The Best Thing About RSS

… is it's not anything like Twitter.

I was over there checking my notifications, a daily chore but also sometimes there's something good if I don't scroll too long. But also just endless shit that makes me mad from randos. Well, that shouldn't happen, I've curated my follows and turned off their retweets… Except Twitter also reposts shit your followees "liked", even if you have retweets turned off from them, so Jack Shit can continue their mission to make the world a shittier place.

RSS never shoves some third-party garbage in the feed, just because someone "liked" a post!

So I'm thinking it's time to close the Twitter feed again, stop syndicating to it, and completely ignore it. This is the last post Twitter will see. Sorry, but those guys fucked it all up. Follow this blog on RSS, and you can follow specific categories if you don't want the whole thing.

If you don't know how, there's Feedbin, NetNewsWire, and many other readers, both free and paid.

Death of Blogging as a Service

Via n-gate, because I no longer read and have actively blocked h4xx04 n00z, but still like to laugh at the monkeys in the cage:

  • TTTThis whines: "Blogs used to exist because there were blogging platforms."

I started to reply to this, but I think this is a troll? 90% sure. But like The Onion, Landover Baptist, or Fox News, it's indistinguishable from real stupid, crazy people.

The rest of his site is equally inane half-jokes, but not at that length. Despite the "/blog/" in the URL, he is not writing a blog, because he has no RSS feed.

Every few weeks another "DEATH OF RSS", "I MISS BLOGGING" shitpost comes across my screen, mostly from victims still on Tw*tter or F***book, who don't realize they can set up WordPress, Hugo, Ghost, or whatever and have their own fully operational Death Star of blogging to wage war on siloed fools from.

Micro.blog

Way back in 2017, Manton Reece (who'd previously made Tweetmarker, a last-read-syncing service back when multiple Twitter clients existed, but then he quit using Twitter!) had a Kickstarter for a microblog/Twitter-like service where you'd host your own content, and a book about that.

3 years on, what's happened with micro.blog? How's it compare to blogging, fediverse, and Twitter?

No book yet, he's kicked the deadline down the road from 2018 to February 2020. Necromancers have a more strict understanding of "deadline". I have no leg to stand on mocking someone else's procrastination, but I do it anyway. Not just out of "where's my book?", but also it'd hopefully explain why he's made some of these decisions.

The service currently mostly hosts content on his silo, a Dreamhosts Hugo configuration, either free as micro.blog/username, or paid as username.micro.blog or your own DNS name pointing at the silo. Or, you can syndicate posts from any other blog, but there are difficult limitations.

There's no easy way to tell, but I believe the userbase is in the high hundreds or low thousands, mostly free. I follow a good number of busy people and see far <100 posts/day.

Microblogging: Micro.blog is, as Manton describes it, only for microblogging. Which means different things to different people.

To me, the Twitter experience was finding your friends at meetups, and links to long blog posts and art, often reposted widely, and then you'd have a discussion in replies. We wanted to see all our friends' replies because that's how you found out what was interesting to them. It was a social RSS reader.

Later as Twitter sabotaged the community to try to become a new Facebook, it devolved into brainless blipverts and morons shouting at you. I think the restriction of short posts cuts off oxygen to your brain and you start to die, which is why people panic and hate so much there. That's the part you shouldn't emulate. I blame Twitter for much of the political situation of the US.

fediverse has a few defense mechanisms against becoming Twitter. Long posts, and content warnings (intended to hide adult or possibly annoying content, often used as humorous titles or to minimize long posts for those not interested) encourage thinking about a post. You can have an intelligent discussion, not screaming slogans at each other.

The early Mastodon (specifically, not so much the other servers) community was rabidly anti-business and anti-celebrity; and I do mean rabid in the way they attacked Wil Wheaton, of all people (he said "Don't be a dick!" and they were dicks to him). There's places more neutral now, but most extremists are still federated. Gab's ludicrous move to fediverse didn't do much for them, since many servers block them and even try unpersoning anyone who doesn't. But mastodon.social is a hive of scum & villainy like Twitter, so beware of large instances.

