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Q3 was an outstanding quarter. Yet when you look at it in the context of 2020 it was mostly just average.
President’s got Coronavirus? Let’s use this as an impetus to help out the 7.5 million Americans that have also had it. We’re expected to have double the number of hurricanes in 2020 as we did in 2010? Maybe it’ll put out the wildfires and bring attention to the impending apocalypse scenario that is climate change. There’s been another state-sanctioned murder / kidnapping / violation of rights at the hands of police? We’ll add it to the list of reasons we’re protesting and fighting for justice.
Q3 was an exhausting quarter and when you look at it in the context of 2020 its true cost starts to take shape. It’s with this long-term mental, physical, and spiritual slog in mind that I’ve found myself thinking a lot about balance. The balance between moving forward as fast as possible while retaining the resources to go as long as possible. The balance between fulfilling potential, living sustainably, and how this balance shifts in response to new factors and values.
Over the years I’ve built systems to help me find and maintain balance and over the years I’ve modified those systems to account for the new and changing factors in my awareness. I’ve been thinking back on past milestones - joining Instagram, moving to New York, graduating college - what I accomplished and what I didn’t and how shifts in balance may have changed those outcomes.
As we enter into the 7th month of the pandemic and the last month of the 2020 election, I can’t shake the feeling that 2020 should already be over. It feels long. Too long. Like maybe we’ve already seen / heard / done enough this year and should do a Netflix and hibernate for the next couple months.
But 2020 also has so much potential. Potential for better and potential for worse.
As we enter into the 7th month of the pandemic and the last month of the 2020 election, I find myself thinking a lot about balance. How can I balance my #adventures against the ongoing threat of coronavirus? How can I push hard on my #projects without spending 12+ hours / day in the same room, at the same desk? How can I fight for the change I want to see in the world without ostracizing those I’m trying to reach?
It’s with balance in mind that I think back on Q3 and look forward to Q4 and beyond.
In Q3 of 2020 I raised $0 and 12,873 views for good causes, released a clothing collection, collabed on a music track, migrated my sites to hamy.xyz, built art with artificial intelligence, shared how I’m voting in the 2020 election, moved in with my partner, hit a savings rate of 60%, achieved a neutral carbon footprint, and adventured around a socially-distanced Big Apple.
My name is Hamilton and this is my 2020 Q3 in review.
2020 Q3 project goals
Last half I decided I wasn’t being impactful enough. The world was on month 6 of its apocalyptic advent calendar and I was over here building generative art. I felt I wasn’t doing enough to meet the demands of the world or the demands I made of myself. So this half, I changed up my goaling strategies, my systems and processes, and overarching missions and values to see if I could beat those demands.
The output of this redesign was three buckets of impact I wanted to have, goaled (for the most part) to explicit measurements for that impact. These buckets were building a better world, building a business, and making art which I identified as the three primary foci of my #projects goals for H2 2020.
Here are those goals, my progress to them thus far, and links to relevant projects / artifacts to learn more:
- build a better world
- build a business - $0 / $1000, validate 0 / 12 ideas
- make art
Overall, I’m on track to hit around 3⁄12 of my goals. Ideally I’d like to hit all of my goals in a given half but realistically and on average I end up hitting about half. This means that I’m tracking behind where I should be but not quite 75% behind, closer to 50% behind. I’ll walk through some of these projects in greater detail and some plans I have to catch up in Q4.
HamForGood is my system for giving to the world through the things I create. I built it to work symbiotically with my life - I get to build what I want and the world gets to profit. Through it, I give a portion of profits from HAMY.LABS projects to support causes I believe make the world a better place. It’s through this system that I would’ve raised funds for the causes I goaled on this half.
This half, I modified HamForGood to be more impactful, sustainable, and to be more prominent in my halfly goals. HamForGood now gives 20% of profits across all HAMY.LABS projects vs the 80% of some projects coverage it had before. This change makes it more consistent, simple, and flexible - all contributing to its effectiveness and long term viability.
Through HamForGood, I’ve raised exactly $0 and 12,873 views in H2 2020 to support and raise awareness for elections, climate change, and social justice. The primary cause for this miserly result is that my projects are running in the red. I’m hoping to turn this around with additional projects and lowered expenses.
I released two projects built specifically with HamForGood causes in mind - dump45 and statutes for elections and social justice respectively. I’ve yet to build anything for climate change, but I’ve got some plans brewing so stay tuned.
Learn more about HamForGood including details about the current system, the causes it supports, and the organizations that receive donations on the HamForGood project page.
