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Scripting News

Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Published: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:23:57 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:31:41 GMT


It's trolling season

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:23:57 GMT

One minute podcast

Basic message.

If you see something online that shocks you, don't fall for it. 

Don't pass it on. 

It's trolling.

This is a very dark confusing time, perfect season for all kinds of trolling.

Don't fall for it.

Don't pass it on. 

Media Files:

Quotes and pngWriter envelopes

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 17:53:38 GMT

A new media type has emerged on Twitter, a quote. 

A publication uses a quote from a story, along with a headline and a link to the story, to inform. It's a form of advertising, doing what RSS readers do, in new, visually interesting ways. So I wanted to see if I could get pngWriter to do it, so it wouldn't involve any production work for each item I write. Writers can write and designers design. This was the idea that made blogging work. Separation of form from writing.

At the same time I've had on my todo list to look at envelopes for pngWriter posts. They're little templates that define a rendering for the contents of the editor in pngWriter. 

Here are two examples of what I was able to do with it yesterday afternoon in a couple of hours. First a tweet designed to look like a quote published by NPR. And then one to look like it came from the NYT.

The templates for each are just HTML files with a macro to define the placement of the user's text. 

Here's an example, the NYT envelope. 

It's mostly CSS with a bit of HTML to place the bodytext.

Now the challenge is to design a way of saving and distributing designs so they can easily be shared between designers and writers.  

Notes from an alternate reality, day II

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:53:28 GMT

Everything I read about Trump says he'll do anything he wants, whether it's legal or not, and say that it's legal. This has been his M.O. in private life and people who know him say it's certain that will go with him to the White House.I remember a town hall with Trump voters, just after the election, in Kenosha, a factory town that lost its factory, north of Milwaukee. A Trump voter was sure that checks and balances would stop Trump from doing anything too terrible. It turns out that's not true, and that was knowable before the election, and should have been factored into his thinking. It's especially not true if there's a Republican majority in Congress.In this alternate reality people know the arcane rules of football and basketball better than they know the rules of government. This, in a country that has, if we do our jobs, self-government. We let people tell us it's too complicated, we listened to their confusing lies, and let them confuse us, thus giving them the power to decide for us. All that stands between us and chaos now are the Republican members of Congress, the military and federal police (FBI, NSA, CIA et al). Maybe the courts. Because it's clear the president will do exactly what he wants until someone forces him to stop.Next chapterI'm doing some of the best writing of my life in pngWriter. It's the combination of the Twitter writing ethos, which says typos are okay, and if you're wrong, well there's always another tweet coming up right after this one. Nothing is too important, so that allows you to be breezy here, where writing on the blog is more formal.This works for me. I just copy and paste the finished copy from pngWriter into my blog, edit, link, add a picture and an abstract and publish. It's made my blog writing better. I know people want me to release it. That's great. Hold on to that. My experience with product releases is that people say they're excited, but when it comes time to use the product, they either don't use it, or they abuse it. This does not create an incentive for me to release stuff. I finally decided I had enough of this system. It's amazing in a way that it took me this long. If you want people to develop software in the space between social networks and blogging, we need to get the system operators, the Twitters, Googles, Facebooks, Amazons, etc to participate. They really don't give a shit. Both in appearance and fact. And users have to give a shit too, btw. These networks are our world these days. And they aren't being well maintained. We don't have parks, or places to create and compete. They are stagnant, non-evolving places. They all suck. So how can developers make it better, when you all wallow in the suckage, Really, there's a problem here. Users need to get a sense that they have something at stake, and stop herding to the cheapest most mass systems. Diversify and you will get diversity. And real innovation. Take responsibility for your future, and stop waiting for people to hand it to you. When you do, you get shit.More to come..The word is prideI saw Obama speak twice at the DNC in 2004. I was lucky to be there. Once at the blogger's breakfast. He was presented as the next hot thing in the Democratic Party. I didn't see what the big deal was about. He seemed like a state senator from Illinois. Then he gave the keynote and still, I didn't see anything there. The pride thing finally hit me when he gave the race speech, about his pastor, who said a lot of very true things about America, things that Republicans don't want to hear. But I didn't mind. The thing I felt was pride when Obama explained race from his point of view. Then there were prideful moments again and again, until it became normal, and DC devolved into the crazy that passes for government. I forgot that I was proud of him and us, for him being where he was. Now, on the last day of his term in office, it hits me bigtime. I am proud of him and us, for him having been where he was, for so long. And where he will be forever. As a symbol that we have g[...]

