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?

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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.

Insta Repeat

Found via Demilked, there’s an interesting Instagram account that is finding repeated imagery in Instagram photos, called Insta Repeat. For instance:

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Vertical phone in the wild 📱

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or:

I think it’s an interesting project in a few different ways. On one side it shows how much we all end up copying each other, and how quickly an image concept can end up feeling trite and overplayed. But it also calls out the patterns we associate with photographic composition — often the images look similar simply because that’s the best approach for shooting a particular subject, so of course there are going to be similar photos. (The same goes for some location shots: why are there 5 million+ nearly identical shots of Half Dome in Yosemite? Because the park was designed to bring you to that reveal, where you’ll say “wow” and take the shot.)

While it’s easy to take a cynical view of this sort of project, it can be viewed in other ways, too. It’s telling to see what imagery strikes people, what patterns keep coming up, and to think about why those shots in particular seem to recur. Also, there’s a certain beauty in the collections themselves, the grids of similar photos all in a row, where the repetition is a part of the piece.

Twitter Departures

There seems to be a trend currently of announcing departures from Twitter. As a sampling (not the only ones, mind you), here are posts from Derek Powazek, Sean Bonner, and Wil Wheaton all announcing that they’re leaving Twitter and why. You’ll see a recurring trend: the indifferent (or even inimical) handling by Twitter of rampant toxicity, harassment, and abuse has effectively killed the community for a large number of people.

I’m hardly surprised by any of this — if anything, I’m surprised it took this long for people to leave. I’ve commented before that Twitter has become largely a rage machine, and I unfortunately don’t see a course-correction this happening any time soon (if it’s even possible). I’m mostly off it myself at this point — I still auto-post links to my blog posts, and respond to DMs and replies, but otherwise spend very little time there. I don’t personally feel a need to fully depart (and if I ever do, I’ll likely just ghost), but I also don’t foresee going back to it, either.

Like a lot of other people, I’ve joined a Mastodon instance, which will likely scratch that occasional Twitter itch for now (feel free to follow me). That said, I don’t really anticipate using it a lot — I’m feeling pretty done with the format, to be perfectly honest. In terms of online discourse, it feels like it fills the same sort of niche small-talk does in real life — sometimes it’ll lead to deeper conversations and connections with others, but mostly it’s just filling time.

Certbot Gotchas

As a project this week, I’ve been doing some backend maintenance for my web hosting, which includes getting everything set up with SSL certs through Let’s Encrypt. (The writing is on the wall: most sites that can switch to HTTPS should switch to HTTPS. Not just for the added security for you and your viewers, but also because browsers and search engines and similar are starting to give warnings if it’s NOT secure.)

Thankfully, the days of having to pay an arm and a leg for a cert have passed. Let’s Encrypt is a free non-profit service (in partnership with other orgs including EFF, Mozilla, and Akamai, to name a few), which generates free, short term SSL certificates for your site. (For larger organizations, you may want to still throw down on a longer term set of certs, but for personal use this is great.)

Using the certs is pretty straightforward: they’ve created a tool that can run on your web server called certbot which streamlines the process and also monitors and automatically renews the certificates when they’re close to expiration. Installing certbot is pretty straightforward: it’s available via various package managers (apt and similar), so chances are good that whatever OS your server is running can install it pretty easily.

That said, there are still a few gotchas that I felt like got glossed over in the docs I was reading/following when using the tool, so here’s a few notes:

  • Be explicit about your domains: certbot doesn’t currently support wildcards (i.e. being able to say *.nadreck.me and have that handle any subdomains like images.nadreck.me). Instead, list them all out if you want them to share a certificate, and that includes both with and without www. So, for example, you might want to do something like sudo certbot --apache -d nadreck.me -d www.nadreck.me. If you don’t include both, someone going to your site using the address that wasn’t specified may end up getting the site blocked and the user warned of something potentially fraudulent.
  • If you already generated a certificate for a domain and need to update it (maybe you added a subdomain, or forgot to add www), the command you’re looking for is --expand. (I would have thought “update”, but no.) Note that when expanding a certificate, you need to re-list all domains you want included (you don’t just list the one you’re adding). So, using nadreck.me as an example again, if I wanted to add “images.nadreck.me” to the existing cert, I’d do sudo certbot --expand -d nadreck.me -d www.nadreck.me -d images.nadreck.me.
  • Keep it separated: the certs are free, there’s no need to overload the cert with a ton of domains. While it makes a certain amount of sense to bundle a domain and subdomains together, there’s no need to make one cert for all your sites. criticalgames.com shares a cert with nadreck.criticalgames.com, but not with nabilmaynard.com, if that makes any sense.
  • You can’t preemptively add sites to a cert. Certbot/letsencrypt performs a challenge response as part of the process to make sure you actually own the site you’re trying to set up, so if you haven’t actually set up that site or subdomain, the challenge will fail and the cert won’t be generated correctly. If you wanted to add, say, files.nadreck.me to your certificate, you’d need to set up that subdomain first, then expand your certificate. (The site can be empty, but the URL needs to resolve and land somewhere real.)

Anyway, hope that helps! The process really is pretty straightforward, and I recommend getting things set up to anyone maintaining a website these days.

August, Squam

It’s that time of year where I head back east to see family, and spend some time on Squam Lake. It’s also usually a time of reflection and taking stock for me, and it’s been a while since I wrote something like that here, so forgive the rambling post. For those that don’t care, here’s a picture:

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Never seem to get tired of this view.

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For the rest, on we go.

Olympic National Park

It’s been stupidly hot in Portland for the past week, so I opted to flee to the coast on Sunday, ending up wandering through Port Angeles, Washington, and Olympic National Park. It continues to be one of my favorite regions and parks that I’ve visited. I could totally see myself ending up out there, if I’m not careful.

Photos from the trip are in the gallery.