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Best things and stuff of 2015 (fogus.me)
451 points by platz on Dec 29, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

Crap, I still have a tab open in my browser at home for the best things and stuff of 2013[1] that I haven't made it though, and I first opened it when it was posted in late 2013! I really need to devote some time to that, since I've bothered to make sure that tab survived for two years.

1: http://blog.fogus.me/2013/12/27/the-best-things-and-stuff-of...

I've been there myself, but it's really mentally freeing to just let go of the tabs.

If you have something open because you need to finish a task... Put the task explicitly on your todo list, set a reminder, and close the tab.

If you have something open that you are need to finish reading reading but don't immediately have the time? Add it to your Pocket or alternative, and close the tab. If you feel you might forget it, set a calendar reminder to follow-up.

If you have something open that you think might just be nice to reference for that project you're kinda tinkering on... Summarize your finding in a way that would be meaningful to a future-you searching for that reference. You can do this in whatever method you prefer (bookmark, txt file, journal, pocket, etc.) And finally, close the tab!

In my personal experience having tabs open for weeks, to years on end did nothing more than exacerbate my anxiety over the fear of somehow missing out or loosing that information.

Give your working brain a rest and externalize this effort onto something that you aren't constantly being reminded of every second you're using the browser.

If you're worried about not finishing something, give yourself deadlines and set reminders.

If you're worried about not finding something, make it easier for a future-you to find it.

If you just want to get all the tabs out of your face but be able to find them later, try OneTab. https://www.one-tab.com/

In Opera, you can right click on any tab in the tab menu, and click 'save tabs as speed dial folder'. All open tabs will be saved in a folder on your speed dial. If you wan to open them again, you can right-click the speed dial folder and select to open them all at once.

Why not just use Chrome's built-in feature to save all your open tabs as bookmarks?

Or even save all your open tabs as a MAFF archive! Then you can read them offline. I like to add them to my todo list and then read them when I turn of my networking so I don't get lost down a hacker news rat hole. Dunno if chrome supports that, but Firefox (obviously) does[0].

[0]: http://maf.mozdev.org/

I'm just going to open that in a new tab and save it for later... d'oh!

That was my old approach, but it quickly leads to a very cluttered folder full of dozens of "New folder" folders, and personally I never look back at any of them because it feels like a junk drawer.

OneTab's features for organizing and prioritizing are so much better when you're dealing with hundreds/thousands of tabs. Also you can browse by the date a tab group was added on.

I used to do that and it started to really stress me out! Get into Pocket or Workflowy or something else to sort those for later!

I started using Pocket a few months ago and really enjoy it. The offline reading is great for public transit, and it gives me a good backlog of articles that I want to read. I do find it hard to keep my rate of finished/incoming above 1 with all the other things I try to make some time for!

Oh my finished/incoming ratio is disgusting. I imagine that if it was important to save at one point, it will remain important in the future when I figure out a way to pipe them all into some AI summarizer and it can teach it to me.

I've been collecting for a number of years now, and interestingly, when I sort oldest to newest, I have a really interesting window into what I thought was important/newsworthy at that time and what I know to be important/newsworthy or timeless now. I wonder if I can use that information to help sharpen my own judgment?

I'd love (well... hate) a Chrome plugin that maintains a personal leaderboard for longest-lived tabs.

You haven't had to reboot your home computer for 2 years? Nice!

In Chrome (probably the others too) you can set it to keep the open tabs open across restarts.

You're getting a lot of suggestions about how to ensure that you'll read the content eventually, but I'd like to offer the suggestion that you shouldn't read it at all. I can't speak to how busy you are, but if you can't make the time in two years, that says to me that this is something you really don't want to do at all.

OneTab Chrome extension: Spares your RAM, but still lets you maintain all your Tab-anxiety!

Another alternative: the great suspender

This has become one of the few end-of-year wrap-ups that I actively look forward to seeing, both as inspiration to read more and as a source for interesting ideas.

As usual, this is an amazing trove of interesting links and top notch personal accounting. Thank you, fogus!

I agree. Last year I ended up spending lots of time following Michael's tracks.

For discovering music I recommend Rate Your Music. You don't need an account, just go to the "charts" page and you can search by any genre (really, any!), country of artist or reviewers, by top rating or "esoteric" rating, etc.

The site is also getting an overhaul with a new name in April which will have even more powerful searches.

This has been by favorite way of researching new music for quite a while. I'll usually start with an album I really enjoy and then read reviews or checkout lists with that album included to find similar (and sometimes totally different!) albums and artists. I know a lot of people who praise discogs.com but RYM deserves way more credit.

Yep. RYM has over ten years of user contributions. It's a disgusting mess of PHP with no API, but it works.

