This is less of a blog post, and more of a collection of Friday thoughts that occurred to me on my morning run. Last night I was livestreaming some work on a new moss blog post in which I describe the use of Look-Up Tables (LUTs) as storage elements on an FPGA (this will be published in a few days). However, I ended up spending the majority of the time scouring the internet for documentation on the relationship between 5-input LUTs (LUT5) and 6-input LUTs (LUT6) on Xilinx 7 Series FPGAs. It was a pretty boring watch, unless you enjoy long periods of continuous silence, occasionally interrupted by a large exhale or incoherent muttering.

Reflecting on this stream, and others I have done in the past, I started to think about the value they are or are not providing. Specifically, I was thinking about the nature of the moss project, which is part of my three year commitment to chip design, and whether livestreaming is more or less useful when focused on long-term projects. The following motivations came to mind.

  1. It provides regularity.

    Succeeding in long-term projects requires constantly pushing the ball forward. Finding time every day, every week, or every month to do that can be challenging, especially if the project is secondary to other responsibilities. Regular livestreaming is not necessarily superior to just setting aside the requisite time to do the work, but it does create some public accountability around it.

  2. It creates space for community.

    At times I have started livestreaming expecting no one to show up for the duration of the (typically quite long) stream. This is a totally acceptable outcome for me. However, I am regularly surprised that folks show up in the chat, ask questions, provide feedback, or just want to hang out. Strong communities are built over long periods of time, and providing a space early on in a project’s lifecycle gets that journey started.

  3. It ties a tangible output to the inevitable periods of toil.

    Sometimes I am jealous of folks who are able to go long periods of time without producing tangible output and not get anxious about it. In fact, getting more comfortable with that mode of operation has been one of the biggest areas of growth for me as I have taken on more and more responsibilities throughout my career. However, whether due to nature or nurture, I am always going to be a person who loves building tangible things. Working on moss stress tests this desire because there is a fair amount of research and experimentation required for me to ramp up my expertise in both concepts and tooling. Livestreaming during those periods helps satiate my desire to make something.

  4. It debunks the “overnight success” phenomenon.

    To the outside world, successful long-term projects frequently appear as though they were built overnight. Sometimes it can be tempting for the builders themselves to lean into that narrative. I’d like to think I wouldn’t capitulate to that portrayal, but having an archive with hours and hours of me stumbling through datasheets is some nice insurance.

  5. It captures authentic moments of clarity.

    One of the things I want to capture during my learning and building is the moments when a concept “clicks”. Sometimes hours of reading and thinking precede that critical instant of understanding, and if you can help other folks get there faster than you did then you are providing some real value. While I try to ensure that I take note when those moments occur when I’m not livestreaming, I can be certain they are enshrined when I am already recording myself working.

  6. It helps you hone your public speaking skills.

    While I joke about how dull my livestreams can be, there are moments when I take what I have been reading or doing and verbally synthesize them for the audience. Already being live makes those opportunities readily available. In a single livestream, I may give 10-20 small presentations. While these aren’t the same as talks I have given to rooms full of people, there is still some of the same underlying pressure of folks you don’t know watching and evaluating you. Having access to a forum in which you can practice presenting under pressure in a relatively low stakes environment helps you improve skills you also use when presenting to a larger audience.

With these in mind, I’ll continue to livestream for now, and encourage others working on large, long-term, public projects to do the same. Come hang out as we build moss, and feel free to reach out if you have feedback or requests for any of the content I am making along the way!