Let’s not bury the lede: my baby–er, project from my time at the NYT, Membrane, is now open source! You can check out my fork of it here.

For those who haven’t heard of Membrane, it’s an experiment in permeable publishing–a concept I think of as, making the barrier between authors, readers, and commenters easier to push through. This results in a blurring of the lines between the three roles–without sacrificing authorial integrity or inviting harrassment. I made it while working at the NYT R&D Lab about two years ago.

You can see me talk about it at Books In Browsers here! Enjoy my laptop stickers.

Wait, didn’t I hear about this before? Wasn’t it not opensource for a while?

Yep. I left the NYT before I could opensource Membrane, which made me super-sad. But very recently, some folks at the company ended up opensourcing it anyway, which rules! Thanks, NYT pals!

What can I expect from your fork?

This fork functions as a proof-of-concept for all the basic functionality of Membrane. You can play around with writing, creating different kinds of promptsets, selecting different text and different kinds of answers (try overlapping, it’s fun!), and responding to a variety of questions with both new and pre-written responses. It’s not in a state where you could just deploy it to Heroku and let a gajillion users at it.

I’m pointing you at my fork because I made a slightly different admin interface that I feel is more interesting and more powerful than the state it was left in in the main repo. But feel free to be a Membrane completist and check out both.

Why did you do [xyz super-duper specific code thing]?

While I can answer design and technical questions, I wrote most of this code like over two years ago, as a way to learn React and Go while satiating my game designer brain. Whatever super-specific code question you’re asking, I’ve probably forgotten.

Are you updating the code?/”You should change [abc].”/”Can you fix this bug?”

Nope, my fork isn’t going to be otherwise updated or maintained. Sorry. (But if you want to hire me to think up similarly cool stuff for your company, get in touch.)

Anyone you want to thank?

I’m glad you asked! I want to shoutout to the NYT folks who really helped me out during Membrane’s development:

  • Noah Feehan: for asking all the hard design questions, helping me distill my vision, and helping me project manage.

  • Nik Hanselmann and Mike Dewar: for their extraordinary patience and help in all things code. I’m pretty sure that the commit history was wiped in the opensourcing process, but please note they wrote a good deal of the code, and reviewed pretty much every line.

  • Mark McKeague: for helping get it opensourced in the first place!