‘Sufficiently Justified Who Is Himself In Love With His Theme’

 This week I re-themed the blog, effectively conforming it to the design of my homepage which in turn picked up a couple of things that I developed for here, and I’ve also made a couple of other changes to how I’m using some OMG.LOL services and interacting with the local community here.

I’d initially thought that I couldn’t push this design update until Weblog.LOL added a Post Template so that I could distinguish the index page from posts. By default, the service uses Main Template for the index, posts, and pages but recently added a separate Page Template. As it turned out, I realized that since we can add a “landing page”, and use a custom template for it, I can use Main Template as the post template, Page Template as a page template, and Landing Template for the index.

As a sort of adjunct to this design reboot, I’ve also made some changes to how I use the Status.LOL service and the Social.LOL Mastodon instance. Recently, I again quit social media, although I’ve regularly been browsing the local timeline because it doesn’t cognitively tax me; I’ve also been using it to ask support questions, similar to how I used Twitter even after quitting that platform.

Going forward, my Mastodon account in addition to not following anyone now accepts no followers and is locked. My post visibility it set to unlisted, and I’ve linked my Status.LOL and Social.LOL accounts so that statuses get posted to Mastodon, too. Since they post unlisted they will not be visible on public timelines, but the new “respond” link on statuses will allow anyone in the local OMG.LOL community to reply to my statuses on Mastodon. I’m continuing to have Mastodon delete my posts at a threshold of one week.

One bit of housekeeping. Under my previous design, I did get a number of requests for how I did this or that. This is fine, entirely. That said, I’ve deliberately gone and added a design copyright notice to the footer here. It doesn’t bother me if someone peeks under the hood to look at one thing or another (as that’s the web I early adulted on), but please don’t wholesale gank the design.

One not insignificant reason for the re-theme is that I was feeling dissatisfied and frustrated and wanted to put together a design that at least somewhat stood apart. Hopefully it’s understood that one’s creative output sometimes is intimately linked to one’s mental health and sense of self-worth.

Finally, in addition to having added webmention I’m experimenting with getting microformats added to blog posts and pages, and just generally hunting for any rough edges or issues with the redesign. Feel free to reach out if you catch something I haven’t yet.


Addenda

I’ve now also brought back the ability to reply to any given post via email; just click the envelope icon next to the timestamp.


I should offer a bit more clarity on how I’ll be using Social.LOL. While I’ll have neither follows nor followers, since I browse the local timeline I’ll occasionally reply to things but with my post visibility set to Mentioned People Only.

Bix Blog

04 Feb 2023 at 07:31

Jeopardy By Cop

 There’s a piece in The Atlantic by Sue Rahr, one-time Sheriff of King County, Washington, about the myth that protects out violent police culture, but its an early bit that jumped out at me.

The presentation we heard contained evidence that the responding officers’ tactics had created the conditions that made the shooting necessary, to ensure their own safety. (The term of art is “officer-created jeopardy.”) But the review process had been negotiated with the police union and by design had remained out of the public’s view and tightly focused on the moment the officers had fired their weapons.

This is my first exposure to the phrase “officer-created jeopardy”, described here by Cynthia Lee in an article from 2021.

An officer’s decisions and conduct prior to that officer’s use of deadly force can create jeopardy for the civilian and the officer, increasing the risk of an officer-civilian encounter turning into a deadly confrontation. Such con- duct is part of the totality of the circumstances. Yet in cases involving officer- created jeopardy, many trial courts restrict the jury to considering only the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the moment the officer chose to use deadly force, precluding consideration of the officer’s antecedent con- duct that may have increased the risk of a deadly confrontation.

This literally, back in “the day”, is what I argued on Portland Communique was responsible for the escalations that led Portland officers to shoot and kill Kendra James in 2003 and James Jahar Perez in 2004.

I suppose it’s progress that in the 2020s we have a term-of-art for this, but I note that the Force Science Institute (brainchild of the William Lewinski mentioned in my Communique piece who has made a career of testifying in defense of killings committed by police officers) has posted about it with an unsurprising degree of derision.

Bix Blog

02 Feb 2023 at 02:44

Jeopardy By Cop

 There’s a piece in The Atlantic by Sue Rahr, one-time Sheriff of King County, Washington, about the myth that protects out violent police culture, but its an early bit that jumped out at me.

The presentation we heard contained evidence that the responding officers’ tactics had created the conditions that made the shooting necessary, to ensure their own safety. (The term of art is “officer-created jeopardy.”) But the review process had been negotiated with the police union and by design had remained out of the public’s view and tightly focused on the moment the officers had fired their weapons.

This is my first exposure to the phrase “officer-created jeopardy”, described here by Cynthia Lee in an article from 2021.

An officer’s decisions and conduct prior to that officer’s use of deadly force can create jeopardy for the civilian and the officer, increasing the risk of an officer-civilian encounter turning into a deadly confrontation. Such con- duct is part of the totality of the circumstances. Yet in cases involving officer- created jeopardy, many trial courts restrict the jury to considering only the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the moment the officer chose to use deadly force, precluding consideration of the officer’s antecedent con- duct that may have increased the risk of a deadly confrontation.

This literally, back in “the day”, is what I argued on Portland Communique was responsible for the escalations that led Portland officers to shoot and kill Kendra James in 2003 and James Jahar Perez in 2004.

I suppose it’s progress that in the 2020s we have a term-of-art for this, but I note that the Force Science Institute (brainchild of the William Lewinski mentioned in my Communique piece who has made a career of testifying in defense of killings committed by police officers) has posted about it with an unsurprising degree of derision.

Bix Blog

01 Feb 2023 at 18:44

Blogging Bring Back Blogging

 One month ago, at the start of January and of the new year, I blogged about a campaign called Bring Back Blogging, an effort which in the end received more than 700 submissions.

Among the rules for participation were to blog about it at the beginning and again at the end. (It was never going to be an issue that I had to publish at least three posts over the course of the month.) Despite the fact that I’ve never been added to the official list of participants, this post completes the satisfaction of those rules.

I’d be curious to learn to what degree people did or did not find new blogs to follow. For my part, I’ve so much to read on any given day I wouldn’t know how to start even with a campaign like this—not to mention Feedle, Ooh, and Ye Olde Blogroll, none of whom have listed me, either—giving you a where to start.

Back in “the day”, the so-called blogosphere was somewhat more cohesive a thing if for no other reason than it was smaller, and the internet was smaller. These days, any and all of these sites mostly just present me with just another variant of what I guess at this point I could start calling “the database problem”.

Mostly, I find new blogs to check out based upon what the blogs I already read happen to link. I suppose this could be called “organic” discovery; for me, it’s driven by the narrative that is other bloggers.


Addenda

I’d missed that Ash Huang, one of the instigators, blogged about the experiment a couple of weeks ago.

Personally, being genuine and following your interests has always worked out the best for me. That’s often hard because this world doesn’t always encourage such vulnerability. I reconnected with a lot of folks and Internet buddies reaching out about this project, and it was really heartening looking through all y’all’s passions and thoughts. We got a lot of cool makers, including one of my favorite subgenres, expert quilters making WILD stuff.

Huang notes that they “won’t be creating a unified feed like we initially imagined”, given that the (current?) list stands at more than 550 participants.

Bix Blog

01 Feb 2023 at 15:27

On Autistic Time

 It’s honestly too dense for me adequately to make sense of on its own terms, but Wouter Kusters’ meditation on the psychotic experience of time has a couple of interesting things I wanted to highlight entirely for my own purposes, because I’m always on the lookout for ways (even be they happenstantial or metaphoric) to explain some of my autistic experience.

Kusters describes two ways in which time is understood, philosophically: “the external-objective-static view and the internal-subjective-dynamic view”. In the fixed view “time exists outside our consciousness as part of reality”, a sort of grid upon which there exists an “earlier” and a “later”; whereas the moving view “speaks of experienced time, lived time, the time of the soul, inner time” that is “based on the here and now” and where “the only time that really exists is the present”.

He suggests that there is a kind of unresolvable paradox between these two views of time and that “normal people” (as opposed to psychotics) “articulate, sublimate, or cover the paradox by means of shared stories”—in essence that what he terms “human time” is the time of narrative.

The psychotic, Kusters argues, understands fixed and moving time but “cannot make a connection between the two”.

Because there is no “human time” in madness by which dynamic and static time are connected, the static order of time is in danger of disintegrating. The static time axis is divided by means of moments. Moments cut time into pieces; they cause natural time to become fragmented. Each moment is like a cutting edge between a past period and a coming period. In the purely static view, calendar “dates” degenerate into a loose collection of temporal elements, without any inherent coherence or lived continuity. […]

In order to form a unit consisting of more than “loose sand,” moments would have to reach forward and backward in time — that is, to other moments. This is possible only if the moment itself already refers to the future and the past. In madness, however, past and future are not experienced as belonging to — or as aspects of — the present. This discontinuity creates fragmentation, and such fragmentation can affect the whole sense of the reality of time.

Longtime or close readers at this point might know where I’m going with this: to my autistic brain’s need for narrative structure rather than that of the database, not just in terms of my oft-cited inability to use social media but (as described in that linked post) in terms of engaging with real-world tasks.

