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.

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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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 you're about to read has a slightly different shape from what I normally send your way every seven days. For whatever reason, the ideas that make up this edition of the letter rigidly refused to coalesce into flowing paragraphs. Instead, they remained frozen as points — more, I hope, thinking points rather than mere talking points. So, instead of hammering away at something that wouldn't bend to my will, I went with the form of what was on the (digital) page.

Regardless of whether this format works or not, thank you for putting up with my (inadvertently) indulging in a little experimentation.

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

On Being Tech Savvy

Savvy: having or showing perception, comprehension, or shrewdness especially in practical matters — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. The term tech savvy is bandied about a lot. But what does the phrase being tech savvy actually mean? What does being tech savvy actually entail?

  2. Many people would say that being tech savvy means being able to bend technology to your will, almost effortlessly. That the tech savvy are like polyglots when it comes to technology, able to easily and fluently move between technologies.

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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.

To preempt the inevitable hater tag being attached to what you're about to read (and, by extension, to me) let me say that I'm not against the subject of this letter. I am, however, a bit skeptical about it. As I'm skeptical about any number of things. It's always good, I believe, to be wary of something that draws your attention, no matter how interesting or potentially promising it seems.

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

On Cryptocurrency

A year or two before COVID-19 came along and upturned the world, I attended a tech conference on what was to be my last overseas trip. One of the first day's keynote speakers was an authority on cryptocurrency who'd written rather extensively about it.

His keynote was a scowling mix of condescension and confrontation, as if he went into that packed auditorium expecting a hostile audience. To this day, I'm not sure if the speaker was having a bad Monday, was in the throes of relationship troubles, or maybe hadn't had his morning jolt of caffeine. Whatever it was, that keynote was borderline uncomfortable to sit through. If audience wasn't hostile towards his message to begin with, that talk might have turned a chunk of the attendees in that direction.

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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.

You might have noticed that there wasn't a letter last week. The good, the bad, and the ugly (and there's been a lot of each) of 2021 finally caught up with me last week. And, to be honest, I needed to take a break.

This delayed edition of the letter branches off from Musing 134. How? You'll have to read on to find out. I can't make it easy for you, can I?

Just so you know, what you're about to read started life in my personal notebook and appears here via a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

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

On Feature Parity

Back in 2015, I briefly chatted with John O'Nolan, founder of the blogging platform Ghost. You're probably wondering why the web needs another blogging platform, when WordPress powers millions of blogs and runs about 25% of all websites.

Prior to creating Ghost, O'Nolan worked for Automattic (the company behind WordPress). But he found that WordPress had:

too much stuff everywhere, too much clutter, too many (so many) options getting in the way of what I really want to do: publish content

Instead, O'Nolan wanted to take blogging back to basics. And Ghost was born.

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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 isn't the musing I had planned for this week. A few reasons for that, at least one of which will become clearer once you start reading what's below.

This edition of the letter is going off on a somewhat different tangent, even for me. At least, a tangent that I haven't followed for quite a while. I hope you enjoy it.

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

On Cover Songs

Writing this musing was a struggle. More of a struggle than usual.

I was bouncing between two competing ideas. One would grab my attention, and I'd dive into it. Then, out of nowhere, the other idea would snatch my attention back. I was writing a lot but not finishing anything.

That clock, as the kids used to say, was ticking. My deadline (even though it was a self-imposed one) was rapidly moving my way and I feared that I'd have nothing to publish this week.

Taking a step back, I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and piped some music through them. A random mix of instrumental, ambient, and classical, in case you're wondering.

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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 I promised in the intro to Musing 133, this week's edition of the letter isn't cranky or a rant. And while the starting point of what you're about to read is technology, this musing isn't about technology so much as attitudes towards technology.

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

On the Perfect Tool

Back in the mid 2010s, an acquaintance decided to catch one of the waves that was washing over the online world at the time. A wave that was exhorting people, no matter what their backgrounds or perceived ability, to start writing. A lot.

Instead of putting words on screen or hitting the books to learn more about the mechanics and subtleties of writing, said acquaintance became obsessed with tools for writing. He spent an inordinate amount of time trying everything from desktop word processors and text editors to note taking tools to online and mobile writing apps.

He was convinced that if found the perfect tool he'd reach writing nirvana (his words, not mine). And by reaching that state with the right tool in hand, he was convinced that he'd become a better and more productive writer.

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