Weekly Musings

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

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

What a weird, wild, and scary week it's been. How quickly things can be turned on their heads. And that's all I'm going to say on that subject.

In this edition of the letter, I revisit an idea that relates to one that I explored in Musing 062. An idea that many of us can relate to.

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

On Less

On Black Friday 2021, I found myself at the website of ethical smartphone maker Fairphone. If you haven't heard of the company, their main aim is to create a more sustainable smartphone.

It's not that I was looking for a new phone; I'm quite happy with my hand-me-down OnePlus 3. But for some reason or another, I landed on that site. By clicking an errant link, perhaps? I don't remember, to be honest. What greeted me on the Fairphone website was something refreshing, especially on a day that encourages out-of-control consumerism:

Black Friday banner from Fairphone website

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

This time 'round, a topic that relates to what I pondered in more than a couple of previous editions. And it's a topic that's been, in a number of forms, on my mind quite a bit over the last several weeks.

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

On Using One Tool For Everything

In late 2012, productivity blogger Mike Vardy did an experiment that he dubbed Everything in Evernote. The name of that experiment says it all: it was Vardy's attempt to do everything that he needed to do using the popular note taking tool Evernote.

As I recall (and it was a few years back, so forgive me if the details are hazy), that experiment predictably ended with the conclusion that you can do everything in Evernote. It just wasn't as simple as it seemed.

In summing up his experiment, Vardy wrote (and, again, I'm piecing this together from memory):

The problem isn't with Evernote, though. The problem is trying to use Evernote for so much more than what it really is for.

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

Like Musing 138, this edition of the letter has a slightly different structure than what I usually send to your inbox every week. But it's a structure that fits the topic of what you're about to read.

Again, thank you for putting up with my indulging in a little experimentation.

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

On Thinking Points

  1. Consider the talking point. A message, broken down into its simplest, most digestible form. A form that communicates the bare minimum about a position, about a product. Enough to attract attention.
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Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each Wednesday I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week, an idea that flows from, or even expands upon (I haven't decided which), the thoughts I shared in Musing 132. This time, with more of a focus on computing rather than technology in general.

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

On Technology for the Masses, Not the Classes (Redux)

If you've been reading this letter for a while, you've probably read the phrase technology for the masses, not the classes every so often in these missives. That idea is based on something Jack Tramiel said in the late 1970s or early 1980s about the computers his company, Commodore International, sold.

That idea has been firing a lot of neurons in my brain over the last several months, and got a bit of a kick from something that I recently read. Although the platform in question isn't what I have in mind, I tend to agree with what Bradley Taunt, who wrote that post, says about Chromebooks. They're definitely a tool, a technology for the masses and not the classes.

Many a decade ago, Scott McNealy, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, said something to the effect that Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect running under DOS satisfied most of the productivity needs of most people. In many ways, that describes what Chromebooks bring to the table. Though underpowered compared to larger laptops, Chromebooks do what the ordinary computer user needs to do, what that person does daily.

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

I don't have much, if anything, pithy or even marginally insightful with which to kick off this edition of the letter. I think the subject speaks for itself, literally and figuratively.

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

On Radio

When you're growing up, magic seems to be everywhere. For me, some of that magic came from a box. Actually, a series of boxes. Boxes of different sizes, of slightly different shapes, made from different materials. Boxes packed with wires and gizmos and other electronic bits that I never fully understood. Boxes that grabbed sounds and voices and music out of the air, and piped those sounds through a sometimes tinny speaker.

Magic, indeed. In the form of radio. Magic, at least, to my (then) young ears and mind. And I'm not just talking about the shortwave transmissions and the joyfully mysterious numbers stations that came to grab my attention, but also the AM and FM broadcasting of the day.

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

This time 'round, some thoughts that have been orbiting my brain for a while. Thoughts, that while not yet fully formed, are slowly coming together to make something resembling a statement. What you're about to read is more a check in than complete musing, a report on where those thoughts are at the moment.

