2020 Review - HAMY.LABS

2020.12.23 | 3506 words |

2020 was a unique year that afforded me unique opportunities to focus on my projects. In H1 I focused on exploring outside of my comfort zone - starting a YouTube channel, creating my first music video, and exhibiting my art outside of Instagram. In H2, I felt the exploration wasn’t enough and that I needed to make a real impact in my art, my business, and in society at large.

As my goals grew in H2, so did my experiments, misses, and learnings. Now as we wrap up 2020 I have an array of projects to showcase and experiences from which to build off of.

I’m Hamilton - a creative technologist x entrepreneur - and this is what I built in 2020.

Goals

H1

H2

  • [HamForGood] Build a better world
    • Elections - Get people to vote and get Trump out of office
      • ❌ - ($0) $1000
      • ❌ - (9,596) 10,000 people
    • Climate change - Fight climate change and keep the world healthy and habitable for future generations
      • ❌ - ($0) $1000
      • ❌ - (264) 10,000 people
    • Social Justice - Fight for the equal protection, treatment, and love for all people
      • ❌ - ($0) $1000
      • ✅ - (23,633) 10,000 people
  • [Business] Build a business
    • ❌ - ($409.71) $1000
    • ❌ - (2) validate 12 ideas
    • ✅ - (153) websites -> > 100 views / day
  • [Art] Make art
    • ✅ - (1) Release a clothing collection
    • ❌ - (1) 2 Art exhibitions
    • ❌ - (1,983) hamy.art -> 10,000 followers
    • ✅ - (2) 2 collabs with artists

Stats

  • Revenue: $618.67
  • Reach: 55,741
  • Cost: $3,336.82
  • Time: null
  • HamForGood Donations: $83

Business

Projects filed under the business category were built with the mission “Make the world a better place for me and everyone else”. It’s intentionally worded a bit selfishly in order to capture the idea that this isn’t a purely altruistic mission. My lens for improving the world is to produce value first and use a portion of that value to benefit the world through HamForGood.

My goaling metrics for this category are:

  • Money
  • Reach
  • Craft - Accurate, Robust, Performant, Quality, Learning, and Good for the world

LineTimes screenshot

LineTimes screenshot

LineTimes

This month I released my first real business - LineTimes. LineTimes calculates real-time wait times at Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, NY. I built it because I was sick of waiting in long lines at grocery stores and figured other people were, too.

I’m currently validating the idea. If that succeeds, I plan to add additional features and expand to additional stores and markets.

You can read more about the idea behind the project and how it was built on LineTimes’ Project Page

Selling Audio Visualizations

  • Revenue: $0
  • Reach: 155
  • Cost: $0
  • Time: null
  • Status: Passive
  • Project Link

I built a lot of audio visualizers and music videos this year with some really talented artists. I wanted to see if I could turn this into a gig for recurring income. I knew I wanted to validate this as quickly and cheaply as possible in the theme of Build A Month so I created a couple Fiverr listings to see if anyone was interested.

So far I’ve gotten a few clicks but no real bites. I think that’s a good sign that what I’ve got on offer isn’t really solving the needs of these people. I’m kind of happy about that as I’d prefer if my visuals were less commoditized and more unique anyway.

I’ll probably leave these up for awhile to see if I get any leads but don’t have plans to pursue this particular commoditization further.

The value of money

I’m not really sure where to put this project because it’s not really a business but it’s definitely not an art. I made this at the very beginning of the year when I think I was still understanding what an actual business was. At that time I’d only really built projects that were kinda useful but didn’t have a clear path to monetization.

I built The Value of Money to compile different financial calculators I developed. I then used it to help me calculate numerous savings opportunities as part of my journey to FIRE.

I don’t have any plans to add features to this but I do regularly use it to calculate one off things so may be another calculator or two in its future.

iamhamy

  • Revenue: $0
  • Reach: 55,741 (79,042 all-time)
  • Cost: $0
  • Time: null
  • Status: Active

iamhamy is my collective name for everything that makes up my online presence. This includes my websites, socials, and profiles on various services.

