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Medium tedium

Repost: https://micro.coyotetracks.org/2019/04/13/medium-thinks-its.html

Watts Martin writes:

There’s a lot of reasons people are down on Medium, Ev Williams' ongoing whatever-the-hell-it-is. It’s a platform! It’s a publication! It’s a platform for publications! It’s a clean, clutter-free reading experience, except for all the clutter!

There have been a few great stories written about this; my favorites are reporter Laura Hazard Owen’s “The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium” and acerbic typographer Matthew Butterick’s “The Billionaire’s Typewriter.” (He occasionally updates this, most recently linking to Owen’s article.) Butterick critiques Medium’s design from an ethical standpoint, which turns out to be bang on point with Medium’s ultimate underlying problem:

Medium thinks it’s a brand.

The rest of the entry is very much worth reading, and is a great description of all the things I hate about Medium and why I wrote Publ and insist on hosting my own blog instead. And I’m sure is why there are so many other self-hosted blog engines available and getting stronger these days.

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Be a critter

Lately I’ve been having fun designing critter leggings. Today my plaid ones arrived and they came out really cute! I’ve tweaked the design a bit (probably hecking something up) but they’re really adorable and comfy and I highly recommend Threadless leggings.

I’ve also made a few other designs, such as this graphics joke (primarily the leggings and backpack) and I’m probably going to make a whole bunch of cute animal bottoms for folks to wear.

Any suggestions for favorite species to include would be quite welcome!

Also, if you visit Threadless via my referral link, you get a coupon for $10 off!

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iPhone grrrr

Okay, so, here’s the error which caused me to downgrade to my iPhone 6s:

The iPhone "Ruby" cannot be synced. There are too many open files currently.

This was only happening on the XR, though (not on my iPod Touch, iPod Classic, or either iPad), and my iPhone 6S was working just fine.

Today I was actually pretty pleased with using the iPhone 6S and generally liking it better than the XR for the reasons I thought I would – it’s smaller, lighter, less obtrusive, and frankly less annoying to deal with overall. So I decided I’d buy a new battery for it and try my hand at that, since it doesn’t seem all that hard after all (and all of the battery cases I could find had critical problems like being too big or heavy or having connector failure or catching on fire).

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iPhone Regress

So, a few months ago I upgraded to an iPhone XR, which I thought was pretty okay, but there’s been an accumulation of issues with it that have me back on my old iPhone 6S for a bit. I dunno if I’ll stick with this or what, but so far I’m liking the 6S tradeoffs better.

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Memories

Much has been written about how Electron apps take a lot of memory; after all, each one is running its own instance of a web browser, and pulling in all of the overwhelming amounts of support code that implies. Slack can easily end up taking over 1GB of RAM, and Discord usually takes a few hundred as well. As someone who used to use IRC back in the 90s, when a single task taking even 1 MB of RAM was considered a lot, this feels rather horrifying:

Activity Monitor showing memory usage for Slack and DiscordActivity Monitor showing memory usage for Slack and Discord

On my iMac, with 24GB of RAM, that means that chat apps – doing the equivalent of an IRC client (granted, with a bit more visual stuff, but not that much) – are taking about 6% of my RAM!

But come to think of it, back in the mid 90s, when a typical computer had 8MB, an IRC client probably took around 400KB of RAM, which is also 6%. So have things really grown proportionally in that way?

Well, I’ve figured out a way of getting these chat apps to take half as much of my total RAM overall, but first, let’s talk about my personal history of memory usage.

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Re: Intermediate auth service

Jacky:

Oh yeah my plan for the indieauth profile service was to also provide h-card and (optional) micropub endpoints. :) I wrote more about that on one of my Subl-related blog posts (which I’m short on spoons to find at the moment).

So I’ve been thinking about this more and more. Having an intermediate service that lets people log in from a silo is excellent for the case you’ve ((@fluffy@queer.party)[https://queer.party/@fluffy]) mentioned. I think I got too far with this and was wondering if they’d use this to do replies, likes and the whole range of responses one could do from their own site.

Having the intermediate service be log-in-able via a silo would certainly be an option but what I was suggesting was actually having an intermediate service where you can also log in with a username/password or whatever. Like, it could be a “silo.” Like, have it as a bootstrap for people getting into IndieWeb without needing to self-host anything.

What I meant by “provide MicroPub endpoints” was me being overly terse and just saying that on the profile you set up on the profile service you could also link your profile to arbitrarily many other services (hosted by others), including MicroPub, as well as authority sources for RelMeAuth or whatever. Basically, a little catch-all tool to fix the bit that I feel is currently missing from the IndieWeb experience for someone who doesn’t have/want to self-host anything.

Incidentally, this is the blog entry I mentioned in that thread where I kind of rambled about this stuff. Also since then I’ve come to realize that there’s no real reason to integrate Pushl directly into Publ since now it does a lot more stuff and more generically than what is suitable for putting into the Publ side of things. (That said, you absolutely can use the same pipenv/venv for both Pushl and Publ, which is how I have things set up on the dayjob website. But that’s getting off in the weeds of minutiae.)

