liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
Just a quick signal boost, since I'm in the middle of several dozen things: I know several of you have toys or utilities that interact with Dreamwidth. [personal profile] darael is proposing writing some proper APIs to make it non-awful interacting with DW other than by directly loading HTML pages. Please do go and join in the discussion if you think you might ever use such tools.

For historical interest, this discussion seems to have arisen out of the now shelved proposal to make DW work with Usenet-style News (NNTP) readers. I know some of you were keen on that idea, either here or on LJ, so if you have opinions about what would give newsgroup style functionality without actually going all the way to running an NNTP server, your input would be particularly welcome.

If this is gobbledygook to you, you're probably not the target audience so please feel free to ignore this post.


May. 21st, 2013 12:28 pm
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
Some time last week, I was in a bad mood such that what I felt like doing was spending hours playing simple, repetitive computer games. But honestly doing that does not really make me feel better, except very very short term, it just makes me annoyed at myself for wasting a lot of time on pointless things. So I had the brain-wave of deciding to sit down and work out what it is exactly that I crave from computer games when I'm in that kind of jangly bad mood. I concluded that I wanted to be doing something sufficiently difficult to give me a sense of accomplishment, but easy enough that if I concentrated I'd have a pretty good chance of succeeding. And I wanted lots and lots of immediate feedback. I figured out that a more productive activity that meets that need is programming.

So I took the plunge and asked to get my Dreamhack (DW development environment) reactivated after a three-year hiatus, and started working on a really small styles bug. volunteering for DW )

The other reason this is important to me is to keep me empathizing with learners. [ profile] mixosaurus made a really powerful blog post about respectful and compassionate teaching. Kat is right on the money that the sort of people who become academics may never have been crushingly bad at any academic subject, whereas by definition we're going to be teaching people with a range of abilities and levels of motivation, not just those who excel and love the subject and go on to become experts in our fields. It's really, really good for me to remember what it feels like to be a beginner, to be too scared of making mistakes to actually make progress. I know I have students who find, say, immunology as arcane and jargon-filled and arbitrary as I'm finding Git right now (like I said, the programming is going fine so far, it's the version control I'm struggling with). And they're not "stupid" and they're not deliberately refusing to try just to be awkward, they're beginners, or they're people who have succeeded at somewhat related skills (such as A-Level biology) but find that this particular intellectual field doesn't quite fit with the way their brain works.

So learning new skills is good for me as a teacher, as well as being satisfying. I've revived my dev journal at [community profile] livredor to document some of my learning process, and since I have it I'll probably throw the baking in there as well, and maybe some of my very beginner-ish Arabic, though I generally know how to learn languages so I have less need to work on the meta-cognition stuff there. I strongly expect that 99% of people will find this detailed documentation totally boring, which is why I'm hiving it off into a separate journal. But I'm also mentioning it just in case you have the exact mindset where you find watching people learning new things interesting, and if you do you're welcome to watch the dev journal.

And if you have wishes for DW, well. I am not quite at the level where I can scratch my own, or my friends', itches yet, but I'm hoping to get there, at least if we're talking small itches. I mean, ideally what I would like to do is write a couple of smartphone clients and a decent front-end for the image hosting and a tool for exporting journals properly with comments and maybe something to import from Tumblr before Yahoo screw the site up beyond repair. But those are way beyond my capability and likely to remain so, because this is always going to be a hobby for me, I don't have a thousand hours to actually become an expert.

However, what I can do is a whole bunch of things related to the back-end that generates journal appearances. The most complicated things I've done so far are writing the Page Summary module, and writing code that mainly affects designers rather than end users to do with the option to colour-code entries on your reading page depending who posted them. Certainly, if there's a colour combination or a display option that you wish existed, there's a good chance I can make it happen. Note that I am not a web-designer by any stretch of the imagination, but what I can do is implement someone else's aesthetic concept in a format that can be made into an official style on Dreamwidth.

