My thoughts on the emerging ”tools for thought” community

I've been lucky enough to be part of many computing communities over the years: BBSes in the 1990s, Linux/open source in the 2000s, Ruby/agile/web in the late 2000s, the Berlin startup scene in the 2010s.
I define community as a group of people who share a passion in a topic and some values connected to that. This passion and values sets them apart from the mainstream.

The community emerges when they gather (physically or virtually) to bond over that commonality.
(Aside to recommend The Art of Community:…)
The Tools for Thought label comes from Howard Rheingold's 1985 book:… — and the visionaries referenced here (Engelbart, Kay, Licklider) are heroes for this community.
More current reads to get started learning about tools for thought:

▸ How can we develop transformative tools for thought? by @michael_nielsen and @andy_matuschak

▸ Computers and Creativity by @mollyfmielke
Also a plug for my own podcast on the topic:
For me, tools for thought is about seeing computers as having untapped potential for helping humans be more thoughtful, creative, and fulfilled in their intellectual pursuits.
And contrasting to other parts of tech and computing…

The difference to consumption computing (social media, TV/music, games, e-commerce) is obvious.
More subtly, TfT differs from classic productivity software which tends to focus on organizing.

Calendars, todo lists, email, group chat, project management—all important, but these things are not directly helpful with thoughtfulness or creativity.
Tools for thought overlaps heavily with HCI (human-computer interaction) academia, independent research, and open source.

But also has its commercial component in products like @NotionHQ, @figmadesign , @RoamResearch, @mymind, @MakeSpaceTeam, @rem_note (and my own @MuseAppHQ).
Unlike some other communities which seem to be all-in on capitalism (e.g. Silicon Valley) or all-in on public goods (e.g. open source, academia), tools for thought blends both. I like that.
Another break from old-school productivity software is vibe.

TfT software and its creators project their own unique vibe. There was only one vibe of these older tools (Word, Photoshop, etc): utilitarian.

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More from @_adamwiggins_

2 May
Last but not least: tools for thought is as much about human factors as it is about technology.

Yes, we talk about CRDTs and rendering performance. But we talk just as much about how to best achieve flow state or create comfort in collaborative spaces.
There isn't a single place (like a conference) this community gathers, as far as I can tell. But here's a Twitter list to get you started:…

(Not intended to be definitive—this is just some folks I happened to think of right now.)
Not sure yet where this community will go in the coming years, but I'm already greatly enjoying the connections I'm making and I look forward to what the future holds. ❤️
Read 4 tweets
23 Jan
.@ccorcos builds up the concept of a relational database from first principles:…
I've been working with databases for ~30 years, but this piece had me re-examining some things I take for granted.

Wish I had something like this when I was first grappling with indexes and query planners!
Generally speaking I love the ELI5 approach: start from a beginner's mind and pull in concepts one at a time.

(Another example is this piece on building Git from scratch by @ThbPlg)
Read 6 tweets
3 Dec 20
It's been almost exactly a decade since Salesforce acquired Heroku.

Good time to share a few reflections, especially in light of the Slack acquisition.
1/ Heroku was a hot company in 2010. But we had yet to deliver out our full product vision: the platform was Ruby-only, lacked background processes and a bunch of other capabilities needed for more substantial apps.
2/ The decision to accept the acquisition was made by me, the two other founders, and the CEO. (With input from our investors, of course.)

We saw it as a big funding round: never need to raise money again, and in the meantime get legitimacy for enterprise sales.
Read 19 tweets
29 Oct 20
[ANN] Ink & Switch begins a new chapter with @pvh at the helm!

Anyone who's been part of the Ink & Switch community this past year knows that Peter is the obvious choice, but for those that haven't here's the backstory…
Five years ago, the three Heroku founders started a research lab to explore what's next for productive computing.

The 2015 pitch deck:…
Peter joined us in 2017, opening a new track of research on CRDTs, peer-to-peer networking, and the decentralized web. His leadership here has been extraordinary.
Read 11 tweets
20 Apr 20
Lively and useful discussion here, thanks everyone!

Here's my motivations on this, thread👇
1/ First, not the reason: because I think Google is a bad company somehow. They've done a huge amount of good for tech and in the world broadly. And their products are generally excellent. ⭐️
2/ One general objection I have is with concentrations of power. I usually root for (and try to support) underdogs in my small show of support for balance in the world.
Read 11 tweets
19 Mar 19
Electron has been a game-changer for our lab as a rapid prototyping platform.

A few thoughts...
1/ The developer experience is top-notch. Our team has built prototypes on Windows/C#, iOS/Swift, Android/Kotlin, browser/JS/React, Chrome OS/Chrome Apps/Typescript, Flutter/Dart, and Rust/WASM, to name a few.
2/ Electron has consistently been the easiest to get started with, and then smooth and convenient for ongoing development. (We haven't had to deal with long-term maintainability, however)
Read 9 tweets

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