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

Twitpocalypse 2018

Woo-hoo! So you could write and try to get Jack to keep Twitter's 3rd-party ecosystem running, which relies on the benevolence of a company that has zero reason to support 3rd-party apps, and in fact has stated outright that they don't want them, because they don't make any ad money.

OR, you could take this as a good opportunity to abandon Twitter and join microblogging.

Post-Facebook Microblogging

So, you've deleted your Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts and all of their apps, right? Where do you social?

First, I'm the most technical boy in town, but you don't have to be for any of what I'm going to tell you. This is all fairly easy, even for a normal Human.

Second, you will have to learn things. You'll need to set aside a day or two to read, make decisions, go look terms up. I know learning is hard and scary, but go look at a motivational poster and do the thing:

I am a tiny cactus and I believe in you. You can do the thing!
original

Third, I'm on Mac and iOS; I have complaints with current Apple, but it's still the slowest-sinking ship. That said, you may be using Windows, BSD, Linux, or Android. Most of this is completely platform-independent, and there are some apps for other platforms.

Fourth, some of this costs money, up front for new software, and every month for hosting. As I have previously noted:

"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."
—Andrew Lewis

  • Search: So, first, set your browser to search with DuckDuckGo. Google is just as bad as Facebook. In Safari, hit Preferences ⌘, > Search tab > dropdown. In Chrome, Preferences > Search engine > dropdown.
    • Now anything you type in the address bar goes thru a search engine that doesn't track you. And there's neat tricks in DDG: Type "!w blog" to see the Wikipedia page on "blog". Type "!g porn" to search Google if DDG's results aren't good enough, tho mostly they are.
  • Blog. I'm using DreamHost managed WordPress, found a nice domain, paid, and was up and running in a few minutes (new domains take a few hours to appear everywhere on the Internet; but while you wait there's plenty of setup and writing to do).
    • There's other options, but whatever you do, make sure you have your own domain name; the WordPress.com free blogs are not bad, but the site is owned by Automattic, not you. Own your own thing, but it's OK to let someone manage it if you can move it somewhere else.
  • Theme: I went with the Twenty Sixteen theme because it looks most traditional blog-like. Twenty Seventeen seems to be more business-oriented. Try both, and other themes, and see what you like.
    • The side menus are a pain to set up: WP Admin > Appearance > Menus, then Appearance > Widgets to create a widget showing that menu. Ask me or someone else with a blog you like, if you need more help; this is all fussy, not technical just annoying.
  • Social: I'm currently using micro.blog (MB) for a social network. Register, choose the "I already have my own microblog." option, the RSS feed is the "Entries RSS" link on your WP blog.
    • Add some WordPress plugins: Micropub, Webmention, Semantic-Linkbacks. These let replies from MB appear as comments under posts, with avatars and names, just like you can see here.
    • You might want to set up WP to "Publicize" to Twitter, and Mastodon Autopost does the same thing for the Fediverse. Alternately, MB can be paid to crosspost to Twitter.
    • I use the MB iOS and Mac apps for posting quick items, or the web site (WP Admin > Posts > Add New) to post here. I'm editing this in the browser, because WP's "classic" editor is OK; I'm scared of the next-gen editor but I'll see if I like it.
    • MarsEdit has a better Mac editor, and posts to all sorts of blogs. But if I'm on the Mac, the web page is fine.
    • I'm still using Fediverse/Mastodon some, and I want that to become bigger and more widespread. But be aware that the site admins have a lot of power, and there's no privacy. I'm likely to set up my own Pleroma instance just for myself so I control my Fediverse activity, and I don't like Gargron's Mastodon tech junkpile/stack.
  • Photos: The MB app does OK at posting photos. Not great, I take photos with Camera+, edit, save, then open the MB app and click the photo button; the share action didn't work when I tried it, but I think that's an iOS 10 issue? Tap tap tap tap stroke tap turn-crank tap tap tap.
    • Sunlit is the other app from Manton Reece (guy behind MB), formerly for App.net (which we all miss), and now a general-purpose photo-blogging tool. I'm not really into it yet, but if I was photo-blogging a lot I would be.
  • Messaging: Facebook can read every message you ever sent thru FB Messenger. Probably not a person (but they can, it's just in a database any FB dev can read), but a program can know everything about you. DELETE THAT SHIT.
    • You can use Email for initial point of contact with people, but realize that's not secure, either. Use iMessage, Telegram, Signal, maybe LINE, maybe WhatsApp (warning: owned by Facebook, so they can still read the metadata of who you're calling), for safe, secure chat; these use end-to-end encryption so nobody, not the company, not the NSA, not a fucking advertiser, can read your messages.
    • Skype, Slack, and Discord are nice for public chat, but realize these are NOT PRIVATE. They have access to everything you send, and of course everything is hosted on their servers. IRC is a complex service, it can be made secure, but any public instance is not secure.
  • Reading: So if someone's on micro.blog, you can just follow them, and see all their posts, and reply/comment on their posts as if it was Twitter.
    • Anyone who hasn't joined MB, you need to find the RSS feed link on their site, and add it to a feed reader. I use FeedBin and think it's worth paying for.
    • Reeder is OK, and runs on iOS and Mac. I like it less than the FeedBin web interface, but YMMV.
    • There used to be a great Mac app called NetNewsWire. It was then acquired, killed, rewritten badly, beaten, chained up, and abandoned to die in a corner with only the rarest bug fixes. I do not recommend the current version in any way, total catastrofuck.
    • Brent Simmons has a new app in development, Evergreen, but the alpha requires High Sierra, and I'm still on Sierra. Still, I expect this to be a good app sometime.