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

On Place

Recently, it dawned on me that I've always lacked a connection with most of the places which I've visited or in which I've lived. Even Toronto, Canada, where I grew up and lived the first 45 or so years of my life, believe it or not.

I was comfortable in those places, especially in Toronto. At times, maybe a bit too comfortable. Regardless, and I didn't realize it at the time, there was an underlying feeling of disconnection with all of those places. Including the one I thought was home, a disconnection that I came to understand when I visited Toronto in 2017 after five years away.

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

As has often been happening lately, the core of this edition of the letter is an idea that's been rattling around in my brain for a while now. One that's become a little more timely (at least for me) due to some events at The Day JobTM.

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

On Information Silos

Information wants to be free, the old (internet) saw goes. But if you work in many an organization, there are people within those walls — physical and virtual — who just don't want information to freely flow, even between individuals and teams that can (and might need to) use it. And that's a shame

My ideal conception of information, any information, in an organization is a sheet of glass. It's smooth. It's uniform. It's visible and transparent. Everyone can touch it.

Now, imagine taking a hammer and hitting that piece of glass dead centre. You wind up with shards of glass, little piece of information. Those shards of glass take many forms: word processor documents, spreadsheets, emails, and more.

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

Another year has been ground down and mixed with the dust of the ages. Not a moment too soon, either. Here's hoping that 2022 is the year that 2021 was supposed to be. I'm not holding out a lot of hope for that, but please allow me to indulge in a bit of uncharacteristic optimism.

The subject of this week's letter has been percolating in the depths of my grey matter for a wee while now. And, like Musing 140, what your about to read coalesced into a whole thanks (in part) to something I read recently. Funny how that works ...

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

On the Second Brain

If you've been hanging around, or just skirting the fringes of, personal productivity and personal knowledge management circles, you've probably come across the term second brain.

The idea, though not labeled as such, isn't really anything new. You can argue that it's been around since people first put pen to paper. In the digital age, one use of the wiki was as a second brain. But the concept, I believe, entered the wider consciousness thanks to the popularity of Evernote.

Since then, other applications like Roam Research, Obsidian, and Notion have popped up and have helped advance the idea of the second brain. With, of course, adherents of each of those tools touting it as the solution for creating that second brain.

But what exactly is a second brain? At it's most basic, a second brain is a tool that acts like a super charged, digital filing cabinet. One in which we store and classify and organize information from diverse sources — all in one place. A second brain is seen in some circles as an antidote or panacea for dealing with the volumes of information many of us take in.

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

It's the final edition of the letter for 2021. I hope you've all been having a happy holiday — whether you celebrate the season or if you just take a break at this time of the year.

This time 'round, an idea that hits close to home but the core of which can also apply to other areas.

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

On Distraction-Free Writing

Some time around 2007 or so, a new(ish) type of writing software began to popping up around the internet. Software that, in many ways, resembled a blank sheet of paper rolled around the platen of a typewriter. And nothing more.

The first example appeared on the Mac (as things like this often do) in the form of WriteRoom, which spawned a number of clones for various operating systems. Many of which with the word room in their names. That software also spawned a number of hacks and tweaks anyone could apply to existing word processors and editors to recreate the experience of WriteRoom and its clones.

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

Just so I don't get your hopes up, this edition of the letter isn't specifically about the airborne autos in the title of what you're about to read. Rather, it's about the idea that's wrapped around the concept of the flying car: technologies and futures that never came to be.

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

On Flying Cars

Growing up, my visions of the future were made up of a weird and wondrous mashup of the atompunk and steelpunk aesthetics, with a large dash of cassette futurism mixed in for good measure. It was a future packed with gadgets. Gadgets sporting buttons, knobs, dials, and switches. Gadgets festooned with blinking and flashing lights of various colours.

There was always a slight, reassuring hum, coming from somewhere. Reel-to-reel tapes or little rectangles stored data that displayed on small monochrome screens. That future was a mix of analog and digital, all encased in smooth, symmetrical plastic or fiberglass. With, of course, the occasional bit of shiny metal and a lot of injection molded panels thrown in ... well, just because.

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