I’ve been thinking about a business idea

I’ve been thinking about creating a service offering for people writing about programming on the web: editorial services.

I’m not sure how it’d work yet, but here’s what I’m thinking as of right now:

What most authors need is someone to give their writing a once-over, a sanity check… someone who can say “I don’t know what you’re trying to say here,” or even “this isn’t clear enough to be effective.” Maybe the person reviewing it could even offer advice, like “you need to make your point earlier in the text, because most readers won’t get far enough along to benefit from what you’re saying.”

Sometimes writers need copy editing – fixes for grammar and spelling – and sometimes they need technical review – someone to actually validate that what they’re saying is even valid.

I was thinking of offering my services mostly for that first type of editorial service: someone who reads the content, and actually considers what kind of response the text creates.

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t offer copy corrections (“You are, using too, many, commas, in, your, text”) or that I wouldn’t point out programmatic errors where I have knowledge and experience…. but the primary point would be to offer advice on flow and effective prose.

I’d have to be able to refuse some content: if someone says something factually incorrect or misleading and insists on it, well… I’m not willing to associate my name with something that lies to its audience. I’ve never been willing to do that before, and I’m not willing to do that now.

I don’t know yet how I’d negotiate with content authors, nor am I sure what pay scale would be involved.

What do you think? Would this be something you’d be interested in exploiting as a service, and if so, what kind of price point would you like to see?

Newsblur; Fricassee; old friends – 14/Feb/2019

Things I’m thinking about:

RSS Feeds

I’ve started using Newsblur again. I shut off Facebook a while back for various reasons (nothing drastic, just… tired, mostly), so my news has been supplied by a fairly limited set of channels.

Newsblur fixes that. It’s not just Newsblur, of course; you can use any of a number of feed readers, but Newsblur is the one that works best for me.

I’m enjoying it so far.

With that said: if you know of any sites that are new, flashy, interesting, relevant for … well, news, visual arts, philosophy, creating music, Python or Java programming, let me know! I may already have them in my feed, but I might not, and I want to grow my list of sources if I can.

Fricassee!

I looked up what a fricassee was, because I used it as a sort of joke dish. However, my use was copied from, like, Bugs Bunny back in the 1970s; I had no idea what a fricassee actually is.

Now I do:

A dish of stewed or fried pieces of meat served in a thick white sauce.

We learn together! (Unless, of course, you already knew what a fricassee was.)

Old Friends

I have no intention of living in the past – the “good old days” were the “bad old days” too – but I miss those friends with whom I’ve lost communication.

Social networking helps in a few cases, but it’s also so…ephemeral that it doesn’t really establish the connections that made us friends in the first place.

C’est la vie – a phrase I use far too often, I think.

Blackface, Journalists not being “Journalists”, AI Title Generator – 2019/Feb/11

Things I’m thinking about lately

Blackface

This thing about blackface among Virginia political leaders is.. interesting and frustrating.

Look: blackface is problematic. At some point, the culture matters, but it’s always been about poking fun of African-American people – it’s never been good. Ever.

But now we’re seeing another witchhunt, and some of it has implications beyond what its natural purview should be.

Remember a few years ago, when a girl wore a Chinese dress and was slammed for “cultural appropriation”? We’re looking at that being the natural extension here, again.

We’re looking at something that says that a little girl who dresses up as Serena Williams – the tennis star – is crippling her future, by opening herself up for an accusation of “blackface.”

That’s not even silly. Some of the accusations going around in Virginia center around a dance contest where someone dressed up as Michael Jackson, makeup included.

That’s homage, not insult.

I’ve no interest in defending someone being racist, but we need to remember that the absolutes here are disastrous.

The Media Screwed Up – Color Me Surprised

Catlin Flanagan published “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story” in The Atlantic. It’s brutal, vicious, and right on point. Included are these two absolute smashing quotes:

By Saturday, the story had become so hot, and the appetite for it so deep, that some news outlets felt compelled to do some actual reporting.

…and this overlong paragraph, that would be devastating to any journalist who had the guts to read it …

How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.

