Kicks Condor
20 Jun 2019

Reply: Listening to Dux

Neil Mather

Listening to Kicks’ Kicks Mix on Duxtape, his dat-based remix of muxtape (mp3 mixtapes). The music’s good, the technology’s decentralized. Maxin and relaxin.

Sweet! A few others are sharing some nice tapes on there as well. I have some improvements that I hope to throw out soon. To clean up the empty or unseeded tapes that might be on there. Glad you posted this—I’m unsure how serious to take the project.

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Reply: And The Infostrat Goes On

Ton Zijlstra

Indeed, when I think of ‘knowing someone’ in the context of information strategies, I always do so as ‘knowing someone within a specific context’. Sort of what Jimmy Wales said about Wikipedia editors a long time ago: “I don’t need to know who you are“, (i.e. full name and identity, full background), but I do need to know who you are on Wikipedia (the pattern of edits, consistency in behaviour, style of interaction). As Wikipedia, which is much less a crowdsourced thing than an editorial community, is the context that counts for him.

Cool quote—your next sentence is interesting:

Time is another factor that I feel is important, it is hard to maintain a false or limited persona consistently over a long time. So blogs that go back years are likely to show a pretty good picture of someone, even if the author aims to stick to a narrow band of interests.

This is true. I have some experience with this—personas are kind of a ticking time bomb. I also think they are going to be pretty important going forward.

Jennifer Hill:
And you’re probably all sitting there and you’re like, “This girl wants me to delete Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… I got a following! I got a brand!”

No, that’s not what I’m saying. You have two selves. You have a career self, who—I’m pretty sure all of us have to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for work or Medium or whatever other platform in the world you want to use—and then you have your personal self that knows the things that they’re doing. And what I’m speaking to right know is your personal self. You know, I understand you gotta make money, gotta make that dime…

Then during a bit of Q&A at the end, she makes the comment:

Jennifer Hill:
With the idea of websites comes the idea of allowing people to have multiple identities that they can throw on and off like hats.

I’m not making a definitive good/bad comment or recommendation, just tying together these thoughts with those you’ve made about ‘knowing people’. I think social media sets up the idea that you’re seeing a real portrait of the person—when it’s just a representation. (This makes we wonder if a social media ‘infostrat’ is more difficult than an RSS one, for instance.) Blogs and wikis are an obvious representation—they demand an infostrat.[1]

Instinct and intuition, hopefully fed with a diet of ok info, is our internal black box algorithm.

Cool, this is sick. Don’t want to code that internal algorithm too tightly.

News, as pretending to be neutral reporting of things happening, breaks that. Because there wont be any potential overlap between me and the news channel as filters, no feedback loops. And because it purports to lift something from the background noise as signal without an inkling as to why or because of what it does so. Filtering needs signifying of stories. Why are you sharing this with me? Your perception of somethings significance is my potential signal.

Ok, ok—I think I see what you’re saying. The specific kind of neutrality you’re talking about is a neutrality of relationship. To me, this might not be expressing ‘neutrality’—events no longer exist because they happened in the past. I think I am just trying to understand your low valuation of ‘news’.

There is a distinction between news (breaking: something happened!) and (investigative) journalism (lets explore why this is, or how this came to be). Journalism is much closer to storytelling. Your blogging is close to storytelling. Stories are vehicles of human meaning and signification. I do follow journalists.

After a certain event in my life (itself newsworthy,) I began searching online for others who had suffered catastrophes. I often found quotes from survivors in headline news articles which resonated with me. I messaged many people; heard back from one. My discovery of her has been monumental for me—and I still often revisit the original news articles.

You could simply say that these ‘news’ articles contain journalism—but the original articles describing her sudden event feel neutral—factual? Because of their urgency, they are raw details and quotes. And they could lead to further journalism—they shed the initial light on this woman.

But addressing your statement: neutral isn’t useful in a filter. I’m not sure I agree. If my filter is able to weed out certain search terms—like say I want to be notified if my own name ever occurs in the news, or if “Bernie Sanders” and “flossing” ever show up together—it seems the filter could potentially make the neutral useful. ‘Neutral’ seems to be synonymous with ‘clickbait’ or something—which I don’t think of as being ‘neutral’ but as being ‘devoid’.

I feel like I’m still missing your point—especially when you say: “Factual and neutral are often taken as the same, but they’re different, and I think I prefer factual.” Can you give me a more concrete example of ‘neutral’ that illustrates what you mean? (Also, if I’m harping on about something meaningless, feel free to just drop the thread.) I guess I feel like you’re onto something—but I want to actually understand it.

My views on technology as well as methods is that we must keep it close to humanity, keep driving humanity into it, not abstract it so we become its object, instead of being its purpose.

Dig this. Thankyou for all the bonus words, Ton!


  1. I might be hasty here—need to think about how to articulate this better. ↩︎

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Reply: Against Blogging

Chris Aldrich

What he’s getting at here, but isn’t quite saying is “Why can’t we expand the Domain beyond the restrained idea of “just a blog.” And isn’t that just the whole point of the IndieWeb movement? Your website can literally be anything you want it to be! Just go do it. Invent. Iterate. Have fun!

While it grates on me to seeing ‘blogging’ derided, I think it’s a good step if it moved away from being homework. One of the ‘generalizations’ in the slides is: “Most students don’t read blogs unless required/forced to.” I think you would agree that reading is actually the foremost activity when blogging—you and I do a ton of reading, all of my favorite hypertexters do. And possibly the biggest problem with social media today is how much writing is done without sufficient reading. (The term ‘the shallows’ returns to mind—which isn’t a good adjective for any of the blogs I really get into.)

To me, it is the method of reading that needs to be questioned—not the method of writing. Express yourself however you want. But now we’ve got mixed media everywhere and it’s been very hard for people to adapt to consuming a variety of it. (Certain people have adapted to listening to podcasts, others to YouTube, very few to blogs—possibly as a result of the complexity of hypertext.)

However, Ton’s recent stuff on reading by social distance seems to show how early we are in fathoming how to read the world of dynamic, criss-crossing text.

It kills me how many in the edtech/Domains space seem to love memes. It’s always cute and fun, but they feel so vapid and ineffectual. It’s like copying someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as our own. English teachers used to say, “Don’t be cliché,” but now through the use of digital memes they’re almost encouraging it.

It seems similar to clip art of previous generations—it prevents the paralysis of a blank canvas for many people. It also seems to be part of the movement to make text more visual—as seen in Twitter embeds or using screenshot images of text—people seem to be getting more averse to just straight text. (This could get even worse if VR ever takes off.)

But I really agree with your point. Even in this video, many poor reasons are given for dropping ‘blogging’: it’s not “disruptive” enough, students don’t intuitively understand it (lacking a historical context for it), it’s not trending any more… But text still has real power. If anyone doubts me on this point, go read Nadia Eghbal’s essay “The Tyranny of Ideas”—I thought this was tremendous. Sure, she could have done this as a video—but it would have likely taken longer, required more equipment, and I think it would be more difficult to review again and again. Does text need a performance?

I think h0p3 is spot on with the term pleonasmic (pleonastic?). Which could also be rephrased: “the dogged attempt to resist cliché.”

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Reply: Olia Lialina

joe jenett

I love it when you go all metaphysical in plain language. While I continue thinking about this, I must share something I just encountered - http://art.teleportacia.org/ - cheers

Heya Joe. I love this! I have linked to her before (The GeoCities Research Institute)—but I wasn’t aware how many of her other projects I had encountered before. That main page that does the scrolling trick—I had thought about using that technique on my own page, but couldn’t remember where I’d seen it.

Oh and one recent link you’ve shared (Edwin Wenink) is a great discovery! I love how turning on “dark mode” turns on laser eyes for his self-portrait. It’s also a great portal to other things.

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15 Jun 2019

Reply to cunt_monger

AHa—ok, I’ve got this, I can help: right-click on your mixtape and select ‘View Source’. Add the file to that screen and it won’t crash. Then go back to your mixtape’s page on Duxtape and drop the file AGAIN on that page. Golden? (Apologies—I am new to Beaker.)

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14 Jun 2019

What Draws Me to Surrealism

A few reasons, thoughts behind what is driving the current movement, as well as all of life everywhere.

It’s now time to tell you about myself. I feel like I should tell you something very revealing. From what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure that a revelation like this must occur in order for anyone to care about me. I don’t exist unless I tell you something!

I think that if I am to talk to you, it must come by communicating something, surely. But it’s more than this. I’m also in this mood—I’m reeling with rambunctious energy! I feel like I can say anything and it will be true—but I also want to open my mouth and to say something that actually IS true. So I might try that! We’ll see, in just a moment.

Okay, let’s see. I am compelled to talk intensely about all of life, about the very core of myself. About all of the Earth. About animals. About the sky! About the lightning that descends from it. About little keys and chains and about ornate knobs that exist apart from the original bureaus to which they where attached! I feel suddenly enabled—and this is by what I’ve seen, by just a simple mouse cursor I saw—to attempt to explain this consciousness and to paint my full perspective in a shattering way, to dispel every pretense and to unveil all of life and to do it by talking about surrealism. (Especially surrealism as it exists on the Web, on blogs and on zines as they are coming through the postal service.)

The mouse cursor that I saw was of a simple Jersey cow, lowing in the field. I was not looking for a new mouse cursor at the time, I was simply drinking from a clear canister. The circumstances could not be less intriguing. I was drinking from a clear canister and I had my hand resting on the bough of a tree.

Normally I close my eyes while I am drinking. I close them very tight actually. Sometimes my eyelids hurt from closing them so tightly! I have to tell myself to not close them so tightly. And that’s what I did in this moment: I was telling myself not to close my eyelids so tightly. I was repeating to myself the phrase: Decci Estefani Epcot—which is a phonetical reading of an acronym which stands for “Don’t Ever Close Your Eyelids So Tightly That the Force of Your Entire Person is Concentrated There.” I repeated this again and again in my mind. Decci Estefani Epcot. Decci Estefani Epcot. In my mind, many times.

I am very careful to say it precisely, as it is a slight tongue twister. Not a notable one at all. But a minor one. My eyelids love it. Let’s just say: they were doing fine. And as I said, the vision of this Jersey cow mouse cursor was conjured in my vision, moving across my neighbor’s yard.

I was standing on a ladder, looking into this neighbor’s yard, while this mouse cursor clicked on different things. The grass. Then an in-ground trampoline. Then a bush. A bird flew out of the bush. It clicked on a screen door and it rattled slightly. It clicked on the bush a few more times, but there were no birds there, just a rustling.

