Jason Becker
February 19, 2024

Every year, Jason Snell at Six Colors publishes his Apple Report Card. I always enjoy looking at what the commentariat have to say about where things are and seeing trends overtime.

I really like how Jarrod basically writes a version of the Clockwise Podcast each week as though he’s a guest. I’ve long thought, “I should do that sometimes, too,” but I never do.

So instead, I decided I’m going to participate in the Six Colors report card this year. I’m going to expand out a bit from Apple though and rank my experience in 2023 with all of tech by these categories. Of course, I’m primarily 1 an Apple user, but I think that in many places that’s a bit incidental. I use those products because they best meet my needs, and my evaluation of where things are in 2023 has to do with what I want in each of these categories and whether any one is supplying that.

There are 12 categories rated from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best rating. They are:

  • Mac (personal computers)
  • iPhone (smart phones)
  • iPad (tablets)
  • Watch (stuff on your wrist)
  • Apple TV (entertainment for communal and big screen viewing)
  • Services (things you pay monthly for)
  • HomeKit (smart home)
  • Hardware reliability
  • Software quality
  • Dev relations (how well are big tech companies interacting with the folks who build things on their platforms)
  • Environment/Social issues (how well are big tech companies responding to challenges that go beyond maximizing shareholder return under capitalism)
  • Wearables (stuff on your body parts that are not your wrist)

I have added parenthetical comments to each category to explain the broader context in which I’m rating 2023. And also, since I haven’t done this before, 2023 is maybe too precise. I would say this is more of “how do I feel abut where things stand in 2023” versus “how do I rank what has happened in 2023”.

Mac (Personal Computers) 4.5/5

I can’t remember a time when personal computers were this good. Laptops are crazy powerful, have excellent battery life, and are reasonably sized. Their screens are incredible, such that there seems like there’s very little room to improve except black levels (OLED seems like the next step). The promise of USB-C is here, and I have just a tiny number of devices yet that require adapters or a USB-C to USB-something-else cable. I have been trying to live the laptop plus Mac mini lifestyle for some time– and with Apple Silicon, this has become a reality. I do not run into bottlenecks when it comes to power. I just wish Apple put better cameras into their products. The Studio Display camera and MacBook Pro cameras are just ok. My Opal looks much better, but it’s also completely unreliable.

Software is a place I’m less happy with– but not really system software. There are still some quirks, but 99 out of 100 days it’s not macOS I’m fighting, but bad, mostly third-party software. My complaints about Zoom are endless. My complaints about macOS mostly stop at System Settings, which I practically speaking is something I rarely think about or interact with. Oh, and Notifications Center– what a total piece of shit. I don’t love any text editor. Neovim is great, but I still find it hard to tweak and get setup and learn new capabilities of plug-ins. Nova is so damn close to being perfect, but its vim-mode is super lacking in the kinds of things my fingers just expect to be there, making navigation just a pain 2. VS Code looks and feels bad to me. Applications like Dropbox have become absolutely shit-ware. Apple Music is there.

There are, however, rock solid stalwarts.

iPhone (smart phones) 4/5

Widgets and focus modes have combined to transform my relationship to my phone. What felt like chaos has calmed considerably. I have an automatic focus mode that turns on at 6 PM every night on weekdays and all weekend (Down Time), a Sleep mode, and a Travel mode. Each has their own Home Screen. Only my default mode has any apps outside of the dock (and even then, only 2 rows). Otherwise, I’m all Widgets. My phone shows me a limited set of data I know or need (Fantastical/Outlook Calendar, Carrot Weather, Apple Fitness/Lose It, Things, and Day One). Notifications are largely locked down to a few people.

Battery life is largely adequate, and having low power mode turn on when I hit the Travel focus is a big help. The Action Button is nice for taking pictures. The camera is not as good as I want, but it remains the best camera I own and takes the best pictures (and especially video) of anything I’ve ever owned.

Phone hardware is boring, but phone (OS) software has gotten meaningfully better over time.

Apps have stagnated. I’m not sure if this is just being in a mature market or what, but I don’t think there’s been a lot of major changes in what third-party apps I use or their capabilities in some time. It’s almost certainly market maturity. I have all my needs well met by apps I already have, many of which I’ve been using for years and years. Most of which have not seen a release that makes a big impact on my work flow in just as long. The big exceptions I can think of are the app Flighty, which I have been a subscriber of since day one and does continue to improve, and apps that have added Dynamic Island features and/or better widgets over time.

I’m not sure what I expect from the app world. I suspect without interesting hardware that enables something new, we’ve just reached the point where we understand what functions computers this size will play in our lives and have mature apps to meet each of those needs.

I don’t really see much that I’m jealous of on the Android side of the world. Folding phones don’t appeal to me– I think folding tablets are far more interesting– and while some camera system are clearly neck and neck or better than the iPhones (for stills), it’s not a difference that would drive me to something new.

Phones– I think we should consider them a solved problem, for now.

iPad (tablets) 3.5/5

I use my tablet every day. The 10.9" iPad Pro (I don’t even remember which one) with the keyboard case is a great size for me. Bigger enough to use on the couch or on planes as a laptop replacement when iOS is all I need, small enough to use in bed. Because I have bad eyesight, having a bigger-than-my-phone device for things like reading RSS feeds is great. The iPad is not a power tool for me, and never has been. I can get a particular kind of work done– reading, writing, and communication can live there pretty well.

We’ve gone a year without new iPads, but I’ve gone several years not really needing my iPad to do more. There’s plenty of room for improvement here.

I liked the iPad to be thinner and lighter– the iPad with the keyboard that has a track pad should weigh as much as the iPad Pro alone does today. I’d like it to have better battery life when doing things other than watching video. I cannot believe the keyboard doesn’t come in more, better colors at this stage. The front camera needs to be better and along the top when in landscape mode.

My Kindle is great and disappointing in equal measure. It’s the expensive one, which I can’t bother to look up. It hasn’t changed in a long time and it was way too much money. But I like that it’s water proof/resistant/whatever. I really like that it has physical buttons. I like the flush screen and the DPI is pretty good. The software is absolute trash, but most of the time that doesn’t matter when I’m just in a book reading. An e-ink device is great for me. I have terrible eyes– pretty bad keratoconus and corneal scarring that requires scleral lenses to correct. That means my vision after I take my contacts out at night is pretty rough. Having a display that does not cause eye strain and the ability to set text to an enormous size is great. I just wish the hardware I wanted existed. It really would just be an upgrade/update to the existing Kindle I have. It needs faster software. A browser that kind of works for the few times you need it in a pinch. Support for more modern wifi standards.

Tablets overall aren’t that interesting right now to me either. I don’t think I want a touch screen Mac (nor would I be ideologically opposed to one). That says to me I’m not seeking a tablet to be great at the things my Mac is or vice versa. If my eyesight was better, I might not need a device that’s bigger than my phone and works for mostly of the same thing (though I do like a good keyboard). I use my tablet instead of my Mac also because of eyesight. Maybe my satisfaction stems from my specific use and needs.

Watch (stuff on your wrist) 2/5

I am happy with the fitness features. Apple Pay is great. The HomeKey stuff is amazing (though I wish there were more locks that support it).

But I don’t really like my watch. It hasn’t changed form factors in a while. Battery life is just ok. I wear it every day for the fitness tracking and sleep tracking, but if I’m honest, I wish I could swap it for some other fitness band. The problem is, those all suck right now. The Apple Watch apparently cleared out the wrist. Elsa has an Oura ring– I think it’s too big to be something I’d want. The Watch has conveniences, but its hold on me is definitely the most tenuous. At this stage, nothing exists that I actually want, but this is the area where I am most “winnable” by some other product– or maybe no product at all.

AppleTV (entertainment for communal and big screen viewing) 3.5/5

I hate the Roku interface. I hate my smart TV’s interface. The Apple TV interface is not bad. The remote is not so bad. But the number of issues I have with HDCP stuff (go to play a video, get audio but all black screen, or all the colors are wrong etc) is insane. I have replaced all the cables, my equipment is modern, and this is a thing that has gotten much worse over time. Is it the Apps? Is it streaming services themselves? Is it the hardware? I don’t know, but it makes my experience bad regularly. It drives the other people in my household nuts, regularly.

AppleTV+ the service is really solid. It has a shockingly high hit rate for me. I hear a lot of people say there’s not enough content– but I find it refreshing to actually know when new shows come out, especially since I end up liking so many of them. Netflix has tons of shows, and I can’t ever figure out what’s worth watching. Most of what I try… isn’t.

Services (things you pay monthly for) 3.5/5

Apple One is a pretty ok deal. The price increase kind of sucks, but all services are getting to be too much money. I am much more annoyed at Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, etc than Apple One– that tells me that I think I’m getting my money’s worth. I have been paying for iCloud so my family can backup their devices. It works great for that. Apple Photos works great. I like News+ – I have other subscriptions like Dwell, The Atlantic, etc that I can read in there. I like the crosswords. Apple Music needs way more algorithmic playlists – Spotify is just plain better at discovery– but it’s totally usable. Fitness+ is pretty great, even if I don’t use it.

Mostly, I think that things work well and are pretty high quality. Spotify is a better service (if terrible App), but not so much that it’s worth paying for on top of Apple Music, in my opinion.

My dissatisfaction is entirely with the rest of the world of services. They’re all getting too expensive for too little value. I’m tapped out on monthly fees, like a lot of folks. I’m just starting to feel like the juice is not worth the squeeze.

HomeKit (smart home) 2/5

HomeKit mostly works for the few things I ask it to do, but it’s terrible overall. HomeKey is great. Lutron Caseta lights work. HomeKit Secure Video should be great, but my Logitech Circle View devices cannot stay connected to Wifi for shit. I don’t really trust smart home stuff to do a lot or do a lot with complexity. My Ecobee seems totally fine, and I can’t think of a reason to upgrade it. My “smart shades” in the bedroom are great, but I entirely use them via a timer and the fact that they work with HomeKit doesn’t really matter.

