A lot of my time the last few months has been focused on getting our homeschool up and running and adjusting to life with a new baby. This translates to a lot of time with one hand scrolling a phone while making dinner or holding the baby. All that to say, I’ve read a lot of Internet in 2022, and there’s some great stuff out there.
Allow me to be your Internet connoisseur, taking you on a tour of the latest-and-greatest digital happenings:
Taylor Hadden presented Tangent Notes at Tools for Thought Rocks in January (recording here). Taylor has built his own note-making tool, from the ground up. In fact, I’m using it to write this update. One of the cool things in Tangent is the concept of a “Tangent Map”, a non-linear browsing history that you can visually curate. It feels like an evolution of browser tabs. If you’re into new UI paradigms, you can jump to this spot in the recording to see a demo of it.
Also on the Tools for Thought Rocks train, the February event (recording here) was jam-packed with goodness. Alexander Obenauer presented on the concepts behind an Itemized Operating System. Geoffrey Litt showed off Twemex and some of the novel Twitter workflows he uses. And Dalton Banks took us on a dizzying tour of control theory.
On the subject of Geoffrey Litt, he and collaborator Nicholas Schiefer released an exploration entitled Building data-centric apps with a reactive relational database, wherein they explored the question “what if we just stored all program state, including UI state, in a local relational database?” The answer might surprise you: it’s simple, fast, and powerful. While it’s a long way from production-ready, the ideas here seem to be worth exploration.
On the useful and fun side, Bloom3D is a tiny little 3D modeling tool in a browser, inspired by the “draw and extrude” modeling style popularized by SketchUp (an incredible piece of software that sadly calcified a decade ago). Go play with Bloom! I dare you to not smile.
Let’s foray into one of my favorite fields: epistemology. We are supposedly building “tools for thought.” Perhaps we should spend more time investigating the nature of thought and honing our definition of knowledge. Cedric Chin calls it out in this fantastic thread:
Increasingly curious as to why the tools-for-thought folk talk a lot about note-taking tool features and plugins and not at all about the cognitive science of better externalised thinking.— Cedric Chin (@ejames_c) February 4, 2022
And while we’re visiting Philosophy Field, let me introduce my new favorite sentence: “Knowledge is not equal to its representation in a medium.” We should be much more suspicious of the claim that we are “capturing knowledge” when we write notes in our tool of choice. If that sentence is as dear to you as it is to me, you should read my piece Tools Embody Mediums.
All this focus on homeschool over the past few months has made me curious about pedagogy. So I did the only proper thing and enrolled in Matt Bateman’s History of Education course. It’s been delightful, and has me revisiting my days as a philosophy student, dragging out Plato and Aristotle. At some point, I’ll be writing up a summary of learnings, which I shall proffer on this very newsletter!
And to finish it off our tour with a quick trip to the land of tech startups, this one has it all: it’s WebFlow + Repl.it + Heroku + multi-player (CRDTs!) + WebAssembly! DynaBoard promises to reinvent web application development with a fully-integrated workflow. From design to coding to deployment, for teams! They’ve bitten off a hefty chunk, but if you think about it, it’s the logical endpoint of a repl in a browser.
There you have it. All the goodness my one-handed scrolling can take in. I hope you enjoyed the tour, and we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming soon.