I marveled at this cursor—I hadn’t even thought to look at the bush or the in-ground trampoline before. I wouldn’t even have tried. Not before this. But now I looked, I really looked! And I truly saw them in all of their splendor. The pleasant thump of the trampoline’s tarpaulin! I thought to myself that it would be lovely to have a mouse cursor in my life that would click on various things, bringing my attention to them and making them fully interactive. It didn’t occur to me that I actually did have one now. I looked, and it seemed totally independent and detached from me, not mine in any sense, not belonging to any of us, but just a translucent layer, existing on top of the projections of my eyes. It shook its head from side to side, nervously. But I could see that it was beaming with a raw, youthful embarrassment.

Now, this is not the revelation—many of you have written in to tell me about your mouse cursors and what you like to do with them. And also I should say, I worry about bringing up the wrong thing here. Do you ever say something offhanded to someone and then two days later you suddenly throw yourself BACKWARDS against the wall in the middle of the day and you yell HEY WAIT THIS IS A BAD SITUATION! Of course, when someone notices you, you laugh playfully, as if it you were just kidding around—but in secret, you struggle to breathe again and you close your eyelids way too tight, and you find you are trapped in this situation from then on, paralyzed by what you can ever do right again.

What I am saying is—well, first off, I have many times seen a wolf on top of my neighbor’s house. It is usually just licking its paws or staring at children who are playing. It’s sitting on shingles as if they were just another natural biome. But what I’m saying is that I’m afraid that many of you will think I am saying “wolf”—as in “German.” (Because I often used that word to derogatorily refer to Germans when I was a young person. And it was true back then—many Germans were wolves in those days, they would steal my train tickets. But it’s no longer true—so I no longer say it, but I’m afraid to now even bring up the word “wolf” even if I have a good reason, like if I want to tell you that I’ve seen one on my neighbor’s roof.)

So this is the revelation—why exactly I struggle to use the word “wolf” on this blog or even in my private life, in the most intimate moments. Well, no, I do use it there very frequently.

Now it is nighttime and I am confronting this digitally, to see how it goes. The FBI and the KGB are here watching my every move. They love to peep in and to announce their presence on my screen. There is a little icon of a man’s face. It appears in my system tray and it winks once at me. But if I try to show anyone else the man’s face, it fades into an ordinary Dropbox logo. This is quite maddening. But, being a former computer expert, I do know what it takes to make a smooth fade transition.

So, yes, this is what draws me to the surrealist community. And to bee videos, which is the closest thing I have right now to my mouse cursor.

  1. I love it when you go all metaphysical in plain language. While I continue thinking about this, I must share something I just encountered - http://art.teleportacia.org/ - cheers
  2. Reply: Olia Lialina

    joe jenett

    I love it when you go all metaphysical in plain language. While I continue thinking about this, I must share something I just encountered - http://art.teleportacia.org/ - cheers

    Heya Joe. I love this! I have linked to her before (The GeoCities Research Institute)—but I wasn’t aware how many of her other projects I had encountered before. That main page that does the scrolling trick—I had thought about using that technique on my own page, but couldn’t remember where I’d seen it.

    Oh and one recent link you’ve shared (Edwin Wenink) is a great discovery! I love how turning on “dark mode” turns on laser eyes for his self-portrait. It’s also a great portal to other things.

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@h0p3: (re: ugh) I guess this is the ‘hyper’ part of the hyperconversation. There’s conversation splattered on the ceiling at this point. (Take, for example, that I am responding to three letters here, which has tons of context around it—and I don’t know if anyone else but you and I can trace it!) It’s weird that I’m writing to you indirectly lately—but I feel like you’re okay with it for the moment. ✌️

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13 Jun 2019

Infostrats

One does not simply read the Internet…

(Draft.)

This term I lifted from Ton Zijlstra—what is my strategy to comb through the gigs and gigs of input I can plug myself into on the Web? My aim here is to keep my finger on the pulse of individual personal activity on the unwalled Web, so my infostrat is mainly about attempting to track and discover thousands of people. But Ton also includes: deciding what and how to bookmark or archive stuff, sorting through conflicting news stories and accusations, and alternating “periods of discovery with periods of digesting and consolidating”.[1]

In a way, the effort is to establish a personal internal algorithm to help the Web survive—the infostrat. This seems essential.

But, first, is tracking thousands of people a worthwile effort? Doesn’t that just lead to a large, thin layer of links for people that you really don’t know much about? (And, thus, leading to the same kind of linkblogs that we’ve seen over the years, which chase one novelty after another—a giant conveyor belt that just rolls by?)

From Ton:

A useful method all through human evolution is expanding your range of interactions by off-loading things to your environment[2], and so diminishing the amount of information you have to remember or handle at the same time.

Much like a traveller who wants to see the world, experience cuisine and stand in front of important paintings—I want to find all kinds of people and see if we can talk and get along and work together even.[3] I know it’s probably not possible to have 1,000 deep relationships. It’s sick to even discuss numbers in this way. The only reason I say ‘thousands’ is to open myself up from my old way—which I felt was to have only a handful of close friends. But now I am wondering what is possible.

So now, with my aim quite clear, I think of the tools. Inately, I feel that simple and obvious tools are best. This is a reaction to the inscrutable algorithms we see on the social networks. If I don’t understand the workings of the algorithm, then it is arbitrary to me. However, I know that I will need some complexity—I already find usefulness in crafting detailed tag queries on Pinboard.

Tools are tools because they provide agency, they let us do things that would otherwise be harder or impossible. Tools are tools because they provide reach, as extensions of our physical presence, not just across space but also across time. For a very long time I have been convinced that tools need to be smaller than us, otherwise they’re not tools of real value.[4]

So what does it mean for tech to be ‘small’? From the essay “Small Tech Provides Agency, Big Tech Takes It Away”:

Technology to provide us with agency needs to be not just small, but smaller than us, i.e. within the scope of control of the group of people deploying a technology or method.

An example is given: ‘Facebook groups are failed tools, because someone outside those groups controls the off-switch.’ This is a useful distinction—the tool needn’t necessarily be small in purpose. But it must be entirely within your control—or the group’s control. Another example: ‘Like the thermometer in my garden that tells me the temperature, but has additional value in a network of thermometers mapping my city’s microclimates.’

Ton has a very good summary of agency (a way of thinking through the purpose of the tool) and Aral Balkan has a list of criteria for ‘small tech’ that I think I agree with.

Now, given the goal of “find the others”—here is my cheat sheet summary:

  • My tools must aid both discovery and digestion. (I sound like a velociraptor here.)
  • Specialized ‘digestion’ tools: RSS reader, familiar ‘planets’ like Indienews and Indieweb.xyz.
  • Specialized ‘discovery’ tools: search engines, crawlers, directories.
    • Do I use my feeds as a starting point? Search engines and crawlers could begin there. “Here is a big list of newly discovered items among the places you frequent.”
    • It’s also very important to get outside that. My instincts say that this is the place for ingenuity, following random epiphanies and trying unknown tools and networks, to see what shakes out.
    • Encouraging the development of directories. Once a new directory emerges, there is suddenly an expansion in reach for ‘discovery’.
  • ‘Blogs’/‘wikis’ are a good tool for both, because they network the discovery and digestion process. This is already collaborative.
    • How does this improve in 2019? Well, for now, by using a hybrid blog and wiki—to combine the reverse chronological order of a blog with the information storehouse of a wiki. (Hypertexting)
    • Right now there are stark lines between text, audio and video. Do the lines blur somewhere? I’m far from knowing how this media comes into play.

Of course, there are people everywhere and I could spend all day on Instagram. But I find that unsatisfying—I hate scrolling news feeds. These are not ‘small tech’—perhaps the interface might be, but the algorithm and the network is not. I wonder to what extent the corpypastas (or CorpASAs) limit the infostrat.

Social Distance

My father:
Conversation is a sacrament.

Ton:
My filtering is not a stand alone thing in isolation, it is part of a network of filters, yours, mine, and other people’s. My output is based on filtered input, and that output ends up in other people’s filtered input. I treat blogging as thinking out loud and extending/building on other’s blogposts as conversation. Conversations that are distributed over multiple websites and over time, distributed conversations.

h0p3:
Hyperconversation. It’s more than the usual penpalling.

The core of Ton’s infostrat is ‘social distance’—in a way, how deeply nested into conversation are you with this person?

I know many people, some very well, others less so, or I only know what you’ve shared on your site recently and we haven’t met at all. The social distance I perceive between me and you is part of the context of filtering. This is an otherwise unspecified mix of personal, professional, and other aspects that I am aware of with others.

In my RSS reader, I use a weight called ‘importance’: do I read this person daily? Weekly? Do I need be notified the minute they have something new? And my reader simply shows an overview—I actually have to go to the blog to digest. This ‘importance’ is a misnomer, though—I think ‘social distance’ is a better term.

Conversations prove out and strengthen the signal. They are also generators of source material and topics that line the conversation. (I may not necessarily converse with someone—I may just admire their art or writings, which all might become important.)[5]

This means that where I source information can’t be of the ‘news’ type, stuff that pretends it is neutral. Neutral isn’t useful in a filter. Commented, interpreted, augmented material is useful in a filter, as it adds context that help determine its information value. I source information from individuals as a result.

I’m not sure what to think about this. “Neutral isn’t useful.” What about Wikipedia? What about neighborhood events? These all feel like they can help—act as discovery points even.

Is the problem that ‘news’ doesn’t have an apparent aim? Like an algorithm’s workings can be inscrutable, perhaps the motives of a ‘neutral’ source are in question? There is the thought that nothing is neutral. I don’t know what to think or believe on this topic. I tend to think that there is an axis where neutral is good and another axis where neutral is immoral…

Who you are as a person is an essential piece of context in how to judge information. If you’re walking on the street and a random stranger asks to have a coffee, you interpret it very differently from when your partner walking next to you asks you the same thing. We are all walking information filters, our brains are very well used to doing that. So what I know socially about you helps me interpret what you share, as it will be coloured by who you are. Let’s call this social filtering.

Knowing people is tricky. You can know someone really well at work for a decade, then you visit their home and realize how little you really know them. This is worse on the Web because we are so much more concealed. On the other hand, you can meet someone and instantly grasp a huge part of their ‘self’.

I wonder if ‘knowing someone’ drives ‘social distance’—or if ‘desire to know someone’ defines ‘social distance’. How can we know Banksy? Is there a conversation there? What defines my social distance from @alienmelon or The World (a favorite band)? Maybe it’s worse than I thought—just a momentary, fragile vein of interest…

(I think about They Might Be Giants, which was such an important band to me as a teenager—and to all my friends as teenagers. But no one in that group would listen to them today. Today is for other things. Some say they haven’t aged well or that they are just for children. And I struggle to find any part of me that would want to listen to them again. But those arguments never stop us from listening to other things—perhaps there is a sensible, evolutionary argument for why these types of people go away for us—like we periodically need to clear space for new people. This ‘interest’ in some ways a social fabric type thing: zeitgeist, (‘spirit of the times’), this mood that effects all of us and acts as a superfilter on the culture—such that we can all agree that Holmes & Watson was a bad film.)

