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Jeremy Cherfas

Virtual Homebrew Website Club

2 min read

We had a virtual meeting of the Homebrew Website Club yesterday evening, and as usual it was interesting and informative. We all forgot to take notes, but sketchess was prompted to do a brain dump, which I have added to and tightened up slightly to capture the main points.

  • There was a lot of discussion of the confusion among people new to caused by having so many different ways to achieve the same thing. Some people thought it would be good if there were, maybe, a recommended approach for specific circumstances. However, that does require the user to be clear what they are trying to achieve.
  • sketchess suggested that directed tutorials to achieve a specific outcome would be helpful. There was some support for this but, as ever, the issue of time can be a constraint.
  • We talked about the potential usefulness of different levels of wiki pages, or a special section, or something completely independent of the wiki.
  • aaronpk reminded us that the difficulty with independent offerings is that there can be difficulties in maintaining momentum. The wiki, as a collective effort, is more likely to be managed by individuals.
  • We noted that sometimes developers simply do not remember what it was like to start some activity, and also that a “getting started” for an experienced developer would be completely different from a “getting started” for someone who perhaps only knows silos. A beginner's guide written by recent beginners, with expert input from more experienced people, might be useful.
  • We talked about self-dogfooding, and that this may be inhibiting Generation 2 and up. They are not necessarily interested in building things themselves, although they want to make use of IndieWeb principles and practices.
  • Several people seem to be exploring the IndieWeb without making use of IRC or the wiki. Their efforts sometimes show up in IRC thanks to Loqi. Would it be useful to reach out directly and suggest they join and use the wiki?

Comments and edits welcome.

Jeremy Cherfas

Probably something to do with food learning

1 min read

@nicolakidsbooks it is probably part of the same phenomenon that made my bubba's chicken soup such effective medicine. That is, the exact same food can become very positive or very negative depending on when in the sickness cycle you experience it. Eat a novel food just before you feel ghastly, and you may well be put off it for life. Eat it as you're on the mend -- and the return of appetite is always a good sign -- and you'll probably ascribe magical properties to it, and turn to it whenever you're feelibng a bit better after feeling awful. Constraints on learning and all that.

Jeremy Cherfas

Owning my audio clips

3 min read

In the past couple of days, prompted by Marty McGuire's write-up, I raved about the potential of Audiogram to help promote the podcast by making it easier to share audio clips to social media -- by turning them into video clips. This afternoon, having managed to get tomorrow's episode edited early, and having had to chop quite a few interesting digressions, I thought I would have a serious play.

Tl;dr: It worked. I'd show you here, but I haven't found an easy way to upload video to Known yet. If you want to see the result, you can go to Patreon right now.

Installing Audiogram was not entirely plain sailing. Marty used Docker, and so despite warnings from other IndieWeb friends, I tried the same. All went well out of the gate, but then fell at the first. Something to do with virtualbox. So I switched to Homebrew and that did the needfull. Even then, though, Audiogram wouldn't start, but the error message made it clear that I needed to update node.js and npm. That done, it still wouldn't start.

Turned out I already had a local server running, via MAMP, and that was getting in the way. Switching off that server, and all was good.

That was two days ago. Today, I tried to use it for serious, and although there were plenty of hiccups along the way, I got there.

The instructions for modifying the theme are very straightforward, and with a bit of trial and error I was able to create a background for any future clips.

Uploading the audio, inserting the caption, all that was dead simple thanks to Audiogram's editor. Actually generating the videos, though, generated error after error, and some of them scrolled through several screens. But I kept my nerve, turned to search engines and StackOverflow and eventually got there.

Some of the fixes seemed to be pure voodoo. There's an invisible file that one of the Audiogram developers suggested deleting. The first time I tried that, it worked beautifully. The second time, not so much. Nor the third. But then, it worked again, at which point I called a halt, for now; a wise decision in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to seeing whether clips will attract listeners to the podcasts in their entirety. I put the first one on Patreon because the episode is not yet public, although Patreons have received it. I'll probably use clips there as bait and see how it goes. Once episodes are public I'll send clips to Twitter and, maybe, Facebook which will, I think make it relatively easy to trace any impact. And if the whole process isn't too hard (getting to the first video uploaded took almost three hours today) then I can imagine it might be useful to promote older epsiodes too, when there is a news peg.

So, grateful thanks to Marty McGuire and WNYC.

Jeremy Cherfas

We are still a long way from home

1 min read

Struggling to understand how different bits of the  work in WordPress, I received some very sound advice from lots of people, including this little exhortation from @chrisaldrich:

I'll admit I had to read it about 3 times before I grokked it myself, but it also was a great general and practical intro to the inherent value of microformats.

If that were what it took to grok Facebook or Twitter, would anyone beyond a small, self-selecting cadre of geeks be using them?

I thought not.

Jeremy Cherfas

"Paying to podcast is so passé"

1 min read

On what planet does Techcrunch live? Their report on Anchor's bid to lure podcasters from SoundCloud says n0thing about whether audio hosted there will be sharable via, say, Huffduffer, which to me was the biggest single problem with SoundCloud as a podcast host.

I would also argue that a promise by Anchor "to cut podcasters in when it starts to earn money" isn't much to go on.

But what do I know?

Jeremy Cherfas

Pride goeth ...

1 min read

Blast. Just when I was reaching around to pat myself on the back for making webmentions work on the Mothership, I notice some big problems.

First, the home page is all messed up with duplicates of many things. Doesn't seem to happen on the local version, which means it is going to be tricky as all get out to solve.

Secondly, the markup on the Mothership leaves a lot to be desired. That one will be a lot easier.

There are probably others too.

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.