About these notes

Hi! I’m Andy Matuschak. You’ve stumbled upon my working notes. They’re kind of strange, so some context might help.

These notes are mostly written for myself: they’re roughly my thinking environment (Evergreen notes; My morning writing practice). But I’m sharing them publicly as an experiment (Work with the garage door up). If a note seems confusing or under-explained, it’s probably because I didn’t write it for you! Sorry—that’s sort of an essential tension of this experiment (Write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience).

For now, there’s no index or navigational aids: you’ll need to follow a link to some starting point. You might be interested in §What’s top of mind.

👋 Andy (email, Twitter, main personal site)

PS: My work is made possible by a crowd-funded research grant from my Patreon community. You can become a member to support future work, and to read patron-only updates and previews of upcoming projects.

PS: Many people ask, so I’ll just note here: no, I haven’t made this system available for others to use. It’s still an early research environment, and Premature scaling can stunt system iteration.

Work with the garage door up

One of my favorite ways that creative people communicate is by “working with their garage door up,” to riff on a passage from Robin Sloan (below). This is the opposite of the Twitter account which mostly posts announcements of finished work: it’s Screenshot Saturday; it’s giving a lecture about the problems you’re pondering in the shower; it’s thinking out loud about the ways in which your project doesn’t work at all. It’s so much of Twitch. I want to see the process. I want to see you trim the artichoke. I want to see you choose the color palette. Anti-marketing.

I love this kind of communication personally, but I suspect it also creates more invested, interesting followings over the long term. That effect’s probably related to Working on niche, personally-meaningful projects brings weirder, more serendipitous inbounds. It’s also a way to avoid the problems described in Pitching out corrupts within.


☄️ Week 43, popular, wide-ranging, functional

I wish starting physical businesses was easier; I wish the path wasn’t so steep, especially in places like the Bay Area; because I think it’s one of the absolute best things a person can do. Among many other things, a physical business enlivens public space, by making the simple, eloquent statement: I am here, working.

There’s a scientific glassblowing studio north of us; I walk past it on the sidewalk often. By simply existing, and having a nice sign that faces the street, they are doing a small public service every day. We are here, working.

In the same light industrial complex as the Murray Street Media Lab, there’s a woodworking shop, and the man who runs it always keeps his door propped open. Simple as that. What a delight, every damn day, to ride my bike past that door and peek inside and see all his tools, the boards stacked up for whatever commission he’s undertaking. I am here, working.

Part of the problem of social media is that there is no equivalent to the scientific glassblowers’ sign, or the woodworker’s open door, or Dafna and Jesse’s sandwich boards. On the internet, if you stop speaking: you disappear. And, by corollary: on the internet, you only notice the people who are speaking nonstop.

If you could put on magic internet goggles that enabled you to see through this gnarly selection bias and view the composition of reality fairly, correctly—well, just come walk around Emeryville and West Berkeley. It would look like that! All the tumult of Twitter would shrink into a single weird cafe—just a speck, in an enormous city made up entirely of people quietly working.

Interesting to note that in a way, Robin’s looking for Peripheral vision in this aspiration.

Working on niche, personally-meaningful projects brings weirder, more serendipitous inbounds

It’s tempting to work on mass-audience projects because the scale makes high-impact results more likely. Such projects are often less striking, personal, bloody, etc. than their “weirder” alternatives. They might garner a lot more mass attention but a lot less attention from unusual, singular people. Those people are frequently sources of surprising (and more meaningful) insights and opportunities.


Conversation with Michael Nielsen, 2019/11/21

We were thinking about the 20th %ile outcomes of developing a weird experimental media studio, vs. trying to make deals with publishers to create mnemonic media of popular texts. The latter seems to have the better 20th %ile on the surface, but the former is much more likely to lead to the kinds of surprising connections we’ll find most exciting.