Overdue Update

I went through a few days ago to collect all of the updates and work that I'd done since the last time I did one of these posts. Sometimes just looking through an activity log is all you need to remember that you're actually doing something. Here's what I've been working on:

The coolest part about this is that some of you have helped to build a page of ssh tricks on the wiki that go above and beyond the little tricks that I use.

And finally,I 'd like to welcome Kevin Grande, who made a new folk page recently. I'm also very sorry that I haven't been updating more frequently. I started a new job on September 26, and between that and my usual gallivanting around for singing and dancing my blogging habit has. One the other hand I'm writing about 1200 words a day, and life is pretty good so no complaints there.

Onward and Upward!

Update Rhythm

I wonder if, at some point, this constant state of overload and flux in my world will begin to seem normal and I'll just adjust to that normal. In the mean time, exciting things are happening and I'm not quite sure of the best way to write about them. Perhaps soon. For now, I'm trying to get better about updating more regularly and I have a bunch of links of stuff that have happened on the wiki in the past couple of weeks that I'd like to share. Here we go:

Discussion of Rhizomes

jfm and I had a good exchange about an old post, /posts/ideology-and-systems-administration. Basically the posts says, "systems administrators have a unique approach to solving technological problems," and discussed the implications of systems administrators background on technology development. I think our clarifications were useful.

There are a couple of comments on my recent series on a productivity. First, I wrote a post about task planning and creating task items, and Matt posted a comment. Second, a number of us had an ongoing conversation on mobile productivity in response to the "Mobile Productivity Challenges" post that touched on emacs (of course!) input, and context switching.

Site Tweaks

This is a pretty minor point, but I've been subtly tweaking the design a little in the site. There are now links to the tags page and the site map in the upper right hand corner. I've also made links to as-of-yet-uncreated wiki pages red (according to wiki-convention.) I think (and hope) that red links are easier to spot when they're red. Feedback on the design would be most welcome. My goal is to make the site welcoming, easy to use, and to minimize the amount of "fussiness." It might be time for a full refresh, but feedback on the subject might be good.

Critical Futures and Wiki Fiction

Eventually the story will move to the Critical Futures domain, but that's a bit down the road. Right now I'd rather focus my time/energy on writing some stories, for now (on this wiki.) Infrastructure can come next.

I hope to work on a series of posts that explore collaborative fiction organizing over the next few weeks. If people are interested, that is.

Links, Reviews, and Updates

While this week flew by in many respects and I only got a couple of posts out, there is much change and progress afoot. This post is an attempt to catalog some of the work I (and others) have been doing that hasn't made it onto the blog:

  • Discussion of the "Better Task List" post by jfm`. Including spoilers for posts that I hope to have ready next week.

  • Further discussion of the make emacs better post. I'm thinking that it's probably nearly time to split that into a few pages. There's a lot of great content there and people have added a lot. I'm a huge fan.

  • Not a link, except to say that I did some fairly substantial tweaks of the site's design, which is probably only worth mentioning because I suspect most people read the site on RSS. Different fonts in the headers, and I rearranged the masthead to be a little more clean, and changed the links a bit.

  • I'm in the slow process of cleaning up the Cyborg Institute site which I've neglected for far too long. I'm importing a lot of the content that I wrote over there, notably sygn and tubmle-manager. Next up, some straggling blog posts, and a clean up of the existing content to match my current projects and work.

  • The knitting posts, which is collected separately from rhizome posts is in full swing, and I hope to be able to post a few things there every now and then.

  • There's now a real tag index and a tag cloud that looks like something. I'd avoided putting together a page like this for some time, because there were a lot of junk tags and enough really big tags that the cloud didn't really work. I've mostly cleaned that up, leaving the wiki with a rather awesome tag cloud

    I've also found a few things on the web that I think you might enjoy on the web:

  • A new blog called observatory. I've been talking to the author a bit. I realized that there aren't very many blogs that are so verbose. I suppose ByteBaker is another example, but there aren't many of them around.

