Earlier this year I decided that I would try writing a monthly newsletter. The idea was that it would be a way for me to write one long-form piece of writing a month. (Delivered on the 13th, because I thought it was funny). Last month marked the 6-month mark, which means that this project has lead me to create six pieces of writing, that I’m pretty happy with.
However, I’ve decided that I will put the newsletter on hold while I work out a better strategy for writing and sharing my longer pieces of writing. At the start, I was bought into the idea of having a more dedicated newsletter audience, but over time I realised that by keeping this writing behind a (free) subscription, it drastically reduces the chance of people reading my work.
I recently opened up the issues on my blog, which essentially made them special blog posts that were additionally sent out via email. That made it feel a bit weird, how there wasn’t much of a distinction between a newsletter issue and a normal blog post. But I was still referring top it as a “newsletter”.
It might be that email is just an optional method of delivery that I will offer for all of my writing (probably not linked posts though), and that it forms part of the overall blog. Where my writing is hosted on the blog, but also has the option of an RSS feed or email option. We’ll have to see.
But for now, the newsletter is paused, and all of my writing will be delivered straight to the blog, for everyone to read.
Most of those thought processes stem from the fact that before I used an Apple device, I was really into PCs, whether it was building them, seeing the latest technology, or just tinkering with them. But after I switched to a Mac, it felt like it wasn’t a device for tinkering, rather it was an off-the-shelf product that you used to get things done.
I don’t mean this to be an attack on Apple products, or just to be purely negative about them, because I think they’re some of the best technology products that exist today. But just like every other product, they come with their own pros and cons.
For example, I think that macOS is a better operating system than Windows in a usability sense, design, and overall cohesion with the Apple ecosystem. And the same also applies to iOS and iPadOS. However, there are times when I’ve felt like I’ve been wrapped in cotton wool, instead of having real control of my devices. That’s led to my recent thinking on Android phones, and imagining if I could ever make the switch.
These thoughts have been going around my head for a while, and one phrase came to mind yesterday that seems to sum up my overall opinion on technology: “I don’t want nice, I want control”. And whether or not this is the reality, I’ve always felt like the Apple world offers more niceties and a cohesive experience throughout all of their products, and not exactly one that offers an abundance of control to its users.
All of this has led me to very recently (a few days ago), purchasing a PC. I’ll write about that on my blog in more detail soon, but it’s a Windows PC, relatively cheap, which I built myself, and I’m now having some fun playing World of Warcraft at the max settings with a seemingly lack of struggle.
I don’t know if this makes me part of the “PC Master Race” or if I’m actually going to be doing more things in Windows than playing games. But one thing I’m going to be doing from now on is to keep an open mind about technology. Somehow I went from being interesting in technology and computing as a whole to then thinking Apple products are the only ones worth thinking about. Whereas I’m now starting to realise that products are contextual. And that the quality of a product is contextual, to the use case, users familiarity, price, what downsides a user is willing to put up with, etc.
Maybe this just means that I’m now an Apple user with a gaming PC, or maybe it’s the start of a wider appreciation for technology. I guess I’ll just have to find out.
any wild plant that grows in an unwanted place, especially in a garden or field where it prevents the cultivated plants from growing freely
Seems simple enough. Things that appear where you don’t want them to appear.
Except throughout my life, I’ve noticed that here in the UK, “weeds” seem to be a fixed list of plants that people apparently don’t like on their lawn. So really they’re just native plants that sometimes spread relatively easy.
My problem is that the common meaning is seemingly a static list, rather than being subjective to the scenario. For example, in a small garden, you probably won’t want Japanese knotweed growing, as it’s an invasive species that can quickly overtake an area and is difficult to control.
However, I’ve never understood that dandelions, a small plant that produces yellow flowers, looks pretty nice, and is actually edible while also containing quite a few vitamins, is commonly classed as a weed. Whereas the daisy is exempt from the same criticism, even though it is too a small flowering plant that can appear in lawns and spreads relatively easily.
The only thing this has done for me is to further reaffirm my belief that weeds are subjective. But more importantly, that sometimes commonly held opinions (or definitions in this case) might not always apply to you.
