RPGs and Native Animals

I took the kids and Mil to Cleland Wildlife Park today.

It's one of my favourite places in Adelaide, and I've made some fun memories with the kids and various grandparents over the last ten years.

Kangaroo in Sunlight, Cleland Wildlife Park by Josh Nunn, on Flickr

Today I thought we'd do something different. We've got a year-long membership we've barely used in this last 12 month period, so entry is free, and it was such a lovely sunny autumn day, I thought it might be nice to just chill out and try a new role-playing game I've been wanting to play with the kids.

So we spent the morning and early afternoon printing, coloring aI will always use the American spelling because computers don't understand colours, cutting, and sticking and had a go at the first campaign in Hero Kids, a really simple role playing game (like dungeons and dragons).

This is the whole family's first RPG - I've watched a couple of games in my time, but never participated - and my first attempt at being GM. We didn't get very far - turns out stopping to explain rules and pat potoroos can eat into game time - but I think the kids had fun. Ammy played a healer, Evie played a rogue and Merry played a warrior. Mil was a Warlock with water powers. The basic gist of the game is that the characters themselves are kids so that the players can relate to them and get involved in the adventures.

I'm looking forward to putting more time into it. The kids all have great imaginations, so I think they'll really take to it. And I had to promise to take them all back to Cleland soon because we barely got to see any animals this time.

Asides   [ + ]

a. I will always use the American spelling because computers don't understand colours

Happy Birthday Mike!

My buddy Mike's birthday is today and he's turning 3 months older than me!

Happy Birthday Mike, I hope you have lots of fun playing with your balls.

C=128 Journey


On it's way

Here it goes


About 12 months ago I listened to The C= episode of the Rubenerd podcast wherein he tried to convince himself (poorly!) not to buy a Commodore 128.

I got in touch on twitter and asked if he wanted my old C=128 because although for nostalgia reasons I had held onto both my families old 64 and 128s, having both sitting in a closet doing nothing seemed stupid.

Rubenerd was glad to take it off my hands, and I'm glad it's going to someone who clearly loves retro computers in a way I will never emulate ageddit?

My memories of this thing are playing Wizball to the wee hours with my mum, her elation when she finally clocked it, playing Subsunk and Cosmonaut and River Raid and Curse of Sherwood and so many other games my young hands couldn't master.

I was never much of a gamer, and I never did put in the hours to finish all those games I loved, but it did make me love computers and the potential behind them. I also wish I could say I'd programmed much on either machine, but copying out code from a book didn't teach me much at the time, but it did help me see what someone could do with the right mindset and training, and planted a seed for programming that took another 25 years to finally grow.

The 64 and 128 have reached a level of nostalgia in my mind that they possibly don't deserve, but they're the only couple of things from my childhood that I really remember clearly. That and the Chubbles that were clearly more gimmick than substance. Oh, and the Rubick's Magic I got one Christmas and couldn't put down.

Today I finally got off my ass and posted it to Rubenerd. Shipping was surprisingly cheap because he didn't need the vintage printer or the after-market disk drive I have for it.

I won't mention the contents, and save that for a surprise for him, beyond the following:

  • A slighlty rattly Commodore 128
  • A power supply that no longer works, but that Rubenerd assures me he can fix or replace

I would love if Rubenerd could post an unboxing when he gets it. I left a couple of things in there that I hope he doesn't mind receiving and having to store somewhere. And I'd love it if he could post it to The Fleet when he gets it working, with a suitably cute name. Enjoy it, learn new things on it, and share!

Asides   [ + ]

a. geddit?

Letting the Internet Die

I'm still stuck on this idea of how to enable comments and feedback on personal netlogs aI will use this term unless one of you can come up with something better than blog in this world of Facebook and Twitter.

Almost everything I can come up with falls into a couple of broad categories.

  1. Hosted by me. For example, enabling comments here or in a self-hosted forum. Comments here are obviously the easiest and I've had comments enabled ever since I started (although now limited to new posts only). A self-hosted forum is adding a barrier to entry that offers no incentive for people to bother, and isn't really appropriate for my readership of three bit seems even more self-aggrandising than my self indulgent comment discussion navel gazing.
  2. Outsourced. This includes all discussion on Twitter, Facebook, Discord, Telegram, Discourse, or Disqus. These all require readers/commenters and me to both use the platform, and give up our privacy/rights to those comments to varying degrees based on how much we trust those platforms.

I have a couple of guiding principals I believe in when it comes to the internet. One is that it's super important it remains as open as possible - as free from government interference as possible (within reason), but also as free from corporate interference as possible too. Governments will always overreach and overreact, so it's handy that for years the internet has sort of routed around the problem when governments go rogue. More could be done on this front of course, but to my mind the biggest threat isn't government interference as it is citizen indifference.

