Elan Ullendorff: "Modularity is inversely correlated to expressiveness"

From Escape the Algorithm. When we create a contract or a pattern, there are gains in familiarity, modularity, and composability, but it's a lossy translation.

If I were to design a personal map of my neighborhood, it would include the potholes I swerve by on my bike rides, the neighbor’s sweet precocious 4 year old that is always on the front stoop and wants to tell me about her day, routes that have small patches of grass to the right of the sidewalk and end near a public trash can (suitable for walking my right-side-only peeing dog), the schedule and trajectory of shade during the summer, homes with potted flowers hanging off their railings, restaurants that closed ages ago, the playgrounds where we are most likely to run into parent friend crushes, and the street with the best view of the skyline at night.

It probably would not look like Google Maps.

The Art of Decision-Making

In a New Yorker article titled The Art of Decision-Making, Joshua Rothman explores the paradox of how we can spend a lot of energy fretting over small decisions, while the big life decisions seem to come naturally.

We agonize over what to stream on Netflix, then let TV shows persuade us to move to New York

An interesting point he makes is how our aspirations can take a long time to come to fruition. How can we guide our actions if we don't even know if we'll still want the results by the time we get there?

To aspire […] is to judge one’s present-day self by the standards of a future self who doesn’t yet exist. But that can leave us like a spider plant putting down roots in the air, hoping for soil that may never arrive.

As the life we crave can change dramatically.

Before having children, you may enjoy clubbing, skydiving, and LSD; you might find fulfillment in careerism, travel, cooking, or CrossFit; you may simply relish your freedom to do what you want. Having children will deprive you of these joys. And yet, as a parent, you may not miss them. You may actually prefer changing diapers, wrangling onesies, and watching “Frozen.” These activities may sound like torture to the childless version of yourself, but the parental version may find them illuminated by love, and so redeemed. You may end up becoming a different person—a parent. The problem is that you can’t really know, in advance, what “being a parent” is like.


From The Tao of Pooh:

Remember when Kanga and Roo came to the Forest? Immediately, Rabbit decided that he didn't like them, because they were Different. Then he began thinking of a way to make them leave. Fortunately for everyone, the plan failed, as Clever Plans do, sooner or later. Cleverness, after all, has its limitations. Its mechanical judgments and clever remarks tend to prove inaccurate with passing time, because it doesn't look very deeply into things to begin with. The thing that makes someone truly different — unique in fact — is something that Cleverness cannot really understand.

Think of this next time you write Clever Code.


Before I launched Svelte by Example, I called for early access testers in this newsletter. I don't ask for feedback often, I had to push myself to do this.

Sometimes I'm scared of receiving feedback that I'll agree with, but would push back the release when I want to get it out. Sometimes I'm scared of receiving feedback that could invalidate the entire idea. Sometimes I know there are problems but hope they'll magically go away if I ignore them, feedback might resurface them. Sometimes I'm overconfident and don't think it's worth getting another opinion.

No good excuse to be found. These are fears, and it's worth getting over them. Because if any of them are rooted in truth, they'll com back and haunt me rather sooner than later.

A few people responded to my request (thank you!), and it quickly became clear the ask was worth it. The first version of Svelte by Example became way better because of it. The examples became more consistent, the design improved, a bunch of typos were edited out. I didn't process all feedback. Sometimes it doesn't match what you have in mind, and that's fine.

I've learned my lesson: time to get over myself and ask for feedback whenever I can.


I like to browsing through past work when I'm in need of inspiration, trying to reflect on the present, or in a nostalgic mood. Not just finished work, the things that didn't make it can be even more inspiring to look back at.

With modern software, artifacts of work in progress are becoming more and more rare. Gone are the days of essay_final_v2, a project's history is often contained in a single file (which isn't even a file anymore with tools like Figma,…).

Per Alex Chan, taking screenshots while you work is a great way to build a journal of sorts.

I have dozens and dozens of screenshots of things I’ve made (and a handful of screen recordings, too). They’re a sort of “visual journal” of fun, silly and interesting things I’ve done on my computer.

The best time to take these screenshots is as I’m doing the work – when I have all the required context. And unlike the raw files, images are a stable format that I’ll be able to read for a very long time. I don’t need any context to look at an image; I just look at it in an image viewer.

I reconfigured CleanShot to store screenshots I save to a folder on iCloud Drive instead of my desktop. Out of sight, out of mind. Until I want to take a stroll through my visual record.

Good Ideas

Nat Eliason on ideas and fermented jalapeños:

Good ideas require boredom. If you constantly ingest new information, the existing information can never be digested.

Coming up with ideas is a passive undertaking, not an active one. You can't summon good ideas like a genie. They sneak up on you when your mind has enough space to wander.