Josh Thompson     about     blog     projects

Originally, this page contained exclusively links to active software projects/resources I’d made. It now also includes no-longer-active projects.

Some of these projects take place entirely off-line. Some of this is work related, some of it is purely for the challenge and edification of trying to bring something into existance. Some of these projects function as a ‘friend-and-work catcher’.

I have small and large projects that have worked, and failed. I have learned from all of them, and learning is one of the main things I optomize for. 1

Robert Moses Hype Man #

Robert Moses is a rather under-appreciated figure in American history. He’s why American cities look the way they look, and he’s responsible for lots of behavior that’s amounted to ‘regimes of ethnic cleansing’.

The best starting point is an incredible book titled “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York”

I wrote a page about him, and some quotes from the book, here:

👉 Indulge me for a minute while I try to convince you to spend a few minutes deciding if you’ll read this book or not

If I’m ever talking about parking, zoning, car culture, or urban renewal in America, I’m channeling knowledge and strongly-felt feelings about Robert Moses. He’s shaped more of my and your day-to-day than anyone else I’m aware of. He’s single-handedly responsible for systems that led to the car you drive and the roads you drive upon within the USA, and he’s affected lots of roads outside the USA too.

Here’s an exceprt of The Power Broker, chapter 30, about Moses’ casual exertion of total control of a NYC Mayor that you’ve (probably) never heard of. Is it relevant? I think so.

Making hard-to-see data visible #

What started as tracking marathon training eventually grew to me now tracking most of my scooter-riding and rendering it on this map:,%2098.992305

Click over, and then zoom out. You’ll be entertained!

It’s a little mix of python/flask + writing/reading Strava activity data + maps. It’s a lot of data, I promise you’ve not seen something like it before.

👉 A all-at-once global rendering of 3+ years of Josh’s mobility data, rendered at an insanely detailed scale

Explaining that there are alterative land use governance models #

Of course, it’s a substack:

👉 Zoning Very Different Than Ours

‘gardening’-esque projects around Golden, Colorado #

This project is the hardest to define, and lasted approximately 2016-2022, with many twists and turns to the story.

I lived in Golden from 2016-2022, first renting a condo, and at another point owning a rather old house for a rather large amount of money, and was enthusiastic on various projects in and around Golden. I poured myself hard into a bunch of projects around the city, and still consider it to be time well spent.

As explained later, I care about beautiful places, and Golden is a beautiful place. As beautiful (in my opinion) as any place in the USA, and in many ways a delightful place to live.

In other ways, it was a frustrating place to live, especially when it came to trying to get the municipal government to stop coercing terrible solutions to solvable problems, on everyone/everything that interacts with Golden. 2

I tried many different small experiments, riding the trade-off between “costs little-enough” in time, effort, and/or money and “likely-enough to be of high quality/solve at least part of the problem”.

For example, on a whim I ran for city council in 2017. I had long thought about making things different or better, and my understandings and experiences, and the context of the time, made that a fun use of time. 3

I overall strongly disliked the experience, and found it to be time/energy consumptive, even though I tried to manage it’s impact on my life. It felt de-dignifying to take the whole thing seriously, and I couldn’t hide my contempt for the whole thing very well. For example, when reading an early draft of a campaign flier, a reviewer said “I absolutly, positively, would never let anyone ever see this.” I used it anyway. 😁 I also was on a six-week climbing trip to the New River Gorge, KY during ‘campaign season’/climbing season. Anyway, I got 10% of the vote. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I didn’t get on city council, obviously, but I kept iterating. what about becoming friends with the folks who were on city council? The city staff themselves? Random people around Golden that have been there forever, seem to know everyone, and wield some sort of soft power? I took a sabbatical from work and sorta took on a project that might seem famialiar for a journalist or academic, and I found it as enjoyable as I found various blockers frustrating.

Eventually, once we owned a house in the city, and I’d read a lot more about how politically powerful white americans use zoning laws and road networks to enforce regimes of social control and accomplish (where necessary) ethnic cleansing my meandering got more focused.

