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May 2024: Focusing on projects

Hello Handmade Network! 2024 has been great so far. Most notably, we held our first-ever Learning Jam in March, in which participants learn about a topic and share that knowledge with the rest of the community. We had great turnout for an experimental jam in its first year, and I’m excited to revisit it in the future.

But looking back, not everything we’ve done over the last couple years has been quite so successful. We’ve excitedly kicked off projects like our education initiative, Time Machine, even a 501c3 behind the scenes. Sadly, none of these have panned out. Making good educational resources with a Handmade flair is hard (really hard) and requires a huge time commitment from a rare type of person. Time Machine was a fun idea, but was never destined to succeed as a large community project. And the 501c3…we’ll save that for another time.

Community members did great work on these projects, and we learned a lot, but as time passed it became clear that we were neglecting the heart of the Handmade community: projects, and the people who author them.

Handmade software is literally the point of the Handmade Network. Communities that talk about programming are a dime a dozen. But Handmade software are different. It is so fast, so capable, so lightweight, so simple, that it shocks people with what modern computers are capable of.

At the end of the day, Handmade projects are what brings people to the community. This is not just me being nice; our Google Search analytics show that RemedyBG is by far the #1 source of traffic to handmade.network. #project-showcase is also the most popular channel on the Discord, and we frequently hear that it inspires people to dig deeper into their own projects. And ultimately, if we’re not making quality software, what’s the point?

So this year, we are 100% focused on projects. Our sole goal is to promote and boost the amazing work being done by the Handmade community. To that end:

  • We’re doing more jams. In addition to the Learning Jam, we’ll bringing back both the Visibility Jam and Wheel Reinvention Jam for another year—and plan to keep doing so indefinitely. The Visibility Jam will be in July, while the Wheel Reinvention Jam will be September. See this page for all the details.
  • We’re doubling down on Unwind. Our monthly Twitch show Unwind is an opportunity to dig deeper into technical details with the authors of various projects. The first few episodes have been a great time, but there’s so much more we can do with the show, and we hope to increase the show’s reach so that even more people can be aware of the great work being done by members of the community.
  • We’re redesigning the website. The current website design is very old, and doesn’t do a good job highlighting the actual work people are doing. Additionally, although the project system has been working pretty well for jams, there are many quality-of-life issues. The wonderful Jes Chuhta has been crafting a new design for us, and Asaf and I have been implementing it this month. In fact, I’m streaming the work every Monday and Friday this month over on Twitch.

As for our previous initiatives, we’ll be sunsetting them and archiving their content as necessary. Nothing will be lost except our time and our pride, but we’ll recover. 🙂


Before I close, a few key project updates:

  • Disk Voyager is coming along beautifully and already has dozens of very happy alpha users. He recently added a bookmarks / quick access panel, which I am very excited about. It will soon enter open alpha, so go to https://diskvoyager.com/ and sign up to make sure you get access.

    A screenshot of Disk Voyager's new bookmarks panel

  • Cactus Image Viewer has been receiving lots of quality updates recently, with more on the way, including a gallery of other images in the folder. You can download the latest version from GitHub.

    A screenshot of Cactus Image Viewer's new gallery UI

  • Orca is on the cusp of another major release. Shaw and I rewrote the Python tooling in C to reduce dependencies, Reuben added a complete libc implementation (no more shim!), and Martin rewrote the vector graphics backend in WebGPU. Make sure to subscribe to the Orca newsletter to be notified when it releases.

And finally, Abner has started a Discord server for Handmade Cities. You can read more about his rationale in this blog post, but if you are interested in meetups or coworking with Handmade folks, I recommend you go join.

Looking forward to many more great things this year! We’re just getting started.

-Ben

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Simon Anciaux, Edited by Simon Anciaux on

Hi. I'd like to express some concerns I had for years about handmade.network. They are not going to be well presented as I struggle to do that in part because they're about my experience and I figure that probably not many people perceive things the same way so I'm always hesitant to just write them down, and I know that I will just end up deleting 3 quarter of what I wrote in the end.

The site feels dead. It seems that everything is on the Discord server. I've never liked Discord as a forum. I use it a lot for voice comms, and as a small forum for friends, but as a forum for big communities it fails in my opinion. I should probably try harder but something doesn't click for me.

There seems to be less and less people here. Except for 1 or two project creators, projects don't get updates, their sub forums are empty and several times I told newcomer to just go ask their questions or discord if they want any answer (there are no mail notification on the site, which I think most people expect). Which leads to "what's the point of the site ?". Don't get me wrong, Here, is the only place I ask questions and expect to get good answer by competent people I "know". And I don't want to loose that. But what's the point of people having projects here, if they just create the page and then forget about it ? I'm expecting that several creator just didn't get much from the project page, except a redirection to their site/discord/other.

Could the site do more than just host a small page with a few links ? I don't know if it's the same on discord, but getting any feedback on a project seems to be very hard. Just asking for "Does it even start ?" seems to be asking too much. Which is disappointing in my opinion. I would expect that out of the 7000 members at least a few would reply.

