Sinclair Target’s long, deeply researched history of the format wars over RSS are an excellent read and a first-rate example of what Charlie Stross has called “the beginning of history”: for the first time, the seemingly unimportant workaday details of peoples’ lives are indelibly recorded and available for people researching history (for example, Ada Palmer points out that we know very little about the everyday meals of normal historical people, but the daily repasts of normal 21 centurians are lavishly documented).
I was there for the RSS format wars: I had some of the key players like Rael Dornfest and Aaron Swartz in my home while these flamewars were going on, and I talked about their mailing list contributions as they worked through the issues; I also was there during face-to-face arguments among some of they key players (I volunteered for several years as a conference committee member for the O’Reilly P2P and Emerging Tech conferences, where much of this played out).
That all said, I think Target’s piece focuses too much on the micro and not enough on the macro. The individual differences and personalities in the RSS wars were a real drag on the format’s adoption and improvement, but that’s not what killed RSS.
What killed RSS was the growth of digital monopolies, who created silos, walled gardens, and deliberate incompatibility between their services to prevent federation, syndication, and interoperability, and then fashioned a set of legal weapons that let them invoke the might of the state to shut down anyone who dared disrupt them.
As Target says, the early promise of the internet was summed up by Kevin Werbach’s characterization: “allowing businesses and individuals to retain control over their online personae while enjoying the benefits of massive scale and scope.” But thanks to generations of antitrust malpractice and financialization, we now live in an era of five massive services filled with screenshots from the other four.
The individuals who made RSS were and are flawed vessels, like all humans, myself included. They did brilliant things and dumb things. But their errors didn’t kill RSS: a massive, seismic regulatory and economic shift did. It’s like blaming rhino conservationists’ internal disputes — rather than climate change — for the decline in rhinos’ numbers. Yes, internal struggle may make people less effective in making change, but the external forces need to be taken into consideration here.
The fork happened after Dornfest announced a proposed RSS 1.0 specification and formed the RSS-DEV Working Group—which would include Davis, Swartz, and several others but not Winer—to get it ready for publication. In the proposed specification, RSS once again stood for “RDF Site Summary,” because RDF had been added back in to represent metadata properties of certain RSS elements. The specification acknowledged Winer by name, giving him credit for popularizing RSS through his “evangelism.” But it also argued that RSS could not be improved in the way that Winer was advocating. Just adding more elements to RSS without providing for extensibility with a module system would ”sacrifice scalability.” The specification went on to define a module system for RSS based on XML namespaces.
Winer felt that it was “unfair” that the RSS-DEV Working Group had arrogated the “RSS 1.0” name for themselves. In another mailing list about decentralization, he wrote that he had “recently had a standard stolen by a big name,” presumably meaning O’Reilly, which had convened the RSS-DEV Working Group. Other members of the Syndication mailing list also felt that the RSS-DEV Working Group should not have used the name “RSS” without unanimous agreement from the community on how to move RSS forward. But the Working Group stuck with the name. Dan Brickley, another member of the RSS-DEV Working Group, defended this decision by arguing that “RSS 1.0 as proposed is solidly grounded in the original RSS vision, which itself had a long heritage going back to MCF (an RDF precursor) and related specs (CDF etc).” He essentially felt that the RSS 1.0 effort had a better claim to the RSS name than Winer did, since RDF had originally been a part of RSS. The RSS-DEV Working Group published a final version of their specification in December. That same month, Winer published his own improvement to RSS 0.91, which he called RSS 0.92, on UserLand’s website. RSS 0.92 made several small optional improvements to RSS, among which was the addition of the tag soon used by podcasters everywhere. RSS had officially forked.
The fork might have been avoided if a better effort had been made to include Winer in the RSS-DEV Working Group. He obviously belonged there; he was a prominent contributor to the Syndication mailing list and responsible for much of RSS’ popularity, as the members of the Working Group themselves acknowledged. But, as Davis wrote in an email to me, Winer “wanted control and wanted RSS to be his legacy so was reluctant to work with us.” Winer supposedly refused to participate. Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly, explained this in a UserLand discussion group in September, 2000:
I used Duet Display for a long time. I was frustrated by their inability to work with Apple to get their software to work like it used to work.
Duet frustrated me further by having an outdated web site, their “Check for Updates” didn’t work, and the best way to get information and new software was to ping their employees on Twitter and wait for an emailed link.
Locking your screen? Duet required your password because it relies on AirPlay. So even if you have an Apple Watch correctly configured, you can’t unlock your Mac with it while using Duet.
Luna seemed a second coming. Hardware? Check. Duet is all software. Wifi? Check. Duet needs USB unless you have a pro account. Resolutions? Check. Duet can’t do full iPad Pro resolutions because of its software basis. Luna resolves that with their Micro-DisplayPort (or USB-C) dongle.
