Micro Matt

Micro thoughts and mini posts.

People who are good at designing and building incredibly complex systems are bad at recognizing their complexity and abstraction for what they are. If they did, they might be able to break them back down into simple devices.

A lot of things are coming together at the moment.

The CRM-ish thing I've been mulling over for a few months likely won't come out as a brand new product in the near future, but as an extension to one side to Write.as: interacting with your readers / subscribers. Instead of building a product solely for me, hoping for wider utility, it'll be built for everyone, and I'll happen to need it, too.

We're also going all-in on our multi-user side of Write.as. Unlike with our attempt at “Write.as for Teams” (a completely new moonshot product), this is a gentle, natural evolution from our current product. You won't have to reconfigure the way you write, or set up a new writing environment tied to your hosting configuration. You'll just write — but now with other people.

With this, we'll also be adding optional complexity to our minimalist platform. Users will start with a “just write and publish” experience as always, but we'll now offer a rabbit hole for advanced publishers who need to do more. I'll leave this intentionally vague for now.

The more of what you want algorithm is always bad. It's great for wasting an afternoon watching videos you may or may not actually care about. It's great for putting on repetitive music in the background. But it's bad for serendipity and discovery; bad for active listening; bad for critical thinking.

I'm reminded of this today as I listen to Kind of Blue on YouTube Music. I don't listen to this album, or jazz generally, every day. But when I listen to it, I'd like the algorithm to feed me more of that music instead of more of what I already like.

This is not a promise the algorithm can make me. I'm not being aurally guided by a human DJ, who can gauge my mood and play off of it. I'm being led by a pre-programmed robot who only knows what I already like, and doesn't have any preferences of their own. So instead of more jazz, I'm literally hearing indie folk artists I like next to vaguely genre-adjacent tracks I've already heard a million times.

I'm sure this is what the people in charge of these products think the masses want: more of the same. How boring is that, though? Why not tune the algorithm toward inspiration instead of tedium? Why not use this powerful position as product designer to break filter bubbles, instead of building and reinforcing them?

Joining a new social network in 2021: first, the added weight of coming up with something you're going to share, so you can get something out of this new place. you can read something, sure, but you're swimming in 72 tabs of things to read; how do you know this is going to be worth your time at all?

if the network offers a way to get paid, what do you have to offer that's valuable enough? do you need a different voice here? are you going to just word-vomit something and press “Post”? are you just going to react to content that's already out there? is a “like” the biggest mark you can make in this new space to get off the ground? or can you have a real conversation, maybe with someone you'd really love to talk to? is there something to do besides produce and consume “content”? is there actually anything of value in this new place?

I wonder what my dog thinks about me, barking a sound across the yard (“calling his name”), while I hold a phone in my hand, occasionally looking down at it, then back at him, as he looks at me.

Since discovering the Hobonichi Techo in late 2017, I've bought one every year. My uses for it have evolved over the years. I go through periods of to-do lists and to-email lists. I write thoughts and trivial occurrences. I keep track of my weight and workout schedule and different streaks of behavior.

This year I got the (daily) Planner as usual, but also added the Weeks notebook to my desk, and it is perfect for work.

Last year, I started accumulating those to-do lists every day of the week. But the benefit of notebooks can also be their shortcoming — once the page is turned, it's easy to forget what you wrote on the one before. Soon enough, if an item didn't get checked off one day, it was easily forgotten.

Now that I can keep an entire week open and visible on my desk at once, it's much easier to plan longer-term tasks, and digest all that needs to be done on any given day. I still use the Planner for work, tracking appointments and major events. But now it mostly tracks my personal life, and the Weeks shows me exactly what's happening with Write.as at any given time.

Came across SpaceHey today via this Vice article, which has me thinking about the fediverse and centralization vs. decentralization, as always.

Would the fediverse see new adoption if some of the decentralized aspects were abstracted away? I'm thinking of a “meta” instance, where an admin might cobble together Pixelfed, Mastodon, and WriteFreely to build a single Myspace / SpaceHey site. The profile could be as simple as a Linktree-esque page with a profile image and links to each content type: Photos, Notes, Articles (for each respective underlying platform). Then each platform might share the same design / theme. Or it could be as complex as a unified profile where content from each platform is displayed inline. That should be possible if this “meta” instance was a client to all of those platforms.

Of course, you already have some platforms that combine all of these media types into a single place, Facebook-like. The benefit of this “meta” instance over that is that the pieces are now composable. You could swap in Pleroma for Mastodon, or Plume for WriteFreely, or leave any pieces out, depending on what you're going for. With this, each “meta” instance is more unique, and can develop into its own full-fledged community; a sort of digital town connected to other digital towns in the wider fediverse.

We now support rich media embeds on Write.as! As always, I tried to keep this intuitive enough to where you don't have to learn anything new, and posts still downgrade gracefully to plain text.

To embed a tweet, for example, just paste the URL into your post. It'll automatically turn into this:

This feature is available to all Write.as Pro users.

Why do you build what you're building? I think I'm after something real, for once, in a sea of crappy commercialism.

I like to rail against the marketers for being detached from reality, and the money men for cheapening and crappifying anything that is truly good, like the internet. Yet here I am, swimming among the fish, building a business — though that's not really the point.

It's been over 6 years since I started Write.as. I distinctly remember my idealism back then, wanting to “prove” the need for privacy; wanting to build the “model” for a sustainable business that others might follow. I know those ideas have inspired others and attracted people to my work, and for that I consider myself truly “successful” at something. But I still have to fight off the feeling that I'm an impostor at times in the business world.

Really, this company gets built every day only because of my idealism and need to make art, mixed with the economic reality that I need my needs taken care of to continue making that art. The point is the art; the business is just there to subsidize it. I think I only feel doubtful when I forget that.

I'm not sure what planet marketers live on when they think it's okay to send multiple automated “follow-up” emails in a single week.

Is this just the gold standard they all learn and then fall in line with? Do they talk to people outside of commercial contexts, ever, in their lives? Do they understand what it means to be annoying? Or does that not matter if their robots get the sale sometimes?

I always respect hustle when I see it in real people; but never when it's coming through an automated “nurture” campaign, executed by computers and arriving fresh in my inbox at precisely 9am to waste my human time.

(This post was inspired by a follow-up email that arrived today, three months after their first email, which I never responded to. I can tell there's a human there — this is exactly how you get a response to your cold email.)

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