There is a lot to relate to in this post about the process of debranding by Simone Silvestroni. Like many, Silvestroni bought into the hype around building a personal brand and constructing a web presence to go with it.
I refactored my website. In line with my long-time interest in degrowth, I ditched Wordpress opting for a static site instead. The choice alone caused a shrink in size by almost 90%.
I often think to myself that the one gap in my workflow that I’d most like to close is the inability to highlight articles on my reader and have those sync to a note-taking app. Well, Mike Schmitz found a way around this with the new Onyx Boox Tab Ultra. The device is an e-ink tablet running the Android OS. As hard as that is for me to imagine, it seems the device is quite capable (although it probably isn’t a direct substitute for something like an iPad).
Vauhini Vara writes for Wired Magazine about the story of Buy Nothing, which started as a collection of Facebook groups and ended up as a company with a proper site and app of its own.
Test the limits of what can be gotten or discarded on Buy Nothing, and you will be confounded. You can proffer a medium-size rock, and someone will want it for their garden. You can post dryer lint, and a neighbor will convert it into hamster bedding. In their book, Rockefeller and Clark write about a childless couple who, after multiple miscarriages, finally gave away their unused baby items. The recipient, collecting this on behalf of a pregnant friend, mentioned that the friend was thinking about putting her child up for adoption. One thing led to another, and soon the couple became the infant’s adoptive parents.
In 1987, Fatal Attraction scared Americans with its portrayal of Glenn Close as a woman jilted after a weekend affair turned psychopathic stalker. Close’s character absolutely obsesses over her short fling with Dan, played by Michael Douglas, and goes as far as boiling his family’s pet rabbit in a memorable scene.
On the cusp of a revolution in information, in 1990, at a meeting of the German Informatics Society, Neil Postman spoke of “Informing Ourselves To Death." His premise was that we were inundated by information — to our detriment. After making the point that all of our efforts have gone towards creating more information and making it increasingly accessible, he opined that we simply could not handle the load.
As a consequence, our defenses against information glut have broken down; our information immune system is inoperable. We don’t know how to filter it out; we don’t know how to reduce it; we don’t know to use it.
Recently on Micro.blog, folks have been talking about “slow technology.” This usually means single-use or limited-use devices. The phrase “wise phones” has apparently been coined to refer to flip phones and other simple telephony. Anna Havron, an analogue and simplification enthusiast, recently wrote a post on downgrading her own phone.
Mastodon was created in 2016, and the site still harkens back to its origins, a time when Gamergate and the atrocious harassment of women in tech on Twitter was still very fresh in our minds. The platform was in a way a reaction to that and the rising toxic atmosphere on social media. At the time, Twitter was also in the throes of dealing with the side effects of a Donald Trump candidacy and subsequent presidency. As such, one of the primary features of Mastodon was to stamp out hate and harassment. It’s a laudable goal, and very much needed in today’s technology landscape. There’s a problem there, though, in that Mastodon seems to define itself, at least in part, as the anti-Twitter.
I often think about how humans are maladapted to our current environments in some ways. For a knowledge worker, 40 hours+ a week at a desk and more time spent looking at a screen probably isn’t what we were made for or have evolved to do. Cal Newport underscores this in a piece about our anthropology.
After 14 years and over 10,000 tweets, I’ve deactivated my Twitter account. I’ve been critical of Twitter for a long time now without actually leaving the platform. Obviously, things have changed rapidly for the worse. When, on Saturday, Elon Musk let DT back on the platform, while including a little blasphemy with his announcement, that was the last straw. Almost all of my tweets were syndicated from Micro.blog, anyway. I thought about pinning a tweet that pointed to where you can find me now, but if you have been following my account for any length of time, you already have that information.
It wasn’t a well-kept secret that Elon Musk had layoffs in mind from Twitter the moment he started thinking about acquiring the social network. The size and haste of the layoffs was a bit shocking, though. Approximately 50% of the company gone within a week of the acquisition is something to marvel at. It’s like Musk is Thanos performing “the snap” (also officially referred to as “The Decimation”) on his very own universe.
Welp, it looks like things are already going south on Twitter. For the first time (maybe ever), someone I follow liked a racist tweet. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, I thought as I unfollowed the individual who boosted the tweet. Then I saw that Elon Musk was promoting a conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi on Twitter.1So, this is starting off well.
So, the deal has finally going through, and Elon Musk is the new owner of Twitter. The first thing I wanted to do when I heard this was check on those who swore to get rid of Twitter if Musk ran it. Would they have fidelity to their promises? My lady friend pulled down all of her data and said she was cancelling her account. This would be a big move for her, as she is a fairly voracious Twitter consumer. No more cute cat videos or political snark. Predictably, when I asked her about it again, she just hadn’t gotten around to it and then the next time I saw her, she was doomscrolling on the site.
I fantasize about going back to the click wheel iPod, loading it up and going to classes at NCSU. Its screen was a delight, its interface and minimal and pragmatic. I loved it. There were edges where now there are none. Amit Gawande writes about having lost something when Apple killed the iPod. When you can have everything, everything has less value.
Stephan Ango, who created the excellent new default Obsidian theme for the 1.0 launch (as well as the Minimal theme) writes about how text manipulation tools are in their infancy. Ango envisions that there will be much more we can do with text, in the same way that we can do so much with photos now.
One of the co-founders of Substack, Hamish McKenzie, wishes people would stop referring to the “newsletter economy.” He insists that the successful company is not selling a newsletter product and that, “Substack was more like a blog where you could email the posts to your readers.”
