perry is a co-worker of mine. he’s in his twenties, and makes a living doing cafe maintenance. i asked him what he does for fun and he told me, “well, i’m building a boat.”
perry laughed. “you can pretty much learn anything on the internet these days. sure, if i was formally trained i could probably do a better job and make less mistakes. but you can learn a lot of the basics on youtube.”
next, i talked to nelson, a friend who likes to talk about philosophy. “i know a lot of philosophy isn’t immediately useful, but i like learning about it because it’s stimulating.” nelson picks up dense philosophy books from the bookstore, and uses youtube and google to further research terms and concepts that he wants to know more about.
lastly, my friend nat tells me that they are so impressed by how much their friends know. “it seems like everyone knows so much stuff about random subjects. i want to be one of those people, but i don’t know where to get started.”
more and more, when i ask friends how they got good at their hobbies or work, they’ll tell me “youtube” or “google”. this is super exciting to me, and also checks out with how i’ve been learning to program. i embark on a project, get stuck, then google my problem. i look at other people’s code, watch people on youtube, then try again. soon, i am better than i was before without having to set foot in a physical classroom.
the people i want to help are the people like nat – they know they can learn anything but need someone to help them figure out their interests. cultivating curiosity, building your own curriculum, these things don’t necessarily come naturally to folks who are used to sitting in a classroom and having a teacher tell them what they need to learn. i am lucky to know so many interest-driven learners, and i am currently inspired to lend a hand to those who want to become one.
this week i’ve released a couple experiments. one is web app, one is a video essay. neither is perfect, and that’s hard for me to deal with. however, i know i have more to lose by agonizing over the quality of my work than by actually sharing it and moving on.
in this video, i challenge some of cory doctorow’s ideas about copyright, based on my amateur understanding of how the internet works. i am fully aware that i am likely wrong on a lot of points here, and if anything this video is my best attempt at putting my interests into words. i hope to get some feedback or to do further research on copyright so that i can speak more eloquently on the subject. but, in the interest of posting videos weekly, i felt compelled to settle and say ‘welp, this is good enough for now’. it exists and it’s not terrible, and i know it can be better.
secondly, this is an app that i made using glitch. it takes data from your most listened to song on spotify and makes guesses at your personality based on that song. it’s funny, not necessarily built out to its fullest, but it works. writing and learning code is hard, and the majority of the effort was figuring out how to get spotify data from individual users (‘authentication’ they call it). i managed to do it, and the app works for most of the people that try it out. i could have made it more expansive, deep, or user friendly, but again i hit the ‘good enough’ point and knew that i needed to move on to the next thing.
as a perfectionist and a performer, i am often uncomfortable with releasing half-baked work. but, i am putting my focus more on the process rather than the product, and i know by continuing to release my experiments into the world, i will get immediate feedback and learn ten times more than if i were to build private projects and theorize in private.
yesterday i made an attempt at producing a video essay. it is not as easy as creators make it seem. inspired by lindsay ellis, jon bois, and jenny nicholson, i thought “hey, why not take a stab at it?”
it is very hard to talk to a camera. i took this for granted during my interview series. both me and my subjects alike probably seemed as comfortable as we were because we didn’t have to talk directly to a camera. instead, we chatted with each other and it was easy to forget that we were being filmed.
jaron and i filmed one interview where i sat out of frame and the subject sat in front of the camera. the resulting footage was unusable – our subject was visibly nervous the entire time and didn’t really answer the questions we were asking.
now that i am in the hot seat, i get it. being filmed can be very difficult for a novice. i talked to chey about this. chey is extremely comfortable talking to a camera, though she credits this to a combination of her acting training and also years and years of practice.
so, for me, i’m in practice mode. i’m going to continue to make vlogs and no one is really going to see them until i find out how to do it properly.
chey, a vlogger, has shown me so many incredible videos of people being themselves on youtube. it has been so inspiring that i thought “man, i should do that!”
“you should!!” chey tells me. but i am a bit camera shy and not used to the whole idea of filming myself. part of the reason i do interviews is because i don’t have to do much. all of the attention and focus is on the interview subject rather than myself. with vlogging, the dynamic is totally different.
i’ve been practicing, though. i am trying to figure out my formula and form, so there are a handful of unlisted videos up on youtube that i’ll be adding to as i (big eye roll) find my voice. but i am excited to publish them eventually once i get over this initial self-conscious bashfulness.
i believe that being genuine is incredibly important in business. we are all too familiar with the used-car-salesman trope of a person who is very skilled at duping us into buying garbage. however, businesses that succeed are ones that foster trust, and being honest and genuine is a vehicle to getting you there.
i run a weekly podcast/video series called the orbit in which we interview entrepreneurs, freelancers, and assorted creatives. the idea is bringing together folks who have this genuine, personal quality that is hard to come by with larger businesses. much like how we go to the mom & pop coffee shops to get a little bit of neighborhood soul, working with smaller businesses allow us to spend our money closer to where our values lie.
if this sounds like your cup of tea, i invite you to listen to the podcast or watch the video series. but further, if you are already familiar with the show, we are also on patreon. here, you can pledge $5/mo to support our vision and in return get access to bonus q+A sessions, our community on discord, and written highlights from each interview. find out more here.