Weekly Thing 261 / Bloomfield Bridge, Critical Ignoring, Subscription Era
I’m Jamie Thingelstad, and you (in theory) signed up for this weekly letter from me sharing things that I have found notable and engaging for the week.
Hello there! 👋
I hope you had an amazing summer filled with fun, family, and fantastic adventures! 😎
For our part we traveled near and far, and took in as much as we could. The highlight was an epic hiking trip in Switzerland 🇨🇭 and an amazing week in Italy 🇮🇹. I’m still building the not-yet-done collection page with links to our trip logs and blog posts.
I’m a week later than expected resuming the Weekly Thing. I knew I wasn't going to publish on the first Saturday of September. It was Labor Day weekend. But, more importantly we also moved Mazie into college that weekend. Now two weeks in I've gained significantly more empathy and understanding for families crossing this huge milestone. In the past when friends have told me they had a kid go to college I'd be like "Yeah, that's awesome. Congrats!" 🌈 and 🦄! Having experienced the broad and intense array of emotions that go with this milestone I now understand how big of a life change this is for everyone! A good reminder that change is the only constant, and time stops for nobody.
The other reason I’m a week later than expected is I did a massive revamp of the automation I use to build this email, and I wasn't done. 🤷♂️ I put the proverbial car up on the blocks, took the engine out, and had myself a big mess. The good news is the revamp is largely done, or at least done enough to work this week, and the improvements are great. I've wanted to do this for a while and I’m happy with how it came out. Many folks have asked me to write about this, and I'll give it a try. It is a lot to cover but I’m sure would be interesting.
Now that Fall is approaching, the days are getting shorter, kids are all off to respective places of learning, and my allergies are going crazy — I’m super happy to be here in your mailbox! 💌
I love this article so much. Perhaps I love it because I know the bridge it is about. Most folks in the Twin Cities would pass under this bridge when driving on I-494. But Vigen asks the question "Why?" This pedestrian bridge doesn't seem to serve a purpose, so he sets about to answer why it exists. The depths that he pursues to answer that question are impressive. I’m not going to give it away, but I loved this highlight.
While I am dedicated to this search, I am not about to fly down to Kansas City to dig through federal archives, especially when those documents may or may not be there...
...just kidding. Of course I flew down to Kansas City to dig through the federal archives!
Yes, he flew to Kansas City in pursuit of the answer.
This is a wonderful, delightful read.
The term "critical ignoring" caught my attention right away. Clearly, I’m not critically ignoring this topic! 🤔 There has been some, but not enough, focus on how we might help people identify misinformation and propaganda. That is a good skill, but you can make that easier if you add a filter of ignoring before that.
Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information literacy must include the competence of critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities.
Being thoughtful about what you choose to even engage with, and then applying critical thinking to what is left is the strategy that I've been employing for a while and think works great. This is one of the reasons I love the RSS ecosystem for getting new information. I choose what goes in, so it limits the need to ignore much of anything.
We review three types of cognitive strategies for implementing critical ignoring: self-nudging, in which one ignores temptations by removing them from one’s digital environments; lateral reading, in which one vets information by leaving the source and verifying its credibility elsewhere online; and the do-not-feed-the-trolls heuristic, which advises one to not reward malicious actors with attention.
One of the best reasons to get off of social media? It makes critical ignoring very, very difficult to do.
Installing: I tried Marco Polo a number of years ago on my brother-in-law Max's suggestion but it didn’t resonate with me. I’m not a fan of recording video of myself. However, now with Mazie off at college we've found "sending Polos" to be super fun and a great way to keep connected.
Watching: Tammy and I are pretty slow to make it through shows but we've enjoyed Only Murders in the Building. We just started season 3!
Drinking: I've transitioned (mostly) to drinking non-alcoholic beer and I discovered that Athletic Brewing, which has great beer in stores, has a wide array of unique and interesting brews only available online. If your looking for interesting beers without alcohol it is a great selection! 🍻
Jul 18, 2023
Senda Segantini, Switzerland
Good article from friend and Weekly Thing reader Lee Zukor on product and engineering alignment.
The problem, I think, is in the assumption that Product and Engineering teams inherently have different goals. They don’t – or at least they shouldn’t. Both teams are responsible for the growth and stability of the company, for revenue and scalability. Neither can succeed without the other.
