What I Use: RSS

I encourage people to subscribe to my site via RSS, when mentioning I have a site on the Facebooks and Twitters and similar. This may seem a little archaic (that is so 2008), but honestly RSS is still one of my go-to solutions for finding worthwhile things to read, watch, or experience.

One of the big reasons you don’t really see RSS mentioned anymore (despite folks actually using it often, without realizing it… looking at you, podcasts) is because Google stupidly shut down Google Reader, which was the de facto standard for reading your feeds. That killed a lot of momentum for its use.

While RSS may be limping along, it’s not dead, and a lot of sites actually do have RSS feeds, still — they just aren’t as prominently noted or advertised or linked anywhere.

Of course, even if you do decide to use RSS, there’s still the hurdle of finding an RSS reader you actually like. A lot of folks go with a web-based option (ala Google Reader), so they can read on whatever device they happen to be on. There’s also some pretty nice apps for sale (for instance, NetNewsWire), if you’re so inclined, and a lot of RSS-adjacent apps (like several web browsers, and even Apple Mail) are available as well. Personally, I use Vienna RSS, which is an open source project made for macOS. I’ve tried a bunch of other apps and methods, and this is the one I keep coming back to (there was a gap where development wasn’t really happening much, so I looked around a fair bit, but regular updates are happening again). It’s fairly fast, robust, and seems to handle a ton of feeds well. If you’re looking for a reader, I’d say it’s worth a try.

I recently went through and cleaned up my RSS feeds, getting rid of dead feeds. I just want to say, to all those bloggers who have continued to post after the blogging fad wore off: I salute you, and I’m still reading.

2018

While there’s no reason you couldn’t choose to reflect on the past at any point in the year (and let’s face it, we could all do with more reflection), the end of one year and the start of another is as good a time as any. Yes, that’s right, it’s time for another new year post.

I’m not going to dwell too much on the current political, economic, or social debacle we call modern society. There’s plenty of that to be had all over the internet, and I don’t have too much to say about it that hasn’t been said by people far cleverer than myself. I will say that I hope we are able to show each other a little more compassion, a little more kindness, and a little more acceptance — and not just for those like us. While we should be intolerant of intolerance, it’s easy to let that slip into intolerance of other things as well.

On a personal level, 2017 wasn’t actually a bad year. I moved into a new house (where I was finally able to get all my things out of storage), got a new job (that seems to be going well, and finally let me move out of QA), and have been (relatively) stable overall. I’ve made a few new friends, and reconnected with some old ones. I managed to knock out a few things on my to-do list (mostly administrivia-type things that have been on my list for ages but never made a priority, like getting Global Entry/Pre-check, and some banking/financial stuff). While none of this is particularly exciting or revelatory, it all adds up to a pretty positive personal 2017.

So, what does 2018 have planned for me? I’m not entirely sure. I’ve got some things that I’m not sure I’d qualify as resolutions, but are definitely some aspirational goals. A few highlights:

  • Get fitter: I’ve never had a particular interest in a 6-pack or being super buff, but the years of sedentary work and hobbies are starting to catch up to me — my general fitness, energy levels, and weight could do with a tune-up.
  • Travel more: I’ve had wanderlust for years, and it’s showing no signs of abating. I’d like to carve out some time and resources for some more diverse trips — while I’ve done a ton of domestic travel (3 more states to go!), I’ve done very little international travel. I’d like to correct that. I’m currently planning to try and go to Japan for my birthday in April — my current thought is to fly in to Tokyo, then take the train down to Kyoto and back, with maybe a few stops in between. If you have thoughts on things to see or do, I’d love to hear them!
  • Connect with people more and try to foster stronger relationships: I’m pretty shit at keeping in touch with people at regular intervals, even people who I really care about and value. While anything social takes both parties being interested in investing some energy into it, I feel like I could be better about doing my part. I sometimes worry that I’m imposing, or that I’m coming off as network-y/reaching, and I need to get over that.
  • Organize my time better: my life is relatively stable at the moment, so this feels like a good opportunity to get into some better scheduling habits. Allocating time for playing games and watching things, AND time for reading and writing and working on projects, instead of having all of it be a sort of mishmash that happens in fits and spurts (with a fair bit of sitting in analysis-paralysis pondering what to do with my evening, if I’m being honest).
  • Create more: I’ve always had issues with trying to tackle large projects and aiming for a high level of quality and complexity from those projects. This leads to a lot of feeling overwhelmed or disappointed with my output, and it ending up abandoned. That’s not very useful — not everything has to be perfect or amazing, and frankly gets in the way of actually improving enough to where those big projects are actually achievable. So this year, no big “I’m going to make a game!” or “Write a novel!” stuff, just “create more, finish things.”