Maybe I’m unimaginative, but also all of this stuff seems like a set of solutions without a problem. I’m amazed I can’t do something to hook into the alarm system wiring that exists already in my house to have something without a monthly fee. I’m mad at Chamberlain’s MyQ BS. Overall, the home is smarter than it used to be, but also, all of this stuff feels like a CES demonstration.

Hardware reliability 5/5

All of the physical things I buy works better than any hardware I’ve bought in the past, but if it goes bad it does have to be replaced. Appliances in particular seem to have dropped off in quality, but everything else in my life that’s a physical product seems to work pretty great. Consumer electronics are much more likely to fail because the company that made them attached them to a shit service that they stop supporting or the company goes out of business than something goes physically wrong with a product. Apple’s stuff is built as well as I can ever remember, but so is most of the rest of stuff I buy. Maybe it’s because I spend too much.

Software quality 3.5/5

It’s all over the place. The web is kind of shitty. Webkit and Electron-based stuff is everywhere and also kind of shitty. A lot of things crash without good logging or lack controls to help me to understand what’s happening and how to trigger what I want. There’s no manual sync button. There are no informative progress bars. There are some weird persistent bugs (how many times in my life will I only be able to dismiss a notification by typing sudo killall NotificationCenter?!). The HDCP errors I get trying to play back video drive me insane. There are still websites that don’t work well in Safari on macOS. Shortcuts is weird as hell. Better than Automator? Sort of.

But overall, I feel like my experience of using computers is one where the computer mostly gets out of my way and I have powerful tools to do my work. So for all the paper cuts, things are really not so bad.

Dev relations (how well are big tech companies interacting with the folks who build things on their platforms) 1/5

They’re terrible. All of the big tech companies are bad at this. Yes, Apple has really been intransigent about the App Store stuff (look, I actually really don’t want other App Stores, don’t really care for side loading, and think the 30%/15% thing is really not that crazy), but Apple has absolutely screwed up App Store review for a decade. They’ve neither been good enough at curation and removing scams nor permissive of reasonable, “good” apps on their platforms. The balance on tight v. loose is in an uncomfortable place where we seem to have the worst of both worlds.

This one is mostly a mark on Apple, because I don’t care enough about other companies that do devrel. I mean, I guess Amazon with AWS? They suck too, but not on devrel– it’s the UX and product strategy that’s a mess. Meh.

Environment/Social issues (how well are big tech companies responding to challenges that go beyond maximizing shareholder return under capitalism) 2.5/5

The AI rollout is a mess too. The expansive view companies took on training data sets and their “rights” rightfully leaves a lot of folks feeling sour. And by publishing something that is shockingly good, but with glaring challenges that are not obviously, definitely solvable, the AI tools coming out right now are balancing on the knife’s edge of harm versus benefit.

I think Apple is about as good as you can get selling physical goods and trying to do right by the environment, but I think we’re all falling on issues like authoritarian government controls, misinformation, moderation and safety, and the environment itself. Some of the major social issues tech companies are up against feel kind of unsolvable to me, but they’re making their case remarkably poorly, both in the court of public opinion and in the court of politics (not really the court of law, which is still mostly uninvolved).

The largest tech companies are not doing much to actively make the world a better place. I fault Apple somewhat the least, because I think they’re basically a hardware company that is outside of the information space. It’s in the information space where companies like Google and Meta are blowing it. I mean, crap almighty look at what has happened to Twitter. Is Netflix doing anything with its entertainment power? Nope. Amazon, the physical goods store, seems awful. The technology services provider is pretty great. Nvidia (wild to include them) was all too happy to make money off of the Bitcoin miners, and I’m dubious about the power behind the AI stuff. I don’t really see them using their power for much yet either, but they’re newly huge. Microsoft has hitched onto OpenAI, which also feels weird, and continues to mostly copy other stuff. They seem moderately less evil these days than I used to feel about them, but I still feel like their business practices with including things like Teams and PowerBI into existing subscriptions feel bad/weird.

Overall, I think tech is doing a lot that is of dubious value these days. I’m not surprised that we have stock buy backs and malaise instead of tech optimism. I’m just not sure the software world is where the next improvements will come from. I’m pretty sure that the software world has not made things much better this last decade. The big companies feel like they’re kind of blowing it to me. But maybe that’s just being big mature companies.

Wearables (stuff on your body parts that are not your wrist) 2/5

Sucks. The AirPods Pro are amazing. But very little else is appealing in this space. I thought for sure we’d have more variety of smart bracelets, rings, clothing, shoes, or something by now. Innovation here is mirroring the home– lots of stuff that only kind of works that feels just barely above a CES demonstration. I think there’s so much promise in small, networked computers, and we seem to have landed on the watch and headphones. Maybe Apple Vision Pro will change things here– by all accounts the technology is incredible and I’m already getting a bit of FOMO. This weekend I went away with my partner and dogs to a cabin. Both of our dogs are older now, and I decided to take some spatial video. I have no idea if it’ll come out nice, but I felt like this was something I might want to have someday. That tells you something. But the VR world (and AR world) seems a bit away from its final, most useful form. I’m excited about it as an early adopter, but not as something that’s really making a mark.

Meanwhile, I still wear this clunky Apple Watch because it’s the best thing on the market. That bums me out. I know hardware is hard, but Fitbit going to Google to die and everyone else shrugging this category away is a bummer.


I want to think about technology way less. Right now there are places that’s true– mostly in my personal computing life. There are many pieces of hardware and software at this point that are very close to being great. So much so that I suspect a lot of my complaints will fade away in the coming 2-3 years. I hope so, at least. But there are other areas where I think technology will continue to disappoint– in the home, wearables, and environmental/social issues feel lost already. In those categories, at least, I think we’re far down a path into a local maxima that we cannot escape and we’ll need a new generation of leaders, new ideas, and new inventions to back track and start down a different, better path.

And good lord, work on the bugs.

  1. Actually, since I have an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, HomePods, AirPods Pro, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, Apple Studio Display, an Apple One subscription… yeah… I’m in the Apple ecosystem. ↩︎

  2. Seriously, Panic. Just make vim-mode much better. Nova is so close to being phenomenal now that it has LSP support. ↩︎

February 9, 2024

My take reading some posts going around about self-censorship in the circle of blogs I read.

For most of human history, an individuals’ thoughts and opinions rarely left a small circle of people who were essentially kin. Not sharing all of your opinions in public isn’t self-censorship— it’s wise.

In my opinion, there are three types of opinions people share that result in having a pretty bad time.

  1. Someone holds an opinion that has been pretty poorly thought out that falls along familiar, fallacious ground. Folks who have thought deeply about that issue/area have confronted the naive view so many times that they are unkind. This is the classic Internet forum issue of the n00b. It’s terrible, but folks who are experts are often exhausted by novice opinion. Because the internet freely mixes novices and experts and screens are easy to depersonalize, we get unpleasantness.

  2. Someone holds a deplorable opinion they’re sharing under the mistaken belief they’re among other people who share their horrific belief. Think most racists or misogynists on the internet.

  3. Someone is a member of a marginalized group exposed to the people in (2). Of course, the people in group (2) immediately claim they’re in group (3) when called out on their shit— it’s their only play.

I sympathize a lot with folks in group (1). Most of us have been there before, and most of us could do better to practice empathy in that situation. And sometimes, it makes sense to read and listen more than write and talk. No one wants to be told to read the fucking manual, but it’s also hard to answer a question for the 100th time with the same patience as the first time. If I felt the need to debunk idiotic climate denialism every time I read it, I’d go nuts. Maybe that’s group 1.5– those of us not answering because we’re exhausted.

The people in group (2) should have a bad time of it. I don’t feel bad calling them out, and I actually do believe enough people saying something helps to change views over time. I don’t think people who say they are “self-censoring” because they’re being called out are actually engaging in any kind of censorship. Facing the consequences of holding deplorable positions (being shamed) is not censorship.

The folks in group (3) are the real people who are censored. Marginalized folks are actually being bullied into silence because of who they are. It sucks. But also, these folks have (in my opinion) been heard more and are more empowered to speak than ever before. The fact that some folks are facing consequences in group (2) is both a marvel and relatively new.

Sometimes people claim they’re being censored when lots of people disagree with them. I think this almost always come from someone who is unwilling to reconsider their views. Rather than feel shame, I wonder what would happen if they took a deep breath and asked, “if lots of people I normally like, trust, and agree with feel very differently than I do in this case, maybe I’ve missed something?”

February 3, 2024

Do you think we should try to bring the forums back? When I say we I don’t mean me and you but we people who care about a certain type of web. Do you think there’s still a place for those? Or do you think we’re so used to social media that people will prefer to move to Mastodon or some other decentralized social network?

I hear you about “online only” relationships thought. I have quite a few of those and they’re honestly great. And the best part is when you finally do end up meeting someone in person and it doesn’t feel strange at all. I believe that digital relationships can be as powerful as IRL ones. Both types have pros and cons but they’re both powerful in their own way.

Your urban hiking thing is neat. Picking two points for lunch and dinner is such a cool idea. I might have to try it at some point. Quite hard for me at the moment because I live in the middle of nowhere but maybe in the future. I’m a big fan of moving slowly through spaces. We’re all so busy these days that we often forget to enjoy our surroundings.

Since this is going to be the last letter I’m going to ask you a couple of questions.

The first one is related to your work news: how does it feel? I’ve always been self-employed as I mentioned in a previous email so I’m curious how it feels to know your entire workplace will change as a result of an acquisition. Is it disorienting? Is it exciting? Is it scary? Does it make you want to change job entirely? I’m curious to know what’s going through your head at this moment.

The second question is probably silly but it popped into my head when you wrote “the start up I’ve worked at for almost a decade”: at what point a start-up stops being a startup and it’s just a company?

