Planning to write and writing about plans

We watched “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022) on an IMAX screen yesterday. That theater had not changed in a number of years. It was a throwback to the times of yore. Ok, I just wanted to use yore in a sentence. Those very seats could have been in that theater a decade ago the last time I visited. A lot of the larger format screen theaters now have reclining seats that are a bit bigger and a lot more comfortable. These seats could have been from the original installation of the IMAX screen. You won’t find any spoilers here about the movie or a review really. My expectations were for the movie quality to be inline with the previous Thor films. It was within the envelope of expedited Thor adventures. For the most part in the dozens of Marvel based films very few terrible ones exist. They are a window into that world and they provide that adventure. It’s pretty consistent. That is probably one of the reasons the films have done so well at the box office since the original Iron Max (2008) film was released. 

I’m starting to wake up now which took just a few minutes to achieve today. For some reason I’m running a little slower than usual as the day is starting to pick up steam. The sun is rising and the weather seems to be lining up well enough for the back part of this trip to Kansas City. Taking a bit of time to think deeply about where exactly you are in the writing journey is good. Maybe you have a detailed writing plan with a list of upcoming things to work on like an extra awesome backlog of pending adventures. You can certainly extrapolate that out to a map looking set of expectations and plot yourself as a location defining where you are in terms of that journey. That would be one way to go about and it would be interesting. My research trajectory and writing plan are well documented. Somebody else could pick up my work and keep moving along if for some reason I faltered. 

We have now spent the morning considering Thor films and visualizing the writing journey. For the most part this week  I have been working on a bunch of different content related to machine learning. The production quality on weeks 80 to 104 needs to be tip top to make sure the end of the last section of this year’s physical publication of “The Lindahl Letter” is really high quality. Based on my writing plan I’m going to pivot to writing academic style articles after that point in the writing journey with  snippets of that output ending up being published on an online basis. Generally, that will change my writing output to shift from a series of Substack posts being combined into a final collection at the end of the year to a more complex content production process. Academic articles can certainly be broken into sections and that will allow me to publish them in parts along the way. It will create a scenario where I’m sharing content on the same topic for several weeks in a row. Given that I won’t know the exact duration of a topic in that format the forward looking guidance will really be on the next 5 topics, but the coverage of those topics could very well end up taking months. It should be an interesting turn of events in the evaluation of my Substack style writing.

A weblog post without a working title

Writing each day takes a bit of energy to get started. It’s that start that always separates a good writing day from a bad one. The prompt is always ready in a digital word processing document. It never fails to deliver. Certainly the problem is usually on the side of the writer and not the technology the vast majority of the time.  Speaking of technology related problems, my smartphone battery has started to require charging multiple times a day. Generally the made by Google Pixel 5 smartphone has worked pretty well over the last two years. We will see what happens here in the next few days in terms of battery life. I’m not a big fan of having to carry a battery pack. I’d rather just have a smartphone that delivers enough battery life to withstand the needs of the day. 

Today my needs are a little unclear. I have a certain amount of focus that is ready to devote to things. At the moment, the problem being faced is that I’m not entirely sure what weighty topic of glory is going to lock horns with that focus as the writing begins to take shape. Things are moving along here without that key topic to drive things forward. At the moment, this is a weblog post without a working title. Working through that type of challenge is about keeping the pace going and trying to settle into a rhythm with the keyboard. You have to relax and find that stream of consciousness to work with where ideas flow and it is hard to keep up with them as they arrive. I keep a backlog of weblog post ideas in my Google Keep  application for just this type of situation. Today however, I’m not going to go search for help from the backlog. I’m just going to continue to ponder the edge of nothingness as the cursor on the screen chases down the end of my thoughts at this very moment of typing. 

A few general themes exist around the topics that I deeply care about and some of that centers around the intersection of technology and modernity. A handful of other themes relating to civility and the social fabric are also ever present in my thoughts. Instead of jumping into that type of work at the start of a writing session I begin with no expectations or prompts and just start to let the process of thinking happen. Generally it takes just a bit for my thoughts to focus on something. That is something that I am totally ok with as I’m willing to take my writing in whatever direction the spirit of the moment takes at the start of the day.  Certainly, a bit of focus on academic writing or a backlog of other writing that needs to be done would be more efficient. That would however fail to capture the possible next thing that might come into being from being willing to jump in any direction. That is how a weblog post without a title finds that spark of creativity and all of a sudden from nothing to something occurs. 

