Thoughts for the week’s end

If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready, be ready to get confused
There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic
To human behaviour
But yet so, yet so irresistible

And there is no map

They’re terribly, terribly, terribly moody
Oh, human behaviour
Then all of a sudden turn happy
But, oh, to get involved in the exchange
Of human emotions
Is ever so, ever so satisfying

Björk, Human Behavior

Later in the song: “and a compass wouldn’t help at all.”

How perfect for every year; how perfect for 2020.

I still haven’t made a visit to buy a guitar. I’m at the stage of my mental process where I need to practice playing a handful of things beforehand so that I don’t look like an idiot when I’m actually trying to find the one I want. Bonus though, the local music shop has started putting their inventory online. This will make browsing in a pandemic much easier.

Those Gretsch’s do have a nice look to them. 🤔

It used to be there weren’t services for posts like this: sharing short thoughts, tracking movie watches, reviewing books—so I defaulted to using my website. Centralized, “free” services then provided a false sense of sharing, and now I’m out of practice.

Twitter as a 14 year distraction.

I have been working on keeping my site open in a tab more frequently so that I can capture a thought when it happens or adjust an existing draft when something relevant floats by. This has made me start to think more about the idea of WordPress as an “operating system for the web”, which I’ve kind of laughed about in the past.

As unsure as I am about that term, it would be fun to use my site as a window to more things. I started working on one of those a few weeks ago. I’ll share it sometime soon. 🙂

A lowercase “q” is a very strange character to write by hand.

I must not do it often because I found it very confusing all of a sudden when trying to write the word “quiet” in a note somewhere. Of course once I was focused on how weird it looked, there was no way I was going to be able to get it right, so I now have a piece of paper full of strange looking qs.

Thom Yorke’s “So I declare a holiday. Fall asleep, drift away.” in Sulk will never get tiring. It’s not necessarily a hopeful song, and that line isn’t really a hopeful line, but the way it’s sung makes me hope that it could be sung hopefully one day. I mean, waking up and declaring a holiday, how great!

Definitely thinking about the Telecaster more and more while listening to The Bends on repeat.

Definitely getting more hopeful about 2021.

Have I mentioned Bremer/McCoy’s Utopia before? Yes. It remains a good, relaxing listen and helpful for a writing mood.

Among other things, the bass on Salig is absolutely pleasant. 🥃

Hacking on microformats and Gutenberg at IndieWebCamp East Online 2020, day 2

Today is day 2 of IndieWebCamp East Online 2020, a general hack/create day.

I’m hacking on microformats and implementing them in Gutenberg, which means I’m thinking in blocks.

Main personal inspirations for this include:

  • I write a frequent week’s end series that is composed mostly of individual thoughts or notes. I can imagine a future where someone (me) could link or reply directly to a thought rather than the entire thing. Doing this means that each unique thought likely deserves to be its own h-entry.
  • I want to reply to others’ posts via webmentions. Having a block or pattern dedicated to this would be nice.
  • Yesterday’s conversation during the IndieWebCamp session gave me some initial sparks into how this may all work in the future.

As I somewhat mentioned in yesterday’s wrap-up post, a default pattern for WordPress themes has been to do something like this:

<article <?php post_class(); ?>>
    // header info

    <div class="entry-content">
        <?php the_content(); ?>

The post_class() function outputs a handful of classes for the article wrapper. WordPress includes hentry with this by default, a property of the first microformats version that indicates a general container for the content of an entry.

The block editor allows for a much greater level of content flexibility, which makes specific markup like this less likely to be appropriate.

I decided my initial workaround would generally be this:

if ( has_block( 'mfblocks/h-entry' ) ) {
	$has_h_entry = true;
} else {
	$has_h_entry = false;

<?php if ( $has_entry ) : ?>
    <div class="entries-content-wrapper">
<?php else: ?>
    <article <?php post_class(); ?>>
<?php endif; ?>

If my h-entry block is detected, I can assume that the post content itself will take care of describing entries with microformats. If not, then markup the page as normal. I’ll of course screw something up with my CSS here, but I’ll get to it at some point. I’m going to use the same logic to determine if an entry header should be output in a single template.

And! In reality, I’ll create a content-has-h-entry.php or something that I’ll use for this markup rather than having a bunch of if clauses making it all annoying to work with. 🙂

Okay, my theme is now wired up to handle what I want to do. Now, for some blocks!

