My Information Existence

Throughout the day, as I come across interesting links, threads, articles, interviews and other things, I bookmark them, categorize them and into a vast cavern of information they go. All of this information serves as a sort of hyper-personalized search engine, but I’m the only person that has access to it. For over 15 years now, I’ve been collecting links to stuff that interests me. Some of them I read, some of them I skim, but most of them I stash away, only to reference later, if at all. To date I have 47,331 bookmarks, all of which represent me in some way. I feel like if someone or some machine wanted to really understand me, they would look at my bookmarks. 

This kind of all began in 2005 when I started using Delicious to bookmark and tag interesting things I came across on the web. To give you an idea of when that was, the second thing I bookmarked on June 14, 2005, was YouTube. 

My tagging has come a long way since 2005

I haven’t stopped bookmarking since. Yahoo! acquired Delicious and we all know what happened to companies acquired by Yahoo! in that era. Thankfully Pinboard, started by someone who worked on Delicious, came onto the scene in 2009. I exported all of my Delicious bookmarks and imported them into Pinboard, where they remain, but the service hasn’t kept up with my needs. As a result, I started using Raindrop about a year ago and have been really happy with the service. I have an IFTTT applet that pushes bookmarks from Raindrop to Pinboard for redundancy and because I like supporting Maciej.

Information Sources

Almost all of the information I consume comes from three main sources — RSS feeds, Twitter and email. RSS feeds have been, and continue to be, the dominant way I consume information. I use a service called Feedbin to store my RSS subscriptions and serve as a feed reader, for which I pay $50/year. There are “free” services and feed readers out there, but free is never really free and after Google Reader disappeared, it was a valuable lesson to us all that paying for things keeps them around. I use Feedbin in a browser tab when I’m using my laptop and on my iPad and iPhone, I use a $5 app called Reeder, which I like a lot. I currently have about 400 highly-curated sources, including popular websites, personal blogs, link blogs, Google searches and email newsletters. To give you an idea of what that means in terms of the volume of items several hundred feeds generate, I have just over 56,000 waiting to be consumed, tagged and saved. I will never get to most of them and I don’t care. 

Twitter is, perhaps, the most under-appreciated social network ever. I was one of the first few hundred people on Twitter and while my usage has increased over time, how I use it has changed massively. I’m a firm believer that the best way to use Twitter is to not follow anyone and instead use its Lists feature. I have a large-ish number of lists on all sorts of topics like breaking news, security and privacy, music, technology, IRL friends, Los Angeles, and so on. The greatest thing about it is you have access to the world’s experts in pretty much any field of interest you might have. When I come across a tweetstorm worthy of saving, I use a service called Threadreader to gather the tweets, save them to a Threadreader URL and then add a bookmark with tags to Raindrop. I generally bookmark the Threadreader URL as I find it easier to read than reading it natively on Twitter. Every time I heart a tweet, I have an IFTTT applet that saves it to Raindrop in a Twitter collection. 

Favorited for obvious reasons

Email has made a comeback since newsletters really started taking off. I don’t get a lot of newsletters in my email inbox. Most of the newsletters I subscribe to go directly to Feedbin. One of the coolest features is that you have an email address associated with your account, which you can use when you sign up for a newsletter. Hence, every time that newsletter is sent, it stays out of your inbox and can be read alongside everything else I read in Feedbin. Of the new newsletters that actually come to my inbox, I have a couple of link-heavy favorites. Dense Discovery is one of the most exquisitely curated newsletters out there. It definitely has a certain aesthetic and voice. I always look forward to saving it for when I know I can read through it entirely. I probably bookmark at least 60% of the links Kai sends. My other favorite is from Alexey Guzey and it’s called Guzey’s Best of Twitter, which is pretty self-explanatory.

How I Read

The two primary ways I read are on a web page in the Brave browser or in the Instapaper app. Brave is a Chromium browser, which means it’s based on Google Chrome, but you can think of it as a de-Googlefied version of Chrome that runs faster, behaves better and respects your privacy. The great thing is it can run Chrome extensions. One of the extensions I use to highlight quotes and passages on web pages is called Memex. I’m still trying to figure out how to integrate this into everything as there’s definitely some redundancy with Until I do, I’m fine doing a little extra copying and pasting. It’s a fairly extensible tool, so I’m guessing there is a simple way to integrate it, but I just haven’t had the time to explore this much.

