Posts from September 2018

It is happening again
Cello Spotlight

The Interface Newsletter

I keep meaning to write a long post about email newsletters, how I manage them in Gmail, and which ones I subscribe to. Instead I'll just recommend one newsletter that has been fantastic lately: Casey Newton's The Interface. If you're interested in how our Internet ecosystem works (or doesn't work) you'll enjoy it.

Live Bloggin' XOXO II

Woke up with an odd mix of You Got What I Need and La Vie En Rose going through my head thanks to Jean & John & Jessie & Hari. (They should make one of those shirts.) They closed down XOXO Day 3 (9?) with some hard-hitting deconstruction of Biz Markie lyrics. The lies needed to be exposed.


Here are some other quick thoughts I took away from Day 2 (12?):
  • Open Mike Eagle talked about complexity in art (among much more) and his thoughts about people being complex and needing art that speaks to that spoke to me.
  • The Reductress headlines were hilarious and are a way of finding a voice for things people aren't talking about.
  • Ravine is a fun cooperative game where everyone is working together against the game rather than competing against each other. It has some fun mechanics that I haven't seen in other games. It's not turn-based but it's also not complete chaos. Great balance!
  • I'm a big fan of the Criminal podcast so it was great to see Phoebe Judge and put a face with her voice. I wasn't sure how they'd be able to do a documentary episode live, but it worked well by mixing live narration with recorded interviews and adding some visual illustration.
Heading home now so I won't make it to XOXO Day 15, but it was amazing fuel for thought as usual. I also realize I need to make an effort to see my geographically distributed friends in real life—they are amazing too.
XOXO stage

Live Bloggin' XOXO

I'm in Portland for XOXO 2018—a fun conference that pulls together indie artists to show their work and talk about their process. It's also a way for a bunch of people (like me!) who appreciate the weird web to get together and be socially awkward together.

This year XOXO got together with Chicago's LevelEater D&D events to ask this confluence of nerds to raise money for charity by playing Dungeons & Dragons. How do you raise money by playing D&D? It's a simple process: 1.) You get a space to play. 2.) You get some celebrity DMs. 3.) You get maybe a dozen volunteer DMs. 4.) You get someone to write a custom adventure for the event, along with fabricated props. 5.) You get people pay to play at tables of six and buy imaginary magic items to use in the adventure. 6.) And then everyone rolls some dice and goofs around for a few hours.

That's not easy to pull off if you didn't catch the sarcasm. I did this yesterday and it was a great time! I got to play with a personal hero of mine Patrick Rothfuss (site still rockin' ASP!) and give money to MyMusicRx in the process. The venue was an amazing music studio in Portland run by Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk who was there manning the front door, grabbing drinks for folks, and showing people around. The place was decked out in full fantasy regalia—here are a few pics.

photo photo photo photo

I'm really happy XOXO collaborated on this. It was epic fun!

The conference continued that night and I saw some fantastic film & animation projects I hadn't seen before. Graham Annable's Grickle is dark and hilarious if you're a pessimist like me. Do not miss Principal Skeleton. By the way, the venue is HUGE this year:


I also saw some fun card games, video games, and heard an inspiring talk from CSS artist Diana Smith. Her purecss-francine is a herculean effort.

It's a lot to take in! I'm glad XOXO is back advocating for indie work, creating amazing personal experiences, and being a good ambassador for Portland. Thanks Andys!

Newsreader Update

After the demise of Google Reader in 2013 I found the open source clone Tiny Tiny RSS and I've been using it to subscribe to websites ever since. I installed it on my own server, customized the interface quite a bit, and wrote a few plugins. And because I had put a lot of time into modifying it by editing the source files directly, I didn't upgrade it. Ever.

Tiny Tiny RSS has been evolving over the years and it's pretty ridiculous that I didn't upgrade. I probably missed 1,000+ bug fixes and performance enhancements releases in the last five years.

Earlier this week I was looking at the latest version and found that the PHP requirements changed. One does not simply upgrade PHP. "We're in the future now," I thought, "Shouldn't this all be serverless?" It's not. I did find something neat in the process though.

A company called Bitnami has an AWS image with Tiny Tiny RSS installed along with everything you need to run it. I threw this on the smallest AWS instance (a t2.micro) and had a more recent version up and running in minutes. It took a few more minutes to get a free LetsEncrypt cert going for SSL, a trifling more to run the feed updater as a service, and finally a smattering more minutes to export/import my subscriptions. But minutes none the less!

The new version means I can finally use a real iOS app to read as well. Reeder 3 for iOS is free now and works with Tiny Tiny RSS if you use the Fever API plugin. (Although it seems like the project is abandoned and I needed to add a couple lines of code to get it working; hooray open source life.)

And to top it all off I only directly edited one source file. So I'm learning. Here's to another five years of this particular version of Tiny Tiny RSS!
Yellow Westy