For example, when reading a product review, whether it’s an app or a computer, it’s important to remember that a weed to them might not necessarily be a weed to you. So you need to take into consideration any biases that the reviewer might hold themselves, before applying their findings to your situation.
You could also apply to analogy to the common question of whether an iPad can replace your computer. Too many times, the fundamental parts of peoples arguments are what an iPad can do and what a “real computer” can do. And instead, the focus should be on three things:
What can an iPad do?
What do I want to do?
What weeds am I willing to deal with to use an iPad?
You can apply these three things to a lot of decisions, and make them a bit more generic:
What capabilities does X have?
What actions do I want to perform?
What am I willing to put up to perform Y on X?
Often it’s easy to see someone’s posts on social media and to try and apply their experiences and outcomes to your own life, but it’s important to remember subjectivity. And that their decisions could be based on beliefs that are different to your own, and that they may be willing to put up with a different level of “weeds” than you.
Something that has intrigued me for most of my life is how people react to what is perceived to some as imperfections. I have multiple reasons why I think it's an odd situation, but mainly as these differences are usually so benign and minuscule. Nevertheless, they can cause huge amounts of discrimination and even anxiety.
The entertainment we watch often includes aliens from other worlds and other strange creatures, sometimes human-like. We accept the blue skin of the Na'vi in Avatar, the various creatures in Doctor Who, and even a talking Racoon in the MCU. But this level of acceptance doesn't always exist in the real world.
For example, I have freckles over most of my body. I've never found this to be a bad thing myself, and I think it's actually pretty cool that I have effectively patterned skin. But I do know that some people will wear makeup to try and hide them. Not even because they don't like the look of them, but sometimes it's the pressure of society and the opinions of peers that persuade people to not "be weird". And when you're young, being weird usually just means not copying everyone else.
Weirdly, a common thing nowadays is to draw on freckles as if it's a fashion statement. But that's a whole other thing.
So while having freckles isn't a massive deal, as in it doesn't tend to incite violence in people. However, it's an example of something that sets people apart, and while obviously minor, it's another thing that our society can pressure people into trying to hide.
There are many more of these perceived imperfections, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There's having a beauty spot, different skin colour, hair colour, hair type, an accent, foreign language. The list goes on.
We seem to be very judgemental creatures, and maybe that's our tribalism coming out, or it's a byproduct of the fight or flight response where we need to judge and react quickly. But I'm not sure if I can totally believe that in 2021, they're more likely to be handy excuses.
It's incredible to think of the number of species on our planet and how we seem to accept their existence relatively well, but members of our own species can be seen as enemies because of their physical characteristics.
What's worse is that I think our current society, mixed with the media and so-called "influencers", make the problem of discrimination much worse. Because I think nowadays we've all been conditioned to expect judgment. So we don't write what we believe on the internet, put filters over our faces, and change our fashion to suit what's popular. And when we mask even the slightest of differences, we're telling ourselves that whatever difference that was, it's not normal. And I think it's this perception of "normal" that causes most of the problems.
If you really think about it, normal doesn't exist. Instead, we are all simply humans with our peculiarities, interests, perspectives, and priorities.
A common thing I see on social media are people asking for certain behaviours or characteristics to be "normalised". But again, I think this stems from the concept of normality. And how we can only truly be ourselves if we can do that within the confines of society's current definition of what normal is.
I personally think that the only thing that needs to be normalised is the fact that we all have the ability to be wildly different to one another in nearly all aspects. And while our differences can sometimes be interesting, we need to remember that it's not up to any one of us to be the bearer of acceptance for others. Nor should we require the approval of others for our own lives.
Depending on the community you live in, the people you interact with, and society at any point in time, it may be harder to be yourself. And that's something that I hope changes in the future. Not by everyone having an encyclopedia of the differences between us, and then actively accept others. Instead, people being accepting by default. Because we realise that whatever our physical characteristics, quirks, priorities, or beliefs that we have, aren't necessarily the standard that everyone else should be held to.
Sorry if this is seems like a bit of a rant, or too negative. It's just something I've been thinking about for a long time, wanted to get off my chest, and to see if it was anything that resonated with people.
Okay, so maybe productivity isn’t the best word. But instead, I want to talk about a few methods that I’ve found that helped me to get things done.