My initial impression as I’m starting to plan this out is that WYSIWG is fun in theory, but it’s also nice to have an awareness of the structure of the document.

Gutenberg has a list view that shows you the outline of the current document. I’d kind of like this in a static place so that I don’t lose track of my nested nested group blocks. I imagine this will become an experience problem that is more and more obvious as we get closer to full site editing.

Having some contextual awareness during editing—which group is this block a part of?—will become more important in the future.

I started off the day with a couple custom blocks that implemented h-entry and e-content as wrapping containers of Gutenberg’s <InnerBlocks> component. I figured I could create block patterns that started with those groups and allowed someone to fill in the blanks.

Two problems:

  • Discoverability. Adding one of my patterns means taking the mouse up to the + icon, clicking, clicking, clicking to find the right category and pattern that I want to use. It would be so great if I could insert a block pattern with the / command like I do with blocks.
  • I could spend so much time trying to setup placeholder content that has the right microformat class names, but there’s nothing built into the pattern to keep that structure strict. An accidental keystroke removes the e-content section and then I have to start over.

So, I switched strategies and started building out a custom h-entry block that dictated the structure. This ends up being more opinionated, but we do have a general spec to follow.

Fast-forward as I started hacking away and stopped keeping notes. 🙂

I now have a repository setup for Microformat Blocks, a plugin for WordPress that provides an h-entry block along with a structure that supports a handful of other microformat properties:

  • p-name
  • p-summary
  • e-content
  • dt-published

I’m really close on having author implemented, hopefully in the next few days. I’ll also find an initial way of handling in-reply-to. And I’ll also get it up on the WordPress plugin repo.

But! The day is over and I’m really hungry.

Gutenberg aside: I want to implement in-reply-to on specific anchor tags rather than create a whole custom input control for it. Another case where it would be nice to register custom inline blocks.

Some leftover notes:

  • Trying to think through the concept of authorship on a page of thoughts/notes. Will a microformat compatible reader infer authorship from a page level h-card or does u-author need to be included with each distinct entry?
  • I wonder if I can implement indie-auth comments in a way where someone can write a comment or annotation on my site and have it published back to their site?
  • How does the current WP webmention implementation handle my new block configuration?
  • Once I have dt-published actually setup for multiple entries on my site, it would be cool to sort h-entries in a thought post by date, ASC or DESC

That’s that. I had an excellent time this weekend geeking out on IndieWeb. Big thanks to Chris Aldrich and David Shanske for organizing!

Notes on IndieWebCamp East Online 2020, day 1

I woke up at 5am—on a Saturday—to participate in my first IndieWebCamp, IndieWebCamp 2020 East, which also happened to be my first online conference ever. As much as it’s fun to joke about getting up so early on a weekend, the schedule worked out really nice. I was able to eat a good breakfast, get the coffee going, and enjoy a full day of tech before the WSU game at 4pm.

Many of the notes here were written during sessions. I’ve now parsed through them a couple times to editorialize, likely mangle direct quotes I don’t remember, and build out some other thoughts I think I had at the time. I’ve allowed myself full editorial rights throughout, so there’s a chance some of it is my brain talking and not even what happened in the session.

Hopefully I haven’t mangled intent!

If you’d like to see the sessions, they’ll be posted on the IndieWebCamp site in the near future.

Intro and lightning keynotes

First up was an intro session and a couple of lightning keynotes. The conference as a whole is BarCamp style, so much of the agenda is created on the fly once everyone has had a chance to discuss what they want to talk about. Everyone who attends is also encouraged to propose a session.

During the intro, Chris mentioned that “getting something out of the camp means putting something into it”, a statement so undeniably accurate that it finally prodded me into proposing a session myself. I’ll expand on that further down.

I’m not sure what this is in reference to, or who said it, but I like the idea:

One objective of IndieWeb is to “bring the bar of connectability down to make it easier for people to own their own place on the web.”

That’s a mission I can get behind!

David Dylan Thomas

The first lightning keynote was from David Dylan Thomas, the author of Design for Cognitive Bias, which I happen to have on my desk right now. After watching the talk, I’m looking even more forward to reading his book.

