The Seattle Review of Books – Sherman Alexie, Lindy West, and Ta-Nehisi Coates all quit Twitter this week

Read Sherman Alexie, Lindy West, and Ta-Nehisi Coates all quit Twitter this week (seattlereviewofbooks.com)
Sooner or later, enough people I like are going to abandon the service, and the pain-to-pleasure ratio will tip unfavorably. I don't know how Twitter will survive 2017 without making some drastic changes to its service. Maybe it's already too late.

Continue reading “The Seattle Review of Books – Sherman Alexie, Lindy West, and Ta-Nehisi Coates all quit Twitter this week”

Primes as a Service on Twitter

Our friend Andrew Eckford has spent some time over the holiday improving his Twitter bot Primes as a Service. He launched it in late Spring of 2016, but has added some new functionality over the holidays. It can be relatively handy if you need a quick answer during a class, taking an exam(?!), to settle a bet at a mathematics tea, while livetweeting a conference, or are hacking into your favorite cryptosystems.

General Instructions

Tweet a positive 9-digit (or smaller) integer at @PrimesAsAService. It will reply via Twitter to tell you if the number prime or not.

Some of the usable commands one can tweet to the bot for answers follow. (Hint: Click on the buttons with the tweet text to auto-generate the relevant Tweet.)

If you ask about a prime number with a twin prime, it should provide the twin.

Pro tip: You should be able to drag and drop any of the buttons above to your bookmark bar for easy access/use in the future.

Happy prime tweeting!

PressForward as an IndieWeb WordPress-based RSS Feed Reader & Pocket/Instapaper Replacement

As many know, for the past 6 months or so, I’ve been slowly improving some of the IndieWeb tools and workflow I use to own what I’m reading both online and in physical print as well as status updates indicating those things. [1][2][3]

Since just before IndieWebCamp LA, I’ve been working on better ways to own the articles I’ve been reading and syndicate/share them out to other social platforms. The concept initially started out as a simple linkblog idea and has continually been growing, particularly with influence from my attendance of the Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News conference at UCLA in October. Around that same time, it was announced that Pinterest was purchasing Instapaper and they were shutting down some of Instapaper’s development and functionality. I’ve been primarily using Pocket for several years now and have desperately wanted to bring that functionality into my own site. I had also been looking at the self-hostable Wallabag alternative which is under heavy active development, but since most of my site is built on WordPress, I really preferred having a solution that integrated better into that as a workflow.

Enter PressForward

I’ve been looking closely at PressForward for the past week and change as a self-contained replacement for third party services like Pocket and Instapaper. I’ve been looking around for this type of self-hosted functionality for a while.

PressForward was originally intended for journalists and news organizations to aggregate new content, add it to their newsroom workflow, and then use it to publish new content. From what I can see it’s also got a nice following in academia as a tool for aggregating content for researchers focused on a particular area.

It only took a minute or two of looking at PressForward to realize that it had another off-label use case: as a spectacular replacement for read-later type apps!

In an IndieWeb fashion, this fantastic WordPress plugin allows me to easily own private bookmarks of things I’d like to read (PressForward calles these “Nominations” in keeping with its original use case). I can then later read them on my own website (with Mercury f.k.a Readability functionality built in), add commentary, and publish them as a read post. [Note: To my knowledge the creators of PressForward are unaware of the IndieWeb concept or philosophies.]

After some playing around for a bit and contemplating several variations, configurations, and options, I thought I’d share some thoughts about it for others considering using it in such an off-label manner. Hopefully these may also spur the developers to open up their initial concept to a broader audience as it seems very well designed and logically laid out.

Examples

The developers obviously know the value of dogfooding as at least two of them are using it in a Pocket-like fashion (as they many not have other direct use-cases).

Pros

PressForward includes a beautiful, full built-in RSS Feed Reader!

This feature alone is enough to recommend using it even without any other feature. I’ve tried Orbit Reader and WhisperFollow (among others) which are both interesting in their own rights but are somewhat limited and have relatively clunky interfaces. The best part of WhisperFollow’s premise is that it has webactions built in, but I suspect these could easily be added onto PressForward.

In fact, not just hours before I’d discovered PressFoward, I’d made this comment on the WordPress Reader Refresh post announcing the refresh of WordPress.com’s own (separate) reader:

Some nice visual changes in this iteration. Makes it one of the most visually pretty feed readers out there now while still maintaining a relatively light weight.

I still wish there were more functionality pieces built into it like the indie-reader Woodwind.xyz or even Feedly. While WordPress in some sense is more creator oriented than consumption oriented, I still think that not having a more closely integrated reader built into it is still a drawback to the overall WordPress platform.

