Bookmarked Electric Bike, Stupid Love of My Life by Craig Mod (

Reflections on eighteen months of electric bike ownership

Craig Mod shares his passion for electric bikes. He talks about not wanting rides to finish and how he will often go out at odd times to just enjoy the experience.

Allow me to share a dirty secret: More often than not, at midnight I can’t repress the impulse — I have to take a bike out. Out the bike comes and together we head into the empty streets of my town and hum our way all over, visiting temples in total silence. There are no cars. Often no people. It feels illicit — this slipping around town, this sliding into temple parking lots in the shroud of the night, looking at their old beams, feeling ten years old and grateful for both the ability and awareness to be doing just this very thing at this very moment.

This is certainly a contrast to Ian Bogust’s uncanny eBike:

The e-bike rolls into an uncanny valley, the chasm between a bicycle under my human power and a motorbike piloted directly by a throttle.

It will be interesting to look back and see where we get to with electric bikes.

Bookmarked The Healing Power of JavaScript by Craig Mod (WIRED)

For some of us—isolates, happy in the dark—code is therapy, an escape and a path to hope in a troubled world.

Craig Mod talks about the meditative nature of coding and its abolity to provide some control in moments when the world seems to be spiraling. “An escape with forward momentum.”

Break the problem into pieces. Put them into a to-do app (I use and love Things). This is how a creative universe is made. Each day, I’d brush aside the general collapse of society that seemed to be happening outside of the frame of my life, and dive into search work, picking off a to-do. Covid was large; my to-do list was reasonable.

Therein lies part of the attraction: moving through that jumble — with all of its perverted poetics of grep and vi and git and apache and .ini — and doing so with a fingers-floating-across-the-keyboard balletic grace, is exhilarating. You feel like an alchemist. And you are. You type esoteric words — near gibberish — into a line-by-line text interface, and with a rush not unlike pulling Excalibur from the stone, you’ve just scaffolded a simple application that can instantly be accessed by a vast number of humans worldwide.

Although coding maybe therapy, I think the other challenge is finding an itch worth scratching.

The challenge to me is to go beyond the question of instruction and understanding of different languages. Beyond debates about fitting it within an already crowded curriculum. Instead the focus should be on creating the conditions in which students are able to take action and create new possibilities. Maybe this involves Minecraft, Ozobot or Spheros, maybe it doesn’t. Most importantly it involves going beyond worrying about training or competency, as Ian Chunn would have it, and instead embracing the world of making by leading the learning.

Mod also provides some background to the process behind writing the piece.

Bookmarked How to Better Ventilate Your Home During the Pandemic by Craig Mod (The Atlantic)

You’ll likely know if you’ve been successful, because—thanks to the vents, the open windows, and the free-flowing air—the room should feel lighter, smell better, and seem far fresher than it did before. Odors should dissipate quickly. And microparticles of spittle should be whisked away at a pace that makes contracting a virus significantly less likely. Your mold will be gone, your head clear, and your life ever safer.

In light of the discussions around aerosol spread, Craig Mod reflects on his experiences of ventilating his house in the fight against humidity and mould.

In the Roden newsletter, Mod discusses some of the benefits of writing such a piece:

  • Obviously, you get access to their giant audience. Bonus points if you have something to sell on the other end (i.e., SPECIAL PROJECTS memberships, bookset cetera).
  • Publishing with a “formal” entity brings with it a rigor that makes me work harder at the piece than I would publishing for myself. That feels good.
  • There’s an obvious status / prestige component to publishing somewhere like The Atlantic. I aim to publish 2-3 pieces a year with these sorts of publications to keep me feeling sane (“I can do this”) and to lightly signal to the outside world that I’m not a complete charlatan.
  • But more than anything else, I get the benefit of working and bantering with one or two razor sharp brains about the craft of writing.

