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What it Means to be a Creator

On May 9th Jason Kottke announced he would be taking a sabbatical after over 24 years of blogging. He started his blog in 1998 and has been regularly posting and sharing links to intriguing things online ever since.

In fact, Kottke was one of the reasons I decided to give this newsletter a go. I felt that I, like Kottke, liked to dive into rabbit holes and make connections along the way. I also enjoyed allowing the internet to regularly take me to new and fascinating places.

In my view, Kottke is a pioneer in blogging, and I will miss him as he takes time for himself.

Why is he taking a sabbatical? I think I will let his words speak for themselves.

I’m burrrrned out. I have been for a few years now. I’ve been trying to power through it, but if you’ve read anything about burnout, you know that approach doesn’t work.
I support a lot of individual writers, artists, YouTubers, and bloggers through Substack, Patreon, and other channels, and over the years I’ve seen some of them produce content at a furious pace to keep up their momentum, only to burn out and quit doing the projects that I, and loads of other people, loved. With so many more people pursuing independent work funded directly by readers & viewers these days, this is something all of us, creators and supporters alike, are going to have to think about.

Kottke brings up a point that I have dealt with repeatedly as a creator: consistency.

I have tried writing when I felt like it, only to go months without posting because I deemed what I was writing wasn’t good enough.” I have written on a schedule of two or more newsletters a week only to quickly burn out and feel like my writing was a chore and not worth my time.

I currently write this newsletter once a week. Full disclosure I am writing this in my pajamas at 11 p.m. the night before I need to post this. I have allowed this writing to sit in my head without taking action for two days now, and I am terrified this will be some of the shittiest writing I have ever written.

But guess what, I have to send this out Wednesday at 9 a.m. before I leave for work. I promised a weekly newsletter to you all, and by golly, I will give you a newsletter.

With the thought of burning out and being a creator comes the cost” of creation.

In the superb piece The Cost of Creation, Shaun Gold, writer of Youtopian Journey, talks about what you must pay to be a creator.

There is a cost of creation and that cost is far too high for the multitude to pay.

And what is this cost?

It is the agreement with yourself to constantly create, to dedicate yourself to becoming a manufacturer of your mind. Yet this factory of facts that you have setup within your head does not have a union. It does not have off hours or holidays. It does not have benefits. It has only you, the foreman, the CEO, the president, the creator.

This piece by Gold had me go down a rabbit hole about Charles Bukowski, and I learned a lot about him, but I think two things sum up my takeaways from him.

The first is a video from the Pursuit of Wonder YouTube channel, which gives a biography about Bukowski and some astute speculation about why his tombstone reads DON’T TRY.”

With no real sight of success or money or fame — or even just creating a living from writing — Bukowski continued to write nearly every day before work for years of course we know how Bukowski’s story ended. He’s being spoken about right now as a writer; a renowned, successful, and important enough one to be spoken about with significance decades after his passing. To be considered one of the greats of all time…Only after a long-continued attempt at writing did Bukowski’s work finally become noticed and appreciated by an audience…Arguably, perhaps, this is where the most important idea can be found, not in just Bukoski’s work but in his life.

The second is a quote from another video I stumbled upon where KCET features Bukowski. He performs readings of his work in it, and in between each reading is a short interaction Bukowski had as the camera crew followed him around for a day.

One thing that stuck with me in this video was when he was discussing his poetry and how with poetry, the realities are never explained, and then he said this:

The reason I kept writing was not because I was so good but because they were so damn bad.

- Charles Bukowski

That quote reminds me of another great creator, Ira Glass from NPR. In a short piece called The Gap, Glass explains how when you start, what you make isn’t what you thought it would be, and you know that because you know what is good.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

The thing I would say to you with all my heart is most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have this special thing we wanted it to have. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

- Ira Glass

Whether it’s writing, making videos, painting, or sculpting, creating will take some time to learn and even more time to perfect. If you want to create, especially if you’re going to do so regularly, you must have an inextinguishable need to do so. If you don’t have that, you’re screwed. The temptations from TikTok, Netflix, that book on your nightstand, or the latest podcast you downloaded will envelop you like a net in the ocean catching a school of Mackerel.