Additionally,

  • It’s IndieWeb and POSSE friendly
  • It does automatic link forwarding in a flexible/responsible manner with canonical URLs
  • Allows for proper attributions for the original author and content source/news outlet
  • Keeps lots of metadata for analyzing reading behavior
  • Taggable and categorizable
  • Allows for comments/commenting
  • Could be used for creating a linkblog on steroids
  • Archives the original article on the day it was read.
  • Is searchable
  • Could be used for collaboration and curation
  • Has Mercury (formerly known as Readability) integrated for a cleaner reading interface
  • Has a pre-configured browser bookmarklet
  • Is open source and incredibly well documented
  • One can count clicks to ones’ own site as the referer while still pushing the reader to the original
  • Along with other plugins like JetPack’s Publicize or Social Networks Auto-Poster, one can automatically share their reads to Twitter, Facebook, or other social media silos. In this case, you own the link, but the original publisher also gets the traffic.

Cons

No clear path for nominating articles on mobile.

This can be a dealbreaker for some, so I’ve outlined a pretty quick and simple solution below.

No direct statistics

Statistics for gauging ones’ reading aren’t built in directly (yet?), but some scripts are available. [4][5][6]

No larger data aggregation

Services like Pocket are able to aggregate the data of thousands of users to recommend and reveal articles I might also like. Sadly this self-hosted concept makes it difficult (or impossible) do have this type of functionality. However, I usually have far too much good stuff to read anyway, so maybe this isn’t such a loss.

Suggested Improvements

Adding the ability to do webactions directly from the “Nominated” screen would be fantastic, particularly for the RSS reader portion.

Default to an unread view of the current “All Content” page. I find that I have to filter the view every time I visit the page to make it usable. I suspect this would be a better default for most newsrooms too.

It would be nice to have a pre-configured archive template page in a simple linkblog format that filters posts that were nominated/drafted/published via the Plugin. This will prevent users from needing to create one that’s compatible with their current theme. Something with a date read, Title linked to the original, Author, and Source attribution could be useful for many users.

A PressForward Nomination “Bookmarklet” for Mobile

One of the big issues I came up against immediately with PressForward is ease of use on mobile. A lot of the content I read is on mobile, so being able to bookmark (nominate) articles via mobile or apps like Nuzzel or Twitter is very important. I suspect this may also be the case for many of their current user base.

Earlier this year I came across a great little Android mobile app called URL Forwarder which can be used to share things with the ubiquitous mobile sharing icons. Essentially one can use it to share the URL of the mobile page one is on to a mobile Nomination form within PressForward.

I’d suspect that there’s also a similar app for iOS, but I haven’t checked. If not available, URL Forwarder is open source on Github and could potentially be ported. There’s also a similar Android app called Bookmarklet Free which could be used instead of URL Forwarder.

PressForward’s built in bookmarklet kindly has a pre-configured URL for creating nominations, so it’s a simple case of configuring it. These details follow below for those interested.

Configuring URL Forwarder for PressForward

  1. Open URL Forwarder
  2. Click the “+” icon to create a filter.
  3. Give the filter a name, “Nominate This” is a reasonable suggestion. (See photo below.)
  4. Use the following entry for the “Filter URL” replacing example.com with your site’s domain name: http://example.com/wp-content/plugins/pressforward/includes/nomthis/nominate-this.php?u=@url
  5. Leave the “Replaceable text” as “@url”
  6. Finish by clicking on the checkmark in the top right corner.

Simple right?

Nominating a post via mobile

With the configuration above set up, do the following:

  1. On the mobile page one wants to nominate, click the ubiquitous “share this” mobile icon (or share via a pull down menu, depending on your mobile browser or other app.)
  2. Choose to share through URL Forwarder
  3. Click on the “Nominate” option just created above.
  4. Change/modify any data within your website administrative interface and either nominate or post as a draft. (This part is the same as one would experience using the desktop bookmarklet.)

What’s next?

Given the data intensity of both the feed reader and what portends to be years of article data, I’m left with the question of hosting it within my primary site or putting it on a subdomain?

I desperately want to keep it on the main site, but perhaps hosting it on a subdomain, similar to how both Aram Zucker-Scharff and James Digioia do it may be better advised?

I’ve also run across an issue with the automatic redirect which needs some troubleshooting as well. Hopefully this will be cleared up quickly and we’ll be off to the races.

