Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Upside-down content

Was going to post this as a reply to James' post on leaving Twitter, but thought I'd try out his webping-thing instead. Plus this follows on from my previous post about microblogging. For further reading on the matter, see also Orbifx's post "From Mastodon to News-groups".*

I remember going to conferences and asking people if they had a Twitter account instead of a business card. That felt powerful at the time. And, to be fair, I still follow and respect the tweets/posts/thoughts of many of those people. Looking back, Twitter was more of a contact book with lightweight content - staying in touch with people was more important than actually having a conversation.

And perhaps, perhaps, it still has a use for that. It's not a good business model, which is the problem with fucking technocapitalism. Minor things are useful, but need turning into major things to please the VC crowd. Sure,we have the Fediverse, but one cannot deny the _convenience_ of a one-word identity. In terms of contact books and typable brevity, is the Fediverse any better or worse than just swapping emails?

I wish people blogged more, and tweeted less - a small blog once a week or so for those who are interested, and an even smaller tweet once a season, just to let your weak links and the wider world that you're still alive.

Posting more and more content to your weaker links? It feels like we've got this upside-down and back-to-front.

* and yes, the overlap between orbific and orbifx is slightly confusing.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020


Of course, the thing about trying to pass content around between multiple editors, media and services is that you never seem to get a clean end result. Not sure if the exmosis.net home page is currently frustrating me, or needs to move into full on glitch territory...:

Monday, January 06, 2020

Hovering at the Edge of Social Media - thoughts after a month away

Been off Twitter and Mastodon for a month now, as planned. I was expecting to re-join the throng about now, but haven't quite made it back. I've not returned to work yet, and am still relaxing, watching some TV, playing games, looking after kids, and even indulging in some little projects like fixing my old, original Gameboy.

Of more interest than leaving digital media is the question of re-entering the fray, and how that makes me feel. Have I missed it all? Not really. I've been spending less time online in general, but that time has been more focused on emails, RSS, and XMPP chats. In all three cases, I get more out of my engagement than the random, half-formed fragments that microblogging encourages.

With email, I have a huge amount of flexibility, and can easily sort out newsletters and personal messages from other admin stuff. A medium isn't just about the format and technical protocols involved, but all the support tools, organisational structures and cultural expectations that go with it.

I think email - and/or the people I communicate with - has moved away from the overly oppressive practices that burdened email within corporate contexts. My inbox is still overflowing significantly, but it feels... Fun.

RSS is my relaxing read, my newspaper. I've sorted out some email-to-RSS feeds for any longer format email newsletters which don't have feeds, but the main aim with my feed reader is to enjoy more thoughtful and expansive missives from people whose writing I enjoy. If I had some things to focus on with my RSS setup this year, it would be to:
  1. make it easier to reply to posts - maybe I'll add some sort of mailto link on my own posts automatically somehow
  2. encourage more people I know to set up blogs and post, without it being too much hassle
On that last point, I'm now writing a lot of my posts in a Markdown editor on my phone, and posting them to blogs via email (Edison's Email app is the only Android app I've found that lets me embed an image properly, but still working on formatting issues). Same with my newsletters.

I like this approach - the phone keeps the editing process shorter and more focused, and I can write anywhere, while Markdown gives me some basic formatting. (This post is currently being written in Markor, a FLOSS app on F-Droid.) Still, it's obviously not everyone's cuppa. ☕

XMPP, for me, picks up where I left IRC behind. It's the flipside of the promise of microblogging - short chatter with random, weak-link people. But there's not the half-on half-off limbo approach or microblogging, and nor is there a contorted bastardisation of themed conversations. Rooms are so much better than hashtags or groups - it's funny how subject matter sets the scope of a space, and therein one's own reason for participating.

On the whole, the question is not which social media apps one likes using, but how does one want to engage with the world. Are we looking for deeply fulfilling conversation? Distraction and diversion? Intimate conversation? Q&A sessions and useful info?

In practice, it's probably all of these. The danger is that we get sucked into trying to do all of them at the same time, rather than consciously choosing our mode of thought depending on what we want to focus on, what we want to achieve. It's like trying to buy water from a supermarket - you'll always come out with batteries and mince pies in September, just because there's too much tempting diversity.

