Topic 5 Posts

open web

Link Posts Working, Again

My old CMS had link posts. Then I migrated to new a new CMS and they broke. I've migrated several other times.

Now, in my self-hosted Ghost.org CMS, it's fixed...mostly. Right now I only have it implemented on the pages that pull in all of my content, like my main index.hbs page. I still need to apply this support to my post pages, but will do that soon.

It was ridiculously easy. I wish I had adopted Ghost years ago. Here is how I did it in 3 simple steps...

Step 1: added #link to every post that I wanted to show up as a link post.

Step 2: to each post added the canonical URL to use Ghost's support for canonical URL's.

Step3: I added this #has handlebars helper within the loop that pulls my posts to my index page. This identifies which posts have canonical urls to display the correct link for each title type in the feed of posts on index.hbs.

{{#has tag="link"}}
  <h1 class="post-title"><a href="{{canonical_url}}" style="text-decoration: underline #dfdfdf">{{title}}</a></h1>
{{else}}
  <h1 class="post-title"><a href="{{url}}">{{title}}</a></h1>
{{/has}}

I've been using a theme from the marketplace while I develop my own. So, I did need to hack in a way to underline the link post title url. I'll address that in the future.

Context collapse with Beeper

Ian Forrester on his cubicgarden.com blog

The amount of times I have received a message from someone on Linkedin, Facebook msg, Twitter direct message (which I don’t think works anymore – as you can imagine)., etc, etc. They all end up in my inbox and its super useful but sometimes I need to look at the little icon to then figure out what I should do next.

Should I treat it as serious, should I reply straight away or not worry too much. This is very apt when you are getting linkedin or twitter DMs. This is similar for Facebook messages.

It also affects the way you reply too, should I reply in my usual laidback style, should I add emojis, should I write a lot back, voice reply, etc etc.

One of the most frustrating ways that platforms have shaped our internet behavior is that they are the frame to which we prescribe context.

The irony is that the platforms themselves have been collapsing context for a decade now, as they all create experiences that average toward some sort of mean.

LinkedIn is a great example. With every passing day the content & engagement on it looks more and more like every other social network out there.

This begs the question, what should shape our context?

Context collapse with Beeper
I have been meaning to write about context collapse with beeper for a long while. I have written about Beeper previously.. In short Beeper is a messaging client which takes advantage of Matrix&#821…

Context collapse with Beeper, by Ian Forrester

Self-hosting in 2023

For the last year, I've been on a journey to reclaim my corner of the internet. I have a number of things that I want to do toward that pursuit, but it all starts with self-hosting my website, again.

I've self-hosted sites in the past, including this one. So, this didn't seem that daunting. I had moved away from this years ago out of pure laziness. Anytime I had to do server maintenance or upgrades, I would be pretty annoyed. Anytime I wanted to add support for new features & platforms that were (seemingly) regularly emerging , it seemed like a huge hassle.

I leaned on tools that were simple, but also open. Each one was purposely chosen such that if they become too expensive, hard to use or try to create lock-in, I can easily switch to something else. This is it...

Ghost.org for my CMS
I chose Ghost because its a pretty simple CMS purpose built for blogging, newsletters and simple content distribution. I've also spent a lot more time with Node.js, and for the most part it just works ootb.

The GhostCLI is pretty straight forward, so all my local development has been incredibly easy.

It certainly doesn't have the ecosystem support that Wordpress has, which comes with basically everything you would ever need for a website in 2023. I don't need all that. This is a simple, personal website. It's a blog. Ghost is great, fast & lightweight.

DigitalOcean.com for my server
I went with DigitalOcean because it was the only ootb Ghost image VPS that I could find. It's more expensive than I really want, but I don't have to deal with configuring load balancer, proxy servers etc...I don't want or need to deal with any of that.

Hover.com for my domain registrar
I've been using Hover for this domain for over a decade now, and there is no real reason to switch. It's simple to use & manage domains. No one wants to spend anytime in their domain provider, and Hover does a great job at letting me get in & out for simple changes.

Cloudflare for my DNS
The one downside to Hover is that it doesn't support CNAME root domain configuration. So, the root is always www. Cloudflare makes it easy to point root at the A record so that my root can be https://jtrem.com. Seems trivial, but whatever, I like how much cleaner it is.

1Password to manage SSH keys
I have always sucked at managing SSH keys, and doing it through terminal has always been a fraught experience. I have been using 1Password for personal password & document security for about 15 years now, and when I saw it had added SSH key support I dove right in. If I'm being honest, this took a little while to figure out because the config file documentation wasn't the best and I had to do a bunch of troubleshooting to get it to work.

Pretty simple setup.

Upon reflection, none of that was actually that hard, nor time consuming. Especially when I consider how much time I have wasted on Twitter, TikTok, YouTube & Instagram over the last 15 years. All in all it was only a few hours to set it up.

Right now I'm using an out-of-the-box theme from the Ghost marketplace, and tweaking it along the way for my needs. I am working on my own custom theme, but I'm slow at web design these days, and don't have a lot of time.

