404 Page Not Found - Kate Wagner

Kate Wagner - The Baffler:

Because websites had to either become apps or self-optimize for mobile, web design declined from its creative, more variegated heights to become flat, highly minimalistic, and multi-platform, and the results are, frankly, fucking boring.

The stories and photos can still be fun and amazing, but the delivery is totally boring.

The scene of this struggle between the hideous-beautiful old internet and the cleanly if ungodly 2.0 variety played out in the mid-2000s.

“hideous-beautiful” :)

…even the apps and platforms themselves have lost their early skeuomorphic charm. And beyond the tedium of minimalist design, the abandonment of the desktop web for mobile apps has inevitably had other far-reverberating consequences for the net at large.

These companies and platforms operate in part by devouring, appropriating, monetizing, exterminating, or burying on the 112th page of search results anything on the web that is even remotely interesting.

Letter.wiki

I like the idea of Letter.wiki.

Letter is a platform for thoughtful conversation.

One concern is that even though they are ostensibly 1:1 conversations, it is impossible to write as if there’s no audience other than the recipient, as there is with, say, an actual letter. The unavoidable desire to sound smart in front of the bystanders contains too large an opportunity to spoil the conversation.

Still (maybe) sticking with Dropbox

In July I wrote that I’d be Sticking with Dropbox. This is still true, but a couple things happened recently that have me thinking about it again.

A handful of files I put into a shared folder never showed up in one of the other person’s copy of the folder. She asked me about them, I looked and saw them. She didn’t. Then suddenly they appeared. This was nearly 3 weeks after I originally shared them. It’s like they were stuck somehow.

The second thing that happened is Syncthing. Dropbox feels janky on Linux. I installed Syncthing on all my machines (Linux and Mac) and it was super simple and worked perfectly right off the bat. I love that I can pick and choose top-level folders to share and with which machines. It’s pretty nice.

I’m once again in that spot I’ve been trying to avoid…some files in Dropbox and some in Syncthing. I think I have a decent plan this time, though. I’ve been moving directories from Dropbox to Syncthing one at a time (there are only a few that I worry about).

So far, so good. I’m still using Dropbox, but I’m not as certain of its future as I used to be.

Using the Emacs Deft package for topic journals

One of the first Emacs packages I tried was Deft. As a long-time nvAlt user, Deft felt like home, except in Emacs.

I started putting all kinds of notes into Deft. I used it as a kind of inbox for everything. It quickly became a mess, so it fell out of favor. I switched to using a giant notes.org file with Capture templates to make jotting things down easier.

Re-reading Derek Sivers’ post Benefits of a daily diary and topic journals got me thinking that Deft might work well for “Thoughts on” topic journals.

I (mostly) emptied my Deft notes folder and started fresh. Now, each file in my Deft notes directory is based on a single topic. After a couple weeks, it looks like this:

Screenshot

There are no hard rules about what constitutes a “topic”. I know them when I see them. Some topics so far are large, e.g. “Linux”, and some are smaller, e.g. “LogStash”. There are a few old reference notes still in there, which I think is fine.

I like this setup. It works as both a technical diary of sorts and as a running commentary on how I’m thinking about specific topics.

Over time I’m sure I’ll refactor things, and that’s fine. At least it’s no longer a mish-mash of one-liners, random thoughts, and dozens of other bits and bobs without rhyme or reason.

I like the idea of “Topic Journals” and Deft is a nice way of keeping them.

Website Analytics

Manton Reece, in his post, Happier without analytics, describes why Micro.blog doesn’t have page-view statistics built in.

We don’t have page-view stats on Micro.blog because they are incomplete without counting the Micro.blog timeline and feed readers, and I’d hate for someone to be discouraged when just getting started.

This makes total sense.

In the post, he links to Quitting Analytics by Garret Dimon. Garret writes,

…analytics aren’t always all that important. Hits. Visits. Likes. Followers. These are easy to measure, but that didn’t make them important.

I’m more interested in the things I can’t easily quantify. Did I write something that resonated with people enough for them to write me an email?

I get it, analytics aren’t required in order to provide visitors with a quality experience1. But why is it that many posts like this seem to imply that one must either continually obsess over the numbers or rip out analytics entirely? Are those really my only choices? I also pick up just a whiff of “I don’t even HAVE a television!” but I do that a lot.

Garret again…

after spending some time without analytics, I’m happier. I’m writing more. Stats don’t even cross my mind. It’s really nice.

That’s awesome. Whatever it takes to write more, I say!

I do wonder why we can’t have both. Is it really a zero-sum proposition? I agree with Garret that “trying to juice the numbers almost invariably divorces you from thinking about customers and understanding people,” but I’m not as quick to believe that optimising for the numbers is inevitable once analytics are installed.

