Why I Made Today I Learned

In September of 2017 I had encountered a dilemma. The one all-encompassing hobby project to which I had committed everything I had available outside of my job was no longer feasible. Between the cost, energy, and time it had become a project desperately in need of a team to run it; unfortunately that was not forthcoming, not to the necessary standard and so by mid-October the project came to an end.

Gone. Just like that. More than seven years of my non-job life no longer evident in full public view.

It was strange, not least since things had become steadily worse leading up to this event and so in some ways I had already come to terms with the situation, although to this day I still regret that the project is gone and can never come back. There was a lot in that project, a website centred around creativity and community, that had taken me from my last typical day job through the chaotic first years of becoming a full-time carer. And now it was gone.

Needless to say I had a lot of energy and time now at my disposal, especially once I had taken a good two-week break to recover from such a significant event, and the first thing to come to mind was settling a question that had come often to my thoughts in the preceding years;

How can I just write?

I have written across different subjects in different ways onto different places across the web for a number of years, so much so that it feels odd to think of a time before I did it. The core of the aforementioned project was writing; I met my wife because of writing; my favourite hobbies have always involved writing, even if I do not partake. Thus the question was inevitable, since I no longer had a central project into which I could pour all of my writing energy.

Actually that’s not true.

Almost all of it.

You see, I have always dabbled in various writing-based hobbies and in the end the only constant was blogging. Whether it was a personal blog or in some other form, the act of blogging just… works for me. There’s no other way around it; it’s what I like doing, it’s what primarily drew me to the silos of mainstream social media, and eventually, away from them.

The answer was thus inevitable; I wanted my site, for my blogging, made clearly by my hand. No, not the whole site, just the actual blogging. The core of it all.

This meant considering my options and inevitably deciding WordPress was the best way to go. It just makes sense, right?

Only, no, not really. Of my web-based hobbies one of my favourites is technology. Not just phones or computers but web tech also, and given that the most proficient and well organised independent writers in tech lean very much in the direction of Apple, well, that’s where that hobby found a place. Everything from the blogs, to the news sites, to the podcasts, Twitter feeds, and more! Suddenly there was this backlog of years worth of fanatical people about whom I previously had no idea even existed.

Of course, this was before the project ended, by a couple of years. The specifics of the path I travelled upon to arrive to this collection of people, these connected communities, is not that important but needless to say I now had a lot more time and energy to fully invest my time in getting to know the people within the communities and further indulge my interests.

Inevitably the focus of my interests landed mostly on two people: John Gruber and John Siracusa. I’m just that way (you know, the same way as so many other people). By way of the various outlets through which the pair would express themselves and contribute to the tech communities I came across Manton Reece, a man engaged in such independently centred ventures that I could not help but take notice. There are links at the bottom of this post to better illustrate some of the timeline here and exactly why Manton’s work and words spoke to me strongly enough to wait.

You see, I wanted to blog and do it on my site, and now was the time! However, Manton was close to launching an initiative I had come across thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Gruber; Micro.blog. It was everything I was looking for, maybe… possibly. I wasn’t totally sure but I knew I wanted to try it for sure. But I did not have access – I certainly threw down my email address to join the queue for getting in – and would have to wait.

So I wrote. I wasn’t posting so much but I was certainly writing, blogging even, and thinking about it, and planning it… I was blogging in all but publishing. Quickly enough this changed, however, when I finally got access to Micro.blog and within ten minutes knew I wanted to do this, no matter how it might turn out.

Then a month passed and I felt stronger about it. Then some more weeks passed and I blogged and got more involved talking with people whom I had never previously spoken to. Then I started planning something more involved, something more than just blogging.

Unfortunately reality hit, specifically with regard to needing to tighten our financial belt and so the costs of my site were removed and I left Micro.blog. I returned briefly with a free WordPress hosted site plugged into my Micro.blog account but fortunately it wasn’t long until I was able to fully return, only this time I decided to go all-in with Micro.blog. Now it was the host for my whole site.

I had launched my planned project just before having to temporarily cancel my accounts; Today I Learned had become public and much to my annoyance and deep shame it became immediately inactive, as a neglected project with no notice. However, my planning continued privately and I was renewed by a sense of urgency upon my return to hosted Micro.blog.

For me any venture about which I care a great deal is only worth my time and energy if it is for more than just me. I truly believe we are all at our best, as communities and societies, when we share that which we have. And I believed in Micro.blog, in not just its potential but for what it could do right now. Since I believed Today I Learned could help people share Micro.blog, I thus believed Today I Learned was worth most of my spare energy, time, and any resources I could muster.

It is vital that we have time for each other, that we treat and are treated with care in such a way as to presume the best and wish to teach the most. If there are resources, even beyond that which might be available via official sources, and they are made available, worked on over time, improved constantly, and renewed by new ideas therein then I think a project has a great chance of achieving the goals for which it has been created.

Here it is then, my ongoing effort to contribute to Micro.blog in a form beyond my individual blogging and cheerleading; Today I Learned, an unofficial resource for Micro.blog.

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Simon Woods @simonwoods


Don't forget to love each other. ❤