It’s November sixth, but the month and day are just placeholders. We’re short on time and everyone knows it. It was 73 degrees today and people were out in throngs. Tending to their yards. Walking dogs. Talking with neighbors. Anything to cling on to those last bits of our outside lives.

The sun claws its way over the horizon like a kid climbing out the side of a pool. It relieves itself of any duties related to warming us. We’re on our own for a bit. We’re trading in our blue skies and puffy clouds for skies the color of concrete and clouds like boulders. 

Sun shining through wooded area

Kottke has written about this transitional time before – he (and Vonnegut apparently) call it Stick Season. 

What’s going on right now and will continue into mid-to-late December is “stick season”. All the beautiful fall foliage has fallen off of the trees and we’re left with not-so-beautiful sticks until the snow flies regularly enough to call it winter.

He links it to a feeling of depression, but I guess I’m fortunate to not feel that way. I always get excited for these transitional periods where things are changing. We end DST and sunset abruptly changes on us, bringing us into our pseudo-nocturnal lives. It’s a shock to the system. We’re forced to change up our routines and knock the rust off. Maybe things take a little longer and require more planning, but we adjust. We’ll be more intentional and what we want to do and where we’ll do it. Maybe we’ll take more time to be reflective. 

Sun sets over farmland

Bring it on, I say. I’ve got enough coffee and books and firewood and stories to last us until Spring.

Twilight sky

Blogging is… back?

So Twitter got bought – like, actually got bought – and people are pissed. And rightfully so. Musk seems like either a lunatic or completely in over his head but either way, the outcome is the same – people are bailing. It’s kind of a shame, because Twitter is the only social network I ever cared about over the long term. Every time I notice that my account has been active since November of 2007, it catches me off-guard a bit. Think about what’s happened in your life over the past 15 years. Like, actually think about it.

twitter profile snapshot

Anyway, it seems like people are trying to form new networks elsewhere. A bunch of people are moving to Mastodon, but that seems like that’s way too fiddly to work for most peoples’ needs. And that was always the biggest value of Twitter; people were accessible and it was totally frictionless to use. I’m skeptical that people are going to leave in meaningful numbers, but I’ll be sad if it really does go that way. I’ve made a lot of friends there over time, and the instant nature of it is really compelling.

One possible upside is that people seem to have a renewed interest in blogging. I’ve been a huge fan of feed readers since way before Twitter, but it’s been sort of a ghost town for years. But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed it’s been so much busier and I kinda dig it. It feels old school. It makes me realize how nice long-form writing can be. Tweet threads and screen-shotted notes have been a means-to-an-end sort of hack all along and I won’t miss them.

Anyway, I’m writing here for the first time in ages. I have no idea if it’ll stick. Habits are a hard thing to break and even harder to make, so who knows?

Rotate 90 Degrees

A couple weeks back, I got a new Toyota 4Runner.

It's amazing and I love it. 

Below is a photo of the audio control panel on the steering wheel.

I do not love it.

Take a close look at the direction of the arrows here. Things like this make me crazy. I’m sure someone somewhere had good reasons for laying things out this way, but whoa does this break my mental model for UI to an audio player.

Volume is almost always represented as moving up and down, which makes you think those controls would be on the top and bottom of the audio control.

Aside from that, progress through an album or playlist is usually represented as a left-to-right progression. If that’s unclear, imagine iTunes’ Cover Flow.

“But wait!” you might say. “Playlists are organized vertically all the time!”. And I would say you’re right – they are. But the “up” button in this case doesn’t go back in the playlist – it goes forward. So hitting the “up” button actually progresses downward through a vertically-oriented playlist.

I trust that you, dear reader, are now also scratching your head along with me. Be right back, I’m going to go search for ways to hack these controls.

Streamers are the New Talk Shows

It all started with a tweet.

When I originally Negaoryx’s tweet, I ignored it. In the cover photo, I noticed the girl was a streamer and the clip had something to do with Breath of the Wild. I scrolled by casually, but it started getting retweeted and quoted enough that it finally caught my attention.

I watched the video and got a kick out of the host’s personality, so I decided to check out her stream. She was playing The Last of Us at the time and I’d always wanted to play it. I checked in periodically over the coming days. It was really cool to watch the play through, but there was also something really cool about the community aspect of the whole thing. The host and chat stream interacted like old friends. It was… weird?

