The Blogroll: Week 14

If you’re asking “what the heck am I looking at?”, here’s a primer. Also, if you know of an article or blog I should be reading, let me know.

The Blogroll


Alex Tabarrok - The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely

Freedom of movement is a basic human right. Thus the Universal Declaration of Human Rights belies its name when it proclaims this right only “within the borders of each state.” Human rights do not stop at the border. Today, we treat as pariahs those governments that refuse to let their people exit. I look forward to the day when we treat as pariahs those governments that refuse to let people enter.

Is there hope for the future? Closed borders are one of the world’s greatest moral failings but the opening of borders is the world’s greatest economic opportunity. The grandest moral revolutions in history—the abolition of slavery, the securing of religious freedom, the recognition of the rights of women—yielded a world in which virtually everyone was better off. They also demonstrated that the fears that had perpetuated these injustices were unfounded. Similarly, a planet unscarred by iron curtains is not only a world of greater equality and justice. It is a world unafraid of itself.

As an “open-borders extremist” (as Trump likes to put it), I always find it baffling that I have to explain the free-market value of open borders to my “free market” conservative friends and family.

If you’re really after hiring the smartest or most qualified or hardest working person for whatever job you’re hiring for, wouldn’t it be great to be able to hire from anywhere in the globe without dealing with immigration policies? This isn’t even a moral play — it just seems like common sense. Help someone unlock their true economic potential and they’ll love you (and pay taxes) forever.

Also, I’d love to move to Spain for a few years to eat cheese and tapas without jumping through hoops. I’ll pay taxes, I promise! I’m a desirable person, probably!


John Harris - In a world of digital nomads, we will all be made homeless

It is time, too, that we begin to understand that the great wave of popular resentment sweeping across advanced societies is partly about the way the modern economy shreds some of people’s most basic emotional attachments. We all know the modern rules: millions of people have to leave where they grew up to find even halfway dependable work; and they find that creating any kind of substitute home somewhere new is impossible. For people at the bottom of the economic hierarchy, life proves to be unendingly precarious and often itinerant. For those slightly further up, the best available option seems to be a version of the student lifestyle that extends well into your 30s.

This article has been a big deal in my circles, and I fundamentally don’t understand it. My question is, if digital nomadism is the future (and I think it will be for many), why is “millions of people have to leave where they grew up to find even halfway dependable work” a “modern rule?” Isn’t that “modern rule” really a relic of a time when work was non-digital?

I’m a “digital nomad,” and I work primarily in my house that sits in a comparatively cheap-as-hell suburb surrounded by all the family-friendly stuff I could ever want. Digital nomadism is what allows me to work my nice tech job without having to huddle into tiny spaces in crowded cities? And it’s given me the freedom to work while I raise my kids and give them the foundation they need.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of problems with this digital-nomadism-as-gig-economy trend (particularly with how Americans do health care), and digital nomadism definitely favors those who have nice computers and fancy ethernet (privileged people). But being able to work online instead of in a traditional office is the definition of freedom. I’m professionally tied to nothing but an internet connection.

This article, to me, seems to be confusing digital nomadism with toxic startup culture. There’s certainly some overlap, but working 90-hour weeks and never having children is a choice. You don’t have to live in SF — or any major metro area — to get a tech job. You just need the internet. More people (and businesses) should try it.


Zach Holman - UTC is enough for everyone… right?

Let me tell you a quick story.

Do you remember what you were doing on December 30, 2011? You have three seconds. Go.

Nope? Nothing? Well then, if you don’t know what you were doing December 30, 2011, then there’s one obvious explanation for this: you must be Samoan.

You see, Samoa didn’t have December 30, 2011. They went straight from December 29 to December 31, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

The post is a fun read, but I especially liked this bit.


Madeleine Dore - Why you should manage your energy, not your time

While the researchers assumed that the well-structured daily plans would be most effective when it came to the execution of tasks, they were wrong: the detailed daily plans demotivated students. Harford argues that inevitable distractions often render the daily to-do list ineffective, while leaving room for improvisation in such a list can reap the best results.

In order to make the most of our focus and energy, we also need to embrace downtime, or as Newport suggests, “be lazy.”

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body… [idleness] is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done,” he argues.

This is an interesting one because it really strikes to the heart of what management should and shouldn’t do.

I’ve been saying it for some time, but the best management assigns people to problems, then lets them solve them on their own time, within a reasonable timeframe. Micromanagement, or scheduling daily to-do lists, is a silly exercise. Don’t do it.

Mario Tennis is coming out tomorrow, and not letting me play it is a non-starter. I’ll still get my work done… but, you know… Mario Tennis. Let your people be as idle as they need to be.


Sarah Read - Pentel Fitline Highlighter Review

These are, in nearly every way, just your standard highlighters. They’ve set themselves apart with two features, though. One is a notched neck which allows the chisel tip to flex a bit for easier highlighting over curved pages. It’s an interesting feature in theory, but I didn’t see much flex in my samples. In order to get any bending, I had to press hard enough that the tip was getting squished and there was a risk of ink bleeding. It’s possible they’d become more flexible with use. And due to their other unique feature—they are refillable—it is actually worthwhile to break them in. The refill is for pigment only and does not include a replacement tip, so eventually the tip will move past the broken-in phase and become worn out—at which point the whole pen will have to be replaced.

One time I drove from Harrisburg, PA to Phoenix, AZ and spent a bunch of time in the middle trying to follow Route 66. Anyways, somewhere in Oklahoma (I think) we stopped at the world’s largest rocking chair, and I thought, “the world really is a better place because of this.”

That’s how I feel about The Pen Addict. It’s a blog about pens and pencils and writing tools of all kinds, and I think it’s a treasure.


Cal Newport - Digital Wellness for Grown Ups

I recognize that digital tools have a useful role to play in productivity. I’ve long advised, for example, that people use internet blocking software like Freedom to help jumpstart deep work training.

But something about this growing digital wellness movement makes me uneasy, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on the source of my concern: it’s infantilizing.

I’m a grown man. If I’m checking my phone every 5 minutes, or playing video games instead of paying attention to my kids, I don’t need an animation of a dying tree to nudge me toward better habits, I need someone I respect to knock the stupid thing out of my hand and say “get your act together.”

This could be cultural, but I do think we’re missing that 50’s tough guy persona who was never afraid to call it like he saw it. Phone addiction seems like a problem we’ve all just accepted. We say things about people staring at their screens in private, but what we should be doing is shaming people into self-correcting — like we did as children when others would pick their noses or fart on the bus. It’s not going to stop until we decide it’s “not cool” anymore.

The actual blogroll

(Blogs are ranked in order of appearances in these Blogroll posts. Also, I’m only listing blogs that don’t act as newspapers, because those are the ones I feel need the most support.)