long

Less-panicked living

In the past year we moved for work (my wife got opportunities that were not available in our previous location) and ended up in a fairly affluent, yet still diverse region; we’re lucky in that there is a good mix of accepting technological changes but not excluding stable, traditional methods of, well, most aspects of life.

Given that, I’ve noticed that without the distortion field of an immediately nearby major urban centre people are much less inclined to be constantly driven by whatever latest shiny waste of time appears, whether from startups or desperate monopolists. Rather, people observe the wider world at a slower pace than heart-attack-inducing and most often continue to rely on well-established lines of communication; specifically, speak to your neighbours as first priority, care about your local politicians above all else, and so on.

This has helped me to understand certain trends and opinions that I’ve observed of people from outside of the tech/web/news bubble that so often dominates and defines online communities. It seems that people have got lives to live, and real changes to make rather than taking up their time screeching at a website.

Overall, this makes me happy. If we’re going to make important changes, and generally improve our world as much as possible we need people who are capable of maintaining perspective whilst doing the best they possibly can.

(this post was inspired by this conversation on Micro.blog)

Small networks, large web.

… mainstream levels of ease of use …

— Jason Becker, on his blog

When I read the words “mainstream levels of ease of use” all I can think about is The Good Place:

There’s something so human about taking something great, and ruining it a little so you can have more of it.

To me, the idea of the big social web and the silos and convenience and everybody on the web altogether… it all just feels like that quote.

Perhaps I’m too cynical but I don’t want to see people throw their lives away for this anymore. The web, open and decentralised, can handle virality and all of that; let the networks be smaller, more secure, and given closer attention by actual humans with an emphasis on effort and care as can be seen in smaller physical communities.

Putting Music in its Place

Just now, over my morning coffee, I’ve been listening to an album from the 70s, deep in the Era of LPs. Fortyish minutes long, twenty-odd minutes to a side.

Robert has been considering the language used between LP and CD, and it immediately made me think of a conversation within this household as of late.

My wife and I have been talking about our plans for music; we’re both in agreement that we need to get CDs back into the home, and she even surprised me by suggesting the addition of vinyl. My memories of the latter are much weaker, though we do have a five-year age gap and she grew up in more of an affluent environment.

My feeling of resistance against streaming and all of its internet-dependent and closed infrastructure has only grown. Given how digital music removes the enforced structure of physical storage (there are no sides in bits, of course) and yet there are still people who apply arbitrary limits on the web, I feel even less inclined to include streaming at all; it just feels dishonest, you know?

At this point I have Apple Music but have set it as no-download, stream online only; it is entirely an option only available whenever I happened to have access to a decent internet connection, and I think that works well since it is now in a distinct and appropriate context.

I’m confident that, at least for now, we’re ready to stay clear of what is bound to be an absolute mess of phrasing within the ever-muddled world of streaming and online music.

Feature-less Progress

I’m happy that Micro.blog doesn’t embed certain types of media in the timeline.

I’m happy that my feed reader doesn’t include inline replies like how Google did so in the past.

I’m happy that Glass doesn’t have traditional Likes.

Many of the problems with modern networking have arisen due to the environment, the bad features built into the system.

I do not want to repeat those mistakes by polluting the environment for a tiny crumb of supposed convenience.

Micro.blog, expectations, and communication

Clearly need to communicate this better.