So we all live on this giant graph paper and we all have coordinates in different places—and when I look at h0p3 and I on the graph, we are way across from each other. Except the labels are all Socialist, Mormon, Aesthete, Atheist, Pluralist, Hikikomori, Cynic, Taco Bell Enthusiasm Levels, etc. When we turn the paper over to the Pleonasmic Rating, we’re right there, side-by-side, and the zeitgeist is well away.

So I think it’s instinctual. If you feel a closeness, it’s there. It’s more about cultivating that closeness. I just need to listen to some They Might Be Giants, as a thankyou for an old, forgotten closeness.


  1. No, I haven't read Ton's entire blog, but I've read everything under the tags that seemed relevant. It's very enlightening stuff! It is very focused on just being a human who is attempting to communicate with other humans---that's it really. ↩︎

  2. I would also like to suggest that it is much more difficult to control myself---in the Nike sense---than it is to control my environment to control me. (A simple example would be: setting an alarm clock.) So 'tools' can be an external actor on my own behalf, towards myself! ↩︎

  3. I can't help but feel that this is all motivated by an urgency that death has brought on. I have had seven people close to me die before middle age---three of them under the age of 10. My time and yours is small. I avidly read the wiki of luxb0x (a child) both because I fear losing him and because it is a gift for him to ACTUALLY BE ALIVE! At the same time that I am! ↩︎

  4. "Tools Valuable On Their Own, More Valuable When Connected" by, again, Ton. ↩︎

  5. Also interesting to think that the limitations of social networks hinder all of this---I personally can't have a conversation like this on Instagram or Facebook, because the network is inflexible or because it's unknown where my notes will end up in the feed. Imagine this steno trying to exist anywhere like that---though it would probably be fine on Reddit, I'm not sure. ↩︎

  1. Kicks Condor dives deeply into my info-strategy postings and impressively read them all as the whole they form. It’s a rather generous gift of engagement and attention. Lots of different things to respond to, neurons firing, and tangents to explore. Some elements with a first reaction.

    Knowing people is tricky. You can know someone really well at work for a decade, then you visit their home and realize how little you really know them.

    Indeed, when I think of ‘knowing someone’ in the context of information strategies, I always do so as ‘knowing someone within a specific context’. Sort of what Jimmy Wales said about Wikipedia editors a long time ago: “I don’t need to know who you are“, (i.e. full name and identity, full background), but I do need to know who you are on Wikipedia (ihe pattern of edits, consistency in behaviour, style of interaction). As Wikipedia, which is much less a crowdsourced thing than an editorial community, is the context that counts for him. Time is another factor that I feel is important, it is hard to maintain a false or limited persona consistently over a long time. So blogs that go back years are likely to show a pretty good picture of someone, even if the author aims to stick to a narrow band of interests. My own blog is a case in point of that. (I once landed a project where at first the client was hesitant, doubting whether what I said was really me or just what they wanted to hear. After a few meetings everything was suddenly in order. “I’ve read your blog archives over the weekend and now know you’ll bring the right attitude to our issue”) When couch surfing was a novel thing, I made having been blogging for at least a year or two a precondition to use our couch.

    I wonder if ‘knowing someone’ drives ‘social distance’—or if ‘desire to know someone’ defines ‘social distance’. […] So I think it’s instinctual. If you feel a closeness, it’s there. It’s more about cultivating that closeness.

    This sounds right to me. It’s my perceived social distance or closeness, so it’s my singular perspective, a one way estimate. It’s not an estimation nor measure of relationship, more one of felt kinship from one side, indeed intuitive as you say. Instinct and intuition, hopefully fed with a diet of ok info, is our internal black box algorithm. Cultivating closeness seems a worthwhile aim, especially when the internet allows you to do so with others than those that just happened to be in the same geographic spot you were born into. Escaping the village you grew up in to the big city is the age old way for both discovery and actively choosing who you want to get closer to. Blogs are my online city, or rather my self-selected personal global village.

    I’m not sure what to think about this. “Neutral isn’t useful.” What about Wikipedia? What about neighborhood events? These all feel like they can help—act as discovery points even.

    Is the problem that ‘news’ doesn’t have an apparent aim? Like an algorithm’s workings can be inscrutable, perhaps the motives of a ‘neutral’ source are in question? There is the thought that nothing is neutral. I don’t know what to think or believe on this topic. I tend to think that there is an axis where neutral is good and another axis where neutral is immoral.

    Responding to this is a multi-headed beast, as there’s a range of layers and angles involved. Again a lot of this is context. Let me try and unpick a few things.

    First, it goes back to the point before it, that filters in a network (yours, mine) that overlap create feedback loops that lift patterns above the noise. News, as pretending to be neutral reporting of things happening, breaks that. Because there won’t be any potential overlap between me and the news channel as filters, no feedback loops. And because it purports to lift something from the background noise as signal without an inkling as to why or because of what it does so. Filtering needs signifying of stories. Why are you sharing this with me? Your perception of something’s significance is my potential signal.

    There is a distinction between news (breaking: something happened!) and (investigative) journalism (let’s explore why this is, or how this came to be). Journalism is much closer to storytelling. Your blogging is close to storytelling. Stories are vehicles of human meaning and signification. I do follow journalists. (Journalism to survive likely needs to let go of ‘news’. News is a format, one that no longer serves journalism.)

    Second, neutral can be useful, but I wrote neutral isn’t useful in a filter, because it either carries no signifcation, or worse that has been purposefully hidden or left out. Wikipedia isn’t neutral, not by a long-shot, and it is extensively curated, the traces of which are all on deliberate display around the eventually neutrally worded content. Factual and neutral are often taken as the same, but they’re different, and I think I prefer factual. Yet we must recognise that a lot of things we call facts are temporary placeholders (the scientific method is more about holding questions than definitive answers), socially constructed agreements, settled upon meaning, and often laden with assumptions and bias. (E.g. I learned in Dutch primary school that Belgium seceded from the Netherlands in 1839, Flemish friends learned Belgium did so in 1830. It took the Netherlands 9 years to reconcile themselves with what happened in 1830, yet that 1839 date was still taught in school as a singular fact 150 years later.)
    There is a lot to say for aiming to word things neutrally. And then word the felt emotions and carried meanings with it. Loading wording of things themselves with emotions and dog whistles is the main trait of populistic debate methods. Allowing every response to such emotion to be parried with ‘I did not say that‘ and finger pointing at the emotions triggered within the responder (‘you’re unhinged!‘)

    Finally, I think a very on-point remark is hidden in footnote one:

    It is very focused on just being a human who is attempting to communicate with other humans—that’s it really.

    Thank you for this wording. That’s it. I’ve never worded it this way for myself, but it is very to the point. Our tools are but extensions of ourselves, unless we let them get out of control, let them outgrow us. My views on technology as well as methods is that we must keep it close to humanity, keep driving humanity into it, not abstract it so we become its object, instead of being its purpose. As the complexity in our world is rooted in our humanity as well, I see keeping our tech human as the way to deal with complexity.

  2. Reply: And The Infostrat Goes On

    Ton Zijlstra

    Indeed, when I think of ‘knowing someone’ in the context of information strategies, I always do so as ‘knowing someone within a specific context’. Sort of what Jimmy Wales said about Wikipedia editors a long time ago: “I don’t need to know who you are“, (i.e. full name and identity, full background), but I do need to know who you are on Wikipedia (the pattern of edits, consistency in behaviour, style of interaction). As Wikipedia, which is much less a crowdsourced thing than an editorial community, is the context that counts for him.

    Cool quote—your next sentence is interesting:

    Time is another factor that I feel is important, it is hard to maintain a false or limited persona consistently over a long time. So blogs that go back years are likely to show a pretty good picture of someone, even if the author aims to stick to a narrow band of interests.

    This is true. I have some experience with this—personas are kind of a ticking time bomb. I also think they are going to be pretty important going forward.

    Jennifer Hill:
    And you’re probably all sitting there and you’re like, “This girl wants me to delete Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… I got a following! I got a brand!”

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. You have two selves. You have a career self, who—I’m pretty sure all of us have to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for work or Medium or whatever other platform in the world you want to use—and then you have your personal self that knows the things that they’re doing. And what I’m speaking to right know is your personal self. You know, I understand you gotta make money, gotta make that dime…

    Then during a bit of Q&A at the end, she makes the comment:

    Jennifer Hill:
    With the idea of websites comes the idea of allowing people to have multiple identities that they can throw on and off like hats.

    I’m not making a definitive good/bad comment or recommendation, just tying together these thoughts with those you’ve made about ‘knowing people’. I think social media sets up the idea that you’re seeing a real portrait of the person—when it’s just a representation. (This makes we wonder if a social media ‘infostrat’ is more difficult than an RSS one, for instance.) Blogs and wikis are an obvious representation—they demand an infostrat.[1]

    Instinct and intuition, hopefully fed with a diet of ok info, is our internal black box algorithm.

    Cool, this is sick. Don’t want to code that internal algorithm too tightly.

    News, as pretending to be neutral reporting of things happening, breaks that. Because there wont be any potential overlap between me and the news channel as filters, no feedback loops. And because it purports to lift something from the background noise as signal without an inkling as to why or because of what it does so. Filtering needs signifying of stories. Why are you sharing this with me? Your perception of somethings significance is my potential signal.

    Ok, ok—I think I see what you’re saying. The specific kind of neutrality you’re talking about is a neutrality of relationship. To me, this might not be expressing ‘neutrality’—events no longer exist because they happened in the past. I think I am just trying to understand your low valuation of ‘news’.

    There is a distinction between news (breaking: something happened!) and (investigative) journalism (lets explore why this is, or how this came to be). Journalism is much closer to storytelling. Your blogging is close to storytelling. Stories are vehicles of human meaning and signification. I do follow journalists.

    After a certain event in my life (itself newsworthy,) I began searching online for others who had suffered catastrophes. I often found quotes from survivors in headline news articles which resonated with me. I messaged many people; heard back from one. My discovery of her has been monumental for me—and I still often revisit the original news articles.

    You could simply say that these ‘news’ articles contain journalism—but the original articles describing her sudden event feel neutral—factual? Because of their urgency, they are raw details and quotes. And they could lead to further journalism—they shed the initial light on this woman.

    But addressing your statement: neutral isn’t useful in a filter. I’m not sure I agree. If my filter is able to weed out certain search terms—like say I want to be notified if my own name ever occurs in the news, or if “Bernie Sanders” and “flossing” ever show up together—it seems the filter could potentially make the neutral useful. ‘Neutral’ seems to be synonymous with ‘clickbait’ or something—which I don’t think of as being ‘neutral’ but as being ‘devoid’.