Luna does display fully on the iPad Pro. Wifi works, sort of, but USB is more reliable and the only option in a corporate environment. Unlocking with an Apple Watch is also a no-go.
Oh, but the resolution thing – it always defaults to the HiDPI resolution. So even if you want to always use higher resolution (which still looks great), you have to manually select it every time. When Luna needs to reconnect? You have to manually reconfigure the resolution.
There’s lag even with the dongle and USB.
Trying to run my MacBook Air in headless mode with Luna Display was ultimately unsatisfactory.
One key thing Duet offers that Luna doesn’t is the touch bar at the bottom of the screen. While there are many problems with it, it had its utility.
My advice: unless you need your iPad Pro to work at full resolution, you need touchbar capabilities on the iPad, or you need non iPad Pro support (neither does well with iPhones) – get Duet. Otherwise, get Luna.
Aside from a single model made by Onyx, E-ink phones are basically dead as a door nail. Ar at least they were until Kyocera released the Card-Keitai phone in Japan last year.
This phone sports a 2.8″ E-ink screen with frontlight and touchscreen. It weighs 47 grams, and has both Wifi and 4G LTE. Retail is around 330 euros, and it is reportedly only available through NTT.
The Card-Keitai is apparently running a very limited version of Android. It only has a few apps, and is mostly intended to act as a companion to your smartphone. That would really make it something closer to the Txtr Beagle or the Oaxis Inkcase, only a lot more expensive and with a little more functionality.
Neither the Inkcase nor the Beagle had much success before they were discontinued, and it is very likely that the Card-Keitai will follow the same path.
I’m frustrated that many iOS apps still don’t support landscape mode on iPhones, including Apple’s own. Settings, Music, FaceID, and a whole host of apps can’t handle an iPhone on its side, even when a keyboard is attached.
Apple today updated its online store with the addition of three new products: Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. Every version of the case costs $129, regardless of iPhone size. Each new case is available in both Black and White, and the designs resemble that of the previous Apple Smart Battery Cases, with a silicone exterior and a large bulge on the back to accommodate the battery.
The Smart Battery Case is compatible with Qi chargers, so you can still take advantage of wireless charging while using the case. These are the quoted charge estimates for each case:
* XS: 33 hours talk time, 21 hours Internet use, and 25 hours video playback
* XS Max: 37 hours talk time, 20 hours Internet use, and 25 hours video playback
* XR: 39 hours talk time, 22 hours Internet use, and 27 hours video playback
In the past, Apple hasn’t made Smart Battery Cases available for Plus-sized phones, so it’s great to see that now, regardless of your iPhone size, you can get a case that raises battery life to meet the needs of heavy use.
This is swell and all, but there is significant space at the top where Apple could put … oh, I don’t know … a 3.5mm headphone jack. How great would that be?
It’s not a new idea, but is one that should be restated.
Nilay Patel: You guys are committed to low price points and you often beat the industry at those price points. Can you hit those price points without the additional data collection that TV does if you don’t have an ad business or a data business on top of the TV?
Bill Baxter, CTO of TV maker Vizio: So that’s a great question. Actually, we should have a beer and have a long, long chat about that.
So look, it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.
This is a cutthroat industry. It’s a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it’s pretty ruthless. You could say it’s self-inflicted, or you could say there’s a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.
And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years — the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, “I love Vizio TVs, I have one” and it’s 11 years old. I’m like, “Dude, that’s not even full HD, that’s 720p.”
…And the reason why we do that is there are ways to monetize that TV and data is one, but not only the only one. It’s sort of like a business of singles and doubles, it’s not home runs, right? You make a little money here, a little money there. You sell some movies, you sell some TV shows, you sell some ads, you know. It’s not really that different than The Verge website.
VIZIO, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers of internet-connected “smart” televisions, has agreed to pay $2.2m to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General that it installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent.
The stipulated federal court order requires VIZIO to prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect. It also requires the company to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments of that program.
This post is just a friendly reminder that it may be a good idea to look in the manual from time to time, just in case there are some gems hidden there you don’t remember (even if you read it once).
It turns out that you can do a lot of things from the Org Agenda buffer. Usually, I just wander around that buffer using the normal movement commands and exit it using q. Of course, I also often mark things done using t and jump to them using RET. But until recently, that was about it.
It turns out Agenda can do a lot more. One nice thing is C-c C-o, which just opens the link from the selected entry (and displays a list of links found there first if there is more than one). f and b move forward and backward in time, and . gets back to today. A number of commands starting with v changes the appearance of the agenda, showing or hiding various kinds of information.
