Vijith (2015 edition)

(sorry, I should have used the truncate function more often)

We made it!

Over the summer I wrote a short series for The Awl which essentially picked up where my old Spin column left off. At Spin, the mandate was just to explore pop songs from other countries and write about them using plainly accessible language that wouldn’t scare off American listeners. The Awl took it one step further by lampooning the concept of the “song of the summer,” which the preceding year was ultimately awarded to Iggy Azalea’s fitful atrocity “Fancy,” to nearly everybody’s chagrin. But global popular culture should not belong to the United States, so we decided to exclude all songs in English this time as a brute-force corrective measure. If nothing else, while compiling those posts I found many wonderful new songs which I will adore forever.

Certainly the most widely read thing I wrote this year was an interactive column for McSweeney’s about the politically willful misapplication of grammatical rules. This made me acutely aware of the difference between humor and satire. The illustrations also created an unusually complete feedback loop between writing and coding; I’ve come to consider those two pursuits more similar than different over many years of building editorial tools for newspapers, magazines, and blogs, but this one required code that was itself about writing: JavaScript and CSS to alter sentence structure, functions that need the right words in order to execute.

If I’m starting to lose you here, that’s OK! All year I repeatedly found myself aggressively advocating for better software documentation, because many of technology’s biggest obstacles comes from developers who treat their own work as self-evident. That’s why I spent as much time putting together thorough manuals for the software projects I released on GitHub as I did on any writing assignment; one of those scripts was itself a tool for “literate” programming, an approach whereby the code is packaged with a ton of accompanying explanatory writing. In particular, I hope this level of detail makes it easier to repurpose the WordPress plugin I wrote for the Writers of Color directory.

Toward the end of the year I joined The Message, a small team of writers run by Medium as in-house incubator of sorts, test driving the publishing platform while analyzing intersections of culture and technology. My favorite thing I wrote all year was my first contribution there, an essay called “My Heart Feeds A Series Of Tubes” which traverses my early history of creating primitive data processors. Those projects were most often little tools that I’d built to solve problems in my own life, so I described each through the lens of the personal issues it helped me work through, and the story ended up being about friends and fear as much as data and technology.

There were others, but if there’s a common thread running through my favorites here, it’s the amount of freedom I had while working on them. That in turn encouraged me to pursue even more new ideas, and as a result I now have more half-baked partial drafts in motion simultaneously than at any other point in my life. I’ve always been driven by deadlines, assignments, and structure, so this has been a big leap for me. I hope I’ll actually do something with them next year. Maybe I should make a resolution.