Bear With Us: An interview with Michael Lopp from Slack

As Bear has grown as a notes app over the last couple of years, we’ve seen it used in incredibly creative ways from users across every industry and interest. We’ve heard from writers, biologists, lawyers, students, developers, managers, film crew, doctors—the list goes on. It’s kind of amazing.

But who are these people? What do they want out of a notes app? How does Bear fit into their work or play? Do they prefer Star Trek or Star Wars? We started asking these and other burning questions from some interesting folks, and now we’d like to share what they said with you.

To kick off this new Bear With Us series, we talked to Michael Lopp, a VP at Slack. Some of you may know him as Rands from his Rands in Repose blog.

If you have questions you’d like us to ask future interviewees, let us know.

A profile photo of Michael Lopp, a VP at Slack. This post is about who he is and how he uses Bear as a notes app
Michael Lopp, VP of Product Engineering at Slack and avid LotR fan

How long I’ve been using Bear? Years? Since it came out? A long time. The whole time


Who are you and what do you do for a living?

I am Michael Lopp. I am the VP of Product Engineering at Slack. I’ve also been writing about leadership, writing, and pens at randsinrepose.com for a very long time.

How about for fun?

I ride my gravel bike, Isabelle, all over the Santa Cruz Mountains. I also travel the world with my wife (who is annoyed with my travel habits) and go to the local comic books store on a regular basis. I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother… several times. I sleep reasonably well.

How long have you been using Bear?

Years? Since it came out? A long time. The whole time.

How many notes and tags do you have?

I have a 100+ notes and 20 or so tags. My oldest note is over two years old.

Can you share a little about your organization process?

I am in a lot of meetings every day. There are a lot of people and a lot of words. I always have a notebook with me where I write down three things:

  1. Decisions made
  2. To-dos identified + owners
  3. Interesting words and phrases that were spoken

On a regular daily basis, these are either moved to 1:1 Slack channels, to Things, or to a slush pile of ideas for future articles.

Rinse. Repeat.

Bear is sometimes the place where these interim things land.

How does Bear fit into your workflow? Do you use it in certain places, or for specific tasks?

Bear is my default word (not text) editor. Bear is where I first write the idea down; just the first sentence or paragraph. Then, I’ll use Bear over time to flush out the piece into an article for the weblog or a chapter for the next book.

I also use Bear for lightweight task management. But it’s only a temporary holding area before the to-do lands in another system.

Finally, I am currently finishing my third book and using Bear to both write and organize the whole gosh darned thing.

What is one of your favorite features in Bear?

My favorite feature is that Bear has an opinion about typography as well as how to be helpful. It has just enough features to be a helpful notes app while also staying out the way. Also, sync just works. Wait, I guess that was three features.

What is a feature you’d like to see added to Bear?

I’d like a more helpful URL pasting situation. If I paste a URL, Bear adds a lot of detritus to my note. If I hit backspace to edit the URL, the detritus explodes.

Bear is trying to be too helpful.

I think I want an option to build URLs a la Markdown where I type [Text](URL) which then triggers other formatting or magic.

Star Trek or Star Wars? Both? Or something else?

I’ll go with ‘something else.’ In which case, the question becomes: which movie series do I rewatch on a regular basis during the holidays? The answer is: Lord of the Rings with a Harry Potter chaser.

Pandas or Bears?

Bears, because it’s inclusive of Pandas.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Black. Every morning.