Category: blog


Introducing: A Curated Index to the Blog

Those of you with a keen eye may have noticed a new menu options available on the blog this weekend: A Curated Index to the Blog. This is something I have been wanting to do for a while, and I managed to get about the first 10% percent completed so far.

A new menu option!

This new page takes you to a curated list of posts that I have written over the 16+ years that this blog has been in existence. With over 7,000 posts on the blog, I am trying to find ways to expose readers to stuff I have written in the past, not just posts that I am writing today. To do this, I have started to go through my massive backlog of posts, and find a representative sample that crosses the spectrum of everything I write about here.

My goal is to eventually have about 10% of the total posts listed on this curated index. As of today, I’ve indexed about 100 of these posts, so I’ve still got 500-600 to go. This is clearly a work-in-progress.

The new page provides a brief introduction, and is then followed by an alphabetical list of topics. Posts are listed in order of date below each topic. This provides a single page that someone can go to and scroll through to scan the kinds of things I write about, and maybe dive into something that they haven’t read before.

Each bullet links to the post and is followed by the date the post was published. Within a given topic, I list the posts in date order. For those posts whose titles aren’t completely clear on what the subject is about, I’ve added some annotations to give more details.

I am trying not just to pick a random sample, but a representative sample. I write about a lot of different things here and I want this index to reflect that. I am also trying to find posts that I think are particularly good, but also include some posts (particularly earlier posts) that may not be up to my standards today, but are accurate historical representations of how I was writing on the blog 10 or 15 years ago.

I’ve wanted a place to point people to when they ask, “What kind of stuff do you write about?” Now I’ve got one.

Feel free to check out the new index, and let me know what you think about it. I’ll be adding more posts over the next few months until I reach my 10% goal. If there are posts you know about that you think should be on this list, please send me your suggestions.

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A Programming Reminder for Practically Paperless

Just a reminder that I am taking this week off from the Practically Paperless posts. Lots of holiday preparations going on, and I wanted a little time to relax. Episode 8 will be back here next week, Tuesday, November 30.

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Upcoming Changes to My Reading List Page

Just a heads-up that over the next couple of days, you may notice some upcoming changes to my reading list page. Among the new features I will be adding over the next several days:

  • A “top” page with a summary table for my reading. The table will have links to individual years. There will still be a link for the full list in case you like (as I do) perusing the whole thing.
  • A “page” for each year with a list of books I read in just that year.
  • A reading FAQ which I will link to from the top page.
  • A “recommendations” page, which will list books that I recommend, collected under various topics and genres.

There will probably be other things, too, eventually. For now, I just wanted to give you a heads-up of the changes in case you notice anything unusual.

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300 Consecutive Days of Blog Posts in 2021

contemporary monthly calendars and clips on pink table
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

Today, October 27 is the 300th day of the year. Given that I have published at least one post every day this year, that makes for 300 consecutive days of blog posts. I thought that little accomplishment noteworthy enough to mention. Here is a heat map of what those 300 days look like:

In these 300 days, I have published 368 posts. At this rate, I should finish up 2021 with about 440 posts for the year. It is far from the most posts I’ve published in a year, but it is respectable, and if you combine total posts and average word count, it is the best I’ve done in a long time. While it isn’t always easy to think of a post idea and get at least one written each day, it is always fun, and that’s why I keep doing it.

This streak is still pretty far from the 825-day writing streak I had between 2013-2015. But one thing I learned from that streak is that the weight of the streak itself can be a problem. That is why I try to plan ahead here. I generally try to write my posts several days in advance of publishing them. I like to be two or three days ahead if I can. Ideally, I’d like to work up to a week’s buffer. I do work up a buffer if I know I am going to be away, just to take off the pressure. Because I enjoy the writing I do here, I still try to write every day, but the pressure is off if I can’t. Yet another lesson I took from Isaac Asimov, who was often several months ahead of his deadlines for his F&SF science essays.

