Categories
Technology The Internet

What makes RSS better than social timelines?

Replied to The Fail Whale Cascade by Luke Harris (lkhrs.com)

I’m bored of what I call “the timeline era”. Scanning an unending stream of disconnected posts for topics of interest is no longer fun, I prefer deciding what to read based on titles, or topic-based discussion.

I am a huge fan of RSS and have never stopped using it to follow blogs and webcomics. But lately as I’ve read lots of people talking about timelines, a question has been niggling at me: what does make an RSS feed* feel better to use than “the timeline” of social media? They are both streams of information, but I prefer RSS.

*by RSS feed, I mean the stream composed of multiple individual feeds — it is a little confusing that the singular and plural/collective of feed are the same.

Continuing in the vein of exploring what makes a blog a blog, I’m curious why an RSS feed feels better than social media timelines. Are we conflating our like of blogs with a like of RSS, or is there something about RSS feeds inherently that we really do prefer to other timelines?

I think it’s useful to dig into what elements of the experience make a substantive difference, so we can make better design choices with new tools in the future. I’m interested not in the technical details here (yay RSS is open and not owned by a corporation, boo it’s kind of a pain to explain and set up) — I’m interested in how we use the technology, and how we feel about using it.

Categories
Business Entrepreneurship Relationships Society

Build a reputation instead of a personal brand

Replied to The personal brand paradox (wepresent.wetransfer.com)

When we position ourselves as a brand, we are forced to project an image of what we believe most people will approve of and admire and buy into. The moment we cater our creativity to popular opinion is the precise moment we lose our freedom and autonomy.

But rather than manufacturing a personal brand, why not build a reputation? Why not develop our character? Imagine what we could learn from each other if we felt worthy as we are instead of who we project ourselves to be.

I think it’s interesting to look at personal brands through the lens of insecurity. I imagine many people think of it as “positioning” or storytelling, but underneath, those are needed if you’re afraid you won’t be enough on your own.

I think it can be helpful to consider personal branding as a form of self discovery, a tool to help determine what you want to do, but there can be a risk of self containment.

I think of my other blog, Cascadia Inspired, which I started ten years ago as a way to get to know the Pacific Northwest better. I bought into the idea that blogs need to focus on a particular subject area or no one will read it. While I’ve enjoyed writing there, to some extent it created a constraint around what I felt appropriate to write about. For example, I didn’t publish photos from anywhere outside the northwest, so I have all these southwest trip photos I’ve never shared but on Instagram maybe.

Likewise, I had created a portfolio website at tracydurnell.com, and felt obliged to leave it serving solely a professional purpose. When I let go of that and transitioned to this blog-like format, allowing myself to write about whatever I wanted, I started writing so much more. I hadn’t realized how much I was holding back.

I still don’t expose my entire self here, but I’m much more open and vocal about my opinions, and more willing to risk publishing imperfect posts that show my incomplete thoughts in progress. I’ve held myself back and quiet for too much of my life already.

I’ve also realized I’m more interested in following people as people — while I might have been drawn to certain blogs in the past because of the topic, the reason I keep reading many of them is having gotten to know the writer. For example, I used to read Get Rich Slowly, but stopped when J.D. sold it (he’s since bought it back). I lost a lot of interest in Design*Sponge when my favorite writers there moved on to other things, and looked mostly to Grace Bonney‘s articles. Even though she’s moved on from writing about design, I’m still interested in her work.

I find myself drawn more to what individuals are writing than publications; if others are like me, all the publications who treat their staff as disposable and interchangeable will be in for a rough ride when they try to replace them all with AI churn content. Sure, you’ll pick up some SEO shit clicks, but that actively breeds distrust instead of long-term readership. I read my first Ed Yong article because I was interested in COVID; his thoughtful writing and reporting earned my trust, so I started following *him* on Twitter — not The Atlantic. I read Annalee Newitz back on io9, last year I read their non-fiction book, this year I’m looking forward to their next fiction work.

This is what makes self publishing viable for journalists and writers: people following them for them, not for their title or brand. When writing for a brand constrains these writers, good for them to split off and start their own thing where they can write about what they want, how they want.

Categories
Romance Science Fiction

Read Resisting Maxu

Read Resisting Maxu (Clecanian, #6)

Being kidnapped by aliens and whisked away to another planet isn’t always a bad thing…

Meg isn’t like the other alien abduction survivors. She doesn’t missmuch of anything from her former life—least of all her deadbeat husband. Her Clecanian rescuers gave her a fresh start, and she plans to enjoy it. Being recognized as a mate is not on her agenda. Too bad a grumpy, possessive, and all-kinds-of-sexy alien has other plans for her…

Maxu never expected to find his fated mate. But he recognized Meg at first sight. Sadly, she’s not as pleased with the match as he is. She’s guarded in a way he doesn’t entirely understand and pushes him away at every turn.