Journalism has been absolutely wrecked by outlets screeching for clicks instead of keeping to their purpose of informing the public. It’s what got Trump elected. It’s amplifying hatred of the other – when “the other” is the fellow who doesn’t agree with everything you say politically.

I hope journalists are paying attention.

Speaking of paying attention…

AI Article Title Generator

BJ Campbell wrote a paywalled article on Medium, called “AI Article Title Generator.” In it, he suggests a business whose sole goal is to optimize titles for clicks, with said articles only having to be tangentially related to the titles. It’s sarcastic… but right on. I’ve thought of similar things, sadly, but not enunciated them… and had I said them, I wouldn’t have said them as eloquently as BJ did.

I write terrible titles, because I’m not trying to maximize traffic through clicks. I’m trying to write information, so I try to write titles that say what the article in question is actually about.

Since I tend to write composite editorials – like this one – that means my titles tend to be really boring. C’est la vie.

Thoughts of the Day, 2019/Feb/8

Things I’m thinking lately:

Teamwork

You can’t want me to excel and then get in my way.

Well, you can, but you… shouldn’t.

Date Formats

Yes, I find I prefer year/month/day. It’s inherently sortable. It’s also really common in computing, and should be more common.

Headings

I’m trying to switch back to the headings format. It’s easier to read, but not write… but I’m trying to be okay with encouraging easier reading.

Not Twitter

Most of these “thoughts of the day” would be decent tweets, I think, but they might be too long. I’m not sure. I’m not really a Twitter person. The platform tends to de-emphasize nuance too much for my tastes.

Bad Habits

I just realized something unfortunate: when I’m in flow – that creative state where your brain is churning along at full speed on a problem – I have a habit of grazing for food. The more I achieve flow state, the more I want snacks in easy reach. For someone who’s trying to force themselves back into some semblance of decent shape, that’s not good.

Volt, considering moving away from WordPress

Ah, new things and directions….

  • Someone on IRC this morning mentioned Volt.ws, a messaging client available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It’s really tiny. It’s also missing a lot of functionality still, but it can connect to Slack… and it’s tiny. It still doesn’t support Slack private messages, but once it gets those (which should be in February 2019) it might be my preferred Slack client, over Slack’s own and Franz… because Slack’s client is awful on system resources and Franz is worse, despite being a better client.
  • I have been trying to figure out ways to move on from WordPress. It’s not really WordPress’ fault… I want Asciidoctor support, for one thing, and I’m rather disheartened at relying on an application written in PHP. But the alternatives require more time than I have right now, and I’m really not thinking I could personally design a good user interface if I wrote my own software. I’ve considered Jekyll and Hugo, but I’d really want to work out the comments mechanism before moving on. Plus, I am used to running software live; a static site feels odd.
  • I wonder how many programming advances have been created in an attempt to simply avoid boredom on the part of the programmer.
  • I’ve been considering trying to echo these things on Medium just to see what the differences in exposure would be.

Super Bowl, Commercials, Gutenberg Headings

Okay, I’m going to try the header format thing again, because it’s something new and different (for me) in WordPress’ Medium-style editor. But here are the things I’m thinking about:

The Super Bowl

I tried to think of a cute pun for the title, but “The Super Bah” was dumb. I came up with others, but that’s still the best of them, and it’s not any good.

The Super Bowl, Part II

You let us down, Jared. I kept thinking you were a University of Georgia graduate too (just like Todd Gurley, the stud running back who was underused during the game).

Why did I think you were a Georgia QB? Because you kinda sucked on the biggest stage football has. You killed your team, Jared. You killed your team.

The only saving grace for the Rams was that the refs rather clearly wanted the Patriots to win, with a runner being called “defenseless” after he caught the ball, to preserve a drive when the Rams’ impressive defense got a critical and impressive stop.

I enjoy defensive battles… but this was a battle of a good defense against a good offense (when New England had the ball) and a good defense against an overmatched toddler (when Los Angeles had the ball.)

I wish the refs hadn’t given the Rams the win against New Orleans.

