Hello! You’re receiving this because you are subscribed to major updates/new posts on my site, jborichevskiy.com. That will remain the case.

I’m also starting a newsletter! I’m sending out the first one here, but subsequent newsletters will be delivered through Substack at jborichevskiy.substack.com and will be free forever. Go subscribe there if you want more of these. I’ll probably move off of Substack eventually but it seems to be simplest solution right now.

It’s also worth noting this one turned out 2-3x as long as what I expect the typical one to be.

In this episode

  • I’m starting a newsletter and why I’m doing it

  • Why I don’t like newsletters and what I wish they were like

  • Life & health updates

  • Social experiences moving online

  • General thoughts, musings, and happenings

    • Our tools are trash

    • Side projects

    • Roam Research

    • Letter to my future self

Well, I’ve caved. I’m starting a newsletter. Or something. I’ve put this off for a while - but not out of laziness. I’ve been earnestly reading the newsletters of a few friends for months and always enjoy them. I used to read Stratechery and Matt Levine daily. But when it came to starting my own I just couldn’t get past what I see are major problems and limitations with it all . That was, until I realized I also have some ideas how we might improve the situation, and what better way to understand the problem than to experience it myself? Thanks to CJ and Hima for inspiring me to finally take the leap.

What’s my gripe with the current newsletter ecosystem?

Most of it boils down with the fact that we’re using email as the medium for it, and this makes my life difficult. Note that many of these issues are fixable with me writing a bunch of code or spending a few weekends organizing my digital crap but I’m a humble team of 1. A rough outline of why I don’t like email newsletters:

  • incoming newsletters are mixed with bills and advertisements and it stresses me out (there are apps to fix this but, the default state is bad here)

  • a subject line doesn’t begin to cover the range of topics, ideas, and questions explored within

  • they’re not easily searchable, in the sense that if I saw something interesting a few days ago email usually isn’t the first place I search

  • they’re not natively hyperlinkable or embeddable

  • Gmail doesn’t store my progress like Pocket does for long articles

  • I can’t easily triage or prioritize them

  • my only real avenue for responding privately is by replying via email, and there is no public discussion surrounding each one

  • it involves copy-pasting links. Copy. Paste! The insanity.

Obviously if we continue down this road I can spend most of the day complaining about newsletters, email, digital technology, communication paradigms, and modern society at large so instead I’ll spare you and simply describe my goals and my plans to achieve them. I hope to provide you with a changelog to my brain’s mental models, along with a continuous stream of topics, ideas, and questions I am personally exploring in an easy-to-digest format. Along the way, I imagine it will also facilitate reflection and observations about my experience as a human being, generate a consistent temporal log of my projects & research, and increase my communication bandwidth with people.

How is what I’m trying to do not like an email newsletter?

  • I don’t want to constrain the list of topics discussed or explored in each issue. My interests last anywhere from decades (staying alive and having fun) to minutes (the great hedgehog-flavored potato chip debacle of 1981) so the only consistent thing you can expect with this newsletter is that it will be consistent with the things I found interesting that week.

  • You shouldn’t rely on it as a way of keeping up with the world. While I agree newsletters may play a role in future journalism I would much rather focus on writing evergreen content. I’m not saying I’m not mentioning coronavirus in this episode but that I would much rather write about my experience with it all.

  • The format will leave email eventually. I don’t know what this future format looks like yet. I haven’t seen anything that fits the bill so I might just start building it at some point. The closest parallel I could have today is a changelog of my Roam Research database combined with a stream of URLs I visit along with the highlights and annotations I’m making to them. (relevant tweet) (there will be a lot of these. I practically think in tweets nowadays).

  • It’s not meant to be read fully. I’ll do my best to use • bullet • points, bolding, italics, and whatever else I can think of to make this as skimmable as possible for you. So don’t feel bad for opening it and not finishing it. It’s my job to make sure it’s easy to stay informed on whatever it is you’re following me about.

