Reflections on exegesis

Nicholas Chen wednesday, october 7, 2020
exegesis has taken about a year to make. Including the development of its predecessor, YANA, it's taken about a year and a half. When I started making YANA the summer after my freshman year, I thought it'd be a small project; just a little utility for me to track my thoughts. I had no idea it'd balloon into such a large endeavor.
Why did it take so long? Part of it is just a lack of experience. While making exegesis, I changed the database schema countless times, wrote dozens of migrations, accidentally wiped my database once (thank God for RDS backups), and rewrote the backend from scratch 2 months before release. There was also a good amount of feature creep. Whenever I thought I was close to finished, something unexpected would pop up - I started writing this essay 3 months before I actually released exegesis. Whatever the reason, if you count development time on the predecessor to exegesis, I've spent almost a tenth of my life building this. The entire project clocks in at a couple thousand lines of code. It is the largest, most complex, and most difficult thing I have built so far in my life. The last time I worked on a project this long, it was the first video game I made back in my senior year of high school. Even then, it was really about 6 months of development total, with a huge gap in between because of school, and it was all made with no-code game development tools, because back then the idea of using actual code terrified me. exegesis personal-reflection
That last project had a significant effect on me. Back in high school, I was heavily involved in Model UN and other political clubs. Making the game made me realize it was making things and not winning arguments that really made me happier. It was also what convinced me that programming could be something more than rote problem solving, and even be a genuine creative medium. It was why I switched my major from Economics to Computer Science in college.personal-reflection
This project, too, has had a large effect on me - you can't work on something for a year and not have it affect you. I started this project sitting in a coffee shop; now I haven't sat in one for months. I know this sounds like navel gazing, but I've worked on this project through a pandemic, civil unrest, and statewide wildfires. Now it's finished, and I almost feel a little bittersweet releasing it.
Here are a couple of my reflections on this year-long journey - about code, creativity, and life. I started writing these with the goal of making them "reflections." I'm not sure how well I stuck to the theme, but isn't that the point of exegesis - to enable disorganized thought? You can read these in any order.

Why I made exegesis


Giant Robots

Second Brains