Liked Scripting News: The ideal blogging tool...

Dave Winer has been on the campaign trail for better blogging software since, well, since blogging began and repeatedly said that blogging needs to be easier. Here again he states that the ideal tool would merge "the publishing of WordPress with the interactivity of Facebook."

I've taken a lot of cues from Winer over the years for how my own site operates and have long agreed that social media became such a success because of the simplicity and immediacy of posting and replying within the same interface.

These thoughts and the P2 WordPress theme inspired my simple posting form (which I'm using to write this) but I still wish that things were easier.

As I've previously written, the beauty of micro.blog is that it is essentially what Winer is after: blogging via a social-esque interface. The difference is that it is hosted rather than something you can host on your own and "install as easily as an app on your iPhone."

The pieces are all there just not put together in a package that anyone could use.

Status

Sat "at work" desperate for any kind of distraction to quell the boredom but needing to be focused enough to respond to what comes in. Things I'd like to be doing to serve as that distraction but that need a focus of their own. Stuck in a frustrating limbo.

Status

The latest muse-letter has gone out to those good folks who've trusted me to inhabit their inbox (thank you.) Unfortunately it went with a couple of markdown glitches but I've fixed the online version.

Why not join us?

Status

This is pretty damning:

"We sought to mine as much attention as humanly possible... We took a page from Big Tobacco's playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset."

Tim Kendall, former director of monetization at Facebook, goes deep on the analogy and how engagement (read as 'keeping people on site') was the only thing that mattered and probably still is.

"we also started to realize that engagement could also mean [users] were sufficiently sucked in that they couldn't work in their own best long-term interest to get off the platform... We started to see real-life consequences, but they weren't given much weight. Engagement always won, it always trumped."

Status

I've been struggling to read lately. It's probably part of a wider malaise but I've just not been able to focus on the various books I have piled up.

While sorting out some boxes I stumbled across Shadows Rising which I was given for my birthday but (because of the move) had not yet gotten round to reading. As the next World of Warcraft expansion (Shadowlands) is just over a month away, and this is the lead up to it, I thought I'd better give it a crack but wasn't sure if I'd actually be able to stick with it.

I needn't have worried. After only a day and a half it is done and I feel reinvigorated, ready to dive into something else. I obviously just needed to find the right book to get me going again - something not too heavy.

Next up will be Austin Kleon's Keep Going which I also got for my birthday. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the set so am sure this will be equally as good.

Status

It's the autumn equinox here in the Northern hemisphere marking the astronomical start of autumn. Summer is gone but, looking around, nature already knew that.

I've been picking up fallen leaves from the back garden having noticed the colours begin to turn for a while. Last weekend, when stuck in traffic, I watched skeins of geese following their instinct, group after group beginning their migration from where they had gathered. A sight to behold.

Perhaps more striking has been the declining hours of daylight, it's something that sneaks up on you unnoticed until, suddenly, you realise the evenings are longer and it's dark when you rise in the morning.

The world does its thing, always changing - we just don't, or maybe choose not to, notice until we can no longer deny it. A metaphor for life itself?

Status

My wife is about to embark on a Theology degree and one of the books to read in advance is How To Write a Theology Essay by Micheal P Jensen. I'm reading it as well so that we can discuss what it covers and came across this:

Thinking is actually hard work.

Now it doesn't look like it is, because you do a lot of it sitting down, and you don't sweat much doing it. You don't get callouses anywhere, and you don't put your back out for the most part.

But it is hard. Done properly, thinking is exhausting. That's why we watch TV – because it is like we are having someone else do our thinking for us.

Truth!

Status

We're part of the way there. I can both send and receive mails now but emails generated by code refuse to send to external domains. Kind of messes up the whole subscription thing.

Status

There may be an issue with the new host blocking outgoing emails because my mail is held externally rather than being hosted locally. As such, there will be no daily emails or muse-letters until this is resolved. I've submitted a support ticket so will have to wait for them to respond.