Linda Holmes writes about how blog culture was once sharing your whole lives with strangers on the internet — and how those strangers soon began to feel entitled to that personal information. She makes the point that YouTubers have recreated that culture through a different medium.
And so the huge internet cog spins endlessly, driven by the momentum of the uncountable smaller cogs belonging to its every user: individuals, corporations, bots, advertisers, data-harvesters. I might lean my mind forward with the intention of contributing a little input to the whole — the slightest impulse of momentum. But, in doing so, I’m met with billions of other minds and wills, all doing the same thing: feeding the whirr, the dizzying spin. It’s not a fair fight. Any single human mind is outmatched by the architecture of the modern internet, because it has been built and tuned precisely to ensure that we repeatedly subject ourselves to its perpetual motion. Why wouldn’t we engage with a machine built to stimulate, and which requires so little effort from us in return? Lean forward your minds one and all; don’t let a good limbic system go to waste.
Wood takes a break from the internet in the autumn and winter. He doesn’t go full on “strict monasticism” but drastically curbs his usage of the overwhelming megalith of always-connected technology. It’s an interesting practice. I wouldn’t take it on at this point in my life, but I may adopt some of the principles in a less ascetic way.
I’ve been on a sort of crusade to get more people to blog recently. If I come across a person who is interesting and has something worthwhile to share, I urge them to start a blog. I have a friend at work who, in the early days of the Ukraine war, was sending updates about the conflict to a large group of people via an email distribution list. I suggested he commit his ideas to a blog instead. At first, he wasn’t into the idea. One of the reasons he gave me was that he had too much going on and he needed self-care time, in addition to all the craziness in life. I remarked to him that the activity of blogging is my self-care time.
Recently, I had to give up one of my favorite pieces of electronics — my M1 iMac. The process wasn’t easy. It was love at first sight when I saw the new, colorful M1 iterations of the iconic Mac desktop. The aluminum and glass combination was sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and the choice of colors made the machines feel personal. I was grateful to be able to afford a refurbished version. My previous iMac, which I had to give to my son for remote schooling, is over 10 years old (yes, he’s still using it and perfectly happy). I bought the blue iMac the funds I acquired by selling my Star Wars pinball machine.
Obsidian has a new default theme called “Dragonglass.” The theme has only been released in the insider builds, so I haven’t had a chance to play with it. It looks appealing, though. I like the idea of tabs, which have been adopted in many other apps (at least on MacOS). I also appreciate having a theme that looks OS native and doesn’t require community plugins (which bring security concerns with them) to achieve that look.
Paul Ford writes for Wired Magazine as the co-founder of a software company that is tired of the ubiquitous pursuit of disruption within the tech industry. He argues that disruption serves the bored and that boredom is a luxury we no longer have, even in the U.S. — particularly after January 6, 2021.
I was texting with an old friend the other day, and he was documenting his progress in getting three monitors set up. Since he has an M1 Mac Mini, like I do, he could only easily support two monitors. He turned to Universal Control with a MacBook Air to get three displays going. He was trying monitor stacking and side by side setups. I told him I just preferred a simple iMac and no external monitors, which is why I only have one monitor that my work MacBook Pro and Mac Mini share.
Last week, I published a micro post about my thoughts after reading Matt Birchler admonish his readers against switching blogging platforms. Birchler’s main point was that switching platforms made it harder on readers and, therefore, more difficult to retain consistent readership. It’s a solid point and one that really resonated with me. I have a tendency to tinker with different tools, some of which are blogging engines. That means I sometimes use different services to publish my posts.
In his latest newsletter, Charlie Warzel dives into DALL-E and profiles Andy Baio’s experiments with the tool. Baio has found it rewarding to stretch DALL-E to its limits (call it boundary testing, if you like).
I consider myself fortunate to have procured a subscription to the feed reader platform Feedbin, when it first launched, after the untimely demise of Google Reader. Getting in early allowed me to lock into the service at $2 a month. Feedbin has been improving over the years, adding features that make it more of a one-stop-shop for keeping up with the things you follow on the internet. Many times, I even view most of my Twitter feed using the app because I would rather not venture into the stream.
Ira Robinson was astonished to find that using the PKM Obsidian helped with his brain fog. He has been using the program to organize his thoughts and found that it did that by clearing his brain, as well as acting as his second brain.
Steve Best writes about the problems with only having one choice of browser rendering engine on iOS. Despite the fact that there are plenty of browsers competing on the platform, they all use Safari’s WebKit renderer. Which essentially means they are all Safari with different chrome and options. It also means, as Best points out in his post, that any WebKit security vulnerability affects all the browsers on iOS.
Cory Doctorow has some fresh ideas about how you can use Amazon but still support local businesses. He acknowledges it’s difficult to avoid patronizing the internet superstore. It’s not as simple as “voting with your wallet” or being a conscientious consumer.
Medium finally made its biggest pivot of all its many pivots: It changed its CEO. Ev Williams is stepping down after 10 years and more experiments than can probably be accurately counted. Casey Newton has the details for The Verge. He focuses, as I would, on the constant pace of change for the platform.
Welp, I’m doing it. I’m becoming one of those mechanical keyboard nerds. It wasn’t intentional, mind you, but out of necessity. My Apple “magic” bluetooth keyboard and mouse won’t easily switch between one Mac and another. Due to my work-from-home setup having a personal Mac and a work Mac, I have spent literally hours of time frustratingly trying to get my peripherals to pair with one device or another. I got locked out of my personal Mac Mini, at one point, because the computer would not recognize the bluetooth devices. I had to dig in my closet for an old wired keyboard and mouse. If I hadn’t had those stashed away, I’m not sure what I would have done.