  • Eventually, different people will receive different versions of this. I have only the vaguest notions of how I’ll make this happen but we’ll figure it out together.

Life & Health

  • I am safe and fortunate enough to be financially stable for the time being. I’ve left New York for Sacramento, CA to be closer with family and I’m not sure when I’ll be back.

    • It’s funny how similar my life is right now to my high school days. Since I did independent study from tenth grade onwards (like homeschooling, except I learned myself) my days were pretty much exactly like they are right now: wake up - eat - work in my room - work out or run - back to the room for online socializing and entertainment - bed. It’s uncanny, really.

    • This also has the benefit of giving me access to beautiful nature (pictured above) just a 10-minute walk away. I’m not taking it for granted - in fact, it’s really the only way I’m staying sane right now.

  • By almost every subjective measure, my physical and mental health has improved since coming out here: my mom’s been feeding me copious amounts of organic veggies, I’m spending 3-4x the time in nature, I’m running consistently again, and I can sleep without earplugs.

    • I will never take being able to go to some dinky club somewhere and dance all night for granted again

    • I’m on an early-morning schedule again (6:30a-10:30p). Partly because after living on the east coast being three hours behind on life is just unacceptable, but also because my early morning routines have almost always failed due to evening social obligations. Sadly those won’t exist for a while.

  • As with many other things this month, my therapy has moved onto Zoom calls. I intend to write about this in more detail soon, but a few points:

    • I don’t trust Zoom very much. Their privacy policy leaves much to be desired.

    • Having it go remote/digital has not detracted from the quality of conversation to the degree I expected.

    • It raises all sorts of interesting questions regarding the intersection of therapy and digital mediums. Psychology of the Digital Age by John Suler talked a lot about this.

      • “… mobile devices enable clients to carry their therapists along with them throughout the day, which can become a critical feature of the psychotherapy when clients need to report on their thoughts and feelings as they move through the different physical situations of their daily routines."
    • At what point can an ML model substitute a therapist? If I never met the therapist in person, how would I even know? Would I want to know?

    • Am I just a simulation on a computer somewhere?

General Thoughts, Musings, and Happenings

Now that our daily existential crisis is out of the way, some various ideas and observations I’ve been mulling on through this week. I like the idea of a place where I can write thoughts that are too long for a tweet, but too short for a blog post. Hopefully I can incubate them here.

  • The flexibility of our social connections. I hit a record of 7 hours in Zoom calls on Wednesday. While 1.5 of those were work-related, 5.5 were not and it just goes to show how quickly we’ve adjusted to moving much of our social interaction online.

  • How garbage the tools we’re trying to use right now are. Yes, what Zoom did in scaling is incredible and should be applauded. I however, will not be applauding them for their shitty UX. Mobile, desktop, or web I hate the fact I have to use this tool and if they aren’t working on a more consumer-friendly version then someone else will eat them for lunch.

  • I’m finally getting my hands dirty with some side projects. This will absolutely be covered in more detail in future episodes, and everything I write will be open sourced. This week I’ve been focusing primarily on automating content ingestion into Roam and extracting my data out of Twitter.

    • A really cool version of this, and partly the inspiration for this whole endeavor is CJ’s Weekly Brain Dumps.
  • The more I use Roam Research, the more I love it. It seems to tie together so many disparate parts of my life into one place – especially in the chaos now. See my daily file template. I cannot wait until getting information in and out of this app is even easier. Plenty more on this future episodes.

  • I wrote a letter to my future self this week. Thanks to Alexey Guzey for organizing this! I found it very interesting for reflecting on where I am today, where I want to be in 10 years, and how the world might look then. I highly recommend everyone do this. I also love the fact this was organized through Twitter, we had it on Zoom, and that such things even happen.

If you made it this far, thanks.

If you have any comments, replies, or suggestions - reply to this email, DM me, mail a letter - I’d love to hear from you!