By putting so much of our online lives in the hands of large social media companies, we're dulling the gears that make the internet such a powerful force for social change. Think about it - imagine a group that uses Facebook to mobilise their protests and activism in a country similar to our own. I'm going to use Facebook through this example, but it could just as easily be any other large social site.

So imagine this group of activists - their message is irrelevant, suffice to say it's something important to them, and potentially dangerous to powerful people in their country. For those powerful people, all it takes to decommission the group is cut off their access to Facebook. If that group hasn't met in person, shared contact details outside of that channel, or prepared alternate means of communication then they're effectively deaf and blind when they try to continue communicating. Not only that, but they are mute as well.

On top of that - to people in other countries not affected by the same struggles - they might as well be invisible if their only presence has been on Facebook. On the flip side, for people outside those problems we're allowing a company - or even a foreign power - limit what we see. We're also limiting ourselves to those formats that get traction on those sites - for Facebook it's the Single Grainy Image With Text. How much can we learn about the world from a single picture?

I'm stumbling into /r/iamverysmart territory here, which is not my intention - I have a limited grasp of the socio-political realities of my own neighbourhood, let alone what other people are struggling with elsewhere in the world, but relying on Facebook (or Reddit, or Twitter) as our means of engaging with the world leaves us vulnerable and open to manipulation.

Which is why I miss the days of netlogs. It seemed like for a period of about two years, the internet was exploding with this vibrant eclectic mix of freely shared, highly personal content. Going through my site and cleaning it out I remembered I used to be subscribed to a guy who just talked about toy Transformers. That guy stopped writing in 2011 without any fanfare and I completely missed it. There was someone else who I discovered when I realised I needed a way to be a good parent to my child when my wife is a Christian, and I an atheist. That guy stopped writing his netlog in 2013 and again I didn't notice the loss. So many more sites refuse to load at all - buried in a sort of DNS graveyard, or worse returned zombified as placeholder pages full of ads. The least worst fate is for a site to at least still load - quiet and untouched by human hands as a monument or shrine to the moments they capture.

How much of that is captured on Twitter or Facebook now? The content might be there - but it's trapped behind accounts and subscriptions, real-time feeds and algorithms that show people what they're told they want to see. And it's making it easier for corporations, foreign powers, and your own leaders to hide what they don't want you to see.

That's enough of a trek into conspiracy theory and nostalgia for one night. I understand how much I'm teetering between crackpot and melodrama with the above. I really just want more people to think about this stuff. It's much easier to talk about possible solutions when we're on the same page. Because I don't know what the solution is. Spinning this site up is step one. Figuring out how to discuss this stuff with people who want to talk is step two. ... Profit?

Asides   [ + ]

a. I will use this term unless one of you can come up with something better than blog
b. it seems even more self-aggrandising than my self indulgent comment discussion navel gazing

Comment Bots

I've been thinking more about yesterday's post on comment systems.

I started posting to my Reddit profile, then realised why stop there - I've been mucking around so much with chat apps that I've got profiles everywhere, and I thought I could try and make them useful. My two communication preferences right now are Discord (because it's like Slack but more relaxed), and Telegram (because it's exactly like Facebook Messenger but better. Both offer simple ways to set up and harness the power of bots and make using them simple, and with a couple of WordPress plugins the process is even simpler than it should be.

My robot by Aaron Williamson, on Flickr

The two plugins I'm giving a crack are WP Discord and WP Telegram.

Both made setting up their respective bots a breeze (although the instructions for WP Discord skip one vital step), so theoretically when I hit publish on this post I should see a message pop up in both my new Geekorium Discord Server and my Geekorium Telegram Channel. Feel free to join in either channel and say hello, and if you wish, get notified of new posts when they happen - it's like RSS, but with future technology. I won't ever spam you - if you don't want to see posts, leave the channel or turn off notifications for those channels in their respective apps.

You might also notice a Discord widget down below above the comment box. Join in there if you want and chat directly.

I've often tested out new stuff round here in the past, and my post history is littered with the detritus of tried and failed experiments. I can't say for certain how long these will last, or if I might find something better. My goal in trying this out was to see if they were viable alternatives to vanilla comments, and if they might make it more appealing for people to give feedback or connect with me. If they're still around in a week it will be because I'm finding them valuable, or people are actually using them.

See you in chat! 🚀

Update: the widget below above the comments lasted about 5 minutes before I realised it only shows who's on the server, not the chat that's going on. I'll need to find a place to prominently display the Discord and Telegram icons to encourage people to click through, but a massive widget is not going to do it.