Inclusivity is an absolute

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:22:37 GMT

TL;DR. We might just have lost an election, and perhaps our democracy, because we couldn't be big enough to see that inclusion is an absolute. If you exclude people, then you are not inclusive. 

Longer version. 

Inclusivity today means creating opportunity for people of color, of certain religions and ethnicities, LGBTQs and women. 

Now I voted for Clinton, and I'm scared of President Trump. But I also am a white man. And I want to say something.

Inclusivity is not a zero-sum thing. If you include someone that does not imply that you exclude others. Progressives, of whom I am one, have been just as guilty of zero-sum thinking as the Trumpists. 

And imho, Trump got a bunch of votes because inclusivity has become a zero-sum thing among progressives. 

An example. I was struck by the tone of an article in today's NYT. It's a story about Republican men, and it's whole point is (again, sigh) how men are wrong. As a man, I can't tell you how tired I am of hearing that. Exhausted. It gives me something in common with the Trump voters. 

If you're a woman, I don't think you can hear how often this theme is repeated. But as a man, I hear it all the time. Shut up because you're a man.

A better way to view the world is to find people you can work with, and stop worrying how they got there. You may resent me, but put that aside, and fucking work with me. And go out of your way to include the people you've been excluding, and who you've been condescending to. Listen to your own words and imagine someone saying them to you. If you would find them offensive then don't say them. Learn to be really fully inclusive.  

And when you do that, that might give us the margins we need to take back control of the government. A pragmatic result from basically doing what's right. How could that be bad.

I'm going to march with the women on the 21st in NYC but I'm going to wonder if you would march with me if we had a march for men (and know the answer in advance, you wouldn't). Until I feel supported, and loved and accepted, we're still going to be divided. And that division comes from progressives not conservatives. We need to acknowledge that and fix it. 

If your reaction is hostile, then imho you're like the people who, when they hear Black Lives Matter say All Lives Matter. You are no better. 

There is a method

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:28:11 GMT

So I spent a couple of weeks over the holidays doing the Listicle software.

Then I made it work from OPML, figuring that I'd get it to tie up to my outliner.

So I looked at building it into the outliner, and sighed, oh man I've been down this road before. Let's do it right, so that I don't have to do this over and over. 

So I designed a system that would depend on the existence of a Scripts menu. Unfortunately the outliner didn't have that feature. So I added it. And a couple of users asked for file verbs. And I made the menu hierarchic.

Now I had what I needed. I wrote a menu script that takes an outline and turns it into a listicle. It's just connecting stuff together. There's a small template file, I read it, do some string substitutions, and write it out into the user's space on 

The result is this

Of course I used a Grateful Dead song to create the demo, as I often do, when getting something interesting started. Yes, he's gone, but his music continues to provide good source for demos. :balloon:

PS: I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years...

PPS: If you want to try out the Listicle feature, check out the new howto.

Notes from an alternate reality

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 16:46:51 GMT

Suppose the NYT had embraced the idea of users writing stories on, i.e. if they had hosted blogs for people quoted in the Times, an idea I promoted to them in 2002.

Then, I argue -- they would have become Facebook, but better.

Then in 2006, I did a very quick mockup of a river of news with NYT stories, using their RSS feeds, on a Blackberry. It was great! It really worked. So what if it just took me two days to write.

Had the NYT marketed that to its users, there would have been a NYT version of Twitter, which still would have happened, but mobile news would have grown up around the NYT too. Not with them as peripheral to it, subject to the business models of the tech industry, where they are today.

I mention all this not (only) to toot my horn but to say that you have to get out in front of the leading edge to have a place in the future. It's always been thus. Not something noticed by the news industry but true nonetheless. There are things they could be doing now to prepare for today's future, but of course their perspective is fighting battles of today, not creating new media, which is how you remain exciting and relevant.

My two cents of course, YMMV, I am not a lawyer. :balloon:

End-user storage from Amazon?