Memex allows me to highlight things on web pages and save the text

I’ve used Instapaper since it launched in 2008. It really is the best, least distracting reading experience for articles. I’m able to save highlights as I read, similar to what Memex allows for. Articles are passively saved to my Instapaper through an IFTTT applet triggered when I save something to raindrop with the tag ‘toread’. I have nearly 13,000 articles saved to Instapaper and while it is somewhat of a black hole, I keep my subscription going because I really enjoy reading things more in Instapaper than I do on the web. 

Why Bother?

The big question is why do I spend all of this time and energy collecting and categorizing information. The boring answer is I enjoy learning and the ability to recall information that I don’t need to store in my own brain is magical. It also allows me to build and see relationships between disparate things through tagging. If I want to see all of the medical research on Parkinson’s Disease that I’ve come across, it’s simple. If I want to read over the latest research findings on COVID-19, I don’t have to use DuckDuckGo or Google. I look in Raindrop because I’m tracking it regularly. It really does feel like a superpower. Curators are the new creators, after all.

There is another, more existential reason I do all of this. It represents me in some way. It’s a piece of me. And while I’m currently the only one able to extract any value from the work I put into maintaining all this information, I’d like to figure out a way for it to be accessible to others as sort of a human-curated, micro search engine.

The Next Frontier

The next phase, which I’ve dabbled in a bit, is really turning more of this information into knowledge. The productivity space has become extremely interesting in the last couple of years. There is a new class of leaders building on the incredible foundation laid in the early aughts by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done and a bunch of powerful new apps and tools. People like Conor White Sullivan, co-founder of Roam Research, Tiago Forte, founder of Forte Labs and creator of the Building A Second Brain course and Anne-Laure Le Cunff, founder of Ness Labs are people I learn from every day. I can’t remember a time when a piece of software changed my life the way Roam Research has. Tools like Readwise are changing the way people turn information into knowledge. It’s a great time to be swimming in a lot of information and I’m only just getting started with my ocean.

Enjoy Twitter More By Unfollowing Everyone

In this post I’m going to walk you through how to unfollow everyone and use Twitter Lists as a way to not only enjoy Twitter more, but to hopefully spend less time endlessly scrolling through your Home feed.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve tried to be more aware of my mental health. I spend a lot of time reading online and that has only increased since the pandemic started. Twitter has been the single most valuable resource available for keeping up with the progress being made on the pandemic. Twitter has allowed me (and the rest of the world) direct access to the scientific and medical community that are working on the pandemic. Because everyone in the world has that access, there’s also a lot of noise. It wasn’t long before I realized the noise was negatively impacting my mental health and short of quitting Twitter altogether, the fasted way to cut down on the noise was to unfollow everyone. On June 15 I did just that.

It’s a thing I have done on several occasions over the fourteen years I’ve been on Twitter. Every other time I did it, I would simply start over with a clean slate. This time was different. Over the past year I have been using Twitter Lists more frequently and figured I could unfollow everyone and switch to using lists exclusively. In a very short time, Twitter became an entirely different experience for me. I haven’t followed a single account since I unfollowed everyone, at least not in the traditional sense. I have, however, added a lot of accounts to the various lists I have.

Lists are an often overlooked and powerful feature that Twitter seems to under-emphasize. I don’t have much insight into the number of people that use lists or how they use them. I suspect it’s a small, nerdy cohort of people. I have a few public lists, but the vast majority of my own lists are private and they’re typically topics that reflect my interests or things I want to learn more about — productivity, COVID-19, technology, music, infosec, privacy, activism, etc. The best part of using lists is I see everything I want to see, in chronological order (if I choose), and almost nothing I don’t (including ads), unless I’m browsing the Home feed. This is how most people use Twitter and I think it’s how Twitter wants people to use its service.