I captured a handful of thoughts/quotes during his talk and in the discussion afterward:

  • If something gets easier to read, we generally think it’s true.
  • If something rhymes, we generally think it’s true.
  • “plain language, pictogram-based intervention” can help communicate a message (hello, could have been pandemic response!) more than dense material.
  • Our jobs (as designers, developers, etc…) are harder than we think. It’s not just “design cool shit”. The things we do have impact on others.
  • I want this Twitter/Facebook feature without knowing why they built it in the first place. Think: Why should you try to reproduce it? Why not do something entirely different.
  • When we assume that human beings are horrible and that if we were to gather them all in a room there will be fighting, “we discount how much design will inform discussion”. Design spaces for communication / conversation.
  • Medium says to “publish” rather than comment. What would it be like to replace “commenting” with a different word? Converse / conversation? I’ve chatted about this somewhere else recently, but I’m not recalling.
  • Gender equality by design” – talk by Iris Bohnet, also in book form.
  • “Curate a culture of curiosity and challenge your own assumptions”.
  • The (dangerous, flawed) concept of “Internalized capitalism” – if you’re not doing anything right now, then you’re not worth anything.
  • David has a proposed SXSW session titled “Content strategy hacks to save civil discourse“.

And then! David shared a fantastic list of resources on designing with cognitive bias that I’ll have to parse through at another time.

One of David’s slides included a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that stood out as prescient enough to call out in more detail:

“We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Martin Luther King Jr., in his Beyond Vietnam speech, April 4, 1967

Sarah Hibner

The second lightning keynote was from Sarah Hibner, who gave a great Intro to Variable Fonts. The slides from the presentation make for an excellent sheet to share with others and link off to a series of codepens that show variable fonts in actions. I took many fewer notes because I was busy playing with the codepens during the talk! I also like the domain.

Lightning intros

Everybody says things! We went around the Zoom room doing introductions and showing off personal sites or projects. I forgot to show off my personal site, but that’s okay. 🙂

Creative Blocks in WordPress

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about elements of IndieWeb can be used at the block level rather than the full page view level and figured that this weekend would be a good time to explore that a bit more. I proposed a brainstorming session of sorts.

Overall the session was fun and there was a lot of good discussion. In hindsight, I might have proposed a slightly broader session topic as I still have a lot of catch-up to do in the current support for IndieWeb concepts in WordPress and the existing road blocks.

I will also admit in hindsight that I should not have chosen the first time slot as a first time facilitator. I was much more familiar with the ins and outs of a collaborative video chat discussion at the end of the day and would have probably been better prepared. Next time!


The future of WordPress is built on the new block editor, Gutenberg, and an entirely different editing experience than the one we’ve used for years. The next several releases will continue to introduce changes, including some form of full site editing through blocks. What are some creative ways the block editor can be used to create an indie web presence?

My editorialized discussion notes and takeaways

Most of our time was spent talking about microformats and the general lack of support or mis-support in WordPress. Many legacy themes use microformat version 1 properties and it is difficult to find general support for microformats 2.

In general, a question seems to be: How do microformat properties work with how WordPress outputs markup?

This may be an easier problem to solve as time goes on in the block editor. Themes of the future (this is me editorializing) are ideally less likely to include as much markup as they are required to now. Instead, the majority of the markup will be managed by the block editor itself. Microformat friendly blocks can be created to control the output.

One major issue now is the way a theme must assume everything output with a post or page is “content” and must be wrapped in a content section. What do we expect, when it is literally output with the_content(). 😁

The block editor makes it much easier to add a bunch of non-traditionally-recognized-as-content data to a page or a post. One way to approach this is through the grouping of content in the block editor. Unfortunately, the UI for this is a bit clunky, but it is possible to group the majority of your post with a content group and then add additional data in another group below. This would semantically communicate the content to readers.

There is likely an opportunity to create a series of custom blocks that apply the proper microformat properties. It may be that block patterns can be used to post various types of content, something that is handled now through things like the Post Kinds plugin, which uses a custom taxonomy to separate types of content.

I have ideas to work on!

Personal Data Warehouse

Simon Willison gave a demo of Dogsheep, a tool to track and query basically everything about you that has been collected through a number of online services and stored in a SQLite database. Simon was inspired to build Dogsheep by a Stephen Wolfram essay.