I iterated a lot on my core sites as I grappled with what I wanted my online identity to be resulting in 2 different redesigns this year, with the latest iamhamy 3.0 what you see today.

labs.hamy.xyz traffic data

labs.hamy.xyz traffic data

In 2020 my core *.hamy.xyz sites took two major hits:

  1. I migrated from the iamhamy.xyz domain to the hamy.xyz domain at the end of summer, dropping my search appearances by 95% and traffic by ~80%
  2. My sites seem to have taken another 66% drop to search traffic after the December ranking change though it’s too early to tell the full extent of the change

Despite this my total reach in 2020 was 2.4x that of my 2019 reach.

iamhamy traffic data by property

iamhamy traffic data by property

This is primarily for 3 reasons:

  1. My @hamy.art IG account grew to over 1,900 followers
  2. My YouTube grew to > 1,000 views / month
  3. My sites were new in 2019 and not getting any traffic

I’ll skip @hamy.art for now as I’ll talk more about it below.

I started my YouTube as a way to get out of my comfort zone, reach new people, and face my fear of public speaking. And wow - I’ve come a long way since my cringey announcement video. The channel is definitely doing better than I thought it would faster than I thought it would though it’s primarily driven by two videos about selling clothes on Printful that aren’t really in line with the kinds of content I want to make going forward. For now I’ve taken a step back from video because it takes so much time and effort to put together but I do plan on posting regularly when the opportunity makes sense.

I’ll continue to write and share content around my art, technology, and business ventures in 2021. I expect to be more text-focused in my shares with a bit of video scattered in when the content would benefit from it. Hopefully my search traffic will build back up as I work on growing back to and beyond peak 2020 levels.

HAMY.SHOP

Revenue includes that of covidart and dump45 which were sold through the shop.

  • Revenue: $546.47
  • Reach: 1,437
  • Cost: $894.65 ($29 / month)
  • Time: null
  • Status: Passive
  • Project Link

HAMY.SHOP was my primary driver of revenue in 2020. It’s where I sell my art and has received a lot of promotional space in my content over the past year. It’s also a major cost center for me with a $29 monthly Shopify bill and relatively high cost of building ‘real life’ goods as opposed to software.

So far it’s served me well. I successfully released my first clothing collection dump45 and published and sold prints from my webz and portal art series. I’ve been considering shutting it down to help conserve costs but I’m still making art and want to maintain a channel for monetizing and distributing it. This makes me think that if I shut it down I’ll eventually need to take the time to recreate it so I’ve decided to let it ride for now.

I’ll be updating the site ~quarterly with new pieces but otherwise trying to keep the maintenance levels pretty low so I can focus on the actual creation of my art.

Art

My art category is where I file pretty much anything I did mostly for a creative or exploratory purpose. This bucket goals less on money and reach and more on the properties of the domain and resulting artifact. The mission of my art category is to “Explore the nature of life from the perspective of the universe” though I’ll note that this is a mission that I didn’t fully conceptualize til a few weeks ago so most of the entries in here weren’t actually built with that in mind.

Going into 2021, I’ll be building art under that mission and with the lens of monoliths. More to come on that in the coming weeks.

For now let’s dive into the art projects. I’m still deciding what kind of stats make sense to display with each of these so I’ll just be re-using those from the business section until I come up with something better.

@hamy.art Instagram profile

@hamy.art Instagram profile

@hamy.art

Note: Revenue and expenses include HAMY.SHOP as that’s where they were distributed.

In 2019 Q3 I took a particular interest in #creativecoding and #generativeart. Since then I’ve created hundreds of pieces from dozens of different creative code projects.

This year I focused a lot on building a platform of distribution for my art. I had a lot of art I was creating but it just wasn’t going anywhere. I did this in several ways like reformatting my posts to better fit Instagram, cross posting to new and existing channels, and submitting my art to exhibitions around the world.