I’ll start with a tiny bit of background information, in that I am an incredibly lazy person. So you could say I need as much help as I can get when it comes to being productive. This is why I’ve started to learn ways in which I can trick myself into starting activities that my usual lazy self would definitely not want to do.
I’m not sure if this quote is actually true, or if Bill Gates was even the one who said it, but I do think there is at least a hint of truth in the following quote:
I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.
I think that’s where I am right now. Although I’m not always finding the objectively easiest solution, what I’ve learned is that I need to find the solution that fits me.
A lot of the time, when people talk about productivity, they talk about the efficiency of getting work done and, in general, how you can fit the most value into the smallest period. And while this type of stuff may be helpful to others, my issue is rarely how efficiently I perform tasks or deal with deadlines. My problem is putting in the required effort in order to actually start something.
A tip I hear (and use) a lot when it comes to making tasks seem more bearable is to break them down into smaller tasks and tackle them one by one. It sounds totally obvious, and it probably is. But I, for one, tend to forget about it most of the time.
However, there is one idea constantly in my head: always try and make things easier for myself. Because when the time comes where I have a sudden burst of energy or that tiny bit of time where I feel like I have nothing else to do, I’m more likely to make a dent in a big task. Additionally, I’ve found my sudden bursts of energy and inspiration to be perfect times to make that start.
The thing that helps me the most in tackling a big task, whether it is writing a long blog post, cleaning the kitchen, organising my office, or anything that just seems like it would require too much effort, is that I give myself a goal. More specifically, I give myself an easily achievable goal. So if I want to tidy up the kitchen, I’d tell myself, “I’m just going to put away all of the rubbish in the bin and then I’m done”. If I’m writing a blog post, I’d probably aim to write either a first sentence or maybe even just to get an idea down somewhere. No matter what it is, I find forgetting about the big picture for a second can help. The goal is to get that one thing done, and then you can either finish or just one more thing. After a while, it creates a snowball effect, where after every small task you complete, you’re more likely to do the next thing and the next thing until you may as well just finish it.
I regularly use one trick on myself: when I’m waiting for something to happen, whether it’s waiting for something to cook or when I have a few minutes spare, I just start washing a few dishes. Then in a few minutes, I find myself doing a few more dishes, and then I’m cleaning the surfaces, and then the cupboards, and maybe after this time, the bin is full, so I may as well take that out. Most of the time, I just need to do something small, and then I find it easy to carry on with something else.
When it comes to longer-form writing, I find it useful to give myself a head-start there too. Usually, it’s in the form of a really rough outline of the fundamentals of what I want to write about. And if I have time afterwards, I might do some refining or add a bit more detail. So when it comes to sitting down and writing, my brain can use the outline as a trigger, and I find it a lot easier to get a load of writing done in one go.
My biggest takeaway from this would be that it’s far easier to continue a task than starting one. So by making a dent, no matter the size, makes it that much easier to then push yourself on.
Considering everything I said about starting being the hardest part, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of it is always easy. Sometimes you still need a bit more motivation to keep on going.
I’ve found that not only simply breaking up tasks into more manageable chunks helps, but adding in regular rewards can make it even easier to get bigger pieces of work done. For example, while I was at university, I sometimes found it incredibly boring to write some of the reports. But I tackled that by giving myself rewards for a given amount of work. So after I’d written a certain amount of words, I played a game of FIFA. And then, after that game, I knew that all I had to do was the same amount of words again before I could play again.
It definitely relies upon a level of self-control, but it can be very effective once you’ve found the right balance. It can transform a task into being just smaller chunks, into an activity that you’re actually interested in, broken up with occasional tasks. Even with the added motivation, I’m sure that this method isn’t the most efficient way. But if it means doing something over doing nothing at all, then there’s got to be some value in it.
The last thing that I want to talk about when it comes to getting work done is further to the idea of making things easier for yourself. In that, you can create triggers to help put yourself into a certain mindset and to create environments where you’re more likely to be productive.
For me, I do my best work when I’m sat at my desk in my office at home, in front of a monitor, with my mechanical keyboard, lights dimmed to reduce distraction, and usually some kind of music or ambient sounds playing.
Having a good working environment is something I’ve slowly created, and it’s definitely taken some learning along the way to see what works for me.
