This is mostly on-purpose research. More passive input, things encountered by chance or in a similarly roundabout way, is filed under ephemera. See also output.

A wall in Rebecca’s Flat at Raven Row

This past Thursday 18 October was the second Server Co-op meetup in Rebecca’s Flat at Raven Row. See all Server Co-op notes.

I didn’t take as many notes this time, wasn’t feeling fantastic. Very sketchy notes below.


click public button twice if the Patchwork feed seems stuck after first install

how to have Scuttlebutt on multiple devices?
eh, maybe not worth the hassle, just use one device
“sameAs” is currently being worked on by devs in Scuttlebutt community

identity = private + public + network key combo
lib sodium

back up private key and gossip.json

dark crystal for backing up private key using social network

“shamir’s secrets” algorithm
kind of like horcruxes!

with Scuttlebutt, your friends are your cloud/datacentre

nothing is ever deleted (same as Dat)

could technically have multiple identities, but functionality isn’t implemented currently. Would have to swap .ssb directories

The rug in Rebecca’s Flat at Raven Row

Last night I went to the first Server Co-op meetup hosted by Agorama in Rebecca’s Flat. It’s a more-is-more space, and then some. It was a lovely evening. Notes:

Check out infocivics.com by Paul Frazee. “Computing networks are social and political systems. We should attempt to answer how the technical design of a network will influence the internal politics.”

There *is* a mobile Dat browser, but apparently it’s a bit… buggy. See Bunsen for Android (nada for iOS). Still, kudos to them for taking a stab at it. Apparently the project of making a Dat browser sort of hits a brick wall due to node.js, but a bunch of devs have taken it upon themselves to make a Rust implementation of Dat. TBH I don’t understand the ins-and-outs well enough to be able to describe how that lowers the barrier, but it sounds like the future of mobile Dat might be brighter for it.

I haven’t dug in to Scuttlebutt yet, and it sounds like it’s about time. An offline-first protocol, described by KG as a database/social network/community. See also Patchwork. Feel like I heard HL say that it came about after 2011 Christchurch earthquake due to the difficulties at the time with having any sort of connectivity, but that might be wrong?

And crucially, are there ethical conversations around P2P tech that we’re failing to have, or happily skating past? I’m thinking about when Facebook and similar now-giants were in their nascent stages, surely some of the current nastiness could have been avoided if the making was accompanied by a little more thinking, more extrospection? How do you wrap your head around the potential ethical implications of something that doesn’t yet exist? I found KB’s anecdote interesting, when a few fascistic idiots attempted to hijack Scuttlebutt but were almost immediately, organically, blocked from having any meaningful impact. It feels great, but who’s to say they’re not off in their own node somewhere trolling away? Feels awful to think that Scuttlebutt might be harbouring some sort of extreme-right cell, and yet maybe so be it, should it be a decentralised network’s responsibility to police that? How on earth would that work anyway?


Separate: I got my hair cut by Dean last week and am very pleased. When it’s styled it’s a bit Josie Packard (fabulous) and when not styled, it’s very Shawn Hunter (not totally a bad thing).

I keep encountering issues when running Craft’s setup command locally. Note that I use MAMP Pro for this sort of thing. I entered all the database creds correctly, and then got a SQLSTATE[HY000] [2002] No such file or directory error. This StackExchange answer sorted it for me. Add 'unixSocket' => getenv('DB_SOCKET') to /config/db.php and DB_SOCKET="/Applications/MAMP/tmp/mysql/mysql.sock" to .env.

Still encountering database connection issues on staging for one site currently under development. All of the credentials are set correctly in .env, but getenv() in /config/db.php retrieves the wrong DB_USER value. Ended up explicitly adding the problematic value to the /config/db.php file as a quick workaround, but it’s not ideal.

❤️👍😍⭐️👌

The quick-kudos tools that have evolved online definitely have their usefulness, but most of the time it feels like sugar. Satisfying and fostering a hunger. It cultivates a bottomless pit of competition, arbitrary measurements of self worth, and requires a level of intrapersonal gymnastics that I’m not personally capable of sustaining.

