About this site

1 Ratings

Content on this site is rated on a 3 point scale by Usefulness (🔧), Novelty (💡), Uncertainty (🤪) and Roughness (🚧), where, for example, the Uncertainty rankings should be interpreted as follows:

1.1 Uncertainty

Ignorant. I know only enough about this topic to know I know nothing.
Dunning-Kruger. I know enough about this topic not to know my own ignorance.
Competent. I know this topic well enough to know what I do not know. Or so I think.

Other scales are analogous.

1.2 Usefulness

🔧🔧🔧 means useful. This article represents meaningful synthesis of available information that could not be gleaned from a simple google search 🔧 denotes a mere placeholder or listicle.

1.3 Roughness

🚧🚧🚧 is essentially an apology I have not remotely edited the text here and it is going to sound like the ramblings of my subconscious, whereas 🚧 means I have buffed the prose to adequacy. I rarely get to buff to perfection, except for conference papers..

1.4 Novelty

The most challenging category. The extremely rare 💡💡💡 indicates substantive content that I derived for myself, but the more common 💡 means that the knowledge therein is, like most human learning, recycling what someone else told me.

2 Assumed audience

Robin Sloan explains:

Here and there, I use the term “assumed audience”, cribbed from Chris Krycho. …

I liked Chris’s placards as soon as I saw them; I appreciate the way they push back against the “context collapse” of the internet, in which every public post is, by default, addressed to everyone.

3 General structure

Figure 1: I need to find the perfect spot on this blog to illustrate with this beauty. Is this it?

Many ideas about how this site is used and presented are cribbed from the notebooks of Cosma Shalizi, which I find a pleasant format to read. And to write, as my personal public Memex. I justify this (but post hoc!) as Digital Gardening. The content is my own, except where otherwise stated. Some of the more quixotic choices about site design I have made despite Gwern’s arguments about returns to design.


the joy of web design & typography is that just its presentation can matter a little to all your pages. Writing is hard work, and any new piece of writing will generally add to the pile of existing ones, rather than multiplying it all; it’s an enormous amount of work to go through all one’s existing writings and improve them somehow, so it usually doesn’t happen. Design improvements, on the other hand, benefit one’s entire website & all future readers, and so at a certain scale, can be quite useful. I feel I’ve reached the point where it’s worth sweating the small stuff, typographically.

But contrapunctually,

This suggests a dangerous idea (dangerous because a good excuse for complacency & mediocrity, especially for those who do not manage even mediocrity but believe otherwise): if you are going to invest in design, half-measures yield less than half-results. If the design is terrible, then one should continue; but if the design is already reasonable, then instead of there being substantial returns, the diminishing returns have already set in, and it may be a too-long slog from where you are to the point where people are impressed enough by the design for the aesthetic effect to kick in. Those moderate improvements may not be worthwhile if one can only modestly improve on mediocrity;


The fiddly details of how this site works are here, and the really fiddly in-progress details are on my TODO list.

4 Follow me

You could, if you wished, subscribe to updates in a feed reader of your choice. Here are some buttons to that end, at the request of Andy:

follow me in feedly RSS The old reader, Feedbin, Feeder

5 Contact me

Nerds can get some clues as to how rapidly I will respond based on the following graph:

See the contact page for actual means to contact me.

6 Technical details

Figure 2

This blog is a static site, i.e. I see plain text files; you see fancy online HTML. This particular blog uses Pelican Blogdown Quarto, but there are many options. The HTML is automatically served by github pages netlify, which is fast and free. The citations are handled through Zotero. This entire thing is a work in progress.

For now I mostly edit the text using VS Code, or RStudio, both of which have integrated preview.

Figure 3: Screencap of me editing this site