Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “internet”

Medium and Niume — what are they?

For some time now I’ve been hearing about web sites called Medium and Niume, and I’ve been urged to join them. The trouble is, I don’t know what they are, or what they are for.

Today I saw an article that gave at least some information about Medium — ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It – The New York Times:

Medium was supposed to be developing its business around advertising, which would have paid for writers like Ms. Norman and made the site viable. Then it abruptly pivoted in January and laid off a third of the staff, or about 45 people. Advertising was suddenly no longer the solution but the villain.

“Ad-driven systems can only reward attention,” Mr. Williams says. “They can’t reward the right answer. Consumer-paid systems can. They can reward value. The inevitable solution: People will have to pay for quality content.”

But it doesn’t look good.

I went to the Medium site to find out more, but the main menu was unreadable — designed by web designers who firmly believe that illegibility provides an enhanced “user experience”. Holding a magnifying glass up to the screen enabled me to read enough of the low-contrast text to see that there was no “About” page that would tell you about the site and what its purpose was and how it worked. The NY Times article gives some hints at the thinking behind it, but doesn’t actually tell you what “it” is.

Niume is even worse. You have to join it before you can even see if there is an about page and decide whether you want to join it or not. How’s that for buying a pig in a poke? Whatever advantages it might have, that’s enough to put me off right there.

So my question is: Can anyone who has actually used either or both these sites tell us something about what they are and what they are for, and, if they are blog hosting sites, how they compare with other such sites like WordPress or Blogger?

 

 

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An Orthodox hipster?

A few weeks ago I came across a Facebook group called Ask an Orthodox Hipster.

I’ve always had a yen to be a hipster, but I don’t think I’ve ever made it. I suppose the closest I got was a wannabe.

What is a Hipster?

My Concise Oxford Dictionary c1964 doesn’t have it, though I’d been using the word for at least four years before I bought the thing.

But my Collins English Dictionary (Millennium Edition) has:

  • hipster n 1 slang, now rare 1a an enthusiast of modern jazz 1b an outmoded word for hippy
  • hippy or hippie n, pl -pies (esp. during the 1960s) a person whose behaviour, dress, use of drugs etc., implied a rejection of conventional values.

It also gives hippy as meaning having large hips, which is why I prefer the spelling hippie for the other meaning.

Nowadays, however, hipster seems to have come back into fashion and is no longer outmoded, but probably about ten times as common as hippie.

I suppose the term hipster was first popularised with that meaning by Allen Ginsberg in his poem Howl:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

And after a few weeks as a member of the Ask an Orthodox Hipster group I can see that yes, it is a place for those burning for the ancient heavenly connection to ask questions.

Christian World Liberation Front, Berkeley, California, 1970

And even before the Internet took off, other Orthodox Christians have had a kind of hipster missionary outreach, or started a hipster ministry and then were drawn to Orthodoxy, such as Fr Jack Sparks of the Christian World Liberation Front.

From here on, this gets personal, so quit now if that’s not your thing.

I discovered that the Ask an Orthodox Hipster group differs from other Orthodox groups on Facebook, in that people do not seem to be angry, or attacking each other. If someone asks a question that people can’t answer, they don’t denounce the question as stupid and the questioner as stupid for asking it, they just pass on to the next thing.

I’ve also found that quite a lot of the questions are ones that I have already answered, at least to some extent, in blog posts I’ve written over the last 10-12 years, and if they aren’t, the question is also sometimes a good prompt for a new blog post.

And this perhaps can provide me with a useful occupation for retirement.

Before retiring one thinks of all the things one could do if one had the time, but one does not have time to do when one is working. Many of the things I hoped to do when I retired had to do with Orthodox mission and evangelism, and visiting Orthodox mission congregations and helping them along by teaching and training their leaders and so on. But they are fairly widely scattered, and visiting them costs money. And I think well, I can’t afford to get the car serviced this month, because I have to pay the doctor, or the dentist, so maybe next month. But next month the car not only needs a service, but also a new battery. And the month after that something else is broken, and the price of petrol keeps going up.

But helping people with answers to questions asked on the Internet requires no physical travel, and can actually reach much further, all over the world, in fact. So I think this Orthodox hipster business could be quite fruitful.

