Eugene Fedorenko is Designing, Writing, Reading, and Traveling

Reading (never enough)

Current books: The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. Europe: A History by Norman Davies

See posts only about books, articles, or websites.

Into the Personal-Website-Verse

By Matthias Ott

Great essay on the importance of independent web presence. I wasn't aware of Webmention W3C recommendation and the whole IndieWeb movement but so glad they exist.

Dieter Rams designed one of Gillette’s most successful razors

I believe my father had this razor when I was a child. What a stark contrast to any of Gillette’s ugly razors on the market today. Years ago I switched to Harry’s only because of their superior handle design, but then discovered safety razors with their timeless designs and never looked back. (Coincidentally, recently my dad switched back to a safety razor as well. He uses his grandfather’s handle brought from Germany during World War II. Priceless family heirloom.)

Goals vs. Systems

By Scott Adams

On writing as a system vs a goal:

Writing is a skill that requires practice. So the first part of my system involves practicing on a regular basis. I didn’t know what I was practicing for, exactly, and that’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was moving from a place with low odds (being an out-of-practice writer) to a place of good odds (a well-practiced writer with higher visibility).

On why systems are a better fit for most of us:

There are obviously some special cases in which goals are useful. If you plan to become a doctor, for example, and you have the natural ability, then by all means focus. But for most of us, we have no idea where we’ll be in five years, what opportunities will arise, or what we’ll want or need by then. So our best bet is to move from a place of low odds to a place of better odds. That means living someplace that has opportunities, paying attention to your health, continuously upgrading your skills, networking, and perhaps dabbling in lots of different areas.

Via Chris Bowler’s The Weekly Review.

Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit?

By Jonathan English

Why ridership per capita low is so low in US?

Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

On sharing the road with the cars:

It is not a coincidence that, while almost every interurban and streetcar line in the U.S. failed, nearly every grade-separated subway or elevated system survived. Transit agencies continued to provide frequent service on these lines so they remained viable, and when trains did not have to share the road and stop at intersections, they could also be time competitive with the car. The subways and els of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are all still around, while the vast streetcar and interurban networks of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others are long gone. Only when transit didn’t need to share the road with the car, and frequent service continued, was it able to survive.

On a vicious cycle that destroys American public transportation:

Service drives demand. When riders started to switch to the car in the early postwar years, American transit systems almost universally cut service to restore their financial viability. But this drove more people away, producing a vicious cycle until just about everybody who could drive, drove.

I live in a suburb and don’t commute to the office that often lately, but when I do I usually drive. That said, being within a walking distance from a train station was important in choosing our current house. Philadelphia will get too congested and too expensive to park at some point, so I want to have a plan B. Hopefully a local high-speed line will still be around then.

Self-Host Your Static Assets

By Harry Roberts

Great up-to-date analysis of risks, mitigations, and myths surrounding static assets hosting. Some of these were considered best practices just recently, but often they were blindly trusted and not tested.

How I Dropped Dropbox

By Khoi Vinh

Clearly, storage is a commodity now. And while Dropbox has worked hard to differentiate itself with new features, at its core, it’s still hard to argue that the service is truly much more than storage. Even the company’s elegantly designed and reasonably popular Paper app hardly feels additive; it’s hard to make a case for innovation when the key value-add is something as basic as word processing.

Then last month my view of Dropbox’s unique value diminished even further when Apple announced that folder sharing would soon be coming to iCloud Drive. This replicates fully the most compelling reason I had to stick with Dropbox: the ability to give other users access to my select folders directly in the macOS Finder. That, combined with Dropbox’s recent announcement that it would be increasing the annual cost of my pro plan by US$20 at renewal time, finally convinced me to cancel my subscription.

I’ve been considering doing the same lately. First, I am already paying for iCloud to store my photos, so Dropbox storage is redundant. Second, I don't like the level of access Dropbox is requesting on my Mac. And third, I am not a fan of the direction they are taking as a company.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant

By David Graeber

Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, ‘professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers’ tripled, growing ‘from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.’ In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be.)

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world's population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning of not even so much of the ‘service’ sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza delivery) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call ‘bullshit jobs’.

Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?

By Cal Newport

Proponents of the IndieWeb offer a fairly straightforward analysis of our current social-media crisis. They frame it in terms of a single question: Who owns the servers? The bulk of our online activity takes places on servers owned by a small number of massive companies. Servers cost money to run. If you’re using a company’s servers without paying for the privilege, then that company must be finding other ways to “extract value” from you—and it’s that quest for large-scale value extraction, they argue, that leads directly to the crises of compromised privacy and engineered addictiveness with which we’re currently grappling.

[…]

When the problem is framed this way, the solution promoted by the IndieWeb movement becomes obvious: own your own servers. On a smaller scale, this is an old idea. For the past twelve years, I’ve hosted my personal blog using a server that I lease in a Michigan data center; I’ve enjoyed knowing that I own what I post there and that no one is trying to monetize my data or exploit my attention. And yet, running a personal blog that you write yourself is quite different from running a social network. To create social platforms that work on servers owned by users rather than big corporations, the IndieWeb developers have had to solve a tricky technical problem: decentralization.

This is exactly why most of my online activity shifted from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to this website. It’s more work to share this way and I miss a good chunk of my audience, but I enjoy owning my data and controlling the way it’s presented. I am keeping an eye on IndieWeb as at this point it’s clear that most of us are not happy with social networks, so something must replace them eventually.

Building the Google Photos Web UI

By Antin Harasymiv

I spent a fair amount of time with Google Photos (before switching to iCloud Photos) and was always impressed by the performance and a technical side of their UI. This post by one of Google's UX Engineers dives deep into implementation details. So interesting to see how engineering leads design and UX efforts in a cutting-edge product like this.

Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert

I read this book in 2016 but got to process my highlights only now. Working through them has given me a new appreciation for this book. Stumbling on Happiness is really well written and researched. In a way, this is a self-help book written for people who don’t read self-help books. Daniel Gilbert is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University specializing in social psychology, so it’s grounded in research and actual science. He explains how the human brain can imagine future and how well it can predict if this future will bring us happiness. (Spoiler: it doesn’t do a very good job.) Along the way he writes about anxiety, dealing with negative events, feeling in control, what happiness means and how it can be measured, remembering experiences, changing our views, and predicting feelings. Overall I consider it one of the best books I read in 2016 and hope that my highlights will motivate someone to pick it up and read.

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