Manton's view, as I understand it, is that microblogging is just conversation in short SMS-like messages (280 chars for m.b, which maybe provoked Twitter into doubling its 140? But fediverse posts are 500+). Titles are not allowed, or it becomes just a link with no context, summary, or images (except the current bug/design flaw which does post 16x16 flyspeck icons of your images).

In WordPress, titles are not realistically optional. The scheduler and batch editors are nearly unusable without them, all the blog themes look bad and can't be easily navigated. WordPress is for writing—I don't like the Gutenberg editor, but they clearly understand the power of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press—generally long, coherent thoughts and essays. Even short linked-list content, like my music of the day, needs to say what it is first, and I put effort into writing puns, poems, or suggestive descriptions. Just irreconcilable.

Art: m.b does sort of support photography. Originally it cropped all photos square, compressed to some small size, run thru one of a few ugly filters like it was still 2010—but now if your post is hosted on the silo, it'll post a photo unmolested, I believe. If hosted elsewhere, and you have no title, and low enough char count, it might post your images, rescaled to some smaller size, after some processing time; all the joy of 24 Hour Photos for the 21st Century. There's even a separate iOS app Sunlit, sort of an Instagram clone, but rather pointless since the main m.b app or Icro (a 3rd party iOS client) will read the whole timeline and also post images. Now's a good time to see this in action, as there's a "pin" for posting a photo every day for the month.

If you have a title, you get the flyspeck icons instead of actual art. This might be my biggest problem. I put effort into making a post fun & interesting, and it's stripped to a bare text link.

Tagging: m.b has its own solution, which is a limited (10? 4 of which are America-centric sportsballs) set of emoji. If you post ? it'll show up in a discover tab about books. It's pretty quiet.

This is totally incompatible with WordPress, where categories are named, or Twitter or fediverse, where is standard, so you need both to syndicate your taxonomy. Since m.b doesn't pick up any post content with a title, I'd have to put emoji tags in the title which is weird and puts a bunch of hex escapes in the URL slug. And most of my posts are unclassifiable, because I don't talk about sportsball; where's the Scheme programming emoji? The Sumerians invented a system of syllabic writing 5200 years ago to get away from pure hieroglyphics because they couldn't have enough symbols to represent every idea. Maybe in another few thousand years this new hieroglyphics idea will fade out.

There's no search function in m.b, though search engines generally crawl some or all of the timeline. Search in fediverse is limited to your own posts and stars, public hashtags, and user accounts, but also search engines and all sorts of research and marketers scan the public timelines, it's easy to find anything. Blogs are nice and persistent, and search engines work fine with these.

Reply hazy: In Twitter, a post has a permalink, and if you click that it shows the post & replies, as you'd expect from a silo. Actually, it now makes you hit "more" links all thru the thread because Jack hates the Twitter-that-was.

m.b has no visible permalink in the apps, but does on the site. Except where it doesn't, like in replies, where you need to click the reply date to see the reply & one parent, then the upper name, and you can see the thread.

WP of course only has comments, but they're just down there.

fediverse permalinks show only immediate parents & replies, except the root post shows all replies (sometimes including 1000+ reply "hellthreads" which will peg your CPU, it's great fun).

In theory, all of these are connectible by webmention protocols and ActivityPub and IFTTT, in practice even nerds like me only have patience for one cross-wiring.

Identity: Possibly the weirdest part of micro.blog is the sign-in system, which has no password. It sends a token to your email, you click the link and you're logged in until you clear cookies, which I do rather often. Since there's no username/password, the browser can't remember it for you, and there's nothing in 1password. Somewhat more dangerous than other email recovery systems, since there's no "something you know and something you have", it should probably have at least a recovery PIN.

