2021

After mentioning in my last birthday reflection how I wanted to avoid doing an end-of-year recap, I've decided to do an end-of-year recap… Ever since reading the Pinboard anniversary posts, I felt the urge to make one—the charts and odd commentary, uh, inspire me. So this will be less personal and more fiscal—a mix of reflection, stats, link roundup, and (of course) music.


The biggest question of the year for me (asked by friends, strangers, internet acquaintances, parents, my therapist, the occasional bird, and myself) is: "How do I plan to make all this sustainable?" This hit me like a small pebble at least once every few weeks and my best answer was always "I'll do whatever I can to last a year or two and everything will work out after that…"—it makes sense to me (even now), but leaves many others raising one of their eyebrows. It's hard to see, I get it: I too questioned things, especially during periods of fatigue from doing too much… I wondered towards the end of the year about what energized me versus what didn't, and came to the conclusion that the work of recurring events needs to go for now.

The idea was an imitation of various individuals and organizations who create continuity through group meetups. Although the reasons for doing them align with my motivations and objectives, it would make more sense if I had fewer projects or if other people did most of the organizing. Even though it isn't that much on a day-to-day basis, the psychological load impedes me from concentrating on other things and I end up being able to handle only smaller tasks for most of the month, not advancing on my main projects. This was probably amplified because I was doing not one, but generally three events per month, but I think even with a single date, I would rather not deal with the before and after of making it happen. Also draining is the feeling that experiences don't accrete: the lack of recordings (often for good reason) leaves no collective artifact to share afterwards, which means I'm less present during the event as I frantically take notes to avoid letting everything 'slip away'—it's important for me to 'have something to show after', and I don't think written notes capture the experience well enough, so I might exclusively do recorded events from now unless it's mostly social in nature. I imagine focusing more on my upcoming podcast project, which could solve all these issues by 1) requiring less planning or promotion, 2) being recorded, and 3) compounding more easily over time.

A useful question that helped me find clarity is "How does it help you to continue producing for another year?" I would typically be satisfied with intrinsic motivations and the fulfillment of creating, but it ultimately isn't sustainable without what one might call 'material conditions for existence'. Perhaps now is a good time to look at stats and talk about money:

source 2020 2021
twitter 113 339
mastodon 87 207
github 7 46
visitors ? ~19868 (½ year)
mailing list 110 167
ephemerata 116
backers 0 13
fund button 1 5
note the sound $1,385
ios apps $4,012 $3,098
fund button $87 $134
open collective ~$750
café members 17
screencasts 15
public garden pages ~40 155
events organized 15

I've been re-imagining my income situation since the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out note the sound in the first quarter of 2020; it used to be 60–70% of my income and will likely not return for the foreseeable future (but hopefully, maybe someday). I also decided to stop making iOS apps and lower prices or make them free, which reduced and eliminated the other 30–40%. In 2021, I experimented with in-app payments via my fund button and direct patronage from financial backers, describing tradeoffs of each in Platform puzzle pieces for sustainable community. The amounts that came in so far are too small to sustain me in most places, but I think it's a useful start and with some changes (see [[Why the fund button is slow (TBA)]]), I think I can dramatically improve the result.

On the bright side, everything else is growing! See Measure progress for more commentary on the other figures or 100 steps to success for these eighteen experiments from 2021:

  1. Create icons for feature lists
  2. Use bolder design for landing pages
  3. Set an example for how to use a new medium
  4. Help friends to get started
  5. Create tutorials to demonstrate how things work
  6. House everything in the commons
  7. Centralize project discussion and community
  8. Start a weekly thing
  9. Create original content on a regular basis
  10. Offer calls to action across projects
  11. Differentiate unrelated elements with contrast
  12. Announce the latest thing across projects
  13. Overview the universe
  14. Host events
  15. Measure progress
  16. Broadcast the exit
  17. Collaborate with others
  18. Try everything

I don't have any doubts about all this becoming sustainable, especially with long-term persistence and constant learning. Doing anything worthwhile takes time, and I'm opting to use my current flexibility (year of savings/runway) to organize things in a way that gives me maximum leverage over my future—I hope that next year it will be easier to see why.


Below are my most popular texts from this year.

(Apparently I wrote over 12,000 words when you count the other long-form ones, which is not quite a novella but comfortably a novelette)


It should come as no surprise that the albums I've most listened to are from Brazil.

  • Paulo César Pinheiro: Capoeira de Besouro (2010)
  • João Donato: Quem É Quem (1973)
  • Cristina Buarque e Samba de Fato: O Samba Informal de Mauro Duarte - Volume 1 (2008)
  • Joyce: Revendo Amigos (1994)
  • Pedro Martins: VOX (2019)
Playlist via Joybox

Last but not least, shout out to Brian Ginsburg, Elisa Guimarães, Lawrie, an anonymous donor, miguel francisco, Andy Matuschak, Reef Loretto, Feathers Cloud, Charles E. Lehner, Deta, Sasquatch in Orange Shoes, and Boris Mann for becoming backers in 2021. You're all pioneers ❤️💫.

Thanks to everyone using my apps, reading my words, sharing my projects, and contributing in innumerable other ways. I'm looking forward to see what the future holds and hope you'll join me there.


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