Here is what you do

  1. Visit an article, blog post, or Russian-hosted text-file e-book site that you'd like to read.
  2. Click at the beginning of the headline, scroll to the bottom without clicking, and shift-click the end.
  3. Command-C.
  4. Paste into Your Friend the Text Editor.
  5. Print. Keep the lovely Monospace font. Print 4 pages per sheet, so it is small enough but still big enough.
  6. Fold your pages up. Take them to the park. Take them to work. Scribble all over everything. Make notes. Plan tweets about notes.
  7. Find your pages years later, under the desk. Wonder how you could have ever been so wrong, so very wrong.

2019-09-25 Time saver??

This is a departure from the usual content here, but it's crazymaking and must be documented:

We are dimayed to learn, upon purchasing episodes now that the free ones have disappeared, that Nick Jr apparently slightly speeds up Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom to fit its standard time slots. You can hear it the instant of that "SOMEWHERE…".

There is no mention of this anywhere on the entire internet.

2019-09-22 Slots to fill

Aaaaaa, Andre's doing a Five-Year Diary thing. I (re-)started updating my physical copy a few weeks ago (then the trip to Chicago broke the spell, but it's probably for the better, since 8:00 hotel bedtime after being crabbed at by a three-year-old for making him walk too much does not put one in the most… reflective mood). There's just enough space for a tight summary of the day, or one good observation. You can make up margin iconography if you want to track something. The blank year slot on the date takes away the pressureguilt of a dayplanner. And so compact!

Interested to see if a digital journal works the same. Great idea.

2019-09-21 Fighting linkrot again

You've mostly abandoned your Pinboard account the last few years, but Pocket's increasing standard-Valley-app-ish feature creep (and corresponding wallet-thirst) have made Pinboard's archival plan more attractive. When was the last time you actually tried to visit a saved link there, though? Almost no URLs, turns out, are cool. They're mostly gone. Sometimes it's a CMS upgrade, and you can sympathize with the desire to lose the ".aspx"es. More often it's a lateral URL structure move (I'm looking at you, McSweeney's).

But more often whole publication verticals have gone poof. Some articles have made their way back to their author's blog. That's a fun turnaround.

So here's what you do: visit, pop the URL in the Wayback Machine, find the closest snapshot to the time you bookmarked it, check that that is actually readable, replace the URL on Pinboard, leave a passive agressive note in the description: "Formerly at foo, lost to time."

So much is just gone, though. Not archived, not googleable, not bookmarked with enough context to reconstruct why you'd wanted it in the first place.

Come to think of it, though: have you kept your own site fresh? A few years back everybody moved to static sites on S3 or whatever, and the art of the custom Apache config was lost. Maybe a crawl through the Wayback Machine for your own site would let you reconstruct a system of redirects, and see what you can get away with on a free Netlify plan.

2017-05-19 Archaeology

There was a day, somewhere in the little window where people visited this hetch-tem-ell file (have you ever heard a Scot say "HTML"? Oh god look it up on YouTube it's glorious) where I got self-conscious enough about my writing voice that I took it full-Bright-Lights-Big-City and made it all second person to dilute the navel-gazing. HI INTERNET ARCHIVE.

Since November 2014? Sheesh. Did a social media ghosting after The November Troubles. ~ftrain's the boss guy now. Have a whole extra human dude walking around the house like a clothed bonobo. It's a compleeeetely different milieu. Still only flirting with emacs and vim, 20 years strong.

Keep the dotfiles burning, tildeken.

2014-11-07 Knowing which errors to Google

You needed to start invoicing your new freelance clients, and you figured there was something more 2014-ish than emailing around PDF exports from InDesign templates. A tour through the "invoice" tag on Pinboard led you to Anchor, which seems straightforward and hooks up with Stripe. Anchor's a free download that can be installed on any little server – and that's when you realize you moved all your sites to static files on S3 buckets and nixed your MediaTemple account last year.

But wait! You've been playing around in a freebie EC2 CentOS install, right? You've seen docs on using yum, right? Could a lil t2micro instance handle it? Worth a shot. At the worst, you'll be out $15 or so.

This is where this dicking-around-on-a-server thing pays off: not the blog or IRC, necessarily, but the familiarity with the environment. Heck, it only took half an hour this morning to set up an SSL cert, with only one bad-Apache-config httpd restart!

