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A (Belated) Hello World!

luckierdodge profile image Ryan D. Lewis ・4 min read

πŸ‘‹ Hey Everyone!

My name is Ryan D. Lewis, and I'm...not exactly new around here, but this is my first post! So allow me to introduce myself.

πŸ“ Education

I'm currently a Master's Candidate in Computer Science, with a B.S. in Computer Science and Computational Mathematics, looking to eventually earn a PhD.

πŸ’» Work

As an undergrad, I got a good bit of experience in software/web development and IT through internships and on-campus work, and research through undergraduate research programs at my school. I liked the latter so much, I ended up committing to grad school, and have since gotten some invaluable experience working at a National Laboratory's Leadership Computing Facility.

🎷 Fun Facts

  • I'm a hobby 3D printer enthusiast
  • I'm the President and lead programmer of my school's Mars Rover Team
  • I've been playing the saxophone for almost 10 years now 🎡
  • I got into programming reading a book (or more aptly, perhaps, a tome of ancient wisdom) from my Dad's collection called Introduction to Programming when I was in middle school. It covered QBASIC, Pascal, C, and, if memory serves, one of the dBase languages. (Though I read the book cover-to-cover, C is the only one I've actually written code in, and that wasn't until I got to college.)

❓ Why Now?

It might seem a bit silly for me to be writing a Hello World style post now, given that I've been lurking on Dev for over 2 years at this point. But in that time, I've:

  • Written 0 posts
  • Written 0 comments
  • Added a bunch of stuff to my Reading List (some of which I've actually read!)
  • Dropped a ❀️ and πŸ¦„ here and there

And I feel like this platform deserves a little more engagement on my part! So why the sudden change from lurker to poster? Well, 3 reasons:

  1. We've all got to start somewhere, and now seems as good a time as any.

  2. More seriously, I think I've reached the point in my career journey where I'm comfortable with sharing my thoughts and contributing my perspective to the general discourse. I've spent a lot of my time in the last 5 years mentoring younger students at my university, and it's something that I really enjoy, so I'd like to expand that to a broader audience and community.

  3. I've intended to write posts and contribute to the conversation before, on a number of topics, but a combination of a busy schedule and a lack of confidence in the value of what I had to say led me to abandon the effort each time. My theory is, just putting something out there saying "Here's me, and here's the things I'm gonna talk about moving forward" should help keep me a little more accountable.

βœ… Making Plans

Speaking of accountability, there's a couple things that I want to post about in the near futureβ€”little side projects or things I find interesting enough to talk about. I'm hoping to post about once every 2 weeks, but we'll see if that plan survives contact with the proverbial enemy.

In no particular order:

  • 🚧 Overhauling my Personal Website 🚧: I've been rocking a GitHub Pages site, running on Jekyll, for a couple years now. It's been...fine, mostly, but I've found getting Jekyll up and running in a stable way to be rather tedious on Windows, so I'm thinking of switching it up. Plus, I've been meaning to migrate to a self-hosted solution, so this might be a good opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone, and learn a new Static Site Generator while I'm at it.
  • πŸ€– Anki Cozmo and ROS πŸ€–: I recently acquired a used Anki Cozmo, a tiny, adorable social robot released way back in 2016. Unfortunately, the company behind it is going out of business (not uncommon in the robotics business), but the robot itself is still functional and the app and SDK for it are still available, at least for now. The SDK means we can integrate it with the Robotic Operating System, so I'm hoping to use it come fall to teach new members of my University's Mars Rover Team about how to develop for ROS.
  • 🐘 Adventures in the Fediverse 🐘: I've been aware of Federated Social Networks like Mastodon for a while now, but up until recently, I'd never really felt the impetus to join one. A recent reddit thread got me thinking about the state of the "Fediverse", so I thought I'd explore and report back on my findings.
  • πŸ’° A Case for Web Monetization πŸ’°: Web Monetization is something I'm really intrigued by. I think it has the potential to cause a huge shift in the incentive structure of the Web. I'd love to get some thoughts on paper and see if I can reason my way through it.
  • πŸ“š Learning Rust/TypeScript/WebAssembly πŸ“š: We'll see if I actually decide to write anything for these, but if nothing else, I've been meaning to dig into all 3 of these languages on my own (and several others, honestly), but haven't yet found the time.

In Conclusion

If you've made it this far, thanks for playing along! As a reward, here's a picture of my roommate's kitten sitting on my 3D Printer:

Kitten on a 3D Printer

Long story short: Hello World! I'm hoping to spend some more time hanging out here and adding my thoughts to the community. Feel free to leave a comment and say hello, ask a question, or recommend your favorite Static Site Generator/hosting solution for personal sites!

Take care, folks πŸ‘‹.

Discussion (8)

Editor guide
ben profile image
luckierdodge profile image
Ryan D. Lewis Author

Hey Ben! Reading the second article was definitely one of the things that motivated me to finally write this post. Missed the first one though, that's super neat!

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

How far did you get with Mastodon?

luckierdodge profile image
Ryan D. Lewis Author

I'll get around to doing a full post on this eventually, but here's the gist of what I've found both with Mastodon and the Fediverse as a whole: the technical mechanics are pretty much all or mostly there and relatively solid. Making an account, setting up my profile, "tooting" and replying and following all worked flawlessly. From that perspective, it is a nearly perfect substitute for Twitter.

Where I'd say it struggles is two things: moderation and network effect. For the latter, twitter has a pretty clear first-mover advantage. People use Twitter now because that's where their friends, favorite brands, and celebrities are at. Those people are, in turn, on Twitter because that's where the people are. Mastodon doesn't have that, and it doesn't offer any very obvious unique features. What it does have going for it is its federated, decentralized nature and not data harvesting as a business model. While these are attractive to folks like me, they aren't a big attraction for your average users, sadly.

And that federated, decentralized bit is a two-edged sword. While it means you can't be easily deplatformed or silenced, it also means that going into the federated feed is like drinking from a very gross, unpleasant firehose. Especially because people who were deplatformed from a site like Twitter, sometimes for good reason, often find or make their own space on federated tools.

I am, for the most part, a social media lurker, so I haven't posted a ton. But I've found some accounts to follow and spent a decent amount of time curating my feed and ensuring that I'm seeing things that I want to see. But it's unfortunately not a full replacement for Twitter just yet, at least not for me.

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

The people behind the firehose tend to get stuck in their own circle of federated instances, because most places let you block other instances.
My experience has been that nastiness is shut down very quickly - hence the resort to places like Gab and Parler .

Thread Thread
luckierdodge profile image
Ryan D. Lewis Author

I'd tend to agree, I did find that after applying the "block user" and "block instance" buttons relatively liberally, things cleaned up quite a bit. While blocking wasn't a tool I felt particularly compelled to use on other platforms, it might just be a necessary evil when it comes to federated platforms.

I also do find myself wondering if I would have a different experience with a more niche instance, rather than a general-purpose instance like Certainly might be worth comparing the two.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I generally use one instance which I found randomly, and it's mostly populated by developers and the like.

Thread Thread
luckierdodge profile image
Ryan D. Lewis Author

Yeah, I might do some shopping around for a niche instance to try out. I went with a more general one because I wanted to get a feel for the "average" user experience, but long term I suspect a more personally relevant instance might make for a better home. Guess we'll find out!