towards flight: a new chapter
📳 PERSONAL NEWS ALERT 📳
TLDR; I’ve moved on from Coda and pursuing independent research and art. Broadly, I’m focusing on imagining futures of computing rooted in communal agency, the kind with new ways for making space and relating to each other on the internet and community-owned, small-scale infrastructure.
After 3.5 years of building, learning, prototyping, designing, proposing what if..., pitching streetwear merch, and advocating for stocking Ito En Green Tea in the fridges, I’ve moved on from Coda.
I joined a small team of ~50 out of college and have had the opportunity to help build out and imagine everything across monetization infrastructure, sign up methods, information organization and customization capabilities, creating a platform for reusable snippets, and lately simplifying and exploring the frontier of extending Coda’s functionality through the Packs Platform.
I still can’t believe how much has changed since I considered the offer over 4 years ago. After signing, I remember forcing the product upon my school club, even with all the pain points that would be considered ridiculous in the product today. More than ever, it’s a tool for easily making personal and collaborative software tools and enables anyone to use their data for what matters. And I’m inspired by the amazing things people are doing with Packs and the budding community of daring makers exploring that frontier. I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow as a maker. Although words are insufficient, I’m so grateful to all the people who’ve walked with me on this journey1.
More than ever, I’m facing life with a light heart and free mind. I’m soaking in the sunlight on a balcony in the middle of the day. I’m paying more attention to the sky, and the trees, and the moon as they shift and transform in front of my very eyes.
I’m filled with paradoxes: fear around carving out my own space and path for pursuing my intersectional dreams and an unbelievable lightness for having the space and privilege to do so, to give priority to that which calls me unrelenting.
I feel a bit like a newborn these days, slowly figuring out the kind of rhythm and structure that enables me to be attentive to my curiosities and imaginations. I’m embracing my wide-ranging, often seemingly unrelated creative explorations. Each day presents another opportunity (and responsibility) for me to follow what my heart says without reservation. Despite an undercurrent of doubt (what am I even doing? will I really figure it out?), I feel my wings tensing, flexing, leaning towards flight.
I feel called to rest, recenter, and spend dedicated time away from a computer to get to know the land and ecosystems I inhabit. Yet, I’m also filled with an urgent energy that warms my body and reminds me why I’m alive in moments of stillness. I feel compelled to explore, learn, and create in service of the internet and the kind of technology that I believe in.
I’m intimate with the pain I feel when my mom blames herself when her devices and websites fail her. I’m intimate with the disquiet I feel when encountering the beauty of humanity in the comments section and think about how much of the internet has been taken over by emotionless content and faceless storefronts. I’m intimate with the frustration I feel using technology at all the ways that software feels so much harder to make than it should be, that the internet feels so far out of our control, that so much of the fundamental digital infrastructure we depend upon can be dismantled in an instant, no matter how much we demonstrate love or offer ourselves and our valuable data chests.
In service of this energy, I’m undertaking an indefinite “professional” sabbatical to follow all the gathered questions, resonances, and dreams that are overflowing from my carrier bag.
becoming a [computing-internet-creative] [researcher-artist-technologist-???]
(clearly still searching for a term that feels right, or maybe I don’t need just one term and should embrace these multiplicities?)
That means I’m focusing on everything I’ve written about exploring as a full-time practice. I’ve uncovered a treasure trove of questions, and now it’s time to begin to, if not answer, at least, sit with them.
I’m researching futures of communal computing and internet dreams (novel interface design, agentic software creation, games that teach new ways of seeing, small-scale infrastructure and social networks etc.).
I’m cultivating and attending to more community (teaching, entangling with creative and cultural spaces, learning about collective physical space and space as a gift).
I’m giving myself permission to put on every single hat, try every coat of identity, take for a spin every life that has called to me and dedicate myself to it fully (artist, dancer, researcher, technologist, programmer, model, photographer, worldmaker, gardener, architect, designer, cook, and more in the list below that I try to continuously update)
I’m following my guiding [dream|mantra] of [imagining|making|cultivating] [provocative|beautiful|fun] things with people I’m [inspired|witnessed|freed] by.