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:47:45 GMT

I sent this email to Jeff Barr, a longtime friend who is the chief evangelist for AWS. We go back to the beginnings of RSS. I really want this service, if not from Amazon, possibly from a another vendor? I don't know, but this gap has to be filled by someone. Please! 

The email

Jeff, a few years back Amazon introduced a way to access S3 storage from a JavaScript app in the browser.I would have used it if the S3 storage were paid for by the user.

Ideally, here's how it would work:

  1. The user would manage it through a simple browser-based UI, as part of the Amazon consumer website.
  2. They could log onto my app using oAuth, connecting with an Amazon ID server.
  3. I would then be able to, in my browser-based code, access a sandbox within the user's space that's allocated just for my app.
  4. Bonus: Allow two or more apps to share a folder, that would enable incredible collaborations.

I don't want to be in the business of reselling storage.

It seems this is something Amazon could do. I was wondering if you have? There are a lot of services out there, and it's hard to keep up with them all.

Why should it be Amazon? 

I almost said must be Amazon, but I didn't want to cut out other big vendors. But it must come from an entity that can almost guarantee the longevity of the storage service. Nothing lasts forever, and you shouldn't bet on a company to be around indefinitely. But storage is the kind of thing you don't want to take a chance with. 

This is all mature technology by now. What we need is a competent operational and financial entity with the legal resources to protect the storage business, if it needs protection. This is almost certainly not the province of a startup or a small company. 

PS: I wrote about this on January 5, in a general context, not specifically about Amazon.

Media types, gatekeepers

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 17:15:37 GMT

Right now podcasting is cresting, it's growing, people are talking about it. But podcasting has crested five times, each time bigger than the last, each time new people thinking they were there at the birth of podcasting. This happened with blogging too. It's cool. It's how we build a sense of inclusivity. It's how these thing stay exciting. Constantly re-born, but not really. :balloon:

Blogging and podcasting are the same wave. The reason podcasting booted up so well is we already had the blogging network built. And to this day a blog post is part of every podcast, we call them show notes. That was a conscious decision. You should have something the search engines can find.

The waves will keep coming. Each wave introduces a new combination of basic communication capabilities. YouTube videos are a media type. Facebook videos are somewhat different, and a different media type.

Media types follow a lot of the rules of software objects. They basically are software objects.

So when I say the journalists could let foreign ideas get through more easily, I'm really saying we could do this faster and better. Seriously. Too much gatekeeping holds us back.

A great example. Journalism should have let some new people in to cover the mess with Hillary's email server. One of the reasons it was so confusing is that reporters are so shaky in their understanding of how networks work. So let some techies who can write do the reporting, just temporarily perhaps, but get out of the way, you held us back. And we wouldn't care about access. I don't want to talk with Mitch McConnell or Preibus or any of those guys, ever. That would be like torture.

More later.

My top ten albums as a teen

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 02:03:49 GMT

There's a meme going around, list the top ten albums you listened to as a teen, only one album per group.

I thought at first I would have a hard time thinking of ten albums that meant a lot to me then, even though I remember I listened to a lot of music, and went to a lot of concerts. It was a great time for music, I was born in 1955, so I was a teen until 1974. That covers a lot. But it was hard because I had to figure out which albums to leave off the list. There were a lot of them.

And there were some that I listened to later on, like Frank Zappa's Hot Rats, even though it came out when I was 14. I wanted to put it on the list, but it doesn't fit, because it wasn't until I was in my 20s that Zappa clicked for me.

So here's the list. This is the stuff I really listened to as a teen.

Why bother with war?

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 15:23:23 GMT

Our incoming government is already playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship and provocative sabre rattling. It seems so unnecessary. It certainly isn't what I want as a US citizen.

But I wonder why China would bother fighting a physical war with the US, when they could wait two years and fight with the Russians in our next election? Seems so much easier, cheaper, less deadly.

For that matter why should North Korea threaten us with ICBMs? Why not just do some hacking, get dirt on the new president, present your demands.

All foreign powers will probably do this. Get in line. Everyone show us the dirt you've got on our commander in chief. Maybe the UN can help us figure out how much each claim is worth. 