Status

I'm watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, the documentary about the dangers of social media, and am well aware that the reason I'm watching it is because I already believe that social media is a threat to our sanity. It is reaffirming my existing beliefs and if I didn't feel this way then it would probably never make my list.

I've been very consciously noting how the various bloggers whose feeds I subscribe to have been sharing increasingly targeted and narrow content. It's only natural, we seek out what supports our ideas and point of view; it's easier that way, we don't have to think about alternatives or deal with conflict. It's validation and it's addictive.

Maybe it's the current environment: US election, ongoing Brexit fallout, the pandemic, and everything surrounding them. It was the arguments and division over the 2016 US election and Brexit that originally convinced me to delete my accounts, and it's threatening to drive me away from bloggers who I have followed for many years.

On both sides.

Listening to those engineers and executives who were at the forefront of creating the social tools but have now realised that their creations are causing so many problems reminds me of how I was back in the early days. When I decided to blog only about social media in 2008 I was so focused on the benefits it could have, how it could bring people together and allow us to interact in ways we had never before imagined or been able. There was only the upside and optimism and I devoted years to writing about how this could make things better, coming up with ways that I thought the networks could improve.

Just like the engineers and executives there was no thought of a downside, no consideration of bad actors and manipulation - it was this utopian thing, using technology to enhance society. And that can still happen, still does happen. There are countless instances of people connecting, building and using these tools for good. I can only imagine that those using the tools in positive ways are largely only using them for those purposes, they are not the ones getting lost down recommendation rabbit holes or doomscrolling, they have a purpose and a focus which more of us should aspire to.

We don't have to delete our accounts - for many it is just not feasible as the likes of Facebook are the only connection they may have with certain family members or the only way they can be part of specific groups - but the usage has to be more deliberate, more intentional, more task based than the first resort when bored.

When I used to blog about Twitter, Google+ et al I never considered they would be time-fillers but useful tools, tools that enabled and empowered not enslaved you. They still can but as long as algorithmic feeds are the first thing people see when they open an app or visit a website it feels like fighting a losing battle.

I first backed micro.blog because of its promise to do things differently, to be a network of blogs rather than a social network (essentially a social RSS feed reader) but it is still all too easy to treat it like Twitter. It has a feed and, while not algorithmic, the temptation to keep scrolling exists just as much as anywhere else, the lack of intentionality can still be a problem.

Still, the problems we face aren't restricted to what we normally refer to as social networks, they exist wherever people get together on the internet. And off.

Private forums, chat apps and groups, it doesn't have to be networks and algorithms. Those intent on doing so spread hate and lies and misinformation wherever they can and as the networks try to police their content more is going underground.

In The Social Dilemma Tristan Harris, formerly a Design Ethicist at Google and now of the Center for Humane Technology, says:

"It's not about the technology being the existential threat, it's the technology's ability to bring out the worst in society and the worst in society being the existential threat."

And that's the real problem: people. There have always been bad actors it's just that they now have the means to target millions while barely lifting a finger.

The documentary has been criticised for oversimplifying the issue seeming to lay the blame solely at the feet of the networks. Rightly so, it's absolutely not that straightforward but you can understand why this approach has been taken. These are the large organisations which most are familiar with, which most have signed up to and spend an ever-increasing amount of their time. Starting the conversation here could have the biggest impact.

The argument is that the algorithmic nature of the networks exposes you to things you wouldn't normally see whereas joining a forum or a chat group is a choice, something you have explicitly done rather than had pushed upon you.

Still, I don't have the answers. Things need to change but that will only happen if enough people demand it. Sadly, I can't see that happening. All I know is that we have to take individual responsibility for what we do and say online and see where we go from there.

Status

Over the past few days or so I've binge watched the whole of seasons 1 & 2 of Cobra Kai and absolutely loved it. I was surprised at how well written it was (while still having its share of 80's cheese) and the depth it builds as the episodes roll by.

The show makes no apology for calling on the original movie and is actually all the better for doing so, it really takes you back to being a kid.