📓 On Writing

Craig Mod quotes Philip Roth on really reading:

If you read a novel in more than two weeks you don’t read the novel really.” Meaning: To truly read (and, I might add, write) is to commit and maintain focus long enough to live fully within the world of the book (as opposed to ten second dips in and out, as we mostly do with much online media).(source)

This has me thinking about Philip Glass’ discussion at the end of Words with Music where he talks about different worlds and whether reading is such a place?

Discussing Black Swans, Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about literature and the essay not having boundaries:

Literature should not have explicit boundaries: the confines of the subject are internal and may remain elusive and hard to express in words. Nor should literature have institutions formalizing and commoditizing things. And I wanted to do my own version of what is called literature. Literature must be idiosyncratic.

Mason Currey shared Slavoj Žižek’s process of tricking himself into writing:

I have a very complicated ritual about writing. It’s psychologically impossible for me to sit down [and do it], so I have to trick myself. I elaborate a very simple strategy which, at least with me, it works: I put down ideas. And I put them down, usually, already in a relatively elaborate way, like the line of thought already written in full sentences, and so on. So up to a certain point, I’m telling myself: No, I’m not yet writing; I’m just putting down ideas. Then, at a certain point, I tell myself: Everything is already there, now I just have to edit it. So that’s the idea, to split it into two. I put down notes, I edit it. Writing disappears.

Source: Slavoj Žižek on his writing – How does he trick himself on YouTube

Replied to iPhone 11 Pro Photography, Backup Strategies, Ursula Le Guin — Roden Explorers Archive (

The New Yorker just published a piece on the rise of non-alcoholic beverages. I find this trend heartening. I’d love to see the drink-or-your-not-a-man culture of braindead masculinity nipped in the bud by this generation. I grew up on the edge of it. I’ve probably blacked out 50 times in my life. This isn’t something I recommend. I am wired to drink. I can drink 15 pints of Guinness, knock down 20 stiff drinks over the course of an evening. My genes love it, my body hates it. As other alcoholic-inclined folks will recognize, there is a line that is crossed in an evening and the alcohol becomes a feral fuel, non-negotiable, you simply can’t get enough of it, and more often than not, you pull others into your sad orbit of the binge.

Craig, I enjoyed your reflections on giving up alcohol. I have thought about it, but not sure that I want to. I am therefore left thinking about why.
Bookmarked Media Accounting 101: Appholes and Contracts by Craig Mod (Roden Explorers Archive)

Choose active media, set yourself up to succeed by building systems to cultivate positive habits, but most importantly: Take a second to think about the contracts you’ve entered into as you go about your day. Are those contracts you’re happy with? Did you realize you had entered into them?

Craig Mod shares some notes from a lecture he shared at Yale to 70 or so publishing CEOs, marketing, editorial, and PR folks on the topic of contracts:

It’s an essay about “contracts” — and I don’t mean the formal things we sign upon joining a company or getting a divorce, but the more implicit contracts we enter into with a piece of media, software, or an application. Contracts can become proxies for thinking about “media accounting:” What we gain or lose by engaging with different media and mediums. Consider this missive a little bit of Media Accounting 101.

It is about the agreements we make that we may not always be aware that we are making. This is another interesting examination about being informed.

Central to this discussion is attention and in particular James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.

Bookmarked Tiny Loops, Hold Me Closer — Roden Explorers Archive (

Each time you load Instagram it’s entirely different. A place with no concept of time or continuity. It’s like being stuck at the bottom of a well with oil slicked walls. There is no end. No edge. No rhyme or reason to the order. Just keep scrambling up the stone walls like a squirrel. Try as you might, you’re forever down in the wet darkness of that infinitude of sweet, sweet content.

Craig Mod reflects on detaching and learning to live with boredom. He discusses the tiny loops provided by social media and argues that the web needs something different. Continuing on from his post in Wired, he argues that newsletters are one of those things. Mod also provides some interesting thoughts on comments and community.