Meg can run, but she soon realizes there’s nowhere to hide—not from a hunter like Maxu. But that doesn’t mean she’ll give in easily. If he wants a happily ever after with her, he’ll have to fight for it.

That ending! The politics picked up in this one which I think was a good choice. It opens up some more exciting plotlines for the next few books.

Meg had the intensity to match Maxu, though I don’t feel they addressed the issue of her lack of choice. They had some funny confrontations.

The opening premise seemed sus — would this society really lock up someone who just recognized their mate?

Maxu came off pretty selfish and self-centered in a lot of his choices, especially the things he stole.

It was fun to take a tour of the other cities and explore so many different cultures. It seems weird that their cultures and genetics would remain quite so distinct — makes me suspect they need more intermingling of genes and cultures to help resolve their reproductive problems.

I appreciated having a lesbian couple as a subplot, though I would have liked them to have had more screen time/ banter together, or maybe more nudging of both individuals by their friends.

Categories
Fantasy Romance

Read Warmth of His Light

Read Warmth of His Light (Blanchard Coven #1)

When Eos Hawthorne went to meet a friend one evening, he never expected his entire life to change. As if stumbling across a group of men fighting in an abandoned lot by his home wasn’t shocking enough—one of those men suddenly attacks him…with fangs and claws.

Vampire coven leader Julien Blanchard is having a bad day. After failing to apprehend a murderer and traitor to his coven, the absolute last thing he needed was a hapless human stumbling into the picture— especially an intriguing young man who, as it turns out, happens to be his mate.

Eos doesn’t know if he believes in mating, and knows nothing about the supernatural world he is suddenly thrust into. Julien is a vampire who has always put his coven and his duty first.

This was a little goofy, but I was in the mood for light fluff. The setup is very contrived. Thought about bailing at 75% but finished. Probably wouldn’t read another in this series.

The two love interests were a little flat, the human’s main interest was watching reality TV. I know that’s super normal but it’s kinda boring to read about. The building is described as cold and sterile and perfect, but later the human decides it reflects the vampire’s personality because it has thoughtful touches like a bowl of fruit and a historic photo of the building 🤔

I thought it was funny the vampire was like “oh my long long life” and it’s later mentioned he’s 75. The bad guy needed more motivation. I wanted to know more about the Witch Mother (?).

Categories
Romance Science Fiction

Read Dark Ambitions

Read Dark Ambitions (Class 5 #4.5)

It’s been months since Rose McKenzie was taken far from Earth. She’s trying to make a place for herself amongst the Grih, with help from her Grihan lover, Captain Dav Jallan, and the dangerous and loyal Sazo, a powerful artificial intelligence who’s integrated with an infamous Class 5 battleship.

When Rose gets the chance to join an exploration team going down to collect information from a planet in Grihan airspace, she jumps at the opportunity to stretch her legs and breath some real air.

But someone is already on the planet—the Krik—and they don’t want anyone to know what they’re up to. The Krik are the chaos agents of the United Council, often riding the edge of the law or over it. They ambush the exploration team and take them prisoner, but they don’t realize they didn’t get everyone. They didn’t get Rose.

With Dav, and his spaceship the Barrist, lured away by a distress signal, Rose and Sazo, along with a furry friend Rose has made, are the exploration team’s only hope at rescue. And Rose never leaves a friend behind.

A light little adventure, short and simple. It involves a cute orphaned alien sugar glider who gets some plot action. This is mostly focused on Rose, but also shows some development from Sazo.

I read this after the series epilogue but it comes before it, oops!

Categories
Romance Science Fiction

Read Dark Class + Bonus Epilogue

Read Dark Class (Class 5, #5)

Waking up alone . . . Ellie Masters comes out of a coma to find herself the only inhabitant of an eerily empty moon station. She’s not on Earth any more, she’s not even in the right solar system. So when someone reaches out to her, tells her he’s her friend, she’s happy to believe it. The alternative is to be stuck alone with an enemy.

The hunt of his career . . . Grih Battle Center captain, Renn Sorvihn, has been chasing a rogue Tecran ship for over a month, convinced its captain is simply trying to delay his inevitable surrender and punishment. But when Renn follows the Tecran ship into an unchartered sector, and realises the Tecran have been working their way to a secret moon base for weeks, he suddenly understands things are most definitely not as they seem.

Caught in the crossfire . . . When the Tecran arrive, with the Grih hot on their heels, Ellie finds herself the catalyst for heightened danger to everyone. The Tecran see her as evidence of their military’s crimes, the Grih see her as a massive diplomatic complication, and her presence brings the whole confrontation up several thousand notches.

But Ellie isn’t alone, and her new friend has ways to help her. Time to outclass them all . . .

