Oh these words written right now

People are most certainly traveling by highway for the 4th of July weekend at a higher rate than the last few years. We stopped in Hays, Kansas, yesterday at lunchtime and things were hopping. It was seriously busy. The Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers restaurant parking lot was completely full just after noon. People were really excited to eat at Freddy’s. I’ll admit the shoe string style french fries are delicious. Visibility is pretty good from the highway exit, you could see that the entire town of Hays was very busy around the intersection of the I-70 highway. Throughout the trip all of the gas stations we could see were super busy. Instead of just pulling off the highway and being able to buy gasoline every time we stopped we were waiting for somebody to finish pumping gas. We never got into a situation with a line depth greater than a single car, but we were close to that situation occurring. Normally pump space is available without any delay.

I have been very deeply considering working on some political coverage type of writing recently. Generally, I have refrained from sharing my political views online. That was probably an error on my part over the last 20 years. One of the paths forward on that front would be to just capture all those thoughts in a separate manuscript for now. At this point, I’m not going to start a politics blog. It would be a more likely outcome for me to start up a podcast that provides that type of coverage. My current podcast effort “The Lindahl Letter” only covers technology and the intersection of technology and modernity. Inherently within that intersection a certain degree of politics exists, but that is really the extent of my political coverage in that publication. Maybe it would be good at this point to explain that I really just want to write about the nature of civil society and the breakdown in the social fabric that is occurring. At some point, essays are going to be written about that topic. 

During this epic summer vacation I’m planning to keep waking up with my silent Fitbit watch alarm at 0530 hours and completing a writing session before everybody wakes up. It’s totally possible that during the trip other opportunities will exist to engage in some writing. Right now I’m writing using my Pixelbook Go chromebook at a kitchen table. Nobody is awake. I’m listening to Pandora streaming audio and just working out some thoughts. This is for better or worse a stream of consciousness type of writing day. Right now Substack is loaded up with posts out until July 22, 2022. I was able to work far enough ahead on the writing and recording front that 3 posts are pending in the queue for distribution. It is possible that after I’m all warmed up here by writing this post my writing energy will shift over to working on more Substack posts. 

Yesterday, I was watching my incoming emails and more people unsubscribed after my last post than at any time in the 75 weeks of my Substack publishing career. As an inflection point more people were exiting the subscriber count than were joining it at that point. To the best of my knowledge, Substack as a platform does not really have a bot problem. Most subscribers are really people who get emails as a part of the way the platform works. It is designed to disseminate newsletters from a writer to an audience using email. You could certainly run into a publication within the feed on the Substack website or some variation of that delivery model. Outside of people sharing a Substack newsletter on social media the overwhelming method of delivery is email delivery. 

One of the major changes in delivery I made was adding an audio component to my weekly Substack writing campaign. That extended the modes of publication to include both podcast and email newsletter. Based on the statistics it appears that across all the various podcast platforms that get the RSS feed as many people listen to the podcast as read the email. I have tried my best to keep the podcast audio as pristine and professional as possible. People do seem to listen to those sub 10 minute podcast episodes. I think with those sometimes a person might listen to more than one of the episodes. With the newsletter it is a rather single serving type of thing as it would require a lot of work for somebody to get to previous editions. They would have to follow the links back to my main Substack landing page and navigate to a previous installment. Most of the podcast platforms pretty easily let people get to previous episodes. I think the friction to access older episodes is lower within the podcast ecosystems. 

I’m still processing what part of my last Substack post caused people to want to leave the newsletter. As a platform, Substack systems handle all of that type of processing. That is one of the reasons I’m using Substack instead of the weblog where these words written right now are posted. The last post did have more of an investigative journalism type writing style than a pure scientific readout type perspective. It’s possible that maybe after 75 editions those readers were just exhausted from reading about machine learning and artificial intelligence each week. I have tried to keep my writing action packed, content filled, and on the shorter side of what an essay could be vs. going long form like an academic paper. You could probably say my efforts are more aligned with the research note framework compared to anything else. We will see what happens to subscriber counts as we move from week 75 to the two year anniversary of my Substack efforts at week 104. That milestone will be here soon enough. Time does seem to move along at an accelerating rate.

