Web Notes: March 2022

April 17, 2022 [bookmarks] #from-the-interwebs

Article: All news is bad news

I need to remind myself every once in a while that news is not optimized to educate, but to entertain, and I shouldn't use it to construct a model of the world. Prefer long form. Prioritize books with a large list of references.

In Anna Karenina Tolstoy wrote: “The newspapers published a great deal that was superfluous and exaggerated, with the sole aim of attracting attention and talking one another down.” He wrote that in 1877. Human nature does not change.

The democracy and society improving aspects of news-following are its foundational doctrine, as we have hinted at above, but they do not hold up to the light of reason. Think about it. As the Swiss writer and former news junkie turned anti-news advocate Rolf Dobelli has observed “[The average person] has devoured 20,000 news items in the past 12 months- 60 per day at a conservative estimate. Did a single one help you make a better decision about your life, family, career, well-being or business?”

Now I don’t know about you but when I encountered this question and truly reflected the answer was no. All of this time spent staying in-the-loop and it had not made a jot of positive difference to my real life and the things I truly care about. Further, not only had the news not helped me I also could barely remember any of it. It was just an amorphous grey blur of vice, crime, folly, greed, violence, war, disease and natural disasters. A swirl of unconnected events with no context. A vast cluster of individual dots with no explanatory lines to connect them together.

Article: Working long hours and start up success

From a Silicon Valley VC. Makes a case for other forms of building a successful company, one where employees are not overworked or forced to compromise on their relationships.

Last year I met (and invested in) the fastest growing SaaS company ever. They grew from zero to $40M in ARR in 9 months, with 9 employees. The founders work roughly 9am to 5pm and are attentive parents. They don't subscribe to many Silicon Valley values. They think Twitter is a waste of time; it's the home of amateurs who aren't focused on building real businesses.

When I say "long hours" and "short hours," I'm referring to aggregate, cumulative metrics: how much does the entire team work, over time. Of course, there are some weeks when specific people end up working longer hours, and that can be good for a company. A founder might work harder when closing new capital. Deadlines are natural impetuses to work longer hours for a period of time: e.g. sales people might work harder at the end of the quarter than the beginning; engineers might work harder in the lead-up to a new release. The departure of a team member may result in a short-term overload for a couple of other team members, and it's probably good that they're covering the gap. But, for the reasons above, aggregate, sustained long hours can be a sign of fundamental problems.

Work is religion for many talented people. Many of the most talented people actually want to work long hours, because it's their source of meaning in life and/or because they lack meaning in other parts of their lives. I was that person for most of my life. This bullet point in itself is controversial enough to warrant its own blog post, which I may muster up the courage to write in the future. The point here is that talented people work hard for reasons unrelated to the potential impact of that work on future results.

Article: Reading is a super power

By Kevin Kelley. From the anthology The Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader

Reading is a superpower that also gives you a type of teleportation. It can transport your mind to a different place than where your body is. The feeling of being immersed in a different place, or even a different time period, can be so strong you may not want to leave.

In the real world of course, you would not be the only person with this superpower. Many other people acquire this power. This doesn’t diminish your power, it actually increases it. Because others can read, they can write, which increases the number of living minds you can connect your mind with. With the power of reading today you can connect with billions of other minds, in almost real time. Their minds can be funneled from anywhere on the globe right to your mind.

The more you write, the better you read; the more you read, the better you write. It does not matter where you read, whether on bits of paper, or on a screen. It does not matter where you write, whether on bits of paper or on a screen.

Video: How you can make the world a better place today

Ignore the title of the video and watch it. It's short. What are you doing with the materials you are accumulating? Over the years? Are you creating something with it? Otherwise what's the point?

Software: Taskwarrior

Desktop based open source task manager. It's been around for over a decade. Tried it for a bit and I liked it. If I hadn't discovered Things 3, this might have been my task manager of choice. One can track time on projects using Timewarrior.

Article: Why we lose friends with age

I really enjoyed this one. Nobody tells you that you will change and grow away from once close friends. Keeping a relationship alive requires effort.

Back in the 1980s, the Oxford psychologists Michael Argyle and Monika Henderson wrote a seminal paper titled “The Rules of Friendship.” Its six takeaways are obvious, but what the hell, they’re worth restating: In the most stable friendships, people tend to stand up for each other in each other’s absence; trust and confide in each other; support each other emotionally; offer help if it’s required; try to make each other happy; and keep each other up-to-date on positive life developments.

When I consider the people I know with the greatest talent for friendship, I realize that they do just this. They make contact a priority. They jump in their cars. They appear at regular intervals in my inbox. One told me she clicks open her address book every now and then just to check which friends she hasn’t seen in a while—and then immediately makes a date to get together.

Article: Derek Sivers on Journaling

I especially like my “Regrets” journal. Whenever I do something I regret, I write it down there, noting why I regret it, what I wish I would have done instead, and how I hope to prevent this in the future.

If I’m planning on doing something, I ask myself what I hope to get out of it, why, and whether there are other ways to get what I want.

When I’m feeling conflicted, especially, I’ll ask myself a bunch of questions to work through my feelings, looking for the source of the conflict, then ask myself more questions around the clash in values, and work through other alternate ways I’d like things to be.

Article: The Art of Plain Text

Discovered via Jim Nielsen's blog.

The two most important ways to make your text easy to read are a short line-length and the copious use of paragraphs. Viewing a single large block of run-away text with no line breaks immediately puts stress on the reader, as absorbing the information provided therein requires a high degree of concentration and eye movement.

Use short sentences, even (and especially) if you're German. Just like one single block of text is hard to read, so are never ending sentences with multiple conditionals and subclauses. You are not writing Molly Bloom's Soliloquy.

Resist the temptation to use images. This helps you clarify your thoughts and keeps the content searchable. Use illustrations as supplementary, not instead of information.

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