“I always started a job with the feeling that I’d soon quit or be fired, and this gave ma a relaxed manner that was mistaken for intelligence or some secret power.”― Charles Bukowski, Factotum
This blog is a personal feed of magic, where everything happens organically. Sometimes useful, sometimes interesting, other times not so much. Random person on the internet writes stuff for other intelligent people, without much strategy or agenda.
(Maybe this will be one of those more useful posts actually, especially if you’re into content.)
On other magazines and blogs that we run, we think about content in a more strategic way.
That’s always an interesting creative challenge, because content is clay. You can use words and paragraphs to form a piece, and it also works the other way around. The overarching brand will somehow strengthen each individual article, making them easier to be discovered and read.
At my first job in 2000, at one of the first big Internet Portals, we used to have key pieces of content that we called a “Pusher”. A Pusher is an article that’s longer and better than the regular ones, and we knew that every time we posted one, the average number of visitors increased for forever.
The number of visitors on the site always fluctuates – we’ve seen more traffic on workdays and less on the weekends, more in the spring and less in the autumn.
Pushers triggered obvious spikes as people shared the articles organically, but the real cool thing was how they raised the baseline. People were introduced to the portal and kept coming back for more.
Of course content was totally different 20 years ago. There were more readers than blogs to read, so people were actively seeking out stuff. Today it’s the other way around.
Yet, Pushers somehow still work. As soon as you share something that’s really-really good, that will rise the baseline.
This works on blogs, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever drugs the new kids do these days.
Good content is still quite hard to write, so as a creative, you’ll often resort to cheat and steal. On the new blog that I mentioned, we’ve experimented a bit to keep up a weekly posting schedule.
- I’ve hired people from Upwork to do research and write posts. (As far as the experiment goes, this was all garbage and we haven’t shared any of that. All money down the toilet.)
- We reworked a workshop’s transcripts. (We’ve shared this at least, but it was a huge amount of work. Probably more than writing the article in the first place, and not having a huge backlog of events, this can’t scale either.)
- We received a guest post offer (that lead nowhere)
- I repurposed previous posts and articles that I wrote. (This worked well, but not extremely scalable for obvious reasons. I don’t write much.)
- Hired a PR company to write posts. (This went well, the writing quality is brilliant, and they can work from a list of bullet points to make sure the content is correct. This spares us around 50% of the work. For price, it’s half of what random folks on Upwork charged.)
- I wrote some posts as a future book’s chapters, following some of the instructions in the book “How not to suck at writing” – it works but it’s hard work.
- We wrote guest posts for other blogs. (This is the best experiment so far actually and something we’ll likely keep up, because working with other editors raises the bar quite a lot.)
There you go, a useful post for Valentine’s Day.
Also, if you struggle with getting started, check out the Most Dangerous Writing App, which deletes everything unless you keep writing for 5 minutes straight.
Heard this one on the radio, T.J. Miller talking about his time in NYC. As a Londoner I find it highly relatable. (Transcript by me, from memory, hey ho.)
The thing about New York is that everybody is trying to make rent.
Everybody. So there is this respect in New York, which is, if you couldn’t make rent you would not be here.
And even feel sorry for the super rich trust fund kids because they’re not really in New York — when they get on the subway they’re not in the same hurry as when you and I are in a hurry, so that we can make rent.
New York will crush a man’s spirit in two weeks.
In the last few days I watched Bitcoin go from:
$6000-something to $7000 and $7500,
and then $7500 to $8000,
and to $8500,
for no apparent reason…
…and then the Russian government left and Putin became some sort of supreme overlord forever.
So my two questions are:
- Is Bitcoin still seen as the World’s New Money, or is it now officially a storage for oligarch money? and
- Whenever I bought Bitcoin in the past (and lost on it every time) — did I literally transfer that money directly to Putin?
In a recent New Yorker article “Have Aliens found us?”, there is a reference to cargo cults. The magazine doesn’t go into detail, but cargo cults are super interesting in their own right, so here’s a little post about them.
When military bases popped up in the Pacific, they met islanders who were isolated from technology until then. And from the locals’ perspective, they got introduced to a lot of new stuff all the sudden. They’ve also seen the stationed military personnel engage in weird rituals on the island.
Islanders observed as Westerners went on to turn on some lights, then climbed a tower to make funny moves. In a short while an aircraft flew over to drop crates of weapons, food and other interesting stuff.
Islanders didn’t know what a factory or an aircraft was, what a radio is for. But the need to find out how things work is only human. So they quickly drew the wrong conclusion that it was God sending cargo to whoever asked for it, and Western people know a way to talk to God.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic — the third law of Arthur C. Clarke.
