Release notes: November 2020
See all reflections.
This month I've continued to think a lot about who I want to be and what I want to do. Like last month, that 'identity' is summarized with the intro 'I am a creative technologist x entrepreneur'. At a high level this encapsulates three areas where I want to play - art, technology, and business - and serves as a lens for directing these efforts.
November has largely been a month of shifting gears towards this identity. I've spent a lot of time wrapping up my ongoing efforts, making new plans for this identity, and creating new efforts out of it.
My name is Hamilton and these are my November 2020 release notes.
This new identity has created widespread changes in my projects focus. I've been thinking about new directions for my art, taken a renewed focus on solving real problems for real people, and created new systems to push these efforts forward.
Moving Through Time
The biggest (and only?) major release this month was my visual collab with Griffin Hanekamp and Steve Is Space for their track Moving Through Time. I built a custom visualization engine - C10ud - which simulates Gray-Scott Reaction Diffusion in sync with audio.
Watch it on YouTube:
I had originally planned on releasing it in Q3 along with the cover art I created but timelines slipped and here it is almost 3 months later.
This effort showed me a lot of things about my creative process, collaboration style, technical knowledge, and core values - to name a few.
On technology - It took me nearly 2 weeks to code the initial version and it took my machine over 300 hours to encode the video itself. This showed me that I was likely using the wrong tools for the job and that one-off creations like this would only be sustainable if I could devote at least a whole month to them. Moreover, this level of effort would need to provide a corresponding level of value to be worth it - in the form of new tools, skills, time, money, etc.
On creative process and collaboration style - When it comes to my creative process I like starting from a very solid theme / idea but then playing around with it to the point where it often looks very different from the initial idea. This is fine for me but often has problems when done in a collaborative environment. In a collaboration, the expected outcomes are reached as a group so coming back with a final result that is largely different than the expectations will lead to a large variance of receptions. I think this is a good thing to learn about and that it's healthy to not always build in a corner but I've taken on 3 collaborations this half and only one was completed on time and within expectations so something needs to change.
Finally on core values - I've thought a lot about why it took me so long to build this. Besides the technical complexity and poor tool choices, I think a large part of it was that I just didn't value it as much as some of my other projects. I don't think this was due to the nature of the project - I really like building audio visualizations - but I think it was due to how I was going about it. I made poor technical decisions which increased friction and the direction I was going in didn't feel like it matched the brand and identity I wanted to build. This lowered my satisfaction and motivation and I think is a major factor in slipping timelines.
All of this, in conjunction with my ongoing systems refactors, has prompted me to reflect on my art and what I want it to be.
Shifting art focus
My art projects this year, and most recently Moving Through Time, showed me that I care deeply about the technologies I'm using, the creative liberty I express, and the feel / aesthetics / lens / brand / identity / quality of my creations.
Building a visualizer isn't enough. It needs to be a good visualizer, a Ham visualizer.
I'm shifting my art mission, goals, and lens to better fit my values and shifting understanding of who I am and what I want to be.
I'm dealing with my value problems by solidifying my missions, lens, and goaling metrics around my core values. This will help me make better choices about the projects I pick up and take approaches to these projects that align with my values.
Mission: Build monoliths featuring new perspectives on the past, present, and future of the world.
Lens: Monoliths, technology, and society.
- Craft (The tools and practices of creation)
- Beauty + elegance
The mission is a slight revision to the one I released in October. The main updates are that it now features monoliths and adds goaling metrics for the craft, quality, and beauty / elegance of the artifact - units of measure that I think have been missing in my practice.
Monoliths are something I've been interested in creating for a very long time and was reminded of it in my recent trip to Storm King. I even called this out at the end of H1 after creating my first monolith coronation.
My current idea of a monolith is that it's an artifact that lives both as art and outside of it - in a point of time but also independent of time. It's a bit vague as I'm still trying to fully understand this myself and because I want this to serve simulatenously as lens, direction, and destination. I think it'll all become clearer in the coming months as I begin releasing them.
Creative Process and Collaboration
As I've mentioned numerous times, I think that collaboration is a great way to learn, challenge yourself, and build connections. That being said, I've had problems successfully completing them. Right now I think failed collaborations are worse than not collaborating at all. As such, I'm going to limit myself to 1 collaboration a half, rely heavily on my values to choose which opportunities are most promising, and on my systems to increase probability of success.
I'm not where I want to be wrt my creative technology. Building things takes too much time, the software I'm writing isn't meeting my standards for myself, it's often not generalizable to other use cases, and my tooling / approach is pigeonholing me into suboptimal creations. All of this means that I'm taking a lot of time to build things, I'm not increasing my skills or repository of tools over time, and I feel constrained by the technologies I'm using.
To tackle this I'm doing several things.
- Moving to 3D
- Building in Unity and ThreeJS
- Focusing on software craft
Together I think these changes will give me more flexibility, control, and generalizability over time.
This half I had a goal of validating 12 business ideas and launching 6. As of today, I've validated 1 and launched 0. My progress towards this goal was so bad that I even considered reducing it to 6 and 3. But as I've been thinking about my values I've decided that this is still a really good goal to have and system to tend to. Over time, and if executed fully, I think it has a high probability of success.