If you have a habit of not closing your agenda (e.g., with q), you might find M-<up> and M-<down> useful – they allow to rearrange the order of agenda entries, but only temporarily (until the agenda is (re)generated again).
If you want to reschedule your tasks, S-<right>, S-<left> and > may be for you.
You can also manage clocks (i.e., start and stop clocking etc.) from the agenda view.
One of the cooler things you can do in the agenda is bulk actions. You can mark more than one entry (manually or with a regex) and then perform some action on all marked entries. The available actions include manipulating todo state, tagging, archiving, scheduling/deadlining and refiling. You may also, as the manual puts is, “[r]eschedule randomly into the coming N days”, which I never used, but that looks cool. If that weren’t enough, defining custom actions is (of course) also possible, either on the fly or permanently.
Do yourself a favor and check out the manual, there are even more possibilities!
In my continued atonement for failing to produce a year end Emacs review, here’s an offering from Bozhidar Batsov. Batsov has done a lot of interesting work–including Prelude, CIDER, and Projectile–so his take on things is worth noting.
Oddly, he finds most of the changes introduced by Emacs 26.1 don’t affect him at all. He’s excited by the advances in concurrency but, of course, it’s still early days. He expects that it will become more important as package writers start taking advantage of the capability.
He makes two further points that I agree with. First, he says that MELPA has become the only repository that matters. Sure, there’s a couple of packages in GNU elpa that we all need and, of course, there’s the Org repository but, really, MELPA is the place to go.
The other point involves GNU elpa. He says that he’d like to see more of the packages that are built in to Emacs core–Org, for example–moved to GNU elpa and the core be dedicated to providing the best possible editing experience. That would have the advantage that the packages could be updated more regularly and, of course, make Emacs more configurable.
Batsov’s post is interesting and worth a read.
My takeaway is that I lost emacsredux.com from my Emacs RSS feeds somehow. I need to tend to that garden.
First, I need you to stop stealing my attention and focus. People want to express themselves with animated GIFs and emoji (see #4 below) and stuff. Let them express. But let me control. If I’m reading a post needing my attention and some [wonderful coworker] wants an animated penguin dancing just on screen above or below, focus becomes a challenge (as is my good will toward said [wonderful coworker], but that’s another issue).
Second, I need you to be more efficient. Your desktop “apps” are battery vampires because they are not apps. They are your website wrapped up in Google’s Chrome browser in something called Electron. While there are some advantages to the arrangement, I value efficiency in message delivery and the battery life to act upon such messages.
Third, searching is weird. There is some syntax around it but is specific to your service. I would not mind so much if it were more or at least as mature as PCRE or Google’s search. As it is I find it hit and miss.
Fourth, emoji has its place. In Slack, it’s decoration and message medium and “flair” and … More often than not I can’t tell what message is being sent. “Huh?” is becoming my #1 response. Let me render them all as text (see #1 above) or block them.
One area where I like what you’re doing is identifying bots. In most circumstances bots are useless and I prefer to avoid them. I like that they are labeled so I can ignore them. I would like to be able to block specific bots for me while keeping them available for others.
As a freshman in high school, in the year of our lord 2002, I made a website called “Jason’s Site.” While a website named after myself and devoted to updates about my own life was unspeakably vain for the time, it was also quite forward looking: The site has a news feed, an “about me” page, and an email mailing list for people to receive updates. I intended for it to be funded by reader donations. It had a section for Flash videos and photos, a guestbook, and a “friends” page that was literally a list of my friends. It had an ill-advised but nonetheless prescient “hot or not” section that featured photos of my friends and acquaintances and predated both Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s original idea for the social network, called “FaceMash.”
I updated the site regularly and obsessively for about three months, and then never returned to it. The site was embarrassing then and is embarrassing now, but abandoning it was a terrible mistake.
… Looking back, it’s not clear to me why we were all so excited to get a Facebook. We were already all on the same social networks. But someone–a popular kid, probably–decided that we were going to use Facebook, and so we all used Facebook.
… Facebook isn’t really all that much better or more convenient than having your own website, or sending emails or chats. But for some reason, Facebook (and Instagram) are where we post now.
… When I think about my own Facebook use, I think often about that first website I made, and how that site served the exact same purpose then that Facebook does now. My original sin wasn’t making a Facebook account, it was abandoning my own website that I controlled (the original site was hosted on Tripod, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d pay for web hosting.) All these years later, maybe it’s time to update Jason’s Site.
I’m moving more and more away from the ‘book. I think most of my Japanese friends are on Line and/or Apple’s Messages. Instagram is still big.
Anyway, I’m still using and improving my use of IndieWeb concepts for my on-line properties. And I kept my site, wisely as it turns out.