Wikis

This page lists only the recent day pages about wikis.

2020-07-23 Eight Colours

If you’ve looked at Recent Changes on this wiki, or on other Oddmuse wikis, you might have noticed that some of the edits are from people identified by a four-coloured “flag” of some kind. If you select the “flag” you’ll see that every colour belongs to a number. What’s up with this?

A long time ago, the wiki saved both the user-supplied username and the user’s hostname when they edited a page. The idea was that we wanted to somehow identify the people that were editing pages: by a self-selected name (that wasn’t and still isn’t protected by a password), if they wanted to, and by the hostname, for “technical reasons”. What technical reasons? Most importantly, for banning: spammers and vandals would leave behind their hostnames and administrators could then use these to ban them.

One of the problems was that people would edit a wiki page from work and discover that their employer’s hostname was suddenly in the logs – forever associated with their edits. Removing those meant find my contact information, sending me mail, me going to the server and manually editing two, three or more files. It was cumbersome.

The second iteration no longer did a reverse lookup and simply used the IP number. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it was understood that IP numbers are just as delicate as hostnames. Indeed, with a simple whois call, I’d look up hostnames all the time to see whether my sites were being bombarded by requests from a particular Internet service provider (ISP) in China, or a particular company in the United States.

So IP numbers can only be stored for what is absolutely necessary, and clearly protecting wikis from spam and vandalism is a necessity. But once a decent period of time has passed – a few days at most! – it was time to delete those IP numbers from the logs.

Now we have arrived at the third iteration: we don’t want hostnames, we don’t want IP numbers, but we still want a way to know whether one person edited ten pages, or each of the ten pages was edited by a different person. This is important for peer review: If I look at two or three edits and they all make sense, I can be chill about the remaining seven or eight edits by the same person. It also helps to get a sense of “presence” if I can look at the list of changes for today and see that there was just one person (me), or whether it was two of us, or five.

What I’m doing in the code is I’m taking the IP number of people making an edit, use it to compute a number, and take the first four octal digits (in the range from 0–7) as the “flag”. This being octal has the benefit that on old terminals, people had eight colours to choose from: black, red, green, yellow, blue, magenta, cyan, white.

←(the last one is white)

When I worked on this for Oddmuse, thinking that those eight colours were going to be shown on the web, I felt that black was pretty harsh so I picked a different set of colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, white.

←(the last one is white)

The longer I stare at these colours, the unhappier I am. Indigo is the colour of blue jeans but this looks purple! I think I’m going to be using the RGB colour from the “classic rainbow colour” flag.

The rainbow flag is driving me nuts. I should also switch white and black depending on theme used.

I had to make some changes to Elpher so it would use the xterm-color package instead of ansi-color...

Elpher Screenshot with Brutalist Dark theme

Long story short: that’s why the colours in the Gemini and the web version of the wiki don’t match. 😅

After some changes, I’m happy to report that the web and Elpher with the xterm-color library (and my patch which uses it) show the same colours.

Web

Elpher with xterm-color

By default, Elpher uses ansi-color which cannot handle 24bit colours.

Elpher with ansi-color

But sadly, AV-98 now breaks, because it probably folds lines before considering how many characters don’t count because they belong to escape sequences:

AV-98 adds linebreaks

All of this is much trickier than I thought.

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2020-07-22 Midnight Pub

You know how it is. I love wikis. Wikis are editable websites. Starting up a new wiki is hard, however. One thing that helps is if you have a vision, a sort of framing narrative. This could be a mission, but it could also be something more specific. “Cosmic Voyage” for example is a networked writing project where people write journal entries (pages, right?) and upload them (not as easy to do as a traditional wiki and with strong ownership of pages, but still…).

You know this is a cool project when you see that it’s available on Gopher and Gemini! 😍

Today I saw a something fascinating: Midnight Pub. I watched a little video they had. On the surface, same thing: people create entries, entries can be linked to other entries, there are backlinks, it uses Markdown. I looks pretty slick.

What caught my eye, was this description of the framing narrative:

Figuratively, it aims to be the web equivalent of your local pub. a place you can go to and talk about your day with strangers or friends. then when you leave, it doesn’t follow you home. Think of it more as a speakeasy actually – hidden from the outside world but very warm inside. It’s not there to scale. It’s there for all of us to write and have a good time.

And the reason I hard stumbled upon it was “Spacewalk” – an aggregator that monitors Gemini pages for changes every now and then there was a new post by somebody: brewed, elizabeth, mondaybeer, starbreaker, Bright⁠Blue, tmo, pygal, peclomon… and it does sound philosophically, meandering, like some people talking at a bar, maybe? I don’t go to bars. I guess I wish bars were like that! But when I go for a drink I’m there to meet people I know. We don’t talk to the people to the left and right. It’s hard to make connections. Anyway, I love it.

I love it when the framing narrative explicitly asks for a particular kind of writing, like Cosmic Voyage, like Midnight Pub.

In a similar vein, I like the bread baking theme of Breadpunk Club. “We are a shared Unix computer focused on bread: baking it, eating it, using it as fiat currency in the event of a cataclysm, that sort of thing.” Awesome!