Lastly, do you think the letters experiment was something worth doing? Did you learn anything new about yourself over these months?

Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog, I really enjoyed these exchanges.

Ciao, Manu

Hi Manu,

I think that forums continue to have their place, but they’re dead as social places on the web. What made them great communities was the magic of being a place that drew in people of similar interests who then just… stuck around for lack of somewhere else to go on the web. The number of easy “social” options where “everyone is” makes the magic of off-topic posts and relationships built on forums somewhat irrelevant. I think it’s hard to invest in the kind of community glue that used to exist on forums among regulars and translate that into a broader social interaction than it used to be and that’s probably here to stay.

That said, I think there are lessons to be learned from the world of forums. It’s right in that paragraph– there’s a magic to bringing people into a space with common interests and letting that be the basis of a community. That’s how “academic Twitter” or “black Twitter” (two bad examples because they represent, in a way, identity groups more than common interests, but they come to mind as known, named things) or activist hashtags functioned– they were like interest-driven spaces that became communities. Common interests serve as the foundation, but the load-bearing beams and walls of a community are the personal relationships that build between regular participants.

On to work and how I feel… I feel, well, everything. I ended a post on LinkedIn about the transition that I felt both hope and determination for what’s to come, and that still feels like the best summary of how I feel. I think there’s a huge opportunity here to take the work I’ve done for the last decade to a much larger scale and to have the support to go from “a start up that feels like it could end at any moment” to “a permanent fixture in US K-12 education and maybe more”. I think all the problems we set out to solve are still present and we’re in the best position we’ve ever been (and of anyone else out there) to really address it. That may sound like the hope,but instead that’s the determination. I am determined to do everything I can to take advantage of this opportunity.

The hope is not knowing if it’ll work. I’ve never known if any of this would work in anyway, and I continue to hope that I’m the right person to be a part of it. I hope that we’ll make good choices, that my coworkers that have been a part of building this thing will keep at it with me, and that we’ll add new people to contribute over time that level us up. But I know there’s every chance that I will fail, separate and in addition to whether “we” collectively will fail. Right now, I feel like we hit an important milestone, but I still feel far from done.

I was smiling reading your question about “the startup I worked at for over a decade”. This is actually something we used to discuss internally to help people understand the language we use about the business. For us, start up does not indicate “a new business”. Instead, when we say start up, what we mean is a business model. We considered ourselves a start up not because of size or age, but because we took outside investment in exchange for ownership in the company and designed the company to prioritize revenue growth over profitability. Our measure of success was top line revenue growth while ensuring our model could achieve profitability, but we would invest every dollar that came in (and then some) toward growth– both investing in sales and R&D. This is in contrast to a “new” business or a “small business” that is largely owned by proprietors and is geared toward achieving profitability every year. The only way Allovue would have ever ceased being a startup is if we changed our business model. Companies can be startups for a long time, provided its investors support that model. Startup, in that sense, does not really refer to the age of the business. Instead, it’s more “this is a business that needed ‘startup’ capital”– we had a business that took a lot of upfront investment before what we built could be sold.

Letters has been a fun project. As you can tell from my late response here, life often made it hard to be truly “weekly”. Many months on my site did not get a post per week. Sometimes that was my fault, sometimes it was the person who signed up for that month. I decided early on that I was not going to get crazy about it or generate any pressure for myself or others– an obligation that felt bad seemed counter to what I was trying to achieve. Despite that irregularity in a project that was meant to be regular, I’m confident that this year I wrote more long posts and more personal posts than ever before. Letters has made my blog feel less like social media reaction takes and more like a place I share a bit of myself. I have gotten to know some people I didn’t before, or know some people I knew but in a new way.

Maybe my favorite thing about Letters is that others were inspired to do a similar form of writing on their own blogs. I love reading letters/pen pals/whatever folks choose to call it on other blogs. It makes me feel like this last year I contributed a small bit to building the kind of community I’d want to be in online. I’m not trying to be well known. My blog is not designed for that, my temperament is not designed for that, my goals are not that. So it’s nice, in spite of that, to have made a bit of a ripple.

This has been a great way to sunset (in its current form) my main creative project for the last year. Thanks for being a part of it. And for anyone else who made it to the end of this post who has been reading Letters or participated in it, thanks for being an important part of my 2023 / 4.


Today, I woke up and Elsa had a whole day planned for us. We went to a new coffee shop together, where I did some writing and caught up on some reading. We then walked to Cross Street Market for lunch followed by Protean, a used books and record store (among other things) I’ve heard a lot about it but never went to.

We then came home for a bit before I went out to play volleyball. I learned once again how much my whole mood can be lifted by playing sports with friends. I keep writing about it here because I keep finding myself struggling and forgetting how physically transformative sports are.

We play sports. Play is fun.

It melts away my anxiety.

When I got home, Elsa had ordered Thai and.now we’re watching some TV. In an hour or so, I’ll take a shower, read for a couple of hours, and head to bed.

Mundane? Maybe. But it’s the kind of day I really needed. I needed time away from work, away from stress, away from responsibility. I just needed some low key fun.

Tomorrow I’ll put away laundry. I’ll go food shopping and probably do a little food prep. I’ll worry more, and play (too little) 1 volleyball again. But today was pretty good.

  1. There was only a short pickup session fully booked. So I grabbed a random drop in for a 45 minute game. Turns out it was on my friend’s team, but he’s double booked and won’t be coming. Anyway, I really prefer to play 2-2.5 hours when possible. 45 minutes is really not enough when it takes 15-20 minutes driving each way to get there. ↩︎

January 26, 2024

it’s really hard to find good, new stuff.

It really is and it’s frankly amazing that we’re still facing this issue. It’s not rare for me to mindlessly browse the web not knowing which sites I should actually visit.

I don’t do social media and outside of those platforms there really aren’t many places useful to discover new content. I think that’s one of the unfortunate consequences of people moving on social platforms: old-school forums died, for the most part.

And forums were neat! If you had an interest in something specific chances are there was a forum for you out there. And since forums weren’t stupidly huge over time you could become friends with a bunch of regulars and it was such a cool experience.

That’s something I personally miss and I don’t think social media can really recreate that. And it’s one of the best aspects of small communities. I love small online communities, especially weird and niche ones.

I wrote about the topic a few times before and I suspect I’ll touch that topic again in the future because the way is changing and I think people will slowly move back to more distributed spaces. We’re seeing a resurgence of personal blogs and maybe forums are gonna be the next type of sites to come back online.

A completely unrelated question but is there a place in your life for exploration? I’m not talking about intellectual exploration but rather physical one: going to new places, walking random paths. I’m asking you because I was doing my morning walk with the dog earlier today and decided to go up on a path I often see while driving, and after a short hike on a snowy path I stumbled on this tiny cavern, and on the other side of it there was this gorgeous view of the mountains and everything was lit by the morning sunrise.

Not sure if you do pictures on your blog but I’m going to attach one I took from that spot.

Blue skies that are nearly clear but for a few wisps of clouds over rolling hills with dry grass and buildings in the distance.

And it got me thinking about how many things we’re missing simply because we don’t explore more often. I lived here for almost a decade not knowing about that wonderful place and who knows how many others are out there.

This is something that also happens when I click links at random, now really knowing where I’m going to end up. That’s one of the reasons why the indie web is fun. You start clicking and you don’t really know where you’ll land.

Hi Manu,

Forums were neat. I can’t believe how much community they could build. I still speak nearly daily to someone I first “met” on forums when I was about 15. He lives half or more a world away right now. We’ve never met in person. In various ways, our careers and interests have continued to follow similar paths. In some ways, he’s my original “letters” pen pal. It’s strange to have known someone that well for nearly half my life and having never met. But I think that friendship is a testament to the fact that forums do create community and connections that are meaningful.

I agree that today’s social media doesn’t really recreate that magic. The closest thing was early Twitter. I first joined Twitter at a conference in 2010. It was using a hashtag at this multi-track conference and being able to follow the conversation in other rooms (and have a conversation with folks at the same talk) that felt electric. In a way, those hashtags for real world events were like pop-up forums. I don’t know that I regret being on Twitter for so long, but it’s pretty wild how it took using Twitter as an augmentation to a real world event to make me “get it” and what Twitter usage became by the end.

I’ve also written about community at least a few times. It’s really why I participate in the web at all.

I personally love exploring. What I like to do whenever I travel is just move through a city on foot. We do “urban hiking” where we purposely choose two points pretty far from each other on the map for lunch and dinner and spend our day in the spaces in between, learning what it feels like to inhabit a place. I honestly wish we did more exploring and more “nature” hiking, which is something we’ve picked up and down depending on the year and our overall energy level. I think it was Annie, who I wrote letters with earlier in the project, who used to post a photo of her hike every weekend referring to it as “church”. That’s how I feel when I get to go outside for long periods and really shut things off. Lately, this is has been really hard to find time for. I’ve been pretty busy preparing for some big changes in my work life which has subsumed all the energy I have.

A little more exploration would be a nice thing for 2024. I’m going to think about how I can make that happen.

Sorry for the late letter— as I mentioned earlier this week, on Monday we announced that Allovue— the start up I’ve worked at for almost a decade— was acquired by a large public K-12 software company, PowerSchool. In some ways, this is going to change a lot. In other ways, nothing at all will change. But this week, especially, was a hectic one with a lot of emotions to process and people to support as my team and I transition.

Hoping we can still slip one more of these in.


January 18, 2024

It’s all connected— partisan gerrymandering and non-proportional representation leads to a sclerotic legislature, ending Chevron guts the capacity of the regulatory state to do anything, essentially forcing a level of detail into legislation that cannot be achieved— it’s the planned destruction of the state by the state.

January 15, 2024

I work in tech. I manage developers. There’s no world where AI would let me get by with fewer developers. Even if I thought it made them meaningfully more effective, we have no end of productive work for them to do.