You had the SSL workflow hanging out in the back of your head from something on Tim Bray's blog a while back. Success in this stuff comes less from encyclopedic knowledge than from little mental bookmarks that set you on the right path in a search engine. If these other folks can figure out, you probably can too.

2014-11-03 Tiers of orthodoxy

Douglas Crockford has a reputation for cranky orthodoxy, probably because of the tone of JSLint's error messages. Every one of his conference talks, though, is a call for pragmatic flexibility. With the Good Parts book and JSLint, he's trying to save himself and others from coding styles that years of experience suggest to be confusing and error-prone. It's an approach that acknowledges that people are forgetful and easily confused, and that we should build things that mitigate confusion.

Here's a recent talk:

It's interesting that his low-level orthodoxy (JSLint's opinions on indentation) only exists in service to high-level pragmatism and flexibility. Paraphrased takeaways:

In the same way that programmers tend to roll their eyes at any layer of abstraction higher than the one they learned with, people fight orthodoxy on levels higher or lower than their personal orthodoxies. If you treat a set of rules as challenging constraints, and play the game for a little while, you'll get a better feel for their implications than if you push back. It's like reading a novel with an unconventional structure – if you can learn to hang in there, it might end up more rewarding, and you get to try on somebody else's brain for a while.

2014-10-30 Strong starts

Does familiarity make innovation slow down, or do the easy problems all get solved in the initial rush?

"On the Design of Editors for Small Computers", from 1972, kinda blew your mind (and you can't remember if it was linked here, or on Pinboard, or HN, or what). Today, text editors seem so fundamental, like the only problems left are high-level things like discoverability of UI, macros, and automatic metadata. Forty years ago, though, it was not obviously better when thing-that-edits-lines and thing-that-shows-an-overview use the same model. Mentally juggling the line being edited, and its context, separate from reading the whole file as a unit (or using scratch paper or printouts to do so) is like driving a car with no windshield, just a passenger on the roof yelling out a description of the road.

So the big question is: was that one of the easy early wins, or can we still find places to leap ahead? Surely there were dudes in 1972 thinking, "from punch cards to this! What's left?"

Scary/exciting either way. Either this is all we have, and we have to make do until we figure out the really hard stuff, or sweeping newness is coming to save us from this clumsiness.

2014-10-28 Overmetaphoring

Even after all this time, you get confused by UNIX pipes. It's an awesome little metaphor: each piece is a black box that gets input from somewhere and outputs to somewhere else, and you can use pipes to hook up one box's output to the next one's input. When you think of it spatially it makes total sense. Lexically, though, it's a little twisted, since commands tend to be in the form verb options input output. There's always a second of WAIT IS THIS BACKWARDS when you compose them in your head, like translating from English to Spanish on the fly.

The metaphor is still much stronger, stickier, than just calling it a left associative infix operation whose operands are programs with parameters.

2014-10-27 Good enough

You're not a car guy. Sure, you've swapped out sensors and valves, and rotated tires, and done repairs that required jack stands, but only ever to save money. Your current car was a hand-me-down, and you owned my last one for thirteen years. As long as a car's functional and not more expensive than its blue book, you're fine with it, regardless of sagging headliner or terrible A/C controls.

You've lived without a car, too (in Portland and STL for short periods during extended unplanned maintenance, and in NYC because NYC). You lose some freedom and time, but you find out it's doable, moreso if you have a driving grocery buddy.

Every time you see somebody struggling with a poorly-thought-out mobile UI, or struggling to press buttons through their big plastic phone case, you try to check your initial sadness by telling yourself, "he's not a phone guy." There are a lot of folks who will put up with the Android equivalent of a squeaky clutch, as long as texting and IMDb work.

You kinda envy it! Texting was cumbersome during your Motorola F3 experiment, and y'know, no internet, but life is still mostly the same. Wondering where else you could rework your priorities and free up some worry.

2014-10-24 Rooms

The ex-Branch folks ( ~libby, ~joshm et al) released their first project from inside Facebook, and it's pretty neat. Rooms is like… newsgroups for your phone, with images treated as first-class citizens. Anyone can create a room, and invites are passed around via screenshot or photo of a QR code thing. Interesting to see the app's take on identity: no Facebook account required (the only thing account-ey is verifying your email), and you can change your nick from room to room.

It's a shift from an Everything Feed to topic-based mini-feeds. Kinda like taking what people try to do with hashtags and chunking each out into its own space.