I also wanted to mention that a few days ago, the blog surpasses the total number of page views and visitors that it received for all of last year. Since traffic peaked in 2015, it has decreased each year since, sometimes by a little, other times by a lot. In part that’s because I haven’t written as much in recent years, and evergreen posts only get you so far. But a few days ago, my numbers for this year surpassed last year, and in a few more days, they will surpass 2019 as well. Right now the blog is on track to have about 24% more traffic than last year. I like to think it is a combination of hard work (posting every day) and fun and interesting posts. More than likely though it is because I am posting new stuff every day, regardless of what it is. Still, since part of my goal was to revitalize the blog, seeing the numbers go up is particularly satisfying and I thank all of my readers for that.

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7,000 Posts

Well it crept up on me, and I didn’t notice it until this evening: Yesterday’s Practically Paperless post was my 7,000th post on the blog. This morning’s post on my favorite baseball books was my 7,001st. Seven thousand posts! It’s hard to imagine that I’ve written that much here, but the evidence is right in front of me. The 7,000 post combine for 2,782,000 words. This, of course, is spread over 16 years between October 2005 and today. Still, that’s an average of around 174,000 words per year. Some years have been better than average. In my best year, 2011, I wrote 419,000 words spread over 762 posts, or just about two per day that year. 2021 is my 6th best year in terms of word count: 225,000 words spread over 348 posts–and we are only partway through October.

I don’t think 7,000 posts is like getting 2,456 hits or hitting more than 700 home runs. I’m sure there are blogs out there that have a lot more posts than I do here. Still, I’m proud of this milestone. Each post is an opportunity for me to write for an audience. Each post is an opportunity to learn and improve my craft. Each post is an opportunity to connect with readers. I love doing all three.

So I am having myself a (very) little celebration this evening, congratulating myself on managing to write 7,000 posts, and for keeping this blog going these last 16 years. And I’m already putting together a list of the next 7,000 posts to write. If you look closely at the image above, you’ll see there are already 10 in the drafts folder, waiting to be scheduled.

Thanks for reading and for making this so much fun.

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Big Post Tomorrow on Paperless, Obsidian, and Evernote

I mentioned earlier this week that I would have some more posts on Obsidian coming. Well, tomorrow morning, I have a big one come coming. If you enjoyed my Going Paperless posts, or my more recent Obsidian posts, you’ll want to check out tomorrow’s post. It’s a long one, but I think you’ll like it.

A quick teaser: I’m announcing an ambitious new series on the blog in the post tomorrow. Stay tuned for more details.

And if Evernote, Obsidian, or paperless is not your thing, well, the new Walt Longmire book, Daughter of the Morning Star by Craig Johnson comes out tomorrow, so there’s always that to look forward to.

Have a good night (unless you’re on the other side of the globe, in which case, have a great day!).

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A Few Blog Notes for the Week of 9/19/2021

Since I have a few random blog-related things to report, I figured I do it in a single post. If you are not interested in the updates to the blog, you can safely skip this post.

  • On Saturday night (9/18), some of you may have noticed an empty post titled, “why I don’t update.” This was me, messing around with the menus on the blog. I meant to add a menu linking to my post on why I don’t update old posts. For some reason, I added a new post by accident, but since it had no content that’s how it got posted. When I discovered this (at 12:30 am) I deleted the post and the social media updates, but in case anyone who saw it was wondering what was up, now you know. Sorry for any confusion.
  • On the reading list, I made most of the major changes that I was hoping to make over the weekend. I pleased enough with the changes to update the menu link on the blog to my What I Have Read Since 1996 to the new page. You can expect more updates over the coming days and weeks, but the core functionality is there now. Going forward, my posts that refer to my reading list will point there.
  • This coming week will see 2 posts on Obsidian. I haven’t written much on it lately, but I have a renewed commitment to using Obsidian going forward. For those of you interested in Obsidian, in my paperless posts, and in productivity in general, keep an eye out for these posts coming this week.
  • This week marks the fifth consecutive week in a row that the blog stats have been going up. I’m nowhere near back to where I was in 2013-15, but the consistency (and quality?) is definitely paying off. Indeed, not counting January and Decembers, month in which my numbers always go up considerably, this month is looking to be my best since October 2018. I just want to thank everything who reads here, everyone who leaves comments, and those of you who have reached out to me directly. It’s a joy to have such great readers.
  • So far, it seems that people like the Retro Posts (and Retro Post summaries) as well as the Interest Reads posts I’ve been doing, so you can expect those to continue.