He is spot on about this, and the idea that pushing both ways will somehow create more is so low value that it doesn't even show up on a scale compared to the value of an aligned team, all focused on winning.
Northern Virginia is where many of the largest cloud providers host datacenter. Hello AWS US-East-1! 👋 But it isn't just the cloud, there are a large number of data center facilities in that area. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with why America Online was there.
Hartnett attributes the region’s continued global dominance in the industry to a combination of factors: favorable state tax incentives for the industry, a skilled workforce, access to relatively cheap electricity and land, and, most significantly, an extensive fiber network that dates to the region’s role as the birthplace of the internet.
All that has resulted in Northern Virginia’s staggering 47.7 million square feet of data center space, with 6.7 million square feet under construction and another 45 million planned.
Nearly 50 million square feet of space, and the growth continues.
This concentration is probably helpful in some ways. Imagine how many of the worlds most expert power and cooling technicians are in that area. Or the network engineering talent. If you love technology and don't want to get rid of the Leatherman on your belt, Virginia is the place to be!
But this level of concentration seems like a bad idea too. How do you get that much power into such a small space. And colocation risk alone is bad for all sorts of reasons — natural disasters, terrorist activity, military target.
It would be great to see a microdatacenter movement, powered by renewable energy. Take the computers to where the wind and sun are. But the efficiencies of "Virginia Scale" are hard to overcome.
Here is a prime example of why I don't use Chrome. Google's interests are to create a great browser that furthers their search engine, their apps, and surveilles you to sell more ads to you. Being the last browser to support Do Not Track was an early sign, this is next level creating functionality specifically to track you.
Interesting dive into the digital platforms that Ukraine and Estonia have put in place to provide governmental services. This seems like an obvious path to provide better services and increase efficiency. Wonder how long it will take some of the larger countries to adopt these type of solutions.
Like millions of others I've purchased this book because I've read many of Isaacson's biographies and I’m curious to read more on Elon Musk. I read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future in 2016 and liked it a lot. This list of pull-quotes is not that interesting, except this one that I thought was very interesting.
Production sprints and struggles at Tesla and the space exploration company SpaceX also sharpened Mr. Musk’s philosophy, which he distilled into a five-step approach that he called “the algorithm” and which he repeatedly invoked to employees. It involved, in order: questioning requirements, deleting parts or processes, simplifying and optimizing, accelerating processes, and, finally, automating. “I became a broken record on the algorithm,” Mr. Musk told Mr. Isaacson.
This loop is super interesting to me as it hits on something that most engineers struggle with, scope and solution expansion. Some quick perspective.
Questioning Requirements: Requirements are too often assumed to be valid. If you start with a broad and wide set of requirements the solution becomes geometrically more complicated.
Deleting Parts or Processes: Explicitly remove things. What is the simplest set of solutions to meet the requirements.
Simplifying and Optimizing: Simplify. Engineers are driven to complexity like a moth to a flame. It invigorates the mind. It is a fun puzzle.
Accelerating Processes: Speed matters. Specifically identify where you can go faster.
Automating: Now that the solution is clear, how can it be automated to make it more efficient.
This is an interesting loop, and a great set of questions to ask.
Tammy has a Series 8 and I have the Ultra so we aren't in upgrade territory for watches. The Ultra 2 does Siri on the device which promises to reduce latency. That would be nice. Using Siri on the Ultra works well, better than any other Watch I've had, but it does have latency that is noticeable. Otherwise, like the iPhone, very incremental improvements. Do I need the display to be brighter? I don't find that to be an issue now.
This seems like one of the most incremental upgrades to the iPhone that I can remember. There are no marquee features that call to me. The camera is of course better, which drives many upgrades, but not enough for folks that have a very recent model already. Apple is a company that tends to not get into specification details with lots of numbers on performance, but this iPhone 15 seems to have a lot of that.
It is worth asking, what is the terminal design point of this category of device? The arc has flattened a lot on this model.
Interesting take on two trends:
- The steady and rapid rise of subscription offerings. Mostly the article is focusing on Substack newsletters and OnlyFans because there is data for that. But I would suggest this applies to any content subscriptions.