Potluck, their previous thing, was another exploration of threaded comments-plus-stuff, partially based on link-sharing. It's a mechanic that you enjoy a lot, probably because it reminds you of the kinds of conversation you loved in newsgroups and early forums (see below). Let's see if enough folks hang around with this one to get to know its quirks.

2014-10-23 Conversations

First instinct is to call blogs/Twitter/etc "conversations," but that seems like the exception. Most posts just kinda… hang out for a while, bounce off a few people, and go all Ark of the Covenant crate into an archive.

Or—okay, back up, reframe: IRL conversations aren't lasting, taggable, and searchable. Sharing an idea with a pal doesn't plant a flag in that idea, so we shouldn't expect it to be any different online. A tweet has a datestamp, though, so it attaches an imaginary "I WAS HERE FIRST" to a concept or turn of phrase.

Part of your start-and-give-up blogging problem is that you'll start a paragraph, then google around to see what other people have to say about it, and delete the draft when you see that everything you had to say has been said better, by someone with authority. (NOT DOING THAT HERE, so add another to the recommended-grains-of-salt pile.)

There's relief that comes with that ("oh good, I'm not the only one"), but also disappointment, since you missed out being part of the conversation the first time around.

Not sure if there's any way to improve that. Recommendation engines get annoying real fast, and "show me news related to books" is way too noisy. Maybe the best approach is to reply when you read something interesting, rather than nodding at your desk, and to fold others' thoughts into your own when you research, rather than hitting delete?

2014-10-22 Remind me to burn this later

Via ~thbrcr, a quote from this interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard:

It’s one thing to be banal, stupid, and idiotic on the inside. It’s another to have it captured in writing.

Yeah, see below for more on that.

2014-10-22 Toothbrush repair

One thing you've learned in 16 years as a credulous, earnest believer in Order and Standards: don't trust 'em when they say "the spec's useless now, but soon these third parties will support it."

For yeeeeears, we were told that if we kept our markup pure and true, imbued it with Meaning, and kept presentation in its own filthy ghetto, the machines would reward us with metadata! And enhanced search! And permanence! Each page could be its own CSS Zen Garden, a distilled idea shifting to suit the fleeting caprice of the ages. "No one supports the hgroup now," they said, "but think how the outliners will make your page shine when they do!" People of 1998, we are from the future, and we tell you: the machines are not coming to save you.

But the CSS-only redesigns never happened. We moved to templated dynamic sites and single-page apps, so the canonical "use contorted CSS selectors so you don't have to change all that HTML" advice is completely backwards. The CSS Zen Garden taught us to write convoluted styles that only work for one very specific, never-changing page, and we have to unlearn that.

Imagine a guide to repairing your toothbrush. "Bristles fall out and droop all the time! Here are the tools you'll need to replace each one when it does." "Section 2: Re-lacquering your handle." You could spend a lot of your free time refurbishing your toothbrush instead of brushing your teeth and getting on with your life, but in the real world you'll just buy a new toothbrush. Every front-end redesign you've ever seen has been a new toothbrush, but A List Apart articles still speak in hushed tones about the Coming Age of the Eternal Golden Toothbrush.

Exception: if your immediate goal is a concrete ontology, or to create a machine-readable archive, then go as crazy as you need to with whatever semantics are appropriate to the domain. You might write your own tools to get some use out of them, or trick a grad student to do so. For the rest of us, though, purity-of-markup should only be a goal to the extent that it makes it easier to overhaul things later.

Software moves too fast. It rarely matures. Usually, we fumble through the game and make up new rules until somebody erects whole new goalposts, and we start over on a different field.

2014-10-21 This changes everything

Oh, the promise of an interestingly-named github repo. You don't even realize how much you're hoping it will CHANGE EVERYTHING until try to star it, only to find you already starred it months ago. Sigh.

IT WAS WITH YOU ALL ALONG only it turns out it's kinda boring and hard. It's like Dorothy hearing "Those magic slippers will take you home! Just walk about a mile that way to the interstate, then hike 300 miles east."

Yeah, you're writing this with a still-unused Org-Mode Reference Card printout in front of you.

2014-10-20 Friend-of-an-avatar

You spent the weekend running around town with 25 people from an online community you've been hanging out in since 2001 (imagine here the Mr. Show clip where an aged Bob says "My life!"). The "IRL meetup" is always a kinda strange thing, where you have to reconcile your mental model of a person with their "real" selves, but you noticed this weekend that nobody blinks when you describe a group of folks as "people from the Internet". It's slipped into normal life.

Almost nobody's completely different online and in person. There's usually a big overlap. The outsides of that venn diagram can be amazing, though! In this particular group, people are surprisingly pleasant and approachable in both contexts, but there are other times where you find that the dude that automatically flips your argument switch in the forum is humble and thoughtful in person, or hearing how another guy YELLS EVERYTHING changes how you read his tweets forever. Context! Context, context, context.

It would be terrifying to know which bits of your personal venn diagram stood out.

2014-10-17 Metablogging still counts

~annika has a nifty set of graphs that paint an encouraging picture. Two weeks in, folks are still logging in, chatting, and updating pages regularly. There will be dropoff as people get busy or bored, sure, but it hasn't started quite yet.

Now, a lot of the posts and talk are about ~ itself and the mechanics of using it. But certainly not all! tilde.projects and groups have popped up in the nntp server. "We're here, so now what?" is the first good test of any lil community.

Permission, form, barriers to entry, and all the stuff you've been writing about below are having a moment. Andy and Gina Trapani wrote last night about the kind less-than-thinkpiece blogging we all miss. Let's hope this is the start of an unmonetized renaissance.

2014-10-16 Somebody set us up the USENET

Context: there's a Cards game on the radio and a whole big winey French dinner belowdecks.

Wonderful folks have set up local USENET on this box. Newsgroups had their own netiquette, and that wisdom fell away.

When we talk USENET we're talking asynchronous and slow, so folks tend to take their time replying, and posts are more likely to be thoughtful and thorough, even when they're flamey. It lends itself to a certain style that we'd do well to remember today. Gmail and most other e-mail clients make it difficult to do anything other than dump your reply at the top of a message, but that's the style of voicemail, where you have to hold the original message in your head as you tick off the points, not writing. Heck, even if you're writing back on an in-class loose-leaf folded note, you're gonna write between the lines, where the checkboxes are.

Newsreaders demand interleaved replies. You address each point of the post you're replying to, give each section care, by replying beneath the quoted section. Mark the bits you omit with <snip!>. Sign your name and leave a gag below.

It's a shared tradition that doesn't translate to tweets or texts, but would really work well in e-mail if somebody used it other than Olds.

2014-10-15 Bouncing around

You started a 60-day contract in mid-August at an interactive agency, and because you are awesome at paying attention to real-world detail, you're heading into day 63 there. You can't figure out if that makes YOU the fool, or THEM the fool. Mutual, un-legally-protected foolishness?

When you're an in-house freelancer/permalancer/contract worker, one weird aspect is that your coworkers usually don't know you're not fully one of them. They don't realize that saying "you should take off early!" is saying "you should get paid less this week!" You have to be a gentle downer and remind them you might not be around in two months when the next project kicks off. You accept the gCal invite to the holiday party anyway.

In this case, unlike some times in the past, you're not the sad orphan looking for your Forever Family. Right now, you'd rather be available for a great project than tied to a stable job making wireframes for marketing departments. Some upcoming gigs might solidify soon ("might"! ha haaaaaaa sigh), with the prospect of working at home again.

People who haven't been self-employed usually ask if it's lonely, to which you answer, "But imagine how empty the grocery is at 2:00 on a Tuesday!" You don't have to keep civilian hours for errands! You were spoiled by working from a home office for six years. The quiet's nice, the ability to set your own pace is nice. Not worrying if the bathrooms are occupied is nice.

For now, though, you're heading in to the office to wrap up my part of a few projects, and planning your half of the conversation for when they realize you're a free agent.

2014-10-14 On a roll

For a goofy lark of a thing (or because it's a goofy lark of a thing), this bloglet has been surprisingly effective. You've never strung together this many days of posts, ever. It might be timing, or the fact that you have a regular half hour in the morning on the couch while D is getting ready, but come with us on a journey through time and space for a few minutes here and pretend it's the tools.

A huge fuckin' text file is strangely empowering, once you figure out how to hop around in your editor. You had forgotten about this until just now: ten years ago you kept all your notes, to-dos, bits of writing, timesheets, and contact lists in a single text file named hftf.txt. You got the idea from Lifehacker-when-it-meant-something or 43 Folders, and it started as a way to learn emacs and live in ssh/screen from an in-house freelance gig. It really worked, though. You actually kept a useful to-do list. You wrote macros to mark project hours. You ditched it when you went self-employed, and completely forgot about it.