  • How to democratize something like Dogsheep to make it more approachable for anyone to fire up their own instance.
  • A previous talk and write-up by Simon. I kind of like this as a nice way to import a bunch of data locally and may give a shot in the near term
  • Gyuri Lajos gave an overview of Fission, which is described as “Next-gen serverless apps with user controlled data & great DX”.
  • Some conversation around IPFS as a data store for something built with Fission and the possibilities around searching the IPFS. IPFS Search was mentioned, and I was surprised to see it in my browser history because this is all way above my head right now.
  • Topic 3 is about the “why” of personal data storage.
  • Simon – it’s a bit of a super power.
  • People don’t necessarily want to store everything they’ve done in their head. Having a log ensures that it’s out of their head and opens up what they can do. Via BBC research – Ian Forrester
  • Tantek Çelik mentioned memories that you may not be ready for. Eric Meyer’s (very excellent) book, Design for Real Life.
  • Angelo Gladding gave an example of a (Maybe Aaron’s?) site when sending a comment with a sad emoji, the profile changes to display an avatar with a more somber face rather than the happy avatar. Very interesting idea.

Domain of One’s Own LMS

  • Chris – we went from slowly putting educational resources online over 20 years to all of a sudden putting everything online.
  • Odd ethical things happening in education space
  • DS106
  • An LMS in the indie web may mean using your own website as a lifelong learner’s LMS

Chris walked through an open course he had been involved with that was able to use things like webmentions to mark things as read and to comment or annotate them. Question posed at the beginning of the class: what do you want to get out of this, what do you want to learn? Maybe use a unique hashtag to create a feed of public stuff from the class.

If Moodle had a webmention endpoint, it may be able to exist as a platform but with some IndieWeb building blocks it becomes a hub where everyone can read the conversation in one spot. It could send webmentions back.

Internal wondering by me: Could a “private” webmention be sent with WordPress? Less discoverable permalink to serve a private post from WordPress. Similar to Public Post Preview.

Start a class by outlining the syllabus or the chapters of the textbook. Professors who decide to write their text books as they go with the students. Publish the result as OER. It’d be fun to see some examples of that.

h0p3: peer to peer sharing – resiliosync, hyper, ipfs – students create objects of knowledge on their own devices and transferring to a teacher. Sits on their own hard drives from the beginning, not on a central server somewhere.

I shared Commons in a Box and my general perspective that faculty are often creatively finding ways around the centrally dictated LMS. Jake’s HYPER Lab is a good example of a show your work textbook in progress, but I forgot to bring it up.

Chris brings up a good point that even with centralized open source systems, there are ways where the university can remove content or otherwise censor it. Tenure works most ways, but maybe not all ways.

Drupal’s OpenScholar came up, which I hadn’t seen before.

Note: My notes are getting sparser as the day went on! 😂

Discovery: A Trek Through the Indieweb

Now that we have social readers, how can we discover new sites and feeds to subscriber to in our readers?

  • Bring back blogrolls? How do we give blogroll concept more life? – David
  • Angelo – one failure with blogrolls was that it wasn’t descriptive enough.
  • Example of formatted OPML:
  • Categorized following lists – A friend maintains a list, I follow that, so I follow everyone that is on the list. When they update the list, I now follow everyone on that list.
  • How do we create public parks on the web to gather?
  • There are probably some opportunities via aggregator or “temporarily centralized” area which accepts contributions from a certain group of people.
  • mini communities via emoji / discovery as an organic community.
  • How do you provide value signals within a discovery system? – Chris

“As soon as you try to make it global rather than local, it becomes an attack mechanism” – Kevin Marks, discussing starting with something that seems like a social network at first, but then introduces trending topics, algorithms to feed content to people. Good indicator that local (smaller) communities are better? Split at certain points?

What is “local”? Curated community. Local to a topic can work, but armies of people can take system over. Brigading rather than spam now. Physical proximity is another option for “local”.

Chris mentioned the term “tummeling”, which I hadn’t heard of: “the art of creating active social spaces“.

Whew. I can tell from my notes that my brain was getting a bit overloaded with fun ideas. I may come back and clean some of this up some more in the future.

