Posts tagged "blogging":
I spent the last few days messing with servers on Kamatera's VPS hosting. After abandoning the attempt to set up an Epicyon fediverse instance, I tried to re-utilize the same server for the blog and photo galleries. I'd chosen a NGINX based server, and somehow I couldn't succeed with it, so eventually I gave up.
Next, I tried a Caddy server image offered by Kamatera. I didn't manage with that one either; though Caddy is supposed to be really easy, I couldn't get through the set-up. It might have been easier simply to take a plain server and to install Caddy myself.
Eventually, I chose a server image based on Ubuntu with Apache and PHP pre-installed - a configuration that I understand best. But, as I was quickly to discover, these server-related components weren't fully present on Kamatera's image. At least, they weren't working. First I found that A2ensite wasn't there, then that PHP wasn't functioning, so basically I needed to install or reinstall all of the server bits.
After a few hours, I got it all set up again, including the emacs org-mode based blog and galleries. Now, as before, publishing a blog post only requires me to compose it, press Alt-X and type "pub": that rsyncs everything including the posts and any media I've placed in the local directories to the website. That's about as easy and painless as you can get - and it automatically provides me with a full local backup. The only actual disadvantage is not being able to publish something directly from a phone. It's no doubt possible, with an ssh app and a bit of configuration, to publish photos over Android to the server, but not blog posts, due to the dependence on emacs. What I can do, is draft posts on my phone, using Orgzly, and then transfer them to my computer.
I think I'll leave it basically at that, rather than risk being over-ambitious and spoiling my configuration again. There's only so many times that one can go through the process of reinstalling a server and setting everything up without being driven to a place of "what's the point?"
For social media crossposting, I'll depend on Disroot's Pleroma server and Twitter. But for that to be significant I would have to build up a follower base again, and I lack the energy and self-confidence needed for that.
From my photo blog, the view from YS's apartment in Jerusalem.
Read Write web
I was just reading the definition of the "Read Write web", which was a revolutionary concept in the early 2000s - the idea that browsers could be used not just to consume content but to create it, and I was thinking again about blogging. Having set up this blog on the new server and finally reinstated a passwordless command for updating it within emacs, I realized how important this step was for encouraging me to write.
I think that whatever system one uses - and there are so so many today - it should preferably be frictionless; both for composing and for editing. That should be obvious, but not all blogging platforms are easy to use. WordPress, one of the most popular, still makes it quite hard to blog, presenting many confusing options that must be daunting to newbies. Facebook is also not frictionless; especially if one wants a post to be formatted in a certain way. And editing after the post has been made is sometimes difficult or impossible. There are some platforms that don't allow the editing of posts, or seem to frown upon it, for the reason that reactions are sometimes made to an earlier version of the post. The problem could be solved, in the case of social media, if the platform would obligate mentioning that a post has been edited and allowing the perusal of earlier versions.
Besides frictionless composing and editing, a blogging system should respect users by making it easy to do backups and export data. WordPress is okay with this, provided that one uses plugins. I have not lost any of my blog posts made to WordPress and have been able to move posts from one server to another. Hubzilla and Zot based systems have nomadic identities, so that it is possible to move easily to another server or even use two identities simultaneously. Where I have lost Hubzilla posts I have only myself to blame. Fediverse servers go down all the time, because they are run by individuals rather than big corporations. One needs to be ready for this to happen and, outside of Zot, it is difficult or impossible to remain in control of one's content and social media contacts.
This static blog under emacs orgmode maintains local plain text and html versions of every post. The Blazeblog sytem I was using previously created a separate directory for each post and made the post the index file of the directory. I found that aspect rather cumbersome and prefer to have plain text versions of all the files, kept locally in a single directory.
There may be ways to improve this emacs system. When one day I grow more knowledgable about the system I might add excerpts and other features, assuming that I stay with the same system.
There is still no way to make comments. The only time that I used comments was when I was using the Hubzilla to Wordpress cross-post plugin, which allowed the transfer of comments between the two systems. I stopped using it becasue there were certain unrelated issues with the plugin, related to formatting.
I am still deliberating on the issue of whether to use the obvious possibilities of distribution of posts through links in the fediverse or Twitter but, in any case, my posts are not very appealing; I'm blogging mainly for my own pleasure.
One tendency that I want to avoid is the cultism that goes with many of the platforms, particularly alternative systems like Mastodon, Hubzilla and Gemini. I do not want my posts to be read or taken as evidence simply of allegiance to a given platform. If we are not posting to "walled gardens," (which at least in some cases is actually a good idea) we are netizens of the open web, an anarchic and heterogeneous conglomerate. The particular method we use to post to it is irrelevant: we use whatever platform we find to be convenient or aligns with our concerns.
