My blogging friend David Orban lives close to Bergamo, the epicenter of Italy’s Covid19 epidemic. I had been wondering how he was doing, and last week he posted an update. It reads as an odd mix of being comfortable at home in the spring, a lazy Sunday that in Italy has been stretching over 3 weeks now, personal concerns over family, and the awful realisation that the silence outside actually conveys the enormity of it all:

Since there is no traffic, [ambulances] don’t even use the sirens, in order not to unnerve you. The churches stopped ringing their bells when people die, as it would just keep ringing.

Bookmarked Our Life In Times of COVID-19 (David Orban)

I have been in full lockdown in Italy, outside of Bergamo in the North, which has the highest concentration of infected people and fatal cases, for the past two weeks. The streets are empty. There …

(via Peter Rukavina and Roland Tanglao)

I really like this metaphor by Robin Sloan. I would never call myself a ‘real’ programmer, or a programmer at all really. Yet, I’ve been programming stuff since I was 12. In BASIC during my school years, in assembly, Pascal, C++ at university, and in Perl, VisualBasic in my early days at work (which included programming the first intranet applications for my then employer), and currently in PHP and Applescript (to get my websites/tools and my laptop to do the things I want). Except for some university assignments all of that programming was and is because I want to, and done in spare time.

I too am the programming equivalent of a home cook (which coincidentally I also am).

Robin Sloan also hits on what irks me about the ‘everyone needs to learn to code’ call to action. “The exhortation “learn to code!” has its foundations in market value. “Learn to code” is suggested as a way up, a way out… offers economic leverage … [it] goes on your resume.”

People don’t only learn to cook so they can become chefs. Some do! But far more people learn to cook so they can eat better, or more affordably, or in a specific way…..

The above is I think an essential observation. Eating better, more affordably or in a specific way, translates to programming with the purpose to hone the laptop as your tool of trade and adapt it to your own personal workflows, making it support and work with your very own quirks. This is precisely what I don’t get from some that I quizz about their tool use, the way they accept the software on their laptop as is, and don’t see it as something you can mould to your own wishes at all.

“And, when you free programming from the requirement to be general and professional and scalable, it becomes a different activity altogether, just as cooking at home is really nothing like cooking in a commercial kitchen.”

Removing the aura of ‘real programming’ from all and any programming except paid for programming, might just break this ‘I’m not a programmer so I better accept the way software works as the vendor delivered it’ effect.

Me and Boris cookingMe and Boris Mann cooking in his kitchen in Vancouver in 2008. Coincidentally we connected through our desire to shape tools to our personal wishes. Programming as a home cook, brought us together to well, home cook. His blog still is a mix of cooking and programming well over a decade on.

Liked An app can be a home-cooked meal (Robin Sloan)

For a long time, I have struggled to articulate what kind of programmer I am. I’ve been writing code for most of my life, never with any real discipline, but/and I can, at this point, make the things happen on computers that I want to make happen. At the same time, I would not last a day as a professional software engineer……
I am the programming equivalent of a home cook.

Two blogging connections of old have recently restarted their blogs. First, all of a sudden a feed that had been long dormant in my reader showed (1), meaning a new unread post was available. It turned out to be the return to blogging of Luis Suarez after a 3 year hiatus, who has been in my feed reader since I began working in knowledge management.

Today I came across a posting by Lee Lefever on LinkedIn where he says

I recently decided to resurrect my personal website,, which had languished for years as a static site. The site started as a blog in 2003 and I blogged there until 2007. The good old days!
This time around, I built the site on WordPress … And of course, the new site has a blog and I am dedicated to being a blogger at once again.

Lee is also a longtime blogging friend, back to the BlogWalk days (2004/2005). I followed his blog, his global travel blog with his wife Sachi, and then their company’s blog. Looking forward to reading new postings from him.

Both run their sites on WordPress. So that’s an opportunity to tell them about IndieWeb for WordPress and hopefully convince them to add functionality to their sites like Webmentions.

The last 2 years have seen a small but noticable movement back to blogging. I picked up my own blogging pace late 2017, first motivated by a desire to escape the bottomless pit of Facebook. It’s good to see the ongoing trickle of the return to blogging. And of new blogging voices emerging.

I find there’s a completely new need to explain things to new groups that we’ve thought explained and broadly known. Things like the value of having your own domain and site, but also things like unconference formats, Creative Commons licenses, and how much you can do yourself outside of the silos. Having more of the earlier voices back in the chorus to help do that, and do it in our current context, is great.

Today friends and family gathered to celebrate the life of Catherine. Human meaning, being human, the richness of human interaction, to me is not about the grand gestures, but the small pieces. Acknowledging a familiar face elsewhere in the group. A shared laugh in recognition, a small story, shedding a tear in response to someone’s voice breaking up over a tiny anecdote. Catherine’s art displayed around the church, photos from her life being projected. Remembering the conversations we had out on their deck last June. It was very good to be part of it.

Except I wasn’t really. Because the celebration took place on Prince Edward Island, an ocean and five time zones away, and I was at home on my own couch.
Except I really was, and so were some three dozen others from across North-America, around Europe, and Indonesia, amongst which other dear friends of ours, visible to each other in the chat window.

Thanks to the live stream that Peter set-up he enabled us all to participate. Technology was our mediator this afternoon, as it was when I ‘joined’ Oliver’s birthday last year. It once more made true what I’ve held for years, that empathy can flow over copper wires and fiber optic cables. Beaming us into the presence of Peter and Oliver and all those around them, to be witness, to share, and to show and confirm ourselves to each other as being part of shared community. I am grateful it could be that way today.

A few days ago I took a look at my LinkedIn data, and realised while writing it that I exported my Facebook data in the fall of 2017 when I first strongly reduced and then later closed and deleted my original October 2006 account (I do keep a new account with limited interaction and much fewer contacts). The Facebook data also has a list of contacts with the date they became a contact.

From that export I therefore created the same data I did for LinkedIn: the number of added contacts per year and its gender balance, and the cumulative number of contacts and its gender balance. This in response to Rick Klau’s description of his ‘do-it-yourself contact management‘ Between 1 October 2006 and 30 October 2017 I added some 650 people on FB, of which 161 women (25%)
Those numbers are even more out of balance than with LinkedIn, although in recent years it improved in much the same way per year as on LinkedIn, though it comes out slightly below LinkedIn for the total. I suspect for Facebook a social aspect is in play more than on LinkedIn: for a larger social distance I suspect it is socially more likely I’d add a male contact. To test that I would need to arrange the contacts by my perceived social distance, which is an interesting experiment for another moment.

cummulative per year

new contacts added per year