Dump45 is the project that feels most relevant less than a month from the 2020 elections. I created it as a visual and physical reflection on the Trump era. It’s a culmination of many things I’ve been into the past few years like street art, street wear, and creative coding all bundled into acts of artivism.
You can check out the full collection on HAMY.SHOP. Fittingly, profits from this project support the HamForGood
One of the things I experimented with in the creation of dump45 was to increase project exposure by cross posting to my multitude of channels and content. For this experiment, I leveraged my Youtube channel I built in H1 2020 and included references to dump45 in several videos:
It’s unclear how effective this strategy has been as I don’t think I have the traffic required to get good signal but it’s a lever I want to keep in mind for future projects as it has the potential to provide incremental exposure for negligible effort.
statutes was the second project I built this quarter with the express intent of making the world a better place. This year has been full of shit hitting the fan and it seems like sociodemographics has had a hand in all of it. I wanted to bring attention to this fact by challenging the traditional ways in which we remember, envision, and symbolize power - particularly in the United States.
My first iterations take aim at well known presidents, old and new, by portraying them in a form divorced from the one we’re used to seeing them in - white and male. In the process, I learned a bunch about GANZ (Generative Adversarial Networks), GPUs, and cloud workstations - skills that came in handy in the creation of Ana.
One phenomenon I wanted to bring attention to was that the posting of this series to my IG resulted in a veritable hemorrhage of followers - a loss of ~4% of total followers over the course of 2 weeks. I’m not surprised by these results as this series is a notable departure from the content I typically post - biasing more towards politics and away from aesthetics. Yet from my perspective this is one of the most purposeful and technologically advanced creations I’ve ever built and, while certainly lacking in the beauty department, is thus one of my most important creations to date. For me this is a reminder of the importance of having a mission, values, and strategies to navigate by and the potential dangers of driving solely by the numbers.
In the process of experimenting with AI for statutes, I began to wonder what other things this technology could be used for. Ana (Artifice-native art) is my exploration of that question with an explicit focus on the creation of art. I’ve been able to make a lot of cool pieces from this project but I have the feeling I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible. More to come.
Pieces from my Ana series will be showcased in Media Lab / UnB’s October exhibition.
Moving Through Time
Over the past few halves I’ve been trying to do more collabs with other artists / creators / builders (see A Thought Gone Adrift and quarantine visuals). I think it’s a great way for me to connect with others and to grow as an artist, technologist, and human.
My buddies Griffin Hanekamp and Steve Is Space reached out about a new project they were working on and I wanted in. The collaboration consists of cover art and a video accompaniment for their new track Moving Through Time. You can see the cover below in the Spotify embed though the video is still a work in progress.
With a few collabs under my belt, I’ve begun to see where things are going well and where they’re not. On the upside I have a lot of friends doing inspiring things in their lives - building towards their dreams and exploring what the world has to offer. On the down side, I’ve had trouble sticking to deadlines and aligning on visions. My intuition is that much of this happens because I’ve overloaded myself with projects, I’m not used to the collaborative creative process, and because I prefer working with loose deadlines whenever possible.
To remedy, I’m trying a few different things in my next collaborations:
- Planning creative projects farther out
- Giving myself more time to allot to them
- Prioritizing them higher and reducing parallel workloads
- Using shared docs / folders to make the passage of ideas / artifacts easier
building a business
The third bucket of focus for my projects was to build a business. This is something I’ve said I wanted to do for a long time but I’ve never actually done. I love systems so of course I created a system to try and tackle this problem.
That system: validate 2 business ideas each month.
The system was meant to be simple and sustainable in order to increase the odds I’d actually do it and so I could keep doing it for a very long time. It was a direct acknowledgement that most business ideas fail and aimed to solve this by forcing my attempts to be quick, cheap, and effective.
Similar to my struggles with collabs, I failed to fully account for the other priorities in my life and the amount of time and focus it takes to get something off the ground. So far I’ve validated 0 of my planned business ideas this half, a far cry from the 12 I originally set out to do.
I still think this approach has merit but I think I overreached a bit in my calculations of how far I could push myself. Based on these learnings, I’m bringing my goals down a bit to 3 / half to allow myself more time to focus while retaining the need to validate problems quickly and sustainably. This won’t be reflected in my goals for this half as I’ve already set them and I think it’s important to show what I set out to do and what I actually did - but I’ll be keeping this in mind for my next half’s goals and trying to stick to them.
In Q4 I’ll be shooting to hit this 3 mark, so keep me honest people.
iamhamy visitor highlights 2020 Q3
iamhamy is what I call my collective online presence. I do this because, up until August, all my sites lived at iamhamy.xyz. Each ~quarter I like to do an analysis on how my presence is doing and investigate any oddities.