  • undo-tree-mode is a nifty little emacs hack that makes undoing and redoing much less complicated and weird. (From that make emacs better discussion.) Though I have to admit that I no longer have a problem with the default behavior, even if I know it's a bit counter intuitive.

  • I've been reading Strange Horizons more than I have in the past, thanks mostly to instapaer and InstaFetch for Android. I was particularly found of Genevieve Valentine's column/review of a glorious mess of a movie trope.

That's all I have for this week.

Comments Undo-tree also allows for undoing based on time (see here), apparently a feature that vim has.

Long Live the Tycho Wiki

I realized that I made a lot of changes to the way my websites were arranged and worked recently, and I thought that it would be good to write a few about the hottest new thing, and my rationale for messing everything up. Again.

Basically, I took the CriticalFutures.com site, and turned it into the posts section here, moving a bunch of content back to tychoish.com that used to be here. This time, everything is powered by ikiwiki, and while I callously dropped all comments [1], I think the move is one of general and overall improvement.

At the same time, I think there are challenges. Rather than comment pages, there's now a "discourse" link at the top left of the pages, which lets you sign in and create a new page for discussion related to the page you're currently viewing. I liked the name "discourse" rather than "discussion," but I fear there may be some confusion. I can change it over back without much issue, if any one feels strongly.

Mostly, it's still the same blog that it's always been, and I'm having fun with it. The essay/rhizome divide may turn out to be tenuous in the long term, and it might disappear, but for now it makes sense. I've not been doing as many wiki-based things, though I have worked on a queer theories page, and the technical writing section is something that I'm pleased with. Wikis are much more difficult to use and produce than one would initially guess. The concept is simple, the software is simple, and the work is remarkably time consuming and difficult to do right. And then there's the problem of contributors.

I don't know how it's going to sort out, but I look forward to hearing from you, and making stuff on this domain.

[1]Which totally sucks, but I had already given into using disqus, the migration would be really difficult, and the truth be told, I'd much rather participate in discussions that involved the creation of new wiki pages, and that involved invitations to email lists, and direct emails contact over IRC or IM. Maybe this is more fragmented, and maybe I'm shooting nascent conversation in the foot before it has a chance to get off the ground, but I think "conversation at any cost," is not the best model for a community.

It's A Great Time To Be Alive

... when you're a tycho.

I've not been blogging very much. There were even two weeks where I totally forgot to post anything to the blog. I'm not sure if there's been a hiatus of that length at any other point in the last three years. Strange, but not bad. I've been writing--not as much as I'd like, but enough--but nothing has really managed to filter through to the blog. Seems, then, like a good time for a general "what the hell have you been up to and what are you working on post?"

I've been plugging away on the novel project for a while I'm in the home stretch: two and a half chapters to write. I know I can write a chapter in a couple of weeks if I put my mind to it, and have a good weekend day to do nothing other than sit around and write. I've discovered some things about the story that have made it much easier and clear for me to write. A character that I thought was the main is a horrible point-of-view character, I have a more clear idea of what I've been trying to get after the entire story, I've started to really like the project again. The problem now, is just finding time to finish it.

I moved nearly two months ago: it was a good thing indeed. I'm closer to friends and activities that I find fulfilling. Although I'm not in the heart of my city, I have a train pass and am a block away from a train station that will get me into the city pretty much whenever I want. Train passes are a fantastic innovation, and my only real complaint (on this note) is that for varied historical reasons Tran service in America is woefully pathetic. But it's great to be in a place where public transit is a viable option for most commuting.

I've recently started dating someone, which is a terribly atypical experience for me given how independent and quirky I am in "default mode." Nifty though, and utterly unintended: but there's something delightful about the whole deal. Who am I to argue?

And by "recently started" I mean almost three months ago. Right.