    I feel like I’m still missing your point—especially when you say: “Factual and neutral are often taken as the same, but they’re different, and I think I prefer factual.” Can you give me a more concrete example of ‘neutral’ that illustrates what you mean? (Also, if I’m harping on about something meaningless, feel free to just drop the thread.) I guess I feel like you’re onto something—but I want to actually understand it.

    My views on technology as well as methods is that we must keep it close to humanity, keep driving humanity into it, not abstract it so we become its object, instead of being its purpose.

    Dig this. Thankyou for all the bonus words, Ton!


    1. I might be hasty here—need to think about how to articulate this better. ↩︎

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12 Jun 2019

Reply: Further Infostrats

Ton Zijlstra

I have noticed that the news-feed type stream of posts of all feeds together carries echoes of the allergy I built up for my endless FB and Twitter streams.

Ok, thank you—I am with you on this as well. It sounds like we might be in agreement that there is much innovation to do in the spectrum of ‘feeds’/‘filters’. I think I also agree that needing access to the full post contents is useful—otherwise we end up with titles dominating and our filter weighs toward attractive headlines.

Re: ‘heat maps’—I’m reluctant to give any thought to the popularity of a writing. Yet, there’s no doubt that it’s important. If people are congregating, it’s worth knowing what the fuss is about. (I found your wonderful essay through Indienews—and this is a case where checking there has made it all worth it.) But I don’t want the zeitgeist jerking me around all day—think of it as a literal “ghost of The Now” pushing me around—I just want to peek at it usually and then move on to reading those things that are being overlooked.

I’m not saying you are wrong to prize that higher for yourself—I think perhaps the most innovative thing that can be done is to provide a variety of views on this filter—maybe RSS readers have just been too narrow by making themselves simple ‘inbox’ clones. We are trying to wrangle a lot of data here; we might need something quite configurable to do this task. (Which is contrary to my own reader—which I have been designing to be extremely naive.)

This is getting away from the juiciest part of your article, though: that there are serious human skills to build up. Reading and filtering. (I like your tag: ‘infostrats’.) But your mention of ‘heat maps’, for instance, reveals that our tools can improve with respect to enhancing our ‘infostrats’. Thank you for the further thoughts, Ton!

UPDATE: Okay, after looking through your archives, I can see that this reply was hasty. It’s amusing to me that you actually cover much of this in your discussions about ‘small tech’. Your essays over the years are a formidable work. I find myself very much in agreement as I read!

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Reply: Feed Reading By Social Distance

Ton Zijlstra

My filtering is not a stand alone thing in isolation, it is part of a network of filters, yours, mine, and other people’s. My output is based on filtered input, and that output ends up in other people’s filtered input.I treat blogging as thinking out loud and extending/building on other’s blogposts as conversation. Conversations that are distributed over multiple websites and over time, distributed conversations.

Cripes! I think this is the best essay I’ve read on how to read the Web. I agree with all of it.

I am definitely going to read this article several times before properly responding to it. But this is insanely rich stuff. I completely agree with and recognize the entire filtering strategy as my own. Feeling some kinship there.

As for the feed reader, it’s even worse: my own prototype (Fraidycat) is very close to what you describe. I assign feeds ‘importance’ levels that are much like ‘social distance’—I’m trying to decide if that term nails it for me. I’m not sure yet! It’s a good one, though.

I think the one area where I am not sure is still having to deal with a ‘news feed’-type stream of posts in each of those folders—is that your ideal way of reading? I feel like it focuses too much on recency. I’ve been enjoying just seeing a pulse of recent activity and then needing to visit their site to actually take it in (and perhaps explore further).

I definitely feel like the ‘social distance’ thing has helped crystallize why I put certain people into different ‘importances’—and it’s not just because they are actually more ‘important’ (like: to the universe). Anyway, brilliant!!!

  1. No that’s not my ‘ideal’ way of reading, although it is a representation of the core concept that made blogs blogs, the reverse chronological order. Ideally I’d have ‘heat maps’ of activity in a network visualisation. The way you can spot on a public square where people are most engaged. Or other visualisations along those lines.

    For that reason I mostly leave the compilation of all feeds in my reader alone. What I do is I check in a folder which blogs have posted (in the earlier screenshots you see the author’s name and then a number, which is the number of unread posts). I click on the individual feeds I am curious about. Then I start working my way from the ‘closest’ folder to the ‘furthest’ in terms of social distance.

    For the start of actual reading, within a single blog’s feed, I am fine with the reverse chronological order, as most recent is an aspect of how I filter. Yet, it usually leads to reading on the source blog and then following links etc deeper into a site. I do need full post feeds though, I can’t stomach just having excerpts or not even that, which require me to click through just to see if it is worth a read. I use an offline reader on purpose.

    I have noticed that the news-feed type stream of posts of all feeds together carries echoes of the allergy I built up for my endless FB and Twitter streams.

    Replied to Feed Reading By Social Distance (Kicks Condor)

    I think the one area where I am not sure is still having to deal with a ‘news feed’-type stream of posts in each of those folders—is that your ideal way of reading?

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Archive of Our Own

Everyone is linking to this—but, come on! This is in my dept…

Ok, wow—this feels good. This link is not a search engine, not a hashtag database—but an old school type web directory! (See—Brad, Joe, here we go!) A rising one, with a nomination at the Hugo Awards and coverage in a recent Wired article by Gretchen McCulloch:

On AO3 [Archive of Our Own], users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you.

My God—web directory + human curation! This is my dream. The article is fantastic: interviews with tag wranglers and greater detail on what goes into it. They’ve actually figured out how to do a centralized database (like Yahoo! or DMOZ) and keep it orderly, useful, current.

To see for yourself exactly how this plays out, there is this spot in a YouTube video that shows how the categorization works. It does lean heavily on autocomplete and rigid selections—but you can always just type in whatever you like. But, jeez, it is astonishing the depth of categorization!

This is not a new thing, of course—so I may look ignorant to the AO3 users who may encounter this post. The @ao3_wranglers Twitter account has been around since 2011—and the site began its beta in 2009—but I think we can say that this method is now proven and can be used elsewhere.

Anyway, I recently made an attempt to describe a curation role just like this:

But I think we also need a librarian ethic somewhere among these groups. Maybe there are moderators out there who have this kind of commission. You are dealing with a community of writers, who are all filling the community up with their verbose output—this is all data that needs to be grappled with.

So, think of a librarian at work: putting books back under the proper heading, referring readers to specific titles, borrowing books from the outside—in fact, I wish communities were better about knowing what other communities are in the topical vicinity—to help everyone find themselves a home.

Cool, ‘tag wranglers’ it is! I sincerely hope this becomes more of a wider trend.

Of course, this doesn’t change anything when it comes to tiny directories—except that perhaps there is now a window for innovation in this neglected department. If you are building your own directory, you wrangle your own tags.

On the other hand, perhaps communities of tiny directories could come up with a common classification system for their group. I personally wouldn’t do this for href.cool—because I want its categories to be somewhat nonsensical and unfamiliar.

But I could see Indieweb.xyz using some tag wrangling! Basically, if you have people posting to /en/games and /en/video-games—perhaps you could just redirect the second to the first. Collapse redundant tags into a single spot.

Ok, going to stop talking—I’ve posted way too much today. Apologies, the arrival of summer is leaving me at the keyboard a bit more.

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Duxtape on June 12th, 2019

Ok, I thought I had really polished Duxtape up as much as I could. And now I’m realizing that many will close Beaker before their mixtape is fully seeded. It’d be nice to indicate if the full mixtape is available on the network. I was only able to grab 53% of the i, cactus one.

  1. I'm hitting the "beaker 0.8.8 crashes on «publish»" thing with tracks over N MB (seriously?). I need this! Help! ♥️🤖 I've got a banging set for y'all! 👾
  2. AHa—ok, I’ve got this, I can help: right-click on your mixtape and select ‘View Source’. Add the file to that screen and it won’t crash. Then go back to your mixtape’s page on Duxtape and drop the file AGAIN on that page. Golden? (Apologies—I am new to Beaker.)

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WWWTXT

A dial-up Tumblr.

I wish this was a Tumblr you could dial-up at 2400 bps—but I actually think it’s better than that. (Because interesting technical feats take a backseat, for me, to interesting prose.) This site pulls bits of text from early Internet sources (Usenet, CompuServer, Gopher) and makes ‘tweet’-style posts from them.

I often find sites that exude the visuals of this era (see: bad command or filename or Agora Road), but the quotes deliver some time travel.

"I am an official Nice Guy and I am also a True Nerd."

Many of the quotes are surprisingly prescient, others feel deluded or misty-eyed about the Internet. I sort of wish the entire original writing was cited—but it’s also nice that it’s low-commitment. It takes a few minutes to pore over these.

I found this by way of the essay “Before You Were Here” by Menso Heus on thehmm.nl, which makes a case for anonymity on the Web. Thank you!

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Reply to RangerMauve

Hey, hi! Do whatever you like. And I have to thank you for your blog. Your article on datPeers clued me in on that whole side of Beaker. One of my big problems with Beaker was what to do about discovery—I found that post a week ago.

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PSA:

  • If my design is hard on your eyes, you hate it—try ‘reader mode’ in your browser. Vivaldi even has a dark mode.
  • Thank you to Jason McIntosh and gRegorLove for reporting Indieweb problems with my HTML. Had a bunch of wrong stuff that’s been causing problems for ages. Feels good!
  • And also to Jacky for bringing up my Twitter problems. It’s an uncomfortable subject—but had to be done. Workin on a fix.

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Reply: Duxtape’s ‘Megabyte’ Problem

Kevin Marks

Trying out duxtape - looks like a hidden limit though, I can’t add songs over 10 MB or so? dat://8e65d24d1c6cfb852abd27105fd2d8e1dfdca55d55205c18cb35fce59c6be2bd/

Indeed—I can’t seem to publish a 36 MB song. This must be related to the bug mentioned in the Hacker News comments. I will need to look into this—10 MB is a perfectly reasonable song size! Thank you Kevin.

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10 Jun 2019

On Dat://

My teardown of Beaker and the Dat network.

We’re probably all scrambling to figure out a future for ourselves—either by hunting around for some shred of promising technology or by throwing up our hands—shouting and retreating and dreading the shadow of the next corporate titan descending from the sky. The prolonged lifespans of distributed protocols like Bitcoin and torrents means we’re maybe skeptical or jaded about any new protocols—these types of protocols are becoming old news. Maybe we’re just hunkered down in some current online bucket.