This quarter we’ve got a big oddity. In Q3 my properties received 13,942 visits which comes out to be a -18% quarter / quarter loss. This loss is likely attributable to the migration of my core sites from iamhamy.xyz to hamy.xyz. In the process I seem to have 1) missed a step ior 2) made the Goog mad. Either way the effect seems to be wide-ranging and long-lasting.
iamhamy 2020 Q3 visitors overview by property
September 2020 has seen the lowest visitors to my sites in any month since October of 2019. If we take away @hamy.art, this has been the worst performing month since July of 2019. We can see that the majority of losses were from HAMY.LABS which makes sense as that’s where the majority of my search traffic goes.
Daily LABS visitors in 2020 Q3
Drilling into HAMY.LABS, we can see that average visitors dropped from ~110 / day to ~30 / day in mid August when I switched over domains.
From what I’ve read, sites often take big PageRank hits when they migrate domains though to my understanding it’s not usually to this magnitude. I’m still not exactly sure what I did wrong - as evidenced by my optimistic posting of how to migrate domains without a hit to PageRank / SEO - but my hope is that my content will continue to be reindexed and my sites will slowly get back to where they were in Q2 2020 by the same time 2021. Until then, we’ll just have to stand back and stand by.
My goals in #self, like most halves, revolved around solidifying my personal foundation such that the other foci could function more effectively. In the process, I decreased my negative footprint on the Earth, started reading again, and performed various maintenance tasks that come with being a US citizen all while acclimating to major developments in my relationship.
how I’m voting
Top of mind for me as we move into the final month of the 2020 US presidential election is making my voice heard. I’ve already talked about various ways I’ve done this in the past few months via HamForGood and projects like dump45 and statutes but I think that voting is one of the most powerful and direct ways to use one’s voice to produce change.
That’s why I sat down in August to research, analyze, and come to a decision on the running presidential candidates. In the end I sided with the Biden / Harris ticket based on the platform’s positions and plans on the issues of climate change, healthcare, the justice system, and foreign policy. You can read my full analysis in How I’m voting in 2020.
Regardless of your beliefs, I think we can agree that it’s important for everyone to do their own research, decide who they think is going to be the best person to lead this country, and cast your vote to make that happen.
If you haven’t registered to vote yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. This is a direct path to getting your voice counted and heard. There’s still time in many states to do this. Checkout vote.org for more info on how to register and logistics for voting.
The future of the country is quite literally at stake and registering can take just a few minutes. Get registered. Make a plan. Go vote.
When I registered to vote, I decided to go ahead and handle a bunch of other citizenshit - my term for the collective thought and effort that goes into maintaining aspects of my citizenship in the US. This included applying for a RealID (so I could board planes after October 1, 2021), renewing my passport, and getting a new library card - all things I hopefully won’t have to do again for several years.
moving in with Megna
I don’t often write about my personal relationships in my release notes outside of their connections to certain projects / efforts. I’ve done this for several reasons but I think at its core is a fear of the pain that may arise should they fail. I think this is a valid concern and a reasonable response.
This half, I’ve found that my life has been substantially affected by my relationships and likely warranted a specific call out in my reflection. The fear of failure is still there but I think the pros outweigh the cons and it’s about time to face that fear anyway.
For many large life decisions there always seems a need for the ‘right’ time. But as I’ve experienced more of life I’ve increasingly thought that there’s no singular ‘right’ time - at least not one you can know without breaking the fourth wall. Instead you have a finite number of data points at your disposal to make the best decision possible as to whether or not this is a reasonable time.
Moving in with someone is a big decision and I analyzed it as such. I found that I wanted to move in, I thought it was a little early for us to do so, and that the financial outlook was such that if we made it > 3 months we both came out on top. I figured we had a very high chance of making it at least 3 months so in the happy story we came out ~a year ahead wrt experience and financial outlook and in the sad story we again gained the experience with a net positive financial impact. So move in we did.
Who said logic couldn’t be romantic? <3 ;) <3
At the end of July 2020 I moved in with my partner Megna. It’s been a scary / exciting / hectic time. It’s taken a lot of getting used to and has had significant impacts on various parts of my life - affecting my eating habits, time allocations, and resource expenditures.
The biggest change I’ve noticed was finding out the difference between living alongside someone and living with someone. I’ve lived with a roommate since I entered college back in 2012 - that’s 8 years of consistently living in the same space as another human being. But since graduating college I’ve always had my own room and even in college when we shared rooms we, mostly, had our own space and slept in our own beds.
