Early Wednesday morning I’ll be flying to New York City for the Summer 1 batch at the Recurse Center. It’s not a boot camp, it’s a retreat for experienced programmers to improve their skills by making pretty much whatever they want. I’m crazy excited about it.

My problem is I’ve been saving up my programming ideas for like the last four years. I can’t do all of them in just 3 months. I think the best way to limit my scope and make the most of the experience, will be to talk through my ideas with other Recursers and work on things that other people are excited to team up on. It’s been a long, long time since I was on a real team project!

Anyway, let’s get started listing all this junk.

TVTropes Historian

I’ve had this idea since high school. Here’s how it goes:

  • Write a crawler to extract info from the TVTropes wiki and construct a database linking all the listed works to the tropes they use, and tropes to all the works that use them.
  • Use external databases to find out when each work was released, and use this information to chart the popularity of individual tropes over time.
  • Use these charts to analyze how certain tropes have risen and fallen in popularity throughout the evolution of modern media!
  • Also, by taking the average of the peak years of any given work’s tropes, will we be able to find out a work’s “spiritual” age? For example, are homage shows like Mad Men or Stranger Things more rooted in tropes of our time, or of the time periods they hark back to?
  • Create interactive analysis tools to make this information accessibly explorable to anyone else interested in data-driven critical media studies.


Fractive’s an open-source interactive fiction engine created by a local friend of mine. I’m using it to make a couple of my current game projects, Ballad of the Space Bard and Bring Me a Reuben (which I’ll discuss in its own section later). It’s a lot like Twine, but it’s built on Markdown and Javascript instead of the weird, complicated syntax Twine uses. I’m working on a fork called SpaceFractive which supports using Phaser to combine hypertext with traditional video game elements.

Bring Me a Reuben

Bring Me a Reuben is inspired by my last trip to New York, when my cousin found $50 on the ground and decided to spend it on gifts for his family. The idea is that the game runs on donations from players, which are distributed to the players who can propose the most original, inspiring, elaborate gift-giving plans but need extra cash to carry them out. I made a very rough prototype for Self-Care Jam 2, but it’s not really playable (especially because I haven’t had time to facilitate it yet!) and I want to come back around to it. It could be especially fun to work on while I’m back in the city where the idea was born.

Read an ungodly amount of books

So apparently the Recurse Center has a library. I did the irresponsible thing and scrolled through the entire book list, picking out these ones that I’ve been reading to read forever, and several I’ve never heard of that all look brilliant:

  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Practical Lockpicking (!!)
  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
  • Writing Linux Device Drivers: a Guide with Exercises
  • Naked Lunch
  • Typographic Systems
  • Practical Vim
  • The Architecture of Open Source Applications

I also signed up for 3 months of Kindle Unlimited during a promotion that dropped the price to just $2, so that’s the other book source I’m planning on. I’m not bringing any physical books of my own on the trip.

There’s also a couple of comic books I’ll be following: Saga, Barrier, and also the new Captain America series being written by Ta-Nehisi Coates (who’s been doing an amazing job with Black Panther!).

Project Ebook

This is probably my most unrealistic project because I have absolutely no domain-specific experience.

The idea is some kind of system (probably using AR) that can detect a book in the user’s hands and track when the user turns pages forward and back. It projects the contents of a PDF or ebook onto the pages, essentially turning any blank journal or notebook into a much more tactile, retro-style E-reader.

Contribute to Linux gaming projects

I just discovered Lutris which I’ve been using to play Rivals of Aether on my new Linux machine. I noticed that they don’t have support for itch.io, which is indisputably the best storefront for the kind of outsider experimental games I love to play. I think it would be awesome to contribute to making that integration, or, for a simpler project, PICO-8 integration.


I’ve been using Astro for email lately and pretty happy with its filtering tools. The problem is it’s Mac-only, and I’m not using a Mac anymore! It seems there’s no good FOSS/Linux alternative, so I might just roll my own mail client that can filter out useless emails with just as much necessary brutality as Astro does.

Whiting Wongs: The 8-Bit Game

One of my favorite podcasts lately is Whiting Wongs, “A podcast about race and writing” with Dan Harmon and Jessica Gao of the Rick and Morty team. In an early episode they made a throwaway joke about an 8-bit game based on the podcast, and immediately my mind was flooded with design ideas for a simple, small fan game.

SAFEnet Projects

I’ve been following the SAFEnet project for the last couple months. If you watch Silicon Valley, it’s pretty much the New Internet of Pied Piper. (The developers are actually consultants for the show now.) I’m really excited by the concept of decentralized storage, so I want to start learning the programming concepts and frameworks required to make decentralized apps. I don’t know if SAFEnet is the best platform, but I have a ton of ideas that would go hand-in-hand with decentralized networks, and here are a few of them:

FOSS Trello/Scrivener

Two of the programs I’ve become extremely dependent on, are proprietary closed-source. This ranges from scary to annoying. Scary: what if my notes on Trello aren’t really private or secure? What if the servers go down and I can’t access my data? Annoying: Scrivener doesn’t support Linux, and the Windows version is extremely out of date. Will it even run on WINE? How am I going to do writing over the summer if I can’t run Scrivener on my laptop?

They’re really similar apps. Both use hierarchical layouts for organization. I want to roll both of them into one FOSS, decentralized, cloud-based tool for managing notes and large-scale writing projects.

Guerilla Open Access

I’m inspired by Aaron Schwartz’s Guerilla Open Access Manifesto and secure decentralized networks might be the biggest shift in the tech world that might open the door to making open access to academic knowledge a reality.

Topic on SAFEnet forum.

A Sky of Heads

There’s a fictional TV show in the comic book Concrete called “A Sky of Heads”: it’s just little vignettes taking place in a cosmic abyss where dead people float endlessly as disembodied heads never getting to see the same person twice or form a relationship that lasts longer than 5 minutes. I think a great exercise in decentralized coding would be to implement this concept as a game/chatroom where the only thing you can do is type messages to the other players who happen to be floating through your vicinity.

Sky of Heads

And that’s all the ideas I can think of right now. God help me if I try to do all of them.