It’s more than just the words

Read It's more than just the words by Rachel Andrew (

Reading an article from 1999 caused me to consider how not owning your own content leads to a loss of more than just the content itself.

It's more than just the words

“In order to expand audience awareness and redefine Possible, there have to be places where these new capabilities exist; and lacking a client willing to take the chance that the audience will be equipped to do so, we need to provide the environment so the audience equips itself and creates that demand to use newer standards. I propose, therefore, that the environment already exists and it lives in the collective personal sites that don’t give a damn about return on investment.”

– Lance Arthur Redefining Possible January 22, 1999

Personal sites, our blogs, these were once our playgrounds. My own site was the first place I added rollover images, CSS for fonts, tried out a “table free” design. I wrote about the web, surrounded by my own experiments with the web. We all did, and it was only in reading those words from 1999 that I realised there was more to owning your own content than simply not publishing your words elsewhere.

As we move our code to CodePen, our writing to Medium, our photographs to Instagram we don’t just run the risk of losing that content and the associated metadata if those services vanish. We also lose our own place to experiment and add personality to that content, in the context of our own home on the web.

I had already decided to bring my content back home in 2017, but I’d also like to think about this idea of using my own site to better demonstrate and play with the new technologies I write about. It’s more than just the words.

My new social media POSSE |

Read My new social media POSSE by Kris Shaffer (

Several of my friends and colleagues have been critical of their social media experience recently — Twitter in particular. One friend left Twitter altogether last week. I’m sympathetic. I’m a serial Facebook quitter, and in the fall, I wrote a few blog posts about my disillusionment with relying on Twitter for social and professional conversations. I even took some time off . . . and enjoyed it.

And then there were conferences. Twitter is such an assett at professional conferences, adding a layer of depth to the presentations and conversations. Then came #moocmooc. And so Twitter dragged me back in.

For all of its benefits, Twitter still has a signal-to-noise ratio problem. And a harassment problem. It facilitates the antisocial and the parasocial alongside the social. Creative, and promiscuous, blocking helps the anti-/parasocial problem. But it’s still noisy, and even the good is under the control of the Twitter company. However, I’ve started trying two things this past week that are helping with these issues.

First, I’m largely ignoring my Twitter timeline, and instead, I’m following a few lists I’ve created, each of which have, at most, a few dozen people. This targeted reading, loosely by topic, means that I read less tweets, and that I can choose a topic to focus on at a given moment. (My lists include topics like critical pedagogy, music scholarship, digital humanities, social justice, Christianity, etc. I also follow hashtags like #mtped and #moocmooc.) The topical division is messy, of course, as individuals tend to tweet about more than one topic. But there is more signal and less noise on these lists, and less topic-jumping while reading one of these lists, than while reading my timeline. Since I’m following less people this way, I might miss something. But most of the good stuff I really need to see will be retweeted by someone in a list eventually. (And people retweeted often get added to the list.) And at some point, I have to resign myself to the fact that there will always be more good stuff out there than I have time to engage . . . and that’s okay.

The other change I’ve made is installing Known on my server ( Known is a blog-like, social-media-like platform designed with POSSE in mind: Publish on your Own Site and Syndicate Elsewhere — a growing trend on the IndieWeb. Known double-publishes on Tiwtter (and other platforms) and uses webmentions to collect the ensuing conversations onto the original Known site. (Bridgy helps, too.) It also differentiates Tweet-like status updates from Facebook-like mini-blog entires without imposing character limits. It also integrates with social media conversations and @-replies pretty well. In short, it’s a pretty smooth way to own and control your content while connecting on proprietary social media networks.

I’ve found that more targeted reading makes me happier, and more targeted Twitter use means more time for longer-form reading and writing. Further, I really want to control my own content, and doing so makes me more excited about writing (as does having a new publishing toy . . . er . . . platform).

I’m liking this setup, at least for now. Targeted, meaningful engagement on Twitter, more time to read the longer-form pieces I find there, an easier and more “indie” way to engage, and more motivation to dig in and really write. Good stuff. And no need to leave Twitter just yet.

Kris Shaffer, Ph.D. (Yale University, 2011), is an Instructional Technology Specialist and adjunct instructor in Computer Science and Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington and Contributing Editor for Hybrid Pedagogy. He is also the lead author of Open Music Theory.

