Cutting Out The Middlemen

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I was spending some time at the beginning of the year parsing through my personal wiki and looking at all of project ideas I’ve come with it.

At the time of writing this I have over 200 notion pages, each representing a new project or investigation. I was getting choice paralysis and started thinking how could I possibly start working at any them.

So I spent some time reviewing all of these ideas spanning since the beginning of college. I was able to prune a decent number of ideas that were duplcates or just small blurbs that I had no idea what the note was talking about. Then spent some time adding tags to each of the ideas. I added one column for tracking status. Some notes were just a title, while others had much longer outlines, while some were close to being done. Finally, I added a column with tags for each of the notes to classify the different topics they include. Examples of these tags are Web, GameDev, Developer Productivity, Systems, Finance, etc. After this both of these exercises I had a much better idea of “landscape” of all of my different ideas.

Basically, at random points over the last couple of years I would get a burst of interest into a topic like Game Development and then spend a couple of days researching the topic and throw down a bunch of random ideas. Then I would never look at it again, saying that I’ll work on them when I have more free time. But when another concept that I really noticed was that in a lot of the cases I just want to cut out middlemen in my life. A lot of cases where I’m using some service or tool where instead, I hate that I feel like I could make my own tool. The plain-text-accounting post is a great example of this (which I definitely will post a part 2 soonish). This felt like a much better set of ideas to focus my time on since the work would actually help me and remove annoyances in my life. So the core concepts I’m going to focus on for 2023 are:

Kind of in style of my Garden page wanted to do a bit of a preview of what I mean by these ideas with some links below. I’ll probably also update that page.

Financial Views

A lot of the pains with finances I’ve already talked about in plain-text-accounting, but I’ll mention some points again to drive it home. If I have multiple financial accounts with different companies and different transactions, it’s really hard to have a good idea of the current state of my finances. I’ve tried a few different platforms.

Usually, the views built-in to these platforms don’t give me enough details and don’t let me drill down, It’s very finicky if I want to categorize expenses, and the most annoying thing is that the accounts are usually never in sync, and I need to reauthorize them everytime. Maybe.co was probably my favorite one, but they are sunsetting their free plan, and I really don’t need a lot of what’s in their premium plans.

In reality, I just need a database of all the transactions associated with my accounts, and I can analyze the data however. Double entry accounting is a nice model for analyzing it, but the underlying issue still is that I can’t access to the data.

Travel

This is a more recent annoyance I’ve found, but now that I live much farther from my family and after college a lot of my friends moved all over the country, it’s more important for me to be able to travel. However, every tool I’ve used for trying to search for the cheapest, and most convenient flights doesn’t meet my needs.

Some tools only support certain airlines, some don’t have good flexible date pickers (a lot of time I don’t really have specific days in mind, just a week). Also, a lot of these flight aggregate sites will show you a low price, but instead of being able to book that ticket directly with an airline, to keep the same price I have to use some weird third-party website.

Again, I really just need access to a database of flights across different air routes, and the ability to directly book flights with an airline. Been looking at using Duffel to enable some of these features. So no hopefully in the near feature, I won’t have to deal with terrible UIs, limited searches to “alliance” members only, and an unholy amount of ads.

Bookmarking

The topic of bookmarks are near and dear to my heart. I spend a ton of time on the internet and encounter many different articles and websites that I want to save. I had a reputation at old company I worked at for being the guy who knew a link/company for everything.

Colleage: “We need someone to do X” Me: “Oh you mean something like www.example.com?”

For the longest time I kept track of everything using browser bookmarks, but they have become unwieldy. They are poorly organized, hard to search, don’t manage duplicates with the same root, don’t let me search the content of the pages, and a host of other problems. Also, now I have to split my time between multiple different computers and browsers and can’t just rely on everything being in my Brave account.

I’ve been using a couple of different tools to manage this lately.

These do an ok job, but still don’t handle a lot of the cases I mentioned before. Hard to search especially since it’s across multiple tools, still have bad UIs, and doesn’t manage duplicates. Seen a lot of work with this around the concept of a memex and some tools built specifically for bookmarks. A few of these that I want to use for inspiration are below.

Raindrop seems the most promising, and I’ll admit I haven’t tried migrating everything over to it yet, however a general philisophy I feel like I’m trying to follow is if I have all the of the data myself, I don’t want to pay someone else to make it usuable or pretty.

Neovim

I have tried to use a lot of different developer tools in my time, but I have never found an IDE to work well for me. They always feel too slow and clunky and hard to extend. Vim has just always sped up my development a ton. Yes I know I can use vim-mode with an extension in vscode, but it still feels clunky and there’s an unnatural latency that I notice. So my editor of choice is Neovim in fact I’m writing this blog post in neovim.

However, configuring neovim isn’t that trivial. There are tons of extensions that are fairly crucial for elevating the experience and there’s a decent amount you need to know about the intricacies of how neovim works for configuring it. There’s a whole lua api for writing configurations and scripts and sometimes different extensions can feel like a huge undertaking to incorporate (I’m looking at you Denite). I’ve spent a bunch of weekends and afternoons configuring my neovim environment by following random medium articles, blogs, and reddit comments, but a lot of it is just copy/pasting snippets and hoping it works. So I want to take some time to dig through neovim and actually understand how it works.

After one particularly frustrating session of fiddling with my settings I just threw everything away, and decided to use LunarVim, which is a great default configuration. But there’s a few shortcuts and workflows that I want to change. and the level of abstraction makes some things even trickier to change.

A lot of this copy/paste workflow comes down to the fact that I don’t really understand what’s going on a lot of the time when I change different configurations, so I want to do some due diligence and understand the tool. Then I want to make my dream configuration and give back to the neovim community via contributions/tutorials.