The new rewrite will have an API, though I am not sure what the stack will be.


If you meant a link to information about the new site, go here:


If you meant the place where you find music in RYM, here:


I would say that another good place to find music is user lists. For example, here's one of non-Anglo pre-WWII music:


There was one blog post that had the most profound impact on my development approach for Single Page Apps. http://www.pocketjavascript.com/blog/2015/11/23/introducing-...

Discussed here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10619933

I find it to be the one article I can link to people that has a profound impact on the way they think about web app development.

Wow, how does somebody get all that reading/working done in a year?

He's actually got two posts about it, that I've found to be insightful and useful to take back to my own reading:

I've always been a horribly slow reader, despite enjoying reading and reading at a high level. A lot of that slowness is actually about the time I devote to reading (toilet time and bed time, essentially), the level of interest I have in the material (usually "enough to continue"), and a symptom of my out-of-practice reading skill, which leads to me primarily subvocalizing instead of reading, and frequently backtracking. Spending 10-15 minutes every other day reading at 200 words per minute does not make for a quick journey through a book.

After thinking of it in those terms, I've started to apply the idea that the more I read, the faster I will read (up to a point), to actively avoid subvocalization, and to devote real blocks of time to reading instead of fitting it in at the edges. I find that I end up reading closer to 400 wpm during focused time, and when I want to, I'm able to average 1-2 hours/day of a week. Spending that much time at 400ish words per minute makes books fly past. Keeping comprehension up and realizing value is where taking some notes comes into it.

Beyond that, as he says, you have to know what you're reading a book for. For example, it's probably not worth reading the introduction and basic content chapters of technical books you're already up-to-speed on, and you can skip right to the important parts and just read them deeply.

reading w/o subvocalization as a goal seems really weird to me!

i feel like for stuff like novels the vocalization & imagined richness of the world is kind of part of the point, and for technical material, grasping the ideas is by far going to be the limiting factor. (e.g., easy to spend an hour on 1 page of a math text.)

I don't understand what subvocalization even is, based on the Wikipedia article. It sounds like "the voice in your head reads things as you do". So I'll go with that.

I can't read without subvocalization... I tried keeping my mind preoccupied with gibberish words and even thinking in a foreign language but a second voice chimes in with the words as I'm reading them in the background. This is also quickly mentally exhausting...

I don't consider myself a slow reader - as I speedread at 700~800wpm. The subvocalization merely happens by slurring words together as if playing a movie on x3 Fast Forward w/ sound. I'm not capable of seeing how it hurts the rate of reading. I could see voicing or actually reading aloud to slow down reading, but not this.

i also can't read w/o the little voice in my head, but it is an interesting idea.

is there a website to test reading speed + comprehension? i'm thinking something w/ like an auto-generated story of fixed elements ("a pig and a horse visit the blue house on the hill", "a donkey and an ostrich cross the bridge over a river"), or maybe just a sampling of a large corpus of real text of similar level. you get timed on how long it takes you to read it + given a basic test to see if you actually absorbed it.

would be interesting to get some numbers, and also see if these (mythical?) non-subvocalizers really are faster.

i think i could see it maybe working, but i also feel like the words would be taking a whole new path through my brain. almost like a new language.

The way I'd describe non-subvocalization is how I would describe the way my brain understands french(which i speak fluently) and german(which I don't). With French I don't need to translate anything into english to understand its meaning, where as in German I have to translate most stuff to english before having any understanding of the sentence. I don't have to hear a voice inside my head telling me the words, I just sort of understand what the text is telling me.

@soperj very interesting, definitely does make it sounds like people who dont' subvocalize have in some sense learned reading as a 'native language'.

(reply up here because i guess i hit some hn karma limit on replying or something :/.)

I can speedread around that rate too. Subvocalization is really hard for me to do; I tend to just "read faster". A few times I believe I've managed it and it did feel like I was able to go much faster. Maybe it's like meditating, where you gotta try not to think?

I didn't even realize people subvocalized when reading until recently, when a friend mentioned it off-hand. It's really hard to analyze - if I think about it, I start doing it - but I'm pretty sure I don't subvocalize when I read at all.

I had the exact same thing happen to me. I definitely don't subvocalize, and didn't realize it was a thing until I read about it on here. The next week was excruciating trying to read anything because I kept doing it.

> easy to spend an hour on 1 page of a math text.

Absolutely true! I don't read much math, but I have and my reading rate was much slower. There have been a few books over the past year that took me months to get through whereas most others took a matter of days. I read a few books in parallel though.

I'd love to know that too. His goodreads profile shows 107 books read this year, so about 2 per week. I think my personal best (since I started tracking) was 12 in a year.

My average for the last four years (since I started tracking) is 43.5. I think reading 100/year would require reading books instead of watching TV nearly every night.