The Antinet Zettelkasten movement is picking up steam. Despite what you would first think, the term antinet is not a stab at digital technology, but rather a partial acronym. Specifically, ANTI stands for:
I have been thinking recently about trying out federated social media site Mastodon. I’m interested in non-algorithmic microblogging and solutions that don’t actively attempt to antagonize me. Cherie Baker recently joined Mastodon and has some good things to say about her experience.
I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with Apple lately. Apple is a giant company now, as compared to the scrappy upstart they were when I started using their computers in 2005 upon my return to college. A lot has changed. Their workforce and market cap are massive. They are always plowing forward at breakneck speed now, sometimes at the expense of their users and their products.
Basic Apple Guy pulled together a WWDC bingo card. He has some ideas about what may turn up at the conference next week. Some come from the rumor mill and some are wishful thinking. I thought that it was interesting that he speculates about a classical music service.
There have been rumours that Apple will introduce some classical app/service for Apple Music. Whether that becomes a separate app or an enhancement to the Music app, I’m not sure, but I expect I’ll make finding and curating classical collection far more manageable than asking, “Hey Siri, play: Cantata No. 89 Was Soll Ich Aus Dir Machen, Ephraim?, BWV 89: V. Aria - ‘Gerechter Gott, Ach, Rechnest Du?’ [Soprano] by Ad Mater, Gustav Leonhardt & Monteverdi Choir Hamburg”
We’ll have to see if this comes to fruition, but if it does, I highly doubt there will be a separate app for it.
Matthew Ismael Ruiz writes for Pitchfork as an obsessive digital music collector. He shuns all-you-can-eat streaming services, instead opting to patronize sites like Bandcamp, that allow downloads and ownership of digital music files. He acknowledges that he is in the minority in our entertainment post-ownership culture, but is aware that there are others like him. They, too, accept the overhead of maintaining a digital music collection.
Though the ranks of digital collectors have shrunk in the streaming era, I’m certainly not alone. So what kind of person does this? Digital collectors largely are collectors first and foremost—people who enjoy, at least to some degree, the meticulous organization the activity requires. To maintain a digital collection for years and years requires a mix of passion, knowledge, and more than a little bit of obsession. Digital collectors are often—but not always—gearheads and audiophiles fixated on fidelity. They’re people with appetites for music that far outstrip their budgets for physical media. And they tend to be, as I’m devastated to admit, people of a certain age, music fans that grew up organizing files and folders in a way seemingly alien to young people whose main interface with digital files is a search bar.
I can relate to Ruiz’s piece, but I can’t imagine myself abandoning the embarrassment of riches that streaming music services provide anytime soon. My preference is a mixed catalog, such as what Apple Music provides, where you can incorporate your downloaded rare tracks into your streaming library.
Lauren Goode wants to bring back the age of presence indicators — like the AIM Away Messages — to give us all a break from the burden of synchronous communications.
I miss Away Messages. This nostalgia is layered in abstraction; I probably miss the newness of the internet of the 1990’s, and I also miss just being … away. But this is about Away Messages themselves. The bits of code that constructed Maginot Lines around our availability. An Away Message was a text box full of possibilities, a mini-MySpace profile or a Facebook status update years before either existed. It was also a boundary: An Away Message not only popped up as a response after someone IM’ed you, it was wholly visible to that person before they IM’ed you.
I really like the presence indicator, but I think, in terms of tech culture, we’ve moved past the barrier that “away” messages put up. People with whom I work ignore the presence indicator in Teams. It’s not unusual to have multiple people trying to message me, while my Teams message clearly says that I’m on the phone.
I have a Kobo Libra 2 ereader, and it’s one of my favorite devices. Of course, it is used for reading books, but I spend just as much time reading articles saved from the internet. I find I have a much greater capacity for reading long materials passed from the internet on an e-ink device. I’m using Pocket as my read-it-later service, and it syncs well with the Kobo. It’s a 2-way sync, so you can favorite and archive articles from the device.
Claymorphism seems to be the rage now in web design. This style, which may remind you of your favorite claymation shows, has a very playful look. Andrian Bece writes about the style for Smashing Magazine.
Claymorphism builds on top of Neumorphism foundations. Although both use rounded corners, they differ in how they use backgrounds and shadow. Instead of using light and dark outer shadow to achieve the extrusion effect, Claymorphism uses two inner shadows (dark and light) and an outer (usually darker) shadow to achieve a soft 3D and floating effect. This allows for Claymorphism to have any background color, independent of the background which was a major drawback with Neumorphism.
The style may not be for my projects, but I have to admit it is fun.
Andy Phelps writes about how, growing up in California, near Edwards Air Force base, he had to deal with the constant reminders of the possibility of nuclear war. To cope with the existential dread, he found comfort in an arcade game: Missile Command.
But in that moment, playing Missile Command was transformative: it provided a way for me to process my frustration, my fear, and my anger. It offered an outlet for my grief, and it also, amazingly, provided a sense of agency and control over a situation in which I had none of either. While the hopelessness of my plight was being reflected in the press covering the Cold War, in popular music on MTV, and in the comic books and action heroes of the day, Missile Command did a unique and (at least to me) profound thing: it didn’t offer some escapist view of the situation — everyone that plays the game eventually loses — but it did offer both a way to trivialize and compartmentalize the fear (it is, after all, an arcade game and you can play it again with a quarter so there is always another life) — while simultaneously holding out the idea that you can win for a while, and for a pretty significant while at that. You can laugh at yourself for the stress you feel while playing the final moments of the game, and then savor the fact that you’re still alive in the arcade and get a piece of pizza.
