awarm.spacenewsletter | fast | slow

A bit of betting

Hi all! Apologies for the mess of last weeks newsletter which featured (at last count) two sentences that just ended unfinished and two different misspellings of Pirijan's name.


A week and a half ago I made a bet with Celine that I could make a MVP version of an app in a week. I had Thursday to Thursday1. The app was inspired by a couple different things percolating in my brain:

  1. People advocating for writing every day/writing-lots-often as a way to become a better writer. 2
  2. People talking about twitter threads as a second brain/the power of threading in general.
  3. Spaced Repetition for learning, specifically.

All of these collided into an idea that was essentially: "Write every day adding to threads that turn up at variable intervals". Inventive I know. Phrased differently, its an app where, each day, you're presented with a selection of threads you've written about previously, and can add to them, or create a single new thread.

If you want, you can go play with it here 3.

The basic idea is to give you a semi-structured framework in which to practice writing, while also growing your ideas over time. Threads could represent things like various drafts, or contain prompts you repeatedly work with, or just be a conversation between your past and future selves.

Returning to things over time allows you to build up ideas in the long term, while still making incremental trackable progress each day. It's a learning tool!

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.

One particularly powerful lens that popped up a couple days ago, when Andy Matuschak (who's work on inspired my thoughts on Spaced Repetition) tweeted :

The app as a tool for authoring an experience over time.

Of course all of these are to a certain extent true, and when a tool is simple enough, it's much more how you use it than what it "is". But, constraints are a big part of what make a tool useful. Both these things are true.

I could only make this app because I had a deadline for it. I, with my internet frazzled mind, have ideas abundant, and very little practice actually making them real. Constraints change what we can do.

Right now, I'm reading this eulogy for Yo, the short-lived, much derided app that let you send "Yo" to your friends. It's constraints pushed to the limit.

Well, here’s the crux of it. The medium is the message. A text means an unlimited world of potential responses. I have no guarantee that you will “Yo” back. Instead of giving you a narrow choice, I’ve given you infinite possibility to think about. The limited functionality of a Yo is precisely the point.

It’s a glance, not a word. It’s body language.

The ideal version of this app has just the right constraints. It allows you to do only what is necessary for you to grow, as a thinker or a writer, and then it gets out of your way. Finding those constraints is going to be hard.

There are a lot of different directions I could take this little seedling. I plan to keep hacking on it and see where it goes. Perhaps over time my hacking will become more like trimming and pruning, maybe with an occasional graft.

Warm regards, Jared

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  1. I have a very bad habit of saying things should be pretty straightforward, so this was a way to put it to the test. I'd give myself barely a passing grade at the end of it. But, I got a chance to try out a bunch of new technologies I was interested in, in a low-stakes environment, which was absolutely invaluable, so overall I came out pretty good.
  2. See: 750words, 1,000 word vomits, David Perell's thoughts
  3. There are many things you can't do. It assumes everyone lives in Greenwich. Bugs aplenty. Have fun though!