I can sort of imagine things like content moderation needing fewer employees. But even there, do we really think companies have found all the Nazis? It seems to me like the current state of content moderation is not one where we think, “this is good enough”, it’s more “this is the most we can justify doing” — against the cries of users, especially those who are harassed.

I don’t think AI has anything to do with layoffs. This is a very boring story about interest rates. Money isn’t cheap any more— it takes much higher returns to beat zero risk investments, so there’s less money to be spent on risks. Investment is risk. Tech companies aren’t willing to invest in new and growing revenue streams. Investors are less likely to back your risky startup or reinvest before you’ve figured things out.

Lots of experiments with potentially long return horizons or with potentially lower rates of return are no longer worth investing in. Lots of investments that had growth rates that are worth it at 0% are no longer worth it at 5%.

What’s happening in tech is a lot of CEOs and companies are admitting that some of the things they’ve spent money on aren’t likely to going to make very much money and they don’t yet have better alternative ideas.

Many products and services these companies have tried all seem pretty stupid from the outside. But here’s the thing, if you’re incredibly profitable and there’s very little risk-free return out there, it’s worth trying a bunch of things that are silly, some of which may turn out to be a huge deal. Tech companies get sky high valuations because they’re really good at trying things that seem silly and have very low costs to scale. The unit economics are great, if they work. Most traditional companies don’t get the same multipliers because they tend not to compete in winner-take-all markets, with zero marginal cost products, and a track record of success finding or creating new markets.

The math has changed. These companies (big tech) still (mostly) print money, but they’re no longer (as) good places to spend it.

As inflation eventually cools, if the world doesn’t set itself on fire, and interest rates begin to creep downwards, we’ll see further adjustments. Capital will get deployed into more, riskier businesses. New company formation will go up. Existing companies will do more M&A and take more risks seeking new revenue streams. Hopefully, this time, they’ll be a little more cautious on the way up. A lot of ideas the last time didn’t really pan out.

From Manu

I guess Mondays are going to be the days for this “publicly private” conversation we’re having on your site and inside your inbox.

I was thinking about your leak at the house and it’s ironic how this kind of problem seems to always crop up at the most inconvenient times. I was also dealing with some annoying issues at home, not a leak but a clogged sink in the kitchen and we spent way too much time on January 2nd trying to sort that out. Like you said, we tend to look at the beginning of the year as this moment of starting from scratch but life manages to find ways to remind you that this isn’t a new beginning after all.

And in my case, that way was scraping away junk stuck in a pipe for who knows how long.

You wrote that you find slowness to be nice in the context of these conversations and I’d have to agree. In my weird internet-powered interactions I managed to find a few people willing to move these strange conversations on a medium that’s even slower and that’s old-school paper letters and I have to say, it’s incredibly refreshing.

Having to wait for weeks to get something back is a very enjoyable change of pace. Also the thrill of not knowing what is happening to your mail once it leaves your hands. Will it be delivered? Who knows! But it’s fun, something I want to do more of.

Learning about your blog journey was interesting and reading about this kind of journey through tools and services always makes me wonder if I just got lucky.

I decided to start a blog on January 1st, 2017 because, you know, clean slate and all that. I never had a proper site, one with pages and menus and content. I always had super minimal one-pagers that were more like digital business cards than actual websites.

But for some reason, I decided I wanted to start blogging. And so on January 1st I woke up super early in the morning, made myself coffee, and coded a very simple blog. The plan was to post weekly updates on my life, a way to keep me accountable. Those posts are still up on my blog and you can clearly see that I didn’t know what I was doing with the site. But it was clear that it was meant to be a way to have conversations. I kept that weekly pace for a month or so, and then I stopped. At some point, I removed the blog because I thought it was stupid to have a site with just a bunch of posts left there.

I coded myself a different static site that was mainly a collection of links. I then wanted to post something I wrote though and I didn’t have a way to do it anymore. So that simple list of links became a list of links with an extra page with this lonely blog post. At that point, I realized that I did want to blog after all and I re-coded myself a blog, powered by the Kirby CMS and I’ve been running on that ever since.

The site has not changed much over these years. I tweaked the typography a bit here and there but it’s been in its current form at least since 2018 I believe and I still like it.

I do want to change a few things in 2024 primarily because I know have a few extra side projects I want people to know about but I love the overall simplicity of my blog. And others seem to like it too so I don’t see why I should change it.

As they say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Schedule, rhythm, pace, this is something I find myself thinking about a lot these days. Both in the context of my online life and also my life in general. I’m 34, never had a proper job, always been self-employed so it’s been ages since I had to follow a schedule and I think it’s time to change that. Endless freedom has its pros but also some cons. Constraints are sometimes helpful.

Speaking of technology and pingbacks, I still think the best way to notify people is to simply email them. Because that opens up the door for more interactions. An automated notification doesn’t really help interactions with other humans because I think we’re now trained to ignore notifications of any sort.

At least that’s what I like to do. If I stumble on something I think it’s worth replying to I usually post something on my blog with links to the relevant content and then I try to email the author to let them know that I appreciated what they made and I wrote something in response. That’s how the web is supposed to work in my opinion.

You asked about my blog and I don’t really know what to say about it. It’s a chronological list of thoughts and things I find interesting. It’s part portfolio, part blog, part photo album, part side project. I don’t have a topic and I don’t care about having one. I’m the topic of my personal blog. If you read it you’ll learn things about me and about the things I like to think about. It’s a simple plan but has worked fine so far.

I also don’t try to be any different on my site than I am in person. My posts are not edited and are not drafted. I don’t spend days reworking my content. When an idea forms in my head I write it down and I publish and I move on. My English is far from perfect, there will be typos, and that’s ok. At the end of the day what I care about is not producing great written content but generating interactions with other humans which is why I liked your letters project.

Do you think blogging and online interactions in general will change in the near future with all the AI nonsense that’s coming up?

Hi Manu,

It’s funny you should mention emailing someone. Today, for the first time, I got one of those emails. It was so eerie I had to double check I hadn’t yet posted a response to this letter. It’s not a bad idea.

While I’m just a bit older at 36, and I have never been self-employed, I’ve had a pretty flexible schedule the most of the time. I still end up with quite a bit of routine. Some of that is imposed– I have, a metric ton of meetings. But a lot of that is just having found what works for me.

My ideal day looks something like this:

  • 8 - 9 AM Lift weights at the gym
  • 9 - 9:45 AM Shower, make or get a coffee, have a small breakfast
  • 9:45 - 12:30 PM Desk work and meetings
  • 12:30 - 1 PM Lunch
  • 1-2:30 PM Desk work and meetings
  • 2:30 - 3 PM Take a walk outside, sometimes with my older dog who likes to walk.
  • 3 - 4 PM Desk work
  • 4 - 6:30 PM Dog walking, dinner, and some time with my partner
  • 6:30 - 9 PM Volleyball
  • 9 - 11 PM Quiet desk work
  • 11 - 11:30 PM Prepare for bed
  • 11:30 - 12 AM Read

There are lots of disruptions to this. I only go to the gym 3 days a week and volleyball is 2-3 days a week. They’re not always on the same day. I also frequently have meetings with West Coast team mates from 4-6 PM or emergent issues that require sticking to my desk until 6 PM. Those days, I rarely make it back for the Quiet Desk work slot because my energy is just shot. Heck, in general, this kind of ideal day dramatically undercounts my typical hours. But I do think it shows off why flexibility is great.

I do some of my best work after 8 PM if I can at my desk doing focused, quiet work, that I find terrible difficult to do during the day. In fact, looking at it written out, there are very few long stretches of uninterrupted work. I think that fits my own brain and role– I very rarely can actually get something done for four hours straight. I don’t have the kind of work that is “Start here, and keep working until you solve the problem” very often. When I do, I kind of like to do that work on weekends. I do find myself often picking things up on a weekend afternoon and suddenly realizing I put in a half day of work because I finally had a concrete problem to just work through. It’s a real manager’s dilemma.

My blog is also just about me. In some ways, it represents the conversation I’d be having if I were with a friend. I’m just often… not. When I go quiet on my blog, it’s almost always because there’s a lot of stuff going on I don’t want to talk about publicly or I’m spending a lot of time with people. The quieter my physical space is, the louder my digital one gets. I once told a friend that my blog basically existed so that I didn’t drive my friends crazy with constant text messages.

That’s really what the theme of my blog is– the group chat no one signed up for but is happening anyway.

I recently added an About page. It started as something I wrote to test out a new design I’m playing with, but I ended up liking it too much and realizing the redesign project was going to take a long time. It’s funny– I put a whole section that was about my blog, but it doesn’t say what the blog is about.

AI and its impact on the web. Well that’s a bit of a can of worms.

I’m not sure how big the impact of the current AI models will be in the first place. It was actually Matt Birchler linking to a post in which I compared OpenAI to Uber that had me thinking about pingbacks. I never would have known he replied if I didn’t happen to follow his blog. I’m quite sure he doesn’t follow mine, so I my later elaboration and reply to his post probably never made it to him. I never really thought to email him about them. I don’t think he owes me or even should write a response to them. But, I guess I do think the internet would work better for conversation if he knew they existed.

That’s a tangent though. Large language models are pretty good at cleaning up writing. I’ve had times where I’ve asked it to simplify a sentence or make a paragraph more direct and I’ve been happy with at least some of its edits. Their chat interfaces are also genuinely great– remember the chat bot craze of 6 years ago? LLMs could make chat bots less like a bad support phone tree and more like a real interface. 1 I also think that the image generation tools are pretty damn powerful. Combined, I think they will create a bimodal distribution. There will be a new internet-of-shit, this time digital, filled with AI generated content. This will be a massive volume of web addresses that no one actually visits or wants. Then there will be the rest of us, whose websites and content may get a little better with the help of AI tools. As a result, I think more and more people will want a place away from the algorithms and clearly personal and human made to point to. I think we’ll see user generated content continue to grow as a counter to the AI slop. But I also think that it’ll continue to get harder and harder to find good stuff on the internet as it gets buried below the new content farms.