I love their manifesto. It ends as follows:

Breadpunk rejects the commoditization of life by market capitalism. Breadpunk is an attitude that something our ancestors made largely for free is not something we should be spending money on. Breadpunk is the idea that we have time again, that industrialism gives us time to bake bread. Breadpunk is simple: MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN BREAD.

Right on!

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Looks like the Midnight Pub is no longer on Gemini...

– 2020-12-05 10:58 UTC

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2020-07-02 An overview over my Gemini projects

A while ago I started writing lots of stuff for Gemini. Time for an overview, both for myself and for you, the hypothetical reader. 😀

I’m not going to link to the various blog posts where I’ve talked about the various projects before. If you want to find them, take a look at the Gemini tag.

Gemini Server is a server that serves an existing Oddmuse wiki via Gemini protocol. It also tries translate the wiki text from a typical Markdown + Wiki mess like the one I’m using on this wiki here into Gemini format. I think it works and you can look at it using your favourite Gemini Client. It’s at alexschroeder.ch:1965.

Gemini & Titan for Bash are two functions for bash. I use them all the time to debug stuff. The gemini function uses the Gemini protocol to fetch stuff from the Internet and dumps it. No formatting, header and all. The titan function uses the Titan protocol to write text and files to a Titan-enabled Gemini server, such as the ones I run.

Titan is where I’ve written down a few words on the protocol I use to upload files to my wiki. There hasn’t been much talk about the Titan protocol, partly because I felt pretty much alone in my interest for wikis. On the Gemini mailing list, people were talking about using SFTP or mail to upload or comment, or about how they disliked commenting, and so on. I figured I’ll just have to implement some stuff and then maybe other people might get interested, once it’s shown its utility, even if we then change small aspects of the protocol. If you want to talk about Titan, feel free to contact me, or comment or edit that Titan page. It’s also hosted on a wiki!

Community Wiki, where the Titan page is being hosted, is also reachable via Gemini and editable via Titan. The quality of the translation from wiki text to Gemini format isn’t all that great because it never switched to Markdown. It’s mostly Wiki Creole and a bunch of specific extensions. It’s available at communitywiki.org:1966.

Next, I wanted to see how to translate a dense hypertext like Wikipedia to the Gemini format and I wrote Gemini Wikipedia, a Wikipedia proxy strips most of the links in order to provide you with a nice reading experience; it also tries its best to translate tables to text (probably not a good way to read those tables if you’re blind, sadly). If you really want to, you can always get the HTML including all the links, and depending on your browser, it might work.

I later rewrote that code and now it’s part of the Gemini Wiki config file I’m using at The Transjovian Council. It’s available at The Vault. I recommend starting with the Project Gemini page. It’s the page I used to check my code as I was developing it. 😀

Gemini Wiki, finally, is my wiki for everybody. It builds on the Gemini Server I used for this site. It uses a Gemini format internally. It allows you to add pages and files to the wiki directly. It even has a very simple, read-only web interface! It has “spaces” so you can host multiple wikis for different people. I’ve been using my installation to write about it. It’s at The Transjovian Council, and as I said, you can also access it via a web browser on the same port.

Oh, and if you’re an Emacs person, there’s more...

Gemini Write is an extension to Elpher, the Emacs Gopher and Gemini client, which allows you to edit pages right there, in Emacs. I also started working on a “multiple buffers” branch for Elpher. You can find it in The Lambda Lab’s git repository, via Gopher!

Ah, and before I forget: here’s a video of me editing Gemini Wiki, from Emacs! You might have to right-click the preview image and choose “Play” from the context menu. It depends on your browser and your settings, I guess.

So happy. 😀

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Comments on 2020-07-02 An overview over my Gemini projects

Hello, I notice I can’t play the video as my browser (Chrome) doesn’t show the video controls by default. After inspecting the source code, I think you mistyped the HTML attribute “controls”, you wrote “control”, that is, a “s” was missed.

Xu Chunyang(徐春阳) 2020-07-11 13:57 UTC


Thank you so much! That was indeed the problem. And now it works for Firefox as well.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-07-11 14:36 UTC

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2020-06-15 Why Wiki‽

Indeed, why? I’m writing this because I want a wiki and I’m interested in Gemini and I’ve read some things on the mailing list that make me think other people don’t love wiki as much as I do. (Start with Sean Conner’s post if you’re interested. Some quotes from that thread can be found in the comments on 2020-06-04 Gemini Upload.)

Some people think that we should all self-host the things we write. This is a good idea. We don’t want to depend on faceless corporations that can take away our online presence on a whim.

At the same time, however, not all of us have the means to self-host. Some of us have no time, because system administration takes time to learn, takes time to practice, takes time to do. Some of us lack the know-how. We can write, and we want to write, but we can’t host. Perhaps we don’t have the money to pay for a host. Or we don’t have the energy or the time to look for the cheapest host out there. Perhaps we want to write but we feel comfortable with our phones and so we want to write on our phones. It’s like the best camera being the one you have on you. The best writing implement is the one you have on you. These days, it might be your phone.