The party is for everyone

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 17:16:20 GMT

An 11-minute podcast, the first of the year, about two topics that are very related:

  1. First, the president-elect didn't run a campaign to unify the country betw the election and inauguration. He kept the tension up. Not good for him, and imho also a problem for the country.
  2. Second, as we sink deeper into despair and disgust, we have more in common with people we were divided against in the past. Lindsey Graham a Repub senator from South Carolina, who says and does things I totally hate, said last week that Trump is totally screwing up, in a very thrilling way. Watch it. 

I would rally with Graham, against the travesty that the new administration is shaping up as. We can't afford to be picky about who we party with. Just think if you voted for Jill Stein or the Libertarian candidate, if you could go back and change your vote to Clinton, no matter how much it pains you, or if you didn't vote even though you could, would you be willing to compromise or sacrifice to avoid what we're going to go through? 

That's my plea in this podcast. We have to build trust among ourselves and unite, and that can be the silver lining to this glorious mess we find ourselves in. 

Thanks for listening.

Media Files:

What if TWTR is bought by a Repub?

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 16:29:59 GMT

This is one of those posts I don't want to write, but now I have to write it. I don't want to write it because I don't want to give anyone any ideas. But there's no avoiding it now.

First, it looks like Zuck is going to run for president. He's already started to campaign. A force because he owns the communication system so many of us depend on.

If you were a Republican money-person would you think, holy shit, I can't buy Facebook, Zuck made sure of that. He owns all the voting shares. So there's no way to do a hostile takeover, even if the price weren't ridiculously prohibitive.

But there is an even more interesting social network whose stock is in the tank, and is wobbling all over the place, and also happens to be the favorite communication tool of the Republican president-elect. Its market cap is $12.39B.

I've asked about this privately among friends who are investment bankers, and they all quote from TWTR's balance sheet. They don't see the upside of Twitter owned as a political tool, as a lever by which to influence, or to compete to run/own the US govt.

And own is the right word. If Trump gets in without divesting, then an election in the future will be more like a corporate merger. The guy who runs the US has no conflict of interest, and can keep his or her investments, they just have to steer clear of emoluments and they're constitutional. I bet Zuck and Bezos have lawyers looking into this. Also Bill Gates, Steve Case, Meg Whitman and Eric Schmidt.

Anyway, all this means the the political landscape in the US has been re-factored and owning a social net will be a big advantage going forward. TWTR is up for grabs even if the balance-sheet analysis says they're a bad deal. Sorry I wish this were not so.

Zuck and Bezos in DC

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 15:57:50 GMT

This post started in pngWriter.

More speculation. Both Zuck and Bezos woke up and realized Holy shit you can buy the US for a lot less than we have.

Another way of looking at it, the US govt is a bargain.

So Bezos bought a huge party house in the same neighborhood as the Obamas and Ivanka Trump.

He's going to get to know all the congress people and administrators and buy enough to be in position to bid for the 2020 presidency. Funding for that starts immediately if not before. And of course he owns the Washington Post and plans to use it.

Zuck on the other hand owns the Washington Facebook, and every other place as well, which is pretty much as good as the Post for communicating, and you get all those other places for free. And Zuck won't have to pay for the ads. :balloon:

They're probably both kicking themselves for not realizing that they could buy the US so cheap. They're going to have to pay a huge markup now, but it will still be a bargain.

pngWriter update

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 15:33:06 GMT

I'm using pngWriter again, now that I figured out how to make the text look crisp. See the previous post about pixel ratios. It's almost perfect, and it's made Twitter way more exciting. So if Jack you're listening, do it, it'll make Twitter exciting the way Napster made music exciting. Twitter could use that. 

I'm still undecided as to whether I will open this up to the public. I've found with my previous products, all imho excellent, the uptake has been far too small to justify the effort and cost to productize and support them. I need a new approach. Maybe charge people to use it? That way they'll feel like there's some reason to use it. Otherwise if it turns out the way all the other products have, no thanks, I'll just use it myself and share it with a few friends. That makes me happy. Otherwise it's just a lot of work and then a lot of work and more work and the occasional bit of angst from someone who thinks you owe them something. Feh. Who needs it!

I'm starting to feel that way about my website too. There's really no way to easily make it HTTPS, and I know all the arguments, and the proponents of HTTPS have to be the worst listeners I've ever encountered. If they want to break the web and plaster ugly warnings all over my blog, go for it. Have a party. I don't give a shit. I'll keep a copy locally so when I need to refer to it I can. As long as the Mac has a good search, I don't even need Google. 

