January 6, 2023 • #
I recently was getting our Silhouette vinyl cutter back out, since Colette hasn’t used it in a while. The software for the thing is still ancient and janky — hard to believe anyone uses it at all.
But I found this new tool for creating vector-based designs for any kind of cutting machine — vinyl printers, CNCs, laser cutters. It looks like an excellent general tool for creating SVGs you can import into all manner of cutting machine proprietary applications.
March 17, 2021 • #
All the cool conversation is on no-code tools these days, but the OG no-code platform has been around for 35 years: Microsoft Excel. Even from its early days, it had all the hallmarks of today’s no-code tools: a combo of flexibility, forgiveness, and raw power to wrap your hands around data, and to scale your skill level in parallel with the complexity of your output. Excel was one of the first great democratizers of the computer as an assistive building environment, taking the process of building software from requiring low-level code to visual abstraction. Like all great tools for builders,...
February 6, 2021 • #
Jonathan Rauch on pluralism and the necessity of disagreement in the search for truth.
His book Kindly Inquisitors was first published in 1993, but is as relevant today as ever. The book is a defense of what he calls “liberal science”, our decentralized process for knowledge discovery that relies on relentless-but-gradual error correction:
Liberal science, by its very nature, has little tolerance for fundamentalism; conversely fundamentalism is a threat to liberal science. Fundamentalism, defined by Rauch as...
December 28, 2020 • #
As little as Twitter has moved as a product in the last several years, the amount of time I spend on it clearly demonstrates that there’s gold there that no other product can replace.
If you curate your following list well, the quality level of the interactions you can have and people you can meet are incredible. I haven’t found another social network as good at finding interesting ideas.
A limiting aspect of Twitter is how biased toward “now” it is. It’s inherently an ordered timeline. Algorithmic recommendations surface some recent things, but not from...
August 7, 2020 • #
In his piece “Why Books Don’t Work,” Andy Matuschak made a strong case that books are a poor medium for knowledge transfer. Even with the most advanced book experiences today (like digital ebook downloads to a Kindle), if you took away the digital e-ink screen, a reader from the 16th century would still recognize books as no different than what they had. We’ve added digital on-demand access, dictionary lookups, and the ability to have a library in your pocket, but the fundamental model for conveying...
July 22, 2020 • #
Roam Research already has a deep community of users coalescing around it, building extensions, custom styles, and poking at the edges of how it could be extended. In this post, David Crandall outlines some possibilities of what could be in Roam’s future, breaking it out into various ideas at the presentation, service, and database layers. His diagram does a great job articulating what else could be possible with an open Roam API.
Especially interesting to me:
June 5, 2020 • #
I linked a few weeks ago to a new tool called Memex, a browser extension that touts itself as bookmarking for “power users of the web.” Its primary unique differentiator is how they approach the privacy angle.
I’m a couple of weeks into using it and it brings an interesting new approach to the world of bookmarking tools like Pinboard or Raindrop, both of which I’ve used a lot. Raindrop has been my tool of choice lately, but it’s heavy for what I really want,...
May 17, 2020 • #
The roamcult has been on a streak of creating tools to extend and improve Roam Research. Here are a few that I’ve been using lately.
Better Roam Research
This one is a simple Chrome extension that reskins Roam with a minimalist design. It doesn’t change much about the utilitarian interface, just some simple spacing and colors (plus Dark Mode support).
A simple Chrome extension for clipping quotes into your Roam database. It takes the snippet and source URL and formats them into a nice block to link into your notes.
May 13, 2020 • #
I just installed this iPad app for sketching, which intrigued me for a few of its features. I’ve tried dozens of apps, but they tend to fall too far into the art camp or the note-taking camp, without very many that serve both categories well.
My go-to for the last few years has been Notability. It’s great for most of what I want, which is for writing with interspersed sketches and annotations.
Though I haven’t used it much yet, Concepts seems to do well at both. My favorite feature is its infinite canvas, where I can...
May 9, 2020 • #
Dan Wang on American industrial production:
Learning to build again will take more than a resurgence of will, as Andreessen would have it. And the U.S. should think of bolder proposals than sensible but long-proposed tweaks to R&D policies, re-training programs and STEM education.
What the U.S. really needs to do is reconstitute its communities of engineering practice. That will require treating manufacturing work, even in low-margin goods, as fundamentally valuable. Technological sophisticates in Silicon Valley would be wise to...
May 6, 2020 • #
What does it mean to “synthesize” knowledge? Joel Chan, author of this post and professor of human-computer interaction, describes it as “creating a new whole out of components.”
In reading, digesting material, and taking notes, you’re by definition creating small components of information that you then ideally piece together to form knowledge.
