Reframing "tools for thought"

I love this one from Linus on how we might create more of a community or field of research in the “tools for thought” space…

I too dislike the phrase and framing of “tools for thought” but don’t have something better.

Wouldn’t it be neat to make a hub for this research? Like an RSS feed aggregator and links out to various projects…? Something kind of like

“Urgently patient” - management needs to be urgently defining direction, and patient in realizing progress, projects towards them…. credit: Brian Dell

On Enchantment in Modernity

“I would like to tackle the term “enchantment” head-on, expand its definition, and provide a sense of where it exists in modern life without relying on these historical forms or terminology.

My working definition: “enchantment” is a property of experience where the subject projects a fantasy, in the broad sense, onto the experience itself. Enchantment as such elevates the experience beyond its mere factual or physical essence, and brings it into a “super-sensible” relation with the actor. To use Fristonian terminology, the degree to which an experience is enchanted is the degree to which top-down priors predominate over bottom-up.”…

A Great Diversity of Relationships

“Tugging on the thread of digital bricolage brought me to a wonderful paper by Seymour Papert & Sherry Turkle called “Epistemological Pluralism.””…


Creature Cities

This book looks wonderful:

Creatures Are Stirring is a book about how to be friends with buildings. Through a collection of flash fictions (written from buildings’ points-of-view), creative essays, and case studies, the book re-conceptualizes buildings as our intimate companions by amplifying architecture’s creaturely qualities—formal embellishments, fictional enhancements, and organizational strategies that suggest animal-like agency. In an unsettled world, such qualities may initiate more companionable relationships between humans and the built environment, and ultimately foster greater solidarity with other human and nonhuman lifeform

Go buy it here

Reminds me of this wonderful short story from Matt Webb:

We sat atop Parliament Hill as the sun went down, London lapping at our feet, glass of wine in hand, a hard red line on the horizon fading not to black but the glow of LED streetlamps diffused through the humid breath of our ten million neighbours.

The distant whine quitened as the drones returned to their charging towers. The apartment buildings, shadowy, took over with their rumbling murmerations.

“That one,” said K—, and I followed her finger to one particular termite mound, apartment containers crawling over one another, a slowly seething self-stirring pile, reconfiguring according to the occupants’ preferences this week and the up-to-the-microsecond spot rent.

“There’s a patch of apartments that are blocked,” and indeed there was: a 3D mass at the heart of the mass, visible sometimes, not moving. A scab. A tumour.

And this amazing talk on Hydrocommunities by Gilberto Esparza. Assembling robot “creatures” that feed off the city. Incredible

Eyeo 2018 - Gilberto Esparza from Eyeo Festival on Vimeo.

URBAN PARASITES (2006 – 2007)

They are the complex restructuring of technological waste with mechanical and electronic systems that are configured as artificial life organisms with the ability to survive in urban environments. Many of them feed on the energy they steal from the electricity distribution network of cities and interact with their environment by moving and emitting sounds to communicate with other parasites of their species, forming part of the urban soundscape.


“The point is this – it’s past time to take responsibility for finding the stuff we write, and if we do it well, and Daytona does, all of a sudden blogging works so much better, and the incentive to write stuff, to document, to narrate our work, to index everything you can, makes total sense.”…

So now I’ve rolled out my new site design I want to generate some new open graph images (the old white/green sqaure is a bit out of date)…

This looks like a very promising approach:

Though - I really wish that you could use SVG files as open graph images, then I could generate them dynamically via Jekyll!

It’s interesting seeing Dave Winer playing with search as a new primitive on his “blog” (I put it in quotes because his blog is a mega-archive and leviathan body of work)…

A new dimension has opened up. Until now writing has been more or less Of The Moment. As Google has punished me for not supporting their various hijacks of the web, the writing has become more ephemeral, kind of like Twitter – once written – hard to find again. With Daytona all of a sudden my memex has memory. My writing is upgraded a billion percent.

Makes me think about ways to upgrade search as a more powerful primitive on my own site….

Right now I’m using a version of Craig Mod’s search script for static site and it’s fine. Functional but not really transformative.

Instead I’m thinking about a new /search page that pulls together:

  • Blog archive (obvs)
  • Notes archive via microblog API
  • Full tweet archive (I’d self host a copy of my own tweets to do this)
  • My wiki and saved notes

Making everything searchable feels like fun and it might surface some nice things….

Update 12/14: Hmm I just downloaded by twitter archive and tweet.js is 50MB so it’s not going to be practical to host and search that everytime someone uses my search box….