Anything that gets you over the pressures of the world so you can enjoy a slice of pizza can’t be too bad.
Almost a year ago, Wordpress owner Automattic bought the beloved journaling app, Day One. One of the first things that was announced was imminent integration with Automattic's two blogging tools, Wordpress and Tumblr. This news wasn't shocking, as Day One previously had integrated with Tumblr and being able to share a journal entry publicly on established blogging platforms made sense. Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg even called journaling in Day One "private blogging."
Brave Rewards seems like a cool way to pay creators. I wish more people were verified, but I think I’m going to add my blog.
I looked into migrating over to blot.im last year (because it was so easy to post from Obsidian), but noticed that the platform had some issues that weren’t being addressed. This is the second time in a few months that users have wondered whether the project has been abandoned.
I’ve decided I need to introduce some changes to how I post online. I typically write a lot of link posts because I read quite a bit online and want to share things that I think are interesting. This comes from a desire to add my thoughts to what is put out there by others, and — let’s face it — comment sections are a pretty bad way to do it. Lately, though, a lot of what I see online has to do with the outrage of the week. “Outrage of the week” sounds like some cute embellishment, but it has become literally accurate. Every week, the people on the internet collectively lose their minds about a particular subject. Then, everyone gives a hot take on that subject. When the next week hits, there’s a new subject to write about. It has become an all-too-familiar standard pattern.
Wordle seems to have been a boon for the New York Times, bringing millions of new users to the site and helping to add subscribers, as well.
Overall, the Times said it added 387,000 net digital-only subscribers last quarter, though it didn’t say how many of those are Wordle players. The Times also offers a dedicated subscription to its cooking content, and an overall digital package.
I kind of wondered how much the acquisition of the popular word game would help The Times. They had indicated that the game would only be free temporarily and it’s unclear if they could convert its fanbase to paying customers. If it continues to be a gateway to subscriptions, though, they could keep it free indefinitely, which would be good for everyone. I’m still playing the game almost every day and enjoying it, having only lost once.
CEO Jason Fried just announced that Basecamp, the company, not the product, which used to be called 37signals, is now going back to their original name. The post about the change is a pretty standard corporate announcement, which is unusual for Fried.
I realize that I just pointed to some writing tips from Clive Thompson, but here’s another post with some more. Thompson makes his first drafts look totally unlike anything that could be mistaken for something official. For instance, he starts the sentences of those drafts with hyphens and lower case letters and ends them with two forward slashes.
But when I write in my strange style, the sentences and paragraphs just seem like jottings. They’re Lego bricks I’m combining and recombining see what shape they might make. Words written with no proper casing and punctuation seem much easier to tear up and revise. I get less emotionally attached.
The problem with his particular method is that markdown turns hyphens that begin a sentence into bullets. For that, he suggests using a tilde, instead. However, Ulysses treats a tilde as a special character as well. In some text editors, it might be best to come up with your own conventions along the same lines as his.1
I liken Twitter to a favorite bar that hateful elements have taken over. Now, you may have found a dark, comfortable corner with your friends and can insulate yourself from the noise, but increasingly, you cannot help but notice all the chaos around you. Lecherous men are hounding women, making lewd gestures, and even people from other tables barging in on your conversations so that they can disrupt you.
This is how Twitter feels to me. Even if you try to insulate yourself from the misconduct, it’s all around you. The algorithm is sure to insert reminders of it, lest you ever come close to forgetting.
I’m done writing about Twitter for now, but I liked this piece so much that I had to share it.
The purchase of Twitter by the world’s wealthiest “free speech absolutist” has brought quite a few users to a much smaller alternative: Micro.blog. Not to imply that this will be a tectonic shift in the tech landscape, but there are so many people signing up that the community manager, Jean MacDonald, has not been able to keep up with her usual personal welcome to the newcomers.
My first thought when read (at the end of a long day of work) that Elon Musk had purchased Twitter, was some measure of disbelief. I’m almost embarrassed to admit the second thought that popped into my head after reading the news. Yep, it is definitely with some shame that I tell you my disbelief was quickly followed by relief. I’m aware that may be surprising. It surprised me, too.
Clive Thompson wrote an ode to the em dash. After reading his fawning tribute to the multipurpose punctuation, I suddenly have the urge to use it everywhere.
So it’s a shapeshifter, which makes it hard pin down. Yet that’s also makes it exciting for me — because it suggests you can bust out an m-dash, for, like, no reason at all except that you feel like it.
If you didn’t already await new posts on Frosted Echoes with bated breath, now you can look forward to more em dash.
Flickr is making some interesting changes to their Terms of Service. After the changes take effect, if you want to provide moderate or restricted content, you will need to be a paying customer by upgrading to a Pro account.
Free accounts with Restricted or Moderate content will be considered in violation of our terms of service and subject to removal. Accounts found in violation of our terms will need to either subscribe to Flickr Pro or remove the content in violation.
The changes make sense, from a cost standpoint. Providing restricted or moderate content necessitates that Flickr provide more resources to content moderation. Therefore, to offset that resource expenditure, they are requiring customers to pay if they want to take advantage of those services.
