The Internet

The Internet is a machine for selectively bitrotting everything good about you while preserving millions of copies of your worst tweet.


From today, painting is dead.

Paul Delaroche, allegedly upon seeing a daguerreotype


[…] There’s an old maxim that if you’re not paying, you’re the product. But Docker Hub reminds us that in the VC-driven (and not particularly results-driven) world of Silicon Valley there is a potent second possibility: if you’re not paying, there may be no product at all. […]

Jesse B. Crawford, “Docker”2023

Tentacle gods

“Do they even have cephalopods here?” he asked, switching tack with agility.

“Sure, in the swamps, nasty ones.”

“Tentacle gods?”

“You can imagine a world without tentacle gods?” she laughed. “Get real.”

Nick Land, Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator2014

Sanctioned cruelty

People desperately want to find people it is socially acceptable to be cruel to.

halvorz, tweet2021 (reformatted)

Hot weather

It was one of those days in Buenos Aires when one feels not only insulted and abused by the summer, but actually degraded.

Jorge Luis Borges, “There Are More Things”1975

Adventurers, defenders

We read webcomics and watch movies to have vicarious whimsy in our lives - pretend for a moment that we’re adventurers rather than frantic defenders of our little castles.

Joseph Gentle, “In defense of sillyness”2014 (emphasis mine)

The past

Almost any time you interpret the past as “the present, but cruder”, you end up missing the point.


Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist”1891

Game designers are drug designers

“You know, I’ve come to the conclusion that as a game designer, I’m basically a drug designer,” [Jason Rohrer] told me. “If I’m going to be a drug designer I may as well take the job seriously.”

Non-free software over time

Over several decades, the usability of any non-Free software approaches zero, unless you can still emulate the eventually-defunct application vendor’s last supported operating system in whichever future operating system you’re using. And even if you can, you won’t have the platform integration expected of a native application.

The man who killed Trotsky

Trotsky haunted his killer. Allegedly, Ramón Mercader’s last words were,

I hear it always. I hear the scream. I know he’s waiting for me on the other side.

System software time scale

If you have a system software project and it can advance without being lashed to a company, definitely do it that way! It’s always a poor fit—they have to succeed on different timelines.

urbit, Hacker News comment2018

Hard problems

If you’re from an academic background, discipline yourself to solve important problems rather than hard problems.

Jon Harrop, Reddit comment2010


We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.

Winston Churchill, address to the House of Commons on October 28, 1943 (according to Deborah Winslow)

Understanding corporate decision making in the 1980s

Remember, kids, cocaine is real.

Tim Rogers, his podcast


[…] Reality doesn’t grade on a curve.

Scott Alexander, “Transhumanist Fables”2013


The Oscars suggest a related idea: what we want is social credit for anticipating fashion.

Robin Hanson, “Why Prefer Potential?”2015 (emphasis mine)

DFW and the great needy masses

[U]ntil recently DFW was in that place in the dusty warehouses of my attention economy occupied by the things people have been a little too insistent I should check out, a place also occupied by Hemingway, Khalil Gibran, “E.T.,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and for reasons that would take a lot of tedious explaining, Cointreau. Things perhaps of substantial intrinsic merit, but already shown by the form of the recommendation, even in their absence, to lend themselves to conversations of awkward and unpleasant intensity, not to mention unearned intimacy. The sort of conversations I imagine a more-brilliant-and-famous-than-me and eventually-suicidally-depressed DFW being cornered into often by great needy masses of folks who thought he owed them a little piece of himself because he had gotten them all excited and they took it personally.

Choosing an implementation

To choose an implementation is to choose a tribe. Since Scheme is so minimal, you begin to rely on extensions that are only present in your implementation, and so through code you bind yourself to a world of code, people, and practice, loosely bound to the rest of the Scheme world through a fictional first-person-plural. This is OK! Going deep into a relationship with an implementation is the only way to do great work. The looser ties to the rest of the Scheme world in the form of the standards, the literature, the IRC channel, and the mailing lists provide refreshing conversation among fellow travellers, not marching orders for a phalanx.

Cute characters, cruel mathematics

[…] “The players will come for the cute characters, and stay for the cruel mathematics.”

Startup naming trends:

  • -ster, 1999
  • -ify, 2006
  • -ly, 2009
  • .io, 2013

HackerNewsOnion, tweet2013 (list formatting mine)

Laughing with Kafka

[G]reat short stories and great jokes have a lot in common. Both depend on what communication-theorists sometimes call “exformation,” which is a certain quantity of vital information removed from but evoked by a communication in such a way as to cause a kind of explosion of associative connections within the recipient.

No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke—that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.

David Foster Wallace, “Laughing with Kafka”1998

See also