The Only Good Brexit is No Brexit

38 Degrees is consulting the public on a “DIY Brexit,” wherein the public can give their opinions on what Brexit should look like, and supposedly the results will be looked at by a group of think-tanks who are being consulted on the matter.

The things people have come up with so far all seem pretty good and sound, at a first glance (kind of hard to read, the way it’s presented with big fixed header and footer).

But. But what we want is not the best Brexit we can get. What we want is no Brexit at all.

And I think I can safely say I speak for the majority when I say that. But Theresa May and her crazy government don’t look like they’re willing to listen to anyone about it.

You know how all recent prime ministers get “isms” named after them? Ever since Thatcherism, at least? Well this one gets an alternative suffix: Not Mayism. Mayday!1


  1. And not the good one. That’s May Day. []

The Strange Case of the Lost Reply

I’ve tried various email clients on iOS, but for quite a while now my favourite has been Dispatch from Clean Shaven Apps. As well as the many integrations and efficient handling of archiving and deleting emails, I like it because it is one of the only apps that lets you order mail in the One True Way.

Which in case you’re wondering is oldest at the top. Newest at the top is fine for blogs and similar news-based things, but it’s not right for anything else. Call me old-fashioned, but that was the default in Eudora and probably in Mutt and Elm and all those too, and it was and remains the best way.

Even Outlook lets you order it oldest-first. Though disturbingly few people take advantage of it.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that today Dispatch let me down. I was typing a reply on my iPad this morning. The reply composition window looks like this:

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I did something — I’m not sure what — that made the composition window slide off to the right. Part of it was still visible, so I tried tapping on it. And it disappeared.

There was no prompt, and nothing in my drafts folder. All that I had typed was gone, like tears in rain.

I’ve just been trying to reproduce it, and I can, up to a point: if you slide the compose window to the right it goes off out of the way, like this:

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Which is actually quite useful, because it makes the compose window non-modal and lets you interact with your other messages. But somehow something can go wrong, even though I can’t make it happen now.

Not the end of the world. I retyped the mail. but that’s not good enough, Dispatch. You have to be able to trust your email client.

Oh, Eh?

I watched the first episode of Netflix’s The OA last night. Very interesting. I’m looking forward to watching the rest, and speculating about what “OA” might stand for. “Operational Assistant”? “Overcome with Angst?” I kind of want it to have something to do with UFOs, but that would mean it had to be “Object” something.”Object Activity,” for example.

But none of that would make much sense. And I’m betting that it won’t be anything easily guessable.

One could of course google it, but that would be to walk into a pit of spoilers, and I came into this knowing exactly nothing about it, which is great.

Also watched the first episode of Person of Interest, which my son has been singing the praises of for some time. No bad, looks quite promising.

And (a bit of a TV-fest last night) a few episodes of That 70s Show, which my daughter has been singing the praises of. Quite funny, quite (but not exactly) like the real 70s. The joke may wear thin, but it should be good until then.

Probably a Good Time to Download Your Twitter Archive

This Bloomberg article may not be entirely serious, but it is, you know, Bloomberg:

There’s a strange idea circulating among Mexican currency traders. Well, more of a joke really. But there’s a certain logic to it.

It goes like this: Instead of spending its precious reserves to defend the peso, Mexico should just buy Twitter Inc. — at a cost of about $12 billion — and immediately shut it down.

The idea being that it would be the easiest way to stop the Trumpet tweeting negative things about Mexico.

I don’t know, he’d just find another forum, no doubt. Shit, in a week’s time he’ll be able to put whatever he wants on Whitehouse.gov.

[T]hat the idea was even raised in jest shows how just how frustrated Mexicans are that their economy and the value of their savings are at the mercy of the seemingly random musings coming in 140-character bursts from Trump’s Twitter account. It’s a sentiment that presumably would be shared by U.S. investors in companies like, say, General Motors Co. or Lockheed Martin Corp., but in Mexico, the pain, and the accompanying despair, appear to be on a much greater scale.

A lot more than Mexico is at the mercy of those “seemingly random musings.”

Just to Make the Numbers

Does it count if you write a blog post just so that you’ve written one today? Well, yes, of course it does. After all, you wouldn’t want to spoil an unbroken run of twelve days. 

The purpose of doing this is to make myself write and publish something each day. The act of writing is the thing, even if I don’t have a specific subject to discuss.

I could, for example, mention that while I was reading the Twin Peaks book recently, I ordered the boxed set on DVD. So I’ve started rewatching that. Only two episodes in (or the pilot and one episode, if you want to describe it that way).

I find there’s a lot I don’t remember, not surprisingly, as I haven’t seen it since the 90s. Each episode comes with an optional introduction by The Log Lady. They are suitably obscure and ambiguous. 

I hear today that the new series is going to be out in May. How we watch it in the UK is another matter, and I’ll have words to say about that in the future.

Duck(Duck)ing the User Interface

It must be well over a year now since I switched my main search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo. I changed partly because of concerns over Google’s handling of privacy issues, and partly just to try out the new one.

DuckDuckGo’s results are usually fine, and if you ever can’t find something and you think Google might be better, it’s easy to redirect your search there by adding “!g” at the end. There are other special codes like this, such as “!w” to search Wikipedia.

So it’s all fine. But what I’ve only gradually realised is that I much prefer the Duck’s user interface. And this is for one simple reason: infinite scrolling.

Now, infinite scrolling isn’t always good, and in sure it has a negative effect on things like usability and caching, in at least some cases. But on DDG (as I’m sure no-one ever calls it), it makes the whole search experience better.

