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There are two types of people at the poker table, generally. First there are the sharks. They stay quiet and occasionally make comments about the game that intimidate amateur players by revealing just how much they're thinking about. The second group are normal people who are there to have a good time.
Through hours of listening to the second group, I've noticed how different the things are that "normal" people think about, and people like me think about. I'll loosely define "normal" people as people whose lives are dominated by things they HAVE to do, vs. people whose lives are dominated by things they WANT to do.
I thought it might be interesting for people who haven't made the switch to independence to hear what sorts of things rattle around our minds.
You know when I was the most productive? The day before I started writing about how productive I was. You know when I was the least productive? About a week after that. You know where I am now? Still trying to get back to the pinnacle.
What went wrong? I started to believe not that I was producing, but that I was a productive person. I'm a man, and it takes no maintenance to stay that way. I'm American, and it takes no effort to remain american. Those are things I am. But producing is something I do. I'm productive when I'm producing, and I'm no longer productive when I stop. There's upkeep involved.
When I write a blog post about how productive I am, and it is received well, I see myself in a different light. I shouldn't, but before my conscious could grab ahold of it, my subconscious granted me the title of Productive Person.
So I started slacking. Not a lot, but enough to notice. Rather than pushing myself to not browse Reddit all day, I'd take a break here and there. Instead of pushing through from 11pm to midnight, I'd cut out early and waste time for the last hour of my day. I downloaded a chess game for my phone and would play a few games per day, rationalizing that it's an intelligent game, so learning how to play was a good idea. But that's not why I played-- I played to escape the pressure of hard work. Twelve hours of honest work shrunk down to six or eight hours of work stretched to a twelve to fourteen hour window.
There are three items I own which I'll always upgrade when a significant upgrade exists: my computer, my camera, and my Kindle. Yesterday I got my new Kindle, the fourth generation one that was just released. Before I talk about this specific Kindle, I want to address some general points about the Kindle.
Some people balk at the $189 price tag of the newest 3G Kindle (which is the only one to buy, by the way). It's expensive, but only if you consider it a drop in replacement for books. I consider it $200 to ensure that I read at least 10X more than I used to.
For the last year or so I've been working on something big, which I've been stubbornly keeping a secret. I know that this has been annoying to readers, but I felt that skirting around the issue was slightly better than avoiding it altogether. Of course, it's also been hard for me to keep it a secret, since I really love talking about what I'm working on.
We're not done yet, but the light at the end of the tunnel is in view, so I figure it's probably a good time to introduce what we've been building.
The project is called SETT, and it's a new blogging platform. Over the next few weeks I'm going to talk more about what specifically we're doing, but first I want to talk about the problems we're solving.
Bloggers care about one thing: audience. We want to reach as many people as possible, and we want to connect with them in a meaningful way. None of the current blogging platforms are optimized for either of these goals.
On Tuesday night my friend Brian and I tried out a new restaurant in Tokyo. An Izakaya is a tiny bar that also serves food, popular with Salarymen. Usually the food is huddled way over on the unhealthy end of the spectrum, but we found a macrobiotic one with good reviews. We sat there bemoaning how difficult it is to find places in Tokyo. Streets don't have names and the address system is a bit confusing. The conversation moved on to talking about how difficult it is to express a location to someone. GPS coordinates are awkward, google maps links can't be sent by SMS or over the phone, and not everywhere has an address. Even some addresses are confusing enough that they get miscommunicated. And how do you concisely give someone the exact location for "that bridge in the middle of the park"?
Is there a better way, we wondered? Could a location be expressed in just a short string of characters?
As I walked home, my mind was churning trying to figure out just how short of a string I could pack any location on earth into. As soon as I got home I visited wolframalpha.com, using it for a legitimate purpose for the very first time.
I hadn't seen Mystery in half a year or so. Lots to catch up on.
"How have you been?"
