I recently came across an article titled “No Algorightms” by Brent Simmons, creator of NetNewsWire.
I’ve been asked a few times about using algorithms in NetNewsWire to bring articles you wouldn’t otherwise have seen — from outside your feeds list — to your attention.
I’ve also been asked a similar question about using algorithms to bring articles — from inside your feeds list — to the top based on the likelihood that they’ll interest you.
I’m not going to do either.
I really liked his opinionated stance here. When I read those first two paragraphs, I felt like I had this inner tech-voice saying, “oh yeah, that’s totally sensible, you could easily do that...” I feel like we all have a similar inner tech-voice to some degree, and it’s easy to let that voice run rampant. That voice loves to shout out answers to binary yes/no questions, and it seems to only ever consider the answer in terms of feasibility (“can it be done?”) and never in any existential terms (“should it be done?”).
I really enjoyed Brent’s opinionated stance for the design of his app at the end of the post:
[My] app puts you in control. You choose the sites and blogs you want to read, and the app reliably shows you their articles sorted by time. That’s it.
I want to do that more with tech, but also just the things I choose to spend my time on in life. It reminds me of something that guy Steve once said:
[focus] means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done.
Maybe I should start blogging about the things I haven’t done...
No but seriously, some writeups about the things I chose not to do and why. If somebody else wrote posts like that, I’d read ‘em.