When I’m doing work on a computer, I tend to find that even small luxuries can make a big difference in helping me focus on getting work done. This includes using a good looking app for my writing, typing on a keyboard that I enjoy, and generally having that extra bit of delight with my setup. It may sound rather silly, but if you make your environment comfortable and have tools you enjoy using, I’m sure that will only increase the likeliness of getting things done.
A few extra things I’ve found to help trigger myself into a work mindset:
Putting shoes on (a recent one, not sure I understand it, though).
Wearing comfortable clothes.
“ASMR Room” videos on YouTube, which can create an environment with some background music, ambient sounds, and some visuals. I’ve found these keep me from having any major distractions.
Opening the window and getting some fresh air.
Setting triggers is something I want to play around with in the future, and hopefully, it’s something I can develop with myself.
If anyone else has had similar experiences when trying to make working a bit more bearable and creating work environments, then I'd be really interested in hearing about them!
Playing Around With Experimentation and Challenges #
Setting yourself goals can be an excellent way to push yourself towards a target and keep yourself heading in the right direction. But something I've discovered recently is that breaking a goal down into actions and turning ￼them into challenges can be very beneficial.
The first question that comes to your mind is probably, what's the difference between a goal and a challenge?
My answer to that would be that your perspective changes when you have a challenge rather than just a goal. Because goals usually don't come with any information on reaching them. They're only a target that you would like to achieve, and the journey is yours to figure out.
Something I've discovered relatively recently is the benefits of setting yourself challenges and using experimentation to improve skills, make informed decisions, and ensure that you stay on track.
What Makes a Good Experiment?
In my opinion, a good experiment has a clear goal in mind and a way that you can track progress. I also think it helps if there is a planning stage before a challenge is set or before any experimentation is started.
From a goal, you should be able to extract actionable tasks to help achieve that end goal.
For example, I had the goal a while ago to sort my email out and build a system that worked for me. As a goal, I would probably write it as "I want to have a better email system". But instead, I broke it down and examined what exactly it was that I was looking for.
Turns out, I didn't want a whole new email system. I just wanted to deal with the one address/account instead of the three I had previously. And to have an automated mechanism that filtered junk, sorted some valuable but not urgent emails, and kept my inbox for anything that I either had to deal with relatively soon or manually organise.
Once I did that, I set myself a fixed duration of 1 week and got on with my experiments. I also found that keeping a log of my decisions and opinions helped keep me on track too.
So What Are the Benefits?
I'm sure there are countless benefits to setting yourself challenges, and experimenting, rather than just introducing a goal. But at least from my perspective, here's what I've found:
It's easy to track progress. Especially when you keep records throughout the process as you make decisions.
It keeps yourself honest throughout the experimentation as you have a clear goal in mind and actions that should get you there.
Making informed decisions become more straightforward. If you perform an early analysis and identify your requirements early on, the decisions you make during and at the end of the process are more informed and more likely to be based on logic than your current thoughts or emotions in a particular moment.
Challenges I Have Set for Myself
Since really thinking about this idea of using challenges, I've set myself two of them. First, to find an email system that suited me, and more recently, to explore the market of writing apps to see if they fit my needs.
The email challenge was rather strict. I had a clear goal of fixing my email system and requirements that I wanted to meet at the end. And I also set myself a week to complete the challenge. I think I benefitted thoroughly from developing the initial requirements, as I found myself veering off the path a few times, but I was pulled back after re-reading my original plan.
I think that keeping a log of my decisions throughout the week also helped. Because although there were benefits of being honest to myself, I was left with a record of my thoughts and decisions at the end of the week as I tried new things. Which meant I could do better analysis at the end and make a better final decision.
The challenge to find a new writing app has been a more flexible one. Mainly since it was more exploratory, I wasn't aware of each app's intricacies, or in fact, what apps were available. So I went in with an open mind and precise requirements (which were refined over time) and decided to test a few apps until I thought there wasn't any more left to try out.
In retrospect, I think I would have benefitted from some more limitations. For example, coming up with an early list of apps and doing a basic research level. Because that would have filtered a few choices out early on.
This kind of reflection is another aspect of experimentation that is also important since it can only improve future challenges' efficiency and success rate.