Also, let us not forget that not every service is rendered by a faceless corporation. We can get service from cooperatives, from neighbours, from family members, from friends, from schools, from libraries, from friends we’ve made online. To design solutions that make it hard for friends to help each other, we design for the cold alienation of modern capitalism. We need to grow networks and help each other. Sure, we can write to each other. But we can also host each other. Like all these pubnix systems out there, we’re sharing a resource. Why should sharing shell access be any different from sharing text hosting?

And finally, let’s not forget that self-hosting means self-writing. But what if you’re collaborating? Of course, we could pull in yet another dependency: use git, or some other distributed version control system! Or how about the systems we us allow us to collaborate naturally, because they are inherently designed to do so? I share Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for a read-write web that Sean Conner dug up in RFC-1945, where we read that the POST method can be used for the “Annotation of existing resources” and for “Posting a message to a bulletin board, newsgroup, mailing list, or similar group of articles”, and that “the PUT method requests that the enclosed entity be stored” and that “the origin server can create the resource”. Yes! That’s exactly it.

And wikis were the big break through: we had browsers, we had forms, and that was it. But Ward Cunningham wrote the WikiWikiWeb, a website with pages that are quickly editable by users. The barrier to entry was extremely low.

Sure, it also attracted vandalism and spam, and like email, and like the fediverse, the technology is in a constant arms race to block and ban miscreants. But it still works and barriers to entry can still be low. We can all come together under a banner, be it the biggest encyclopedia known to humankind, or wikis on Star Wars, or the Malazan Empire of the Fallen, or Emacs, or any other kind of topic, really, and we can collaborate. It’s the simplest collaboration platform that works. You write some text. I fix mistakes. You make additions. I reorganise. You split it up. I link it. The hypertext grows without necessary “ownership” of pages.

The effort required to maintain a wiki is worth it, to me, because we have a viable alternative to the isolation of self-hosting, and the surrender to value-extracting corporations. Doing things together, achieving things together, is important to teach the new generation of people coming online, it is important to teach ourselves that resistance is not futile, resistance is not a struggle, resistance to the machine is the simple act of having fun and building things together.

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A vision for Gemini (that doesn’t focus on wikis) by Solderpunk.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-16 21:27 UTC


Dunno, nowadays even large, popular wikis I see are being overrun by spam, or at least spambot accounts. Edits become rare. Discussions even more so. The whole point of a wiki is to enable communities, otherwise there are much better ways; and the community spirit has largely been lost in most places.

But I wrote all that before. Possibly even here. And at least with wikis I experienced that community spirit for a while; with shell accounts, not so much. Got to try again sometime.

A better question may be what exactly you’re inviting people to build with you. Because they are still coming together often enough. But they’re doing that on software forges, and on Neocities, and on forums. And I think what makes all of those different is that you can fork a project and submit pull requests, or quote other people and link to their posts (you can do that on any ordinary blog farm, too – oh look, another form of online community), until ownership begins to blur... but in an organic way. You can still say, “okay, by now I’ve crossed from my backyard into my neighbor’s”.

Guess that would be a village, then.

Felix 2020-06-17 15:29 UTC


Sure, and I understand those activities as well. All the RPG blogging goes there. People post new ideas, other people comment on it, or pick up on it using their own blogs, incorporate ideas into their own products, it’s true. And yet... I see the problem in the Emacs World. I’m depending on somebody like Sacha Chua to understand what’s going on. There are so many packages being posted, blog posts, and on and on. I guess I miss that feeling when people used Emacs Wiki to drop their half-finished stuff. But now we have MELPA and it’s all git, and what can I say, I feel the isolation of capitalism. Everything belongs to somebody, everybody is the king of their garden, all the exchanges are carefully gatekept, transactional, I send you mail, you accept merge requests, and so on.

I might be alone in this, but I still want that fluidity. I still want that lack of ownership, that building together, that communal aspect.

And in really small ways, it works: Campaign Wiki is where RPG groups can create their own wikis, just for them, an audience of three or four or five, and that makes them happy. It makes me happy, even if my players don’t write a lot – hardly anything, to be honest. But this is how I can have a quick and easy website that works with the browser as it’s only interface.

I really like that aspect, too. I’m not sure how many of the other authors (few as there are) would remain if they had to register by requesting a client certificate and got shell access, or a sftp account, or whatever one uses these days for sites like Neocities.

To me, these are all inferior solutions to just using wikis.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-17 15:41 UTC


So people wanting credit for their work is capitalism now? Artists wanting attribution? Writers wanting to own their words (and others to own their words as well)? Sure, we have a bit of a problem with capitalism too, as another friend of mine pointed out some months ago: this idea that everything we do, and every waking moment we have, should be monetized. But that’s a different problem.

People need and want their own little corners, and the ability to set boundaries, however blurry and permeable. And they prove it by flocking to those kinds of online media that provide.