In order to be able to do that it has to be something with a licence that DW can use; if you designed something yourself you need to submit a CLA before it can be incorporated, if it's someone else's design then it needs to be public domain or under an appropriate licence. This means that I can't make official DW layouts with, you know, Game of Thrones wallpaper, and it also means that I can't make a Dreamwidth version of LJ Flexible Squares, which is a very common request. What I can do is take CSS-based layouts that modify Flexible Squares, and apply them to Dreamwidth's Tabula Rasa, because actually DW has more flexibility for styling with CSS than LJ ever did, it's just not very well publicized.

So tell me, next time I am in a bad mood and want to spend an evening programming, what can I do for you?
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
I wanted to do [personal profile] finch's 21 Days of Dreamwidth meme, but I am generally hopeless at daily prompts, so I will just fill in the whole survey at once so I have at least some contribution to the Three Week fest!
memery )


Apr. 26th, 2011 07:39 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
On 7th April, to [ profile] j4 and [ profile] addedentry, a daughter, Imogen Ruth. I know that offspring don't turn out exactly like their parents, but I have great hopes for the future of a new person who may be more like Janet and Owen than most other people.

misc social plans )

May 1st marks the official second anniversary of Dreamwidth. This means that the [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw project is in full swing from yesterday. I'm a bit behind with that stuff, but it seems to be doing pretty well without me. It's a fun fest, but seems a lot less necessary than it was this time last year, which is an encouraging sign. As you might have guessed from the above list, I'm pretty busy for the next three weeks, but I'll see if I can contribute something. I might do a FONSFAQ, perhaps on a Jewish or sciencey topic, and I might at least attempt one of the floating memes. But anyway, let me know if there's anything you particularly want me to post about and I'll see what I can do.

And last but very much not least, [personal profile] jack and I are getting married on Sunday 20th May 2012. We still have lots of details to think about before we can officially invite people, but just so you know.
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
It's almost a truism that people don't want to move to DW, no matter how many technical and usability innovations it makes, because all the people and all the interesting discussions are on LJ. These last few weeks I've been realizing that that isn't true any more, at least for me. social network babbling )

The other thing is, I got the most amazing selection of responses to my post about wanting to do more exercise. Seriously, 50+ helpful comments, both supportive and providing practical advice and expressing opinions in a constructive, not combative way. Other than at [ profile] atreic's place (I still don't know how she does it!) I haven't seen an in-depth, productive discussion like that in places I frequent on LJ in months. I love the discoverability here: I love that, thanks to DW's fantastic Latest Things page, 5 minutes after I post a bunch of interesting people I might otherwise never meet show up and have interesting conversations. (Even if I post at a time when most of my friends are asleep or at work!) Plus, many friends who have chosen to stay on LJ were willing to make a few additional clicks to comment over here; this makes me particularly glad I was bull-headed about keeping my content DW-exclusive from day one. And grateful to you all for making that bit of extra effort.

And having access to that really valuable support has made a real practical difference. This morning [ profile] mathcathy picked me up at 6:15 am, and we ventured out into the dark, in a snowstorm no less, and took advantage of a one-day free trial at the local branch of Fitness First. As it was I could hardly sleep for nervousness about my first ever visit to the gym; I would never have done it at all without you guys.

An hour at the gym first thing in the morning turned out to be surprisingly positive, too. I discovered that, in warm air and with a machine to keep me at a steady pace, yes, I can move fast enough to raise my heartrate for 30 minutes. (The machine said that a 30-year-old needs to aim for 160 bpm, and, well, even though some of you expressed a helpful degree of skepticism about the necessity for that, I managed it.) I discovered what it feels like to be breathing hard without having an asthma attack; just knowing that I can is the most amazingly liberating thing. OK, I still think treadmills are the most literally pointless thing ever, but it was worth it for me as something that I could do straight away without any specialist training, and 30 minutes wasn't as boring as I thought it might be. [ profile] mathcathy also showed me her free weights routine. I took the smallest dumbbell (2kg) available, and I learned that doing lifts and stretches with that is actually energetic (as well as being good for my muscles).

