This year has marked the beginning of a shift in my approach: from doing virtually everything solo towards more collectivity and collaboration; the transition has barely begun and is still quite slow as I rewire myself to avoid what has become natural and automatic after over a decade's practice. I have been thinking and learning about community for longer, but started taking concrete steps around May 9th with the creation of a forum and this newsletter, places with potential to become larger than me.
An important part of this shift has been to bring people together in the form of events, so I looked around me to see where I could contribute. remoteStorage is one of the primary technologies I use in my apps, so I began hosting monthly hangouts. Zero Data seems to be flying away from my nest and turning into a community project, so I started to facilitate some swap meets. I also enjoy getting to know Interintellect, which is a community of people that come together in self-organized group conversations (salons) about eclectic topics, and so I have strived to regularly host my own salons.
Although I have some prior experience with running events, I somehow didn't anticipate how overwhelmed and fatigued I would eventually feel by doing so many of these. I remember thinking to myself: "it's just conversations about stuff I'm immersed in, all I have to do is show up and do my thing, no big deal." To give a sense of the work, from before to after: pre-event involves coordination with others, documenting and framing with text that others can understand, letting interested people know, making announcements at specific times before the event, calming any mental anguish about zero people possibly attending; the event itself involves mentally preparing and blocking out time in the day, being present and ideally taking notes on the conversation, remembering to hit the record button if that's a thing, hopefully add something insightful to the discussion; post-event involves thanking and outreach, summarizing the notes, editing the recording, publishing in multiple relevant places and sharing that. What I thought of as one hour of spontaneous conversation implies about two days of preparation and two days of recapitulation, and as this happens about three times a month, it feels like three out of four weeks in each month are write-offs, with time and energy only for random unrelated things that need to get done and not much for making apps or advancing on projects.
In reflecting on how to remedy this imbalance, I think it makes sense (for now) to just keep doing the events. One form of stress comes from always feeling like I'm 'supposed' to be doing my 'real work' on projects, which went from receiving 'All Available Daylight Hours' to 'Not Even One Iota' for consecutive weeks—as someone used to having freedom over how I spend my time, this was hard to grapple with. But I thought recently: maybe it's fine for my 'primary commitment' of app-making to be supplanted by something else for a while. Maybe this makes getting other people involved an imperative to progress. After years of working so hard on the same thing, perhaps it would be good to do something different for a while.
A friend rightly reminded me how new this is: a couple of months ago I wanted to be more social and collective, and now I'm putting it into action; it's worth taking time to acknowledge this progress, maybe even celebrate. I've certainly been enjoying meeting new people and creating spaces where new things can be said. The skills and experience are both useful, but I'd still prefer to delegate so much more, so please reach out if you'd like to get involved in any of this: I could use a hand.
P.S. Mad respect to @boris for trying to do this kind of thing weekly with Fission Tech Talks.
Originally published in Ephemerata #018.