Manton Reece

Some rambling thoughts:

  • The homepage has;
    • the Discover timeline prominently placed with posts from 15 months ago;
    • a link to Brent Simmons from four years ago;
    • the Micro.blog team featured at the bottom with no links to anything.
    • Nothing at all about recent updates, like some sort of news alert message or… anything really.
  • Maybe redirect my old Updates blog to News, or wherever you will show updates? Or just replace that blog with a new update-based blog? The last posts on there might leave a bad impression with regard to activity.
  • Activity on the News blog is good at times, but at times sporadic and still seems to be basically another of your blogs, Manton. I think people often expect “a company voice”; it’s familiar and an indicator that this isn’t just an indie side-project.
    • I thought there was some promise in the official news releases for the big 2.0 updates.
  • Even with News considered, there are also other blogs and the Help forums and different things at different times. It’s all quite disparate, which is great for the indie ethos but not good for clear and consistent and reliable communication.
  • If there was one main blog for the team with each post authored – using the Teams feature obviously – that could help.
  • Although there is still the issue of what is being said. Is it enough? Can you know without looking at all of the posts together; the dev posts, the community posts, the big-picture posts.

… And this is mostly stuff that is insular to Micro.blog, the timelines, and whatnot. Beyond that there is the Twitter account, which is ok but again not what I think most people expect.

I know decentralisation and going slow are both important to Micro.blog but there’s a point at which you have to compromise and go where people are used to going; to offer a hand rather than stay in your spot and expect people to be as motivated as the heart of your community.

I think about when a few years ago Belle Cooper said “It feels to me like we’re all at a party at Manton’s house.” and how I didn’t consider that to be too much of a problem at the time, given that it was still the early stages in the development of Micro.blog. Now, however, I think it’s correct to expect Micro.blog to have a clear representation of how the product is not just “for Manton, by Manton” but so much more.

The Prices of the Free Web

Google search isn’t as good as it used to be—I suspect foul play through SEO

Rene van Belzen

These days we’re often looking for a search engine that provides high quality results for specific questions, for free.

The problem here is that Google has sold everybody the complete lie that this is possible. Their results, their service, their websites, are all worse because products built on the back of money-free business models inevitably trend to that point.

Here are the different prices:

  • money
  • work
  • attention

The more you leverage the third one – the one that the mainstream web is now built upon – the worse your product becomes over time.

Of course, Rene has put some work in – two hours no less! – and he still has to deal with an inferior product. It’s as if a bad standard has spread throughout all of Google Search. When the foundation of a platform is built with rotten ingredients, the rest is doomed to crumble into useless crap.

We have to change the way we think about things. It’s one of the lessons I learned thanks to Micro.blog; the perception we had of the web as a result of the monopolistic behemoths, is false. Much of it is false, with very little effort put towards sustainability or any of the necessary energy required to build a healthy environment.

In a lot of ways it the web works better for you if you take on an older mindset; say, 5 to 10 years back, and spend less energy relying on whatever marketing spin comes from your behemoth service provider. I do this for every piece of tech I own and it serves me well.

Oh, as for Rene and his question, unfortunately I don’t have the answer. I only know that it isn’t so simple, or at least not as simple as a mega-corp’s marketing department would have you believe.

TIL 1.9.1: Retiring features

After last week’s bundle of new additions, I realised over the following days that there was another part to those changes; the other shoe as it were. Let’s take a look at the release notes to see the complimentary updates:

… not quite so many 🆕 badges, huh.

However the intent, and I hope effect, remain the same. I am making TIL the best possible companion to pair with the official support for Micro.blog and think that role is best fulfilled by providing much more direct, tangible resources. And that no longer includes custom tracking of Micro.blog updates from a third-party perspective.

Between the continued growth of Micro.blog and the team’s official records of updates, you can keep abreast of such news in a few different places. Plus, Manton has recently hinted at providing yet another source of this information.

When it comes to Post Haste, another hint from Manton says more than I really need to. Whilst I am going to publish the last few issues of the special bumper edition The Macro Report, the weekly catch-up log ICYMI will become mostly, if not entirely redundant and so my time is better spent elsewhere.

Overall it’s fair to say that the recent significant events of my personal life – moving home to a completely different part of the country – have inspired my focus in ways that I expected to a certain degree, yet not quite as much as they actually have. I’m excited to see TIL change in these ways because it should be the best companion within context of whatever Micro.blog needs and that’s exactly where my efforts are now focused.