By breaking down goals into steps and setting yourself challenges, I think you're more likely to take action and actually achieve them. And by doing controlled experiments with fixed criteria, you're more likely to finish with usable information that can help you make more informed decisions.
I want to explore challenges more, and I think I'll be doing some more myself. Maybe less around technology choices and more to do with life in general.
I'm interested to see if anyone else has used challenges and how useful they've been. So if you have any past experience, I'd love to hear it.
The pandemic has been with most of us for around a year now, and with the number of cases going back down, and the rapid vaccine rollout, there actually seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Some say COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, others say forever. I suspect that it will live on as a seasonal virus, similar to the flu, and other types of coronavirus. However, I’m not an expert, so I’ll leave the thinking on that one to them.
Instead, what I have been thinking about is mainly what is life going to be like after the pandemic. Once the various lockdowns are ended, and we’re set free again. Free to go “back to normal”.
Except, I don’t expect anyone truly expects we will go back to life as it was before the pandemic. Instead, I think instead of going back to normal, we will be going forward. Forward to a life where we apply the lessons that we have all learned over the last year.
I can only speak from my own perspective, and with the context of the UK’s experience of the virus and various lockdown measures, but I think I can say one thing for everyone - It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. We’ve had different levels of restrictions here in the UK, some stricter or more localised than others. They all felt different.
When we first had a lockdown, the entire nation seemed to get together and had a real sense of community spirit to try and pull through the lockdown. It was a novel thing, being locked inside our houses. And if you weren’t someone that was immediately affected by losing your job, your business not being able to operate, or worrying about family members who were more vulnerable to get the virus, there was a sense of “fun”.
I don’t mean to say that not everyone took it seriously, or that they didn’t care about the health of others. But there was a little sprinkle of excitement on everything. Everything was different, so we were all experiences new things at the same time. Whether it was working remotely, gathering online with friends and family, spending more time with our family members, and just generally exploring our new world.
After the lockdown ended, and the first wave was over, it was just about summertime. “Non-essential” shops were reopening, we were told to go out and eat at restaurants, and everyone was making use of their free time and exploring nature. A few people had holidays, but at least the people I know, kept within the UK. It wasn’t normal, but it was a sense of freedom.
Then later in the year, around October, we started to get new restrictions seemingly every week. Some were applied nationally, others based on tiered systems. Because the restrictions weren’t always as strict as the first time around, there was a more relaxed feel. And to be honest, I would say that around this time, not everyone was paying attention to the rules.
While there was a short national lockdown in the latter stages of the year, there was Christmas to look forward to. So it wasn’t all negative. Until, of course, the rules were tightened just before Christmas.
Then in January, it was announced that we would be entering a third national lockdown. This time until February. This was obviously driven by more strains of the virus, the expected seasonal increase, and also a few people that did mix over the Christmas period. In relative terms to the first lockdown, it’s not that long at all. But I think this time around, it’s hit people the hardest.
But now we have the new vaccines being rolled out, and the UK seems to be doing a pretty good job at it. At the same time, talks are beginning to happen regarding easing the lockdown measures. It’s starting to feel slightly positive again. We’re beginning to think about life after lockdown. Not life returning to normal, but instead taking everything we’ve learned over the many highs and lows, and looking at our lives with a fresh perspective.
What Happens Next?
I think the big thing that we’re all contemplating now, are our priorities. Maybe we valued work too highly, we didn’t see our friends and family often, we didn’t make full use of our opportunities, or maybe we just got too comfortable and forgot what was important.
The biggest change will no doubt be related to how we work after the pandemic. Some have people have continued like normal, some like myself have been lucky enough to be able to continue working from home, but others might not have been able to. And since for some it’s not guaranteed that work will be the same after the pandemic, there’s obviously going to be some major shifts.
For the people that have continued working like usual, they might now be asking if that job is still right for them. Maybe during this period, they’ve learned that it’s not for them?
And even if while working from home, your job is essentially the same, it might have unearthed some thoughts about how you want to work in the future. Is remote work something you like? Are the benefits of your job still worth it? Do you really want to go back to commuting for hours a day? Or after this experience, are you simply ready for something else?
As for everyone that hasn’t been so lucky, where they’ve either lost their jobs or just not been able to work, I think there will be a big chunk of them that have used this period to analyse where they want to go in the future. Because if you’re someone that has been on the edge of a career switch, this may have been the unfortunate but possible helpful nudge in a better direction.
