In the first few days of my being on Microbog, I noticed people posting images, so I asked how I could do that. The answer was, “Use the app.” I found out they meant I should use the Microblog app on the iPhone, which apparently made it easy to post a picture. This was when I first discovered that Microblog is written by Apple users, its technology mainly focused on using Apple devices for posting on Microblog. I hadn’t noticed this restriction when I signed up for the Kickstarter for Microblog.
But there is a web interface for Microblog, so surely there must be a way I could post a picture using that. No, I was told there wasn’t, not yet. But I found it could be done, using markdown and my Dropbox Public folder. The images had to be in that particular folder, a type of folder that Dropbox was no longer including with Dropbox accounts. By logging in to Dropbox, I could navigate to that folder and I could then get a public link for any image there. If I used that link in the URL of the image syntax in markdown, the picture would appear on Microblog, when posted.
I was thrilled that I had figured out how to get a picture to post. Here is the first picture I posted and when I saw it worked, I posted a text message, needling the user who told me I would need an iPhone for posting pictures.
The next day, I posted my favorite image of my car.
And on June 15, 2017 I posted my favorite picture of Nina Widjaja posing with a Telefunken Concerto radio.
A couple of days later I posted a picture from Bangkok Airport, but it gave a very unsatisfying result, ugly really.
I discussed the issue with Manton and then never tried to post another image again on Microblog.
Until today, that is. I had received an email from Dropbox, informing me that my “Public folder links will become inactive on September 1.” Once again an Internet service was changing the rules on me. They said if I “want to shares those files again, you’ll need to use shared links instead. I read the instructions and tried it on Microblog. The picture I was trying to post came out blank, above where I posted a title for the picture. On my About page, it showed the text “Before Dylan Show” where the picture belonged.
In the Home stream, the area for the image was just completely blank.
Here’s the picture I was trying to post.
Works okay here, doesn’t it.
So it looks like beginning in September, I will no longer have the ability to post pictures on Microblog. I guess it isn’t a huge loss. I had stopped posting images there, even using my Dropbox trick, because the result was so ugly with my Virulhok photo. And Blot seems to do a great job in posting pictures, so I guess I’ll just use Blot for images.
When I was collecting her albums, I don’t remember ever seeing any videos of her performing. That changed yesterday when I found this 1970 video of her performing four songs, including John the Gun, one of my favorites.
I’ve been working my way through the various features of Blot, taking Baby Steps, and having a pretty easy time of it. After it was so easy to get pictures working, I took another look at the Blot help page to see what I might take on next. Two things jumped out at me: footnotes and tags.
I couldn’t think of a reason I might need to use a footnote, but a recent experience had brought them to my attention. I had come upon a scholarly article by Steven Rings at the University of Chicago about one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” And I do mean scholarly! The pdf file of the text has 39 pages. with another pdf file of 27 pages which has the examples. It has an Abstract, a Table of Contents, an Introduction, many pages of discussion, a Bibliography, a Discography and 102 Footnotes. I was last reading scholarly papers in grad school at UC Berkeley, a loooooong time ago. This thing has the whole nine yards, verrrrry impressive.
The footnotes impressed me with the sheer brilliance of their execution on the web page. Each numbered footnote has a footnote number in parentheses, elevated a bit at the end of the relevant line in the text. Hover over that number and you can read the text of the footnote in a popup window. Click on the number and you jump to that footnote in the Footnotes section at the bottom. And just below that is a link labeled, “Return to text.” Click on that and you’re right back to the text you were reading when you clicked on the footnote number. I had NEVER seen that on a web page and I was very impressed.
So when I saw Footnotes in the Formatting blog posts section of the Blot help pages, I focused in a bit in my reading. The Blot instructions had a title and four lines of text. That was it. So it was a candidate I put on my list for possible future experiments. I tried to think of an article I could write that would need footnotes, but I couldn’t think of one.
And then one fell into my lap! There had been a bit of a discussion of my article about Location (Where Are You From?) on Microblog and I decided to edit the original article to add that discussion as an Update. As I did that, the opportunity for a footnote, even the necessity for a footnote jumped out at me. I went back and read the four lines of Blot instructions about footnotes and gave it a try. It worked beautifully immediately, first try. Take a look at the updated article.