Thanks for reading.

⏤ Simon

TIL 1.9: Design, Insight, and the Future

With the release of the newest set of updates to @TIL, I am happy to say that the unofficial companion to Micro.blog has entered the next phase of its development.

Let’s take a look at the release notes for those TL:DR fans out there:

TIL 1.9:

Unofficial

One of the updates is for the edits made to include the word unofficial in the TIL tagline. This better reflects the reality of the endeavour; yes I do get help from the team but this is not an official part of Micro.blog at all. It’s all just me, making it happen, and as such it’s better to make this as obvious as possible.

One of the reasons this is important is cost. As time passes and TIL grows, and as my standards improve – albeit unsteadily for the past 18 months – I have reached an inflection point. The project can not remain stable or grow further without money, and whilst I wish I could tell you my recent big home move resulted in an immediate and entirely surprising increase in our income… I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised that is very much not the case.

As such I have closed the Buy Me A Coffee page and now invite you to take a look at the first membership offering for Today I Learned: The Insight Program. Right now it is entirely donation-based, with no rewards on offer. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is not the plan for the long term; in fact, the very reason I have moved to Memberful is due to the numerous ways in which their platform is so much better made for offering a variety of memberships. This is a start… I am looking forward to doing more.

You’ll notice on the Memberful site that I have detailed the costs of TIL, including my fundraising goal for this version of the membership. I am doing everything I can to work around costs; using free trials, renting, finding free versions of software, carefully managing my computer… just as much as I can think of. I hope my intention here is as transparent as possible; every single penny that is put towards a plan in The Insight Program will be put directly into running Today I Learned.

Here is a quick example of the current situation regarding costs:

  • Setapp has expired. Having finished the 7-day trial of the rental service, I had quickly made use of a few apps for TIL.
    • Although, to be honest, the ongoing cost of the subscription is likely not the best choice even if in the short term it could be helpful.
  • NounPro Unlimited will expire in 3 weeks. The premium subscription for The Noun Project has already been put to use in a number of the design updates you can now see on the site and external profiles.
  • Sketch trial will expire in 3 weeks. Similar to Noun, only in this instance practically all of the new graphics in use for TIL were made in Sketch.
    • Much like with Setapp, I am unsure if this subscription makes sense in the long run. Though I have a back-up plan, which you can see listed on the Memberful site.

… and so I will continued to do my best in this way. Please let me know if you’re aware of any comparable free alternatives (MBP High Sierra 13.6), including that which is listed on the Memberful site.

Speaking of costs being covered and the overwhelming generosity of the community, I would like to give a wholehearted thank you to the multiple donors to the Buy Me A Coffee page. You’re all just fantastic and have left me flabbergasted, having literally helped my family move and thus massively improve our standard of living. On top of that, just 3 days ago Matt Cassem (@sarcassem) donated enough to cover email hosting for the next 12 months with money to spare that will be put to use in another part of TIL.

Seriously… overwhelming ☺️

Yes, so, you can help out with either a single donation or a monthly payment. The links to these can be found on the newly updated About page as well as the Memberful site itself.

Realign

Last week I changed the posting schedule for the site, introducing later posts as a result of an unexpected shift in my personal schedule. This may become a permanent change but I can’t say for sure. Either way I’ll continue to work to make publishing as reliable and consistent as possible.

Post Haste is currently on hold. Between uncertainty regarding email hosting costs and a switch to Fastmail that has been a little complicated regarding Buttondown hosting, there was suddenly something of a hurdle between writing the issues of the newsletter and publishing them. Thanks to the aforementioned good news regarding email hosting and the teaser screenshot posted by Manton last month, I don’t think it’ll be much longer before ICYMI is back.

Major design updates are now finished for at least the next few months. Version 1.9 means what it implies; the next change for the site, and likely the various extensions that make up TIL, will be 2.0 and all that entails. I have been working on ideas for this and look forward to getting my hands dirty with Hugo in particular. In the meantime I’ll make fixes and minor tweaks for smaller updates but as has once been said before: no new features.