(After rereading this section, I sound a lot angrier than I actually am – I was neutral about the game, and thought mostly that Jared Goff was outmatched, as he apparently was. I’m okay with the Patriots winning; they earned it. The Rams defense was stellar. The offense was… less than stellar.)

Best Commercial

The best commercial of the night was a local one, for Michael and Sons, an HVAC company local to the Virginia area.

It had two football players (kids, like pre-teens), with one “tackling” the other – pretty gently, it was like they told him to push the other one down – and, after the tackle, a thrown ball hits the tackler in the backside. The ref then waves “incomplete pass!” — just like the Saints/Rams refs, except with a parody.

We’re not normally Michael and Sons customers – not only was our home built with a different HVAC company, but we actually know the owner of yet another HVAC company – but dang, that commercial was so on point that we talked about switching.

Hopefully a video will show up online of that commercial (and hopefully I remember to look for it so I can link to it.)

The ASMR commercial was the other notable commercial. Apparently people were creeped out by it. I don’t know – I found it fascinating, mostly because I didn’t recognize the ASMR aspect of it until later. But it was for a … beer, I think, so maybe as a commercial it was intriguing but not all that effective, because I might switch HVAC companies but I am not drinking that beer.

Gutenberg

Now that I’ve used the heading stuff in WordPress’ editor, my first impression is that I do not like it. I’ve been trying to give this editor a spin for a while, to give it a fair shake… and while it has some nice features (pasting a URL over selected text converts it to a link!) it’s mostly annoying

Open Source Blog Software

I keep wanting to move away from WordPress, because I’ve been using it forever and I keep thinking there’s a Platonic ideal that isn’t WordPress.

However, most of them are in PHP – violating the Platonic ideal – and the ones that remain are either static site generators (Jekyll, Hugo) or node.js implementations (ghost), or things that are documented really inconsistently (typo/publify). I thought about roller, but…

Blogging, getting wordpress running properly on Ubuntu

Things I’m thinking and feeling:

  • I really don’t “blog” all that much. I record, I guess, and that’s sort of a “web log,” but I really don’t expose much of my innermost feelings – it’s like observations with a mirror in the way. I’ve always been that way when I write. Always.
  • Today I’m going to try something different.
  • I feel horribly sad today. Not really empty, not really morose, just… not even tired, but mournful, and I don’t even really know what it is I’m mourning. Maybe it’s memory, all the memories I feel like I could have had but don’t, maybe it’s the memories I do have but shouldn’t. Maybe I’m mourning the fact that I don’t know if I’m what I should be. But today, Me, I’m down. I’m not feeling bad, I’m just down.
  • I finally fixed some problems with my WordPress installation. When I upgraded to Ubuntu 18.04 on my server, apparently some PHP plugins didn’t get installed/migrated/somethinged – I went to a page on installing the LEMP stack on Ubuntu, installed the system dependencies, and lo and behold, things started working better again. Annoying, because this stuff’s been broken for a long time. Now if WordPress would only track the same hits that I see in access logs…
  • After a long dry spell, I’ve been writing poetry again. This is a good thing, but as usual my poetry is inspired by my mood, which is not a good thing. Oh, well. Maybe some of it will be worth publishing.
  • I also finally have been grinding my way through some new-ish music. Hurray.
  • I wonder if CNN – or any other news source, really – would be improved if you removed all the adjectives and subsidiary clauses. Some important information would get lost, but honestly? Most of the adjectives and subordinate clauses are used by the “journalists” to insert their opinions into the news, to sanitize it for the tribe most likely to read that particular bit… or enrage the tribe for which the bit isn’t targeted.

