Thaehan - Mekatsune

I want to share the album I was listening to while I figured out how to dockerise Hugo. It’s such an upbeat listen that I didn’t notice when it looped through and played again. I was listening on soundcloud through docker-tizonia but I’ll leave you the Spotify link for Thaehan - Mekatsune and the FULL LP on Youtube

My two fave tracks are Chapô Chapô and Goblins, but you make up your own mind.

NOTE: I added the above as sign off on another post a few weeks ago, but re-listened to some of their music again today and decided they deserved a separate post. I’m totally blown away by their music. And as an additional bonus for re-reading this post if you saw it at the bottom of the last one, here’s a newer trilogy track called Mechanical Heart.

Flamming the Gilstone X488

Back in ‘87 the Gilstone company released the X488, a breakthrough in mesopliner technology that was soon forgotten to the mists of time. Today I’m building my own X488 and I’m going to do it with flamming!

Keeping inline with my desire to produce catchy titles I’ve named this post something nonsensical. The Gilstone X488 wasn’t a thing (was it?), but lately I’ve been getting all nostalgic for retro tech, and reading a bunch of excellent posts about technology and frankly I was feeling left out.

So I apologise if you came here hoping to learn more about flamming, or if you yourself have fond memories of the Gilstone X488, but that’s not what we’re doing today. Today I thought I’d share some excellent websites I’ve been enjoying lately, and hopefully you can find some good posts there instead!

A person holding two mugs of tea, one that says 'me' they're holding to their chest, another says 'you' they're offering to the viewer

SHARING by yarenlen

Recently there was some discussion on EVERY SITE123456 about RSS feeds - how hidden they are now, and how we need to promote and boost those sites that write about the things we enjoy reading about. Not every site has to pump out quality SEO driven articles about technical subjects to drive ad revenue, and the re-emerging indieweb of randos writing about topics that interest them is so nice to see.

Earlier today I put the finishing touches on a simple Docker/PHP combo script to grab my Miniflux feeds and convert them into a “follow” page here on The Geekorium. Eventually I’ll follow some of the excellent work put into the exact same problem by Jan-Lukas Else on his site to build his Miniflux blogroll, as solving the problem in Go seems more inline with my use of Hugo than a php script.

My Follow page has a super simple list of sites I’d recommend, along with their RSS feeds to make subscribing simpler if you’re into it. But right now I’ll break down some excellent posts I’ve enjoyed by a few of the people on that list.

Kev Quirk runs the mastodon instance and posted recently about his experiences with Synology and Nextcloud. I was particularly interested because I’ve tried Nextcloud in the past, and while I love the idea of keeping full control over my data, I found Nextcloud to be slow and unweildy when I tried to encrypt the data and store it in the cloud. Turns out Nextcloud is just slow. Synology looks interesting, but I’ve found that Tresorit while expensive, meets my backup needs. Kev is a ‘metablogger’ who writes sometimes about his own experiences as a writer, and is also the brains behind #100DaysToOffload, a challenge to “Just. Write.” and power the old-school personal website revolution again. Also, Quirk is a kickass last name.

I originally read Guillermo Garron (ggarron)‘s post Blogging is not dead on Hacker News. It was part of a longer ongoing discussion across a number of sites on whether old-school personal web logs were dead or dying. The irony of this discussion happening across multiple personal “blogs” was not actually irony at all, but rather a concerted effort to bring back something a lot of people miss, now that corporations lock us into their specific “social” platforms. GGarron has been consistently putting out new fresh posts on his own site, doing his part to power this resurgence, to take back control and give people a reason to find and follow new people. Hs posting has led directly to making me write my more recent entries, and directly inspired me to set up a feedreader and subscribe to more people. He was the first of my new subscriptions when I finally got set up.