I got a new phone. After a long time with a Blackberry Bold, I took an upgrade and got the new Blackberry Torch. I had been strongly pondering an Android phone, but the one I wanted most (HTC EVO) is on a network that I'd like to avoid, and the other offerings seem lackluster. Blackberries have never (rarely?) been exciting, but they have worked, and there are some features that make sense to me (massively configurable ring/tone behavior, central messages feed that all applications can create entries in.) Having said that, I'm not wild about being on a closed platform, though I think we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that from the user's perspective that Android is an open platform.

With a web browser that is basically mobile Safari, and applications to do the major things I need to do (IM, email, calendar, GPS, web browsing, address book, twitter, alarm clock, ebook reading, emergency ssh,) and a device that is build wonderfully, I couldn't be happier. I wish there was a better solution for writing/note taking/outlining for the Blackberry, but these things happen.

It's probably a symptom of the commute as much as anything but I've had a hard time figuring out how to write on the train. I did ok for a while, and then I've had a horrible time with it for the past few weeks. The new plan is to do a little reboot of my organizational system and to switch back to using the laptop as my only computer.

The first part, the organizational reboot, is important because I'm not used to thinking about my available time as existing in the "shape" that it currently exists. If I've learned one thin in the past couple of years, its that staying organized and on top of ones personal project is almost entirely dependent upon being able to successfully break apart big projects into "doable" pieces that you can tackle in the time you have. That sounds easy, but it's pretty hard to know what your project will require and what your near-future is going to hold enough to be able to get everything to line up. Sometimes it requires little reboots.

The second, much more technological remedy, is mostly that while the separation between my work system (and tasks) and my personal system (and tasks) has been nice, in practice it doesn't work that well. The context switch between the train and the office is too hard, and not being able to just unplug and shut down, means that the start up/shut down costs for the context switches are simply too high and I'm the one who feels the impact. So re-merging my systems seems to be the way to win this game, at least for the moment.

I think I'm going to ultimately invest in a hot spare laptop that's mostly identical to my current laptop to reduce some of the anxiety regarding the "what happens if my machine croaks," worry. Which is always a fear.

Knowing Mars, a Novella

I don't know about this. But here it goes, anyway.

I'm pleased to announce the complete publication of my novella "`Knowing Mars <http://tychogaren.com/mars/>`_" on `tychogaren.com <http://tychogaren.com/>`_.

"Knowing Mars" is an important story for me. I wrote it after I graduated from college, after I didn't go to graduate school the first time, and in a lot of ways it was the project that got me started down the path of being a "real writer," post-graduation. I'd written fiction before college, and mostly avoided writing fiction in college, and then right as I was finishing college I started writing stories again. It was strange for a while, but it was delightful to be able to tell stories and be so much better at it than I was the first time.

I find that this is fundamentally a recurring issue. When I started writing "Knowing Mars," I felt like I was starting out light years ahead of what I had written four or five years before. Now, I feel like the stuff I'm working on now is light years ahead of "Knowing Mars." This is probably an encouraging sign.

I suppose you'd like to know a bit more about the story. I'll leave most of the details to the reading, but basically it's a sort of superhero/cyberpunk story that explores themes related to diaspora, political organization, historical narrative, and gender. I don't know if I've ever described it as such before.

The story is available in multiple formats. Each chapter is available in full HTML as part of tychogaren.com and in a plan Markdown formatted plain text. Furthermore the complete text of the novella is available in both of these formats, and a simple un-styled HTML version that should be ideal for conversion to various electronic reading platforms. If you want to read the novella but would find another format easier to process, talk to me about it and I'll get something pulled together for you.

All "full html" versions of the text have comments enabled using the same system as the blog. I look forward to your comments. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more fiction.

Onward and Upward!

Wikish and the Personal Public Wiki

First, an announcement. I've started a tychoish.com wiki. I'm calling it, appropriately enough "wikish." You can see a brief introduction and note about my intentions there.