Flit, Trump’s Address on 19 Jan, Elite: Dangerous

Things that are crossing my path lately:

  • Flit, in context of “Python Packages and You.” Python packaging is not a strength of mine.
  • I hate to say it, but the Democrats’ rejection of Trump’s offer to open negotiations about the government now look kinda stupid, based on their oppositions. They’re saying that a three year suspension of some of the deportations and other such hot-button issues … basically, getting the things they wanted was not enough. They’re idiots. Sure, he is one, too… but the whole three year delay for the application of law gives Congress three years to fix the law, which is what Trump said they should do when he said he was going to resume deportations in the first place! In other words, from me to them: Congress, do your flippin’ jobs. If Congress wasn’t relying on executive power to do what Congress was meant to do, a lot of this mess would have gone away, but they keep digging in their heels and saying “no.”
  • The worst thing about Elite: Dangerous is how long it takes to get into a gaming session. The best thing about Elite:Dangerous is “pretty much everything else.”
  • I just realized I can select a region in WordPress’ editor, and then paste a URL – and the region is converted to an HTTP anchor automagically. Now that is useful.
  • Few things are both more and less amusing than watching someone stomp about, screaming “I am not a prima donna!”

Metrics, new Macbook charger, testcontainers

Things I’m learning about, on this day of verbs:

  • What metrics matter: A guide for open source projects” has a lot of good information. It’s interesting.
  • I get to buy a new Macbook charger today; my “old” one is giving out, I think, which is frustrating.
  • Testcontainers looks like an interesting project. I may have to try it out. It’s enabling.
  • There is an Atlas of Endangered Alphabets. It’s fascinating.
  • Apparently January 18th is “Winnie the Pooh Day.” I had no idea. Even though we describe our cats in terms of Tiggerisms – and once had a cat named Tigger – it’s… vaguely confusing.
  • My exercise routine remains, but parts of it are missing this past week – namely, some of the short walks.

Art, JDBC, coffee, JSoup, Gradle, Hallelujah, Resetting

Things I may have learned recently-ish:

  • Painting pottery is fun. I’m not very good at it. I apparently also have a thing for beer steins… out of which I drink coffee, because beer isn’t very good in my opinion. But steins are also a LOT of coffee, so it’s impractical to drink coffee from steins.
  • Speaking of coffee, I’m sticking to black coffee straight up because of my diet/exercise regimen. I’m normally a sweet coffee kind of guy… this drinking of only bitter coffee is “interesting,” but not in the “most interesting man in the world” kind of way. Still trying to stick to it.
  • Virtuoso‘s JDBC driver is not especially reliable. And I really wish I’d kept a “total time elapsed” for this entire process. I didn’t even keep a “real time elapsed” – but I’m predicting it takes days.
  • I may have found a bug in JSoup. There’s a method that gets the representative text of a parent HTML node, and it’s removing one space character where I don’t think it’s supposed to. Will investigate further.
  • Had a discussion yesterday – well, sort of a discussion – with a programmer who was arguing against Kotlin, saying that it didn’t really do anything Java didn’t do. That’s a particularly reductionist argument; after all, Java doesn’t do anything C doesn’t do (Java is written in C when you go deep enough) and C doesn’t do anything machine code doesn’t do. Why doesn’t he just use machine code? (Or he could use Kotlin, which is remarkably expressive and saves a ton of time.) Of course, he also was arguing that non-nullable types were a waste of time – and how great Python was, so maybe his priorities were skewed way differently than mine.
  • Two friends may have finally seen an end to their job hunts, which is a good thing if true.
  • Gradle is nice, but I still prefer Maven for most things. Yesterday I considered getting module interdependencies working as a “milestone.” That’s a crappy milestone to have. This stuff should just work.
  • Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – particularly the original release – is a great song. As a Christmas song, I’m not … sold (what the heck?) but as a song about perfect expressions from an imperfect source… the song’s recording even echoes its own form, in an awesome fractal. He’s pitchy, off the beat, all kinds of things… and yet I dare anyone listening to it to not be thinking “… Hallelujah!” in a sympathetic echo in their souls.
  • I first heard “Hallelujah,” as far as I know, on American Idol.
  • I altered a core setting (the audio in/output mix) on my A/D device (which I use to record audio) a week or so ago – and yesterday, when I went to use it, couldn’t get any sound out of it. Memo to self: when you change things, set them back! I’m usually a lot better about this, and don’t know why I got it wrong – maybe someone interrupted me so I didn’t fix the hardware before getting up? I don’t know.