Let’s use me as an example :).

I use Plausible analytics for keeping an eye on visits to my site(s). I “check the numbers” once or twice a day to see what people are reading. I don’t really watch for trends, and I don’t pay attention to visit duration or retention or “funnels”. Plausible doesn’t offer those numbers, but I’m not interested in them anyway. I just like to see that stuff I write is being read, and how often. It’s interesting to me. I don’t change what I write based on the stats. I don’t write for the “likes”, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter at all if anyone reads it. Does it matter if I know exactly how many? No, but knowing the exact numbers doesn’t mean I worry about them. I simply enjoy knowing.

Analytics will sometimes surface old posts I’d forgotten about, by showing a sudden surge2 of visits. This can spark new conversations and is quite fun when it happens.

Server-side analytics (I use GoAccess) can be useful for analyzing missing content (404s) or other issues.

So, if you’re truly not interested in the data, don’t use analytics. As Garret suggests, don’t waste time “swimming through numbers”.

I believe one can get a fair amount value out of knowing what people are reading without obsessing over the numbers or changing their own behavior because of them.


  1. I’m thinking of small business or personal websites here. [return]
  2. And by “surge” I mean more than one or two [return]

Computer Files Are Going Extinct - Simon Pitt

Simon Pitt - OneZero:

Years ago websites were made of files; now they are made of dependencies.

And later…

Perhaps this is the archivist in me, but this process of creating files and flinging them into an unsorted pot and then searching or hoping that the newest one is the one we want gives me the collywobbles. It seems like a rejection of our past work, to just sling all the files into a heap, immediately devaluing them as soon as something newer comes along.

I also prefer files in the filesystem. This goes for photos, notes, journal entries, everything. I treat them with respect and I’m unlikely to screw them up or misplace them. And if I were to screw them up, it would be my own fault and my backups would be right there.

Relocated Items, Catalina

From a “Relocated Items” folder (alias, actually) on my MBP desktop after upgrading…

Some of your files had been in a location that is now incompatible with macOS security settings. These files were moved to the Security folder for your review. If there are any files you want to keep, you can move them to a new location, as long as it is different from their location before the upgrade or migration.

Screw you, Catalina. I don’t feel like messing with this nonsense.

Why can't I find anything?

It’s amazing, and frustrating, to me when I can’t find some bit of information. It’s not as if I don’t have a place to keep things. Oh, no, it’s definitely not that. I’m well aware that it’s having too many places to keep things that makes it so hard to find stuff.

Several times this week I went looking for information about something from more than a couple years ago and couldn’t find it. This was maddening, since I like to think of myself as someone who takes copious notes about everything and has a thoughtfully-considered system for storing them.

But where did I put that one thing? How the hell should I kow? I mean, it’s probably somewhere in one of these…

  • Tinderbox
  • TheBrain
  • A text (Markdown) file
  • DEVONthink
  • Confluence
  • TiddlyWiki
  • Evernote
  • Curio
  • Circus Ponies Notebook
  • Ulysses
  • Apple Notes
  • VoodooPad
  • VimWiki
  • Org-mode
  • My Blog(s)

Do you see what I’m dealing with here? It’s madness.

I start out with the best of intentions. I’ll say, “This cool New Thing is where I’m keeping everything from now on!” I’ll move recent stuff into New Thing and convince myself that I’ve finally solved my problem. For good!

Fast forward two weeks…

New Thing is great, but I miss [INSERT FEATURE] about Old Thing. I open up Old Thing and OMG how did I ever stop using this? It’s awesome!

Sigh. Repeat this on a regular basis over a decade or more and it’s just a confusing, messy, shit-pile and I’m fumbling around in Spotlight hoping to get lucky.

Anyway, you can probably guess what I’ve been doing this weekend. Maybe I’ll sum it up in another post if I can get over the shame of it all.

twtxt

I was reminded today1 of twtxt, “a decentralised, minimalist microblogging service for hackers.”

It would be neat if more people used it regularly. My feed is at http://tilde.club/~jbaty/twtxt.txt if you’re looking for something to follow. It’s super simple and kind of fun.


  1. It was 0xroy’s post that made me think of it. [return]

Being Basic as a Virtue - Nadia Eghbal

Nadia Eghbal:

Similarly, if producing ideas becomes a symbol of work (having to think about stuff all day), rather than leisure (freedom to think about stuff all day), I wonder whether basic behavior will start to become covetable. Instead of signaling how much we’re thinking, maybe we’ll start to signal how much we’re not thinking. Rather than a private coping mechanism or a way to unwind, basic behavior would become a way to display total unawareness of those who toil in the idea mines all day; a blissful unfamiliarity with the social signal factory.

”…a blissful unfamiliarity with the social signal factory”

How nice that would be.