Bitwarden

I've been using 1Password for years without too many issues. It's a nicely designed and implemented app with a long history. I really had no reason to look elsewhere.

However, there's been a lot of noise lately about them taking $200 million in VC money. I'm not that concerned. They've grown and want to grow faster, so fine. It did, however, make me take a quick look at the alternatives, just in case.

A number of people, especially those concerned with privacy, recommend Bitwarden as an alternative to 1Password. I've signed up and imported my data from 1Password. Let's see how it goes.

Bitwarden's Premium license is $10/year. There's also a “Family” plan for $1.00/month for up to 5 people. That's pretty cheap.

But how well does it work? Well, after only a couple of days of testing I've decided it's worth a decent attempt to make the switch to Bitwarden. It's reasonably polished, open source, audited by 3rd parties, and inexpensive. It feels just a tiny bit nerdy, which, in my experience, means that when features are added they're more likely to address actual user needs.

There's an iOS app that can be configured as a password store, just like 1Password.

If I choose, I could run my own copy of the server. I may in fact do this once things have gotten burned in a bit and I haven't found any deal-stoppers.

It's been pretty seamless so far. I'll report back if it works out…or doesn't.

One thing I find interesting is that 1Password has nearly 200 employees, and as far as I can tell, Bitwarden is developed mostly by one guy. That's a huge difference in resources for things that seem, at least on the surface, to be quite similar.

Moved copingmechanism.com to Ghost

So, Ghost? Sure, why not.

The short version is that I simply wanted to try Ghost. The longer version is the usual combination of boredom, curiosity, and frustration with WordPress.

I've also never really come to love WordPress’ Gutenberg editor. It's powerful, but feels so janky in use that it ruins the experience of writing.

My Coping Mechanism blog was always going to be image-heavy, so I'd hoped that having so much layout flexibility with Gutenberg would be useful. As it turns out, I don't usually do much beyond adding an image or small gallery and a lot of text. The slow/janky/weird behavior of Gutenberg was slowing me down. And, as importantly, it was wearing me down.

While upgrading WordPress recently, I thought I'd try the new TwentyTwenty theme because I wasn't happy with whatever theme I was already running. I didn't like it. There are something like four million themes available for WordPress, and yet I can never find one I like.

Let's see what Ghost has to offer, then.

I spun up a pre-configured Droplet at Digital Ocean, which was easy as pie. I shelled into the new droplet and followed the prompts and a few minutes later I was up and running.

My initial impression of Ghost was so positive that I decided to migrate copingmechanism.com.

I exported my WordPress posts using the Ghost exporter plugin. When trying to import that export file, I got an error that the file was too big. This was an nginx issue, so I edited the nginx config and bumped client_max_body_size to 100M and the import went fine after that.

Ghost's default theme, Casper, is quite nice and there are only a few things I want to “fix” right off the bat. This almost never happens with WordPress themes.

Ghost feels fast.

Using the control panel is pleasant and simple. The editor is quick and not at all janky and, after adding and editing a half-dozen posts, seems to do everything I need.

Are there downsides?

Sure, I miss built-in analytics (via Jetpack). I added my usual Plausible snippet so I have basic, lightweight, privacy-centric analytics.

There are no built-in comments. I don't get many comments, but I do want to make them available, so I added Commento comments. This did involve editing a theme template, but that's not hard.

It's likely I'll have to learn some Handlebars templating, but that doesn't look too bad.

One concern is that they've been focusing on providing features for capital-P Publishers and I'm not one of those. For example, the tentpole features of version 3.0 were based around Members & Subscriptions. I'm guessing that now every 3rd blogger using Ghost will be adding and charging for “Premium” content. Just because it's easy, doesn't mean…etc. etc.

I hope they don't forget about us regular bloggers.

Playing with new blogging platforms is fun. For Coping Mechanism, I wanted something more WYSIWYG and with better image handling than, say, Hugo. Ghost seems like a good fit, and a good compromise between a simple static blog and the big, complex, monster that is WordPress.

https://copingmechanism.com

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. ↩︎

  2. And by “surge” I mean more than one or two ↩︎

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.