Felix 2020-06-17 16:19 UTC


Sure. But at the same time, I also want the alternative. Let those people do what they want. I also have this blog, which is “mine”, and the software I maintain, and so on. What I called the “isolation of capitalism” is something different. It’s the feeling when every commons is privatised, all the land is enclosed, and every project has one benevolent dictator. I want the alternatives, too. I want cooperatives, associations, gaming groups, spontaneous collaboration, anonymous contributions. I want them on top of everything else.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-17 20:45 UTC

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2020-06-14 Using Titan to edit a Gemini wiki

Update: I think the two functions I wrote on 2020-06-17 Tiny Gemini Client in Bash are more elegant, and you get two: gemini to read and titan to write. Also note that gemini://communitywiki.org:1966 is now the real Community Wiki. 🙂


I’ve set up a Gemini wiki for testing on gemini://communitywiki.org:1966 – note the non-standard port!

If you want to edit or create a page, use the following shell script if you’re not using Gemini Write, my Elpher extension. Use your regular Gemini client to read, of course.

#!/bin/bash

# If you set HOST, PORT, TOKEN, or PAGE as environment variables,
# those values are used instead. If you want to edit Alex' wiki,
# for example:
# HOST=alexschroeder.ch PORT=1965 TOKEN=hello PAGE=Test ./gemini-wiki

HOST=${HOST:-communitywiki.org}
PORT=${PORT:-1966}
TOKEN=${TOKEN:-Elrond}
FILE=$(tempfile)
PAGE=${PAGE:-$(date --iso-8601=date)}
read -p "Edit which page on $HOST? [$PAGE] "
PAGE=${REPLY:-$PAGE}
PAGE=$(echo "$PAGE" | perl -p -e 'chomp; s/ /_/g; s/([^A-Za-z0-9_-])/sprintf("%%%02X", ord($1))/seg')
echo "Requesting gemini://$HOST/raw/$PAGE"
echo "gemini://$HOST/raw/$PAGE" \
    | openssl s_client -quiet -connect $HOST:$PORT 2>/dev/null \
    | tail --lines=+2 \
    > "$FILE"
$EDITOR "$FILE"
SIZE=$(wc -c < "$FILE")
read -p "Post $SIZE bytes to $PAGE? [y/n] " -n 1
echo
if [[ "$REPLY" == "y" ]]; then
    echo Posting it...
    (echo "titan://$HOST/raw/$PAGE;token=$TOKEN;size=$SIZE;mime=text/plain";
     cat "$FILE" ) \
	| openssl s_client -quiet -connect $HOST:$PORT 2>/dev/null
    echo Verifying gemini://$HOST/$PAGE
    echo "gemini://$HOST/$PAGE" \
	| openssl s_client -quiet -connect $HOST:$PORT 2>/dev/null
else
    echo Abort!
    echo Your page was left here: $FILE
fi

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Slowly starting to add peer review features to the Gemini side of things. Today: page history.

Things I’d like to see:

  1. diff links
  2. reverts or rollbacks

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-15 15:29 UTC

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2020-05-25 Wiki Spam is back!

Ah, wiki life has been so good for many years. The spam seemed to have died down! But recently, the site has been added to some idiot’s database again and so we’re seeing increased spam levels these days. If you’re getting blocked unfairly, let me know. 😀 → Contact.

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2019-12-09 Decentralization and Collaboration

the Internet already uses three times more energy than all wind and solar power sources worldwide can provide – About the Low Tech Magazine

Sometimes I wonder whether switching my wiki’s architecture would be worth it. Just produce static websites and leave the serving up to a normal web server. The wiki is simply responsible for the editing.

@ckeen suggested “hosting them on solar powered devices instead” and I started wondering: what’s the benefit we’re looking for? I think it should be minimal energy consumption. I’m not sure individual solar powered households is the way of the future unless we radically depopulate the planet. How will this work in an urban environment? So I think what I want is for the grid to change the mix and for energy consumption in general to fall. Next up is whether a small server at home is more efficient than a virtual machine rented elsewhere. I don’t know.

@ckeen then said “one could argue that with decentralised computers one also has the option of distributing local content without relying on the centralised infrastructure.” Good point! But now we’re getting into the question of how collaboration would actually work in such a setup. Does Secure Scuttlebutt and the like even need the concept of a wiki? Maybe not. All we might want is a curation software that allows us to say: these documents are part of the collection; here’s how to make you own collection; here’s how to merge collections from elsewhere.

Something a bit like git, except simpler. Git is inadequate for me and the non-technical people I want to work with. Having a discussion about role-playing games should not require people to know git. I need an in-browser solution I think, as that’s the only way to reach non-technical, multi-platform people.

So how do I collaborate with others? In my imagination, I’m a social creature and “go” to “public” places to get informed: the library, the coffee house, the search engine, the wiki. These are somewhat centralized but perhaps not necessarily global (even the search engine attempts to provide local relevance). But it would feel weird if I was limited to the stuff I have at home, even with a lot of exchange with others.

This exchange with known individuals, like thinkers in the old days writing letters to each other, is extremely limiting compared with what we have today.

Let’s take the Gopher world as an example and let’s consider the failure of my moku pona feeds: it was easy to add the pages collecting the large sites collecting multiple Gopher sites (Red Consensus, Zaibatsu, Republic, Gopher Club), but I’m failing to add the individual sites. I’m basically hoping Tomasino does it for me with his collection of feeds. He’s acting as my curator. It works better if some aspects are centralized.

