Click to Shrink

This morning Saturday I spent hours scrolling in my RSS feeds, napalm mode, marking tons of content as won't ever read. This made me wanna share my struggles with FOMO and attempts to fix.

Cap Limits

Years ago, a colleague was telling me he left Spotify for Apple Music because of the 10,000 song limit. I had no need of having to keep this much music at the same time. In fact, I do often listen to the same songs, even if the songs change. I regularly delete stuff from my library and make room for new ones.

But a decade ago I was in his shoes, collecting my likes and dislikes on TasteKid (wikiless) and making sure all my favorites TV shows, movie, book, comics, music bands were saved, so TasteKid would recommend me cool stuff. Until it went crazy. I complained to support and they told me I hit a cap limit and they cannot recommend more content beyond that cap limit. Shit. It feels terrible as a user to be punished by your product for using it too well.

I had an account on SensCritique (wikiless) until recent years and I contributed a lot to their knowledge base, lists of contents, until they block my account because I was not making perfect submissions and they had to fix some of them. Is that a reason to block me ? I politely asked for unblocking my account but they insisted the ban should be of one month. I requested a full export of my data (thank you GDPR) then deleted my account and contributions and never went back.

It's painful to contribute the internet and be banned because of imperfection. It used to be a more welcoming place. I fear to depend on external services because of this kind of politics or cap limit. Anyway, that's why I also self host my content and services so I cannot blame anyone else for failures.

Brain, you kill me

When I find an article I like, I often fall in the trap of opening all the cross linked articles. Which make me open too many tabs that I really don't have much time to browse right now so I save them for later in Wallabag. I had to install Tab Limiter (browser extension for Chrome) and force myself to a limit of 10-20 tabs per window/profile but it's hard. I did that after reading about people with similar issues (Reddit - It seems impossible to get rid of my 1000 tabs habit).

I recently stopped bookmarking stuff in my Git repository (or at least slowing it down), I instead switched to saving links into Shaarli, Wallabag and Obsidian daily notes, telling myself lies like bookmarking is worth it. I was regularly feeling overwhelmed with newsletter and FOMO so I opted for RSS feeds that curate content from my favorite authors and publishers but that brings its own issues as I exceed my capacity of how much content I'm capable of curating on a given day. Curating content and links is not suitable in 2024 and something better is needed. Recently I did the math and realized that from Wallabag, Gitea and and in total I have recently collected 11K links among my main bookmarking places. If I dig deeper and go collect links from my Twitter archives, my 10 years old bookmarks and links from my Obsidian notes, it sums to 20K. That's a big number I really need to cut into 1K maximum. Which I'm trying at /links.

Brain, you kill them

No tool will solve it; it's not a tool issue. One just can't digest so much content. If it's too late and you already succumbed to opening 10K tabs and notes and windows and you have started too many "watch later" challenges, let me present your friend, Gimli !

Imagine the open tabs, newsfeeds, information sources, lists, open windows, unfinished stuff, etc as the Ring used by Sauron in LOTR. Then act like Gimli, throw an axe at the problem. If you are strong enough, you can just quickly solve this.

It's really satisfying to delete stuff and decide never to read them. Rather than bookmark them for later and never read them, just delete stuff. Delete lines from your codebase. Delete branches of unfinished work. Close tabs. Delete "might be useful later" apps from your mobile phone. Uninstall browser extensions you rarely use. Archive emails that pollute your Inbox. Do you really need those daily emails from 20 newsletters ? Do you ever read them ? Do you really need to read the whole Hacker News ? You know there exist summaries ? Do you really need to read that whole article ? There exist ChatGPT summarizers that work in your browser, or you could simply jump to the article's comments section or look if any HN user already commented on that article. If you prefer to rely on your own judgment, just have a look at the intro and conclusion of any article you are about to read, and from there decide if you are interested to read more.

You think you need to bookmark everything and organize them, but most of those websites will be gone soon or later or will be behind paywalls. Save the few that really matter to you, using SingleFile extension for instance, if possible on your storage as we don't know if search engines or archiving websites will keep caching those pages nor if they will still exist in a few years from now.

Most of the long articles I've ever read could be summarized with a simple meme (image), they really are a perfect fit for the purpose of sharing a concept. That's also why webcomics are so powerful, like XKCD, it's minimalist and speaks to everyone. It might be the same for tons of those videos, podcasts you wanna consume. If you are regularly battling against your inbox, newsfeeds etc, it's time to use that axe and unsubscribe from this spam which is one of my productivity tricks, look here for more.