Topics to explore

A general list of things that I need to look into, among others:

Things to work on for day 2 / hack day

I’m wrapping this post up as part of my hack/create day work on Sunday morning. These are the things I think I’m going to be working on:

  • Wrapping up a day 1 blog post
  • Thinking about having an actual home page instead of an archive of posts
  • Taking a look at some theme markup, how it aligns (or doesn’t) with block editor markup
  • Start poking at some ideas for block specific web mentions

Of course, now that I’ve finished the first item on the list, my brain is already wandering to other unfinished projects, so we’ll see. Time to dive in!

Thoughts for the week’s end

I’m accepting that I can write these whenever I want. Maybe next year I’ll change the title.

Or, the combination of pandemic and election is still making days seem like weeks and months seem like days, so maybe election day really is the week’s end.

If it is, here we are.

I’m trying to restrain any optimism but I’m also very much looking forward to the American public standing up and decisively showing Trump the door.

It snowed a couple weeks ago and got cold for a few days. It’s a shock to have winter before fall even has a chance to get going. But we’re back in the steady 50s until this weekend. Michelle mentioned that we should start tracking the number of days from first Junco sighting to snowfall.

The internet was all so much easier to grasp when the metric was the total number of users an online service had. It then became how many of those were active users. Now it’s about the average amount of time each user spends “engaged” with the platform. So of course it just gets worse.

The more time we spend with a platform, the less time we’re spending doing normal things that keep the world healthy.

What’s strange is we still call them “social networks” when they’ve become an algorithmic firehose.

I released a plugin to the WP plugin repo for the first time in a gazillion years. Self Sustaining Spam Stopper has been doing a good job on this site of stopping spam without relying on an external spam service and I wanted to use it on more sites. An easy way of deploying useful open source code to sites on multiple hosting platforms is to use 😎

I’ve published 62 posts on this site in 2020. This is right about the same as the number of posts I posted in 2018 and 2019 combined or in 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined. So things are trending better if publishing more is my objective, which it mostly is.

There’s something therapeutic about writing notes like this throughout the week and shipping them off as a “posts”. I’m thinking more and more about how to use the rest of the site as my own repository of other stuff as well. So I guess at some point it’s not about how many posts are published, but how active and healthy the site is. Or—how much it helps my future self when reflecting, pondering, etc…

There is no way I will ever claim to write good code. I know for a fact that I have written bad code. One thing I used to think is that I could abstract things into pieces that could be understood by somebody who came along behind me because they were organized naturally. Nothing about code is natural, so of course this isn’t the case. IMO.

A spammy email came in a few weeks ago from someone who “noticed” a broken link on one of my posts and suggested that I replace it with a link to their write-up on the topic. It turned out to be a nice notification of a broken link, so I updated it to the Wikipedia article instead and then forgot about it until they followed up with me this week to check if I had seen their email. If only I wasn’t so jaded by this kind of non-contextual content marketing. Maybe I’ll send a thank you note anyway.

Okay, time to go all in and participate in the quadrennial ritual of binging election coverage and pretending that keeping track of maps and numbers will make everything better.

One scotch, one bourbon, one beer—but in reverse tonight. 🥃

Letter to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News

In response to the opinion column, “Destruction of free speech in America“, from October 28, 2020. My response below was published on October 30, 2020. Links have been added to this version to provide more context.

Dale Courtney has referred to the Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion song, “WAP”, as misogynistic in both of his previous two opinion pieces (October 19 and October 28).

I would suggest he listen to “WAP” again and study the lyrics in the context of the entire song, which is very much one of sexual empowerment. Each line is literally an explanation of things two strong young women want and enjoy. Out in public, it may make a scene, but it is not a song of hate or prejudice against women.

The Daily News content policy likely prevents me from breaking down the song much further. I could claim this suppresses my right to free speech, but it doesn’t. I remain able to publish my thoughts elsewhere or speak them aloud without fear of being stopped by the government.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have a lenient approach to the publishing of content. Anyone can sign up. It’s free. The product is you and in exchange you can share your thoughts.

One trouble with this approach has been the amplification of content by algorithm. These platforms’ algorithms were created to increase engagement and revenue rather than to prevent hate and misinformation. A side effect has frequently been the unchecked spread of hate and misinformation.

There is plenty to discuss around freedom of speech on the internet and how it should be protected. Platforms taking minor steps to prevent their algorithms from spreading misinformation unchecked is not the destruction of free speech in America.

Freedom of amplification is not the same thing as freedom of speech.