It was both a lot of fun and quite stressful to put together these changes. In the end it has been the most satisfying update to make, and I hope you’ll join me in making this feel like just the beginning.

I am looking forward to building 2.0 but mostly, next, I can already feel the excitement for some new features that will hopefully be out very soon.

In the meantime, I’ll be back with regular activity throughout the week and will see you at the next big announcement.

Thanks for reading.

⏤ Simon

A Plea for Help

Earlier today I put out a short post to ask for help.

Unfortunately my wife and I have discovered that we will be short of money to cover all of our bills this month, and it is making what is an otherwise life-changing event into an all-too familiar ball of stress, anxiety, and frankly, shame.

With that in mind I’m going to step outside of my usual tight-lipped approach and provide a preview of the direct benefit to donating towards my efforts with Today I Learned.

Here are the things your donation can help me make:

  • Guides: The existing Guides will be updated, and more importantly a whole new batch will be published over a short period of time. This will relaunch Guides as a regular post type, including special editions in which related Guides are published over the space of a week.
  • Return to regular posting. Everything from before the break – Tips, Updates, Introducing, Lookup, the recently launched Linked posts, and ICYMI: the weekly catch-up edition of the newsletter – plus the return of The Macro Report.
  • The rest of the special edition of The Macro Report.
  • Reactivation of the Twitter account, with which I’ll make it easier for people outside of Micro.blog to see just how awesome our community is.
  • Further design improvements to the site and Post Haste (the newsletter).
  • Brand new regular post types, starting with a micro-guide that is entirely image-based.
  • A new edition of Post Haste, built around staying updated with urgent Micro.blog events.

… and more. My plans reach well into the future, with everything built on a steady and sustainable timeline. On the Support page I state that I won’t make promises, so this feels even more uncomfortable to write.

However, I hope that highlights just how urgent my current needs have become. You wouldn’t just be helping my family, you would also be securing the path to Today I Learned 2.0. 🙏

Today I Learned donations

Welcome to TIL

Hi 👋

Today I Learned is the Micro.blog companion and guide, and I am the author.

With @TIL you can find your way around Micro.blog, whether you’re new to the platform or have been here for a while already. You can get hold of different resources; including tips, guides, links, updates, and the weekly edition of the newsletter.

Here are some links to get you started:

I’ll continue to share information and links about TIL but everything you need will always be published either on the site or through one of the external channels.

Welcome to Micro.blog. I hope you find the community and the platform as warm and authentic as I have. ☺️

See you on the timeline!

Should I Continue?

Regarding Today I Learned:

The project is currently on hiatus (covered in the latest update). Whilst part of the reason for this is good (the aforementioned move), there is also a negative motivation; my work is currently unsustainable.

What I mean is that I lack the hardware and software to both maintain and grow Today I learned, and have no way to gain those resources. These include but are not limited to:

  • A computer. The iPad isn’t good enough as the only machine.
  • Hosted services. Email, hosted accounts, sharing, storage, publishing.
  • Editing software. Graphics, code, video.

The greater access to these tools, the sooner I can push my ideas into full production across the project.

Whilst this issue might be resolved in the near future (as a result of the move), it is also possible that the change to my family’s life will be so significant that there will be no room at all. Even if I were to be in a much better position to work on Today I Learned, it offers no immediate and obvious route for either earning money directly or in the near future; any potential path for advancing my career ambitions seems to point to a long-term result. There is a great deal of uncertainty here.

I could gain the necessary resources but still choose to put an end to Today I Learned. In this instance I would instead do everything needed to attain paid work of a similar kind (independent, remote, maybe on the web) and use a combination of the existing published work of Today I Learned and the plans that are currently WIP as proof of my abilities in pursuit of said work. On top of that I would also continue to work on other, less ambitious ideas to beef up my body of work.