Blog backlog up to date
I have successfully passed all of the home-spun html entries from recent months into org-static-blog, meaning that I now have a continuous archive for the last three years. The ones from before that time can be found on WordPress. I don't plan to move more of them.
A website should be more that a blog, however - I would like to add new features as time goes by. My biggest dilemma is whether to bother with adding some sort of fediverse or social networking to the site; it's somewhat of a distraction, and it isn't really possible to do it in basic html like the rest of the site. The simplest format is Bob Mottram's Epicyon, if I want to get that working. But it looks like it would be necessary to add NGINX to the server. That's possible too, it seems: one can have more than a single web servre protocol running on a server.
A Life Full of Holes, by Paul Bowles
I finished that today. It isn't really clear to me whether he wrote the book under a fictional pseudonym, or whether the Magrebi storyteller was for real. Anyway, it's a great book, written in a very original style. I could easily imagine a Bedouin shepherd relating the story. It's poignant and creates great sympathy for the narrator. Usually a book like this, written by a western writer would be suspect of disguised racism, condescension or orientalism, but it's not what I feel here. He doesn't paint a pretty picture of the westerners, "the Nazarenes", who appear in the book, and doesn't romanticize the locals - mainly you think that he's telling it like it is. I think it most reminded me of a Nectar in a Sieve, a book by the Indian writer Kamala Markandaya that I read years ago, though A Life Full of Holes is less tragic.
The Guardian brings today terrible stories of Ukraine, of Uyghurs, of Sudan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The world is full of sorrow. So let's party?
That wouldn't be for me to say, since troubles are more likely to make me turn inward. But either way, this is not the "Let's fix things" mentality that we probably need.
Growing this site
I haven't had much time for blogging lately, but, in my free time I have been tidying up my Hubzilla site and making various improvements. One intended improvement resulted in the accidental deletion of one of my wikis, but it was not such a significant loss. After going back and forth on the question of how to collect web links - such as for comment in blogging. Hubzilla's bookmarks module looks like it still needs some work, though it is very easy to share bookmarks to it, via a browser bookmarklet. See my channel timeline for a discussion on the pros and cons of the system. In the meantime, I will be using another Hubzilla module.
Along the way, I discovered that sharing from the photos module can result in disaster (by sharing a bunch of uploaded photos from the photos module, each photo becomes a separate status post - eek!)
Chris Trottier has a short article  on the imperfections of the Fediverse as a decentralized social network, and why it is still the most viable solution that is currently available. He says that although better protocols exist for decentralized social networking, the Fediverse is currently the only one (other than email - which has become increasingly centralized) that has sufficient engagement and momentum. As for me, while it would be possible for a system like Hubzilla to incorporate social networking via XMPP (the protocol is already supported by Hubzilla), I think it would not be possible to do all that I do in Hubzilla with a protocol entirely based on XMPP.
I too have various gripes with the Fediverse. I was unable to subscribe to Trottier's Pixelfed account through Hubzilla. And I discovered today that while I am unable to subscribe to any Diaspora account, they can subscribe to me. I have yet to see whether Diaspora posts will show up in my stream. The web
There were a couple of other interesting articles on the web lately. We discovered that DuckDuckGo is filtering out search results that reference the Pirate Bay and YouTubeDL .
DDG also announced lately that they will filter Russian "disinformation" from their results. SearX is the engine I try to use, but the Disroot instance that I use seems to depend mainly on results from the other big search engines, which do the same filtering.
There are more search engines mentioned, but many of these are "not supported". On the Disroot instance, or completely?
Anil Dash has a positive piece, "A web renaissance" 
"Thanks to the mistrust of big tech, the creation of better tools for developers, and the weird and wonderful creativity of ordinary people, we’re seeing an incredibly unlikely comeback: the web is thriving again.
"… now, the entire ecosystem has seen that there’s no safety in being subject to the whims of the tech giants. Some don’t like having to pay to promote their content online. Some don’t like being deranked by capricious algorithms. Some don’t like being on a treadmill of constantly trying to optimize for search engines. Some don’t like being on platforms that promoted hate or abuse. Everyone has something that frustrates them.
"On your own site, though, under your own control, you can do things differently. Build the community you want. I'm not a pollyanna about this; people are still going to spend lots of times on the giant tech platforms, and not everybody who embraces the open web is instantly going to become some huge hit. Get your own site going, though, and you’ll have a sustainable way of being in control of your own destiny online."
