Jason Becker
January 29, 2024

I think it’s a sign of my age that most of the new “bangers” I discover each week come from my Chill Mix on Apple Music.

January 28, 2024

One thing I’ve learned time and time on the internet is people have some really wild opinions. Even professionals with real expertise in an area can come to wildly different conclusions about things that seem objective and not just a matter of preferences or taste.

January 27, 2024

I keep getting older, and the text size on Daring Fireball keeps staying the same.

Max and Prime routinely just fail to transmit video due to HDCP/DRM/something crap. I have a modern TV and receiver (both from the last 5-6 years), new HDMI cables (this year), and a Apple TV 4K (one generation behind). This is just absurd.

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.

Jason

January 22, 2024
January 21, 2024

The NY Times crossword is just too hard for me. I can normally do Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The Apple News+ crosswords are all in the realm where I can complete them. When I see some people’s NY Times Sunday crossword times it blows my mind.

January 20, 2024

Finally had the time to watch The Abyss (which I bought day one it was available in 4K).

Now that’s a movie.

January 18, 2024

I had been looking forward to going to bed for hours, as I was just totally exhausted. Of course I’ve been in bed for an hour now and cannot fall asleep. Sigh. I’ve had two weeks of very healthy sleep so I really can’t complain.

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.

The problem of dual staircases is one I first learned about in planning nerd circles maybe 4 years ago. Mind blowing how much handbooks developed decades ago and non-governmental bureaucracies impact housing costs and safety. It’s the same story in transportation.

Has there ever been a better example of Apple falling prey to a strategy tax than releasing Apple Vision Pro with anemic support from major apps while also announcing their ham fisted external linking rules?

I say this as someone who has 0 interest in sideloading.

January 16, 2024

Nilay Patel blogging about Framing a Frame TV, while funny, is mostly interesting to me because it shows off the success (in my opinion) of The Verge’s redesign. This content should be on The Verge and not just Nilay’s personal social feed!

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.

I understand folks being upset about high grocery prices. I understand how that impacts perceptions of the economy. But it’s ridiculous both the right and the left are saying that unemployment is a problem.

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.

Jason


  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. ↩︎

I wish we had more snow, but it was enough for us to get that special quiet.

January 14, 2024

If I had but one goal for my blog, it would be to one day be worthy of inclusion in blogrolls and people’s “what should I be reading?” list. But in truth, posting about 90% short posts and about no particular topic almost certainly dooms that goal.

Used my sunglassess as a UV filter for this photo.

Sunsetting behind an alleyway with crisscrossing power lines overhead and a park in the distance.