This was fun and fast-paced, and just what I was hoping for after a streak of bad reading picks. I also liked this better than book 4.

I loved Ellie and the little droids. I thought Diener did a good job conveying all the AIs as somewhat childlike but also capable, so their participation in the action didn’t feel inappropriate.

The romance was light in this one, more of a building attraction that they commit to following through on.

I really liked Ellie’s handling of the ending.

The bonus epilogue was a neat little addition, which I appreciated was from Ellie’s POV, but also thought was wise not to include in the main book. It was meatier than I expected, and gave a nice round-off to the series, tying up political loose ends, bringing all the couples together, and setting up the future for them.

Categories
Weeknotes

Weeknotes: Jan 28-Feb 3 2023

We swapped our gas furnace and water heater for electric! We reserved our furnace back in August, and our old heater was turning off three or four times a day, so we were ready to make the swap. Now we have a heat pump with one head and electrical furnace, plus a tank electric water heater. (We asked multiple times about tankless and they recommended against it 🤷‍♀️) So we get to cancel our natural gas connection!!! 🙌

Stuff I did:

  • Got the house ready for contractor work
  • Revisited my outline, using notecards to rearrange scenes by hand, then Excel — spent nine and a quarter hours on writing thinking
  • Did 10 hours of consulting work
  • Published my 2022 in music, which I wrote much earlier in the month and forgot to post
  • Published my 2022 Annual Review, which I simplified and shortened from past years

Reading:

I’m trying to quit books earlier if they’re not grabbing me — I have 800 books on my TBR list so I ain’t got time to fuck around with stuff that’s not for me. But I have a harder time quitting novellas, since they’re a shorter time investment. I should probably work on that because I wound up reading two novellas I didn’t especially like this week.

Between quitting more books and being tired all the time, I finished reading way fewer books in January than usual. We’ll see how I like this approach long-term.

Words I looked up / concepts I learned:

Neat stuff I learned:

  • Swords were made from bog iron back in the day (via)
  • Back in the day, people let their fried food drip excess oil onto bread (via)

New feeds I’m trying out:

I’m still exploring what makes sense / is interesting to collect in these weeknotes. Added a couple new sections this week. 

Categories
Outreach

The report vs transmedia communications

Bookmarked BACK TO WONKCOMMS AND SUPERHEROES (screensresearchhypertext.com)

Our two literary theory concepts—paratext and transmedia storytelling—map nicely onto alternative approaches for WonkComms.

The big, honking report is The Thing. The blog posts, the op-eds, the roundtable forum, the tweets, the media write ups, the infographics…

all function as paratexts, as “extra stuff” that’s great to have but not always a requirement.

That “extra stuff” exists to “hype, promote, introduce, and discuss” the main text—which is probably a big .

Versus the transmedia model:

This is the  model. It’s one in which you create  that you can remix and push out across multiple channels. No single output is a “main” thing. Rather, each blog post, each tweet, each infographic, each op-ed tells part of the story.

To consider as I start working on reports and plans in government: what is the best format and approach to information? As a long-form print designer I am a fan of making reports better, but alternative formats like websites could be something to consider too.

Categories
Learning

Lean forward and lean back reading

Bookmarked SCREENS AND READING (screensresearchhypertext.com)

JOHN SCHWARTZ talks to clients about “sitting forward” or “sitting back” styles of reading. Media theorist HELEN KATZ describes those styles thus:

Lean forward, where the reader is actively controlling the flow of information.

*Lean back**, where the reader passively consumes information in a way that the author has directed.

Categories
Culture Technology

The aesthetics of the imaginary

Bookmarked Worshipping At The Altar of Artificial Intelligence by Jessica DeFino (The Unpublishable)

Lensa AI portraits are a modern iteration of an ancient drive: emulating our God(s) through beauty.

The immediate thing that came to mind is … this idea that modern “beauty” means being as divorced from your humanity as possible. Like, a complete separation from all that is human about you.

Beauty standards have always been about pursuing an impossible look by doing terrible things to our bodies.

My issue is this: As virtual avatars become blueprints for physical beauty … many people feel pressured to partake in physically and psychologically damaging products and procedures in order to adhere to that blueprint…

“Beauty” — in the standardized sense — is always a fantasy; it’s a fantasy of the future.

While AI art is popular, impossible, fantastical smoothness will be desirable, like HDR photos were hot shit for a while. Then it’ll overwhelm the market, and the look will be considered too fake and cheap, and we’ll have a resurgence of analog art (or at least the look of it). I already find art that’s too perfect unmoving. I like a touch of humanity visible in the work.

Read an article recently about how photography sparked the rise of abstract art, using Turner as an example, evolving from hyper realistic to emotive landscapes — but must’ve closed that tab 🤷‍♀️