Filling In and Branching Out
My blogroll[?] has been growing at a pretty unsustainable rate recently, as I've decided to be more intentional about seeking out new things to read. And, in the process, I've noticed that the blogs I'm picking up seem to cluster into two distinct clusters:
- Blogs that "infill" my information diet, written by authors who read and/or are read by ~three or more non-mainstream things I already read.
- Blogs that expand the boundaries of my information diet in new directions, written by authors who share relatively little common blogroll with other things that I already read.
In the effort to find new things to read, I think both are important, when in balance, and have tried to consciously seek out both. I'm intrigued by the degree to which the things I pick up seem to divide clearly between the two camps, but hey, the Internet is a cliquey place. (No pun intended, sorry.)
In any case, I think it'd be interesting (perhaps for my readers, but mostly for me) to go over a timeline of my blogroll's evolution, categorizing added blogs as fill-in or branch-out (as well sorting them into topic-based clusters). Consider this a harbinger of a prominently-placed blogroll list.
Come to think of it, maybe I should put a blogroll on the front page...sooner or later. Anyway, in the mean time, enjoy this visualization of the X-reads-Y relations among the blogs listed below:
For authors who don't have a blogroll prominently displayed on their blog, I kinda guessed as to what they did/did not read. If you're mis-described here, just let me know, and I'll be more than happy to correct it to whatever you think valid.
The four blogs I was reading regularly before I switched to Feedly fall pretty neatly into two groups: (1) a pair of personal/academic blogs by professors:
Bits and Pieces [~1] Harry Lewis, Harvard professor of CS (and sometime interim Dean of SEAS) writes about academic policy and internet law (mostly). The title's taken from Blown to Bits, the book he co-authored in 2008.
() My Biased Coin [<1] Michael Mitzenmacher, Harvard professor of CS provides his take from inside the ivory tower, and occasionally writes about algorithms.
...and (2) a pair of blogs by two friends in the rationality community, one who I knew from school:
() Ben Kuhn [~1] Ben's blog divides pretty neatly into "tech", "altruism" and "everything else". His untitled blog began as the blog of a Harvard undergraduate, and is now the blog of a California-located machine-learning software developer.
...and the other who I met at a CFAR workshop:
( ) Unequally Yoked [~7] Leah Libresco began blogging as an atheist, and is now an outspoken Catholic, but her writing hasn't lost appeal to readers interested in philosophy, rationality, or living the (secular) good life. If there's one blogger on this list I'm trying to grow up to be, it's Leah.
Picking up a feedreader was a great excuse to start reading some blogs I'd heard about but never got around to enshrining into my manual Internet-loop. The seven that made their way onto the list split between: filling-in (1) academia/CS/math with two more professors' blogs:
Shtetl-Optimized [~2.5] Scott Aaronson, an MIT professor of CS, and the only person I know who can explain quantum computing in terms I can understand, writes a great deal of hard-science QCS, and a smattering of commentary on academia and miscellany. I wasn't able to understand the technical parts until I took 6.845 at MIT, but now they're about as clear as jello.
What's New [~2] Terence Tao does, almost exclusively, writeups of his or others' mathematical research results in analytic number theory or whatever other field he's in this week. I still can't understand the below-the-fold technical parts.
...filling-in (2) rationality/effective altruism with the respective blogs of married aspiring-effective altruists:
Giving Gladly [<<1] Julia Wise, who writes mostly about EA.
JeffTK [~2.5] Jeff Kaufman, engineer at Google, who splits his blogging between EA, code snippets, contra dance stuff, and field notes on being a new parent.
...branching-out into (3) data visualization, brought up by a class I was in:
bost.ocks.org [<1] Mike Bostock is the creator of d3.js, which, among other things, is being used for the graph visualization above. He posts mainly neat visualizations he does for himself, or for the New York Times.
...and branching-out into (misc):
() Ballroom Junkie [<<1] Cloud Cray, who teaches ballroom dance for the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team, is a data nut as well as a ballroom dancer, but tends to blog about either ballroom or ballroom data. I'm indebted to his o2cm scraper for my Ballroom Events Reporter.
Things of Interest [~2] Sam Hughes, whom I first discovered as the author of my favorite webserial of all time (now concluded), does nerdy codey things like explaining how to code the date of Easter, and writery things like formalizing different models of time travel in literature.
Throughout 2014, I found myself adding blogs to my reader, filling-in (1) with two more professor-types:
The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It [<<1] Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard professor of CS Law, whom I discovered when he came to give a talk at my summer workplace, writes -- very infrequently -- about topics related to his book of the same name.
Volatile and Decentralized [<<1] Matt Welsh was a Harvard professor of CS, but has since left the ivory tower for the dark side. When he blogs, he tends to write about Silicon Valley, its culture, and its tech.
...and (3) with:
I Quant NY [~1.5] Ben Wellington, a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker and awesome data scientist, milks NYC's Open Data initiative for all it's got. Some of my picking this up may have had to do with a growing personal fondness for the city.
