What happens at the end of the blog

Earlier this week I was thinking about what exactly happens at the end of the blog. Most of the time in the lifecycle of a weblog or blog the end happens from abandonment. Probably the vast majority of blog type writing projects have been just abandoned. At some point, the writer just stops producing that type of prose and moves along to something new. A few of them were powered by writers that sustained them for years or perhaps decades. Those platforms of prose generation stood the test of online time. Generally, at the point of abandonment most of the self hosted blog experiments eventually vanish, expire, or are terminated. Sometimes they were built on a platform that just sustains and lingers. Those free platforms sometimes can last a very long time in the online world. 

In my case, from this point I know that the servers are paid out 5 years from now and assuming the platform properly updates itself the blog could survive during that time frame. Certainly the prose won’t really improve during that time. It will just survive online. My plans at the moment are to keep adding to the content. I write for the blog without consideration for an audience. The content is created really for my own purposes of writing. Throughout the last 20 years the blog content just mostly sits, lingers, and remains unmoving and uncompelling. It’s writing without a discrete future purpose. The prose was formed within the process of writing. 

Considering some writing schedule updates:

  • Saturday – daily blogging, early morning hours spent on The Lindahl Letter development
  • Sunday – daily blogging, early morning hours spent on The Lindahl Letter podcast recording
  • Monday – daily blogging, nels.ai development
  • Tuesday – daily blogging, nels.ai recording 
  • Wednesday – daily blogging, nels.ai publishes at 5 pm
  • Thursday – daily blogging, big coding adventures
  • Friday – daily blogging, The Lindahl Letter goes out at 5 pm

I have the outline of a book that probably needs to be written sometime soon. I could devote my Saturday and Sunday early morning time to working on the chapters of that book as blocks of content creation. All of that content is listed in the backlog and will eventually get built, but maybe the time to produce a certain section of that backlog is now instead of leader. It’s always the reframe of action that the time is now. Finding and sustaining the now is probably the harder part of that equation.

Maintaining 5 slots of building each day

Focusing inward on delivering requires a certain balance. My balance has been off recently. I got knocked off my feet and it impacted my ability to produce blocks of content for about a week. That type of thing does not normally happen to me. It was a new set of emotions and things to consider. Getting knocked down hard enough to pause for a moment and need to look around before moving again was a very new sensation. I’m not sure it was something that I was looking for or even prepared to experience. Really the only thing that put me back on the right track to success and deeper inward consideration (restored balance) was the passage of some time. It just took a little bit of time for me to internalize and move on to a new set of expectations. 

Each new day brings forward a set of time for creating blocks of content. My thoughts right now are around the consideration of making and maintaining 5 slots of building each day. To that end I have been sitting down on the whiteboard and writing down 5 good things to work on each day and trying to make sure they are attainable blocks to complete. At this time, I don’t want to put multi-slot blocks or all day blocks on the board for action and review. This is not the time for that type of stretching and personal growth by taking on highly complex activities. Right now is the time to make things clear, work on the clear things, and be stronger with that resolution every single day go forward. 

Maybe getting back to the absolute standard of sitting down at the very start of the day after drinking two shots of espresso and writing for a few minutes is the key to reframe my day. It is something that has been missing. It was missed. Perhaps it was missed more than I even realized at the time. I’ll admit to sitting down and watching about 4-5 seasons of the Showtime series Billions instead of actively writing and building. Alternatively, I could have been listing some graded sports cards on eBay and working to sell a few of them each day. Let’s zoom out for a second from those thoughts and consider what the next 30 days will uphold as a standard. 

One block of the daily 5 is going to be related to committing code on GitHub. I’m going to really focus my time and energy on making solid contributions to published code. Taking on that effort will help me be focused and committed to something that will become more and more necessary. Building code has changed a bit with the advent of LLMs, but the general thought exercise and logic remain pretty much the same. You might be able to take a wild run at something that was not attainable before and prompt your way to something magical. Generally you are going to go where logic can take you within the confines of the coding world as the framework is a lot more logical than it is purely chaotic in nature. 