The vast majority of people on Twitter are not going to take the time to curate and create lists, though to Twitter’s credit they make it pretty easy to build them. If you’re using Twitter in a browser, they even go so far as to suggest other people to add to your lists based on who is already on the list you are browsing.

Simply put, lists make the Twitter experience a lot better.

If you feel like Twitter isn’t working for you, find that it’s bringing up negative emotions and is otherwise having a negative impact on your mental health, I highly recommend unfollowing everyone and starting over with lists. Simply put, lists make the Twitter experience a lot better. I know the thought of unfollowing everyone can feel overwhelming. I’ve definitely felt that way too. I had moments of major hesitation, especially the first time I did it, but each time I hesitated less and this time I didn’t hesitate at all. I was so convinced lists were going to provide a better experience and they absolutely have. It has been so helpful, I decided to document how I did it so others could give it a try.

While it’s only two steps (with some sub-steps), I suggest reading all the way through the instructions, carving out some time for yourself and start working through the process. If you get stuck at any point, send me a DM and I’ll give you a hand.

Step 1: Make a list of accounts that make you feel good

I’m going to make some assumptions about your familiarity with Twitter Lists functionality. You may want to read through Twitter‘s easy-to-follow instructions in advance of starting this process.

Begin by creating a list that’s basically going to be your new Home feed. In my case, I call this list “Fresh Start”. Add people to this list that meet the following general guidelines:

  1. You generally feel something positive when you read their tweets.
  2. Most of their tweets do not contain commentary on news or current events (create a separate list for news).
  3. Most of their tweets are original and are not retweets (did you know you can disable retweets for individual accounts?).

Depending on the number of people you follow, this can be done pretty quickly or it can be done over time — come across a tweet that makes you feel good, add that account to your list. I always look at the accounts my favorite accounts follow.

Step 2: Unfollow everyone

This is a little nerdy and technical, but it’s easy if you follow the instructions step-by-step. I even made a screen recording you can watch before you start just so you know what to expect. This process should be done in a desktop browser and not on a mobile device.

  1. Open a browser tab and go to Jamie Mason’s unfollow.js project on Github. You’ll see a button that says “Raw” on the right side of the area that contains the code. Go ahead and click that button. You should just see the code in your browser now.
  2. Open a new browser tab and go to where YOUR_USER_NAME is your actual user name on Twitter. For example, I would open a browser tab and go to
  3. Once you’re viewing the accounts you follow, scroll down to the bottom. As you get to the bottom and you still have more followers, the page will keep loading more and more of the accounts you follow. Keep scrolling down until all of your followers are visible. Depending on the number of followers you have, this could take a little time and feel like a seemingly endless scroll. Stick with it. While you can technically skip this step, it will likely make the process more time consuming in the long run.
  4. Now that all of your followers are visible, open the developer console on your browser. How you do this is going to depend on your operating system and browser. Here’s a great article on how to do it on the three major browsers (Chrome, Firefox and Safari) on Windows and macOS. If you’ve never done this before, you might get concerned you’re going to break something. You won’t. If you skipped watching my screen recording, now would be a good time to watch, again, just so you know what to expect here.
  5. All right, you’re nearly done. Switch to the browser tab with Jamie’s code and select all (Command-A on macOS and Ctrl-A on Windows or just go to the Edit menu and select the menu option for ‘Select all’ if you’re not familiar with keyboard commands).
  6. Now that everything is selected (it should look like everything is highlighted, copy the code (Command-C on macOS, Ctrl-C on Windows or ‘Copy’ from the Edit menu).
  7. With the code copied to your clipboard, switch back to the tab that has all of your Twitter followers and click on the command line at the bottom of the developer console, paste the code (Command-V on macOS, Ctrl-V on Windows or ‘Paste’ from the Edit menu), press return on your keyboard and watch the magic happen. You may have to paste and run the code more than once, especially if you are following lots of people. Keep pasting and pressing return until everyone you follow is gone.

If you’re anything like me, it’s going to take some adjusting to not using the Home feed as your main way of interfacing with Twitter. Now is the time to start reflecting on your areas of interest so you can start creating lists for each of those interests. You can also follow public lists that other people create. When you create your own lists, you can determine if the list is public or private.

