Robin Sloan has proposed a protocol, Spring ’83, that serves publisher’s content like a magazine stand. You see a board of cards, where cards get replaced whenever its publisher releases a new one. He aims to ditch the timeline experience it seems, partly considering form and content as pieces of the same expression, as well as a way to maintain space for voices that do not express themselves every other minute but way more infrequently.

A Beijing news stand with spread out mags competing for your attention. Image by Peter Ashlock, license CC BY

Others in my feedreader have commented on it in the past days and it gets me thinking. Not in any structured way yet. No idea yet therefore what I think about this in a form I can narrate, but some associations come to mind.

I do like the notion of small cards. Makes me think of Hugh’s Gaping Void back-of-a-business-card drawings, and of tiny zines made as a folded single sheet chapbook. The set limit creates friction for creativity to feed on. Yet, the built in size limit, when putting more of them together on a ‘board’ may well mean the same drawbacks as in Twitter, aiming for the highest attention grabbing value. Magazines in a kiosk do the same thing after all, using the cover to try and lure you into reading them. Look at that image above. Does that make a board of cards just a collection of adverts for your attention? Reading Maya’s annotations, there too the scarcity mindset a board of such cards might introduce is raised. Are there other ways to thread such cards?

The focus on p2p distribution, and on making it easy to put out there, chimes with me in terms of networked agency and in terms of low thresholds for such agency.

The notion where softer voices have the same claim to space as louder ones (i.e. more frequently posting ones) I appreciate a lot. Kicks Condor in his Fraidycat feedreader provides neat sparklines indicating frequency of posting, and allocates every single author the same space by displaying their last few postings regardless of timelines. That points back as well to my use of social distance (not the pandemic kind!) as a method to order presentation of feeds I follow, in a person focused way, and less a timeline. I follow people’s expressions, not blogs as publications. It also makes me cringe at the use of the word publisher in Robin Sloan’s explanation.

À propos following people, Maya also mentions how she likes to see friction between different strands of her online expression (e.g. blogposts, and Mastodon messages). Such different strands have different qualities to them, and having them in one place, like an IndieWeb enabled site may put them too closely or too obviously together. The notion of friction is important I think when getting to know someone online in more detail by following more of their online traces. I follow people, and for a good number I follow multiple traces (photos, posts, tweets e.g.). Combining those traces needs friction I feel, getting to know someone better from their expressions needs a certain effort. That’s about me having something at stake in building interaction. Blogs are distributed conversations to me and you need to invest your presence in such conversations. Connecting with others should be extremely easy in terms of being able to connect, but certainly not effortless in terms of time spent on the actual connecting. Way back when (2006), Lilia and I had conversations about this, and it’s still relevant now. My site purposefully introduces friction to readers: casual visitors see only a fraction of the postings, some content is only shared through RSS and not findable in the site, some content is both not listed nor shared through feeds etc. All the fragments are still in the same place, mine, though, and not farmed out to various silos to create the same effect of deliberate fragmentation. It means I’ve greatly reduced the friction for me as author using IndieWeb, not eroded the needed friction for readers. Someone who puts in the effort will be able to gather all my traces in their reader.

Tracy Durnell has some remarks, and compares Spring ’83 to IndieWeb efforts and discusses the visual aspects. Her suggestion showing a blogroll as cards, not as a list, is a good one I think, perhaps showing the last three postings the Fraidycat way? I’ve seen others do it as a river of news, but that once more provides additional amplification to the loudest authors.
Louis Potok takes a first look under the hood.

