Meh.
Meh.

We had tree trimmers at the house for 3 days, and my wife is having a staycation, so I’ve been unable to finish filming the video version of the Making Drum Sticks article.

I’ve utilized that time to endlessly browse twitter gather my thoughts about what I do with my time regarding this site. I’d like to my thought process with you.

Nothing good, nothing bad. Just the musings of a content creator.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below! I read every comment and respond to most. No registration is necessary to comment, so don’t be shy.

Contents

What this is.

This website was originally started based on someone seeing some of my massive forum posts that I used to write and they said to me, “You should really make a website to preserve some of this stuff.”

So here we are.

I decided that I’d maintain a website that was no more than me posting things that interested me. I wouldn’t write anything unless it’d be the sort of thing that I’d enthusiastically jabber about at a party, or write on a forum or put my wife to sleep to.

The site was originally named after a song by a 90s rock band named Mineral. My first post was 12 years ago detailing the setup choices I made in my modest personal studio at the time.

I wrote about 1 article a month, and in a period of unemployment I decided to rename the site to its current nomen. I transferred most of the objective articles (tutorials) and began posting every few days.

I kept writing only content that I found interesting. Little tricks I found. Small tutorials. Whatever was the outcome of my curiousity.

DAWs.

I started writing DAW reviews because I became fed up with Digital Performer at the time. I wanted a new product, and naturally I began to fiercely explore the market and document my path.

I enjoyed it! I’ve written, approximately, the word-count of Pride and Prejudice TEN TIMES just on the subject of DAWs.

I’m not even tired of it. I still find it absolutely fascinating when left to my own devices. I particularly find REAPER incredibly interesting due to the development cycling and scripting.

Community.

I have fantastic readers. I get more positive comments than negative, and I’m at the point where I get thanked for my content nearly every time I post on a popular forum. I post anonymously most of the time now to avoid that, but it’s nice to see. I feel appreciated.

Youtube on the other hand… not so much. I somehow average excellent ratings, but the response to my content is relatively poor.

I originally decided that I would make content only for myself, but I’ve been lured by the allure of community requests. I’ve produced a few tedious series that I had relatively little interest in other than wishing to provide interesting content to readers (rather than for myself).

Dread.

I’ve recently caught myself dreading sitting down to write an article multiple times in the last 6 months. I worry that readers won’t appreciate the content, or it will be too niche, or it won’t fit the popular topic categories or that I’ll simply do a poor job.

I’ve almost entirely lost my drive to document my own curiosities.

My last video really sunk that nail into my skull. I spent 51 hours of ‘billable time’ for the lowest viewed content ever on the site. I enjoyed producing the content, but it was poorly received.

I could have written an article about why Logic is a steaming pile of partially digested pelican vomit and had a 10 page thread on vi-control for 1/3rd that effort!

Fuel to the fire was my nagging fear that I was ‘ripping off’ my patreons by providing content that did not interest them.

I am not pleased that I even considered these prospects.

Enjoyment.

My interests haven’t changed since I was young. I’ve always involved myself in the following things:

  • Chess.
  • Programming (largely Lisp and low-level languages).
  • Construction - Woodworking, Metalworking (fab and welding), Sewing, Carbon work, etc…
  • Music.
  • Role-playing games and board games.

It’s such a strange combination of things that as the site has grown I’ve grown to fear that my eclectic, but consistent, interests would be off-putting to the casual reader. Throw in my constant fear that my capabilities are insufficient to produce any content that might come off as authoritative, and you have a perfect mix for growing insecurity and yeilding to the subtle pressure of a growing community.

The last two articles I recall enjoying myself, then felt poorly about the reception. I think that I retconned my own enjoyment out of existence based on the reception and spent the last ~month thinking that I just hated writing now.

But I don’t. I love producing content.

I enjoy it.

Repercussions.

When producing something that will be consumed, you have to be considerate of its impact on the reader as they read it, as they attempt to imitate or integrate it, and how your changing views will impact them.

It’s quite similar to creating a library in the software development world.

You can’t just sit down, spit out some experimental idea, push it as some revolution, and then expect people to follow up in a year when you decide to blow up the entire API because your idea was garbage.

It takes time. You need to sit back and experiment on your own dime. Research prior knowledge. Look at past failures. Put out concrete work based on concrete conceptual baseis.

