Some Ideas for Recurring Articles


September 18, 2020

Radio shows, comedy sketch shows and talk shows have the difficult task of filling air time with less structured content. A technique used in all of these mediums to help fill the gaps is a recurring segment. The Saturday Night Live Weekend Update is an example of this.

Using a structured recurring segment with a familiar pattern and style gives a structured environment to be creative in. It’s really hard to be creative in a completely unstructured and original way, like Monty Python was, since there are a so many options. While done badly recurring segments can feel like canned time fillers, done well they allow improving the material.

I’ve been writing daily articles for over 6 months, but I’m about to go through a period where I’m going to have much less time and energy for writing. So I want to think of some possible recurring articles that I can write to try to reduce the writing time from hours to under 15 minutes.

Textbook exercises

I’ve got handwritten solutions to exercises in the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP), All of Statistics and The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering lying around. I could write many of these up pretty quickly, and they’re easy to extend on if I’ve got more time with diagrams or examples.

There’s also the possibility of trying to very slowly work through new books. I could just write a short summary of a page, or an idea each day. Easier ones I have on my radar are How to Design Programs (similar to SICP) and Street Fighting Mathematics (similar to Art of Insight), or the Emacs Lisp book. Some harder ones are Jurafsky’s Speech and Language Processing, Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics, Elements of Statistical Learning and Krushke’s Doing Bayesian Data Analysis. I’d have to experiment to find if any of these can be done in bit sized chunks.

Envelope Estimates

I really enjoyed the sort of back of the envelope estimates in the Art of Insight and would really like to practice more of these. It’s sometimes hard to think of good problems, but they can be fairly simple to solve and are generally interesting.

Writing Summaries

Another idea is summarising an insight from an article, book or podcast. If I’m consuming that material anyway writing up a note makes the consumption more meaningful and memorable. However to keep it short I have to just summarise it and fight the urge to do deeper research.

Editing existing articles

This won’t help me write new articles, but I could spend time editing and compiling existing articles. I currently don’t edit the articles, but now I have enough material that I could begin to compose them into something quite useful.

Small Problems

Project Euler has many little problems; some of them are very hard but a first step towards a solution could be written up pretty quickly. There are similar problems on /r/dailyprogrammer, or Project Rosalind.

Building a project

I’ve really enjoyed exploring building a jobs pipeline. Building some codebase, an analysis, or building a model is a really good way to write an article. However I can’t think of a project that’s small enough but still interesting. Maybe building off something like Project Euler I could build a reasonable mathematics library from scratch (for fun).