Also, it seems that both of our respective Markdown implementations have gotten confused by the parentheses around the queer.party link. Neat.

Sending ActivityPub backfills

For folks following this site via ActivityPub, I need to run a WebMention backfill which is going to look quite spammy (one post per five seconds when it gets going). Feel free to mute or unfollow; I promise this will end eventually and then things should be sensible for a while.

The process should take around three hours. I’ll post from my main Mastodon account when it’s theoretically safe to follow again.

Not that I expect anyone to really follow this site via ActivityPub anyway! So far this experiment has proven to me what I’d already suspected – ActivityPub isn’t really a great replacement to RSS/Atom.

More ActivityPub testing

Okay so it looks like re-pinging of existing content to fed.brid.gy doesn’t cause it to reappear again, although it’s still a bit of a UX disaster how backfilled toots show up (namely as a gigantic flood to every follower’s timeline). I think that’s more of a Mastodon UX problem than ActivityPub or fed.brid.gy though, and it’s probably a necessary evil based on what happens when a Mastodon sidekiq queue gets backlogged or whatever. Not to mention even in a things-are-current context, the nature of how Pushl works means it’ll probably still cause stuff to get missed.

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Haha, oops

Looks like fed.brid.gy will happily re-ping itself for already-ingested content, and it also shows up on your timeline as a flood of current items with whatever random dates are in place.

That seems… suboptimal.

Progress

It’s April 1, and nobody seems to have noticed the little joke I put on my site, or at least didn’t react to it. Which is fine, it was mostly a last-minute commentary on web UX patterns and so on.

(If you’re seeing this in the future, I added a GDPR compliance popover that prompts you with, “This website uses cookies to remember if you’ve clicked this button,” and a button which reads “I clicked it.”)

Anyway! It’s been a few days since my last post and I’m feeling somewhat better right now, so I’d might as well share what’s changed.

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Whatever happened to progress?

Ever since my diagnosis I was doing so much better, because I was able to practice self-kindness. But over time I’ve been slowly ramping up on doing more stuff, and now I’m back to trying to do all the things, and the amount of time I can do all the things gets shorter each iteration. So now I’m back to being in pain and being frustrated and feeling ineffective at everything.

I’m not sure if the medicine isn’t working after all or if I’m just expecting too much out of it; it’s probably a bit of both.

There are so many things I want to be working on but I’m just too tired to do any of them. I haven’t worked on music in a while – when I was so looking forward to getting back into streaming – and I’m coming up with things to do on Publ faster than I’m actually doing them, and am only really focusing on stuff that directly benefits the day job. And forget about comics, even though I really want to work on Lewi and a Unity Book 3 story.

I’m tired of being tired, and it’s useless to feel useless. I need to remember self-kindness.

More fun with encodings

On a Slack I’m on, there was a conversation wondering why so many websites disallow passwords with spaces, punctuation, “special” characters, and so on; shouldn’t they all be hashing the passwords rather than storing them in plain text anyway?

Yes, they should, but that’s not where the problem is. Once again, encodings become a problem.

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Backslide

So, whatever positive effect I’ve gotten from the nortriptyline isn’t enough to make up for my current baseline pain levels. At least I’m able to get out of bed again (unlike a week ago) but holy moly do I fall into agonizing pain after not doing a whole lot. This weekend I wasn’t even capable of doing my usual 3-to-5 miles of walking a day, and I’m thinking tomorrow I might end up having to take a bus or even a Lyft to work. Very frustrating.

Also, lately I’ve noticed that the extra weight of my iPad in my purse is taking its toll on me. I should probably switch back to using my backpack as my main conveyance; it’s heavier but at least it’s symmetrical and puts the stress on my back rather than my shoulder and neck.

On the plus side, I’ve finally gotten my CPAP working well enough for me. I ended up finding a decent video on how to adjust the nasal pillows and those have turned out to be much more comfortable, given a second chance. The face mask ends up being too disruptive for a bunch of reasons (the slightest movement makes it leak around the sides and I have no way of scratching my nose without hecking the fit up) and I somehow managed to lose the nasal mask (which was nearly as bad as the full mask anyway) so the fact that I’ve gotten the one I’m “supposed” to be using to work reliably and comfortably is nice.

I still feel like it disrupts my sleep somewhat, though. I hope that’s just a matter of something I Need to get used to. Hopefully I’ll eventually start getting reliable deep sleep on it once I’ve fully acclimated.

Anyway. Being up this late and typing a blog post isn’t exactly helping. But I figured an update was in order.

Encodings are the worst

These past few weeks I seem to keep on running into issues where things have been really bad about handling character encodings.

Back in the day, encodings were an absolute nightmare. You had different 8-bit encodings for every language, each with a bunch of different ISO standards; a very commonly-used one is ISO-8859-1, aka Latin-1, which is basically the characters needed to render all of English and most of several Romance languages (although a bunch of stuff is missing), plus a little extra stuff for math, scientific notation (µ), and German (ß), as well as a bunch of miscellani which were generally useful.

Unfortunately, a lot of Internet standards decided to default to that, including HTML.

