Categories
Management Reviews Software

Airtable (TL;DR review)

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of being a tech savvy person working in the entertainment industry is all of the almost but not quite right software on the market. For example: you have Asana’s anti-freelancer friendly pricing. Misguided attempts at analytics. And shoehorning Trello into an indie documentary productivity tool.

Today’s entry into the almost but not quite right category is Airtable. I know this startup is hot right now. But sadly it misses the mark for me. My TL;DR review is this:

Airtable offers neither the design flexibility of a spreadsheet, nor the customized reporting of a full featured database.

Here is an example of the dashboard I use to manage my shows:

Dashboard view
The Post Supervisor’s “Dashboard“.

And here the best Airtable can do with its Record List “block“:

Airtable Dashboard Record List Block .png
Awful on so many levels.

I was hoping Airtable would make it easier for me to keep a Dashboard version of the schedule in-sync with a Calendar view. And it did show potential. Changes made in the calendar show up on the record list block. And changes made to an episode record, show up on the calendar. (See the embedded example “base” below) But without design tools to provide contrast and emphasis, Airtable can’t make the cut into useful. The per user pricing doesn’t help either.

https://airtable.com/embed/shrjp3ssjvpDhrFHl?backgroundColor=red&viewControls=on

I have a few more complaints about Airtable, as a company, as well:

  • They advertise Airtable as a spreadsheet alternative, but on their community forums repeatedly say that Airtable is not a spreadsheet when users ask for features that Airtable can not do.
  • Screenshot-2018-6-6 airtable block at DuckDuckGo
  • One much requested feature is a “record updated” trigger for Zapier. Despite an employee saying that this feature is “coming soon“, there is now just radio silence on this front. Just say that it’s not on the API roadmap anymore. Your silence is deafening.
  • Glacial response from the support team. Plus blocking a paid user for 1,000 years seems like an excessive and silly policy.
  • IMG_0827
    3018… I mean really?

I’m extra hard on Airtable because I’ve never wanted a service to work SO badly.Screenshot-2018-6-6 Post Production Scheduling Survey

 

The potential to save hours of work each week is sooo close, but too far. Perhaps if Airtable engaged with their customers as opposed to ignoring them, they’d create a product that would appeal to even more users.

Categories
Media Theory Reviews

Thumbs down

I gave CGP Grey’s newest video a thumbs down. It was the first time I’ve disliked a video of his. The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant is a weak allegory about death and dying. And what is most frustrating about it, is how Grey, usually rational and realistic, presents three completely illogical points.

First, death is not evil. It just is. Like gravity. To equate death to an evil dragon is illogical and childish. People don’t die because some evil entity needs to be placated. People die because our biological systems fail.

Second, Grey presents death as just one problem that needs to be solved once. But in reality people die for a multitude of reasons. Even if we find a cure for aging, there is still cancer and disease. And if humans somehow master biology, then there are the deaths due physics, like car accidents and plane crashes, the eventual collapse of our sun, and the inevitable death of the universe. The quest for immortality is a hamster wheel of endless problems to solve.

Third, Grey ignores the enormous advances in medicine that humans have already made, from the discovery of bacteria to CRISPR. The average life expectancy has only increased since our ancestors just 200 years ago. Humanity isn’t taking death lying down. We’re doing very well actually.

I am sympathetic to the existential crisis.  In the book Love’s Executioner, famed Stanford psychiatrist Irvin Yalom writes, “I had come to believe that the fear of death is always greatest in those who feel that they have not lived their life fully.” I wonder if Grey might be better off considering whether making YouTube videos is really fulfilling.

In the meantime you should totally watch CGP Grey at his best here (Americapox), here (Rules for Rulers), & his absolute best here (Humans need not Apply).

And if you want to read something internet-y with stick figures about death I’d highly recommend this Wait But Why post on Cryonics.

Categories
Reviews

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (mini-review)

Audible has become one of my favorite sources of entertainment in 2017. I recently finished The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and I couldn’t be more delighted. Professor Leo Damrosch narrates a great lecture series about Gibbon’s seminal work, and the Roman Empire itself. I highly recommend this audiobook to history buffs or anyone dismayed by current events. Remembering that life goes on despite the Commodus’s and Caligula’s puts Trump’s kakistocracy into perspective.

Categories
Reviews

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (mini-review)

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

I just finished the excellent biography of John Boyd. Don’t let the title fool you, because Boyd was more than a fighter pilot. He was a great thinker who developed the Energy-maneuverability theory, that would change aeronautics; and the OODA Loop, that would change the way we’d look at conflict. (For example: see this post about surviving an active shooter situation by breaking the shooter’s OODA Loop.) Anyway, the book was excellent and I highly recommend the read.

In regard to John Boyd’s life, I’m conflicted of his story as a role model. Despite the excellence of his work, the bureaucratic military machine never made Boyd a General. Despite the work of his peers, the military industrial complex keeps churning out more expensive weapons of questionable value.  And despite negligence and ‘hillbilly armor‘ and four useless wars, people still join the Army, while the press and the American public don’t really care about waste in the armed services.

Against this backdrop of apathy; I can’t help wonder why? Why did Boyd sacrifice his relationship with his family in exchange for indifference? Why be a part of power structure, if you’re only going to curse off your superiors and antagonize them at every opportunity?

And most importantly, why did he not follow the very core of his own message about being an “elusive sword” when promoting his ideas and theories? “The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down.” Boyd had to come across this dictum during his years of study. So I don’t understand what he was hoping to accomplish with his life and living it the way that he did, at such a high personal cost.

 

Categories
Reviews Software

Transmit 5 (mini-review)

One of a Post Supervisor’s primary responsibilities is to maintain good channels of communication between a show’s stakeholders and its vendors. Often this takes the form of an email, and perhaps a well formatted post schedule. But sometimes that good channel of communication takes the form of moving a file from point-A to point-B.

For example: downloading the final version of the graphic open to pass along to your A.E.. Or uploading a Press cut of your show to a P.R. agency.

Transmit 5

If you need to move files online there is no better tool than Panic Inc’s recently updated Transmit 5. Supremely easy to use, uploading and downloading via FTP is as straightforward as copying files with the Finder.  And version 5 adds 10 Cloud Services, including Amazon S3, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

Panic Inc says they have rewritten the file transfer engine to enable faster multi threading uploads and navigation of complex folders. While I haven’t run any tests, I can say that Transmit 5 has continually surprised me by how fast it’s able to move files to and from the cloud.

At $45 Transmit 5 is an app that belongs in every Post Supervisor’s toolbox. Highly recommend.

For further reading: Mac Stories’s review. Mac World’s review.