Blog

On Gardens and Streams

I attended my first IndieWebCamp session last week, on the subject of "gardens and streams", otherwise known as wikis and blogs. Given the current global situation, the entire thing was remote; I participated via Zoom. It was fun! I'm glad I got to meet everyone.

Wikis, and how they differ from blogs, is a topic that interests me. You may not know it, but my domain sports a wiki, powered by MoinMoin. I mostly use it to store technical notes and recipes.

I'm no historian, but it seems obvious that wikis were created mostly in order to make certain kinds of websites easier to build and maintain. In the days when "webmaster" was an actual job title and when traditional websites were maintained by an elite group of technical people, using arcane languages like HTML, wiki powered websites:

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Pieces of Thinking

Jan-Lukas Else recently asked the Hacker News community why most of them don't have blogs, and published his thoughts on their answers to his own blog. The conversation was interesting and got me thinking about my own motivations for maintaining this site.

The first thing that stands out for me in the responses is the number of people who said that they quit blogging because they didn't have any readers. It was more than I expected. I don't think I fully realized how important readership was to some people in the technical community, probably because I think can safely say that it's not of great importance to me.

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How to Have a Conversation on the IndieWeb

If you've read my previous articles on the IndieWeb, you might be forgiven for thinking that its members are, by and large, loners who keep to themselves.

Consider the concept of a "like", for example. On a site like Twitter, a like is an action you perform against another person's content; you click the heart icon next to someone's tweet, and the like counter for that tweet goes up. It's an implicit connection between two people - the one who did the liking and the one who received it.

An IndieWeb "like", on the other hand, is not an action you perform on someone's content, but rather a standalone post that you own and publish to your site. It's a reversal of the way people usually think about the transaction, and it reflects the premium IndieWeb members place on controlling their own content.

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Your Website Is Your Passport

One of the themes that crops up again and again in the IndieWeb community is that your personal domain, with its attendant website, should form the nexus of your online existence. Of course, people can and do maintain separate profiles on a variety of social media platforms, but these should be subordinate to the identity represented by your personal website, which remains everyone's one-stop-shop for all things you and the central hub out of which your other identities radiate.

Part of what this means in practice is that your domain should function as a kind of universal online passport, allowing you to sign in to various services and applications simply by entering your personal URL.

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Your Website Is Your Castle

In a previous blog post, I gave a very brief introduction to the IndieWeb, hopefully giving a sense of what it is and why it matters. In this post I'll try and zoom in a tiny bit and explain something of the mechanics of how the IndieWeb actually works and what it means to "like" a post or "share" a status update.

I'm deliberately trying to avoid too much detail in this post because, frankly, there's a lot to write, and it's easy to get lost. So I'm going to try and give a rough idea of what an IndieWeb enabled website looks like at a very high level, without going into the weeds. Further posts will go into more detail.

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In the Beginning Was the Website

I don't think I've ever felt quite as old as I felt when, last year, I discovered the IndieWeb, an online community of people dedicated to resurrecting the personal website.

This makes me feel old because I've maintained some sort of personal web presence/site/blog since around 1998 or so, when I made my first hand-coded HTML pages available online at U of T. Apparently, enough time has past not only for the concept of a "personal website" to have become quaint and old-fashioned (displaced by a cluster of much more convenient social media sites) but also for it to have been picked up again by an enthusiastic band of hobbyists with a taste for the retro and a fondness for old-school fan pages.

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How I Organize my Photos

I have a large collection of digital photos dating back over 15 years. An impressively small fraction of them are actually any good, but that's a different conversation, probably revolving around my digital hoarding habits.

Such a large collection deserves a particular method of organization. Or maybe it doesn't. Did I mention they're mostly mediocre? Anyway, I have one! I thought I'd share in case anyone finds it useful (including a future version of myself, my mind being a sieve and all).

The procedure I came up with is strongly influenced by several personal idiosyncrasies. Obviously, not everyone shares these traits, so your mileage will definitely vary - though I think it's always interesting to read about how other people do things.

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Fedoras and Infinite Streets

As you walk down a typical street in Manhattan the first thing you notice is just how straight it is. Roads in Manhattan have actual vanishing points, like railroad tracks. You walk slowly towards this point that you will never reach, and the cross streets come up one at a time, at perfectly spaced intervals and at perfectly right angles. First you look left, and then you look right, and you're taken aback at how perfectly straight those roads are as well, and how they also seem to go on forever in the distance.

It feels like Manhattan is made up entirely of infinite streets. It's so big that you feel like you're missing out on most of it, like each road you pass on your way to your destination is a lost opportunity, a story you'll never get to hear. You feel like there are countless Woody Allen movies and Seinfeld episodes going on at the same time but you'll never know anything about them because you didn't choose to walk down those roads. The sense of loss can be very powerful.

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Angst and the Angular Module System

Google's AngularJS is one of the most popular web frameworks out there, but it comes with its share of criticism (performance around two way binding being one of the more prominent complaints). Google responded by releasing Angular 2 (and, as of now, 4, 5 and 6), which addressed some of the issues but at the cost of being drastically incompatible with its predecessor, with no realistic way to upgrade except through pure elbow grease. Angular 2+ might as well be a completely different framework.

I never got the chance to become familiar with AngularJS, but my employer did decide to take the plunge with Angular 2 on one of their newer projects and so, for better or for worse, I am somewhat familiar how an Angular 2+ project works.

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Why Is There No E Sharp?

In an attempt to at least try and get to know my theremin a bit better, I caved and bought Carolina Eyck's The Art of Playing the Theremin. I mean, her instructional videos on YouTube are great, but they don't really give you a proper sense of how to move your fingers when playing a tune. Her book, on the other hand, does.

It's probably obvious to everyone else in the world, and I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting, but it turns out that you have to know how to read sheet music in order to fully benefit from the book. Crazy, right?

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