17 July 2021

A concert

We have a husband and wife team of professional pianists in the village, who also teach piano and, at least once a year, arrange a concert in their home for their students; who may be either conservatory students or local children. We attended one of these this evening. The musicians were great; the western classical piano music, for the most part is mildly boring, sometimes irritating. I have less appreciation for it than for Middle Eastern and Indian classical music. It isn't the instrument that I dislike; I love the Keith Jarrett concerts, for example. But I came home and immediately put Cafe de Anatolia on. That's what I mainly listen to these days.

Federation

I have gradually come to the understanding that I'm interested in long-form blogging, and not at all in social networking or microblogging. I'm no good at the latter. I've never been able to build much of a network. My interactions are poor; fraught with inhibitions, sometimes cringe-worthy, and I've never been able to sustain interest for very long. I've had various false starts on the mainstream and the alternative networks. I enjoy writing, but it's mainly for my own benefit. Blogging helps me to process my experiences and develop my thoughts. In spite of that, blogging is a public form of writing. I could write offline in my journal, or in Cherrytree, where I often begin my posts. In Cherrytree, starting a day entry is as simple as pressing the F8 key. I could also choose to use one of the more obscure forms, such as Genesis, or establish an Onion site, use the Interplanetary File System, or start a Dat site on Beaker browser. I've thought about all of these possibilities, but I am writing online in order that my writing will be available, so it doesn't make sense to create obstacles to reading it unless I want to connect to a cabal of like-minded cranks, which I don't. I want the blog to be generally available.

On the other hand, I don't want to thrust what I write deliberately under the nose of those who came upon it by chance. The Fediverse, in order to build its popularity, has large instances with public threads. Those who have not yet established a network of friends and followers can follow the public timeline with posts from everyone who is on a given network instance. Joining one of those instances means that automatically, one's posts appear in the public stream, unless one elects to keep them semi-private and restricted to followers. I don't, or no longer, want either of those options. I want a publicly available blog that doesn't get put into a public timeline. But I want to announce posts to those who may be interested to read them, using a variety of means (see the About page). This year, I started auto-posting blog post notices - just the WP excerpt and a link - to Twitter and Tumblr. There is also the RSS news feed, and I found a way of enabling mailings of complete posts to anyone who wished to subscribe. I still had a dilemma regarding the Fediverse, and how I wanted to appear there. I am currently on three Fediverse instances; a Mastodon instance (Fosstodon); my Hubzilla channel, hosted on the same home server, and Disroot.org, where my Hubzilla channel is cloned.

Despite these options, I decided that the easiest solution could be to enable Matthias Pfefferle's WP Activity Pub plugin. The latter allows, in the simplest way possible, anyone on Mastodon or the majority of the other Fediverse sites, to follow my WordPress.org blog, without the additional step of posting it to any Fediverse instances. The blog itself becomes a valid member of the Fediverse. That's the solution with the least overhead.

All of this is fairly academic. I actually expect no one to follow the blog, far less to actually read it. The way that I've set things up, I probably won't actually know if they do. Comments are turned off, mail subscriptions are handled through a third party, RSS feed subscriptions are anonymous, and I am not active on any of the networks where blog posts are announced. Till now, signs of "engagement", as Facebook calls it, have been close to zero. That's all fine with me.

I sometimes think of the days prior to social networking. Writers would publish their creations with much less interaction with the reading public. Even today, when we read a book by a living author, be it a novel or a work of non-fiction, we do not expect to enter into a dialogue with her. Some writers have taken advantage of this separation in order to cultivate an elaborate fiction. For example, when we read Annie Dillard's famous Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (for which she won a Pulitzer), we are sure that this is an actual record of life in a wilderness area, and do not suspect that the author is writing from a college library while living on the fringes of a small town. The mystique is helpful to the book's success, and not just its commercial success. The mystery regarding the identity of the narrator is partly responsible for its transformative power.

Links

Pluralistic: 16 Jul 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

The Tower of Babel: How Public Interest Internet is Trying to Save Messaging and Banish Big Social Media