Horst Gutmann (zerok) wrote about Domain Of Ones Own, a program of certain universities to offer personalised domains and hosting for their students instead of a generic institutional address. This gets the student set up for life “owning” their own identity early in their career and ensures they can continue using the same tools after academia that they’ve been using all along. This idea gels with my belief that people deserve, in fact need, to claim a domain and use it for at least their own email. Zerok also built webmeniond, a way to hook the indieweb webmention technology up to your site, that I must actually enable here some time.

Launching Keyoxide is a post by Yarmo Mackenbach on the really excellent Keyoxide service he’s built as an independent tool to “prove you’re you” across multiple important websites. For example, I have a Github profile, a Mastodon profile and a personal domain that you have no way of knowing are truly “mine”. By using my Keyoxide proofs page, you’re able to see that I’ve explicitly identified profiles on these services as being under my control. Yarmo writes a lot about, and is clearly passionate for, our independence from large corporations holding and monetising our data.

Mike Stone is another fosstodon admin, and writes the sort of geeky stuff I love reading. He’s covered the software he uses, the purchase of Keybase by Zoom and his adventures into Open Source AI. He’s always got something interesting to share, and I’ve found and tried multiple new programs I’d never heard of based on his recommendations. Just don’t try eDEX-UI - it’ll crash your desktop like it did to mine!

My most recent follow I found only after putting the finishing touches on this post! Katie McLaughlin (glasnt) wrote a post called Generating a pseudorandom string: the what and the how, and while I like linux geek posts, normally the “here’s a simple command that does x” sort of posts are skippable if I can’t immediately figure out how I’ll use them. Glasnt however uses the post as an opportunity to break down the command into its parts, teaching me about tr (and LC_ALL=C), fold, and finally why short and long commandline option/argument combos make no friggin’ sense to me in a way that makes friggin’ sense. I had to immediately subscribe and add her to this list for making a linux command-line post so much more informative than they usually are.

The last person on my list is someone I’ve followed since at least 2010 when “blogs” were a thing, the salmon protocol was about to take off, and Twitter was cool. Ruben Schade (Rubenerd) has been podcasting and writing since before both were things everyone did, and is still going years later (he’s up to 411 episodes of his show which is just insane). I’m not even going to try and link to a good example of his posts, as they’re so eclectic. His technical posts are the reason I titled this post the way I did, and I’m using Linux and Hugo directly because of him (although he uses BSD like a gentleman), and I have implimented or de-implimented tech on this very site due to his recommendations. If you search for mentions of his name here, you’ll start to wonder if I have a crush on the guy, but he’s just one of the few consistent writers I’ve follow - and he also doesn’t allow comments on his site and only uses Twitter, so I can’t give him feedback any other way!

So that’s just a small list and taste of the people I’m following. There are many others, but I can’t write paragraphs about all of them so I’ll throw up some good posts by randos here:

I hope you can find someone new to follow, or are inspired to fire up a feed reader and start. And to all the people I’ve linked to here, and those who are on my list who maybe didn’t get a mention, thank you for writing, please keep going! Let’s write for pleasure and enrichment and keep the web personal and alive.

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Catchy Titles Capture Clicks

This is the third in a series of posts where I just plonk stuff I’ve been thinking about that doesn’t go anywhere else. It’s got a stupid title because my first thought is…

  1. I have a real bad time trying to come up with good titles. I don’t try too hard, so I guess it’s to be expected, but I note that my titles have a similar quality to other posts I’ve read that strike me as amateur. If I could tell you what that meant it would put me closer to rectifying it.

  2. I have subscribed to a number of new “blogs” recently - as an aside, I think the word blog is awful so I will from now on refer to them as as net-logs, or personal chronicles, or whatever fits.

    After a week of posts on Hackernews about the death and resurrection1 of said personal chronicles, I thought I’d fire up the ol’ RSS reader and brush off the dust.

