Links #9

Here are some links to things I’ve recently found that made an impact on me. I only post these round-ups a couple of times a year because the passing of time helps me filter out the ones that didn’t stick with me. If it’s on this list, I probably found myself thinking about it again and again. Enjoy!

The Goddess of Everything Else - This video is an animated fictional short story by Scott Alexander about human nature. I watched it and couldn’t stop thinking about the implications. What if we could overcome our built-in programming to kill and conquer? What kind of future would be possible? It feels like human nature is at the core of so many issues today (climate change, overpopulation, racism, war, etc.) and this video gave me a reason to be optimistic.

A blog post is a very long and complex search query to find fascinating people and make them route interesting stuff to your inbox - I was touched by how well this article describes the loneliness of obsession (something I’ve also blogged about). “It is crazy-beautiful to have a stranger arrive in your inbox, and they are excited by exactly the same things as you! You start dropping the most obscure references, and they’re like, yeah, read that, love it. The first handful of times it happened, Johanna asked me what was wrong. I was crying in the kitchen.” The internet, for all its flaws, makes it possible to find your people and that’s a very special thing.

AI-enhanced development makes me more ambitious with my projects - This is the article that convinced me I needed to learn how to use AI tools to enhance my coding. Importantly, it gave me a reason to feel excited about AI instead of apprehensive. It’s not unusual for me to tap AI for some help with coding these days and I attribute most of that to this article.

Buy Wisely - The way this article describes buying things was so refreshing… like I actually found someone else who thinks like me when buying things (constantly assessing things by expected cost per use, durability, repairability, timelessness and resale value). I don’t really recommend this buying philosophy. The approach has its benefits but it’s so time-consuming (even paralyzing sometimes). This is why I like the Wirecutter so much—they have done all the painstaking research already, and I can just trust them or read the details if I want to. Steph’s quote, “My aim is to have fewer but better things.” is exactly my philosophy on owning things and if you agree, there’s a “Buy It for Life” subreddit you might like.

The Tyranny of the Marginal User - This post clearly explains why web software degrades to a least-common-denominator form. All dating apps become Tinder, all news sites become Buzzfeed, all social media becomes Tiktok, etc. It’s like natural selection. This kind of made me realize that RSS (and similar protocols) will never go fully mainstream, which is kind of sad, but hopefully they can continue to thrive in the background for the people who love and use them.

Hyperlink Academy - What if there was an online space where a remote group of people with a common interest could work together on pushing some idea forward? Something like the online equivalent of spinning up a tiny research lab. I feel like that’s what Hyperlink academy wants to be. I don’t know how well they’ll end up executing on it but the idea sounds wonderful. Hat tip: The Overedge Catalog, which contains a lot of other interesting organizations.

Squeeze the hell out of the system you have - A post about how engineers and developers should put off adding complexity for as long as possible. I couldn’t agree more. It applies to so many things—build processes, horizontal scaling, microservices, serverless, performance, and more. It’s amazing how often complexity is adopted by enthusiastic engineers who are excited to try new things. I attribute a lot of it to misaligned incentives between owners and employees. Also, I’ve got to say that this is like the perfect technical blog post. It has a punchy title, solid real-world examples, a valuable takeaway, and it’s short! A thing of beauty.