So I came in here to do a post about something completely different, but discovered that WordPress has enabled their Gutenberg editor by default with the latest version of the software, and it's both enticing and scary to try something new, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
On the surface it's got some advantages I think for people who want to write pretty posts.
What's immediately appealing is that everything is a block of "something" and you have to be very deliberate in what something you want that something to be. For example, if you want to insert a quote, you start a new paragraph and you select the "quote" block type and blammo, there's your quote:
Which is something that for years I've thought was missing from all the nice GUI editors bundled with netlog software. I've had to deal with the source-code HTML fallout of websites written with WYSIWYG editors, and for the most part what you see on the front end might be what you get, but how you get it is usually some form of Lovecraft-ian horror on the back end, with tags embedded in tags like they've been involved in a transporter accident.
The ideal goal of a "block" powered editor in my mind would be to teach your users how to think in blocks, so that their HTML is structured and formatted from the get-go with the particular idiosyncrasies of that format in mind. I'm not sure if that's what the authors of Gutenberg set out to accomplish, but it's the ideal outcome I can think of from such a project.
Personally I gave up on WYSIWYG years ago because I wanted precise control over what I wrote and not have the editor insert it's ideas of how to output my thoughts. I began using Textile (markup) and have since dabbled a little in Markdown, and if I'm truly not getting the output I want, I switch to plain HTML. So, my initial reaction to having Gutenberg thrust upon me was to immediately reach for the off switch.
As an aside - I wanted to write a quick footnote here, but by default Gutenberg does not appear to support them. I'm guessing there are plugins for this, or maybe a setting I've missed, but it doesn't appear to be possible out of the box - something I cannot abide.
What I wanted to write as a footnote was that I did enable Gutenberg early as a plugin just to see what it was all about, but freaked out and turned it off immediately because change is awful and should never be tolerated. It's possible that I left it turned on, and only thought I disabled it, but I'm pretty sure it's turned on by default, and research is for chumps.
While I'm writing, I'm noticing what I'm going to presume is a bug that's causing the cursor to reset to the top of the paragraph I'm writing every time the page auto-saves. This is annoying. It could be a setting or another plugin I have causing the issue though, so it may not happen to everyone.
In summary, what I'm hoping to find when I press publish is a concise and minimal HTML output on my final page. The block paradigm, and the beautifully crafted interface for building those blocks appeals to me on a technological level, and I truly hope that the Gutenberg idea sticks and is embraced by the WordPress user base. While there appear to be some minor issues (that might be unique to my setup), the idea is sound and may go some way to improving the guts of the sites that use it, which is a win.
Addendum: Gutenberg is wigging out with my Textile plugin and adding an extra <br/> tag after every paragraph. Other than that, the output HTML is every bit as simple and elegant as I could have hoped for. I will need to find a resolution to the Textile/Gutenberg conflict some time, and it might simply be switching off Textile once and for all, but if you come here and the page still has giant empty space between paragraphs, you'll know it's not because of Gutenberg.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 Crackedawith 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.
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.
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.
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.
Here they are running in Batman: The Animated Series.
Followed by an awesome wallpaper by BobbyRubio on Deviantart.
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.
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.
And for gamers, Batman and Robin in the best Batman video game adaptation of all time.
Finally, I leave you with Batman and Robin from the end of Batman Forever movie from 1995.