References

[1]
C. Aldrich, “A New Reading Post-type for Bookmarking and Reading Workflow,” BoffoSocko | Musings of a Modern Day Cyberneticist, 22-Aug-2016. [Online]. Available: http://boffosocko.com/2016/08/22/a-new-reading-post-type-for-bookmarking-and-reading-workflow/. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[2]
C. Aldrich, “Owning my Online Reading Status Updates,” BoffoSocko | Musings of a Modern Day Cyberneticist, 20-Nov-2016. [Online]. Available: http://boffosocko.com/2016/11/20/owning-my-online-reading-status-updates/. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[3]
C. Aldrich, “Notes, Highlights, and Marginalia from E-books to Online,” BoffoSocko | Musings of a Modern Day Cyberneticist, 24-Oct-2016. [Online]. Available: http://boffosocko.com/2016/10/24/notes-highlights-and-marginalia/. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[4]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “Personal Statistics from 3 Months of Internet Reading,” Medium, 05-Sep-2015. [Online]. Available: https://medium.com/@aramzs/3-month-internet-reading-stats-f41fa15d63f0#.dez80up7y. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[5]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “Test functions based on PF stats for collecting data,” Gist. [Online]. Available: https://gist.github.com/AramZS/d10fe64dc33fc9ffc2d8. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[6]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “PressForward/pf_stats,” GitHub. [Online]. Available: https://github.com/PressForward/pf_stats. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]

👓 Chris Aldrich is reading “A Blowhard At Large” on Deciphering Glyph

Read A Blowhard At Large (glyph.twistedmatrix.com)
I don’t like Tweetstorms™, or, to turn to a neologism, “manthreading”. They actively annoy me. Stop it. People who do this are almost always blowhards. Blogs are free. Put your ideas on your blog.

A brilliant and short essay on why Tweetstorms are positively dreadful.

👓 Chris Aldrich is reading “There’s a secret trick to getting more Instagram likes — and every internet star knows it”

Read There's a secret trick to getting more Instagram likes — and every internet star knows it (Mic)
Genius. Did it work for you?

A New Microblog on Mastodon.social

Manually POSSEing my first post from my own site to Mastodon.social, a GNU social alternative. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy the increased character count of 500 before being truncated on a microblog. #firstToot

Chris Aldrich is reading “Facebook is asking users to judge the truthfulness of news headlines”

Read Facebook is asking users to judge the truthfulness of news headlines (The Verge)
Facebook is apparently asking users to rate the quality of news stories on its service, after facing criticism for allowing fake or misleading news. At least three people on Twitter have posted surveys that ask whether a headline “uses misleading language” or “withholds key details of the story.” The earliest one we’ve seen was posted on December 2nd, and asked about a story from UK comedy site Chortle. Two others reference stories by Rolling Stone and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Chris Aldrich is reading “PolitEcho”

Read PolitEcho (politecho.org)
PolitEcho shows you the political biases of your Facebook friends and news feed. The app assigns each of your friends a score based on our prediction of their political leanings then displays a graph of your friend list. Then it calculates the political bias in the content of your news feed and compares it with the bias of your friends list to highlight possible differences between the two.

Chris Aldrich is reading “Use These Secret Hacks to Find Every Celebrity on Snapchat”

Read Use These Secret Hacks to Find Every Celebrity on Snapchat (Select All)
Some simple ways to find Official Stories on the app.

Chris Aldrich is reading “A Browser Extension That Shows You Your Filter Bubble”

Read A Browser Extension That Shows You Your Filter Bubble (Select All)
If there’s anything to take away from the madness that is 2016, it’s that everybody lives in a bubble — the combination of where you live and the media you consume, crystallized, as these things are, in your Facebook feed. If you wish to know just how much of a bubble you’re in, there’s now a handy Chrome extension for that, PolitEcho.

Be sure to check out PolitEcho.

Chris Aldrich is reading “Why It’s OK to Share This Story Without Reading It”

Read Why It's OK to Share This Story Without Reading It (MediaShift)
The Washington Post recently published an article about social media metrics with an alarmist headline: 6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says This story then predictably made the rounds in the blogosphere, from Gizmodo to Marketing Dive. The headline reads like self-referential clickbait, daring readers to click on the provocative …

Chris Aldrich is reading “Maybe the Internet Isn’t a Fantastic Tool for Democracy After All”

Read Maybe the Internet Isn’t a Fantastic Tool for Democracy After All by Max Read (Select All)
Fake news is the easiest of the problems to fix.

…a new set of ways to report and share news could arise: a social network where the sources of articles were highlighted rather than the users sharing them. A platform that makes it easier to read a full story than to share one unread. A news feed that provides alternative sources and analysis beneath every shared article.

