tl;dr: We’re changing our name to Scope of Work. Here’s why, and what it means.
In this newsletter about a year ago, I linked to a post by Dylan Iwakuni – a carpenter and YouTuber whose work I had come to appreciate. In it he describes “a common routine amongst carpenters” in which all of one’s cutting tools are sharpened at the end of the year, leaving them “in their prime condition to start work in the new year.” I followed his recommendation as 2021 came to a close, and am doing the same this year: my woodcutting tools have been sharpened; my bike’s drivetrain has been meticulously cleaned and waxed; my tool chest’s drawers have been reorganized to fit the few new tools I acquired in 2022. But there is one thing in my professional life that has long required honing, and I want to finally address it: the name of this newsletter.
When I started writing it nine years ago, the honest purpose of this newsletter was to serve as a record of my own career reorientation; I wanted to show the world that I was prepared for meaningful work. At the time I was thirty years old, and was coming to terms with the fact that my career path had, like a trail that opens up into a grassy meadow, seemingly disappeared. Or maybe it was never there in the first place – either way, this newsletter was a self-conscious attempt to figure out (and document) the ways in which my early adulthood might add up to something meaningful. As a result, this newsletter has always been about work – how people plan, build, maintain, distribute, and analyze the things we do. But “The Prepared” did a poor job of capturing this, and it is, at long last, time to change that.
So effective immediately, the name of this newsletter is Scope of Work. Our publishing schedule, format, and the topics we cover will remain the same. You might notice some new fonts and a new domain name in the coming weeks and months, and like The Prepared has done every week since its inception, Scope of Work will continue to evolve and change. I have many feelings about the name: I am excited to be making an intentional decision about the newsletter’s direction; I am eager to live up to the responsibilities that Scope of Work entails; I am in awe that “The Prepared” brought me to this point in my career and life. It’s a lot to process; it’s a tectonic shift; it’s the natural continuation of a logical but somewhat arbitrary set of events. I love it.
Scope of Work is about work. You might interpret this as labor, as in “a long day of honest work,” and indeed labor is one component of what we’ll continue to cover. You could also interpret it as success, as in “we really need this repair to work,” and it’s true that I’m much more impressed with things that are effective than with ones which are simply elegant. You could interpret it as an act of transformation (“the rod was worked into a crude tool”), or as an achievement (“the most imaginative work of their career”), or as the infrastructure that sustains modern society (“public works projects would come to define the late 1930s”), or as a generic, postmodern state of being (“your order is in the works”). Work is an explanation (“that’s just the way things work”), and a socio-cultural designator (“they were decidedly working class”), and a dedicated effort (“humanity has worked its way to progressively smaller levels of precision”), and the never-ending decline into entropy (“the bolts eventually worked their way loose”).
But I mostly think of work as things I direct my energy towards. I work for money, of course, but I also work out of curiosity, and I work for personal edification, and I work to pass the time. I work at being a better friend, partner, and parent; I work at being a more capable technician; I work simply to experience physical exhaustion. Scope of Work is about all of these efforts – it’s about the breadth, depth, and effectiveness of the things that people try to do. As a generic business document, a scope of work describes the things that will be done in the course of a project, and similarly Scope of Work will continue to explore the ends people pursue and the means by which they pursue them.
I suppose at this point either you’re with me or you’re not – and in the end, I suspect that the rationale for this change in name will only matter for a brief time. What will endure is how the name change informs what this newsletter – and the little business which encapsulates it, and the community which it has somehow cultivated – does differently. Like, fine, the name is changing. How will that affect what we write about, and how we write it? What will we do as Scope of Work that we wouldn’t have done as The Prepared? Time will tell, of course, but I have a few ideas:
- Scope of Work should encourage us to consider both the broad and the specific impacts of whatever we write about. The Prepared might have implied that it’s important simply to be aware of some company or piece of technology; Scope of Work implies that we should evaluate the claims, impacts, and implications of the things we write about.
- Scope of Work should urge us to be conscious of how work fits into larger human structures. We should measure a piece of work relative to its stated goals, but we should also understand how work fits into our lives, cultures, and ecosystems.
- Scope of Work should point us towards things that are effective, even at the expense of things that might be simply interesting. We should not prepare for the sake of preparedness; we should work on behalf of things that matter, and our efforts should be expended in ways which, all things being equal, work.
More concretely, Scope of Work will continue to be interested in the same kinds of things that The Prepared has been: our understanding of the physical world; the things and systems we build in it; the way they are operated and maintained; the effects they have on our world and ourselves. We’ll be honing – and deepening – our coverage of these things in the coming months; I look forward to sharing with you all.
A huge thanks to everyone who got The Prepared to the point where I could even consider changing its name. Special shout-outs to our first two subscribers (Matthew and Christy), the first few subscribers who asked me to coffee back in ~2014 (Sam and John, I believe), everyone who chipped in $5 via Paypal in ~2016 and threw us a few bucks on Patreon in 2017 and 2018, all the companies who have ever sponsored the newsletter, and everyone who provides critical financial (& moral) support via Memberships today. *So* many thanks to everyone who's written for us over the years, a huge thanks to Hillary for [waves hands] all of the stuff, and a special thanks to James for his patience and guidance in actually choosing our new name. We'll be back next week with a slightly less manifesto-y newsletter; in the meantime, Happy New Year to you all ❤️