I hope you have all been doing very well.
I have been busy working on some fresh updates to the website.
A problem I have been facing is how I can support myself when focussing on reading and writing. Ideally, I would like to make a living from it.
Each of the books on my recommended list will have a link where you can buy it from Amazon through their associates program. If anyone is interested in buying any of the books on the list, if you do so through the website you will also help support me (I believe I can get up to 12%).
All of the quotes featured on the site will have merchandise you can buy. If you so desired, you will be able to buy a t-shirt, jacket or mug with any one of them. These will be expensive compared to a t-shirt from a retailer as this is meant to be a fun way to support my writing.
Along with these, the about and the support pages will receive a visual refresh with new buttons. Comparing the old design with the new one makes me realised saying something is new and improved may be another way of saying it was flawed before...
All of these letters will be available to view online on the website. I want attention to go to the full articles so they won't be featured on the home page, but can be found through a link on the subscribe page and through searching the site.
Finally, a kind reader amoung you suggested the website - have a comments section. The original website (when I was using WordPress) used to have one, but I decided it wasn't worth the effort to maintain.
But with much better technology and a wider audience, I have decided to bring them back. With the next update, you will be able to comment and discuss on any article, recommended book, quote or archived email.
It will be fun to talk to you all. As I don't feel my reader base is very large yet, for the time being, I will commit to personally respond to all questions left on the site.
I look forward to it.
The last week I have been spending more time working on the new updates than actually reading or writing. When I have writer's block, visiting the code for the website is relaxing.
I want to talk briefly here about the technology I use for the website and mailing list.
Right now I am typing in a language called Markdown. It is essentially a way for writers to format their text inline, and get things done much faster than using a conventional document editor. Rather than highlighting text and hitting a button to make text italic, I just do this.
Did you see what I did? Of course, you didn't.
I surrounded this with a pair of asterisks.
Instead of dealing with a user interface when writing up links and bother with highlighting things.
I just do [this](https://sashinexists.com)
With Markdown I can do everything inline on the keyboard. It is also a standard at this point, so it very easy to transfer what's written across mediums. I use it in these emails, on my website and Reading Supply.
If you aren't familiar with it, I encourage you to learn it. It won't take very long and is very valuable. It is also more fun to write as you don't have to break your flow just to format.
You can learn about Markdown here. There's nothing to it.
When I have finished writing up the email in Markdown, I run a script I have written which first converts it to normal HTML and then to very strict HTML optimised for emails (with all the nice styling you see as well).
People complain about people using different browsers and also using very old versions of browsers making it difficult to develop for the web. With email clients, it is a million times worse.
It is very satisfying running this script every week, as I have automated a task I used to do manually all the time when I was working at an advertising agency full-time...
After I have converted it to the right format, I pass the email through another script which sends it out to all of you.
Not that anyone asked, but I am using a service called Mailgun to do this. They are very developer-friendly (I don't need to use a browser to blast emails) and I can also see stats as to how many people are opening the emails and engaging with them each week.
Behind the website
When I asked around I was told that Digital Ocean was the best option for Developers. They basically give you a virtual Linux machine that you remotely connect to and do whatever you want. You can transfer files between it and your personal machine as well as install apps and control it virtually through the terminal.
A web server is just a computer with a website on it by the way. There's nothing in principle stopping you from having a website hosted on your laptop, of course when you turn it off it will go down.
The most important piece of software I am using is the Ghost CMS. This is the software that manages the content and themes of the site. Before I was using Ghost, I was using Wordpress. It wasn't difficult-to-use by any stretch of the imagination, but it was unnecessarily complicated. It took more clicks to navigate its user interface and it seemed to have hundreds of features I would never use. Writing and maintaining themes for it was a messy business and it uses PHP which I believe is fairly outdated technology.
Ghost is a much simpler, more modern CMS (Content-Management-System) that was pretty much designed for a writer. It only does what it needs to and does it well. It gets out of your way.
I am aware this is starting to sound a bit like an advertisement, but I assure you I have nothing to do with Ghost.
In fact, I believe their paid options are a bit expensive for an individual to use them. I recommend installing it manually on your web server and using it for free. The benefit of hosting it with one of their plans is that you get technical support from them.
You can see my Analytics
On the About page of my website is a link to see them.
Anyone can access this information. It includes the traffic on my website (daily, weekly, monthly or all-time), which articles are popular and how people are discovering the site.
Oh, I have also started up a Discord server. Here we can meditate together, chat about philosophy and try to figure out what life is all about.
I would love it if you could join.
This has been a long email, but one more thing.
Hunter is from the Effective Altruism community in Sydney and specialises in the problem of AI safety.
If there is anything you've ever wanted to know about Artificial Intelligence and the risks associated with it, please send them over (reply to this email).
I hope you've all enjoyed hearing all about the technology behind my platform. Next week we will return to our scheduled programme.