Snippets

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For topics that aren’t quite essays but aren’t quite tweets, either. (A self-imposed rule: no entry here should take longer than ten minutes to write and publish.)

After a stint last year of actually completing games, I’m back to abandoning stuff two thirds of the way through. It’s frustrating! I just sunk four hours into [[Child of Light]] and abandoned it for [[Bravely Default II]]; before that I spent a solid forty hours in [[Stardew Valley]] before burning out.

I know there’s nothing morally wrong with not finishing games. Games are leisure and stopping stuff that I’m not having fun with is probably the right thing to do. But I find it weird that I’m almost masochistic about completing books that I despise and yet I can’t summon the energy for games.

(If I don’t actually finish Bravely Default II, I swear…)

It is tiring to make decisions, and it is easy to think from the outside that certain artifacts are deliberate as opposed to made from a lack of decision.

I wasn’t expecting to get Fireballed today (though, yay!), but one of the things Gruber calls out is that the newsletter still defaults to including tracking. This isn’t deliberate: it’s an artifact of that being an opt-out and then me not changing anything or revisiting it in the past three years.

One of the hurdles I have yet to overcome is the ability to constantly choose. As I juggle various hats — manager, engineer, tester, entrepreneur — the failure case I run into most is that I end up choosing paths of least resistance when I have engineering energy (tech debt; obvious feature additions; bug fixes.) This has been ameliorated somewhat with me spending time in December carving out what the high-priority work for Buttondown has to be, but now I’m seeing it bleed into Stripe life a little. (Chatted with Peter today, too, who confirmed that he fell into the same thing — it is encouraging to hear that I’m not the only one for whom this is the case.)

We have an embarrassment of AirPods in this house. Two regular pairs of AirPods (since deprecated in favor of the Pros), one pair of the AirPods Max (which I’m still evaluating, but largely positive of with the exception of the comical price tag), and… three pairs of AirPods Pro. We got the third pair because H ran one pair through the washer and purchased a new pair before even testing the old pair, which managed to survive the journey (!).

The irony is that somehow the third pair has made it much harder for us to keep track of the first two; we’ve transitioned from a each-person-is-responsible-for-their-AirPods situation to more of a tragedy of the commons, where every time we go for a walk or need to do chores we suddenly have to comb the house for a charged (if we’re lucky) pair.

Every year, come late November, I have twin pangs: “it’s about time to write a year-in-review post” and “ugh, am I really going to write a year-in-review post? Aren’t these the most self-indulgent things ever?”

And of course, yes, they are, in much the same way that I think lifting is self-indulgent or spending three years working on the proportions for your ideal margarita are self-indulgent. Indulgence is good when it hurts nobody and leads to joy!

The slow trickle of posts from folks I follow and respect in late December and early January are delightful, a sort of Advent Calendar of Content. And it has been fun to have some of my late-2020 RSS cultivation habits bear fruit: I discovered the majority of these through Feedbin, rather than Twitter.

My favorites:

But if the work of this year has taught me anything, it’s that getting something, anything out the door in time can make all the difference. Progress over perfection. One foot in front of the other. So here I am, telling an incomplete, imperfect, unsatisfying story, and sharing it with the world before it’s capital-R Ready. And that’s okay. I’ve still got my health, my loved ones, and the privilege of existence. That’s more than enough. Carolyn

This year, I asked myself on more than one occasion and in more than one context, “am I good enough to do this?” I don’t feel sad or depressed about the shortcomings, but I feel I’ve grown in meaningful ways. I don’t feel like this year was a “throwaway” or that I “lost a year”; instead, I feel exhausted from the constant refinement and metamorphosis. Jowanza

Moving a ratio, rather than moving some concrete number (like reading x books, or writing y posts), feels correct. Brian

2020 underscored my suspicion of year-long goals, as so much can change best-laid plans. In 2021, I’ll again stick to quarterly personal goals when aiming for something specific. That’s enough time to focus on a few priorities while remaining flexible. Melanie

Another important consideration is that ‘hours spent on’ is not a great measure of productivity - I want to achieve things and not just spend time doing busywork. Ala

Zack Korman writes about how bad legacy media is at managing digital subscriptions:

However, when an executive asks, “How can tech and data help us to drive digital subscriptions and improve retention,” they aren’t asking about digital storytelling. They are asking about funneling more users into the payment process, managing customer engagement, and the like. They are talking about digital marketing in one form or another. That is where media companies’ tech really fails. Most media companies have inadequate control over the data that is generated on their sites, and the companies that do have that control lack the technical capabilities needed to act on that data.

It’s true! I subscribe to three digital subscriptions of print media — The New Yorker, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The Kenyon Review — and all three experiences seem woefully antiquated (I receive more paper mailers from them than emails.)

I agree with Zack’s points on it being an issue that stems essentially from shipping your org chart, but the other thing it reminds me of is the lack of unifying technology across all media companies. This reared its head last decade with the advent of streaming, and the ultimate solution to the problem (the “problem” being getting a bunch of resource-strapped federated television companies to be able to competently build out a streaming platform) ended up being a productized consultancy spun out of the MLB:

BAM competes for clients with streaming tech companies like NeuLion and Imagine Communications, as well as big telecommunication outfits like Verizon. But, says Dan Rayburn, a streaming industry analyst, “there really isn’t anybody who does the true end-to-end solution like MLB does, especially at scale, out in the market.”

This part from the above article rung true in particular:

“The thing about broadcast television is, today people probably think of it as stodgy old engineers with big beer bellies and a pocket protector,” says Inzerillo. “But the truth is that there are a lot of things about the way they do it, the technology and the philosophy, that make it incredibly stable and scalable.” Inzerillo set out to fuse those two worlds, creating a platform with the agility of a web startup and the reliability of a broadcast network.

All of the engineers involved are talented. Sometimes you just need someone with a six-figure retainer to come in and tell an org “no, you’ve got to organize it this way.” (Or maybe offer a Stripe Connect abstraction with a five-digit price tag, but it seems more likely that will come from someone like Substack moving upstream.)

Tonight’s cocktail of choice, courtesy of cocktail virgin. There is a certain class of cocktail that is best described as “base plus plus”; a french 75 is champagne plus plus, the Southern 75 is beer plus plus, and this is of course a mimosa plus plus. Anything with passionfruit syrup in it is delightful inherently; the crispness of the champagne offsets it nicely.

Also, as a reminder: the one product I recommend without recommendation is Aunty Lillikoi’s passionfruit syrup. After finishing this sentence I am going back to the store and ordering three more jars.