Living in Golden, there were about 500 different manifestations of ethnic cleansing visible in the built environment around me,

For example, I started observing a rather dangerous street that went right past the house I lived in - I got to life a full life just a few meters from a ‘standard arterial’ in America, and believe you me, I was not a passive and unobservant participant in the street traffic.

‘standard arterials’ were the foremost tool of eugenicists to attempt to cut off and cut through ethnic neighborhoods in urban areas in the 1950s. I hold these roads, and those who build them and support them, with a mix of contempt, disappointed sadness, and rage.

This all materialized as me caring a lot about:

  1. inadequately-performant mobility networks4
  2. issues upstream of “housing generally feels expensive”.

I also spent time pursuing “having fun with friends”, and that looks like lots of shared meals, or the occasional back-yard outdoor movie-night, climbing trip, book club, and more.

I ended up moving out of Golden in 2021. I could see returning some day. ‘Interesting things’ continue to happen, continuously, all over Golden and Denver.

thinking & writing about ‘wonderful/beautiful places’ #

This became a visible, legible goal to me in 2018, when a few of the last pieces clicked into my brain about healthy and beautiful places, at least as a conceptual compression for ‘other legible and less-legible good things’.

I care about places, primarly. I don’t mind ugly ones, but I’d rather be able to influence and nudge it towards beauty.

For example, beautiful cities, beautiful trees, beautiful parks, beautiful buildings, beautiful paths. Of course, beautiful indoor places.

I give myself permission to care so much without shame, because a place being beautiful corresponds with so many other good things. healthy ecosystems tend to be beautiful, for example. it’s worth always pursuing along side whatever else you’ve got going on.

For a lot of my life, I couldn’t really articulate why I felt so strongly about beauty, but then I got better words. Then I got better at perceiving it.

If you wanted to expend energy getting better at perceiving it, you might start by reading the paper discussed here: Beauty is closely related to wonder and curiosity

Next, as beauty relates to outdoor and indoor spaces, that which is beautiful is often an elegant solution to a problem faced in that particular place, one could and should spend some time with the late Christopher Alexander’s “pattern language” concepts.

  1. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
  2. The Timeless Way of Building

Perhaps grossly oversimplified, he says things that could be boiled down to:

  • iterative planning processes can properly solve all of the physical problems encountered in the area.
  • if the whole problem seems intractable, perhaps start by agreeing to clean it up as much as feels reasonable, and then agree to spend some time in that physical space across at least a few times of day and year.
  • the more problems we solve in physical space, the more the space approximates ‘a beautiful place’

These are “primary motivating concerns” for me. I’m happy to spend time and effort on projects related to physical spaces becoming beautiful.5

Software projects #

Here’s a long list of links! Loosely ordered.

Some of them have options to buy things, some don’t. Some are educational for others, some are educational just for me. The thread is that these are finished products and can be discussed/evaluated as such.

I try to be biased towards finishing projects. To that end, here’s a list of projects and products I’ve built.

This page is inspired by Tom Critchlow’s The Importance of Launching

These are ordered by recency, magnitude, or interestingness to myself. You might find archived/no-longer-active projects

Intermediate Ruby #


Are you an early-career software developer? Working on getting your first job, or you’ve been working for less than two years? I’ll help you level up your software development skills.


How to Integrate Stripe and a Static Site #


Have you ever wanted to add a very basic payment integration for something you’re selling on your static website?

I sure have, and I found it particularly challenging, especially with multiple products/tiers (I.E. selling a $29 and $49 thing).

So, I figured it out, and you can sample the course, or buy it, here:

👉 How to Integrate Stripe and a static site

A Runbook for Upgrading Your Parent’s Junky Old Laptop to a Chromebook #


I spent many, many hours doing research on how to upgrade my mother-in-law’s laptop from an old nearly-unusable Windows PC to a Chromebook.

Why’d you want her on a Chromebook, Josh?