That’s what I have got. As always, if you have any comments, requests, or suggestions, drop me a comment, or shoot me and email. And thanks again for reading.

More Enhancements to My New Reading List Page

Yesterday I introduced a beta version of my new reading list–everything I have read since 1996–hosted here on the blog as opposed to in GitHub where I’ve been keeping it the last several years. If you’ve been checking out the page, you may have noticed some changes in the last few hours. If you want to check it out, you can find it here:

What I have read since 1996

It is still in beta, still a work in progress, but here are some of the enhancements I’ve added since yesterday:

  • Switched to a different table tool, which is simpler but more functional (so the table may look a little different than it did before).
  • The table is still sortable, but I’ve fixed the date sort so that it now behaves correctly when sorting the date.
  • Removed the “Format” column from the table and replaced it with an icon ahead of each title. The legend at the top of the table provides an indicator of the format in which I read the book.
  • Fixed many problems with bad symbols in the data. I still have more to do there.
  • You can now search the list! Type anything you want into the search box above the table and if it is in the list, it should find matches. For instance, to see how many times I’ve read E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat, I just type it into the search:
  • Converted the “Format” column to a “Topic(s)” column which is useful for searching for books by topic. For instance, how many Presidential memoirs have a I read1:
  • I removed the Length/Pages column and replaced it with what I call BEq. “BEq” stands for “Book Equivalents.” I took an average of the length of all 1,100 books that I’ve read on my list, and it turned out that the average book length is 410 pages. I then degreed that for my purposes, 1 book equivalent = 410 pages. I like this number better because some years I read fewer, longer books, some years many shorter books. The BEq gives me a nice way of seeing how much more or less I read a year focused length not books. A BEq of 1.00 means a book of 410 pages. A nice side effect of this is that a BEq of 2.00 is a book of 820 pages. Have I read any books that are longer than 3 BEqs? It turns out I have read 4:

As I said this is still a work-in-progress. Here are some of the things I will working on over the weekend, so you can expect to see things change more:

  • I noticed that my data export was imperfect and some titles don’t match the authors correctly. I’ve been fixing these as I go along.
  • I still have to go through an add format icons to about 7/10th of the books on the list.
  • I still have to complete adding topics so that all of the books have topics.
  • I also need to add all of the 2021 books to the list.

Once I’ve gotten those things done, my next steps are:

  • Add related posts to relevant titles. You’ll see a handful of these in the current data, but I’ve actually written on the blog about many of the books on the list, and I plan to try to link to the posts from the list as best as I can. Here are some examples of what is there now:
  • I’m toying with the idea of having “top” page for the list which would have a table of individual lists by year along with some stats. Clicking on a year list would take you to a table like the ones above, but filtered for the year in question. There would still be a page for viewing the full list.
  • I want to add pages for things like recommended books, or themed lists.

So, those are the changes that I’ve made so far, and some of what you can expect over the next few days. The feedback I’ve gotten from those of you who have provided it has been incredibly helpful, so keep it coming. I’d like this to be as useful and fun for you as it is for me.

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  1. Note: I’ve only added topics to about 1/5th of my list so far, so these examples are incomplete.