Remember the "pins" from Art? They're achievements, but hidden away in the site, Account, pins; there's no way to see anyone else's, or compare to global stats, or anything like that. Likewise, you can't see anyone's follower/following count exactly, tho it does list "Following N users you aren't following".

The profile if you're using the free account is incredibly minimalist; an avatar and short bio, no ability to theme it. If you pay for the silo, you can theme your Hugo instance, but it's fairly limited because most Hugo themes don't work with title-less posts, either.

Back in the day, Twitter let you customize your colors and page background, but now it's generic with a little header image if anyone looks at your profile.

fediverse has a much more extensive bio, up to 4 key/value links (I use them for Blog, BBS, Patreon, and Pronouns), and tabs for all your pings (aka toots/awoos/posts, depending on server), pings & replies, and media posts.

Of course, you can do anything with WP; I'm on the Twenty Sixteen theme, but heavily customized, and I may strip out the stock CSS soon to make a few tweaks easier.

Where are we? So, this blog seems nearly ideal to me now. I need to clean up my categories, and there's a few site & style hacks I'd like to make, but it's the happiest I've been with a technical system in a long time. Audience is good, at least by current standards. I'd love to get more, but Scheme, RPGs, music, movie, videogame, & book reviews, and space news may just be a niche intersection.

Syndication is my big problem, and unfortunately micro.blog is by far the least capable of the 4 places my posts go out to, and aside from commenting does nothing an RSS link wouldn't do better.

I couldn't, or wouldn't, go back to a SMS-level Twitter service, so posting on m.b the way it's "intended" isn't useful.

In Which Dave Winer Doesn't Understand WordPress

I hit the bookmark link to my site (Cmd-4 for no good reason in my Safari tabs). Hover +, Post. I'm in the edit screen.

wordpress-new-post

Write my title, make sure the slugline looks OK, write the post in Markdown (I use Jetpack; YMMV if you're using bare WordPress).

Screenshot or art? I just drag it in, hit OK in media library.

Pick categories & tags (I always duplicate my categories in tags; again your process may vary), hit Publish. Note crosspost to fediverse, Twitter, and micro.blog. Elapsed time: 2 minutes at most?

NetNewsWire is Back!

I've been running it for the last day, and it's stable and fast.

Syncing to my Feedbin account works great; the Feedbin web UI is usable, but especially the last redesign leaves me somewhat annoyed, and it has very limited keybindings. NNW also has local OPML subscriptions, if you don't need to sync and don't mind waiting forever for it to fetch from every blog and deal with everyone's crazy broken RSS. I like Feedbin centralizing that nonsense, just replacing the UI has been a problem.

NNW has everything keyboard-driven, but I'm not enamored of some of its choices (Help, Keyboard Shortcuts). I'd prefer vi keys, and those are a dangerous habit with Brent's keybindings (l is mark all as read, next; k is mark all as read; I almost never want to do that, and want to hide those behind a warning). I'll either get used to them or see if I can rebind them from system settings. The code's on github, so worst case I can just fork it and hack my own keys in.

The reader's pretty nice. Stays in dark mode when I have that selected; I've seen a couple feeds insert their own background image/color which is obnoxious, but if that's what the feed contains, it should probably show it.

I miss in-app browser tabs. For webcomics (which rarely put full-size images in the feed) I often launch a bunch of them into their own tabs and then read them, which in Feedbin's web UI is (while more-comics? (middle-click title) (press 'space "next comic")) and in NNW is (while more-comics? (press 'b "open the current comic in browser") (press 'alt-tab "back") (press 'space "next comic")). Maybe it's possible to open a browser tab in the background?

A million times better than the years-late, rarely-updated Black Pixel release which had their own broken sync server.

Update: One feature I'm loving is drag-and-drop blogroll reorganization. Got a feed somewhere wrong? Drag. Drop. Synced. Fucking done. In Feedbin, you have to have the feed visible (unread or switched to "all" mode), the old way you'd hit Tags (folders) and just change the text in the dialog box, but they changed it to an Edit button which pops up a giant list of all your tags (folders) and you switch them on/off. Utterly awful if you use a lot of tags (folders) like I do. And yes, I'm annoyed perpetually by the "tags" concept, which doesn't exist in OPML, only folders.