I understand that the way I would like things to be is "old" (not following trends, going against the flow), and that most people are happy with discord and how things go in that direction. I'm not asking for people to change (in any way), I'm the one that need to adapt to the new way or not change and accept the "consequence".

But some things could be better on the site. For example the learning jam was never announced in a blog post. It's the first time I heard about Unwind. The post jams streams were never announced on the site, and I don't know if the recordings were linked on the site. For some jams there were "recap" blog posts, but I don't think it was the case for most of them. A some point there was talk about "thought out conversations" on a particular topic (was that "Fishbowl" ?) and I thought, when it was announced, isn't that the perfect things to have on a forum so that it's accessible to the world to read afterward ?

My point here is to say, that for the site to feel alive it needs to be fed, that some part of the community (me ?) won't be on discord (or have the server muted because there is a lot of "noise") and that we could keep them up to date with what's happening in the network. I know that writing blog post is time consuming (like taking 2 hours to write a comment on a blog post) and if I'm the only person that would like to be kept up to date, than it's not worth anybody's time and effort.

But in that case, it's probably not worth the effort of making the nth version of the site (with each versions never finished), and we could simplify it to just a Join Discord button and keep the forum for a while.

I feel bad for writing all that. This community help me grow a lot as a programmer, and I can't thank you all enough. But at the same time, I feel like it has moved in a different direction that I'd have liked and wanted to express that.

Thank you for reading.

Random thoughts about discord:

  • You can't search discord from the web. There is probably plenty of valuable information that's in there, but people that are not aware of the network won't be able to find them.
  • Let's hope Microsoft (or similar) doesn't buy Discord.
  • Let's hope Discord doesn't do something stupid.
Colin Bellino, Edited by Colin Bellino on

You are not the only one feeling like that, i'm also having similar thought about the main site and the discord server (and i've seen people express similar feelings here and there over the years).

I hope the new website will go in the direction you are talking about, and will try to make it more lively. Most of the times, if i don't open discord i'll miss out on great events and projects, it's such a shame. Focusing on the projects and discussions around that might be a good thing for the site, so i'm happy to see where this goes... hopefully not only on discord.

In my opinion, discord being VERY hard to search is a also a big problem since communication and access to information is such a big part of what makes handmade.network (for me). Even if we have ways to archive /export stuff from discord, it's just a hack around the root problem.

I am very much looking forward to this year jams though :)

Abner Coimbre, Edited by Abner Coimbre on

You two are not as alone as you think. Over in Handmade Cities we have fans of the conferences and meetups who will not touch Discord even if you paid them. Often it's not just any fan, but important contributors to the movement.

It feels very lonely at the moment, especially since the majority have chosen convenience over everything else. (Even I was forced to make concessions, as Ben mentioned at the end.)

Let's bear with Ben and the admin team: they seem serious about bringing the website back to life. For it to succeed though, it does seem like it needs to move away from traditional forums.

Ben Visness,

The new website design is indeed designed to make the site much more lively. There's so much good work happening on the Discord, but this site currently just doesn't reflect it, and that's what we want to change.

Overall, here are the changes we're making to the site right now:

  • Designing the site around a feed of updates, like what you see today on user profiles and project pages.
  • Adding the ability to follow users and projects so you can create your own personalized feed.
  • Overhauling the appearance and editing experience for projects.

And other things we're thinking of adding in the future include an external RSS integration for projects, personal blog posts, and potentially even mirroring the Discord #help content to the website to address the concern about Discord not being searchable. If you join me for my Twitch streams I'd be happy to walk through the designs and discuss more of the ideas we have in store.

Simon Anciaux, Edited by Simon Anciaux on

Nice to know I'm not alone.

Oliver Marsh,

Just wanted to support mrmixer in what they were saying, I'm not a big fan of discord (mainly it just eats up a lot of time and pulls you back to "just check" which I don't like). I find the project showcase feed on the website from the discord my favourite part of the site.

My favourite parts in past of the site were more indepth blog articles of peoples projects that had a large educational chunk in them for example Chen's 'Monter' blog posts.

Thanks for all the hard work by Ben, Abner and team

Oliver Marsh, Edited by Oliver Marsh on

This is an additional idea that could be added to the new site. Instead of having specific educational material, could there be a roadmap to become a 'handmade' developer? For example there are multiple streams like: games, web, language design, security, general user software (text editors, disk mappers, etc). And within these streams a roadmap is provided based around projects. So for games it's like: text adventure game -> pong -> asteroids -> 2d platformer -> doom clone -> Minecraft clone -> 3d game -> networked games. For web it's like basic HTML page -> website with server -> writing your own server in C or Go.

Something like this at each stage with multiple variations you could choose, and different side quests. And each stage has a list of things you should learn.

Then people could post their projects referencing what stage their currently completing & you can follow people and get their updates in your feed. Then when you complete a stream you get a certified badge for that stream.

Instead of writing full learning materials, this is a more low effort way of providing some educational structure. And experts can easily give advice without big time commitments of writing actually learning materials. Just what type of projects would be a good fit at that stage.