5 good things for 9/15

  1. Rework block 142
  2. Commit something LangChain related in Colab
  3. Work on https://www.coursera.org/learn/intro-to-healthcare/home/week/1
  4. Review blocks 143-145
  5. Start building voter data baseline package

Outside of those efforts generally as a part of my daily routine I’m producing a daily vlog via YouTube Shorts and striving to output a daily reflection functional journal blog post. I’m going to try to take some inline functional journal notes throughout the day as well. That is going to structurally end up with a sort of blog post being written at the start of the day and then a bunch of more inline bullets being created. Posting is still going to happen at the end of the day or potentially a day delayed. 

Delivering independent research is more important now than ever. I have spent some time thinking about the models of how that research is delivered and what value it has generally. 

Block 142 is pretty much ready to go. I’ll be able to record it tomorrow morning and stay on track to have a 4 block recorded backlog of content ready to go for my Substack. 

During the course of reviewing blocks 143 to 145 I considered if those are even the right topics to spend time working. They are probably fine elements of things to research. It’s not about producing timely content, but instead it is about making meaningful blocks of content that are not time sensitive. That of course is always a harder thing to accomplish while producing independent research.

Some things are just routine

Some things are just routine. Uninterrupted writing during the earliest hours on Saturday and Sunday. Walking the dog in the morning. 25 evening push ups. Drinking a glass of water with every meal. These things just become a part of a regularly scheduled plan. It’s good to have some things that are routine. I’m really trying to focus on working on delivering the items in my writing backlog. Earlier this week things became a lot less stable. My reaction to that instability was not to power through a bunch of backlog items. It’s good to understand that reaction. I’m really just sitting down now to write a little bit of content. Everything within the foundation of my writing ability was shaken a little bit. Distinctly shaken, not stirred, is how things felt for the moment part. A whirlwind of emotion and reaction beyond anything that was going to just drive some writing. It was one of those moments where you have to take a step back and consider things within a more macro context. 

I’m actually thinking about releasing some type of poll on Twitter/X each day. That activity would be done just for my own personal amusement. I had considered doing something within the spaces (live audio). That idea never went anywhere. I have posted over 400 videos on YouTube. Apparently, I have posted as of this moment exactly 444 videos. A bunch of those happened during the time when I thought it would be fun to publish a daily vlog. Maybe going back and trying to do that again would be fun. The best way to do that would be to just commit to recording short videos on my Google Pixel 7 Pro, editing them using the PowerDirector application, and publishing them from the phone. That is pretty much how the last round of vlogging happened. I might string together a few random clips and do a test run without making it privately visible. We will see how that ends up going tomorrow.

You might have guessed that it is now the next day and I was able to run the publishing test on YouTube. Oddly enough, the system actually uploaded the video as my very first YouTube Shorts contribution. It was a pretty easy thing to accomplish and PowerDirector was just as easy to use as I remember from the last time around. Loading content to the project, editing it up a bit, and publishing took just a few minutes. It was a very low friction activity and it was sort of interesting to see it show up as a Shorts contribution. I think that happened due to the orientation of the video. All the little snippets I grabbed happened to be shot vertically. That may be the key to triggering that type of upload category. I’m not exactly sure on that one. 

I was able to get back into the routine of things for my Saturday morning early hour writing efforts. Two blocks of content were developed including weeks 139 and 141. I’ll have to pick back up with week 140 tomorrow and finish up editing the other two blocks of content. I may not be able to record any new podcast episodes this weekend. I did take the time to set up a podcast playlist on YouTube and I might go ahead and release the Friday August 25, 2023 edition in video format as a sort of test run of the process. Adding that type of video production to my workflow will change the publishing cost from the 10 minutes of audio creation to about 30 minutes per edition. If the video creation process becomes very involved, then things might jump up to 90 minutes per block of content. That could be worth it or it might be a thing to try out and fail faster on by adding it to the mythical stop doing list.