Overall I think it went pretty well. My art IG following grew from ~700 at the end of 2019 to 1,983 at time of writing - growth of 2.8x. Plus I had my art exhibited in 3 exhibitions this year - the first time I’ve been exhibited, well, ever!

I got to experiment with a lot of new techniques and technologies. Here are a few notable static art projects from this year that contributed to this growth:

Blinder - Using AI to identify and mutate the eyes of subjects (Python)

Webz - Generative representations of real-world images (Python)

Portal - Exploring the art in generative juxtaposition (Python)

Blix - Exploring the art in generative ordering (Javascript)

Pictile - Exploring how to represent the composition of large ideas from small ideas (Javascript)

Statutes - Exploring perceptions of power in the United States through the eyes of Artificial Intelligence (Python, GANz)

Ana - Exploring the art of Artificial Intelligence (Python, GANz)

I really love creating these experiments so I’ll continue to build and release new experiments in 2021. I’ve shifted my lens to be narrower so expect to see a little less chaos from different styles on @hamy.art. I’ll be posting my experiments more regularly to @hamy.labs and using @hamy.art as my showcase of featured artifacts.

Throw me a follow and create with me.

Audio visualizations

The other big bucket of art I made large strides in was audio visualizations. The goal here was to try and make some visuals that I really liked and to determine if this was a space I wanted to continue to play in. I still haven’t been able to create anything I loved but I did create my best visuals and confirmed that this is an area I want to play in. I’d say that’s a win.

The Voyage

  • Revenue: $0
  • Reach: 1,085
  • Cost: $0
  • Time: null
  • Status: Archived
  • Project Link

My first collaboration of the year was with artist and friend Steve is Space. He’d been working on his album The Voyage for years(?), I loved the music, and I wanted to collab. So we made it happen.

I built an audio visualizer in p5js that employed hundreds of circles and a color gradient to provide audio reactivity. I called this maudern.

I learned a lot about audio and video splicing, graphics performance, and web embeds through this collaboration - things I put into practice with varying degrees of success in my other audio visualizations. Perhaps most importantly I got more experience with the soft challenges of collaboration - aligning on creative vision, setting deadlines, ensuring quality, etc. These are things I’ve improved on over the year but that I continue to struggle with and thus something to work on moving forward.

Here’s the full visualization on A Thought Gone Adrift, one of my favorites from the album.

Also see:

Moving through Time

The next collab I did was again with Steve Is Space and another artist and friend Griffin Hanekamp. They’d been collabing on a few new projects and we connected to see if I could make visuals for one of their upcoming tracks - Moving through Time. I was stoked to get the chance to work on another music video and this ask also included the creation of cover art - something I’d never done before.

This project proved a huge challenge for me. Again the soft skills were an obstacle and my efforts were stretched across several other projects that had slipped past their deadlines. Despite giving myself four weeks to work on the project, I ended up only using the last two weeks. On the day the cover art was due, we decided we didn’t like the direction and ended up creating and publishing a cover art that morning.

I wrote about my learnings extensively in my 2020 Q3 review but the main takeaways were that for future projects I would:

  • Plan creative projects further out
  • Allocate more time to them
  • Iterate quicker and share more frequently

Despite being a last minute creation, I think it turned out pretty well!

The next huge part of this process was to create a music video. We’d already aligned that the timing wasn’t crucial for this but I knew I wanted to complete it while the release was still fresh. I’d spent two weeks building the original audio visual framework (that was going to double as the cover photo) but we’d decided to go in a new direction. It was already built and I didn’t have time to pivot to anything else so I released a part of it alongside release of the track to increase reach to a pretty good reception (3,943 reach).

The original audio visual.

I then set off on a new path to create something that better fit our shared vision for the track. That was nothing short of an odyssey spanning 2 months and over 300 hours in computer encoding time alone.