    The first thing that struck me was how unpleasant the PHP-based software I had been using was. So instead of dicking around with it, I put my new Docker/Nginx skills to work and fired up a version of Miniflux which is just so elegant and simple to work with. I’ve been slowly accumulating a bunch of low-key personal chronicles by people who write about FOSS and speculate about the same kind of issues that interest me. I’ll put up a list of them somewhere soon.

  3. I’m looking for some diversity in my growing list - a lot of these people are other men about my age, which is a fine thing to be - I myself am a man about my age - but other view-points and ideas are also nice. I’m interested in FOSS, internet decentralisation/federation, programming, technology so I’m looking for personal chronicles with a similar bent. I’m not looking to subscribe to stuff that’s completely outside my interests (eg. sport, cars, gardening etc.) but someone who occasionally shares their passions for those things amongst the stuff I’m interested in is welcome2. Share your linkrolls!

  4. Today I did a big Mastodon harvest - finding and following a lot of new people. This was just to widen the number of voices I’m seeing there. I have to walk the line I failed to walk on Twitter though - while it’s important to be politically engaged, Twitter doesn’t do political nuance well, and Masto probably doesn’t either. I don’t want a lot of politics in my feed anymore. I also need to remember that hiding people’s boosts is a thing I can do.

  5. I was going to say something about the protests and riots and police/military action going on in the US, but almost everything I wrote seemed flippant. I hope that whatever happens it leads to real lasting change (or the start of it).

That’s another round up of stuff that’s been on my mind that doesn’t deserve it’s own post. I guess it’s also the third in the #100DaysToOffload3 series I haven’t officially committed to.

  1. is one of my first new subscriptions ↩︎

  2. gets a lot of mentions on here because he shares a lot of my passions, but will often share stuff I had no idea was interesting and I appreciate it. ↩︎

  3. was posting almost daily and made me nostalgic for the days where I was reading lots of personal logs and occasionally keeping my own. ↩︎

Dockerised Hugo for Local Development

Following on from last night’s post, I needed a way to run Hugo to build the new entry and deploy it. Since I had to rebuild my environment from scratch I wanted to see if I could run Hugo and Go without installing them locally.

I know Go is unlikely to cause any stability issues, as it installs all its dependencies in the user’s home dir, rather than touching system files but I’m determined in my experiment to keep my new install as clean as possible.

Using some insight I’d gathered from using docker-tizonia a Docker version of Tizonia and using asolera’s Golang minimal Dockerfile image as a base, I was able to put together a minimal Dockerfile that does the following:

  1. Creates a golang based build image to pull down the latest version of Hugo.
  2. Build and install the Hugo binary
  3. Copy the binary to a clean image
  4. Set the image work directory to /site
  5. Expose the Hugo server port 1313
  6. Make Hugo the entry point and default to the help text if I forget to add a command.

The Dockerfile looks something like the following:

FROM golang:1.14.3-alpine3.11 AS build

RUN apk add --no-cache git


RUN go get -v
WORKDIR /go/src/

RUN go install

RUN apk del git

FROM alpine:3.11

COPY --from=build /go/bin/hugo /usr/bin/hugo

RUN mkdir /site

# Expose port for live server

CMD ["--help"]

Also thanks to jojomi of bits cribbed from their Hugo Dockerfile.

Many of the Hugo Dockerfiles I found would copy the website source to the container in preparation of serving the files from Docker. In my case I’m happy with my plain HTML to continue being served where it is, but didn’t want to lose out on the features you get when you’re using Hugo to develop locally - such as running a test server with live reloading.

With the help of a handy “hugo” wrapper shell script, I was able to fire up Hugo in the container, and serve my local files through a mapped volume with no appreciable difference to how Hugo was running for me before.

The wrapper is as follows:


docker run -it --rm \
    --network host \
    --volume=$(pwd):/site \
    --name hugo \
    $(docker build -q .) "$@";

This wrapper

  1. Runs the necessary Docker command to hook the image into the host network so I can check my changes on http://localhost:1313
  2. Shares the working directory into the expected /site working directory on the image.
  3. Passes in whatever argue I pass in.

