These are my weekly Patch Notes – a log of the mental model updates I’m making and a braindump of things I’m leaning, building, or thinking about. Subscribe on Substack here.

In this release:

The important stuff gets written down eventually #

A reminder that the best note-taking system on earth is of no use to anyone if you don’t use it to learn, grow, and teach others. Don’t stress about not capturing everything; writing is a filter for important information.

For me, it means letting go of that gnawing feeling of not being able to capture things to the level I want. Listening to an audiobook while driving is, in some sense calming, because I can’t write things down even if I wanted to.

The friends in nature thing is becoming a reality… maybe? #

After publishing [[post:friends-in-nature]] last week, I got some great responses. A few maybe’s and a few more saying they’ll follow along to see how it goes. More than I could have hoped for! If this doesn’t work out this year I’m more than happy to try again next year.

TLDR: I’m looking for a few small group of friendly people to move into a house with for a few months. The objectives are to get out of the city and into nature, and to have a nice group of people nearby for working on projects or co-studying with.

  • If it sounds like something you’d like to read more, check out the [[post:friends-in-nature]] or just ping me directly.

It’s also curious how posting and putting it out there made it go from this vague, nebulous notion to something a little more concrete and actionable. I can’t help but wonder how many other things are like that, just waiting to be explored to help them become reality.

I got an iPad Pro and it is magical #

I have been becoming increasingly grouchy about the gadgets I’ve been buying lately (post: I Miss Buying Fancy New Electronics). But a few weeks ago I caved an ordered an iPad Pro. I was not prepared for this.

What’s so great about it?

  • The build quality is phenomenal. To be fair, I don’t usually complain about Apple’s hardware build quality. But this device feels like it went from a consumer entertainment tablet to a professional creation tool. It’s solid but not so heavy it feels restricting in where I can use it. The battery allows me to forget that cords are a thing.

  • The stylus beats anything I’ve tried so far. Wacom, reMarkable, Surface Pro 3: it’s better than all of them: It feels far more solid than the rest. I can press down with some force and not worry about damaging it or the screen. Others often feel a bit too delicate. And the weight of it just feels right. Feels like I can throw it quite far if need be.

  • The touch apps are changing how I think about software. Seriously tempted to learn some Swift to try to create some experimental interfaces … it’s like a medium I forgot existed.

    • Phone UI’s are optimized for doing things while moving. Or at least, they feel like it. You’re not allowed precision because when would you need it? The screen is too small to enjoy long-form comfort but is amazingly useful for carrying around and getting you out of tight spots.

    • When you scale up a device 4x, you change where it’s going to be used. The iPad is designed to be used on a couch or desk, or on a giant love seat: places where you might bring your laptop but the power cord is two feet short and your back gets sore if you sit that way for too long.

    • The iPad is amazing for this! I can sit on bed and feel like I’m not holding a toaster with four rotors.

How can it be better?

  • App interoperability isn’t first class yet. Files have to get copied using the system clipboard between apps: simple file duplication like on personal computers. I can’t instantly see every project, app, and file a particular system screenshot was used.

  • These apps feel like they’re in single player mode. I want to play with my friends! Seriously: Muse, Concepts, LiquidText - where on earth are the collaboration modes? It’s 2020, nothing should be default-single-player these days. At the very least, give us a hacky read-only share link that can be viewed on desktop.

  • The home screen feels boring. Perhaps it’s the amount of space between the icons, or the arrangement of them; but it feels like someone just took my iPhone’s home screen and blew it up 10x.

    • The app icons have no visibility into what’s inside them.

      • Why can’t my favorite Concepts board be pinned to the home screen right next to a two PDF shortcuts?

      • The background can be a dynamic wallpaper of my past week in time spent per activity.

It needs to be 10 times cheaper

  • Using an iPad, exploring or writing information makes me wish I had this magical device ten years ago while I struggled to make sense of my assignments in high school. Or 10 years before that, when I was just starting to learning to distinguish between primary colors.

