January 30, 2022
Photo: Joshua Eckstein/Unsplash
Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the rise of the mute button to the saga of Elon Musk’s flight tracker and the future of NFTs.
Three words: Hardware. Mute. Button.
Like so many people over the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time and money outfitting my home office. Too much of both, my wife would argue. But given how much time we’re all spending at our desks/dining room tables/makeshift garage spaces, it’s worth the investment.
Outside of the exceedingly obvious stuff (a comfy chair, a decent set of headphones) the single best thing I did was set the Back button on my mouse to mute and unmute my microphone in Zoom. Now I don’t have to fumble for the microphone logo or remember to press and hold the space bar; I just click to talk, and click when I’m done.
There are lots of ways to accomplish the same goal: You can rig your own with a Raspberry Pi, buy a colorful button on Amazon or buy a dedicated speakerphone device. But for the true mute-button-aficionados there’s only one most powerful option: the $150 Elgato Stream Deck.
The Stream Deck was originally intended as a tool for livestreamers, who might want to quickly tweet a notification that they’re going live or switch between camera angles without having to look away from the game. But really it’s just 15 buttons with tiny blank LCDs that you can map and design just about any way you want. (There’s also a model with six keys, for the less-needy user, and another with 32 keys if you love chaos.)
This week, Elgato also launched an official Discord integration, which adds a handful of premade buttons that you can use to mute yourself on Discord, jump in and out of voice channels or go to your favorite chat room from wherever you are in the app. For anyone bouncing between a dozen DAOs and a hundred NFT communities, it’s a lifesaver.
But the point of the Stream Deck is its extensibility. Elgato’s Key Creator lets you build hundreds of your own shortcuts, and there are plug-ins on GitHub for lots of other features. If you’re a Mac user, you can connect the Stream Deck to Keyboard Maestro to turn virtually any keyboard shortcut into a button press. It can run Apple Shortcuts, too. Oh, and you can use the handy $4 Button Creator app to make the keys look nice. As the tech community has started to embrace the Stream Deck, it’s also started to extend it.
If this sounds totally superfluous, well, fair. But as more of our lives turn into software, it feels way too often like everything is 30 or 40 clicks away and requires remembering a complicated code just to get anything done. I’ve talked to folks in tech who use it for simple stuff — turning lights on and off, firing up their go-to morning playlist, turning the awkward two-step process of leaving a Zoom call into one press of a button — and those who use it for vastly complicated macros that control their entire smart homes and podcasting setup. The Stream Deck is the all-in-one command center the MacBook’s Touch Bar never was, and just makes navigating technology feel a bit easier.
After months of seeing people on Twitter talk about their Stream Deck hacks, I bought one of my own. Now I have a button to start a call on every video app I could think of, a button that automatically sends the webpage I’m looking at to my bookmarks, a bunch for the things I do most often while editing podcasts and much more. I also have a mute button, though Elgato also just launched a Stream Deck Pedal, which is almost certainly going to replace it. Stomp-to-talk is the way of the future.
The concept of flex work isn’t new, but its widespread adoption is. Flex work helps all of us find some semblance of control in the middle of an uncontrollable pandemic. Giving options makes people happier and less stressed. This leads to a greater desire to participate, which helps us build our communities and culture.
We asked you for your favorite non-obvious, unique home office hack, and you responded! A lot of you are in favor of office pets (I’m typing this with my dog in my lap, so I definitely agree), along with plenty of tips and tricks for making sure you take regular breaks and get work done without working too hard. Here are a few of our favorite responses:
“Turn off notifications and do a face mask in the middle of the day! It only takes 15-20mins which is the perfect amount of time and you’ll be glowing for the rest of your video calls for the day.” — Vivyan Tran (also known as Protocol’s head of digital)
“1. Hang a speed bag beside the desk and do a minute of rolling punches to get psyched before a big call. 2. Have 5 candles, one for each weekday. Different scents. Within 2 weeks ‘that Friday candle smell’ becomes a vibe.” – Darren Murph
“I have a 32-oz glass pitcher that I fill up at the beginning of every workday, and a favorite Mexican bubble glass cleaned & ready to go already as one of my 'must do first thing' home office habits. Why? It makes hydration easy & enjoyable!” — Betsy Clayton
“Get a theme for your workspace. My favorite example of early remote leaders are naval captains (I grew up sailing on Lake Michigan). Now my home office has photographs of sailboats, regattas, little lighthouse knick knacks, sailing books, an ancient pulley, etc. I love it.” — Tyler Sellhorn
“Calendar everything you need to do, reserve literal spots in your cal for stuff like writing or working out. I also make 25/45 minute meetings, which means that there's always 5 minutes for bathroom breaks. I also allot time for procrastinating. It helps me decompress.” — Ed Zitron
A 19-year-old built a flight-tracking Twitter bot. Elon Musk tried to pay him to stop, by Veronica Irwin
Scared to talk about mental health at work? Here's how to make it easier, by Michelle Ma
Intel’s $100B Ohio dilemma: Why it must spend a lot now to avoid spending more later, by Max Cherney
Asana’s productivity expert wants you to ditch the 30-minute meeting, by Lizzy Lawrence
OpenAI’s new language AI improves on GPT-3, but still lies and stereotypes, by Kate Kaye
Ripple’s CEO won’t apologize for taking on the SEC, by Ben Pimentel
How Trump coins became an internet sensation — The New York Times
Searching for Susy Thunder — The Verge
Suicide hotline shares data with for-profit spinoff, raising ethical questions — POLITICO
Google is forcing me to dump a perfectly good phone — Vice
‘Line Goes Up – The Problem With NFTs’ — Folding Ideas
Can science fiction wake us up to our climate reality? — The New Yorker
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.