Okay, it doesn’t have the popup window for reading the footnote. But clicking on the footnote number does take you to the footnote at the bottom. AND look at the tiny little arrow to the right of the image at the bottom. Click on it! It takes you back up to the text where you clicked on the number 1 for that footnote. I nearly fell over. Four lines of instruction, easily implemented and I get that? WOW!
Blot continues to amaze me with its simple implementation and the clean, clear formatting that results. I am very pleased that I decided to give this thing a try. I received no compensation of any kind for this endorsement. I’m just a happy camper.
I searched Google for “Best blogging software” and got sixteen results on the first page with lots of articles comparing five to eighteen platforms, all the usual suspects and none mentioned Blot. In fact Blot doesn’t seem to even be on the radar, except for one site from a domain name seller. But that’s fine with me. I’m having a great time with both Blot and Manton’s Microblog (also not mentioned in these results) and I used a lot of Dave Winer’s many tools for the last several years. I don’t even remember how I found Blot, probably from someone on Microblog, maybe Jack Baty, who always seems to be on the bleeding edge of technology.
Did I mention that I don’t have to pay for any server in the cloud with Blot and my data is all in my own Dropbox folder?
Now we will try some Baby Steps with images in Blot.
I made a folder in the Blot folder inside Dropbox called Images, except it has an underscore as the first character, before the Images part, _Images. That makes it a public file, according to my limited understanding. Then I plopped an image in there, a 244 X 340 jpg file, and made the usual markdown text for an image, you know, the one that starts with an exclamation mark. But the URL for the image is not the usual path to a place on the Internet. Instead it points to that folder using /_Images/Tintin & Snowy.jpg. I think the geeks call it a relative path. I copied the format from the Blot help file on Formatting blog posts. Look down near the bottom. I saved the file as a draft and the image looked great on the preview of my blog. This experiment took about 30 seconds and worked on the first try.
So I got:
Pretty nice, huh?
I could use the URL pointing to the image on the Internet, where I actually stole it. If I put that super long URL into my markdown image text, I get this:
Looks the same, right? But the second version is subject to linkrot. If they move that image, it disappears from my blog. So downloading the file and using the relative path link to my Blot folder with the images is far superior. PLUS all my images will be there in that one folder inside my Dropbox Blot folder. That just feels so simple and elegant to me. Of course you have to make sure the image isn’t restricted by copyright.
I learned about this Tintin character while chatting with Nitin Khanna on Microblog last night. His unofficial nickname in his family is Tintin, because his actual first name has that “tin” in it. So he uses one of the Tintin images as his profile image. I told him, “I think it’s a very clever selection of a profile image: playful, fun, revealing something special about you.”
Having been introduced to this cartoon character, my next impulse was the same as always: look for used books on the subject. Well there are a lot, which is not too surprising, as “The series was one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century,” according to Wikipedia. As you can see, some of them are rather pricey.
When I went to college, it was the first time I had been out of my home town on my own for any extended period of time. There was only one other person there from my high school. So that meant there were about 3,000 strangers on the campus, which was to become my new home for four years. I think we had a one week orientation period to get used to our new environment.
We all ate in the dining halls located in the women’s dorms, family style, maybe eight people at a table, mostly boy-girl-boy-girl. The first thing I learned to say was, “Where are you from?” The answers were from all over, even a lot of “foreign countries,” as we called them in those days. It was a good ice breaker. Soon we were having discussions and getting to know each other. I think we had name tags at that stage, so we didn’t have to ask the other obvious ice breaker, “What’s your name?”
I had already been an amateur radio operator for several years at that point, so this felt pretty natural to me. In ham radio, the first exchange of information in making contact with a new station for the first time was to give one’s first name and one’s QTH, which means location, which meant city and state in most cases. This routine followed me to grad school, my next meeting ground for lots of people from all over. Once I had a regular job, we were all from the same town, so the ice breaker became, “What’s your job?”
Then the Internet became the place to meet a lot of new people, from all over. Are we still defined by where we live? Apparently not. Microblog has a Discover page, which links to eighteen users and suggests that a new person follow some of them to get started. Everyone has an About page, or more like an About blurb, because they’re mostly pretty short. This is how people introduce themselves, presumably presenting what they’d like others to know about them, for starters. I looked at all eighteen and found two that gave their geographic location: one in Saint Paul, MN and one in Austin. That’s it. More than 88% made no mention of where they are from.
