• Mastodon’s XML feeds could use some work.

    1. Why offer RSS and Atom? Pick one (and it should be RSS).
    2. It should just leave off the title in each item. ”New status by [username]“ is unnecessary.
  • Here’s a remix of Ludwig Göransson’s Black Panther score: Apple Music link. Marvel.com has a short piece about it with links to other music services.

  • I can do without push notifications in Twitterrific. I only used them for direct messages, anyway, and I only get a handful of those a year. I will stop using Twitter entirely before I use its crummy official app.

  • I realized I had a few sets of artwork from my Mild-Mannered Superman project lying around and decided to upload them. Here are some character sheets by Fleischer Studios from 1941, the first set of title cards from the films, and the second set. 📺

  • People who put “Now a major motion picture!” stickers on book jackets go to The Bad Place. 📚

  • Netflix, Amazon Video, and Xfinity are accidentally re-creating cable TV - The Verge

    I’ve been making this argument for years! TV was easier to use a decade ago when everything I wanted to watch was organized into one list on my TiVo.

  • Now reading Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 4. Last night I finished The Three Caballeros Ride Again! from the Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck library, which was fantastic as usual.

  • The original Mission: Impossible TV series is available on Amazon Prime streaming. So are The Prisoner and Thunderbirds. Go get your 60s spy on. 📺 Music has Music from Mission: Impossible 💣 and much more by Schifrin. I like Black Widow.

  • One last M:I—F note. I saw it in fake IMAX. I usually avoid the format but it was the best time for my schedule and McQuarrie & Hardy did shoot the exterior set pieces using IMAX framing. I’d say it’s worth a few extra bucks. (It’s not 3D, which I avoid in most cases.)

  • 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from _Mission: Impossible — Fallout. Tom Cruise (and Jackie Chan and others) is an actor who’s put in the time to also become a stuntman. The result is a visceral reaction knowing he’s really hanging off a helicopter or driving in traffic.

  • Mission: Impossible — Fallout is the most exciting action movie I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road. Recommended. I watched reruns of the the TV series when I was a kid and loved it and I’ve enjoyed all the movies. Here’s Film Crit Hulk on it.

  • Ditto.

  • One Person, Many Links

    The heart of the issue I wrote about recently comes down to, I think, this question: if I’m writing on the Web and I want to link to a person, how do I do that? What on the Web represents someone? Is it their Facebook page? Their Twitter account? Weblog? LinkedIn?¹

    To get into this, I think it’s useful to think about how our personal use of the Web has developed. If I may boldly striate it into eras:

    1. The original Web, starting with Tim Berners-Lee, through Yahoo!’s human-curated index, Spacejam’s rad website, and so on. People wander out of the darkness of AOL, blink their eyes at the bright future the Web offers, and take to message boards to talk about electronic music, The X-Files, Kirk vs Picard, and how violent video games and movies based on male power fantasies could never wind up having a negative impact on society. Dave Winer carves the first weblog into a stone table tag.
    2. Web 2.0. Weblogs, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like. People write about George W. Bush, recommend mortgage-backed securities, organize things using tags, and still think comment systems are a pretty neat idea.
    3. The Social Media Era. LiveJournal gives rise to Friendster, MySpace, then Facebook. People rate dogs on Twitter, evangelize the blockchain, and misunderstood notions about the freedom of speech are put forth to justify white supremacy.
    4. The Open Social Web. The future… maybe. People do all the stuff they did on Facebook and Twitter, but they’re free to use magic JSON incantations to move from platform to platform whenever the one they’re using gets too full of white supremacists. Users don’t have to agree to forfeit copyrights on whatever they publish to the company running the network. The term “blockchain” comes to conjure similar connotations as “mortgage-backed securities.” (Hey, I said “maybe.”)

    Let me broadly sketch out what the Open Social Web era might be, starting with two meanings of the word “open.” First, the Open Social Web is “open” because it’s not owned by any one company. It’s open and not closed. You’re not bound to whatever decisions Facebook or Twitter makes about their platforms. You choose where you write, where you host, what you use, and so on. If a piece of software redesigns and you don’t like it, you take your files and you go elsewhere.