I'm feeling very Fuck You about controlling motherfuckers. Twitter can't help its users communicate. Facebook breaks the web by not letting writers link to other websites from their posts. Google tries to force everyone to switch to HTTPS no matter what the cost. I don't have to do any of this, and neither do you. So when people tell you to fuck off tell them to fuck off right back! :balloon:

Learning about pixel ratios

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:31:28 GMT

I am learning about pixel ratios in HTML canvas elements.

It's why the text in pngWriter looks fuzzy. It has something to do with pixel ratios. I find everything about canvases mind-numbing until I figure it out, then it makes sense. You can see a lot of learning in Little Card Editor, a project that I did a couple of years ago.

Anyway here's a demo app that illustrates how a pixel ratio-aware app is better than one that isn't. 

Update: Here's an example of a tweet using the new style of rendering. It does look much more sharp. :thumbsup:

Tweetstorms are an embarrassment

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 04:06:10 GMT

  1. You have to chop things up into a bunch of pieces. It's too much work and interferes with the creative process.
  2. They are hard to read.
  3. Twitter already supports multi-megabyte video payloads. It could not possibly strain their infrastructure to send a few K of text in the same place.
  4. The UI issues are settled. See the way Show More works in Facebook. Search for Fat Tweet on for a prototype.
  5. It embrarrasses me as a professional developer and a person who helped lay the groundwork for Twitter, that this is what we give writers, journalists, president-elects, to communicate with in 2017. Maybe the 140-char limit was charming five years ago, but it's killing us now.
  6. No wonder the Russians are taking over our country. :balloon:

I am an ObamaCare user

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:02:13 GMT

I am an ObamaCare user, so I am watching with a huge personal interest in the outcome of the torturous process the Republican Congress is going through to try to "repeal and replace" the program that brought me out of the shadows and finally got me health insurance that I more or less trust. 

Before ObamaCare, I had insurance before through a Massachusetts company I started when I lived there, which was the only state that had an ACA-like health plan at the time. The truth is you don't really find out if you have insurance until you need it. 

Someone there among the ranks of Republicans hopefully is doing a dispassionate analysis of their options. Throwing me off insurance is going to all of a sudden build a bond between me, a person who has voted consistently Democratic for the last few cycles, and people in their home states who vote Republican. 

We're all going to be unified in our hatred of the Republican politicians who used us as pawns to somehow enhance their power. And it won't even do that. This could be the thing that wakes up your "base" and gets them to see that you are not their friend. Because, as someone who is paying attention, it is very clear that you are not. 

Scripts menu in Little Outliner

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 15:02:32 GMT

This is a feature that was in Fargo, but wasn't in LO2, but as of version 1.65a it is.

For people who like demos here's a 5-minute video.

How to get started. Create an outline called menubar.opml. The top level items are the names of menus. The sub-items are the commands, and the subs under each command is the text of the script that is run when the command is chosen. You edit everything in the outliner.

When you change the text in the menubar outline, the menus automatically rebuild. You don't have to have menubar.opml open to use the commands. They will always be there when you're using Little Outliner

The language is JavaScript. The scripts are run by the browser through the built-in eval function. Your scripts can call any function inside LO2. 

As in Fargo, there is a set of functions that are pretty much guaranteed to work across versions of LO2, and you should use those whenever possible to be sure that your scripts continue to work. For historic reasons we call these functions verbs.  

I basically copied the verbs that were in Fargo, and commented out the ones that don't make sense in LO2, for example the wordpress and cms verbs. 

The file verbs don't work but they might at some time in the future, so I left them in place. 

I left the fargo verbs because they do work here, they just get the version and name of the product. In this case they will reflect the version and name of the Little Outliner app. So for example this will work:

dialog.alert (fargo.version ());

Caveat: I did very little testing of the verbs. Some of them will not work because they were specific to the Fargo environment. Use common sense. If you have encountered a verb that does not work that you think should work, report it as a bug in a comment below. Include a bit of script code to illustrate.

Pro tip: I recently learned that you can access the JavaScript debugger from one of these scripts. You can drop into the debugger by calling debugger; in your code. You have to open up JavaScript tools yourself, the debugger call won't do that for you. But it's a very important feature if you're writing complex script code. 

