Blogs, forums, wikis

One well-known failure mode of wikis, infamous back when they were a big thing, is that pages are often born as a conversation, a glorified forum thread, then stay that way. Wiki people see that as a bad thing: those pages, they say, should have been edited into "proper" articles.

That however presumes the conversation itself has no value, and it does. Moreover, like I pointed out elsewhere, it matters whose words they are. People naturally want credit and authorship: to own their words, and for others to own their words, too.

Conversely, all too often I see a forum thread where the original post keeps being updated with resources suggested by other participants. That's when they should have had a wiki as well, it makes me think. Not instead of a forum, but complementing it. What a concept!

Can't have an online community with only one kind of communication tool.

Ironic how I'm writing this on a blog. It could easily be on a forum instead. After all, both are organized around newest-first lists of posts, each followed by comments. But it's just not the same, isn't it?

Wikis, too, for all their supposed atemporality, consider a Recent Changes page absolutely vital. And they're right! It matters when words were written, as you'll hear from anyone frustrated by the lack of a date on a long-sought-after blog post.

But old blog posts all too soon end up buried under an avalanche of newer writing. Tags, categories and archive pages help a little, but not enough. Some people have tried marrying a blog to a wiki, making a so-called bliki, but I'm not convinced. Ease of editing wasn't the issue. Diving to the bottom still is.

Blogs need to end at some point, not unlike books. Wikis and forums are tricky.

Tags: website, philosophy

Where to, wiki?

I don't remember when wikis became a big thing for me, but for a long while they were a part of my life. At some point I was operating four of them, one running on my own custom engine. That's not even counting TiddlyWiki.

That one's kind of special. The first version of my webcomic list was made with it. But then a certain Firefox extension stopped working, and I lost my ability to update it. I moved its contents to a static web page and never looked back. TiddlyWiki 5, that came out after a while, didn't need any browser extension, but it was noticeably bigger and slower, and I had lost confidence anyway, not to mention how much more aware of accessibility issues I was by then.

Things went downhill from there. My custom engine became too much fuss to keep online, so I took it down. (A descendant still survives, which is damn cool.) Another wiki was overrun with spam, while never attracting contributions, so it was the next to go. And the other two were folded into static websites, though that happened later.

Don't worry, I was never without a wiki. At another time, having to redo a site from scratch on the sly and in a hurry, my chosen solution was OddMuse. What was supposed to be a temporary staging ground remained permanent, as always. It also stayed effectively a single-user setup, because nobody else wanted the editor password. (No way I'm leaving a wiki open this side of 2015.)

Read more... Tags: website, philosophy

Stop blaming the web

Lately pretty much everyone agrees that Web 2.0 has gone too far. Pages are bloated and spy on us. Worse, they're confusing and have nothing to say. Even their owners must hate them, seeing how they keep trying to shove mobile apps and mailing lists down our throats instead of letting us read the page we just loaded. It looks bad all around.

Problem is, lately reactions to this state of affairs are swinging way too far in the other direction. Let's get rid of Javascript! CSS! Images! Let's get rid of the web altogether! Here, use this new protocol that's crippled on purpose. You don't need that feature. Trust me. You only need what I need. Obey techbros.

These people are about to ruin the internet just as surely as corporations are.

What the hell. If you don't want Javascript in your web pages, don't use any. If you don't want pictures, just use plain text. Nobody's forcing you. Or did you think that if a feature is present, then you have to use it?

Do you consider yourself obligated to bungee-jump off every bridge you cross?

Read more... Tags: website, critique

April and all

The last post cost me almost all followers. If you're reading this, thanks for sticking around. I plan to keep blogging here for another 16 months. It would be no fun, talking to myself until then.

On the plus side, my Agora Project review is now very popular. No idea where readers are coming from, but it's good to know people care. Ripen Forth has been doing well, too, especially after the latest update. I'll work on it more, promise, while I'm on a coding bent. Other revivals took priority for now, is all.

While on the subject of web apps, I've been using my new Shaarli instance more than anything else I installed on the site recently. Not so much the mobile app, go figure. And speaking of Agora Project, I've been using another instance more than my own. It's just more fun with a few friends.

(A day later.) Looking at my server stats again, it turns out I "only" lost enough followers to notice. It's hard to tell exactly by how much the newsfeed is read. Just that it's a hit. Guess it can't be helped.

In other news, my old Forth interpreter tutorial is still popular. Just like the new ones on my other website. I really need to write another book about this, because the one about Basic doesn't sell anymore, but I'd need a lot more material to work with first.

Also, people are still finding my old Gopher client. How many feature phones are still in use?! Got to look into it one of these days, for the nostalgia factor at least.

But first to take another month's break from this blog. Maybe I'll be in a better place come June. See you around.

Tags: personal, website, blog, programming, writing

Sick and tired

I'm sick and tired of people uncritically defending everything that's been going on for the past 13 months. Yes, there are scientists at work. No, that doesn't mean everything is above the table, or in good hands.

I'm sick and tired of people uncritically supporting every measure taken with the declared intent to curb the pandemic, but without explaining how it's supposed to help... or checking if it's actually working at all, never mind well.

I'm sick and tired of so-called skeptics uncritically believing anything supposed experts supposedly said... without even checking. You know that's the opposite of science, right?

That's enough, all of you. Cut it out.

Thankfully, it looks like these vaccines are safer than the initial panic made them look, even after being rushed to market with insufficient testing. That's great. So glad I was wrong about them.

It's still no reason to implement fascist measures like "vaccine passports". And by the way: we know they're in fact safe thanks to published, reviewed studies. Not because someone said so quoting some unnamed expert.

I still say those studies should have been made before bringing these vaccines to market. But we're at least partly to blame. Who clamored for deliverance from the dread virus when experts were telling us research can't be rushed?

We don't really listen to experts, do we. We treat them like religious figures, expecting their blessing for whatever we've already decided to do, and acting confused or pretending we didn't hear otherwise.

Well, stop pretending. Enough with the hypocrisy. I've had it up to here.

Tags: science, politics, education

Technologies and scale

Isn't it strange how as of late everyone talks obsessively about scale, as if everything we do absolutely has to be gigantic? It's starting to be a problem. No, seriously. Imagine wanting to buy a city car but all you can find in dealerships is 18-wheelers. Because, isn't it, scale only goes one way: up.

"But, Felix, how else?" you're going to ask. "What if I need to move around a shipping container's worth of stuff?"

Then you're obviously not on personal business anymore and you have to rethink the entire task. I mean, really? You don't even know the difference anymore?

Surprise! You've been dazzled by the propaganda, er, advertising, of big tech.

Half a year ago I was making plans to pick up progamming in Go again. It never happened. And the one big reason was that I dreaded having to deal with Go's arcane handling of modules.

Took me a while to figure out why, too. Turns out Go, being made by an internet giant for their own needs, assumes every project to be a large, complex application meant to serve millions. Hence all the scaffolding you're expected to put in place before doing anything else.

That's fine when you're tackling something big. But are you? Think carefully. Otherwise you might find yourself driving to work every day in an 18-wheeler, complaining about crowded roads and the lack of suitable parking. People already do that while driving ordinary cars, let alone anything bigger. Like an SUV.

So instead I picked up the Nim programming language. As with Go, this was my second try in four years. Except this time, Nim stuck. And a big reason is because it doesn't assume what my needs are. There's still a package manager to handle intricate dependencies... but I can also simply download a bunch of files and bundle them with my source code. No need for explicit "vendoring" or any such bureaucracy.

Oh, also Nim has terminal support in the standard library. Do you know how long Go programmers have been asking for something like that and nobody listened?

Nim is made by ordinary people. That's how it can be fit for human consumption.

Tags: technology, critique

The problem with problems

All right, time for some real talk.

Not everything you run into is a problem to solve.

Even if it is a problem, it's usually not yours to solve. Especially not without asking first.

Worse, even when it's your problem to solve, not all problems have a solution. Some only have partial, approximate solutions. Others, none. None at all.

I blame school. School puts into our heads this idea that all problems have exactly one solution, that we can find neatly explained at the end of the manual if we get stuck. And that we must solve every problem. Why? Teacher said so!

More generally, we're all taught from a young age that we're oh so smart and can figure out anything. And maybe that wouldn't be so bad if we weren't also taught to be nosy and meddle into everyone else's life. Except our own.

Of course we are. That way it's not us who suffer the consequences for getting it wrong. While when you fall down and it's your fault, it hurts twice.

And so, everyone is in this perpetual rush to prove their worth by being the fly in every ointment.

Mothers. Techies. Politicians. Tone it down already. You're killing us. For real.

All too often, the most help you can offer someone is to get out of the way. Mom taught me that. Moms can be wise.

Oh, and if you're going to actively solve problems? Offer material solutions, not pie-in-the-sky stuff that would do little good (and considerable harm). If you could deliver that is.

Problems are real. We are real. Deal with reality or else leave us alone.

Tags: philosophy, education

Social networking in the small

Let me tell you about the greatest little software you've never heard of. It's called Agora Project, and it's the creation of a young programmer from France.

Screenshot of a colorful file manager in a web app

Agora Project bills itself as team collaboration software, but mostly it has all the same features as a typical social network: news, forum, event calendar, image galleries... you name it. Also built-in instant messaging, and even video chat if you have access to a Jitsi server. Only user profiles are de-emphasized.

Read more... Tags: website, software, review

Pandemics and precautions

To all the moralizing assholes out there who are trying to make me feel guilty for being human:

Yes, we know the danger still lingers, and will remain for a long time yet.

Yes, we're still taking basic precautions, masks and all. Of course we are.

No, we're not going to act like survivors in a zombie movie. We must go on, come hell or high water. We have to live our lives. Yes, with all the danger around us. That how every living being has lived since there was life on Earth.

As for the increasingly absurd and arbitrary restrictions our respective governments keep imposing? Isn't it clear yet that none of them was at all effective? Sweden's much-criticized strategy wasn't some miracle cure... but it wasn't a complete disaster either. In fact, some countries that imposed harsh restrictions did little better than Sweden (see Romania), or for that matter much worse. Funny that. Seems the trick is to have any strategy at all.

So how about you stop with the holier-than-thou attitude. I avoid maskless people too, but it's just too hard to stay away from everyone all the time, for many reasons. And it's not going to save me. It's all a roll of the dice anyway. I avoid public transport too. Haven't gone anywhere interesting in 18 months. And it's destroying me, while doing little for my chances not to catch the virus.

If you're so convinced that hiding in a bunker is so important, why don't you do it and let the rest of us "recklessly" go outside to die.

Oh wait: it's because you're not in fact thinking of our well-being. You just want to control us. And the pandemic is giving you the ideal pretext.

Funny how it always boils down to patterns of abusive behavior, isn't it?

Tags: personal, society

Survived another solstice

Survived another solstice, and I have little to say about it. Doesn't help that I've moved my personal blogging elsewhere for the most part. A place where complete strangers care for a change. Kind of awesome, really.

So let's see... I've been writing, my first substantial piece of fiction in almost two years. Going to put it online under pseudonym however. One less thing on this website. It's not like it gets many visitors anymore. I've been mostly keeping it for the e-mail address. That and the vanity.

Been reading, too. The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan. A book published when I finished high school. Got it from a friend. She's big into paranormal phenomena, you see. If only more people genuinely wanted to know. There are many paths to the truth.

Speaking of which: early into the ongoing health crisis, all experts said a vaccine couldn't be brought to market until March, maybe even June 2021. You can't rush these things, you know, any more than you can rush a pregnancy. But don't you dare point out how an experimental vaccine, of a type never before tried, that raises huge logistical issues (the last thing we need in our predicament), maybe shouldn't have been rushed to market no matter how big the urgency. You know, like all other manufacturers refused to.

Apparently pointing all that out makes me "anti-vaccines". As opposed to, you know, healthily skeptical. Suit yourselves then, folks. But brace for impact.

Speaking of which: we had (legislative) elections earlier this month. In a perversion of all that people voted for, the disaster government that's been driving Romania through 2020 (bumping into every fence along the way) was replaced by a new one that can only be labeled as apocalyptic. That's what the upcoming recession will look like in places with a competent leadership doing all it can to avoid a collapse, anyway. Here? I have no words.

Happy holidays, folks. Enjoy while you still can. I mean that without a shred of irony. We'll soon need every warm, fuzzy memory we can still hold on to.

Tags: personal, science, education, politics