Rediscovering reading gems
Building the Recite Chrome extension
Programmer’s log. Epoch time 1681587734. After nearly five months of atmospheric rivers and cloudy skies, spring has finally arrived in the Bay Area! I spent the morning digging up the brassicas I had planted in the winter. The plants were thriving in the extended cool, rainy weather but are now finally showing signs of being past their season. Dozens of bees buzz around our raised beds and the birdsong feels especially loud and cheerful. Seems like everyone and everything is making up for the lost time, enjoying the sunshine…
Welcome to the new home for the newsletter! 👋
I spent the past few weekends looking at different email platforms, specifically debating between Buttondown and Substack. Buttondown has a lot of qualities that appeal to me as a hobby writer and maker—it’s a successful indie business run by one person, has powerful customization features, and has much more sensible pricing in the rare case this newsletter ever takes off.
After too much waffling and indecision, I decided to go with Substack. It does indeed have a better writing experience, based on my quick experiments comparing the platforms. But where I think Substack really shines is in discoverability. The platform is large and has many users so there’s potential for network effects and connecting with more folks. Plus I already read lots of excellent publications here!
One thing that will probably be changing is the content inside these emails. I’m not sure if it makes sense to keep this newsletter as a simple digest that links to my blog posts. I might try to use this space for more stream-of-consciousness writing or for sharing links to interesting content I’ve read recently, versus the planned and researched essays I write on the blog. Let me know if you have any suggestions on what you’re interested in seeing in this newsletter ✍️
Some great recent reads:
Inside Rupert Murdoch’s Succession Drama (Vanity Fair)
You'd Be Happier Living Closer to Friends. Why Don't You? (Culture Study)
And if you like original music, check out my incredibly talented friend’s musical based on his own adventures studying for an advanced degree: PhD the Musical. It’s hard to choose but I think my favorite piece is Email.
From the blog…
In my most recent post, I dive into the motivation behind building my latest side project. Recite is a new Chrome extension that displays your reading highlights in new tabs. You can download it directly from the Chrome web store here.
If you like saving quotes or highlights from books and articles you read, I think you will really enjoy using this little tool.
Currently, the main users of this extension are me and the CEO of my startup. We’ve been sending each other particularly good quotes that it surfaces, some that we haven’t seen in years. It’s really cool to read someone else’s favorite quotes or highlights—it acts as a quick but impactful recommendation on really great writing!
I’ve included an excerpt from the post below, check it out. And if you end up trying out the extension, I’d love to see some of your favorite quotes and highlights it showed you!
Rediscover your reading gems in new tabs
A few months ago I decided to build a little software project to solve a problem that I’ve had for years: I read a lot of books that have really great quotes that I have saved to my notes or Kindle notebook, but then I never look at them again after finishing the book.
I wanted a low-friction way to recall these excellent snippets of writing I had squirreled away into the dark depths of my note-taking and reading apps. My first instinct was to seek out an existing tool that already does this. Others might immediately jump to building their own custom solution, but I am both busy and lazy. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel when my fellow engineers have already built something that can satisfy 80-90% of my needs.
A Chrome extension that modified new tabs to display one of my saved quotes was exactly what I was hoping to find. I thought that this surely existed, especially because one of the most popular Chrome extensions of all time is Momentum—a beautiful new tab experience that displays an inspiring quote each day.
The only trouble with Momentum was I couldn’t customize it to show a quote from my own set of saved quotes, it only showed quotes from their preselected set of list of inspirational quotes. I also didn’t need all the other bells and whistles that Momentum provided. So how hard could it be to find a different extension that did what I wanted?
Turns out it was impossible because it didn’t exist.
The closest I found was Readwise, a cross-platform app that integrates directly with different reading sources and aggregates all your highlights. You can have a daily review of your highlights or get a regular email digest of past quotes. It seems like a really lovely product and apparently people have built very powerful and complex workflows using it.
But for me, getting another email sent to the blackhole of my personal inbox didn’t really satisfy my “low-friction” use case. Plus $5/mo seemed like a steep price for reminding me of my own saved highlights that I painstakingly collected over the years.
So I guess I had to build it myself.
(Click here to read more)
That’s all for now. See you later alligator 🐊