Project-based social distancing

What’s keeping me occupied while I'm stuck in my apartment


Allow me to write to you in a rather personal tone today.

People keep saying it is a “strange time” right now. I guess I agree, but why are we using the adjective strange? Instead, I submit that we should be saying it is a stressful, uncertain, scary and often depressing time. Some people are losing their jobs, their retirement savings, their very livelihoods—even their lives.

I am blessed to be doing fine right now. Perhaps I’m even doing well. Indeed it is with great privilege that I can sit in my apartment, well-fed and rested, and write this email to you all presently. (Well, perhaps not “well” fed, unless you count my past 4 dinners of frozen peas and pasta with wine as healthy? Mom, please chime in…)

An introverted (and often solitary) person, in times of stress I usually turn inward in a search for productivity and creation. I want to use this “strange” time of isolation and social distancing to the best (IE: most productive) extent possible.

Thus, the purpose of this post is to share with you a few newsletter-related projects that I’ve been working on. It’s also to elicit feedback and suggestions for other engaging activities we can take part in together, so don’t be shy with the reply button!

1. More premium content

I know that many of you subscribed to the premium version of my newsletter for “1-3x weekly” subscribers’ content. Recently I’ve been publishing closer to the lower than the higher end of that range. It is more honest to tell people they’ll get 1-2 extra posts per week in exchange for their contribution. I hope the lack of a commute and external activities can help me reflect more on the news and deliver more to you all who support my efforts.

2. A guide to polls and election forecasting.

This is something I’ve had in the works for a while, but I often leave the house for dinner and a movie (or a few beers) instead of making progress on. I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing; such is life, especially when you live in so exciting a place as Washington, DC. But now, I can’t do many of those things—the silver lining being that I can devote some extra time to producing this body of text/code and getting it out to the world. It’s early so I don’t know the timeline, but I expect to make significant progress over the next month, enough to hopefully share with you all. Note that I’m intentionally not calling this thing a book, because it’s just a series of blog posts, but it does overlap with a book proposal I’ve been working on—so maybe I can kill two birds (really, three; book, guide, and newsletter content!) with one stone?

3. More community threads!

Substack is a great platform for blogging and sending out emails, but it also has a great discussion feature. I’ve had conversations with you all using these threads a few times now and I consider them successful (if not always massively so). Please continue to let me know whether this is something you like doing, and maybe if so, at what time? My brain is usually the freshest on Monday’s.

4. ???

Here’s where y’all offer me suggestions. Maybe point out something of mine that you liked recently? Something data-driven someone else did?

Finally, let me say that I’m happy that you all like my work enough to subscribe to updates here. People are saying it is a strange time, but it is also a lonely time. I’m happy we have the Internet to keep us all connected—and via this medium, it’s doubly pleasant that we’re all like-minded in our empirical approach to understanding politics and the news.