about me

Hocus Pocus Labs LLC, or Pocus Labs for short, was founded in 2020 by me, Austin Pocus. I love making things, and with Pocus Labs, I'm aiming for a different direction, more creative than consumptive.

I've been writing code professionally for 10 years, and unprofessionally a lot longer. I started when I was 13 (without giving away my age, I'm old enough to remember dial-up, and my first PC ran Windows 98). I wanted to make games, but ended up making websites — c'est la vie. I've enjoyed it so far, to be completely honest, but it's time to shift gears here.

Most software now is built for consumption, for you to scroll endlessly, eating your attention (and your drive to do things, to make things). I believe in building software that betters the world whenever possible, and that's not some BS Silicon Valley-style "changing the world" with...some new spreadsheet tool or whatever. No. I want to change the world for the better by empowering people to create things.

Pocus Labs is currently where my side projects are happening. Where the action is, so to speak. You can also read my blog at austinpocus.com if you want semi-regular updates, technical esoterica, or just a good ol' internet rant. I'll eventually start blog.pocuslabs.com, but...not now.

The eventual goal of Pocus Labs is to be the peaceful, creative equivalent of Northrup Grumman or BBN or the other big research firms — pure R&D. I just won't build anything that is intentionally designed to hurt anyone. I especially want to pursue software and other digital experiences that help people create, or feel creative. That's the ultimate goal. I want your grandma to make stuff on the computer, and enjoy doing it!

projects

  1. Vennly

    Compare Twitter handles to find mutual friends (a collaboration with v1Labs)

    Partnering with v1Labs (a @duilen production), we have built a beta-level tool that compares two Twitter handles, finding the common handles that they both follow. With this tool, you could:

    • Find influencers in a given field by comparing the people you already know
    • Discover handles you might want to follow that your friends already follow
    • Uncover hidden connections between famous people
    • Learn how many degrees of separation there are between you and Obama
    • Devise a more targeted, intentional marketing strategy

    And so much more! The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! And of course, the capabilities of the app, but hey, what are we, wizards?

  2. Foxie

    A language for creating your own old-school RPG like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy

    Foxie is an ongoing project, one that's been set on the back burner for some time now. Eventually, it'll be a domain-specific language for creating your own old style RPG, in the same vein as Final Fantasy (the 2D ones). Eventually, it'll allow you to do things like:

    • Script conversations with characters in the game
    • Create a stat-based battle system (or something more nondeterministic)
    • Define quests that the player can complete to progress in the game
    • Offer custom-made items that give the player superpowers

    Of course, this is only scratching the surface, hence the back burner status. Still, you can read about the progress I've made so far on the Foxie language blog!

  3. Vonnegut

    With all respect to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut

    Vonnegut is an engine, or system, or whatever you want to call it, that I worked on recently to build out interactive fiction, or "IF", in the web browser (like a "choose your own adventure" book!). As it turns out, building an IF engine in plain HTML + CSS + vanilla JS is pretty simple, if you take advantage of anchor links (e.g. "#about") and the "hashchange" event, along with a simple CSS transition animation. With this engine, plus a few additions like data attribute-based triggers, you could:

    • Use simple HTML to define each section of your story
    • Create branching stories with multiple endings
    • Take advantage of thd browser's built-in features like links, the back button, etc.

    Of course, there was also complexity that arose from trying to do interesting things with the fiction I was writing. For example, if you chose to smoke a cigarette in the story, I wanted to reduce your "luck score" by 10 every time. This required some sort of data attributes and more complex scripting, but it was still manageable. All the same, I'm sure most authors don't want to write crazy HTML attributes throughout their stories...

    The next step is to release the base of the engine I made, as an example, then think about how this might work in a more usable system (especially with regards to visualizing the story as an author).

Contact

Feel free to email me at [email protected]. I am serious about the novel-length emails though — reach out and see for yourself!