An easy starting point for your first list, aside from the one you created before you unfollowed everyone, is news. Even though I try to avoid news on Twitter, I do have a list that includes news publications, journalists, news networks and other accounts tracking current events and breaking news. It’s good to have a list that’s only for news because once you do, you can make a more conscious choice to look at news when you want and have much better control over the sources.

Congratulations, you’re now on your way to using Twitter better and hopefully being more happy doing so. My DMs are open, so if you have questions or any feedback, I’m @bradbarrish on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you. If you found this post helpful, I’d appreciate you sharing it on Twitter or elsewhere.

Figure Out How Many Apps You Have Installed On Your iOS Device (And Get Rid Of The Ones You Don’t Use)

I recently got a new iPhone and just like every other time, I wanted to start with a clean slate and install apps as I discovered I needed them. The only thing preventing me from setting up my new iPhone without restoring from a backup was the fact that I would lose my Messages and Health history. So now I have a new iPhone that has a lot of apps, many of which I probably don’t use, but I haven’t been able to discover an easy way to see a list of all the apps I have installed so I can figure out which ones to keep and which ones to delete.

This task has been on my Someday list in Things for a while. It has been one of those unimportant tasks that I’ve just grown tired of seeing and even recently considered deleting it all together. I’ve been sick the few days and haven’t had the energy to do work work, but I’ve been itching to do something. Today would be the day I would figure it all out. Somehow I was going to end up with a list (ideally a CSV) of all the apps installed on my iPhone so I could quickly and easily decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete.

I opened DuckDuckGo and started searching. It became immediately apparent I was not the only one that wanted to figure this out. After trying a few different search strings and hitting a bunch of dead ends, I landed on a Stack Exchange thread with the the answer – an app called Configurator, made by Apple no less. I wasn’t aware of it, but Apple obviously made the app for people that manage and configure lots of iOS devices. I downloaded the app on my MacBook Pro, fired it up and clicked on the Apps item in the left column. It looks something like this:

Once you’re looking at that list, you can choose Actions from the menu options and navigate to Export > Info, check Device Information, choose Installed Apps (and anything else you’d like in the resulting file) and click Export. In a matter of a few seconds or less, you’ll have a CSV you can open in your spreadsheet app of choice.

According to the resulting CSV, I have just short of 200 apps installed on my iPhone (198 to be exact) which is completely insane, but not entirely surprising. I most definitely do not use nearly 200 apps. This list wasn’t going to help me figure out which apps I use the most, but there were a few somewhat interesting insights. The four “oldest” apps, based on release date (July 11, 2008) were eBay (almost never use), NYTimes, Shazam and Yelp (do not like using). This makes sense given the iPhone App Store opened for business on July 10, 2008 and on July 11, the iPhone 3G was released and was the first iPhone that came pre-loaded with the App Store. So those four apps were some of the first apps that launched with the App Store. There were seven other apps installed on my iPhone that were released later that year – LinkedIn, Instapaper, Deliveries, Sonos, OpenTable, Amazon and Chase. The newest app I have installed is Knowable, a cool app with audio courses from experts, authors and academics that’s worth checking out.

I have a list, but it’s going to be more helpful to check my Screen Time stats. Last week I used 79 apps for at least 1 second, 56 apps more than 1 minute and only 9 apps were used for about an hour or more. I really wish I could export Screen Time data as easily as I could export the list of apps I have installed, but alas Apple has not made an API available. If I were feeling more inspired, I might do it manually, at least for the last few months, but alas…

Looking over the last several weeks, the apps I use the most didn’t change much and when they did it was due to traveling. Most weeks Firefox, Google Maps, Gmail, Messages, Tweetbot, Apollo, Spotify, Slack, Pocket Casts, YouTube and Drafts are the most used apps in terms of the amount of time those apps are actively on my screen. Other apps like Stocks, Fantastical, AirVisual, Oura, Nest, 1Password, Halide, Lyft, Waking Up and others are used regularly, but are referenced for minutes or seconds, which meant they weren’t ranking high in the context of screen time. Interesting, but not as helpful as I wanted it to be. I went back to the CSV, created a new column and simply typed yes, no or maybe next to each app, filtered and sorted. I identified 104 apps for deletion.

