In reply to It is bigger than a tiny little textbox by Dave Winer

What is biggger than a tiny little textbox, like the ones we get on social platforms, and a full blown CMS, like the editing back-end of my WordPress site? Asks Dave Winer. My current answer to that is: where I’m writing this reply now.

Mid 2022 Dave Winer talked about two-way RSS, which morphed into textcasting by the end of 2023. Now he’s looking at an editor that would work like that.

In my personal feed reader I added a form to post responses. You see Dave Winer’s posting that I’m responding to, and the response form.

The editor I am writing this in, is a simple webform underneath an entry in my feed reader. See the image above. Allowing me to respond while I’m reading feeds, and then move on to reading the next bit.

The editor allows me to set a title, keep the the title of the thing I’m responding to, or have no title. It can cater to different types of response (bookmark, favourite, reply). It can send to several WordPress sites (my blog, my company’s, the Dutch IndieWeb community site, and my company’s internal team site. As a post or a page.

Me writing this post in the response form in my feedreader.

But not just post to a website. It can post an online annotation to my Hypothes.is (the ‘H.’ response option at the top), and it can post to my local Obsidian markdown notes (the ‘obs’ site option underneath the edit boxes).

It accepts categories and tags as the same thing. The receiving site or location determines if one of the key-words is a category locally and treats the rest as tags.

It doesn’t use RSS except as source of the item I respond to, it uses the Micropub standard to talk to websites. It could use RSS or OPML. It accepts HTML and posts as Markdown to my notes. I just started tinkering with my feed reader and response form again, so I can take Dave’s question into account while doing that.

Now, the question: What’s between a tiny little text box and a full-blown content management system?
The question we intend to answer.
That’s what textcasting is for, to identity the essential features. This editor supports them.

Dave Winer

During the PKM Summit last week I saw Zsolt Viczián do several amazing things with his Excalidraw plugin in Obsidian as part of his visual thinking efforts.
I’m very much a text person, but do recognise the role of visual elements as part of my thinking process. Shifting concepts around, thinking about connections, clustering etc. It engages the spatial parts of the brain, and humans are good at that. As most tools do either one thing or the other, when a tool can do both as just different perspectives on the same thing that draws my attention. It is why I’ve used Tinderbox and e.g. The Brain. Zsolt showed me how Excalidraw in Obsidian can do both too. Any Excalidraw-in-Obsidian image can have a regular note on the other side, and you can switch between them. All this because it’s just one note in markdown with some parts interpreted by Excalidraw and other parts by Obsidian.


A sketch of the elements needed to post my own slidedecks in a nice viewer, now that I’m no longer satisfied with how I’ve ‘brought slides home‘ the past four years.


The same file but now shown as text, where I’ve written a few tasks as part of creating the setup I’ve sketched in the image. Zsolt calls this the backside of the image. I’m more reminded of Tinderbox where you could see something as outline, as timeline, as tree map, as canvas etc. all interchangeable.

Zsolt very much gave me a great nudge to play with this more, and relearn that I do care about visual elements in my notes, and that it’s just that it wasn’t easy enough to build into my routines in making notes.

In 1967 French literary critic Roland Barthes declared the death of the author (in English, no less). An author’s intentions and biography are not the means to explain definitively what the meaning of a text (of fiction) is. It’s the reader that determines meaning.

Barthes reduces the author to merely a scriptor, a scribe, who doesn’t exist other than for their role of penning the text. It positions the work fully separate of its maker.

I don’t disagree with the notion that readers glean meaning in layers from a text, far beyond what an author might have intended. But thinking about the author’s intent, in light of their biography or not, is one of those layers for readers to interpret. It doesn’t make the author the sole decider on meaning, but the author’s perspective can be used to create meaning by any reader. Separating the author from their work entirely is cutting yourself of from one source of potential meaning. Even when reduced to the role of scribe, such meaning will leak forth: the monks of old who tagged the transcripts they made and turned those into Indexes that are a common way of interpreting on which topics a text touches or puts emphasis. So despite Barthes pronouncement, I never accepted the brain death of the author, yet also didn’t much care specifically about their existence for me to find meaning in texts either.

With the advent of texts made by generative AI I think bringing the author and their intentions in scope of creating meaning is necessary however. It is a necessity as proof of human creation. Being able to perceive the author behind a text, the entanglement of its creation with their live, is the now very much needed Reverse Turing test. With algorithmic text generation there is indeed only a scriptor, one incapable of conveying meaning themselves.
To determine the human origin of a text, the author’s own meaning, intention and existence must shine through in a text, or be its context made explicit. Because our default assumption must be that it was generated.

The author is being resurrected. Because we now have fully automated scriptors. Long live the author!

Bookmarked The 100 Year Plan (by Automattic/WordPress)

WordPress is offering a century of managed hosting for 38.000USD, I presume upfront.

In reply to I’d love to understand what prompted Automattic to offer a hosting plan for $38K. by Ben Werdmuller

I don’t think this is a serious proposition by Automattic / WordPress.

  1. Who is in a position to put 38.000USD on the table right now, that they can’t use more usefully elsewhere? (even if in terms of monthly rates it’s not a large sum)
  2. Who believes Automattic, or any company, is likely to be around anno 2123 (unless they pivot to brewing or banking)? Or that they or their successor will honor such century old commitments (State guaranteed Russian railway shares are now just over 100 years old)?

I think it’s a way of getting attention for the last part of Matt’s quote at the end:

I hope this plan gets people and other companies thinking about building for the long term.

Matt Mullenweg

That is a relevant thing to talk about. People’s digital estates after they pass are becoming more important. I know how much time it took me to deal with it after my parents died, even with their tiny digital footprint, and even when it wasn’t about digital preservation mostly. Building code, hardware and systems to last is a valuable topic.

However if I want to ensure my blog can still be read in 100 years there is an easy fix: I would submit it to the national library. I don’t think my blog is in the subset of sites the Dutch Royal Library already automatically tracks and archives, even though at 20+ years it’s one of the oldest still existing blogs (at the same url too). However I can register an ISBN number for my collected postings. Anything published in the Netherlands that has an ISBN number will be added to the national library’s collection and one can submit it digitally (preferably even).

I think I just saved myself 38.000 USD in exchange for betting the Royal Library will still exist in 2123! Its founding was in 1798, 225 years ago, so the Lindy effect suggests it’s likely a good bet to give it another century or two.

On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.

Peter Steiner, 1993

It seems after years of trollbots and content farms, with generative algorithms we are more rapidly moving past the point where the basic assumption on the web still can be that an (anonymous) author is human until it becomes clear it’s otherwise. Improving our crap detection skills from now on means a different default:

On the internet nobody believes you’re human.

until proven otherwise.

Bookmarked Inside the secret list of websites that make AI like ChatGPT sound smart (by By Kevin Schaul, Szu Yu Chen and Nitasha Tiku in the Washington Post)

The Washington Post takes a closer look at Google’s C4 dataset, which is comprised of the content of 15 million websites, and has been used to train various LLM’s. Perhaps also the one used by OpenAI for e.g. ChatGPT, although it’s not known what OpenAI has been using as source material.

They include a search engine, which let’s you submit a domain name and find out how many tokens it contributed to the dataset (a token is usually a word, or part of a word).

Obviously I looked at some of the domains I use. This blog is the 102860th contributor to the dataset, with 200.000 tokens (1/10000% of the total).


Screenshot of the Washington Post’s search tool, showing the result for this domain, zylstra.org.