Weekly Musings

Thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days

Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

When I first sent out this musing, the new year was just a few days old. As usual, little if anything, seemed different. What a difference a few weeks made. Turmoil. Uncertainty. I wanted to give 2021 some time before making a final judgement, but I'm not hopeful.

Over the 2020 holidays, I (for once) followed my own advice and disconnected for a while. So much so, that I didn't publish a musing last week. One of the ways in which I took a step or two back sparked the idea for essay you're about to read.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Walking Amongst the Monuments

A couple of hundred metres from where I live is a massive cemetery, one that dates back to the late 1800s and which rolls and sprawls over ... well, I'm not sure how many hectares. Its size and contours make that cemetery a near perfect place to go for long walks — whether for exercise or to clear one's head.

Whenever I stroll through the cemetery, I steal the occasional glance at the tombstones and monuments and plaques that I'm walking by. Not out of morbid fascination, but out of curiosity. Curiosity about how people are remembered by those who they leave behind.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Thoughts about the holiday season helped jump start the idea behind this week's letter. Not about the holidays themselves, but about what the holidays should be: a time to pull back. I'm not going to natter on about that in this intro. That's what the essay you're about to read is for, isn't it?

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On the Joys of Disconnecting

Let's take a wee trip back in time, shall we? To 2012. Specifically, that year's Christmas break. It might have been the 26th or the 27th of December. Sorry, it's been eight years and some of the finer details have faded from my memory.

At that time, I was a member of a now-defunct social networking site called App.net. On the 26th or the 27th of December, 2012 a rather interesting and, in many ways, very sad post passed through my stream. A post that made me shake my head — partly in disbelief and partly out of pity.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

It's good to have you back. Thanks for joining me.

This time 'round, thoughts about a topic inspired by something I heard at The Day JobTM recently. But also thoughts that, as usual, have been bouncing around in my brain for a while.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Simple Software

Maybe I've been digging in the enterprise software trenches a bit too long. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky or jaded. Maybe it's a bit of all of the above. But lately, I've been lamenting today's lack of simple software.

By simple, I mean software that does just what it needs to do. Not software that tries to be everything to everyone and comes up short in all areas. Software that's focused, but also easy to use.

That's not to say that all software is overly complex and overloaded with features. Quite a bit of it isn't, though much of that simple software occupies some very niche spaces.

Despite so much software being just too much, developers and (what's to me) a shockingly large number of users put up with the status quo. They cling to the idea that more features and functions in software means that software is better. That by pushing a one-size-fits-all approach, we wind up with not something that's a well-tailored solution but one that fits like a tablecloth. A big, tent-like tablecloth.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Another week has passed. They seem to be doing that a lot faster, aren't they? Or maybe it's just me.

Regardless, you're getting a new edition of this letter. A day late due to unforeseen circumstances, but it's here. See, I do care. This time 'round, thoughts about a topic inspired by something my wife mentioned to me recently. Thoughts that hadn't popped into my head in over 20 years.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On the Death of the Post

It wasn't all that long ago that no one knew what electronic mail (e-mail) was. That started to slowly change when the World Wide Web gripped the popular imagination back in the early- and mid-1990s. Even then, having an email address was something of a novelty.

These days, it seems everyone has an e-mail address. Some have more than one. Now, as in the seemingly ancient days of the web, there were predictions that the delivery of physical mail, often derisively referred to as snail mail will cease to exist. That there will no longer be people whose watches and clocks — biological or mechanical or digital — will be set to time of the daily mail delivery. That there will no longer be the clatter of envelopes and magazines slipping through the letter slot, or the joy of finding something addressed to you in your mailbox.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This time 'round, an idea that's been rattling around in my head for a while now. As you'll notice, there are still bits of my thinking about this topic that are forming but it's something that I find interesting. I hope you do, too.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Cultivating a Digital Garden

Something that's fascinated me for as long as I can remember is the way in which people collect, connect, and share knowledge. Not only in the professional sphere, but on the personal side of their lives as well.

About 11 or 12 months ago, the concept of the digital garden crossed my gaze. The concept grabbed and held on to my attention but, thanks to various other pressures and factors, thoughts about digital gardens were shunted to the back of my brain. Those thoughts, though, have been percolating ever since. Because of the nature of my new Day JobTM, the idea of the digital garden has strongly come to the fore again.

