Society and technology

 This past week we, yet again, had an example of how technology and society will always struggle to coexist. You might have read or heard about this but the Google AI image generation thingy—Bard? Gemini? Gemma? I have no idea what it’s called because Google is the absolute worst when it comes to naming products—managed to stir quite the controversy for the choice of people it decided to generate or not generate.

I’m not going to comment on the controversy itself—I don’t find it interesting—but I am going to comment on something that’s tangentially related and that is the inevitable clash between society and technology.

Technology doesn’t appear out of thin air. Technology is created by people. And those people have a series of beliefs that will inevitably influence those technologies. But what’s true and sensible for one person might not be true and sensible for another. And that’s an unsolvable contrast. There are situations in which there are no right answers. None.

I was listening to a podcast not long ago and they were discussing the proposed law in, I think Florida, to ban social media for people under 16 years of age. I find it fascinating that both hosts agreed that the idea made sense because of the impact social media has on young people.

Yet both were quick to point out the flaw in the system because a 3rd party had to take care of doing the age verification. They didn’t like that it was a 3rd party but they didn’t like the idea of the government having to do that either. And so I’m sitting here thinking “Who should do this then?”.

And that’s just one of the many examples where society and technology clash in ways that are probably unsolvable in a clean way. Some things will be messy, no matter how hard you try. And that’s why I find controversies around AI generation so boring and pointless. Those tools will generate some wild shit and some people will get mad because of that. Or they won’t and some people will get mad because of that.

Manu's Feed

24 Feb 2024 at 09:15

P&B: Herman Martinus

 This is the 26th edition of People and Blogs, the series where I ask interesting people to talk about themselves and their blogs. Today we have Herman Martinus and his blog, herman.bearblog.dev

Herman is the creator of the super minimal blog platform bearblog.dev—it was included in my recent list of blog platforms—and he's based in Cape Town like my long time friend Rob and they actually know each-other, something I didn't know when I first contacted Herman to be part of the series. I love how small the web world can feel at times.

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Let's start from the basics: can you introduce yourself?

I'm Herman, a maker and game developer living in Cape Town, South Africa. I grew up and went to school in a small town outside of Johannesburg, then went to university at the University of Pretoria where I studied Computer Science with a focus on Multimedia. This led me down the path to become a game developer, and later a maker of neat things for the Internet.

My primary hobbies currently are writing on my blog (and maintaining the platform Bear Blog), building games for the Play.date, and riding motorcycles (I live in a very beautiful part of the world and this is, in my opinion, the best way to see the landscape).

What's the story behind your blog?

I've always been a writer. In high school I started writing short stories, all of which have been lost to the ether, thankfully. As a young adult I started writing the kinds of things that young people full of new knowledge and self discovery generally do. I started keeping a journal around this time, about which I've written a few times before.

Later on, as my experience in my field grew and I felt like I had more to share with the world, I started blogging on a semi-regular basis. During this time my blog went through many different iterations. I was on Wordpress, Proseful, wrote in plain HTML for a bit, then finally built my own platform as a way of procrastinating.

What does your creative process look like when it comes to blogging?

I generally write about what has been on my mind lately. My partner, Emma, listens to me blab on at length about things like traffic circles, building frustration into products, and the like. This is only for a few days, generally, but sometimes spans months. Then, after I've thoroughly interrogated the concept it finds its way to a rough outline in my notes app where I start sifting through the thoughts in a more structured way. This is usually turned into the first draft the next day (I like to let the outline marinate overnight), edited, and published.

I also keep a Trello board of writing ideas for when I'm feeling particularly uncreative.

Do you have an ideal creative environment? Also do you believe the physical space influences your creativity?

I am highly affected by physical spaces and sound. For a decent period of my life while I was travelling I worked out of noisy coffee shops. I'm surprised I got any work done. Now when I'm travelling I shell out the extra cash for a quiet co-working space where I can think without being interrupted by the loud Australian tourists three tables over loudly talking about how wasted they got last night.

At home we have a "day room" which has big windows overlooking Table Mountain. This provides a lot of natural light and is my favourite place to work. There is, however, a primary school across the road, and when the kids come out for recess, chaos breaks loose as they fight for school-yard dominance. For those two half hour periods, I have a set of noise cancelling headphones.

A question for the techie readers: can you run us through your tech stack?