M.G. Seiegler writes about the hypothetical that Microsoft could buy Twitter. Unlike the aspirational aquisition by Elon Musk, Microsoft might actually be a good fit for the platform.
And Microsoft has proven themselves good stewards of giant buys. GitHub. Mojang. LinkedIn. The latter might make the bid more complicated as it was once lumped into “social networking”. But obviously Twitter is a different beast. And Microsoft famously/infamously wanted another, newer entrant: TikTok. To the point where they were willing to absurdly and problematically kiss Donald Trump’s ring. That deal didn’t happen. But this could.
Siegler doesn’t believe that the Musk deal (which is problematic for a number of reasons) will go through. This leaves Twitter ripe for another company to step in.
moz://a, which has positioned itself as a browser company concerned about privacy, is now harvesting your data with a new Firefox extension – but for good causes.1 The Mozilla Rally extension allows researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to track your browsing habits in order to “understand how citizens consume news and which funding models may sustain local journalism.” The study is called “Beyond the Paywall.”
With no formal announcement (whoops), Wordpress.com changed their pricing significantly, removing the paid tiers for personal blogging and leaving nothing in between the free plan and the $180 Business plan. I’ve often thought that Wordpress doesn’t want to be in the business of personal blogging. Before they recently made the switch to block-based themes, most of their newer themes on Wordpress.com were geared towards businesses. It was clear from the descriptions of the themes and the static homepages advertising businesses that they weren’t built with blogging in mind.
At Micro Camp 2021, Patrick Rhone did a talk on writing a book and he delved into the topic of blogging, which he framed as writing essays for an online audience. His point was that if you are a blogger, you are a writer. A writer for those who read your content online. It was an inspirational talk in how it shifted the way you can think about your writing and your readers. A little change in perspective can go a long way when you are trying to motivate yourself to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, in this case.
Ernie from Tedium has a piece on the new Asahi Linux alpha build for M1 Macs. Though I’m unkikely to try yet another Linux distro in the near future, it is interesting to see this development.
Over the weekend, something really awesome happened. An official distro of Linux came to Apple Silicon. And honestly, it’s extremely impressive, a joy to use (even if there are a whole bunch of gaps in the production, a number of to-come features that will limit its usefulness for the time being), and … honestly, everything that MacOS is not. It’s inspiring, and reflects a culture in which people are willing to try new things, and in which they succeed at trying out those new things just because there was enough public support for it.
I’m intruiged to find out what is meant by the phrase “everything MacOS is not” but the piece doesn’t really flesh that out so much as it explores the history of Linux on ARM processors.
In a piece entitled It's Not Your Fault You're a Jerk on Twitter, Katherine Cross writes for Wired Magazine about the psychological dynamics that drive antisocial behavior patterns on social networks. Her analysis on how the platforms accelerate what is already dissociative behavior from the human beings behind the keyboard draws parallels from unlikely places, such as urban planning.
Freddie deBoer wrote some thoughts after being told a book was “taken down” on Twitter. In this sense, “taken down” seems to colloquially mean something like “entirely refuted.” deBoer takes a stance that is not expressed often enough: Something like a book refutation is not possible within a limited medium like Twitter.
There is no such thing as a damning review of a book in tweet form. Such a thing is beyond the affordances of the medium. A longform book review can do more, but has limits of its own. A book review can be cutting, if it’s rigorous enough - and yes, a certain length is a prerequisite for rigor. A book review can be informative and humorous and generative and entertainingly mean. I write some myself and hope to achieve such goals. But no review alone can rebut an argument expressed over hundreds of words. It might be better, or at least easier, if it were so. But we live in a world of irreducible complexity, and our efforts to wrestle it into digestible chunks to match diminishing attention spans - well, that last part is exactly the contentious issue at hand - don’t magically make life simple enough to understand through maxims or fortune cookies or tweets. It doesn’t work that way.
I wish more people understood the constraints of a platform like Twitter.
The vast majority of the time, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is letting people design their own schedule around when they can do their best work.
This is not nearly as hard as it sounds. But it does require a shift in mindset. Away from “I have to call Jeff into a meeting now to get his take on this new feature idea” to “I’ll write up my feature idea for Jeff to check-out whenever he has some free time, and then, maybe, we can have a chat about it live later, if needed”.
Basecamp has a geographically distributed team, so they have had ample opportunity to learn about working asynchronously. They’ve found that the expectation of asynchronous communication, in the absence of a presence indicator, has brought more calm.
I’ve heard it frequently said that the tools you use don’t matter. That people who are constantly changing their working setups are just fiddling. It’s an easy thought to entertain. I’ve seen many an instance where people spend more time tweaking their tools instead of using them. However, there’s some evidence that optimizing and changing our tools can actually help us accomplish more.
Years ago, I saw Henry Zhou give a keynote speech at the All Things Open conference. I left his talk with a more acute understanding of just how hard it is to maintain an open source project that has become popular. Zhou, who is a humble and giving individual, spoke about the unreasonable demands of users who would get angry if their messages didn’t receive a response from the developer within 20 minutes. These developers are essentially volunteers, but they aren’t given the treatment you would expect for donating their time and effort to the common good.
Andy Nicolaides over at the Dent urges us to take it easy on ourselves when it comes to social media. Look around the interwebs and you will find no shortage of people berating themselves up for their time spent on social media or trying to concoct ways to curb their use of those platforms.