Look busy, be free

You have a limited time, your body has its own constraints and you can't grow new body parts to extend your capacity. You don't need to do more, but probably to do less and be more focused. For this, you need to give yourself more time. Think again about the cap limits. In past years, people have migrated away from Facebook, nowadays they migrate away from Twitter. Tools don't last. Social networks don't last. Content don't last. Instead old content disappear to make room for better old ones. Hopefully. There are websites other than Facebook and Instagram. Not overloaded with ads. Interesting and quieter ones. And we definitely need more calm while social networks are keeping us busy, VOD platforms push infinite content to us and email inboxes never feel empty. And we also need to replace most of the too popular platforms that succumbed to enshittification (wikiless).

You don't need to track 300 RSS feeds, 1/10 of that should suffice. While I write this, I went from 330 RSS feeds to 270 in about a week. I've noticed I'm really super excited about the content from maybe 5 of them, and enthusiastic/curious about maybe 25 RSS feeds in total. Speaking of that, I'm sharing a subset of those RSS feeds in my /links page.

You don't need to be present on every social media platform, 1 or 2 should suffice. Or none. After leaving Twitter and LinkedIn, I was mostly present on Mastodon (which I'm leaving too by March 2024) and I deactivated Instagram but I read every publication of my partner thanks to Instagram feeds provided by Picuki. Some websites allow you to easily backup your data before closing your account, I do keep backups in Dropbox. If not ready to close those accounts, deactivate the ones that pollute you and see if you can live a while without spying on random strangers and friends on internet. Because yes, maybe you shouldn't maintain a false sense of friendship with every influencer.

For similar reasons, I tend to archive WhatsApp conversations and unsubscribe from social accounts from time to time. If I don't recall why I follow an account or why the fuck I'm in this WhatsApp group, I better leaving it. It can be done in a polite manner of course, but the idea is to focus on your wellbeing.

No need for 10K songs on Spotify, I stick to 2K for a few years and in only a few days, I went to 1K, then 100 songs, then 30 songs. They come and go. No need to follow hundred of accounts, if a ten should suffice.

I started to use the axe in my 5K bookmarks and remove all that is not absolutely needed. It's easy once you are inspired by some tricks.

Numbers have spoken

Kill, destroy, eliminate, declutter, triage !

If triage is difficult, use the axe and destroy the whole problem. I've quit several social platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, daily.dev, Discord, ...) and then the FOMO goes away completely as well as the anxiety caused by having to keep up with tons of relationships on those social media. Dunbar's number (wikiless) explains you cannot keep up with so many people on so many platforms. The most cited number is 150, personally I put it way lower for me, maybe 1/5 or 1/10 of it.

I bet I have said it all. I'll continue to shrink and use minimalism to guide me (wikiless).

So what should we do instead ? I'll explain this further in another post. But TLDR; is you make something useful with your dreams and time. You shall create. Play music, draw web comics, share stories, make your own website, make your own art, software, your own place on the internet and in the world. You lack inspiration for a blog post or website ideas ? Let this guide you or this other one.

OK COOL... But this is just how things work, isn't ?

No wonder you don't have time if you keep scrolling social media, dramatic news, or if you accept every fucking social event invite from friends and family. Focus on what matters, say no. And even if you still lack time, it should not be an excuse.

In a former life, I was telling my overworking colleagues about making time for things that matter to you. They baffled. The thing is it's not because you work 14 hours a day you will be more productive than someone doing deep work for about 2 hours a day. Sometimes all is required to fix a problem is not more work but a good nap / break.

Credits : Julia Evans

Sometimes you really need to make time, it can imply some arrangement with your family or to setup unconventional work schedules but if that allows you to make something you have fun doing, why not ? When you are done with that, other people will surely react but who cares ?

But this was helpful

In order to do things useful for you and joyful for you, no need to chase the infinite self optimization which is toxic in itself and make you feel never achieving anything. You don't need to be 1% every day. It's difficult to improve every day and you will feel guilty by not reaching the goal. Instead, try to stay away from bad habits. Instead of focusing on developing new ones constantly, develop anti habits to kill the bad ones. Be also very wary of the self development guides that exploit your guilt for their business. You can chase infinite advices from random internet places or closed ones, but that's also something to be critical of.

Ironically, you should be also wary of this very article you read. I'm writing it for myself first, because it helps me clarify my mind. It's good if it helps you, but it's first and mainly targeted at me, like most influencers and authors write first for themselves or at least based on their own experience. In general, be wary of advice.

