In review: my 2019 Q3
Date: 2019-10-05 | release-notes | reflections | reviews |
See all reflections.
In the second half of 2019, I'm theming on sustainability.
This quarter, I've been thinking a lot about sustainability. I've been looking at this through many lenses, like how to make a consistent impact at work, how to sustain the execution of and motivation for my projects while balancing my other priorities, and how I can optimize my common practices (like morning rituals and what I eat) to make a better Ham and better world.
Not everything I did worked. Not everything that worked will stick around. But I think that's okay. That's just how things happen in this reality.
In this post, I reflect on what I tried and how it went, what I did and what I learned in this third quarter of 2019. Thanks for taking the time to come to my little corner of the internet, hope you enjoy.
This quarter, I started working at Instagram, released 3 new generative art projects, created a shop from which to distribute my wares, grew my online viewership by ~48%, hamventured around NYC and the <>world>, and began voting with my time / effort / money for the causes that matter to me.
My name's Hamilton and this is my 2019 Q3 in review.
Me and my new app <333
This quarter, my focus in #work was to get used to my new work environment and set myself up for success in the future.
What new work environment? Well in June, I joined Facebook. This quarter, I joined Instagram (which, for the uninformed, is still part of Facebook).
That means new infrastructure, new tools, new processes, new technologies, teammates, languages, products, etc. etc. I still don't feel like I'm at full speed but I can at least stumble around in the right direction. That's progress.
The team I joined is tasked with supporting and improving the infrastructure that gets media (images, videos, audio) from our servers to your device.
So far, things have been #swell. The new gig comes with:
- high scale - I've already touched code paths getting hit upwards of 40 billion times a week
- great product(s) - if my 8 Instas didn't give my <3 away
- amazing people - I may be the lamest one ='((((
- mammoth perks - I've had to cut out fb breakfast cause I was gaining weight /shrug
That's all I've got to share right now but am v excited and hope to share more in the future.
This quarter, my focus in #projects was to decrease the barrier of entry to starting new projects, to be more selective and focused on the ones I work on, and to increase my motivation to see them through to release. I worked towards this goal in a few ways but the highlights were:
- refining my okr systems for planning and review
- increasing my #projects budget by taking from my moonshot investments budget - I am, after all, a moonshot investment
- refining my project pillars to help bubble up project ideas with high short-term and long-term motivation drivers
- checklists and principles to streamline and standardize processes
- core utility packages for related projects
As all of this was with the hopes of creating a more sustainable, efficient project-creation system, I obvs built some projects to test these changes.
#dogfood #e2e #haveatasteofyourownmedicine
One of the things I've been thinking about recently is how to synergize my efforts such that efforts in one category I care about naturally / organically / passively lead to benefits in another. I have a feeling that if you're able to accomplish this to a high degree, it'll likely lead to a much more sustainable cycle - less work, more progress.
Over the years, I've grown a fondness for digital art and particularly the areas of #generativeart and #creativecoding which utilize code as the primary process for generating digital outputs. This, in conjunction with my new role at IG which has me writing mostly in Python (a language I haven't seriously touched in awhile), led me to experiment with outputs created via Python scripts. In this way, I could brush up on my Python skills while still moving forward with the side projects I wanted to build.
The first of these experiments combines images from the Unsplash api, machine learning, and image manipulations.
The second juxtaposes artifacts on top of images from the Unsplash api.
The third, and most recent, uses generative 2d elements as directed by randomness and source images.
@hamy.labs -> @hamy.art
I have 8 Instagram accounts and sometimes it's hard to decide which accounts I want to use for what. As for why I have multiple Instagram accounts, you can read about that here.
After building more art projects with code, I've decided that I want to focus on those kinds of art projects for the foreseeable future and as a result have moved my generative code art (all projects listed here) posts from primarily publishing to @hamy.labs to publishing to @hamy.art to more closely reflect that focus. @hamy.labs will continue to receive updates on new experiments - that's what it's for after all - but my generative art (at least in these specific forms) has officially graduated.
To aid in this transition, I've been cross-posting to my various Instas and properties (such as this post) and using my FB ad credit (which we get to encourage trying out different usecases / code paths in order to provide more feedback to the developing teams) to promote the account. There's probably some opportunity for sharing more about the transition and promotion experience, but I'll leave that for another time. For now, follow @hamy.art for more hamy.art.
All these artistic ventures gave me a lot of visual outputs and not much to do with them. I of course kept posting to @hamy.art and even created another website (art.hamy.xyz) to help house them but it didn't feel like enough.
So I made a shop.
So far I just have shirts and prints but my goal is to use this platform for any kind of real-life (RL) good I decide to create next. The hope is that by maintaining the platform, new RL goods are that much easier for me to create and distribute. Follow @hamy.brand for updates and visit the site to browse / purchase.
