The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

The Value of Owning Your Own Domain

We all have those people we follow online that we admire. The people who get us excited when their site pops up in our RSS feed reader, or when they share a link to their site on Twitter. For me, Craig Mod is at the top of that list.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about people making their own home on the web. Not on places like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You can achieve success there, but it never feels to me like I’m getting a fuller picture of the person behind the persona. However, with a personal website, one complete with writing, examples of someone’s work, and a healthy dash of personality, you get a more complete sense of the author’s humanity.

In a podcast I refer to below, Craig had this to say (slightly paraphrashed):

I've looked at all the stuff I've worked on, and the thing that has, if you want to make it really evidence based… the things that I have worked on that have had the most interesting returns … have come from writing.

And that's really it. Writing and then sharing your words with others has value that can be hard to measure in the short term. But if you zoom out and look at the long view, maybe with someone who has been owning their own domain and publishing there for over a decade, you can start to point to the value of running your own site. I've shared my own journey before, but Craig Mod is a person who might exemplify this value in the most obvious

Last week I shared a handful of posts on using pen and paper. This week, I’ve got a handful of links to share that all involve Craig Mod. If you’re not familiar with his work, I think you’ll appreciate his writing style as well as the topics he tends to write about. He spends a lot of time writing long form essays on photography, books, and publishing. But in the past couple of years, he’s shifted a lot towards technology and its effects on how we live.

All topics we care about in this space. I hope you enjoy!

Conjuring Creative Permission from Our Tools

Published a year ago, I finally finished this piece early in 2018. As usual, it’s a piece written well enough that I read it through despite it involving a lot of discussion about cameras and photography. Topics that don’t usually capture my attention. But, it’s Craig Mod.

But the root of the article is a focus on how our tools enable us to create.

Many of us, to varying degrees, fetishize certain objects as having magical powers that enable, most often, creative processes. This is not to say that the right notebook or camera or sewing machine produces brilliance — of course not. But the right tool in the right hand might be the very thing that whispers to that artist. “Hey, what about this?” A dollop of permission.

Craig talking about cameras is a thing. He does it often enough and it’s clearly a passion. Enough that I’ll read about it, even not being interested in the topic.

A Walk in Japan, an Art Observatory, Therapy in Server Work

Pilgrim Laundry, Rebel Girls, Sacred Mirrors

Long time readers know of my love for a good email newsletter. Craig’s Roden Explorers is one of the best. The last two issues have both been enjoyable, specifically when he touches on his recent 3 day meditation retreat and his Kumano Kodo walk.

As I finish this up, I’m on a new train, a post-vipassana train, hurtling past Mount Fuji towards Shin-Osaka. Those three vipassana days were hard. Make no mistake — these vipassana course are not “fun.” They’re trying. And the first three days are definitely the worst, the hardest, the most exhausting. So a three days course is kind of like asking for all the bad and very little good. It was a great refresher though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much I can carry with me onto the Kumano Kodo.

If you enjoy a good newsletter like I do, give this one a try. They’re normally quite infrequent (the last two were close together), perhaps one every 2 months. But they are worth the wait!

Longform Podcast

In one of the two Roden Explorer emails above, Craig mentioned being a guest on the Longform podcast. I’m glad he did as it was a very enjoyable listen.

I mentioned above that I enjoy Craig’s writing enough that I’ll read his thoughts on topics that usually do not interest me. But I’ve noticed a gradual shift in his content.

His early essays were often focused on photography and books. But of late, he seems to have shifted slightly to focusing on how technology is affecting the way we live. Topics you hear a lot about here, like attention, distraction, and the like.

In this episode, he said a lot of good things. But this jumped out at me:

You pick up an iPad, you pick up an iPhone—what are you picking up? You’re picking up a chemical-driven casino that just plays on your most base desires for vanity and ego and our obsession with watching train wrecks happen.

You’ll hear similar sentiments in his essay How I Got My Attention Back, as well as in his guest appearance on Hurry Slowly. It’s great to have a writer and thinker like Craig giving this subject attention.

Creatiplicity Episode 16

Speaking of podcasts that feature Craig as a guest, I wanted to share one more. Back in the day, when I was still running my own business, Shawn Blanc and I started a podcast with a not-so-great name. It was a lot of fun, although it was not a form a media I was any good at.

Listening to Craig on the Longform podcast got me thinking about the episode where Shawn and I interviewed him for Creatiplicy. Surprise, we talked a lot about books, how they were changing with the arrival of the iPad and iPhone, and about focus and attention. That episode aired in September of 2011.

Eight years ago.

I’m still talking about the same things. And I’m still struggling with how to best manage my attention. But it was fun to listen to an old conversation with a good friend and someone I admire. If you can get past my boring monotone, you might enjoy it as well.

Personal Sites

Back to my thoughts above about making a home for yourself on the web, I’ve been thinking about my own “home”. It’s been 18 months or so since the last refresh, which is usually when I start to get the itch. There’s always a desires to play with type and create a new aesthetic. But there’s also a desire to clean up.

Running a personal site for 10+ years means there’s always some artifacts that clutter the place up (not necessarily for the visitor, but for the person running the site). Anyway, whenever I get the urge to change things up, I review the other sites that I am currently enjoying. And when a person takes the time to create their own little corner of the Internet, I like to share.

Here’s a few sites I’ve enjoyed visiting over the past year.

Do you have any favourite web destinations that are run by one human? I’d love to hear of them!

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