Bookmarked Commuting is Morally Bankrupt (by Stowe Boyd)

Commuting is unavoidable if physical presence is needed. Moving around big cities always takes heaps of time (Paolo always says ‘about 50 minutes’ when you ask him how much time it will take to get to some place in London, for Paris my rule of thumb is 30+mins each movement, in Amsterdam I assume 15mins because I cycle there and it’s much smaller)

When I still had an office to go to (1997-2004) it was a 10 minute cycle, later a 5 min walk, each way (same office, moved house). Then, as consultant visiting client offices (2004-2008), it would regulary be 5 hours each day, but it wasn’t a commute and it was different each week. I would work from home on days I wasn’t visiting client offices, as my employer did not have offices. From 2008 onwards working at home was the default, while aiming for at most 3 days per week visiting client offices. Since moving to the middle of the Netherlands, travel times are below an hour each way to most of the rest of the country, for the one or two days per week I don’t work from home. Despite travel I haven’t ‘commuted’ for 18 years.

My company has offices in Utrecht (in the walkable city center across from a public transport hub), and we have them both as a meeting space and because our more recent employees want a place to work. We provide the tools and means of course to be able to collaborate and communicate asynchronously and remotely.

We’re 8 people. Four live within cycling distance of the office. The other four within 30-50 minutes each way (by public transport or car). None of us are expected to show up in the office each day. Some are there 3-4 days, others once each week. I am usually there once every other week. We don’t provide lease cars, we do provide public transport cards (which include cycle and car rental/parking when needed for the ‘last mile’ from the nearest train station). Travel time to client offices generally is counted as work time, not a commute.

Commute times are the result of balancing three building blocks I think. Your own work location and nature of your job, the place you would want to or can afford to live, and the work location and nature of the job of your partner. Usually those three don’t shift simultaneously, meaning the arrangement of them is almost by definition suboptimal. Generally it seems people optimise for a commute below an hour.

Is commuting really morally bankrupt? Not by definition. Place of residence and the jobs you and your partner want are individual choices (though most certainly not free of constraints).
The moral choices of my role as employer concern less the commute, more the demands we make of people to be at our office, the expectations we have w.r.t. how many days per week a team member works on client projects and at their offices, and what expectations of clients we do or don’t cater for. E.g. we don’t take on projects where the client expects us to be there 5 days per week, and mostly aim for 3 days of client work per week as a healthy balance with other tasks. Office presence mostly is the result of wanting to be there. Commute time is the result of those choices and their morality. Because of other considerations other than the employer’s playing a role in commute time, it’s mostly not even a good proxy for the employer’s morality. Unless the employer’s choices are the dominant factor determining the commute, whether by deliberate choice or as consequence of inconsiderance. That’s when an employer doesn’t fulfull its duty of care for their employees.


Screenshot van 4 mei-rede in de Nieuwe Kerk, de link gaat naar YouTube (ik plaats geen YT embeds vanwege tracking).

Indrukwekkende rede van Hans Goedkoop in de Nieuwe Kerk tijdens Dodenherdenking op 4 mei 2022.

Over je eigen zicht op goed en kwaad niet verliezen, ook als dat ongemakkelijk is. Ook als je in een concentratiekamp bent opgesloten.

Als het toen kon, kan het áltijd

zegt hij over hoe Abel Herzberg en anderen het gevoel voor beschaving in stand hielden in Bergen Belsen, en vergelijkt het met welk antwoord we geven op de Russische oorlog in Ukraïne.

En hij geeft een waarschuwing, waarin hij Hannah Ahrendt, en ook de woorden van Herzberg zelf over het Eichmann proces, in slechts enkele woorden weer helder actualiseert naar vandaag. Tegen schuilen achter bestaande systematiek om te verklaren dat je weinig kunt doen.

De banaliteit van het kwaad: nazisme heb je er niet voor nodig.