Given the limited space for me to do this kind of work, to do any sort of work, the time has come for me to make a decision. I am ready to take the next step with regard to ambitions beyond my work as a carer and home-maker. Now the question remains:

Continue with Today I Learned or commit to work in which resources are guaranteed?

Ta-ra!

A quick update to say that I’m putting Today I Learned on hiatus as of this post. The aforementioned unfinished work will either be published when I return with the project, or will end up in the “what-if” pile.

I’m both excited about what’s to come but also nervous for @TIL. Unfortunately at some point voluntarily-run projects just get out-run by the real world. Oh well, I guess…

Hopefully I’ll be back before I expect but if not, thanks again everybody. It’s been wonderful to see that there are parts of the internet where some people are willing to support some of those lofty ideals from The Before Times.

Perhaps we’ll meet again. :)

Summer hiatus

I didn’t think I would be writing this kind of message again but life is funny that way.

tl;dr — Good news! My wife and I are moving for good reasons. I’m taking a break from the web for a few months, and putting Today I Learned back on hiatus until October at the earliest. This includes deciding whether Today I Learned will return at all.

Last week Claire and I took a trip to another part of the country, the purpose of which was for her to attend a job interview. The wonderful news is that she was offered the job! We took the contract home with us a day after we had arrived and then over the weekend continued to talk about this possibility; the prospect of moving again, only this time it would be different.

This time it would be into a place, in all sense of the word, that has much greater potential for us to do the things we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. An opportunity not to be taken lightly.

Yesterday I took a brisk walk to the nearby post box and sent the signed contract on its way. So now, as seems to be the trendy thing to do on Micro.blog, we are moving. We’ve done this a few times before but never with such a household’s worth of possessions nor to such a great opportunity. It’s fair to say that the next couple of months are going to be full of all the nervous energy you can think of, with all kinds of priorities shifted around.

What that means is a couple of things:

  1. It’s highly likely that I won’t be around on the web in general.
  2. Today I Learned is yet again undergoing a period of inactivity; a hiatus, for at least 3 months.

The first point is not so bad, since it’s good to take a break from the internet on a regular basis.

The second, however, is complicated…

I have been so happy to gradually bring Today I Learned back to life, and up until the past couple of weeks things were going particularly well. Now I have been given an opportunity to think about the project in the long-run, to consider my opportunities and what may come.

Right now there is no more room for Today I Learned. I am limited by my resources, or lack thereof, and have reached a point where I am ready to work on more than just a hobby project whilst lacking the opportunity to make Today I Learned more than it is.

Over the next week or so I’ll publish the few posts and edits that are already in the works. After that I’ll post an update when the hiatus begins, and that’ll be all for the next few months.

So I’ll be back in October either way. See you then!

👋

iPad regrets

Re: my realisation that the magic keyboard can not make up for iPad OS limitations

At least with my old Windows machine I could brute-force certain things — you know, like you can when you have an actual functioning browser — but on the iPad that’s either not possible or full of so many little catches that it becomes a fool’s errand.

For all of the things I like about this machine, and that list is long in comparison, the fact remains that my old and busted Windows computer was overall a much better computer.

To that end, I agree with Manton’s incredulity regarding price disparity and now wish that I had chosen a Mac of some kind instead of this iPad.

Recent development activity on Micro.blog

Over on the Micro.blog Help forums, @numericcitizen said:

Is MB a side-line for Manton ? Is there other people involved in maintaining this platform? I wasn’t expecting the pandemic to be an issue for an internet-only business like MB. I could be wrong, for sure.

From what I understand:

  • Manton does large amounts of the work for the tech side of things (servers, new code, etc). That’s on top of support, marketing, long-term planning, being the most visible part of the platform, and you know, having a life.
  • The pandemic literally affected every part of our lives. A virus doesn’t care what type of business you have.
  • Texas, where Manton lives, was hit badly by a ridiculous weather event, only further compacting the pandemic.