One bonus Configurator feature I discovered was that I could delete the apps much faster and easier in Configurator than I could on my iPhone. Just click on the Actions menu, select Remove > Apps, change to the list view, hold down the command key, select the apps you want to delete, press the Remove Apps button and you’re good to go. 💥

How I’m Using Twitter Now

Last night I decided to start tweeting again.

While I never really left Twitter completely, I largely took a break from it for the last 8 months. Last year I started being much more conscious of how I use technology and as part of that, unfollowed nearly everyone and stopped actively engaging with people on the platform. Having the distance gave me the space to think about if and how I might start using it again. So of course I made a list of rules for myself.

  1. Don’t open Twitter because you’re bored. As far as I’m concerned, the same goes for any social media app (or any other app) you open when you’re bored.
  2. Don’t keep Twitter open in a browser tab. This is like keeping Twitter on the home screen of your phone.
  3. Use Tweetbot on your iPhone and don’t place it on the home screen. Tweetbot is the best designed Twitter app you will find (for iOS), it has a chronological feed and is a pleasure to use.
  4. Tweet with positive purpose. Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be a dick.
  5. Don’t overthink your tweets. Twitter was and is, at least to me, a platform well-suited for ephemera. I use to automatically delete my tweets after several days. I’ve seen tweets become a liability. True intent loses to perceived intent. No Thanks.
  6. Be open. Be Accessible. Leave your DMs open and respond to people, unless it’s the stalker salesperson that already emailed me and hit me up on LinkedIn.
  7. Don’t retweet often and never retweet without your own perspective or context. It’s easy to retweet and that’s by design. Use it sparingly. Use your own voice.
  8. Don’t follow a lot of people, especially people that retweet more than they tweet. Caveat: if someone is both interesting and is a habitual retweeter, turn off their retweets. I currently follow 137 people. That’s quite a few people and I should probably follow even fewer.
  9. Don’t follow people that talk a lot about themselves, news or politics. The exception here is when big, important news events are happening. I don’t need daily commentary on the news. I will go to trusted news publications for that if and when I want it.
  10. Use lists for people, topics or industries that you might want to read sometimes, but don’t want to show up in your main feed. The List feature is such a wonderful and under-utilized feature (because it’s hidden). Most of my lists are private, but I have many.

Special thanks to Patrick for a good, early morning exchange about Twitter in the Sonos office this morning. It helped me get more clear about some of my rules.

My Favorite Albums of 2018

I started with a list of nearly fifty albums and after spending too much time trying to put it all in some order that ultimately won’t mean all that much to most people, I settled on my top ten.

  1. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
  2. Pusha T – Daytona
  3. Nils Frahm – All Melody
  4. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
  5. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
  6. Tim Hecker – Konoyo
  7. Aphex Twin – Collapse EP
  8. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
  9. Daniel Avery – Song for Alpha
  10. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

What’s a list without some music? I created a mix called Melody and Distortion. You can find it on Spotify and Apple Music. It is best enjoyed as it is sequenced.

A few changes

I’m trying something a little different to see how it goes. After all the hassle of trying to move everything to vs. my self-hosted thing on Dreamhost, I’m back on Dreamhost. I’ve been on Dreamhost for well over a decade. I was thinking about shutting my Dreamhost account down to save money, hassle and time. One of the things that bugged me about my shared server account was my site would be dreadfully slow sometimes. While annoying, it wasn’t the end of the world and there was a pretty simple way to make it faster – Dreamhost VPS. So now I’m paying a little more money, but my site is faster and there are some other geeky advantages that I won’t go into.

The other thing is that since I started participating in the awesome community, it kind of clutters everything up with these microblog posts, some of which are out of context. So I moved all that to a hosted microblog, which redirects to If you’re using an RSS reader, which you should, you can add that to your feed reader as well. It’s much more frequent posts (multiple times/day) with lots of links and stuff. This space will be used for more longer form posts, which I plan to also do more often. Gonna see how this works. I’ll keep comments open for a bit in case anyone has questions or feedback.