    Second, “open” means “not private.” Everything on the Open Social Web is public. If you want to share stuff privately, do it over email or text message or, I don’t know, a phone call I guess. (I actually think that Apple’s iMessage group chats make very good semi-private social networks if you take the step to tap “Hide Alerts” for the thread.) You should always assume everything you write down may become public, and building features that attempt to keep things private means giving your customers false confidence that can get them into trouble.

    The “social” part is fairly self-explanatory. You can befriend people and reply to them and Webmentions help see to it that people will actually see your replies, unlike the forgotten comment threads of the 2.0 era. There’s no consensus on if/how to do retweet-style sharing, which I think of as an essential part of Twitter, but it’s more complicated when you talk about the wholesale reposting of copywritten content. I actually have a long piece on the concept of retweets that I wrote a few weeks ago but I’ve been letting it sit while I think it all over some. I’m sure I’ll get back to it soon.

    The Open Social Web is true to the Web. If you think about closed networks like Twitter, they’re not truly inter-connected, they’re intranets. Critical to the idea of the Social Web era is that you have to make choices. You have to join Facebook if you want to read people’s Facebook posts. If you’re not on Twitter, you miss out on my tweets. On the Open Social Web, I post on my site, you post on yours, and we can all read each other’s stuff without having to buy into any one network. It’s a web of worldwide, interconnected networks.

    But let’s step back and accept that social media sites do something well: they’re people-focused, not site-focused. The Web 2.0 era was about subscribing to a bunch of RSS feeds in Google Reader, which were a mélange of personal weblogs, links, political blogs, Flickr photos, webcomics, and so on. What Facebook and Twitter have in common is that when you’re looking at someone’s profile, you feel like you are connecting with that person, not a website where that person writes.

    Despite this, in the social media era it’s common for someone to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Our identities are fragmented because we exist in multiple social circles at once, have varying interests, and so on.² That’s all fine. I started all this a few days ago by talking about the difficulty of linking to someone when they might be on Twitter and micro.blog and elsewhere. The question remains: if I’m all those places, where am I?

    The answer is that we’re all of it. I’m my homepage at my domain name and I’m my tweets and I’m my 1940s Superman cartoons. You’re your photos and your podcast and your… whatever Pinterest is. We each get to pick. And there are four magic letters that could tie it all together: OPML.

    Behind the scenes of any Open Social Web service, whether it’s something that’s sorta like Twitter, a photo stream sorta like Instagram (but, y’know, not all corporate!), or whatever, is an RSS feed.³ You think you’re writing about how The Last Jedi should have conformed to your misunderstood interpretation of the end of Return of the Jedi, but what you’re really doing is adding an item to your RSS channel that your friends will see in their timelines. So you have your micro.blog, your podcast, your photos, etc., and all of them are backed by their feeds. And how do we organize lists of RSS feeds? OPML.

    Now, finally, I come to my proposal: an Open Social Web site should publish an OPML file which it links to in its head. Customers on their “about me” page list the sites they own (this is my LinkedIn, this is my dating profile, etc), the software verifies ownership via reciprocal microformatted links and grabs the RSS feed for each of those other sites. (More saavy customers could paste in the feeds manually, obviously, but remember that most people don’t know what an RSS feed is and I’d argue a general guideline is that if your design requires them to, you have more work to do.) The site then generates an OPML file listing each of the feeds a particular person is the author of and puts a link to that in its head. I’d gently suggest something like the following but am open to revisions:

    <link rel=“alternate” title=“John Doe’s Feeds” type=“application/xml” href=“[example.com/feeds.opm...](http://example.com/feeds.opml)”>

    Someone more knowledgable of these things can weigh in if that’s the right mime-type. I’m assuming rel alternate is correct. I insist that the title should be “[name]’s Feeds” instead of “My Feed.”