Also, where I definitely think you are wrong is the scope of Micro.blog and how it differs from other such platforms. Guess what? We don’t want the team to work themselves to the bone in a terrible environment and thus inevitably burn-out.

Have you listened to Manton on the Micro Monday podcast? Between every episode on which he has featured, including the latest, and the way he writes about Micro.blog it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand how this works. In fact in that most recent episode (the 100th, with Patrick Rhone) there was a discussion about Micro.blog taking on new people. Not only that but Manton’s own development podcast, Timetable, also covers some of these issues.

Maybe some of these things aren’t obvious enough and it would be good to make it explicit in some way. However, I could be completely wrong about all of it. 🤷

(Aside: @-mentioning Manton in your reply was an odd choice, as if you’re trying to call him out. I hope that wasn’t your intent.)

My tech future

One day, in the future, I will have;

  • a basic phone;
  • an MP3 player;
  • maybe a laptop;
  • a few reliable notebooks;
  • a selection of analogue watches;
  • and a camera.

At this point I will have abandoned the world of personal branding and influencers and whatnot, and will likely post dispatches from my dusty old blog.

And I will be oh so happy.

(inspired by Jack’s astute observation)

Adverts in podcasts

There are two types:

  1. Invasive;
    • almost always delivered by somebody from outside of the show;
    • rarely ever relevant;
    • often appears within a pre-prepared section of the show, basically scripted;
    • commonly linked to attempts to track listening, for example “dynamic”.
  2. Curated;
    • almost always delivered by the hosts themselves;
    • often relevant, or at least interesting;
    • mostly worked into the show in an organic manner;
    • highly unusual if linked to any sort of creepy tracking.

I find myself more and more unsubscribing because of the first type, even if I like the show.

Understanding The Behemoths

I’ve returned to thinking about the internet and what it is, in light of working on what it could be. Most recently I posted about the rat-like presence of Google.

Of course this is not disimilar to worrying about S3, Azure, and even Google’s own server hosting. Then take a look at technologies such as React, massive software development-based sites like GitHub, and even the ties between the open web and mega-companies like Samsung with regard to open source…

The internet, much like the real world, shows many paths to living life connected to all sorts of awful people with very few options for small, self-starting groups of people to truly establish themselves free from the hideous behemoths our societies have built over the past many decades.

I’m not discouraged by this. I simply believe you have to gain an understanding of the mountainous obstacles that stand before you, should you wish to overcome them at all.

Hashtags for Micro.blog

This is a reply to @vivianlee:

You’ll have to excuse my ignorance here, but you could elaborate on the negative effects of hashtags? I’m new to the IndieWeb philosophy, and having just come from the likes of Twitter and Instagram, the lack of hashtags here has made it difficult for discovery. I’m wondering what the workaround is, and why hashtags would be a negative thing.

(original comment)

I’m not as well-informed on all of the technical aspects or any work that has been done to support this position – case studies, etc – but I do have a general view based on my experiences in the hashtag-heavy platforms vs. Micro.blog and my old days on message boards and the like.

A lot of the behaviour around hashtags for those with ill will is about tracking and campaigning at speed; using algorithms for trending to target and pile-on people and groups. It can also become easy to ruin a topic that has until that point been carefully curated by the people involved, whether through crude spambots or planned, targeted campaigns.

The flip-side of that is of course moderation, whether from the people running the platform or via account-based tools made available to each person. Whilst I’m not aware of what exactly could be done with such resources, I know for sure that either way it is likely to be a lot of work for such a small team.

There is also the question of priorities within the context of culture; are hashtags, with all of the associated work, what Micro.blog needs right now? From my experience this is the kind of mechanism that can quickly lead to significant unintended consequences and so the positive value – which is basically just discovery – needs to be carefully weighed against the costs.