I like that. I enjoy designing my content. I enjoy designing my software systems. I enjoy failing, a lot, on my own time. I love when I can put out something and 5 years later it’s still useful because I took the time to fail on my own first, or because I took the time to plan before I failed.

I also used to pride myself on putting out content that was well-researched and planned, as well as keeping old content up to date.

I have had to accept that when producing videos, that is not possible. To combat that I created a system for a company that allows video content to be updated/refined, and as far as I’m concerned that’s there property. It works pretty awesome and there’s a lot of capability baked in that I’ve yet to explore. However, such technology isn’t feasible for this site.

It’s impossible to get people to discover video content unless you’re on youtube and youtube is a terrible platform for information. There are no revisions. There’s no editing. There’s no history. There’s no accountability. There’s no internal linkage. It’s terrible for information dissemination unless it’s a banal product announcement.

Look at my DAW v DAW series. It’s already incorrect because of product updates! How depressing is that? I can’t be checking every month to update the descriptions (that nobody reads) for multiple videos because an external party may invalidate the content.

So what I’m left with is text-based content only, and that’s not particularly fun.

Text-based content isn’t even invalidation-proof. I’ve had a sizeable number of articles about DAW A or DAW B where I point out some flaws, ask for some feature or discuss some workflow and a responsive set of developers comes along and improves their product in response.

Great. Now that content is basically garbage for future readers other than an exercise in mildly effective complaining.

Metamucil

At some point I decided to produce weekly content. It was a way of ensuring that I’d stay busy.

My health situation has made this somewhat difficult, but more importantly it’s exhaused my intellectual capacity. I simply can’t force myself to find things to dive into with sufficient regularity.

It used to be that I’d spend time reading a book/manual/forum/menus/code and come across something that sent me down into the rabbit hole. It’s not a regular occurrence though. You simply can’t guarantee that every piece of data that you consume will be stimulating.

I believe that this is partially why I’ve come to rely on creating content to please readers rather than to please myself. It’s easier to try and impress someone else than to regularly impress yourself.

Criticism drives that last point into your brain hard too. When I end up in a slump, I know that I become more sensitive to a critical comment or two. Maybe I should be looking into that idea. Maybe I did miss something there. Perhaps I do need to please that niche group.

Then I end up making decisions that aren’t driven by my convictions and curiosity, but are instead driven by my desire to fill gaps in a path that nobody need tread.

There’s something about criticism where it often is the most impactful when it’s the least valuable, and I need to be more vigilant of that.

The result is leaving a legacy of content that I’m not proud of because of people that aren’t even happy with what I created.

Absurd!

So what’s a content creator gotta do to get by?

I don’t know.

I’ve experienced times of doubt like this in my life and I just go find some obscure programming topic to obsess about until I forget about everything.

I already started to do that by writing 9 different site generators for this site, which I’ve enjoyed very much and learned quite a lot in the process. However that doesn’t make for particularly readable content.

Videos are basically limited to content that I’ve created and have control over.

Text limits my audience, but should I care?

Regularity is poison. There’s this pervasive idea that creators should be regular. No commits in 3 months? PROJECT MUST BE DEAD. No articles in 2 weeks? REMOVE DONATION. Major backend update? WHO CARES.

<insert shrug emoji>

Gotta follow my own path.

Tangible.

While editing this article over the course of a couple days I started to wonder which articles I particularly delighted in creating, and which I loathed.

I suspect you, dear reader, may be interested in that too.

Fear and Loathing.