The difficulties with synthesis described in the post align well with the reasons I talked about in my review of Roam and how it’s addressing these exact gaps:
Cognitive Overhead (aka Cognitive Load): often the task of specifying formalism is extraneous to the primary task,...
May 2, 2020 • #
We watched this a couple nights ago. It’s hard to tell how objectively good it was, but I loved the heck out of it as a decades-long fan.
I’ll have to try out this tool that Tom built for checking links. When I’ve run those SEM tools that check old links, I get sad seeing how many are redirected, 404’d, or dead.
This is an excellent walkthrough on how to make screencasts. I’ve done my own tinkering...
April 15, 2020 • #
Roam Research has been making the rounds on the internet in the last couple months. I’ve written a little bit here about it, but promised this longer overview of how it’s working for me so far.
What is it?
Roam is a tool for note-taking, described as a tool for “networked thought.” With a glance on Twitter you’ll find all sorts of comparison pieces to Evernote, Google Docs, or Notion. I’ve tried all of those (Notion for quite a bit) and I find the experience of using Roam completely different.
April 6, 2020 • #
I found and started testing out Raindrop.io for managing bookmarks. Pinboard has been my go-to for this for years, to which I’ve added the resurrected Instapaper for anything like articles (to support Readwise flow).
The lack of a good mobile app for Pinboard makes that process pretty weak; and I’d say I end up adding half my bookmarks and “read later” stuff from the iPhone.
I imported all the bookmarks I had in Pinboard over there, which worked perfectly smooth. Raindrop’s desktop macOS app is fantastic, as well.
Recommended so far. May write about it in more detail later once...
February 27, 2020 • #
Discovering Readwise a few months ago caused me to resurrect my long-dormant Instapaper account. Instapaper was my go-to “read later” service, but I also used it as a general bookmark archive. After a while I’d fallen into only using it for the latter, which then made me go back to Pinboard since the single function of bookmark tagging is its specialty. I’m still using Pinboard heavily to archive interesting things, but I’ve found a new use for Instapaper with Readwise’s integration.
Readwise’s main feature is to sync all of the highlighted passages from your...
December 8, 2019 • #
Periodically I want to read on my computer, particularly when sitting at my desk. Amazon publishes a web app called Cloud Reader for reading Kindle books, which emulates pretty closely what their mobile apps look and feel like.
I found out they’ve got a full desktop client also, which seems they’ve had for years but I never discovered or tried it out. It turns out to be one of the better applications for reading ebooks I’ve seen, even though Amazon clearly hasn’t cared about it in years (if they ever really did).
November 13, 2019 • #
I’ve been home the past couple days to attend to some projects — getting an aluminum patio cover installed and having shutters put in on most of the windows. My time’s been occupied by holiday season preparation, general housecleaning, and shuttling the kids to their activities. In the downtime I’ve dropped back into a few of my favorite tool restoration YouTube channels to see what’s new.
I watched this great new one from Black Beard Projects where he restores a 1950s-era bench grinder. Degreaser, paint stripper, electrolysis, and a load of elbow grease convert this thing back into a fully...
September 30, 2019 • #
Day One is an excellent app for iOS and macOS for personal journaling. I’ve had it for a number of years, but have always been fairly irregular in my usage. Most of what I log there is photos of the kids and other kid-related memories and activities we do.
This new feature adds support for templates, which give you a bit of a prompt to fill out once a day. It’s an interesting idea to make documenting a more regular activity. When I was more active (prior to using this blog largely in this capacity) I would...
September 14, 2019 • #
I’ve been reading some of Hayek’s famous articles this week. This one is all about what he probably considered one of the most important concepts, since these basic ideas form a central thesis for most of his works. His argument was for bottoms-up, decentralized systems of decision-making instead of centralized, top-down systems:
The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in...
August 10, 2019 • #
This is a new notes app from Brett Terpstra (creator of nvALT) and Fletcher Penney (creator of MultiMarkdown). I used nvALT for years for note taking on my Mac. This new version looks like a slick reboot of that with some more power features. In private beta right now, but hopefully dropping soon.
Progress itself is understudied. By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed...
March 14, 2019 • #
I was a big del.icio.us user back in the day, pre- and post-Yahoo. For anyone unfamiliar, it was one of the first tools (before Twitter) for sharing web links and making bookmarks social.
I signed up for Pinboard around the time it launched. Creator Maciej Cegłowski had an interesting concept for making his service paid, a tactic that could allow it to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining and avoid the acquisition & stagnation that del.icio.us suffered at the hands of Yahoo after they acquired it in 2005.
When it launched it cost around $3 to...