Here's confessions of someone who read 164: http://www.vox.com/2015/12/29/10634416/reading-list-books

Blogger/economist Tyler Cowan also advises quitting books that are a slog.

> I think reading 100/year would require > reading books instead of watching TV nearly > every night.

That's about right. I spend about 2-hours per week on television (depending on the season I spend zero) and I haven't played a video game in 5 years. There have been many times that I've wanted to see certain shows (Supergirl looked fun) but when the time comes reading wins out almost every time. I can only read this much because I love reading more than any other form of entertainment. It would be impossible otherwise. It does kinda stink to never be able to engage in conversations about games and shows though. Maybe there's a market for semi-annual books about current media. ;)

You are correct, you have to make time for reading by reducing other entertainment time. I hit 100 books last year without too much trouble, but I've really struggled with my goal of 125 this year (123 now, and two days left).

2 books per week was an amount that makes me happy, so I kept up with it easily. I fell behind early this year because my wife and I wanted to catch up on a couple of TV shows, which meant I needed to average over 2.5 books per week. That was enough to kill part of the fun, which is why I've struggled.

A goal is great because it helps you get started on the next book when you might want to do something easier. But if it's too big it just makes reading a chore.

I read about 70 books this year, 99% non-fiction - I try to read one hour before work and then devote as much time as I can at night before bed.

It is very true that the more you read, the faster and better you get at it. I always read more than one book at one time - and I read only things I find interesting. I find fiction very uninteresting and that is why I do not read it, even though a lot of people give me shit for it.

I "read" >100/yr audiobooks just in extra time commuting, doing chores, etc.

He's done all that reading and still hasn't read Snow Crash? What the what...?

Edit: It's been on his "Still Haven't Read" list since 2010. Maybe it's some sort of inside joke at this point...

I started it and got about 1/2 a chapter in. Haven't picked it back up, dunno why really, I was enjoying it a little.

Same. I liked the jokes, and then got bored of it by 30% in.

That one has been on my "Still Haven't Read" list for quite some time; finally read it this year and it's great.

For me anything fictional gets pushed so far to the bottom of the list compared to everything else that's on my to read list that I have had books sitting on shelves for 10+ years just waiting to eventually get read.

> For me anything fictional gets pushed so far to the bottom of the list compared to everything else that's on my to read list


I thought it was more fun than Snow Crash.

Did you try Anathem? I enjoyed Cryptonomicon as well but I think Anathen was even better, especially for techies.

Deja vu. I wonder how he came across one of the really old works of Zakir Hussain. One of the greatest percussionists of Indian classical music of all time.

Slightly off topic: Zakir Hussain is a household name in India, especially back in the 80s/90s, due to very popular TV commercial of a tea brand[1][2] :)

[1] http://www.tajmahaltea.com/taj-story/our-history.aspx

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vV92WYS2Mk

I saw him in Boulder recently, playing with a Celtic band. Very impressive. There was an interview of him recently on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/08/375637915/the-tabla-master-who...

I'm almost certain that I've heard his music before, but this was the first year that I actively listened if you catch my meaning.

Check out his collaboration called Sangam, with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, if you are into Jazz. There is an excellent video recording on Youtube as well as a CD (which is quite different and worth checking out separately).


If you would like to hear a really experimental work by Zakir Hussain - listen to "The Elements: Space". Its a great thematic production of Indian classical music on the five different elements .. By five different musicians.

I was a big fan of Zakir Hussain back in the days. He was an inspiring celebrity for us in India.

for us music geeks in the US, too! Shakti, particularly the first album, was a great gateway for me in getting into Indian music.

Just discovered "Kiwi Crates" via this post. As parent to a 4 and 3 year old = incredible find. Love the blend of simplicity (delivered w/everything) and still meaningful construction. Anything else like this parents of HN can share?

Kiwi Crates (and Koala - haven't tired the older age targeting boxes) are excellent, our 4 and 5 year olds love them. The results don't have a lot of longevity, at least for the Kiwi crates, but they consume an afternoon+ and involve a lot of productive-feeling efforts.

I have been thinking about genius box, the young scientist club, explorabox, and agent ribbit, too. There is so much overlap in a lot of these that it's difficult to commit to multiple without just ending up with duplicates. That probably wouldn't be entirely bad, but it's mildly annoying. Also, not all of these get down to the 3-4 yr range, but maybe something to think about in the context of the impending TinkerCrate subscription.





I found it a nice touch that they'd included 'Art' to turn the rather uninspiring (in my head anyway) 'STEM' into a rather more inspiring 'STEAM'.