I must confess to welling up slightly with the references to Mr Miyagi and I that's testament to both the impact of the original movies and how well the series has built on them Can't wait for season 3 next year.

Status

This time last year I had decided that I would return to iOS largely spurred on by the improvements to the cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro. It never transpired because my carrier changed their upgrade policy leaving me "stuck" on Android as I said at the time.

Having upgraded to the Galaxy S20 Ultra earlier this year (has it really been six months already) being stuck on Android couldn't be furthest from my mind. In fact, I've invested heavily in the platform buying multiple apps and a Wear OS watch. That doesn't sound like someone wanting to get away any time soon.

In a sense, however, I do wonder whether I am now locked in, for at least a while. Apps aren't so much of an issue, they're not that expensive in the scheme of things, but the watch is a different matter. Am I now forced to stick with Android devices at least until the watch stops working or receiving updates? How long before it no longer connects to future versions of Android due to being outdated?

Wear OS watches will work with iPhones (albeit with some limitations) so this not need be the complete blocker you'd imagine, even if it's not the full experience.

Ultimately, what real difference does it make for what I do? None.

As I was getting back into blogging more regularly again I spouted some BS about wanting the best tools for the job. What I really meant was the most convenient. I almost always just post text, what do I really need? Not much. As long as I can write and have some way to post (the new post form is about as easy as you can get) then I'm okay. Anything else is just an excuse.

Status

I've been wrestling with a migraine for the past couple of days after not sleeping very well on Tuesday night. The watch shows it was this:

Sleep

I have the watch set to go by seven hours a night; last night was better but still less than six and a half hours. I would have expected to have caught up on more but my body obviously thought otherwise.

Status

I've pulled the trigger and connected by .blog email to OnMail. I've been putting it through its passes and found it to be super quick and I'm happy to pay the $4.99 a month for now.

Status

We often hear about the paradox of choice and how having too many options leads to anxiety and procrastination. An example I always use from my own experience is when I used to make music on my computer.

When all I had was the application Rebirth I used to be quite prolific, really exploring its possibilities. As soon as I got other software, virtual instruments, and a host of effects plugins my output dropped off considerably. I would spend ages trying to find "the right sound" or try to be inspired by what was in front of me rather than just getting on and making music.

It is claimed that reducing choice for consumers leads to reduced anxiety when shopping. The counter, however, is the assertion that autonomy and freedom of choice is essential for wellbeing so who's right? Surely, some kind of middle ground needs to be established.

I've been dragging my heels a bit regarding certain things so it was with interest that I read Jake LaCaze's post (formerly of Flirting with Nihilism) on writing simply.

Jake has stripped down his blogging workflow to just three components: write.as to host his blog, Markdown and iA Writer - that's it, about as simple as you can get. It's a far cry from my proclivity to install multiple apps and constantly tweak things in the hope something clicks.

I am reminded of when I previously used Android (back in 2014) and there was only one app I used in which I wrote well in excess of 100,000 words despite it being pretty basic. When on the iPhone I used Drafts but then started muddying the waters with Ulysses before finally settling on just Drafts.

Since the switch back to Android it has been a constant procession of different apps and workflows, always looking for that perfect solution when I should be just getting on with the task at hand.

In an effort to resolve this I installed and subscribed to iA Writer hoping it could be my one stop shop. After an initial issue connecting to self-hosted WordPress sites was fixed by iA it didn't sit well with me because of how it handled direct posting - that was the main reason I wanted to try it after all.

With every other writing application I have to export Markdown to the WordPress app so that I can post. Where iA Writer can post directly (but requires me to then go in to edit the draft ready for publishing) I have a mental block on just sharing the text to the WordPress app like I do elsewhere. If the one feature I purchased iA Writer for doesn't fit my needs why do I: 1) still have it installed, or 2) complain about paying for it when other apps I've bought also don't fit 100%?

I need to make a choice and stick with it, limit my options and just get on with writing.

Status