Avoiding those major blockers

Two podcast audio tracks were recorded this morning. Both the week 137 and 138 content received some revision and were recorded. That was a productive start to the day. Right now the backlog of recorded and ready to release blocks of content for The Lindahl Letter is sitting at 5 weeks. My alternate building project is progressing as well on a daily basis. When you are the only one coding and developing something you have to be really careful about hitting roadblocks and other blockers. That they can just bring everything to a crashing halt on a side project. No opportunity for recovery exists as you have to either solve it, figure out a work around, or elect to move on to something else. No one element of the backlog can be allowed to take up every bit of possible time. 

I was reading this article from Vox writer Peter Kafka about how the newsletter boom is over [1]. During the course of writing 138 blocks of content to share on Substack I have wondered about how that company is doing and what exactly is going on in the world of newsletter publishing. It’s interesting to think of publishing a newsletter as an MVP to ship each week. Kafka shared a few links about what has been happening with Substack as well which was helpful. Those articles did not paint the best forward looking picture. A few weeks ago now I started to both post my podcast audio and Substack post content on this blog each week as well. That is more or less just an archival play at the moment. I’d have to figure out how to fold subscribers from one platform to the other which I guess would be possible by email. I’d have to consider the right opt-in process for that to make the switch, but it’s probably a problem for future Nels. 

[1] https://www.vox.com/recode/23289433/newsletters-substack-subscriptions-bari-weiss-semafor-peter-kafka-column

It has to be the right plan

All those writing plans abound. You have to figure out the outcomes of executing the plan. It has to be the right plan. You have to make sure things are lined up in the right ways. Some of those thoughts are coming from the nature of the day that was at hand. It was one of those days where it seemed like a good idea to deeply consider some things. One of those things was just how best to apply the time I have right now to something meaningful. Zooming out a bit it is easy to see that we are in year three of a writing plan that includes producing one block of content per week. Maybe the answer is inside that premise. Writing and producing blocks of content as a process might very well be what I want to do with the time that I have right now. Apparently, the process of producing the thing is what is standing out to me as being pivotal at the moment.

Tonight is going to be a night full of watching the NHL playoffs. Right now the Boston Bruins vs. the Florida Panthers game is on and later on the Colorado Avalanche will play the Seattle Kraken. It’s a big game tonight for the Colorado Avalanche given that the series is all tied up at 2-2. Winning that mid series stalemate is very important. Getting into any elimination game scenario is not a good thing to allow if the team can avoid it. At the moment, I’m considering what is going to happen with dinner and just absorbing some playoff hockey. That is where things are at and it is pretty much what is going on beyond engaging in the practice of daily writing. Sometimes you have to sit down and just work on producing some words. That is a different element than producing a set of weekly blocks as a part of a plan. I know right now what each of those writing blocks is going to be between now and the end of the year. Working on those well defined blocks of content is a type of intellectual work to generate output. Sitting down to just write for the sake of putting words on the page is a different sort of activity. 

I’m a big fan of stream of consciousness based writing. Sitting down and just writing until you are done with the act of writing is a great way to relax your mind. A lot of time that type of effort could produce absolute balderdash. Writing about whatever comes to mind will have a mix of results. Some of it might be interesting and other blocks of it might otherwise be terrible prose. It happens. I’m certainly guilty of a few false starts now and again during the writing process. Ok to be fair to that assessment I’m probably guilty of a fair number of false starts. More than a few of those have made it all the way to the blog. Other ones more recently just get to live in a Google Doc in perpetuity. 

My routine is set up to produce 52 blocks of content per year

Currently, my routine is set up to produce 52 blocks of content per year. Each week one block of content is getting generated. Within that cycle I have time devoted to writing on the weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday morning I wake up early and focus for several hours without interruption. We are in the third year of this 52 block creation format. The previous two years were moved into a manuscript format and packaged as books. Each of the blocks is shared out as a Substack post along the way. All of that is geared toward my efforts to learn, understand, and explain complex topics. That is the routine that I have setup and am implementing as part of both my daily writing plan and the research trajectory I have set up for myself. All that rolls up into my five year writing plan and I have been successful in adhering to the plan. 