And I’ve felt this too—ActivityPub and Secure Scuttlebutt are too complicated. Tim Berner-Lee’s Solid is—well, I can’t even tell what it is. I don’t want to hear about blockchain: do we really need a GPU mining war at the center of our new Web? These are all someone’s idea of a distributed Web, but not mine. IPFS is really cool—but how do I surf it?

After discovering the Beaker Browser, a Web browser for the distributed Dat network, I felt that there was some real promise here. It was simple—load up the browser, create a website, pass your link around. There’s not much new to learn. And the underlying technology is solid: a binary protocol very similar to Git.[1] (As opposed to Secure Scuttlebutt, which is tons of encrypted JSON.)

I spent four months using Beaker actively: running this website on the network, messing with the different libraries, trying out the different apps—and then I hit a wall. Had a good time, for sure. And I kept seeding my Dats—kept my sites on the network. The technology was just lovely.

But: you can’t yet edit a website from a different browser (like on a different computer). This is called multi-writer support—and there is some talk about this landing by the end of the year. But this is, from what I can see, the single major omission in Beaker. (It’s not a problem with Dat itself—you can use a Hyperdb for that—but Beaker hasn’t settled the details.)

So I left Dat alone. I figured: they need time to work this problem out. Beaker has remained remarkably effortless to use—I’d hate for multi-writer to be tacked on, complicating the whole thing.

An Imperfect Dat—Cool?

Recently, it occured to me that maybe I don’t need multi-writer. And maybe I should really be sure that the rest of Dat is as perfect as I think it is. So I started working on a limited (but full-featured) app for Beaker, with the intention of writing up a full ‘review’/‘teardown’ of everything I discover in the process.

This is my review—and the app is Duxtape.

It occured to me that a Muxtape clone would be a perfect tracer bullet for me to push Beaker. (Muxtape was a 2008 website for sharing mixtapes—minimal design, suddenly became very prominent, and then was promptly DEMOLISHED by the music industry.)

  1. Muxtape was shut down because it was centralized. If Muxtape had been distributed[2], it would be much more difficult (perhaps impossible) to shutter.

  2. Muxtape did some file processing. Reading music file metadata (title, artist’s name) and loading music into the browser’s music player. Could the app handle this?

  3. The Muxtape home page listed recent mixtapes. This would give me a chance to use datPeers—a way of talking to others that are using the same site.

  4. Storing song information and order. I don’t have a database, so where do I put this stuff?

  5. A more general question: What if I upgrade the code? How do I handle upgrading the mixtapes too?

I also didn’t want to think in terms of social networks. Many of Beaker’s most advanced apps (like Fritter and Rotonde) are ‘messaging’/‘social’ apps. I specifically wanted a creation tool that spit out something that was easy to share.

How would Beaker do with that kind of tool?

A Teardown of The Network

Ok, so how does Dat work exactly? It is simply a unique address attached to a folder of files (kind of like a ZIP file.) You then share that folder on the network and others can sync it to their system when they visit the unique address.

In the case of Duxtape, the address is dat://df1cc…40.

Duxtapes file view.

The full folder contents can be viewed here at datBase.

So when you visit Duxtape, all that stuff is downloaded. Beaker will show you the index.html, which simply lets you create a new mixtape and lists any that you’ve encountered.

Now, you can’t edit my Dat—so how do you create a mixtape?? And how does it keep track of other mixtapes?? Teardown time!

CREATING A MIXTAPE

This creates a new Dat (new folder on your computer) with just index.html inside. I actually copy the tape.html from my Dat into that folder, your mixtape. That HTML file will load its images and Javascript and such from MY Duxtape dat! (This means I can upgrade my original Dat—and upgrade YOUR Dat automatically—cool, but… dangerous.)

DISCOVERING A MIXTAPE

When you hit someone else’s mixtape link, the Javascript loads the Duxtape home page in an HTML iframe—passing the link to that page. The link is then stored in ‘localStorage’ for that page. So, those are kept in a kind of a cookie. Nothing very server-like about any of that.

But furthermore: when you are on the Duxtape homepage, your browser will connect to other browsers (using datPeers) that are viewing the homepage. And you will trade mixtapes there. Think about this: you can only discover those who happen to be around when you are! It truly acts like a street corner for a random encounter.

ALTERING A MIXTAPE

Where are song titles and song ordering kept? Well, heh—this is just kept in the HTML—in your index.html. Many Beaker apps keep stuff like this in a JSON file. But I felt that there was no need for duplication. (I think the IndieWeb has fully corrupted me.) When I want to read the mixtape title, I load the index.html and find the proper tags in the page. (Like: span.tape-title, for instance.)

PUBLISHING A MIXTAPE

Beaker has a special technique you can use for batching up edits before you publish them. (See the checkout method.) Basically, you can create a temporary Dat, make your changes to it, then either delete it or publish it.

However, I didn’t go this route. It turned out that I could batch up all my changes in the browser before saving them. This includes uploaded files! I can play files in the browser and read their data without copying them to the Dat. So no need to do this. It’s a neat feature—for a different app.

So this allows you to work on your mixtape, add and delete songs, get it perfect—then upload things to the network.[3]

This all worked very well—though I doubt it would work as well if you had 1,000 songs on your mixtape. In that case, I’d probably recommend using a database to store stuff rather than HTML. But it still might work well for 1,000 songs—and maybe even 1,000,000. This is another advantage to not having a server as a bottleneck. There is only so much that a single person can do to overload their browser.

For reading song metadata, I used the music-metadata-browser library—yes, I actually parse the MP3 and OGG files right in the browser! This can only happen in modern times: Javascript has become a competent technology on the server, now all of that good stuff can move into the browser and the whole app doesn’t need a server—in fact, WebAssembly makes Dat even more compelling.

Special Feature: The DatArchive Object

Lastly, here are some calls that I used which are specific to the Beaker Browser—these are the only differences between running Duxtape in plain Chrome and running it distributed:

  1. stat: I use this to check if a song file has already been uploaded.

  2. readFile: To read the index.html when I need to get song information.

  3. writeFile: To save changes to songs—to publish the index.html for your mixtape.

  4. unlink: To delete songs—NOTE: that songs are still in the Dat’s history and may be downloaded.

  5. getInfo and configure: Just to update the name of the mixtape’s Dat if the name of the mixtape is changed by you. A small touch.

  6. isOwner: The getInfo() above also tells me if you are the owner of this mixtape. This is crucial! I wanted to highlight this—I use this to enable mixtape editing automatically. If you don’t own the mixtape, you don’t see this. (All editor controls are removed when the index.html is saved back to disk.)

So this should give you a good idea of what Dat adds. And I just want to say: I have been wondering for awhile why Dat has its own special format rather than just using something like Git. But now I see: that would be too complex. I am so glad that I don’t have to pull() and commit() and all that.

I spent most of my time working on the design and on subtle niceties—and that’s how it should be.

Peeling Back the Good and Bad

It’s clear that there are tremendous advantages here: Dat is apps without death. Because there is no server, it is simple to both seed an app (keep it going) and to copy it (re-centralize it). I have one central Duxtape right now (duxtape.kickscondor.com), but you could easily fork that one (using Beaker’s ‘make editable copy’ button) and improve it, take it further.

The roots of ‘view source’ live on, in an incredibly realized form. (In Beaker, you can right-click on Duxtape and ‘view source’ for the entire app. You can do this for your mixtapes, too. Question: When was the last time you inspected the code hosting your Webmail, your blog, your photo storage? Related question: When was the first time?)

In fact, it now becomes HARD:IMPOSSIBLE to take down an app. There is no app store to shut things down. There is no central app to target. In minutes, it can be renamed, rehashed, reminified even (if needed)—reborn on the network.

This has a fascinating conflict with the need to version and centralize an app. Many might desire to stay with the authoritative app—to preserve their data, to stay in touch with the seeders of that central app. But this is a good tension, too—it INSISTS on backwards compatibility. I am pressured to keep Duxtape’s conventions, to preserve everyone’s mixtapes. It will be difficult to upgrade everything that is possibly out there.

This same pressure is reminiscent of the Web’s own history: HTML that ran in 1995 often still runs today—Flash and Quicktime are quite the opposite, as will be all of the native apps of today. (Think of apps you’ve bought that are already outmoded.) The ‘view source’ keeps compatibility in check. If Beaker is able to keep their APIs firm, then there is real strength here.

Still, Dat is limited. Where is it short? Can we accept these?

  • It truly RESISTS centralization. This becomes starkly apparent when you are working on your app—you cannot connect to a REST web service. You need to rethink everything. This is good—but it is painful.
  • Discovery suffers. This is related: I cannot just advertise published mixtapes to a central web server that stays up all night showing off how busy things are. But, as I mentioned above (in the PUBLISHING A MIXTAPE section,) the datPeers feature has really helped assuage this sore spot.
  • Not everything can be stored in the browser. How does a search engine work on this network? Or is this type of centralization something we should resist? (I do offer search on my Dat-version of this website, by leaning on Elasticlunr.js.)
  • Inter-app communication is hard. Earlier I mentioned that I need to use an HTML iframe to communicate with the Duxtape home page—there is no need to use the Fetch API (AJAX) in Beaker, ever. DatArchive deprecates it. (Though I would be interested to see a use for the Fetch API—if a Dat could house a GUI-less service, to negate the need for iframes.)
  • The multi-writer problem. Again: you cannot edit a Dat from a second machine.

But—think about this: I don’t have to take on cloud hosting! I don’t need to scale the app! This is a huge relief. URGENT QUESTION: Why are we trying to even do this?

I also mentioned not needing the multi-writer feature. Obviously, multi-writer demands some centralization. A central Dat needs to authorize other Dats. But I think this centralization could be moved to the DNS resolution—basically, if I edit Duxtape on a second machine, it will have a new unique address—and I can point duxtape.kickscondor.com to that new address. This means I can never get locked out of the Dat—unless I am locked out of the DNS. (So there is a way forward without any new features.)

Still, these downsides are pure side effects of a distributed Web. These are the realities we’re asking for—for me, it’s time to start accepting them.

Dat Uptake

Several months had passed since I last used Dat—how was it doing with adoption?

Well, it seems, no different. But it’s hard to say for a distributed network. Every Dat runs in secret—they are difficult to find. The discovery problems are perhaps the most urgent ones.

But there is good recent work:

  • Cabal: Not a browser project. Just an IRC-like network on Dat. There is very active work on all of these projects.
  • Data Terra Nemo and the DWeb Camp show that ‘distributed web’ stuff has momentum. Beaker seems to have a solid presence at these.
  • Unwalled Garden: The developer of Beaker is dabbling with… social networks. This is probably needed, though. But I would hope for more work on multi-writer, on sparse downloading, on different modes of seeding (like it would be cool to have a ‘vacuum’ type mode—where you only seed the latest,) or on BitTorrent integration. (I wish I could just serve large files with BitTorrent and mix dat: and magnet: links!)[4]
  • The Dat project’s blog has all kinds of academic and hobbyist work going on.