Beta-Testing My New Reading List

ETA: I’ve made some additional enhancements since writing this post.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be adding some new features here on the blog. For one of those features, I’d planned to move the list of everything I’ve read since 1996 back here to the blog. I recently began that process and now have a page ready in beta for people to take a look at:

What I Have Read Since 1996

A few notes about this initial testing phase:

  • Currently, the list includes what I have read from 1996-2020. I have not yet added the 50 or so books I have read in 2021. That will be coming shortly.
  • I have not yet enabled responsive design, so it may not look right on mobile devices, yet
  • You can sort the columns by clicking on the sorting arrows. Sorting on the Finished column doesn’t work right yet because I don’t have the date formatting correctly.
  • To get back to the default sort, sort on the first column.
  • The Related Posts column is intended to be a place where I will link to posts I’ve written about the book in question. I’ve added one example so far.
  • Want to see the longest book I’ve read? Do a descending sort on the Pages column

If you are curious to see an example without clicking on the link, here’s a screenshot:

screenshot of my new reading list page
Screenshot of my new reading list page.

My goal here is to be able to provide a single authoritative place I can point people to for a list of everything I’ve read. Ideally, I’ll be able to add links to related posts for additional context for a given book. A few things I’ve been thinking about but am on the fence on:

  • I’d like to have one big list, but I will likely break it into pages by year before rolling it out officially. This will allow me to have a “top page” with a table that lists each year, along with some stats for the year and links to other things like recommended reads, etc.
  • I’d like to add an icon in front of the title to indicate the format in which I consumed the book (paper, ebook, audio, etc.)
  • I’d like to add an indicator for books that I recommend. Maybe a star at the start of the column? Or just a bold column? I’m not really into 5-star ratings so that’s a nonstarter for me.

Finally, keep in mind that I will be tweaking this as I have time, so you may see things change or disappear. But I wanted to get the basics out there for folks to see.

If you take the time to check it out, I’d love to hear your feedback. Please, let me know what you think, good or bad. I want to make this as functional as I can manage. Leave your thoughts in the comment. Or, if you prefer to provide them directly to me, shoot me an email.

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Retro Posts, Experimentation, and New Features Coming Soon

I have been doing some experimentation with the blog. If you follow me on Twitter or my Facebook page, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been trying to increase the visibility of the posts I’m writing. I’m doing this by spreading out the announcements of the posts at different times of the day, in order to catch different audiences. Buffer makes this scheduling easy. This is still in an experimental stage. I was hesitant to try this because I didn’t want to come off as annoying. For instance, when I look at my own Twitter feed, it looks as if I am Tweeting about the same post consecutively. What I realized, however, is that people generally don’t look at my feed, they look at theirs. So if a Tweet goes out when I publish a post at 8am and another goes out for the same post at 3 pm, it will likely be seen by different audiences.

Today, I also began to experiment with something new: Retro Posts. It seems like I should be doing more with the posts I have already written. To that end, I had two ideas. The first is a daily “Retro Post”. These are links to older posts that I select, and I note the year of the post in the message. Today’s “Retro Post,” for instance, was for a Going Paperless post from 2012. If you are interested in following along with these Retro Posts, you can find them on Twitter or Facebook. I have plenty to choose from: Here is a look at how many posts have been published in just the last 10 years:

I am also working on a couple of new features that help expose some of the posts I have here on the blog:

  • A curated index of posts that I think are among the better posts I’ve written. With about 7,000 posts on the blog, my goal is to pick about 10% of them that I think are the best, and have a index page that lists, by topic those posts. The page can serve as a place people can go to get a wide variety of posts at a glance, while also showcasing what I think is some of my better work.
  • I am in the process of moving my list of books I’ve read since 1996 back here to the blog. I have a design in mind that will make it easy to navigate my reading list. What’s more, if I’ve written posts about a book on the list, I’ll have links to the posts right there with the book on the list.

Both of these may take time, as they require a fair amount of curation to get them put together. You can be sure I’ll make an announcement when these new features are available.

As always, I appreciate everyone’s patience as I experiment here, and apologize if the repeated tweets and Facebook posts come across as annoying. Also, as always, I am open to your suggestions and feedback, what you’d like to see more of here, and what you don’t like so much.