So apart from getting over my anxiety, I achieved that pleasant glowing tired feeling, and I had a shower and was ready for work by quarter to nine. (Also, nobody gave me grief about my weight in any way, which is a great relief.) I was a bit resistant to the idea of paying to do things like walk or cycle on the spot, or do stretches, but having tried it I think it's probably worth it. It isn't weather dependent, and being able to shower and change straight afterwards is a big benefit. Plus, being in a place where there's nothing to do except exercise, so that I have no temptation to just play on the internet instead, especially if you make arrangements with a friend to attend such a place regularly. So, [ profile] mathcathy and I have plans to join a gym properly tomorrow, and make a regular habit of an early morning session and a class every week. (In fact, we're going to join a different gym, not Fitness First, because they annoyed us with their pushy sales tactics; in particular, not providing water so that people have to spend money on overpriced "energy" drinks is pretty close to downright evil.) I have all kinds of grand plans, too, I want to try out some machines that use my arms as well as my legs, and build up to faster paces or longer sessions, and get fit enough to do all the other cool things I want to do, particularly hillwalking when the weather improves again.

So, squee exercise! Yay internet making me less of a couch potato. And all the gratitude in the world to [ profile] mathcathy for holding my hand when I was scared today, and for agreeing to buddy me so that I can make a regular habit of this.
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
I've seen all of these in the wild, and I admit that people who believe them probably aren't going to accept my rebuttals, but I thought I'd put something out there in case it's useful for anyone to point to it!
Debunking )If you're sceptical, that's totally fair enough, but I invite you to try one thing: compare Dreamwidth's Latest Things page with LiveJournal's Latest Posts. Note the new features, particularly the tag cloud. Yes, you will see a snapshot that includes quite a lot of fanfic, but also plenty of other stuff. (To get a valid comparison, you probably want to skip the porn, spam and Cyrillic that make up the majority of LJ's latest feed; Russian-language LJ is a very different creature that happens to share the same infrastructure.) And more to the point, you'll get a much better idea of the sort of content that populates Dreamwidth, than you would get from the skewed sample that is people who make a lot of noise about Dreamwidth in fandom communities.
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
Here's the thing: a lot of people are about ready to leave LJ over the latest shenanigans. But they don't want to make the leap to Dreamwidth because, frankly, there isn't enough going on here. The site is smaller, so there are fewer posts, and fewer cool people to meet. And all their friends are on LJ, which is of course a self-perpetuating situation: if "everybody" is still on LJ, then there's a huge disincentive against moving, which means that everybody continues to be on LJ.

Lots of people have realized that the best way to address this issue is, well, creating content. Some people are organizing collective efforts to create more content. This is a great idea, except for one small problem: the people who are really good at organizing and creating content are mainly fandom. I have nothing at all against fandom, but I'm not really part of it, and I think that a lot of other people who feel similarly are being put off because they see DW as yet another clubhouse for the cool fandom kids.

But I am going to take a leaf from fandom's book: I'm going to cease sitting around complaining about how DW is too quiet. Instead I'm going to participate in creating content and drawing attention to the cool stuff that already exists. So, I propose a giant non-fandom friending meme (thanks, [personal profile] delight). If you would like find some new, interesting people to read, or make new friends, or just help highlight how much cool stuff there is on DW, please comment to this post.

You're welcome to say whatever you like, but here's a suggested template:
Your identity: doesn't have to be A/S/L, but anything that you think people should know about you to be able to decide whether they're likely to be interested in getting to know you.
What you are passionate about
How you use Dreamwidth
A link to a recent post of yours that is characteristic of your journal or writing style.
A link to a journal on Dreamwidth you think people might enjoy reading, even if they don't know the writer personally.

Footnote 1: Some people have moral or technical objections to Dreamwidth, or actively prefer LJ. That's totally cool with me – this post isn't addressed to you. I'm looking to involve people who would like to make the move, but are put off because there isn't enough to read or enough people to meet here. I am not at all proselytizing, in other words, just doing my bit to fix what I see as the biggest glaring problem with DW. Other people may see other problems, and I am not trying to fix those.