Internet Draft: Comment systems

Having fired up the old blogging engine awhy hasn't that word died!? bAnd is this becoming some sort of running gag?, I now find myself wanting to comment on Rubenerd's latest post about enabling a commenting system, but find that due to lack of a comment system I cannot! And also having trashed both my Twitter and Facebook accounts in a single week, I now have NO CONCEIVABLE WAY to get in touch with the man. I mean, despite email and other antiquated ways of communication - should I perhaps be sending smoke signals?

No, email isn't public enough. A person cannot comment on another blogger's content from the detached privacy of an email - we are after all "civilised gentlemen" cWhich I must not be because I don't statically generate my content.


Comment of the day!

Comment of the Day by Mike Seyfang / CC BY 2.0

So consider this another comment in a long series of posts directly directed at Rubenerd. Tune out from here if you're not him, and have no interest in how he chooses to enable comments.

I shall tackle his so called "two options", and then suggest my own third option. I'll ignore that he presented his own third option, because that's thrown all my maths out and I can only count to many.

  1. Disqus: No. No. Don't do this. No. Do not use Disqus. Not because there's anything wrong with it necessarily, but don't change how you do things to make a couple of people slightly happier - you'll always feel dirty.
  2. A CMS: You could. But again, why change something that's working for youdputting aside that by suggesting you enable comments, that's exactly what asking you to do?

Your only real option is to take your comments outside your space.

  1. One option that comes to mind is something like /r/rubenerd on reddit. They have those new profiles now don't they? x-post everything onto your profile, and link to it at the end of your post.
    Pros: no changes to the way you write (much), potential for actual link karma, surely everyone has a reddit account right?
    Cons: you still don't own/control the platform and Reddit is most certainly mining their user's data in all the same ways Facebook has been. Might be an effort to moderate, or you might miss stuff if you're not a heavy Reddit user yourself.
  2. Pick some forum software or a microblogging platform like GNU Social or Mastodon and self host that, x-post to the site as suggested above. Enable Twitter/Facebook/Reddit logins so people don't have to register to your site to throw down a witty one-liner.
    Pros: Self hosted means it's your data and your readers can have a say in what happens to it. You get to decide how it's shown - write a back end script that pulls comments in on a cron and adds them to the static site, use some Javascript ewith a safe word, or just link to it and let people free-for-all
    Cons: It's a hassle and no one will use it.
  3. Keep going as you are now. Use Twitter. I'll keep responding from here and other people can find ways they feel comfortable to respond.
    Pros: Really easy.
    Cons: I don't get to commentfthis may be a pro.
  4. If you're mirroring your repo online, give people the link and let them clone and send you pull requests with their comments.
    Pros: Only dedicated idiots will comment.
    Cons: Only dedicated idiots will comment. You'd have to set up a template/rules for comments. It's a fucking ridiculous idea.
  5. Build some sort of federated commenting system that would allow someone like me to make a comment on their own site and have it salmon'ed to yours. Frankly, I don't think this would work with your current system and would probably be difficult to integrate without a CMS. I've been playing with Keybase which has a flat-file system integrated - you could join a trusted blogging network and use that to allow comments somehow.

I'm partial to the reddit idea, and might start doing it myself. I've also thought about setting up Mastodon and using that instead of Twitter. I also have a GNU Social instance running, but it's kind of a bummer without many people to follow.

All these options are making me want to turn my own comments off, just to force some creativity. I'm looking forward to seeing what Rubenerd does.

Discuss on Reddit... IF YOU DARE

Quickedit: This page on Hugo suggests Staticman which looks pretty neat. Integrated with Jekyll, which I know you're not using any more, but could be integrated into Hugo.

Asides   [ + ]

a. why hasn't that word died!?
b. And is this becoming some sort of running gag?
c. Which I must not be because I don't statically generate my content
d. putting aside that by suggesting you enable comments, that's exactly what asking you to do
e. with a safe word
f. this may be a pro

Milestone: 445 Posts!

This was going to be a post for my 500th published... post. 500 is a big milestone. So I've been cleaning up my site, migrating and consolidating AWS S3 buckets and setting up https hosting on one for some of the images and videos I've posted here in the past.



500 steps forward, 55 steps back. That's how that saying goes right?

But as I've been cleaning, I've discovered lots of old photos and short text posts that were imported through various automatic processes, like Flickr photos that were imported for a while when I tweeted them, or things I reblogged from other sites with dubious attribution.

So I've been judiciously killing them, and very rarely re-instating posts I never published (or only ever published on Facebook).