All content is not equal and because some advice exists does not mean it applies to you. So don't feel guilty of not following all trends and coaches. You can also make your own adventure.

Is it the end ?

Hopefully if you get me right, it's just the beginning, the start of living your life and stop letting everyone else's agenda control yours. There is also no urge to act now. First, slow down. Don't feel guilty of doing less, saying no, relax in your bed. If you reduce the noise and negativity, don't immediately go compensate with new projects. If you don't feel energized to start decluttering, at least take a break. Think about it. When was the last time you took a day off or had fun starting a useless project ? Do you have time for your hobbies ? Do you feel tired or exhausted ?

Use the axe.

Shrink it all.

Or go play your favorite game.

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Last updated: Feb 29 2024 3:27 PM CEST in πŸ—ΊοΈ Anderlecht, Brussels, Belgium.

Personal insights on finance and digital privacy

A couple of weeks back, I was getting my ass kicked at chess. It was a blast, even as I blundered into defeat.

Here's the thing: in some games, like life, the right focus at the right time can flip the board. It's about spotting chances and seizing them. Remark : If interested in the "perfect timing" topic, do read about the power of when.

Being focused on specific goals can help make the difference in the long term. Also being aware of the opportunities and reality.

Last year? A financial nightmare. But I hustled, optimizing my budget. Running my own company, I could shuffle some expenses around – a neat trick.

I axed unnecessary subscriptions – online courses, publishing platforms, various IT tools. Sometimes, the best alternative isn't a new provider; it's you. Betting on my skills, I cut costs and upped my privacy game. That's a win in my book.

Now, this blog and my digital life sit on a fresh, cost-effective infrastructure. More privacy, less cash bleed.

My new obsession? Privacy and open source. Ditching GAFAM and seeing where that road takes me. It's about discipline and the right tools.

Next year's mission: maintain this focus and help others grab back control of their budgets and privacy.

Catch you in 2024.

Reflections on Change: The Constant Shuffle

Change is a constant.

I passed 37 years recently.

In 2022 I was going freelance after 12 years of employment. Why ? Because I had been so disappointed by many years of employment, bad managers or politics, I needed to feel like I gave the credit myself deserves. I now feel after one year I would like to help and mentor other people to go freelance.

My toddler (2.5 years old) is going to school and I drive him at school by bike. The more I invest time with him that I don't spend at other crap, the deeper we connect. But crap is everywhere and trying to steal time from us. Seeing him growing so much reminds me of the time passing and the need for me to lead by example.

I learned from hundred of hours spent crafting my LinkedIn profile, sending/receiving tens of thousands of LinkedIn messages, crafting my resume, interviewing for hundred of jobs. No matter how long we play this game of finding the ideal job and finding the exact rates, conditions, etc we deserve and want, those variables keep changing a lot and are difficult to correlate with ideal job. In the end it's not about the job but about who we are, what we need from life, what we really want to do on a day to day, what kind of problems we like to solve, what kind of people we want to work with, what kind of team we want to shape. The ideal job is a rare combination of hidden variables and is a constantly changing problem that requires gut feeling and experience, like finding the perfect taste in coffee / espresso / beer is a never ending game.

As part of this I've removed a lot of my previous job criteria at to recruiters to keep things simple.

Outside of work, I also made a lot of sacrifices, at least choices that I regretted. For the sake of trying to please or do the right thing, I got in trouble a few times. In the future I have to stand for what is worth to me, and trust my gut feeling. I'm always willing to make compromises as I'm a Belgian and we excel in this ! but I also have to set boundaries and speak the truth and take distance at need. Before this post, I struggled to start writing. Speaking of which, I even thought of using ChatGPT to help with the task. ChatGPT has clearly influenced radically the way I interact with the web and the universe of problems, including code but not only. It drastically revived my interest into technology. But it also obvious there is a long way before AI can supersed us. A good tool is nothing without a creative mind and some persistence. And a good mind needs to express, otherwise it's best to just play sudoku alone.

And that motivates me to write. And I make no promises, but to write for myself πŸ™‚ and share things.

When working from home is toxic

Before the pandemic, one would regularly question whether working remotely could replace working in the office, and the lockdown helped to discover the pros and cons of each in the long term. The pandemic happened and suddenly legions of influencers advocates for work-from-home, trying to convince you that to get any work done, you should stay at home. As companies praise workers to return to the office, many employees have joined the great resignation. I'm happy that numerous workers have resigned from unsatisfying jobs and are looking for better work cultures, but I don't believe working in the office is the problem.

