January 1, 2016

Happy New Year - 2016 Edition

Happy New Year!

I’m believing that 2016 will be a good year, possibly a quite good year. After 7 years of bumpy and 2015 off to a rough start on the health front it stayed rather calm.

I don’t make resolutions for the new year. It is a practice that always delayed good timing of starting new habits and efforts when they were better fits. The, “oh, I start doing this on on New Years” always seemed a bit odd when the moment something strikes you is a perfectly good moment to start down the path to improvement or something new.

This blog has been quiet for a while, far too long in fact. Last year when I was sick it disrupted a good stretch of posting on a nearly daily basis. I really would like to get back to that. I was planning to start back writing over the past couple weeks, but the schedule was a bit filled and chaotic.

Digging Through Digital History

This past year I did a long stretch working as expert witness on a social software case. The case was booted right before trial and decided for the defense (the side I was working with). In doing this I spent a lot of time digging back through the last 5 to 10 years of social software, web, enterprise information management, tagging / folksonomy, and communication. Having this blog at my disposal and my Personal InfoCloud blog were a great help as my practice of knocking out ideas, no matter how rough, proved a great asset. But, it also proved a bit problematic, as a lot of things I liked to were gone from the web. Great ideas of others that sparked something in me were toast. They were not even in the Ineternet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Fortunately, I have a personal archive of things in my DevonThink Pro repository on my laptop that I’ve been tucking thing of potential future interest into since 2005. I have over 50,000 objects tucked away in it and it takes up between 20GB to 30GB on my hard drive.

I have a much larger post brewing on this, which I need to write and I’ve promised quite a few others I would write. The big problem in all of this is there is a lot of good, if not great, thinking gone from the web. It is gone because domains names were not kept, a site changed and dropped old content, blogging platforms disappeared (or weren’t kept up), or people lost interest and just let everything go. The great thinking from the 90s that the web was going to be a repository for all human thinking with great search and archival properties, is pretty much B.S. The web is fragile and not so great at archiving for long stretches. I found HTML is good for capturing content, but PDF proved the best long term (10 years = long term) digital archive for search in DevonThink. The worst has been site with a lot of JavaScript not saved into PDF, but saved as a website. JavaScript is an utter disaster for archiving (I have a quite a few things I tucked away as recently as 18 months ago that are unreadable thanks to JavaScript (older practices and modifications which may be deemed security issues or other changes of mind have functional JavaScript stop working). The practice of putting everything on the web, which can mean putting application front ends and other contrivances up only are making the web far more fragile.

The best is still straight up HMTL and CSS and enhancing from there with JavaScript. The other recent disaster, which is JavaScript related, is infinite scroll and breaking distinct URLs and pages. Infinite scroll is great for its intended use, which is stringing crappy content in one long string so advertisers see many page views. It is manufacturing a false understanding that the content is valued and read. Infinite scroll has little value to a the person reading, other than if the rare case good content is strung together (most sites using infinite scroll do it because the content is rather poor and need to have some means of telling advertisers that they have good readership). For archival purposes most often capturing just the one page you care about gets 2 to 5 others along with it. Linking back to the content you care about many times will not get you back to the distinct article or page because that page doesn’t actually live anywhere. I can’t wait for this dim witted practice to end. The past 3 years or so of thinking I had an article / page of good content I could point to cleanly and archive cleanly was a fallacy if I was trying to archive in the playland of infinite scroll cruft.

Back to Writing Out Loud

This past year of trying to dig out the relatively recent past of 5 to 10 years with some attempts to go back farther reinforced the good (that may be putting it lightly) practice of writing out loud. In the past few years I have been writing a lot still. But, much of this writing has been in notes on my local machines, my own shared repositories that are available to my other devices, or in the past couple years Slack teams. I don’t tend to write short tight pieces as I tend to fill in the traces back to foundations for what I’m thinking and why. A few of the Slack teams (what Slack calls the top level cluster of people in their service) get some of these dumps. I may drop in a thousand or three words in a day across one to four teams, as I am either conveying information or working through an idea or explanation and writing my way through it (writing is more helpful than talking my way through it as I know somebody is taking notes I can refer back to).

A lot of the things I have dropped in not so public channels, nor easily findable again for my self (Slack is brilliantly searchable in a team, but not across teams). When I am thinking about it I will pull these brain dumps into my own notes system that is searchable. If they are well formed I mark them as blogfodder (with a tag as such or in a large outline of other like material) to do something with later. This “do something with later” hasn’t quite materialized as of yet.

Posting these writing out loud efforts in my blogs, and likely also into my Medium area as it has more constant eyes on it than my blogs these days. I tend to syndicate out finished pieces into LinkedIn as well, but LinkedIn isn’t quite the space for thinking out loud as it isn’t the thinking space that Medium or blogs have been and it doesn’t seem to be shifting that way.

Not only have my own resources been really helpful, but in digging through expert witness work I was finding blogs to be great sources for really good thinking (that is where really good thinking was done, this isn’t exactly the case now, unless you consider adding an infinitely redundant cat photo to a blog being really good thinking). A lot of things I find valuable still today are on blogs and people thinking out loud. I really enjoy David Weinberger, Jeremy Keith, and the return of Matt Webb to blogging. There are many others I read regularly (see my links page for more).



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