Committing to the writing process

The only time I signed each weblog post was during the great race to a big writing year. Maybe 2023 will be the year I strive to write 1,000,000 words on this weblog again. During the last attempt at that effort things eventually broke down in the writing process. You have to be ready to really set aside two solid hours every single day to write. During those two hours that you have set aside you have to commit to the writing process without hesitation or procrastination. You basically have to defeat writer’s block up front with planning and a solid backlog. That was back in 2018 and I’m a much stronger writer at this point. I would probably write a post for The Lindahl Letter every day and about 1,000 words of journaling. That is what it would take to sustain 3,000 words per day as a functional output. I would most certainly burn down the entire backlog of writing projects that need attention. 

That might very well be my commitment for 2023. I’m at least giving it some serious consideration at this point. This post right now is the second in a row directly written and developed in a Google Doc word processing session that happens to be stored in a Microsoft Word .DOCX file that is packaged and set up for publishing as a printed manuscript. This entire document will be ready to upload for publication on January 1, 2023 after six solid months of writing daily essays and observations. Based on the first two posts it may not be all that interesting, but it will be a timely set of thoughts and essays that are ready to be shared with the world. I am at this point working toward that point of publication. That means I’m going to have to write in this document, do a bit of proofreading for overall consistency, and publish the content over on the “Functional Journal” each and every day. It will be very easy to do a basic word count of this 6 month writing effort and see how close it would be to a big year of writing productivity. 

Gearing up to write at a production level of 3,000 words per day is probably not something that will happen by accident. It will need to be a planful and sustained effort. Energy and time will need to be devoted to making that happen. Like right now I woke up early in the morning and sat down to write. Nobody else is awake in the house right now. Even the dogs went back to sleep. intellectually I know the sunrise happened outside my window, but thoughts and attention were focused right here on the screen. It is enjoyable to type on this Corsair mechanical keyboard. The ergonomics of my desk setup are decent and this early in the morning it is easy to focus on producing content. The quality, timeliness, readability, and of course relevance of this content is a different question.

A few thoughts on the ongoing grand writing experiment

Getting back to a bit of daily writing in a journaling style seems to be a good thing to accomplish. For some reason this style of writing has dropped off from my efforts. Every week I’m still producing pracademic style content and I’m gearing up to learn how to convert some of that into a LaTeX style editor for academic paper publication. Maybe that is the missing element in my progress as a writer. We will see if it really is the missing element or if something else might be a contributing factor. Within that framework I have a few thoughts on my ongoing grand writing experiment. For those of you who have been along for the ride you know that millions of words have been produced. A lot of them appear here on my trusty weblog, “Functional Journal.” It’s not my flagship production, but it is a central base that I come back to over and over again. Originally, I had considered just putting all content here as a sort of content hub. That is not a terrible idea, but it does discount contributions to other forms and how those avenues of communication work. 

Tomorrow the 75th post within “The Lindahl Letter” series on Substack will be distributed. All of that content gets packaged yearly into a book format. It gets distributed weekly as a Substack post which is functionally an essay on a topic built for the purpose of being informative and at times thought provoking. That type of writing is different from what gets shared generally on the weblog and that is one of the reasons why jumping on the Substack bandwagon made sense. It also has a very different publication mechanic. The weblog is something people have to elect to go visit. Substack as a platform has a mechanism to deliver the content by email. It follows that newsletter framework which is more of a push to disseminate content delivery vs. my traditional method of providing the content on a digital shelf without marketing or any push. I know that the weblog gets published out to WordPress that new content arrived, and I let it push a notification to Twitter. Based on the amount of traffic that comes in from WordPress or Twitter neither of those communication methods is particularly useful. 