  • I know software doesn’t fix everything, but developing better tools for education is non-negotiable in most future views of education I see.

I’ve also made it a quiet space for creativity. No notifications, no red badges, anywhere. Although this is doable through Do Not Disturb, I went in and disabled them from appearing in Notification Center as well.

  • It’s gone from a bigger iPhone to instead a space that I am in full control of and can focus on what I want to do. I still have Twitter installed, but it too has its notifications disabled on here.

    • I don’t like that my primary mobile device ends up being a giant catch-all bucket for notifications across dozens of apps and services but at this point, it’s the least worst of the available options. Ideally, my computer’s notification center would be that - but it’s a complete travesty. However, as with any complexity or chaos; if I’m forced to deal with it then I’ll at least try to contain it. Why duplicate this radioactive soup of inspiration, obligations, and reminders onto another device? Hence, the iPad is separate from all that.

Why is programming so frustrating? #

Maybe that’s not quite the best question to ask. A better one might be: why is it so infuriating to spend time on re-inventing or implementing forms, buttons, and alert flows? So much of programming is this loop, where I have a model of something in my mind and try to teach it to the computer. A model that is never quite or sufficiently accurate and always built on some wrong assumptions. So, round and round we go, ever correcting each other until we get to some sort of compromise until the next person gets to pick up where you left off.

Don’t get me wrong: I love sitting down and writing a small tool pulling together disparate sources of information and working its magic on them. But too much of my time is spent dealing with the plumbing, while really what I want to be doing is architecting.

How much of this can be avoided?

  • We can likely try getting better at programming, re-usability architecture, etc. I’m never going to be a programming god, though. Not how my brain works. Instead I’m going to feel much more comfortable designing tools in an environment that feels like a magical whiteboard: a touchscreen interface with a voice interface layer on top of it. Code exploration tools that let me say “replicate the state of this bug” and I have a full debugging environment readied before me (full-stack visibility including the layout of the interface the user was using the code running at that point).

  • We can get faster at typing

    • I’m trying. Finally defaulting to hitting dw to delete a word (vim bindings in VS Code). I don’t expect I’ll get to experience the full extent of emacs org-mode anytime soon, but we’ll see!
  • We can also be better about supporting open source software, so frameworks and protocols are more consistent across tools allowing engineering departments to spend time on what matters most: definitely not converting and parsing information as it moves from application to application.

Other Updates # is nearing launch! More on this soon.

On Friday I had the pleasure of chatting with some of the brightest people I know about ad-hoc, open, alternative education concepts and approaches. See some recap notes here. If this sounds like something you’d like to attend — join us. We’d love to have you there.

My Roam-to-blog converter

  • For reasons explored above, the code is an unholy mess and I feel bad putting it up on the internet. If you think you can in any way benefit from it, let me know and I’ll happily add you to the repo. Before releasing it to the public I would like to give it a refactor to make it comprehensible.

  • Regardless, I’ve added the ability to link in external pages such as [[my dream working environment]] directly in my blog posts. There’s also an interesting element of writing content in it, and then needing to modify the app itself to display that content. It’s both frustrating and very rewarding.

Watchmen & Chernobyl #

Finished Watchmen. I wasn’t into the comics and I watched the movie ages ago. But I have never seen this sort of worldbuilding in a TV show before. It’s incredible. The music, visuals, and story here: it’s worth a watch.

  • Minor spoiler: Someone is driving down the road and an alarm goes off, followed by squids raining from the sky. Instead of everyone losing their minds and running in every which direction, drivers calmly pull over, wait it out, and clear the squids from the windshield and carry on. From that scene on, I was hooked.

Chernobyl, particularly, reminded me how quickly the most history-defining moments in human history occur, and how dangerous misaligned incentives are leading up to them. The spotify:accompanying podcast is a fascinating listen as well, as are the Reddit discussions.

Watching Devs now. Wow. It’s like Ex Machina mixed with a bit of what I wanted The Circle to be.

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