Home!

Well, I’m home. Have been for a few days, actually, but in between jetlag, flaky internet, and nesting, I haven’t gotten around to posting.

The flight home was ghastly and let’s never talk about it, okay? I am still processing my thoughts on the trip overall but I guess the quick version is: 2.5 months is a long time to be city-hopping, it was more expensive than I expected, it was great to meet people everywhere (hi! thanks!), and I really want to spend more time in Andalusia and in the north-east of England.

Now I’m home I’m sorting out money (yay Centrelink) and work (some balance of Growstuff and more audio stuff), settling into our rearranged home (we have a new housemate, and a significant turnover and reshuffling of furniture as a result), and trying to restart my social life. Incidentally, if you’re interested in my domestic blog it’s over here and likely to have lots of food/gardening/crafts in the near future. NESTING. SPRING CLEANING. MORE NESTING.

I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with social networking websites and probably going to delete my Facebook account. Yes, again. Especially after they outed queer students to their parents and then blamed the students for not understanding Facebook’s “robust privacy controls” — despite the students having locked down their accounts, and Facebook ignoring those settings.

With the way Twitter is going these days, I may drop that too. Or at least stop using it as a primary interface to the world. I keep coming back to the fact that if I’m going to create stuff, I don’t want some corporate jerkwads shoving ads all over it, potentially ads for things that are anathema to me. See, for example, that time when LiveJournal put anti-equality ads all over someone’s post celebrating a same-sex marriage, or the “Meet Hot Gamer Chicks” ads we used to get on the Geek Feminism wiki. I’ll gladly pay money to support a service, but I won’t stick around for that sort of misuse of my words.

So, if you want to be sure to keep following me even if I drop off those places, you might want to subscribe to my blog (by RSS, or you can get email updates if you prefer — there’s a subscription form on the bottom of every page on my site.); or subscribe to my journal on Dreamwidth (mostly an aggregate of this blog and my domesticity blog, with a few other things from time to time); or on whatever the next not-completely-asshatty social network gets enough people to be worth the trouble.

Why yes, I’ll gladly run your infographic…

Via David Gerard, who links to Tom Morris’s Infographics are porn without the happy ending:

If you wanted to catalogue the shit-eating complacency and pretentiousness of Web 2.0, infographics would be right up there with the damn TED conference and people who put “rockstar” on their business card.

Did someone really sit down one day and think “you know, unless we have the market share of the iPad illustrated as a pie chart shaped as an apple, people will think this statistic is too dry”? The story of the iPad is an interesting one: much, much more interesting than can be displayed in three factoids hastily put together in a crappy infographic. You don’t need an infographic to tell the story of a computer that is the size and form of a magazine. You need a writer.

Everyone keeps telling me that infographics are fine, and that I’m just getting stuck in Sturgeon’s Law. I keep hearing infographics designers turn up at design events talking about the awesomeness of infographics. But in my day to day life, I can’t remember ever seeing a good infographic. That is, I can’t remember ever seeing an infographic that made it worth the page taking even half a second longer to load.

I get these requests to run infographics on my blog all the time. Today I actually replied to one, asking me if I’d like to post something about the rise of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields. Interesting! Especially since a number of studies show that fewer women are pursuing STEM careers and that there is a growing gender gap in computing.

So, I replied saying that I’d take a look at the infographic and consider running it on the following terms:

  1. The information is based on respected, preferably peer reviewed, studies, and provides citations.
  2. The graphical display of the information provides insight that would not have been available through text.
  3. A textual summary of the infographic is also provided, to improve accessibility for readers who have trouble interpreting a graphic.
  4. The graphic is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution or Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA) license.

I don’t expect a reply, but I’ll let you know if I get one. Now I just need to come up with similar terms for the dozens of people who keep asking to guest-post on my blog. I suspect the top condition would be, “I get to mock you and your post.” Especially that one that emailed me the other day, saying: “When searching Google for Open Source Development, we found a post on infotrope.net.” O RLY?

Elsewhere

It occurred to me that some of the people who read this blog might not know that I also have a food/craft/domesticity sort of blog over at oeconomist.infotrope.net. If you like that sort of thing, then you might, well, like it.

(People reading this via Dreamwidth will already know this, of course. This is for the rest of you.)

I’d include a shiny gallery of pictures of the tasty food I’ve been posting about lately, but WordPress is being a pain the arse. So just pretend there are mouth-watering food pix here, and that one of these days I’ll actually get around to posting pics of my recent knitting projects, too.

Further thoughts on workflow

Further to the post on my mostly-mobile digital workflow a couple of weeks ago. It’s had a little while to shake down, and I’ve come up with two real problems so far:

First, the exercise of replying to comments is tricky on mobile. Quite apart from the typing-on-my-phone issue is the problem that I can’t see the comment I’m replying to as I reply to it. This leads to me saying to myself, “I’ll answer that when I’m next at my laptop”, and then forgetting. Apologies to anyone who’s had belated or entirely absent replies lately. I think a semi-fix for this might simply to be to open the “reply” in a separate window from the comment I’m reading (in WordPress, I could have a reading copy open in Safari while replying via the WordPress app). It’s a bit fiddly though. Other suggestions welcome.