    When you add a friend on an Open Social Web app (RSS reader, Twitter-like RSS reader, podcatcher, etc.), it will look for an OPML file that describes all the sites that person contributes to and, where appropriate, ask if you also want to subscribe to their other sites. A podcast app might see that the OPML file describes other podcasts from the same person and offer those as well. A reporter might list her microblog and also her newspaper’s site where her reporting is published. A cinephile else might have a weblog where he writes about film and also a YouTube feed where he publishes videos. The idea here is that the Open Social Web is people-focused. You’re not subscribing to an XML-formatted file of structured data representing “content,” you’re befriending someone.

    The OPML file would be kept up-to-date by whatever services you use, so if you start a new podcast or a new site for a new project, you add it to one of your profile pages and your friends’ apps will notice it (checking once a day or week or whatever seems right) and decide what to do. Maybe you want to automatically subscribe to new sources from your friends, or maybe you get an alert with the option to do so. This is up to the developer, and there’d obviously be a place where you could click on a friend and select/deselect sources if you, say, only want see someone’s photos and not their posts. I think this would start to solve the problem of many sites, one person.

    Armed with an app that has knowledge of all the different services you use, the confusion around @usernames I talked about last time becomes a little easier to manage. My advice when referring to someone, then, would be to omit the @ in most cases unless you’re specifically intending to ping the person or replying. Call me David Ely or just davextreme. No need for the silly @.

    Returning one last time to my central question of “how do you link to someone on the Web?”, The short answer is that you should find whatever you think is the most “homepage-y” of the available options, but a properly-structured Web will let you find their other stuff easily. What on the Web represents a person? It’s the collection of feeds he/she authors. If the thesis of that piece was “using these @ symbols is complex when you talk about multiple services,” my point today is, “your software should be solving this complexity for you.” Let RSS, Webmention, Websub, and OPML do all the work and just go out there and make friends. <3

    1. Shh! Here’s a secret: there is an answer to this, but it’s no good. Ready? Here it is: *a person is their email address*. This answer’s no good because of spam and privacy, but the email address *is* the piece of glue that ties everything together. We can’t actually build anything around email addresses, and in certain venues it’s the dreaded *personally-identifiable information*, so now I have to spend several paragraphs thinking up something else.

      And since I'm tossing out infeasible ideas, here's another one: each government should provide its residents with an official homepage. This page would be a simple profile that the user could keep updated with links to other places they can be found online. It’d also be the keysyone for official identify verification using appropriate cryptographic doohickeys instead of making everyone pretend that Social Security Numbers are that.

      I'm talking about *public* identity here. Obviously we'd all still be free to make pseudonymous accounts where that makes sense. But right now we more or less use Google to handle the question of authority. Wikipedia, I guess, if you're famous. It makes more sense to me for there to be an official, verified place to say, "this is me." ↩︎

    2. Confession: for argumentative purposes I'm knowlingly setting aside the biggest reason we fragment our online personæ, which is that we act differently on Facebook where our parents are watching than we do with our friends on Snapchat. Some people use Twitter for work purposes only. Some people have gender identities they don't express everywhere. It's useful to spread ourselves across different services because we're all varied, complicated people. ↩︎

    3. I say "RSS feed" but I really mean JSON Feed with RSS as a backup. I know this ia holy war for some, though, and I preemptively regret writing this footnote lest it derail the rest of my points in the article. ↩︎

    4. I have another piece in mind to write about Open Social Web software. Short version: we need a new generation of RSS reading software that behaves more like the timelines of Facebook or Twitter. It needs to know how to format shorter posts for tweet-like readability and have a "reply" button that knows where to send the reply. And it all needs to be easy enough to use that customers don't ever need to really know what an RSS feed is. They just follow their friends and the posts show up, in the same way that podcast apps are RSS readers but they just feel like you're subscribing to a show. ↩︎

  • (Writing a piece about the conventions of “@username” without accidentally triggering your software’s desire to auto-link that string into a profile for someone called “username” takes a bit of patience, lots of &#64;s, and several edits.)

  • The Flaming, Poisoning, Raging Sword of Doom

    Listening to the recent live episode of The Adventure Zone “Balance,” I had to go back and revisit the wonderful, wonderful saga of The Flaming, Poisoning, Raging Sword of Doom. I won’t spoil anything, but maybe if you’ve never listened to the series, this gag might get you hooked. Here’s a short version with episode links and timecodes.