Previously I would’ve called that living with someone. But given the experiences of the last few months and it also being dubbed ‘living with someone’, I think it’d be more proper to change the name of the former experience and call it living alongside someone. In short, I’ve never spent as much time in such a close proximity to another human as I have in the past few months of living with someone.
We share a living room, we share a bedroom, we share a bathroom, we share food, we share my desk, we share cash, we share my camera, we share underwear(?), we share laundry, we share a WFH office, we share the DMZ in the middle of the bed, we share that plant I don’t even like, we share the prime art location over the bed where my art should definitely go but instead it’s a $10 piece from Target that’s apparently ‘better’ and more ‘peaceful’ and more ‘pleasing’…
And the hair! OMG the hair. There’s like an endless supply of foot-plus-long-hair follicles distributed in a light dusting over the floor, the kitchen counter, the bathtub drain, and even on the tv remote???
All this is compounded, I think, by our habitation in a one bedroom on the east side of Manhattan. There’s little space and no escape!
All that said, it’s been a really good couple of months. We’ve iterated on systems to optimize our cohabitation, gone on numerous adventures around the city, advised on each other’s projects, and pushed each other to reach our respective goals and dreams.
Expect an apartment tour whenever Megna decides to start that Youtube channel she’s been talking about and the final results of this experiment on my financial outlook (you can read about the current results below).
She just released her 2020 Q3 gallery, so be an egg and look at her photos.
Last half I goaled on hitting a 50% savings rate as part of my continued pursuit of sustainable finances and financial independence. I was able to do that in large part due to frequent cost / benefit analyses, strict spending rules, and a lot of covid-induced staying at home.
I am a huge fan of the financial independence movement because it biases towards a less materialistic and more financially secure life which I believe to be correlated with happier and more sustainable outcomes. My general thought about finances is that it shouldn’t rule your life but if you neglect it, it inevitably will. Thus I’m willing to habitually spend a little bit of life tending to finances in order to keep it from ruling.
As the saying goes, 3 home cooked meals a day is worth $180,000 over 15 years.
This half I wanted to continue that journey by goaling on reaching a 60% savings rate. I decided to increase this goal because I felt that there was more room for optimization in my life. I felt this way because I was still spending a good bit of money on things that didn’t hold an equal amount of value for me and thus characterized room for optimization.
I was able to just barely squeak over this line with a 60.5% savings rate on average in Q3. The largest reason for this swing was actually due to moving in with Megna as that substantially reduced my monthly living costs. Other contributors include continued covid-induced staying at home, an increase in at-home eating and drinking, and more habitually brewing my own coffee (which you may recall is worth ~$16,000 / 15 years when done 4x / week).
Climate change is likely the issue I’ve been most consistent about addressing in recent halves. In 2019 I started donating monthly to 350.org to help fight climate change and moved to a poulcetarian (poultry + pescetarian) diet to reduce my carbon (and resource) footprint.
This half I wanted to continue building on these habits to further reduce my carbon and resource footprint by 10% and to increase my support for orgs fighting climate change. Based on learnings from previous analyses and new research, I came to the conclusion that the primary levers I had to change this was to change my consumption behaviors and to give money to organizations working to fight climate change.
I’m already leading a mostly poulcetarian lifestyle which is relatively light footprint-wise when compared to the average American’s diet. But the American average, unsurprisingly, isn’t good enough and leads to a slow climate death for our planet if left unaltered. So I naturally wanted to do better.
I achieved this by shifting my diet to be more plant-based. I’m still poulcetarian, but have limited beef / lamb intake to a max of one meal a week (down from a max of 6 - probable average of 1.5) and now meal prep almost exclusively vegetarian resulting 4-5 days / week that are meatless up from 1-2 days / week. This change was actually fairly easy as Megna typically sticks to a veggie-heavy poulcetarian diet and we could share the meal prep after moving in.
This diet shift fit into the defensive bucket but I also wanted to systematize offensive support. I took a look at how leading scientists, governments, and activists were thinking about tackling climate change and was intrigued by the various formulations of carbon taxes that seemed to crop up in many of the plans.
The idea behind carbon taxes is to get people to pay for the bad they’re doing in the world such that 1) they can pay to fix it and 2) they can be disincentivized from doing it again. This intrigued me as it paralleled what I was trying to do - limit my footprint and fight climate change.