Because sometimes there are more than ten Interesting hits. Or the interesting ones are long after the tenth. But with Google, you get ten on a page. And then you’ve got to click or touch a link to go to the next ten. And it just feels so old fashioned.

After just a few months on DDG (as we should all start calling it from now on) you can’t go back to Google without feeling a weird interrupt at the end of a page, before you go, “Oh, yeah, gotta click that.”

It’s just an inferior experience.

Surely There’s a Better Answer Than That?

For one reason or another we wanted to remind ourselves1 of the Spanish word for “south.” I like to ask Siri for that kind of thing, because speaking to your phone is just easier than unlocking and typing sometimes. And Siri is not bad. It quite often gets the right answer for this kind of thing.

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Not so much there, though.

So it correctly understood my question; but instead of feeding it to Google Translate or another translation service, it sent it to Wolfram Alpha, seemingly. And that came back with intriguing answer that the Spanish for “south” is “about 99027 people.”

Seems like an unwieldy way to specify a compass direction.


  1. I say “remind” because I learned Spanish at school, my beloved is a linguist, and our daughter is learning it, so we knew really. []

Social Media is Like the Railways?

There’s a piece in the Guardian entitled “Why social media is like the railways – and must be saved. I’m not sure about the title, but it’s a good piece, by Paul Mason (in fact, looking at the URL I suspect that wasn’t the original title).

He starts by talking about SoundCloud, which is, for me at least, one of those sites that you would never think of going to; you just follow a link to something on it. Mind you, increasingly many sites are like that, and have been since perhaps the early days of blogging. Anyway, Mason says:

The Berlin-based music service started as a super-cool platform for people who made music and wanted to share it. Last week, its owners admitted it was losing a million dollars a week, and could run out of cash before the end of the year.

The whole future of the little orange cloud now rests on whether it can get people to subscribe – for money.

Which is interesting, and it’s one of those things that the net is a better place for it existing, and I’d be sad to see go away — but I can’t imagine ever subscribing to it.

In the same week, another achingly cool online publisher, this time of blogs, Medium, also hit trouble.

“Achingly cool”? Medium? I’m not convinced (disclaimer: for what it’s worth, my posts are automatically crossposted to Medium, among other places).

He goes on to talk about how none of the social media sites is profitable, except of course for Facebook. He refers to

the ailing internet platforms – not just Soundcloud and Medium but Ello, a wannabe rival to Facebook, and Tumblr

Tumblr is ailing? that seems surprising, considering how popular it is. But who knows (it’s also one of the other places I mentioned above). He goes on to exhort us to return to these sites, dust off our old user IDs and so on, and enjoy them again:

It will feel a bit like time travel – back to the period around 2010-12, when social media was associated with postmodernity, self-produced music and revolt, not fake news, white supremacy and rule by old men. But usage alone will not save the collaborative tools. We need new, cooperative ownership models. If basic word processors are effectively now shipped free with every device, so too could be a nonprofit music-sharing service, a free blogging platform and a place to keep in contact with our friends, without intrusive data-farming and a deluge of ads.

As to that, a free blogging platform — while not “shipped”, is easily available: WordPress. And there are others, of course. But it links back to what I was saying the other day: you’ve got to own your own content if you want it to be safe from services disappearing.

As to that “railways” reference in the title, here’s how he finishes:

Medium, Soundcloud and ultimately Twitter are – like the railways – worth saving even if they cannot be run at a profit. 2017 can and should be a year in which the users of platforms reclaim these freedoms not as privileges but as rights.

I’ve got a lot of time for that view, actually, but those sites are mostly set up on a capitalist model (even if they have a community spirit), and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

Blog Misbehaviour

This blog runs, like so many others, on WordPress. Recently I’ve noticed some strange behaviour.

When I posted an entry, it wouldn’t show up. Not at first, and sometimes not for s long time afterwards. The entry was there: you could see it if you followed the link, for example if you came from Facebook or Twitter, to both of which I automatically distribute.

Eventually I did a bit of googling, and it turns out that caching plugins can have this effect. I had aching plugins installed. I disabled them, and suddenly everything was displaying normally.

You want to cache your content to help with the site’s performance. Cached pages should be served from the webserver’s filesystem, rather than generated from the content in the database each time they’re requested.

So I’ll need to investigate getting a plugin that isn’t problematic, but for now, if you’ve noticed anything odd about the site, it should all be be OK again.

Independent Microblogging

Twitter is great in many ways, but it’s far from problem-free. (Thought experiment: if Twitter hadn’t existed, would Trump have got elected?)

The abuse and lack of tools to combat it are of course the major ones. Lindy West’s Guardian article on leaving Twitter is only the latest such.

But another problem is the old one of owning your own words. Of controlling the platform on which you publish. I’ve posted briefly about this before (though that was Google, rather than Twitter). Sure, Twitter isn’t likely to go bust and delete everyone’s tweets without any warning. But you never know when they’re going to change a policy, or change ownership, or make some other change that — deliberately or not — shuts down your access, removes your entire history, or otherwise lessens or removes the experience.

There have been attempts to build open alternatives, such as Diaspora, but I confess that I’ve only ever come away from it confused.

It would be better if there were a simple way we could all publish to our own sites, but still get the benefit of Twitter’s network. Say hello to Micro.blog a new approach from Manton Reece, blogger, podcaster and developer.

It should allow us to post Tweet-style short posts on our own sites, and also send them to Twitter. Which may give us the best of both worlds.

As well as developing the service and the app, he’s writing a book about the subject of indie microblogging, and has a Kickstarter going to help him out. It’s worth offering a few bucks if you’re at all interested in the matter.