That’s why I think wikis are not dead, yet.

I think my way of collaborating and knowledge exchange is not me writing essays and sending them out, with each of us having a collection of essays sent to us by our friends (the vision of a very decentralized network, back to the Renaissance). Instead we struggle to write the One document, the contract, the manual, the wiki page, the document collection. Having that bottleneck improves my way of thinking. Even these humble blog posts allow people to comment.

I know, many people don’t like comments – but I do. Tight interaction is how I collaborate with others. If it is all based on conversation, I can’t have conversation be slow and decentralized. I don’t need it to be globalized – but some form of centralization is good for me.

My blog-wiki centralizes what I write and the comments and conversation around them. People are free to talk about the blog posts elsewhere but they don’t often do.

My Mastodon accounts allow me to talk to friends and stranger in a federated network of instances. I doubt that I would have met a similar number of interesting people if I had limited myself to a “gossip-based” 100% decentralized system like Secure Scuttlebutt.

Limited centralization is good for me. Globalization in the hands of evil corporations, not so much. 🙂

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Comments on 2019-12-09 Decentralization and Collaboration

As someone that ejected my comment system from my site, and switched to entirely static, I too went through an anguish of should I preserve comments.

What I have done is made my email address available and a contact form (via Google Forms). Several people have emailed me, and we end up exchanging emails. Sometimes I’ll ask their permission to post something from their email.

I have found Reddit a reasonable way to post and share and solicit feedback. However, it does fall into the trap of non-federated. I tried Mastadon during the G+ exodus, but found it not quite in line with my approach. For now, what I have works well enough for me.

Jeremy Friesen 2019-12-09 17:51 UTC


Hm. I hardly ever get email. Would you have sent that comment as an email? I know that I hardly ever do that. Then again I was weaned off email because people started hiding their email as they tried to stay anonymous or avoid spam.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-09 22:19 UTC


If there is a form for sending that e-mail, it becomes practically as effortless as a comment, only non-public.

deshipu 2019-12-10 01:08 UTC


Sadly, sending mail is never as easy as it seems...

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-10 09:43 UTC


@alex - There is a 10% chance that I would’ve sent email. Another 20% chance I might have responded in a blog. And a 70% chance I would walked away. With comments, I think the chance was about 40% that I would’ve responded to this (and I rolled a 29 on my d100 so I responded).

This conversation pushes me to consider Mastodon, but social media wears me out; It feels a little like the relationship management I do at work as a manager of software developers in a research library.

Jeremy Friesen 2019-12-12 00:10 UTC


The art of using social media isn’t well developed, unfortunately. We know very little about it. From my own experience, I’ll say:

  • when I added journalists and politicians to my Twitter feed, it felt more “real”, more like the newspaper, and eventually I didn’t care any more – a personal touch remains important
  • when I’m following a diverse bunch, more genders, more colours, more neurodiversity, more foreigners, more languages, I am more curious, more interested

So, I’m explicitly trying to follow no journalists, no politicians, and less white men, less programmers. It seems to be working so far.

I also unfollow anybody who annoys me even for the slightest reasons in order to keep the number of people manageable and relatable.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-12 07:40 UTC


“but some form of centralization is good for me”

I’m not sure I entirely understood your meaning. What did you mean by “some form of centralization”? Do you mean that there are some qualities of centralization which you consider beneficial? If so, which?

“Globalization in the hands of evil corporations” I think you misunderstand globalization. Globalization is the process of making (whatever) global. Usually, this means global accessibility. When a company is global, that means that it offers services in whatever part of the ’globe’ i.e Earth. Globalization of the internet means making it so that there is access to the internet in each part of Earth. Globalization does not require centralization, as it seems this blog entry assumes. I’m not sure why you assume that globalization is at the hands of some “evil corporations”. Which corporations are evil? How is the evil of a corporation determined?

Perhaps you don’t assume that globalization is necessarily “in the hands of evil corporations”, but then why the hackneyed phrase? Also, why does it matter whether the corporation in whose hands the globalization is is evil?

“people started hiding their email as they tried to stay anonymous or avoid spam”

In this is a popular misconception. The key is the use of the singular case in reference to electronic mail addresses. Many seem to assume that it is impossible to have multiple electronic mail addresses. This, obviously, is just stupid. The spam problem is avioded by having, for each one’s correspondent, a different electronic mail address. If an electronic mail address that is used with only one correspondent starts receiving spam, there is a high probability that that correspondent is the source of the spam. To stop further spam, it is sufficent to stop using that electronic mail address. One may, if one so chooses, start using another electronic mail address for that correspondent. (Perhaps that spam was a fluke.) If that correspondent is the source of spam, stop corresponding with that correspondent. There is hardly a better way.

“Sadly, sending mail is never as easy as it seems...”