As a communication platform, Substack has appeared to work out well enough. One of the main differences between my Substack writing and my normal writing paradigm is that all 75 posts for Substack were constructed in the same Google Doc. Each day for general writing I open a brand-new Google Doc and start writing from a blank page. I’m wondering if I should shift to working out of a single manuscript for my daily writing and just accept that it should end up as a publication at the end of the year like the Substack efforts are combined to produce a set of collective works. Maybe that is the right way to begin moving forward. I could easily take this essay and allow it to be the start of that project. I generally do not like working out of a Microsoft Word document using the online editor. That is one of the reasons that all of this work generally happens in Google Docs. I’m sure that is mostly preference based and either one could work as a word processing document management system.

A few changes occurred between the last two paragraphs. I went over to Microsoft Word and created a manuscript file based on the publishing template I normally utilize. That brand new file and the entire novel directory on OneDrive has now been synced over to Google Drive. I then opened the .DOCX file for editing in Google Docs which seems convoluted, but it works for me based on the efforts I’m about to undertake. Moving forward I’m going to keep working and writing for the weblog within this document. That is the plan and I’m going to stick with it until December 31, 2022. At that point the plan will be revisited and hopefully this document will be published as a manuscript.

A guitar building project update

Way back in 1994 or 1995, I purchased a Gibson guitar in Kansas City. I’m a little fuzzy on the exact year. That is something I can look up. I guess the pattern is YDDDYRRR. My serial number is 93055698. Based on that it is for sure a 1995 and not a 1994 built guitar. Apparently it was stamped on the 305th day of the year or November 1, 1995. I always wanted it to be a different, more custom shop guitar. At the time, I did not really know any better. However, now that I am armed with a bunch of life experiences I have a better idea of how I want the guitar to be configured. To that end, my Les Paul studio guitar project has been completed this summer. 

Pickups were swapped out from the stock Gibson variety to a set of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbuckers. Those pickups have 4 wires and support more advanced configurations. To utilize that more advanced wiring a Free-Way “Pickup Switch” with a 6 way control was added. That gives me a couple of out of phase options for the pickups. The rest of the guitar updates were more or less just aesthetic choices including a new black TUSQ XL nut, a black nickel Graph Tech PS-8863-BN ResoMax NV2 6mm Tune-o-matic bridge with string saver saddles, and a black chrome Gibson accessories stop bar tailpiece with studs and inserts. I had previously changed out the tuners to upgrade them to a set of black Grover ones. Between the string setup changes and the new pickups it sounds like a totally different guitar.

My 1995 Gibson Les Paul serial number

A ton of digital housekeeping on a Saturday

To prepare for the annual publication of The Lindahl Letter book I went ahead and loaded up the posts from week 50 to 77. That involved doing the typesetting for roughly 25,000 words that spanned about 100 pages. I’m considering either bundling two years of posts together or just publishing one year at a time. 

I wrote the social media copy for sharing to Twitter and LinkedIn this week:

You can check out week 74 of my weekly technology newsletter The Lindahl Letter titled “ML content automation; Am I the prompt?” over on #Substack via the link below

—> Tags: #MachineLearning #ML #ArtificialIntelligence #AI #MLOps #AIOps

https://nelslindahl.substack.com/p/ml-content-automation#details

It got shared over to Twitter here:

The LinkedIn post is here:

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6946447208812613632/

I had posted weekly into Facebook as well, but that yielded very little traffic back to the actual Substack site. After a few weeks of that effort I gave up and just stopped that part of my weekly social media sharing routine. I’m not entirely sure that sharing on Twitter and LinkedIn results in any subscribers, but it does create a small amount of traffic each week. 

At some point today, I’m going to work on writing the “Substack Week 78: Why is diffusion so popular?” post to create a draft. That is all queued up as a task for the day.