Is the problem just the public-ness of it all? What about deliberately quiet kudos?

I want to give those sorts of kudos almost every day. It’s hard to describe the use cases, though there are many… Maybe someone famous does work you admire. That’s the I-want-to-tell-you-that-this-is-fantastic-but-I’m-genuinely-not-latching-on-for-likes use case. Or a rather private friend finishes a project they should be damn proud of. That’s the you-need-to-know-this-is-great-but-we-both-know-you’d-prefer-if-I-didn’t-turn-this-in-to-a-conversation use case.

And I sure as hell would be happy to receive that sort of thing. Little pick-me-ups are critical, especially when you are mostly/fully your own employer.

It’s the digital equivalent of a great compliment from a stranger. The sort of compliment that leaves you feeling a tiny bit lighter. The sort of compliment that isn’t motivated by a mob of people giving you the same compliment. And it usually has little to do with the identity of the complimenter. (In fact, when a complete stranger follows up an IRL compliment by introducing themselves, that’s often when the moment sours a bit, or gets a smidge creepy.)

So how to give quiet kudos? It should be as simple and familiar feeling as similar features – as in, just select an emoji – but definitely not public. It shouldn’t associate an identity with the kudos either, IMO. Hopefully that would avoid spamminess. It’d probably also need a daily/weekly/monthly summary setting but good lord, it definitely shouldn’t ever send a “you received 0 kudos this week!” sort of email. And it should include other reactions, the bad with the good.

I would be surprised if this doesn’t exist already in some form or another… need to dig a little harder. I suppose one preexisting version of this is the e-newsletter since it’s an opt-in system. Particularly TinyLetter. But that just feels a little too business-y for what the sort of thing I’m imagining. Might look in to making the tool I’m imagining. Add it to the someday list.

In summary:
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I say yes.

Exploring the use cases for serverless website architecture

Last Saturday, Sam introduced me to Chris Coyier’s talk on serverless-ness, The All-Powerful Front-End Developer. Pretty interesting and useful. I’m glad he leads it by breaking down the problematic nature of the word “serverless”! The following day was spent in agorama’s p2p workshop at furtherfield. Coincidentally, there is a lot of overlap in these topics.

I’ve spent the past few days wrapping my head around all of this, contextualising it against the sorts of concerns and projects we work with. Though I desperately want to get going with Dat, I’m starting with serverless because it may solve an urgent need in my day-to-day work. Right now, I’m spending much more time than I realistically can maintaining CMSs and hosting environments for older websites.

All of the below is a thought dump on the topic, an attempt to pick apart the meaning of and the use cases for a serverless website architecture.

Read more

Weekend activities resulted in an explosion of information that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. 💥 Link dump below for reference. Most of these are via Sam B, Gemma C, Hannah B, and agorama.

Going to write up more about serverless and P2P, and how they kind of intersect, once I’ve digested some of this.

On applying the three Rs to digital stuff

Reduce, reuse, recycle ♻️ Can this apply to digital material? What would that mean or look like?

When I say “digital material” I don’t mean visual waste like excessive banner ads and endless newsletter popups, but actual bytes of data. Is there an alternative to emptying the trash and/or permanent storage? Device storage – the management of it, its functionality – is effectively invisible until you have a sudden problem with it. The dreaded “low disk space” warning.

This feels somewhat analogous to our IRL trash problem, but an obvious difference is that emptying IRL trash ≠ emptying digital trash. When you empty the trash at home, it becomes someone else’s problem. When you empty your digital trash, it disappears (mostly). Also, it’s worth acknowledging: right now our physical trash problem > our digital trash problem.

If we focus on the digital side of things for the moment though, the biggest issue is that people don’t empty their trash. It’s a lot easier to dump a bunch of old files on to a hard drive and call it a day than to actually go through and get rid of unnecessary stuff. This is hoarding.

