18 October 2020
Welcome to my first newsletter! I’m still working out exactly what format this newsletter will have. I’m going to approach it with a hacker mindset. Try things that seem fun and see if they work. Then get rid of things that aren’t working, and do more of the things that are. I expect it will evolve over the next few editions while I find a balance between original writing and content curation.
I’ve been meaning to start a newsletter for a few months but every time I try to sit down and start it I get that creeping feeling of imposter syndrome. Who am I to be starting a newsletter? Why would anyone care? Maybe no-one will care, in which case I can stop worrying about what people will think about it!
Starting a newsletter seems to have encouraged some productive procrastination. I’ve written several articles and even started a YouTube channel while procrastinating around writing the first edition of this newsletter.
Things I’ve written
Consume less, produce more — I found a voice memo on my phone from last year about having too many inputs and not enough outputs in my life. Listening to it again I was struck by how relevant it still was. I turned it into an article to remind myself to balance my consumption with creation.
Ruby: The not so good parts — Nate Berkopec tweeted asking people what their least favorite part of Ruby was. I wrote this article summarising some of the responses. This was featured in the excellent Ruby Weekly newsletter and was even tweeted by Matz, Ruby’s creator.
Why I’m starting a newsletter — A meta-article about what motivated me to start this newsletter. In short it’s a push for me to write more regularly and do more work in public.
git tips and tricks — I’ve started compiling git tips and tricks into this page on my website. I’m going to continue adding to this as I come across new git concepts that I don’t want to forget.
Books I’m reading
Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson — If you haven’t heard of Naval then this book is an excellent introduction to his way of thinking. Packed full of thought-provoking ideas. Free to read online and there are PDF and e-reader versions available for free download.
Breaking Smart by Venkatesh Rao — Silicon Valley tends to push a utopian vision of software eating the world, while luddites think that software and technology is destroying community, democracy and society. This book makes the case for the middle ground of pragmatic optimism for our technological future. Free to read online, or you can get the Kindle version for a few dollars.
Eat and Run - My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek — Jurek came in second place in his first ever 50 mile ultramarathon, having never even run a marathon before. This autobiography is a fascinating look at the world of ultramarathons and Scott’s ascent to the pinnacle of the sport. As a bonus is packed full of running tips and vegan recipes.
The Passion Economy by Adam Davidson — If the 19th century was characterised by artisanship and tinkering and the 20th century was about scale then the 21st century is about artisanship and tinkering at scale. Really well written book packed with real-life stories of people that have made the transition to the so-called passion economy.
Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb — This book has been sat on my shelf for over a year and I’ve finally started reading it. I’m only a couple of chapters in but it’s already changing how I view the world.
Videos I’ve made
I’ve been learning how to use iMovie and Adobe Premiere Rush to edit videos. It’s really fun! I made a couple of short videos that I’ve put on my fledgling YouTube channel.
Lighting a fire — I made this back in May when I was learning iMovie but only uploaded it last week. I already dislike it but I think it’s good to document your evolution publicly.
Playing tennis after a 4 year hiatus — Editing this taught me that the order things happen in the video doesn’t necessarily have to match the order they happened in real life. I’ve made it look like we’re having a rally, but actually I just filmed my wife for a bit and then filmed myself for a bit and stitched it together afterwards.
Whizzing around town on an e-scooter — These scooters are limited to 12mph (20kph) but they’re still super fun to ride!
Tech I’m excited about
StimulusReflex — I’ve seen this mentioned a few times now. It’s a Ruby on Rails plugin that provides React-like abilities to your Rails app, but with most of the heavy lifting happening on the server-side. It uses websockets to send user interactions to the backend where pages are re-rendered and then sent back to the client.
Git scraping — Excellent article from Simon Willison about tracking how data that you’ve scraped changes over time by storing it in a git repository. We did something similar a few years ago on the EveryPolitician project, but that was before GitHub Actions came along and made everything much easier to stitch together.
Ruby 3.0.0 Preview 1 — I’m expecting this to drop on Christmas Day, as new Ruby versions generally do. The headline feature is that it will ship with the rbs gem and .rbs type definitions for the standard library. I’m hoping this will mean better Ruby support in editors like VS Code.
That’s all folks! I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to write about, but this has ended up being quite a lengthy first edition.
As I said at the start the format of this newsletter will likely evolve over time. If you have any feedback I’d love to hear it! You can either reply to this email directly, or send me a DM on Twitter.