Archive of posts with tag 'writing'

Screenshot Essays

February 14, 2024 • #

A recent tweet from David Perell prompted me to give this concept a shot.

I’ve done 3 screenshot essays in the past week, and it’s invigorating. I struggle going from messy, one-liner level notes, or jumbles of bullet points into longer form pieces. The screenshot format is fun because ideas don’t have...

Substack Notes and Long vs. Short Form

April 11, 2023 • #

Substack has entered the arena of the social network wars, taking it to Twitter head-on with a new product called Notes. It’s a short form feed style of posts that runs in a parallel track to your long form newsletter subscriptions (the Inbox), and looks remarkably similar to Twitter. But Substack’s big innovation here for a social network is capitalizing on their subscription-centric model — every other general-use social network on the internet to-date has been based on advertising. From the announcement, how Substack will differentiate:

By contrast, the lifeblood of a subscription network is the money...

Daily Journaling with Morning Pages

September 6, 2022 • #

About a year ago I started experimenting with the idea of a daily journal. From someone within the Roam community, I heard about the concept of Morning Pages, which is a tool for creative writers to build a muscle for generating ideas. Author Julia Cameron defined it in her book The Artist’s Way:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages—they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about...

Scenes, Pattern Languages,and Nested Systems

August 22, 2022 • #

Last week I picked up Scene and Structure on a recommendation I saw from Nat Eliason. I’ve seen him mention experimenting with writing fiction, which this book is about — the process of narrative structure, staging scenes, the balance between scenes and “sequels” to maintain coherence and tension through writing novels, which is the author’s background. I’ve thought about testing the waters with fiction writing, even if I never publish it anywhere. I think the NaNoWriMo happens in November, so maybe I’ll make a plan to give it...


June 17, 2021 • #

“Bring yourself back online…“

Bernard Lowe


When I pumped the brakes on my daily writing routine last year, I had designs on some other interesting projects to spend time on that the daily demand wasn’t giving me space for.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, I’d built a decent muscle for repetition and managing good habits through the accountability of publishing monthly reports on each goal. The first of each month I’d put together my stats on progression. I never shared them...

Two Years of Everyday Writing

October 19, 2020 • #

Earlier this month I passed the 2-year mark of writing on this site every day. If on that first day, deciding to embark on this streak, you’d told me that in October 2020 I’d still be going, 2018 me would’ve laughed it off. Doing it even for a few months sounded impossible.

What helped make it reality was converting writing into a continuous background activity, an ever-present filter for thoughts, ideas, and readings to pass through. Every time I read an article or have an idea, I filter it through the writing lens — Would this make a good article? Do...

Res Extensa

September 29, 2020 • #

I’ve finally joined the newsletter club! Today I sent out the first issue of a new project, a bi-weekly email newsletter called Res Extensa.

My intent right now is for the newsletter to be a less-frequent companion to the blog, with some highlights of recent things I’ve been reading, writing, or interested in.

Res Extensa

As I wrote in the email, I once had an RSS-to-email setup using Mailchimp, for folks who wanted to subscribe to the blog without RSS. It’s a bit clunky, and since I started the daily...

Newsletters, Bundles, and Indie Publishing

August 14, 2020 • #

In his latest issue of The Diff, Byrne Hobart looks the economic models behind the boom in independent publishing and unbundling of analysis and journalism happening on platforms like Substack:

Bundles tend to grow until they reach a highly profitable mature state—at which point any change in the underlying audience, or the availability of competing products, seriously weakens their economics. The bigger a bundle gets, the more likely it is that a subset of users are all paying for basically one piece of the bundle, which could be...

Library Notes

July 20, 2020 • #

Jumping off from my Friday post on literature notes, I’ve taken the first step here in what will hopefully become something more meaningful over time.

I just finished up filtering back through all my highlights and notes on Matt Ridley’s How Innovation Works over the weekend. Part of what this process helped me figure out is a standard model for organizing literature notes by section, so if I publish the complete notes, they’ll be browsable by part and chapter of any book I have notes for.

