43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


Mud Rooms, Red Letters, and Real Priorities

Thanks to my funny, literary pal, Jason B. Jones, today, I'm visiting lovely, warm Connecticut to do some talks and whatnot at CCSU. I mention it because I'd started typing this little post mid-way through the long eastbound flight that delivered me here from three fun (but very long) days doing a comedy thing with You Look Nice Today and Jordan, Jesse, Go! over on that other, top-left, edge of our nation.

So, I was tired. Really tired. The kind of tired where your wallet hurts your butt, and coffee tastes weird, and you try super-hard to sleep, but -- well -- you're just too tired to sleep. And, I was fine with all that. Who can complain about being sleepy from hanging out with Adam and Scott? Exactly.

Except. The lady in the seat directly behind me was having grave problems with her "mud room." Big mud room problems. I know this because she talked about it for several hours in excruciating detail.

I'll spare you the nuts and bolts of the numerous and surprising ways that the room in which wealthy persons remove their shoes might contribute to causing a carefully-coiffed, 60-year-old woman to come unglued over "priorities." Suffice to say, fixing this problem was a "high priority" for her. So, she said, repeatedly, as I shifted my wallet, let my coffee go cold, and balled the little blue pillow under my neck.

"Priority! Mud room!" I audibly mumbled, just loud enough to be heard exactly one row back.

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Free as in "Me"

This unbelievably long article is related to (but not necessarily about) a discussion that I and several other people have been participating in online over the past few days. It's about (and not about) the increasingly popular practice of re-publishing someone's online work on another site without the attribution, formatting, and linking that many bloggers regard as standard, ethical, and fair.

It's admittedly a polemic (which is what people who think they're clever call, "a rambling rant"), but what may seem to many to be a childish and ungrateful pout about trivial status and self-esteem beefs turns out to be a kitchen table issue for me. Because, how people decide to reuse and attribute my work directly affects my career, my livelihood, and my ability to thrive based mostly on giving things away for free. I know. Paradoxical, right? Believe me, I know.

Anyhow. To get up to speed, please read these in order: Matt said something, Josh said something, I said something, Andy wrote this awesome post, Jason responded, then, Anil responded. For extra credit, and to get you in the mood, go back and re-listen to Gruber's and my talk from this year's SxSW.

I will wait here. Please read them all. This will take a while, and you should only continue if you're okay with that. As ever, it's kind of the whole point.

[Time passes, and then:]

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Kutiman, Big Media, and the Future of Creative Entrepreneurship

So amazing, so illegal. What are we going to do with you, future?

That's my pal, Jonathan Coulton, remarking on the disruptively talented Kutiman, who has made an astounding series of YouTube video remixes that's lighting up the web and (one imagines) generating a lot of wood amongst our nation's libidinous entertainment litigators.

Here's Kutiman's "The Mother of All Funk Chords" (link includes credits for each video):

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On Thumbs, Stars, and Little Men

Robert Christgau: CG 70s: The Grades

I love Christgau’s original (pre-1990) explanation of how he grades the records that he reviews.

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open mic nite

Politics, celebrity gossip, business headlines, tech punditry, odd news, and user-generated content.

These are the chew toys that have made me sad and tired and cynical.

Read the rest of "Better." »

The High Cost of Pretending

Guess I'm finally realizing that most people just want you to PRETEND to read and digest their email. 'Yes, $CITIZEN! I agree with $THING!'

apophenia: Warning: Email Sabbatical is Imminent .. and other random thoughts

[via trivium]

danah boyd is finishing her dissertation, then going on vacation for a month. While, she's gone, she's not accepting email. At all. Got that?

No apology. No "vacation message" to pretend she'll read it later. And no implied promise that the stuff people send to her will magically be tended to by an invisble army of interns and elves. While she's away, every message she receives is simply discarded with a friendly response as to why. danah writes:

...I believe that email eradicates any benefits gained from taking a vacation by collecting mold and spitting it back out at you the moment you return. As such, I've trained my beloved INBOX to reject all email during vacation. I give it a little help in the form of a .procmail file that sends everything directly to /dev/null. The effect is very simple. You cannot put anything in my queue while I'm away (however lovingly you intend it) and I come home to a clean INBOX. Don't worry... if you forget, you'll get a nice note from my INBOX telling you to shove off, respect danah's deeply needed vacation time, and try again after January 19.

If you roll your eyes at such fancy, uppity, big-city behavior, consider the alternatives most of us suffer in order to pretend we're listening. Even when we know we're not.

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Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking

As I've started shooting photos more often, I've picked up on some interesting patterns: habits, if you like. And, as I struggle to absorb the insane physics of capturing light with some glass and a black box, I accept upfront that the improvements to my actual photos will be slow, incremental, and, largely undetectable to anybody but me -- a fact that's never more painfully clear than when I swoon over the work of the more talented friends who inspire me (Heather, Ryan and Chris each come to mind here).

But, being instantly great at this couldn't be further from the point. Although I started taking photos to become a better photographer, I keep taking them because I've learned to love the process. And, luckily, at least as far as I can tell, dedication to the process can't help but make you a better photographer -- or a better whatever, for that matter.

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Driving Around the Buffalo

It's purely coincidental that today is my 42nd birthday, right? Eh. Maybe.

Still, seems like as good a day as any to tell you what I've been thinking about, so, here's a little present to myself.

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43 Folders: Time, Attention, and Creative Work

["what is this?"]

Here's something I wrote last week for this site's new "About" page:

43 Folders is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Call it a motto, or a charter, or -- if you have to -- a "mission statement." But, for both of us, it's a stake in the ground that keeps me focused on what I feel best suited to do for you with this site right now.

I want to help you identify and remove any obstacle that keeps you from making things that you love. And then I want to help you figure out how to make those things even better. That's pretty much it.

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Four Years

[“what is this?”]

Four years ago last Monday, I started 43 Folders with a TypePad account and no idea what I was doing.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »