Interview with Rosemary Orchard, Creator of Automation Orchard

I had the pleasure of conducting an interview via email with Rose Orchard, a developer, blogger, and creator of Automation Orchard. Rose came on my radar when I found her on a lot more over Twitter and Facebook. When I really learned more about her was on an episode of Mac Power Users and the launch of Automation Orchard. If you use an iPad or iPhone and want to make it an automation machine this is a fantastic place to start.

I wanted to pick her brain a little about creating this project and how her workflows look as well. So I shot her some questions and this is what came from that. I want to thank Rose for doing this and taking her time. If you want to check how her stuff (I highly suggest you do) you can find her on her personal blog, and over at Automation Orchard.

1. Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself and who you are?

I’m Rose, originally from the U.K. and living in Austria. I studied foreign languages at university and am currently working on my MSc in Computing (Software Engineering). I’ve been into computers ever since I was allowed to play with them but it took me a long time to decide that technology and programming were the career for me. Nowadays I’m a developer in Vienna.

2. You recently launched a very impressive website called Automation Orchard, can you talk about what this site is and what it provides?

It’s a collection of resources with tags - so if you want to learn about Keyboard Maestro you can filter for that, or if you want to see automation for Things 3 then you can search for that too. The idea is it’s a one stop shop to find the resources - the articles themselves are of course on their original websites.

3. This website really is impressive, it has a ton of content and curation in it. How long did this take you to build? What kinds of workflows did you use to make this process easier for you?

It took me a little longer than I had planned to build - I changed the content structure about 3 times! In the end I did it over the course of about 4 months though.

I decided early on the easiest way to collect the content was to use RSS and JSON feeds. So I started with the basics - MacStories, MacSparky, and kept adding more sites. I used Pythonista on my iPad to go through and save data about the articles, and then Workflow to review each article and create the posts if I chose to.

4. You also blog on your own website using Grav. Is this something that you use an iPad for?

Yes! I do most things on iOS nowadays. I write my blog post drafts in Drafts, and then when they’re done upload them via SFTP using Coda. Grav does have an admin UI but I rarely use it myself.

5. Automation is clearly a very important topic and a passion of yours, can you elaborate how this came to be such an interest for you?

I’ve always tried to avoid doing unnecessary work - from the beginning of my university studies I kept my bibliographies in a Numbers document - simply so I could automatically sort the entries alphabetically and paste them in at the end of an essay. I’m not quite sure why automation in particular caught my attention, but saving time and effort is certainly why I’m still interested today.

6. What is something you use for automation that you’re proud of? This can be anything you want.

I created Automation Orchard almost entirely with automation tools - I’m pretty proud of that! I’ve also got a lot of scripts I use at work to help me create and update documents quickly which save me lots of time.

7. If someone wanted to get into automation, but maybe needed some help getting their feet wet, what would you say to them?

Look for something you do a lot, and automate one step in it. Break it down into chunks, and find something simple - for example sending an email that has today’s date in it. Once you’ve got that step you can look at the next one.

8. How do you use iOS and the iPad in your work?

At work my iPad is my OmniFocus tool, it sits below my monitor and shows me my ever-growing to do list. For Automation Orchard my iPad is where I do all of my work now. I did use my Mac to set up a local site for testing and to edit the theme, but nowadays it’s all on iOS - and that’s the same for my blog too.

9. What are some pros/cons you have found when using iOS in your work?

My iPad is fun to use. I use it more like a traditional laptop than many would I suspect - with a keyboard almost permanently attached, that’s a definite pro. There are cons of course - some apps just aren’t as good as their Mac counterparts, though thankfully most of the apps I use seem to not be of that kind.

One con is people don’t really take you seriously with an iPad - at least until you show them what it can do. I remember a meeting last year where I got looked at more than once for using my iPad, but once I plugged it into the projector and used GoodNotes to sketch out the diagram we’d been discussing (using their shape recognition tool), and then typed up the notes we wanted recorded it became a nonissue.

Jeff Perry @JeffPerry