I set this Hugo file to executable with chmod u+x hugo and I can now run the automatically updating Hugo server with

./hugo server

Now because the command hugo by itself is used the build the site, I now just pass in a harmless switch like -v (verbose) to build the site without triggering the default --help text.

Finally I use my previous ./deploy script to rsync the files to my host.

The two new files are in my personal-chronicle github repo for any good they can be to anyone, and I’m curious to know if there’s any way I can improve the Docker build to simplify it.

Some questions or areas I think I can improve are:

  1. I’m not sure if the line ARG HUGO_BUILD_TAGS is necessary. It just happened to be there when I finally got it working, after removing other lines that were causing it to fail.
  2. I’m getting the hugo source from when the Hugo documentation says the main repo root is what you’d use to install it. I’m not sure if there was a better way to go get the Hugo project.
  3. I think I’d prefer to freeze the version of Hugo at the current version until I choose to upgrade after testing. I’m not sure how to ‘go get’ a specific version of the git repo.
  4. Is the RUN apk del git line necessary if I’m using a throwaway build image?

The thing that blows me away about Docker and Golang and a lot of modern developer technology is just how much “standing on the shoulders of giants” I’m able to do. Docker is not just a clever idea, but such a well built stack that even with a rudimentary understanding of what I wanted to achieve, I was able to do it with a few lines of code. And the Go ecosystem meant that go get etc.. pulled an entire projects worth of dependencies and built the entire Hugo app inside a black box. This is such a far cry from past experiences I’ve had trying to build software from source that I can only express gratitude for all the hard work donated by so many.

Containers May Save Me From Myself

Over on the Aus Mastodon instance (where I choose to Toot, rather than Tweet) I posted that I’m frustrated over and over again that my Linux experience goes like this:

  1. Install a new Linux distro. Be amazed and surprised just how smooth the experience is, and how little effort there was to get it working.

  2. Get excited for more “Linux” and think “Great, time to try compiling something from scratch for the experience” or “Now I can install that technology stack I was reading about”

  3. Install said stack, or attempt to compile said something.

  4. Fail - due to having picked the wrong distro with the wrong version of Python, or having picked a desktop that runs on Wayland instead of X.

  5. Find workarounds, tutorials on how to compile around the issue, or just instructions on how to install another version of Python. Be successful or not.

  6. Get a notification that the Next Version of my distro is available - and look at all the neat new features and stability it has!

  7. Install the new version and discover some new hellish torment that means that the rock solid stability I’ve b1een enjoying up until this version is gone and no amount of scouring the internet, or trawling the logs will help me figure out how to restore my OS and with it, my sanity.

I’m not sure if step seven happens because of my tinkering in step five. The frequency with which it happens is makes me think it has to be me.

So I find another distro, or I download the installer for the new version, and I backup all my files and I rebuild my machine and repeat from step one. It’s getting tiresome.

So having pinned the problem on myself, I’ve decided this time around I’m going to containerise everything. For those only slightly behind me on the discovery of new technology concepts, containers (or sandboxes (or jails Rubenerd has been using for years)) are a way to put applications in their own little bubbles without access to anything else on your computer2. They help keep everything from rubbing up against each other and getting computer juices everywhere - sort of like social distancing for computer software. Fedora Silverblue is container-based and looks amazing. I have loved using Fedora and learning how to sandbox everything is probably a good skill to learn moving forward. Also, @shlee generously gave me his time to teach me Docker and now I want to keep using it for everything.

BUT… Fedora (and Silverblue) have some downsides for me. Remeber step five? Almost every Linux tutorial or piece of software I’ve ever found anywhere assumes two things: you’re using apt as your package manager, and you’re using Xorg not Wayland as your display server. I was constantly hunting for the ‘dnf’ package, or checking to ensure that the new clipboard manager I was about to use could handle Wayland3. Critically, Docker is a second class citizen in Fedora in favour of Podman, and while Podman might be better in some ways - like Wayland: it’s not what everyone is using. In the end the perpetual dream I have to use the “superior” technology over the “winning” technology had to be put aside, and I’ve settled on Cinnamon flavoured Debian.

Debian is not containered. But it doesn’t insist on making me use Podman instead of Docker like Fedora does, and it’s the closest thing Linux has to a “default” distribution, so I’m making do. The first thing I did was install Flatpak to start my container journey and… immediately failed.

  • Flatpak Firefox looks like shit. I spend almost all my computer time in Firefox and I want it to match my theme and the container version didn’t. That’s a really shallow reason not to use it though, so I’m going to try that again4.

  • Docker is complex enough for a Docker n00b to learn. Trying to run a Sandboxed containerised Docker instance of some sort is right out, so it got a full install.

  • The Flatpak version of VS Code is so isolated it can’t see Docker. I want to use the Docker plugin. I switched to the fully integrated version immediately.

So my ideals took a small beating when the rubber hit the road, but I swear to Woz that I will only use Docker and Flatpak for everything else. And one day when I’m more comfortable translating distro specific nonsense into my preferred flavour, I will give Silverblue or a fully containered distro a much better go.

And maybe one day my desktop will go more than a single major version without being replaced.

  1. While writing this post, this is the literal point that Gnome took one final shit on the bed and decided to freeze within seconds of loading after every hard reboot. ↩︎

  2. To avoid the wrath of the pedants, there’s a difference between containers and sandboxes and containers aren’t built for security like sandboxes are, but for my purposes they serve roughly the same function. ↩︎

  3. Spolier: it could not. ↩︎

  4. Thanks to the Flatpak Theming instructions at OMG! Ubuntu! I was able to install the Adapta-Nokto theme for Flatpak apps and everything is right with the world. ↩︎

More Observing-ness

It’s time for round-two of a bunch of random stuff that’s slightly-interesting-but-not-interesting-enough-for-a-full-post.

  • I’m sitting on a new office chair that’s called a Swopper that I got second-hand as a Christmas gift from my dear wife, and it’s bouncy and fun to sit on.

    I read an article somewhere that said active chairs encourage you to move more and put weight on your legs and fill that niche between standing desks and vanilla sitting. What I was finding with my fancy-schmancy office chair was that I was cutting circulation in my legs, my butt was always sore, and I just felt bad after sitting for a day of work. While the Swopper has some problems of it’s own, I’m definitely feeling more active while using it, and (surprisingly) I have sore core muscles after using it, like I’ve done a couple of situps.

    I’ll get back to you if my opinion changes, the main downside is that it seems wildly over priced if you buy it new.

  • We took a family holiday to Buninyong to visit my sister, and went with my brother’s family and my mum. It’s the first big family holiday I’ve been on with my mum and brother and sister since well before I got married, and it was a lot of fun to just hang out with them all.

  • We took the opportunity to go to Sovereign Hill, which I visited once when I was a boy, and I remembered why I thought it was so dull when I was a kid. It’s fascinating, but not very hands-on for children, but we spent a good hour panning for gold, so the kids will have some good memories I hope.

  • We stepped up our new car plan before we went so we’d have a bigger car to squash the kids into before we drove over the border. I’ve said goodbye to the beautifully cheap-to-run Prius that has done me well for the last five years, and purchased a second hand Holden Commodore wagon. The running costs are higher, but my daughter can now fit in the back seat again. Plus other men are no longer threatened by the care-free way I drove my smaller, lower-emission car.

  • Australia is on fire. Well, parts of it are. Important parts that have people in them. It’s forced a lot of them to uproot, and has a lot of people very cross that successive governments have done so little to address climate change. I donned a cap of political apathy after the country decided that just because Tony Abbott was no longer the public face of the Liberal party it meant that they were probably the best party we had. I pulled the cap lower and raised my collar after the country decided a second time that a party who is very clearly uninterested in tackling the biggest issues we’re leaving to our kids was their best hope for a bigger tax rebate. These fires would be just as bad if anyone else was in charge, but maybe if we’d given enough of a shit 10 years ago we might have actually been in the middle of trying to do something now.