As part of my sustainability drive, I've created a monthly housekeeping task to log the visitor stats to each of my online properties. My hope is to use these stats to keep me mindful of which properties are actually pulling in visitors and to use that data to find opportunities to drive new projects and evaluate / modify existing ones. I started this habit last month and found that ~70% of the visitors to my properties were coming to a post (written in 2016!) about copying and pasting in an illustration mobile app. This was pretty surprising to me, but I took this as an opportunity to review and improve the post with the hope of driving even more visitors to my sites. This month, the post is down to ~60% of total property visitors but up ~43% in total visitors (from about 700 -> 1000).
I'm unsure how to tell how much my edits actually affected the performance of this post without doing a full-blown A/B test which is likely not worth it given the total value of the piece is just a few hundred visits a month. However, the early pay-off of my new habit in the form of an actionable opportunity is a good sign for the value of continuing to track this data and means there may be opportunity in pursuing other data-tracking endeavors in other aspects of my life. One data point isn't enough, but if that's all you've got you might as well use it.
This month, my online properties brought in 1458 visitors which is a ~39% increase over last month's 1049 visitors and a ~48% increase over the quarterly average of 987. As you can see in the chart, it's largely driven by an increase in visitors to hamy.labs which is good, and expected, as that's where most of my seo-friendly tech posts are located. It's not great that most of that traffic is driven by a single post and even worse that that post isn't really related to anything I'm currently focusing on, but some visitors is better than no visitors in this case and we are seeing some diversification in traffic draws which is movement in the right direction. Further, it seems that traffic to the things that I really want more eyes on - e.g. my projects, my art, my writing - aren't really increasing so I think there's opportunity there to explore why that's happening and what I can do to change that whether that means creating new projects, changing the way I'm presenting current ones, or something else entirely.
You can support my projects (and follow along) by:
- Following @hamy.brand
- Taking a look at and providing feedback for my shop: shop.hamy.xyz
- Taking a look at and providing feedback for my art site: art.hamy.xyz
This quarter, my #adventure focus was to create more connective adventures and to streamline my processes for finding and sharing them. I still haven't created a robust definition or process for habitual connective adventures but it's something I think is important and thus something I'll continue to work on. As for finding, sharing, and executing on adventures in general, I've made great strides in optimizing the process and am really happy with where it stands now.
In the first half of 2019, I doubled down on my Hamventures NYC project - a weekly digest of events / places I'm interested in exploring that week. The primary purpose was to institute a habit of finding cool things I could do each week but I realized that with just a little more effort I could also distribute it to others for #fame and #fortune.
The process for finding these adventures is not trivial - it requires a good amount of time (>90 mins) and active attention. I found that, week-to-week, the time I spent and the quality of adventures I was finding varied widely so I set out to create processes to decrease the variability and time / effort consumption of the habit.
What I came up with was a checklist / principle page containing all the commands, resources, and steps to create a hamventures. By doing this, the process is far more standardized and requires a lot less thinking which in turn results in an average creation time of ~70 mins and denser outputs containing adventures from the orgs / topics I'm into.
I considered automating the process with code but every solution I've thought of still requires me to parse through lists of adventures so don't currently believe the cost is outweighed by the benefit. That being said, I'll continue to re-evaluate as this is one of the more costly habits I perform weekly.
Some cool adventures that came out of this habit:
- A trip to Artechouse NYC - The NYC location for an org focused on experimental digital art experiences
- A trip to Photoville - An outdoor photography festival with 60+ exhibitors, each with their own shipping container gallery
- Hermitude @ Elsewhere
- Experience Thailand in Union Square
- An IBM talk on how the US Open uses AI / ML
- Warm Up at MoMA PS1
- The zero likes given exhibit
- Art and Yoga @ Brooklyn Museum
- et al.
I have this habit of traveling a lot, getting sick of traveling and staying home, then getting sick of staying home and traveling a lot again. This quarter was no exception. For the first half of the year, I didn't travel that much, except for a 2 week trip to Atlanta during my job search. Coming into H2, I was getting worried I wouldn't hit my goal of doing one international trip each year so I scrambled to start planning trips which resulted in:
A trip to Chicago,
two weeks in Italy hitting Rome,
Sorrento (this is off Capri, but we left from Sorrento),
and a quick weekend trip to Barcelona / Ibiza.
I've got one more trip planned this year to Mexico City for Day of the Dead but besides that am completely out of vacation days which means more hamventures with Ham.
If you're ever in NY and want to do some weird shit, come hamventure w me!
I've been thinking a lot about 1) how small changes in my personal life can have large effects both for me personally and otherwise as well as 2) my place in the world - what it is and what responsibilities come with it. As with all of my endeavours, these are works-in-progress. But I'll share them with you in their unfinished glory nonetheless.
voting with my time / effort / money
As a part of my wonder around my place / role/ responsibility in the world, the idea that every action is a vote (and thus carries with it a corresponding responsibility) has stuck with me. I haven't found a super elegant way to phrase it but at a high level it revolves around the tenants that every action has a reaction and that all things are connected.
The idea then is that I can work towards a change in the world without ever directly touching the / an agent / object / subject of that change. Instead, I can directly touch the / an agent / object / subject that is closely related to that change and actually expect that to have a reasonable (and in some cases out-sized) impact towards it. This probably sounds very nebulous, but we're actually initimately familiar with this phenomenon in world-wide politics via democracies and republics. In both paradigms, we don't (for the most part) directly touch the things we want changed, instead we vote for champions we believe will be able to (more) directly effect those changes.