I have decided to give George R.R. Martin a rest, or put him permanently to rest, for similar reasons that I eventually gave up on Gene Wolfe. Their world-building and force of imagination deserves praise, but, they demand too much of our time. Though their gift does not fail them, artificial worlds eventually come up against certain limits, like the hero of "The Truman Show".
I feel a need to spend time with something else. Candidates are the writings of Christopher Isherwood and more Patrick Modiano.
- Why I'm all in with the Fediverse even though I have gripes
- DuckDuckGo Removes Pirate Sites and YouTube-DL from Its Search Results
- A Web Renaissance
Unlike Dash, who advocates benefiting from new web technologies, here is a piece that speaks out for keeping things as simple as possible, and make sites that are designed to outlast the latest technological whims.
This Page is Designed to Last: A Manifesto for Preserving Content on the Web https://jeffhuang.com/designed_to_last/
Indeed there was a time not so long ago that every site seemed to depend upon Flash. What a horror that was.
I have been feeling a need for a bit of seclusion lately. Maybe because in Israel-Palestine the holiday season with its seasonal tensions is on us again. I went for a walk in the woods and fields today and ran into a battalion of boy/girl scouts. One of them - maybe their security detail - was waiting for me as I approached, with questions about where I lived, whether I was Jewish, how relations are between Jews and Arabs there - he got mostly a stony silence from me as I marched through. Luckily I'm harmless.
Then I found a quiet spot to read Ibn Arabi and do a bit of writing. It's a lovely season and was a beautiful day; the wild chrysanthemums are blooming and the thistles are starting to flower too. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera or a phone. Blogging
I have accumulated several issues to handle in the blog, when I find time/feel like doing something about it. I already mentioned making the font sizes larger. Yesterday I found a couple more articles on static blogs, and one of these mentioned Google Lighthouse - a Chrome extension which is an even greater stickler than the tests that I have been using. It discovered a couple of things to improve. the SEO rating - where my blog suffers most - does not interest me, and could never be very high when I have included "No Index, No follow" meta, but there are a couple of other things to take care of. Regarding RSS, either I will learn to write my own, or I will depend on WP, which I have been using for archiving in any case. There may even be a way of using WP solely for RSS, with no front-end blog interface - I will have to check that.
I was looking again at Genesis in Lagrange. Because it is solely text-based, habitually lacklustre textual blogs seem even less inspiring to me when viewed in Genesis. One day I might decide to use it, but not now. Although I'm not a particularly graphic-oriented person, I do find that the likelihood of my reading a blog is somewhat influenced by appearances, and I have an unproven hunch that this is true of many people.
"My stack will outlive yours" https://blog.steren.fr/2020/my-stack-will-outlive-yours/
"My Static Blog Publishing Setup and an Apology to RSS Subscribers" https://tdarb.org/blog/my-static-blog-publishing-setup.html
I found a few interesting articles to check out on browsers. One blogger insists that Pale Moon and related UXP browsers are the way to go, for web privacy. I find that I am staying with SeaMonkey except in cases where a website patently won't work.
Pale Moon Hardening Guide https://blackgnu.net/palemoon-hardening.htmlUXP
UXP Browser Bundle https://albusluna.com/uxp/index.html
I have stopped using Signal, because I don't trust it; but I see that Russians are trusting it more and more, among other means, to get around censorship.
How Russian citizens evade Putin’s censorship - Protocol https://www.protocol.com/russian-internet-crackdown
Here are a couple of other articles regarding Signal:
Tell HN: iOS Signal eats your disk space | Hacker News https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30972546
Moxie Marlinspike has stepped down as CEO of Signal - The Verge https://www.theverge.com/2022/1/10/22876891/signal-ceo-steps-down-moxie-marlinspike-encryption-cryptocurrency Other interesting links
Leave your shoes outdoors, these scientists say - CNN https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/11/world/shoes-home-contaminants-scn-partner/index.html
I Liked The Idea Of Carbon Offsets, Until I Tried To Explain It https://climateer.substack.com/p/avoided-emissions?s=r
I had a problem with my server computer the last couple of days; apparently because of a failed update. In the meantime I tidied up the html on this blog - I was thinking there was something wrong with it because bluefish editor incorrectly highlights some of the syntax. SeaMonkey has a link to an html validator. It found a few errors, but these were not the reason for bluefish's wrong syntax highlighting, which continues, though all the code now validates.
Besides valid code, I have some other wishes. I want the page to be light and quick to load, so I will keep the image sizes trimmed, and maybe allow a full column width image only in the lead article. I have also split up the articles, so that older ones go to an archive page, rather than just to the WordPress archive.