What, you might be asking, is a digital garden? It's something that lies between a public notebook and a blog. You can use a digital garden to collect and to organize the important information the comes your way. It's a way of sharing what you know and what you're learning. It's doesn't (always) need to be a structured, hierarchical set of files or pages on the web or on your computer, but more of a grouping of information that grows as you learn.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

To quote the immortal (in more ways than one) Captain Jack Harkness: Hey kids, did you miss me? Well, I did miss you. And it's good to be back.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Making an Impact

Since shifting house recently, the length of my commute has tripled. Instead of walking to the office, I take a train and then hoof it to the Day JobTM from the final station on the line. That commute, while stretching out my day, also gives me time to catch up on my reading. It also gives me some space to think and to write.

Something I've been pondering recently was triggered by an advert at final station on my commute. That ad is a vertical rectangle, just over two metres high, emblazoned with a question in big, black letters set in a modern font (sorry, I don't know which font). That question? How do I make an impact in the world?

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Sometimes, things hit you from different angles all at once. Which is what happened with me over the last week or so. Mainly in a good way, but a way in which left me scrambling to get this edition of the letter out.

With time at a premium, I dug into my archives and found something kind of finished, but which needed a bit of TLC. Which is what you're about to read. I hope that you enjoy it.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On the (Japanese) Vending Machine

Like white-gloved pushers in the Tokyo subway and tales of $50 watermelons, stories about interesting, practical, and downright weird vending machines are one of the images burned into the world's knowledge of Japan. A knowledge that most of us didn't pick up first hand, but rather acquired through the often superficial and often distorted lens of the media and popular tales.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week's essay should have been last week's. And if it wasn't for the last 175 words refusing to be written, what you'd be reading now would be something entirely different. It's annoying when that happens.

It's been a while since I've recommended an email newsletter, so why don't I do that now? That newsletter is James Whatley's Five things on Friday which, ironically, doesn't always land in your inbox on a Friday. Or even every week. Whatley uses the newsletter to share five things of note that you might have missed during the week. The topics can be pretty wide ranging, but you'll find something that grabs your attention.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Embracing Your Inner Geek

Embrace your inner geek.

That's a phrase, and a call to action, that I've been using since the late 1990s or early 2000s. It started off focused on technology — I'd joke that a fellow technical communicator needed to dive a bit more deeply into what they were writing about to better understand it. Or, I'd say that to encourage someone to learn more about a certain technology.

As the years passed, the idea of embracing one's inner geek moved beyond technology. It applies to anything you're passionate about, anything in which you're deeply interested. That could be woodworking, trainspotting, tying knots, collecting books. In those cases, being a geek denotes an abiding affection or preoccupation with something. That something might be practical. It might be obscure. The key point is that it's something that's taken hold of your imagination and which you've acted upon to learn more about or do regularly.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Once again, life has decided to happy slap me. In between the (mostly good) chaos that's enveloping my work and personal lives is a narrow lane into which I slot the things that I want to do. Lately, the entrances and exits to that lane have either been blocked or clogged, which is slowing me down. The essay I was going to publish this week just wouldn't let me wrap it up. So, I had to quickly shift gears and quickly write what you're about to read.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On Reflection Versus Speed

It’s been a while since I’ve heard someone use the term internet time. Even though it's a hackneyed phrase whose vogue has long passed, internet time can be an apt metaphor for the world we’re living in. Or, at least, the world many of us seem to think we’re living in.

What kind of world is that? A world in which we’re expected to be constantly on and constantly available. A world in which information is coming at us at all hours of the day and night. A world in which we see and read, and are forced to react almost instantly. Our knees jerk. The lack of depth in our knowledge is on full display.

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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

It's hard to believe that we're almost half way through another month. And that another year is coming to a close. I'm sure that most of us want to see 2020 shunted into the history books and into the backs of our memories. Most of the last 288 days have been a strange, unexpected ride.

This time 'round, another short essay. The hectic pace that's invaded my life these past few weeks has continued, which means I've had less time to ponder and write than I hoped. But at least this letter is back on schedule.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On (Not) Reading More Books

So many books to read, and so little time. And yet the pressure to read as much as we can is always there.

It's not just the concept of tsundoku (letting books pile up without reading them) that plagues us and applies pressure. It's the number of books that we're recommended or encouraged to read. It's the number of books that we're told me must read. Books that will help us keep abreast of the latest professional trends and ideas. Books that will give us an advantage over our competitors in the workplace or in business. Books that will help us stay current with the reading of our peers.

Sometimes, it can all be too much.

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