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My pages

other swintons

Blogs — start here → ~_, ~ford, ~schussat

Minnesotans — ~kjell, ~wjc, ~kronick, ~tristan — more info

web log

I was thinking about my experiment with Pollen. I’ve gone from being skeptical to excited about it as a truly long-term framework for text-centric web and print publishing. But it’s also undeniably niche; it will never be widespread. Realistically it’s not a good fit for web work in magazines and newspapers, or even businesses generally.

It really only makes sense for (individual writers (who self-publish online (who are IA purists (who care to learn a niche programming language)))).

Anyways ↑ ↑ ↑ those people? I think we need a name for them. Maybe publishing nerds.

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I’m trying out something new. I’ve put it in a subfolder here: The Secretary of Foreign Relations

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I’m writing about how to change the web. You should really read that.

But you should also read a related thing I’m writing about: implementing universal micropayments on the web, which I consider to be the most important change that could come to the web since web standards were invented.

Imagine being able to make a living mainly off your independent blog. Imagine publishing a niche book and getting $162,500 in sales in the first year. Sure you could publish on Amazon’s Kindle store too if you wanted too. Or sell your piece to another publication. But you wouldn’t be dependent on them, or on Amazon, or on anyone except yourself and your readers.

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After several days of poking and mucking at it, I finally finished the Python script I last blogged about here. By finished I mean, the script completed without errors or problematic output. So, if you need to turn your old Blogger blog into a bunch of Markdown text files with images and comments intact, give it a shot.

I complained about being unfamiliar with Python. But even rusty programming chops of any kind turn out to be fairly portable between languages. I did make use of snippets and examples googled from other sources for specific tasks, but at the end of the project I have a good grasp of every line of code in the working result. And I feel ready to put my novice-level Python skills to use on some other problem.

I also made myself learn some basic git. Github is pretty much the ideal place to publish code. But man, git is bonkers. I will never enjoy git.

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I did end up starting a sort of web codey-type of project recently. I’m not using tilde.club for it at all, but I figured I’d jot down a word or two about it.

I’ve got this old blog over on blogger. Remember blogger? This was a blog I started for one purpose only: to write down solutions for IT problems I encountered, so other people could turn up those solutions when googling for help. Turns out some of those posts get a lot of hits from search engines. And because blogger made it easy and because I didn’t particularly care about beautiful design on this ugly, single-purpose site, I turned on AdSense ads. And now that stupid blog is the only web property of mine that ever created any income. Even now, on average, about $10 USD trickles in via ad clicks every month. Not a lot, certainly, but it helps defray/justify hosting costs for my other domains.

I decided to move this thing on to my own domain and use Kirby for the CMS, just to try something new. Kirby uses plain text files (Markdown-style) as the source for each post. Well, I had been cutting and pasting every post into a new text file, and it involved a lot of clicking around, when I thought, why not write some code. I mean, it will probably take me longer to do the same job but it will be more educational.

So that’s my project. I’m writing a Python script to convert the huge XML export file (thanks for that much, Blogger) into a tidy collection of text files, containing correct date-stamps, tags, and maybe even comments if I get that far. I’m so out of shape, and I don’t actually know Python, so I have. to. Google. Every. Single. Step. How do strings work in Python? How to use for loops? How to parse XML, or interpret an RFC3339 timestamp?

And in the process I have to install a new library, which means figuring out how to do that from a Github source, which means installing Homebrew so as to install a more up-to-date version of Python which includes the pip command for installing libraries. But apparently I already have Homebrew installed, but it’s not working because it’s using the wrong Ruby interpreter (solved thanks to this). But once I got that cleared up I was able to implement fixes and unwind my stack all the way back up to solving the original problem.

Part of me enjoys this kind of thing, gets hooked on it. But another (very big) part of me loathes it, because it wants the computer to make things simpler, not more complicated; it knows that my time and energies are limited, and divided among several pursuits and people, and that I don’t have time for this.

RELATED: Four years ago I wrote a post titled The Voodoo Veil about working with computers.

