Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

ICloud Drive Silently Deletes Your Content

The first time it happened, I was writing a paper. The paragraphs I had just typed vanished into thin air, faster than Time Machine or Backblaze could save them. Gone. The next occurrence was during app development; Xcode suddenly flagged numerous errors in previously error-free code. My recent changes to several files were erased.

Months later, the mystery is solved: iCloud Drive detected a file conflict. It assumed different versions of the same file existed on my Mac and iPhone and couldn’t merge them automatically. This was impossible; the affected files were never opened on the iPhone. But they were in iCloud, as I had moved my Mac’s Documents folder there.

Dropbox manages version conflicts by storing all conflicting files side by side, labeled as “(John Doe’s conflicted copy)“. iCloud Drive, however, doesn’t show these conflicts in the file system. If you open the file in an editor that supports conflict handling, a popup appears asking which version to keep. Editors like Textifier, Xcode, or Obsidian, lacking conflict handling, leave iCloud to decide which version to store on your disk and in your backup.

Over time, newer backups overwrite older ones containing the correct version; your content is gone for good. The only way to get it back is to open the file with an editor that supports conflict resolution.1 Once moved out of iCloud Drive, even that won’t help. The content is lost.2

Masking version conflicts might appear user-friendly, but it has catastrophic consequences. You might not discover the data loss until years later, when reopening significant but infrequently used documents.

Until iCloud Drive exposes version conflicts in the file system or a central, easily accessible location, my strong recommendation is to move all crucial data out of it. Meanwhile, set up a Git repository to monitor your critical files; you might uncover surprising changes.

  1. I use iA Writer↩︎

  2. In my tests, moving the unchanged file back to iCloud brought back the conflicted version popup. This may not happen if the file has been edited or if you’ve continued working on a copy. ↩︎

Playtesting at Valve

Within a few days of prototyping a game mechanic, Valve’s designers start watching users play. And they conduct playtests once a week until their games are fun and it is “no longer excruciatingly painful” to watch.

On a side note: At least in 2012, when its Handbook for New Employees was published, Valve was completely self-organized.


Morgan Eua does a great job introducing Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten method for personal knowledge management.

In follow-up videos with easy to understand examples she details how she implements a Zettelkasten in Obsidian.

For a more comprehensive overview, check Sönke Ahrens’ book How to Take Smart Notes.

Haruki Murakami's Deep Work  

Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running inspired Cal Newport’s theory of deep work. Newport explains:

Against the advice of nearly everybody, he sold his bar, and moved to Narashino, a small town in the largely rural Chiba Prefecture. He began going to bed when it got dark and waking up with the first light. His only job was to sit at a desk each morning and write. His books became longer, more complex, more story driven. He discovered what became his signature style.

Parkinson's Law  

You might have heard of Parkinson’s Law. It states, that a project will always fill the available time. If you have two weeks, it will take you two weeks. If you have two years, it will take two years.

Cal Newport dug up the original article in which C. Northcote Parkinson describes how the naval bureaucracy grew after World War I was won.

He Couldn’t Remember  

Tyler Wetherall writes in the New York Times about how she helped her ex-boyfriend recover from memory loss:

To break up with someone is to lose the imagined future you would create together, but you would always share the landscape of your collective past. If Sam could not remember, I would be alone in that landscape.

How Tech Companies Manipulate the Media

YouTubers MrWhoseTheBoss and MKBHD explain the techniques tech companies use to get a more positive coverage of their products.

Xi Jinping in the Shadow of Gorbachev  

Christopher Balding retraces Xi Jinpings rise in the 1980s and the conclusions Xi must have drawn from the collapse of the USSR:

Everything the USSR did in the 1980s and 1990 was wrong. Do the complete opposite. To put it another way: whatever Gorbachev would do, do and do the complete opposite.

In Balding’s view this explains current policies:

If we take avoiding a system of governance collapse as the driving motivation for what Xi is going rather than seeking to address continually rising debt levels or differences in public and private productivity, his behavior makes sense. Foreign analysts talking about the importance of private enterprise to the Chinese market are not incorrect in their presentation of facts, they are wrong in understanding what problem Chinese leadership believes it is solving and how to solve it.

Interesting piece.

ABBA Voyage  

Swedish band ABBA announced a new album to be released in November 2021 and a virtual concert in its own arena.

Listening to the interview it sounds as if all of this started with the virtual concert as a way to leave a legacy behind.

“We wanted to do it before we were dead", said Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus added: ”It’s good if you do that before you’re dead. Because it gets more accurate then.”

So they shaved their beards and went to work. And they wanted to add two new songs but then had so much fun doing it that they finished a whole new album.

Here are the first two songs:

Evolution of the World's Tallest Building

The video shows the tallest building in the world between the completion of the Singer Building in 1901 and the planned opening of the Dubai Creek Tower in 2022.

Up until the completion of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the tallest skyscraper had always been in the United States. And ever since, Asia rules.

The video is from 2019 and therefore a bit outdated. Construction on both Jeddah Tower and Dubai Creek Tower is halted or has stalled.

Jack Ma’s Costliest Business Lesson: China Has Only One Leader  

Keith Zhai, Lingling Wei and Jing Yang write in the Wall Street Journal about Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.

They quote former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao with calling himself a “serious student” of Ma’s. Current president Xi Jinping seems to be everything but a fan.

The article suggests that Ma’s companies are under scrutiny because of the outspokenness of its founder. But then there is this:

There also were concerns at the central bank that Ant could become too big to rescue in a financial meltdown, according to people familiar with the matter.


By June 2020, Huabei’s credit outstanding accounted for nearly a fifth of China’s short-term household debt.

FDA Approval  

In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Anita Sircar writes about a severely ill COVID patient she treated. The man had not gotten a vaccination. He wanted to wait for full FDA approval to not be “the government’s guinea pig”.

“Well,” I said, “I am going to treat you with remdesivir, which only recently received FDA approval.” I explained that it had been under an EUA for most of last year and had not been studied or administered as widely as COVID-19 vaccines. That more than 353 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the U.S. along with more than 4.7 billion doses worldwide without any overwhelming, catastrophic side effects. “Not nearly as many doses of remdesivir have been given or studied in people and its long-term side effects are still unknown,” I said. “Do you still want me to give it to you?”

Check the article to see how the story continues.

Checks and Balances

Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refutes the notion that the United States are such a free country because of the Bill of Rights:

But then I tell them, if you think that the Bill of Rights is what sets us apart, you are crazy. Every banana republic has a bill of rights. Every president for life has a bill of rights. The bill of rights of the former evil empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was much better than ours. I mean that literally. It was much better. We guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. Big deal. They guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff.

He then goes on explaining that what sets America apart is the structure of its government with checks and balances that make sure no one can amass too much power.

Full transcript on govinfo.

Reclaiming Land on Sinking Islands  

In the New York Times Magazine, Samanth Subramanian describes how Singapore reclaims land from the ocean. Less wealthy nations cannot afford these measures:

Kiribati, an island nation in the Central Pacific, has bought 6,000 acres of forested land in Fiji, more than a thousand miles away, hoping to resettle some of its 100,000 people if a crisis hits. The Maldives, similarly, has talked about buying land in Australia.

How is that going to work, I wonder. Moving a whole nation into another country will cause tremendous political, legal, social and cultural issues.