I’m taking the liberty to put three questions before Chris Aldrich about his Hypothes.is experiences, after reading Annotation by Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia. Kalir and Garcia make much of the social affordances that annotation can provide. Where annotation is not an individual activity, jotting down marginalia in solitude, but a dialogue between multiple annotators in the now, or incrementally adding to annotators from the past. Like my blogposts are an ongoing conversation with the world as well. Hypothes.is is one of the mentioned tools that make such social annotating possible. I am much more used to individually annotating (except for shared work documents), where my notes are my own and for my own learning. Yet, I follow Chris Aldrich’s use of Hypothes.is with interest, his RSS feed of annotations is highly interesting, so there’s a clear sign that there can be benefit in social annotation. In order to better understand Chris’s experience I have three questions:

1. How do you beat the silo?

Annotations are anchored to the annotated text. Yet in my own note making flow, I lift them away from the source text to my networked set of notions and notes in which emergent structures produce my personal learning. I do maintain a link to the right spot in the source text. Tools like Hypothes.is are designed as silos to ensure that its social features work. How do you get your annotations into the rest of your workflow for notes and learning? How do you prevent that your social annotation tool is yet another separate place where one keeps stuff, cutting off the connections to the rest of one’s work and learning that would make it valuable?

2. What influence does annotating with an audience have on how you annotate?

My annotations and notes generally are fragile things, tentative formulations, or shortened formulations that have meaning because of what they point to (in my network of notes and thoughts), not so much because of their wording. Likewise my notes and notions read differently than my blog posts. Because my blog posts have an audience, my notes/notions are half of the internal dialogue with myself. Were I to annotate in the knowledge that it would be public, I would write very differently, it would be more a performance, less probing forwards in my thoughts. I remember that publicly shared bookmarks with notes in Delicious already had that effect for me. Do you annotate differently in public view, self censoring or self editing?

3. Who are you annotating with?

Learning usually needs a certain degree of protection, a safe space. Groups can provide that, but public space often less so. In Hypothes.is who are you annotating with? Everybody? Specific groups of learners? Just yourself and one or two others? All of that, depending on the text you’re annotating? How granular is your control over the sharing with groups, so that you can choose your level of learning safety?

Not just Chris is invited to comment on these questions obviously. You’re all invited.


Opticks, with marginalia, image by Open Library, license CC BY

Favorited The Small and Starting Community Tool Gap on In Full Flow

Good questions I don’t know the current answer to either.

What tools are there if you want to provide a small, still forming group, an appropriate space for online interaction? Tools that are either very easy to self host, or cheap enough at the start to allow quick experimentation. Tools that don’t require a lot of skill to self host, tools that don’t throw up a (cost) threshold that surpasses the energy and will of a just budding group. There’s this precious moment in the evolution of a group, where there’s intention to constitute itself, but uncertainty about whether it will happen, whether those involved will indeed commit. Where commitment is slowly forming tit-for-tat. Where the group is still more network than group, but already in need of secluded space for their interaction, and not yet set firmly enough so that applying fixed costs would immediately make it collapse again.

What tools are there that allow you to interact online in multiple small groups? We all tend to be part of multiple groups, and e.g. if a fixed monthly cost would apply to all of them, that accumulates quickly. I already see that in my own ‘subscriptions’, which take constant pruning and balancing to justify their total cost to myself and our household. I very much dislike SaaS as a result.

…in the past few months I’ve had several moments that I wanted to bring people together outside certain social silo’s… It feels like there is a tool gap, or a price gap, for bringing small communities (or temporary project groups!) together.

As the web is so big, there are probably solutions out there that I don’t know of. Please share them with me

In Full Flow

In reply to On taking notes and syndicating them by zblesk

Thank you for writing that! I too find it highly interesting to see how other people arrange their workflows, choose their tools and what they do with them. Often there are things that spark an idea or suggest a useful tweak to my own workflows. So thank you for making a comparison between how you work and what I wrote about how I work.

A few reactions to some of the things you mention.

My perspective on (personal) knowledge management is centered around the notion that I should have everything under my fingertips, and should be able to fully determine my own choice of tools. Tools one can preferably tweak, reshape or replace easily. I started taking notes in the early 1990’s and local text files were the most basic choice I made (and one of the few I then could make). Later convenience lured me into other things like Evernote, and Things for tasks, but I’ve returned to that basic starting point of using text files more recently.

