Micro Monday interview with Amit Gawande (@amit)
Published October 1, 2018
Jean: Hey, it’s Micro Monday again, the weekly microcast where we get to know members of the Micro.blog community. I’m Jean MacDonald, the community manager here at Micro.blog, and on this episode, I am very happy to welcome Amit Gawande, who is @amit on Micro.blog. Hello, Amit. How are you doing?
Amit: Hi, Jean. I’m doing wonderful. Thank you for having me here—totally excited to be talking to you.
Jean: As am I. I’m really glad. as I was saying before we started recording. There’s something really fantastic about this job, which gives me the license to call up people around the world and chitchat with them.
Amit: I think it’s a good job to have, to be frank.
Jean: Well, there’s a lot of interesting things we can talk about with Micro.blog, and some of the things you’re doing, and how you’re doing them. But, before we do that, I’d love it if you could tell the listeners a little bit more about yourself.
Amit: Yeah, sure. I’m a software developer. I work at an I.T. company in Pune, a town in the western part of India.
I live here with my wife, my five-year-old daughter, and my sister. I guess as typically in my profile, most of the places read: I code for living but I live for reading and writing. I love to read; I love to write. I aspire to be a writer someday. We will see how that goes. But, I’ve been writing both fiction and nonfiction for quite some time now, so that is one of the things that I do outside my day job.
Aspirations aside, I’m a developer first. I spend significant time on multiple hobby projects that I have. One of them has been Microthreads, which I worked on while I was getting to know the Micro.blog platform. I’m trying to see what I can do. There are many such hobby projects that I’ve been working on.
So, it’s kind of a busy life in a way between work, family, and these hobby projects, and of course, spending time with my daughter, which typically takes up most of the time.
Jean: That does sound like quite a full plate, and I’m glad you brought up Microthreads because I had been aware of it, seeing some of the folks on Micro.blog talk about it and you recommending it. It was on my to-do list to check it out, and then, I only checked it out this morning because I thought—”wait a minute, you haven’t looked at this yet!” I think part of the problem is I always assume it’s going to be something above my tech abilities. So, when I did finally look at it, I said—”this is not above your tech abilities, at least to sign up for.” So, I did. Maybe you could talk a little bit more about what Microthreads does and how people can use it.
Amit: The story with Microthreads started, as I mentioned, as I was getting to know the Micro.blog platform in my early days on the platform. One of the issues that I faced was that there were so many amazing discussions happening on the platform. Of course, it’s such a vibrant and exciting community on the platform, and I thought there had to be a way to keep track of all the recommendations that this community keeps pushing. So, that’s how this Microthread concept or idea started in my mind.
I wanted a place where I could make sure that for all the recommendations that are given as part of multiple discussions, there would be a place where I could store them. That’s how it started. There was an Explore section that I started with, where you could tag a list of all the Discover section, the tagmojis that are there on the Micro.blog platform. And all the recommendations—when I say recommendations, primarily all the links and discussions that are on a particular thread—they get tracked on that explore section itself, so somebody can go back and check what exactly was discussed as part of this particular thread, and maybe recommend it.
It started when somebody asked for, let’s say, what are your typical podcasts that you listen to, and everybody is giving such amazing stuff for podcasts, which I had no idea about. I think Microthreads allowed me to capture that, and that was how it started. It then became the place I kept going back to to solve the problems that I was facing.
I don’t want to make this fully about Microthreads, but there was another part which was primarily around discovery because it is one of the problems that many people who are not in U.S. time zones might face. Because I am not in a U.S. time zone, I tend to lose out on many of the discussions that happen, and I wanted to see whether I can do something around the discovery phase itself.
What I did was to create something that allows you to discover some interesting threads that people have been talking about. What happens is if you look at a timeline, what you see are the replies, but you may not know original thread. Instead of clicking on every one of them, I thought it would be good if I could look at all the threads that originated this amazing discussion that is going on in my timeline.
That is how the discovery section started, and then it went on to user discovery. So, to sum up, Microthreads focuses on providing an Explore section where you can explore different recommendations that the community is throwing at the platform, in a way, to help everyone and to discover the amazing users who are on the platform and the topics that are discussed on the platform.
So, in a way, it focuses on both of those parts. It was created for me primarily, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible, and I think that is something that I’ve been hearing from everybody—that it is easy, so I hope that it happened.
Jean: Yes, I can attest to that, and I suggest to any listeners—if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should go over there, and I’ll put a link in the show notes for Microthreads.
It is an interesting problem to have, that there’s so much interesting stuff going on we can’t keep track of it.
I appreciate when somebody like you says—hey, I think I have a way of cutting into this problem because, especially, I tend to lose perspective because I am following it in many time zones (laughter). I tend to be checking in and curating the Discover timeline at various hours of the day, and I’m always happy when I see the next timezone of people come on. (laughter) It gets a little quiet around 10:00 in my time zone, 10 o’clock in the evening, and then if I’m still up an hour or so later, I’m like—oh, here come the people from Europe and Asia, now.
Amit: Yeah, it’s just the reverse for us.
Jean: To backtrack a little bit about Micro.blog and you, how did you find out about it, or what drew you to wanting to participate in Micro.blog?