And this is also a popular misconception. It’s really easy, you just have to have the right tool for it, the right program. Even in the case of having multiple electronic mail addresses, some persons perceive a nondifficulty as though it were a difficulty. Some persons claim that it’s difficult to use multiple electronic mail addresses, checking each for incoming mail, keeping track of which electronic mail address is used for which correspondent. This is misguided, because the user doesn’t do that, there is a program that does that. The program checks each one’s electronic mail address for incoming messages, downloads each message into one place. It can also be configured to do this check/download at randomly chosen times, via hard-to-trace network connections (e.g. via TOR), for the sake of impeding the correlation between the user and the electronic mail address. Perhaps there are other techniques for this, but randomly chosen electronic mail checking/downloading over encrypted difficult-to-trace network connections seems sufficent.

Sending is also easy, because all the sender needs to do is prepare the message, and specify the recipient. The electronic mail program is configured just before the first correspondence with that correspondent, with all the details about each correspondent, including the electronic mail addresses of the sender, of the recipient, and the keys for cryptographically signing or encrypting the message. All that an end user would need to do is, for example, (command line interface) \command{mail \subcommand{send \argument{recipient} \argument{message}}} where \argument{recipient} is some specifier of who the recipient is, such as the recipient’s ekenym, and \argument{message} is some specifier of what the message data is, such as the name of the file that contains the message data, or just the message data.

The creation or consumption of a message, naturally, happens outside the electronic mail system, because a message can be arbitrary data. If message creation is part of the system, it tends to limit what sort of data is used in the message.

“I’m explicitly trying to follow ... less white men”

I think the racism here is obvious. Your goal is to have new (to you), interesting (to you), data. Instead of using arbitrary criteria such as the author’s profession, race,, you should be considering what, exactly, you seek. What, exactly, are the qualities you like in the data you consume? I doubt that you really care about the author’s race or profession. My guess is that you have a need for stylistic novelty. If that is the case, you might like authors whose products tend to be avant-garde.

“I also unfollow anybody who annoys me even for the slightest reasons in order to keep the number of people manageable and relatable”

It can be dangerous to use nonannoyance or relatability as criteria for data to consume. Nonannoyance is a dangerous criterion for data to consume because you may be annoyed by something with which you disagree. Relatability is a dangerous criterion for data to consume because you may find relatable only that with which you agree. The danger is that you might be consuming only data with which you agree, which tends to make one stupid, because one has less exposure to different thoughts. (“I don’t care about their different thoughts, different thoughts are good for me” —Tanita Tikaram.) By thinking through a different thought, one becomes smarter by figuring out everything wrong about that thought, and everything right about that thought.

From under the comment box:

“Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License”

What’s wrong with contributing work licensed under the ISC license?

“To save this page you must answer this question:

Please say HELLO.”

That’s not a question.

Muirzow 2019-12-17 08:03 UTC


Your simplistic definition of globalization misses the point. See Wikipedia on Globalization.

As for the benefits of partial centralization, I think it’s all in the blog post.

All the people I knew started hiding their email addresses back when the web started growing and rumours started spreading that web spiders were harvesting email addresses of web pages. Your solution is one of many, but it’s complicated and I don’t know anybody using it. You want to redefine how people use and think about mail. I don’t care about rethinking how mail should work.

Sending mail is never as easy as it seems refers to the difficulties of setting up a mail server on your web host and configuring it correctly so that mails sent from it actually get delivered. Your definitions of what messages are or could entail are besides the point.

Your accusation of racism is noted. My interest in talking to you is significantly diminished.

Your comment on my preference to avoid annoyance is noted. I do not share your point of view.

Your comment on the security question is noted.

What can I say? I’m already annoyed by your style of writing. I can’t really imagine how this discussion could end up being considered time well spent. I fear our communication styles are fundamentally at odds.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-17 08:26 UTC


Your simplistic definition of globalization misses the point.

Are you implying that it’s better to use an unecessarily complex idea? Also, in what way does it miss the point. What point does it miss? (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

As for the benefits of partial centralization, I think it’s all in the blog post.

No, it’s not. I even re-read it just now. I do not see any sentence which describes something that is a benefit of centralization as a benefit of centralization. If there is a description of a benefit of centralization, it is not described as a benefit of centralization. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

Your solution is one of many, but it’s complicated and I don’t know anybody using it.

Complicated relative to what? Many a thing is complicated. Even some of the simplest things are complicated (e.g. quarks). I would agree that it’s more complicated than not using electronic mail. I would agree that the whole my proposed electronic mail system is more complicated than the whole standard electronic mail system. It includes the standard electronic mail system, adding an elegant interface. I would disagree that using my proposed electronic mail system is more complicated than using, with the same level of security, the standard electronic mail system.

You want to redefine how people use and think about mail.

No, I don’t. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

Sending mail is never as easy as it seems refers to the difficulties of setting up a mail server on your web host and configuring it correctly so that mails sent from it actually get delivered. Your definitions of what messages are or could entail are besides the point.