We still continue to visit the mission congregations at Atteridgeville (35km west) and Mamelodi (18km East) on alternate Sundays, but travel farther afield will be much more rare physically, but not necessarily electronically.

 

 

Internet entropy

A couple of days ago our ADSL router was fried by lightning and we were offline for a couple of days until we could get and configure a new one. I wondered if we might be missing something important, but it turned out that we weren’t. What had piled up in our absence was not important communications, but a huge pile of “notifications” about utterly trivial things that were hardly communication at all.

There were notifications that several people had tweeted on Twitter, or that someone I didn’t know was following me on Twitter, or wanted to be my “friend” on Facebook. Eventually I’ll probably start getting notifications about notifications. Well actually they are already are, because Twitter itself is a notification.  This morning I deleted 144 spam comments on my other blogs most of them from something called “lista de emails”. There may have been some false positives there, but it’s too time-consuming even to scan the headings to see.

Web sites that were useful a few years ago have become less so. One of these is Technorati. It used to be useful for finding out what was going on in the blogosphere, and what people were blogging about. But no more. I already blogged about that about a year ago, see here Search Results Technorati | Notes from underground:

Back then it had stuff that interested me as a blogger. I could go there to find blogs and blog posts I was interested in. There used to be “Technorati tags”, and one could click on them to find who was blogging on what topics. If I was going to blog on a subject, I’d look up tags related to that subject, and if those blogs said anything interesting on the topic, I’d link to them.

Now, however, you can’t find stuff that you find interesting on Technorati. If you look at their tags page, for example, you can’t search for tags. They only show you the currently popular tags for the last month. Do not expect Technorati to give you what you like. You WILL like what Technorati gives you and tells you to like. There is a kind of arrogant authoritarian flavour to it.

I noticed that Technorati’s stats on some of my blogs had not been updated, including this one, so I checked to see why. It turned out that I didn’t have a full RSS feed turned on. In the interests of saving bandwidth, I had a partial feed, so that people could see the heading and first couple of paragraphs of of blog post. If they were interested, they could click on it and read the full thing. But Technorati wanted the full feed, even if no one reads it. So I turned it on. They responded with ” This site does not appear to be a blog or news site. Technorati does not support claiming of forums, product catalogs, and the like.”.

Well that’s nice to know. But I doubt that anyone is reading this non-blog anyway, so why am I writing this? No one will read it. No one will comment, except, perhaps, “lista de emails”

I looked at a friend’s Posterous blog the other day, and it had apparently been hijacked by someone posting fluff and incomprehensible garbage. Link-farms stuff.That’s why, when I moved this blog from Blogger, I did not delete the old one, and I disabled comments on it. Spammers love to post comments on abandoned blogs. Tip: If you get tired of an old blog, don’t delete it! If you delete it, the link farm people will move in and take over, enjoying all the traffic from old links, providing yet more junk to clog up the Internet.

I tried to post on my own Posterous blog, and it didn’t work. So I’ll probably abandon it. It has been taken over by Twitter, and lots of stuff doesn’t seem to work any more. My Tumblr blog used to provide an aggregate of my other blogs so it could be a place I could refer friends to who wanted to keep in touch. It also doesn’t work any more.

When Geocities stopped working, I moved my static web pages to Bravenet. But they’ve stopped working too. Go to one of my pages there and they just say that “This website is currently expired. If you have any questions, please contact technical support.” But there is no way of contacting “technical support”. None whatsoever.

So as a result there are a few thousand (or million) more dead links out on the Internet, where people say more and more about less and less. And actually it is not people saying it at all in most cases. It’s bots. The dormant predecessor of this blog at Blogspot still gets more readers than this one, though I ghaven’t updated it for months. And one of the biggest sources of traffic was a bot that told people how to get bots to write blog posts for them, so that they could make money from the web. I think that’s what may have happened with my friend’s Posterous blog. Snake oil, anyone?

E-mail is becoming erratic and dysfunctional

It looks as though spammers are beginning to succeed in making e-mail useless.

Several people have told me recently that e-mail that I send to their Gmail addresses ends up in their spam box. That is something new. One of the things that I thought was good about Gmail in the past was that one never had to check the spam box, because there were so few false positives. But now it seems that one will have to look in the spam box for mail. And also, when sending mail to anyone with a Gmail address, also send a text message to say “Did you get my e-mail? If you didn’t, please check your spam box.”