Anybody who has to work hard to get stuff, but learns how to get even better stuff with magic, would do what they did next.
When the military eventually left the island after World War II, islanders started duplicating the observed behaviors. They’ve built fake wooden airplanes, created a “radio” with headphones made of coconut halves, recreated military uniforms and flags. They climbed the tower, made the hand signals and waited.
Waiting ever since.
Readers of this blog know that my first post in January is usually the list of books I’ve read last year. So without much ado: my favorite three books with notes, and the rest as a list in no particular order.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
(1) Is there a God? No. (2) How did it all begin? By accident. (3) Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Maybe. (4) Can we predict the future? No. (5) What is inside a black hole? Particles. (6) Is time travel possible? Maybe later. (7) Will we survive on Earth? Yes. (8) Should we colonize space? Yes. (9) Will AI outsmart us? Yes. (10) How do we shape the future? With education.
Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch
“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”
About listening to critics: if you thought about how [your movie] going to hit people, or if it’s going to hurt someone, or if it’s going to do this or do that, then you would have to stop making films. You just do these things that you fall in love with, and you never know what’s going to happen. […] A painter paints a painting. No one comes in and says, “You’ve got to change that blue.” It’s a joke to think that a film is going to mean anything if somebody else fiddles with it.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
Do your most important work (your ONE Thing) before your willpower is drawn down. Work on what matters most. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list – a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. If you know what your ONE thing is, it’s easier to say no: say no to everything that doesn’t help your ONE thing.
About thinking big: success is built sequentially, one thing at a time. Think big and bold: don’t let small thinking cut your life down to size. Once the ONE thing is set, it’s easier to make it to be a habit, and it’s easier to find the lead domino that starts the chain of ever-bigger dominoes.
About relationships: imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls, but work’s ball is made of rubber. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls–family, health, friends, integrity–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.
…and the rest of the list:
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
- Also sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
- Waking Up by Sam Harris
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Reframing by Richard Bandler & John Grinder
- The Storytellers Secret by Sejal Badan
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Bold by Peter Diamandis
- Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
- Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
- Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
- The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
- The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
- Factfulness by Hans Rosling
- Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Buffett, The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein
- The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
- Herr Lehmann by Sven Regener
- Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff
- Think Small by Owain Service
- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
- Principles by Ray Dalio
Let me show you the toilet paper that my wife got us for Christmas.
- There are places where you don’t want to see red. One of those places is anywhere near stool. Santa has a lot of red. I have a lot of missed heartbeats.
- After use, Santa doesn’t look any prettier. Rudolph’s nose gets a little — muddy.
I hold the unpopular opinion that Radiohead is a pop band. Because, I say, you can’t realistically be called alternative when half the world knows and loves every song you’ve ever published.
Nothing against Radiohead of course. But, let me show you a bunch of songs that I dug up throughout the years. Chances are you haven’t heard them yet.
These songs each have <1000 listens on Spotify. And under 10 views on Youtube, hey ho!
And if you’re reading this blog as a teenager, with an ambition to be really alternative, this is gold. You get the point. Because if all your friends are “different” in the exact same way, then none of them really is. You will be. You’re the person who discovered the goods.
Without further ado, my three favorites from the list:
- Otik: Blasphemy
- Foundhim / Ponette: I’m Alone (Youtube link — with the exclusive opportunity to be one of their 21 monthly listeners!)
- Yuuki Sakai: Pol Gaso (Youtube link)
Go ahead and support the artists with your attention!
There are many tutorials for simple React scaffolds. But, in real life and in a real project you need a few extra bits and bogs. Building those bits and bogs for the browser is a lot of pain that the simple tutorials don’t prepare people for.
Presenting here a strong React starter project that’s used in our latest real life frontend projects. It adds pretty Bootstrap templates and modals, works with the backend API, and is deployed to Netlify with zero effort.
In the box:
- React and Webpack
- A Swagger-generated API library, to consume backend services. You can of course generate your own API’s frontend library on editor.swagger.io (or using swagger-codegen).
- Bootstrap including jQuery and support for custom templates
- Build command that can be used to deploy the project on Netlify (or Amazon S3), for simple CI/CD
- Development server with hot reload
- ESLint with ES6 settings and built-in support for VSCode
To get started, head on over to the Github project and grab the code for free.
“The willingness to keep trying new things — different methods, uncomfortable tasks — when you are already an expert at something is what separates good from great. Focusing on your strengths is required for peak performance, but improving your weaknesses has the potential for the greatest gains. This is true for athletes, executives, and entire companies.
— Garry Kasparov in Deep Thinking