Book notes

All I’ve...

Literature Notes for the Library

July 17, 2020 • #

With the last several books I’ve read, I’ve been trying to force myself to work through and document literature notes for my highlights, key ideas, and takeaways from books. Using a process (that perhaps I’ll one day go through in greater detail here) in Roam, I’ll scan through all of my highlights and write up notes on the content, editing it into my own words and phrasing. One of the goals of this process is to increase retention and recall, and as Sonke Ahrens

Multilayered Content

July 13, 2020 • #

I saw Patrick O’Shaughnessy share this yesterday, a cool addition to his podcast:

A ton of added work, but clearly an interesting way to add value.

This sort of thing would be an excellent addendum to...

A System for Publishing Evergreen Notes

May 28, 2020 • #

In Sönke Ahrens’s book How to Take Smart Notes he describes the “zettelkasten” system (the “slip box”) developed by German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. Luhmann created the system to help himself organize notes and thoughts in a networked model rather than a structured hierarchy of folders. The zettelkasten system has a few elements to it to help model different types of notes, how and when you should write them, and how you associate ideas together.

Evergreen notes

The fundamental piece is the “permanent note,” one in which...

Roam Tools

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.

Live Writing with Jason Fried

May 8, 2020 • #

A couple of years back, Jason Fried recorded this video of his writing process for drafting an article:

I like seeing the behind-the-scenes of how others work.

Sönke Ahrens on How to Take Smart Notes

May 3, 2020 • #

I’m currently reading his book How to Take Smart Notes, which is based on, and talks a lot about sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten system.

Weekend Reading: Readwise with Roam, WWI Naval Intelligence, and Interaction Density

April 4, 2020 • #

📖 Readwise2Roam

I’m liking so far the process of manually typing notes in Roam from highlights in my books. Something about it feels more efficient and leaves me with more meaningful, succinct notes. This could come in handy, though, if I want to pull all highlights directly from Readwise (which I’m still loving, use it every day).

How computational power—or its absence—shaped World War naval battles

How the battlecruiser in the early 20th century gave the British a birds-eye view of their fleet before the...

Weekend Reading: Chess, COVID Tracking, and Note Types

March 21, 2020 • #


Tom MacWright on chess. Reduce distraction, increase concentration

Once you have concentration, you realize that there’s another layer: rigor. It’s checking the timer, checking for threats, checking for any of a litany of potential mistakes you might be about to make, a smorgasbord of straightforward opportunities you might miss. Simple rules are easy to forget when you’re feeling the rush of an advantage. But they never become less important.

Might start giving chess a try just to see how I do. Haven’t played in years, but I’m curious.


Weekend Reading: Enemies of Writing, Wealth, and the Superhuman Inbox

January 25, 2020 • #

✍🏼 The Enemies of Writing

A great piece from the Atlantic’s George Packer, a transcript of his acceptance speech for the Hitchens Prize.

At a moment when democracy is under siege around the world, these scenes from our literary life sound pretty trivial. But if writers are afraid of the sound of their own voice, then honest, clear, original work is not going to flourish, and without it, the politicians and tech moguls and TV demagogues have less to worry about. It doesn’t matter if you hold impeccable views, or which side of...

Weekend Reading: Soleimani, Prosperous Universe, and Roam

January 11, 2020 • #

🇮🇷 The Shadow Commander

This 2013 piece from Dexter Filkins gives an excellent background on Qasem Soleimani, an important figure now well known after his killing a couple of weeks ago, but prior to that hardly known by anyone other than experts, even with his massive influence in the region.

🌌 Prosperous Universe

I’m always intrigued by complicated simulation games. I remember a few of these “real-time” MMO games being popular in the early days of online gaming. Glad to see the genre still kicking in an era of low-attention-span gaming...

