Weeknote 2021-10

Another two-weeker. But I hope you forgive me, as there has just been so much going on in the past couple of weeks.


So first up, some big news from Choirless this week. We have split off the rendering engine technology we developed for Choirless and called it Rend-o-matic. It is now joining the Linux Foundation as a project hosted by them. This is a great move as it gives us a better structure to encourage 3rd party participation in the development of Rend-o-matic and Choirless. Also, it better enables Call for Code to support us going forward. A big thanks, as always, to my fellow partners-in-crime, Glynn Bird and Sean Tracey, who at the moment have been doing most of this work whilst I've been settling down at Ripple. Also a big thanks to Daniel Krook, Shari Chiara and Upkar Lidder from Call for Code at IBM who have supported us on this journey.

You might remember last year, I was doing some filming for the IBM Originals creative agency about Choirless. Well the final result is out! It is part of a series of pieces called Developer Diaries. This video was such fun to make and record! And check out the pretend bass playing at the start! (the bass is my eldest daughter's, I can't play!). That is her pink music stand too. And her music.

We have lots of plans for further development of Choirless and Rend-o-matic in the near future.

Barefoot Walking

I read an article on a local news site, Bristol247 about a man who has been walking barefoot through the park near my house for the past year. He says that he finds walking barefoot has given him a connection that he feels he lost when lockdowns meant he could no longer go out dancing in clubs.

One of the parts of the article above that hit me was this paragraph:

It is uncomfortable sometimes, and what it requires is a deeper sort of concentration on how you walk,” Mike says. “It brought me more into the present and out of my head. The discomfort and occasionally pain – because I wasn’t caught up in my thoughts – brought me a kind of joy.

I have tried “mindfulness” a few times, but I've not been particularly successful with it. Pre-lockdown I used to go relax in a spa/sauna in Bristol and that was a good time to just float in the pool and practice. This struck me as a potentially good way to practice mindfulness. The surface you are walking on changes, from grass, to tarmac, to mud, to gravel. You have to be aware of where you are walking, to really be present in the moment.

We were dog-sitting my son's guide dog, Ajay, whilst my son was moving house. The dog gets a bit anxious with all the chaos, and so he came to stay with us for a few days. He loves it, as he is “off duty” and gets to play with his best friend, our dog, Violet.

It happened to be a couple of beautiful warm sunny days, and so I decided to try going barefoot when taking Ajay and Violet out for a walk. I started off with my shoes on, then took them off when I first got to the grass. It was slightly chilly at first, but soon you didn't notice. I felt the different types of grass, and the feeling of the cool squelch of mud between my toes. It was freeing. It was surprisingly not-painful. I originally planned just walking along the grass. But my route takes me up through some woodland with a lot of twigs and stones on the ground. I decided to keep going barefoot. Taking my time, watching where I was stepping, but strangely enjoying the feeling of the changes of surface under my feet.

The strange thing is I went out the following day with shoes on for the same walk and it felt strange. Like I was missing something. So I think this is something I'm going to keep working on. Summer is coming up so should be “easy” to get into the habit, then will see how far I can continue as the temperature drops again.

RippleX Developer Twitch Channel

OK, so Ripple-wise, this has been an amazing week. We launched the RippleX Developer channel on Twitch. Twitch is a live video streaming platform. It is often used for gaming, but also more and more now for things like live-coding software development.

Over the past year, I have been developing my skills on running live coding sessions on Twitch, and studying the benefits to the coders and also the audience. A few months ago I gave a talk to the IBM Technical Consulting Group on the process and benefits of live streaming software development:

In short, it allows a very good connection between the developer and the audience. It is a chance for people to learn not just how software is developed but, more importantly, why it is developed in a particular way. It is a chance to look over the shoulder of another developer and learn with them. And help them too.

When I joined Ripple five weeks ago as Director of Developer Relations, this was one of the things I wanted to get off the ground as soon as I could. It is going to form the central thread the runs throughout our DelRel strategy for 2021.