Consider this condensed intro to the compulsive hoarding entry on Wikipedia as of today:

Compulsive hoarding […] is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that […] cause significant distress or impairment. Compulsive hoarding behavior has been associated with health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members. […] Compulsive hoarders may be aware of their irrational behavior, but the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects far exceeds the motive to discard the items.

I would guess that most of us (without a doubt including myself) are digital hoarders. For me, at least, it’s driven by mild fear, a “but I might need that” mentality. It’s the same reason I frequently leave multiple browser windows with multiple tabs open. So many major services – Gmail, iCloud, AWS, Dropbox – are built to encourage this behaviour. Some services even actively discourage deletion, or make it impossible. I’m looking at you, Facebook.

But stuff, both physical and digital, has to be cared for. I pay more and more for services that store my data, I worry about hard drives failing, I get secondhand anxiety when I borrow a loved-one’s phone for a moment and notice that they have 160,000+ unread emails. On top of this, the amount of electrical energy used for data storage is significant and is only expected to increase.

So if you apply the three Rs to our digital lives, “Reduce” is still right up there on the priority list. “Reuse” and “recycle” are a little harder to port over… Perhaps we could say that by contributing to open source technology and data, you are reusing and recycling digital material. I need to do more of this.

And to think, I haven’t even touched on the importance of recycling electronic devices! A separate note, maybe.

Surfing with coffee #4. This is off the back of Odrathek with Musarc, includes a few things/people I’ve looked in to after that overwhelming experience. Not comprehensive, but perhaps consider this big wave surfing…

A
Célia Gondol (B↓)(C↓) Chase the vibrations; Jenny Moore (↓D) (↓E) Sang “Reclaim the night” the whole way back last night (Central line din disguises humming nicely); Neil Luck (↓F) Reliving childhood softball injury; Bartosz Glowacki with Lore Lixenberg (↓G) First time a live musical performance has made me cry; Edka Jarząb (↓H) Intoxicating voice for change; need to find the red book she read from on third day; read Warsound Warszawa; Rie Nakajima (↓I) Creator and destroyer of helpless noise creatures

B
Good Vibrations

C
Cordel Literature on Wikipedia

D
Reclaim the night, sung at Greenham Common women’s peace camp

E
Thank you internet, 8m51s in on showreel (↓J)

F
Bloody Sirens GET IT NOW!

G
Akkordeon Baroque, tickets for 23 May 2018

H
Wyjaśnienie na marginesie – Ginczanka // Explanation in the margin – Ginczanka (↓K)

I
Dead Plants and Living Objects (↓L)

J
Holly Pester

K
Zuzanna Ginczanka (↓M)

L
Pierre Berthet

M
On Centaurs (↓) Not ideal since it seems to be paginated for press…

N
Not all of me will die

And 🌈, with added 🌧! To be restaged next Saturday 19 May 2018 at the RA for RA250.

Certain quotes lodge themselves in your head. So many of the ones in my head come from the fourth edition of What is a designer by Norman Potter published by Hyphen Press in 2002.

p.23, on design education

The words by which people describe themselves – architect, graphic designer, interior designer, etc. – become curiously more important than the work they actually do. In one respect this is fair, because under modern conditions it may be very difficult to find one word to identify their work, but such words tend to build up irrelevant overtones of meaning which are more useful as a comfort to personal security than as a basis for co-operative enterprise.

p.30, wrapping up his thoughts on design education

All we can do is make good work possible, and be alert to its coming; never fooling ourselves that all good things come easily. To work well is to work with love.

p.57, on recognising the value in nuance

In raising consciousness of these matters, it should be remembered that our civilization sells itself through sensation, preferably with the volume turned up. This is good reason for designers to learn how to speak quietly, and to understand how it is that conversation becomes possible between people and things.

And nearly every point in chapter 18, “Advice for beginners”, and 19, “Questioning design”.