Around the same time, I was really into playing Apex Legends and was enjoying the subreddit on the topic. I kept seeing the same pro players’ names coming up in threads, so I decided to check out Dizzy’s stream. As it turns out, watching someone be incredibly good at something you do as a novice is at once both humbling and awe-inspiring. Because Dizzy is a pro player, I eventually branched out began watching streams of his teammates. Like before, I was really drawn in by the banter between all the players.

Through sheer force of will, eventually Twitch’s algorithm got me hooked on Ninja and Tim the Tatman. Today, they’re probably my most-watched streams. I put them on all the time in the background while I’m doing things around the house or even when I’m busy working. Thinking about it, it’s not surprising those guys would resonate so much for me. They’re the best hosts of the bunch. Their streams are full of wise cracks, self deprecating humor, shit-talking, and in-jokes. It really is like hanging out with buddies.

My theory is that this is almost a new-wave replacement for talk radio. I remember in the early 2000’s every office worker seemed to have a radio on their desk playing whatever morning talk shows were on their favorite stations. These streamers serve exactly the same function for me. It’s the perfect place to stop by and have a few laughs.

(and maybe steal some strategies along the way)

Sitting Out

I recently listening to the Conversations with Tyler: Daniel Kahneman on Cutting Through the Noise where he had Daniel Kahneman a guest and it’s pretty fantastic. I first learned about Kahneman from his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”. Aside from being an interesting guy, I was struck by his attitude when he was fielding questions from both the host and the audience. There’s something special about Kahneman’s openness to saying “I have no idea”. There were so many times where he was faced with a question and he simply responded with “that’s outside my expertise” or “I don’t know enough about that research to comment” and I love him for it.

It’s definitely something worth thinking about. I often find myself wanting to be helpful which often compels me to offer an answer or to have an opinion. The truth is, I don’t always. And that’s ok. Kahneman is a pretty smart guy. I’ll take his lead.

Snapchat and Growth Hacking

I first signed up for Snapchat years ago, but after being completely befuddled by its user interface, I deleted it pretty quickly. I’ve been hearing so much about it lately that I decided to reinstall it and play around.

Overall, it’s been fun talking with friends and checking it out. It’s still inscrutable, but it’s fun.

The notification experience is absolutely unbearable though. If you’re unfamiliar with Snapchat, this is what happens when someone is sending you a message:

snapchat typing notification

This is some majorly user-hostile stuff. I’m guessing it’s in the name of Growth Hacking or some other nonsense, but wow, this is gross. Because I’m a total pedant about notifications, I immediately went on a deep dive figuring out how to configure this nuisance away. Nope. Not possible. There are plenty of “tutorials” online – all of which instruct you how to turn off notifications completely. For a social app… whose primary focus is Direct Message style communication… right…

This is just gross. As the underdog and the platform always being copied, I want to root for Snapchat, but this has to go.

The Green New Deal Has a Branding Problem

Nope, this branding problem has nothing to do with waging war against lobbyists, pseudoscience, or the “Estbalishment” – it’s grammar. Grammar is the great equalizer. It has an equal harshness for all of us, regardless of what you believe in. There’s beauty in that.

Every time I read any reference to the Green New Deal, it sets my teeth on edge a little. I get why it’s called the “Green New Deal”, but we all agree it should be called the “New Green Deal”, right?

My mind immediately flashes back to this old post by Kottke. I don’t know how we all know those rules inherently, but we sure do. Not following these unspoken rules makes you sound like a crazy person.

“Hey buddy, check out my Blue New Mug!” Nope. Nope. Nope.

Email’s Walled Garden

Online publishing seems to be in kind of a weird phase these days. With the death of Google Reader many years ago (gone too soon!), the self-publishing and RSS ecosystem seems to have left the mainstream consciousness. For years, I’ve been watching my favorite authors lament its disappearance and their subsequent battle to stay engaged with their readership.

While it seems like RSS is having a bit of a moment again, we’ve all seen the proliferation of email newsletters recently. I’m not against it, and I actually subscribe to a good handful of them myself, but I worry about what it’s doing to the open web.

I know, more hand-wringing over the “open web”. But my post from earlier today is a great example of where it hurts. I really wanted to link to that article by Shawn, but that writing has no home on the internet. Instead, it lives somewhere in a top secret Active Campaign CMS. I don’t feel great about that.

Folks, if you’re going to start a newsletter, I’m all for it. Just cross-post it.