100% of them gave the URL to their blog or other website, fairly often they listed nothing else in their About blurb. This makes some sense. Microblog was started to provide a new platform for blogging and to encourage blogging. So where are we from? Our blogs. Who are we? Bloggers.
For the sixteen who didn’t disclose their geographic location on their Microblog About page, I clicked on the link to their blog or website. On the landing page where I arrived, there was usually a link to another About page. I looked at their landing page and then on their about page. Four of the sixteen gave their geographic location on one or both of those pages, the rest did not. So we’re down to 2/3 of the original eighteen on the Discover page who were still in mystery locations, as far as we could tell.
I did not continue the experiment, hunting through their website to find a geographic location. I did happen to notice that with one of them, it would take only one more click to learn their location.
Does this all stem from a desire to maintain some privacy? We know we’re being tracked all the time on the Internet. Is this a way of hiding out, just a bit? Maybe we don’t like being pinned down. I usually have Location turned off on my phone and this pisses off Google and some other websites, like Amazon. I get nudged to please turn on my location. Usually I don’t.
Or has geographic location become irrelevant? Especially in the US, it seems like every city has all the same name brand stores in all the malls. We can watch the same TV networks in all of them. And so on. Maybe it doesn’t matter where we’re from any more, as every place is same same but different, as they say in Thailand.
Like Bob Dylan, I grew up in the Midwest, but I’ve been living in California for the last fifty years, currently in Salinas. Soon we will be moving back to my home town for my eventual retirement. Notice I didn’t say where in the Midwest? Ha ha!
Discussion of this posting on Microblog Michael H. Gerloff @kulturnation
@Ron Since I heard a discussion (backed with scientific studies and statements of affected people) about the question’s traumatic effects on people who are asked I knew why I never liked this “where are you from” ice breaker. (Ron, please do not read this as a rude reply - just crossed my mind when I read your artcle.) Ron Chester @Ron
@kulturnation It would be interesting to see one of those studies. Should I add a trigger warning at the top of my article? No worries, no offense taken! I can imagine that the Q could be offensive, if asked with no real interest in the answer, or as a put down. Michael H. Gerloff @kulturnation
@Ron The studies were made in Germany. One problem is that (here) it is mostly asked to people with migration background (or having a “foreign” name or just looking like foreigners). These people then are put in boxes, and it’s not a conversation that starts but something like a script. Ron Chester @Ron
@kulturnation I see, so not a Q asked out of curiosity about the A. More like a statement, “You’re from a ‘bad’ place,” disguised as a Q, which makes the immigrant feel bad, of course. Rude intolerance, hate under the surface. Like screaming, “How dare you be so different!” 1 Michael H. Gerloff @kulturnation
@Ron No, often people ask out of “curiosity”, but the “plot” of the conversation often runs like: “My name is Olsson” - “Where are you from” - “Washington” - “No, I mean yr name sounds Skandinavic” - “My grandparents came from Sweden” - “Ah, Sweden, I’d love to visit the country” (1/3)
@Ron (2/3) and 15 min later the people have flushed Mr Olsson with all their “knowledge” of Sweden, but don’t know anything about him. Or when it runs a slight different plot line, they know everything about him and his family and haven’t talked about themselves for a minute.
@Ron (3/3) This is the experience of many people in the studies. They feel objectified with very negative consequences; and so many would prefer to be asked what they are doing. Or even given the chance to ask. Ron Chester @Ron
@kulturnation Hmmmmm. Like when folks sit around chatting, but no one is listening, everyone just waiting for their turn to talk? A willingness to listen/understand is a prerequisite for real live communication. Maybe “What kind of work do you do?” would be a good ice breaker.
Amazing serendipitous irony:
On Microblog in the Home stream, the very next posting after my one about “hate under the surface” was one by Khurt Williams Khurt Williams @khurt
Hate tracking.feedpress.it ↩
I’m active on the new Microblog site that Manton Reese has created. (See my link in the header above.) I guess it’s still in beta, because it’s not yet open to everyone and he’s constantly adding new features and fixing things. It is generally designed as a micro blogging (short posts) site that isn’t a silo. I signed up for the Kickstarter because I wanted to try out a new blogging platform that isn’t a silo, sort of a Twitter that is more a part of the IndieWeb. So far I’ve been enjoying it a lot! The time I used to spend on Twitter, I’m now spending doing blogging on Microblog and here on Blot. I paid money in the Kickstarter to be able to have my Ron.micro.blog site hosted on Manton’s server. Then I splurged ($20/year) to also have this blog on Blot.