Web hosting in 2023 is easier than it's ever been. That isn't that shocking. It's still intimidating. I understand the pull to create digital presence on a big web platform. However, that gap has narrowed dramatically in the last 15 years. Self-hosting a personal site & blog can literally take a few hours with almost no maintenance. I couldn't say that a decade ago.

I railed against convenience in a previous post, but the reality is that some convenience is actually nice. I'm not a server admin, and I don't want to write my own CMS. I have a job. I have a family. I don't have a lot of time. Every single one of the convenience features I chose have some amount of interoperability or data portability that make it dead simple to move off of if I ever need. There is no platform lock-in. I choose these tools on the merits of their product, and as long as they stay easy, fair & open, I'll stick with them.

Navigating the failed promises of managed email platforms

Email. Sigh. Where to begin?

Forget it. I'll spare the diatribe. Everyone's experiences with email is pretty consistent...it sucks.

I've fell for the bait a few times. Almost 20 years ago it was Google swooping in with a solution to the mess that Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and others had created. Gmail was fast, easy and best of all, it filtered out all the shit.

Fast-forward several years, and Gmail became the same bloated, spam littered email services that it had replaced. The difference was that you didn't get the spam in your inbox, the spam surrounded the rest of your life on the internet because of the data Google collects.

I'm not an anti-ads. I'm not anti-data-collection. I think these are genuinely useful pillars of the internet when there is alignment. The problem with Gmail has always been that the data Google learns about me via my email doesn't make my internet life better. It just makes it more annoying.

I tried iCloud email for a hot second. The spam filtering was hot garbage.

In 2019, Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals & Basecamp began a crusade against the state of email and the direction it was going. They teased that they were going to fix email. I was intrigued. Months later they launch Hey.com with the promise of fixing email.

It has tracking blockers, an out of the box triage system, and interesting ideas on how to prioritize the way you consume email. It was also an email host & client rolled in one, but without all the bullshit of previous services

I signed up immediately.

Hey, like it's founders, is incredibly opinionated. I appreciate that about good products. Hey is truly a good product, for some people. The only problem I had was the opinions broke 25 years of email muscle memory.

Dear Hey, it's not you, it's me. I'm just not a good fit for the product, but I truly applaud the effort. So, I cancelled my subscription

I'll never fall for the fully managed email service promise again. One way or another, the convenience they offer creates too many tradeoffs that aren't worth it for me.

Email should be simple. I just need something that I can point my jtrem.com address at to send & receive email. I want to use it on a mac & iPhone, and be able to access via web when necessary. It needs to be fast & reliable. I need to be able to organize it for some fairly simple workflows I have. It needs to be secure. It sounds simple, right?

Fastmail.com has all of the familiar features & workflows I need, without all the cruft. I can point my domain at it to send & receive email. I have it connected to my mac & iPhone email clients via IMAP. It's fast & reliable. I use labels, masked email aliases & rules to organize.

As a bonus, it also has a simple calendar & contacts system baked in. Best of all, Fastmail embraces openness through common protocols, including the modern JMAP protocolthat they are helping to pioneer.

I moved over to it about a year ago, and I've quite honestly embraced email again for the first time in years.

Reclaiming My Corner of the Internet

As someone who makes a living by crafting seamless user experiences, my goal is to eliminate as much friction as possible. I want my customers to access my products with ease, not just for their satisfaction but also because it's smart business.

But as a consumer, I'm no different. Over the last 30 years, I've gradually succumbed to the allure of services that promise simplicity – often at a hidden cost.

It started with trading my self-built website for Myspace and then Facebook, then moving from my own domain for blogging to Twitter and Instagram, and even outsourcing my email management to Hotmail, Gmail, and Hey. In each case, the motivation was clear: it was just easier.

But this convenience has a price. By embracing these platforms, we relinquish control over our digital lives – often without realizing the implications. The ongoing Twitter kerfuffle is just one example.

Our voices are tuned through their monetization engines. Our experiences are filtered through their engagement goals. Their incentives are not aligned with our lives.

So I've decided to reclaim my little corner of the internet. This means:

  • Revitalizing jtrem.com with original content and insights.
  • Returning to my personal, hosted email.
  • Swapping Twitter for Mastodon.
  • Exploring Pxlmo as an Instagram alternative.
  • Federating my content using open web standards like RSS & ActivityPub, rather than posting within channels I don't own.
  • Using Facebook solely for its marketplace feature.
  • Continuing to use group messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal, and Discord for more intimate and curated connections. Someday I hope something Matrix.org takes off...

These are my personal steps toward regaining control over my online presence. It's taken 20 years to come full circle, but I'm willing to reintroduce a bit of friction to achieve that goal.

I've been enamored with technology for the past 30 years, particularly since the internet entered my life in the mid-90s. I've spent most of the last two decades working in tech. But somewhere along the way, the magic faded. Between the toxic online culture, the behemoth corporations dominating the landscape, and the endless debates over government regulation, my passion waned.

This isn't the beginning of a new journey. I'm just rediscovering the path I always wanted to be on.

Now, I see excitement on the horizon, and will try to document my journey back into the heart of tech.