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User ~al (Al Shaw) uses the Silkscreen bitmap font for headings on his page. This is one of those little signs or marks of someone who has been around the web a few times since it was small enough that you could actually go around it a few times. Silkscreen was released by Jason Kottke in 1999 back when kottke.org was still orange. Flickr used to use it (no more since the redesign, sadly).

Al has made a single humble blog post, and a little tilde favs list at the bottom, and has not updated since. It’s the perfect blog post: a paragraph and a photo. As literary forms go, surely this is as easy and sustainable as they get, right? But it’s actually really hard. Think about it: on any given day, take one photograph and write one paragraph that would sum up the day’s single most interesting experience. First of all, even if it’s only for one day it somehow feels like such a bother. And if you do it once a week…well turns out it’s even harder to capture the best (or even “a good”) slice of a week than it is of a day. That’s the thing about canning your own experiences, it’s just hard; it feels at once pointless and desperately necessary.

Why does Al have an unlinked file named dotinfo.html?

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  1. If you have a pair of headphones and 9 spare minutes handy, you may want to try listening to Rustling Squirrels, a short piece of spoken story and music I did for the Halloween season two years ago.
  2. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I listen to something I wrote/said a while ago and find it doesn’t completely suck.
  3. I actually have remained fairly active on my personal blog through the years, even while I have let other creative pursuits fade away for the time being.
  4. This too shall pass I hope.
  5. The fear of not-creating is two-fold.
    1. I am afraid I will lose a tiny, hard-won “audience.”
    2. I am also afraid of becoming an illiterate beast through contentedness, failure to exercise the creative muscle.
  6. The first fear I readily admit is illusory, the result of attaching to a gaining idea rather than simply expressing myself.
  7. The second fear feels more real, especially because it has an attractive power for me.
  8. The thing is, every creative effort — even the simple act of taking a picture — robs you of moments you would otherwise have lived.
  9. I am becoming very jealous of these moments, although very often I do not use them well.
  10. I could sit in my tiny backyard and watch the maple trees and the cars all day long.

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When Jess and I first started texting each other quite a lot we used three or more tildes ~~~ to indicate brain waves, as in you just said exactly what I was already thinking. I learned this usage from her; I wonder if anyone else uses it.

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I’m going to continue my trek through all the tilde accounts, but today I’m also going to work it in amongst some other thoughts.

When I wrote about tilde on my main site, Keith wrote in that he honestly doesn’t get the attraction. “You end up posting images and text at yet a different address,” he says, which means he probably sees tilde.club as basically another blogging platform.

Of course if all you can see are the web pages then you’re going to wonder what the point is. Its not until you log in to a server, and find it hopping and teeming with hidden, inner activity, that you see where the juice is.

But even on the inside, many of us have the same problem as Keith — we only really see web pages. At least I know I do. We (meaning me and you, if you’re like me) don’t know what to do here except to write and blog. Which means a lot of “keeping up”. Re-freshing, both on the reading and writing sides. We’ve been through this before. I’m sure this is a big reason why users like ~ahhrrr and ~ahtierney and ~aj_may still have the pages they do. After you’ve joined the tilde wearing and put up your animated Under Construction GIF and some ASCII art — do you really want to start something new that you’ll have to keep alive? These three pages say “no.”

~ford wrote about this tension created by writing and after (sorta) chewing on it for a few days I’m starting to decode it a little. He seems to be saying that we maybe lay off the writing-focus, and use tilde.club to learn. I suppose there’s something to that. So many buts though. I’m guessing the Mac I’m typing this on already has as many or more languages installed on it as tilde.club. But I kind of see his point. Don’t make this thing into a social treadmill for yourself, not by default at least. Make something else instead.


What I really have wanted to make for some time now is a machine for making printed books. Maybe I’ll try learning Racket (a LISP variant). Maybe I’ll cook up some nice pandoc/LaTeX templates. This is A) something I’ve been wanting to tinker with for a long time and B) not something I especially need (or can use) tilde.club for.

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~agray (Andrew) is a salt-of-the-earth Swinton, full of (or at least, definitely not-without) ideas for improving the social plumbing of all tilde-style communities. You may or may not follow his Twitter bot (I do because I believe in serendipity (we all do though or we wouldn’t be here!)), but if you really want to know who is interesting you could do worse than to check his non-ranked list of most prolific writers on tilde (by sentence count)! Your correspondent is not on this list, but with time, who knows! Anything can happen. Even you have a shot.

