Preamble: my content
It has been a while since I’ve written a general “what I’m working on” post, so I’m fixing that now. It has been a busy year — I last published a newsletter in March 2021, and I didn’t get back to writing — primarily technical writing- until the start of 2022.
I’ve also diversified my writing between my own site, occasionally Medium, developer-focused posts on DEV, and elsewhere. Truth be told, I’m not completely sure how to manage the spread, whilst also maintaining a consistent way to share with an audience — apart from the fact that I Tweet a lot, of course! In an effort to bring things together, at least from an audience perspective, I plan to cross-post this extended update on a number of those channels, and think about how to continue from there.
One thing I’ve tried to keep at regularly is our podcast, Games at Work dot biz. If you’ve not come across that yet, the show is available via all of the major podcast services, and directly on our website. Each week, my two good friends Michael Martine and Michael Rowe, join me to talk about various tech topics: mostly relating to virtual worlds and gaming (now usually called “the Metaverse”), social web, collaboration, and other fun snippets. We’ve actually been running for over 10 years now, and before that, had another podcast that itself ran for 200 episodes — it has been a lot of fun. The episode we just recorded, as I type this, talked about retail brands exploring the Metaverse, which brought back strong vibes of my days exploring and working in Second Life at IBM in the mid 2000s!
— We’d love to hear what you think of the show; if you like it, please leave a podcast review, and tell a friend.
A personal (and health) update
Last year I took ~5 weeks out, completely disconnected from the online world, for mental health and personal reasons. It was much-needed, and I think it has enabled me to get much better perspective in various parts of my life.
Since the start of 2022 in particular I’ve been thinking of what I’m doing online, in Open Source, and across different communities, as a bit of a reset or “back to my roots”. I’ll come back to mention side projects and interests later in this post, but I felt really energised at the start of the year, and consistently blogged something technical at least once a week though January and February, over on DEV. DEV is a community that I’ve been spending a lot of time in during the past couple of years, and I’m happy to be connected there as a moderator and community helper. I want to get back to writing more frequently.
More recently, in the past month I finally had a procedure to “fix” the heart anomaly that I shared on my blog back in 2013. The pandemic thoroughly messed up the waiting times for this, of course. I’m in complete awe of the medical science that enabled the operation — a keyhole procedure on a day surgery basis, with minimal lasting visible signs of entry, despite the complicated internal navigation involved. I appear to be doing pretty well, although the SVT itself was always a random occurrence, so it’s difficult to know whether the outcome is 100% confirmed, but having read the notes from the operation, I know they performed “regression tests” to check that they did what they intended. Absolutely thankful for our NHS, and for scientific advancement.
Another item on the personal side of this update, is that we had a chance to do a couple of trips away. The first of these was a ~10 day trip down to Italy, where we travelled by train on Eurostar to Paris, and on Trenitalia via a stop in Milan, down to Puglia. On return, we had tickets for Electromagnetic Field (#EMFCamp), a camping festival celebrating all things geek and tech around maker culture, open standards, electronica, and community. It was my first time at EMF, but I’m hoping to be able to go again when it returns in two years’ time.
Speaking gigs, current and future
As the world has started to open back up (for reasons good or bad), I’ve been excited to get back to one of my favourite activities — public speaking. I gave a number of talks over Zoom towards the end of last year, both professionally to our Twitter Developer Communities in different places around the world, and personally where requested to provide my experiences in fields like advocacy and community.
During March, I hosted eight Spaces on Twitter as open community feedback conversations about some new ideas we’re working on for the developer platform — new ways to add content to Tweets, similar to the current “cards” that appear when links are shared but more customisable; and, the ability to have more control over timelines. This is part of an effort to continue to build in the open, and I’m excited to be able to run sessions like this.
In May we held our first in-person @TwitterDev community meetup in 2 years, at the Twitter office in London — that was a huge buzz — it is always a privilege to talk to our developer community. More of these to come! As I mentioned above, next week I’ll be in Dublin (on my own time), giving a talk about MicroPython at the EuroPython conference (I also acted as a content reviewer for the event, and I’m looking forward to it — lots of good stuff on the schedule).
I’m also excited to have been invited to join Isaac Levin as a guest on his excellent Coffee & Open Source show; watch out for that coming up, in the next couple of months. There’s another unconfirmed podcast opportunity on the horizon as well.
I’m open to other podcast guest invitations, and speaking invitations, time and work permitting.
The day job
I touched on a few of the things that I’ve been working on at Twitter in the previous sections, and I expect to be particularly focused on preparing for Chirp, our developer conference, in the months between now and the event itself, in November.
