Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication →

I work remotely with a team that’s spread across Europe and I just before Christmas, I calculated that I lost a full third of my week to video calls, most of which should have been emails. So I read this and shouted OMFG YES to almost every point. Obviously, every team is different and this guide isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution (nor does it claim to be) but there’s so much in here to take on board.

(Until I sort out my professional blog, you’re just going to have to put up with the occasional work/devops related post on here, sorry about that.)

Internet via Email

Knowing there’s a real risk of this blog turning into “old man yells at cloud1”, here are few thoughts, sort of connected.

First there was Dan Frommer talking about his first year of running a subscription newsletter:

Social media continues to strengthen direct relationships between readers and writers. The internet has made discovery easier for quality, niche publications. (Though that is probably the biggest hurdle.) Email remains an amazing delivery and distribution method for timely written content.

Here’s John Gruber’s take on this:

And readers love newsletters. Websites are getting harder and harder to read. Paywalls forget who you are on a seemingly weekly basis. Websites put interstitial popovers directly over the content you’re trying to read. Videos are set to autoplay. How many times are you supposed to tell the same goddamn website whether you’ll accept their fucking cookies? It’s like they’re purposefully making it hard to read. Newsletters have none of that. They’re just easy and fun to read. The web can and should be that way too, but all too often it’s not.

It’s a fair point - websites are, for the most part, terrible content delivery mechanisms. Which makes me think that maybe RMS, as shitty as he could be, might have hit on something when he talked about the way he consumes the internet

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see https://git.savannah.gnu.org/git/womb/hacks.git) that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won’t fetch from other sites in such a situation).

Incidentally, I’ve recently moved my RSS from Inoreader to Feedbin and one of the features that drew me away was the newsletter-to-rss gateway - you get a unique email address with which you can sign up for newsletters and they automatically get created as RSS feeds for you. Which means you can read the content in RSS2. So I’ve spent my day unsubscribing with my email address and re-subscribing with my Feedbin address and my email inbox feels so much lighter and fresher and how an email inbox should feel3.


  1. :goodjoke:
  2. which is how the internet was going until Google Reader killed RSS
  3. I have a strict policy regarding notifications on my phone - no notifications unless they came from a human being directly to me. I don’t see why my email should have a different policy.

2019 Movie Trailer Mashup

While we wait for David Ehrlich’s video of his best films of 2019 (which are still the high water mark for this kind of thing - 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012), Sleepy Skunk has put together a pretty great mashup of some of the trailers from the year.

I’ve probably seen maybe a quarter of the films in this video, and of the one’s I’ve seen, not all of them were particularly great (I wasn’t, for example, a fan of Midsommar. In fact, I think Ari Aster might be a complete charlatan), but in the context of this mashup, they all looked amazing. Which made me think maybe Errol Morris was right when he said

I believe that there are no good movies, no good books, no good music compositions just great scenes, great passages, great moments.

(Except for Mad Max: Fury Road. That is a perfect movie.)

This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad - The New York Times →

I cried more than once while reading this profile of Tom Hanks. Just lovely.

My Obsession With the Bon Appetit Cinematic Universe →

Throwback to that moment last year when my entire YouTube home screen was taken up by Brad Leone, so this one really hits home.

(Also, the “Bon Appetit Cinematic Universe”? 😗👌)

It's so much more than cooking →

Leaving aside the sexism in this article, I feel like it’s articulated a lot of things that have been bothering me subconsciously. My job is 100% remote and I work from home, so there’s a sort of expectation in our house that I’ll do almost all of the the cooking. And that’s sort of fine, because I genuinely enjoy cooking. But it’s also extremely stressful because it’s not just cooking. It’s the planning (two small picky-eating children who even smell garlic and complain “it’s too spicy!”), it’s the shopping, it’s the prepping. It’s the mental and emotional labour around cooking that makes it so stressful.

Inside the Tiny Bedroom Where Finneas and Billie Eilish Are Redefining Pop Music

Over the summer, I watched the Showtime documentary series Shangri-La, which is all about Rick Rubin and creativity and inspiration and his Malibu studio, which is treated like some holy place by everyone in the documentary. For example, when they are between artists, Rubin has his interns repaint the studio floors - I dunno, to make it feel like some blank page for the next artist that’s going to use it?

By contrast, Billy Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was produced in her childhood home, by her brother, using prosumer-level equipment. And, for my money, it was one of the best-produced albums of 2019.

This video is a really great companion piece to Shangri-La - both emphasise how important the space is to the creative process, but they approach the topic from entirely different ends of the spectrum.

Now

tl;dr this site now has a /now page where you can keep track of what I’m up to right now.


Back in the old days – I mean the old old days – there was this wonderful command called finger where you could look up information about users on a UNIX system1. It would tell you some personal information about the user, like their name and their phone number. But my favourite part about this command was that it would also return the contents of the user’s plan file.

.plan was supposed to be to tell people what you were working on that day, but people eventually turned started using it for other forms of expression. I guess it was an early form of microblogging2.

Looking at the blogs I still read in 2019, there’s a lot of “here are a list of curated links to cool things on the internet” and there’s a lot of “here is an article I have written so I can include it as a ‘publication’ on my linkedin profile”. But there’s not much in terms of personal writing. I never get a real sense of what the person writing the blog is doing, what they’re working on, what they’re reading, what’s bothering them (And before you say “isn’t that what Twitter is for?” I’d ask have you actually seen Twitter these days?) (And don’t get me started on Facebook).

The idea behind a ‘now’ page is to bring back some of that same .plan feeling. From Derek Sivers’s nownownow.com:

Besides answering the common question, “What are you up to these days?”, those who have a now page say it’s a good reminder of their priorities. By publicly showing what you are focused on now, it helps you say no to other requests.

So if you want to see what I’m up to now, you can just go to lowbrowculture.com/now.


  1. I realise the command wasn’t limited to just UNIX systems, but let’s just keep it simple, shall we?
  2. For a great example of someone using the .plan file and watching its use morph over time, check out the John Carmack .plan Archive