Which has all brought me to the much less auspicious count of a 445 post milestone for my return to bloggingaI will find a better word one day, mark my... word.

Hooray! Here's to 445 more! And then 110 more after that so that I reach a more rounded number. bRubenerd can find meaning in all sorts of post numbers, maybe he can help me out here.

Asides   [ + ]

a. I will find a better word one day, mark my... word
b. Rubenerd can find meaning in all sorts of post numbers, maybe he can help me out here.

Pong

I find myself in the fun position of following up on a follow-up post to my follow-up on Rubenerds original post.

I mean, if we both used Facebook, this would just be a series of comments, but where's the fun in that? As Rubenerd says, "it reminded me of the blogosphere of old", and I'm enjoying the feeling of a proper back and forth. And unlike a Facebook comment, his post can be read completely independently, with his thoughts and musings taking their own tangents without the feeling that it all needs to tie back into my post like we're arguing about something. It's like a layer cake, or a meat trifle or something.

But as he said, the blogs awhy did we never find a nicer sounding word? of old are fading out. Most people just don't bother, unless they're part of some large conglomeration. Maybe this is just the evolution of the web, as the weaker writers give up from lack of traffic, and the stronger ones either get grabbed by companies who can pay them, or just keep on solidly pushing through publishing post after post of eclectic material, not for the world but for themselves. Rubenerd is definitely of the latter, while I am one of those weaker ones who got tired of feeling like I was talking to myself. Or I was bad at it.

So while I'm giving it another shot, I can't imagine how long I'll last this time. Which brings me back round to RSS. I settled on FreshRSS because it was PHP based and my host had an install script. Not much of a reason to base my decision on, except that I've tried TT-RSS before and while I was happy enough with the software, the support left me feeling a bit eh about the whole thing bsee my final note on that page for an explanation. So Rubenerd, if you're listening, I'd be happy to set up an account on my instance of FreshRSS if you want to try it out.

Of course, this is all academic if I never use the thing, and I'm not sure I'm going to. As I said in my previous post, reddit scratches that itch I have to find new content. But even that is a bit filter-bubbly despite an amazing breadth of sources on /r/all. What I need is an ever changing list of semi-random content to peruse on my mobile. I wonder if there are any federated RSS aggregators?

And don't get me started on federated replacements for Facebook Messenger. I have one colleague at work who I keep roping in to try new messaging platforms, and I think he hates me now. In fact I know Mike hates me because he just cycles through each app to message me how much he hates me. I can't blame him - my phone creaks under the weight of the following in no particular order:

  • Pulse (SMS)
  • Yammer (for work team chat until Microsoft Teams is available to us)
  • Discord (what I tried when I was trying to find something like Slack)
  • Telegram (my preferred replacement for FM with my family)
  • Wickr Me (I know exactly one person that uses it)
  • Wire (I can't make anyone use it, not even Mike)
  • Google Hangouts (I can't bring myself to use it)
  • Duo (pre-installed on Huey, my phone)
  • And three different email apps

Most recently I've also installed Keybase, which is so loaded with the buzzword promise of blockchain I couldn't not try it out. Rubenerd wasn't there - which as the only person I know who's actually published a PGP key - surprised me a little. Keybase is chock full of people who have published PGP keys. If you want to hit me up there, my Keybase profile is here. Maybe someone smarter than me can tell me why it isn't a sound technology, but although it's based on technology by one company, you can't get much more federated than blockchain, even if it's not exactly what we mean when use the term.

One last thing Rubenerd before I go. If not comments, at least enable pingbacks and ping other people when you link them. Otherwise I might not notice you've published until I go to my feed reader.

Asides   [ + ]

a. why did we never find a nicer sounding word?
b. see my final note on that page for an explanation

Dashing Dynamic Duo


Batman and Robin Comic Book Logo
...Running

I once did a post about the old-old Batman and Robin Serial and took some screen-caps from the episodes. One of them has proven quite popular around the internet and has been used by sits like Cracked awith added cheese for any post that needs a picture of Batman and Robin running.

I wondered why it was so popular, till I realised just how iconic that image is, even if I can't think of a particular example. So after some research, here's a compilation of images of Batman and Robin running from different media.


Batman (1966
Bam! Kapow!

First up is Adam West and Burt Ward running to the UN to save some diplomats from being powdered by their greatest foes. I think they'd gotten stuck in traffic?

I can't find any images from the original comics, but I'll keep my eye out for them and put them up as they come. The closest I could find was this vintage 1966 Japanese comic cover. This is the Adam West era as you can tell by the eyebrows on the cowl band by having seen quite a few 'shops in my time.