So I did some thinking and came up with what I call an ‘earth tax’. It basically charges me for behaviors that are known to have a heavy footprint to 1) help fix the damage I’ve caused and 2) incentivize me to not do it again. This money is then given to organizations that fight climate change, defaulting to the orgs listed in the climate change cause of HamForGood. The current earth tax buckets I have are for food, transportation, and goods - charging various amounts of money based on the relative footprint of the behavior.
So far I’ve found it very useful in reminding me which foods to stay away from, encouraging me to recycle, and discouraging me from using expensive forms of transportation. Plus my donations to help fight climate change have never been higher. I’m pretty happy with this system and think it’s a great example of an effective system that’s both lean and sustainable.
Some recent behavioral shifts I’ve seen:
- learning I can recycle aluminum foil in nyc after not wanting to pay an earth tax on my BEC bagel
- asking restaurants to keep the straw / single use condiment packets
- cleaning and recycling the plastic containers of groceries
- higher usage of public transportation when available
I’m not sure exactly what my current carbon usage is or what it would cost to completely offset it but if my previous calculations of $30 / month are anywhere near the real number then I think these changes, when combined with existing contributions, would effectively negate 100% of my footprint. Now I know that carbon offsets are not a panacea, there are sure to be parts of my footprint that I have overlooked, and this doesn’t absolve me of my contribution to the death of our world but I think this is a big step in a good direction.
If you’re interested in learning more about my earth tax, read the earth tax rules and the research and analysis behind the earth tax. I’d love to chat about this effort and how little changes in our lives can go a long way towards fighting climate change. Remember kids, the power is yours.
learning + reading
Over the past few halves, I’ve discovered that I seem to learn best through doing. This is one reason why so many of my projects incorporate emerging technologies - it’s my way of understanding them. What I’ve come to realize is that I may have been leading an unbalanced and unfocused practice where I built to learn without a clear direction or purpose around what I was learning and why.
If left unchecked, I was afraid that this would lead to a knowledge base that was poorly fit to my mission and values. To solve, I tried something new this half where I explicitly laid out domains I wanted to learn more about.
- [ 1 ] activism, voting, and antiracism
- [ 0 ] elementary conversation skills in a language
- [ 0 ] good code practices like architecture, tdd, functional programming
- [ 0 ] software architectures
- [ 0 ] climate change
- [ 0 ] Creative coding
While I’ve now finished 3 books this quarter and researched numerous topics through other media, only one of those was something on this list. I’ve found that what I think is important to learn changes as time goes on and, similar to my findings with collabs and starting businesses, that I didn’t fully account for the time and focus it takes to thoroughly ramp up on a domain.
Based on these findings, I think I’ll be lowering my learning domain goaling to 3 / half and devoting more time to each while giving room for new domains to pop up as necessary.
As an aside, picking up reading again has been great. I’ve forgotten how much I liked it and I think it has a lot of positive side effects like increasing my sense of calm, ease of finding focus, and my ability to write cohesive sentences (though not necessarily concise ones). It’s a habit that I’ll continue to try to hold onto. You can keep up with what I’ve been reading on goodreads.
In adventure I really just wanted to explore. The first few months of covid were pretty rough as there were a lot of unknowns about the virus and whether we could safely be out at all. By the beginning of H2 it became clear that with the correct precautions we could do some activities safely and I wanted to take full advantage of that knowledge.
A wedding in a park!
My main focus at work this quarter has been improving my project management and communication skills to better lead large projects / teams from ideation to shipment. I think if I can manage this I’ll be in a good position to tackle most any problem regardless of scale or domain. In this pursuit, I’ve been iterating on systems to get the right people in the room, have a single source of truth for the right information at the right level of detail at the right time, and more stringent rules around the setting and sharing of prioritizations.
I’ve also started interviewing for Facebook. I’ve always been a little hesitant to do interviews as I really don’t like the idea that I have to judge someone and thus have a very real impact on their possible future. However I think that coding interviews probably aren’t going away for awhile and it’s therefore useful to stay up to date in their practices. For those interested, I put together an interview guide after my last job search so I could remember how I prepared.
I’m still looking to post some blog posts to the IG engineering blog and to do some tech talks at Meetups and conferences. Will post here if / when that happens. For a feel for what these might be like, look no further than the technical blog posts and tech talks I create and post on my personal sites.
This quarter has been a lot and I have no doubt that the rest of this half will fit right in. I’ve had to come to terms with my limits and make room for the parts of life that aren’t explicitly tracked in my goals. I’ll be applying these learnings to a new iteration of my systems in the pursuit of finding a better balance.
Before I let you go, I want to reiterate how important this election is. Do your research, register to vote, then go vote. It’s as simple as that. I did it and you can do it, too.
With you in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.