Links and Notes - April 17th 2021

Consumption is where ideas come from

When I think of consumption of media, I generally associate it with being removed from work. A separate activity. By media I mean consumption of Twitter feeds and RSS feeds and Hacker News and any other firehose of information. When I look at any of those sources, I have generally thought to myself that these are distractions. My attitude towards that has shifted a little over the past week.

I've been on vacation over the past week. During this week I've consumed very little of any of the firehoses. And during that time, I feel like some of my world knowledge has contracted and my steady source of ideas that I build off of has been closed off. Although I've had no shortage of things to write down this week, I realise that most of the thoughts have been inwards looking. Reflecting on myself. Much like this section.

I've realised that the activity I view as purely a distraction is actually where many of my ideas are constantly coming from.

Today my son wanted to watch Turbo. As soon as the movie finished, he was full of ideas and imagination and he was busy adding them into the wild stories he makes as he plays on his own. He consumed. And he generated ideas.

In many ways this seems obvious. New ideas cannot come in a vacuum. But the mistake I was making was thinking that the kind of unconscious consumption we do on Twitter or Hacker News would be purely unproductive. If I wanted ideas, I believed that it had to be intentional consumption only that would work. Not true.

This isn't to say that I'm going to switch to all day casual browsing of any of the fire hoses. That is a rabbit hole of its own and is decidedly unhealthy. In order to not just consume, I still think that pausing to reflect on the stream of thoughts is needed. But, it'll be nice to unburden myself of some guilt I feel whenever I visit HN or Twitter or Feedly.

Dreaming of streaming

This is an idea I wanted to put down as a longer form essay. But it's been an idea in the system for a long time. And I thought to myself, why not just get it out there.

For the longest while, I have been wanting to live stream myself coding. Why? Chief amongst the many reasons is that it's a good source of fun. Second, is that it combines my love of teaching with programming, an activity that I enjoy.

Why do I believe that it would be a good source of fun? When I think of "Side projects" I tend to think of "side businesses". Not things I do for the heck of it. If I'm going to be spending time outside of my normal work hours to make more things using software, then it better have a greater purpose. But with livestreaming, I get to create throwaway projects. Half baked ideas. Prototypes. All day long. And it all has an automatic greater purpose which is entertainment and education. Much like people who gravitated towards livestreaming themselves gaming. Many of them didn't start with the express intention of creating a business for themselves. They started with the intention of adding a little bit more fun to their time of gaming. Here they were doing something "useless" and livestreaming just made something out of it even if the something was tiny.

That's what I want out of livestreaming. I want to try out all the tech that I keep seeing. I want to work with it all. I want to create apps and systems that suck. That don't have user research behind any of it. Systems that I build purely because I want the learning experience. I want it to feel ok to say "I built this using Deno because I wanted to learn about Deno".

But I think I've dreamt enough. At some point this year, I need to move towards actually making that dream happen. But, even if I shouldn't be searching for perfection, I can't rush into this either. Unlike gaming, livecoding doesn't lend itself well to liveness. People can't join a stream and gather context instantly by looking at a terminal or IDE. There needs to be an element of a HUD that we have in normal games. That HUD needs to provide a viewer immediate context of:

  1. What's the project being worked on?
  2. What's the task being worked on?
  3. What element of the individual task am I thinking of right now?
  4. What's my immediate next objective?

This is the kind of information that's present on a game HUD. We know what team a person is on. We know the score. And the game is constantly telling us what objective the player is aiming to achieve at that moment. This means that you can plop in at any moment into a stream and not feel lost. Not having that feeling of being lost is why I believe that a lack of a livecoding HUD is a deal breaker.

I've already done several tests of this using tools like Obsidian as prototypes. I may choose to move ahead with it. But a little part of me believes that it would be better to take a little extra time to create something a little tighter before starting.

Is this a project to do a shape up style cycle on? You bet.

This blog doesn't have a comment box. But I'd love to hear any thoughts y'all might have. Send them to [email protected]

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Posted on April 17 2021 by Adnan Issadeen