Japanese Picture Book
Vintage 1966 Japanese Picture Book

Despite the lack of direct comic book proof, I submit this retro t-shirt design, and you tell me if it doesn't trigger a memory of something in your brain. You know this is a classic image. If you've come to realise the iconic-ness of the image of the Dynamic Duo running, you can buy this t-shirt and wear it proudly.


Batman and Robin Running T-Shirt
Mil... Can I have some cash?

Or if that doesn't convince you that Batman and Robin hoofing it is one of pop-culture's most classic images, try this piece from the 2007 Singapore Design Festival. Once glance and you immediately get it don't you? Because it's classic.


to_the_rescue_by_Draken413o
Rescue Zone

Here they are running in Batman: The Animated Series.


Batman Animated Adventures
Animated!

Followed by an awesome wallpaper by BobbyRubio on Deviantart.


Midnight Run by BobbyRubio
Out for a Midnight Run

The next is Batman and Nightwing, but as Nightwing started out as Robin cdon't even get me started, I figured it was an homage to the idea and therefore valid.


Batman Hush
Batman Hush

Which leads nicely into this one, which is the New Batman and Robin, who are Dick Grayson (the original Robin nee Nightwing) and Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son dI said, don't get me started.... So the image comes full circle to the next generation.


Batman and Robin 19
Batman The Next Generation

And for gamers, Batman and Robin in the best Batman video game adaptation of all time.


Lego Batman
Arkham Who?

Finally, I leave you with Batman and Robin from the end of Batman Forever movie from 1995.


Batman Forever Ending Scene
This movie is now only remembered as not being as bad as the next one

Asides   [ + ]

a. with added cheese
b. and by having seen quite a few 'shops in my time
c. don't even get me started
d. I said, don't get me started...

Software death

Over on Rubenerd aone of the last remaining bloggers, Ruben is upset about the death of his favourite feed reader, the Digg Reader.

First of all, who knew Digg still had products that people wanted to use. Second, I'm sort of in the same boat myself. Having just killed my Facebook account, while simultaneously soul searching about what I really want from social media, I've thought that maybe I can go back to consuming RSS feeds like I used to.

Only, I've logged into my self-hosted instance of Fever and fired up the beautifully made Press only to discover that Fever was shuttered and Press hasn't been updated since 2014. Which isn't a huge deal for now, as both still work (although Press can't be found without a direct link), and they both work as well as they did two or three years ago when I stopped using them. The problem is - if I start using them again, relying on them like I used to rely on Google Reader (or as Rubenerd relied on Digg Reader) what will happen when they finally actually die like they inevitably will?

Ruben added a pretty exhaustive list of self hosted software including feed readers, which I will certainly go through and take a look at, but teasing out the right replacement is going to be a pain considering I need to ensure:

  • The software works well and is pretty (I can't pretend I can use functional ugly software).
  • There's an equally well made Android client so I can read on the bus.
  • I can install it on my rudimentary cPanel hosting that may or may not allow Ruby/Python etc, but will handle PHP like a champ.

And finally, breaking out of my dot-points into a fully fledged paragraph - I'm not certain a plain feed reader is going to cut it for me any more. When I said I'd been thinking about what I want from social media, I realised that Facebook was not doing it for me because it was full of the opinions of my friends and family, and not a lot more. People might have been posting stuff, but the Facebook algorithm was letting me down, and only showing me page after page of stuff I just wasn't interested in bno offence everyone!.

On the flip side, I use Reddit a lot, and the thing that has me wasting hours of my life there is that it surfaces the quality stuff that thousands, or tens of thousands of people have upvoted from thousands of different communities all in one place. So I can flip from reading a joke, to watching a Russian dashcam, to poring over an article about some new scientific discovery all from a single app. It means I'm not reading the same type of stuff over and over cok, yes I'm not counting reposted content here, but a massive and diverse range of opinion and types of content from all over the world. And I just don't think there are any other sites quite like it.

Again, there's nothing that means I need to replace Reddit today either, just like I don't need to ditch the feed reader that's still working, but I also didn't have to ditch Facebook when I did. But I truly believe as responsible modern citizens we need to make better choices about where our software takes us, and the technology we use to get there. Part of that is to stop using stuff that frustrates us, when the only reason we keep doing it is because everyone else is.

So I'm looking for the next Reddit, the next Facebook and the next feed reader all in one. Something that can keep me in touch with people I know and love, but also give me more of what other people I don't know find funny or sad or inspiring. If something like this already exists, please let me know. If not, I'll be waiting over here using technology that just hasn't figured out its days are numbered.

Asides   [ + ]

a. one of the last remaining bloggers
b. no offence everyone!
c. ok, yes I'm not counting reposted content here