Seven years ago, Gina Trapani founded Lifehacker — so this week's edition of How I Work is particularly near and dear to us. While leading the site, Gina wrote Lifehacker's best-selling book and launched multiple open-source projects. She's the creator of ThinkUp, a social media insights engine (used by the White House!), Todo.txt apps, a text-based task manager and Narrow the Gapp, a data-driven website about the gender pay gap.
Gina also hosts In Beta, a podcast about open source, web-based, mobile and social apps, and This Week in Google, a web show that covers the latest news about the cloud and Google. Gina's work truly makes the world a better place, and we were thrilled to chat with her about how she does it — from the gear that keeps her going, to the advice that inspires her most.
Name: Gina Trapani Occupation: I build ThinkUp and Todo.txt apps. I also host This Week in Google and In Beta (with Kevin Purdy). Location: San Diego, California, and Brooklyn, New York. Current computer: 15-inch MacBook Pro Current mobile devices: Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4S. I carry two fancy phones so I can dogfood my app on both platforms. I work: deliberately
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
On my phones and tablet, I spend most of my time in Gmail, Twitter and Foursquare. I love Instapaper for reading, Evernote for recipes, and because I'm directionally challenged, I couldn't live without Google Maps, especially with navigation on Android.
I code Java and PHP in Eclipse, a powerful, open-source IDE. TextMate is my favourite text editor. Git is my version control system of choice. GitHub is the best thing that ever happened to all of my open source coding projects.
For podcasting video and/or audio, I use a Countryman E6 earset, a Logitech HD Webcam C510, and Skype with the Ecamm Call Recorder. Our listeners can livestream the shows and chat in IRC as we go. Textual is my favourite IRC client for that.
When I'm not coding or podcasting, I'm on the web. Chrome is my primary browser, especially since it works so well on Android and syncs between devices. On Chrome on my Mac, I've pinned Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Voice tabs. On the desktop, I spend a lot of time at the command line managing my to-do list or running git commands or administering servers, so iTerm2 is also always running, usually with multiple tabs. Beyond that, I don't know how I'd get on without LastPass, KeePassX, Dropbox, TextExpander, Mozy, TweetDeck and Quicksilver. (Oh, and RescueTime helped me see what apps I spend most of my time in!)
Pictured above: Screenshot of Gina's code in Eclipse. (Expand for detail.)
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I have a terrible memory, so I actively maintain a living collection of text files I call my "memex". They're cheatsheets, checklists, project/todo/someday lists, vocabulary words, quotes I love, people I admire — pretty much anything I want to capture that doesn't fit somewhere obvious, like a contacts list or calendar. I keep this folder of files in Dropbox, so they sync across devices. Whenever I start a new episode of my show, get ready to do new release of my app, need to do some obscure sysadmin task on a server I haven't touched in months, or just need to find that quote I love, I check my memex.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I've been building Todo.txt apps for six years now, and I've used it that whole time: the command line interface, and more recently, the Android and iOS apps. I keep my todo.txt and done.txt files in Dropbox. I pin my highest priority tasks to my Mac desktop using GeekTool. I've got thousands of todo's archived in done.txt because I've been committed to the system since 2006. I love that I can grep years of tasks stored in a single file that's compatible with every text editor ever made.
Pictured above: Gina's iPhone home screen.
What's your workspace setup like?
I'm lucky to have a spacious home office, where there's room for both a standing desk and a sit-down table. I switched to a standing desk 19 months ago, and it's my primary workstation. Standing all day is pretty tough on your body, so I move my MacBook over to a sit-down table after lunch, around 2 or 3 in the afternoon each day, to give my legs a rest. I like lots of space to think and move and spread stuff out. I covered a large part of one of my office walls with corkboard, and I pin up stuff I'm working on or that inspires me. The most recent addition is this fabulous "Hustle" print by Joey Roth. I've also got a portrait of the Apple 1 on my wall, thanks to 20x200.
Pictured above: Joey Roth print that hangs in Gina's workspace.
What do you listen to while you work?
It depends on what I'm working on and where my energy level is. If I'm standing and coding and feeling good, I'll put on some upbeat pop music (i.e., punch "Call Me Maybe" into Pandora and go). If I'm writing I can't listen to anything with lyrics, so I'll go with something chill and ambient. Right now I've got a Kickstarter album I backed on repeat: Smooth Federation, a Star Trek jazz tribute.
Pictured above: Gina's standing desk.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
I couldn't start my day properly without my toothbrush and my teastick. I also depend heavily on my spiral notebook, my Space pen, and my Nexus 7, all of which I take with me in a Timbuk2 Eula messenger I designed.
I'm in love with the Nexus 7 right now. It's the first computer I pick up in the morning, the last one I put down at night, and I take it with me anywhere I know I'll have Wi-Fi. I just received a DODOcase smart cover for the N7 as a gift. Up until now I've thought Moleskine-style tablet covers like this were kind of precious, but now that I have one, I love it.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? What's your secret?
Since I moved to San Diego, I've learned how to build a great bonfire that lights immediately even on the windiest beach, no lighter fluid or fire starters required. The trick is to start with a layer of wadded-up newspaper. Then, arrange your kindling in a lattice pattern on top of it. Finally, prop your logs in a way that optimizes for maximum airflow. A single match will light that sucker up instantly and it'll burn all night.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"If you want something, you better go after it." -Dad
We've asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we'll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.