Working out the last posts of a lengthy series

I’m very quickly closing in on the last few posts in the 104 week series for my Substack, “The Lindahl Letter.” I’m currently working on the posts for weeks 98 to 104 to close out the two year series. On the brighter side of things week 98 is almost ready for podcast recording. Something has happened to slow things down and I’m not entirely sure if it was a cold that arrived over Thanksgiving or if my topic selection to close things out was just not as good as it could have been. Either way my rate of productivity has dropped off a bunch. Today is the Sunday following thanksgiving which means I should be well rested and ready to draft a few posts really quick this morning. Right now I have the whole day reserved until the Kansas City Chiefs play tonight to write, draft, and tinker with 6 posts. When you hear my voice from the week 97 recording you will know that it is maybe at 50% of where it should be for recording audio. We will see how it goes, but I don’t think that I’ll be recording any additional podcast episodes today even if they get written. 

At this very moment, I have put thoughts out into the universe about finishing up drafts on the 6 remaining posts for the year. To begin with the end in mind let’s consider where we are tactically in terms of a production current state. 

  • Week 99: Started, research, some drafting
  • Week 100: Research
  • Week 101: Planning
  • Week 102: Not even started
  • Week 103: Not even started
  • Week 104: Started, some drafting

Assuming that each week gets a 500 word boost that would be a 3,000 word output day. I have a large portion of the day reserved for this effort so it is totally possible to write all the things that need to be written. I should have just jumped in and started writing instead of starting off with 300 words on what I needed to do for the day.

One of those types of days

This weekend a bunch of time got devoted to cleaning up my office. I even went back into a stack of paper journals that has remained unmanaged for years and managed a huge stack of randomly piled things. That is part of my effort to clean up things. My Scandinavian Designs credenza is certainly a place where a lot of nonsense could be stored. It has rather large storage compartments. One of them unfortunately was filled with a stack of journals, papers, and other collections of just pure nonsense. I have not used any of it in well over a year and it seemed like this weekend was a good time to clean that mess up. I think that has to do with my interesting in getting things extra clean this weekend. I’m not entirely sure where that need to clean came from this weekend, but it certainly happened.

Yesterday, I sat down to watch some football over the air (OTA) which worked out well enough. I had my Google Pixelbook Go with me and for some reason. I did not want to write anything. Throughout the day 3 different games were on the screen. Time passed and writing could have happened, but instead of working out some things on the keyboard my mind just wondered around ideas without producing any prose. It was one of those types of days. It happens from time to time that the writing process just functionally stalls out. I’m rapidly approaching the 104th post on my Substack writing plan. Maybe something about that is lingering in the back my mind. It is a major milestone.

At the moment, I’m ready to shift over and start the new journey at post 105, but that is problematic given that I’m working on finishing up post 91. The rest of the posts between 91 and 105 are all framed up and ready for writing. The rest of the topics seem pretty workable. I think the blocking factor is just getting stuck on the content for the 91st post. The main content is already written, and some links are assembled on that one, but it is a short post. The best path forward at the moment might just be to accept the brevity of it and chalk it up to a bit of pithiness.

Considering a new daily series

I’m going to try to get back to my practice of daily writing and publishing some thoughts. Earlier this week I had considered trying my hand at daily vlogging again, but that never seems to turn out very well. Sitting down and recording 15 minutes of thoughts via video each day could be a thing to do, but I’m not sure if that will happen. Earlier this morning I was working on week 91 of The Lindahl Letter that will eventually go out on Substack. Things are moving along well enough to the epic week 104 post that will mark 2 consecutive years of publishing on that platform.

A good bit of working things forward on a Saturday

Throughout the summer so far my backlog of posts over on Substack has been working its way down each week. Right now only the post for July 22 remains scheduled and ready to go for this coming Friday. Due to some scheduling concerns I worked ahead to make sure a backlog existed. That backlog would help me avoid missing a publication date. I have a Google Doc with a future Substack publication list that goes out all the way beyond the 2 year mark. Assuming that I follow the process and work on writing a Substack post every Saturday morning and working it to a recordable state on Sunday no publication dates should ever get missed. So far I’m on a 77 week streak of hitting my publication window target. I had wanted to get closer to real time on the creation schedule. It’s entirely possible at some point that I will rebuild a backlog and work a few weeks ahead. 

I just recorded “Substack Week 79: Why is diffusion so popular?” using the Audacity software and my Blue microphones Yeti X. The first part of the post recording process is underway right now and that includes a noise reduction. I just used the tail end of the recording to get a noise reduction profile. That profile was just applied to the whole recording to reduce the ambient background noise that is occurring in the room where the podcast audio was recorded. The next effect I ran on the audio was a loudness normalization to normalize the perceived loudness across the episode. This is important for overall continuity and feel for somebody listening to the audio. You do not want anything major to jump out of the normal audio window and be just loud for no reason. The last effect I run is a noise gate to just clean up anything that might have remained after that first noise reduction filter. I like to make sure my audio is clean before publishing it out to Substack. 

