Daily notes for 2023-02-28

· 1485 words · 7 minute read

⚡️ Electrified again 🔗

The whole electrical situation was resolved today, finally. We had to replace a breaker that had failed outright and wasn’t tripping when overloaded. We had a good electrician who was happy to talk me through what he was seeing and doing.

Now that it’s over I’m going to go through and figure out the draw of all the stuff on the circuit where we were having the problems. There is a lot of gear in a concentrated area of the house. Enough that when I fired up the laser printer to print a tax return today the UPS (which it isn’t even plugged into) registered an “event” and showed a sag, and kept doing it until I finally turned the printer off instead of waiting for it to go idle.

📰 Declining games journalism 🔗

I was a believer in “New Games Journalism” even if I am not going to link to its seminal piece of writing, and I’ve enjoyed it. Games as a topic of personal interest are low enough stakes that I don’t mind if video game reviews and some reporting are inflected with fannish preoccupations and a lack of distance from the subject. But reading about someone’s subjective experience of a game is different from reading about, say, abusive labor practices in a big business. Nieman has a piece about the contraction of video game journalism that’s familiar to me as a former enthusiast press editor.

The short version is that investors understand video games are a big deal, and also that there’s a lot you can get away with in terms of coverage before you stop making whatever money you’re content to squeeze out of your properties.

I did a few years in an enthusiast web vertical 20 years ago, and the dynamics sound familiar: Pioneers build an audience, media plays sense an opportunity, the pioneers sell, the media plays start squeezing.

And there’s also the nature of content production in the attention economy:

“… games journalists are at one unique disadvantage compared to the rest of the cultural dialogue, because an expansive alternative media ecosystem exists on YouTube and Twitch where hugely influential content creators, like Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellberg and Mark ‘Markiplier’ Fischbach, provide their own commentary about the games industry in direct competition with reporters. No, PewDiePie isn’t launching the investigations you might find at a more formal media enterprise, but he does possess millions of subscribers who rely on him to illuminate and extrapolate upon the daily slate of headlines in the hobby. For some young gamers, a confederation of their favorite talking heads — all operating their own bespoke social brands — achieves the same purpose as the IGN homepage. It makes you wonder if the sudden spike of unemployed games journalists might be felt more acutely by the public if there weren’t a bedrock of YouTubers sharing the same foundational bandwidth. [emph. mine] After all, a YouTube channel is never at the mercy of mercurial ownership.”

I mean, yes. That’s another thing that’s familiar to me: When I did reader roundtables and research interviews, the two most common refrains from our IT practitioner audience were:

  • “Just be more like Stack Overflow … I want answers, not some guy who once worked at DEC’s opinion.”
  • “Get more tech bloggers who actually do this stuff. Sorry and no offense, but I don’t care if there are a few misspellings if their configuration examples are right.”

I took the feedback and spent more time recruiting practitioners who wanted a little spending money vs. professional writers. One of my best writers worked on the UNIX team at a local university and had a thing for German SUVs: The stuff he turned in for me made his lease payments, and he could write it in his sleep. He’s how I learned about Puppet five years before I worked there.

But the stuff they were doing wasn’t “networking journalism,” and there was a reason we leaned heavily on repurposed general business reporting across our network: The stuff that really engaged people was hands-on, howto content. A general reporting piece would fall out of the top 10 on a site within a week. Analysis I did showed that stuff usually did well to break even before its shelf-life expired. 2,000-word tutorials on Samba, however, continued to earn every month five years after they’d first been published.

Being Nieman, this piece wants to point to interesting stories in the game industry around things like labor relations, and it’s less enthusiastic about sites that help you get past the third boss in a recent game. Is that “game journalism,” or is it business reporting? Are you reporting about the game industry, the tech industry, or business? Questions I was dealing with years ago in Linux/open source media. And we split the difference: Most of our more newsy Linux coverage ended up on the generic server site, most of our Linux tutorials stayed on the Linux sites. That was the way readers wanted it, as near as I can tell. The people on my enthusiast sites were bored by the news stories and lit up over reviews and tutorials.

✏️ Inclusive git workflow docs 🔗

I got underway in earnest on a guide to the weblog.lol Git publishing workflow today. It is going to be a little different from the quick start guide I published a few weeks ago.

My first instinct is just, “Git isn’t for everybody, and for some it is alarming.” I once had a tech writer on my team who genuflected before he pushed a new release’s docs to production, and he’d been using Git on the daily for years. So I thought “just start from they know it and use it.”

On the other hand, I have a strong sense, just watching people in the omg.lol community chat back and forth, that we’re having a bit of a moment right now: People are interested in stuff around web publishing and tech generally that they may have sat out with the advent of social networking. There’s not a lack of interest in learning some of the more complex parts of it, and there’s definitely ability. Adam’s created a service that is really compelling to people who want to play with things they haven’t before.

So I’m going to try to thread the needle and put some docs off to the side of the main flow that link out to the pieces you need to get Git onto your system, set up your GitHub account, etc. We’ll see how it goes. The workflow itself is simple and could be documented in a page of ordered lists. I’d like to go a little further and help people learn a new thing.

Speaking of git:

💡 Using Sublime Text as your git editor 🔗

Helpful gist with the command line switches you need:


✅ TickTick progress 🔗

Several days in, TickTick is working for me.

Usually I prefer “Lego” apps: When I see hard-coded ideas I shy away. I guess it just makes more sense to me to have relatively value neutral tools, which is part of why I never took a shine to earlier iterations of OmniFocus, which was just all in on being the canonical GTD-in-an-app. It got more loose over time, but I still found it clicky and a little too opinionated. I liked Things because it felt more flexible.

TickTick has a few opinions and builds some very specific functionality in – its Pomodoro timers and habit tracking – but it feels like “just enough, not too much” and it’s all optional if all you want is “make a list” or “make lists.”

I’m not immune to the charms of a habit tracker, either. I’ve used them in the past, but they’re usually standalone things that don’t integrate well with the other todo stuff I’ve got, so they become weird little silos instead of part of The List for the Day.

This morning I opened Obsidian and looked at the daily page format I’d set up to do basic habit stuff, then looked at TickTick, and there was no question in my mind that TickTick worked better for me.

I’m still using Obsidian for my job tracking stuff. I really love making a card for a prospect, having some metadata to keep track of when I opened the card, applied for a role, talked to a recruiter, etc., and then being able to add interview notes and other data.

re: the TickTick habit tracker, you can also set each habit up so that you can leave a little review each time you complete it (or turn the review part off for any of the habits you’ve got). I leave it on for some (reading time, social maintenance, job stuff) and off for others (doing the dishes and other “who cares how you felt about it or how you did it” tasks.)