So I took this idea and abstracted / generalized it across world-wide phenomena and found that it, perhaps unsurprisingly, holds very well. Everything's connected in one way or another so it makes sense that if you want to help x and y is limiting it, then helping y indirectly helps x.
I began to look at phenomena through this lens to see if I could uncover any opportunities to use it and realized that 1) I was already doing this to some extent and 2) that there was a lot more that I wasn't doing that I could tackle with minimal effort.
The first time I put this into action was during the Amazon fire viral storm during which I researched and published what I would actually do to help. In that post, I single out three methods / mediums with which to vote:
- Vote with your time
- Vote with your effort
- Vote with your resources
In that post, I decided to:
- create systems to eat less meat and, when I do eat meat, to opt for better kinds (effort, resources)
- take shorter showers (effort)
- give to organizations that are fighting climate change (resources)
After that, I decided to list some things I cared about but that I wasn't currently doing anything to support (read: look for opportunities) cause I believe that, in many cases, if you aren't helping you're hurting. A short list (based on things I'm currently working towards):
- Freedom of expression / open, accurate information - NYT subscription (resources)
- Climate change - 350.org recurring donation (resources), eating less meat (effort, resources), recycling more / better (effort), taking shorter showers (effort)
- Arts - membership to MoMA (resources), buying art directly from artists I love (resources)
- open and accessible technology for the masses - primary use of Linux OSes (time, effort)
I don't think that any of these changes are enough to solve for the problems in their respective domains but I do think that they're far better than doing nothing and create a foundation from which to further modify and add to those votes in the future. With any luck, others will make similar moves to work towards what they believe in and together we'll make real change. #optimism
Eating less meat
One of the most noticeable changes I've made to my daily cycles is cutting down on the amount of meat I'm eating and being choosier about which meat I eat when I do. I'd considered implementing something similar for about a year now but finally took the plunge after the viral Amazon fire crisis surfaced in my activity feed and my own research revealed food choices to be both a practical and efficient response.
So far, the journey's been smooth and I've actually found myself trying a lot more new foods / establishments as a result of the new system which is in line with my value of habitual adventure / exploration. I do think my being in NYC has helped a lot in the transition / implementation - in Manhattan, we likely have at least one vegan place every 2 blocks - but also think that these moves were slight enough and made incremental enough to be replicated successfully in many other situations.
My current eat-less-meat schedule:
- Monday - vegetarian (eggs okay)
- Tuesday - Beef / lamb - less weekdays
- Wednesday - Beef / lamb - less weekdays
- Thursday - Beef / lamb - less weekdays
- Friday - Fish-only Fridays (i.e. only fish as a meat but can eat non meats, eggs okay)
- Sat - Anything
- Sun - Anything
I did a slow rollout of these rules, one at a time, to see if I liked each and to adjust to better fit my schedule. For instance, I first had beef/lamb-less weekends but realized that I'd cover more days and not restrict my options so much when I usually go to restaurants by moving to weekdays. Similarly, I had my fish-only day on Thursday but FB throws a happy-hour every Thursday and the menu options are usually a lot more limited which made sticking to fish harder if I also wanted to enjoy the food benefit. Of course, some of these decisions do make my new schedule less effective wrt the goal of reducing my global impact, but they fit my lifestyle more and I'd rather do small incremental changes that I can stick with for a long time than large changes that I toss within a timespan of weeks / months (read: a pill I can swallow).
People have criticized these rules saying that I'm probably eating the same amount of meat, just moving it to other days. While I do think that's a valid risk, I believe a little bit of mindfulness and self-discipline is sufficient to thwart it. Just remember what you're trying to do and why and take actions that best support it. Mindfulness and intent can go a long way.
Based on my calculations, I'm now eating 15% less meat on average, which, theoretically, translates into 13% planetary resource savings and 18% carbon consumption savings wrt my food consumption.
You can find the calculations here
As an added bonus, apparently most Americans eat too much meat for their health and eating veggies is good for you! So maybe I'll live a little longer and gain abs of steel. Will report back if/when I get an eight pack.
I don't have anything here that directly supports me but, as all things are connected, I think helping yourself / the world is still a net positive for me. Some things to consider:
- Try 3/5/10 minute meditation every now and then - I use Headspace most days and would highly recommend
- Consider eating less meat, even if that just means removing it from one meal / day each week
- Consider giving $10 / month to an org that supports something you care about - that's like 1 beer in NY and if you can't give up a beer for something you care about then I guess you really like beer
Well that's all I've got for you and I'm pushing my soft 20-minute read limit on this post so I'll wrap up.
If you have some extra time / effort lying around, I've listed ways you can support my endeavors in each focus:
- support my #projects
- support (and join in on) my #adventure
- help me make the world a little better for my (and your) #self
- for work, I guess just keep using Insta?
As a cross focus between #adventure and #projects I'm looking to build things connectively (read: collab), so if you're interested HMU.
Live long and prosper,