Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code

Thinking is an active pursuit

Thinking about how to keep things small this week. Everything these days feels so big, and we’ve invented these big and complicated systems and procedures for trying to manage just how big it all feels.

So this week I’m trying to think small. How can I give myself time and space to simply think? How can I simplify? How can I manage the breadth of news in the world without being overwhelmed?


I just finished a slide deck on web history. Specifically, the history of layout and grids and all the things we tried until we got to 3 line CSS solutions that start with display: grid. Hoping to turn that into a talk some day, but I’ll just drop this picture of Bill Nye’s first website for now:



On his blog, Ploum describes how the users of the web have split the two. One the one side, the ad-infested, barely usable experience of browsing mainstream sites and social media. Across the divide, the small web. The considered web. The thoughtful web that deals in ideas and clean layouts. Ploum concludes fairly decisively.

It feels like everyone is now choosing its side. You can’t stay in the middle anymore. You are either dedicating all your CPU cycles to run JavaScript tracking you or walking away from the big monopolies. You are either being paid to build huge advertising billboards on top of yet another framework or you are handcrafting HTML.

Maybe the web is not dying. Maybe the web is only splitting itself in two.

One great word of caution. If you think your team has a culture problem, it may be time to look inward.

This one’s from a little while ago, but I finally dug into Casey Newton’s slight departure with Why note-taking apps don’t make us smarter. Here’s the thing that’s been sticking with me:

The reason, sadly, is that thinking takes place in your brain. And thinking is an active pursuit — one that often happens when you are spending long stretches of time staring into space, then writing a bit, and then staring into space a bit more. It’s here that the connections are made and the insights are formed. And it is a process that stubbornly resists automation.

It’s kind of one of those obvious things. I spend too much of my time distracted. I’ve been trying to take some time to stare at a while for a little bit and see what happens. See what comes into my head. Then I write that down. So fucking obviousl

Plus, a quick read on writing culture challenges. Something that is always super interesting to me. I’m in awe and strive to be part of a team that emphasizes communicating through writing.


As an American Jew with skepticism about the Zionist project that increasingly feels like it can’t exist without the subjugation of another people, I have complicated feelings about the current conflict in Israel. But this video is making the rounds now, and it is eye opening.

And Patrick Willems embarks on a murder mystery to try and answer the question, who killed cinema. The culprit may not be who you think… (it’s not Marvel. Or maybe. Kind of).