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Weak Links VI

2021-03-08

I almost gave up on posting because I have had zero motivation recently and don’t think I saw a single article worth sharing. However, I sat down and forced myself to at least write something, so here it is. Less links this week and more opinions.

Website tweaking update: I didn’t like how the Markdown and HTML generated from the Markdown were in the same folder, so there’s now a source folder in which the raw Markdown files live, and a posts folder where the generated HTML lives. I don’t really like how the index.md and index.html both live in the main directory of the website, but I think the main index page is a special enough case that it can be a little different.

Ask HN: What websites do you visit every day?

This is yet another rant in the already gigantic existing literature of rants on how the internet has grown exponentially in terms of users but shrunk exponentially in terms of websites worth visiting on a regular basis. The main websites I go on, in order of time spent, are:

HN probably the only website on there that I actually enjoy. Twitter is hit-and-miss. I only use Twitter to follow other researchers as I find it’s the best place to keep up with the machine learning literature. Reddit is awful, but it’s probably the densest website for entertainment content. The Guardian is my main source for UK news, although in the last few years I’ve really gone off it. I only use YouTube to check my subscriptions and then watch any of the videos there that seem worth it, I try to keep away from the recommendations because they’re usually awful. I only really go on the New York Times website to make me feel like I’m not wasting my subscription, which I only really got for the NYT Crosswords. Pitchfork was my go-to website for music news, however a combination of me caring less about music than I used to and Pitchfork’s quality going down the drain means I barely visit this website anymore.

I also have Papers With Code and Arxiv Sanity set to open when I start Chrome, so I can have a quick scan and see if there’s any new papers that have come out, however I’ve usually seen them mentioned on Twitter already.

Of course, I also check my e-mail, Slack and GitHub, but those count as work and not websites I actively go on. I’m also not including Netflix/Amazon Prime Video as these are entertainment services and not “websites”.

So there you go, out of all the websites I visit on a regular basis I think one is very good. Having had a look through the websites mentioned in the HN thread most seem to be news websites or specialist blogs. The blogs look interesting, but it’s something that should probably be read through an RSS feed. In fact, I could probably read everything through an RSS feed and therefore not visit any websites. People also mention Ars Technica and Slashdot. Ars Technica looks like a bad version of The Verge, which is already very bad. Slashdot looks fine, so I might try adding that to my tabs that open on Chrome open. Someone also mentioned Wikipedia’s current events page which actually looks like it might become my main major news source.

I remember using the internet when I was very young and visiting hundreds of different websites. This is not a thing anymore due to the rise of social media websites which act as content aggregators. If a small blog has an interesting post you no longer hear it through word-of-mouth, but instead you see a link to it via Twitter or Reddit. This is great for finding content, but where’s the fun? You can no longer feel like you’re searching through the Wild West to find good content, it’s just delivered to your doorstep. This takes the fun out of the internet because by the time you’ve seen something, so have a million other people, and you can no longer have the joy of receiving a message that says “hey, check this out”.

Anyway, yeah, capitalism has destroyed the internet. Very original take.

More on Atomic Habits

I listened to a podcast or two about Atomic Habits, the book everyone keeps going on about. I feel like I’ve already got the entire gist of the book and do not need to spend a whole £12 on it. Here’s what I got:

  1. Habits are compound interest on self-improvement. If you aim to only improve 1% every day for a year then this actually works out at ~37 times improvement from your starting point. Use the “Seinfeld strategy”, try to go for the longest streak possible. Success is the product of daily habits.

  2. Don’t set explicit goals. You should build a system that consists of habits which improve yourself in a direction toward achieving your goals (write every day to become a successful writer).

  3. Visualize who or what you want to become and change your identity to that, in other words: fake it till you make it.

  4. To actually build habits: make it obvious (a hard to miss prompt), make it attractive (something you want to do), make it easy (start with a low bar and gradually raise it), and make it satisfying (reward yourself after completion).

  5. Environment is more important than you think. Set up your working area to encourage good habits and discourage bad habits (hide phone, delete apps, set block times).

  6. Social accountability. Talk about your habits to others, you’re less likely to fail if you have this social pressure.

That’s about it, and they all seem to be commonly suggested things recommended for productivity, e.g. this HN post where the top advice on staying productive is: clean your desk (environment), block certain websites (discourage bad habits), make sure to do work every day (streaks), actually talk to other humans (not really social accountability, but self-care is still important), and when you take breaks make sure you actually take a break (again, self-care). Other advice includes physical activity (self-care) and having non-work-related hobbies (more self-care).

Clubhouse

I do not understand Clubhouse. There are some interesting talks on there but 99% of it is absolute rubbish “hustle culture” crap. First, blogs allowed everyone to spout their opinion. Then it was podcasts. And now it’s Clubhouse. I really hope this thing is a fad and dies out soon. I am convinced it’s only popular because it’s still “invite only”, although getting an invitation seems trivial as even I managed to get one!

a new chapter - full-time working from a van in the forest

I don’t think I’d ever want to give up everything and live in a van, but I am looking forward to the day when I no longer have to hear the words: git, commit, pull request, merge conflict, stack overflow, python, etc. I just want to live somewhere remote, potentially in a log cabin, and have nothing to do all day, every day.


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