Footnote 2: If you are involved in fandom, you're extremely welcome to participate. Perhaps you'd like to meet someone who shares some of your less fannish interests. Or you are welcome to go and join in some of the more explicitly fandom-related activities going on instead.

I am going to post this now, rather than waiting until the official three-week fest, because I think now is while the iron is hot and people are motivated to move to a new site. But I'll link it again when the fest starts up on 26th April, around the one-year anniversary of Dreamwidth entering Open Beta. I don't have any strong opinions about the DW-only content thing, and you don't have to be participating in that to participate in this meme.

So, go forth and friend!

ETA: And if you like the idea, please link this post all over the place. Or make your own version, or whatever, but mainly spread the word as much as possible
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
From the time when Dreamwidth was just a cool idea, one of the things that was talked about was the ability to read posts from other LJ-based sites on your own reading list (DW terminology for "friends page"). Not a half-arsed RSS feed of public posts, actual posts that would respect access ("friends lock") settings and cut tags and allow you to join in the comment discussion. This project, which I'm love with, kept being stalled because it's a difficult problem socially and ethically; it needs to be done in a way that will not irreversibly freak out either LJ management or individual users. But finally this week, Dreamwidth announced that the feature is under active development.




actual analysis )

While I'm on my soap-box, let me talk briefly about why the Google Buzz debâcle is not the same thing. The problem there was not people being angry when stuff that was already public became more obviously public (though it did get confounded by elements of that), but that Google chose to reveal to the whole world, by default, your most frequently emailed contacts. Webmail has been around for multiple decades now, and it's always been the expectation that while it's not highly secure (it goes over http, duh) against a determined hacker, it's not actually public to anyone with an internet browser, let alone deliberately broadcasted to other people you email. And yes, Google have now fixed this so that the list of frequently emailed people are only suggested rather than automatically trusted by default, but it's too late, once the information is out there the genie won't go back in the bottle. Not to mention that lots and lots of Gmail users are not all tech-savvy and won't have been following all the internet discussion about how bad the Buzz roll-out was.

Me, I straight away went in and locked down the system as much as I could (I don't dare delete my profile and switch off Buzz altogether, because one of the many bugs seems to be that if you don't opt in, you can't get at any of the privacy controls. Also I feel nervous about next time Google decides to randomly broadcast private information, and I would rather get a notification than be blissfully unaware. I then discovered that if you edit your Gmail contacts at all, they are automatically shifted to "My contacts", which is by default the highest level trust filter for the Buzz. So when I edited an address book entry with a note saying, "out-of-date address, don't use", that long defunct Hotmail address was suddenly on the list of people who get a notification whenever I update my Gtalk status or post a photo to Picasa. And whoever now has that recycled address could probably deduce quite a lot of information about whom I know. So I spent a couple of hours going through my 500-member contact list, deleting every entry that is obsolete or belongs to some random customer service rep I emailed once or random Scandinavian who happens to be on the same Jewish mailing lists as me.

I'm not actually worried personally; I decided long ago that I wasn't going to use my primary email for web activities. I made this decision not because I'm prescient but because I wanted to minimize spam and quasi-spam in my main inbox. But now I'm really glad that I did, because Google knows nothing about my social networking presences, they're not linked to my main email address or real name. The trouble is that because of Google's extremely clumsy attempt to bypass the network effect and set up a service that was already populated, if I'm not strict about locking everything down, I could compromise my friends who may be more security / privacy conscious than I am (not to mention those people whom I sometimes email who are not my friends but are, for example, teenagers attending my bar mitzvah classes).

I thought people were being melodramatic about Buzz when it first appeared, because after all it's fairly easy to opt out, but the more I think about it, the more I'm annoyed.

[Cross-posting to LiveJournal because I think both the DW news and the Buzz stuff are important for LJ peeps to know.]


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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