Recently, artist Irina Blok authored a few charts about working from home and the pandemic. And the one below really caught my attention as a parent and as someone subject to heavy mental load.

Irina Blok tweeted about remote working benefits during the pandemic. Someone else fixed it.

My concern with such a chart is that not everyone has a home office that looks as good as a traditional workplace. In addition, interruptions happen at home too and chatting with coworkers is not a problem per se. Hopefully, someone else in the internet partially fixed the chart for me. Working from home can have as much negatives as working in the office, and those can include things like :

  • Inconvenient office setup
  • Noise
  • Lack of private office
  • Mental load
  • Interruptions and distractions
  • Home office costs
  • Lack of socializing
  • Insufficient face time
  • Overworking
  • Increased sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of room for self

Inconvenient office setup

At the office, you have your dual screen, a large desk, a comfortable chair, meeting and relaxation rooms, places for isolating yourself from your coworkers. On top of that, the internet connection is awesome and there are free snacks, drinks, fruits, and a top-notch coffee machine. If I want to mimic the benefits of working in a professional office, I'll need to invest in a bigger place and better material, or move to a co-working space.

Noise

In the last few months, our rental contract ended. It happened before the building of our future apartment could be achieved, as unfortunately the pandemic affected the whole construction sector. Our temporary solution was to rent a place via Airbnb. We are happy with the spot, however we ignored that the neighbors were renovating their place for the past 12 months. We have gotten used to it, but as hypersensitive persons, my partner and myself struggled a lot with this. We learned patience the hard way by being subject to intense noise any time of the day, any day of the week. Welcoming our new-born in this stressful environment was the last thing we wished, and often baby naps turn out to be impossible. When you need to work, it's the worst type of nuisance as you cannot focus. I simply prefer to stay muted in most Zoom meetings.

Lack of private office

In this Airbnb, I don't have any private space. I'm often working in the laundry/storage room, or at other times in the living room. It means that when the little one is sleeping in the living room, which is the next room, I have to stay silent and I'll stay muted in meetings or just skip them.

Mental load

Working at home means I'm even more aware of the household chores, and I'm thinking constantly about them from the beginning until the end of the work day, so it's harder to focus on anything else. In addition, as a new parent, I'm even more focused on others needs, i.e the constant well-being of my toddler. But while I'm trying to be 100% available as a parent and partner, I'm also very committed to my career. As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I do experience sensory overload and emotional flooding, and the home office is just too distracting for me. When I have to interrupt some work related task, I feel stressed as I tend to think that my colleagues spend 100% of their time working, which is unlikely of course, and I fear to be unproductive. And when I'm working, I feel it's unfair for the other parent to do parenting alone without any break or rest.

Interruptions and distractions

The mental load has consequences. When I leave my home office room, I become prone to be distracted by jobs to be done. While constantly switching between work and home tasks, it's harder to focus 100% on work. If I take a break and start taking care of the toddler or handling household chores, I might easily forget about the next meeting. As I'm at home, it's also easier to reach out to me for my partner, the family and other visitors. On the long run, those factors prevent any type of deep work, which is endangering productivity and motivation.

Home office costs

Who is paying the bill when you consume twice more energy for all your work devices, monitors, the light and the heating ? Who is paying for the internet connection, the coffee, extra drinks and meals, printing, writing material ? Since I've started to work 100% remotely, those costs have increased while remaining at my expense.

Lack of socializing

Among my Facebook network, 70% of my contact (excluding family) are people I've met in the office or during my studies. I'm not an extrovert, but I do enjoy social interactions. I'll likely start a discussion around the coffee machine or in the office corridor, or with a colleague in my field of view, and this creates opportunities that I'll miss while working remotely. In addition, if your company culture is not encouraging remote social interactions, you might feel as isolated as I was during the lockdown. In my last employment, the pre-lockdown era was 1 year and 2 months long, and it felt way richer and interesting than the following 1 year and 4 months period of remote working. I couldn't have the chance to meet my colleagues in person, and when you're the investigative and social type of person, you build way more energy, inspiration, satisfaction and motivation when interacting with people in person.

This period of 1 year and 4 months was a long time without any team building. It was also poor of opportunities to connect with the new joiners, the new boss and the team buddies. With a few exceptions, most of the meetings and discussions rotate only around work which is adding to the general stress of working remotely and contributed, among other factors, to ruin my motivation.

Insufficient face time

Even if face time still occurs, it's happening less often or at least with less than ideal conditions. Some tips can make it better, but video calls are a trade-off and not the solution. Zoom/Meet/Team calls will never replace the in-person interactions, especially if we take bad habits such as enabling blur effects or virtual backgrounds which give the feeling of talking to a floating face.