WordPress updated

Went ahead and updated to 5.0. And immediately hit a "No update required" bug, had to shell in and disable the cache. Great testing, Automattttttic.

Took a look at Twenty Nineteen theme, but even after completely customizing the CSS, it was screwing with my layout in unpleasant ways. In 2019, blog columns are 640px wide, instead of 840px in Twenty Sixteen! Nope. So updated 2016, restored my Fake Emoji Fuck Off, more custom CSS, and things are back to normal.

I'm ignoring Gutenberg for now, but Jetpack's got a Markdown block, so that may usable someday.

Am I really better off with this giant pile of junk, instead of going back to blosxom or some other static generator? I could write my own in a week. Well, I would miss media management. Automatic reposting to Mastodon and Twitters; I could script that myself, too, but Twitter's hostility to APIs means I'd be constantly fixing it or cutting off Twitter. So I'll stick with this for now.

Don't Be a Dick

So, Wil Wheaton ( previously "I Hate Twitter" ) was just chased off the Fediverse (he still has an account on a siloed non-federating instance, which isn't really useful to anyone else). His last statement's pretty clear, so I put that down below.

"Please do your very best to be kind to each other. The world is a terrible place right now, and that's largely because it is what we make it."

I know some of the people doing the harassing. There's no point in even arguing with them: They've decided he's in Two Minutes Hate, perhaps because he has a friend whom they don't like, and won't consider "Don't be a Dick", or having empathy, tolerance, or self-awareness that some of them aren't such great friends to have, for one hot second.

While Gargron has condemned harassment, it doesn't fix the problem, since there are entire instances where 4chan-like behavior is accepted; all you can do is block accounts or those entire instances, and it still poisons the Federated timeline for a while.

I'm not sure any level of moderation fixes this shit.

This is why I highly recommend owning your own blog, and broadcasting that out to other services where people can read it; even better, read this and many other blogs in your RSS aggregator or RSS reader ( currently free! ) of choice. It's OK to put some ephemeral chat on other services, but remember those are owned by other people, and are easily attacked by angry, stupid mobs. If a stupid mob shows up here, I don't approve their comments and it's done. It's the Castle Doctrine of online posting.

Wil Wheaton @wilw@mastodon.cloud August 29, 2018, 3:02 PM https://mastodon.cloud/@wilw/100635779449174251 (will be a dead link soon)
I have been notified by an Admin here that they are getting 60 reports a day about my account. As far as I can tell, I'm not breaking any rules, and I've done my best to be a good person here. But this admin is going to suspend my account.

It's the Admin's instance, so I fully support their choice to eliminate a source of frustration, but something to consider: a person who is doing nothing wrong can be run off one instance by a mob from another instance. That seems ... not cool. 1/x

But it's been made very, very clear to me that I am not welcome in the Fediverse, and I hear you. I hoped to find an alternative to the birdsite where I could find the same fun community that existed over there in the beginning, and it's clear to me that I won't be finding that. Before I leave, I want to just make something very clear, because I've spent most of my life being yelled at by people who don't know me at all, and I want the record to be clear. 2/x

During GamerGate, I was dogpiled and mobbed and brigaded and attacked by thousands of accounts. I started using a blocklist that was supposed to help stop that. I did not know that the blocklist I signed up for also had a lot of trans women on it. When I found out, I did everything I could to remove those women from the list I shared. When there were still innocents on the list, I stopped sharing the list entirely. Despite this, a mob has decided that I'm anti-trans. 3/x

This lie that I am anti-trans, or anti-LGBQ, is deeply hurtful to me (I know it's nothing like the pain LGBTQ people deal with every day, as they simply try to exist in a world that treats them so badly, but it is still hurtful in its own way to me). I just want to make it extremely clear: that is a lie, and the people spreading it are misinformed.