- The extreme distribution of all subscription profits being at the top 10-20 of content providers on any of these platforms. The average author makes next to nothing. The top few take the vast majority of all the revenue.
It is an idyllic, almost utopian, perspective. There is an imagined logic at play, entirely divorced from reality. In the world where Substack were an expeditious route to “more people” being able to “make a good and profitable career out of writing”, we would also live in a world where you bought your lamp chops from a butcher, your baguette from a bakery, your stilton from a cheesemonger and your wine from a vintner, rather than just everything from a supermarket. The fact that there was a period, in the 90s and 00s, when consumers seemed to repudiate newspapers — the supermarkets of journalism — did not mean that the idea was wrong, but that the sale mechanic was at fault. Just as supermarkets have iterated, in the same period, to introduce self-service and home delivery, so too should the more endangered business of journalism. To think that long term stability is in returning to individual shopkeepers, and raising prices for consumers, is regression masking as progress.
He doesn't talk about the insane number of streaming platforms out there, but that is another subscription situation and it is hitting the same logic. I cut the cord on cable two decades ago, but now my multitude of streaming solutions cost me nearly as much, and the user experience is frustrating since I now have to use a dozen solutions all with different user experiences.
I've read most if not all of Taleb's books. He's brilliant for sure. This episode of the Tim Ferris show is an interview with him and Scott Patterson for his new book Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of Crisis. The dialogue goes all around risk and Black Swans. I enjoyed it a lot. It made me want to go back and re-read Fooled by Randomness again.
Very positive review of the Tonal system. I've got a good set of dumbbells and we have the Peloton bike and treadmill, but something like this is intriguing. I like how Dickerson reviewed the various components of the system. Sounds interesting. 💪
Perhaps it is age, but every year the value of time goes up for me. Mathematically that makes sense, since we are all reducing our balance of remaining time every day. This video merges two topics In a way I would not. There is the idea of time blocking, which is well understood. But there is another topic that I often describe as Defensive Calendar management.
The modern workplace has opened up our most precious and important asset, time, as a resource for anyone to inspect and use. Group calendaring and availability is great for some things, but I would challenge anyone to show me that it is optimal for all entities in the system to use their time optimally. Defensively managing your calendar is a critical skill.
The how is tactics, but for more on the why go to Graham's great Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule article.
Decided to take the leap (both Tammy and I) and sign up for Peter Attia’s new Early program. I’ve learned a ton from his podcast, and Tammy has finished his new book Outlive (I’m still reading) and Early promises to be the best way to make it all actionable.
Ready to cheer for Team USA vs Oman! ⚽️🇺🇸
Spiral. Inspired by my brothers experimentation with this shot.
Brilliant use of generative art to create Emoji's to upload to various platforms for specific terms or people. I tried to do a "Jamie Thingelstad" one but it didn’t really get it right. 🤣 → AI Emojis
This sounds like a total mess. It also would be super difficult to do any CEO transition during a pandemic. So many egos too. → Disney CEO mess: Inside story of Iger and Chapek
Breakdown of App Store revenue for an iPhone user compared with Play Store. iPhone customers generate 7.4x the revenue of an Android user. → The Value of a Customer – Asymco
Project to store bookmarks, almost more like a link blog, hosted on Glitch, and supporting ActivityPub to send updates via Mastadon. → Postmarks
Procreate is an amazing piece of software for drawing. The animation capabilities in Dreams look amazing. I can’t wait to see what people create with this. → Procreate Dreams
Julio Ojeda-Zapata chronicles photographing a bike tour with his iPhone. The Ego power rig he uses is amazing. → Photographing a Bicycling Tour with an iPhone - TidBITS
I hadn't heard the term 'polycrisis' until listening to Taleb and Patterson on the Tim Ferris podcast. The concept is worth being able to name, although I don't relish the idea of being in one. → We’re in a ‘polycrisis’ - a historian explains what that means | World Economic Forum
Here is your fortune…
Don't worry so loud, your roommate can't think.
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I once created a fun travel game about identifying mathematical relationships in the numbers that appear on road signs, called Road Sign Math! I launched a website to share the signs and had 30 people submit over 250 road signs from every continent in the world!
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