While in New York, I branched out a bit with two related blogs that became my daily breakfast-cereal reading while on the job, and a good way of keeping up with (4) economic news afterward:
() Bloomberg View: Matt Levine [~11] Matt Levine, a one-time Wall Street analyst, delivers the Finance section of the newspaper like Jon Stewart delivers the front page.
Marginal Revolution [>30] Tyler Cowen writes an absolutely inhuman amount, managing to cover what seems to be every economic event of note in the world, and then some.
Near the end of 2014, I filled-in a bunch of (2) blogs, for some reason, which began to separate into a few subcategories: (2A) rationality per se (a category that claims Yudkowsky's Sequences):
CFAR [<<1] The Center for Applied Rationality was founded by a bunch of folks who wanted to pool their efforts to do the things they were already doing, except more effectively, and better. They run fantastic workshops, which I highly recommend, but the official blog doesn't have regular writers and, honestly, isn't high-quality. Maybe they'll pick it up again someday?
(2B) rationality people's personal blogs (which claims Unequally Yoked, JeffTK, and parts of Ben Kuhn):
() Nurse Cthulhu is Swimming [<1] Miranda Dixon-Luinenbourg is (or has been, until very recently) a registered nurse located in Ottawa, Canada, who writes about nursing, rationality, and her experiences as asexual and not identifying as a save-the-world hero among many other people who do.
() Slate Star Codex [~4] Scott Alexander (pseudonym, also alias Yvain) is a mental health professional, but sometimes I think that that's just a cover for the Scott who doesn't ever work because he's so busy writing incredibly detailed long-form blog posts.
() Thing of Things [~5] Ozy Frantz has many, many opinions about social justice <intersect> rationality, is currently dating Scott Alexander, and isn't afraid to speak candidly on many issues from their location as a non-binary non-neurotypical person.
(2C) effective altruism blogs (This category claims the rest of Ben Kuhn and Giving Gladly; the lines between 2B and 2C are a bit blurry, though -- I'm considering people more in the former if they don't regularly write about EA, though they may well be aspiring-effective altruists. The latter gets blogs of EA orgs and people who primarily write about EA topics.):
() Gates Notes [~1] Bill Gates is...uh...Bill Gates. He mainly writes about public health in the third world.
GiveWell [~1] "GiveWell is a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis to help donors decide where to give." In the interests of transparency, they write up results of many of their investigations in long-form, but their blog posts are often lighter, more colloquial, and address meta issues along the lines of how to think about giving.
Giving What We Can Blog [<1] GWWC isn't a research organization, just "a global community of people committed to giving part of our income in the most effective way possible." Their blog is mostly updated by England-based students, but some have interesting things to say on occasion.
I also branched out a bit, with (misc) assorted product-specific tech blogs from projects or companies I thought were cool:
eleVR Blog [~1] eleVR, the project (run by Vi Hart -- who lent this blog a name -- and two of her friends) to develop the mathematically-sensible, open-standards, best-practice virtual reality of the future.
() Ghost Blog [~1.5] Ghost is the platform that Faults is built on, so their blog is a great way to hear about new updates I should install, new features I should be taking advantage of, &c. On the other hand, they've also got some neat things to say about the process of running a small, fast-moving, open-source tech startup, and as far as I can tell, they're good people.
Tesla Motors Blog [<1] Mostly, I just find it fascinating to follow the ridiculous press releases that Tesla puts out. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that they're making cars in the same century as everyone else, who still hasn't figured out the obviously-correct way to make vehicles in the 21st century.
(some pending description because, well, I got tired of writing these)
Schneier on Security [~7]
Less Wrong [~3]
Overcoming Bias [~3]
Almost No One is Evil; Almost Everything is Broken [<1]
NYT / The Upshot [~25] The Upshot is the New York Times's new data-focused blog, and I'm finding myself really enjoying the data visualizations they're turning out.
Jeffrey Zeldman Presents the Daily Report [~2] Jeffrey Zeldman is a professional web developer, and apparently publishes one of the oldest continuously-running blogs on the Internet, but I only stumbled onto it in connection with the Facebook Year-in-Review kerfuffle.
MeyerWeb [~1] Eric Meyer, by all appearances close friends with Jeffrey Zeldman, is also an authority on the Web I only heard about when his post re: Year-in-Review was the thing that set off the firestorm itself. Blogs thoughtfully about the Web as a thing that can be intentionally designed, if we work hard enough.
(misc) Frederik deBoer [~5]
Whew. Thirty-seven blogs is...more blogs than I could possibly read manually. (It's approximately 100 articles/wk.) Thankfully, feedreader technology makes it actually possible for me to get notifications from all over the internet compiled into one orderly box. (And, to be honest, at least eight of them haven't updated in 2015 yet, so...it's not like I'm trying to read thirty dailies or anything.)
Oh, and just for fun:
( ) My Faults My Own [~2] Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and elsewise a Harvard undergrad in CS and Math, writes about philosophy and social issues about as often as he publishes never-actually-on Friday linkwraps covering data, tech, science, or other assorted random things.