awarm.spacenewsletter | fast | slow

Looking Back Part 2

Okay first a couple numbers: 50 newsletters in, 43421+THISWORDCOUNT words written, 113 subscribers. All of it growing pretty linearly, no hockey sticks here. Thanks for sticking through. I read through pretty much all those words for the first time and here are some things I thought about them:

Some of the favorite things I wrote:

18: Digital Learning environments

This piece has been really useful. I talk about monome a lot, and software learning environments, and it's great to just be able to point someone here for a couple examples.

19: Why my site's built with react

This is probably the most tech-blog-y thing I wrote but looking back on it I'm quite fond of it. React's something I basically breathe with the work I do, so it's nice to take a step back and just dig into why it's a good tool for the things I want to do.

24: Digging into programming history

I'm not super happy with how this piece actually turned out, but it was a lot of fun doing the research, and I remember just wanting to find some way of weaving it into a cohorent newsletter.

36: Retreating to values

This was one of my shorter ones. I really like how it combines a nice piece of retrospection with a reflection on my current position and thinking. One of the powerful things with a newsletter is how it persists through time, and so I think it's the perfect medium for this kinda thing.

37: Colliding Spatial Ideas

I'm really not sure what I was thinking with this title but I really like it's content and structure. I write about why I think technological choices matter, and defend the idea of a "a solution in search of a problem". I also manage to actually provide a real example of the abstract idea I'm talking about. Something I don't always manage to do.

Weaving threads

Upon rereading all these newsletters, larger patterns throughout the week become surprisingly clear. There are many occasions when I talk about an idea, and return to it weeks later, but also groups of weeks where I'll slowly come to explore an idea more deeply.

In talkinb about my experience with urbit, I mention a project I once did called Speakeasy, and write about it the week after. A week later I explore the same ideas as they exist in practice in two of my favorite digital learning environment

One of my favorite instances of this happening, was when I talked about tasks and processes in issue 17 and actually implemented a little tool 18 weeks later.

I never made these larger threads explicit while I was writing. Probably because I rarely re-read what I'd previously written. But looking back on it, the newsletter served as a perfect venue to orbit around ideas over time, and each edition contained strands that could've been woven into threads, if I had been paying attention.

The Fancynote Tangle

Of course, sometimes those threads loop back on themselves and get hopelessly tangled. Fancynote was in someways the throughline of my newsleter, the project I kept returning to, but it was a mess of one. This is more indicative of my project management skills than writing ability, but it did dictate what I was writing about for a decent chunk of the time.

I started of thinking about it as "a silly editor", but it was the result of something I'd been toying with for months before. I wanted a way to write notes, and write programs for interacting with those notes, within a single unified tool.

So that started as making a text-editor, then switched to creating a markup/programming language, with a commandline tool, then back to an editor, then a CLI again, to chat rooms?, and finally back to a REPL once more.

Man. It certainly looks like I've been running in circles. Really, this is exactly the kind of thing the newsletter should be helping me prevent. You'd think that by logging my thoughts and rationales for my decisions I'd be less likely to retread the same ground multiple times.

As a quick aside, I think the only real "mistake" in that journey was goin back to making an editor the second time. It happened gradually and I stopped it for basically the exact same reasons as the first time.

But even with that diversion, the whole journey was an incredible platform for learning. I could explore all sorts of ideas I was interested in, like the ECS pattern, text-editor implementation, how terminals work, and what you can do with append-only logs.

If fancynote was a project I was trying to "ship", I'd be pretty dissapointed with this, but it's not, and I've had a great time noodling around with it. I'm glad that this newsletter will exist as a record of it's messy beginnings.

The long term goal of fancynote is something approaching a maintainable wiki . Sustainable digital gardening. A permaculture of thought.

I used it to explore a ton of different topics:

Thank you

Writing this newsletter has at times felt a little selfish. All of you wonderful folks are opening this up to read, and I'm just rambling on about whatever interests me, or what random scheme I'm thinking about this week. Well, you keep opening it, so I won't blame myself too much. Thank you keeping up. There's a lot I wouldn't have done this year without this newsletter, and hence, without you. I hope you'll join me for what comes next :)

Warm Regards, Jared

P.S: Some of my favorite excerpts:

Building a text-editor is probably a bad idea and I whole-heartedly encourage you to try it. Even if you end up without anything usuable you'll gain an appreciation for just how much thought goes into the most common place of computing tasks, and how much it shapes your thoughts. 1: High and Low

When I was a kid the only reason I wanted to code was to make games, and then I turned my attention to more "serious" problems. Now I'm looking at all the things game devs do and seriously reconsidering who's doing "serious" work. 5: GameDevs do it better

One of the wierd things I realized while building this is just how much possibility exists in small tools. There's like 50 different lenses of what this app is that I tried on during the week of hacking on it. It could be viewed as a wierd scheduling app. A learning tool. A journal. A writing aid. Solo-Twitter. A way to turn all your problems into writing problems. A bit of betting

At some point during this process, Celine let me know that it's fine that I'm not happy with the modifications, the imperfections will just be another reason to remake the site once more, which is, at the end of the day, what I actually like doing. Hmpf. I'll get to actually writing someday. Probably. 9: Digital housekeeping and homesteading

My website is one long running experiment and getting to look through the lab journal was a real treat. 12: Databases, Maps, and Manuals

Honestly, writing this newsletter is by far the most valuable thing I do to fight it. It forces me to think about what I've actually been working on, instead of what it feels like I've been doing, and to find a way to frame it as a step forward, towards whatever I'm going to do next. 26: Progress and APIs

I want the simplicity of the terminal with the power of the browser, the real programming language, the nice api's. I want to be able to build rich applications, but still have everything be text, on a standard grid that all applications can work with. I want more than a choice between a massive multi-media platform trying to be everything (and mostly being a tool for corporate content distribution) and an archaic platform that still works the way it did in the 70s. 33: Terminals aren't terminal

I know that video game worlds can be rich, vital social spaces. I've had experiences in them that prove this. And they're becoming more and more malleable. The technology is there to quickly develop and iterate on these kinds of worlds (that's how Fortnite, itself a malleable game at playtime, came to be after all). And I suspect for digital learning spaces we need something significantly richer than what we have today. 37: Colliding Spatial Ideas

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