Working that backlog management process

On Friday my Substack backlog was 5 posts ahead. At that level of backlog a personal best was achieved in terms of working ahead. However, that is probably too far ahead. Part of getting to that point was making sure I was ready for a summer break where some vacationing was going to happen. That backlog will allow for continuity of publishing and for a bit of vacation. Right now the backlog is at 4 Substack posts and the last one will publish on July 8, 2022. Generally, I think the backlog should be 2-3 weeks, but it is possible that at some point it will move back to a more real time writing to publication cadence. Part of my writing focus is to build quality content that is not time specific or breaking news powered coverage. I want to examine topics within the artificial intelligence and machine learning space based on the merits of the inquiry and not based on a news reporting type of urgency. I try to begin with the final product in mind. Given that the final product of the Lindahl Letter is that it moves from a weekly Friday Substack email based delivery to a yearly volume of published prose. That focus on building something that can be packaged up for perpetuity remains an important consideration.

Welcome to June writing

Yesterday a Substack post was released and now the backlog stands at 4 recorded episodes which should take us out to July 1, 2022. Right now I should be working on writing the July 8th titled, “What is post theory science?” I’m a little over 100 words into that writing effort and things have seemed to stall. Earlier I dropped a couple videos demonstrating how to record podcast audio on Audacity. They were single cut videos of recording straight into editing. Nobody seems to be watching either of those two videos. That happens sometimes on YouTube. It is a very feast or famine sort of platform in terms of views. I really should keep writing here in this window for a bit, but I’m probably going to hit publish here in a few seconds and send this very short missive out into the world of the blogosphere.

Writing away the start of the day

Unexpectedly, I accidently worked to a point where I’m now 5 posts ahead of the next publication date on The Lindahl Letter. The entire week 75 post just came together and got recorded in the last two days. It was something that I had been thinking about for some time and maybe I was just ready to finish that block of writing. A lot of times during the process of creating something I’ll have a good idea of the finished product before starting the writing or design process. Currently that means that podcast recordings are complete between now and July 1, 2022. For the next five weeks something will go out every Friday. One of the things I’m planning on working on today is just editing and reworking that series of 5 posts. That could create a scenario where the audio recording the text is not 100% aligned. I’m ok with that result if it means that typos and other grammarian concerns are addressed before publication. 

My efforts to transition to writing more research note based weekly missives is well underway. Every week my attention gets focused on a topic that I’m learning about and writing about. To that end I’m creating original content and sharing it out as part of the ongoing The Lindahl Letter series. Within that framework the content has to stay focused and be geared toward providing a unique perspective within my own breadth vs. depth combination. Really digging into the upcoming research notes and putting everything I can into their creation will be important. The series of posts between week 79 and week 86 need to be really rock solid contributions. 

  • Week 79: Bayesian optimization
  • Week 80: Deep learning
  • Week 81: Classic ML algorithms
  • Week 82: Classic neural networks
  • Week 83: Neuroscience
  • Week 84: Reinforcement learning
  • Week 85: Graph neural networks
  • Week 86: Ethics (fairness, bias, privacy)

Oh that desktop clutter abounds

A bit of clutter has made it to my desk. It’s Sunday morning and I should be editing two different Substack posts. They are mostly drafted and otherwise complete, but need a bit of editing to really help bring the prose to the next level worthy of publishing. Recently, I have actually written a few weblog posts that just did not make it to the actual weblog. Sometimes that happens during the course of supporting an expanded writing routine. When I’m writing in the morning and sitting in front of my Dark Base Pro 900 housed computer I follow the workflow pretty well. At the point where the post is done I generally post it. When I’m sitting on the sofa with my Chromebook and just writing a bit that workflow breaks down and we end up with a few weblog posts that get written, but never get shared. I have zero plans to go back and sort out which ones need to be posted and which ones have already been posted. For all practical purposes those posts are simply lost to the weblog. 