A big one is the use of Twitter. A huge amount of people are using this service multiple times a day, for various reasons. I’ve started seeing quite a few posts, or comments just as an aside in a post however, with the authors both figuratively and literally apologising for using the service. They beat themselves up for using it too much, or for wasting time ‘just scrolling’. I’m starting to question why that is. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if you’re leaving a dog or child to starve to death because you’re too obsessed with Twitter to feed them you’re most definitely an animal and you should be ashamed. If, however, you’re a hardworking individual that likes to utilise (not waste) your time flicking around Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, or whatever your service of choice is then you go for it.
Social media can be addictive and you don’t have to be Jaron Lanier to understand the ways those companies use psychological tricks to keep you coming back. However, if you can manage the urge and make reasonable use of Twitter or similar platforms, then you should give yourself a break and recognize that it’s an enjoyable activity for you.
Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner writes about how Windows tries to get you to make Edge your default browser again through pop up windows once you’ve opted to change to another browser.
Microsoft’s moves seem desperate. And familiar. It is clear they don’t want you to use other browsers. They even offer to pay you to use the browser via their Microsoft Rewards program. This is not the behavior of a confident company developing a superior browser. It’s the behavior of a company openly abusing its powerful position to push people to use its inferior product, simply because it can. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Can you say monopoly?
Apparently, Microsoft isn’t worried about a repeat of its antitrust battles from the 90’s.
Facebook has been outed in the US for its dishonorable practices, but what it’s done in this country is nothing compared to the damage it has caused in other parts of the world. One the places where it has helped to create a perfect storm of violence by radicalizing users against the minority Rohingya is the country of Myanmar. The platform spread information and hate speech that cost the lives of a targeted group of people. In 2018, Facebook essentially admitted to its role in the attacks carried out against the Muslim minority.
Around this time of year, people are always buzzing about their Spotify Wrapped playlists. They post screenshots of what songs are in them and discuss their year in music. I have to admit, as an Apple Music user, I get a bit jealous. The cool designs that go along with the Spotify Wrapped playlists are really well done and make you feel like this year-end ritual is something special.
I remember a time, not long ago, when we laughed at the introduction of Space Force from then-president Donald Trump. It was easy to jest, with the name that itself sounded like a parody, coming from a president that never could quite get anything real done. Of course, some of us remember “Star Wars,” the space missile shield that president Reagan made up to psych-out the Soviets. Decades of science fiction speculation haven’t quite turned out the way they were depicted. None of us are using jet packs to get to work and we haven’t colonized the moon or Mars. We’ve been conditioned to be skeptical about outlandish sounding initiatives involving space.
Cory Doctorow has made himself an expert on digital privacy. This essay is mainly about surveillance capitalism and Doctorow uses Vizio as a negative example. When he takes on the now old adage, “if you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product,” his insight really resonates.
Just on the heels of my posting of an old iPod Sock sitting in my dresser drawer, Basic Apple Guy has a piece on the similar AirPod Beanies.
On the iA blog, Oliver Reichenstein argues that apps are more like coffee makers than the cups of coffee to which they are always related.
If there is a valid coffee comparison it’s the coffee maker. Productivity apps are not consumed. Productivity apps are tools. They help you make things. Great apps help you make nice things. Pro apps help you make pro things. How could a text editor compete with an espresso machine?
Since I don't buy a daily cup of coffee, I never got the frequent comparison of subscription prices to cups of coffee. It's overused and doesn't provide context for many people. I think the suggestion that a writing app is equivalent to a coffee maker is a better analogy. Which ultimately means, a piece of software makes more sense with a perpetual license like that which is employed with iA Writer.
Chris Hayes writes for the New Yorker on how the internet has brought about a kind of pseudo-fame that’s accessible to just about everyone. His view of fame is that it is a disruptive force, rather than something that you should strive to attain.
My name is Robert, and I have a knowledge management problem. As I mention in my bio, I'm a prolific notetaker. I would consider myself a digital pack rat, if not hoarder. Very few articles make it through my reading cycle without some highlighting and marginalia. Not a whole lot of meetings go undocumented. I collect, I share.
The news about Facebook hiding research that could proved detrimental to their business model is not surprising. Even if the findings are less-than-shocking. I wonder if Zuckerberg could be charged with perjury for failing to disclose information that he was specifically asked about?
When Rep. Rodgers and other Republicans followed up with Facebook and asked about the company’s internal research on the effects of its products on mental health, the company did not share the Instagram research results, according to Bloomberg, nor did it share them with Sen. Ed Markey when his office also asked Facebook to provide any internal research on the matter in April, according to letters provided by Markey’s office to Recode.
I’m excited about the upcoming changes to Instapaper. They’ve finished with infrastructure updates, and moved on to new features. The Twitter implementation looks particularly nice.
Jason Morehead asks if Facebook deliberately deplatformed his church. Like others who have had this happen, he tried to work through the labyrinthine Facebook system to straighten things out, but eventually succumbed to frustration.
At this point, I just gave up. (Though I did take some solace in the fact that I’m not the only one who’s been confused and frustrated by this situation.) I checked the page several more times to see if somehow, miraculously, Facebook had reversed their decision but to no avail. Then I stopped checking altogether until late last month, when I found that Facebook had finally done the inevitable: they had deleted the page.
Our church had also been relying on Facebook for live streaming our services, since the pandemic began. Thankfully, we now have our own app, running on the Subsplash platform, and parishioners can stream the services there.
A new photo sharing service could be great for photography, but is it ultimately better than the ones that already exist?