(Parenthetically, and somewhat beside the point at hand, I read Julian Baggini’s thoughts on pet death in the same sitting as Kusters’ thoughts on “mad time” and it coincidentally has its own, brief sojourn into “lives as an unfolding narrative” versus those of “only tasks”.)

Kusters again:

When the various moments in time disconnect themselves from each other and are no longer organized in terms of time, they end up being “adjacent” in a certain sense. One event or time period is no longer connected to another event or period; rather, the two stand side by side.

The “human time” Kusters describes (which, really, is a terrible term as it positions the psychotic somehow as inhuman) is the time my brain rigidly adheres to; it’s my only way of to engage the world, be it online or off, absent significant anxiety.

In terms of social media, the feed for me is time cut “into pieces”, is time “fragmented”, is “loose sand” that exists “without any inherent coherence or lived continuity”. So, too, the garage-sorting task I described in that earlier post., and I cannot contain, mentally manipulate, or understand loose sand.

(Per the earlier discussion of blogging: for my brain, chronological organization of one person’s thoughts, as opposed to the superficially-similar social media feed, is more “lived continuity” than the latter’s “loose sand”.)

In important, substantial ways, my autistic brain operates by predictive processing as a way to cohere the fragments in advance. Anticipation beats compensation every time, because anticipation reads like narrative but compensation feels like a database. Autistics often rely on rigid (by normative standards) habits and routines because they form a sort of psychic respite that conserves resources for the fragmented database of the outside world.

When too often forced out of this, our narrative drive, we suffer very real, if “merely” psychological harms. I’m not, here, arguing that it makes us psychotic, but the mental health impacts of not being allowed to manage the discrepancies between the buffeting storm of the normative world and the things our brains and bodies need to do in order to engage with it are very, very real.

To briefly borrow Kusters’ artless term, “autistic time” is like a ramped up, somewhat less flexible “human time”. We script and we stick to routines and habits and we ask a lot of questions in advance of things because we must. These behaviors help make our moments “reach forward and backward in time […] to other moments”, generating the narrative that keeps our story moving forward.

Bix Blog

31 Jan 2023 at 13:52

On Avoiding Default

 Continuing a bit of blog tennis (so-called because decades ago I’d planned to launch a site by that name inspired by HotWired’s “brain tennis” feature), Colin Walker explains for me what he means by “consumption by default”, a phrase that I wasn’t quite grokking.

Consumption by default is when we read, watch, or listen to things simply because they are placed in front of us. A social stream is a perfect example. We wouldn't read most of it if left to our own devices, we would spend more time seeking things out for ourselves or, maybe, creating things.

Spelled out for me, this certainly makes sense, but I remain unconvinced this is a problem for individual blogs (or an individual’s blog) the way it’s a problem in the context of a social media feed’s endless scroll.

I won’t belabor this here, because I already belabored it yesterday (see link above): I simply think that the chronological model of the log is cognitively sensible in the context of one person’s online writing in a way that other forms of organization (say, the “digital garden”, not that Walker brought this up) only confound me and, in essence, scare off me and my autistic brain.

It always, for me, comes down to the distinction between database and narrative as organizing principles. I freely and without anxiety understand a blog; I’ve never been able to explore anyone’s “digital garden”.

Bix Blog

31 Jan 2023 at 01:43

On Avoiding Default

 Continuing a bit of blog tennis (so-called because decades ago I’d planned to launch a site by that name inspired by HotWired’s “brain tennis” feature), Colin Walker explains for me what he means by “consumption by default”, a phrase that I wasn’t quite grokking.

Consumption by default is when we read, watch, or listen to things simply because they are placed in front of us. A social stream is a perfect example. We wouldn't read most of it if left to our own devices, we would spend more time seeking things out for ourselves or, maybe, creating things.

Spelled out for me, this certainly makes sense, but I remain unconvinced this is a problem for individual blogs (or an individual’s blog) the way it’s a problem in the context of a social media feed’s endless scroll.

I won’t belabor this here, because I already belabored it yesterday (see link above): I simply think that the chronological model of the log is cognitively sensible in the context of one person’s online writing in a way that other forms of organization (say, the “digital garden”, not that Walker brought this up) only confound me and, in essence, scare off me and my autistic brain.

It always, for me, comes down to the distinction between database and narrative as organizing principles. I freely and without anxiety understand a blog; I’ve never been able to explore anyone’s “digital garden”.

Bix Blog

30 Jan 2023 at 17:43

Something Worth Mentioning

 One small bit of quasi-interaction I miss from my older blogging days are trackbacks, notwithstanding the degree to which that method became overwhelmed by spam. I’ve just set up an external webmention service here. They won’t display publicly, but I’m pleased to find I can subscribe to them in my feed reader.