But when I tested it by sending a message to my own Gmail address, it came through OK without going to spam.

I am quite unable to send e-mail to people who have iburst addresses though. It doesn’t even reach their spam box, it just bounces right back to me. The only way to communicate with them is through a direct message on Facebook, or SMS.

Oh well, I think I’m going to have to start buying stamps again.

Clarissa’s Blog: Being Hated by Conservatives vs Being Hated by Liberals

One of the characteristics of the emerging postmodern age is that it is an age of communication without community. Marshall McLuhan’s global village is divided and faction-ridden. Over the last 20 years of participating in the internet (with a small i) I have discovered that one comes face to face with US culture in a way that one never did before. Now places like China are rapidly catching up, but in 1991 it was in the US that more people had modems, and connected to bulletin boards, and disseminated their opinions more widely than ever before.

And today I read a couple of blog posts that encapsulated this experience.

Clarissa’s Blog: Being Hated by Conservatives vs Being Hated by Liberals:

There is a difference, though, between getting tons of hits from people who come from liberal sites that post angry rebuttals of my posts and visitors from the conservative blogs that attempt to do the same. Visitors from progressive blogs leave comments, argue, initiate discussions, offer evidence in support of their opinions. I might disagree with them, but I am forced to recognize that their comments are interesting to read. Conservative readers come by, gawp, and, at best, leave a comment of the ‘I-know-this-is-somehow-wrong-but-I-don’t-have-the-brains-to-explain-why’ variety. Their writing is stilted and full of spelling and grammar mistakes. They think that calling one ‘a Jew whore’ and ‘an autie retard’ is a powerful intellectual argument.

I explained before why I find any conservative position to be unsustainable on the level of reason and logic. It is not surprising to me that visitors who come here from conservative websites turn out to be very unintelligent and incapable of maintaining a discussion. They don’t really have opinions, that’s the problem. They have emotional outbursts whose underlying causes they are able neither to identify not to control.

And I have to say I agree. In cyberspace, at least, American “liberals” tend to come across as very illiberal and intolerant. But when you read the arguments of American “conservatives”, it becomes almost understandable.

And then there was this: A Spell for Refreshment of the Spirit: Civility: A Blast from the Past:

Everyone is talking about civility today. I’m not American, so before the tragic shooting recently I hadn’t been closely following the ever-deepening political divide south of the border. However, for a long time I have noticed the same deterioration of civility in our society in general.

The thing that amazes me most about US politics is that there is so little difference between the two main parties, yet the closer they are to each other, the more exaggerated the rhetoric with which their supporters attack each other.

Republican supporters attack Democrat supporters as if they will leave no baby unaborted, yet in 8 years Bush did not stop abortion. Democrat supporters attack Republican supporters as if they were intent on invading every country in the world, yet Obama still hasn’t brought US troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The more closely they resemble each other, the more viciously they attack each other.

Of course the US doesn’t have a monopoly on incivility and motor-mouth politicians. America has its Sarah Palin, and we have our Julius Malema. But America seems to have more, and more vociferous, and more incivil extremists than most other countries, at least on the public internet.

There are some areas in which I would support American “conservative” policies, but would be reluctant to do so, because the American “conservatives” who advocate such policies seem to be such hate-filled people, and to advocate those policies from a position of hatred rather than love.

There are some policies advocated by American “liberals” that I think are misguided, and some that I think are stupid, and some that I think are detestable and evil and decidedly illiberal, but on the whole the people who seem to advocate them seem to have their hearts in the right place, even if their heads seem all screwed up. And that reminds me of what a friend of mine once said:

“It is better to do wrong for the sake of love than to insist on doing right because of my lack of it.”

Hackosphere: The Web is not ready for Chrome yet!

At last, a good reason not to try Chrome.

Hackosphere: The Web is not ready for Chrome yet!:

It is an understatement to call Chrome as a browser. It is a mini operating system for running Web applications. So far, most of the Web applications have been running on the server side and used the browser only for display. Recently, there has been a push towards Rich Internet Applications (RIA) that use your browser’s advanced functionalities such as Flash, Javascript etc to deliver desktop application-like complex feature set. Zoho and Google docs are examples of popular Office applications that run in your browser. This trend has just started and is growing.

