My name is Philipp and you are reading Creativerly, the weekly digest about creativity and productivity-boosting tools and resources, combined with useful insights, articles, and findings from the fields of design and tech. The newsletter built for the creative community.


Hey and welcome to Creativerly 260 👋

Well, this issue of Creativerly marks the five year anniversary. Back in 2019, I started writing and sending out the very first issue and continued to publishing it every single week since then. I am proud of what it has become. I am proud of myself for creating and establishing this habit of writing and creating something every single week. If I would disregard all the amazing connections I have made, the subscribers I got, the website visitors, etc. just thinking about the pure consistency feels great, and brings me joy.

I have an anniversary post in the pipeline. It will not be this typical anniversary of writers and newsletter creators sharing their practices to reach 1,000, 10,000, or even 100,000 subscribers (I wrote such a post in the past) but it will be rather a reflection of the whole project, what it became, and where the future could lead. One of my deepest wishes is to reinstate the Creativerly Community, a project of mine that failed miserably. Although, Mastodon is my preferred social network, there is the urge to provide a place for my subscribers first, but also anyone else who is interested in casual, meaningful, and insightful discussions about apps, tech, and other topics. With the disruption of social media over the course of the last year, this urge became even stronger. I would like to provide a space where I can engage with the readers of Creativerly and creative minds, who simply want to chat and hang out. I assume we all have social media fatigue. Checking countless feeds across different apps to stay up to date with news and people feels simply exhausting.

The Creativerly Community would not replace any social media feeds, it would rather be a retreat which you can visit, simply if you feel overwhelmed and are seeking for calm and casual chats. The Creativerly Community currently gets hosted on Discord. It was an easy choice back then, since there is almost zero setup involved, and at the same time, I got the impression that already quite a lot of my readers are familiar with Discord and it being used as an app to host a community. And I am not sure if that is still the thing. Feel free to share your thoughts about this. You are also more than welcomed to Discord, although I can not guarantee that the community will stay there, as I am actively listening to members of the community if they feel the need another app would serve the purpose of the community better.

Other than that, enjoy this weeks post about an acquisition that made my eyebrows go up.


Mission incomplete: Notion acquiring Skiff

Notion is continuing its shopping-spree. After acquiring Automate.io in 2021, and Cron and Flowdash in 2022, Notion now adds Skiff, a platform that offers end-to-end encrypted file storage, docs, calendar events, and email, to its acquisition stack.

Skiff got founded by Stanford-graduates Andrew Milich (CEO) and Jason Ginsberg (CTO) back in 2020. After picking up a Pre Seed Round in September, 2020, the company raised a Seed Round in May, 2021 (adding 20 investors on their backs), and a Series A in March, 2022 lead by Sequoia Capital, bringing in a total of $14.2M (according to Crunchbase). I got excited when I stumbled across Skiff for the first time back in 2020. At that time, there were solely focusing on disrupting Google Docs by providing a privacy-focused and encrypted alternative. They focused on collaboration right from the beginning, to give people and teams the possibility to keep documents more safe and within user control more than any other platform. In the following two years, Skiff further developed its Google Doc competitor and turned it into Skiff Pages, which gave users the possibility to set up a privacy-focused and end-to-end encrypted workspace for notes, documents, and wikis. But besides that, Skiff extended their product offering with Mail, Calendar, and Drive, becoming a full-fledged GSuite alternative. In 2022, Skiff went through a weird Web3 excursion, integrating with crypto wallets and adding features like using your NFTs as profile images (yeah, I know, solving the real user problems here).

At this point, I knew that I might will continue to follow Skiff’s development out of interest, but never become a user. Although, I dived into the Web3 world, read a bunch of stuff, I never really saw the future the same way those crypto-bros saw it. So, I might have been too dumb to understand it, or the other side was just delusional. Reading through Molly White’s Web3 is Going Just Great project, highlighting how things in the blockchains/crypto/web3 technology space are not going as well as its proponents might like you to believe, gives the appearance that I might have been not as dumb as I thought.

But there is another, more important reason, why I have never tried out Skiff or became a user of their productivity suite. That reason is Balaji Srinivasan, being an investor in the company. If you do not know Balaji Srinivasan, good for you, as he is a venture capitalist who created his net-worth by selling a genetics company he founded, becoming a partner at Andreessen Horowitz (the VC firm co-founded by Marc Andreessen who has continuously delivered controversial statements on the Black Lives Matter movement, diversity in tech, and being constantly in the news, but not for the good) being interim CTO at Coinbase (yeah, crypto), but besides that he also suggested doxxing a journalist who reported on narratives he did not like, and makes weird bets about Bitcoin, just to end up losing them. You might think I am crazy. You might ask yourself why I care about that kind of stuff. It might sound crazy to factor those things in when deciding whether to use an app or not, but let me tell you, a company claiming to building towards the mission to bring freedom to the internet, having a dedicated focus on privacy, encryption, being open source, and the ethical alternative to Google, but still accepting money from people who, based on their previous actions, do not care at all about those values, does matter, like a lot.

I do not want to support those kind of companies. Using their products and buying a subscription directly equals to supporting them, but not only that, it is also supporting the folks who have poured money into the company previously. I can not square that with my conscience, which is the reason I am always on the hunt for ethical companies, companies which are not striving for millions of revenue, but rather just being a calm company with a sustainable business.

