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.

Fresh links for October 1st

  • OStatus: like Twitter, but open – Ooh. I'm actually quite excited about this. The HN thread has some good points about WordPress integration as well. If OStatus can get itself hooked in closely to the WordPress ecosystem, it could actually have enough people using it — non-geek people, that is — to be worthwhile.
  • Proofreading font – Did you know there is a special font for proofreading OCR'd texts? This one was developed by Project Gutenberg. "It's designed to constantly throw you OUT of the story and get you to focus on the letters and punctuation. It's glorious. And ugly. Wow, I didn't know it was possible to make a font that ugly and still readable."
  • The day I confronted my troll – An engaging story with a twist at the end. There's something about it that rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it's the delight with which people have been latching on to a story that portrays trolls as harmless individual actors. Few such stories are solved as neatly as this.
  • To Encourage Biking, Cities Forget About Helmets – What makes cycling safe? Tons of cyclists on the road. Helmet laws make cycling seem difficult and scary, discouraging ordinary riders and paradoxically making cycling less safe. Take note, Melbourne!

Fresh links for May 31st through June 10th

  • Printfection – Looks like I've got a new favourite t-shirt supplier: Printfection has organic cotton Ts in fitted ("women's") sizes up to 54" in 13 different colours, and at $19.99 each which isn't too bad. They do zazzle/cafepress style fulfilment, though it looks like they're aiming more for a pro market than a hobbyist one. Fine by me! I think I'm about to start selling t-shirts! (I've been putting it off for years because I couldn't find tshirt stock I wanted to wear.)
  • Joshua Ellis revisits the Grim Meathook Future – This post pretty much reflects the contents of my brain when it comes to a) the fuckedness of the VC-driven tech industry, and b) dystopian futurism (or rather, presentism). Except for the bit where he blames technologists for the death of newspapers and record sales, because really, can't we share that with Murdoch and his musical equivalents? Anyway, a must-read on the subject of the grim, meathook, unevenly-distributed, venture-funded, watching-cops-assault-people-on-YouTube present and/or future.
  • Salon.com » The case for telling everyone what you make – This is something I believe in pretty strongly. I'd also love to see a buttload more salary transparency when jobs are advertised (yeah, dream on) but at least an increased culture of sharing this info should be good for websites like glassdoor where you can find salary info when you're jobhunting.
  • Popping the social media zit – sabreuse talks bucketloads of sense about those "share" buttons that are like acne all over websites.

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?

My mostly-mobile Internet workflow

One of the biggest changes to my Internet use over the last year is that I no longer spend all day in the office sitting in front of a computer. It used to be that if something interesting caught my attention, I’d open it in a browser tab and in the next slow patch — perhaps over lunch, or during that long dark teatime of the soul that happens around 4:30pm when you’re watching the clock, or the far more pleasant beer-time of the soul that happens when you stay at the office after everyone’s gone and actually get some productive stuff done — somewhere in one of those times, if I felt the urge, I could easily whack out a blog post if I felt the urge.

These days, I mostly check Twitter on my phone, and just reading links that get posted there turns out to be a bit fraught, let alone actually doing anything with them. All too often, when I click on a Twitter link, I wind up on a page that’s been “helpfully” (please visualise my sarcastic airquotes) “optimised” for mobile users, which means I have to click through a suggestion that I install their special app (no thanks!) before winding up on a dumbed-down version of the site’s front page. Any link to the actual article I wanted to read in the first place is, of course, absent.

Assuming I can get to the article, what I can do with it is more limited, too. My Twitter client of choice includes a cut-down browser which is great for quickly checking out ephemeral links, but opening in “real” Safari requires a couple of clicks. (You can do it by default, but that is overkill for most links, so I choose not to.) Once in Safari… well, a mobile browser is no place to get real work done. Nevertheless, I spent a chunk of yesterday trying to bash my newly-mobile-centric Internet workflow into shape, and since I’m rather proud of it, I thought I’d post it here.

The key parts are:

  • Pinboard — a bookmarking service which I started using as replacement for Delicious, and which has the feel that Delicious did back in the good old days, before anyone invented the term “folksonomy”.
  • Instapaper — one of several “read later” apps (the main other contenders are Pocket and Readability); one of the features that endears it is that it integrates well with Pinboard and with other apps I use.
  • WordPress — this blog runs on it, and I’ve got a bunch of handy plugins installed (and wow, sometime when I wasn’t looking, WordPress plugins got really useful).
  • ifttt — “If this, then that”, a glue application that connects various online services based on triggers.

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