It’s an exciting time for the Twitter Developer Platform, and I’ve written a number of pieces to help folks to learn more about Twitter API v2, in other locations. There have been a raft of updates and announcements since the end of the year, from OAuth 2.0, to Chirp and the Chirp Developer Challenge, completely new concepts we are exploring, expansion of our Twitter Developer Insiders program, and the announcement of the Student Ambassador program. In case you missed it, the Twitter API Playground has been a particularly popular addition to the range of tools, demos and samples to help to get started with the latest API version.
Side-projects; aka what I’ve really been doing…
My “outside work” interests recently have covered a whole range of different areas of tinkering, and it has occasionally been difficult to keep up with my own thoughts and excitement. There’s a lot of time-slicing involved…
I started to put a bit more time into my Fediverse presence, particularly around #EMFCamp — you’ll find me @firstname.lastname@example.org if that’s your preference. It’s not completely identical to my Twitter feed, but there is some bridging involved. There’s definitely a new swirl of possibility around federated networks.
MicroPython has led me along a number of different paths — since it runs on a whole variety of different hardware.
In January a tiny ESP32-C3-powered board covered in RGB LEDs caught the attention of the maker community, and I subsequently wrote a small blog series and created a project around it (fivebyfive on GitHub). It also highlighted a few learning opportunities around MicroPython on the ESP32-C3, which have been addressed in the current release. The worldwide chip shortage has meant the RP2040 chips from the Raspberry Pi folks have been more available than some alternatives, so I’ve been playing with a lot of boards based on those, but until about a week ago, connectivity was more of an issue than with the Espressif chips!
On another side of the hardware arena, I’ve long been curious about the RC2014, a Zilog Z80-based homebrew computer with a variety of different options. My friend Chris Swan was able to give me some advice on what pieces I might want to look into, and I ordered an RC2014 Pro kit; I then met the creator, Spencer, at #EMFCamp and put together the smaller RC2014 Micro.
I also had a play with the RC2040, a way to emulate the system on an RP2040 board. Why am I doing this? Well, I grew up on 8-bit computers similar to this back in the 1980s, and it is fun to dig in on the electronics side, again. Not a completely successful enterprise so far, I’m working on it!
Talking of retro technology, I’ve also continued to enjoy building or customising consoles of a bygone era. The Miyoo Mini v2 is a really nice little handheld with a gorgeous screen, with a number of custom OS options. I also want to get back to my MiSTer setup at some point, to give all of the cores a refresh to their current releases (and to actually get it hooked up to the TV). Apart from the retro stuff, I was also relatively (!) early on in the waves of recipients for the Steam Deck. So, not only am I dividing my attention between a number of side projects, I’m also jumping between gaming devices and platforms and eras… 🤦
There are a number of other gadgets that have arrived in the past 6 months, but one I’ll call out is the ClockworkPi DevTerm, a 1980s TRS-80 lookalike slab portable that is clipped together in parts, and can take a number of different “cores”, or processor boards. I picked mine up with the R01 core, a RISC-V Allwinner D1 chip which is experimental in the context of trying to run a Linux distribution. There are other options available; I have a CM4 adapter on the way. This is another community that I’ve enjoyed interacting with, as we learn new things together, and share our experiences.
Oh, and I picked up a Bluetooth thermal printer, with the face of a cat.
Because, Dan Hon.
(also, subscribe to Dan’s newsletter. He’s good)
Finally, I connected with a new group, Together, We Open Source, and have been following the meetups there, helping people get comfortable with OSS contributions. It feels like a bit of a full circle experience for me, to revisit my roots and share what I’ve learned.
I don’t plan to broadly expand the various side projects I listed out above, but I’m enjoying the things I’m contributing to. I also have a couple of lists full of the next thing I want to build! Mostly, I want to stay connected with others, and to learn, and share what I’m doing — back to where I started in communities and Open Source.
I’m going to think more about where and how I share my content / ramblings / thoughts. This is intended to be a one-off multi-channel post, but maybe I’ll do something similar again at some point.
I have had… a really strange, very challenging, couple of years. If you’re reading this, and you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you subscribed to my content at some point, which means I’ve been interesting to you at some level.
Thank you for your attention and interest, and your support. I hope I’ve helped you or inspired you somehow, along the way. I’d love to hear what you think, about anything from the stuff I’ve been working on, to our podcast, or just to tell me to [stop / continue / Tweet less often / drink more water] *delete as appropriate
Until next time.