That’s probably enough — too much and you’re spending all your time aspiring to aspirations, and not enough movement towards achieving them. In the vein of that last goal, you might have noticed that I tweaked the site design a few weeks/months back. I didn’t bother posting about it, and it’s not done — but it’s something. I made the theme mostly to play with new CSS stuff like grid and flexbox. Expect further tweaks as I go along.

Breaking Up with Social Media

Or at the very least, “taking some time apart.”

I’ve been thinking for a while about my relationship with social media (in particular Facebook and Twitter). I’ve been pretty tired of Facebook for quite some time, and have increasingly been feeling the same about Twitter — namely, they’re more outrage machines than valued information sources at this point, and frankly cost more in terms of mental and emotional wellbeing than they’re worth to me.

I’ve decided to take the month of January off from both Twitter and Facebook, entirely. After the month is up, we’ll see how I’m feeling on whether they’re reincorporated into my routine, and to what amount. In the past I’ve limited how much time I spent on FB, taking a sort of “vacation”, but it had ways of creeping back in and starting to absorb more of my time again, so this time I’m opting to remove myself from it entirely.

If you need to get ahold of me, there are lots of ways to do so (heck, slide into my DMs on either service and I’ll likely still see it). I’ll also be turning off the auto-crossposting this blog does, so if you do want to keep up with my sporadic posts, I’d suggest subscribing either via RSS or email.

That Squam Time of Year

This week, I’ve been at Squam. Each year, my family spends a week at a lakehouse on Squam Lake. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet, for a variety of reasons ranging from just enjoying the space and the peace and quiet, to a lot of good memories with friends and family. It’s sort of a sanctuary for me, and as a result, also tends to be when I take the time to write and create and tweak websites and do other random cruft. I look forward to it each year, and always wish I could find ways to extend the time, but you do what you can with the time you have. Continue reading “That Squam Time of Year”

New job, yep.

Just a brief update because I thought it was time to share: I just started a new job as a Technical Writer for a company called ForgeRock. My first day was today! It’s a bit of a shift away from what I was doing before (QA), but anyone that’s worked with me in the past is probably unsurprised by the change.

SOAKing it in

It’s been about a week since I got back from SOAK, which is Oregon’s regional Burning Man. For those not aware: as Burning Man grew and became more popular, many folks decided to branch off and do smaller related events that also follow the 10 Principles. They’re not officially part of the Burning Man organization, but do operate with their blessing. This makes for a great opportunity for folks to still participate and connect with that community, even if they can’t make it to the main Burning Man event. Chances are good that there’s a regional near you, wherever you are (especially in the US and Canada, but elsewhere too).

This was my fourth SOAK, but my first in several years (basically since I moved to the Bay Area at the end of 2013). It felt good to reconnect with this community — I saw a lot of old faces, and met new folks too. In general, I like Burners — especially the old schoolers. These are the sorts of folks who might crack jokes about you falling down, but they’ll do it with a smile and while helping you up and dusting you off. There’s lots of snark and puns and trolling, but not with ill intent (which feels refreshing given the current state of the world). It leaves you (well, me at least) feel more at ease with being yourself, and creates space for deeper, more interesting conversations than the usual small talk.

I camped with a small camp towards the outskirts, comprised of a few folks I knew and more folks that I didn’t — but it didn’t take long before we were all sharing food and stories and wandering around the event together. There were some great art pieces — a few highlights for me was the “digital stained glass” dodecahedron, “Stoicheia”; the monster heads; and the temple. There’s also a drone flyby you can check out:

Already looking forward to next year.

Social Media Fasting

Over at kottke.org, Jason discussed a social media fast he went on. His observations mirror my own “vacations” I’ve taken: no one really notices or cares when you take a break, even if you’re an active social media user (which I’m not), and that a lot of social media (and phone use in general) is more of as a virtual fidget-spinner than any actual need.

My own take: I took an extended break from Facebook last fall, and still haven’t really returned, though it has crept back into use in various ways. It’s still got just enough social utility that I’m not quitting it entirely, but I do plan to continue to not use it much. I probably could fully quit if I decided to — it would just take a few life adjustments and a little preparation. Interestingly, there seems to be a trend of this, folks getting fed up with the bullshit of modern social media, and making the deliberate decision to exit (and at least anecdotally, the people who’ve quit weren’t due to some weird policy change or other outrage machine, but simply because they realized it wasn’t useful to them anymore and was making them less happy).

As for other social media, well. I’ve been on Twitter for a decade, and have it pretty nailed down on what I use it for, who I follow, and what I choose to post there. That said, it still ends up going in fits and spurts: I might be on it daily for a few weeks at a time, and then not log in for a month. This is a far cry from when I was most active (circa 2008-2010), where I was on daily and actually kept up with probably 90% of my feed. The shift is due to a few factors: 1) it’s not my priority; 2) I’m not a fan of some of design changes and loss of client support; 3) the community has shifted, and seems to vacillate between being an outrage machine and a trash fire. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of great content there, but the short form, punctuated broadcasts seem to foster emotional outbursts, miscommunication, and misunderstanding just as much as they provide short, pithy thoughts and entertainment.) The shift towards tweet storms and people just retweeting the start of a 300 tweet thread is also a cause for a lot of eyerolling and disinterest (if you are writing medium-long form text in tweets, go write a blog post and tweet the link, seriously).

I have accounts on a number of other social media sites, but don’t really touch them, whether because they were on a whim (Peach), or inertia (Flickr), they just never grabbed me. I do occasionally log in and check my ello account, though I basically never post — I just think it’s neat to see how they’ve pivoted towards being an outlet for designers and artists. I’m infrequently active on Instagram, though I use very few of their features — mostly I use it because they make it stupid simple to cross-post to other services. I have a Snapchat but don’t use it (I kind of hate the UX, and I’m not using “hate” lightly).

I think a lot about consolidating, and finding ways to self-host everything. I don’t know if it’s really “there” yet, though the tools have come a long way (the Indieweb scene is actively working to make POSSE viable and easy). There are open source, self-hostable versions of many of the services we use every day (as an example, OStatus is a protocol that replicates and even expands on a lot of the functionality of Twitter, with tools like Mastodon, GNU Social, and PostActiv all in active development, and at least ostensibly able to federate with each other). It would be a lot of initial work to get everything set up how I want, and then there’s maintenance and keeping everything secure (it’s just me, so I’m not exactly a shiny target, but that doesn’t really matter to a bot that just probes the internet for any service with one of a list of vulnerabilities unpatched), but I keep coming back to the idea. Maybe I just miss the old internet, when things weren’t so silo’d, and we felt a little less like a product and a little more like a person. Even if I didn’t worry about POSSE, and just posted in one place, I’m not sure how much that would matter — I might not get as many views, but if past experience is any indication, I’d get just as much connection. Something to think about, anyway.

36.

I turn 36 today. It sort of broke my brain to realize that it’s been 18 years since I was 18 (I’m an age of majority past being the age of majority). It’s made me think about what I’ve managed to create or do with my life. My depression-brain immediately went to “you’ve made nothing,” but that’s the depression lying, because that’s what depression does. It’s my birthday. Let’s try and do better. What have I done with myself since I turned 18? Continue reading “36.”