Not hard to see a link between these two pieces…


This report argues that consumer technology reviewers have failed their basic nominal purpose of critiquing tools. Instead, inspired by values introduced by Apple in the late 1990s, the tech review industry prioritizes aesthetic lust as the primary critical factor for evaluating objects. The reification of these values in their scoring system is transmitted to consumers and manufacturers alike. Like other prurient things, the objects designed within this paradigm are optimized not for usefulness but for photogenic and telegenic properties, a framework that finds its fullest realization in YouTube reviews and unboxing videos. There, even the intimation of critical rigor within tech reviewing vanishes, the smartphone becomes the center of gravity, and manufacturers are even further incentivized to design products for end consumers who are less users than viewers.


Google caused a stir in the affiliate sector with its April algorithm update. The latest update promised better rankings in Google searches for websites with product reviews and product testing that include unique and useful expert content, while affiliate sites focusing only on clicks and commissions rather than providing the user with added value would be downgraded. So far, the update has only been rolled out for English-language Google search where some major changes have already been seen.

What a lovely meditation on blogging:

And in that one post, there is a triple-whammy of all my favourite things. An excuse for not writing. An announcement of a new blog design.2 And a promise of loads of posts to come, which never happen. Most people only manage two of those things in any given blog entry, so that’s quite an impressive achievement.


OK, enough of all that. There is a particular reason why I didn’t link to the actual blog posts which I quote above. Because this isn’t really meant as a specific criticism of this particular person. Far from it. I see this kind of thing everywhere.

You know the type. The kind of person who only blogs about not blogging. Or the person whose redesign will finally make them want to blog, if they ever finish it. Or the person who does actually launch their new design… and then their blog languishes, never to be updated again. Well, until the next redesign, anyway.

All ways of writing a blog, without actually writing a blog.

Pairs well with this thread:

Love this from Simon - his stream is the primary inspiration for this notes microblog…

It’s two years since I started my Stream, a channel for quickfire posts alongside my more glacial blog, and I recently posted my 250th note. That’s 250 thoughts that would otherwise have gone undocumented or evaporated elsewhere.

It’s not lost on me that I am writing an Article about my Stream. But, as you will read, this isn’t a short post, and my Articles section is here when I need more depth. I’ve given myself options.

Oh neat, Microblog has a little JS snippet to pull in the latest posts. This will let me integrate these notes into nice and easily!

          <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

Notes on Small Grant Programs

Lots of energy right now around grants.

Growing up, I’ve always been mesmerized by people I perceived to be “moths” — humans fluttering around just outside of the bright glow of the traditional spotlight. While “butterflies” sparkled within traditional systems, moths seemed to be playing games entirely of their own making. I believe both human and insect moths are frequently underestimated. They’re just as smart as butterflies (or an AI, for that matter), beautifully complex up-close, and driven by a magical intrinsic force: agency. 

Reminds me of Nadia’s helium grants program:

I ran a personal microgrant program called Helium Grants for two years. After reading ~4,000 applications and awarding nearly $40,000 in grants to 26 people, I’ve decided to put it on indefinite hiatus and focus on other projects.

Since starting Helium, I’ve gotten questions about how to start a microgrant program, so I figured I’d capture my learnings in one place. Some of this advice overlaps with previous posts I’ve written; this one is my best attempt at a cheat sheet.

I’d love to start a micro-grant program to get people zero -> one for blogging. How to encourage people to start a (small b) blogging habit…….?

Uh oh. I see troubles like this in my future…. Is there really no POD service that actually works well?

There was a long dark evening of the soul where I toyed with the thought of ploughing on regardless. Amy and Sonia put me right and made me see sense: there was no point doing all this work for an end result that may or may not be a decent printed product.

This was the moment where I realised I couldn’t go ahead with the process I’d planned. I couldn’t rely on these printers to print good books. All that work to get the book magically connected to the book distribution industry had been wasted time. It was time to think of a new plan.

Writing all this down, you know what? I’m kind of mad about it too. Not so mad that I’ll go chasing obviously-ill-fated scurrilous rainbow financial instruments. But there’s something here that needs solving. If I’m not solving it, or part of it, or at least trying, then I’m… wasting my time. Who cares about money? This is a systemic train wreck, well underway.

We have, in Western society, managed to simultaneously botch the dreams of democracy, capitalism, social coherence, and techno-utopianism, all at once. It’s embarrassing actually. I am embarrassed. You should be embarrassed.

"That's the thing with anger, it begs to stick around"

From the great album by Sam Fender. This lyric has crushed me recently - I keep seeing this idea everywhere.

From yelling at my kids to watching people behave angrily on the subway… Anger is such an insidious force that just destroys people from the inside out.

There’s always room to breathe. Don’t pay your anger forward.