As for the alternatives, on Micro.blog it’s a mix of direct-ish approaches;

and the in-direct approach that has become part of the culture of Micro.blog;

(Note: there is also a Micro.blog help page covering this subject)

These alternatives also work well with philosophies of the open web, which preclude the silos; specifcally, the idea of the open web as the great social network, where we use feeds, email, newsletters, and other such technology and platforms that are largely non-proprietary. This means greater agency, independence, control, and less manipulation for all involved; it becomes a lot less like everybody dumping their posts into a bucket of faceless, nameless content whilst parasitical entities take advantage of our ignorance and lack of ownership.

I don’t think hashtags are intrinisic to the destructive nature of the web, rather I am unaware of any way for a small team to harness their power without sacrificing the good of Micro.blog; the intention, the curation, the personal contact, the idea that we are all people sharing space with some degree of control, and choosing to take our actions no matter what they might be.

Computer Tolerances

I have been without a PC for a number or days now, having actively removed PC activity from my daily routines weeks ago. Essentially, my phone and my watch are my only computers.

As a result, I have learned that I never had a tolerance for lengthy reading on a small screen in the first place let alone having not developed such a thing ever since owning my first smartphone.

This is the first time in over a decade that I have not used a PC on a daily basis, and whilst I yearn for a tool with which to work on @til the fact remains that this process has cleared my mind of an unhealthy reliance on the web as my only source for information and, well, just about everything else.

I am looking forward to the continued rediscovering of the good habits from my pre-online life and developing a much better balance of my time and energy in the future, should I ever own a PC again.

(Note: either way, iOS remains an unreliable tool for lengthy writing and I doubt that will ever change for me, for a whole host of reasons)

Putting Things On Hold

Today I Learned is now in maintenance mode.

I am currently sitting at our desk in what we once called the office. Now it’s the utility room. This change, like so many others over the past two and a half months, has been monumental and yet so small.

Lots of things are happening, some of which I may or may not talk about but altogether can be summarised thus: I’m finally taking my work seriously, giving it the space and resources needed to get the job done at a basic standard let alone anything approaching good. All in all, this is a good thing, and made all the easier due to lots and lots of changes since even before the COVID-19 pandemic became the wrecking ball of change with which we are all currently attempting to grapple.

As for Today I Learned, well, the unfortunate truth is that I do not have the resources to spare for its continued operation and so the recent hiatus has now become a full maintenance mode which, as the previously linked announcement states, means there will be no publishing of any kind for the foreseeable future.

I find it difficult to express my gratitude for all of the support from the Micro.blog community for Today I Learned. So I’ll just say this: if you’re feeling pessimistic about the web and the world in general, please take part in the Micro.blog community for at least a few months and you’ll find yourself living in an example of how the world can be a better place. Without this community I wouldn’t be in such a positive place as to handle monumental change and actually thrive, it’s as simple as that.

Over the next few months I’ll probably continue to be elusive as far as posting is concerned. At the moment I’m mostly reading feeds, reading in general, watching the various forms of video available via the web, and playing lots of video games. In many ways I’m in a maintenance mode of my own; I have increased the volume of input from the world, this amazing world we’ve made via the web, whilst simultaneously decreasing my output. This process has been… necessary. Vital even.

So I’m off to continue focusing on the most important parts of my life, and enjoying a summer of much needed self reflection.

I hope everybody who reads this is well and doing what is needed to live in this our strange pandemic-influenced time.

I’ll see you in the replies. 👋

Limiting the Web in My Life

The literal cost of using the modern web slapped me in the face just now. It got me thinking…

This is one of those things that inspires me to think about what life would be like if I gave up being as involved with the web as I currently am.

I could save the desktop for mostly offline work, with limited access to the web saved purely for uploading/sharing stuff, and then rely mostly on mobile computing. This could fit in with spending more time outside, taking my new main computer with me, and generally avoid the muck of tracking-based platforms of services.