Not only did I record that Substack post for Week 79, but also I took the time to record “Substack Week 80: Bayesian optimization (ML syllabus edition 1/8).” The second recording was twice as long as the first, but I used the Marantz professional sound shield on that one. Thanks to those two recording efforts my backlog is now good for the next 20 days in terms of Substack posts. 

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.

Those topics deserve to be deeply considered

Recording the audio for week 64 of “The Lindahl Letter” included a false start this week. I got about 3 minutes into the recording process and had to hit delete. My recording voice was not consistent. I realized that beyond drinking two shots of espresso some water needed to be consumed. After taking a moment and drinking some water I was able to complete the recording in two parts. Sometimes I have had to record each paragraph separately with a small pause in between sections. Ideally I would like to complete the recording in one good take, but that is not always realistic. Drafts of posts for week 65 and 66 are in progress at this point. It is entirely possible that tomorrow morning I’ll be able to record one or both of those posts. At this very moment, I’m 2 weeks ahead of the publication point. My spring break vacation occurred and my plan to build out a few weeks of buffer worked well. 

During the trip I did not bring any recording equipment with me to keep up with the podcast part of the equation. That is how the posts for week 65 and 66 are in progress. During the course of my vacation I had some time in the morning to sit down and write, but no ability to record. Both the digital divide and ethics in machine learning topics deserve my deepest focus and top quality writing efforts. Working a little bit ahead on those posts should help increase the quality of them and both of those topics deserve to be deeply considered.

Talking to other Substack writers

With about 55 or 56 other writers I attended a Substack event called, “category tour kickoff.” It seemed like a good idea to attend a few of these Substack events to get a feel for what other writers are doing these days on the Substack platform. It looks like they have events occurring for the rest of the month. That should be interesting. I’m planning on attending technology related events from the Substack calendar. 

Substack Tour Dates

That first Substack Go event

My initial reaction to the first Substack Go event today was to appreciate that they are trying to bring people together to form communities of interest. I’m curious when they will go old school over at Substack and start keeping a list of authors by topics like a catalog. Maybe we will see the return of the blogroll. Things opened up with a Substack community organizer talking about the programming and giving a rousing welcome to everybody across the globe that was in attendance.

81 other people from all over the globe were at the kick off of the Substack Go with Katie from the 81 other people from all over the globe were at the kick off of the Substack Go event series with Katie from the community team. I was a part of the very first Tolstoy hour event. Apparently, we are being connected to a squad of other writers to work together and collaborate. I’m pretending this was some type of Hogwarts sorting hat magic. I ended up being sorted into a small group of about 5 other writers. We got dropped into a Zoom breakout room to talk outside of the large group.

We opened by sharing our names and what we write about. Obviously, I shared that The Lindahl Letter just hit one year of weekly publishing. You can find that collection of thoughts here: https://nelslindahl.substack.com/ 

Bringing a collection of writers together will yield some fairly predictable results. We talked about the following topics:

  • Writing routines
  • Editing 
  • Deciding what to write
  • Growth hacking? Building your subscriber base
  • How to keep in touch

During the event I subscribed to several different Substack newsletters. I learned about a Discord group called, “Substack Writers Unite.” Summing up this very first Substack Go event would be as easy as tagging it as an introductory meet and greet. Nothing was recorded and the conversations were decent. I’m looking forward to the next event on Friday morning. 

Trying to refocus

Overall my plan to put the smartphone down and not keep it with me all the time is working out pretty well. That vtech “Connect to Cell” system works well enough as an extended headset to my Google Pixel 5 smartphone that it is almost like a house phone. It is sort of weird to hear phone calls ringing throughout the entire house again like the days of yore when land lines were a common household feature. 

The vast majority of the application alerts and notices that I spent all day clearing out are not necessary. A lot of unnecessary attention was going to that smartphone each day and that was easy enough to stop. For the next couple of days I have planned time off that could be spent writing and working on a few things. 

Today I picked back up and worked a little bit on my week 30 Substack post. It needed a little bit of refinement and rework to be ready for Friday. Intellectually I know that I should spend a few minutes on the next few posts and get them into suitably completed drafts. Initially I was able to work ahead a little bit more than what is happening now, but for some reason that process broke down and I am just working on one week at a time. If the content being produced was real time, then that would make sense as an approach. The content is however planned out weeks in advance making it much easier to produce drafts in a queue instead of working in real time to be timely based on the news of the day. Maybe that is the key to unlocking a different type of content at some point in the future. I have considered turning the weekly Substack post into both a YouTube video and a weekly podcast. I’m actually curious what has stopped me from turning the first 30 weeks of content into multimedia formats. It is probably some type of weird nostalgia for the written newsletters of the past.

Getting really focused and locking in to write for a prolonged period of time seems to be illusive. I’m able to focus on topics and complete work, but I’m struggling with really spending hours working on the same thing. That is something that is going to need to be remedied before longer form prose and projects are going to get done. Part of that is just being able to sit and type for a sustained burst of 30 minutes without shifting around and working on different things. Even right now Rocky the dog is trying to distract me with growls at a reflection in the glass of the door. It is way before sunrise right now and nobody is stirring in the house. Right now is the time for me to write and for Rocky the dog to hang out in my office.