This pattern of production works for me and I’m ok with sustaining it. One of the things I need to really focus on doing is converting some of the blocks into research notes, literature reviews, and the seeds of academic papers. Last year I built a solid literature review in Overleaf and was able to share it out. Pretty much every part of that effort was rewarding. It was good research and the effort put into that made sense. This year we have moved from post 105 to where I am currently working on post 124. That pretty much means that 19 blocks of the 52 for this year have been expended. All of that effort did not yield another publication shifted over to Overleaf for extended sharing. At the moment, I’m deeply considering what that means to have spent the time and effort on that writing effort, but not have turned the corner from building blocks of content to creating publications. 

All that being said, I’m trying to figure out how to take my remaining backlog for the rest of the year and either mix and match blocks to build something or change out some of the remaining blocks for the year to help support the mission of creating better literature reviews. I know that the best possible plan is to probably just sit down and write down the top 5 literature reviews toward the bleeding edge of technology I would like to read and then just produce the ones that do not exist. Working on things within that process is probably the right way to move things forward. Getting to a posture where my routine is generating the output I want over time is really the outcome I’m looking to achieve. Having a routine is great and it is the first step in the process. A good next step is understanding the outcomes of that routine. That is what I have been trying to think about within the last 500 words or so of prose.

Each of those 52 blocks right now is created in a Google Doc and that is where the content stays within the 5 week planning and review cycle. For the whole year I work on content within that document and pull out completed works to share them in Substack. I’m trying to figure out if I should be publishing the content on the blog as well. No real conflict of obligation exists in doing that type of doubling up on posting the content. Generally, each blog post is created in a separate stand alone Google Doc and then that word processing document is just left in storage afterwards. That is very different from the 52 blocks of content where towards the end of the year I take the time to format the content back into a Microsoft Word document and prepare that manuscript for both editing and publication. From what I can tell, old Substack posts don’t really get a ton of traffic and at some point I’m sure that platform will cease to exist. My blog will exist until approximately 5 years after my efforts cease. I tend to pay in advance for domains and hosting.

Considering my writing Schedule

At the moment, my writing schedule for the week looks like this:

  • Sunday:
    • Morning writing session to review my Substack post and work on academic articles for 1-3 hours
    • Publish a note on LinkedIn about the last Substack post
    • Send a Tweet about my last Substack post
  • Monday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Tuesday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Wednesday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Thursday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Friday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Saturday: Morning writing session to write a Substack post and work on academic articles for 1-3 hours

The most straightforward part of my planning trifecta (research trajectory statement, writing schedule, and upcoming research plan) of thinking about what I’m going to do next is really the writing schedule. It really just details my plan each week to sit down and be productive at the keyboard. For better or worse that means tracking in advance what my weekend mornings are dedicated to working on and how that time will be best spent. My writing schedule can be summed up as a simple look at weekends vs. weekdays and what needs attention.

I need those 3 hour blocks of writing time

I’m considering mixing things up and spending my early morning weekday writing time on some of the topics for the Lindahl Letter. The last two days have been geared toward that type of effort. Overall that type of writing works out ok during the content production stage of the writing project, but very poorly during the research stage of things. I don’t have enough time on weekdays to really dig in and read content as a part of my weekly article building. That is one of the main reasons that this type of work is shifted to Saturday and Sunday. I need those 3 hour blocks of writing time to really put my best effort forward in terms of research and sharing out on a particular topic. 

However, I think the next few weeks will be geared toward a little bit of thinking and writing in the early hours of my weekdays. Sometimes it is a good plan to mix things up. This might be one of those moments. We will see what the end results yield on this one. The proof will be in the writing output.