Also in the name of readability, I have moved the styles into a style sheet. I have also separated the blog from the "about" pages.
Another wish is to write html that it is easy to read, since I spend so much time in the editor. Most html tags are short and non-distracting. Image tags and hyperlinks seem to be the main problem. So, in order to make the html source easier to read, I have decided to lump all the hyperlinks together at the end, in the manner of Wikipedia. In the post itself, I will simply use page anchors, which are shorter and less distracting.
I got the idea of placing hyperlinks at the end from a blog post called "The Art of Plain Text"  in which the writer uses an even more minimalistic blogging style than this one. In place of paragraphs, he uses the "pre" html tag*. I'm not sure that's such a good idea, because his site is hard to read on phones.
I am consciously using quotes here, rather than escape characters, because they too make the html really hard to read. Links of the day
- Plain text
DuckDuckGo Onion Search for Firefox https://www.netmeister.org/blog/ddg-tor.html
Lasers could cut lifespan of nuclear waste from "a million years to 30 minutes," says Nobel laureate - Big Think https://bigthink.com/the-present/laser-nuclear-waste/
As I grow older, I seem to forget projects that I had gotten into a while back. In 2020 I discovered org-static-blog and apparently forgot all about it in a few months. I remember having tried various static blogging systems, and recently read about Barry Kauler's static blogging system, and was thinking to try that, due to its simplicity. But this is even simpler, therefore better, if simplicity is what I'm looking for. I'm just afraid that one of these days I will lose even more of my marbles and be left blogless and helpless. Hubzilla is great, and Wordpress has many advantages, but both of them require a complicated setup (if they are on a home server), including php and mysql (or MariaDB). I may decide to go back to this, and, if I require something beyond a blogging system, to use ordinary html in SeaMonkey or Bluefish.
I’m not sure how popular blogging is these days; I’ve read about a mass turning away from traditional blogging in favor of Facebook. My own evidence is only anecdotal. I find quite often when going through my bookmarks that blogs I had once visited now lie dormant, neglected and forgotten, or worse, show a 404 error code.
But together with this, popular news sites like the Guardian are now full of articles that read more like blog posts, and would be better suited to the blogosphere, instead of taking up space for the news I’d gone looking for.
Last week when I came to the end of a glowingly positive take on a just-terminated Netflix science fiction show – one which I had given up on after a single episode – I was just thinking well maybe I hadn’t given the show enough time, when I glanced at the talkbacks. The first commenter said that this show was truly juvenile rubbish and that if he encountered more stories like this in the Guardian he would cancel his sub. And I thought wow – I still have that gullible mentality that if something is appearing in a reputable journal like the Guardian, then it must have some sort of value. But actually, this more critical reader was dead right. The story was just a shitpost. It belonged to the democratic blogosphere, where everyone can post, and we keep our noses primed accordingly.
So that’s what I did today when reading a blog-type story about coffee – also in the Guardian, called: My neverending search for the perfect cup of coffee. Perfect blog material indeed, with lines like “The perfect cup of coffee is like the perfect lipstick: a quest that will end only with your death.” Which isn’t strictly grammatical. It’s a pleasant post, though you don’t actually learn anything (partly because she’s lazy about hyperlinks).
I love my blackened stove-top Bialetti for reasons to do with nostalgia and all-round stylishness, but it makes pretty mud-like coffee: good for days when you’re knackered, but very bad indeed when the last thing you need is to be wired like Frankenstein.
It doesn’t matter – it’s an engaging and enjoyable read – perfect blog material. Just a pity I’m reading it in the Guardian. I could be moseying around Medium or WordPress instead.
But maybe I’m being too narrow in my views. I think as I’m growing older I’m becoming dogmatically taxonomic. Hey Bob, you’ve misfiled that in the wrong folder again and assigned the wrong file name. And how can I relate to the subject of your email, if you’ve written about it in a reply to something completely different?
There’s a legitimate middle ground of excellent themed webzines that are entirely blogs. Like 972mag.com or Scroll.in. There are dozens of these. I don’t think many people go to them with the same religious regularity that they go to news sites. It’s more likely that someone recommends a story on Twitter of Facebook, and they follow a link, and then perhaps find themselves reading more stories. And one of the reasons that I’m coming across these blog type stories on the news sites, rather than in the blog venues, is that I’m not so much into social media lately, and have been neglecting my news-feed aggregators.
TLDR; – hard to say; it’s like that story about coffee. Just a few reflections.