I use Bear Blog as my blogging platform of choice. Not only do I use it, but I am also the creator of it. I was very unimpressed with the options available with their infinite customizability and bloat. All I needed was a quick and easy way to get my words up on the internet. I also wanted people to be able to read them without all the cruft that surrounds modern content. So I built Bear, and it's now loved by tens of thousands of writers worldwide.

Given your experience, if you were to start a blog today, would you do anything differently?

This is an interesting question, since I've been considering starting another blog that is more specific to no-nonsense information about climate and environment-related technology (think geoengineering, green energy generation, and the like). And the conclusion I came to is that I'd build it in the exact same way I have with my own blog: Running on Bear, writing in a semi-casual and personal tone on technical topics, injecting my own personality where possible.

Financial question since the web is obsessed with money: how much does it cost to run your blog? Is it just a cost or does it generate some revenue? And what's your position on people monetising personal blogs?

Because I run the platform, my blog is, naturally, cost free. My blog is not meant to generate revenue and I do not intend for it to do so. However, because I regularly write about the development of the Bear Blog platform, and the trials and tribulations of building out the small web, sometimes people look at it and, maybe, start a blog. If I'm particularly lucky, they even upgrade. So while my blog is not monetised in the traditional sense, there is a small financial reward for posts that do exceedingly well.

Time for some recommendations: any blog you think is worth checking out? And also, who do you think I should be interviewing next?

I follow a handful of small- to medium-sized blogs, but the one I'm always the most excited to see in my RSS reader is coryzue.com

This is a blog by a maker in my city who writes about similar themes to me, but also muses existentially at times. His blog is a great read, and he would also make a good candidate for an interview.

Final question: is there anything you want to share with us?

Right now I'm just fascinated with the play.date and will be building games for the next few months. You can see a list of running projects on my blog's project page.


This was the 26th edition of People and Blogs. Hope you enjoyed this interview with Herman. Make sure to follow his blog (RSS) and get in touch with him if you have any questions.

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Want to support P&B?

If you like this series and want to help it grow, you can:

  1. support on Ko-Fi;
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  3. email me comments and feedback on the series;
  4. suggest a person to interview next. I'm especially interested in people and blogs outside the tech/web bubble.
Manu's Feed

23 Feb 2024 at 12:00

On dreams and goals

 I don’t know about you but I spent most of my life not knowing what I wanted to do. I never had dreams or big goals. Never had a dream job, never aimed for something specific. I spent most of my life drifting through it, without trying to stir the ship all that much. I don’t know why I did it, it’s probably because of the kind of person I am. I never knew what I wanted to do, but I think I do now. It only took me 34 years, 7 months, and 12 days.

Over the past couple of years, my mind has slowly pieced things together. I stumbled on this profession of website maker almost at random and in the same random way I found myself starting a blog. I had no idea what I was doing back then, and I still don’t, to be totally honest with you. This blog is a bizarre mix of rants and half-baked thoughts on whatever topic is floating in my mind at any given moment.

But through this mix of random events, I stumbled on something great. I stumbled on you. Yes, you, the person reading this. You represent everything that’s great about the web and personal websites. You are a gateway through which I can access new places, and new realities. You are an opportunity to learn new things, and to expand my horizons.

Being able to interact with people is by far the best outcome of this website. And I think more people should be able to experience that. Because it’s important. And that’s my goal. That’s what I decided I want to try to do more of. I want to try, as much as I can, to help people go online with a personal website they own. That’s why I made that list of blog platforms the other day, that’s also why I’m going to make available a few blog designs I coded a while back. But it’s also why I’m going to keep encouraging people to ditch social media, and why I’m going to spend time replying to every single person that gets in touch with me. And it’s also why I’m going to start designing and coding bespoke websites, for free. I’m not going to be able to make a ton of those unfortunately because, as you can imagine, I have to earn money somehow, and that somehow is doing client work that will consume most of my days.

The title of this post mentions dreams though, not just goals. The goal is to spend as much time as possible helping people ditching social media and going online with personal websites. The dream is for that to be my actual full-time job. A job that’s entirely supported by the kindness and the generosity of the people who decide to join my One a Month membership thingy.

Can that dream become a reality? Hard for me to say. As of right now, some very generous people are providing around 5% of what I need to earn every month to live my normal life and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

That’s my goal, that’s my dream. I’m genuinely happy to have finally figured it out and I’m grateful to the people who have helped me come to this realization. You can expect more weird experiments in the upcoming months and if you need help going online with your website, please, get in touch. I’m happy to help. And if you can and want to support this bizarre life mission, consider joining the One a Month club.

Manu's Feed

18 Feb 2024 at 20:15



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