Sunday night was a scary time for me. After more than a year of work, SETT was ready to be deployed on Tynan.com. Well, maybe not "ready", exactly, but I was sick of putting it off. One line in a configuration file was changed, and my site switched from WordPress to SETT. And then... nothing happened. This was encouraging. The server didn't melt (although there is definitely some optimization that needs to be done), and importantly, most new visitors to my site didn't realize that anything was unusual. Eventually a few people realized that things were different and left feedback. Now, with five days of history, SETT is actually functioning as envisioned. It's an amazing experience to watch our baby start to crawl. Before I get into the details of what makes SETT unique and how to best use it, a quick disclaimer: this is alpha level software. Some parts of it are extremely polished and functional, while others are barely usable (person to person messaging, for example). Right now I don't need bug reports, because I already have a huge list of bugs that I'm working through. What I would LOVE from you is feedback on the experience. What is confusing? Where do you get stuck? What do you hate? What do you like? When designing SETT, we tried to consider the various groups of users that interact with a blog, and how to best serve them. For example, most of my readers are casual readers who stop by, read some posts, and leave. I want their experience to be nearly identical to any other blog-- there shouldn't be any new terminology or steps that they have to go through. The only changes we've made on the reader side are a wide content area for media like images and videos, well formatted text, and (for logged in users) indicators for whether or not they've read a post. For the average casual reader, this is a marginal improvement over a normal blog. Most of SETT's ambition lies with community members. I believe that until now, dedicated readers have been marginalized. I think that out of the 12,000 or so readers I have, there are hundreds who would love to be an important part of the community surrounding this blog, but aren't currently offered any tools to do so. All SETT blogs have two sides to them: the front page and the community view. If you go back to the main page of this blog (click the header at the top) and then click "community" in the action bar, you'll see the posts that have been created by members of the community. This is similar to a forum or message board. Unlike a forum, I can promote any post to the front page with a single click. That's how Brian's post about Pina got there. Besides creating original content, you can also vote things up or down. If you login or register for an account, you'll see voting arrows next to every post. Your votes help new readers see what this blog's best posts are, filter out spam, and indicate to me which community posts I should consider promoting to the front page. There's a lot more that's new with SETT, but I'll keep this short(ish) and let you explore. If you want to help SETT develop, please vote on stuff, leave comments, and create posts in the community section. Please do NOT link to this post (or blog) on any high traffic site just yet. My server can handle it until we implement caching.
I've been really surprised to see some of the responses that have come in on last weeks post about me quitting. In particular, I'm shocked at how many people think it's okay, or even best, to quit.
I can only assume that I did a poor job explaining why I'm getting back into pickup, because I can't imagine anyone in their right mind thinking it's okay to quit given the actual situation. So, first a recap of why I'm doing this, and then a specific response to why I won't quit, which I hope will make sense given the context, and then a few other comments on people's replies.
Why I'm Doing This
In our culture going to school is given a lot of respect. Dropouts face a sharp negative stigma. They're quitters. They're losers. They'll go nowhere in life. But is this really true? How big of a factor is college on success?
Here's a list of some of the dropouts that I personally admire :
Larry Ellison (Oracle)
Almost 1 in 5 of the US Presidents including Lincoln, Washington, Jackson, and Cleveland
John D. Rockafeller
Ray Kroc (billionaire founder of McDonalds)
And now it's time for the one post per year about which people bug me for months: the 2017 gear post.
I realized that a lot of non-subscribers read this post every year, so I thought I'd drop a little background for context.
I've been more or less a nomad since 2008, and was one of the very first to really travel in a minimalist (one small backpack) way. I'm sure others came before me (and my friend Todd), but none I'm aware of who were writing about it.
I still travel for half to two-thirds of the year, exclusively with the gear I'll outline below. And even though I obviously have more items at home (cooking stuff, gym shoes), I don't have any additional clothes or warm-weather gear. In any given year I go to warm places in the summer as well as cold places in the winter. I work full time from my laptop both programming and writing. In other words— this is all of the gear I have, and I use it to do a lot of stuff.