Over the past week or so, I have been spending a lot more time reading blogs.
Upon reflection, I am trying to fill a specific hole in my life: I’m not having enough interesting discussions with smart people who have interesting things to say about things that I don’t know about.
That sentence seems a bit long, and maybe convoluted, but I think it is about right. The absence of it is grinding on me.
Prior to 2006, I think this mostly came from speaking to my parents. Being under 12, this was acceptable.
From 2006 to 2009, this mostly came from spending an inordinate amount of time on a old-school web forum that, while centered around a particular game, had a politically diverse, tight knit community who liked to talk about all sorts of things.
From 2009 to 2011, I had truly fantastic teachers and classmates as conversation partners at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida. In particular, three of my History teachers spent hundreds of hours in ‘study hall’ discussing all manner of things, ultimately teaching me much more than the State of Florida would’ve liked.
From 2011 to 2014, interesting discussions came from a combination of college classes (interesting, but outside of the mathematical classes, lacking), the University Economics Society at the University of Florida (light on economics, heavy on interesting discussion), and thousands of hours of discussion with Steve Spalding (@sbspalding) and Miguel Barbossa (@MiguelABarbossa, check out citizenaudit.org).
I graduated, I threw myself into my company, and then another. For a period in 2016, I got my fill from a wonderful private Facebook group. But like most communities, its moment ended; while it tided me over, after the 2016 election, the high quality discussion ended1.
Then, for three months in 2017, I had a taste of this again, hanging out with the wonderful Richard Stein in Hong Kong.
Given that for the majority of my life I’ve gotten most of my interesting discussion online, it shouldn’t be hard to reconstruct this.
But since 2014, the world has moved. Going through my old follow lists, many people are no longer active. Those who are active are posting less interesting (alternatively: less controversial) ideas in public spaces2.
I am resolved to rebuild. I’ve started by rejecting algorithmic aggregation3: I want to find content that makes me a better thinker and person, not content that monetizes well. The ‘indie web’ (we used to call it ‘the web’).
Here are the blogs that I find interesting and you should check out, along with a couple of keywords:
Dan Luu’s Blog: Low level programming, computer engineering, excellent essays about the market for technical talent.
DaedTech: Mostly commentary on navigating freelance technology roles; excellent writing.
Ben Kuhn: I’ve not read the archives, but general technology, effective altruism.
Decibels and Decimals, Brady Fowler’s music / data sci blog; not super active but every post is a delight.
Brute Reason, social justice, social issues.
Ribbonfarm, tech, culture, deep thinking
Evan Miller, statistics, programming. I love his post on dealing with floating point exponentiation when plotting the F distribution
If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them. Please reach out.
I’m also looking to correspond with people who want to discuss whatever is interesting to them at the moment. Please reach out.
My assessment is the very real consequences of the 2016 election made discussing politics just a little too serious.↩
I’m not sure if this is sampling bias, or just natural attrition. The number of blogs I used to follow that no longer provide RSS, or switched to Medium, then died, is too high, though.↩
For now, feedly is working well - it appears to have a quasi-magical ability to subscribe to some sites that don’t have an RSS feed↩