We Can Help Immigrant Families

Los Angeles March for Immigrant Rights by Molly Bloom

Like any parent with some awareness of what’s happening in the world, I have been deeply disturbed by the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that our president and his administration have adopted. Just as he instituted it, he can stop the barbaric, heartless and inhumane practice of separating children, often young, from their parents. He has chosen not to. Instead he is doubling down on separating families and putting children into what are, at best, prison camps and, at worst, concentration camps. I would encourage you to read what former Japanese internment camp prisoner, now psychotherapist, Satsuki Ina had to say about what the current administration is doing and the lasting effects it will have on the thousands of children being held.
We are not helpless. There are things we can do and I wanted to share some resources I’ve come across recently. To be clear, these aren’t things to make us feel better about what’s happening. I would encourage you to remain uncomfortable and disturbed. As odd as that may sound, the moment we stop being emotionally impacted by what’s happening is the moment this practice becomes normalized and accepted. It is not normal and it is completely unacceptable.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Paying for great journalism is one way we can have an impact. I recommend the New York Times, Washington Post or The Guardian. Good journalism takes a lot on money to sustain. Many of the stories that have been written and syndicated about the separation of families and detailed accounts of the prison camps where children are being held would not be possible without the money generated by subscriptions.

The Cut has a great list of things you can do right now to help immigrant families separated at the border. Just today I donated to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Both organizations are doing some of the most important work on the issue.

If you can’t volunteer or give money, there’s an awesome app called 5 Calls that makes it exceptionally easy to call your elected officials. No matter what issue(s) you care about, calling elected officials is a simple and impactful action you can take on your lunch break or any other small window of downtime in your day.

My hope is that this information shows that you can do something. Stay angry, upset, outraged and disturbed, but don’t wonder what action you can take. If there are other things you’re doing, hit reply and let me know. Just like you, I want to help and am trying to gather as much information as I can.

Originally sent to subscribers of Outcome Unknown, an email list focused on parenting.

I just moved my blog from self-hosted WordPress to hosted I’m just tired of managing my own hosting stuff. It’s just not something I want to spend any time on anymore.

A More Conscious Approach To Using Technology

There are two topics that have been consuming my thoughts for several months. They were largely separate in my head, but once I started writing about them I realized they were very much related to this idea of consciously using technology vs. technology using you. Something about taking control and being intentional about how you use technology in your life and the benefits that come along with it.

The first topic is one I simply refer to as technology addiction, specifically our mobile devices. Articles have been written in many mainstream publications and many more blogs have been posted about it. Explanations, proposed solutions and think pieces relating it to the destruction of society are easy to find. Simply put, it’s the idea that we’re too addicted to our mobile devices, due in no small part to app makers competing for our attention — all of it. Due to the fact that this is all a very recent phenomenon, the effects on society are largely unknown, but indicators are not painting a pretty picture, especially for teens.

My own interest in it was really born out of curiosity more than anything. I knew I spent a lot of time on my phone, but I wanted to quantify it so I could begin to figure out how to change it. I had a conversation with a well-known person in the world of technology that made me think a lot about the topic. One night at a small, group dinner in Stockholm he went on and on about how addicted we are to our phones and that the major phone manufacturers, namely Apple, needed to get it together and offer some OS-level controls that would allow us to be less distracted. He said something to the effect of ‘think about if HealthKit tracked your usage the way it tracks the rest of your health. Apple is a decision away from including that.’ Google just announced tools built in to the upcoming version of Android and I expect Apple will do something similar.

Several months before that dinner in Stockholm I became acquainted with Tristan Harris and the work of the Center For Humane Technology. Tristan was everywhere — TED, the podcast circuit, many mainstream publications. Then there was the Nellie Bowles article in The NY Times about making your screen greyscale, which I did for quite a while and still do occasionally. A little over a year ago I started using an app called Moment, which quantifies my iPhone usage. There’s nothing better, at least not for iOS. Experience has taught me the best way to change something is to start measuring it. Here’s a recent snapshot of my iPhone usage.


It’s worth noting that I exclude some apps I don’t think should be counting toward my screen time — Waze, Google Maps, Mail, Messages and the Home & Lock Screen.