These are all cool—but Dat has a long way to go. With the corpypastas (or CorpASAs) taking up all the attention, adoption is terribly slow. What Beaker may need most of all is a mobile version. But, hey, I’ll write my article here and make my dent—if you feel stimulated to noise about, then please join in. I mean: using a new web browser is just very low effort—perhaps the lowest. You need to use one anyway!

I think HTTPS has proven itself well for the centralized stuff. Perhaps there is a future for HTTPS as simply a collection of centralized REST APIs for things like search and peer discovery. I think the remaining apps could migrate to this fertile garden emerging on the Dat network.


  1. It should be noted that there is a document called “How Dat Works”, which goes into all the details and which is absolutely beautiful, well-organized and, yeah, it actually teaches you very plainly how Dat works! I am not sure I’ve seen such a well-made ‘white paper’/‘spec’-type doc. ↩︎

  2. Apps on the Dat network have no ‘server’, they can be seeded like any other file. ↩︎

  3. Clearly Dat apps will need to put extra work into providing a scratch area for draft work—the protocol puts this pressure on the app. I think this also makes the system lean toward single-page apps, to assist drafting when in a large app. ↩︎

  4. I would be REALLY interested in seeing an equivalent to The Pirate Bay on Beaker. If you could move a tracker to the Dat network, much would be learned about how to decentralize search. ↩︎

  1. Trying out duxtape - looks like a hidden limit though, I can't add songs over 10 MB or so? dat://8e65d24d1c6cfb852abd27105fd2d8e1dfdca55d55205c18cb35fce59c6be2bd/
  2. Reply: Duxtape’s ‘Megabyte’ Problem

    Kevin Marks

    Trying out duxtape - looks like a hidden limit though, I can’t add songs over 10 MB or so? dat://8e65d24d1c6cfb852abd27105fd2d8e1dfdca55d55205c18cb35fce59c6be2bd/

    Indeed—I can’t seem to publish a 36 MB song. This must be related to the bug mentioned in the Hacker News comments. I will need to look into this—10 MB is a perfectly reasonable song size! Thank you Kevin.

  3. Hey, hi! Do whatever you like. And I have to thank you for your blog. Your article on datPeers clued me in on that whole side of Beaker. One of my big problems with Beaker was what to do about discovery—I found that post a week ago.
  4. Oh wow! datPeers has been pretty exciting. I recently did a demo of doing multiplayer 3D stuff with it. github.com/RangerMauve/af…

    I'll make sure to ping you when the newsletter is out. 😁 Your site looks really awesome by the way!
  5. Hey, have you checked out cubit or tribler? they make torrent discovery in a decentralized fashion
  6. Reply: Cubit and Tribler

    Anonymous

    Hey, have you checked out cubit or tribler? they make torrent discovery in a decentralized fashion

    Hey, thank you for the leads! I think what Dat could add is the ability to run your own custom tracker—in fact, I don’t even know if there would be a need for that. You could just put a simple web page up on Dat with your magnet links.

    I’ll have to give Tribler a shot to see how smooth it is. In a way, we’ve seen this kind of thing before with the built-in search for networks like Soulseek and eDonkey2000 and such. I guess even Napster had that initially.

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08 Jun 2019

Duxtape

I’m sorry… another project…

While messing with Dat last night, I got carried away in nostalgia and began… recreating Muxtape in Dat. I wanted to see how far I could get. (If you don’t know what Muxtape was—it was a way of sharing mp3 mixtapes online for a brief window of time in 2008, until it was shut down by the grown-ups.)

So, it seemed interesting to try to replicate Muxtape, because it would be very hard to “shut down” on the Dat network. And, sure enough, I was able to get it working quite well: you can upload songs, tweak the colors and titles, order the songs and such—I think this is quite faithful.

And, yes, it’s peer-to-peer. You can edit your tape using the URL created for you. Then you can pass that same URL out to share your tape. Visitors can listen to the music and seed the tape for everyone else.

If you’re interested in seeing what a mix looks like, try: dat://8587f3…aa/. (You’ll need Beaker.)

Source code is here. Inspired by Tara Vancil’s dat-photos-app. Thanks, Tara!

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06 Jun 2019

The Dat version of my site fell behind, but is now back. Large stuff (videos, audio) are still on HTTP. I have changed my Dat hash—the raw URL—so I wonder if any seeds out there will automatically update.

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Reply: Irony Double-Down

Malcolm Blaney

hey Kicks, you could double-down on the irony… Fraidycat doesn’t display content, unless the content doesn’t link anywhere, then you do? Just a thought. 😃

I’m starting to think that, in Giles’ case, I need to run the photo through some image captioning algorithm and use that as the title. Generally, I won’t use algorithms—but this could be the exception. 😃

Good to hear from you, Malcolm. I haven’t encountered Dobrado before and it looks amazing.

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05 Jun 2019

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Phil Gyford’s Blogroll

Extraordinarily simple, useful, sweet.

I’ve linked to Phil Gyford last year in the post Timeline of Things Phil’s Done, which I am happy to link to again, because I recently worked on a timeline of a friend’s life and used this as a starting point. Timelines are a rich, underused visual catalog for hypertext.

Phil has just added a blogroll to the same website. This seems uneventful, except that:

  • The design of the ‘writing’ section is fantastic—while completely minimal and faintly ‘brutalist’—am I close? If you are starting on a new blog, look at Phil’s. I’m all about aesthetics and colors—but it’s usually a far second place to organization.

  • And I must ask: do you have a blogroll? Google would prefer you not to. But it’s the smallest, most atomic tiny directory—akin to ‘little libraries’ you see on the roadside.

  • Every single one of these links works! This is a watershed moment in 2019.

Find someone new to read today. You might find a friend. You might read something that really changes you. The world might seem a little more alive again.

  1. I like this "A blogroll is the smallest, most atomic tiny directory—akin to ‘little libraries’ you see on the roadside."

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Reply: Two RSS Experiments

Jason McIntosh

Giles Turnbull wants you to use RSS more. To that end, throughout June he runs an art project called Black and White RSS, where he posts one original monochrome photograph to a special RSS feed and nowhere else. If you can suss out how to subscribe, youll wake up every morning (Eastern time) with another photograph shared with you solely on this obscure channel you took the trouble to hook into. It feels pretty nice.

Giles’ B&W RSS and Fraidycat.

It cracks me up how these two projects don’t function together though. 😂 Fraidycat can’t consume a solo RSS feed—because it has no HTML to link to. So you’ll just get a graph and no way to view the pics. Hehehe!

Not sure where to go with this! Kind of loving the irony and don’t want to ruin it…

  1. hey Kicks, you could double-down on the irony.... Fraidycat doesn't display content, unless the content doesn't link anywhere, then you do? Just a thought. :-)
  2. Reply: Irony Double-Down

    Malcolm Blaney

    hey Kicks, you could double-down on the irony… Fraidycat doesn’t display content, unless the content doesn’t link anywhere, then you do? Just a thought. 😃

    I’m starting to think that, in Giles’ case, I need to run the photo through some image captioning algorithm and use that as the title. Generally, I won’t use algorithms—but this could be the exception. 😃

    Good to hear from you, Malcolm. I haven’t encountered Dobrado before and it looks amazing.

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Reply: Curse of the Garden Isle

Jason McIntosh

Two years ago I played, enjoyed, and wrote about John Baker’s all-but-forgotten John’s Fire Witch. And last summer, I had the pleasure to play Ryan Veeder’s Curse of the Garden Isle within days of its release. In the year since, I realized I’ve mentioned the game again and again in different contexts to friends and colleagues as a wonderfully accessible and rewarding example of modern parser-based interactive fiction, a real stand-out work. And yet, I have seen essentially no other mention of it online, not even within dedicated IF discussion spaces. Let me try to help rectify this, examining why I find it a quiet exemplar of the form.

This review coaxed me to start playing the game.

I really appreciate this review! I’ve kept myself quarantined to mostly Twine-style clicker fiction—though I’ve sampled stuff like “Everybody Dies” and “Lost Pig”. But this review got me really intrigued, so I’ve started playing Curse. I’ve found it very simple to get into.

I like that you can type anything you want for the first few scenes and you gradually work your way into the story. Wresting the parser is (I’m sure) always an accessibility problem you deal with in IFTF, yes?

[A] very minor but still noteworthy facet of its in-browser presentation: the static text that appears around the main gameplay pane, linking permanently to helpful resources (including that Googel map), and in particular the text parser tips displayed in the lower left margin. Its just a short bullet-list of the most common parser IF commands, readable in a few seconds. But thats the thing: I cant think of another modern parser game with a browser-play mode that bothers to offer a tiny cheat-sheet like this, even though many might link to longer-winded how to play IF guides.

So I made the poor decision to start playing on a phone while I was waiting somewhere—and it worked great! I was kind of relieved that the game didn’t use Parchment or some standard theme—just because I like that it has its own look. (Although it seems that most highly-rated interactive fiction does this.)

Also, having been to that island before, it was nice to know the rough directions and envision the map mentally while I played. I’ve never experienced that before—it helped me stay aware of where I was without any effort.

Anyways—I also like that your IF reviews are tagged. I’m going to keep an eye on this tag and post further on /en/games when I finish Curse.

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I have done a bit of work on Slaptrash—there is now a play button, rather than always autoplaying. I’m working through mobile issues still. This isn’t a serious project for me—it’s just a nice diversion. There are some ideas that I want to convey in a ‘slideshow’/‘zine’ approach.

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04 Jun 2019

2019.06: Href.Cool Updates

Dozens of new links, many from Imperica’s ‘web curios’ roundup.

Just as things had a big effect on me last month, such is the discovery of Imperica—particularly its ‘web curios’ posts, which are MASSIVE link roundups like you’ve never seen before. These are exhaustive and tremendously exciting. So, having now read back through the last several months of Imperica, let’s look at the effect on href.cool…

Added to Bodies/Inanimate:

  • Duracell on Instagram Blog 1m
    Some artsy design firm is doing their best with brown-and-gold batteries. (Via Imperica.) (Imperica has a finger on the pulse of Instagram—there is some cool shit happening there.)

A new category, Bodies/Primitive:

  • 507 Movements Page 1m
    Illustrations of five-hundred-and-seven different mechanical pulleys, gears, cogs combos. (Via Imperica.)

In Games/Dialogue:

  • Warp Door Blog 5m
    Not much commentary—just the very indiest of games. Homemade stuff everyday. (I’m REALLY getting into itch.io lately. It’s a “silo” type site but is cultivating a nice place I think.)