Until you recreated it with this monopage blog, which has made you reconsider some opinions about what a CMS should be. You can hold the entire world of ~droob in your head at once. Maybe it's easier to add a small thought to an already-formed, self-sufficient page than it is to make a new node from scratch, no matter how wee the blank canvas is.

The formatting helps, too. You set the measure at a kinda-arbitrary 35 ems (and you're editing it at 80 characters wide), which turns a very short paragraph into a satisfying block of text. It's sad when a blog post is shorter than its meta content, all lonely on a blank page, right?

Counterpoint: when a half-formed not-essay feels satisfying, you're unlikely to write more than half-formed not-essays. You're not illustrating these posts with images, or even linking anywhere, for the most part. Unless you know your editor (and oh boy do you not), it's hard to go deep.

But dang it's good for thinking something out through your fingers.

2014-10-13 All at once

You've spent some time hanging out in the ~ IRC, and consequently Thinking Thoughts About IRC™. The constraints of the thing – a river of messages, in order, identified only by username, that only exists when you're logged in, looking at it – give chats a lazy, direct character. A chatroom can only sustain two or three overlapping conversations before it's too complex to follow, and it's hard to refer to any message other than a user's previous one, or maybe the one before. You get to thinking: what would it be like if individual messages were addressable? Then your client could sort them into threads, if you wanted, and hey, you could also bookmark individual messages for later, or mark them as favorites… and you realized you've turned it into Twitter.

Old Twitter (Golden Age Twitter? Twitter for Olds?), the one folks talk about in those blog posts lately, was a lot more like IRC: a slow river of people saying stuff, which you could drop in to and drop out of without feeling like you were missing out. Without the threading, replies, and retweets, and partially due to the original prompt, individual tweets were usually throwaways. One of the most notable things about your archive is how disposable the early, "doing laundry"-style tweets are. They were part of the river, never meant to stand alone as Content.

Not to say threads and replies are bad. It's hard to have a meaningful asychronous conversation without some structure. Eventually, though, you get a mix of threaded discussion, jokes, and "doing laundry" that feels too dense. Everybody has a different sense of when a party's too big, but you'll eventually notice conflict between emphemeral messages that move by quickly and addressable messages you want to spend time with. It's the conflict between IRC-ness and forum-ness.

Can you make tools to filter out these bands of communication? There are probably grad students doing good work with Fourier transforms in this space, right?

2014-10-12 Tools can be a bummer too

You were trying to figure out where a traffic spike was coming from for another thing and made the mistake of checking Twitter Analytics. BOY, WHAT A BUMMER. you don't have delusions that anybody's sitting in front of their monitor waiting for your tweets, but MAN – apparently, most of the links and photos you put out there have 0.0% engagement. Meaning absolutely nobody clicks on the link (which, hey you can track all that if you also run the URL shortener). Makes you feel kinda foolish and worthless, huh?

You weren't even seeking this particular metric out, but the tool puts it front and center. You know from client work that there are Serious Brands who thrive on reports of data like this (whether it actually makes anyone enjoy their product more is up for debate, but it's a new number to game so people will be hired to game it). I'd have to guess, though, that for the vast majority of users, the analytics site is nothing but a Bummer Machine.

So when ~ford writes about tools and how they affect a community, this is what you think of. Every bit of functionality highlights one aspect of the user experience, and takes away from something else. You need to make sure you're not putting a funhouse mirror at the entrance of the club.

2014-10-11 Forget and forget

Thing One: there's no unfollow notification on Twitter, and you'd guess that's by design. It would cause nothing but drama, right? Even though there are tons of valid reasons a person might unfollow you (they need to make their feed a little quieter, or they don't want Mad Men spoilers), it's hard not to take it personally.

Thing Two: people don't pay enough attention to the second half of "forgive and forget." The "forget" bit isn't "I'll choose to let that thing slide" – that's what "forgiving" is. It's important for friendships and relationships that annoyances and fights fall out of your head here and there. You have friends or family members that hold on to fights and perceived slights forever, and as soon as things go south they'll bring up something unresolved from four years ago. These people are ALMOST NEVER HAPPY, and have more Life Enemies than friends, right?

So: tools like ThinkUp make you a little uneasy because they make explicit things that are useful to forget. You keep trying to think of a real-world analogue for it, but online communications seem so much more normal than talking on the phone that they're all falling flat. How about this: you'd feel a little uneasy getting a drink with a friend that kept a ledger of every beer anyone bought for anyone else, their costs, and who's in the red. Or a family member who charted the relative value of every Christmas present received and given, right? These are things that people just intuit, with a really messy margin for error that doesn't bother most folks.