And if you want to follow along with the retro posts, they’ll be posted daily to the following feeds:

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Why I Don’t Update Old Posts

Recently, I’ve been contacted several times to ask if I would update a post with new information. In one instance, it was a link that no longer worked for a post I wrote 6 or 7 years ago. In another instance, I made a reference in a 2014 post to “Angie’s List” and was asked if I would updated that to “Angi’s” since they recently rebranded. Most recently, I was asked to add a link to an older post. With these recent requests in mind, let me briefly explain why I don’t go back and update old posts:

  1. There are close to 7,000 posts on this blog going back 16 years. If I tried to keep links in all of those posts updated, it would be a full-time job and I wouldn’t get any actual post writing done.
  2. Old links and references (as in the reference to “Angie’s List”) are historical. They represent the world as I saw it back when the post was written. Since this blog doubles as a kind of public journal of record for me, I don’t want to update posts that have historical context.
  3. Old posts often express different opinions than what I hold today. Changing them could make it seem like my opinion was always the same. I don’t want to do that. I think it is interesting how my perspective changes over time, and some of that has been captured here. It is a slippery slope from updating a link to updating a past opinion or view point to match my current view. My instance that I could never listen to audio books is a classic example of this, given that , since I wrote that post 9 years ago, I’ve listened to hundreds of audio book.s

The request from Angie’s annoyed me out of all proportion. Were they really contacting everyone who ever mentioned Angie’s List in a post and asking them to change the reference and link to “Angi’s”? And did they really expect people to make these changes? It is like asking for free labor. And it is completely unnecessary when DNS updates could take care of this problem for them automatically.

For the record, I have gone back and updated posts when I have found factual errors outside of historic context, egregious misspellings (minor ones I just leave alone. See #2 above), or to add an “ETA” about some subsequent piece I’ve written that is essentially related. But none of these violate the reasons I list above for not updating old posts.

Just to be clear for any future requests: I don’t update old posts, I don’t update old links in posts, and I certainly don’t go back and add links to posts just because you saw I wrote a post on a subject that was tangentially related to a topic you have written about. See also my policy on link-exchanging.

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My Process for Writing Every Day for the Blog

I set a goal for myself in 2021 to try to post something every day. I wasn’t sure how that would go when I started out, but 217 days into 2021 (as I write this), I’ve been successful. I’ve made at least one post every day. On 28 of those days, I’ve made more than one post. Since I sometimes get questions about writing a blog, starting a blog, and the ever-popular how to build an audience, I thought I’d spend a little time writing about my process for posting every day on the blog.

The key word being posting, not necessarily writing every day. As I have said elsewhere, streaks can be a helpful form of encouragement, but they can also weigh you down. I don’t want that kind of pressure. So while I try to write every day, there are times when I don’t. Instead, I try to get a post out every day often by writing several posts ahead to give me a buffer.

With that in mind, let me tackle this a bit more systematically. I’ll start with the ideas and go from there.

Weeding: Separating good from bad ideas

For me, getting ideas is not a problem. It never has been. The challenge is weeding out the bad ideas and keeping just the good ones. On a typical day, I might jot down four to six ideas for posts. On a recent 2-page spread of my Field Notes notebook, I saw 7 ideas noted. I make ideas easy to identify by prefixing them with a P in a circle.

For those who may have difficulty deciphering my handwriting, here is a translation of the 7 ideas that appear on these pages:

Regular readers will see that some, but not all of these ideas were eventually turned into posts. Two of the 7 ideas never made it, yet, anyway. “Sounds of Santa Monica” was an idea I had for an internal blog I do at work, about the music I remember listening to when I worked in our Santa Monica office from 1994-2002. The “What to Say to WETA” post evolved into a recent post on Unposted Writings.

The trick to this is figuring out: what is a bad idea and what is a good one? If I had the answer to that, I’d have a development deal with a major studio and at least a dozen number one box office blockbusters under my belt. Here is what I can say about this: I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 16 years. I am coming up on 7,000 posts totaling 2.7 million words. I am just beginning to get an inkling of what separates a good idea from a bad one. And I’m still not entirely sure. Sometimes, I am just so excited about the idea that it practically writes itself. Other times, I ask myself questions:

  • Would this make a good essay? I tend to think of these posts as essays.
  • Have I written about this before? With nearly 7,000 posts it is likely.
  • If I have written about this before, do I have something new to add? Have I changed my mind about something?

