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Jeremy Cherfas

Site deaths where you least expect them

1 min read

Language Log -- a useful site I really enjoy -- recently wrote again about the big debate on whether language shapes, constrains or otherwise has any effect on thought. But that's not why I'm noting it here. Instead, there's the reason why they're talking about it again.

In 2010 The Econonomist hosted a big debate on Language and Thought. It used a very spiffy web-enabled platform to host the debate, and a language academic thought it would make a dandy introduction to some readings she is poutting together on the topic. Alas ...

[T]he Economist's intro page on this debate leads only to an debate archive site that doesn't include this one; and the links in old LLOG posts are now redirected to the same unhelpful location.

A source at the magazine explained:

We vastly over-designed the debate platform (and over-thought it generally, in various ways), and when we stopped running the debates that way, we stopped running that bit of the website. The old debates are now unavailable online.

Fortunately for all concerned Language Log was able to find copies in the Internet Archive. 

But if it hadn't ...

Jeremy Cherfas

Vatican says bread for Eucharist cannot be gluten-free

1 min read

Marion Nestle summarises the status of gluten-free hosts and usefully links to the Vatican's circular on the matter. I actually went to look, wondering whether, maybe, there's some reason why the host cannot be gluten free. And there is, up to a point.

The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat ...

But that's not really a reason, is it. It's just a historical tradition. Obey, or else.

Jeremy Cherfas

The value of explaining yourself

2 min read

My father was devoted to cryptic crossword puzzles. He was good, too, but every now and then a clue would stump him. If I was around, he would read the clue aloud to me and, more often than not, before I'd even had time to think about it, he had solved it.

There's something about the act of saying it aloud that makes a different kind of thinking possible.

So it was last night, during the Homebrew Web Club virtual meeting in Europe. There was only me and Zegnat, much of the time, and first we explored further his comment, during the recent Indieweb Summit talk about Events, that "most of the things discussed are already available and possible with the current IndieWeb building blocks". So I fired up WithKnown and created an event for the virtual HWC and he replied and the reply was received and published. Just like that. Of course there are some things that could be improved, but it does Just Work.

Thinking more about improving things, I shamelessly took advantage by asking a lot of ill-informed questions about how to move further in the indiewebification of my presence on the web. Martijn was so helpful and patient with me, and I learned a lot. But the truth is also that just by asking the questions out loud, and having to think clearly about how to do so, I was able to see more clearly how things might work.

It's still pretty cryptic, but I'm getting there.

Jeremy Cherfas

So, farewell then, Clammr. And SoundCloud?

2 min read

Clammr was a service that enabled you to tweet little bits of audio. I signed up in the hope that I could use it to market my podcasts. In the end, I barely used it, because its audience didn’t seem to include people who wanted to listen to my stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email

Dear Clammr Users:

It’s time for our team to move on to new adventures. We write to inform you that we will be shutting down the Clammr service at 11:59pm ET on 2 July 2017.

Thank you for all of the creativity and joy that you have shared with the world using Clammr. We’ve been inspired by the community every day and cherish having had the opportunity to get to know so many amazing and talented people.

We realize that some of you may wish to keep the Clammr clips you created. We have posted instructions with a hack on how to do that in Section XIX of the User Guide. In short, you need to take three steps (1) share the clip to twitter using the Clammr app; (2) go to twitter and copy the url of the tweet; (3) enter the url on a tweet-to-MP4 conversion site to generate an MP4 video file that you can download.

On the same day I saw a link to an item on Hacker News from someone at SoundCloud who was concerned that the company was in financial trouble, and wanted advice.

Once is coincidence

The HN article dated to a couple of weeks before the Clammr email, and I made a note to maybe write about it here, but I was in catch-up mode and the HN piece wasn’t signed. So, it slipped. Then Chris Aldrich linked to a piece in the New York Times announcing layoffs at SoundCloud. That offers a cloak of respectability to cover my schadenfreude.

I can see why people found SoundCloud attractive: in return for an easy audio life, you put your stuff behind bars, bars that prevented other people, like me, sharing it without jumping through an absurd number of hoops. Some of those people did the smart thing, and syndicated to SoundCloud from sites they controlled, but many, many did not. Too bad. I hope some of them are now thinking about securing the availability of their work.