This one will probably make it online given that I’m writing at my desk and well aware of the publishing routine at the moment. It is top of mind. Somehow I managed to get a bunch of peanut shell crumbles on my desk. It is seriously everywhere that it could be on the desk. I considered for just a moment using a can of compressed air to rapidly move the mess from my desk. In that case I guess the mess would have been moved to the floor near my desk. I’m going to get a wet cloth here in a few minutes and work on that mess. After that mess is sorted out, I plan on returning to editing on those two different Substack posts that need to be cleaned up. Tomorrow is the day that I need to record audio for both of those posts to get back up to a healthy backlog of 4 Substack posts ready for distribution. 

Notes:

Yesterday via Paramount+ the streaming service we watched a film called The Lost City (2022) and it was a passable two hours of adventure storytelling. To be fair on this one I was not really satisfied or dissatisfied with the movie.

Working fullscreen: I’m editing the “Substack Week 73: Symbolic machine learning” post to prepare it for audio recording tomorrow or potentially later today. It took about 20 minutes to edit the post. I did end up increasing the zoom from 150% to 200% during this editing effort. This post ended up getting a bit meta instead of remaining directly focused on the topic at hand. I’ll go with it this time around. This post is now ready for podcast audio recording.

Editing the “Substack Week 74: ML content automation” post took a little bit more effort. That post is now ready for recording as well. My writing efforts this morning were productive.

A bit of regular blogging

Today I have a few hours blocked off to engage in a bit of writing and creating. Based on a review of the recent stats it looks like the Substack posts are working well enough. My draft of the week 73 Substack post is mostly complete. Drafting went well enough Friday into Saturday on that one. I’m going to rework it a bit here in a few minutes after finishing this post. It seemed like a good idea to just go ahead and do a bit of regular blogging right here before jumping back over to working on that post. Recently, I have been more likely to work on academic efforts and less likely to just produce a bit of stream of consciousness style prose. That seems to be a developing trend. I’m trying to avoid it becoming a pattern. 

Strangely enough yesterday was actually a really big Google keep day for me. I took a ton of notes of things to work on and things to write about in the future. Sometimes that happens when I end up in a reflective mood. My notes are a wonderful little roadmap to producing future content. For those of you who do not take writing topic notes, it is a method of keeping track of things that could be promising without investing a ton of time into them immediately. My massive “Substack Posts” Google Doc has all the posts written so far and the backlog list which is functionally a collection of notes that goes out to 120 total topics. At this point along the journey, I have written posts 1 to 73 within that backlog. Right now I’m still working at a pace where one or more posts are being produced each weekend. Each one of those posts is just a written set of research notes cataloging my journey to better understand a topic. To that end my research notes are essentially provided free of charge to an audience on Substack. 

My plan is still to take all that content and drop it into a 2nd edition of The Lindahl Letter book when the 2nd full year of publishing is complete. I’m not entirely sure Substack as a platform will last forever and memorizing the content in an actual printed publication format is not a bad method of persevering things along the way. Sure the content is available to people for free who want to consume it that way and as a book for people who prefer to read it in that format. That is just a part of the process and adventure along the way. I had done all the setup for posts and the pre-work on a bunch of posts up until the last post that was completed. I have now staged the posts up until week 104 which will be a big 2nd year of posting recap. 

At the two year mark I’m planning on moving away from machine learning posts into just generally covering artificial intelligence and producing research notes related to a planned set of academic articles. That means that it is possible that weeks of ongoing coverage of something being worked as an academic article could be distributed. That is probably a good method to really dig deep into a few topics along the way. One of the things I have worked pretty hard to avoid is producing coverage of the same topic over and over again. Somebody who sat down with the book later on will see an ongoing coverage of topics and not encounter a repetitive reading experience. One of the things that I have really tried to avoid along the way is providing weblog-like coverage within The Lindahl Letter which would end up blending this type of content with that more research note type of coverage. I’m sure a blending of the two types of content would be possible, but that is not really the intended vibe.