This sounds like the kind of platforms I’d like to have. Reminiscent of some of the discussion at the beginning of This Week in Google: episode 379 Ixnay on the Eet-tway.

I suspect that some of the recent coverage of “fake news” and how it’s being shared on social media has prompted me to begin using Reading.am, a bookmarking-esqe service that commands that users to:

Share what you’re reading. Not what you like. Not what you find interesting. Just what you’re reading.

Naturally, in IndieWeb fashion, I’m also posting these read articles to my site. While bookmarks are things that I would implicitly like to read in the near future (rather than “Christmas ornaments” I want to impress people with on my “social media Christmas tree”), there’s a big difference between them and things that I’ve actually read through and thought about.

I always feel like many of my family, friends, and the general public click “like” or “share” on articles in social media without actually having read them from top to bottom. Research would generally suggest that I’m not wrong. [1] [2] Some argue that the research needs to be more subtle too. [3] I generally refuse to participate in this type of behavior if I can avoid it.

Some portion of what I physically read isn’t shared, but at least those things marked as “read” here on my site are things that I’ve actually gone through the trouble to read from start to finish. When I can, I try to post a few highlights I found interesting along with any notes/marginalia (lately I’m loving the service Hypothes.is for doing this) on the piece to give some indication of its interest. I’ll also often try to post some of my thoughts on it, as I’m doing here.

Gauging Intent of Social Signals

I feel compelled to mention here that on some platforms like Twitter, that I don’t generally use the “like” functionality there to indicate that I’ve actually liked a tweet itself or any content that’s linked to in it. In fact, I’ve often not read anything related to the tweet but the simple headline presented in the tweet itself.

The majority of the time I’m liking/favoriting something on Twitter, it’s because I’m using an IFTTT.com applet which takes the tweets I “like” and saves them to my Pocket account where I come back to them later to read. It’s not the case that I actually read everything in my pocket queue, but those that I do read will generally appear on my site.

There are however, some extreme cases in which pieces of content are a bit beyond the pale for indicating a like on, and in those cases I won’t do so, but will manually add them to my reading queue. For some this may create some grey area about my intent when viewing things like my Twitter likes. Generally I’d recommend people view that feed as a generic linkblog of sorts. On Twitter, I far more preferred the nebulous star indicator over the current heart for indicating how I used and continue to use that bit of functionality.

I’ll also mention that I sometimes use the like/favorite functionality on some platforms to indicate to respondents that I’ve seen their post/reply. This type of usage could also be viewed as a digital “Thank You”, “hello”, or even “read receipt” of sorts since I know that the “like” intent is pushed into their notifications feed. I suspect that most recipients receive these intents as I intend them though the Twitter platform isn’t designed for this specifically.

I wish that there was a better way for platforms and their readers to better know exactly what the intent of the users’ was rather than trying to intuit them. It would be great if Twitter had the ability to allow users multiple options under each tweet to better indicate whether their intent was to bookmark, like, or favorite it, or to indicate that they actually read/watched the content on the other end of the link in the tweet.

In true IndieWeb fashion, because I can put these posts on my own site, I can directly control not only what I post, but I can be far more clear about why I’m posting it and give a better idea about what it means to me. I can also provide footnotes to allow readers to better see my underlying sources and judge for themselves their authenticity and actual gravitas. As a result, hopefully you’ll find no fake news here.

Of course some of the ensuing question is: “How does one scale this type of behaviour up?”

References

[1]
M. Gabielkov, A. Ramachandran, A. Chaintreau, and A. Legout, “Social Clicks: What and Who Gets Read on Twitter?,” SIGMETRICS Perform. Eval. Rev., vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 179–192, Jun. 2016 [Online]. Available: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2964791.2901462
[2]
C. Dewey, “6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says,” Washington Post, 16-Jun-2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/06/16/six-in-10-of-you-will-share-this-link-without-reading-it-according-to-a-new-and-depressing-study/. [Accessed: 06-Dec-2016]
[3]
T. Cigelske  , “Why It’s OK to Share This Story Without Reading It ,” MediaShift, 24-Jun-2016. [Online]. Available: http://mediashift.org/2016/06/why-its-ok-to-share-this-story-without-reading-it/. [Accessed: 06-Dec-2016]

Chris Aldrich is reading “Instant View, Telegraph, and Other Goodies”

Read Instant View, Telegraph, and Other Goodies (Telegram)
Meet Instant View, a elegant way to view articles with zero pageload time. To try it out, use Telegram version 3.14 to share a link to a Medium post or a TechCrunch article. This will get you an Instant View button that immediately shows a native page, saving you time and data.