Here’s a rough list of questions/concepts I’m sitting with and working my way through. These may seem like they cover a lot of different ground, but they all rhyme with my fuzzy vision of a future of computing where it’s a natural medium for communal flourishing as well as personal creative expression and function, one where the internet is a place that helps us be more ourselves and be more of the rest of humanity at the same time.
modular networks: what is the most usable, extensible form of data? what is as approachable as JSON but as usable as a spreadsheet, as extensible as a relational database, as distributable as RSS?
embodied computing: easy persistence / persistent collaborative software / emergent syntax (whole data - where the data is in the representation of it)
digital collections / timestamping / logging done via text / streams
data protocols: DID and hypercore, pubsub, rss, etc.
folk computing: home-cooked software, how to power a million tiny apps?
tiny internets: what does technology that optimizes for community rather than scale look like?
social protocols: things like spring 83 and activity pub
web ring evolution, forums, tiny social networks
publishing protocols, self-publishing, self-syndication
folk identity / password-less authentication / understandable PGP encryption
safety via obscurity, intimacy via sharing space, expression via worlds that prompt exploration
how do people feel safe and empowered to have dreams and hopes for the intenet?
agency-increasing experiences / choreographed education
how do you design experiences that prompt you to self-discover, “tell the truth but tell it slant,” the medium is the message, visceral and evocative art?
software for meaning-making and self-discovery: things that help you return to ideas, sit with words, linger on memories. things that are the opposite of your todo-list, that resist “optimization” and “efficiency” and “inbox zero”
e.g. cultivating lists, starting practices and rituals
embedded attention / situated reminders / setting intention in context
computing as art and memory and ecosystem
ascii art / text art / rich media encoded as text
digital legacy / personal documentarian
digital natural phenomenon: solar server, fractal generative art, digital decay and entropy
bat-call for collaborators and supporters
Along with cultivating this personal research, art, creative practice, I’d like to cultivate more collaborations! If you think there’s a seed that would be interesting for us to explore together, message me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m especially looking for more interdisciplinary collaborations with artists, food cultivators, space makers, and speculative fiction writers. I’d love to make some net art, collaborative indices, speculative prototypes, and living gathering places. I’m also open to short contracting stints with collaborative, imaginative teams. The kind of work I’m interested in spans end-to-end research prototypes explorations (like this Glide exploration) and 0-1 projects that involve playful design and the topics I’ve mentioned above (like Julius’ work on Arc Boosts).
To support my independent research, I’m launching a Github Sponsors profile. If you have the means and appreciate my explorations, please consider sponsoring me! All of my research, prototypes, and explorations will never be paywalled (and I intend for all of them to be public), but as an extra bonus, I’ll regularly send early behind-the-scenes for supporters and other non-essential perks that you can find on the sponsors page!
Thank you for sitting with my news. I’ll be sending out regular lab notes to my tiny internets section of my newsletter, so follow along there!
towards personal flight and an internet that feels like ours,
Thank you to all the people who have shaped me in my time at Coda present and past, especially Helena (for constantly pushing me to imagine more and giving sharp, honest feedback on all my ideas), Alicia (for indulging my fun, co-imagining new possibilities, and making a space for any wacky idea), Lane (for teaching me to be principled and how to consider different levels of perspective), Alden (for showing me how to advocate and push unilaterally for what you believe in), Nagle (for nudging my transformation, cultivating my emotional empathy, pushing me to become more myself), Varney (for conspiring towards dreams of more personal software, people-first databases, for showing me that you can an outstanding engineer while and technical advisor while also advocating for your own vision), Adam (for patiently sitting with me through many difficult bugs and explaining things several times from the top down, for showing me how to lead someone to their own discovery rather than giving away the answer), Janvi (for reminding me what it feels like to dream with unfaltering optimism and uncompromising care), Jeremy (for nurturing a young naive soul and thoughtfully giving responsibilities and spotlights to help me grow), Kelsey (for always holding a safe space from day 1).