I think this idea came from RISD. If you have ever sat in college level classes in both the hard sciences and visual arts, the difference in the capabilities of the students (and of the teachers) is very marked. It's not that one set of abilities is better than the other, just a case of two self-selected groups. Even in a mixed field like architecture the focus is on formal (aesthetic) issues rather than rigorous conceptual/deductive thinking. In fact "critical" reasoning is just barely on the agenda and is learned and applied in an ad hoc way.

Maybe a figure like Gaudi came close to being the ideal STEAM all-rounder. Whether we need more of his type I don't know!

Even better:








at which point we're back to "education is good" and we've cancelled the whole point of the STEM concept in the first place.

His choice of a social analysis of Thomas the Tank Engine is disappointing. Slate covered this in 2011, and was far better.[1] Sodor has the morals and ethics of Imperial Britain. It's all about duty. Duty to one's social superiors. There are even posters, "Sir Topham Hatt says Have you Been Really Useful Today?" Think of this as you stare at your cube walls.

[1] http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/07/thomas...

Good to see LoseThos there. An interesting story about an interesting guy - and also a great programmer.

I really gotta ask what's w/ snow crash this year? Did it get mentioned somewhere, I've just seen it a bunch from my family, now here; but I read it like 15 years ago. Is it because of Seveneves?

I think the reemergence of Virtual Reality (oculus/vive) has a lot to do with it

This is a pleasure to see I had read the last two years but i think this is the one that will make me actively remember it in coming years.

The 2014 and 2015 paragraphs are the most intersting to me.

The effort toward productivity, the 100:10:1 rule.

Pretty good stuff.

According to this post - the author's read at least two books per week in 2015. How does one do that? Serious question.

Instead of watching TV, playing video games, surfing Facebook, and solving Sudoku puzzles I read. There's really nothing else to it.

Instead of watching TV, playing video games, surfing Facebook, and solving Sudoku puzzles I read. There's really nothing else to it.

I'm the same way. Friends and students are endlessly amazed that I'm reading a new book every couple days. I'm endlessly amazed at how much time they spend on their phones.

A while ago I wrote "Why fiction? Why reading?" http://jakeseliger.com/2014/03/03/why-fiction-why-reading/ :

Every great book is the result of years or decades of studying and experience, distilled into a volume you can read in a few hours. How could you not want that?

It takes me less than 30 seconds to read the page. Let's be generous and make it 60 seconds. So in an hour you can read 60 pages. 300 pages book in five hours. Two books will take 10 hours. So reading for one hour each week day and 2.5 on weekend will take you through two books a week. There are books however which you just cannot put down and go through them in one or two sittings.

If we assume 300 pages per book, that's ~85 pages per day. Reading speed heavily depends on the material, but I'd say 30 pages per hour is a typical average. So 3h per day...whether you can hit that probably depends on your family situation and how much you like reading. If you're reading undemanding non-fiction you can probably hit 3x that speed.

I suspect it really depends on the person. Two books a week doesn't seem all that difficult _for me_ ... but my wife would have a lot of trouble with it, though she makes up for that by reading for longer periods of time than I do.

I enjoy reading to a ridiculous degree and do so quite often. As a result, I can typically finish a 400-page book in 2-3 days, averaging a couple hours each day. I'm at the faster end of the scale among people I know, though. A free weekend (which is extremely rare with two young kids) usually gives me the time to finish 3 or 4 books on my ever-growing list of fiction to read.

Replace HN/Facebook/Reddit time with reading.

Average american watches 5 hours of tv a day. How long does it take to read a 200 pg book even if you're interrupted by meals and things?

>Average American watches 5 hours of tv a day.

Anyone know where we can get the data for this? It seems to come from the Nielson corporation, who might be biased in the direction of implying people watch more TV. The BLS says 2.8 hours per day:


...I'd like to see the histogram of this data. Is it normally distributed? What's the standard deviation? How many people are watching more than 16 hours per day. How many are at zero per day? What the median? How does it break down for different demographics? How about with the seasons? How does it look over the course of a week? Are people binge watching on the weekends?


Fogus is the man.

I guess web caching is not one of the best things of 2015. Site is down.

Hi fh

There's no way anyone can actually work and read 2 books per week. I call bullshit on this one.

Rubbish. I had a period when I read one book every day, including reading The Dice Man (which is a huge book) in one day. Of course I did little else. But 2 books a week is easily achievable.

The poster said "and work every day", while you're saying "of course I did little else", so I don't think it's rubbish.

Some people read faster than others. I work full time as an engineer (~45-50 hours) and read 2-3 books a week.

You can read a lot more than you'd think.

Ryan Holiday had a great post about this very topic: http://ryanholiday.net/how-to-read-more-a-lot-more/

You can call it whatever you want, but it's still truth. Many people do things that you can't imagine I suspect.

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