One of the biggest challenges of blogging will continue in the age of AI-content – it’s really hard to find good, new stuff.


  1. One thing that’s hard about LLM chat-as-an-interface is you can’t really design the experience. That feels like something that is a problem I haven’t seen anyone talking about. ↩︎

January 9, 2024

This month I’m talking with Manu Moreale

Hello Jason

As is often the case, life takes over my plans and things get delayed. It’s something I just learned to accept because fighting against it is a lost cause.

I must confess that writing a public email feels kinda odd. Like you, I have a blog where I publish content that is meant to be public but I also write a lot of emails that are meant to be private.

Writing an email to someone knowing it’s going to be public feels strange as if something is not how it’s supposed to be.

Anyway, I’m curious about this experiment you’re running. I remember stumbling on your initial post talking about it months ago and thinking “That’s a neat idea, I should participate”.

I got in touch and my month was so far into the future that I completely forgot about it in the meantime. So when your email landed in my inbox it was a nice surprise.


I was poking around your site and noticed that your blog—like many others—has an interesting history. You went through phases only to finally settle to a good publishing cadence. Do you think that journey is inevitable for all the people with blogs? Do you think we all have to go through the various stages before we find our preferred rhythm?

And speaking of rhythm, are you going to keep this letter project going for another year?

I hope you had a lovely end of the year and I also hope you can have an even better 2024.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Ciao, Manu

Hi Manu,

2023 ended with a lot of drama– a major house leak that has taken the better part of a month to plug up. The house is still in disarray, but there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. There’s also been some personal turmoil that I think mostly “will pass”, but still kind of in the thick of it. But that’s life– every year we think we get to reset the decks and wipe the slate clean, but there’s always new stuff to handle and plenty of unexpected challenges to disrupt our best plans.

This experiment is interesting. I have had some solid conversations with strangers and friends alike. No one I’ve done Letters with has been someone I regularly spend time with. I enjoy that I can wait until I feel like I have a clear head to read and write back. There’s something nice about the slowness and having a reason to write something a bit longer. The schedule and scheduling, however, has been kind of a pain. I double booked some months by mistake, and I wasn’t always on top of reaching out to folks well ahead of time. My life is a little chaotic– or at least has very little routine compared to the past. In that sense, the project has been hard.

It’s related to the life my blog has lived. The earliest posts on this blog came from a Pelican-based blog I started toward the start of my working career. I had previously written extensively on LiveJournal, Blogspot, and tried Wordpress at least a few times. Most of writing was on old topic-based forums, however. I never really got into a rhythm of blogging regularly. I wanted to write about my interests, but I put too high a standard on posts and never really met them. My blog mostly became a place to play with code on the side. By 2011 I was well into my Twitter phase. I probably had collectively around 100,000 tweets that I wrote from 2010 until 2023. So when something was much too long for Twitter, I’d occasionally blog instead of write long threads. At some point, I grew frustrated with Pelican and switched over to Hugo. It was a way to play with things like nginx settings and keeping a server running on Digital Ocean. It was fine, but I wasn’t inspired to write that much. The work flow of Markdown file, running Hugo, checking things, making a commit, pushing, SSHing into a server, pulling, and building was a lot. Then I had to link it places because otherwise no one would read it.

When micro.blog, my current host, cropped up, I was quite attracted to a couple of things. First, I was already uncomfortable with putting everything into Twitter. I had played with POSSE-like systems elsewhere, using things like tags on Pinboard to post links to Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook via IFTTT. I liked the idea of writing once and letting that go out to all the social networks. But I viewed Micro.blog as a stalwart against a Twitter I increasingly didn’t want to be on and a way to get posts into Facebook (which I briefly had an account on) and other places easily. A couple of years into using Micro.blog, it switched from being Jekyll-based to Hugo-based and opened up custom templates. Suddenly, I could take the blog I already have and host on Micro.blog.

So the real way I found my cadence here (on this blog) was a combination of disillusionment with Twitter and finding the right tool in Micro.blog. The key was that I could have almost all the same control I had with Hugo (at least enough control) and I could post from my phone easily. It’s not just that I can write micro-posts– it’s that I can use MarsEdit and the Micro.blog app and iAWriter to publish to my blog without the whole build step. It’s so much easier to share a photo or two or write a quick paragraph than it used to be. But I still understand how the whole system works and I can make things look how I want, mostly. That was key to building a blogging habit.

I think another key was nabbing this domain on day one of the .blog TLD being available. Naming this blog based on my own name took away the idea that this was meant to be anything other than a personal website.

Letters has been a great way to keep a consistent writing schedule, but I think this will actually be its last scheduled installment. Doing these weekly and having to keep track of folks ahead of time is too much work. I haven’t said this publicly so… this is the announcement of that.

However, I really like having long form correspondence on the web. Not enough blogs are blogging about other blogs. I think that’s really important to having discovery again on the web.

I haven’t come up with the exact idea for where Letters is going, but I think it’ll be something more like Tumblr’s “Ask me a question” feature. I’m going to try and encourage ways for folks to write me, a long letter or even a simple question, and I will do my best to respond to what comes in. At least that’s the current working theory. I’d love some feedback on this idea– how do I keep getting the chance to write a bit with strangers and parasocial relationships on the web? And how do I keep writing blog posts that are, in essence, responses to other people’s posts in a way that encourage conversations between the two?

I think our technology outside of the Wordpress pingback is pretty crumby here. I know that when I post links, I am not using Indie Web standards with u-in-reply-to classes. I’m sure very few people do. I don’t know when someone writes about a blog post I wrote! Unless they @ mention me on some form of social media, it’s just happenstance if I see that stuff. I think that kind of stinks, and I think the tech to fix that also kind of stinks right now. It’s too complicated.

Tell me a bit about your blog and what you write about and why. How are you hoping to keep being a person on the internet?


December 31, 2023

Hi Jason,

I already feared for the worst when I read your message on Micro.blog this week. I’m glad it was “only” from water from a leak instead of a burst pipe. But still, no matter how small or big, it comes at the worst possible time. I’m glad it can be fixed quickly and that you will return your office and living room as soon as possible.

I don’t mind the cold so much. I like it more than the sweltering summer temperatures. But then also it does not get as cold here as in other places. And I can be inside for 100% of the day if I want to.

The thing about moving is something I think about sometimes. I’ve moved around quite a bit. But all my moves were within 20km of each other. So, I always stayed in the area where I was born and grew up. I wonder how it would feel to move to a completely different place where you know nobody and don’t know the geography. I would feel totally lost and uprooted (“uprooted” is a strange word; “unrooted” would sound better – but that is a tangent ;-)). My wife took those steps as she moved into my region.

I love your idea of being “burned-out” of a location – it is not something I ever felt myself so far. But I can certainly imagine it could happen, especially when the surroundings change significantly due to external circumstances. I never felt much wanderlust (another lovely word ;-)) – actually, I’m starting to feel it now – but more for holidays than for moving my whole life to a different place. Not traveling much when I was younger is something I’ve come to regret in recent years. Now that I have a child, it is so much harder to do.

I need to remember the concept of “finding your pace.” I like it very much. And you can apply it to so much in life, not only sports. And it is undoubtedly a good thing to remember when you set goals. Focus on something other than the end result, but focus on how you can get there. By using a pace, you can keep up for a long time.

These letters helped me escape my bubble and the snail mail penpal habit I also started. It is just something different. And I can now write these emails without being nervous all the time. You should have seen me earlier that year when I wrote the first email to Jarrod!

I wish you (and your family a happy Christmas). I hope you can still enjoy the time, no matter the situation with the roof. And I now need to move some furniture around myself to set up our Christmas tree. Until the next email,

Cheers Chris

Hi Chris,

I’ve been avoiding responding, mostly because I feel pretty flustered and down. We continue to have water issues, and I’m having a lot of difficulty getting any help. Because of the holidays and bad weather we’ve had, it seems impossible to find someone to fix the source of the leak. In the meantime, our house is very loud, with blowers and dehumidifiers on every floor, very hot, and very messy. I like to start the New Year having spent some time decluttering and cleaning my slate for the year. I feel more cramped, cluttered, and uncomfortable at home than I have in a long time. It’s impacting my mood, and I was hoping to be a better one by the time I wrote our final letter.

I am thinking a lot about goals right now. It’s the end of the year, and I am seeking a theme. Last year it basically never came. I’ve been a bit knocked off my axis again at the end of this year, so I’m having trouble being introspective. I am having my own wanderlust, not for a place as well, but for a state of mind where I can feel a bit clearer and think about what I really want.

I hope you had a great holiday with family. I’m impressed you waited so long to setup your Christmas tree– around here it’s almost unheard of to go deep into December without fully embracing the season. We had a lot of folks visit prior to the holidays and get out of town around December 23rd. This meant we still got to have some restful time to ourselves, including taking a trip up to Philadelphia for a couple of days which was a welcome change of scenery.

Letters is nearly at an end. I have, I think, just one more set of these planned to go. I considered opening up all of 2024, but instead, I think I’m going to let this project live its 13 months and move on. Last year I started this project to do something fun and as part of creating a community, in a small way, on the internet. I missed blogs that responded to other blogs back and forth. And I read about the Republic of Letters and felt… well… jealous. I wanted to be a part of a network of people who shared interesting ideas with one another. Lofty for my short engagements with folks I mostly didn’t know.

So maybe what I should think about is not my theme for next year, but my next project. I want to continue to find ways to put the inter into the internet. I want to build a social web, but from the comfort of my own home there. I’m going to think a bit about how I can keep the spirit of this project going. Its format was rigid, but helpful to get at what I really want– to share ideas online in deeper conversation than the current model of social tools encourages.

I’m glad you’re no longer nervous writing these emails! I think that’s a sign that all of this is working. The best part of the weird web was always when we found each other.

