Weeknote w/e 13th March 2022

This week I have mostly been working – which is not, of course unusual. We did manage a trip out to Sissinghurst yesterday to see our friend Jen, who I haven’t had chance to meet up with since the start of the pandemic. There’s a lot of friends who fall into that category and if you are one of them, I apologise and will get round to you soon!

Last weekend we ventured out to the local Curzon to see The Batman. It’s long, but very, very good: a proper Batman detective story, rather than the gadget-laden superhero tale of Affleck’s DC Universe version. And Robert Pattinson is always worth watching: I thought he was one of the highlights of Tenet, too.

Working on my writing workflow

I’ve wanted to write more for a while, but one thing which has been stopping me is that my writing workflow has been an absolute mess. I’ve been doing a little work this week to tighten it up.

I’ve started using GoodLinks to collect together all the things that I’ve read during the week and which I think are worth sharing. I’ve really struggled with how to do this well: Matter (my current offline reading app of choice) isn’t great at collecting together stuff which might be quite short. I hate using bookmarks for this kind of thing. And Ulysses, which I used to use for a lot of writing, can collect links and has the advantage of using the iOS/MacOS share sheet but isn’t really designed for it.

GoodLinks on the other hand, is perfect for this. Not only can it function as a simple, but decent, offline reader, it includes comprehensive tagging which makes content much easier to find. The way I’m working with it is to save everything that I might want to read later to it, short and long. If I read it later and decide I definitely want to write something about it, I add a star – and once I have written about it, or included it in a weeknote like this one, I remove the star so I know it’s been used.

Posts at the moment usually start their life in one of two places: Roam Research, if it’s an idea which needs a lot of fleshing out; or Typora if it’s something I can start drafting straight away. Actually that’s not quite true: drafts or some kinds of writing start their life on the Freewrite, particularly if I’m trying to just get down something out of my head quickly. Posts which begin in Roam get exported as flat Markdown files for editing and polishing in Typora, then once I’m happy with them they are put into Ghost or WordPress.

Why Typora and not a Mac/iOS app like Ulysses or IA Writer? Partly that’s because I want something which works across platform, but it’s also because I now prefer to keep my writing as boring plain Markdown files in a simple folder structure, rather than an automatically synced iCloud location.

And Typora is lovely. It’s simple, unfussy, and it has a neat system which hides the Markdown until you click in it, which means it’s the best of both worlds between the “purist” editors which show you everything (messy) and the “simple” ones which hide everything (annoying if you want to edit the code). It’s available for Mac, Windows (both Intel and ARM) and Linux and I recommend it.


Links

You might have noticed Apple released a new Mac. The Mac Studio which uses the M1 Ultra is nearly a kilo heavier than its M1 Max sibling. That’s down to “a larger copper thermal module, whereas M1 Max has an aluminium heatsink” – in other words, twice the size equal twice the thermals.

Inside the Mac Studio is the M1 Ultra, which basically is a pair of M1 Max’s connected using a super-fast bus. Anandtech has a lot of good coverage.

Ryan Britt pointed out on Twitter that the M1 Ultra appears to the Metal API as a single graphics process, which means if you’re using Metal there’s no need to concern yourself with rewriting any code in order to take full advantage of it.

I missed this when it was first announced, but Huawei are producing an e-ink tablet called the Huawei MatePad Paper. It looks like it ticks all the boxes: high quality e-ink screen with backlighting, ability to take notes with a pen, and it mounts as a drive when connected to a computer so you can just drag and drop files to it. Pricey – €499 has been cited in some places – but if it delivers it could be a really good device.

Substack announced an app, and Adam Tinling does not like it one bit. I agree with Adam, and it’s one of the reasons that I moved my blog and email newsletter from Substack to Ghost. This put me in mind of Anil Dash’s piece on the broken tech/content culture cycle: Substack has resolutely refused to think about anything but the most cursory content moderation, and yet wants to be seen as a platform, with all the future financial benefits that accrue from ownership of the audience.

Michael Tsai recently wrote about how Google search is dying, and I largely agree: Google has become much less useful than it used to be. I think this is down to a set of algorithm changes that the company made last year which dramatically favoured large general news sites and local new sites over specialised information sources. The rationale behind this was explicitlly about rewarding publishers, and supporting local sources. But the result has been two fold. First, it’s crowded out higher-quality specialist information sources. Second, because local news sites are overweighted, it has rewarded them for writing generic SEO-driven articles, as their content ranks highly even for topic areas which aren’t local to them. It’s a real problem, but as with most thing Google-related, I expect them to rebalance it at some point.

This 14 year old post from Matt Webb reminded me just how broken the internet is. Follow the link to the formerly-excellent Atlas of the Universe, and you just got a for-sale parking domain. What is the solution to this?

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