I've written a bunch here about the peculiarities of building communities and practices around "the wiki," as I think it represents a new paradigm for thinking about collaboration and "the text." I'm, slowly, working on building a community around the cyborg institute wiki, and that's an ongoing (and fairly specific) project. I've also, in much smaller ways, done things with wikis in a couple of other situations: for some group projects I've been involved with, a few things for work, and so forth. Perhaps more relevantly, I also used a wiki--much like this one and the others I am responsible for--as the system I used for storing everything in my brain. From these experiences I've come to the following conclusion:

  • In any given wiki, most of the "work," particular at the beginning, is accomplished by a very small number of contributors. Potentially only one contributor.

    Critical mass is a difficult thing to manage or predict, and if you start a wiki and you want it to succeed, you have to be ready to do all of the work of getting it to critical mass, which could take a long time. Fair warning.

  • Wikis are incredibly unstructured. It's easy to impose structure on a new wiki, in cases where structure will actually hinder growth and development rather than promote development. Particularly if the kind of content you hope to develop is wiki like. For personal organization tasks, wikis are often not the right answer, even if they appear to work for a long time.

  • Creating a page in a wiki is often better and more effective than writing an email of some length (say, more than 250 words), particularly when more than two people are involved in the correspondence.

  • I need another wiki like I need a hole in the head. But, I like that wikish is both public--you all can watch and contribute to what I'm working on--and focused on what I'm working on. The personal wiki, the one that was just for internal use suffered from lack of audience even an imagined audience.

  • I think putting the novella that I wrote in late 2007 into a wiki and working on revisions and tweaks in that context makes a great deal of sense, and I think wikish feels like the "right place" to put that work.

So that's the plan. I'll probably post from time to time about new things that I'm posting there, and I'm perfectly happy to have you all make pages in wikish as you want. I've also decided, that wikish will require OpenIDs as the only means of authentication. Just cause. See you there!

Another One Already

Alternate titles for this post include, "Depending on When You Start Counting," and "Happy New Year."

I must confess that I don't do holiday's very well. It's not that I'm a huge curmudgeon (though I probably am) or that I don't like celebrations (though I don't much.) More, I think it's that I'm mostly a homebody, and given the option, will in most cases, choose to spend any given evening at home writing and hanging out with the cats. Furthermore, I'm generally of the opinion that formal excuses are not needed for spending time with your friends and family. Nevertheless there is a certain sort of cultural momentum around holidays like New Years, and its hard to avoid them entirely.

For many years, my annual cycle has largely been on the academic calendar. Indeed for a few years after I graduated formally, I still took a few classes, and was wrapped up in applying for graduate school and enough of my friends were still in school that I seemed to stay on the academic year. This year with, I noted the beginning of the academic year, mostly because for the first time, really the first time in a long time I wasn't in school, I wasn't trying to be in school, and that wasn't a bad thing. I still have a lot of academic habits: the impulse to review and summarize my work about every four months, the way I stricture and organize my work is very reminiscent of a sort of academic way of looking at things. Shrug.

But it's a new year, depending on when you start counting, and given what a ride 2009 was, it seems like a bit of reflection is in order. The most significant thing was the fact that I took a job half way across the country and moved in late June. This has lead to a number of interesting developments: I met a number of people in "real life" who had previously been on-line friends, I've learned a lot about my skills and abilities and myself as a writer, I've developed a circle of friends that delight me.

This isn't to say that it was a stellar year. I spent six months not working (really,) and a lot of time unsure about what I was going to do for work, let alone "my career," all my friends were in graduate school and most of them weren't anywhere near where I was, and so forth.

But I kept, hacking away at various projects, kept thinking and writing about new things, and did my best to seize opportunities when they arose. And somehow it all worked out. In retrospect it's all very weird, to think how monumental this year has been, and the ways that I've really pushed myself to do things that don't seem very "me" like. In the end I'm pleased with where I am and where I've come.

But perhaps, more significantly, I'm excited to what the next year holds.

As it should be, I suppose. I hope you all are doing well in this regard and I look forward to talking with you throughout the year to come.