I’ve certainly seen a lot of small businesses starting recently. Mainly from young people who aren’t working, and want to fill their time, and also see if they can make some money. I can’t say they’re innovative businesses, most of them are either small-scale handcrafted goods, personalised hampers, or just plainly reselling goods in various selections with a branded logo. At least from what I’ve seen, I don’t imagine most of them will last that long, but I bet some of them will.
And if you have been building a small business recently, or have had a “side hustle” going for a while, this might be the time to really try to make it a main source of income?
Even if you don’t want to switch to a new career path, or make changes to the way you work. The balance between work and personal life will certainly have been tested for a lot of people. I think a lot of people will have realised that seeing their family is important, and simply enjoying life can be more important than working as much as possible.
Because what is the point of work if you’re not able to enjoy your life? In my mind, work is meant to enable your life, not become your life. Some people are happy with their life becoming their work, but I personally don't get it.
Similar to the work-life balance question. Now we’ve all had a period of not being able to travel, as soon as we all can get back to travelling around the world, I think a lot of people will be doing so. Like most things, there will be an initial surge, but after a year of little to no travelling for most people, I bet a lot of people are just itching to get on a plane.
Although I think it hasn’t been as strong recently, over the whole pandemic, there has been a bigger sense of community spirit. Whether it’s by following the new restrictions, supporting friends, choosing smaller local businesses, it does feel like smaller communities are pulling together.
I think this is great. Because I think when we think of ourselves as simply being part of the UK, it’s hard to feel as connected to one another because the scale is just too high to comprehend. (It’s also why I think large social networks have issues, but that’s for another day)
But by being part of your local community, you can feel like you’re actually part of something. And it’s a lot easier to make a difference. For example, buying from local bookstores instead of Amazon, going to local events, and maybe even providing something back to the community yourself?
As for myself, I’ve been lucky enough to still be able to work remotely. It’s not totally new to me, since I used to work at home every now and then anyway. But those experiences always feel like one-offs. The company wasn’t ready for full-time remote work, everything was about being present in meetings, gathering near a whiteboard, or physically pairing with someone. So when the company decided to make everyone work from home (which was weeks before the UK actually went into lockdown), it was a big change for a lot of people.
Admittedly, as a developer, I can do the essential parts of my job with just a laptop and an internet connection. But there were some early teething problems with meetings, working closely with people, and also some technical issues due to our internal network and having all of our servers accessible over the VPN. Most of that was resolved in the first month or so though.
Since then, I think that while I wouldn’t say we’ve gone full-time remote working since there is still the mindset of going back to the office eventually, I would say that we are working very efficiently. And when I talk to other colleagues about this, we really struggle to come up with major reasons why we need to go back. I assume some executives in the company will be thinking similar things too since we rent multiple floors in an expensive building in central London, there are the added costs for facilities management and all of the little extras, and also I think a lot of us are simply more happy being at home.
There are a few things that I like about being in an office environment, I like physically being able to turn around and talk to the rest of my team, I like physically being in meetings, and I really enjoy being in London every day. But I don’t think those benefits outweigh the money or time spent on my commute. On average it takes me 1:30 to get to/from work. So if I want to be back home by a relatively normal time, I need to leave my house at 6:30 to start work at 7:30, I’d finish at 16:30, and be back home at 18:00. 12 hours of my day for 8 hours of work. I’m just not sure it’s worth it anymore.
As for my personal life, there are some things that I want to start changing. I haven’t exactly been seeing my family that much, I don’t have a history of supporting small/local businesses, I’ve not taken any interest in my local community/town, and I think I’ve generally placed work above everything else.
But since work has been taking up a significantly less amount of my time, I’ve been seeing what it’s like to be able to actually do things every day. Because if work takes up 12 hours of your day, and you sleep for 8, then that only leaves 4 hours every day. So in a sense, this lockdown has actually been less restrictive for me. I’ve gained more time in my day, and I’ve been slowly getting used to it.
I’ve not quite come up with the answers yet, but here are the questions I’ve been asking myself recently:
Do I really want to travel to a city every day?
