Learning in Public

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Building on ideas of working in public and open-source communities. No clear way of evaluating the long-term risks.

Learning is a complex process, and there are many different ways to approach it. For many tasks, I enjoy learning by doing . These tasks must be of a practical nature, such as programming or cooking. On other topics, generally more ambiguous, the doing becomes synonym with thinking , therefore it would be appropriate to call the process learning by thinking .

The other aspect, is the fact of doing it in public . I ask myself why I want to follow this path. On the one hand, it is an experiment, and I want to see what happens. This is what Andy Matuschak writes:

I love this kind of communication personally, but I suspect it also creates more invested, interesting followings over the long term. That effect’s probably related to Working on niche, personally-meaningful projects brings weirder, more serendipitous inbounds.

He, same as me, wonders whether there'll be a long-term meaningful connection with others thanks to working with the garage door up . If we express ourselves while we think, we enable others to engage in the process, perhaps prevent us from falling into biases. But, for this to happen, there must be a way of establishing a two-way communication[^¹].

Regarding the idea of working with the garage door up, I also found very inspiring the following passage:

Part of the problem of social media is that there is no equivalent to the scientific glassblowers’ sign, or the woodworker’s open door, or Dafna and Jesse’s sandwich boards. On the internet, if you stop speaking: you disappear. And, by corollary: on the internet, you only notice the people who are speaking nonstop.

Therefore, this website is an effort to bring out of social media the creative process. In the same way you see when someone is making a sandwich at a local café, it would be great to see when someone is crafting up a blog post, or a wildly successful TikTok video. But this simply does not happen, there are no neighborhood where to hangout online and just see what's up. We are exposed only to finished work.

The personal brand strategy

There is also a completely different angle regarding why would someone (me in this case) learn in public. You may want to build a brand of yourself. The more you post things, the better chances of someone reading you. The more you post, the more you will look as an expert in a field. Your next career move can be fueled by what you wrote online during the past year.

At some point people will start asking you for help because of all the stuff you put out. 80% of developers are "dark", they dont write or speak or participate in public tech discourse. But you do. You must be an expert, right? Don't tell them you aren't. Answer best as you can, and when you're stuck or wrong pass it up to your mentors.

Python for the Lab is my closest example. I have received questions and provided answers. I was referred to as "The Python Guy" more than once. I wonder if this space will transform itself, by my own hand, into another channel to build my personal image. There are many topics which are not as well defined and circumscribed as "Python for the Lab" on which I would love to build a space.

Risks

I think that learning in public exposes oneself to the world in a very vulnerable state. We can make mistakes, and we can be criticized for them, especially if they happen in an ethical or political context more than in a technical one. Perhaps because my audience is limited, I can afford building things openly.


  1. Decentralizing the conversation via webmentions , for example, can be a great way of keeping an asynchronous, time-independent, knowledge construction flow.

Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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