  • Studio One - I have not once enjoyed using Studio One. I can’t pin down a specific set of concrete reasons why I dislike it or why it irks me so much, but it does. It’s the only software product I know of that I have an irrational dislike of.
    • Notably this is the only articles that I did not enjoy writing until about 2018.
  • Bitwig - I had a blast using Bitwig! I did not enjoy writing about it. I would have never done it except that it was requested almost daily for months. The entire process was me trying to figure out how to have fun, and I did. It was exhausting. I don’t believe I learned anything interesting from the software, nor do I feel like I educated anyone about it.
  • 30 Days with FLStudio - My longest series and the series that was the most requested. I can not use FL for my personal music, nor could I use it for my professional music ventures. The community is/was particularly toxic as well with over 30 death threats received referencing FL articles to date. Yes, death threats. One even went as far as to make sure they knew personal information and my location. I’m certain that not all FL users are like that, but the feedback I’ve received from FL users (or referencing FL content) as been 50:1 negative:positive.
  • Retromod - I have no idea why I wrote this, and I still don’t feel like I was honest. It’s a not a great product and I lightened the blow because I respect the people that worked on it. A limited set of people will find value in it, and most will find it totally worthless. I’ve considered deleting all of the retromod content, but I feel like that’s equally dishonest.
  • Line6 Helix - Line 6 is one of THE WORST companies that I ever worked with. I like Helix as far as amp sims go, but Line 6 completely ditched me when I produced an article that wasn’t 100% pure fellatio. They no longer respond to my e-mails despite a positive response from my readership (they’ve received over 400,000 impressions from my article to date). Doesn’t help that trying to get to the “right person” at Line6 is nearly impossible.
  • 30 days with Cakewalk - HUGE MISTAKE. I hated every moment of this. Besides disliking how the software works, the community is fractured, the developers don’t respond (they did once before writing the article, and never again) and I ABSOLUTELY HATE WINDOWS. I only wrote this article based on request.
  • DP VCA - I think this is the article that I receive the most positive feedback about. Readers/viewers consistently say that it’s the first content on the topic that truly helped them understand VCAs. I did not enjoy creating it. I produced this because I disliked needing to explain it over and over and over and over and over… I’m glad it’s helpful to people though.
  • DAW Chart - It’s not going anywhere, but I dislike the total mess of javascript it’s become. I want to redo it, but it will take me a month or more to rewrite the back and frontends and re-evaluate the software. I’ve felt trapped that I can’t spend so much time not putting out content just to redo something that’s mostly functional.
  • This whole website - I’ve been trying to have a completely self-written site generation solution for nearly a year now. This is both as a desire to get off Jekyll, and as a desire to learn. That means writing my own markdown engine, templating engine, xml parsing engine, file sync, thumbnail generation (with “intelligent” cropping and resizing), database (why not?) and a graphical frontend for me etc… Once again I’ve felt trapped that I can’t spend so much time not producing “real content”. I’ve gone through the simplest of iterations of the concept (just a few libraries and generate some HTML from markdown), to trying to do every single thing I can from scratch. Each time I’m blocked by my own failure to understand my own needs, despite extensive notes and design work. Being continually blocked by the “need” to produce “real” content voraciously eats away at my motivation, and it puts a burden on my context switching abilities.
    • FWIW - I have fully functional software to build this entire site written 3 times now, but I’ve been unhappy with the UX and the flexibility of the templating systems. Since I’m the only user, I struggle to accept a poor UX. The purest form of masochism is writing bad software that only you will use. Regarding the template system: I have so many hacks in place to make Jekyll do what I want that I wish to totally avoid that. Currently the best solution I’ve come up with is that all specially tagged Clojure code blocks are interpreted literally. It seems so disgusting though… Sadly, it works really well.
    • I haven’t figured a solution to what I called the ‘two-scan problem’ (Surely this has a better name?) - Example: to generate a list of articles, inside an article, you need to have: A) a pre-written list of articles and metadata or B) to have scanned the entire website and generated template-readable data, then to re-parse each article to see if/where that data needs to be used. I’ve tried keeping a master-list of article meta-data, either automatically generated or manual, and trying to partially parse articles. The partial-parse solution fails when I want metadata that’s deep in the article such as generating a TOC or a summary. The master-list fails because it’s either ‘two-scan’ or a mistake-laden manually edited file. The master-list solution is cheap and fast. Fully parsing the entire website 2+ times is simple UX, but relatively slow (a 15-20 second build time for the website is NOT acceptable! That’s what I deal with using Jekyll).
      • My current idea is a two-process solution - One process constantly produces master metadata by scanning all articles and writes to a file or pipe. Another process builds the website using that metadata. I don’t think that I can edit articles fast enough for the inevitable 5-10 second potential desync to be problematic. Based on previous experiments, this should give me a sub-one-second build time for the entire site.
        • Writing above I just realized that I could have the build process only proceed when the master metadata builder finishes its scan. That would statistically cut the build time in half as it’s equally possible that it builds immediately after a master scan, must wait for a full scan, or everything in between.
        • Having the metadata builder only update keys related to files changed on disk since the last scan would speed it up a lot too. Duh. This could run as a daemon without much impact as well.
  • Cubase Resources - I tricked myself into saying I would write a certain number of articles, then when I fell short on content I felt compelled to write this embarrassing drivel. Ugh.

Savor.

