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Reading Notes, February 2021

Video: Maciej Cegłowski, Pinboard - XOXO Festival (2013)

I do like this idea of complexity sneaking into our lives and having to actively fight it, almost like it's roaches or something.

Great talk. Funny and candid. A thoughtful rebuke of many commonplace ideas in tech today:

I mentioned perseverance because there's this pernicious idea that comes from startup world that you should "fail quickly". I've always been a proponent of failing really really slowly because if you aren't in it for the money you don't know when you've succeeded or if you might succeed. Success doesn't come labeled in any way to distinguish it from failure—unless you're in it for money in which case it's really easy to count your success.

Later he talks about how Thoreau wasn’t much of a success in his lifetime. Only later were the insights of his writings recognized as ahead of their time. Maciej then weaves that narrative into his own points about perseverance and being open with money when he sarcastically points out the absurdity of financials as a measure for his definition of “success”:

I earned $181,000 from pinboard last year, which is 23,000 times as successful as Henry David Thoreau. Not bad at all.

And then this:

[You should write things down because] experience is hard-won knowledge and you don't want to just let it get away.

And lastly this:

We can't depend on big companies to take a stand for us.

Podcast: ShopTalk Show #448

Great discussion herein on modern web tooling and the absolute chasm between trying to run a project with tooling vs. no tooling:

You’re no longer developing a web application. You’re developing a code base for producing that web application.

Article: “Hey, World!”

Email is the internet's oldest self-publishing platform. Billions of emails are "published" every day. Everyone knows how to do it, and everyone already can. The only limitation is that you have to define a private audience with everything you send. You've gotta write an email to: someone.

Email client as publishing platform: audience ranging from one to the entire internet. Fascinating take from Basecamp folks on publishing a blog. I think this will be great for lots of people who aren’t tech savvy and simply want to write stuff and publish it online. Not sure how they’ll handle basic blogging features in the future, like tagging and/or categorizing posts. Nonetheless, exciting to see them enter the blog space in an interesting way.

Article: “Tech Hostage”

The solution I've cobbled for us is that Julie (my partner) owns the music account that runs our bedroom and kitchen devices, I own a music account that's used on my desktop computer...my son is using an Alexa that's connected to his music account...and my daughter has a Google nest...signed in to a spare phone that's entirely signed in for her connected to her music account.

This Jenga tower of tech just about works, except my daughter can't control her lights from her device. "Make my room red!" she cheers to much disappointment from Daddy who explains: "I just can't work it out yet".

I am a goddamn hostage to tech.

This is why I have not yet put any smart tech in my house. Perhaps it’s an inevitability as my kids grow, but our music is a Bose CD/radio player, a record player, or an iPhone plugged in to my Bose and controlled manually. Maybe it’s simply because I grew up on them, but I really enjoy the experience of CDs. Plus they are incredibly cheap at thrift stores these days. Every album I ever wanted as a teen is now $1.00 at the thrift store.

Article: “The web is something different”

I’ve come to accept that if there are bugs on the web or if there’s a massive quality dip on a site you’re visiting…that is a sign the web is working. It means some unqualified person was able to skip past the gatekeepers and put something online. That’s a win for “The web is for everyone.”

Unbelievably great point and I agree wholeheartedly. Also loved this:

I wish we’d see the web more for itself, not defined by its nearest neighbor or navel-gazing over some hypothetical pathway we could have gone down decades ago.

Article: “HTML and CSS still isn’t about painting with code”

Browsers can’t break the web. They need to support the bleeding edge but also the sins of the past.

Great point by Christian Heilmann. Browsers, of all software, have it tough. Give ’em a break sometimes.

Article: “A few notes about A/B testing from Jared Spool”

[A/B testing is] seen as a cheap solution to doing hard work. I believe it’s not the panacea that everyone thinks it is.

A great summary of a twitter thread from Jared Spool on A/B testing. Resonates loudly with my experience.

Article: “Blogroll”

Cutting insight from Eric Bailey:

Blogrolls mostly fell on the wayside as the web matured and industrialized. In an era that is obsessed with conversion funnels, the idea that you’d want to provide a mechanism to voluntarily leave your website seems absurd.

Article: “Coaching Tools – The Narrative”

Love this post from Marty Cagan.

I’d like to discuss my single favorite coaching tool for helping product managers become exceptional: the written narrative.

Oh, you mean a spec?

I am not talking about a spec of any sort. A spec is not intended to be a persuasive piece – it’s just a document describing the details of what you want built.

Ah, ok, so not a spec. So what?

I’m talking about a document that describes the vision of what you’re trying to achieve, why this will be valuable for your customers and for your business, and your strategy for achieving this vision. If this narrative is done well, the reader will be both inspired and convinced.

I love the idea of a written narrative—mere prose, thoughtfully written paragraphs of text—for describing vision, value, and strategy. How and why can this be so effective? Because, as Stephenie Landry explains:

[With written narratives] you can’t hide behind complexity, you actually have to work through it.

You think you know something until you have to explain it—not in the way of specifying minute details for people, but in the way of inspiring, persuading, and including people.

Love this point, as well, by Brad Porter:

When I begin to write, I realize that my ‘thoughts’ are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them.

Article: “Apple Mail and Hidden Tracking Images”

Good reminder from Gruber that email clients are, unfortunately, web browsers without all the protections of an actual browser:

Don’t get me started on how predictable this entire privacy disaster [regarding spy pixels] was, once we lost the war over whether email messages should be plain text only or could contain embedded HTML. Effectively all email clients are web browsers now, yet don’t have any of the privacy protection features actual browsers do.