Tom MacWright


The last Recently feels like a lot longer than a month away. In the undifferentiated temporal sprawl of the last year, leaving my job in January marked a clear difference between between before and after. Not, though, in the sense that I haven’t been working. My time quickly filled up with a little freelance work, a lot of projects, and some pent-up energy directed into reading and writing. I wrote a few things this month. Frustrated with SwiftUI, I abandoned the first version of a Gemini browser and am rewriting it in something else. It is abundantly clear that, as an unemployed person or not, I have zero chill. And thanks to everyone who has reached out re: my work thing!


I am, of course, a sucker for Robin Rendle’s thing about newsletters. Like all technology on the upswing, it’s not really that easy to separate the parts of the newsletter trend: is it just trend-following? How much does Substack’s subsidy of the high-end writers matter? What happens once most newsletters are defunct (like most blogs)?

I read a lot of news with RSS, and I think a lot of people read these posts with RSS. Newsletters give that experience, sort of, but intermixed into something that I, like everyone, dislike, so I use Feedbin’s email-to-RSS gateway or Instapaper’s version of the same to translate any email-only newsletter into a non-email newsletter.

Part of the allure of RSS and Gemini and newsletters is that style is user controlled, just like the early web. Once something is in Instapaper, I can read it in a nice serif font on a black background, like I like to read everything, or move it onto my Kindle, which does not glow.

Projects that I’m pouring a bit of time into, right now, are all trying to be sort of sustainable, trial balloons for an “indie business” that I would love to finally actually do. And Gemini’s probably not the best route for that, but writing a really really high-quality Gemini browser and putting it on the app store for a few bucks - it seems possible! I have a lot of Apple-flavored code to learn to get there, though.

Open source, again

On another note, another month of that thorny intersection between open source values, legality, and competition. Kyle Mitchell, as usual, wrote the best piece about the Elastic debacle.

I’ve said my piece about this, probably too many times, but the basic frame is that bad actors break systems. You can try and create new rules that makes certain bad behaviors, like freeriding, illegal. But a highly-regulated system is strictly worse than a system that’s based on people simply just “not being jerks.” A highly-regulated system where every company is choosing complex and viral open source licenses is going to have more friendly fire and going to employ a lot more lawyers.


I watched The Social Dilemma and thought it was pretty bad, and then read this critique that outlines all the ways in which it is bad. And then a bunch of other stuff. See the list on Letterboxd. Though, truly, I have no taste in film: I know in my heart that classic movies from the time before 1980 are good, but in practice I just can’t watch them that often. Realistic dialog, color, special effects, I can’t help but like modernity.


I’m the last person to listen to Shabazz Places, but that’s fine.


January was a month of embracing a little chaotic freedom to do whatever, reacquaint myself with the “startup ecosystem,” and write some of the things I wanted to write. It’s pretty fun to write on the internet, even in 2021! Last month’s pace, though, probably won’t stay – focusing on a narrower set is going to feel better.