Thanks for finding me.


December 30, 2023

I agree with everything in Why I’m skeptical of low-code. Nick Scialli’s four reasons are:

They wanted truly custom functionality that the low-code solution could not handle. They implemented a bunch of custom functionality in a product-specific or even proprietary language and now their pool of potential developer talent is tiny. Upgrades to the low-code platform would break their custom implementation. The underlying database structure was an absolute mess, especially after a bunch of incremental modifications.

I’ll add one more reason to be skeptical of low-code.

Low-code encourages executives to believe truly custom functionality is reasonable. When the first 80% works great and comes at nearly no cost, it’s easy to imagine that closing the gap that remains with custom functionality is worth it. In truth, low-code encourages customization. And customization is almost always bad ROI. If the process you’re using software to address is not your businesses core competency, anything but bog standard commercial-off-the-shelf software should be looked at with great skepticism.

Organizations should use the “good enough” solution built somewhere else for anything other than their core business differentiators.

December 27, 2023

Uber burst onto the scene as a “major transportation disruptor,” vowing to eliminate private car ownership, introduce self-driving vehicles, and revolutionize transportation. But first, they needed to illegally break up a taxi cartel, providing massively subsidized car services in locations and at times that could not possibly be profitable. They also needed to screw workers.

A decade later, ride-sharing hasn’t evolved significantly since its launch. Costs have risen as consumers now pay the actual marginal cost of their rides. hasn’t undergone a transformative shift, but we do have a slightly better taxi system.

In a conversation with my friend Jake today, it struck me that the current landscape of “AI” mirrors this trajectory. The current crop of large language models are promising to disrupt work and change the whole world. It’s cheap for end users due to massive subsidies. Models are being built off of likely illegal practices.

In ten years, I expect that LLMs won’t be that much more useful than they are today. Using these AI services will be much more expensive, because we will no longer have queries massively subsidized. Work won’t have changed that much, but some select jobs and industries will be permanently impacted. We will end up with marginally better technology. We probably could have achieved similar outcomes without breaking the law, with less negative impact on workers, and less wealth creation and destruction. 1

  1. Because there will be a boom and bust as Silicon Valley moves capital to fuel a new bubble. Although, this time, it seems established companies may fuel investment as much as venture funds. ↩︎

This morning I wrote off the cuff about how OpenAI and Uber are similar. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I still like the comparison. 1 But all day I’ve been thinking about a few things that are worth noting that are quite different between ride sharing and the current crop of AI companies.

Ride sharing did not represent any meaningful technological innovations. It required the smart phone and a host of other technologies, but absent the promises of self-driving, the actual “innovation” in ride sharing was a business model innovation. The promise was always that technological innovation would come, but in the meantime, it was having all drivers be contractors and forcing them to pay the capital costs of a vehicle fleet that made ride sharing more than just a marketplace with maps and routing.

Large language models do represent a technological innovation. The last 10-20 years really has seen a change in how we work with huge amounts of unstructured data and are more than just collecting larger corpuses of data and productizing known methods. Sure, many folks building LLMs and other machine learning-driven products are resting on the shoulders of a huge corpus of academic work, but I think there is significantly more technology involved.

Ride sharing asked us to believe that a huge technological innovation would make it profitable and cost effective– namely self-driving vehicles. There was plenty of hype and prediction, much of it from outside of ride sharing, that this future was just around the corner. And although some (many, myself included) doubted we were so close to true self-driving, the valuations demanded by ride sharing companies required this innovation.

Current AI companies don’t necessarily require a huge breakthrough to have a better cost structure. They need compute and storage to go down in price, which it has for decades and this trend will likely continue, even if it slows. That makes the models of today cost effective tomorrow. Where AI companies do need to see innovation is in the effectiveness of models themselves. Can LLMs and similar models make big leaps over their current implementations without requiring significantly more data and energy to produce and then operate? I think that’s an open question. If I’m right, LLMs will not get much better. It will take an increasingly large amount of data and compute to build models that are barely better than what we have today. I am not convinced there’s a new innovation, like GPT models themselves, that are just around the corner that will produce better results and products with similar costs. This means that while the marginal costs of training a model and a query may come down, those models will be not much more effective than what we have today. And that’s assuming the courts decide that scraping huge amounts of “public” data remains viable.

Ride sharing was subsidized for consumers by both investors and workers. We got cheap rides because people who drive cars for work now have to pay for them. Drivers could more efficiently find passengers, but I doubt that improvement closed the gap on capital investments. Plus, our rides were cheap because investors didn’t care about profits.

AI doesn’t just benefit the companies that are making it and those that are investing in it. As users, we get more surplus from ChatGPT or generative fill than we do ordering a Lyft versus a cab. AI can help its users be more productive and enable us to do things we could not do before. This may be generating significantly more surplus value.

Which is connected to the most important, final comparison:

Ride sharing didn’t really enable new abilities. Mostly it expanded an experience and capability that existed in some places to new places.

LLMs do, I think, provide some unique experiences. Although we’ve had grammar checkers, chat bots, natural language interfaces, and various forms of autocomplete, etc. What’s new is powering this all from one set of machinery and getting best in class or near best in class results. I also think that tools like Midjourney and Adobe’s AI-based autofill are quite astonishing. This was not something that existed meaningfully before.

This is where I have the most optimism should for AI tech– there are some new experiences and capabilities here. There’s a real chance that a broad set of people will be able to do their work a little better and a little easier than before. This does have the potential to be valuable to society, but also, importantly, individuals who should be willing to pass on some of that surplus value in the form of profits to AI companies.

Ride sharing was a lot more smoke and mirrors. AI has substance. That doesn’t mean I think their trajectory will look much different– both had their boom, and I suspect both will have their bust. But I admit, I do think AI will have more lasting impact and a softer landing.

  1. I take the most license with the word just in the title. But it was meant to be a provocative title. ↩︎

Oh, wow. Matt Birchler wrote a response to my post this morning about OpenAI. Awesome to see a blog I follow respond to something I wrote.

A couple of quick responses to his disagreement. Matt wrote:

I’d actually disagree quite a bit here. Ride hailing is exponentially better than it was 10 years ago, and we’d be shocked how bad it was compared to today if we were teleported back then.

Maybe my recollection is off. But I started using Uber/Lyft probably closer to 8 or 9 years ago– so maybe a decade was wrong– and I remember an experiencing virtually indistinguishable from today. If anything, my wait times were less and so were the prices. At least from the perspective of a frequent business traveler, my experience remains the same as it ever was– land in a new city, take out my phone, call rides that arrive in a mostly reasonable amount of time, go wherever I need to go. I just pay more and wait longer now than I did pre-COVID.

Especially if we agree that LLMs won’t get meaningfully smarter, that means using the local models that Google has already announced for Android and Apple is clearly working on for iOS/macOS will be more viable, and will be completely free to run as much as you want.

I think this is fair and I think my follow up post better explains my thoughts. What I really mean is that our current models are about as good as we’ll see at low cost. If LLMs can get better at all, I expect the better models to remain expensive. So I think my original piece combined two predictions in a way that was unclear. I think better models will require significantly more cost and energy, if we can achieve them at all, because I think there is no technological breakthrough that will reduce that cost. In other words,

Basically, I think if LLMs do get exponentially more useful, then server-side models that cost significant sums of money to run will continue to be prominent. But if they plateau in usefulness, then most people will run models locally on their devices most of the time because they’ll be quicker, more private, and basically just as good. And remember that our phones and computers are getting faster every year, so these LLMs will constantly run better and better than before.

I agree with this. If they get more useful, they will cost a lot of money. Today’s models will get cheap enough.

December 26, 2023

I was supposed to start allergy shots back in October. I called two weeks after my appointment like the instructions said and got a nasty person on the line who said they’d notify me when the shots were ready. I just got a bill that claims my insurance has already paid almost $2000 for allergy shots I’m not getting and that I owe $30.

I have never received any follow up. They were on my list of calls to make this week. I decided to not call for about 6 weeks after they were so nasty the first time.

The date my serum was supposedly prepped? The day I called to see when I was supposed to come in for the shots.

I guess that’s something I’ll probably be starting next week.

December 25, 2023

I have grand plans for tomorrow, hopefully starting with the remediation crew coming in the morning, telling us that my office and mother-in-law’s room are both dry enough to remove the blowers and dehumidifiers. I assume they will move on to ripping up my dining room and running all the equipment in there.

By then, I hope a roofing company will have picked up the phones and scheduled time to come repair the cause of the leaks ASAP so I can have a reconstruction crew come and fix things.

Meanwhile, Elsa will have gotten Brandy an coveted, expensive, appointment with the dog groomers.

Because we completed all this in the morning and everyone is out the door, we can head out and buy a new range hood.

Lastly, I’ll pack for our two-night away Philly-cation.

Oh, and maybe I’ll finish the last book for my reading goal.

December 22, 2023

I used to be a great teacher. I tutored all throughout high school and college. It was my primay source of income ($25 an hour, cash, don’t tell the government). Early in my career, I was great at this as well. Sometime over the last five years or so, I’ve felt my ability to communicate complex ideas to non-experts dwindling. I spend so much time time in the weeds and so much time talking to other experts and so much time thinking about hard problems that I’ve totally lost site of the scaffolding.

The last couple of years, I find myself often saying that I don’t know how to teach somethig. I am constantly saying something like, “I’m not really sure how I learned this; I lack the meta-cognition to know how to teach this.”

I am really unhappy with this state of affairs. Being an effective communicator across technical and non-technical audiences is a key skill in my line of work. And while I’m not yet bad at my job because of this, spending ten years at the same company and working in the same domain has had a narrowing effect.

I want to recover my ability to build up information from first principles. I want to be able to teach foundational knowledge that I find valuable.

