long game

This post was transcribed from the imitone Kickstarter blog. Click here to view the original post.

In our August post I announced imitone’s move from a (largely) solo project to a small team.  In the past, I’ve been warned that for the first year or so this would actually put me further behind — new people need to become familiar with the project as we work out a system of communicating and assigning tasks.  This has proven true… but to be honest, another year of spreading myself thin hasn’t been so different from what came before.

I can’t really say whether 2020 has been a good year or a bad one for this transition.  I can say it has been a strange, exhausting year.  For me, this had little to do with remote work and day-to-day isolation (which are normal parts of a nomadic lifestyle).  Instead, it was a lack of disruptions — situations that ordinarily pull me away from my work, providing an opportunity to stop and reflect on how things are going.

Cycles are powerful.  Deep, solitary work goes hand in hand with a gradual loss in perspective.  And so the support of a team is essential.

Late 2020

Here’s how we finished out the year:

September

October

  • MIDI: Formed a standards committee focused on pitch and tuning.
     
  • imitone: Developed an energy-saving method for our new technology.  [0.10.1]
     
  • Personal: Moved to a remote part of Washington state.
     

November

  • imitone: Released a bugfix update.  [0.10.1a]
     
  • imitone: Developed a number of tools to enhance our customer support and error reporting.
     
  • Team: Set up our new headquarters.
     
  • Community: Started a weekly imitone-powered kitten camera.
     

December

  • imitone: Updated the imitone manual with new settings and a video.
     
  • imitone: Released an update to improve our customer support systems.  [0.10.1c]
     
  • Team: Assisted Lou in moving to Washington for an apprenticeship.
     
  • imitone: Resumed work on a major overhaul of imitone’s codebase.
     

Sharpening our Tools

For me, the dominant theme of 2020 has been “stopping to improve”.  Some situations can only be brought under control by suspending what we ordinarily think of as “forward progress”.  Certainly that is the case with ordinary activity during a pandemic; it’s also the case with a dysfunctional development process.

With imitone, we’re working past an over-reliance on me in all aspects of the project.  (This winter has been something of a stumble in that process, with one team member moving across the USA and another unavailable for personal reasons.)  We’re also fixing the fact that the software itself is too centralized, in a certain sense, by breaking it into smaller pieces with more specific responsibilities.  Between these two concerns, we’re putting the pieces in place for a better process:

  • A new headquarters outfitted for video recording, coworking and lessons with my apprentice.
     
  • A new software architecture that will streamline development of features, ports and plugins.
     
  • A collection of research tools for improving our experimental new technology.
     
  • New MIDI 2.0 specifications that will bring improvements to pitch and tuning.
     
  • Long-term roles and responsibilities for our new team members.
     

Each of these tools has been a long time coming, with a share of false starts and missteps.  Each will help us move forward creating the accessible music tool we’ve had in mind since the project’s beginning.

This vision requires us to play the long game — inventing a new technology, a new design, and changing the standards for computer music.  Certain heights can’t be reached without first building a strong foundation, and we’re putting in that work (perhaps contrary to entrepreneurial wisdom).

As I ease back into development, my thoughts are brimming with things I’m eager to build, rebuild and change — things I’ve been eager about for a long time — but the new architecture comes first.  It will change how we approach day-to-day development, speeding up the process and opening many new doors for how imitone can be used in the future.

So, I’m going heads-down.  Wish me luck.

— Evan

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