If you do have that flame under you pushing you to create, you must make that thing you have wanted to make. Whether or not it is good isn’t in the equation, and neither is how many people will see it. Creating is for you, and you deserve to have that waterfall of dopamine after finishing what you set out to do.

So make the damn thing.

⌘ May 11, 2022 Creativity

The iPod is now dead.

Apple has officially said that the iPod is no more. You can still buy one, but only while supplies last.

Since its introduction over 20 years ago, iPod has captivated users all over the world who love the ability to take their music with them on the go. Today, the experience of taking one’s music library out into the world has been integrated across Apple’s product line — from iPhone and Apple Watch to iPad and Mac — along with access to more than 90 million songs and over 30,000 playlists available via Apple Music.

I remember when I got my first iPod, it was the original iPod Shuffle. After that, I got the first iPod Nano, the wide iPod Nano 3rd generation, and eventually bought the iPod with video.

The iPod with video was my pride and joy, and it was also my first encounter with handling digital video. I learned about different video formats, how to download videos from the web, converting those videos to fit the settings needed to have them play properly, and the beauty of the internet. There were many times I would be scouring forums and chats to figure out how to get Handbrake to output the right video I needed or how to rip music from YouTube and get it onto my iPod.

Now, as someone that does video production for a living, I am happy to have had that experience.

The iPod was also my first Apple product. I grew up in a PC home, like most in the early 2000s. I remember getting that magical experience of flipping my thumb over the wheel of an iPod to select from a list of menus and options. I had my entire audio library in my pocket, and the best part was it would never skip as a portable CD player did. It would be several years before I’d get an iPhone or Mac computer, but the iPod was what sold me on Apple, the company.

While the iPhone has replaced the iPod for me — and has for the better part of a decade — it’s still sad to see the end of an era here.

⌘ May 10, 2022 Link

Why I'm not Leaving Twitter

Twitter has always been my social media platform of choice. The atmosphere was fun, making me instantly fall in love with it. In addition, I was able to find other weirdos like me to talk about Apple products, Batman and have open conversations with them. Over time, with my newfound group of online friends, I felt obligated to stay. It was my internet home, after all.

After billionaire Elon Musk buys Twitter for $44 billion, more and more discourse about free speech” continues to bleed into everyone’s walled gardens. Some have even begun talks about leaving Twitter altogether. This is a mistake, in my opinion.

I am not here to say that Elon Musk will be good or bad for the company; that is yet to be determined — if the deal ever goes through — what I am saying is that Musk’s recent tweets and statements are alarming many.

Furthermore, Twitter employees have raised their concerns in a recent all-hands meeting. Casey Newton wrote about the meeting and shared several items discussed between Twitter employees and Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal. One thing I think is indicative of what Twitter’s leadership wants from this deal is Agrawal’s final statements in the meeting:

Agrawal concluded by asking employees to embrace change.”

Let’s embrace change. Let’s embrace uncertainty,” he said. If we see this as an opportunity, it will manifest as an opportunity. If we see this as doom and gloom, it will manifest as doom and gloom.”

As of now, it seems not many people have left the platform, and some say most will stay on the platform even after Musk takes control. The reason for this is, as Jeremy W. Peters says in his New York Times piece, is Twitter is too big to cancel.

The way both ends of the partisan spectrum are perceiving the Musk deal probably oversimplifies the reality of what his leadership would do to the platform — not to mention how it could be a folly to predict the whims of an eccentric billionaire whose political views are rife with inconsistencies.

I can’t help but agree with this sentiment. Leaving after just an announcement of Elon taking over, Twitter is putting the cart well in front of the horse. Of course, the other side of that coin is true for those who were encouraged to join after the announcement.

It’s nearly impossible to tell what Musk and the rest of Twitter’s leadership will do in the next six months after the deal is done. Hell, it is impossible to know what Twitter or Elon will do tomorrow.

