little redundant.

Slack’s audio rooms would work similarly to Clubhouse’s current feature of the same persuasion. The rooms themselves would be ongoing for as long as they were open, and users would be able to drop in and out of calls at their leisure, even joining the conversation when permitted by the host or settings. In theory, it’s a cool way to round out Slack’s platform and make for yet another way for people to engage during the work day.

But not everyone is stoked about the addition. Pocketnow’s Nadeem Sarwar makes a strong point about the redundancy of adding a Clubhouse feature to the already-packed Slack deck: “…from a regular remote worker’s perspective, I’d rather use services such as Telegram, Discord, or Google Meet that we’ve grown accustomed to using for jumping into a group call with my teammates.”
“…[T]he need for audio chatrooms to get in a chaotic chat with colleagues, with whom you already chat over work and share memes five days a week, doesn’t make much sense,” he adds.

Sarwar also references research about remote meeting fatigue from Stanford and The Washington Post, positing that—since video conferences are already played out at this point—adding another quasi-conference option to Slack doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

He isn’t wrong. There are multitudinous conference options on the market now, many of which are free. One could argue that Slack, having marketed itself as a text-first communication hub, has no business entering the audio chat landscape.

That argument falls on its face when you consider Slack’s model—something both Sawar and the Slack CEO himself mention—involves “stealing” and implementing “good ideas” from others in order to make their own platform as comprehensive as possible. If one is able to use Slack for the majority of tasks that Google, Discord, and Clubhouse offer, that makes the platform a lot more attractive to users who are on the fence.

And, perhaps more importantly, it ensures that current users won’t migrate to a comparable platform in the future—especially if their colleagues are making the same choice.

It’s a smart move for Slack, especially given Clubhouse’s lack of Android support at this time—something Clubhouse has said probably still won’t launch for a couple of months.

The Clubhouse team, for their part, continues to add new features in efforts to maintain the platform’s upward mobility. One such feature is the option for paid subscriptions to content creators, allowing for people to monetize their presence on the platform. At the time of this writing, Clubhouse is valued at around $1 billion.

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