  • I’m still trying to find somewhere online that can scratch that itch that Reddit used to fill. I’m still resolute that I’m not returning, but I don’t have anywhere to find new things to read, and nowhere to participate in discussion. I’ve been using Hacker News, but as much as I like to think of myself as a “hacker”, only about 20% of posts there interest me, and I’ve almost never felt the desire to contribute to the discussion. In the last two days I’ve discovered, Hubski, and Tildes. and Tildes are invite-only, while Hubski is open for registrations. is even more niche than Hacker News, but I love the technical design decisions they’ve made. If I wanted to make a similar site, the source would be an excellent starting point.

    Hubski is less niche, but despite the open registration seems to have far less activity. As an example: as at time of writing, the fourth article down is about the impeachment of Donald Trump, posted 23 days earlier. It’s big news, and it’s off the back of the Christmas break, but I’d expect more recent news than that on the front page of a news aggregator. The discussion on it is thoughtful though a little sparse, so the community is definitely not the sort of people who left Reddit for Voat, but with so little happening, there’s not a lot of reason to stick around and see if it’s worth it.

    I’ve settled on giving Tildes a try for a week. Their community is big enough that I keep seeing new stuff on the front page, even across the space of a single day. The diversity of discussion is also much better than HN or, and I’ve found myself with actual things to say while reading some threads (although I can’t do so yet). And although I don’t like using it for webpages - it’s much better for a text editor or terminal - the fact that they offer Solarized Dark as one of the out-of-the-box color schemes means that someone there understands sophistication.

  • In the process of trying out I have also installed WeeChat for IRC. I love the idea of IRC, but I’ve never found myself in a room where I’ve wanted to say anything. Can anyone suggest a good room for IRC newbies to just hang out in and chat with nice people? Leave a comment below, or chat in Keybase, Discord, or directly with me on the Mastodon instance. I’d set up a Geekorium IRC channel but from what I can gather, I’d need a server that’s amenable to randos making channels.

So that’s me for another four months - still trying half-hearted-ly to push air through the blue lips of this website.

The Christmas Playlist That Doesn't Suck (2019)
A photo of a beautiful strange nativity taken in the Czech Republic, December 2012 by Yossi Gurvitz

weird nativity scene

by Yossi Gurvitz

I’ve scoured Soundcloud to find the best Christmas music I could find. It’s chock full of Christmas favourites that are guaranteed to:

  1. Bring Christmas cheer
  2. Not suck

This years playlist includes:

Many originals and covers of well known Christmas songs such as ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)', ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘Joy To The World’, ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, ‘Up On The Housetop’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, and many more reimagined in ways that don’t suck.

The whole Christmas Playlist That Doesn’t Suck (2019) is up on Soundcloud right now, go have a listen!

Thank you to all the artists who have shared their Christmas songs on SoundCloud for the rest of us!

Chick Magnet

Meet Neo

The very next day after our successful chick sky-drop, one of the eggs our broody hen had been diligently sitting on hatched too, bringing on chickpocalypse.


/ ˈtʃɪk pɒk ə lɪps /


A great and scary change brought about by the birth 
(or purchase) of too many young domestic fowl at one time

In the space of two days we’ve jumped from five to eight chickens, and while we have some time to plan for it, this means one of two things:

  1. We prepare to sell two or three chickens when they’re older
  2. We prepare to keep two or three chickens when they’re older and I build another coop that can house 8 or more chickens at once.

As I have three children, option 1 was discussed, but never once taken seriously by anyone involved in the discussions, and now I need to learn how to build things with wood.

Hard hard can it be?

