ArtifiShell Intelligence

Attending the Recurse Center


Starting tomorrow, I’ll attend a “half batch” of six weeks at the Recurse Center, a programming retreat. After lots of research and prep work, I booked some accommodation and flights, and arrived in Brooklyn yesterday. I’m very glad my combined Swiss–Toronto background has prepared me for high cost of living, but New York certainly puts all that into (expensive) perspective.

For the first two weeks, I’ll stay in Carroll Gardens, and then for three weeks in Prospect Heights. I still have to figure out something for the last week, but I hope that’ll be easier, being here and all.

The first two days, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, have the hub not yet open for people starting their batch, to make sure everybody’s onboarding experience is the same, i.e., online. The hub was closed for over two years, and all batches took place online; it was reopened in June for a trial period of about three months—and recently, it was decided to keep it open until further notice!

Batches are now a mix of people attending virtually and in-person, and I wanted to wait until in-person was possible again. The trial also lined up well with my five-year anniversary at work, which gives me some extra time off in the form of a sabbatical. As far as I can tell, there is going to be a good number of in-person Recursers.

Project ideas

A big challenge was sifting through my long list of projects and selecting some that would be a good fit: challenging, but not so hard that I’d only get to “hello world” in six weeks, exciting, enabling me to learn new things…

To give you an idea of the unfiltered selection, here’s what the list initially looked like:

Choosing two things

In the end, I settled on two projects: a main project, and a less challenging fallback project.

For the fallback project, I’m going to start reading the Pickaxe book to learn Ruby, and after a while start the Building Git project.

But for the main course, and notice how that wasn’t on the original list 😬 I want to work on a virtual “physical environment”. I’m envisioning a three-dimensional room with objects in it that behaves as if it were attached to the viewer, which could be a Google Cardboard, or a VR headset; imagine a ball in the room, which should roll towards the viewer when leaning back, to the right when tilting the viewer clockwise, and so on.

I think this could be web-based, using whatever magic there is when you can select “view in VR” on a website. This project would combine a lot of things for me:

But who knows

Two of the three self-directives of Recurse Center are “build your volitional muscles”, and “learn generously”. (The third one is “work at the edge of your abilities”, which I think the previous section covers.)

I understand the “volitional muscle” as becoming good at realizing what excites me the most, and then acting on that realization. In other words (and as pretty much all alumni I’ve spoken with confirmed), the projects you planned working on might not be what you end up working on in reality. Especially for me, doing just half a batch, I think it is thus important to focus on my initial project to reach a “breaking point” sooner rather than later. The one scenario I want to avoid is realizing that I don’t want to work on a project a few days before my batch ends.

And learning generously is about sharing, pairing, demo-ing… one way I plan on doing that is by blogging regularly (hence this post!). Since this is still based on my own, very minimal static site generator, there’s no RSS feed to subscribe to—yet! I’ll try and add one during the first week or so.