Weekend Reading: Tradeoffs, the Margins, and PR FAQs

December 21, 2019 • #

⚖️ Tradeoffs: The Currency of Decision Making

Farnam Street:

Time is our most fundamental constraint. If you use an hour for one thing, you can’t use it for anything else. Time passes, whatever we do with it. It seems beneficial then to figure out the means of using it with the lowest possible opportunity costs. One of the simplest ways to do this is to establish how you’d like to be using your time, then track how you’re using it for a week. Many people find a significant discrepancy. Once we...

Weekend Reading: Blot, Hand-Drawn Visualizations, and Megafire Detection

November 9, 2019 • #


Blot is a super-minimal open source blogging system based on plain text files in a folder. It supports markdown, Word docs, images, and HTML — just drag the files into the folder and it generates web pages. I love simple tools like this.

🖋 Handcrafted Visualization: Precision

An interesting post from Robert Simmon from Planet. These examples of visualizations and graphics of physical phenomena (maps, cloud diagrams, drawings of insects, planetary motion charts) were all hand-drawn, in an era where specialized photography and sensing weren’t always options.


The Every Day Blog

October 29, 2019 • #

Inspired by Fred Wilson’s AVC blog, I started posting something every day here last year on October 4th. The 1 year mark passed by and I didn’t even notice. It’s become such a part of my mental routine to keep up with that it’s become pretty painless.

Most of my posts are topics I find interesting or links I run across. I find myself zeroing in on themes that tend to appear in my reading patterns. Through the process I’ve also come up with a few recurring “series” type posts to do regularly:


Dictating Notes with Siri

October 9, 2019 • #

I’ve been looking for a smooth way to dictate notes and thoughts while hands-free from my phone, particularly while running or driving.

When I run I typically wear one AirPod and have my phone inaccessible in a waistband pouch on my back. Since I’m usually listening to audiobooks while running, I don’t have an easy way to log thoughts or perform the audio equivalent of highlighting things.

I never use Siri at all but for a couple of easy, reliable Shortcuts for dictation. I thought this was a perfect candidate to explore the “Hey Siri” activation support with custom commands...

Weekend Reading: nvUltra, Progress, and

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.

⚗️ We Need a New Science of Progress

Progress itself is understudied. By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed...

A Post Each Day

October 23, 2018 • #

I’m now a couple of weeks into writing a blog post every day. I started doing it sort of on a whim because I’ve wanted to write more often, and a forcing function of “something” every day at least drives me to do the behavior.

Writing out ideas helps me clarify and expand my thinking. For a number of years I’ve tried to keep a personal journal using an app, to varying degrees of success. I’ll go through periods of doing well, then fall off the wagon. My entries there have always had a more personal edge, like documenting...

Writing on the iPad

October 21, 2018 • #

I posted a couple weeks ago about moving much of my computing activity to the iPad full time. Part of what I had to crack to make that possible was a writing workflow that supported using the tools I prefer, and a method for publishing and previewing with Jekyll.

I’ve been using Jekyll and GitHub Pages for this site for 5+ years. Other CMS systems are interesting and getting better, but there’s something about the total control and simplicity of static sites that keeps me here. This workflow is great with a full Mac setup, but on...

A Week with the iPad

October 11, 2018 • #

For the last 7 days I’ve only been using the iPad. I’ve had a 12.9” iPad Pro for about a year, but have only used it in “work mode” occasionally so I don’t have to lug the laptop home all the time. Most of what I do these days doesn’t require full macOS capability, so I’m experimenting in developing the workflow to go tablet-only.

Slack, G Suite apps, mail, calendar, Zoom, Asana, and 1Password covers about 85% of the needs. There are a few things like testing Fulcrum, Salesforce, any code editing, that can still be challenging, but they partially...

Writing Workflow

December 13, 2015 • #

I write a ton on the computer, whether it’s for our product blog, internal documents, product help guides, this blog (rarely), or many other things, I tend to stick to the same set of tools for different pieces of my writing workflow.

Everything I write, even things like meeting notes only for myself, I write in Markdown. It’s essentially muscle memory at this point. I write for Jekyll-based websites quite a bit, I write issues and wiki pages on GitHub, I keep my personal journal in Day One, and several other places. All of them...