    1. It first appears in episode 28, Lunar Interlude II: Internal Affairs, where it’s put on sale at the Fantasy Costco for a price far, far higher than Magnus will ever be able to afford. It’s introduced at 52:50.
    2. The boys acquire the sword in episode 50, Lunar Interlude IV: The Calm Before the Storm. It’s hard to describe the joy in hearing the very moment that Griffin realizes what’s about to happen. Start at 74:45.

    There’s more to it all, but those two clips are good examples I think of what makes the show so special.

  • I went out for a walk tonight and this family of deer was just chillin’. Usually they bound off the second they se you but they just sauntered across the street and let me get pretty close.

  • Here’s Looking @Username

    I’ve been thinking a bit about the practice of using “@username” to refer to a user profile. It’s become somewhat common for news channels to display an anchor’s Twitter handle on the graphic overlay along with his/her name. If we see “@reporterName,” we understand that it’s referring to the reporter’s Twitter account. Such is the success of Twitter’s marketing. Elsewhere on the Web, though, @username has a few different meanings:

    1. It can refer to a person on Twitter, specifically.
    2. It can refer to a person on another service within the confines of that service.
    3. It can be a way to mention a person on a service and notify that person you’re talking about him/her.
    4. It can be a way to denote that I’m replying to a specific person’s comment in a forum or comment thread.

    Context matters. In general if I see “@username” mentioned somewhere like a news article, I tend to assume to this to be a reference to a person’s Twitter account. (Likewise for the hashtag — Tumblr uses it for its tag system but when I see a hashtag elsewhere I think of Twitter.) Outside of the Web and Twitter itself, “@username” has come to refer to a person’s account within a particular service. Inside a Slack conversation, for example, clicking on “@username” will show you a person’s Slack profile. Micro.blog does the same thing. So does Twitch, if you’re fool enough to display the chat there.

    The problem is when one is writing somewhere that the context is ambiguous. If I make a post on this blog, you might see it on the Web, in an RSS reader, or in micro.blog (technically also an RSS reader). I might also cross-post it to Twitter. Depending on where you read the post, you might make different assumptions about what service the @username refers to. Worse, micro.blog and Twitter might each auto-link to their own domains, applying context that may not have been intended.

    A more concrete way to refer to a person on a particular site is to link to their profile there. Linking to http://twitter.com/davextreme (or, probably, just twitter.com/davextreme will do), rather than @davextreme, unambiguously tells you we’re talking about my Twitter profile, but the reason “@username” caught on is that it’s human-readable. You could get fancy and hyperlink my profile but just use my username as the link text, as in “@davextreme,” but that isn’t possible in a plain text-only system like Twitter. And in a situation where you want to cite your profile on more than one service, you run into a problem where your hypertext is clear to machines parsing the HTML but not to humans reading just the link text: I’m @davextreme on Twitter and @davextreme on micro.blog. Each link concretely points to my profile on the relevant service but both read the same unless you hover over them in your Web browser to see where they point. Despite this, I like this option best because it lets me do the linking rather than trusting the software to infer which profile page I mean.

    Complicating all this further is the problem that prepending “@” before someone’s username on many services causes that service to notify the person that you’re talking about them, which action ranges from unintended to plain rude. If I’m writing semi-privately with friends about how I didn’t like a movie, I don’t really want the system reaching out and telling the director! Add into that the problem that one person could have username on Twitter but a different person could own that handle on micro.blog, so a cross-posting or syndication system might end up accidentally notifying each person on that service thinking you’re talking about them.

    Returning, then, to my list above, when I type the “@” symbol followed by a handle, I’m at once:

    1. Referring to that person’s Twitter profile, unless you’re reading this inside a particular service that also has user profiles, in which case I’m referring to their profile there.
    2. Asking my software to auto-generate a hyperlink to that person’s profile (and asking it to make an assumption as to which profile that is).
    3. Telling some system to inform that person I’m talking about them, and if my use of the @username was at the very beginning of the post, I’m maybe also replying to them and it might render my post as part of a conversation thread.