But in the end I think it was all worth it and we were able to release the new video alongside Griffin’s newest track Infinity. We came up with a really cool end visual that I think is the capstone of my audio visual journey to date. I’ll share the full video for your enjoyment below and I’ve written more about how it was built in Building a Reaction Diffusion Audio Visualizer with p5.js

Vicidual

I built several other visualizations this year like monoform, prickly, and some quarantine visuals with Griffin. I felt like these were good for one-off creations but wondered if there was a way to let people experience them live as opposed to through a pre-recorded video. So I created Vicidual which runs several of these visualizers directly in your browser using audio data from your microphone.

It hasn’t gotten enough traffic to warrant building additional features but I still think it’s a cool idea and doesn’t cost anything to host so I’m keeping it alive for now.

Justin Marshall Elias

  • Revenue: $0
  • Reach: 18,139
  • Cost: $0
  • Time: null
  • Status: Archived

My last collab of the year was with Justin Marshall Elias - a musician running a campaign called Music + Art where they reach out to visual artists on IG and make music to the art they find. It’s a really cool campaign and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quantity and quality of the work.

I didn’t do much for this collab, just offered up some pieces I’d made from Blix but wanted to highlight this as a cool happening in my art world.

Dump45

Dump45 was my first clothing collection and my way to take action in the 2020 election cycle. It didn’t end up making any money, mostly due to the costs of my many sample iterations, but I did learn a lot about creating and selling physical goods.

My main takeaway? It’s a lot of work and there are a lot of costs and logistics involved. Like video, I’m going to be stepping away from physical goods a bit more and putting more effort and resources into my digital projects.

Coronation

The final piece I wanted to share today was Coronation. It’s a data monolith that visualizes the rise and spread of covid cases around the world in the first few months of the pandemic.

I wanted to leave this last because, as I predicted in 2020 H1, this is a direction I want to explore with my art and I think is the closest artifact I have to share to the vision I have for 2021.

I don’t have any plans to modify Coronation but would like to keep it up as an artifact of the times.

Looking forward

I’m thinking about all the experiments and learnings from 2020 as I look forward to what I want to accomplish in 2021. I learned that there are areas I want to continue to invest in like my businesses, monoliths, and audio visualizers. I also learned there are some areas where I don’t want to play like physical goods, the commoditization of art, and heavy video.

Which leads me to my strategic theme for projects in 2021 H1:

Do more where I want to play, do less where I don’t.

In 2021 H1 I want to channel all my efforts into the areas I’ve selected to play in. I want to limit the distractions that will break that focus. I want to see how far this focus will get me.

To do that I’ll be investing heavily into the enhancement and execution of my systems of creation - committing to validating 2 ideas, launching 1 business, and building 12 an art each month. I’ll be goaling on profit this time around to focus on both getting more money and saving more money. I’ll also take a goal on raising money for HamForGood - this time with a commitment to pay the difference if I don’t reach that funding goal. I’ll continue to push my art and craft forward by working with collaborators, learning from those around me, and pushing for 3 exhibitions - 1 of which I hope to be a solo show.

These are my goals for 2021 H1. They’re always subject to change but I’ve been tinkering with them over the past several weeks and think they’re in a pretty good place.

  • [Business] Build a portfolio of lean businesses.
    • $100 / month profit
    • 6 businesses launched
    • 12 ideas validated
  • [Business / Art] Build a following to feed my portfolio’s flywheel.
    • 10,000 users / month
    • Establish a flywheel and strategy for shares supporting projects
  • [Art] Build a high quality, sustainable art practice.
    • Build 3 monoliths
    • 2 exhibitions
    • Collab with 1 artist
    • 1 solo exhibition
    • Challenge self through an immersive art learning course
  • [HamForGood] Seed a tradition of allocating funds for the good of the world.
    • Raise $100 for climate change

Thanks for joining me on my journey thus far. I’m excited to see what we can create in 2021.

In creative technology x entrepreneurship.

-HAMY.OUT

 

About the Ham

Hi I'm Hamilton - I built this! If you want more content like this subscribe to my email list, connect with me around the web, or take a look at some of my other projects.

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