Overworking

The lack of work-life balance and suggested breaks are the point here. There is no emergency to close your laptop and start commute back home when you are already in your place. The temptation is great to keep working a bit more. Everyone can simply reach out to you more easily to get some work done. Of course you can find arrangements to keep yourself away from the work pressure, but it's just harder than when the physical separation was in action. It has never been easier than nowadays to connect to work from anywhere, and now you have to constantly remind yourself to resist the temptation. Reminding yourself that you are at home and not at work ? Easier said than done when both places are the same.

Increased sedentary lifestyle

It's up to me to fight this, anyway the daily commute in addition to the regular travels in and out of the office, to grab a lunch for instance, helped people like me to move way more often.

Lack of room for self

Sharing the same living and working space than your loved one is a gift but can be exhausting. In the long run, regular separation can be beneficial to having something like a reunion. Spending all your time in the same space as your life companion can be challenging as it means you have never time alone and you depend constantly on the other noises and moves. It is clearly not for everyone, especially when you are independent. The pandemic forced us to deal with this situation and we are flexible enough to survive. We even manage to give each other some time alone. However, staying at home all the time is not compatible with our need for autonomy in the long term.

Is it that bad to prefer working from home ?

Not at all. Wearing the hats of a parent and an employee, I am fully aware of the pros of working remotely, especially when it comes to productivity, flexibility, and parenting, and this will be the topic of a future post.

That being said, I'm advocating for working in the office, as I consider it has long term benefits for my career, professional network, work-life balance, socialization, productivity, teamwork and motivation. And I believe that working from home cannot beat those perks in the long run.

If you want to discuss, please comment πŸ™‚

Things that kill motivation at work.

In some past jobs, my commitment was strongly damaged by a few events that happened as the company was rapidly growing.

  • I noticed silos between Dev an Ops, and I've automated the process for delivering software to Ops. But the Ops people decided to not use it.
  • We engineers were regularly asking to do something about the silos between IT department and the rest of the organization. I reported them via Slack, lot of colleagues supported my initiative but it was backfired to me by management, because some things have to stay the way they are and transparency was not a priority, even if this contradicts the company values.
  • Our team was overloaded with shit tasks. We were executing the same manual instructions every day for helping the same group of people and after a few months, we had executed hundred of such requests manually without adding any value. I automated the process by allowing this group to solve this kind of task without the need to ask our team. It was applauded by those people, my manager and my direct colleagues, but the initiative was backfired to me by top management as they had decided in the past to never automate this, and killing this initiative was an opportunity to remind us of who is in charge. The automation was retired.
  • I got a warning that the new boss was in a mood to fire people so we had to keep a low profile and stop taking any initiative. Any new initiative should be validated via our managers.
  • We had no backup of our codebase (hosted on SaaS) thus in case one administrator would accidentally click on some delete button, everything would be lost. After fixing this with automation, I was asked to test if the backup could be restored, and I tested this on a test environment. Unfortunately, access to the test environment was not restricted, and a few secrets were found in the codebase. I was blamed for that initiative.
  • We had daily stand-ups, I was requested in private to rather shut up than speaking for more than one minute.
  • During those daily stand-ups, I was requesting help for our team as we were overloaded with work for a long time and we were in despair to get new people in our team. The manager and the rest of the people didn't react, only a fresh colleague helped.
  • My colleagues and ex-manager were praising my kindness, but new management was blaming me for being rude in public. What they really mean is that I was too honest (assertive), something that was not totally aligned with the new politics.
  • We had to keep management informed with a weekly report listing our planned activity, blocking issues, decisions to be taken etc. Despite I've sent a few of those reports, I never had feedback on the decisions nor blocking issues, so it seems it was just management covering their back with this.
  • The same discussions occurred over and over again with managers, it would be very common from them to ask us to explain everything again about our current infrastructure/architecture, without them showing any progress in the understanding of the system.
  • A lot of things were promised by the manager during the Sprint retro but those would never be done.

I ended up resigning, because I don't need micro management nor to be managed by fear, and I wanted to avoid burnout.

I expect the freedom and I need to be supported when speaking of problems, acting on them, taking initiatives, help other people and get helped. And I don't need managers in my way for that, especially managers abusing their power to kill initiatives and fire people.

Managers, please let us do our work. And if you notice the organization malfunctions, please blame yourself for bad leadership, don't threaten your employees and learn how to keep your best programmers.