The people who use our boards.

272 interviews since 2018

Megan Potter

Code Artist

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m Megan, sometimes known as Ashlyn Nafina or Soaria.:) During the day, I’m a software engineer at Google Canada, working on developer-facing pieces of Google Cloud Platform. I’m obligated to say that nothing I’m saying here is in any way representative of the opinions of my employer; I’m just a grunt talking about myself. :)

A few years back, I immigrated from the US to Canada, during the height of the early pandemic. That was an adventure.

Outside of work, I’m a real homebody. Spending all weekend inside, reading a book while it rains outside, sounds like heaven. I have a hobby problem—I pick up too many for my own good.

Right now, it’s writing fiction, composing and producing music, and generating ML-based art, and more specifically, combining all three. You can check out my latest project, Agent. Think of it a bit like a self-guided museum tour—there are pictures to look at, text to read, and music to listen to, all inspired by the same story, and in whatever order you like. There’s another in progress now, called Fractured Harmony.

Megan Potter's setup with desk
Megan's setup with the desk in standing mode

What hardware do you use?

I’m almost entirely Mac-based at this point. My personal device is a MacBook Pro with an M1 Max. I have some external 4K displays, Thunderbolt dock, a bunch of miscellaneous music devices (Rode condenser, audio interface, keyboards, etc.), and of course my trusty ErgoDox EZ! I have a Moonlander that I love for various reasons, but I’ve ended up back on my ErgoDox just because it fits my hands a bit better.

I’ve also become a bit of a headphone snob. On the wireless noise cancelling side, I’m using Sony WH-1000XM3. They’re pricey but so good. On the wired side, for most of my production stuff (and basically whenever I’m sitting at my desk), I have some Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open-back headphones. The response curve is a bit flatter on those, and it’s a very open-air feeling, like AR for your ears.

Megan Potter's setup with sitting area
Sitting mode looks like gamer mode for this setup

And what software?

For coding, almost entirely VS Code and various runtimes (Node.js, Python, etc.), and Firefox. There used to be a lot more, but at this point I don’t really feel a need for it.

I’ve very much gotten into the federated internet lately; it’s an echo of an earlier internet time that I’m really enjoying. So add Misskey (ActivityPub), Synapse (Matrix), Element/FluffyChat (Matrix). Also a Minecraft Java server I use to play with my kiddo… did I mention hobby-creep?

For AI art, it’s mostly been a combination of Midjourney and various Stable Diffusion flavours. Midjourney’s UI is really interesting, because it’s just a Discord DM chat. So any time the inspiration strikes, your phone is right there. I also use Clip Studio Paint and Pixelmator Pro to do postprocessing and further work on the images, because they’re rarely perfect.

For writing, I played with VS Code, Markdown, Pandoc, and Git for a while. It’s a very coder-centric way to think about it, and it has definite advantages. These days I’ve been back on Scrivener more, and Scapple.

And finally (!) for music, I’m a pretty dedicated Bitwig user these days. It’s different from something like Logic Pro, because yeah, it has the trappings of an arranger and MIDI cues and all that, but the overall mindset is more like you’re wiring up a modular synth that happens to play your song when you hit play. That again appeals to the coder in me. I’ve got a bunch of virtual instruments from places like Native Instruments, iZotope, 8dio, etc.

Megan Potter's keyboard with colors
Megan's Moonlander is so customized, even her desk mat just looks on in admiration

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

My EZ is split pretty far apart, pretty much comfortable shoulder width, with my mouse (Razer Viper Mini) in the middle.

I use very custom layout in both ErgoDox EZ (Narwhal) and Moonlander (Lunar Narwhal) versions. It’s messy because it’s the result of many years of experimentation, and some of what’s left is leftovers.

My spouse has always complained when she needs to use my setup, and now she just doesn’t try. This layout was designed around my own RSI issues, which are tendon stretch, pinkie pressure, and thumb use. So everything is very much centred around the home keys and using thumb layers and tap-dance to get at everything else.

I mostly use Cherry Browns, though I replaced a few for Green or Black to try to make it harder to accidentally hit them. I also replaced a few caps with DSAs in various colours to make them distinct by feel, and I also replaced my letter keys with an OEM profile set I got from CoolerMaster.

And since you didn’t specify what kind of keyboard, this is my list: Akai MPK Mini mk3 (portable synth action), Alesis V61 (slim semi-weighted), Native Instruments S88 mkII (hammer-weighted chonker).

Megan Potter's keyboards
Not too hard to tell these keyboards apart

What would be your dream setup?

To be honest, I’m not sure! I’m always having to work within constraints of space (especially living in a condo, now), so it’s really about maximizing the amount of useful stuff while minimizing clutter that would detract from the creative process. I have a tiny standing desk with lots of monitor arms, which is great, except I’m trying to figure out how to work all my music stuff into it too. I don’t really have the space or gear to make separate desks for separate tasks, which makes working with things like the S88 a pain. (Great board though…) I’d love to try the chair-arm-mounted keyboard life, just to see.

I’m geeky about the idea of using VR goggles or similar to be able to sit or lie in any position and do computer/music stuff. But no one has really made something ideal for that yet. Maybe the Vision Pro, someday. For now, I have another monitor arm that can hang over my bed and hold a laptop at precarious angles.

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