1: A Better Kind of Honey

... that they're hiding from us

Hello 👋

I’m Adam and you’re receiving this because you signed up to to my newsletter (like, probably less than a week ago so hopefully this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise). There are, at the moment I hit send, 102 of you! I have gone through the list like a creep and I recognise many of the names from the email addresses, which is weird and good.

You may have signed up as a result of liking my old newsletter Versioning, which I produced for SitePoint. Thanks! So, now I’m back in your inbox as I’m doing another one, for me/you. But why?

So I had a bit of a professional setback recently, losing a (very) new full-time role due to broader company problems (that company no longer exists, is all I’m saying). Thanks in part to ex-Versioning subscribers (legends), I managed to find some contract work while I found a full-time role. I just confirmed that role last week!

But during this period I found myself searching for inspiring, positive stuff more than usual. People building things or writing things or making the world slightly better in some other weird way. It’s not exactly easy to find.

I figured this sort of personal difficulty probably happens fairly often. So if you’re in a similar boat, I made this to try help. I don’t actually know what I’m doing with this one, so everything about this newsletter is subject to change. I’m keen to hear what you hate or like by replying to this or adding a comment.

Improv for Robots

There’s this author I like, Robin Sloan, who has been running a thing where every month or so he’ll send out new fiction to you, printed and folded and in an envelope, for like $4 (AUD). He has featured a story focused on Magic: the Gathering-esque players, another about an email newsletter producer (nice), and just a list of text notes he has kept for years and years.

His latest was a banger. A unique fantasy story for every subscriber, produced by him in partnership with a powerful neural network responding to details you provide. It reminds me of watching a really good improv show, or when someone’s drunk and telling a story but they forget what they’re saying halfway, but they’re quite a good storyteller so they manage to pull it off. Here’s the first paragraph of mine (my input is in caps).

That’s how it starts! The whole story mostly makes sense, but the bits where it doesn’t are awesome too. At one point mine reads: “A man in the crowd glanced at the Duke from the room where the Duke sat and his uncle.” Like, what? Sure robot. As part of the project, he also generated a unique map for every story. Here’s mine:

I would like a new story set in “Nod” please.

So here’s how he did it. This project resonated with me partly because, when I had originally heard of the neural network model thing he used for the project – GPT-2 – it had scared the hell out of me. It’s built by OpenAI, and is a less powerful version of one they declined to release because it was too powerful. But rather than being scared, Robin just used what they did release to produce thousands of buzzy fantasy stories.

I like that moxie. Anyway, he’s good, is what I’m saying.

(Speaking of improv/collaborative storytelling, if you’d rather see what a bunch of humans can do, here you go.)

Deep Breath of the Wild

Check This Out

Glitch is good, and getting better. It now has more apps than Apple’s App Store, integration with VSCode, a great culture and ethics and now a bunch of funding.

Some recent scientific breakthroughs that aren’t getting enough attention.

If you’re in a similar boat to the one I was in earlier this year, with the bad times and the professional disasters, I found this thread and comment in particular really helpful.

And this Deb Chachra email – especially the last bit

Or you could play Zelda. Always consider playing Zelda.

Aaaaand Recurse are offering $10,000 fellowships for women (trans/cis) and non-binary programmers. If that’s you, or someone you know and you live in New York City, apply.


Zine In

(Try/Learn This)

Run a social network for your friends.

Make a zine. (On Glitch, remember Glitch from a few paragraphs back?)

Build a functional calendar with the JAM Stack.

Has anyone used Dark, the back-end programming language, editor and infrastructure? (Not the TV show) (but is the TV show good?) It sounds like it is probably worth using. You can deploy code in 50ms!


Pasta La Vista, Baby

(Some Silly Things:)

“Why did moving the mouse cursor cause Windows 95 to run more quickly?” Yep.

Using Facebook Marketplace: a one man show. That play could actually apply to most of the internet except this newsletter because we’re better than that.

An oral history of Jaz-Z’s The Blueprint. Totally real, definitely not a parody, eg:

Lenny S: Jay has always been convinced that bees have a better kind of honey that they’re hiding from us.

Speaking of Breath of the Wild: Polygon made and rated all the recipes from the game.

And finally, please enjoy this excerpt of a live podcast from the McElroy brothers (podcasters/nerds who are great!), where a decades-long family prank finally bears fruit.


~CTA~

Aaaaand that’s our programme. Thanks for signing up and being in on the ground floor of this thing. Wondering: what good things have you seen (or better yet, made) recently? Email me and let me know!

Also, was this good? How could it be better?

👋 See you next week