IDK… maybe becoming “anti-connected” to some degree. Essentially reverse my general trend of the past decade and switch much more of my focus to the people near me. I wouldn’t be anywhere near as involved with the web because I simply wouldn’t have the time or other resources, as part of an intentional decision to free myself of the misery that is the modern web.

However! I could still work on TIL. I mean, the beauty of Micro.blog is that I don’t have to sell my soul to really understand it, test things out, etc.

A lot of these thoughts have become possible thanks to moving to Firefox. Between the Containers feature and lack of focus on the Google silo, it really has helped me to think about what I am doing on the web through a lens of pragmatism and with a greater degree of transparency.

It’s time for me to think about this in a real way, to make changes that are practical. I actually think it will help a lot with TIL, since it lines up nicely with the philosophies upon which Micro.blog was built. In particular it’s the idea of a “good web”, in which we have the ability to control our online presence and not have to accept a life lived as little more than value-based data, a faceless thing there to be used for the efforts of other people to increase their ill-gotten gains.

This is a lot of meta-style talk, which I didn’t want to spend so much time on in public posts. However, it is a significant process for me on a number of levels and I would like to have a public record of my thinking as I go through the process of making the aforementioned changes over the next few months.

The Social Web As Background Noise

It feels, at some level, that it lets the people in charge off the hook. Thoughts?

Adam Tinworth

Having shared Euan Semple’s thought-provoking post, Adam got a fairly quick reply from Pete Brown which only further provoked me to once again consider a general viewpoint I have been wrestling with for the past few years.

An important point of context within these issues that is often neglected: these companies, this version of the web, a lot of it is US-centric. They are literally constructs made from the culture of the US, and whilst of course they are also built with a diversity of viewpoints I think it is vital to remember that there is a difference in how these things are built even compared to that which is most similar, for example Canada.

I don’t know, maybe I live in too much of a bubble of my circumstances in life but the fact remains that I have yet to meet people who are so desparately in need of the connected web on our own little island, as compared to seemingly large numbers of Americans for whom the internet has been something of a lifeboat. Not to say it isn’t significant here, of course it is, but rather that there is difference in the difference even between our two relatively similar nations… that the environment is different, there are different motivations for the various part of our societies, and that’s before we even get to Europe and further afield.

I’ve just never quite felt that if I were to sacrifice the internet my life would be inescapably ruined; at least with regard to the social, overly worked part of the internet where the silos and the like exist. As such I have never quite felt that this is necessarily a socio-economic aspect of our lives that requires constant and immediate care. In many ways, it truly is what it is and little else.

What's the point in the independent web?

The firmer I become in my convictions that the independent web is the neccessary alternative to social media, the more likely I am to question that feeling.

Have the silos simply figured it out and we, as a species, inevitably trend to this system?

If so, then the independent alternative is surely a waste of time.

Life should be about people and if all of the people on the web are in the silos, then that is where we should be.

Sure, a bunch of people might reply to this – I have been very lucky to find a great community on Micro.blog, for example – and that might include lengthy replies with fiery disagreements to my conclusions.

But ask yourself: who will read that?

  • The people who are so busy living their lives that they don’t have time to read blogs? I doubt it.
  • The people who read blogs and oppose social media (except that they have social media accounts for totally legitimate serious reasons you couldn’t possibly pick apart we promise)? Congratulations, you are preaching to the choir.
  • The people who have similar values and will make breakthroughs in convincing the mainstream to reject social media? That’s possible! After all, people like Manton Reece and Jean MacDonald enjoy reading blogs.
  • The people who wield influence in our broader socio-economic systems, which have provided the support structures for silos to both exist and monopolise the web? Even if they read it, the chances they would change anything to balance out the silos are likely small.

So why are we bothering?

Why do we build against the silos?

What makes the independent web – in its current environment that is hostile to the average user of silos – worth adopting, warts and all?