On top of that, I went crazy with a spending spree at Namecheap and bought my own domain name for every subject I have posted about in the past and/or that I expect to write about in the future. A LOT of them. To me, it seemed like the bare minimum for having some independent presence on the Internet is to publish on a site(s) where I own the domain name. The only reason I did this is that at long last I have a computer guy who I pay to setup servers for me. I would never try to do it on my own, as I’m a tax accountant. not a web designer, sys admin or computer engineer.
But many of the folks on Microblog are one of those things that I’m not, most of them being of the Apple computer persuasion. One of the main things I see them tinkering with is Webmentions. They all have their own websites or blogs and Webmentions seems to be a key element of going the full IndieWeb route. So they’re working on getting their websites working with Webmentions and also getting all that to work with Microblog. This all goes over my head. By taking Baby Steps, I was able to get this Blot blog working. But remember, I’m a tax accountant, a good one with over thirty decades of experience, not a computer nerd.
Many of these developers, who mostly use Apple tools, have been super nice to me, even though tax accounting means I have been using Windows computers for about forty years. They don’t hold it against me, at least not out loud. I’ve had more interaction with these folks than I ever did in five years on Twitter and ALL of it has been friendly, positive and helpful.
Is Webmentions the Next Fork in the Road I Must Take?
Baby Steps can only get you so far, especially if you’ve decided not to go the silo route any longer. Do I need to get Webmentions working? I’ve been kicking this around in my mind, reading about various things these developers are doing to make it work for them. It always sounds pretty darn complicated to me, with its own special jargon and I’ve been lazy about getting all these new terms defined. It’s hard to sing the tune, if you don’t know or understand the words.
Yesterday Jeremy Cherfas wrote a short piece, We are still a long way from home that made a lot of sense to me. Maybe silos are popular because they’re so damn easy to use! I found the link to Jeremy’s posting on the Microblog Home stream yesterday morning. But when I went back later to look at it again, it seemed to have disappeared from the Home stream. Fortunately I had clicked Favorite on it, so I was able to find it again and follow it to his blog. Once there, I poked around and found a much more detailed discussion of Webmentions.
I looked at his About page and found he’s a freelance communicator, probably an expert one. He doesn’t seem to be a web developer, but wanted to get this Webmentions thing working on his website. His article describes the many hours he has spent trying to get it working using a plugin he found and then another approach he is taking. He is obviously very motivated to getting this stuff working, which is clear from the title he chose for his article, Not giving up on IndieWeb.
He also linked to an article by Glenn Dixon, who HAS given up on IndieWeb and webmentions in particular. He makes a sobering statement about all this: There is a reason that the handful of people who actually care and talk about this stuff have careers in programming. At this point, that is what is required to get this up and running. I had been suspecting that this technology was not ready for my Baby Steps approach. My suspicions seem to be well founded. Jeremy Cherfas is likely well beyond the Baby Steps stage and persistent as hell on top of that.
Last night I visited Jeremy’s first short article again and discovered that it had acquired a comment at the bottom from Chris Aldrich, who said there is a “(currently small) group of geeky IndieWeb users who will eventually make it easy enough for everyone else too.” Hey, maybe this is even a webmention in the flesh, but one that confirms that the stuff is not yet ready for my Baby Steps!
So I decided not to take the Webmentions fork in the road, at least for now.
I have only one reservation about the development of this IndieWeb stuff. While it is in progress, most of these websites have disabled regular comments, if they ever had them. Often there is also no contact information given, or it takes a lot of hunting on their websites to find it. So if one doesn’t have webmentions working on one’s own website, there is no obvious way of communicating with these folks about things they post. I have found that if they’re also on the Microblog website, one can post a message there, addressed to them. But that seems pretty round about, when an old school place to post a comment on their original post would be very easy to leave. I guess that’s a temporary cost of progress during this interim period.
What is the next step I can take with my Baby Steps? Well maybe I will see whether I can get a picture posted on this blog, maybe even a picture with some text along with it. That might be nice.
Colin Devroe wrote an article pointing to this one, which I then replied to on his blog. He replied to that and that comment appeared as a webmention on Jack Baty’s blog. And I began to see why people might want an automated way to keep track of all this stuff! I find it very interesting that Colin decided to turn comments back on, on his blog, after reading my article.