The new photo sharing app, Glass, has been getting a lot of attention. One particular corner of the internet where it has received significant buzz is the Micro.blog community. The attention is both surprising and not surprising. It's not surprising because that community tends to be very tech literate and have a great curiosity for new apps and platforms, such as social networks, email tools, blogging services or note taking apps. A well made app like Glass with a user base that already seems to be passionate is bound to be a topic of discussion on the M.b. network of federated blogs. The enthusiasm is also expected because Micro.blog has quite a few very talented photographers that use the service.
Amazon provides an almost perfect retail experience for the cost of a troubled conscience.
Last Christmas, my sister had one prohibition on her wishlist for her Secret Santa: Nothing should be purchased for her on Amazon.com. Other than that, there were some helpful suggestions about things she wanted. I never asked her directly why the caveat about where items were purchased. I didn’t do so because it seemed obvious that there were a number of reasons a person would not want to support Amazon.
Casey Newton very publicly left his job at The Verge for building his own brand on Substack. However, he continues to work with The Verge in some capacity, and they just published his piece on problems at Medium.com. As most have come to expect, Medium is doing yet another pivot in their strategy and is letting go a large chunk of their editorial staff, admitting that their rapid ramp up of publications had been too aggressive.
On the Mozilla Security blog, the Firefox team details their new implementation of cross-site browsing protection by keeping cookies from each site you visit in their own, separate containers. Firefox has had the ability to use different containers with separate cookies explicitly for some time with their “Containers” feature (I love to use this for testing with different identities on the same site).
In 1995, a young, optimistic technologist found himself frustrated by the dire prognostications of a splenetic Luddite. The technologist, Kevin Kelly, a cofounder of Wired magazine, went to interview the Luddite, Kirkpatrick Sale, at his apartment. The interview was a pretext for Kelly to challenge Sale to a bet about the future of a society influenced by the rapid gains in computing technology. Kelly had a strong belief that society would benefit tremendously from advances in computing.
I have to admit, I have been somewhat surprised at people arguing against tech companies being able to enforce their terms of service. Working at a software company, I have been involved with our legal representatives in crafting terms of service, and never have I heard a question come up about our ability to enforce said terms. However, with social media, this seems to be coming up fairly often these days.
Medium recently changed their mobile reading experience. It’s still in beta, and you have to toggle a preference in settings to turn it on, so you won’t see it by default. They have been signaling its coming for a few months, though. The
tag line they’ve been using is that it makes Medium “more relational.”
On the Friday night that started a holiday weekend, I found myself helping to troubleshoot an application outage that had come up about unexpectedly. It was an interesting start to the weekend and I am thankful for the technical acumen of my coworkers (near and far) for helping us to get through the crisis. Afterward, it was slightly past my normal bedtime, but having been keyed up by the night’s events, I felt there were miles to go before sleep.
I find myself in the most unusual position of agreeing with Attorney General William Barr. Barr believes that major tech companies are making serious compromises in order to get access to the Chinese labor and consumer market.
"The Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of decades and centuries, while we tend to focus on the next quarterly earnings report,” Barr said. “America’s big tech companies have also allowed themselves to become pawns of Chinese influence.”
In the article, one of the tech companies named, Apple, declined to comment. How could they offer any explanation? They are at the mercy of China for the products that are made almost entirely in that country.
The Micro.blog platform has been growing lately, and part of the growth has been through plugins and new apps. Plugins are a welcome additions to the base M.b. hosted blogging experience. They do simple but helpful things, like adding open graph and Twitter cards for rich previews of content on various platforms, site search and footnote popups. Plugins feel like a big step in the maturity of the platform and allow those with the technical savvy to extend the features of the service.
Marius Masalar has some thoughts about blogging and link posts. Masalar sees a lot of value in them and the role they play in the makeup of the IndieWeb. At their best, link posts are a way for independent bloggers to engage with and continue a conversation started by one of their fellows.
We use them to boost each other up, offer constructive criticism, point out other views, or amplify a message we believe in.
In his latest newsletter, Chris Bowler spends a bit of time on the Roam note taking service that is currently in beta. His reference for Roam was Drew Coffman. I love Drew, and he attaches to new ideas with the zeal of an ancient Athenian. Roam bares more resemblance to a wiki than anything else, but its proponents insist it’s a completely new way of thinking about note taking. The service is thick with enthusiastic documentation on how to use it for different purposes, adapting it to GTD, increasing your speed and productivity with a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, etc.
It’s surprising to see that the “iLamp” version of the iMac, which hasn’t been sold for 15 years, continues to appear in new places. This version of the iMac stands out in the line of products as being the most unusual. It is the only iMac to feature most of the guts in the stand, instead of behind the display.
Outer Peace, by Toro Y Moi (2019) I was in my second round of college when these models were starting to be phased out.
Andy Nicolaides from The Dent has a post about continuing to care about things that may seem inconsequential during these times of isolation and illness. He emphasizes that it’s okay to look forward.
If any of you reading this have been thinking there’s no point in starting that new podcast you’ve had on your mind for a while, or writing a blog post about how much you like that one episode of Star Trek, or whatever, I ask you to reconsider.
Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash Inspired by Austin Kleon, Omar created a one page zine, about living through quarantine in China during the Coronavirus outbreak. He has also been blogging regular updates about what the isolation has been like. The quarantine not only excludes contact with others, but for families, it tests your internal dynamics.
To answer the question of what people would do if stuck inside all day, Arsh Raziuddin from the Atlantic posits this:
A few months ago, Consequence of Sound reported on Disney passing on the chance to buy Twitter because, in the words of Disney chief Bob Iger, “the nastiness is extraordinary.” Gladiatrix fight photo by Hans Splinter from flickr. Once upon a time, way back in 2017, there was a little website called Twitter that caught the eyes of the monolith Disney. The idea at the time was for Disney to acquire Twitter to help modernize its distribution, The New York Times reports.