Here are some chickens:

This is Iris with her two adopted chicks

Brown-butt is Peckycephalosaurus

And facing the camera is Violet

Observing... ness

My greatest hurdle to writing here is myself. I have plenty of opinions, but nothing I feel is worth inflicting on anyone else (unless you sit within a few feet of me at work). I have lots of ideas, but very few fully formed, or that survive a withering stare. I have drafts galore, but rarely hit publish because on the path to writing things, I so very often disappoint myself with what I actually write.

Then today Kat posted and published her first blerg post and reminded me that the reason I love this can-and-bits-of-string style of old-school post is because they’re not polished thought pieces on the nature of mortality, but simply a glimpse into what other people are thinking and doing in their lives1. Rubenerd has being doing exactly this for many many years and I still love reading what he’s doing and thinking, even though it’s not hosted on Medium or written like he’s got VC funding he needs to justify. They’re just slice-of-life observations and thoughts, and they’re the good stuff.

Even the above is more waffle than I meant to do in this post, but this time I mean to cut through the attempt to formulate a thesis and simply put down stuff that was on my mind tonight while I did the dishes. So, some things I’ve observed today in no particular order:

  • I tried a new coffee place. My boss incredulously asked if we really walked to get coffee two blocks away. So I thought I’d see what the coffee was like at the new(-ish?) place at the end of our street. The coffee was good, but a large was miniscule, and I can’t imagine the thimble size I would have got if I’d asked for a regular. I had to get another coffee later in the day to make up for it.
  • My partner and kids are excitedly buzzing about two new chicks we got to give to one of our broody hens. We couldn’t make her take them yesterday, but we just successfully executed a Mission: Impossible style coordinated operation to drop the chicks in in the dead of night, and it seems to have worked. Apparently you know it worked when the new mother purrs like a cat. I’m only disappointed I didn’t get to use the mask I’d made to infiltrate the coop by impersonating our rooster.
  • I’m still struggling with my self-imposed Reddit ban (which is my most recent shunning of social media after Twitter and Facebook). I’ve replaced it in some small part with a combination of the ABC news app, Hacker News (top stories), an Aussie Mastodon instance with a bunch of people I met through Twitter, and, but none of them are a drop-in replacement (minus the crap I was getting tired of). I really miss the not-thinking-ness of being able to just witlessly scroll through Reddit when I’m not doing anything better.
  • Speaking of - I can’t find a simple way to just see top posts in any field. As far as I can tell, my feed (and the week/month/year/all-time) feeds are only the tags I’ve subscribed to, and ‘latest’ is the only un-filtered list I can see. Maybe I’m missing something, but one thing I really appreciate about HN and Reddit is that I get posts on topics I’ve never even heard of before, and I really need it. 100 posts on “#javascript” is not my idea of a good time.
  • I chiselled a hole in my desk this week in my never-ending crusade against cables. This hid a further 30cm of cable beneath the desk, bringing me ever closer to the glorious day when everything I own will hover fractionally above the desk and nothing will be connected to anything except by invisible forces.


I’m going to stop here. Observing-ness maybe shouldn’t be a brain dump of everything I’ve thought this week.

Maybe I’ll be back again soon with more observation… nesses?

  1. Also, Kat happens to have picked the same theme I chose for the site of the podcast my daughter and I made ages ago. ↩︎

Balancing Humanity and Technology

I’ve been listening to a podcast called Team Human ever since the host Douglas Rushkoff was a guest on another favourite podcast, You Are Not So Smart. The basic premise of the podcast, book of the same name, and indeed the guest episode he appeared on, was about taking back society for humans.

It took me a while to warm up to the argument. Rushkoff was writing about the cyberpunk movement when I was still in high school, and wears his counter-culture credentials with pride. Me with my quiet Australian suburban Christian upbringing know nothing about what was happening in technology circles in that time, or what anyone was really even railing against back then.