No, it doesn’t. That statement was clearly about sending mail, not about installing a mail server. Accordingly, my comment discussed sending mail, and how it could be made easier. If you had meant that installing a mail server is more difficult than it should be, then that is what you should have written. Do you expect that a person who reads “sending mail is difficult” is going to interpreta that as though it had meant that installing a mail server is difficult? Only few persons are telepathic (probably none). According to my estimation, the probability is high that it is in your best interest that you compose, and write, your texts accurately, and as precisely as apropos. (At least this your statement is conducive to it’s discussion.)

Your accusation of racism is noted. My interest in talking to you is significantly diminished.

Racism is racial discrimination. That sentece described racial discrimination. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

I’m already annoyed by your style of writing.

What about it annoys you? (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

I can’t really imagine how this discussion could end up being considered time well spent.

I can. I won’t. Imagining that is not productive.

I fear our communication styles are fundamentally at odds.

That is a strange fear. There is no conflict between my communication style and your communication style. It is impossible that a communication style conflicts with a communication style. Perhaps your fear is that, my communication being exact, you’ll read something which is true, about which your preference is that it is not true. If something is true about which your preference is that it is not true, pretending it is not true shan’t make it true. The only way you can change it’s truth value is by seeing it, understanding it, understanding how to get from it being true to it being untrue, and doing what is sufficient to make it true. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

(Perhaps state more conducive-to-it’s-discussion statements, less nonconducive-to-it’s-discussion statements.)

– Muirzow 2019-12-18 03:38 UTC


Globalization or globalisation is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide.

is the first sentence on that page to which you pointed. How does that differ from my conception? Are they not effectively identical? I do see a minor difference, which I suspect is an error. The difference is that this first sentece of Wikipedia/Globalization forgot the word “increasing”, between “the process of” and “interaction”. I would, perhaps, change the sentence to be: “Globalization is the process resulting in the integration of, and increasing interaction among, persons throughout Earth.” (A company is a sort of person. A government is a sort of person. There is no such thing as the world. There are worlds, some which contain, some which are contained by, Earth.)

– Muirzow 2019-12-18 03:50 UTC


Ugh, please leave my blog forever. I am not interested in this conversation.

Your style of communication makes me want to discontinue the conversation before we even get to the various points where one could be right or wrong.

Feel free to conclude whatever you want from this, but do it elsewhere. You are not welcome, here.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-18 06:42 UTC

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2019-12-05 Commonplace Books

On Mastodon, @chrisod recently mentioned the commonplace book, a scrapbook where people collected quotes, listed books to read, took notes. I myself love wikis but my life is full of little notebooks. My wife has one for holiday plans, for plants, for bills; I have them for my role-playing game campaigns: whether I’m a player or a referee, each campaign has a notebook.

For my day to day todo lists, I’ve tried bullet journals but I lack the discipline to make it a ritual. I use it as a todo list for a few days and then it lays fallow for weeks. But I do keep notes for my role-playing games with great discipline. I keep my prep in little notebooks.

The prep notebooks are mostly chronological, but then there are two or three pages of notes on a particular adventure, I tape some printout onto a page, I draw a map... you have seen examples before: 2019-10-06 How to Prep, 2019-01-31 Game Prep, 2015-11-15 Prep, 2014-10-15 Adventure Prep, and so on.

printouts stuck in a notebook

I mean, I do write session reports Campaign Wiki for players after the game, but when I’m not writing about something I know, like the game that we had a few days ago, then I can’t just sit down and write. I need to jot down an idea here and there, I need to spend time doodling maps and pictures in order to give my brain opportunities for new ideas. They take time to develop and I can’t get up and simply do something else. Doodling is my way of staying focused on the topic.

Somehow that doesn’t work with a wiki. Perhaps if I had a larger wiki, separate from the one for my players, where I wouldn’t feel bad writing just two or three sentences for each idea that strikes me? It might work. But right now my problem is that it isn’t easy to doodle on my phone or at the laptop. Pen and paper still are the best medium for that.

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Are you an Apple product user Alex? (I think maybe not?) If you are then you may like the Apple Pencil and iPad with GoodNotes or Notability. I mention them because, after years of being a commonplace book user and firmly in the ’pen and paper are irreplaceable’ camp, I have recently converted and have found it a very easy and useful transition. Being able to add handwritten notes and doodles to images, PDFs etc. has expanded my imagination and productivity in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And having a bullet journal/campaign notebook/art journal/diary/sketchpad/garden notebook - my ’one book to rule them all’ is a beautiful thing.

– VickyR 2020-02-14 07:24 UTC


Do you have some screenshots? I do have a big iPad and an Apple pencil but I just use them for drawing stuff.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-14 09:44 UTC

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2019-10-13 ActivityPub and Oddmuse?

I wonder whether I should write an extension to a basic ActivityPub server for Oddmuse. What would it do? Allow people to comment? And it would also allow people to delete their comments? And offer a moderating interface so that any users could remove any comment from the wiki? After all, we want peer review.

We also want to edit each other’s wiki pages. How would you edit a wiki page that is based on ActivityPub posts and comments. What would it mean for the original posts and comments? Say you left a comment and I fix a typo in your comment, but then you delete your comment. Does my edit disappear? What if my contribution was more than just a typo fix. Does it still disappear?