I’m not sure today will include anything special or if the efforts of the day will be memorable at all. Given the chance the entire process will start over again tomorrow.  That is the nature of how this cycle of writing works and for the most part what happens when a writing routine is maintained day after day. My most stable and productive writing routine has to be maintained around writing at the very start of the day when nothing is happening. Oddly enough I really have to start writing and thinking at the point where nothing is happening. No distractions are allowed to occur. I cannot really just put on the noise canceling headphones and writing in a busy room. It turns out that I need that period of just zerospace to get writing. It’s a moment where that nothingness moves from a totality of inactivity to a world of possibility. Ideas begin to break through my attempts to be still in the moment. That is essentially what happens with my stream of consciousness writing efforts. Starting the day that way is my preferred method of content creation. 

Inevitably that writing session will come to an end and I will move from working on one thing to the next. My backlog is very real and at this moment it is daunting to even consider finishing everything in that pile of possible writing output. However, before taking on that type of work that requires a bit of deep consideration it is best to have warmed up the writing process and be ready to do that next level of work. Warming up as a writer is something not to be considered lightly. You have to know what works best for you. Sustaining an ongoing writing routine is about balancing the need for output with the pacing of creativity. Maintaining a solid backlog and writing plan helps with that type of effort of course. 

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.

Spending that time wisely

The weekend is upon us with the opportunity to get some things done. A few blocks of time will exist in the morning and the afternoon on both days to spend on something. It makes me really question just how wisely I can spend the time. Generally we don’t commoditize time. I do think of some blocks of time that can be spent on something. It is trying to make sure that we are spending those blocks of time wisely that captures a lot of my focus. My writing routine helps to keep me on track for the most part. Every day at 0500 hours the alarm on my Fitbit watch goes off and I start the day. Larger blocks of time are reserved on Saturday and Sunday morning for producing prose and really digging in deep. However, you can tell from the general pattern of the routine that each day starts out with a bit of writing. 

My big plan for the day is to really get ready for a big trash pickup tomorrow. We have a few larger things that need to get sorted out. I generally feel the same way about my major writing projects. I have a few that need to get sorted out and the rest just need to be organized and worked to resolution. Sure my writing strategy should help make that easy enough. Sometimes you have to dig in and give the old writing strategy a bit of review to see if the trajectory is still sound. Producing prose for the sake of producing it has a certain amount of merit. However, working toward something more meaningful has a better case for spending the effort to get it completed. Especially if you are going to view that effort as a coin for a block of time that has to be spent wisely.

Completing enough content before spring break

The first portion of this morning was spent on editing a Substack post called, “Touching the singularity.” My routine of writing on Saturday morning and finishing the editing on Sunday morning worked well enough. I was able to complete the audio recording for that post today and it is scheduled to go out on Friday April 1, 2022. Based on the current planning and scheduling I’m four weeks of recordings ahead on The Lindahl Letter. After spring break that buffer will be diminished by a couple of weeks. I’m not sure The Lindahl Letter will ever be months ahead in terms of recording. The content is not meant to be tied to a specific time and place. I’m trying to write in a more general way that really covers a topic vs. trying to provide news or observations that are time sensitive. One of the things that I do need to complete at some point is a YouTube video about the audio recording and editing process. You can probably expect a video about how I record podcast audio at some point in the near future. It has been snowing since last night in Denver, Colorado. It’s March 6th and we have several inches of snow on the ground. Being stuck in the house all day might be the catalyst to complete that video. 

I’m probably going to need to update OBS and maybe take some B roll of the microphone setup itself with my Sony ZV-1 digital camera. Given a couple shots of espresso and the right amount of quiet time I can probably record the entire thing in one shot without a script. My podcast recordings are highly scripted and produced to the point of sounding professional. At least, I think they are relatively professional in audio quality for a weekly podcast recorded at my desk for the pure purposes of adventure. Given that I’m already starting to think about the mechanics of the recording process, that video is probably going to happen. I have a couple of hours right now that are going to be spent on digging into the content presented in my 5 year writing plan. Finding solid blocks of time to engage in academic writing is something that will continue to be a priority. Really sitting down and deeply focusing without distractions is almost becoming a super power these days. It is something you have to be planful about and really make happen on purpose.

