Mostly Harmless Ideas is Getting Bigger in 2024
More of everything, more free and premium content, more interactions, more perks, more ways to support, more fun...
Happy New Year!
As we say goodbye to 2023 and welcome 2024, I want to look back at the first year of Mostly Harmless Ideas and, more importantly, tell you all about the new plans for 2024.
But first, a family photo!
Our first year together
I have been creating educational content online since I was an undergrad student, and I had quite an intense run on Twitter right before Elon’s takeover. Still, I only started taking this as a serious (although mostly harmless) thing in January 2023 when I opened Mostly Harmless Ideas at Substack.
This year, I’ve written over 100 posts, at least half of them full-length and free educational articles on all topics from theoretical computer science to algorithms to personal essays to philosophy and the history of computer science.
You’ve read these articles more than 35,000 times, counting from email reads only. And at the moment of writing, we’re a couple dozen subscribers short of 2000. This is just to say this has been a hell of a ride! And I thank you all for being a part of it!
This year has also been, by far, the most intense, sleepless, scary, and happy year in my life. My second daughter was born on August 27th, and we’ve had a fair share of terrifying hospital nights intermixed with lots of diaper changing, but also just sheer happiness of seeing my two little girls take on this thing we call life with more energy than I imagined could fit in their tiny bodies.
Parenting has taught me to be extra efficient with my very scarce free time, but also that you need some time off to recharge from time to time.
So, I'll be taking a soft break during January and part of February, although I will stick around in notes and comments here and there and maybe even publish some casual stuff, but no regular content. Billing cycles will be paused until I'm back with regular publishing.
I'll use this time to recharge my, by now, pretty exhausted batteries but also to build some backlog and infrastructure I need to put in place for my 2024 master plan.
As the babies grow, things settle around the house, and spring takes over winter, I want to put as much effort as possible into making this site as valuable as possible for you.
So, starting Spring 2024, we’re doing more of everything. Here’s the plan.
Besides these two, I have been working withon a series on Graph Theory published at The Palindrome, which is almost done. We already have plans for more collaborations, so I’m sure some cool articles will appear over there in 2024.
Regarding new content, I have several projects I want to try out:
The first project is expanding my big introduction to CS article into a whole series exploring, at a very high level, the fundamental fields and concepts in computer science. I hope to make it an entry point for anyone who’s heard about CS and is considering a career in it, or at least a small introduction. The gist of this series is that the target audience will need zero knowledge of coding, math, or algorithms. Eventually, I will turn these articles into a short book-formatted introduction to computer science.
The second project is longer-term, but I hope to at least get a head start in 2024. I plan to write a short ebook on thinking like a computer scientist, suitable for all college students, including STEM but also social sciences and humanities. It will cover the basics of logic, discrete math, probabilities, and statistics, not from the perspective of solving exam problems but how they can help you improve your reasoning abilities in any field.
The third project is something I’ve kept purposefully out of my reach for a long time, but I think it’s about time: I’ll add a new section for coding lessons on several topics, from introductory programming to advanced algorithms to practical data science and machine learning techniques.
I have been shy about it because coding lessons get old quickly and there is plenty of that out there. But I think I’ve reached a point in my career as a college professor where I’ve found a unique viewpoint, very different from your average “learn Python in 12 days” course, and I hope to test that hypothesis in 2024.
These lessons will be more than simple tutorials. They will be organized into series and will contain working code and assignments. Every single article will end up building a fully functional project that you can showcase in your GitHub. You will learn to code if you follow them, trust me.
The next big upgrade is about community and interaction. At the moment, I'm setting up a Discord server for all of us to hang out and talk about any of the topics we usually touch in this publication.
It will feature channels for chit-chat and topic-based discussions. I'll host regular community events like AMAs and office hours —which I'll tell you about in a second. Eventually, I plan to have some podcast-like talks with fellow writers and researchers. It should be a place for extended discussions around the ideas we often throw around here.
I'll be approaching a few beta readers in early 2024 to test the server and fine-tune the layout and content, so leave a comment if you want to be an early adopter.
More supporter perks
All of the above is more free content, but 2024 also brings upgrades to supporters.
First, I'll continue the bi-weekly deep dive into a current topic in the world of AI and technology in general. So far, I’ve found that’s my best rhythm to craft something good enough to go beyond the superficial hype-full narrative about AI that’s so prevalent online.
Second, I will release all free articles one week ahead of time for supporters. I know this doesn’t mean much, and it definitely doesn’t devalue the article for free subscribers since these are on evergreen topics. It’s just a small token of appreciation for supporters.
Third, I will create a dedicated space in our new Discord for supporters, to offer personalized feedback and advice on any of the topics we discuss here. Specifically for the coding lessons, I will set up a time slot each week to answer questions, review assignments, and offer personalized guidance —what I call “office hours.”
Unfortunately, I don't have the time or bandwidth to extend this for everyone, but depending on the week’s load, I'll cover as many of you as possible, prioritizing longer-term supporters.
More ways to support this silly thing
Just the fact you're reading my articles already means the world to me, and I mean it. If you also comment and engage in fruitful discussions with other readers, even better! However, if you want to explicitly support this silly idea of publishing high-quality educational content for free, here are a few ways you can contribute to making this blog the best resource online to learn about computer science and adjacent topics.
The simplest and most effective way is to just spread the word. Every time you share this blog with your loved ones, and one of them becomes a subscriber, we all win. Plus, you'll get a small reward for that!
The second and most direct way to support this is to upgrade your subscription if you can afford it. Even better, if you work in the tech industry, I can help you craft an email to expense this subscription to your bosses, if you want to go that way. Here's the best offer I've made so far.
If you're tired of accumulating subscriptions (who isn't?), I recently started experimenting with a lifetime membership plan. Starting in 2024, it will be priced at 3x the yearly plan, but now, it costs the same as a full one-year subscription, but it lasts forever!
And last but not least, you can always just buy me a coffee to power my morning writing routine. My caffeine-addicted brain will be so grateful!
And that’s it for today and the rest of 2023!
I wish you all enjoy the happiest end of the year possible with your loved ones. I know I will :)
See you in 2024!