Links and Notes - April 2nd 2021

Resisting the temptations of dopamine

Yesterday I tweeted that Obsidian's mobile app was amazing. More than I could have hoped for (more on that in a moment). And then I closed Twitter and went about my business; it was after work so I was chilling without any digital disturbance.

Late night rolled around, I posted my daily blog post, and opened up Twitter to share the post there. Annnnd it turned out that the Obsidian Tweet had gotten a fair bit of activity following a retweet by the Obsidian account itself. I have push notifications disabled so it had all happened silently. But the moment I picked up the phone, the dopamine kicked in.

It took every bit of will power that I had to stop myself from continuously refreshing to see if there was any more interaction on the tweet. I did reply to almost everyone who had asked a question, so I set notifications on for replies and basically threw the phone away to stop myself from "fondling" it.

But the dopamine hit was hard. I thought I had control of my desire to grow popular. But like the one ring of sauron, I heard the whispers in my head: "You're an early adopter of this tool.... You could be... An influencer. A guide."

"You could be famous. People would respect you".

I wish this was an exaggeration. It isn't. I walked into the bathroom and dunked my face in cold water.

No, the tweet didn't grow big. No, I didn't go famous. But it was weird how after over a year of becoming comfortable with the idea of speaking into the void and not seeking popularity, it was so easy to get sucked in by the lure of it. To think I should change my voice and try my hand at content that would generate likes.

The effects of dopamine run deep.

Obsidian's Mobile app is awesome

As mentioned in the previous heading, Obsidian's mobile app is available for use. It's in private beta for paid supporters. And I can't believe how much they've managed to deliver.

When we first started having conversations about the mobile app, the Obsidian developers were willing to commit to an app, primarily for reading, and with minimal writing functionality. What we got instead was an app that has every single feature of the desktop app. It's basically THE desktop app, scaled to mobile. Goodby iA Writer. I have all the Obsidian native features like linking to other files built in. And I have to say, the editor is just... chefs kiss.

This isn't all good. It's not built for a touch interface. My usage of the Obsidian app is heavily based on keyboard shortcuts. So having to click on two context menus just to close a pane is a heavyweight interaction. To open the quick file switcher? 2 clicks. Everything feels like its 2 clicks away.

The counter side to all of this though is purpose. On a smartphone, I'm unlikely to be creating files quickly. It's more likely that I need to access a very specific file and add a note. Even if I was using it as a Zettelkasten, I'd be able to add notes to an "inbox" semi quickly. The only time I'd need all the features fully accessible would be on a tablet, and the only tablet I know of that's actively used is the iPad. Nowadays I'm seeing more iPads being used with keyboards than before. So I guess it all works out in the end. This is probably worth a more full review later.

I'll consider doing that once the app is ready for public release.

Rovio games is alive and thriving

My son has an atlas book which was made in a partnership between Rovio, makers of the mobile game brand Angry Birds, and National Geographic. Reading it today, I found myself wondering what on earth had happened to Rovio. My assumption was that following the news of the layoffs back in 2015 the company had slowly vanished into obscurity. I figured it was still around but probably just barely. Maybe they were still making games that were mediocre performers in the mobile game market. Their old properties were probably zombieware.

I was pretty far off.

A web search led me to their company site where I found the financial report for the year 2020 and it was... Good! The opening line is literally "Good profitability and cash flows continued."

Some choice quotes:

In the fourth quarter, our largest game Angry Birds 2 gross bookings grew year-on-year and we launched a significant update – Arena 2.0 – that was especially targeted at the most engaged and competitive players, showing them a deeper sense of progression.

So they are still investing heavily into the Angry Birds 2. And the game is growing! Assumptions shattered.

Angry Birds Friends had its best quarter since Q3 2018, and we can now see that the investments we made on this game since 2019 are paying off.

A newer property of theirs is doing well! Another assumption shattered.

I even checked their 2019 report to see how things were going, and despite a drop in revenue this year, the profit margins are growing.

Basically, even though they might not feel like the "we are everywhere" kind of company they were back in their heyday, they are doing great. Or maybe they did so well that they are just part of the background and I was never paying enough attention.

14 days of consecutive posts

I don't plan to do this every time I complete 7 days. It's just that my goal from the previous post was the next 7 days. Next goal is 14 days. But there's also a bigger goal than that.

One of the purposes of the daily posts was that I wanted to feel comfortable getting ideas out there. Over time I had attempted to complete essay after essay but most of them had failed in the draft stage. I'm not entirely regretful of that. Every time I wrote on a topic, I found myself digging further and further into my own assumptions and before I knew it, I had roadblocked myself. I don't think that's a bad thing. But I do think I could set myself limits. I need to be able to say "this is where I stop digging any further". And that comes back to the daily posts. I'm trying to train the habit through this activity.

Take the Rovio games section above for example. It was such a fascinating topic that once I started to look into it, I found myself following the trails of financial reports and the game ratings. But because its my daily post and I know I have a very small amount of time I can allocate to it I had to cut it short. Go back and read that section, you can feel the vibe in the last paragraph.

This all eventually comes round to my recent interest in the Shape Up framework. Going forward, I wonder how it will be to say "This idea deserves x days of work, has this scope, and these boundaries" and if it doesn't work out in that time, we cut the idea and move on. Which is exactly what I'll be trying. The goal is that with the daily posts, I'll be publishing longer form, more thought out writings regularly.

This blog doesn't have a comment box. But I'd love to hear any thoughts y'all might have. Send them to [email protected]

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Posted on April 02 2021 by Adnan Issadeen