Bad is being stuck in a “tiny loop” of the mind and body — a senseless series of actions that span minutes, hours, days, consume years, and add up to nothing or almost nothing, and that benefit (ideally: tranquility, growth, curiosity) no one but the company (in reality: engagement, ad views) who owns the container in which the loop takes place.

I find the tiny loop problem to be terrifying. Tiny loops tend to be perfectly designed to satisfy the id’s raw impulses. That raw id is great fuel for creativity. The concern I have coming back and feeling the loops again for the first time in a long time is: if you’re not careful, tweets and their ilk can burn all your fuel with nothing to show.

I think we’ll look back with shock on many “fundamentals” of the internet as it exists today. I’m still amazed that any private organization would allow unfiltered public commenting. I remained totally unconvinced of its benefits. Twitter, in this sense, is just insanity — an endless stream of public comment posturing and signaling and, largely, screaming. Dumb dumb. Basic ’net folly 101.

I believe there is a place for public comments, but the amount of energy required to nurture a positive community is beyond the means or desires of most institutions. And so most comment sections simply don’t provide a healthy place for conversation.

Repetition builds templates. Templates can be recalled and deployed later, once the asceticism is complete.

Bookmarked Buttondown (

Buttondown is the best way to start and run your newsletter

After reading Craig Mod’s recent post and having some issues, I have decided to move my newsletter from Tinyletter to Buttondown. You can still found an archive of old newsletters here, but Buttondown also make it really easy to transfer everything across too.

Powered by Buttondown.

Bookmarked Oh God, It’s Raining Newsletters by Craig Mod (

Email: The oldest networked publishing platform

Craig Mod takes a dive into the world of the newsletter. This includes an investigation of the platforms, as well as some ‘good people’ with newsletters. He makes an interesting observation that many writers are now doing their best work in newsletters. This makes me wonder how ‘newsletters’ as a form fit within the discussion of the development of blogs over time. Another post that is worth reading on the topic is Simon Owens’ ‘Email newsletters are the new zines’.
Bookmarked The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected by Craig Mod (WIRED)

Visionaries thought technology would change books. Instead, it’s changed everything about publishing a book.

Craig Mod reflects on ‘books’ and the way in which they have and haven’t evolved overtime. He discusses the hype around interactivity that has never quite come to fruition. Tim Carmody argues that the idea of a networked collection of texts.


We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem.

To publish a digital book today, you still need the words, but you can skip many of the other steps. From a Pages or Microsoft Word document you can export an .epub file—the open standard for digital books. Open an Amazon and iBooks account, upload the file, and suddenly you’re accessing 92 percent of the digital book market.

Social media, however, is not predictable. Algorithms and product functionality have all the stability of rolling magma as companies refine how they engage, and extract value from, users. This means an investment in social media can go belly up in a few years. Take author Teju Cole, for example. His use of Twitter was both delicate and brilliant. He amassed a quarter of a million followers before unceremoniously dropping the service in 2014, perhaps feeling the growing invective so characteristic of the platform today. He then consolidated his promotional social media activity around Facebook. Today, he says, “My main experience of Facebook is that I have no idea who sees what. I allegedly have 29,000 people following the page. I doubt that more than a few hundred of them are ever shown what I post.” Of course, Facebook gently suggests that page owners can reach their full audience by paying for promotion. Considering the shift in demographics of Facebook usage, who knows if his audience is even checking their timelines, and would see the posts if he paid.By contrast, there’s something almost ahistorical about email, existing outside the normal flow of technological progress. It works and has worked, reliably, for decades. There’s no central email authority. Most bookish people use it. Today I’m convinced you could skip a website, Facebook page, or Twitter account, and launch a publishing company on email alone.

It turns out smartphones aren’t the best digital book reading devices (too many seductions, real-time travesties, notifications just behind the words), but they make excellent audiobook players, stowed away in pockets while commuting. Top-tier podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and Homecoming have normalized listening to audio or (nonfiction) booklike productions on smartphones.

Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong.