July Site Maintenance

I’ve recently done some backend maintenance and moved hosting services. I’m fairly certain everything is migrated properly, but please let me know if you notice anything behaving oddly.

One thing that did come up during the migration is that my Jetpack install started having issues, and in the process of troubleshooting that, my site stats and email subscriber list were wiped. I’ve raised a ticket with WordPress/Jetpack, but I suspect they’re just gone. If you were subscribed via email, I’d recommend resubscribing (you can do so from the sidebar).

Meet Cecil

Back in May, I adopted a young puppy that I’ve named Cecil! He’s a sweetheart, though also still a puppy and getting up to puppy-ish mischief. I’ll write more later (I’ve got several drafts sitting waiting to be finished, but have been – perhaps understandably – a little distracted), but seeing as I’m at the IndieWeb Summit this weekend, it seemed like a good time to post something new on the site. đź‘‹

Cecil D. Dog
Cecil D. Dog!

Time Flies

It looks like I managed to completely miss February on here. The best laid plans, eh? Well, I’m still alive, for what it’s worth. Life has been low-key stressing me out for the past month+, but should be getting back to some semblance of normalcy soon. (The 30 second version: at the start of the month, we discovered a slow leak in the kitchen plumbing, which had started to warp the flooring. Various mitigation measures were brought in — drying mats and industrial dehumidifiers and the like — but ultimately they ended up needing to pull up the flooring. And the counters. Neither of which they could match, so now they’re replacing the entire floor downstairs and getting new counters. Hurrah for home insurance!)

Not much else to report. I’ll be sure to get back to posting random links and writing the occasional screed soon. Thanks for sticking around.

Death of the Author

I’m not sure the hows or whys that discussion about the literary theory of the “death of the author” cropped up recently, but it did. Lindsay Ellis has an excellent video essay about it (and really, go watch the rest of her stuff while you’re at it). It covers a lot of ground, and also some of the impact that our current culture’s shift towards personal brand (and subsequent association of any work done with that brand) has on how we think about creators and their creations. Go watch:

This prompted a follow-up response by John Scalzi, which I think is also worth reading. In process of discussing how the author is not the book and the book is not the author, he noted:

One side effect of this is that you should expect that at one point or another the authors whose work you admire will disappoint you, across a spectrum of behaviors or opinions. Because they’re human, you see. Think of all the humans you know, who have never disappointed you in one way or another. Having difficulty coming up with very many? Funny, that.

(Don’t worry, you’ve disappointed a whole bunch of people, too.)

John Scalzi

I think that’s a pretty salient point to remember these days. That’s not to excuse people who do terrible things, nor to say there isn’t merit in boycotting the work of someone who did terrible things. But if you treat every gaff or slight as unconscionable, you’re setting yourself to be constantly outraged and constantly disappointed. Everyone’s line is going to be different, though, and it’s your call on whether any particular occasion crosses that line. Relatedly:

A shitty human can write great books (or make lovely paintings, or fantastic food, or amazing music, etc), and absolutely lovely humans can be aggressively mediocre to bad artists. There is very little correlation between decency and artistic talent. You don’t need to be a good human in order to understand human behavior well enough to write movingly about it; remember that con men are very good judges of character.

With that said, if you discover that the writer of one of your favorite novels (or whatever) doesn’t live up to your moral or ethical standards, you’re not obliged to give them any more of your time or attention, because life is too short to financially or intellectually support people you think are scumbags. Likewise, you and you alone get to decide where that line is, and how you apply it. Apply one standard for one author, and a different one for another? Okay! I’m sure you have your reasons, and your reasons can just be “because I feel like it.” Just like in real life, you might put up with more bullshit from one person than another, for reasons that are personal to you.

John Scalzi

Just more things to chew on.

Addendum: Neil Gaiman also touched on some of this topic (more specifically, the commingling of author and work, and people making assumptions about the author based on characters in their book), and makes a point I wanted to note:

Well, unless you are going to only write stories in which nice things happen to nice people, you are going to write stories in which people who do not believe what you believe show up, just like they do in the world. And in which bad things happen, just as they do in the world. And that’s hard.

And if you are going to write awful people, you are going to have to put yourself into their shoes and into their head, just as you do when you write the ones who believe what you believe. Which is also hard.

Neil Gaiman

Hurdles to a New Social Web

My last post was discussing the state of social media (and frankly, the internet), and a possible future. I feel like I can say relatively objectively that things are pretty broken as they currently stand, in an actively harming society sort of way. But when you’re entrenched, it can be incredibly difficult to see a way out, even if you know you need to. I wanted to take a minute to talk about some of the hurdles to moving on from this mess. (Fair warning, this is a little long.)

Continue reading “Hurdles to a New Social Web”

The New Social Media

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the internet will look like in the future. Right now, it’s dominated by social media in one form or another, with large, megacorp silos acting as our primary sources of information and discourse. This is a shift from the “DIY” homegrown state of the early internet — while there were absolutely megacorps that cornered entire niches of the internet (think about the likes of AOL, for instance), it didn’t feel like quite as much of a stranglehold. There was lots of room for growth and plucky startups and homegrown projects. A proliferation of open source projects to run your own websites in all sorts of wacky configurations (lots of weird mishmashes of CMSes, blog software, forums, galleries, with some shaky handcrafted glue between them all). Lots of platforms, lots of different standards and protocols popping up all the time, and nothing really talking to each other all that well. Early attempts at cohesion had mixed success (OAuth, yay! RSS, woo! Trackbacks… um).

Given that sort of morass, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a lot of these homegrown solutions gave way to professionally run central services. Tired of fiddling with your tumble log? Go sign up for Tumblr. Microblogging micromanagement got you down? Check out this Twitter thing. Sick of managing 500 logins to different forums? Roll on over to Reddit. Gallery software galling you? Find your way to Flickr! They handle the backend, you provide the content, and your audience grows as their userbase does! Sounds great, right?

Continue reading “The New Social Media”

End of the Year

It’s New Year’s Eve, 2018. In another 8 hours, it’ll officially be 2019, the last year of the twenty-teens. Time flies.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want 2019 to look like. 2018 wasn’t a terrible year for me — I went to Japan, worked in a job I don’t hate where people seemed to appreciate what I do, spent time with friends. I posted more on here than I had in a long time (albeit mostly link sharing and light commentary…. and I sort of fell off the posting wagon this fall/winter).

That said, it also felt like a year of coasting. It didn’t feel particularly productive towards my longer term goals, nor did I feel much sense of fulfillment or contentment (barring a few things). That’s something I’d like to change, and that informs a lot of my goals for the year, boiling down to: I’d like to find a routine that feels good, and leaves me feeling productive and fulfilled creatively, socially, emotionally, and physically. The details of getting there are still feeling pretty amorphous, but that feels like a good broad goal to work towards.

Happy 2019, everyone. I hope it’s filled with laughter and kindness.

Post-Event Survival Guide

So, you just attended an event that was revelatory and cathartic and emotional, and now you’re a jumbled up pile of feelings and thoughts and have no idea where to even begin. You had these amazing experiences and conversations and you’re feeling excited and drained all at the same time. What do you do? Here’s some gentle suggestions:

  1. Give yourself time. (But not too much time.) There’s a lot your subconscious is still figuring out, and it’s okay to give yourself the time, space, and permission to let things process. That said, if you take too much time, the mental thread gets lost, and the energy wanes. Give yourself a week to regain your bearings.
  2. Actively process. Meditate, journal, discuss with a trusted friend. Think about what about the experience felt revelatory and energizing, and what you can do to extend and act on that feeling. Give your subconscious a leg up by being active about how you process it all.
  3. Keep in touch. You met amazing people and had amazing conversations. Keep those conversations going. Reach out. It takes effort to keep communication going (especially when shifting mediums like from in person at an event to online), but this is how you form community, and how you’ll keep that energy for your New Idea™.
  4. Write down your ideas. Your mind is running a mile a minute right now, and there’s all the people to talk to and all the things to do, and so many new ideas and new projects. That’s great! Write it all down while it’s fresh. A lot of the bigger ideas are going to take more time and energy than this hyperactive sugar-rush of feelings will sustain, so write it down. Process your feelings, then come back to the idea when you’re able to sit down and think about how to actually get from Point A to Point B.
  5. Cherish the moment. Even if you go to the same event again, you won’t necessarily have that same energizing experience, and even if you do, these sorts of events tend to be only once or twice a year. So savor it while you’re in it, and try to remember that feeling six months down the line, when you’re feeling stymied or blocked. (Keeping in touch with others helps remember this feeling, too!)
  6. Forgive yourself. At the end of the day, when the event is all over, it’s easy to feel like you could be doing more or should have done more, or have your impostor syndrome come back and double down. (And, worse, when the event rolls around again next year, you can find yourself discounting the work you’ve done, and thinking about all the things you wanted to do after the last time.) It’s okay. You had the experience you had, and it’s going to be a different experience than anyone else had. Some people maybe even had a similar experience, but come off more eloquently when they talk about it, and you feel like you should have had something more. But they’re not you, and while it can be useful to think about things you’d like to do differently, don’t dwell on it.

These are things I’ve found useful to remind myself when in these sorts of experiences. I hope it helps.

On Making Friends

This topic has been coming up a lot in a variety of locations for me (blog posts, tweets and toots, articles, videos): it seems like it’s pretty universally agreed upon that making friends (and really, relationships in general) as an adult is hard. It definitely feels pretty true, and there’s all sorts of reasons why it’s true (and while it’s easy to point at technology or society or all sorts of external reasons, those make up only a fraction of the reality).

I’ve got no easy answers, and it’s certainly something I continue to struggle with. The answers I’ve heard really boil down to one thing: Do The Work™.

What spawned this post is that I really appreciated John Green’s video about this (I find myself deeply empathizing with and appreciating a lot of his videos, seems like the sort of person I’d enjoy knowing):

This, in turn, was a response to Hank Green’s video:

Which I think makes a certain amount of sense (though I don’t entirely agree with the notion that we valued people more — I think the factor of having more shared experiences and enforced proximity while you build that value/appreciation for each other is a big contributor).

While I’m on the topic, one of the other pieces that popped up on my radar recently was a link to this Ask Polly letter, which I can sympathize with (being guilty of a lot of the same weird behavior when I uprooted to SF), and is also at least partly what John touched on in the above video.

Also, Shen did a comic also about this recently as well. Seems like it’s on a lot of peoples’ minds these days.