Monthly Archives: May 2024

You need your own workshop

This is originally Derek Sivers’ idea, from his book “Anything you want”.

We all need a place to play.

Kids need playgrounds and sandboxes. Musicians need an instrument. Mad scientists need a laboratory.

Those of us with business ideas? We need a company.

Not for the money, but because it’s our place to experiment, create, and turn thoughts into reality. We need to pursue our intrinsic motivation.

We have so many interesting ideas and theories. We need to try them!

The happiest people are not lounging on beaches. They’re engaged in interesting work!

Following curiosity is much more fun than being idle. Even if you never have to work a day in your life.

That’s the best reason to have a company. It’s your playground, your instrument, your laboratory. It’s your place to play!

Get the ideas out of your head and into the world.

https://sive.rs/laboratory
  • Gardeners need a garden.
  • Car enthusiasts need a garage.
  • Entrepreneurs need a business.
  • Artists need a studio.

But what about systems programmers?

Systems programmers need a project. A place for them to explore, work, play.

Live streaming myself working on my baby operating system has felt great over the last 14 weeks. And now with Sivers’ idea in mind, I can totally see why. It’s finally my own project where I have full control, and it’s a large enough project where there is infinite potential for the things and can do and learn within it.

No matter what your craft is, if you aspire to be great at it, you need a safe, comfortable “space” to work on your craft.

If you have aspirations, but don’t have a space, you likely haven’t fully committed, or given yourself permission to publicly identify as an enthusiast of the craft. (Actions speak louder than words).

Taking action to make that space for yourself can be scary, because it exposes physical, undeniable proof of your interest, which is vulnerable. But in my experience, it can also be deeply affirming, exciting, and motivating.

Getting into reading again by playing offense

I used to look at long non-fiction books and immediately wince, thinking of how long it would probably take me to read it, and what a slog it would probably be. Of course, this is a strange point of view that seems to forget that books can actually be captivating and fun.

But beyond that, something that helped me is changing my perspective. Rather than letting the book be in control, I now try to play more on offense.

Instead of allowing a long book to suck a potentially infinite time out of me (which means in practice, I won’t even start), I now give books a budget. If I only have 2 hours of time to give a book, oh well, that’s all it gets. I stop and move on. Hopefully the book can deliver some of its meaning in that time frame, or even better, captivate me and convince me to renegotiate my relationship with it — and give it more time.

Instead of putting the responsibility on you to slog through and make it to the end, put the responsibility on the book to earn your time.


(This does work better when you don’t pay for the book – ideally by lending it from someone else.)

I like WordPress

Among programmers, it’s very unfashionable to use WordPress for your blog. (“PHP? Yuck.”) Instead, you should be using the latest minimalist static site generator, hosted on the latest free static hosting.

(A decade ago, this was Jekyll on Github Pages — I haven’t bothered to keep up, but I did put in my time. At various points, my blog was based on Jekyll, Pelican, and Octopress).

In 2020 I decided to restart my blog, but just use WordPress.

Three years, later this has been an unambiguously good decision. I keep running into things that save me significant time, compared to me trying to code this myself, or use a static site generator.

I think the proof is in the pudding. If the goal is to actually publish writing on the internet, consistently, over a long period of time, I’ve done that (or at least am well on my way — see the Archive).

Here are some handy things I’ve found myself needing that were just there for me. I’ll add to it as I run into more.

  • Automatic redirects if you change a post slug
  • Rich plugin ecosystem for nearly everything
  • Extensive documentation, both first and third-party on how to do things. Even ChatGPT can advise.
  • Ability to customize with PHP if absolutely necessary
  • Migrating to a different permalink structure was a piece of case with the Redirects plugin
  • Built in RSS feed
  • Built in Recent post
  • Built in Top posts/pages (via Jetpack)
  • Built in downtime monitoring (via Jetpack)
  • Easy mailing list integration (MailChimp, ConvertKit, etc)
  • Built in grouping and taxonomy features (Tags, Categories)
  • Built in Monthly Archives
  • Built in comments
  • WordPress/Jetpack mobile app for easy editing/moderation on the go

Be your most authentic self (and write about whatever you want)

I love writing about computers, but I also love writing about other topics like creativity, art, and productivity. However, many programmers out there strictly blog about technical topics, which made me feel a bit weird for posting random stuff like poems or my experience with GTD.

This led me to a dilemma: Do I blog all in one place, or do do I perhaps create a separate blog for non-technical content?

My answer is to apply my “golden piece of advice”: Do what feels most authentic to you.

For me, writing about all of my interests is the most authentic expression of myself, so when in doubt, I do this. Curbing this instinct, and making a strictly technical blog just to be like “all the other programmers” wouldn’t be.

It’s totally possible that “all the other programmers” simply don’t feel a desire to write about anything else. So making a strictly technical blog is their maximally authentic expression of themselves — which is great for them! Let’s all do what feels most authentic to us.

Hiding in this case study is a profound lesson about life. The situation applies equally to any other life situation where you feel some pull to act in one way, but feel some hesitation upon observing “everyone around you” seems to act.1

When in doubt, apply the “golden advice”: Do what feels most authentic to you.


I’m very happy with this decision. It feels great to have a single place which all of my thinking, which also has the practical benefit of making it easier for potential followers to submerge themselves in all my content.

I also believe this will win in the long run as it’s more likely to resonate with like-minded people that can respect having a myriad of interests — the kind of people I’m looking to connect with!

Lastly, there’s the non-trivial but subtle benefit that simplicity of infrastructure & accounts actually matters and translated into a lot of time saved.