Bonus: Nostalgia, Fediverse, and Permission to Play with Chris Miller

September 4, 2023 | 8 minutes read

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Are you drawn to the nostalgia of the early web days and the charm of open-source communities? Checkout this bonus episode from my interview with Chris Miller! In this absorbing dialogue, we float into the realms of mastering new coding languages, the appeal of the maker mentality, and the joy found in creating for the sake of creation, not necessarily for profit.
Listen as we unfold the beautiful concept of giving yourself the freedom to learn and recreate projects, the advantages of reimplementing existing projects in new languages, and how vital the spirit of play is in technological innovation. Chris also unravels the impact of volunteering in tech on community organizations, emphasizing the value of creation over profit. This episode is a true homage to the satisfaction derived from building, learning, and contributing to a community.
This bonus episode was the happy byproduct of a tangent during our chat on mentoring in the last episode. It didn't fit the topic there, but was too good not to share. Enjoy!

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Chris Miller:

These days I'm most proud of. I do a little bit, I do some volunteer moderating on Fosstodon, the Mastodon instance, and I'm always excited by the Fediverse. It reminds me a lot of the old days of the web. I'm sure maybe you feel that way and a lot of folks from my generation. It reminds them of the old days of the web. But again, it's that open source community that really inspires me, so I enjoy being a part of that.

Gene Liverman:

Yeah, it reminds me of when I first got started, but my memories of the web are a little bit different than yours. That's where there's just a couple years difference, making all the difference in the world. Because for me I remember the GeoCities websites and the stuff that now you could do something much nicer in Microsoft Word than those websites were at the time and everybody had to have something spinning. But I wasn't in the bulletin boards or some of the more social aspects of the earlier web. But I do remember when Twitter was very new and it does kind of harken back to not necessarily original Twitter but with the more conceptually, where you can kind of follow things chronologically and you can actually stay up to date with stuff and you're not inundated with ads and all that stuff and that part's really nice. You can just have a conversation and just see what people are up to, and that's really nice.

Chris Miller:

There's a huge overlap between techies and artists and musicians and people that take on new technologies. In those early days back on Twitter, it was the same vibe as I get in these mastodon instances, where it's the people that are slightly outside the norm and slightly on the edge that are playing with things, and I really love that community.

Gene Liverman:

Yeah, I really love that. It was a that. It is a community that originated with the people who were kind of on the fringes and I think that has played some nice foundations. It's still very much an early adopters kind of space and I get that, but it's got some real promise to it I think.

Chris Miller:

Definitely. Cory Doctorow does a really good job of establishing a metaphor for it in his book Walk Away, which I highly recommend. But you know, as in this arena that we're seeing and I know I'm getting off topic the arena that we're seeing of social media now, the idea of just walking away and building your own thing, that's something we can do and it's not that hard, and so I think it's. I think that's that kind of maker mentality, that DIY mentality, slightly punk, a punk mentality is, I think, something we need to foster in new generations, Absolutely. So bring it back to mentoring.

Gene Liverman:

Yeah, and one of that kind of make your own is where mentoring can really come in handy, because you've got somebody who may have grand ideas or grand thoughts about something, but they've not done it themselves in the past and so they need either guiding hand to figure out how to get started or maybe how to get over hurdles, and that's where completely go your own versus having a mentor, to make just an insanely big difference.

Chris Miller:

One of the things a mentor that taught me that's so important is giving yourself permission to do something that's been done before just because you want to learn it. You don't want to, you know. Oh, I feel like learning how to code in Rust and I know a project that I built a pod catcher before. So I'm going to go build a pod catcher in Rust and every you know, and there'll be a thing in the back of your head or other, or friends or people who are like but why don't you just download this other thing? Why don't you go? No, it's the experience of the making, it's the doing the thing. The fact that there are other examples is great, but you know, go, go play. The spirit of play is so important.

Gene Liverman:

It really is. I've got some personal apps that I've done over the years some for work, some for not work and I've really considered re-implementing some of them in some of the newer languages and frameworks. One, because they would work a heck of a lot better without some of the limitations of the way I did it originally, but also two, just because I already know how to make the application work, and so that side of the challenge wouldn't be there and I could focus on just figuring out how to implement it in the new language, and I think that could be a lot of fun, except for the fact that I've got too many projects on my plate already.

Chris Miller:

That's always. Then that's another thing is learning to forgive yourself for having half finished things. I mean, even Da Vinci had half finished things, so I think that's okay. But yeah, I think that's the only way we move forward, and doing it not as a side hustle, not as something you're going to make money on. I mean, I'm not against making money, don't get me wrong but I think we're over-businessed a lot in this community. The entrepreneur in my head is often another word for grifter, and so the purity of building a thing to build a thing is something that has always appealed to me. I'm not going to say if you want to go out and make a business out of it, go, do that. Just recognize that there is a difference between the two. You don't have to have a side hustle.

Gene Liverman:

Not everything has to be for profit. Something can just be for the sake of doing it, or?

Chris Miller:

Or for your community? I mean to bring it back to the volunteering. How many different community organizations could use a website, a better email system, security, that kind of thing. Take it out into the community and go prove your worth.

Gene Liverman:

Cool, and if somebody would like to reach out to you to maybe continue this conversation or to just contact you in general, how would you recommend they find you on the internet?

Chris Miller:

The easiest is my website. It's ctmiller. net. It's a hodgepodge of stuff, but you can find out where to find me. You can also find me on the Fosstodon instance. I'm there as grew proof, like you might be eaten by a group. Those are the two main ways I would reach out to me. If you want to define me, I'm not hard to find. You just need to look in the right place.

Gene Liverman:

And I'll be sharing include links to both of those on the show notes, so anybody who's interested should be able to see it right in their podcast app without any trouble, or see it on the website. Cool Thanks. Well, thank you very much for taking the time today and I greatly appreciate it. Thank you for having me. This is great. Before we go, I'd like to thank those of you who have boosted in support for the show. It is very much appreciated. This is a value for value podcast, which means I rely on listeners like yourself contributing back to fund it. As such. I'll never charge you to listen, but producing and hosting it does cost money. If you got value from this episode, I ask that you contribute by sending a boost through a modern podcast app like Fountain or Castamatic, or via the support the show link in the show notes that are visible in your podcast app. You can also find the show notes and transcripts at volunteertechnologist. com. If you would like to come on the show or know someone I should reach out to about being on the show, please send me a message via one of the links at the bottom of the show notes. Thanks for listening.

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