Many of you have joined in the last two weeks. Welcome, and thanks!
Since we may not have been introduced, my name is Jess Martin, and I'm an applied researcher inventing the future of computing. I'm particularly interested in making software a more expressive medium so that humans and computers can think better, together.
This weekly newsletter is structured like a research summary, sharing what I've discovered, learned, and built over the last week.
My family went through our first-ever bout of COVID-19 these past few weeks, which somehow connects us with the rest of the world through a tangible, shared experience. "What was the 'rona like for you?" seems like the new "how's the weather?" conversation, and it works better for remote workers who don't share climates but instead share a global virus.
One unfortunate casualty of a sick family with four kids under ten was that I didn't get around to publishing a newsletter. But no newsletter doesn't mean no activity! It's been a busy few weeks.
I'm back to livestreaming weekly working sessions on YouTube, every Wednesdays from 11am-1pm ET. If you want to be notified, subscribe to my channel and you should get an email when a stream is scheduled. These work sessions run the gamut from thinking and writing about research problems to live-coding prototypes. It's been about a year since I was doing weekly livestreams and I'm pumped. I really enjoy the live format, talking through my thought process out loud, interacting with people in chat. It makes the creative work less lonely.
I published the first session last week and streamed the second session this past Wednesday. In these sessions, I'm building a decentralized blogging tool called mumblr using Fission's WebNative library. Mumblr sits somewhere between publishing to twitter and writing a newsletter, much like tumblr back in the day. I suppose it used to be called "microblogging."
But the real reason I'm building mumblr is to develop a deep intuition about decentralized applications, their architecture and the ergonomics of the technology. I'll have some take-aways to share on those topics shortly.
Last month, we had a really excellent Tools for Thought Rocks meeting. Maggie Appleton challenged us to broaden our perspective on this new-but-not-new class of software "tools for thought." See her talk overview here. And then Hunter Clarke showed off a tool he's building called FlowPilot that blends the thinking, planning, and task tracking parts of our work, while naturally encouraging you to work backwards from a desired goal.
I especially enjoyed the April meeting because the meeting spanned the gamut from examining the theoretical underpinnings of Tools for Thought to exploring new directions through novel prototypes. Here's the recording in case you missed it.
If you'd like to sign up for May's meeting, here's the link.
One of my long-range visions is to create a computing environment that integrates seamlessly the physical and digital space, a room for computing. In order to get there, we will need novel hardware devices. I'm particularly interested in e-paper as a material. I recently ordered two new devices I'm planning to test out in my room-computer.
The Badger 2040 is just what it sounds like: a simple 3" e-paper display roughly the size of a futuristic conference badge. I'm especially interested in e-paper with an index card-sized form factor, and maybe this will be close enough? We'll see. I've ordered two. At $20 each, it wouldn't be totally crazy to own 5-10 of them to have a "deck" of digital index cards. I could imagine all sorts of purposes for that.
This little device is a bit bigger, dialing in at 4.2" and slightly different form factor. While I could imagine laying a few badgers on a table and shuffling them around, this one feels more like a screen or display.
Both orders have already shipped, so I look forward to playing with them and sharing my tinkering with you.
And speaking of novel hardware devices, you probably already know I'm obsessed with a little yellow handheld gaming device with a physical crank called the playdate. I came across two "developer diaries" of people working on games for the playdate.
First is Daily Driver, a simple top-down racing game. Read through the posts from oldest to newest to get a play-by-play as Matt works solves problems, discovers interesting quirks, and lovingly crafts this tiny little experience.
The second is an Oldschool Dungeon Crawler. It's fascinating to compare and contrast the tools and techniques used by the two developers to bring to life the graphics and experience. Sadly, my playdate likely won't arrive until late 2022, but I'm encouraged by the creativity people are already demonstrating with this tiny device.
Until next time!