That gets you independent, publishing, and reading posts again, without a scumbag owning everything you do. I'm sure there's a ton of other things you're going to miss, and if you've got questions, ask.

Fake Emoji & "Smart" Quotes Fuck Off

WordPress does a lot of things, not always well, but better than other blog platforms. But occasionally it runs amok like a toddler on espresso scribbling over your stuff with crayons and shitting in corners before falling down in a huff.

Today, it decided to replace my emoji with terrible little pictures again despite using the Disable Emojis plugin, so I gave up and edited functions.php (Appearance, Editor). And took this opportunity to uneducate my quotes so you can actually use code I paste without having to run it thru BBEdit's "straighten quotes" text menu. I didn't invent any of this, but it's all buried in obsolete version advice.

Add this:

// Fake Emoji & "Smart" Quotes Fuck Off
remove_action('wp_head', 'print_emoji_detection_script', 7);
remove_action('wp_print_styles', 'print_emoji_styles');
remove_action('admin_print_scripts', 'print_emoji_detection_script');
remove_action('admin_print_styles', 'print_emoji_styles');
remove_filter('wp_mail', 'wp_staticize_emoji_for_email');
remove_filter('the_content_feed', 'wp_staticize_emoji');
remove_filter('comment_text_rss', 'wp_staticize_emoji');
add_filter('emoji_svg_url', '__return_false');
add_filter('run_wptexturize', '__return_false');

Sláinte 🥃

Bloggerating

I normally don't do the self-analysis, why are we here thing, and certainly no self-promotion or "personal braaaaaaand". The joke's only funny until you die, then you leave a stink-bomb corpse and it's really funny, and then they shovel dirt in your face. Until then, I mostly do things I find fun and maybe post them for others.

But what is blogging for?

Social media in the form that Twitter and Facebook have produced, is now clearly seen a mistake; it used to be fun, and is easily compulsive, and I'm the next-to-last guy who could say with a straight face "don't do things that are fun but possibly dangerous to your body or mind", but the toxic side-effects have gone from heroin, to a cocktail of PCP, bath salts, and krokodil. It has turned and is eating your face. Get out while you still can.

Reading blogs is quieter. It can happen when you want, a pull request from a bunch of servers instead of a constantly pushing firehose. I can pick thru categories, since I organize feeds into a score of folders. Not everyone has a useful feed anymore, and there are times when a blog or comic stops updating the RSS and I don't notice until an annual sweep of stale feeds. I don't read everything, I read what I want and clear the rest.

My current OPML export has something like 1200 feeds, which is ridiculous, but with my organization it's not that bad. If I want to read comics, SF blogs, Mac news, dev blogs, etc., it all adds up pretty quick. Many only update a few times a year, which is probably not enough; I only keep a few "Tech Bullshit" blogs that spam more than a couple posts a day.

I used NetNewsWire back when Brent Simmons made it, but switched to various others when iPad came out. The NNW iOS rewrite and the years-delayed Black Pixel re-rewrite were unacceptable, but the Google Reader-pocalypse forced me to finally do something, so ever since I've been using FeedBin; apparently not the most popular since it costs $5/month (paying for the things you use! What a bizarre idea!), but a near-desktop quality interface with great keyboard controls, that works well in Safari, is more useful to me.

In the Dark Ages, Before Computers, you'd read, hear, or think of something, and then spend the next week telling everyone you met a distorted version of it, jabber jabber jabber. Some would write letters and then copy them for different correspondents, and the real maniacs would write letters or columns for newspapers or magazines; the Dragon Magazine Waldorf letters are archetypical.

Now we have the unlimited reach to annoy everyone with the noise in our heads. Many people use Twitter as a stream of consciousness of their food 🍔 and bathroom 💩 habits. It's too easy to type in a box and hit send. And if you "like" that person, and want to see anything halfway smart they write while distracted by everyone else's firehose, you also have to take their bathroom posts. UGH. You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, that you didn't stop to think if you should..

Take my music posts (please!). On Twitter, I'd sometimes spam a music link every hour or more. Now, I typically have one song in mind, link the album, then use my amnesiac-encylopediac memory of the last 50 years of blues/rock/metal/electronica (a bit more for blues) to find a day's worth of similar albums. Then I keep the post open and hit links for iTunes. It reminds me of my teenage years, pulling a few vinyl or tape albums from my small library and spinning them in between bursts of radio; whole albums, every track unless something annoying was at the start or end of a side; I can't stand the random train-wreck of commercial radio. And my 20s DJing at http://kuoi.org/ with my playlist, I did a lot of deep cuts or half-albums. It's nice if someone else likes my music, but that's not why I post.

This post has been building for a day or two. I write a little, leave it in drafts, change the title, rewrite parts, find le mot juste, a few coherent thoughts, or Suck-like links to emphasize or subvert meanings. When I think it's worth reading, I'll hit Publish. Thinking and writing at any depth is simply impossible in the social media engines.