Ben Crowder

Blog: #working-in-public

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Over the last several years I’ve built a number of personal productivity tools (almost all of them web apps) that I’ve never written about here. In the spirit of working in public, that’s about to change.

There are around fourteen of them, though, so I’ll be spacing them out a little, with other posts interspersed here and there for the sake of our sanity. Also, while you’ll be hearing about them in a relatively short timeframe, remember that they weren’t written all at once, and that the older ones have been iterated on for a long time.

I generally won’t be releasing the source code, FYI. I still fiddle with these apps on the regular, and feeling an obligation to maintain stability for outside users would put a severe damper on that. Sorry. That said, the ideas are all free for the taking, and I’m happy to answer questions. (I feel I should lower the expectations here. These apps aren’t amazing or groundbreaking. Consider them small curiosities.)

I’ll have the first post in the series up soon.

Edit: I’ll list them here as I post them.

  • Liszt — to-do list app
  • Vinci — notebook app
  • Ditto — transcription app
  • Slash — blog engine
  • Gate — quick entry app for my phone
  • Quill — quick entry app for my laptop

I recently came across Maggie Appleton’s article on digital gardens. Oh my goodness, this is delightful. I’m sure some small part of it is just nostalgia for the old days of the web, but the idea seems good and solid nonetheless. I love digital gardens. (See Mike Caulfield’s The Garden and the Stream and Swyx’s Digital Garden Terms of Service for more in this vein.)

Exploring some of these gardens led me to the idea of learning in public (also see Gift Egwuenu’s Learning in Public talk). Very closely related to digital gardens, of course, but a different angle to look at it from. It also nicely parallels the working in public idea I posted about recently.

I’m looking forward to adopting more of these practices myself. Not sure yet exactly what form that will take, but at the moment I’m thinking it’ll probably be the notes system I mentioned. While that would be doable with the website engine I have now, it wouldn’t be very ergonomic, so I’m probably going to retool. (And by probably I mean almost certainly, because I am an inveterate toolmaker at heart. I’ve written out plans for a new version of Slash, my blog engine, that will easily support notes as well as blog posts and web pages. More on that soon.)

Came across Andy Matuschak’s note on working in public:

One of my favorite ways that creative people communicate is by “working with their garage door up,” to steal Robin Sloan’s phrase. This is the opposite of the Twitter account which mostly posts announcements of finished work: it’s Screenshot Saturday; it’s giving a lecture about the problems you’re pondering in the shower; it’s thinking out loud about the ways in which your project doesn’t work at all. It’s so much of Twitch. I want to see the process. I want to see you trim the artichoke. I want to see you choose the color palette.

I love this kind of communication personally, but I suspect it also creates more invested, interesting followings over the long term.

Yes! I too love it, and I’ll be doing more of it here from now on. (I think long ago I used to do it to some degree, but somewhere along the way a fit of self-consciousness took it out of me.) No luck yet finding the original Robin Sloan source, but if any of you come across it, let me know.

I’ve also enjoyed reading through the rest of Andy’s notes, by the way. Itching to do something similar here. More to come. (I’ve already been planning to rewrite the backend engine for this site — it’s old and decrepit — so this is a fortuitous time to come across this idea.)