Welcome to Sonya Notes, a loosely defined series of dispatches.
Once upon a time I ran a cyberpunk newsletter called Exolymph. I had to sunset the project because I ran out of interesting things to say about our techno-dystopia.
Now I have a monthly-ish newsletter that updates people on my doings. In practice, this looks like “here are some links to whatever I’ve published since you last heard from me, along with a few angsty reflections.”
I want something in between. I want a space to talk to friends and readers that isn’t as short and reactive as Twitter, doesn’t have the high-pressure topic dedication of Exolymph, and isn’t as sporadic as my monthly newsletter.
I also want to play with freeform first-person writing in a way that I’m not able to at work. Even blogging can feel a little staid.
And so here we have Sonya Notes, an experimental newsletter! Sign up if you want to get emails from me every few days. The exact nature of what you’ll be receiving is TBD… but we can shape it together.
Welcome back to The Newsletter Formerly Known as Exolymph! May its cyberpunk self rest in peace. The other way you’d know me is as tech reporter Sonya Mann. At some point you signed up for this mailing list on one of my websites.
Here are the best articles I’ve written since I last emailed you:
A profile of San Francisco-based Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who is representing fired Google employee James Damore. [link]
A takedown of self-proclaimed “cryptocurrency genius” and actual grifter James Altucher. [link]
“These College Startups Don’t Charge Tuition Until Grads Make $50,000 a Year” [link]
What it was like to eat 90% meat for two weeks. People loved this one! Presumably because it’s fun to read about crazy diet experiments. [link]
These days I’m always asking myself, “What do you want?” It’s a hard question (although not at the level of a quarter-life crisis). Also, it’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times before.
The answer varies somewhat. Usually what I want the most is to be an independent creator, along the lines of Ben Thompson. Alternately, one of those people who churn out zombie novels for Amazon Kindle users.
I’ve read the “1,000 True Fans” essay a couple of times and it’s fueled hours and hours of daydreaming. Daydreaming is easy — the hard part is committing to a particular vision and putting in the work. I sorta did that with Exolymph… until my creative juices dried up.
To be clear, I don’t feel sorry for myself. My life is charmed in most respects. I live in an economically vibrant area with good weather, near my family. I have a committed relationship and two friendly cats. Finances are comfortable. My health is stable. I am grateful for all of these things.
Nevertheless, I’m dissatisfied. I wonder if this is pure hedonic treadmill, and I’m just predisposed to wish for greater levels of achievement no matter what. Before I got my job as a full-time reporter, that seemed like a milestone that would erase my discontent. And yet here I am!
I waffle about the practical options too. Do I want to stay in journalism, despite the perverse incentives that have remade the industry? (As much as I love the internet, it’s been terrible for news businesses.) Should I jump ship to do content marketing? I’d make more money.
On the other hand, money isn’t everything. Cliché but true.
Hello friends! We haven’t spoken for a while. The last time I emailed you was more than two months ago. A lot has happened since then! I wrote an article called “Sanity of the Weird Timeline” for Ribbonfarm, and I’m very proud of it. If you’re only going to click on one link in this email, I hope it’s that one.
In other notable news, I got hired by Inc. — you may be familiar with them as a legacy magazine brand that has a website. I’ve written a lot since joining the team. Here are the six articles that I’m most proud of so far:
It wasn’t a very prolific month. I’m tempted to try to get back into blogging again, but OTOH I don’t know if I can handle that and Exolymph at the same time.
In the realm of epistemology and politics, Adam Elkus wrote down a lot of the things I’ve been pondering lately, but more articulately than I could have. Kevin Simler’s piece on “crony beliefs” versus “merit beliefs” was also brilliant.
A handful of business stories that grabbed me this month:
Seasteading (sovereign manmade islands for Silicon Valley types) might go forward in French Polynesia.
Sending my November newsletter on the first of December… well, it could be worse! Happy holidays — I hope you’re enjoying the festive season as much as I am, despite the United States’ ever-accelerating political dystopia.
Here’s the best business writing that I read this month:
Indie Hackers posts interviews with successful small-scale technology entrepreneurs. Most recently they featured Logojoy, an AI-powered logo creator that basically prints money. Such a smart idea.
Emily Weiss wrote about her beauty company Glossier raising their Series B. This is a PR fluff piece — lol @ “Glossier is cult, it’s not niche” — but it becomes interesting when you read between the lines. Background on Glossier: one and two.
General recommendation: Mathias Lafeldt is really good at describing systems, and most of his insights scale up from code to human nature.