Oh that writing plan collected some dust

Yesterday I spent some time thinking about my research trajectory and where my writing efforts should be placed. Intellectually I know that I should use the conference cycle to help motivate my writing efforts and keep them on a tight publishing schedule. Over the last few years that has not really happened in a consistent way. I have written and put together content for a series of talks, but I never finished taking that content and putting it into a journal article format or working it into a conference paper. That is probably one of the first things that should be on my writing plan that is in the process of being reworked. My writing schedule works and I turn out content every week. That is a proven effort at this point. It has worked for well over a year within the machine learning content space. All of that content exists in a well contained Google Doc with weeks 1 to 104 planned out for Saturday delivery. At the start of the year, I did take the first year of that content and put it into a manuscript form and it was edited by a professional to make sure it was ready to be shared in print. That cycle will continue until the end of the 104 planned posts. 

Please keep in mind that my writing plan is not a theme of the year or anything like that. It should be an organized and thoughtful research trajectory from the start to the finish. The other constraint that I put on it is to very clearly view it as a measure of what I could do with the time that I have in front of me. If I only had 5 years to muster up writing efforts, then what should that time be spent on and the most important things should be closer to the beginning of the journey than the end of it. Time is incredibly unforgiving and before you know it from our perspective things will move along with or without the time being put in at the keyboard to create resplendent prose. Within the moment we know time is about to pass, but we have the ability to only elect action or inaction. 

My 5 year writing plan as of March 3, 2022:

  • Year 1 – Heavy ML focus for the rest of 2022
    • Finish writing a collected series of ML/AI essays on Substack and combine them into a manuscript, “The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning Year Two.” This manuscript should include both years one and two. 
      • Weekly Substack posts
      • Manuscript generation at the end of the year
      • Will need to be edited by a professional before the print edition goes live
    • Rework last years speaking engagement talks into academic papers. This could be one combined paper or potentially 5 different papers depending on how the initial effort shapes up.
      • “What is ML Scale? The Where and the When of ML Usage.”
      • “The ML scale problem: Thinking about where and when to use ML, ROI models, synthetic data, repeatable frameworks, and teams.”
      • “Applied ML ROI – Understanding ML ROI from different approaches at scale.”
      • “Demystifying Applied ML – Building Frameworks & Teams to Operationalize ML at Scale.”
      • “Figuring out applied ML: Building frameworks and teams to operationalize ML at scale. V3”
    • Rerun the MLOps Github research and turn that content into a paper
  • Year 2 – For 2023 I want to pivot into studying sentiment analysis and modern polling methodologies. At this point, I will have written 104 essays on ML/AI and should probably refocus on a specific topic that is material to ML/AI, but adjacent to it as an area of research. It’s possible by 2023 that quantum computing will be a huge topic for research and will end up getting some attention as well.
    • Automated sentiment analysis paper
    • Sentiment analysis and machine learning essays for Substack
    • Modern polling methods essays for Substack
    • The breakdown of modern polling paper
  • Year 3 – 2024 will include a return to writing about local government administration and technology. It will be 20 years since earning my master of public administration degree. By this time my writing should be as crisp and focused as it will ever be and my perspective on technology will be well considered from my previous work on ML/AI. 
    • Technology and local government administration
    • The intersection of public administration and technology
    • How technology influences the practice of governing 
    • How government uses ML/AI technology
  • Year 4 – 2025 will probably be the year where quantum computing has broken down modern encryption frameworks. 
    • Changes and uses in encryption technology
    • Encryption and society
    • Quantum encryption
  • Year 5 – 2026 is going to be a year where my backlog should be highly full. The previous 4 years of this writing plan should have created a ton of leftover writing works.
    • A reflective work on ML/AL
    • Did open source MLOps technology survive?
    • Did the serverless trend pan out in the cloud?