So, what is Notion’s interest that led to the acquisition of Skiff? They are probably not interested in Skiff’s 2 million users (Warning: this is a link to X, use at your own risk), as the data and accounts will not migrated to Notion. But, Notion racked up almost $350m of funding spread across six rounds and 35 investors. Guess what, those 35 investors want to see a return of their investment, they want to make money from it, as much as possible. With a valuation of $10b and more than 20m users (according to a report from 2021), the company needs to deliver. They either need to exit or go public to satisfy the VC on their backs. There are not that many companies which could potentially manage such an exit, therefore it feels like going public is more of a “straightforward” approach. But, would it make sense to go public with Notion’s current product offering? I would say now. Would it make sense to go public with the offer of a full-fledged productivity suite, including notes, docs, databases, calendar, todos, email, and drive, becoming very much a Google competitor, but with a way better design, way better features, and backed by millennials and Gen-Z? I would say yes. Does this acquisition mean Notion is signifying a pivotal step in bolstering privacy-focused features? I would hope so.

What this is all about got shown quickly as Steph Ango, CEO of Obsidian, pointed out on X that the code of Skiff had been taken down shortly after the news about the acquisition arose. The Skiff social media team joined in on the discussion and mentioned that Skiff’s code remains accessible, and urged Steph Ango to correct his original post, since misleading or false posts are contributing to doxxing and harassment. They mentioned that the repository was made temporarily private to remove issues, discussions, and other features which were used for harassment. But as users pointed out in the comments, turning of issues and discussions for repos can be achieved without turning the repo private. While there is no confirmation, I share the assumptions of some comments that this feels like taking the repos private was an intentional action, but as Skiff realized people started posting and raging about it, they decided to put it back, and justify it with some weak reasons.

Onto a rough start.

Skiff and its products will shut down in six months from now, leaving users with the task to find alternatives for their products.

Selling your productivity suite of privacy-focused and end-to-end products, claiming to fight against big tech and disrupting Google as they are spying on their users, to a company like Notion, kind of draws the image that it was never about being privacy-first, open source, and ethical, it feels like it was more about the money. Skiff’s mission was to bring freedom to the internet, but that mission now ended, incomplete.

Mission incomplete: Notion acquires Skiff
How Skiff sold its company, products, and values, why they are already onto a rough start, and what this acquisition means for Notion.

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Fresh Updates & News

Spline

More and more apps land on visionOS, just a week after the first folks have received their Vision Pro. An exciting new app making its debut on visionOS is Spline Mirror. Spline is a lovely and powerful web-based app to design and collaborate in 3D. With ease you can create 3D objects, edit materials, add interactivity, and export what you created, giving you full control over the outcome of your 3D design work. With Spline Mirror, you are now able to experience your Spline 3D content spatially on the Apple Vision Pro.

Buttondown* →

Buttondown is one of the simplest and most straightforward solutions if you would like to set up and start publishing a newsletter. In a recent update, Buttondown shared a couple of nice improvements. First of all, it launched a new archives page, enabling a whole slew of new functionality, it is faster, more responsive, more accessible, and it is modular, paving the way for more customization. Another exciting new feature are comments, which have been highly requested, and now there are here. The lovely thing about Buttondown’s comments is, that they are portable and integrate well with everything else you are doing, either within Buttondown or outside of it.

Besides that, the recent updates brought faster sync times of Stripe data, the possibility to send surveys through automations, replying to replies through Buttondown, an improvement to its importer which now auto-detects common subscribers imports, and a lot more.

Craft

Craft 2.7, also entitled as “Craft Reloaded”, is the biggest release in a while. This update brings Google Docs-like document sharing, a fully revamped and simplified layout (goodbye double left-sidebar), table of contents, cross space search, Craft Assistant updates, over 100 fixes, performance improvements, as well ass brand new pricing plans.

To get an in-depth look into all the updates, improvements, and changes, make sure to head over to Craft’s What’s New page.


Mental Wealth

“Wherever you get your podcasts” is a radical statement – “You've heard the call to action at the end of nearly every podcast you've ever listened to: "Listen to us on your favorite podcast app", or in the phrasing of podcaster extraordinare Roman Mars, "...wherever you find podcasts".”

100 tiny changes to transform your life – “Want more health and happiness in the year ahead – without having to work too hard? Here are tried and tested tweaks that can lead to big improvements.”

Curiosity Attractors: The Diffuse Obsessions that Shape our Lives – “We all have those recurring fascinations we just can’t seem to shake. You know the ones — those diffuse obsessions and latent creative projects that linger in the back of your mind, calling to you even when you try your best to ignore them. Though you may not realize it, these ‘curiosity attractors’ often reveal deeper truths about who you are and what is most meaningful to you, offering insights into your past experiences and current creative drive, and even glimpses into potential career paths you may want to explore.”

How Simplicity Reveals Life – “This morning I was eating a really simple meal, with minimal seasoning, and I savored its deliciousness. Often I go the opposite way: I eat too much, too quickly, with an overwhelming number of flavors. And I barely taste any of it. This is how I sometimes experience life: I do so much, so quickly, and have an overwhelming amount of stuff going on. So much so that it’s hard to really experience any of it fully.”


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Appendix

❯ ICYMI

ProductivePrivacy not only received a major site update recently, but I also added a couple of new privacy-focused and open source apps to it. Especially, if you are on the hunt for privacy-focused an open source CRM, project management, or note-taking apps, make sure to head over to ProductivePrivacy and check out the newest featured apps.

❯ Quick Bits


Till next time! 👋‌‌‌‌

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