Historic note: These verbs came from Frontier, so Frontier programmers will feel right at home. 

I've turned comments on for this post so if you have questions you can ask them here. 

Update 1/17: More verbs and the menus are now hierarchic. 

Are we living in Nazi Germany?

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 13:34:12 GMT

When I was called for jury duty in 1996 one of the most surprising things was the shift in perspective. 

Have you ever driven an English car? Until you sit on the other side, you don't realize how much you depend on the rear-view mirror. Same in a courtroom. On TV your perspective is inside a camera. I'm watching this case from a different perspective. Where's the jury? Uhhh. Wow! It's inside of me.

So when the president-elect asks if we're living in Nazi Germany, I wonder if it has yet dawned on him that he's the only person who can answer the question, really no one else can. And it's something we would all like to know. Mr Trump, do we live in Nazi Germany?

We're in this together

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 03:49:46 GMT

We've all been in it for ourselves.

Twitter and Facebook just reinforce that.

I want more RTs, you want more Likes.

But we've been given a set of problems that only can be solved if instead of seeing ourselves as individuals, we see ourselves as "together."

Marches are fine, but everyday openness to other people, empathy, seeing each other as more than equal, as real people, as in it together.

If the new president can help us do this, then he has accomplished more than anyone before. We should put his picture on a coin if he can do that for us.

Remembering the iPhone rollout

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 18:26:31 GMT

Just reviewed my blog archive from January 2007 re Apple's iPhone announcement.

Ten years ago. Back then we weren't told very much about the iPhone, but we knew it wouldn't run any of the software we were making, in fact Apple made a big deal how it wouldn't run any software at all.

Whether this was smoke, or did Jobs really want to make a completely closed box is still not clear to this day. Apple would eventually relent, and we got apps, still very controlled things. The iPhone has never been a very open platform. 

There were patent issues floating around Apple in January 2007, they were playing hardball with bloggers and Cisco. I have a vague memory of being pissed that Apple was charting a course completely independently of software developers. We kind of did see it coming, but this was the moment when we finally got the bad news, officially. 

It was not a good day, judging from my memories of it.  

Idea for Brendan's browser

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 15:48:43 GMT

I've been emailing with Brendan Eich, developer of JavaScript and founder of Brave Software, makers of the Brave browser. I had an idea for him, but thought it might be of general interest, so I posted it here.

Hey Brendan!

I have an idea for your browser.

Sync localStorage across all the machines I use your browser on.

You'd need the concept of identity, for that I'd strongly recommend just building on Twitter and/or Facebook. I just use Twitter in my systems. Their servers are reliable. And they are not Facebook. :boom:

Then we could talk about an API so other software could access the user's localStorage. Then we'd be getting somewhere interesting, if the installed base of your software took off. Thing is, a feature like this might make it take off. 


We shouldn't wait for Medium

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 14:49:37 GMT

Frederic Filloux likes Medium. He says: 

For elegant text-based publishing, there is a need for a simple, easy-to-use, well-designed platform such as Medium. WordPress was supposed to deliver just that, but it took a geeky turn, saturating its ecosystem with scores of third-party plugins — more than 48,000 at last count — whose quality can charitably be called uneven. Most WordPress sites end up using dozens of plugins, each one bound to create its own set of problems: slow page-loads, crashes, random behaviors or update cycles that don’t match WP's platform agenda. Unless you have sizable tech resources at your disposal, WordPress is a nightmare. Switching to Medium gives you the impression of going from MS-DOS to iOS.

I think it is fair to say WordPress is to Medium as MS-DOS is to iOS, but for different reasons. To be fair you have to compare Medium to the hosted version of WordPress. There are no plugins there and none of the complications or management hassles he describes. 

However the user interface of WordPress is large and spread out, the commands you need are organized in a way that makes them hard to find. A lot of the problems I have with WP could be solved by reorganizing its command structure. 

The second reason Medium is preferred is the editor. It was a major advance in browser-based editing when it came out five years ago. If you were to graft the Medium editor onto WordPress and reorganize the commands, you'd really have something. They could address the question he raises by providing a standard "reference release" of WordPress that includes a set of commonly used plugins that are known to work well with each other. 

