Blogging experiment

February 1, 2021

Table of Contents

[This is a note, which is the seed of an idea and something I’ve written quickly, as opposed to articles that I’ve optimized for readability and transmission of ideas.]

What is this blog?

It’s a collection of notes pulled directly from my digital journal. My digital journal is a bunch of markdown files that I edit in obsidian. You could call it my “second brain”. I write everything here. It’s a journal in the traditional sense, in that I write about what’s going on in my life and what’s on my mind in order to collect my thoughts. I also write down logical stuff like TODO-lists, lists of links I want to keep, things I might want to look into. I take copious notes here when I am reading about technical topics. I write down and develop my spurious ideas.

I want to give the world a window into some of what’s in this journal; not because I derive pleasure from exposing my private life to the world (I’m actually fairly shy), but because I don’t want to be isolated. Learning and thinking alone is less than ideal. I risk reinforcing my own misunderstandings. Feedback from people can reveal things I would not otherwise see.

Beyond just the benefits for academic studying, feedback from the world helps to give purpose and context to my life. Scott Alexander recently wrote that a lot of his intellectual growth came as a result of blogging, because his blog caused people to reach out to him and tell him things. So the basic premise is that if I broadcast to the world what’s on my mind, someone somewhere will take interest and connect with me. Otherwise, we may never know each other exists.

There is, however, a fundamental tension between quality and broadcasting. Can my notes ever be too raw, too personal, too incomplete, or too short to publish? I want to have a steady stream of output, but I don’t want to hide the occasional good stuff in a barrage of no-effort text that one cares about. Not to mention the privacy issues of having a public journal. I don’t have a good solution to this tension, so that is why I’m experimenting. I said I’m providing a window into my personal journal because I will have a process for auto-publishing notes I mark for publication. Hopefully that will remove the activation barrier for posting while also allowing me to keep my finger on quality control (and privacy). More on how this works below.

Intellectual journey

While I intend to post about miscellaneous topics, there will be a main topic of interest.

I have been embarking on an academic project to make sense of ideas floating around in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other fields like neuroscience and epistemology. I want to form my own perspective, independently, on information, uncertainty, randomness, and epistemology.

Progress is slow. It takes months of on-and-off reading to understand a theoretical topic like algorithmic randomness. I want people to see what I’m working on. I have another blog,, where I posted explainers on topics that I’ve been learning about. The problem is that it takes so long to write pedagogical material, that I haven’t even gotten to the topics I’ve been studying (still explaining the prerequisites). I tried posting “notes” (separate from “posts”) which are informal and often incomplete snapshots of my actual study notes. However I found that I didn’t have a clear sense of when my study notes were ready to be published as notes. There was a certain amount of work that I had to do to translate my raw notes over to blog notes, which created a sense of officiality.

I air on the side of caution when I feel I need to be correct about everything I say. That of course makes total sense. However that stands in contrast with a piece of advice I’ve been given for blogging: don’t revise, just publish. Blogging is fast and lose. Blogs are just public personal notes. In I made the mistake of taking an authoritative tone, which created a burden of perfectionism. I can’t claim something and be wrong about it. But the result was very long technical posts that no one was reading anyway.

This new blog is an experiment in something more lightweight and streamlined. It’s a window into my intellectual journey. My posts are journalism. I’m writing about what I saw and experienced while reading and thinking. This is my way of handling the quality-broadcasting tension for academic writing. I’m not claiming to be an expert on any topic, or to be explaining any topic. If readers cannot follow along, then that is a good problem to have (that means I have readers). Ideally I’ll post often, receive feedback through various channels (such as not following something), and that will provide motivation to explain things. I like writing pedagogy, but I need to know it will actually be read for it to be worth the time investment.

I intend this blog to be very incremental. Everything is in flux (even it’s name, visual style and domain). I want to avoid having to spend a month writing drafts of a long post on a big topic. Instead, I will write a little bit every so often. Think of them as teasers. If people want to hear more, I’ll write more. This allows me to get things out of my head and feel good about it. Perhaps I can create more flow in my studying if I feel accomplished more often.

In that vein, I leave the details of my blogging system and digital journal to future posts.


How this blog works

Probability Theory and Its Philosophy