Over the last few years I've built a lot of audio reactive visualizations. I've collabed with several artists to compliment their music and now am validating whether more people would like some of these visualizations themselves.
I'm starting on Fiverr to get things up and running quickly. If there's interest I'll consider moving elsewhere.
If you're interested in a visualization for your audio, let me know!
Launching a business
Facebook gave us the week of Thanksgiving off and since I wasn't traveling due to COVID, I decided to build a business. I was hoping to finish it last week but this is the first web app I've really built and hosted in quite awhile and, well, I'm just kind of slow at it.
I'm hoping to do a soft launch this week so if you're interested in learning more about it connect with me on my socials for updates.
Shares are what I call any content that I share externally. So this post is one for instance.
This half I've grappled with what value shares bring to me and how much effort I want to expend on them. I've written reflections ~monthly for the past several years. These have an implicit value to me as they help me document my life and better understand and think about myself.
But when it comes to sharing about my efforts I've struggled to balance the sharing with the building. Value-wise I hold building > sharing but effort-wise the scales don't often reflect that.
In the end sharing isn't doing, only doing is doing. So I'm changing how I share to reflect that. Each share will now be complimentary to an effort and only rarely vice versa when the value proposition makes sense.
- More shares will be about ongoing efforts
- Reviews will now link to independent Project Reviews hosted on HAMY.LABS vs hosting them directly
- I'll be sharing more on Twitter to give more legs to my projects
- I'll be producing less videos for my YouTube channel, focusing on the cases where a video share is valuable enough to be worth the effort. I'll only create Release Notes videos for Reviews.
As I've mentioned throughout this release note, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on my systems. Much of these changes are a direct result of reflections I've done while reading Atomic Habits.
At the core of these changes is a belief that systems help me better understand myself and the world around me, make me a more effective human, and that good systems will pay dividends over time. In other words, good systems lead to good outcomes and I should invest further in them.
As a result I've created and refactored many, many systems. Here I'll dive into a few changes.
Systems of Ham
Pushing Projects forward
As I mentioned in my projects section, I'm taking a renewed focus on building businesses and regoaling on 12 business validations and 6 business launches / half. This is a lot of work and something I haven't been able to accomplish in the past.
Thus if I want different outcomes this time I need to change my systems to reflect that.
I've added two new daily habits to ensure that I'm always pushing towards this goal.
- Ideate and opportunity size 1 new business idea
- Build 1 feature in a creative technology / business effort
Together this system should ensure I have an ample backlog of projects to take on and that I'm constantly pushing these projects to launch.
Over the past month I've bought a lot of things - new clothes, a new computer, a new tablet. I'm constantly trying to be vigilant of new negative behaviors in case they turn into habits. In this case my worry is hedonic adaptation and is something I've historically solved with rigorous budgeting.
A similar behavior I've noticed crop up over the past month is the amount of content I'm consuming. Over my week off, I binged The Queen's Gambit and played video games for over 15 hours. I have nothing against a good tv show or video game but together they represent over 20 hours that could've been used for something more valuable to me - hanging with friends, exploring the city, building projects.
I've had a hard time curbing this habit of high levels of content consumption so I'm creating a system to try and combat it. That system is to limit my content consumption to:
- 1 hour / weekday
- 2 hours / weekend
This content consumption includes tv, movies, video games, social media, and some types of reading. The specifics will differ from situation to situation - like watching a movie with friends is probably exempt but reading a 30 minute popular science article likely wouldn't be. The idea is to start constructing a system to ensure that I'm spending more of my efforts on things I value and less on things I don't - like my idea of minimalism.
I'm relying on myself to enforce this but am using several tools for time tracking:
- Toggl - to track how I'm spending my time from an effort standpoint
- RescueTime - to track what I'm spending my time doing from a program / website standpoint
Will report back with findings.
There were too many changes to my systems this month for me to fit into this post. Instead I'm starting a system of reflection and sharing on one system each month. This will be a deep dive into a particular system to allow me to analyze the effectiveness of the system and to share out my systems over time.
The first system I'll share about is my System of Reflection which is fittingly written about in my first weekly journal - a new output of this system.
I've started donating to Ubuntu (and Canonical) each month. Ubuntu is my primary operating system both for my personal computers and my cloud servers. It's an OS that is performant, powerful, and free for all.
I'm supporting it under the cause of
Not much to share here other than we traveled around the area a bit and went to a few restaurants.
Felt really good to take a week off work though I ended up keeping to a very similar schedule. I think this is because my work week is almost ideal wrt hours and effort allocation.
I have 1 month left to finish all of my projects so I'm narrowing down what I'm working on to ensure I ship as much stuff as I can. In parallel, I'm working on half goaling for 2021 H1. This process has both influenced and been influenced by my personal half goaling and I'm excited to see what the future holds.
Thanks for reading! I'll be spending the majority of December working on my yearly Review and planning for 2021 H1.
Spreading systems of gratitude,