If you’re not curious about your mobile usage, you either don’t use it as much as most people or you’re in complete denial. My guess is your results will shock and shame you into paying much closer attention. You will think to yourself, ‘this just isn’t possible!’

Moment and reading a lot about technology addiction has lead me down a path of experimenting with a bunch of ways to cut down on the amount of time I spend on my iPhone. I had long since turned almost all notifications off on all devices. I highly recommend this as a first step to anyone interested in reducing distractions. Decide who or what should be able to interrupt you and turn everything else off. Changing my screen to greyscale had a small effect, but not much. Moving apps off my home screen and into a folder helped a little. Unsurprisingly, what helped the most was simply deleting apps from my phone. Short of that, reflecting on how happy an app makes me when I use it was also quite helpful. If an app made me unhappy or otherwise feel negative, I deleted it. Here’s what my current home screen looks like.


When I initially started assessing apps that made me feel negative and unhappy, Twitter was at the top of the list. It was also the app I used the most. I started using Twitter in 2006. I was among the first thousand people on the network. For the following decade I really loved it, but something started to happen a couple years ago, probably more. There was an explosion of harassment, hate, abuse, bigotry and, of course, there was the 2016 election. The election was the tipping point for me. To make matters worse, Twitter was unwilling to deal with the negativity effectively, though they took a nice step this week to hide disruptive tweets from conversations and search. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Instead of deleting my Twitter account, which I don’t imagine I will do, I made a bunch of lists and unfollowed nearly everyone. Twitter had so clearly become a hazard to my mental well-being, I just needed to stop using it the way I was using before I unfollowed everyone. I was retweeting, issuing my own hot takes on the same things everyone else was outraged about and I started hating myself for it. I put a few rules on my Twitter usage — I was mostly going to use it to share links, I would steer clear of most political discussions and I would try my best to keep my tweets positive or at least neutral. It didn’t take long before I was using Twitter much less than I once did. Then I started thinking, why should I keep publishing what I do only on Twitter? All signs point to Twitter becoming much more of a walled garden and while I plan to use Twitter again, it’s going to be different.

This brings me to the second topic — the return to the open web, or as some refer to it, the re-decentralization of the web. This isn’t a new idea, but a continuation of an effort that really got underway some years ago. The promise of the open web didn’t last long and many are waking up to the fact that we need to do something to save it.

Not long after I got serious about reducing the time I was spending on my iPhone and how I was using Twitter, I started noticing articles bubbling to the surface. Tom Critchlow’s “Small b blogging” and Dan Cohen’s “Back to the Blog” come to mind and are great reads on a renewed interest in, and support of, blogging on the open web. Wired even called for an RSS revival (I continue to use RSS as I have since the early aughts), the antithesis of the algorithmic bubbles of Facebook, Twitter and others. And then there was microblogging.

At the beginning of 2017, a guy called Manton Reece launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign called Indie Microblogging: Owning your shortform writing, which resulted in a platform called that really does feel like the beginning of something special.

Over a month ago I tweeted…


That day I dusted off, updated a few things on my WordPress admin console and started writing, mostly microblogs (formerly known as tweets) and syndicated them to my account. It was like starting over with a bunch of nice people talking about interesting things that, for the most part, didn’t include politics. They were also posting amazing photography and microcasts. The most recent version of the macOS app even has a great Instagram import tool, which has allowed me to import every photo I’ve ever posted on Instagram to my blog.

The idea of publishing on my own corner of the internet and syndicating out microblogs and selectively cross-posting to Twitter (if I even do that) is new for me. It feels right. If there’s engagement, great. If not, at least I’m writing and it has a home that isn’t dependent on anyone except me. That feels like the internet I’ve always loved.

Instead of getting sucked into my phone and filling every idle moment with my eyes on a screen, I’m making a serious effort to enjoy more idle moments. I’m being more intentional in how and when I use my phone. I’m far from perfect, but I’m enjoying being in my head more often and being more present in conversations, especially with my kids. Letting my mind wander has been a catalyst for reading and writing more, leaving less time for infinitely scrolling, though I still do more of that than I would like. My intention is to do it less and I’m measuring my progress every week.