Guess this marks the first edition of my newsletter – welcome! Thank you to my friend Russell for introducing me to Buttondown and publishing his newsletter on a regular-enough basis to guilt me into starting my own.
I was hesitant to at first, since it marks yet another fracturing of places where my writing exists online (see also: my singular Medium post). That being said, I realized that a newsletter is the perfect medium for thoughts that are not yet developed enough to live on my blog but too long for a tweetstorm. As a result, these posts are going to come off as very stream-of-consciousness, though I suppose that’s the idea, no?
I finally got around to writing a long-overdue post outlining the architecture of zeal.gg, my League of Legends companion site side project. Sadly, I realized I missed out on some key things after the initial publish, so I went and stealthily edited in some extra content (don’t tell anyone).
Writing this post got the ball rolling on being productive in other ways, so I finally got around to removing one of the features of the site that had been broken for three months. I thought I’d be able to quickly patch support for it back in, but the Riot API changes made doing this non-trivial after all.
Working on the site made me curious as to whether anyone still used the site, so I opened Google Analytics for the first time in a year or so:
This graph shows the number of weekly users (the solid line matching the dates below, and the dotted line being the 180-day period prior). I honestly find it miraculous that the this graph is anywhere above 0, so it’s awesome to see I’m not just throwing money down the Heroku drain.
Interestingly, Japan still represents a significant portion of my traffic, clocking in at 56.6% of my sessions (the next two largest countries being the US at 12.8% and Germany at 7.5%). ありがとうね日本！
Back in November 2019, I happened to watch an episode of Vox’s Explained titled “The Next Pandemic”, which discussed pandemics being the next challenge that humanity would need to face. Looking back on it now, it comes off as eerily prescient.
The COVID-19 epidemic is of course on the top of everyone’s mind right now. With Seattle being the epicentre of the outbreak in the US, it’s shocking to witness the day-to-day shift in companies’ internal guidelines first-hand.
It’s tough to say without hindsight whether the panicked runs on Costcos nationwide are justified. It’s a very good thing that people are taking this outbreak seriously, as the confirmed mortality rate is objectively worrying. On the other hand, hysteria tends to breed misinformation, which is also not something that you want when trying to curb the spread of infectious diseases.
Whatever the case, I hope we are able to really learn from the outcome of this. It feels like much of the modern world is ill-equipped to deal with a true pandemic, and it is almost certain that COVID-19 will not be the last that we see in our lifetime.
I’ve also been thinking for a while about misinformation and education in the Information Age, which somewhat ties into the previous topic. It’s somewhat paradoxical that we are living in a time with unparalleled access to information, yet misinformation campaigns and self-perpetuating echo chambers are beginning to emerge as the dominating factor.
We’ve been blessed by truly amazing online content creators who put together educational material that is often more interesting and well-targeted than a traditional lecture, and also self-paced. Things like 3blue1brown’s linear algebra series, which did more for me than 3 university courses on linear algebra in terms of helping me understand concepts on more than just a “memorize these formulae” basis.
However, this wealth of information is nothing to a population that is either too entrenched in their own beliefs to want to learn things to the contrary, or too occupied with their own struggles to have the time and effort to dedicate.
The emergence of social networks is definitely to blame for a lot of this, optimizing for engagement and ad revenue, but as with many problems in this world, there is a lot of nuance and no proper solution. I’m not sure where we go from here as an industry, but all I can say is that without some drastic changes, the online world is only going to continue the trend towards hyper-polarization.
In other news, I’m slowly making my way through Bad Blood, John Carreyrou’s retelling of the rise and spectacular fall of Theranos — a health startup that was at one point valued at $9 billion until the house of cards came crashing down. Just to solidify my tech bubble life even further, even the books I read are about about Silicon Valley.
That sums it up for this issue of my newsletter. I considered going with a “reflections on the week” format and trying to stick to it, but I realized that that would just be setting myself up for failure when I inevitably had nothing to discuss for a particular section.
Wash your hands often, and stay safe everyone!