Filloux then reviews the business problems that Medium has, most of which come from having raised a large amount of venture capital and because of that having to find a revolutionary product that changes the economics of publishing. A tall order. And every time they pivot, the confidence in them finding such a model dwindles. This is something that's not just felt by investors but by Medium users and it depresses the general blogging activity. 

In the meantime, all the content that continues to pour into Medium is at risk due to the missing business model. And this is where I part with Filloux. I wonder why he only discusses Medium's interest and the interest of its shareholders. What about his interest and that of other people who use Medium as their publishing platform? Is this the best way? 

I argue that it's not. That what we need is a better designed WordPress, or an open source Medium. Or something new that is inspired by Medium's smooth UI, and WordPress's open source heritage. 

We need lots of choices, not two. 

One more thing to consider. While Medium has been searching for its business model, open source software has been making the editing ease-of-use accessible to any JavaScript developer. So it's getting more plausible every year that users can get what they like about Medium, without waiting for them to find the revolutionary business model.

Editing OPML head elements in LO2

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 16:42:15 GMT

This is a technical feature, so don't worry if you don't understand.

It's for people who use Little Outliner who need to edit the elements of the section of an OPML file. 

You must be running version v1.64b or higher. The version number is in the upper right corner of the screen. If you need to update, reload the page. 

To edit the elements, choose Edit OPML head in the File menu. A dialog appears with the existing head elements. Not all of them however, just the ones you can edit.

To add a new head element, click the + button in the lower-left corner of the dialog. When you're done, click Save, and your changes are saved in the OPML file for the outline.

To view the OPML file for an outline, make sure it's public, using the Get public link command in the File menu. Then choose View OPML from the File menu. That will open the OPML file in a new tab.

When would you use the feature? When you want your OPML file to plug into an app that gets options from the head elements of the outline. That's how the Listicle software, in development, gets values such as the author's name, the URL of the background image, etc.

This is a lot like editing the attributes of a headline using the Suitcase icon, but these are attributes that apply to the whole file, not just a single sub-outline. 

We can learn from Trump

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 15:19:23 GMT

This post came from a thread on Facebook started by David Weinberger where he asked if there would be any poets at the Trump inaugural. I decided to take it seriously. What would a poet say? This is what I imagined I would say if given a chance. 

You know all that talk about political correctness?

Yes, I know it's a dog whistle for racism. I know. But there's also a problem that it points to, and it's worth looking at, not passing over.

Consider an example, how Steve Martin eulogized Carrie Fisher on Twitter:

"When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well."

The thought police swooped in and took him apart for saying she was a beautiful creature. Men, apparently aren't supposed to think that about women, even when that's pretty much exactly as she was presenting herself to the world at the time. His fault was telling the truth. And it's something that when said by a woman about a man is considered liberating. Too often we impose really harsh judgement when we could choose not to. This is one of those times, with Martin's innocent expression, to have taken the high road. But people sense vulnerability, and they hit him hard.

Trump has taken advantage of this mistake, but there's an element of truth to what he says, there is too much political correctness in our world, it's stifling and often unnecessary, an expression of power that helps no one, and of course Trump pushes it way too far. 

In my younger days, when I was skinny and fit and full of success and youthful optimism, I loved it when women treated me as if I was a beautiful creature, especially older women, in appreciation of my sexuality. It was nice to not have to say a word and still be desired. 

I have enough women friends to know that in the right context they too like the feeling of being sexually appealing.

Some things like racial hate should be covered up, not shared publicly and criticized when it shows up. But this was love, not hate and it was in a eulogy for a person whose sexuality was something she offered openly and publicly. If you think Carrie Fisher wasn't selling her sexuality you and I live on different planets. Martin merely said that, as a young man, he appreciated it. B.F.D.

BTW, it's possible that Martin was really saying that he slept with her, and then they became friends. That's how I interpreted what he said. 

Now we have a government taking office that is seriously dangerous where Steve Martin's comment wasn't dangerous at all. We need to learn the difference. Decide if he meant well, if what he was saying came from love, appreciation and grief, at the passing of a friend and if so, cut him some slack, learn not to object. 

In this case the change that needs to happen is not with Martin but with the world he lives in.