If you know a friend is counting how many times you've tweeted at them the past week, or which of their friends you follow too, you're going to feel a twinge of obligation stress every time you interact with them, or choose not to. You'll also be much more careful of what you say, in case it would look different out of context a year later.

You didn't mean to get a theme going in these posts, but, hey, one showed up! Each piece of ourselves we put online isn't of equal weight. You know which tweets/photos/stories are throwaways, and which mean more to you. In the archival distance, though, and in the context of a search result or taxonomy, those differences flatten out, so any dumb throwaway cranky line is an equal data point of your online persona. In long-term friendships and relationships, other people get an overall impression of you from a big squishy mashup of half-remembered interactions. Counting the details means they never go away.

2014-10-10 The bots are winning

You guys, there is still magic out there and it is the spam bot generator that uses the phrase "one day I would want to do kites." Each result of those 1,110 is gold, particularly if you think of a robot trying to trick a human pen pal with it.

Some highlights:

Please relate to me and accept this link to mesothelioma lawsuit benefits, human companion.

2014-10-10 Just the good parts

There was a meetup! Well, a two-person meetup. Got lunch with ~_ at The Royale yesterday and talked about all the places your online lives have overlapped in the past twenty years (you are Olds), and what's gone from the web that you miss, and what constraints you're putting on yourselves in this here server space.

You're embracing some constraints, clearly, with this whole "single page of monospace text you edit in vim in the shell" conceit, but you realized that while you get a big kick out of the super-90s throwback pages, you're not really interested in creating one yourself. YOU LOVE NOSTALGIA (you don't know how many times you've watched the "hanker for a hunk of cheese" commercial on YouTube), but the attraction of ~ is something different. The guiding priciple, which you actually typed into a small textfile window and left open on the desktop:

You're not interested in what we made with these tools 20 years ago, but rather what we can make with these tools today, after having learned about the internet for 20 years.

There are some ways this stuff evolved into the tools we use today, sure, but in a lot of cases, completely different toys got our attention, and these withered. They're totally still fun and unique, though! And in a lot of ways it's easier to use vim and wall and local irc to build a community when you know what html5 and Facebook and Twitter are.

And a bunch of stuff is happening on the server other than the web pages. Shell scripts and wall gags and .plan file semantics and useful things being planned in IRC. It's a little like ~sippey said, Jack saying "WE HAVE TO GO BACK," but it's maybe more like if Jack said, "HEY REMEMBER HOW WE ATE PLANTAINS ON THE ISLAND? THAT WAS A GOOD RECIPE AND WE HAVE TO MAKE IT HERE IN THE CITY TOO."

2014-10-09 Alcoves

Does it make sense to call what you're talking about below "alcoves"? Thinking about pattern #179 from A Pattern Language (a copy of which apparently fell off the back of a digital truck onto that server there).

The basic idea is that private spaces are important for projects, conversation, and concentration, but they should have a view to the public space so you don't feel isolated. That's how wall(1) and IRC are working here at the moment, and if you want to stretch things, how this server works in relation to the internet. LET'S STRETCH THINGS, EVERYBODY.

2014-10-09 Flavors of spaces

Let's see. There is the web page-ish space. There is the forum-ish space, which is where you'd group things like phpbb and reddit but also newsgroups. There is the irc-ish space. Others?

The forum-like piece seems important. Threaded replies, even if they're only one deep, allow for a kind of asynchronous, thoughtful conversation that's hard to maintain publicly with a mailing list.

There are also a few versions of non-public, person-to-person spaces, like e-mail and chat. But the public ones, and how they connect: you want to read a book by somebody smarter than you about that.

2014-10-08 Negative space

The impulse for comments is strong! ~tim and ~_ are implementing some form of comments. (Note to self stop saying "seems like".) Degrees of publishing:

  1. Saving a text file.
  2. Putting it on a server.
  3. Linking to it.
  4. Permalinks.
  5. mailto: link.
  6. Trackbacks.
  8. Reposting to a place like Medium.
  9. Posting a link to Twitter.
  10. Posting the link a second time "for the West Coast people."

(Maybe shuffle the last few.)

You think you're stopping at #4, because the rest create new things in the form of emails and notifications and things, but they also create a looming absence of comment that can be a bummer.

