Reminder: it’s a zillion times easier to hack Twitter and take over accounts of Apple, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, and others than it would be to hack their separate websites.
Distributed systems are safer.
Did you know Calibre can turn an RSS feed into an eBook? I didnt! It turns out Calibre, tt-rss, and Wallabag make it possible to roll your own news that you can read right on your eReader!
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: I’m a big fan of RSS. For the uninitiated, RSS is a way to subscribe to a feed of content from a website and consume it in a reader or other tool of your choice. And despite claims that it’s dying out, I still manage to have more content in my feed reader than I possibly have time to consume.
For a long time I used Feedly as my RSS reader of choice. But back in October I decided to switch to tt-rss, a self-hosted RSS feed reading service that works on both browsers and through a mobile app. Then, in a fit of boredom, I used some self-hosted home automation tools to incorporate email newsletters into my feed. Meanwhile, I also decided to stand up an instance of Wallabag, a self-hosted website bookmarking service.
But I ran across a problem: with all this content at my fingertips, I started to fall behind, particularly on all those long-form articles and newsletters I want to read.
And then I discovered Calibre’s news scraping features and a solution presented itself!Continue reading...
Social media algorithms care only that you’re engaged. They exist to advertise. Everything else is a side-effect. RSS lets you ditch the machine and build your own feed from trusted sources.
Quite a few years ago, for personal reasons, I decided to drop out of major social media platforms. This was just at the time when those platforms truly started to take over the world, so the whole thing more or less passed me by as I watched from the sidelines. As a result, it wasn’t until very recently that I came to appreciate just how much these platforms have become the primary way that people run across content online.
Of course, this really shouldn’t be surprising. Once upon a time, the internet was made up of an untold number of websites, big and small. And this posed a real problem of content discovery. Sure, we managed. We managed with search engines, and bookmarks, and web portals, and other ad hoc technologies. But it was a huge pain.
Today, this same kind of content discovery is done on social media platforms, with content pushed to the consumer by machine learning algorithms that optimize for “engagement”, which is a technical term for “time spent on the service”.
On its face this would seem like a good thing! After all, if you’re engaged, that must mean you’re delighted by what you see!
But the reality is a lot more complicated. Yes, certainly the things that delight us will keep us engaged. But so do the things that make us outraged, or offended, or jealous. And the algorithm can’t tell the difference. So whether you’re clicking on a link because you want to see a picture of a large cat in a small box, or you want to read an outrageous article about how the world is really flat, it’s all the same to the machine.
The result is an algorithmic filter bubble that often serves to misinform, usually while making us miserable.
On the other hand, those algorithms really do provide a useful function: They push interesting content to us so we don’t have to go and seek it out. The problem is, we have no control over how they function.
Well, as you can probably guess, I’m here to tell you that there is an alternative, and it’s a technology that’s almost as old as the web itself: RSS.Continue reading...
For book start/finish posts I’m using IndieBookClub. For reviews, I’m just posting to my blog. Hopefully Brid.gy supports Goodreads syndication soon (and if not I’ll write that code myself)! Ravelry support would be amazing!
A lot of things I post to Twitter start as notes on my blog so I host the content, but right now I don’t link back from the tweet to the note as I find it messy.
Most of what you see from me starts on my blog. Tweets, photos, or articles, I post them on my blog and syndicate. Part 1 on why and how!
If you’ve been paying attention to my writing lately, you’ll notice a theme. Toward the end of November I got it into my head to rebuild my blog for reasons that, in hindsight, I don’t actually remember.
At the time my main goal was to change the technology over from an old blog engine to something a bit more modern. But as I thought more about what I wanted for my blog, and read more about the IndieWeb movement, I realized my idea of what a blog could be was incredibly limited.
To their great credit, modern walled garden web services have given us with a lot of ways to express ourselves:
- Short notes (tweets, status updates)
- Long-form content (blog posts, articles)
- Reactions (likes)
- Shares (bookmarks, retweets)
Not to mention more specialized status updates like what we’re reading, what we’re listening to, etc.
Each of these represents a piece of content we’re creating and publishing. We may not think of it that way because firing off a tweet or writing a quick status update is so easy. But they’re all just alternative formats for self-expression.
Unfortunately, as I’ve noted previously, because these are each their own walled garden, this content is split up and spread out across many services. At best this is annoying! At worst, it’s a great way to ensure that the things we write or post could get lost someday when those services inevitably die.
And then, as I read more about the IndieWeb, I realized I’d been thinking about my blog all wrong.
Yeah, sure, traditionally blogs were the home primarily for long-form content. But it’s my blog. It can be whatever I want it to be. So, why not turn my blog into the place where I post all of the things! And then, after authoring on my own site, automatically syndicate to those social networks!Continue reading...
The indieweb is about controlling your identity. But it’s also be a great way to claw back all that content I’ve been scattering across the web so I can get better at archiving!
Our data, scattered
A while back I started to take an interest in the topic of personal data archiving, and in particular how the topic intersects with the various social media platforms that so many of us interact with. The simple fact is that so much of who we are–the things we write, the photos and videos we take, the people we interact with, our very memories, as Facebook likes to remind us–are locked up in a bunch of different walled gardens that are difficult to escape, both technically and due to the powerful social pressures that keep us on these platforms.
I like to think of the traditional photo album as an interesting contrast.
It used to be that we collected memories in these books, and stored those books on a shelf. There was some real downsides to this approach! It’s a pain to add stuff to them (I have to “print” photos??) They’re difficult to share and enjoy. They’re single points of failure (think: house fires). They require intentional acts to ensure preservation. The list goes on.
But, they were ours. We owned them. We could take those photos and easily copy them, share them, rearrange them, archive them, and so forth.
Now imagine that you collected all your photos in a photo album that you could only store and access from a vault being run by a private company. The company would ensure the photos were protected and stored properly, and they provided a really nice, simple mechanism to easily add photos to your album right from your phone! That’s really nice! But if you wanted to look at those photos, you’d have to go to the vault, enter your passcode, and then you could only look at them while you were in the vault. And if you wanted to get a copy of all of those photos for yourself, well, you can, but it’s ugly and complicated and designed to make it minimally possible and maximally difficult.
Next, imagine the corporation changed their policies in a way you didn’t like. Or imagine that corporation went bankrupt. Or experienced a fire. Or you lost the passcode for that vault. Or a loved one passed away and didn’t store the passcode in a safe place.
Today, we don’t just lock those photos in one vault run by one private company. We lock those photos in many vaults, spread out all over the place. In doing so, we dramatically increase these risks, because instead of just one company failing or one account that we might lose access to or one set of terms of service we need to worry about, it’s many.
All the while we fragment our identity, spreading ourselves thin across the internet, which makes it extremely difficult to preserve all of those memories.
So what can we do about it?Continue reading...
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