Note: There are some updates based on feedback at the very bottom.

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Shout-out to Lending Club!

A couple weeks ago I started getting 2FA emails from Lending Club (an online peer-to-peer broker for loans and investments thereof). 2FA is of course a good thing, but less good is when the 2FA emails are addressed to my dead name, rather than my current, legal name.

So, I forwarded it along with a complaint about what was wrong, and fully expected to be brushed off like most companies do. However, they actually responded amazingly, with an explanation of the problem, an apology for it, and a commitment to fix it!

To all the other companies I’ve experienced this issue with: this is the right way to respond.

Thank you for your patience while I took a deeper look into your inquiry. Please know that I was able to find out the reason why the emails you are receiving use your previous name when your current name listed on your account is [current name].

When our engineering team set up the notification emails for our two factor authentication security feature, the source that they used to pull investor data from was the credit reports at the time of account creation, rather than the name listed on the account currently. I do apologize for this and please know that your case has been escalated to our engineering team in the hopes of fixing this issue.

Ongoing stuff

So, Friday I took a day off from my day job to go out to Quincy, WA to visit the Quincy Valley Historical Society and Museum, a farming museum which the AR startup is doing an app for. It was an interesting trip and I learned some stuff, although mostly we were there to guide the filming of greenscreen footage that’s going to be part of the app.

Quincy reminds me a lot of Las Cruces, where I spent a total of 8 years as a college and graduate student, only it’s even smaller and there’s no university.

Anyway, Friday night I didn’t sleep particularly well, then Saturday we drove back and after a brief nap I went to a local Twitch streamer meetup and met a bunch of people. Which was a good time and I made a bunch of contacts, but unfortunately the combination of that with the previous day meant I was already pretty much at my spoons limit.

Then Sunday, because of the dumpster fire that is Daylight Saving Time, all those dirty spoons got thrown into my garbage disposal.

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Places to follow my content

For folks who were following me on Patreon and don’t have an RSS reader, here are some alternate ways of following me:

  • All my stuff gets automatically posted to Twitter, Tumblr, and Mastodon, although that’s not ideal because updates are really easy to miss on those places
  • You can use IFTTT or Blogtrottr to get posts delivered by email (here’s a tutorial on IFTTT)
  • There’s also the #site-updates channel on my Discord (which is also a fun place to hang out anyway)

But of course your life is a lot easier in general by just using a feed reader like feedly, The Old Reader, or Newsblur. Or if you have your own web hosting that can run PHP, you might consider running your own private Feed on Feeds instance!

Tag-reply posts?

In response to my tagging announcement, Marty McGuire writes:

This could be a use case for tag-reply posts!

Brid.gy supports this for tagging people in Flickr posts, as well as adding labels to GitHub issues.

(wow I really have got to write some sort of reply-to post importer… hand-converting that to Markdown was way more work than it should have been!)

I’m not quite sure I understand the use case that’s being called for, here. Publ tags are “tags” in the Tumblr sense, where they’re used to filter and organize posts, like being able to limit things to rants or whatever; I get the feeling that this is confusion over multiple uses of the word “tag,” like how on Twitter/Facebook/Flickr/etc. “tagging” means signaling to someone that they should read a post (akin to “Tag! You’re it!”). Think Technorati tags from way back when, or Atom categories, which are most akin to hashtags on Twitter and Facebook.

I think a tag-as-in-notification thing would be implemented in Publ the same way I implement in-reply-to and so on – I have a corresponding header in the entry file and my template generates an invisible <a class="u-in-reply-to" href="..."> in the post body. The relevant bit in my entry template is:

{% for type in ('like-of', 'in-reply-to', 'repost-of', 'bookmark-of', 'mention-of', 'rsvp') %}
    {% for link in entry.get_all(type) %}
        <a href="{{link}}" class="u-{{type}}"></a>
    {% endfor %}
{% endfor %}

So in that sense Publ already supports that at the template level; I can simply add tag-of to the list of microformat types. Or am I completely misunderstanding what is being suggested?

In which I finally stop using Patreon

So, hey, Patreon is a pretty popular site for funding the creative people you follow. A lot of people rely on Patreon as their primary source of income. More power to them if they do; it’s where everyone goes to do that sort of thing and it’s really enabled a lot of people to do what they love for a living.

But I just removed all my pledges and also my creator account. It’s not one thing in isolation that led me to do this, but a culmination of a lot of things (some big, some small) that had been frustrating and upsetting to me.

(Want to know where I’m accepting donations these days without reading a long missive? I’m on Ko-Fi for one-time donations and Liberapay for ongoing contributions.)

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Site updates!

So hey, Publ now has a tagging system, so I’ve updated my site to show tags in a lot of places. I’m not sure if I should make some sort of tag explorer view or if it’s okay to just pivot between tags within a category listing. Insight or ideas would be most welcome.

What I want to do at some point is tag all of my comics with subject matter and characters, but that seems like a lot of work. I wonder if there’s a way to outsource that to other folks which doesn’t involve opening up my git repo to the world. Maybe I’ll build a simple tool which lets people suggest tags for entries which don’t have tags. Iunno.

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