This launch show was a slightly different format. I wanted to create a buzz with the launch of the channel, and get as many people on to discover it. So I went for having four separate guests, and keeping things slightly higher level than what we would normally cover. There was no live-coding, but we did do a number of demos and show some behind the scenes of how things work.

I tried to pick a selection of speakers representing a diverse group across the XRP developer ecosystem. We had two developers from within Ripple, Shae Wang and David Schwartz. And two from the wider community, Adam the Aussie Ninja from gFam and Wietse Wind from XRPL Labs.

This launch show was put together in record time, and I'm very grateful to all the people who helped get it together in time. This was extra stressful, as not only was it the first show, but I had four live guests to marshal on and off the show. I was not only presenting but also producing it live.

Previously I have used OBS for broadcasting my Twitch streams. OBS allows you to composite together webcam feeds, screen recordings, audio, graphics etc. However one thing I needed to do was bring in live guests remotely. There are a number of hosted platforms, such as Streamyard which make this a lot easier. The main problem with them is that you sacrifice control of the look at feel for ease of use. So whilst they make it easier to bring remote guests in, they give you less control over the format and layout of the graphics on the screen. As we will be doing a lot of live coding, I wanted full control over this. I also wanted to give it a RippleX branding.

[behind the scenes shot, showing the OBS view (top monitor), the screen I was sharing (laptop), and the “green room” (left monitor)]

So to give us full control, I used a tool called OBS.Ninja that allows you to bring live video from remote computers into OBS. It works very well and has a lot of tweaks you can do to pre-set everything and just give your guest a URL to go to and their video then can appear in OBS.

I configured a number of scenes in OBS, two for each of my guests with their specific video source and screen sharing source pre-configured. So when I wanted to bring a guest from the “green room” onto live, all I had to do was switch to that scene in OBS.

[The view from OBS, with the scenes for each guest on the left, then sources, and audio controls. Adam and I demonstrating tipping a user in gFam using the XUMM wallet]

I had also configured my own screen as a screensharing source for each guest scene, but generally disabled. That way if needed, I could simply make that source visible and it would come on over their screen. So if they had any problems, or I wanted to show something I could.

And, amazingly... IT ALL WORKED! Not a single technical hitch for the entire hour-and-change long show. I was expecting that by the law of probabilities at least one guest would have audio problems (“Can you hear me?! I can't hear you”) or their connection would drop. Or the dog would knock out a cable. Or something. But it all went smoothly.

You can view the full stream below:

And the reception was AMAZING. We had 885 concurrent views at one point, and over 3,200 viewers of the live show in total!

I'm aware that this was the “launch” show and I'm expecting fewer viewers when we start to dive down into more technical realms, but this was such a fantastic start.

Audiotarky Launch

Another thing going on this week is MozFest. This is an annual festival run by Mozilla and is is confluence of art, tech and advocacy. Fitting right into that nexus is the concept of Web Monetization. As you are reading this on Coil, you probably are already aware of it. The concept of moving from the current advertising-led model to direct streaming micro-payments.

A great run-down on Web Monetization is this talk from Coil creator Stefan Thomas:

But in even more concrete terms, I'm excited to see the launch this week of a project I've been involved from the periphery in, Audiotarky, funded by Grant for the Web.

Grant for the Web is a collaboration between Coil, Mozilla (hence the Mozfest connection) and Creative Commons. It is a $100M fund to boost open, fair, and inclusive standards and innovation in Web Monetization.

Audiotarky helps musicians to maximize their potential income by making it easy to monetize recordings and smaller content like sounds, patches, and loops.

It will provide musicians with a streaming music platform, and use it to compare revenue from Web Monetization to traditional methods, publishing this information and providing guidance to musicians on how to use the technology to supplement other sources of income.

The team behind it is Simon Metson, Ben Wellby, Ian Popperwell, Matt Hamilton, and Ali Chant.

You might recognise Simon from some previous Twitch streams I've done with him in which we developed a Github Action to pay code contributors in XRP for their commits. I'm hoping to get Simon on the RippleX Twitch stream in a few weeks time to talk about the development of Audiotarky.

Take care all!