Is being in the office worth the time and money spent on the commute?
What local businesses can I support by using them instead of big corporations like Amazon?
If I am to work remotely permanently, what other changes am I able to make to my life?
Should I try to work for a more remote company?
I’m interested to see how the pandemic has affected other peoples lives, and if you also feel like there are some changes you want to make when “normality” comes back around.
It’s the fourth issue of the new format, and it’s time to introduce another small section that will be happening every now and then (Ideally every 4 weeks), Podcasts! I listen to loads of Podcasts every day, and I thought it would be a good idea to share a few of my absolute favourites.
There’s nothing new on the blog this week, so I can’t link to anything there, but I have a variety of interesting links and videos for you.
I would say this week has been a partially productive week, in that I finally started my mini web analytics project. I won’t write up too much technical details here, that will be written up in full and posted to my blog within the next few days I hope.
But essentially, I wanted a super minimal way to track how many views my blog was getting, and whether another url referred it.
The only data that’s stored is the title and url of the webpage that was loaded, so just a url to a blog post of mine, and also the referrer url that is stored in the DOM. I’ve already noticed that this is usually blank, and therefore is only partially useful, and then of course the date and time it was loaded.
It’s live now, so all visitors on my blog will be logged (I wouldn’t call it tracking), and while I have a way to look at the raw data, the next step will be to create some kind of dashboard for myself.
However, the few bits of data that I mentioned, will be the only ones that are ever collected. So I’m not looking to invade anyone’s privacy. Plus, the data isn’t being anonymised when I store it, because there’s literally no personal data even being sent to the server.
Looking back at the past few paragraphs, I probably did explain it in more depth than I was going to, but oh well.
If you read the last issue of my Weekly Links newsletter, you may of seen my comment about my desire to expand the content. With this weeks issue, I’m going to take a step in that direction.
The past issues have simple been a list of links from all over the internet that I find interesting, it’s pretty simple and very minimal. I’m not saying I want to rich newsletter full of embeds, and images, but I’m going to be separating content into sections, which will lead me into including more content in general. For the beginning at least, it will still be a basic email containing hardly any formatting, but loads of links.
The sections that will be included from this week forward are:
On the Blog
What I’m Up To
They’re pretty explanatory, but the basic idea behind the transition is that the simple list of links is a bit unorganised. And some weeks, it’s simply not very long. But I’ve got content that I post on the blog, there’s tons of great videos that I watch, and I’m always working on something random. So why not share it here?
In the future, I want to add a podcast section, because I sure do listen to a lot of those. But adding a list of everything I’ve listened to isn’t good for me or anyone reading it. So maybe this will be my favourite/recommended episodes, and probably will end up being a less regular section. I was thinking every month, but this is a weekly newsletter, so every 4 weeks is a good alternative.
Anyway, you can sign up for the newsletter right now, which means you’ll have access to the past (boring) issues, and one new one which goes out tonight. All issues are usually send out on the Friday evening, but occasionally I’m busy and it gets pushed to Saturday morning.
Also, for the sake of my sanity. I’ll be starting the new issues at #1.
A few days ago I started to use Pinboard, which if you didn’t know, is a personal archiving service for links/notes.
I’ve known about the service for a while now, and it seems to be rather helpful to people, and while finally checking it out, the philosophy behind it really resonated with me. It’s a paid (only $11 per year) service, that has a huge focus on the actual content that you save, and letting you do whatever you intent to do. Nothing gets in your way.
I was looking into the various different settings of Pinboard, and then of course, had a look at the API. It sort of resurrected the idea in my head, where I would send out a regular newsletter to people, simply containing interesting links from around the web.
So I got creating a workflow, and in about 15 minutes I had a rough draft on a workflow that exported the days links, that featured a certain tag. My idea was I could then use this content in a super minimal email, and send it out at the end of every week.
This then evolved quite a lot, with the workflow being able to ask for user details, and then return the links (still for a specific tag) since a given date. It would then put it in a simple Markdown format, and convert to Rich Text for export purposes. I made a few cleanups, so if you want to try it for yourself, you can download my workflow.
Starting this Friday, I will be using my fancy workflow to compile a list of my most interesting (hopefully) links, and send them out that night. I chose Friday, because then there’s always something to read over the weekend!