Once upon a time, way back in 2017, there was a little website called Twitter that caught the eyes of the monolith Disney. The idea at the time was for Disney to acquire Twitter to help modernize its distribution, The New York Times reports. When Iger saw the downsides of Twitter firsthand, though, he realized the deal couldn’t possibly be worth it. He began feeling intense dread and knew he had to reject the deal.
Whether the overall nastiness started with Gamergate or the Trump presidential campaign, by 2017, it had hit critical mass. Around the same time as the revelation about the Disney purchase, Tim Challies wrote about “becoming a Kwitter.”
At the top of the list is the simple reality that I may have the wrong disposition for Twitter. The man just doesn’t fit the medium. Over the past few years I’ve awakened to the reality that in many ways I am a weak person. I am weak physically, constitutionally, and in some ways emotionally. Especially, I’ve learned that I am easily fatigued, drained, or discouraged when involved in unnecessary conflict or even when witnessing it. If my unsanctified disposition is toward cowardice and running away, I believe my sanctified disposition is toward peace and peacemaking. Yet Twitter is a medium that seems to generate conflict and to thrive upon it. I find it a discouraging and intimidating place to be. I derive negligible pleasure from it. It adds nothing necessary to my life and very little that’s truly beneficial.
I can relate to the admission of being weak in some ways and though I’m not usually conflict averse IRL, I see online conflict as mostly unproductive. Rarely do hostile exchanges result in changed minds or reconciliation. On a platform like Twitter, it can also feel like conflict can be unexpected and especially intrusive.
I was caught off guard by this aspect of the platform one Sunday a couple of years ago when I quoted something that I had read in a popular newsletter and liked and with which I identified. I tweeted the quote with attribution. I did find the quote on a Twitter but I couldn’t use the retweet or quote features because the original tweet had some additional comments that didn’t really add context. So I used the good old copy and paste and throw some quotes around the copied text method. I then added “(x Twitter handle) has said:.” Pretty simple, right?
Patrick Rhone writes about why he used Amazon for affiliate links and why he no longer does so. He now favors a site called Indiebound, which serves to federate a group of independent bookstores and positions itself as the conscientious consumer alternative to Amazon.
In the post, Rhone quotes Dan J on the danger of using the ubiquitous e-commerce site for book recommendations.
The problem with linking to Amazon as a “safe default” is the same as the problem with just publishing your book on Amazon and calling it a day: it entrenches Amazon as The One True Place Where Books Are, and, while convenient, that’s not good… it’s not good for society to have one big private corporation responsible for distributing such a huge proportion of the collective written work of the human race.
The Mandolorian Unofficial Wallpaper From Deviantart, a beautifully subtle Mandalorian wallpaper in an assortment of colors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.
Baby Yoda forever!
Image via Bruce Timothy Mans Music is easier than ever to discover. Surely this is a triumph and yet, it makes me kind of sad when I think about how one doesn't have to search out and find music in traditional ways anymore. Pitchfork and Rolling Stone may still be relevant, but you don't need the encyclopedic knowledge of a music critic to tell you what you might like these days.
Manuel Riess (@hutaffe) recently wrote a bit about returning from Apple Music to Spotify. His dissatisfaction centers around music discovery, hearing new material from artists that the system already should know he likes, and the New Music playlist.
I have had some of the same frustrations. The New Music playlist, which is updated every Friday, used to be something to which I looked forward, at the end of the week. Lately, though, it almost seems like artists (or labels) have been paying to have their music featured on the lists of listeners.
Next week, Instagram is set to begin hiding like counts on posts in the US, according to this TechCrunch piece. The move is expected to hurt influencers on the platform, as initial tests in other countries showed that likes on posts went down when the counts were not displayed. The influencer economy is supposed to be a big part of what drives the platform. The speculation is that anything that hurts those influencers and their ability to use Instagram to build their businesses too badly will be rolled back.
Pleased to see the announcement from Jack Dorsey that Twitter will cease serving political ads on its platform. This could have been done via a blog post instead of a tweetstorm, but I guess they want to drink their own champaign.
It has never been a better time to quit Facebook, after the company recently revealed a policy that formalized the ability of politicians to lie in ads on the platform. Techcrunch writer Josh Costine called the move a disgorgement of responsibility. The web publication has another piece by Costine, calling on Facebook, and other tech companies, to ban political ads altogether. The ban would hold until they can come up with a coherent policy that doesn’t erode democratic freedoms by inundating the populace with misinformation.
In a break from my normal habit of avoiding hot takes and only sticking to what is room temperature or below, I wanted to write a bit about the uproar of the week. Specifically, the NBA, that proud bastion of social justice rebellion in recent times, ceding their moral high ground for the irresistible attraction of oodles of Chinese yuan.
Part of the name of this weblog has to do with my intention of capturing ideas being echoed around the blogosphere and there have been many people weighing in on this subject on their blogs.
In Light Phone 2: the high hopes of the low-tech phone, Michael Zelenko writes about how hope for the minimalist phones like the Light Phone and the Punkt phone should probably be tempered by limited target customers.
There may not be a mass market for minimalist phones — they’re expensive, they’re superfluous, they’re extra — but there could be niche markets for the Light Phone: well-to-do campers, weekend warriors, the hyper-wired looking for relief.