Header image by Jared Tarbell.

Snapchat Accused of Misleading Investors in Ex-Employee’s Lawsuit

Read Snapchat Accused of Misleading Investors in Ex-Employee's Lawsuit by Ashley Cullins (The Hollywood Reporter)
An ex-Snapchat employee says he was fired just weeks after the company poached him from Facebook and is being blackballed. The company says his claims have no merit.

Getting data out of Medium

Read Getting data out of Medium by Kris Shaffer (

Controlling my data is important to me. It’s also important that my students (and the faculty that I support) have the ability to control their own data, as well. That doesn’t mean that everything needs to live on a Domain of One’s Own. But it does mean that I want my data to be as flexible as possible, and as easy to move around as possible.

It’s really easy to download an archive of your Medium posts. Like your Twitter archive, you can just unzip the archive and upload it to your domain, and you’ve got it up and running.

However, if you want to incorporate those posts into a different platform — like WordPress, Jekyll, Known, etc. — it is more of a challenge.

I wrote my posts on the Medium API directly in Medium. Partly as an experiment, and partly because I love the Medium post editor. (It’s why I incorporated a Medium editor clone into Peasy.) But after writing three posts —  complete with feature images, inline images, and code blocks — in Medium, I decided to import them into my Jekyll/GitHub Pages site. That’s turned out to be a challenge. Not an insurmountable one, but one that I’d rather avoid going through.

I downloaded my Medium archive, used Pandoc to convert the posts from HTML to MarkDown, and then copied and pasted the MarkDown into new posts on my Jekyll site. There was more post-processing than I anticipated, or would like. And it doesn’t look as easy to automate the cleanup as I would like.

Even more frustrating was my discovery a couple weeks ago that the Medium API supports posting to Medium, but not retrieving posts from Medium. It is easy to write code that cross-posts from another platform to Medium, but Medium makes it more difficult to go the other way.


My guess is that their focus is on content. They want to be the place where we go to find ALL THE CONTENT. So they make it really easy to get content in. Harder to get content out. And by making a beautiful, easy-to-use editor, the temptation is strong to just use Medium from the start.

If we just want to write, get our writings read, and have a permanent record of what we wrote. Medium can be great. But if we want to write content that we keep coming back to, content that keeps evolving, content that’s part of a long-term project … and if we don’t want that long-term project to be locked into a single platform … then Medium may be a problem.

I say as I write this post on Medium.

Because I just can’t resist this editor.

Time to go add some code to Peasy so I can get it ready for prime-time sooner.

Featured image by paul bica (CC BY).

A prescient article written last fall before the news that Medium was downsizing significantly this week.

Stop Publishing Web Pages | Anil Dash

Read Stop Publishing Web Pages by Anil Dash (

Most users on the web spend most of their time in apps. The most popular of those apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and others, are primarily focused on a single, simple stream that offers a river of news which users can easily scroll through, skim over, and click on to read in more depth.

Most media companies on the web spend all of their effort putting content into content management systems which publish pages. These pages work essentially the same way that pages have worked since the beginning of the web, with a single article or post living at a particular address, and then tons of navigation and cruft (and, usually, advertisements) surrounding that article.

Users have decided they want streams, but most media companies are insisting on publishing more and more pages. And the systems which publish the web are designed to keep making pages, not to make customized streams.

It's time to stop publishing web pages.

📺 Watched Shark Tank S8 | E12

Watched "Shark Tank" S8 | E12 from ABC, Aired 01-06-17
With Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John. A line of dolls; cat companion products; an online shop for replacing men's undergarments; a patriotic coffee business; follow up on drain strain.
Terrifically sad to see the reaction to hearing that the underwear idea group had given away 75% of their ownership. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the oxygen leave the room so quickly on this show.

🔖 Group Theory Lectures by Steven Roman

Bookmarked Playlist of Group Theory Lectures by Steven Roman by Steven Roman (
Retired UCI math professor Steven Roman has just started making a series of Group Theory lectures on YouTube.
Retired UCI math professor Steven Roman has just started making a series of Group Theory lectures on YouTube. No prior experience in group theory is necessary. He’s the author of the recent Fundamentals of Group Theory: An Advanced Approach. [1]

He hopes to eventually also offer lectures on ring theory, fields, vector spaces, and module theory in the near future.