(As an aside, this seems like a must-have feature for blogging platforms that have mobile apps. Why doesn’t WordPress have this? Anyway, consider it noted as a desired feature for any future Dreamwidth mobile app development.)

Secondly, I am missing an RSS reader. I switched from Google Reader to NewsBlur last year around the time of the kerfuffle that I won’t bother linking to, but I have one fundamental problem with NewsBlur on mobile: there’s no star/favourite/etc option on the mobile client, and I use that (or used to use it) heavily for “interesting, come back and deal with it later” articles: often recipes or knitting patterns from my various food and craft blogs that I want to do something with later, but don’t really want to go through the steps of bookmarking right now. That may sound incredibly lazy — how hard is it to bookmark something on the spot? — but opening a link to the article on its blog site, then clicking through to Pinboard, then zooming in and entering tags and all that, then saving, is a pretty heavy multi-step process for something non-urgent. I used to like just starring them all and then one night when I was in the mood for looking at recipes and knitting patterns, going through and dealing with them all as a batch.

The upshot of this, anyway, is that I’m not really using NewsBlur as much as I could be, and I wind up missing lots of posts by people I’d like to read. Or rather, I sometimes eventually see them, but usually after the comments have peaked and died, and so it’s more of an archival reading exercise than a live one. (See, eg., Charlie Stross’s meta post on comments, which — ironically yet predictably — I didn’t see til it had about 250 comments, after someone I follow on Twitter linked it.

I would actually like to see those things more or less as they’re posted. For those bloggers who automatically post on Twitter when they have a new post, I can do that. For those that don’t… *sigh*. I’m actually pondering setting up an RSS reader via Twitter, since that’s something I check nearly constantly. I could create an account for the purpose, and a set of RSS-to-Twitter ifttt recipes. Has anyone done something similar? The obvious pitfall I can see looming is that I’m not sure ifttt supports multiple Twitter accounts, so I might need a separate ifttt account as well. Ugh. Thoughts?

A final alternative: I’ve been using Flipboard a bit for random browsing, but could quite happily upgrade it to a more serious role in my workflow. It supports RSS but only via Google Reader. Don’t suppose anyone knows of a way to get RSS on Flipboard without Google?

Back to where we began

I just realised the other day that it’s been very nearly a whole year since I announced what I called “The Plan”: leaving Google and the tech industry, returning to Australia, and taking up sound engineering as a profession.

I’ve spent a lot of the last year offline, sometimes in an intentional effort to get away from it all, and sometimes through happenstance, when other interests and activities have limited me to the small peephole to the Internet provided by my phone. In many ways it’s been good to disconnect, if only because it saves this happening every night:

Someone is wrong on the Internet (xkcd)

On the other hand, I’ve felt pretty disconnected from what’s going on in the world, and it’s definitely been hard on many of the (primarily online) friendships I’ve built over the last two decades. (More on that shortly, I think.)

The other day, as I was sitting around on the sofa clicking refresh on half a dozen browser windows, I found myself thinking (as I so often have over this last year) that I should get up and do something offline, since the Internet was so dull. I’ve been telling myself this a lot over the last year. Then I caught myself and said, “Wait a minute…” See, there was a time when I actually enjoyed being online, talking to people, sharing ideas, being creative, being inspired, connecting with strangers and broadening my horizons. It’s been one of the best things in my adult life. I didn’t always have this feeling of exhausted passivity, of feeling like I ought to keep up, but not really being interested in the stuff that’s being shovelled through the intertubes to my bleary, sandpapery eyeballs.

So, fuck it, it’s time to be active on the Internet again, participate, create, do stuff rather than just consuming. To give myself a bit of focus in my renewed Internet life, I’m relaunching this blog. A new leaf — hopefully a series of new leaves — and with any luck I’ll be able to write something interesting on each one.

The mechanics of it:


  1. All the old articles on this blog have been moved to The Attic. You can still find them there if you need them for archival purposes or whatever.
  2. The subject matter? Anything and everything. For a while I tried to keep my personal website “professional” but I’m not even sure what that means any more. So, the gates are wide open. You can expect to see posts on a wide range of topics.
  3. I’m attempting to optimise the the blog’s setup for comments/conversations/discussions, and I’ll be making an effort to encourage and nurture them; let me know what how it goes and whether you can think of any areas for improvement.
  4. I’m instituting a comment policy, which I hope won’t be onerous, but which I hope will keep the discussion threads here pleasant for all involved. I’ll post the details shortly.

I think that’s about it. I hope this’ll help me reconnect with at least some of my Internet peeps, and meet a bunch of new ones. Let me know what you think, and in the meantime, feel free to tell me what you’ve been up to in the last year.