Issue 61 Jan 21, 2024

Was it a good year?

Happy New Year!

At least on this we can agree, I’m sure. It is a new year, and while the word ”happy” stands out a bit, it’s what I’m wishing you, so it’s technically correct.

But what about the year that was? 2023 has been pulled into the alley and shot in the back of the head, and the gut feeling is good riddance, isn’t it? After all, we had wars (plural) raging, fascism and extreme right-wing tendencies brewing, a clown president gearing of for his return in the US, fear mongering, climate out of control, and Elon Musk. I’m just scratching the surface, there’s a lot more, not to mention all the personal tragedies that befell people.

Was 2023 a good year, though, despite all that?

It was certainly a good year for devbros delving into AI startups, getting funded, and cashing in while it’s still hot. I should’ve added those above, I realize now, but some certainly made a bundle on the hype. Said AI hype train isn’t slowing down yet, with ChatGPT being added to cars and whatnot. The larger consequences of AI for creatives remains to be seen, but it’s looking bleak. Some jobs are already lost, never to come back again, but maybe they shouldn’t? This will all sort itself out, although there’s no telling if the result is good or bad for any one of us. It’s here, AI, and we’ll have to deal with it.

Was it a good year?

Personally, I struggled a lot during 2023. I’ve been depressed, there’s been strains on relationships, I’ve worked way too much and nearly burning out, and then there’s all that stress that goes on top of such things. It’s been hard to watch humanity continue to ruin itself, as it has been for all of us.

On the other hand, 2023 came with a lot of good things in the same areas, sans humanity. All that hard work paid off and made us prepared for the financial slump we’re in (thanks Putin), and in the end my health sort of survived. Relationships are on track, I feel I’ve got a handle on my depression (although my wife might not agree), and there’s a new chance to stay on reasonable stress levels with the new year.

Because that’s it, isn’t it: The New Year Reboot.

It’s silly, it’s just another day, but for society, we’re flipping a switch. It works because we’ve had a collective holiday (good or bad, sometimes spent under fire), and that means we’re all returning to work with mushy brains. If there’s a stressful rush to get things done before everything shuts down in mid-to-late December, then there’s a slow burning start in January. It gives us a chance to set new standards, to limit stress, and to figure things out. Ideally, at least. So, while New Year’s resolutions might be a bit silly (I don’t do them), there’s a reason they can get off to a good start, and that’s the fact that they’re not under heavy stress from the beginning. I’m generalizing obviously, but I think you get the point.

For me, it certainly is this way. While we did have a client coming in late December with a rather large project, including a name concept and visual profile, the past week has lacked the urgency that they normally do. That makes it easier to set new standards, reconsider schemes and workflows, and the like.

But was it a good year?

I don’t know. I’ve come to think of any year that I come out mentally stronger, without any serious scars, and with a better understanding of myself can be a good year. After all, there are so many things making up a year that pinpointing the goodness of it would require a pretty extensive spreadsheet and a point-based system. I don’t think I want to do that, it sounds like an exercise that could be downright depressing on its own, not to mention tedious.

Let’s just agree that 2023 was a year, okay?


👹 Bastian Allgeier: My grandpa was a Nazi. Powerful stuff.

💿 This can’t be good: Music site Pitchfork is being folded into GQ, and people got laid off. End of an era for music fans. Related: A nice write-up about Pitchfork in Platformer.

🐰 Sure, the Rabbit R1 looks good, like another Teenage Engineering designed product called Playdate, but I’ll pass. I don’t want anything with so-called AI interacting with my apps or sites on my behalf, that sounds like a security nightmare.

🪦 Social network Ello apparently just went offline without warning. What a messed up story this is.

👺 It took a $5 billion settlement to get Google to explain that the Incognito mode in Chrome isn’t the same as not being tracked. The same is true for many other web browsers, if you don’t want to be tracked you need to block trackers or fool them using a VPN service.

🪫 Recycling EV batteries is troublesome but a new method recovers 98% of the lithium, and is, according to researchers at Chalmers in Sweden, scalable and safe. This could very well be true as the program is a partner to Northvolt, a battery manufacturer. Good news, then.

🗓️ So, the calendar app for Hey is getting around Apple’s (sometimes silly) App Store rules by including a calendar that’s basically Stephen Hackett’s Kickstarter book of Apple moments, and it’s not a collaboration. Sure, Hackett doesn’t own the events from Apple’s past, but it’s ironic how the big company whining about the even bigger company forgets the smaller creator at the bottom. I hope they’ll do right by Stephen.

🤖 Quick medical diagnosis of the less-serious kind is, alongside live translation, where so-called AI makes immediate sense to me. Alas, ChatGPT failed 83% of the cases in a recent study, so we’re probably a few years off yet. Not that this’ll stop medical startups from using and claiming it works.

🐦 This piece certainly felt like the last one about Twitter. It’s all X now, and that’s fine because that means we can forget about it altogether.

🥽 Dystopia or future of computing? We’ll see, as Apple announces February 2 launch of Apple Vision Pro, scary computer eyes and all.

🎙️ Discord snuck out a voice recording feature that’s on by default. Not nice, not nice at all. Turn it off.

📮 Two pieces about the post office scandal in the UK, where faulty software led to tragedy and conviction for hundreds of employees. The British Post Office should clearly be broken down from the top, since the bugs were known from the start.

🐴 I published four posts on the site since the last letter: I bought a MacBook Air at the worst possible time, and it’s great, cancelling the Economist was a horrible experience, 2024 is the Year of the Blog, and it ended up being Hey (I’m as surprised as you are).

Got something I should read? Send it to me, either by replying to this letter, hitting up on Bluesky, or any of the other means that appeal to you. Thanks!


📚 I read Michel Houellebecq’s Lanzarote this week. It’s a short book, interesting and dirty, as expected by the seemingly depraved Frenchman.

🎵 Kingdom by Arcade High has been playing a bit lately.

📺 I finally watched Invincible, and damn, I was not prepared to the ending of the first episode. Omni Man in Mortal Kombat 1 makes a lot more sense now.

🎮 I should be playing Starfield or exploring the Mortal Kombat 1 seasons, but instead I’ve modded Skyrim to death, and it’s both familiar and not, that I’m enjoying it all over again.

I ended up taking another week off writing this letter, which means I’ve got a lot of links to share. There’ll be a link post on the site in a day or so, for more reading.

See you again next week.

— Thord D. Hedengren ⚡

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