  • Ardour V2 - Ardour isn’t my favourite software by any means, but the developers community and user community are FANTASTIC. I was able to get a coherent response, quickly, regarding any thoughts I had. I had fantastic educational discussions, and I feel I was able to provide valuable insight to devs/users. I truly enjoy writing about this software and the process of using it.
    • Same for Mixbus, see below.
  • Mixbus Criticism - I haven’t been super positive about Mixbus. I think I’ve been the “hardest” on Mixbus of any product that I’ve written about. Despite that, the developers behind the product have been helpful, positive, responsive and unrelenting in their desire to make the best software they can. I was always amazed that after writing an aggressively critical article I would occasionally get a message that was looking to start a discussion rather than being defensive. Sometimes I relented after a reasoned explanation, and sometimes they did. Sometimes nobody did, but we had a wonderful chat. I’ve interacted with significant team members of every major DAW, and I feel that the Ardour and Mixbus devs are the most rational and ‘commonsensical’ of the lot.
  • Mouse CPI Resolution Adapter - An article that I wrote purely for myself, yet I still get e-mails every couple weeks telling me how much I improved someone’s life by solving this annoying problem for them. I think this is the embodyment of what I wish this website to be.
  • Editor Musings - I loved writing this article! It’s basically my notes turned into markdown. Many people have thanked me for it, and I still refer to it.
    • Unfortunately Dragon no longer works, and this has greatly slowed down my ability to produce content. I now use VS Code exclusively despite 20+ years of emacs. I can only type for about an hour at a time now, and emacs reduces that time by half. VS Code has better accessibility support. (Emacs is still the best text editor though!)
  • Vanessa - I never talked directly to Vanessa. I sent an e-mail to Steinberg saying that I wanted to help show the humanity of some of their workers. I gave them a question sheet and they got back to me with this. They were honest with me about the process and polite without being coldly professional. Great experience.
  • Reamp or DI - Another article I wrote purely for myself as I tried to figure out information about the topic. I learned much.
  • Sample Accurate Automation JSFX - What a rush when the author of the software tells you that you totally screwed up. I did my research, I did lots of testing, I made a mistake, I have not fixed it, and I love that I experienced this. Few things I revel in more than being told that I can improve something..
  • Phase Plant Review - I spoke poorly about Kilohearts products for a long time. However, they are truly awesome people, and Phase Plant is an incredibly fun synthesizer. I changed my mind about their product line as I wrote that article and the process of feeling a strong opinion change due to my own diligence (and the patience of their team) was enthralling.
  • Ctags and such - Another article I wrote that was me figuring out something. I don’t think it actually helped anyone on the planet, but I liked it.

Conclusion

I’m just writing this out to gather my thoughts somewhat. To summarize:

  • I’ve realized that I’ve slowly devolved into making this site about my readers, and not myself. That is not what I want.
    • I should recognize that my ideas, methods and writing seem to be interesting enough to have got me this far.
  • Somehow I’ve become afraid of my readers, despite them being largely supportive and interesting people.
  • Videos suck.
  • I’ve come to pressure myself to create content I don’t like to serve people that I don’t know. I made it this far by creating content that I find interesting, and somehow convinced myself that I need to write content for other people.
    • I think that my content suffers because I lose interest quickly or try to pad out content with nonsense so I can meet arbitrary goals.
  • I hate programmers that write ‘important’ but poorly designed libraries then abandon them. Then nobody wants to put in the effort to do it right because it’s easy to hack together the garbage than to do it right, and you didn’t really want to be sending json over the wire anyway.
  • Writing DAW articles is tedious because they are invalidated more quickly than they are written, and ironically sometimes because of the article that I wrote!
  • I’m probably discounting my health situation. I have been quite public with my health situation as its progressed, yet I still can’t accept that it’s clearly having an impact on my ability to do the things I want. I didn’t mention it in this article as an base for my frustrations, nor have I though of it as such, but I don’t think it’s rational to ignore it. I am ignoring it regardless.

I’m still thinking through this. I know that I need to eliminate this irrational fear of my fantastic readership. I know that I need to spend more time following my curiosities rather than trying to come up with a concept and hope that I can force myself through it. I know that I need to stop pressuring myself to put out ‘regular’ content.

There’s some irony here that I won’t post this on my Patreon page so that I don’t bother my supporters with this twaddle.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. This is all part of the endless maturation process, and I appreciate you being along for the ride.

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