Matt Gemmell

Raw Materials book cover image

My book Raw Materials is out now!

A collection of personal essays, with exclusive content and author's notes.

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Macworld MacMania 2015

Update: This cruise has unfortunately been cancelled.

Fellow Mac enthusiasts, were you aware that there’s a conference for you on a cruise ship every year? Well, there is: Macworld’s MacMania. I’m delighted to confirm that I’ll be speaking on the 2015 cruise, which takes place from December 3rd - 15th next year (note: that’s 2015, not 2014).

My wife Lauren will be coming along too. The cruise begins (and ends) in Southampton in the UK, and we’ll be visiting the Madeira archipelago, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Lisbon, and Vigo. You can see the itinerary here.

Staying creative

I recently read Shawn Blanc’s Fighting to Stay Creative, which is about the challenges of maintaining creativity over long periods. I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts on that topic.

I write every day: seven days a week. I’m working on a novel, and I also write for this blog and various magazines. It’s my full-time job now, and I don’t have another one. Staying creative is thus absolutely critical for me.

I’ve learned a lot about the obstacles to continued creative output, and I’ve found a few techniques that can help. Many of these are just common sense, but it’s useful to have them all in one place.


I recently wrote an article about my seven and a half years of experience in working from home full-time, which seemed to strike a chord - it’s been read by more than 80,000 people so far, and extensively linked to.

The one aspect of my situation that I didn’t specifically talk about was the nature of my work. I’ve made a change of career this year, but for the seven years ending last December, I was a consultant software engineer and user experience designer.

I learned many lessons (some of them the hard way) about what goes into being a consultant, and I’d like to share my thoughts on that topic.

Thinking slowly

As I write this, my wife is sewing a skirt. Everything is laid out: the skirt itself, the fabric she cut the material from, the thread, the scissors, a measuring tape, some pins, the sewing machine and the pattern. It’s the first piece of clothing she’s made from scratch, and she’s thoroughly enjoying the process. I find the chatter of the sewing machine very comforting.

I’m a fan of analogue tools. I depend on them. I incorporate them into my creative process no matter what I’m doing. When I’m thinking about the architecture of a piece of software, I use a whiteboard (and index cards attached to the board with magnets) long before I launch Xcode. When I’m designing a user interface, Photoshop isn’t touched until I’ve filled several pages of a paper notebook, and I have multiple uncapped pens rolling around on the desk.

And then there’s writing, of course. I mostly do that on an assortment of electronic devices - some new, like my 2013 MacBook Air, and some old, like my gorgeous PowerBook 150 from 1994 - but right now I’m using something a bit more vintage: a typewriter.

Burying the URL

Last week, one of the nightly builds of the Google Chrome web browser experimented with hiding the URL in the address bar, instead showing what Google calls an “origin chip” - essentially a button for the domain you’re currently on.

It is just an experiment, and it has some potential usability problems, but it got me thinking about our old friend the URL.

Trabalhando em Casa

This is a Brazilian Portuguese version of my article about working from home. I’m very grateful to Halex Pereira for the translation.

Eu trabalho na minha casa em tempo integral há mais de sete anos, e sou dono do meu próprio negócio há igual tempo. Muitos de nós temos pelo menos uma oportunidade eventual de trabalhar em casa, e ouso dizer que muita gente gostaria de fazer disso algo permanente.

Só que não é algo tão simples quanto colocar um laptop na sala de estar. Trabalhar em casa traz uma série de dificuldades e desafios. De muitas maneiras é uma batalha de autocontrole. Queria falar sobre alguns dos problemas que encontrei e como lido com eles.

Working from home

I’ve been working from home full-time for more than seven years, and running my own business for the same amount of time. Many of us at least have the opportunity to occasionally work from home, and I daresay that many people would like the chance to do so permanently.

It’s not just as straightforward as pulling out a laptop in the living room, though. Working from home has a number of difficulties and challenges. In many ways, it’s a battle for mastery of yourself. I’d like to talk about a few of the issues I’ve faced, and how I handle them.

Little guys

I’ve been asked two questions far more than any others during my career: “What’s wrong with my code?”, and “How did you build your audience?”

The first one is no longer my department, and I’ve never really been able to give a satisfactory answer to the second.

I’m not a big time blogger. I don’t even like the term “blogger”, honestly. I certainly don’t consider myself “internet famous” (which is a bit mean-spirited to my ear, though rarely intentionally), even though I’ve been called all of those things.

Small screen productivity

In his piece The Perfect MacBook, Thord Daniel Hedengren talks about a hypothetical 12” MacBook Air:

Cut the bezel and you've got a machine that is essentially the size of the 11" Air, just a wee bit taller, but closer to the 13" when it comes to productivity.

I enjoyed the article, and I’d love that machine too. But I have to take issue with the (very common) idea of “productivity” as a consequence of screen size.