In Games/Imagined:

  • Eigengrau’s Generator Page 5m
    Generates random encounters and random persons, complete with backstories and pedigree. Written in Twine, surprisingly.

In Real/Alphanumerics:

  • from here to there Blog 1h
    See, a link like this is what makes the Alphanumerics category the best! I doubt many will visit this topic, because it’s quite modest. But Ian Paul Wright’s blog, lavish in its diagrams and munificent in its prose, is about as good as it gets when it comes to Marxist blogs—fun theories crossing math with philosophy. (Via h0p3.)

A new one for Real/Paced:

  • my mechanics Directory 1m
    Methodical videos of old machinery being oiled, cleaned and repainted. (Via Imperica.)

I’ve expanded the Web/Wiki page, by adding a note on h0p3’s Wiki, listing the various wikis branching out from his family.

To Stories/Paneled, an obvious link I neglected to add:

  • POKEY THE PENGUIN!! Page 1m
    One of the first comics I remeber seeing on the Web—back in the 90’s. Clearly made in MS Paint. Completing it is not a problem—there is a random generator that mashes unrelated frames together.

To Stories/Folkmeme:

An obvious omission from Stories/Poems:

  • "Ain’t Got No, I’ve Got Life" Video 5m
    Everything Nina Simone wrote just cuts right to the human that’s under our fucking layers of shellac. (If you like this, I think you’ll also like the first song off Tank & The Bangas’ set on Tiny Desk Concerts. It’s those root lyrics like: I’ve got a mouth and You are like a loop.)

Brilliant addition to Tapes/Classic:

  • The K-Mart Tapes Directory 5m
    A large collection of monthly cassettes: elevator music and hits that powered the K-Mart speakers through the 80’s and 90’s. This could be in Tapes/Vaporwave as source material. (Via Imperica.)

AND OF COURSE (to Visuals/Zines):

  • Nathalie Lawhead’s Electric Zine Maker (Beta) Page 5m
    Ok, THIS is what you need to make your own zine. This frantic, zany tool will draw you into making a paper zine. If you don’t have an idea—you will. Just crack it open and play. (By perennial favorite Nathalie Lawhead—she’s a huge influence on EVERYTHING I do.)

Forgot this one in Web/Participate:

  • Twine Page 5m
    Build interactive stories visually. Truly one of the best ways to teach an elementary-age child to write computer programs.

Also add a link to spoon.nagoya under the Real/Person topic. And a link to Neave.TV, alongside the unlisted YouTube video links.

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01 Jun 2019

Reply: Pure Kakistocracy

h0p3

You don’t post a ton, so you make it easy on me to follow. I am much more talented at wasting our time though. So, while it doesn’t matter in the least (I mean, what does?), I realize my flooding wiki doesn’t really fit nicely in your tool.

The essential inadequacy of tools.

In your case, the tool is helpful because I can see a graph of activity—and, actually, now I realize: I think I would be interested in illustrating updates vs new material. I do value new material slightly more. And I think I would especially like to see minor edits (50 chars or less) not shown.

Yes, for you, the graph will be noisy. It will just show constant activity. But you do tend to update in clumps. So knowing the moment has arrived—and there is a new clump out there—that helps. It’s even more helpful for the rest of your family’s wikis. Because they are usually less frequent than you. Saving myself the cognitive load of simply having to determine whether the wiki has changed or not (manually) leaves me more time to read.

I think I could also, like you say, use the ability to monitor keywords. I do find messages using my name in search. And I also rank Link Logs higher—your roundups are some of my favorites. But I also don’t want to become too dependant on such things, because I like reading about your afterschool teaching and your meta-discussions about shaping your wiki. No matter the algorithm, there is a danger that the tool starts doing too much of the reading for you. That’s why I feel passionate about designing it to be painfully inadequate.

Assuming you are insane enough to be thinking about the problem, I also don’t know how far you want to specialize that crawlegator. There are many treadmills you’d need to tailor it to.

I think I am content leave it as a ‘bookmark folder’ with some perks. I want it to be like a hammer—an elegant, limited tool with one job to do. I don’t think I need it to become a massive engine. I don’t want to suddenly be spending all of my time with it.

Unfortunately, I spend little time trying to make my wiki RSSable because I have no idea how to make what is salient about my wiki algorithmically pop up for you in an easy manner (for so many stupid reasons). I have a fuckton of noise for you to sift through. What are you sifting for? I just don’t know what you perceive as S2NR for you.

I think you are doing a remarkable job at organizing your wiki! You are so consistent with your naming[1]—so that only left me to parse your whole wiki. This is the best RSS feed I could ask for. I wish every blog could be slurped up so easily. I can form a complete history and plunder it all immediately. I can read the timestamps on everything perfeckly.

Echo chambers, however, can be quite useful in crystallizing; they tumble rocks for gems too often. Further, I’m pissed off that I don’t have the power to construct my own filter-bubbles based upon how other people construct their filter-bubbles in a decentralized fashion. In my wildest dreams, I wish for an aggregator in which I choose the moderators who filter, updoot in ranged voting, and categorize any given of any given sub, tag, or content. I wish I could see through the eyes of my favorite crazy people, and I’d like to see the work which is censored by particular groups as well.

This is a very juicy take. I tend to think that if you find an enemy’s (or a friend’s) blog, then the information is all there. But I think your point is really hot: viewing your ‘feed’ might be a lot more interesting to me than it even is to you! Walking a mile in your shoes. I like this idea. I may crib this at some point.

So, I see two ideas here, actually:

  • I share a public ‘feed’ list that you can peruse—barring some feeds I would mark as private, possibly—and you would see the whole thing just as I see it.
  • An extension—like the ‘Reddit on Youtube’ one—where you can see related comments from anything in your feed. (It’s very possible that you’ve commented on something somewhere deep in your wiki and I’ll never find it unless I manually search—and I’m not going to do that for every link I come across.)

Yeah, I’m definitely interested in what the average Redditor and HN user has to say, but I’m especially interested in prioritizing what you have to say about the topic or link.

I will reply to you further on the rest of your letter. I have had a great time following the writing of it. I have enjoyed watching my interactions with your family play out.

I wonder how 1uxb0x is handling having a troll-admirer on his hands. I know T-Money probably thinks I am teasing. For me, to read 1uxb0x is to experience life in a very potent way. To only see laughter or amusement in the writing of 1uxb0x is to limit the experience immensely.[2] I worry that he will pack it all up and hide it all away, not knowing the harm of the lights I shine on it. I would understand this. Why go back to the place! Why read my wiki assignments from dad?

I don’t know exactly why he would feel embarassed at being so lauded. (I vaunt 1uxb0x, I VAUNT him.) But I think it is good, if so: to recoil against one’s own arrogance must happen I think.


  1. “There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.” – Phil Karlton ↩︎

  2. I feel some regret at emphasizing the word “importaint”—as if an error in grammar were just another amusement to kick around. However—how could I pass it up? It is a pun of a higher order—so perfect for the son of Your Filthiness! The whole sentence is so readable. For such a short writing to instantly transport us to the Major’s Cabin, to Greece, to the death of the successful companies of this world. This is as good as it gets. To make our predictions, to cry our disbelief (“2 bucks?!?!”) and to finally say: “Shit.” For such is Sophie’s World. ↩︎

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Fraidycat (Prototype Vid)

Futilely attempting to build an RSS reader that’s not at all an RSS reader.

In this video, I showcase Fraidycat! It’s stupid, but maybe there’s a seed of an idea for someone else. (I almost automatically went to share this on YouTube—then realized that the video is not that big really. I suppose you can reach more people on there, but I would rather just share this with the readers here.) Thank you for stopping by.

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28 May 2019

From Here to There

h0p3’s words: “I want to run around and hug everyone I’ve ever met.”

Okay, so, h0p3 has stumbled on to something pretty special—he asks, “Why aren’t other people losing their shit over this too?” This blog by Ian Wright (and, can I say, I love that this rare trove lives at the unassuming ianwrightsite.wordpress.com) is valuable for its writing and diagrams covering an intersection of certain math functions and philosophy, with aim toward understanding Marxism in modern times, all of which I’m just starting to pry open.

h0p3 specifically points to the two- (three-?) part essay “Hegelian contradiction and the prime numbers”, which I can’t vouch for yet. But the intro post and my light skimmings look promising. With a blog like this, I tire of the severe headiness—there never seems to be enough practicality or enough realization of the constructs—and the diagrams have me worried—but the writing is crisp and clear so far.

I hate getting my hopes up like this, because now I have some sense of a hidden or elusive truth buried in the center of this blog—and I’ve felt that almost constantly when approaching socialist blogs. But I need to remember that it’s just a blog: it’s not possible for it to have the answers and what’s usually lacking is enough imagination on my part. So this is sweet.

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My latest HrefHunt! comes from readers like you—as well as a Twitter hash tag linked by mrkapowski.com. This hash tag (and Twitter in general) is an easy way to share your links—but it’s frustrating to sift through.

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23 May 2019

Reply: Knitting Rows

furtho

Funny you should mention knitting as part of your example, because the online knitting community has recently been going through an enormous row about racism and white privilege. See here for a primer from a few months ago (as I understand it is broadly ongoing).

Ok, wow—I guess there is quite a bit of ‘differentiation’ and ‘boundary work’ going on among crafters. Thank you for the citation! Even still, I can’t help but feel that this is a temporary situation—or, more likely, cyclical—that is afflicting all communities right now. We’re experiencing a global meshing of all kinds of cultures within communities—and there is a struggle to sort out the rules.

I do think that once everyone has had it out, you’ll either have communities permanently splitting along these lines or finding a way to coexist. (It also depends what global situations arise—we might be in for serious strife before we become nauseous of war again.) And, well, every community has its heyday, followed by its own dissolution.

I still feel like there is a difference between communities that have no natural enemy (or are built for conflict) and those that do. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all groups are formed to both include and (perhaps more importantly) to exclude. God, I hope not.

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Reply: Very Real Names

Brad Enslen

When I first joined forums and later social networks I purposely used my name, because I wanted to hold myself accountable with anything I posted online. It was common practice back in the forum days to use a nickname. It was my way of forcing self discipline that I wouldn’t say anything online that I wouldn’t say to somebody face to face.

To me, using a real name to hold yourself accountable is kind of like using religion to make yourself behave. It gives you a good feeling of being on the right side—but imagine how much more meaningful it could be to act well without that external incentive. You really can behave just as well with a psuedonym if you mean to. (I tend to think of this as bonhomminity.)

Still, you might be right. I’m not going to defend pseudonyms too deeply—I just think they are fun. They do remind us that this is not really us. It’s just a virtual representation and is different somehow. I still think online handles are as relevant as ever in these times.