Hat-tip to Fencing bear at prayer.

Like many other people I’ve read about the Chrome web browser for Google, and have wondered if I should try it. Is it any faster than other browsers, any simpler, any more efficient?

And this article explains it better than anything else — the push towards Rich Internet Applications.

But it misses out the most important thing: the web is not ready for Rich Internet Applications because of bandwidth caps. There is already far too much Flash and Javascript stuff around.

I’ve installed the Noscript add-on to Firefox to block Javascript applications like streaming video, podcasts and the like, because they are such bandwidth hogs, and all this “rich content” costs money to download.

It’s a sort of electronic verbosity, like HTML in e-mail. People who never use one word where four will do love to clothe the most trivial statements with fancy fonts in different colours, animated smiley faces and the like, so that one gets the original message, and then the HTML version that is 10 times as long (and I have my mail reader set to only show the plain text anyway, so I never see the fancy stuff).

If the content was really enhanced by all these bells and whistles it might be OK, but most of it is trivial.

So if the main feature of Chrome is that it does more of what I’m already trying to stop Firefox doing, thanks but no thanks.

Until bandwidth caps are removed, the web is not ready for Rich Internet Applications, and therefore not ready for Chrome.

The connection has timed out

It’s bad enough getting these timeout message from the SAIX news server, but now it’s happening with Blogspot blogs as well.

The connection has timed out

The server at http://www.blogger.com is taking too long to respond.

* The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few
moments.

Is anyone else getting these messages, or do we just have a slow connection?

The connection has timed out

It’s bad enough getting these timeout message from the SAIX news server, but now it’s happening with Blogspot blogs as well.

The connection has timed out

The server at http://www.blogger.com is taking too long to respond.

* The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few
moments.

Is anyone else getting these messages, or do we just have a slow connection?

The connection has timed out

It’s bad enough getting these timeout message from the SAIX news server, but now it’s happening with Blogspot blogs as well.

The connection has timed out

The server at http://www.blogger.com is taking too long to respond.

* The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few
moments.

Is anyone else getting these messages, or do we just have a slow connection?

Why I avoid YouTube, Podcasts etc

I never watch YouTube or other online video stuff. I never listen to Podcasts (don’t even have a speaker connected to my computer). I hate it when people refer me to such things online, or when they fill their blogs with multiple photos and videos. I now avoid Facebook, because I’m overwhelmed by demands to look at things that require me to download and install yet another bandwidth-consuming (and possibly privacy-threatening) “app”.

Why?

The end-of-the-month broadband blues, that’s why.

Read this article: The cap that chokes.

We switched to broadband nearly two years ago, just after my BBS computer finally crashed. We calculated that by giving up the extra phone line, broadband would cost about the same as we were paying for dialup (about R750 a month), and we wouldn’t have to rush to get everything done on the Internet before 7:00 am, and then wait for callmore time to kick in again at 8:00 pm before looking again. At least if someone referred to a web site in an e-mail or newsgroup, one could look at it any any time of day, instead of saving it up for the evening.

Or so we thought.

What they didn’t tell us was that the 2 Gig cap would mean no access at all for half the month. We increased it to 3 Gig (the max). Last month we ran out on the 26th. The month before we ran out on 21st. At least for the last couple of months e-mail still worked, but before that even e-mail was cut off. That doesn’t apply to web-mail addresses, of course, like Yahoo or Google mail — they are still cut off.

And if someone refers to a web site in an e-mail message, sometimes it’s not a matter of waiting till callmore time in the evening to look at it, but waiting till Internet access comes back at the end of the month.

It makes blogging impossible. It makes online calendars virtually useless, if you can’t check your appointments for half the month. And then the first three days of the month are spent catching up — trying to read the comments on one’s blog (and the complaints that one hasn’t responded to someone’s comment), reading other people’s blogs, deleting spam, marking Usenet trolls as read, putting all the real e-mail into the “to reply” folder.

And that happens even when I do avoid videos, YouTube, podcasts and the like. I wonder how anyone manages to use them. Some people must be looking at those YouTube inserts in blogs, or listening to those podcasts, but how do they manage it?

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