There’s no way to limit what kind of webmentions I might get, which is a shame because I don’t really care about bookmarks or likes, per se; it’s the knowing when someone’s blogged about one of my posts that I miss. Late last week, I realized that to this day I still have the habit of clicking each link I’ve included in a post once it’s published: back in “the day”, the only real way you had to see who linked you was by browsing your referrers.

Adding webmentions here might come to bite me in the ass, because as I’ve indicated before I’ve mixed feelings about including any kind of analytics or analytics-adjacent tool that might serve only to show me that no one’s actually reading any of this at all.

Bix Blog

30 Jan 2023 at 01:36

Something Worth Mentioning

 One small bit of quasi-interaction I miss from my older blogging days are trackbacks, notwithstanding the degree to which that method became overwhelmed by spam. I’ve just set up an external webmention service here. They won’t display publicly, but I’m pleased to find I can subscribe to them in my feed reader.

There’s no way to limit what kind of webmentions I might get, which is a shame because I don’t really care about bookmarks or likes, per se; it’s the knowing when someone’s blogged about one of my posts that I miss. Late last week, I realized that to this day I still have the habit of clicking each link I’ve included in a post once it’s published: back in “the day”, the only real way you had to see who linked you was by browsing your referrers.

Adding webmentions here might come to bite me in the ass, because as I’ve indicated before I’ve mixed feelings about including any kind of analytics or analytics-adjacent tool that might serve only to show me that no one’s actually reading any of this at all.

Bix Blog

29 Jan 2023 at 17:36

Gently Down The Stream

 Om Malik wonders if the “stream” as an organizing design principle for information online might be over (via Colin Walker). He’s riffing off of Ben Werdmuller pondering how his blog is organized and seeing it anew as “a hodgepodge” with “no through line”.

Werdmuller:

I think I’m just sick of my design and need to try something else out. What do you think? Drop me a line if there’s a blog design you particularly like, or if you’d like to see me organize my stuff in a particular way.

Malik:

As an old-school blogger, I have found a lot of comfort in the stream. I felt that it was a way to showcase my whole “online being.” […] What do you think? Is reverse chronological “stream” still a valid design principle? or should we think differently?

I’ll admit that my autistic brain finds Werdmuller’s site a bit difficult to parse, because I’m cognitively built to view “posts” and “links” as distinct and separate things, and so the format there reads to me as something of a jumble. I’m not, however, bothered by the “stream”, as it were. (It’s important to note, though, that Werdmuller’s site also offers an easy way to browse just posts, just statuses, or just links.)

In general, when I visit a blog, I fully expect an organizing principle built around chronology, whether it be pure reverse or (as Walker does it) reverse days with chronological posts within days. The term weblog itself literally means “log”—an inherently chronological thing.

This might seem weirdly contradictory to anyone who’s read my laments about the cognitive violence of social media feeds, an experience which exists for me even if a given feed isn’t algorithmically determined, but the difference and very clear distinction for me is that a blog contains a sort of inherent narrative structure of an individual person’s life.

In contrast, a social media feed for me is a context-collapsed database with no possibility of (to use Werdmuller’s term) a “through line”.

So, while I tend to prefer that posts and links somehow be separated out from each other, I still prefer weblogs and linklogs within themselves to be organized chronologically, because I innately understand that I am encountering an individual human being’s written progress through their world.

Walker, for his part, thinks that “we need to stop thinking in terms of streams and audience” and “the current model of ‘consumption by default’”, but I fully admit I’m not quite sure what that even means in the context of how to organize a blog. I don’t organize my blog this way, or expect other blogs to be organized this way, because of “audience” or “consumption”.

I organize this way because I view the weblog as a window onto someone’s life, and life is lived in sequential order, and that’s a narrative structure my brain implicitly understands.


Addenda

It’s also true that “chronological” isn’t actually the only way most typical blogs are organized, because most blogs also have tags, or categories, or “more like this” features, in addition to a search function—so it’s not like readers somehow are stuck within the chronology.

One eventual feature here on Weblog.LOL to which I look forward (and this is something that in the past I’ve tried to kludge into existence when I was using WordPress through internal webmentions or trackbacks) is backinks, so that any older post linked by a newer post automatically will display a link back to the newer post, allowing a reader to follow this or that ongoing thought process (or, yes, through line) in whichever direction they choose.

My point, I guess, is that we can do all sorts of interesting or useful things for a reader (or even for the blogger themselves) without sacrificing the underlying organizing principle of the log.

Bix Blog

29 Jan 2023 at 14:03



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