Because my wife and I are her primary tech support team, and she lives two time-zones away, and she often is frustrated by her computer, from printing things, to downloading attachments, and navigating the internet enough to follow along in the lives of her kids and grandkids.

A Chromebook has a very easy-to-use “remote in” feature, so when she has a problem, she knows to click a button in the favorites bar, read me the code, and now I can see her screen and control her computer. It’s so easy to show her how to do things with this set of tools.

I’d lost many, many hours to trying to help her with poorer tools before.

👉 A Runbook for Upgrading Your Parent’s Junky Old Laptop to a Chromebook

Intermediate Ruby Obstacle Course #


This repo contains a collection of “obstacle courses” that are laser-focused on quickly leveling up very discrete skills.

👉 Intermediate Ruby Obstacle Course

Currently, the only finished obstacle course is Web Scraping with Nokogiri Obstacle Course

The information contained within the obstacle course is the “meat and potatoes” of how I built the next item:

Discover a random personal blog from Hacker News #


Evidence that this project does exactly what I hoped, I sent the link around, kept getting feedback like:

This is fascinating. Every time I visit it, I find a delightful personal blog that I otherwise never would have found.

👉 Discover a random personal blog from Hacker News

(the sinatra app isn’t running anymore, but here’s the list of links getting served)

Sidekiq and Background Jobs for Beginners #


I cross-posted this article to Medium a while ago, and it gets a surprising amount of SEO-driven traffic. I’d like to expand this article into a short course at some point.

👉 Sidekiq and Background Jobs for Beginners

An 8-part Guide to Preparing for Turing’s Backend Program #


Dozens of Turing students have said that this guide has been the reason they’ve been successful at Turing. That means, conservatively, this guide has delivered tens of thousands of dollars of value. A slightly more expansive definition of value (inclusive of opportunity cost and time) means this guide has delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars of value.

I’m proud of it. It’s exactly what I wish I’d had before I attended Turing.

👉 Chapter 1: Make Mod 1 Easier Than It Otherwise Would Be

Miscellaneous Guides and Tutorials #

I have written several (many?) guides/tutorials.

Most of them are so focused that they’re useful to almost no one, but for the person they are useful to?

They have the potential to save that person hours-to-days of effort.

I am generally proud of the guides I write, though they often follow the impulse of Write it now.

I also have a billion (er, actually about 200) github gists floating around. I used to use them as a knowledge management system thanks to an AlfredApp plugin. Here’s my several public github gists.

I rarely edit things more than once. Without further ado, here’s a very non-exhaustive list of some of these posts. I’m rather proud of several of them.

  1. Technically, we all optomize for something like learning, and when we’re doing so in a healthy way, we’re having a really good time

  2. there’s lots of reasons to live in Golden. The finances of it right now are ~strange~ expensive, bad for everyone, and probably you shouldn’t try to live in Golden until it feels “cheap” and “right-sized” in meaningful ways. 

  3. I told people, when they said “why are you running for city council?”:

    well, I just finished a trade school, so i’m taking some time to get my first job, turns out the rules of the city say I’m eligible, and this is more entertaining to me than sitting on the couch in my boxers playing video games, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  4. An adequate network would accomplish two things:

    1. being safe-enough to the users of said network (dangerous streets/vehicle accidents)
    2. being consistent-enough for those users. congestion/traffic/safety in the normal expected conditions, like: ‘night times’ ‘rainy times’ and ‘snowy times’ and more

  5. Incidentally, I don’t consider myself to be super strong at “creating beauty”, but I am pretty good at making places clean, appropriately and enjoyably and easily illuminated, and safe enough for at least a youngish-kid to exist inside of and be easily kept safe by a responsible adult. Once this has all been accomplished, there tends to be at least the outline of beauty emerging, and it’s a good-enough start towards making something actually beautiful, like a quirky piece of art, or a specific garden/installation of something natural

    Additionally, I perceive danger from vehicles like cars and trucks, and generally do not find vehicle infrastructure to be beautiful.