I don’t know that writing will help, and I hate making end-of-year pronouncements about future writing, but to hell with it. This year, I hope to write at least a few blog posts that are informative about complex topics. I want to exercise that muscle of not just demonstrating expertise but transmitting it. I need to break through the combination of perfectionism and an expert’s eye to be helpful again to others. I need to break down what I know in a way that is accessible to a non-expert.

December 20, 2023

Hello Jason,

I’m near the top of Mount Rigi as I reply. I’m now on my Christmas holidays and managed to carve out some time to go on a solo mountain holiday (thanks to my wife for allowing that). Unfortunately, the weather is not good. And I was the only person making it to the top (I’ve attached two images from the top - you may publish them with the letter). But I’m not on the mountain to sit outside anyway :-). I hoped to relax, reflect on the year, and write a bit – sometimes, it works better outside of home. But so far, I have not yet written much. Now I sit in the small restaurant beside the railway station on the mountain.

The US being a lot more in the south compared to Europe is also something I forget. But geography is not really a strong suit of mine :-D. I just wondered what the most northerly destination I visited so far. And it must have been Cologne (in Germany). I’ve only been to the US once (for a WWDC), so I’ve seen mostly the conference center and only a little of the country. I’ve enjoyed SF and want to get back at some point. However, there are so many places to go, and I’m unsure when I will manage it. We also have Japan on our list of destinations. We planned to go in the Spring before the pandemic. That did not happen for obvious reasons.

I have the feeling that many companies have downsized their offices now. There is just no need for offices anymore – at least in the computer sciences jobs. And I’m also with you that the company needs to live a remote-first culture for it to work. Luckily, we are small at the moment, and I hope that I can influence the culture in such a way as we grow.

How was moving 375 miles? If I tried that, I would land in a different country, so it would be a significant change (and depending on the direction I move, I would need to learn a new language as well ;-)).

I’m quite the opposite regarding habits; I tend to have compulsive behavior when I’m not careful. Luckily, I now know and understand some of the signs that trigger this so that I can work against it.

It is interesting with the swimming, and I was exhausted at the beginning with the 500m than I’m now with the 1000m. It is a question of the pacing, and I have now found the sweet spot where I can swim it at a usable tempo but also not go quite to my limit. And having done it now for most of the year also helps :-). I’ve lost track of how many books I have read this year. Only a few, I think (compared to other years). I planned on reading three books per month, but I was below that. It was more like two books per month. One of the reasons was that I switched to reading more nonfiction, which takes more time. And then taking notes and thinking about what you learn makes for a slower read. On the upside, it makes the reading more conscious and intentional. It feels less like fast food.

Another big goal was changing my workplace and starting the swimming habit. I don’t know what I want to do next year. One big topic is to be more open about others and be less in my bubble.

I wrote the text above yesterday. The weather is much better today, and I’m back at the top of the mountain. I am sitting in the same restaurant and enjoying my time.

cheers Chris

Hi Chris,

Things have been pretty hectic so it took me a few days to get back to you. While I’m not yet off from work for the holiday, I do already have a rotating cast of family staying with us. Unfortunately, I also had the return of some leaking in the house from severe wind and rain. I’m currently without an office, and soon our dining room will get torn apart as well. Things seem to be moving faster with both mitigation and repair than last time, but it’s a big unexpected expense and a big unexpected mess during a time where it’d be nice for things to slow down and go smoothly.

I want to say that the solo mountain holiday is exactly what this calls for, but seeing those pictures just makes me feel cold.

Moving was interesting. This is the third place I’ve spent a substantial amount of time living. My parents still live in the house they bought before I was born, but I went about 200 miles away for college and stuck around for some time afterwards before this move. It definitely broke a lot of my social groups and connections. I felt, for some time, less connected to where I lived than I ever had before. In some ways that was nice– you can burn out on places like you can with jobs, at least as far as I can tell. I loved where I was living, but I was “burned out” on it, in some ways. I think it’s taken the full seven or so years I’ve been here for it to start to feel like home. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have a little bit of wanderlust again, but I doubt I’ll be going somewhere else soon.

I think there is something to think about in “finding your pace” in a sense. You found yourself at a pace that you can swim, and a pace that you can read. A lot of the times we set goals rather than set a pace.

I hope that these letters are a small start to getting out of your bubble! I also don’t quite know what’s the goal for next year, but I’m glad that this year I’m feeling introspective and thinking about it. Last year, I really struggled to think about what I wanted and I think that led to a year that was a bit less grounded and focused than I would have liked.

Being “evicted” from my damaged office is leaving me unmoored this week. But hopefully I’ll have something to grab onto in January.


Two plastic sheets covering most of my office, with walls in the back corner with substantial portions of drywall removed. There are blue blowers and dehumidifiers in the center of the room

December 10, 2023

Hi Jason,

I just realized you were in Europe on holiday :-) How was Paris? It has been quite some while since I last was there. It would be nice to go there again (and it is pretty near – only four hours by train, I think). But then I would need to speak French, and I’m not good at it at all :-D Did you get around well with English?

Wow, that is a long time at the same place. I can not quite compete on that point; I was in my ninth year at the old workplace. There was also a lot of change, but I had more personal change and development in the end. So, I needed something new. And I also wanted to switch to product development compared to agency/consulting work.

Volleyball is fun, but it would not work for me to do regularly – too much social responsibility – which is one reason I like swimming. I can do it alone. But I also like being in the water. It is easy to do, and you can think about stuff while swimming. I don’t need to look outside so much compared to running. And I don’t only use my legs, which is also good, as I have a lot of tension in my arms and shoulders from being at the computer all the time. I started with around 500m at the beginning of the year, and now I’m up to 1000m, which was my unofficial goal for this year. Right now, I need around 30 minutes for it.

It is interesting how sometimes you don’t want to be alone with your brain – I also have this. But it got less so over the past few years (as my mental health got up again). But I’m used to being in my world inside of my brain. And it helps me when my body is doing something physical simultaneously. I struggle with classical meditation, where I must sit still and not think. There is so much going on in my brain at all times :-) Luckily, there is more positive stuff now again.

It is interesting how you can use them as a journal. I was initially using my blog as a journal as well. But when I started to write morning pages, I managed to move some of the stuff to a private place. I can use my blog again more for intentional writing – right now, I’m still trying my hand at fiction writing. But it did not go well this quarter. I was too distracted by the new job and the migraine battle.

Although the workshop was fun, I was much more nervous than I should have been, and I’m still trying to figure out why. I need to work on my pacing; I should have rehearsed it at least once. But at least everybody is not up to date on “Cybersecurity.” They think a bit more about strange emails they receive and ask me whether I made another test with them.

And speaking about work. I’ve seen that you work in a fully remote company. Was this an intentional decision for you to not work in an office? I assume that you were doing this already before the pandemic. I’ve only switched to remote work with the pandemic now. And I would not want to do it any other way. Unfortunately, I have already started to feel the pull of the office as most of my coworkers are in the office regularly. But I don’t want to. Having 100% remote work in my contract is one of the perks of the new position!

Cheers Chris

Hi Chris,

We were fine with mostly English, though we stayed largely in central parts of the city and my partner Elsa does speak French (and Spanish) fluently. I am unsure how I would have felt without her and zero French to fall back on, but I think overall the city was more welcoming to me as a very obvious American than I expected. It was my first time in Paris, and the furthest north I’ve been in Europe (probably pretty close to as far north as I’ve ever been, now that I think about it – most Americans, myself included, don’t remember just how far south we are compared to Europe).

I work with quite a few people who grew tired of agency work and wanted to build a product. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone leave to go back to agency work who had that experience, but I haven’t had a conversation in some time about the advantages or disadvantages with any of my employees. Most of them tired of not getting to influence what they built, of feeling like they did a less good job because clients only wanted to pay to make something work, not make it last and all of that. But I also suspect that swimming in the problems of your own past decisions doesn’t always feel good– I know I’m constantly in a state of frustration with my past self.

Allovue has always been at least partially remote. When I started, I lived in Providence, Rhode Island about 375 miles from where I live now and where our “home office” was. We had a few team members in the Baltimore area, but we always had a few remote. Some of us travel quite a bit for work, and even the folks from Baltimore often worked from home at least a few days per week. Over time as we grew, the team was almost never majority Baltimore based. So as a result, we were always a “remote first” workforce. We had an office, and use ebbed and flowed. Some teams were a bit more locally-based, others more likely to be remote. In the end, with less than a third of the company in Baltimore, we had way more office than we needed. 2020 was year four of a five year lease and we were already contemplating downsizing the office or radically reconfiguring it. We actually subleased most of our space. But COVID was the clear end of in office work for us– we actually got out of our lease early because another tenant wanted our space, and we never seriously considered having space again. We now have a small room in a co-working space that we mostly use as climate controlled storage. It also gives us access to a conference room for times when that makes sense to use.

I was probably one of the folks who used the office most, even though I travel a lot. I moved to Baltimore about 7 years ago for various reasons (I needed to move, and work and my best friend being here made Baltimore the right choice). My first year here I didn’t have any office space at home, so it was pretty important for me to go in. But once I bought a house in the city and space for a home office, it became less important.

I think remote work has to be a priority to actually work. I don’t think you can be a part of a small percentage of people doing it.

I’ve never done morning pages– I’m not a morning person and can’t even really generate a morning routine, unless you count staying in bed too long, then staying in the hot shower too long, then begrudgingly starting my day. But for some time I was writing in a journal at night. I would write the things I got done, then reflect a bit on work and my personal life. I’d write how I was feeling in just a few sentences, then rank the day. It helped me when I needed it, but for some reason didn’t last long.

While I am a person that likes certain comforts and consistency, I don’t know that I have a lot of habits. I think I view a lot of habits as things that are almost compulsions. They don’t stick. But there are times where I can use a … short term habit (which, this feels like totally not a thing) to break out of a certain thought pattern or rut.

Letters-as-journal for me really just means that writing a letter like this at the pace I write them creates time for a kind of introspection and retrospection that I don’t normally have. I don’t let out thoughts that are diary level private, but it’s also not quite a log. That’s why I settled on journal.