Jeremy Cherfas

The continuing saga of marking up status updates in @WithKnown

2 min read

I’ve been reminded by Chris Aldrich of something I think I knew before:

[M]ost major CMSes (including Known) strip out or severely limit (for security reasons) the html that is accepted in comment fields. … Many also will mark as spam comments that have one or more URLs in them. As a result doing fancy or even mildly complicated html or markdown in replies is something for which most platforms just don’t build.

That’s fair enough. As ever, spammers are spoiling things for everyone. I do have an objection, though. If I am legitimately signed into my own site which, in the , is where I will be if replying to some other site, then I’m unlikely to inject malicious code. And if I’m a spammer, and signed in under a false flag, then I’m not likely to need such subterfuges.

A really helpful CMS would, surely, allow me to do all the formatting I want on something I am generating myself, regardless of the specific type of entry.

Chris makes another point:

The other issue in status updates and replies is that they’re often syndicated to other platforms and it’s a more difficult issue to properly do this with each snowflake social media silo depending on how they individually handle html/markdown (or not).

Well, yes. But that’s not my problem on my site. Let them strip all they want, frankly, as long as the leave the link to my reply alone. As Chris acknowledges …

Either way, the end result on the other person’s site isn’t something I can ever control for, so I try not to sweat it too much. :)

For now, I think I’ll sweat this just a little, and add the u-in-reply-to by hand, and hope that does the needful.

Jeremy Cherfas


1 min read

Finally reached a key milestone in the deliverables of a big work-for-money, so was able to treat myself to an excellent video from the [IndieWebSummit 2017](

First up, for me, [Lillian Karabaic]( offering [A brief history of my website]( I noted a few things.

First, the video, audio and editing were top notch. Huge kudos to everyone who made this happen. They say content trumps technical quality, and it does, but when you're not fighting quality, the value of the content is so much more obvious.

Second, and much more important, Lillian's trajectory mirrors my own and, not surprisingly, I can relate strongly to everything she said -- good and bad -- about the . The help available is stellar, the documentation isn't great (I hope to work on that) and it is hard to evangelise.

So much left to do ...

Jeremy Cherfas

Why the indieweb

1 min read

Richard MacManus is indiewebifying his site, and [had this to say](

> I’ve found the IndieWeb tools to be tremendously helpful, and the community to be open and friendly. But I think my own goals are a little different. I’m less interested in the technologies themselves (like microformats and webmention) and more interested in how they’re being used in the wider Web community. Not dissimilar to my interests when I started ReadWriteWeb. But of course to do this, I need to stand on the shoulders of the developers who build the tools.

All of which sums up my own position exactly. I'd go slightly further. I'm not as interested in how the technologies are being used in the wider Web community as I am in putting them to use myself.

*p.s. A major drawback of Withknown's excellent engine is that it doesn't allow New Posts to be replies, and that means I can't use the MarkDown formatting.*

Jeremy Cherfas

No. 2 is my favourite

1 min read

Dave Winer offers [three reasons why he will not point to a Facebook post](

No. 2 is my favourite:

> It's supporting their downgrading and killing the web. Your post sucks because it doesn't contain links, styling, and you can't enclose a podcast if you want. The more people post there, the more the web dies. I'm sorry no matter how good your idea is fuck you I won't help you and Facebook kill the open web.

Jeremy Cherfas

This is a little awkward

1 min read

I've been moaning to anyone who'll listen that there seems to be something wrong with Known; Micropubs could not seem to find the syndication targets. And other people had the same problem, I believe. But after a really enjoyable virtual Homebrew Web Club meeting, the problem might after all be at my end.

@zegnat created a fresh install of Known as we watched, hooked it up to Twitter, and was instantly rewarded with Quill seeing his syndication target, which it resolutely refused to do on my instance of Known. (It failed actually to syndicate, but that's a separate issue.)

So, now I need to try a fresh install myself. And as @Jeena suggested, better to do that on a new and different subdomain than risk messing everything up.

Alas, there is no way on Earth I can do this until near the end of the month.

I can wait.

Jeremy Cherfas