    And all of this leaves us without any way to refer to someone without doing 3 — that is, there’s no (easy) way for me to mention someone (1) and point you to their profile (2) without also sending them a ping (3).

    I’ve argued before that I think Twitter should open up to allowing people to follow users on alternate social networks. The idea would be that one person might have an account with twitter.com but a basketball player might have an official account with NBA.com and a senator would have an government-run senate.gov account. You’d still be able to follow someone on whatever service they’re using, and see all the posts in a Twitter app regardless of where they originated, but this would let Twitter (or any other social service) enforce stricter community guidelines and ban, say, white supremacists (who’d be free to go start their accounts on a service that wants them). A government agency might have rules about what sorts of things can be said on its official accounts (and the degree to which statements made there carry the imprimatur of the law). A sports team would expect its players and managers to conform to its own codes of conduct for official communications while allowing a player to have a personal account elsewhere as well. (Nothing of course prevents a company from running its own microblog right now, except that without the force of official support from Twitter, hardly anyone would see the posts.)

    In the above scenario, in which social networking goes from being the province of just Facebook and Twitter to being an [ahem] interconnected web of networks, a solution to the “@” problem might be for each service to lay claim to a different glyph. Admittedly this doesn’t scale, but for example Google Plus already converts mentions into “+username” instead of “@.” A baseball player’s MLB-run microblog could user “⚾️username,” an Apple employee could be “username,” and so on. Better still, where context is inferrable, the software you use to post could prepend a favicon for the the appropriate service rather than relying on the Unicode character set. Twitter profiles would get a little blue bird, micro.blog an orange speech bubble, and so on.

    As for replies, I’d like to see them divorced from the action of profile linking. Mentioning a profile should be understood to only confer the noun of the person’s profile, not also initiate the verb of pinging the person mentioned. Posting software, like Twitter’s app, should make it clear when it’s going to alert the person of your mention, and give you the option to remove them from the chain. A checkbox below the post text saying, “Notify @username of this post” — something along those lines. And I’d strongly encourage developers to default this to “no” unless I explicitly started the post from a “reply” link. Assume I don’t want to bother someone and make me choose to ping them if I want to. Right now it’s like if I were writing an email and every name I typed in the body were put into the CC field automatically.

  • I like the CW’s superhero slate in general, so I’m interested to see a Batwoman series. Ruby Rose has been cast in the role. I’m curious to see if they tweak her origin, which was rooted in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era. DADT ended in ’11; Rose would have been 25, so if they want to use her comics origin she is old enough to have been a discharged West Point cadet.

  • Hot day. Watching The Great Muppet Caper with the kids. They hadn’t been very interested in The Muppets before but I dragged them to see Muppets Take Manhattan at the movie theater last week and stuffed them with candy and now they’re digging it.

  • Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods

    Full-length documentary about my favorite comics writer, now available on YouTube for free. Here’s an interview with director Patrick Meaney.

  • I always thought the chairs in the station in 2001: A Space Odyssey were red. Here’s a piece by Film and Furniture from earlier this year saying they might have been pink. And now, confirmation that they were, indeed, fuchsia.

  • Two interesting pieces about Japanese characters and unicode from the past week:

    1. Big tech warns of ‘Japan’s millennium bug’ ahead of Akihito’s abdication
    2. A Specrte is Haunting Unicode
  • Take This Cheat Sheet To The Ballpark To Decide When To Leave

    For 95% of games, you can leave:

    • During the 5th or 6th inning if the lead team is up by 4 or more runs
    • The 7th inning if by 3
    • The 8th if by 2

    Also, this bit was news to me:

    games typically range from long to comically long. The average nine-inning Major League Baseball game in 2017 took three hours and five minutes, setting an all-time record. With a new rule to limit mound visits, the average 2018 game is hovering at an even three hours, which is still longer than “The Godfather” start to finish and would tie for the third longest mark in history.

    I’d like to see a rule going further, placing a limit on inter-inning pitcher changes (injuries aside).

  • What’s remarkable about the Switch is how much it isn’t marketing hype. It really does work equally well as a portable console and on the TV. The Labo kits are as clever as the ads make them out to be.

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