So my approach from here is not to just jump back in, but to think about why I'm engaging more, and what I want to get out of my usage. I'll start checking sites again, but am going to hold off installing apps for instant attention. It needs to tie in with how I want to use my time more generally, with my longer term plans and goals for the year.

And that's a whole different post.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Into the Earth: A month's social media hibernation

(Image: a poster offering a "Free Will service")

In the Vorrh, by B Catling, there are creatures which like to bury themselves under leaves, down into the cool of the earth. They're very much on my mind at the moment, as we slip into the Dark Month. Based on a ba gua calendar approach, we're now firmly out of Mountain Season (when I tried to hold firm, remain solid, stay rooted) and pressing on into full Yin time.

This year, the solstice is on the 22nd of December - a Sunday two weeks away (yesterday). As part of an ongoing effort to roll more seasonal and cyclical mentality into my daily routine, I've decided to come off Twitter, Mastodon and Gnu/social (because those last 2 have sort of split up now) for 4 weeks, centred on that Sunday. I've uninstalled the apps and will do my best to going to the websites.

On the one hand, it feels like an odd time to do so - firstly there's a massively important election coming up in this week, and secondly Christmas is a time of year for socialising, surely?

But - I don't really enjoy politics on the web these days, especially not the social web with its rapid-fire attention loss, and rampant emoji-fueled tribalism.

And by getting off my apps, I'm hoping to reconnect with people around me in a more 'real' manner - them and their contexts and their reactions and hopes. It's distracting to live within a bubble that feels like it always needs capturing, reporting, publishing, sharing.

(Side effect: The battery on my should last longer, keeping me going with this solar-powered phone experiment.) 

The one thing I've come to appreciate at Christmas is downtime - simple appreciation, hibernation, recovery, reflection, relaxation. It's been a good year, also a busy one, and looking around me, it doesn't feel like anyone in the world is stopping. I really want some time, and - more importantly - headspace to clear things out, and breathe a little.

I'll still be online. But in a more "connected" way. I'm on email (including writing blogs and newsletters), reading the RSS streams, and have been using XMPP for messaging and some newsgroups for discussion recently. And Signal is getting more people, too. All my contact details are here.


[Edited 11th Dec to add link to contact details.]

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Tings bein listened to

For intergalatic soul reasons, I've been budgeting more recently. This means I seem to be spending both more and less in general, at the same time. Not sure what dark forces allow that to happen, but that's economics for you.

As part of that, I've been letting myself drift through the e-music stacks again, trying to limit myself to about a tenner's worth of varied musics. Last month, I returned to bleep.com and indulged in all the free samples. My 3 picks were:
  • Sonne Und Wasser, by H Takahashi: "sun and water... Tokyo-based artist H.Takahashi links these two essential elements for plant growth across four extended works of pulse minimalism". Seemed like a good solarpunk soundtrack.
  • Cabora EP, by Angelov: Something more along the cyber-parkour / early hours Wipeout grooves.
  • Frozen EP, by Blindsmyth: Not related to the new film sequel release, but three 8+ minute tracks which keep my toe tapping and rhythm going and heart pumping. If I jogged, I'd jog to this.
This month I'm on an alternative-network route for incoming promo. Also seems to coincide with a Bandcamp binge.
  • Old net chum (ok, and real life fellow ex-colleague and troublemaker) Phil emailed me saying he'd released new album Muerck under his Mentufacturer id - must mail him back to say cheers.
  • Old(er) cousin and for-a-while Bitcoin music label conspirator Rupert has released a soundtrack for Dune based on the book - it's been on my radar for ages and finally got a round tuit.
  • New discovery via Mastodon (I posted about intermittent networks, someone suggested Hundred Rabbits, and it went from there to @neauoire and an old album called Children of Bramble which has a cool cover and sounds right up my alley.
And, as always (this year at least), 65days are continuing to rock out their monthly releases. Not caught up with Decomp Sketches yet, but 7over8 is a damn cracker.