I’ve now migrated all my text snippets from TextExpander to Alfred. With Alfred set to automatically expand snippets upon typing a keyword anywhere, it behaves the exact same way as TextExpander. TextExpander has been useful to me over the years, but their new subscription model is not for me.

I have been using TextExpander for a long time to speed up typing by using keywords for often used and repeating snippets.

Things like .TZ to type my name Ton Zijlstra, .url to type my blog’s url https://www.zylstra.org/blog, and .@blog for my blog’s mail addressblog@zylstra.org. That way filling out a comment form on a blog is .TZ .@blog .url, and then the comment.

With their latest release TextExpander has gone the route of so many software packages, and started charging a yearly subscription. I don’t mind buying software but paying yearly for the same package adds up quickly over the many software tools I use. I don’t mind the occasional payment for an upgrade (I happily pay Tinderbox $100 every time I do a major upgrade), but forcing a subscription on me is a form of economic tethering I fundamentally dislike.

So whenever a software tool moves away from ‘pay me once now, and pay again once you choose to upgrade’ to ‘let us set the frequency of payments’ I try to move away from that software tool. Currently I am moving my TextExpander snippets into Alfred, a tool that does the same thing next to doing a whole host of other things and that I also already had installed.

Slideshare is being integrated into Scribd as of tomorrow. To avoid falling under the TOS of Scribd, per their own suggestion you need to delete your account.

I always thought Scribd was Slideshare’s more evil sibling, even if I don’t remember precisely how I arrived at that conclusion. I deleted my own Slideshare account last week. Tonight I deleted my company’s Slideshare account as well.

My company also has a Scribd account, from the time when you couldn’t really upload regular documents to Slideshare yet. It went unused for the past 4 years or so, but we do use some embeds on our site.

I tried to also delete that Scribd account tonight, and immediately ran into the type of dark patterns that justify my existing perception of Scribd.

First Scribd does not allow you to download all of your own content. Read that again. We had 43 documents on Scribd, I could download 20 of them, and then downloads simply stopped working, and a banner appeared suggesting I open a monthly subscription. They had a 30 day free trial, so I went that route, and downloads then resumed. After downloading all our content, I deleted all content from our company’s Scribd account.

Second, I ended the free trial subscription as well, which does the Facebooky thing of having to confirm 3 times or more you really want to cancel (we’re so sorry to see you go, are you sure you don’t want to change your mind, if you click this we’ll pull a very sad face… etc.)

Third, after deleting our content I wanted to delete our account and could not find a deletion button. I had to duckduckgo how to delete a Scribd account, and on their own help page found that I could not delete our account until a subscription has been cancelled (which I did) and it has reached its end date. Until then there’s no deletion button visible. This means I can delete my account only on October 23rd, when the 30 day trial subscription ends that I already cancelled, and which I only entered into because they wouldn’t allow me to access my own content otherwise!

Good riddance, in short. Or rather: good riddance, in 30 days. Added it to my task list so I don’t forget.

This morning I set out to download all my Slideshare content. As Slideshare is becoming part of Scribd this month, I’m shutting my Slideshare account down (and will shut down both the Slideshare and Scribd accounts of my company as well).

Yesterday I downloaded the CSV file you get when you go to Slideshare ‘data export’ feature, which turns out is nothing of the kind. That CSV contains the download links, web urls, titles, dates and statistics of all your presentations. I thought that was useful, as the statistics provided insight in the utility of Slideshare.

I wrote a script that read the CSV file. First to take the Slideshare filename and add its publication year and month in front of it, like YYYY-MM-my-presentation-name. Then to call the listed download URL and save the results to YYYY-MM-my-presentation-name in my Downloads folder. That way I would have the downloads in chronological order, and be able to easily see the differences betwen similarly named presentations (I presented a lot about Open Data over the years!) in my file system. I watched my Downloads folder fill up nicely with the expected downloads, and congratulated myself on my AppleScripting skills…..

Then I noticed the downloaded files were at most a few kilobytes, which wasn’t at all expected as my presentation decks easily are a few dozen MBs. I should have tried this earlier at the start, but opening a Slideshare downloadlink I realised it wasn’t a link to a downloadable file directly but to a web-interface that then started the download in the background after a few seconds, and after prompting you to confirm the download. So I hadn’t downloaded 132 presentations just now, but 132 web pages with a download prompt.

Apparently Slideshare expects you to lift each of those downloadlinks from their CSV file, open it in the browser by hand, and then manually confirm each download. However if you go to your account page ‘My Uploads’ you can in quick succession click the download button for the dozen presentations presented there, and use the pagination buttons to move to the next dozen, and repeat.

Their ‘data export’ in other words is worse than their regular account interface.
The crappiness of this ‘functionality’ definitely is a great cultural fit with their new owner Scribd though.

Having clicked Download 132 times, I then deleted my account.

Next steps are moving the downloaded files to a web accessible folder on one of my hosting packages, and adapt my blogpostings that have a slideshare embed to point to that folder.

Earlier this week Matthias Pfefferle released an update of the Sempress theme I use as a basis for this site. I clicked install in my WordPress dashboard, and then my site became unreachable. I mentioned it in the IndieWeb IRC/Slack channel for WordPress and Matthias kindly offered help in figuring out the issue. He found a small mistake on his side, which he quickly corrected and updated, and he spotted a few differences between my child theme and his original. But it didn’t solve the issue. So I left my child theme turned off, and ran Sempress proper, with the idea I would make time to compare my child theme alterations with the original later in the week. Then I slept on it and the next morning I woke up with the notion that I had changed some function in the original Sempress theme, for my child theme to work.

That turned out to be the issue. I copied and tweaked a function, that then in the original Sempress file should be wrapped in a conditional statement that checks if that function isn’t already loaded (as the child theme gets loaded first, then the theme). When a function gets loaded twice it causes a clash. Precisely that function isn’t wrapped by default in a check if it already exists. So I added if (!function_exists(sempress_customize_css)): and all was well again.

Unlike last time, this time I documented that I need to do this after an update of the Sempress theme. (Or suggest a change to the original.)

Twelve years ago today I blogged a video by Gary Hayes visiting 50 virtual worlds. Reading Hayes’ accompanying 2008 blogpost which is still online, I wonder what today’s VR trends and hotspots are. How well is the virtual control of the real and the fully virtual a seamless experience these days? How far along are we to the Metaverse?

SecondLife still exists, not surprisingly as it was profitable right from the start, but I have no idea what it has evolved into. At some point I rented a bit of land there, to use as a sandbox. Does it still feel mostly empty?
What is the current status and role of immersive virtual worlds?

Are there any AR worlds that provide a seamless experience between the physical and the digital? I do regularly see people on the streets of our hometown trying to catch Pokemons, but as with a lot of these VR/AR things that seems gimmicky to me mostly. Last year at the Energie.Digital conference in Germany I saw a bit more of Microsoft’s mixed reality Hololens, and while some use cases were convincing, others seemed contrived. Yet at the same time there are many moments where I would love to see a much more seamless transition from the material to the virtual (which is partly why I got myself a Nova2: to digitise my handwriting), and bringing the virtual into the material, or making online exchanges much more immersive.

Digital networks and human networks are alike in their distributedness, and completely embracing that overlap for tool design is a source of enormous agency, imo.

Where does the yellow brick road to The Street of the Metaverse run these days?