Back to NetNewsWire?

I’ve been trying various RSS readers over the last couple of months. Initial Vienna (which felt dated), then Cappuccino (buggy), and now Evergreen… thus far has been lovely.

As noted here, Evergreen is going to be the new NetNewsWire 5.0:

You probably know that I’ve been working on a free and open source reader named Evergreen. Evergreen 1.0 will be renamed NetNewsWire 5.0 — in other words, I’ve been working on NetNewsWire 5.0 all this time without knowing it!

This move back to RSS or feeds in general was a side-effect of getting away from Twitter. Wanting to get away from Twitter was… it’s not important. The end result is that i send less time being interrupted driven, but also miss more things that might be interesting.

My move to Mastodon is a rather lonely affair – without millions of users it lacks the essential “reach” that motivates people’s engagement with Twitter. In order to keep up with friends on Twitter, but without the Twitter “drama”, i’m using TwitRSS.me to scrape RSS feeds.

The RSS returned is a little funky, but Evergreen is doing a reasonable job of rendering. There seem to be alternatives (RSSHub, FetchRSS, etc), although none of them seems to be focused on keeping Twitter at arms length.

Anyway, it’s nice the NetNewsWire is coming back, and if we’re lucky some renewed interest in RSS in general.

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Mastodon & Whalebird

There is very little going on (for me) on Mastodon, but it’s still interesting to see how it develops.

My latest thing is leaving a a desktop client called Whalebird open. Another Electron app… which obviously isn’t ideal, but becoming a trend – it’s quick to throw together a standalone app wrapped around the existing browser interfaces. Unfortunately it’s essentially running a full browser for every app. That probably isn’t as bad as it sounds (modern o/s have on demand page loading, etc) but it makes every Electron app an easy target for accusations of bloat.. one of those mind-numbing discussion killers, which is increasingly at odds with the amount of memory available (and generally sitting unused).

Meanwhile there is more discussion, beyond “It’s federated! It’s good!”, focusing on the practical reasons for avoiding Twitter:

The Why: Twitter Is in the Outrage Business; Mastodon Isn’t a Business

Though i don’t think it will happen, it would be interesting to see if Mastodon could survive, in it’s current rather open / tolerant form, an influx of Twitter’s current user base. Perhaps it doesn’t need to, and multiple communities can form on unconnected instances. Do we really need to suffer brands? Will instance owners actively manage their communities, and resist the “freeze peach” pressure to which Twitter has so easily yielded?

When all is said and done, i don’t think Mastodon is ever going to escape it’s niche and challenge Twitter. It might be that it’s too similar for most people’s level on engagement, and a more radical / gimmicky alternative is needed. Until that happens i’m stuck between worlds, with a curated set of Twitter friends followed via RSS!

Edit:

Facebook Blitz

IMG_3180

Determine what others see
For us F stands for a Facebook in which you have more control of your private sphere.
Therefore we’re now providing a clearer overview in one place.

I’m kind of fascinated, in a “car crash” kind of way, with the effort Facebook is putting into improving it’s image in Germany.

Leaving aside the banality of this particular pitch (“we’ve moved all the privacy controls that you need to understand, and obviously don’t, into a single place for you to better not understand!) what on earth are they thinking? Do they really believe that the perceived issue is with what others can see, and not understand that people have become concerned with the entirety of what Facebook itself sees?

Maybe this is part of a longer strategy to attempt to undermine the GDPR regulations, which you’d have to assume would be devastating to the FB “sell out the users to highest bidder” business model. If they can get out in front of it, making the claim that they are already protecting users data, and using it appropriately (“look at all the control we give them!”) then maybe politicians won’t feel that suing them out of existence will be popular?

They’ve lost a million users to GDPR issues… which seems peanuts compared to the total ~365 million European users. And the stock price, despite the historic fluctuations, is still higher than it was at the start of 2018.

It all makes me wonder what news they are not yet out in front of…

Review: The Thirty-Five Timely & Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County

Not entirely sure how to write this review. Ideally you’d go buy a copy, then we could discuss it in the comments. That would be easiest. Still, nothing is ever easy…

The events may occur in two separate realms: the every day life of a small town Maine doctor, John M. Bischoffberger aka Bisch; a parallel world that may, or may not, co-exist within the mind of said Bisch.

The primary inhabitants of this parallel world, the old woman, the welp, and the thin man, are of a mythical nature. While reading i found myself trying to fit them into roles, assign them meaning, which it is entirely unclear that they have. Nonetheless, could the old woman symbolise time, the forces of nature? Could the welp be war, chaos, anarchy? The thin man, is he pestilence, disease, famine?

They talk of love and hate, of time, of a time that has come. Of a job to be done. In the end are they just the neurotic fever dreams of a mind that has experienced the horrors of war, and struggles to maintain a grip on a gritty rural reality?

It’s a beautifully written book, the writing is descriptive, rich and earthy, but it leaves you enough room to imagine. Space in which to find your fears. I don’t read a lot of fiction anymore, and i don’t watch any cinema, but this felt very cinematic – the pages playing out as a film.

Don’t want to say any more. Go read it.

Oh.One of the Unbounders made a reference to Cormac McCarthy. It’s a difficult comparison to live up to, but its easy to see why it was made.

The State of “Social”

Post from HN: How Does Mastodon Work?

Answer from me so far: it doesn’t.

Sadly i’m not sure it ever will. Leaving Twitter means leaving behind all the network effect that made the Twitter experience work.

One day an inflection point is going to come and people will migrate to a new platform. However, my guess is that will not happen for technical or organisational reasons, but just because. As much as it would be good to sell people on a messaging platform that is, among other things, virtuous, privacy respecting, user supported, censorship resistant (as Mastodon may well be…) if it doesn’t have the magic combination of simplicity and cool which periodically captures the zeitgeist… it doesn’t work.

I’ve managed to move the majority of my IM traffic to Signal… there are a few stragglers, and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it’s role in the communication of others is limited to catering to my diva-like demands! Why has that worked for personal communications, but failed for the broader, more scattershot social networking case?

The use case is different – on a platform like Twitter you curate followers / friends and accept that whatever to say will be broadcast to them all. This obviously means that you adapt your communication style to be less personal. In most cases a Twitter / Facebook / Instagram account becomes a simple means of promotion. Followers, if not the direct audience, act as a means of propagating or amplifying your message. If that network doesn’t not exist to fan out reaching a much wider “market” it’s not really fit for purpose.

It seems that more private (in many cases not in the cryptographic sense) interactions between natural groups (family, close friends, small teams) are migrating to closed chat rooms, most likely on platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. And Twitter / Facebook / Instagram feeds are slowly dissolving into a market place for both goods, ideas and attention, with the whole thing swirling around a sink hole of advertising intelligence / surveillance.

Sadly, i suspect that the implementation of Circles in Google+ came very close to synthesising something that captured a good balance. Fortunately people read the sociopathic writing on the wall – as bad a custodian of a social graph as Facebook has turned out to be, the only people that i can see giving them a run for their money in the ‘Totalitarian Information Megacorp’ / ‘Grim Meathook Future’ stakes are big G… and Amazon.

[A lot of this musing was brought to mind by seeing a Facebook ad on German TV that, and i kid you not, starts out with “F steht für unsere Fehler” (F stands for our failure), and then gets weirder.]