Fundamentals of Group Theory by Steven Roman


S. Roman, Fundamentals of Group Theory: An Advanced Approach, 2012th ed. Birkhäuser, 2011.

AMS open math notes | What’s new

Read AMS open math notes by Terry Tao (What's new)

I just learned (from Emmanuel Kowalski’s blog) that the AMS has just started a repository of open-access mathematics lecture notes. There are only a few such sets of notes there at present, but hopefully it will grow in the future; I just submitted some old lecture notes of mine from an undergraduate linear algebra course I taught in 2002 (with some updating of format and fixing of various typos).

[Update, Dec 22: my own notes are now on the repository.]

📖 On page 157 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

📖 On page 157 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

… an odor in the kitchen is a symptom of odorant molecule loss (logically, kitchens should not smell good, because then we would be sure that the pleasing odors remained in the pots.)

–Hervé This, on page 154

Book cover for The Science of the Oven

“Own your data”, part I: Bringing the bookmarks home from the cloud | Sebastian Greger

Read “Own your data”, part I: Bringing the bookmarks home from the cloud by Sebastian GregerSebastian Greger (
The archives reveal it was October 2005 when I started to use Delicious to collect my bookmarks, at a time where I had to use various computers daily.Four years later, competitor Ma.gnolia lost all user data, marking the first occasion that I (along with a shaken community of their users) questioned the value of cloud services for storing personal data. Yet, both for lack of alternatives and for being lazy, I kept using Delicious - though making regular backups a habit.Today, we live 2014 and it is time to move on; more specifically, time to reclaim ownership over my bookmarks and to host them myself. Naturally, having grown used to a cloud service, a suitable web-based replacement had to be found. [...]

The IndieWeb community has it nailed: #selfdogfood

Read The IndieWeb community has it nailed: #selfdogfood by Johannes Ernst (

Endless meetings. Disagreements over gory details that may never even get implemented in the real world. Philosophical grandstanding. Paper standards. etc. etc. We’ve all been there, and it can be terminally annoying.

Which is why the Indie Web community is so refreshing. Other than that they are doing extremely useful work on re-decentralizing the internet :-)

Their #selfdogfood principle means that you have to have implemented yourself what you propose, and you must be running it on a daily basis for your own purposes. If that isn’t true, nobody is interested in what you have to say. Imagine!

One thing that always impressed me when I was working for BMW many eons ago, was that those BMW engineers definitely built their cars for themselves, and used them every day for their own lives, with a passion. Boy, would they come back to the office next morning and complain and insist that changes be made. It makes for better products. More intense, more honest, products.

#Selfdogfooding is like that. They build it, and they only build what they mean. It’s so refreshing. And some really cool stuff is coming out of it, like distributed blog comments, or checkins without Foursquare and the like. Their movement is growing, not surprisingly.

This Week in Google 384: Schmoopie

Listened to This Week in Google 384: Schmoopie from
What the world searched for in 2016, Mark Zuckerberg's AI home assistant sounds like Morgan Freeman, fake news, Uber loses $3 billion, Tom Wheeler quits the FCC, Waymo minivans. Stacey's Thing: Canary Flex Jeff's Number: $250 million home for tech in NYC Leo's Tool: Netgear Orbi

Introducing Shortcut | This American Life

Bookmarked Introducing Shortcut (This American Life)
Have you ever heard a moment on the show that you wish you could share with your friends? Well, now you can! Shortcut is a new app we created that allows you to turn your favorite podcast moments into videos that you can post to social media. It’s kind of like making a gif, but for audio. Here’s how to use it.
I love the functionality that they’ve built into their podcast to clip and share audio snippets. It’s only a step or two further to highlight and annotate within an audio file. This is somewhat reminiscent of bits of SoundCloud’s user interface.

h/t Jon Udell via Twitter

Social Importer Upgrade | Beau Lebens

Read Social Importer Upgrade by Beau Lebens (Beau Lebens Blog)
Today I pushed some updates to: People & Places Keyring Social Importers These updates make it so that the Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram importers are now dynamically identifying and indexi…