Amit: I guess I caught on to Micro.blog somewhere at the beginning of this year. I had been recently enthralled by the whole endeavor community and the fascinating projects these guys had been working on. In parallel, I was also working on enabling my site with all those open principles, and I thought—sure, it has to be done. All those principles are wonderful, and it will make the site more open or better. That’s the advantage of the open web as you call it. One of the projects was Micro.blog, but I had heard about the platform since its Kickstarter days.
It was through various podcasts and posts; I had heard Manton speak about it on Core Intuition with Daniel. I also heard them talk about it on one of the Talk Shows with John Gruber, and it was one of the tweets from Gruber that finally brought me to the platform. I saw him actively posting on Micro.blog, and I thought—why not? I mean I was already working on a section of my site for micro-posts. I thought that this would be the best opportunity to push it to Micro.blog, too. But, frankly speaking, I had no idea at that time this would become the primary outlet for all my social interactions.
That just happened. (laughter), and it happened in parallel to my dislike towards all the other platforms. I had slowly started becoming more of a passive consumer at other platforms, just flowing through the timelines, not really participating or contributing at any level, and I did not like that. I think Micro.blog made sure I was out of that block that I was facing. I’ve been happy with that, I guess.
Jean: How long have you been blogging? Is this something second nature to you?
Amit: i’ve been blogging since 2007. I’ve blogged on multiple platforms. I don’t think there’s any platform as such that I didn’t try out. Of course, there are so many of them, there would be a list of the platforms that I had not even heard about, but most of the well-known platforms I’ve tried. I’ve blogged on Blogger, Wordpress, and I even I had my site on different platforms. I had WordPress running my site, then I had self-hosted a WordPress site. I then moved to Squarespace and Ghost and other platforms, too.
So, in a way, I’ve been blogging on multiple platforms, and every platform gave a particular outlet. So, my site stayed the primary blogging platform, but then, I’ve also blocked on Medium where I started posting my fiction, and Medium allowed me to start writing fiction in a way. That’s how it started. Then, I brought the fiction back to my site.
Every time there was a new platform, I had an idea that I wanted to try with that platform. For example, Medium was for fiction. Similarly, Twitter became for microposts and things like that.
Jean: Yes, I’ve talked to many people, as you know, on this podcast, and there is definitely this sense of trying to find the right platform, the right place for what we’re doing online, whether it’s writing fiction, nonfiction, posting, writing news, micro posts, and when new platforms come out, they have some advantages, and you think—well, that might be the place for me to go.
Amit: I completely agree. I think I should not do that, but for some reason, the moment I look at the platform, I just I just can’t help myself but go through what it provides. If there’s a trial version, I’ll write a post and see how it looks. (laughter) For some reason, I want the place where I would post just the way I want it to be. It can’t be a place that I do not want to visit. If it is a place I don’t see my content, and I don’t want to read my content at that place, I don’t think anybody else would.
So, I’ve spent significant time making the place where my posts would exist just the way I want them. Currently, my site is running on Hugo. I’ve spent so much time with that static blog engine to get it perfect, just the way I want it. The same for my micro posts. They run on Blot. I’m one of those few people that have their blogs running on Blot engine.
I guess there’s a there’s a small community on Micro.blog with using Blot. So, I have that to customize just the way I want it. That’s how currently it stays, with my longer posts on the static site run with Hugo And the microposts on Blot.
Jean: I did try for a while to go with Wordpress, which I had used and am using for some other sites, but for my personal stuff, once I started using Micro.blog as a blog, I got spoiled.
Amit: The simplicity exists. Ii is difficult to beat the simplicity of Micro.blog, because there’s some comfort in having a space where we can start writing without thinking about anything else—what would be the tags and titles and anything else—just make sure you focus on the words rather than focusing on the metadata—nothing other than the words that I want to post—that’s it.
Jean: Amit, with all the things that you are doing on the Web, all these different platforms that you are incorporating into your online life, what do you see as your primary use for Micro.blog?
When we started tracking numbers, that led us to more tracking and less posting, and with Micro.blog, I’m focusing more on writing, be it the original content, or be it the replies. Replies are important because it has allowed me to learn so much about the community, which is full of experts, I guess. Every day, there’s a new thing to learn. That’s how I’m using Micro.blog, writing freely whatever I feel and getting involved in multiple discussions.
Jean: That’s a good point about analytics. There’s simplifying the actual writing, and then there’s simplifying the inner turmoil. (laughter) What if I don’t get as many likes for this post, maybe it won’t be as good.
Amit: That pressure kills all the interest that you may have in posting at all, whether this would be liked or not.
Jean: Well, before we wrap this up, Amit, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Amit: I want to thank you and specifically Manton for having this wonderful platform created because it has allowed such a wonderful community to exist, to foster, and everybody is active. Everybody likes being here. So, thank you for that and making sure that there are no numbers on the platform. Let’s hope that it stays that way.
Jean: We have some pretty firm convictions about how the platform should be.
Jean: Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I appreciate you taking the time and also coordinating timezones with me.
Amit: The pleasure is all mine. Thanks a lot for doing this, Jean. This is wonderful.
Jean: Listeners, if you want to follow Amit on Micro.blog, there is a link in the show notes or you can go to Micro.blog/amit. We appreciate you listening, and we’ll talk to you next week.