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Reply to alienmelon

I love the skeleton zine. Could skeleton zines become a new genre? Well, yes. It’s now a new genre. Soon there will be teenage skeleton novels and films. Good job.

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21 May 2019

Reply: Arduous Interfaces

L.M. Sacasas

I feel compelled to say that this version of the “global village” was not exactly what Marshall McLuhan had in mind when he coined the phrase. When one interviewer begins to say to McLuhan, “But, I had some idea as we got global and tribal we were going to try to—” McLuhan interjects, “The closer you get together, the more you like each other? There is no evidence of that in any situation that we have ever heard of. When people get close together, they get more and more savage and impatient with each other.” He added a few moments later, “Village people are not that much in love with each other. The global village is a place of a very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.”

Might we be converging on hatred?

This is a very good quote, very crystallizing. I’ve mentioned a few times in various writings here that I see a blog as a ‘home’—your design, your thoughts, away from everyone else—and that the current ‘news feed’ or ‘timeline’ trend has everyone living in the street together.

h0p3 recently pointed to this link The Gentrification of The Internet which draws a comparison between housing offline and online—but much of it covers the struggle of trying to live productively outside of the corpypastas (or CorpASAs). Life within is hellish, too, though. Everyone is just so packed in; the feed travels at such a rapid rate.

Finding your people implies, quite strongly, that there are those who are not your people. And, I suspect, the more powerfully (and more narrowly) we identify with our people, the more powerfully we are tempted to distance ourselves from those who are not our people. Differentiation and boundary work, both within and without the group, become the order of the day. If I may extend the territorial analogy, we find ourselves constantly involved in a war of unremitting skirmishes, which is how I would characterize life online in the more recent past.

Yes, but I think there is a difference between a group and a group that has an opposing polarity. Left versus Right is clear. However, if I am in an embroidery group, then—who exactly are we against? The knitters? Is there a cohesive anti-embroidery league?

For an embroidery group, this work of ‘differentiation’ and ‘boundary’ setting just doesn’t consume the same level of effort, does it? I mean if you’re hanging out in our group and you don’t embroider, I’m still somewhat tempted to let you stay, just to avoid a dust up.

I think that, again, a problem with the tightly-packed corpypastas is that you’ve kind of lost your people again, because they’re hidden in the landslide of the feed. Groups are fine—and they work well on Facebook and Reddit—but these groups become so centralized and massive that it becomes difficult to discover newcomers. Who are drowned in the noise. Who don’t have anyone to upvote them.

The thing, of course, is that while we might have gained greater access to groups of affinity, we have not ceased to belong to groups of necessity. Political life remains a matter of membership in groups of necessity, the town, the city, the state, the nation. And the habits and virtues formed in often digitally mediated groups of affinity seem not to serve us well when we inhabit groups of necessity (some of which may also be digitally mediated). We are, in other words, in the midst of a painful recalibration of the delicate balance between self, our people, and those who are not.

I like this point. I don’t have any argument with it—I do have something to add about the difference between physical and virtual groups that we still need to address.

We’ve long had some equivalent of Robert’s Rules of Order—now we see codes of conduct or forum guidelines. When we think of running an online group, we think of ‘moderating’ it. Policing the conversations, cleaning up spam and so on. And this is fine: probably necessary and I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of how to do it.

But I think we also need a librarian ethic somewhere among these groups. Maybe there are moderators out there who have this kind of commission. You are dealing with a community of writers, who are all filling the community up with their verbose output—this is all data that needs to be grappled with.

So, think of a librarian at work: putting books back under the proper heading, referring readers to specific titles, borrowing books from the outside—in fact, I wish communities were better about knowing what other communities are in the topical vicinity—to help everyone find themselves a home. (I do see this, though, in the Indieweb community—a person might be told to check out micro.blog or maybe TiddlyWiki. However, I think we’re lucky to be a meta-community.)

I’m not doing a good job describing this position—I’m only just trying to put it into words right now, though, so forgive me. Perhaps the best way to put it is, again, I feel like I say this all the time: as a human algorithm. This person (or group) acts as the community’s recommendation and relations engine. It’s not inferred by upvotes but is much more active than that. (In the same way that I have absolutely no algorithm doing my work of curating href.cool.)

We so despise this task—we find it so painful, having never had to do it before—that we are pouring money and time into building software that will do it for us. But it actually can be quite enjoyable and can feel purposeful.

  1. @kicks "Familiarity breeds contempt."

    That's the first aspect that comes to mind. It doesn't matter if its a small town, where everybody knows each other and what they are doing or a small group online. The difference is, in a small town or at work, is you can't just leave, so you learn to tolerate the differences and, percieved, faults of others and still remain civil. It takes a mental discipline we have trouble extending online. Maybe in part, because we don't feel accountable.

    When I first joined forums and later social networks I purposely used my name, because I wanted to hold myself accountable with anything I posted online. It was common practice back in the forum days to use a nickname. It was my way of forcing self discipline that I wouldn't say anything online that I wouldn't say to somebody face to face.

    Moderating forum communities is something I've done a lot of and it's a task I'm glad to be rid of now. A couple of features of some forum scripts that I miss:

    1. The ability for mods to either combine threads (we don't need 20 threads about blue widgets, let's splice them all together.) And the ability to seperate off topic portions of a thread.

    2. The ability to in some way archive particularly good useful threads or posts into a sort of knowledge base for others to use in the future. Both of these hit on the librarian function.

  2. @bradenslen Well said! I’m old enough to have been in the forums as well.

    “It was common practice back in the forum days to use a nickname.”

    And it was also common to have a sig.

    Slightly off topic: I remember Outlook Express got a lot of heat because they used “—” as a sig separator instead of “— ”…

  3. @odd I used to love that thing, so I'm frankly surpriseed I don't remember it at all.

  4. Funny you should mention knitting as part of your example, because the online knitting community has recently been going through an enormous row about racism and white privilege. See here for a primer from a few months ago (as I understand it is broadly ongoing): https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/25/18234950/knitting-racism-instagram-stories
  5. Reply: Very Real Names

    Brad Enslen

    When I first joined forums and later social networks I purposely used my name, because I wanted to hold myself accountable with anything I posted online. It was common practice back in the forum days to use a nickname. It was my way of forcing self discipline that I wouldn’t say anything online that I wouldn’t say to somebody face to face.

    To me, using a real name to hold yourself accountable is kind of like using religion to make yourself behave. It gives you a good feeling of being on the right side—but imagine how much more meaningful it could be to act well without that external incentive. You really can behave just as well with a psuedonym if you mean to. (I tend to think of this as bonhomminity.)

    Still, you might be right. I’m not going to defend pseudonyms too deeply—I just think they are fun. They do remind us that this is not really us. It’s just a virtual representation and is different somehow. I still think online handles are as relevant as ever in these times.

  6. Reply: Knitting Rows

    furtho

    Funny you should mention knitting as part of your example, because the online knitting community has recently been going through an enormous row about racism and white privilege. See here for a primer from a few months ago (as I understand it is broadly ongoing).

    Ok, wow—I guess there is quite a bit of ‘differentiation’ and ‘boundary work’ going on among crafters. Thank you for the citation! Even still, I can’t help but feel that this is a temporary situation—or, more likely, cyclical—that is afflicting all communities right now. We’re experiencing a global meshing of all kinds of cultures within communities—and there is a struggle to sort out the rules.

    I do think that once everyone has had it out, you’ll either have communities permanently splitting along these lines or finding a way to coexist. (It also depends what global situations arise—we might be in for serious strife before we become nauseous of war again.) And, well, every community has its heyday, followed by its own dissolution.

    I still feel like there is a difference between communities that have no natural enemy (or are built for conflict) and those that do. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all groups are formed to both include and (perhaps more importantly) to exclude. God, I hope not.

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20 May 2019

Reply: Things Interview

Brad Enslen

@kicks Great interview! I really like it when you do these.

Yeah, well—love doing these. I have learned an enormous amount from these (and my conversations with you and Joe), despite the fact that almost everyone I’ve spoken to gives off an air of “there’s nothing to it.”

Thanks for the encouragement, though. It’s always nice when someone takes the time to say what you just said. 😃

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17 May 2019

Mapping Imaginary Cities

Brilliant talk by @tripofmice: a good introduction to maps, but also, hey, how to generate a world.

This talk is ostensibly about cartography, but has a lot of curious details that I think are applicable to any kind of technology—but definitely very applicable to the Public Self-Modelers out there.

The speaker, Mouse Reeve, makes a comment (at 11’29") about maps as ‘models’:

I like to think of a map as a model. And the process of making a map is the process of modeling. And models are inherently incomplete. And this is really, really good because it means you can never finish. And, um, if we could make a model that perfectly represented what we were modeling, it would raise a lot of really disturbing philosophical and ethical questions also—in terms of pocket universes.

Emphasis mine. (Obviously—it’s so rare that one hears vocal italics.) This has really crystallized for me the new excitement over those of you out there who are starting to hypertext yourselves in TiddlyWikis. I have not been doing this—this blog is an old-fashioned style links-and-essays blog that just kind of acts as a portal between all of you. And part of my hang up has been what m.r. says: that a model is always incomplete. (🚬 C’est n’est pas une h0p3.)

But then comes the line: this is really, really good. And I find that I truly agree with this! And even the ending line suggests that a perfect equivalence in a model may not even be desirable! (Like: thank god that Magritte’s pipe is not just a pipe.)

m.r.'s website is here, which fits right in with my monthly href hunt. The generated maps are at unfamiliar.city.

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PLUNDER THE ARCHIVES

This page is also on dat.

MOVING ALONG LET'S SEE MY FAVORITE PLACES I NO LONGER LINK TO ANYTHING THATS VERY FAMOUS

philosopher.life, the 'wiki'/'avatar'/'life' of h0p3. serious rabbithole. k0sh3k. j3d1h. luxb0x.

nathalie lawhead of so many good things, where does one begin. T, U, I.

surfpals: things by j, also joe jenett (of linkport), brad enslen (of indieseek), 'web curios' at imperica.

an eye on: ᛝ ᛝ ᛝ — lucid. jacky.wtf, fogknife, tiv.today, j.greg, box vox, whimsy.space, caesar naples.

indieweb: .xyz, eli, c.rwr, boffosocko.

nostalgia: geocities.institute, bad cmd.

true hackers: ccc.de, fffff.at, voja antonić, cnlohr, esoteric.codes.

chips: zeptobars, scargill, 41j.

dwm, julia, tridactyl these are things you'll want on linux.

neil c very famous but should be a world icon.

the world or cate le bon you pick.

sammyclassicsonicfan the original teen rage adventure.

innovation.isotropic.org probly the best carl chudyk game.

and opinionated gamers for non-chudyk game analysis.

my twitter. my github. minor things.