So the idea that technology today isn’t really serving humans any more made me stop and think. And it’s stupidly obvious when you give it more than a moment’s thought, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that it’s the exact reason I’m lost on the internet nowadays.

Today we’re served by technology more than ever, and the internet is responsible for the feeling that we’re getting more done, and we’re more connected than ever before, but despite the vision of early internet visionaries, we’re also stuck in tiny silos, and fighting bigger and bigger monopolies for control of our data.

Instead of really serving us, technology is being used to sell us, divide us, and make us happy to hand over everything that makes us human. Which isn’t to say that we should head back to caves and poop in the open, but we need to be able to make informed choices about how our data is used.

Full disclosure: I’ve tried to write this article before, and encourage you all to switch to, and, but every time I start it, I see the little Google Home on my wall blasting out electro swing and telling me when my pomodoro timer is complete, and I wail and gnash my teeth for being a godless hypocrite.

A small Google Home device attached to a wall under a piece of art

out, foul temptress

The upshot is, I’m extremely interested in how we can maintain our privacy and autonomy while still enjoying the benefits of connected technology. I don’t want to miss out on the benefits that these big companies can provide, but I also want to know that it’s serving me, not the other way around. I believe we forfeit too much data to large companies, but I also believe the benefits and fun of technology can make the trade off worthwhile if we do not enter into it with our eyes closed.

I’m looking for is a community of people who are also treading that fine line between tin-foil-hattery and open embrace of our corporate overlords to work within the system to make it safer for humans.

Rushkoff would argue that this isn’t possible online. He wants people to get out there and make real face-to-face connections with people. I get where he’s coming from - by communicating online, we’re letting algorithms and companies decide who we talk to - pushing us into silos of like-minded people. That happens in real life too, but the process is manual - we have to decide to stop talking to someone whose ideas aren’t our ideas. Online, the algorithms are getting better and better at showing us similarly minded people, sheltering us from “the other” before we have to ask.

Take YouTube for instance - I recently discovered a Star Trek youtuber who also happens to also do videos about rationalism and atheism. He’s exactly my cup of tea, and I spent a good few evenings listening through his back catalogue. Then another guy popped up who makes videos poking fun at far-right youtubers and then another who makes videos about the differences between right and left. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all, and they give me just that little tickle of satisfaction that I’ve discovered someone else who “shares my thoughts” on these topics. In some sense they play a role to help cement or crystallise thoughts I hadn’t yet properly synthesised into my own words, so it’s not bad that I get these recommendations, but over time if YouTube’s AI does it’s job, it does mean I’m going to see fewer and fewer alternative ideas, hear fewer voices, and fall deeper and deeper into that filter bubble that people talk about a lot lately1.

I don’t know how to socialise in the real world any more. It’s a lost art for many people, and even close to impossible for others. The internet brought on a golden age of social interaction for some people who in years gone by might have lived lives of utter loneliness. I’m not one of them, but I’ve let myself lose a lot of the skills I once had to leave the house and be “real”. Finding the time and strength to put myself in places the algorithm can’t get me is going to be hard work. I would even like to think there might be a technological solution, but it would have to be radically different from anything else that currently exists, or it risks being susceptible to the same problems as today’s social technology.

The upshot is that I’m starting to see the cracks, and I don’t have the tools to even understand them, let alone fix them by myself. I fix problems better when I have other people to work with, and I don’t know if other people around me are also seeing the cracks and wondering if they should say something or just keep quiet. If you’re reading this, and you’re concerned about what we can do to balance safety and progress, then get in touch with me. Leave a comment here2, or say hello on Telegram, Discord or now Mastodon or Keybase. Maybe you don’t think the way I do - and I look forward to it.

  1. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that all voices deserve to be heard, or that all arguments on all sides have equal merit. Honestly I don’t know the answer to “how do you avoid a filter bubble, but also not get drowned in shit” ↩︎

  2. If it works… ↩︎

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