2020-09-21 4 min read


Notes, 2020-09-21.

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time curating multireddits around hobbies and side projects, and have found myself struggling to put into words why I really really like Reddit. I think it’s because a lot of the information there used to be buried in niche phpBB or vBulletin webforums, and I’d have to find these forums and make individual accounts. My accounts across forums were siloed from each other, and I’d have to bootstrap credibility in a community from scratch every single time.

Reddit has centralized and standardized the data structures and abstractions around all this really rich user generated content, and the efficiency in both finding and remixing knowledge is so much higher. At the same time, this standardization and common user pool has significantly lowered the bar for creating new communities, allowing niches to continuously spin off more specific communities and draw more specific knowledge and insight out of users.

Community forums contain a vast wealth of knowledge sussed out by dedicated hobbyists and unavailable anywhere else. Unfortunately, software like phpBB/vBulletin ages and obsoletes, and platforms like Reddit centralize knowledge and social capital—which has its own set of risks. I wish there were protocols to make knowledge truly portable (and I acknowledge how hand-wavy this sounds even as I type it). If you are aware of any projects in that vein, I would love to hear about them.

-Kane Hsieh

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~15% of opens) was a quick mesmerizing video of a *huge* rope being braided. Chatter in The Prepared's paid subscriber Slack this week includes compact metal lathes, production quantity PRC painting vendors, and the recent changes to Autodesk's Fusion 360 pricing plans.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • Sony only has four humans on the entire PlayStation 4 assembly line, which produces a unit every 30 seconds, and the humans only load the motherboards onto the line and package the finished PS4s—the assembly is entirely automated. This is an incredible amount of automation.
  • Consumer electronics have kind of converged on the ethereal-glass-slab aesthetic, so I love finding old devices that were clearly designed with tactility and physicality in mind. The Olivetti Divisumma 18 Calculator is an exceptional specimen—and what name!

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • It’s a scene straight out of Mad Max: In 1993, Emile Leray’s Citroen broke down in the Moroccan desert. He built an improvised motorcycle from parts of the car, which he drove out of the desert. The story is doubly impressive because he had no power tools, drills, or welding equipment. The police promptly ticketed him because his registration did not match his vehicle.
  • A good article on why seemingly simple items cost NASA a *lot* of money, with an explanation for the urban legend about NASA’s $1,095 carabiners. Related, I’ve been trying to find the manufacturer of the tethers the ISS astronauts use for spacewalks with no luck - if you know, I’d love to hear about it.
  • Much of the IRS’s Individual Master File system is implemented in assembly code from the 60’s, and the IRS has spent years reverse engineering it into Java and relational databases and… not using it. No one can quite figure out why.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

(Food) Tangents.

Slug wrenches at a hydroelectric dam, designed to be torqued with a sledge hammer.

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