Reworking some research trajectory notes

Maybe now is the time to have a whiteboard session and rework my planned academic article list. This could be as simple as making a list on a blank page of paper or it could get a lot more complex. I’m thinking taking the complex road might be the way to go with this one. To that end, right now I’m wondering about the top 5 articles I would like to sit down and write. I can begin to see a few of them in terms of structure and breakdown, but none of that inspired me to stop working on this post and begin the process of writing. I’m going to need to focus on two directional elements. First, what is my academic writing trajectory and what are the results in terms of article output that would arise from that path. Second, what are the articles that I would really like to read that would be groundbreaking in some way. Plotting out both batches of content should help me find somewhere where either some overlap occurs or maybe somewhere where a little bit of intellectual stretching could get me closer to the edge of what is possible and avoid derivative muddling. 

In order to start that effort I’m going to map out my general areas of research interest. The last time I did that in a serious way was back on September 5, 2021. I’ll take that base and begin to expand it to the next level. You could build your own base by quickly making a list of the top 5 research interests you have. From those general interests you will find that you want to add more words to the topic to shape it into a more specific and targeted point within that larger topic. 

  • Public administration
    • Local government administration
    • The intersection of public administration and technology
    • How technology influences government
    • How government uses technology
  • Changes and uses in encryption technology
    • Encryption and society
    • Quantum encryption
  • Sentiment analysis and modern polling methodologies
    • Automated sentiment analysis
    • Sentiment analysis and machine learning
    • Modern polling methods
    • The breakdown of polling
  • General uses cases for machine learning
    • Common API use cases within the ML space
    • General ML use cases compared
    • My general look at MLOps open source code
    • A review of MLOps Github repos
  • The ethical use of large language or foundational models
    • Language models and society
    • The intersection of technology and modernity
    • Oversupply of information (flooding) 

Those areas of research interest have a trajectory. Each of those general themes is going somewhere or evolving somehow. To capture that I started to draw out the 5 topics above and consider what’s next. What would be the bubble next to these 5 bubbles. How do those bubbles interact and in what general trajectory are they starting to move? Building out that series of relationships helps me think about what areas need the most consideration and where the most movement is about to happen. I’m going to spend more time today on that mapping and whiteboard effort. It is not something I can do with a pen and paper as a lot of give and take needs to occur within the live editing consideration brought to that type of landscape.

Ultimately, understanding that general research trajectory is key to being able to complete the action described above that inherently stretches things toward the possible and away from the derivative. 

Reworking all of that made me wonder if I should just pull up my 5 year writing plan and see if it still makes sense. At some point, I’m going to need to rewrite my 5 year writing plan and figure out what things on that list really deserve my time and attention. 

Moving the writing plan around

Writing today started out with a bit of writing to finish up “The Lindahl Letter” for this week. My Saturday writing schedule happened, but the output was not exactly enough to finish up the content for this Friday and have it ready to post. Generally my writing plan for “The Lindahl Letter” was twofold. First, I had planned to work ahead and have the posts ready to go a few weeks or maybe months in advance. Second, my fall back position for the writing plan was to spend the first waking hours of every Saturday morning creating the post for the upcoming Friday. That plan gave me a few days of recovery if for some reason the post was incomplete, terrible, or writing was blocked for some reason. Today was one of those days where I had to pick up a post and clean it up on a Sunday morning. 

Working ahead started to break down a little bit when the content was revised to be more than just a brief or extended passage of prose related to machine learning to include sections that were more real time in their context. Sections for “links and thoughts” and of course the “top 5 tweets of the week” are certainly more related to what happened since the last post vs. the opening content that could be inspired from any point of the machine learning journey. Based on the statistics from the Substack some people seem to like the links and click them while an ever increasing bulk of people don’t really return data related to clicks anymore. That is a problem that is occurring more broadly in the world of advertising. 

My Twitter feed was a blaze with this hot take this morning, “A certain amount of buzz is resonating from the topics of #TimeCrystal and #Metaverse right now… sooner or later a wellspring of academic originated scientific discussion will circle back to cover these things in paper form endlessly…” I’m not sure it was entirely pithy, but it was where my thoughts circled this morning between those to very buzzword driven ideas of the moment. It is entirely possible that time crystals will prove to be truly interesting if they end up requiring a rewrite of the rules of physics. The weight of that last sentence in terms of historical context was pretty heavy. I’m not sure just reading it that it is clear. It is probably a shortcoming in the effectiveness of my prose. Please consider this extra bit of rambling after the original claim for additional context.