Small milestone I almost forgot about: this website turned twenty this year.
January 23, 2001. It’s possible I started it before that day, but that’s the first reference to it I’ve found in my journals.
Tinkering on the site all these years has been a delight. Truly one of my favorite activities.
A couple quick updates:
Today was my last day at Cedar (formerly OODA Health before the acquisition), and on Monday I start a new job at Hologram.
I’m finally getting around to writing Cast, the new backend engine for this site. The plan is to go full static and deploy via Render. Also planning to move my personal apps over. While I’m still probably a couple months away from having everything migrated, I’m so, so looking forward to not maintaining a personal server anymore. (It’s fun, sure, and I’ve learned a lot, but it’s stressful — yesterday’s Let’s Encrypt root certificate expiration bit me thanks to an old OpenSSL version, for example — and it’s no longer something I want to spend time on for personal projects.)
For those subscribing via RSS or JSON Feed: I’ve added the post tags to the top of each post, mirroring what you see on my site.
(My reasoning for including the tags and putting them at the top, by the way, is to make it a little easier to see at a glance what a post is about and whether you want to skip it.)
We’re overdue for some kind of general life update, I think. Weeknotes-that-are-not-weeknotes:
- The health issues I referred to in May are still largely unchanged, though I’ve come to terms with it enough that I should probably stop using it as an excuse for lower productivity. (I do need to rest more than I used to, but I also feel like I’m spending proportionally less time making things than is warranted. I’m now tracking my time using a completely rewritten version of Momentum, so I should hopefully have more actual data to work with soon.)
- We’ve also had a month of worrisome family medical issues (including two late-night ER visits) that have been weighing me down.
- On the plus side, I got some lab results that finally motivated me to start exercising more and make real changes to my diet. I’m three weeks in and the lifestyle adjustments seem to be sticking. Fingers crossed.
- The rising case counts and Delta situation certainly is discouraging. My faith in humanity in the aggregate has eroded significantly over the past year and a half.
- In spite of a spectacular lack of public results, I’m still writing, slowly. (Much more successful at avoiding it.) In the middle of figuring out a process that consistently gives me a) results that b) don’t make me cringe.
- I’ve been trying to keep artmaking to the weekends so I have more of a chance at making progress with my writing, but it doesn’t seem to be working as well as I’d hoped.
- Another thing I’ve been itching to do is get back into making web-based art tools like Cirque (which needs a lot of improvement). Several ideas here I’m excited to work on.
I seem to have forgotten how to blog. (Actual blogging, as opposed to merely linking to new art.) In an attempt to get back on the saddle again:
Outside of art, my project time lately has primarily been swallowed up by some internal tooling changes. I alluded to this back in June, though the plan changed along the way. Rather than merging all those apps into one behemoth conglomerate, I decided it would be better (along at least a few axes) to follow the Unix philosophy and stick with smaller tools that do one thing well. Which conveniently lines up with the set of tools I’ve already built. Fancy that.
In fact, it was so liberating and fun that I plowed onward and decided to ditch Vinci (my internal blog/notebook app) and build a new app, Leaf, using the same technique; the only JS it uses is for keyboard shortcuts. It’s simpler, easier to maintain (I think? it’s still early on), and in a way it feels more in line with the grain of the web.
One other thing I did differently with both apps was to wait to write any CSS until after the functionality was all in place. It was disconcerting and delightful, building something with bare browser styles, and it certainly helped me focus on functionality first rather than getting distracted by layout.
Conclusion: while I doubt I would ever build apps at work this way, this old-school mode was invigorating and absolutely worth it for these personal projects.
The release bundle idea did not age well. It may be the right idea somewhere down the road, but this past week and a half it stifled my projects more than it helped. Putting it on the backburner for now.
Starting now, I’m going to batch releases of my art/writing/etc., posting things only at the beginning of each month. I did this back in 2014–2015 for four or five months, and I think it’s a good fit for me again.
Arbitrary reasons for doing it (acknowledging that it would be just as easy to argue convincingly in the other direction):
- To focus more. By not thinking as often about posting work (speaking mainly of art here since that’s primarily what I’ve been doing lately), I’ll hopefully be able to focus more on the work itself and less on its reception.
- To slow down. Being able to release finished work immediately is a magical and wonderful part of the Internet, but I think some detachment can be helpful, giving ample time to assess and reassess the work and to polish it further before finally posting it. (I have regrets. Not many, but I do have some.)
- I don’t know that batching will actually make this happen, but: to work more on somewhat larger projects that take more time. My current working theory, however, is that immediate release cycles encourage me to optimize toward projects I can finish as quickly as possible. The experiment is to see if slowing the release cycle down makes an actual difference there or not. It may not. I may just be lazy and ill-suited for large projects.
- To write more blog posts that aren’t just release posts. Or, failing that, to at least make the blog feel less like a neverending train of releases and navel-gazing meta posts. (I do believe I’m yearning for the old days, when I wrote “real” posts. We’ll see if the essayist in me still lives.)
Rules I’m arbitrarily giving myself in this experiment, and other tacked-on miscellaneous thoughts that I didn’t want to start a new list for:
- I’ll post each bundle on the first day of each month, or the second day if the first is a Sunday. (I’m calling these batches “release bundles,” by the way.)
- A project has to have been finished for at least a week before I can release it — so anything finished during the last week of the month will go out a month later.
- There’s no set end date for now. If it works well, I’ll hopefully keep doing it for a long time. If it inhibits the old creativity, I’ll stop.
- I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write about in-progress projects during the month. Lately I’ve found myself harboring some misgivings about working in public, or at least some parts of it, and I need to soul search and figure out what I’m comfortable with and what makes the most sense for me and my introvert self.
Here we go. Next releases will be on March 1.
Interested in helping with some UX research? I’m going to be revamping the information architecture on this site soon — its organic growth over the years has led to some structural friction points I’d like to resolve — and I need some volunteers.
Which is where you, dear reader, come in. Participating would involve activities like taking user tests and surveys, doing card sorts and tree tests, etc. Fairly low key stuff, all online. (You wouldn’t necessarily be doing everything in that list either, I should add. I’m hoping to keep this as a very light time commitment for everybody who volunteers.)
If you’re interested or have questions, please email me. Thank you in advance, too!