Hacking in the Dark, Episode 3: New Roam Features!

I did a quick livestream today showing some new (and some not-so-new) features in Roam Research, including:

  • Improved precision in inline calculator
  • New block reference features, especially for using “template” blocks
  • The new mysterious Delta (Δ) button for spaced repetition
  • Mermaid diagrams
  • Code highlighting support for new languages
  • Themes and versioning

Hope you enjoy it!

Past Roam videos:

The Number One Priority: Intellectual denial of service attacks, part 3

Really?
That’s what you’re focused on?

Over the last few years, I’ve seen several instances of (and reactions against) an intellectual denial of service attack that I’ll call “The Number One Priority”. Maybe you’ve seen it, too.

We cannot do anything until someone’s Number One Priority is satisfied. Exploring Mars? What about the starving Earth children? Developing a decentralized alternative to the current global monetary system? Fix this one first! Building a mobile scooter company to facilitate easy travel in big cities? NOT EVERYONE LIVES IN CITIES!

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Hacking in the Dark, Episode 1: The Boring One

I finally bought a camera for my desktop, so I figured I’d give it a spin with OBS Studio. This was mostly a trial run to see how my mic, camera, video quality, etc. were working. In this short video, I give a quick rundown of how I write Go code, and mention some VIM plugins I find useful.

Let me know what you think! Should I make more videos? If so, what would you like to see?

The Map to Nowhere: Intellectual denial of service attacks, part 2

Stick ’em up, you were wrong on the internet

In my first post on intellectual denial of service attacks, I covered something I dubbed “bad infinitum,” a tendency for non-experts to overwhelm experts with repetitive, costly, and often unproductive demands for evidence or counter-argument to oft-debunked or misleading claims. Here, I’ll cover another of these intellectual attack vectors, which I’ll call “the map to nowhere.” An asymmetry exists in each of these attacks: easy to launch, hard to counter.

Many responses to my first post mentioned the need for a renewed trust of experts. I’m not so sure of this. The squelching of productive conversation can go both ways, as I hope to describe.

(Aside: In a comment on Hacker News, tinono mentioned noticing a similarity with Paul Graham’s essay, “Keep Your Identity Small,” in my comment about not wanting to go back on previously-stated beliefs. His essay greatly influenced my thinking on the topic, and it deserves your attention if you haven’t read it)

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Intellectual denial of service attacks

We live in an era that devalues conformity, while simultaneously preserving it in many interesting ways. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. Divergent views produce conflict, however, and disagreement, argument, and debate define our current moment.

If we merely disagreed on matters of taste – our favorite color, music, movies, etc. – we could avoid such conflicts. Increasingly, though, we disagree on more fundamental ideas. Some deny the spherical shape of the Earth and the heliocentric model of the solar system (I highly recommend Behind the Curve, a movie about this movement). Arguments of all shapes and sizes spring up everywhere: capitalism vs. socialism, humanity’s role in climate change, on and on.

The democratization of virality amplifies these disagreements. Previously obscure ideas can quickly become widely known. Competing ideological camps endlessly try to score points on one another. The internet rewards this behavior with fame and other social capital. Various forms of what I’ll call “intellectual denial of service” act to reinforce this dynamic. I’ll describe one of these attack vectors in this post.

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Hello, world

Techiavelli

Anyone who read my post yesterday is probably confused by 1) this domain name and 2) my mention of it being my “first post”. This blog is a reboot of my previous site (where the older posts came from). I’m starting over in hopes that it will incentivize me to take blogging seriously again. This post will explain my plans for this blog, and with any luck, convince you to come along for that ride. I had imagined writing a longer and more thoughtful introduction, but events have conspired to force my hand. When in doubt, start.

… one must never allow disorder to continue so as to escape a war. Anyhow one does not escape; the war is merely postponed to one’s disadvantage.

Machiavelli, The Prince

For several years, I fell out of the habit of writing regularly. I would occasionally post something on Medium, but mostly I just lapsed into silence (except on Twitter, where I’m rather noisy). Inertia took hold, and the habit of not writing eventually replaced my habit of regularly doing so. I regret this mistake.

Writing clarifies thinking. It also preserves a record of unadulterated and imperfect thought. Reading old blog posts of mine, I get a sense of what was in my mind at the time of writing. I can see specific patterns or beliefs that I’ve since outgrown, but also interesting ideas that I had lost and forgotten. To make up for my sloth, I’ll be writing one post a day for a little while. So much thought has gunked up my brain without being released that it’s time for a core dump.

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What goes up…

It’s never a good time to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it’s never a bad time to evaluate your skills, your goals, and where you’re headed.

We all want to be a valued member of a winning team on an inspiring mission

Graham Weston

It’s easy to get complacent after a few years in a good job. You tell yourself, “I’m doing such important work! We’re making so much progress! I love my team!” You’re churning out pull requests, responding to emails and Slack messages, burning through your JIRA backlog.

Then, one day, it all stops.

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