At the core are these notions I hold:

  • Local first. I’m from an era that connectivity can’t be taken for granted, and regularly work in settings where that is still true. It is also a dependency that even when it is usually reliable, probably carries a high cost if it does fail, as that most likely is in key moments (basically a version of the demo effect).
  • Agency over tools. Tools must provide actual agency. A key part of it is being able to fully control it’s deployment and use, being able to tweak it etc. Tools must be smaller than us in that sense (not in a literal sense). Convenience may make me ignore this factor up to a certain point, but in the end having control over my tools always comes back up as an issue. Not having such control ultimately always turns a tool into a single point of failure. (Gmail and Evernote are prime examples to me) That drives me to simpler tools within my own scope of control and power to manipulate, and only allowing more complexity if it increases my personal agency significantly. It also means to me that tools need to be useful on their own, and more useful when networked.
  • Personal tools. Tools need to be adaptable to the person using it. That makes it easier to make those tools smarter. As personal preferences can be assumed as the defaults, and personal routines are predictable to the person itself. Predictable routines plus preferences equal functions and parameters, i.e. code.
  • Personal agency is always in the context of networked agency. In most settings the unit of agency is not the individual but a small group of connected people trying to solve something that is important to the group itself. Whatever tools the group uses should be within the scope of control of that same group. As a group’s notion of local is usually a networked notion, my local stuff needs to be able to connect (yet not depend on it). Distribution is important here. Centralisation is mostly to be avoided as it carries a cost in overhead, control and resilience.

Put that all together, and indeed POSSE basically becomes the prime directive for everything.

On PHP: I’ve been using PHP for about 20 years. When I create something as a personal tool, it makes sense to just grab the building blocks I’m already familiar with. I’ve always run a local webserver on my pc/laptop, and writing up a few lines of PHP and dropping it in a folder my local webserver uses, makes it fast and easy. Easier at least than getting to know new frameworks, or whatnot. Javascript never appealed to me even if it is from the same 1990’s era, nor succeeded in making much sense to me. Apart from doing browser side things with it in an HTML page.

On WordPress: I used to handcode my sites, until I started using Movable Type shortly after I initiated my blog (hosted on a webserver at home). That was written in Perl which I was comfortable with having written my then employer’s first intranet in it. A decade later I switched to WordPress when my Movable Type install suddenly stopped working completely. I see you use Ghost, which ran a kickstarter I supported shortly after I switched to WordPress (self hosted on an external hosting package). By the time Ghost saw its first release I didn’t act on my earlier idea of running that on a home server. I’m not particularly attached to WP (also used Drupal heavily for other sites), and use it pretty bare bones, but it has served me well for the last 10 years. The switch to Gutenberg and blocks though has me thinking I might maybe go for something simpler.

On Obsidian / Joplin: I also use Joplin, but haven’t tweaked it like you have, I use it out of the box. It’s where my Evernote exports live, which from there I export to md files as needed. I treat Obsidian as a viewer, and Joplin too. Because of that I dislike that Joplin stores stuff locally in an sqlite database, obscuring the contents from my filesystem that way. From a viewer it then becomes an obscurer. Currently Obsidian has my sympathy, that may change, no tool is forever. So in my choices of e.g. plugins for Obsidian I avoid things that provide functionality that comes with a type of lock-in, where if you stop using a plugin part of your information disappears or is hard to get at because it was in a database not in the notes. I dislike YAML frontmatter too. For the Dataview plugin I use inline datafields (key:: value) which makes them a regular part of the note itself. Only when for some automation I need to know where to easily find a data field, I will put it at the top (but still not as YAML frontmatter).

On public RSS subscriptions: yes, I post a list of all the feeds I subscribe to. I treat them as individual’s voices (so no feeds from news outlets etc), and group them by my perceived social distance. I treat blogging and interacting with feeds as distributed conversations.

I always like reading about how other people process information and handle their notes/knowledge bases. It’s a topic I think about often.

Ton Zijlstra’s ideas are especially interesting to me because it seems we are trying to achieve similar goals, but go about it in opposite ways.

zblesk

(also posted to Indienews)