Content Moderation is not Censorship

After talks about buying Twitter began, Musk tweeted this in hopes it would explain his stance on free speech,” when in reality, it poured gasoline onto the proverbial fire.

I feel that Eric Newcomer explained things much better in his piece, Why Are Reporters So Opposed to Free Speech”?.

Newcomer continues in his piece where he delves into the heart of his question and explains how reporters and journalists have disdain for Musk’s version of free speech.”

Newsrooms debate passionately about what stories deserve the highest billing on their homepage. But social media companies have just been distributing whatever superficially appeals to readers. The idea that social media sites take so little responsibility for the quality of content that’s being pushed to millions or billions of people is endlessly frustrating to journalists who spend far more time worrying about what they publish to their much smaller audiences.

I spend hours every week curating, researching, writing, editing, and fact-checking this newsletter I send once a week. I take it seriously because it is crucial that I get things right and have the knowledge and sources to back up my claims and takes.

When I stated that I hope Twitter keeps moderation on the platform, I didn’t mean that they should block and report anyone with differing opinions. On the contrary, nuance and discussions from different perspectives are essential — healthy even. What isn’t healthy are situations like misgendering someone just for the sake of hurting them, hateful comments against women a la Gamergate, antisemitic remarks, and pro-KKK positions — all of which are legal in the United States. It is one thing to have a meaningful discussion about something respectfully; it is another thing to have a superiority complex over someone because of their gender, race, or religion.

With that in mind, you’re damn right I don’t want Twitter to be filled with legal” content that includes fascist propaganda for Nazis, the KKK, trans hate, and other awful but lawful content.

I am staying on Twitter because I don’t think the platform is doomed because of Musk. That remains to be seen. I am staying here because this is my home online, and I will continue to treat it as such.

I am sure there will be more and more skepticism regarding this Twitter deal as things progress, but I feel that this will be my last piece directly about this Musk and Twitter deal, that is until something is put into motion.

⌘ May 4, 2022

The Reason CNN+ Failed

The average housefly can live for around 28 days, which means that there are literal bugs that will have outlived CNN+ as they close their streaming service on April 30th.

An Explanation of What Happened

Better journalists than me have explained what happened with CNN+, and I would much rather you learn the details from them.

Two come to mind after reading dozens of articles on the matter:

Alex Sherman, writing for CNBC, explained the timeline of CNN+ leading to its demise; it is worth your time to read in its entirety.

Chris Licht wasn’t supposed to start his new job as CNNs chief until May.

But on Thursday he found himself addressing about 400 full-time CNN+ staffers, some in person and some through a remote video feed… Licht told employees the project they’d been working on for the past six to nine months, the subscription streaming service CNN+, was ending April 30…He acknowledged that many would lose their jobs.

- Alex Sherman, CNBC

John Koblin wrote in his New York Times piece explaining the difficulty of launching CNN+ during a merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery. This merger could be part of the reason we learned about the measly 10,000 daily users I shared in my last issue of Clicked. That reason, allegedly, wasn’t because a disgruntled CNN employee leaked the numbers, but rather from Discovery executives trying to shut the service down through negative PR.

CNN executives were dismayed. And they grew suspicious of their new superiors from Discovery, believing they had leaked the data to create a pretext to shut down the service.

- John Koblin, The New York Times

This isn’t the whole story, there are still some underreported things missing here, the first being the other group that deserves the blame.

The McKinsey Problem

Sherman mentioned this firm in his explainer article, but McKinsey & Company deserves a fair share of the blame for CNN+ shutting down. Their track record should have been a dead giveaway.

For those unfamiliar with McKinsey, here’s a quick blurb about them from Wikipedia (sources are linked):

McKinsey has been either directly involved in, or closely associated with, a number of notable scandals, involving Enron in 2001, Galleon in 2009, Valeant in 2015, Saudi Arabia in 2018, China in 2018, ICE in 2019, an internal conflict of interest in 2019, and Purdue Pharma in 2019, among others.

