So, to ensure we didn’t bankrupt ourselves during my sabbatical, I realized I needed to get a better handle on our budget and stood up Firefly III. I gotta say, so far, not bad! I particularly love that it has an API with what looks like complete functionality coverage. Just a shame open banking basically doesn’t exist… getting complete transaction data has meant writing Tampermonkey scripts and pulling down data manually. Hard to believe it’s 2023 and that’s still a problem…
A sad day for Evernote users (I haven’t used it any time recently but I know a lot of folks that loved it).
But it’s another good cautionary tale about the dangers of cloud-hosted services. Every company seems invincible until it’s not.
The idea of privacy as a modern form of inequality has been rattling around in my head for a while, now, and I wanted to jot down some thoughts, particularly in light of the recent rise of Mastodon.
Typically, when people talk about inequality, they are focused on the obvious forms of socioeconomic inequality that result in advantages being conferred to some groups and withheld from others. The most obvious example is economic inequality–the recognition that economic benefits accrue primarily to the wealthy. But there’s a wide range of other forms of inequality out there, most of which are incredibly old and are structural in nature. For example, zoning laws frequently allow polluting industries to be built up next to minority communities, resulting in increasing environmental inequality. Jobs occupied by those lower on the economic ladder are more likely to be subject to unsafe workplaces, resulting in health inequality. And these same communities are the least likely to have the political and economic power to change these circumstances, an example of political inequality.
In the world of software and technology, we’ve seen the rise of surveillance capitalism, defined as the “widespread collection and commodification of personal data by corporations.” In this new world, individuals are, either unknowingly or voluntarily, subject to vast data collection operations which scoop up, collect, and connect these datasets. These datasets are then fed into systems designed to derive additional data about individuals–data about their economical and political interests, personal relationships, consumption patterns, and so forth.
Today, these massive apparatus are then used to deliver hyper-targeted messages intended to influence purchasing decisions, voting decisions, and so forth (though just how effective these techniques are is the subject of significant debate).
However, the uses of these data are vast, and they’ll soon be used (and in some cases are already being used) to influence things like hiring decisions, insurances rates, loan approvals, and so forth. The result is that one poor choice, one incorrectly interpreted data point, one broken or biased algorithm, could result in individuals being denied access to critical social and economic infrastructure.
Until and unless governments catch up, these trends will only continue. That means individuals have to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, protecting ones privacy requires knowledge, skills, and resources that are often the domain of a select few. As a result, privacy itself is increasingly becoming a mark of privilege.Continue reading...
Part two of two on single sourcing content, this time covering my CV, which starts as YAML and ends up as HTML, PDF, and even a Word doc.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my blog is often both a place to throw ideas out into the world, and a place to mess around with screwy ideas, and one of those ideas I’ve been messing around with is using Jekyll’s abilities as a static site generator to produce multiple outputs from a single source.
The first experiment in this area involved my cookbook, wherein I took a bunch of individual markdown files and crammed them together into something that pandoc can use to generate PDF and even EPUB outputs.
My second experiment in this area was with my CV. The challenge with something like a CV is that the layout requirements are pretty complex and don’t fit well with a basic template-and-markdown model. As a result, I ended up having to take a less orthodox approach to this project.Continue reading...
Part one of two on single sourcing content to produce multiple attractive outputs. In this case, a write-up about the creation of my personal cookbook!
One of the benefits of using a static site generator (in my case Jekyll) to build this website is that all the underlying content is stored in simple text files. Most of the page content itself is just markdown files with a YAML header block. The page layout is simple HTML templates using liquid macros. Formatting is SASS that’s transformed into vanilla CSS.
This has a few of benefits. First, the site is future-proofed–plain text means I can move to a different engine any time I want, as the content is stored in a format that’s easy to extract and transform. Second, the ecosystem of tools to handle text files generally, and YAML and markdown specifically, is enormous, which means I can lean on all that existing infrastructure to do interesting things.
In this post I’ll cover the first of two examples where I’ve taken advantage of these benefits to produce, not just this website, but beautiful PDFs, ebooks, and even Word documents, from the same source content.Continue reading...
I used to use Goodreads for tracking/reviewing books I’ve read. Then Amazon bought them and I decided to move all that stuff to my own blog. This is how I did it!
So while it turns out I forgot I’d posted about this topic a while ago, it seemed worth revisiting and writing a focused post on how I’m book blogging.
Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a remarkably poor memory for the books I’ve read. After I’ve finished a book or series, it doesn’t take long for the details to get washed out and for my thoughts to blur into vague recollections of what the book made me think and feel. It was for this reason that I started using Goodreads.
For me, Goodreads served a few useful functions. First, it gave me a place to track what I’m reading and, more importantly, what I’ve read. Second, it gave me a spot to jot down my thoughts about books so that, later, I could go back and read those notes and refresh my memory.
But that meant trapping all of that information in someone else’s silo, and I was never particularly comfortable with that. And when Amazon went and bought Goodreads, I basically stopped using the service, and as a result, stopped tracking my reading.
When I decided to reinvent my blog, I undertook the project with a central goal in mind: to take back control over my own data and content. To that end, book blogging was a perfect fit for this vision, and so I wanted to describe how I’ve leveraged approaches from the IndieWeb to solve this problem and scratch my own itch.Continue reading...
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