Interestingly, what I don’t tend to ask myself is: is this something my audience would like?

Idea Drafts: Where I store the good ideas

Once I’ve decided I have a good idea, I immediately created a draft in WordPress with a title and possibly a few notes that happen to be in my head for the idea. The notes are usually just bullet points to remind myself of things I want to include in the piece. Here is what the idea draft for this post looked like after I got the idea back on July 26:

  • using drafts
  • post length, ~600 words
  • writing off the top of my head, rough outlines at best
  • what to write about? where do i get my ideas?
  • pure enjoyment
  • writing ahead when I know I’ll be unavailable
  • trying to stay ahead to reduce pressure

I don’t always write the post as soon as I know I have a good idea. The Idea Draft serves as a reminder of things that I want to write about when the mood strikes me. Sometime, I do write the posts immediately. The draft then moves into a “scheduled” or “published” state. But often times Idea Drafts sit in the WordPress Drafts folder for while. In this case of this post, a while was ten days. Having a bunch of Idea Drafts sets me up for my daily writing.

Daily Writing: Where the ideas become posts

As part of my morning routine, I set aside an hour to write. During that time, I can write, or I can stare at a blank screen. But I can’t do anything else. I generally aim for about 600 words on the average post and over the years, I’ve gotten a good feel for when I hit that mark. If things are going well, I can write a typical post in 20-30 minutes. That means, on a good morning, I can sometimes write two or three posts. On other mornings, I manage to write only one. Sometimes, that is because it is a longer post, or takes a while to put together. Other times it is because I am struggling with the idea and can’t quite get it to work the way I want.

This is where good ideas can die, and become unposted writing.

Generally, I look forward to writing every morning. For me it is pure enjoyment, even when I struggle. Struggling means I am learning the hard way, but learning nevertheless. The writing comes after my morning walk, and after my meditation, and with those two things done, I am usually keen to work on one or more of the Idea Drafts. Once I get started, I write off the top of my head, using or discarding any notes I’ve made as I see fit.

The hour each day is what I set aside for myself to write. It is not a limit, however. If I have more to write, I’ll look to carve out more time later in the day (usually in the evenings) to write more.

Planning ahead, or posting while ghosting

To help keep the pressure off the daily writing, I plan ahead. I try to have at least 2-3 days of posts scheduled in advance so that you are typically reading them 2-3 days after they were written. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes, I have a plan ahead a little more. For instance, I wanted to make sure I had no pressure to write every day on our recent road trip vacation. So in the week leading up to our vacation, I made sure I had posts scheduled throughout the vacation. I was largely successful–except for today. I left the Friday slot open (even though I’d scheduled Saturday and Sunday) because this is the slot that I’ve used recently for my Weekly Playbook posts. I was on the fence about whether I’d do one of these for vacation, and decided to wait and see. In the end, I wrote this post instead, because it had been waiting its turn a long time (ten days!)

This does help keep the pressure off. Knowing that I have a two or three day buffer means I don’t feel like I have to write something every day. My streak isn’t about writing every day as much as it is writing what I enjoy as much as I can. Indeed, I don’t even keep track of how much I write or how often I write day-to-day. The only thing I keep my eye on is if I am posting every day. That can make it seem like I am writing every day, but rest assured, there are days when I am posting while ghosting. I had a few of these days on our recent vacation.

This process may not work for everyone, but it works for me. I wake up each morning knowing that I have a post coming out, whether I can finish a new post that morning or not. I feel particularly good on the days when I can get two or three posts written and scheduled, knowing that expands my buffer a bit. A bigger buffer allows me to write the occasional longer post (like this one). Your mileage may vary. The important thing I’ve learned over the years is to try different methods until you find one that works for you. Posts like this provide one possibly method. There are many others.

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