Would it be possible to create new posts using a post shared with the wiki? What would we get: a wiki that is also an archive of a conversation? As long as you mention the wiki, new stories and comments on the story get posted.

Thinking about this makes by head hurt.

For now it seems to me that a trivial implementation makes no sense. These are our options:

  1. Just post edits to the fediverse. You can already do this by plugging a RSS feed into a bot. Example: @kensanata@bots.tinysubversions.com. This has been done.
  2. Allow wiki editing and posting with weird restrictions as described above. I think this is concept needs a lot more though.
  3. Use a new ActivityPub vocabulary that allows us to talk about page edits. This would work, but it would also require clients that can offer the right UI. It would need servers that offer a new API. It would be very, very similar to simply replicating the database in the back via git, actually. The benefit is unclear to me.

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2019-07-14 Blogging Spirit

@wilfredh recently said:

… blogs are too time focused. There’s a pressure for novel ideas, ideas must be polished, and they assume you don’t want to edit old ideas.

Perhaps a bliki is a better model?

(Sadly the Bliki page on Wikipedia was deleted. 😞)

I’m not so sure about the wiki benefits. I love wikis. I’ve been using this wiki of mine since 2003 but honestly it mostly degenerated into a simple blog running atop a wiki engine.

The expectations of others is a pressure you will feel when writing on a bliki.

I use my site mostly like a blog. I like the ability to edit past pages and restructure stuff but mostly when I “restructure” something I just rename tags or I end up writing new category pages which contain a sentence or two and then they list the ten most recent tagged day pages on the subject.

When I write regular pages, I write them like blog posts. I sometimes revise them for a day or two, but soon I’ll add new information as comments on my own post. One way I feel pressured to this is my model of my readers: I think they aren’t glued to RecentChanges like I am but use a feed reader (or a Blogspot blogroll more likely) and so new pages are the signal that actually gets out and that’s what they expect. They don’t care to be notified of later edits have made to an existing page.

Another issue is that after a while you are happy that your thoughts are time stamped. Once you have blogged for a few years, your opinions change. I had some pretty strong opinions on the US invasion of Iraq, for example. When I comment on timeless things, pages can live in the WikiNow. But when commenting on events either in the news or in my life, I can’t go back and look at thousands of pages, editing them to reflect new insight. Newer pages must overrule older ones.

This wiki has currently over 7700 pages, comment pages and uploaded images.

Editing a wiki as a community establishes a territory, pages you care about, pages of compromise, of synthesis. Writing a wiki is a conversation. But if you’re basically the only author and readers just leave comments, then all of that doesn’t work. Thus, the Wiki Way is lost and the Blogging Spirit takes over.

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Absolutely agree with you on the benefits of blog posts being timestamped; a post represents one’s thoughts on the subject at the time it was posted but there’s no implied promise that it’ll be updated as thoughts evolve. This is liberating.

Further, it’s somehow cheating to go back and make a change without clearly marking that change (other than typo fixes and the like which don’t change the sense of the post and for which markup would just be clutter).

Ed Davies 2019-07-14 22:08 UTC


I haven’t spent much time contemplating the subject, but I have recently been thinking that what you have here is really a sweetspot between blog and wiki. As you will have noticed I really like the ability to quickly correct small typos/grammos that slipped through (something I never bother with if it involves emailing the author or pointing them out in a comment) and am thinking that if I would get into blogging I would want to do it on a wiki too.

I also think you get the best of both worlds in having the choice of putting the date in the title or not. When you do that it is clear that the ideas expressed are possibly fleeting. And when you want a “timeless” page for some topic I think omitting the date in the title but having most of the content be a living list of links to dated posts is a good model (living in the sense that you would update the list as your thoughts evolve, adding new dated posts and removing links to dated posts that have “expired”).

(Sidenote: You should let me know if my edits annoy you. I think what I like about it is that it feels like I am contributing back in a small way as thanks for the content you provide. I hope you take it as an acknowledgement that someone reads and enjoys it enough to care!)

– Björn Buckwalter 2019-07-15 08:33 UTC


And this is why I decided to decommission the old PmWiki on my personal website after nearly 12 years, while the OddMuse on No Time To Play is only proving more useful by the day. Can you guess which of them is being used for what it was built to do best? 😝

Felix 2019-07-15 12:20 UTC


Björn, I love your edits. Thank you very much! 🙂

Felix, I hadn’t seen the No Time to Play Wiki before. I like this not on your Recent Changes intro:

27 January 2019: one year after the big migration, it seems to be decided: long-form articles will go straight to the wiki, with suitable announcements posted to the new blog, and all the usual places. The blog will still be used for the more time-dependent write-ups in addition to the newsletters.

Heh! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-07-16 16:38 UTC


Oh dear, could’ve sworn you knew about it already. And yeah, that wasn’t planned, it just turned out to be the way I ended up using it after a while. By the way: no other wiki engine I’m familiar with treats Recent Changes as an ordinary page that can have manually edited content at the top, and that enables uniquely interesting uses.

Felix 2019-07-17 08:38 UTC


Thanks! If you have any ideas or things you’d like to try, let me know. 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-07-17 20:16 UTC

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