One more thing you can now add to the list of others” is CNN+. It turns out that CNN hired McKinsey to consult on the service’s launch.

McKinsey essentially told CNN what they wanted to hear, claiming they would accrue 2 million US subscribers in the first year and 15-18 million after four years. CNN reportedly garnered just 150,000 subscribers in the first few weeks.

That said, it was only getting about 10,000 daily users. Something doesn’t add up here, and it is evident that McKinsey was not just off by a bit but utterly incorrect. The problem here is that McKinsey has already moved on to its next project without any consequences or repercussions coming to them.

One could argue that getting 150,000 subscribers in the first month is excellent. To that, I say if you compare it to HBO Max, which has over 75 million subscribers (including cable subscribers), CNN+ isn’t even worth Warner’s breath, and the Discovery execs knew it.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that CNN+ is officially shutting down this Saturday.

That’s where many people stopped reporting, but I think that the people directly affected by this decision deserve some light shed on them as well. Hundreds of people are now without a job because of a shitty consultant firm and bad decisions made by the executives upstairs.

The Fallout

CNN pulled the rug right out from under hundreds of workers, many of which joined after recruitment from CNN. They decided to overturn their lives and, for some, move across the country. All employees look like they will be getting 90 days’ pay as severance. From there, they have three months to figure out what is next within the company, or they must hit the road.

Some will be lucky and find employment within CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery, but not all. Journalists take risks every day, but I don’t think anyone who accepted a position at CNN+ would have foreseen just how fast things turned on its head.

The crew members that were hired to work in the new studios and the marketing team are all but surely out of a job, and there was no warning. In fact, Chris Licht, CNNs chief, was shaking hands with staffers just days before announcing they are no longer employed.

The Times is reporting that those who do not find a job within the company will be getting an additional six months of severance, which is a good start in my opinion.

If you think that 9 months of severance is worth a few weeks of work you clearly aren’t caught up on the difficulty of finding a place to live. Whether it is an apartment or a house you are going to have a hard time finding something within 6 months and you will most likely be paying more than you want. My heart goes out to those affected and if anyone finds a GoFundMe or something similar to help those affected I will happily donate to help them.

⌘ April 27, 2022

The Man Behind iBeer

Steve Sheraton went from making a silly video online where he was drinking a beer with his iPhone into a full-fledged app, which then became a breakout star when the App Store launched.

Quinn Myers writing for MEL Magazine:

Before the App Store was even a concept, Sheraton started selling the beer-drinking video file for $2.99. It was just a little video file that people had to hardwire in and download via iTunes,” he says. But I probably made around $2,000 a day for the longest time from that.”

By the time Apple came knocking, Sheraton knew he was onto something — he just needed to figure out how to code the video to Apple’s new device. I have a lot of experience in film and photography, and I wanted to make the beer look as realistic as possible,” he explains. So rather than doing animation, I chose to make assets from looped videos and image sequences — that’s why the foam looks so real.”

Sheraton then programmed the looped videos and image sequence to interact with the iPhone’s accelerometer. The accelerometer is constantly measuring the phone’s angle versus the horizon, so by tethering the line between the liquid and the foam to the horizon, you can move your phone in any direction and it looks like it’s filled with liquid,” he tells me. From there, the rest is just a series of if statements,’ so if the tilt of the phone goes beyond X,’ then the program should switch to different loops of foam and liquid that make it look like the phone is emptying.”

Sheraton called it iBeer, developed under the name of his company Hottrix, and priced it again at $2.99. We shot to first place [in the App Store] on the very first day and stayed there for about a year,” he says. Apart from its visual humor and sort of appealing to the lowest common denominator, iBeer was a large success because it allowed people to show their friends what the phone was capable of.

Without spoiling it, Myers goes more in-depth about what happens to Sheraton after iBeer’s success.

If you read the MEL article and find that interesting, Sheraton recently did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit where he talks more about iBeer’s success, what he is doing now, and his feelings on developing apps out today.

⌘ April 25, 2022