2014-10-08 Trackbacks

Are trackbacks still a thing? You know they're still supported by the software, since pingback spam accounts for 90% of the notifications you see in client WordPress sites. But you can't remember clicking one in the recent past.

In theory, it's useful to have a way of saying "I responded to what you wrote, over here," and "this post is a response to this other one." One of Wikipedia's less-neutral-seeming pages describes four different methods, only two of which you'd heard of. You remember the initial announcement by Six Apart seeming like a big deal at the time, in the way that any technology used to connect blogs was the Obvious Inevitable Future in 2002. Little did we know that, as usual, things orthogonal to the blogosphere would shift focus elsewhere.

Maybe it's a bigger problem for authors than readers, and analytics has solved it? Maybe somebody's more likely to tweet at you about their response than silently post? Maybe spam ate the world?

2014-10-08 Make yourself at home

You don't go for OS customization much. You bounce around on a few different machines, and you never remember what changes you've made, so it's easier for you to stick with the stock tools like Spotlight than to become dependent on custom keyboard shortcuts or haxies or whatever (is "haxies" still a thing?).

You do, however, like to treat yourself to a nice shell prompt and colors. It's a little easier to wrangle, since instead of secret XML files buried in a warren of nested folders, this stuff is all controlled by dotfiles in your home directory. You tend to use Solarized color schemes, and your .profile (mostly cribbed from Mathias Bynens) lets you spruce up a foreign server like this without much hassle. It's like Merlin's "HOWTO process your new hotel room".

Now, people who are really on the ball in ways you have never been will keep their dotfiles in a github repo, and remember how to get their dotfiles from a github repo off the top of their heads. Pretty vim in SECONDS.

2014-10-07 Maybe forever, maybe not

You were trying to log in to write something about permanent vs. impermanent content online this morning when you noticed the server was down so VERY FUNNY FORD.

But, two sides: you're really glad that the only records of your high school theater career are slowly demagnetizing in a coupla basements, and that nobody's reading your tenth grade essay on L'Etranger or whatever, right? You're not trying to misrepresent either as genius or perfect or anything, but they're more useful as abstractions of past you.

But the (embarrassing, not good, not fun embarrassing, just oof) first web sites you made when you were nineteen are in the Internet Archive for the rest of forever. You're not crazy about that. Again, you're not trying to pretend you sprung forth fully formed from the forehead of the Internet, but… it's easier to handle the abstract concept "You were an insufferable, not funny young man" than to read the result of said young man's typing into Notepad.exe in 1998.

It was funny to be faced with this particular page just being gone today. You were very okay with it. 2030 you will probably be just as embarrassed, right? SORRY FUTURE DREW AND SORRY ABOUT THE ROBOTS TOO WE DIDN'T KNOW. OKAY, WE DID BUT THEY LOOK FUNNY WHEN THEY RUN SO WE DID IT ANYWAY.

2014-10-06 Pure digital

So. First wave of homepages: "I like Kevin Sorbo! I like the Replacements!" It's all tied to meatspace. Then maybe comes the "here is why I'm special" phase, personal branding with colors and animated gifs. Then the blogging-about-blogging. Eventually we got back around to the real world, where a wide swatch of the internet is in service to products and services for your offline life, or media you enjoy as a separate entity from its online collateral. With me so far, roughly?

There's something comforting in the stage where an online tool or community is its own end. You'll never get to free overnight shipping for a lemon reamer that way, but there's a simplicity and… wholeness (?) to it. You don't know if there's a universal sweet spot, a threshold where a place flips from a comfy, whole space to too-complicated-to-grok, but maybe the impulse to start fresh is an attempt to find it.

2014-10-05 Goodolddaysian

You really hope you're not one of those people who talks about not being on Facebook all the time, but that said: you haven't done Facebook for a long time. The reason you don't have an account anymore is that it causes a lot of weird social pressure and introduces awkward assumptions and miscommunications, and you run like hell from things like that because socialnerd awkwardshame.

You think the recent "Why Isn't Twitter Fun Right Now" posts are rooted in this. It used to be simple, but obligation and access got out of control for some folks, and now there's a bunch of weird social unpleasantness. Completely glossing over the rest of the post, the first paragraph of this post says about early Twitter what you've been saying below about this lil place:

You didn't have to write long form essays, you didn't have to moderate commenters. You didn't have to make all those bold lines go away to reach inbox zero. You just followed some people and typed thoughts that occurred to you.