Constraints change outcomes. I didn’t want to get too deep into my own head, so I wanted to write in public. I wanted to write letters to slow down the pace of today’s “common” internet interactions. I thought it would build a different kind of communication, and it has. And I wanted to mostly talk to strangers so that the topics would keep me on my toes. That’s worked too.

Congrats on hitting your 1000M goal! Thirty minutes sounds both short enough to be manageable and utterly exhausting. I’m about to start book 29 for the year. I have a very modest goal of 30 books this year– the least I’ve read since 2018– and I hope I’ll hit it. What other goals did you have for this year? As we fast approach 2024, what are your goals for next year?


December 3, 2023

This month I’ll be chatting with Chris

Hi Jason,

I was looking forward to December – not only for the start of my turn in the letter wiring – but also as it marked a year of change for me. So today, when I’m writing this letter to you, I’m a pretty different person than earlier in the year when I signed up. And that is for the good :-)

One of the biggest changes I made this year was switching my job. It took so much courage to take the step and go from something known - and not all bad - to something new and unknown. On the other hand, I’ve started to do sports regularly, and that would not be a sentence you heard from me last year. Chris is a computer nerd, and they do not do sports ;-). So I started swimming this year, and I quite enjoy it.

It is early morning right now when I write these words (6:00), and I soon need to start work. I’m conducting a “Cybersecurity” Workshop for my co-workers today. I hope all goes well. It is quite the change now that I’m in a company where I’m currently the only “computer guy.” It is funny how you can’t rely on a common body of terms everybody knows or a “common culture.” I don’t know how to describe that, but we all had the same background and knew the same stuff at the old place.

It is good for me to stretch again and navigate some uncharted waters. Having the same background is not necessarily all good – it makes for an easy life – but not for the best solutions. This also fits perfectly into the theme of change I have for this year: be more open to the world.

So, how was your year? Did the regular writing with strangers change something?

Looking forward to your reply, Chris

Hi Chris,

Switching jobs is a big change! One I haven’t made in almost a decade. It’s crazy to think that April 2014 was the last time I had a different employer. And while what I do and everything around me has changed a lot, I still have worked for Allovue for as long as I went to college, high school, and middle school combined. Wow.

A couple of years back I started playing volleyball again, and it has been a huge boost to my mental health. I’m glad you’re enjoying the swimming! What is it that you feel attracts you to swimming, specifically? I haven’t really done it in a long time, but I know how exhausting laps can be. And quiet. I’m not sure I could sit in my head for that long… or swim for that long, for that matter. How much swimming do you do when you go? Something tells me that even in my best shape, 15 to 20 mins would be all I could do.

Writing with strangers has been a highlight of the year. For one, it’s caused me to stop and think about what I’m doing and where I am a lot more than I usually do. Reintroducing myself, digging into different parts of my state of mind and what’s happening has been a form of forced reflection that is sometimes absent. In many ways, these letters are a better journal than any journal I’ve ever kept.

Let me know how your workshop went! Did you feel you were able to communicate effectively? Make it fun?

And now that we’re at the end of the year… what are your plans for next year?


November 29, 2023
November 21, 2023

Via @jarrod, originally from Kev Quirk:

🔗 When Was the Last Time Tech Blew Your Mind? // Kev Quirk

The first time I sent an email was really cool. The performance and battery life of my M1 Mac was (is) very impressive; far better than any laptop I’ve ever had before. But I’m not talking about impressive. I’m talking about the kind of impression that makes you say, “holy shit, that’s fucking incredible!”

For me, it was the Vision Pro introduction. The interaction model, the visuals, and the use cases were utterly compelling, and the raw technology necessary left me astonished. Can’t wait.

Kev’s bar is pretty dang high– the first time he saw text messaging? I have had my mind absolutely blown multiple times since then. Off the top of my head:

  1. The iPod Nano (more than the original iPod– I had a Archo Jukebox and knew what carrying a harddrive was like)
  2. The iMac G4
  3. The first time I saw the Compiz rotating cube when switching desktops on Linux
  4. Opening a bash terminal on Mac OS X
  5. Retina displays, but especially when they came to Mac
  6. HDTV, and then again with OLED and 4K.
  7. The iPhone– literally everything about the iPhone through the iPhone 5, and then again around the time of the iPhone Xish when the cameras got truly great. I remember watching cyberpunk anime in the 90s that invisaged things like the iPhone and an always connected internet and thinking that the beige computer in my household den with a dial up modem would never fit in my pocket– not in my lifetime.
  8. TouchID and FaceID
  9. Distributed version control systems

I could go on and on.

A ton has happened in my life time that absolutely blew my mind. Most of the time, I suspect Kev might look at the above and say “something like this could have been imagined before it existed.” That’s true! I did imagine some of this! But also, most of these things executed something I had a fictional version of in my mind that I thought was impossible– and then the real world out did that.

Jarrod, on the other hand, seems to have a bar that’s a bit low for me. I might be blown away by the Vision Pro. I kind of hope I am. But I find it hard to get excited about things I haven’t touched. Maybe that’s because I read far too much Popular Science as a kid and a lot of what I have expected to see in the world never shipped.

But what’s my actual answer?

I had to think for a bit. Funny enough, I think both of the experiences that come to mind are Apple Watch related, even though I think it’s my least important device.

The first was using Apple Pay from my Apple Watch. Double tap, no phone in sight, fastest payment experience I’ve ever had at a store. The second is using my Apple Watch with a Home Key lock. Just raise my wrist, no other input necessary, and my door opens, fast. Small, delightful, fast interactions with the physical world seem to be the technology innovations today that feel the most impressive.

November 12, 2023

The Marvels misfire is about the rusting of a platinum brand that’s in need of some serious –not polishing, rather, resurfacing.

I think this is spot on, though I disagree with much of what’s written in Deadline about The Marvels’ disappointing box office.

Disney flooded the zone with crap to get Disney+ up and running. Both Star Wars and Marvel have been deeply, creatively mismanaged. Ms. Marvel was a treasure, and absolutely among the best shows on Disney+. But like Andor, being surrounded by mediocrity is not a recipe for audience success.

And so The Marvels comes out with characters that lack the audience they should have, amidst a series of movies and TV shows that were just not worth watching, to an audience that has been taught it’s ok to wait, without any actor support due to the strike.

Unfortunately, the most likely outcome is Disney learns the wrong lessons here.

Now that Mint is shutting down, there are tons of articles being written about budgeting and wealth tracking apps and services. None of them work well for how my partner and I manage our split expenditures.

For example, you can only have one active Chase account connection– but what if I have a personal Chase card and we have join Chase cards with a different account? (we do).

There is no concept of “income” coming from contributions she makes to our joint accounts– they look like bank account transfers from accounts I don’t have access to, because they are.

There is no setting up as some expenses as shared versus individual, which is an important distinction in my own budgeting– this is what we agree to spend together on restaurants and groceries is not the same as some additional food-related expenses I have in my own budget to track.

Often, there is no great way to setup things like “this is a reimbursable work expense and that’s the reimbursement for that expense”.

I don’t think that my setup is all that unique.

Elsa and I have our income go into our personal accounts. We transfer a set amount of money to a join checking account each month. We use joint credit cards for joint expenses (and sometimes direct payments from our joint checking account). We have a modest joint savings and brokerage account. Separately, we each manage our own personal credit cards and finances made up of “whatever is left”. And because I travel for work and sometimes use my own cards, I have some expenses that are for work and reimbursed later (directly into my savings account).

A full picture of my wealth and expenses needs to understand this blending. I need to be able to construct a joint budget and a personal budget each month. I need to understand our joint assets and liabilities as shared, and my personal assets and liabilities as 100% on me.

Everything out there assumes fully integrated or fully segregated financials. This seems bonkers to me.

I’d build it myself, but honestly, we are pretty responsible with our money and the marginal value of budget or wealth tracking software is pretty modest in our lives. Still, it’s frustrating that so few applications seem to have a concept of family finances that seems obvious to me.

November 10, 2023

I’ve been watching this go around a bunch and though, “My Uses page covers this,” but Matt Birchler’s emoji use and a rainy holiday means I’m in.

So here are my “defaults” in 2023– of course, it’s Top Four rules, meaning there can be more than one support.

  • ✉️ Mail service: Fastmail (personal), Gmail (work)
  • 📬 Mail client(s): Mimestream on Mac (work), Apple Mail everywhere else
  • ✅ Tasks: Things 3 (barely, mostly paper based)
  • 📰 RSS service: Feedbin
  • 🗞️ RSS client: Reeder
  • ⌨️ Launcher: Alfred
  • ☁️ Cloud storage: iCloud (barely… I really don’t do this)
  • 🌅 Photo library: iCloud
  • 🤳🏻 Photo editing: Apple Photos
  • 🌐 Web browser: Safari
  • 📆 Calendar: Fantastical
  • 📖 Reading: Reeder/Kindle/Apple News
  • 🌤️ Weather: Carrot Weather
  • 🎙️ Podcasts: Overcast
  • 🎶 Music: Apple Music
  • 🔐 Passwords: 1Password
  • 🐘 Mastodon: Ivory
  • 💁🏻 Other Social: Micro.blog, Instagram (too much), and Threads (a little)
  • 🖼️ Screenshots: CleanShot X
  • 📝 Notes: iA Writer (to the extent I do this… I’m not a notes person, and write a fair bit analog)
  • 🧮 Code Editor: neovim (but also Nova… which is creeping up and RStudio… which is creeping down)
  • 👨🏻‍💻 Terminal: iTerm2
  • ✈️ Flight tracking: Flighty
  • 📦 Package tracking: Parcel
  • 📓 Journaling: Day One
  • 🔃 Backup: Backblaze (☁️), Carbon Copy Cloner (🏠)
  • 👨🏻 💻 Blogging: MarsEdit