So I'm leaving the Fediverse, which has treated me with more cruelty, vitriol, hatred, and contempt than than anyone on the birdsite ever did. 4/x

I know that I'm well-off, well-known, and as a CIS white hetro dude in America, I live life on the lowest difficulty setting. I know that I have very little to complain about.

But I still have feelings, and I really do care about the world and the people in it. What I see is a lot of anger and cruelty directed at the IDEA of me, from people who I just hope don't realize that it really does hurt me, in my heart, to be accused of being someone I am not, and to be the target of a hateful mob. 5/x

Anyway, take your victory lap and collect your prizes. You've made it clear that I'm not welcome here, and even though I disagree with the action this Admin is taking (banning me when I didn't break any rules doesn't seem right), I respect and support the Admin's decision to run their instance the way they see fit.

Please do your very best to be kind to each other. The world is a terrible place right now, and that's largely because it is what we make it.

Bye.

6/end

Reverse Chronology

A design note you don't notice until you do, and then it'll annoy you forever:

Timelines in chat are usually forward-chronological (oldest at top, newest at bottom). Slack, for instance. And Slack correctly puts reply trees in forward-chron order as well, same as the conversation, but then maliciously doesn't scroll the view to the bottom, or remember where you read last. Typically incompetent but well-meaning for Slack.

Timelines in blogs and microblogs are usually reverse-chronological (newest at top, oldest at bottom). This blog, or Mastodon, or Micro.blog, for instance. I have comments set in the correct order here, but many blogs default to forward-chron when showing comments; it's unreasonable to put comments above the post, but I could see that making sense for "open threads". Mastodon's standard UI and the Amaroq iPhone client both do forward-chron. Icro iPhone app for Micro.blog correctly does reverse-chron, but Manton's Mac and iPhone apps both do forward-chron.

Why does this matter? A conversation is a filtered subset of all posts. It should flow in the same order as the overall feed. If it doesn't, you get whiplash, and avoid looking at conversations. Every time you open these wrong-way conversations, you have to scroll scroll down to the part you care about: New replies.

Maybe we should just make all microblogs read like chat, forward-chron everywhere. But out of habit and experience with chat systems, I frame forward-chron as ephemeral nonsense.

And now you'll be annoyed every time you see old posts at the top of an upside-down conversation view, just like I am.

Medium (neither rare nor well-done) is the poster child for why you should own your own blog-posting. They shut down custom domains so you had to use their brand. Now they've shut down any monetization except "claps" giving a few pennies from a Medium membership which nobody buys.

Trust no-one with your content!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

The movie has something for everyone, a comedy tonight, but I'm actually talking about:

Blogging is sometimes very different from "social networking", and one of the key things is that there are no private conversations. On the technical side, that's basically impossible: A blog post is public, or it wouldn't show up in feed readers, search engines, or micro.blog. And even "private" messaging in Twitter or Facebook is stored in plaintext on the server, where the staff can read it for laughs or social engineering or selling you to advertisers and Russians.

In the socially stunted worlds of Twitter or Facebook, often someone posts, and the first person to respond may feel like they "own" the conversation, anyone else responding is a "rando", and the lack of proper threading makes conversation very difficult so they just hate everyone. There is, I fear, not much that can be done for many of these; they grew up feral in an innately hostile environment, and won't or can't read about how to have longer discussions. Robert's Rules of Order this is not.

Blogging is about people contributing to a public dialogue. As we had in web forums, or USENET, or college dorm halls, or actual forums going back to Rome and ancient Greece. Threading and arguments about ideas are not just OK, but encouraged, just don't hit below the belt.

You may be able to learn from USENET netiquette (somewhat old link, but anything quoting Eugene Spafford is good).

When being sarcastic, if there's any danger of misinterpretation, use a smiley. Excessive sarcasm is often counter-productive and hurts people's feelings, even when it's unintentional.
—a rule I sure don't live by