Really, nobody forces you to look at notifications and analytics, but we – or at least you, 'cause man you are broken in this regard – can't not think about who's paying attention and who isn't and why.

On another tip, you really enjoy things people write for themselves. Today you saw a little bank-book journal your grandma kept in 1983. She writes about what they ate, who visited, that kind of thing, but almost every page ends with "Lovely day!" And that was for nobody but herself! Lovely day!

2014-10-04 Flying blind

Not having a counter, comments, or faves means your audience is whatever size you need to imagine it to be at a given time.

Embarrassed about your dumb writing? Don't worry, nobody's looking.

Worried nobody's looking? Don't be silly, everybody's reading it.

2014-10-04 Customizing Tools is the Mind-Killer

PRO TIP: make mutt prettier. Make a .mutt directory in your home, and a muttrc file there (no need to dot-prefix that name). $MAILCONF is apparently not being set, so you took the easy way out and hardcoded the path.

2014-10-03 Goofy live data

You're reeeeeally trying to stick with vim here, for fun, and it's been a long time since you've used vim. So: you added some hacky, poorly-indented, global variable-ey JS at the bottom of the page to pull the latest Cards score. Free data!

Formatting, etc pending. Friday niiiiiighhhhtttttt!

2014-10-03 Not messed up yet

Don't underestimate the allure of a clean slate. Part of the fun of playing around in a fresh new server like this is that you haven't screwed anything up yet. Seems like half the times you try to install something new on my laptop, it won't build because the wrong library is symlinked to the /lib folder in the wrong home directory and nothing's POSIX anymore anyway so hey why not just use vagrant?

In How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand suggests keeping a house diary, where you note every change you make, who did the work, and what materials they used, so future you can fix or undo any previous work. When you started using BeOS full time in 1998 (?) you did this for the computer. You kept a little notebook where you logged everything you installed or changed from the default, as insurance for when you eventually forgot why gcc was nonstandard, or whatever (oh, how many hours you have wasted with computers!).

You're closer to living that Awful Minimal Zen White Dude computing dream where your stuff is in the cloud, and any machine is a suitable terminal as long as you remember passwords, so maybe it's not as important anymore. But it's nice to know that a micro EC2 instance is always waiting, warm and clean, unspoiled.

2014-10-02 Trying to keep up

First: it's hard to remember to check people's pages, without some kind of feed reader yelling at you to do so! This is why bookmarks folders were bookmarks folders. You numbered your daily reads so you could go down the list without losing your place. Oh, how many hours you have wasted with computers.

Second: ~goldman nails it in that October 1… post. (En…try? Section? Note to self: implement permalinks.) You have kiiinda been typing to yourself here since there's no discovery except for that front page. And you are a total slave to checking favestarpointhearts, so shutting down that avenue seems liberating.

2014-10-02 Slow jeans

PRO TIP: you stopped by the alterations place at lunch to have some jeans hemmed, and you learned that the easiest way to make the lady at the alterations place happy is to say "no hurry" when she asks for a deadline. "Nobody ever says that!" she said.

2014-10-01 APIs are kinda useful, huh?

It's kinda blowing your mind to be able to use AJAXy data in this context (even simple little goofy things like the random link below). Thought experiment: if XMLHttpRequest had shown up in 1996, how would things have changed? That whole "push technology" thing woulda been right out, yes?

2014-10-01 What happens when you're logged out

Downside of wall-as-forum: what if you misssssss somethinggggggg? It's liberating, you guess?

This all makes you miss pine and slrn, which were ace for un-bolding things rapidly. "Near-effortless unbolding" will be Thing One on the feature list of your imaginary UI. Some words, some space for minor goofiness in .sigs, and a line or two of UI context: too simple?

2014-09-30 One thing well

You could wrap a pitch deck around wall(1) and finger(1) and raise a $3M round.

You remember being amazed in front of your first shell account when you realized you could talk to people from a command line. It's a little like how we lost the knowledge of scurvy prevention – user-to-user messaging on the same system really shouldn't have seemed novel in 1995, right? But as soon as you figured out what apropos(1) was, and searched for every little thing you'd want to do in the shell, there was a goofy lil program there to help.

The learning curve is a sheer plateau, if a very, very, short one. A search bar one window away certainly makes it easier to ramp up, but you really can't fault folks for letting these little programs fall to the wayside.

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