Scrawl is a new project where I try and write my notes quickly, without much editing. Eventually I hope a lot of this will feed into more polished writing elsewhere. I've been thinking about doing this for a while. Lately, I've been excited about some of the work I've been doing with Constraint Systems
and some of the connections I'm making between ideas in my head, but I want to do a better job of exploring some of those ideas with other people. And I'm pretty sure that means writing.
I have some other places for writing, but for a while I've been playing with the idea of a site where the stated purpose is unpolished notes. It's an opportunity to try out some of the constraint design concepts I've been thinking about. The basic idea is that by providing a constrained tool, you free people to express themselves more because you can't distract yourself with formatting decisions. This is closely connected with an idea of staying in flow.
So for this site the posts are run off text files. There's no headings, and there's basically just paragraphs (it actually uses the 'pre-wrap' whitespace setting to preserve the formatting from the text file, which leaves open some opportunities for stuff like formatting a basic text list). There are no images. I can put in links using markdown syntax. I want to write basically stream-of-consciousness and see how things develop. Files are titled according to the date and "hour quarter", where the day is split up into 96 (24 * 4) hour quarters: as shown here
Hopefully, this serves as a sort of companion to my feed
. I think my feed has weirdly been one of my most successful product designs, and that is almost all down to constraints. Specifically, how the constraints make it easier and clear for me to post. One screenshot (or GIF) plus text. A few times I added the ability to do video or quote, but those options are mostly unused now. The goal above all was just to do something where I post. The syndication to Twitter and Mastodon have also been helpful for getting feedback from others. I should probably set up a similar system here. Anyway, I think one of the main things lacking in feed has been context. It's fun to post little cryptic messages, and not needing to explain the background of everything has certainly made it easier to post, but I do want to do more writing and thinking through of my ideas. So now there is scrawl, which is a kind of variation on feed.
All of this stuff is exploratory and provisional. One thing I am pretty sure of, though, is that making different parts as new, separate projects, that live in their own repo and then get a fun subdomain is a great way to do side projects. It hits the right spot for me of forcing me to get it into a releasable state but not a perfectly polished, final state. This is one thing, it's here, I might do a different version but it will be something else, not an update to this one. There is a definite influence there from the idea of immutability in programming and stuff like immutable deploys in Zeit's Now. One of the things I definitely want to write about here is how programming concepts are influencing how I think about design and just process in general.