Andrew also has a great page on curling, possibly the only sport that shares a name with an extremely useful Unix program. As a dual-citizen of US & Canada (by birth) and the spouse of an actual Canada-raised Canadian, I have always felt I should know more about this gentle, frigid sport — and now I am without excuse.


What are people using tilde servers for besides anything inherently social? We have blogs and we have coders like ~agray who enjoy the pure mechanics of connecting people and their words, and we have email, IRC and Usenet groups. But is anyone using tilde.club for something non-social, for “computing”? There’s some talk about whether tilde can be a Facebook killer, and ~ford opined that it’s fundamentally different than social media. I don’t think it is a Facebook killer but I don’t think there’s anything about tilde.club that isn’t really just social, either.

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Time for another review: next on the list is ~af. The review, like this site, will be short and sweet. From the title tag, we know our host’s name is Andrew. We know ~camille is his friend. We know that Andrew aspires, one day, to add “guest book” functionality to his site. And finally, from timestamps, we know he last updated his home page on October 4.

It was C.S. Lewis who said:

While friendship has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of.

This is preference, not a prescription; still, it is a kind of simple goodness with which ~af seems quite in tune, on tilde.club, at least, content as he appears to be with his one tilde friend ~camille. And who would not be! she seems a cool kind of duck.

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I had an inordinate amount of free time this weekend and spent much of it with Jess and Sylvia, and much of it writing. This afternoon I hammered out some thoughts on theology — and I do mean hammered because it was hard to write, hard to know my own mind. I view “theology” as fundamentally ridiculous, useless, and even embarrassing on some level, so I don’t know why I obsess over these things. I’ve been trying to leave it behind, actually; but I think, in a way, that the kind of blogging people (myself and others) are doing here at tilde.club is helping me to open up about things that don’t matter, to face up to the fact that I still think about them.

Jess and Sylvia

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Moving along alphabetically, next on the list is ~admoman, who has actually made his or her page focused on a much-needed piece of functionality: an Atom feed of all page updates! I’ve been subscribed for a couple days now at my feed reader of choice and I’ll tell you it is waaaay too much to keep up with, but I still enjoy skimming through it now and again, and then I just Mark All Read when I get tired.

That green-on-black monospaced text puts me in mind of library computer terminals, and my dad’s Compaq 286 Luggable, on which I did some amount of tinkering. That was about the same time I started listening to a lot of John Renbourn, specifically The Hermit. Harsh, but transfixing. (The green-on-black text, I mean.)

One is tempted to stop there. After all, there aren’t any links to other pages, so ~admoman would seem to be kind of a single-serve wonder. But you can always find more. You should always at least try.

Not content to scrub the hyperlinks on ~admoman’s home page, I got curious and did a little spelunking:

[joeld@tilde ~]$ ls /home/admoman/public_html/
0  1  10  11  12  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  css.css  feed  index.html

See those numbered directories? Each of them contains an index.html. Sure enough, browsing to http://tilde.club/~admoman/1 brings you too an earlier version of his home page. It’s a great way to do a little version control on your site; it’s a very minor shame he/she didn’t throw in any leading zeroes, but that’s just me.

Speaking of hidden things: I’m a big fan of HTML comments, always have been. Use them. Sprinkle them. Look for them on every tilde page. Just putting that out there.

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All five Minnesota swintons met up at Brit’s Pub today for some drinks and chatter and also the Largest Ever Tilde Meetup.

Introductions were made, and we laid the groundwork of our plan to continue doing miscellaneous things by ourselves or perhaps in concert.

the five of us at Brit's Pub on Oct 15, 2014
Left→right: ~joeld, ~kjell, ~tristan, ~kronick, ~wjc

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~activitystory’s home page is that rare thing, a (i think) genuine riddle — not just some rando thing you don’t understand, but possibly a puzzle with maybe an answer of some kind.

mention is made of some early writing by our author; following the link to the archive.org copy we get this:

So. Back from Cleveland, which was empty. So were Canton, Akron, Kent.

Union towns must lay low on labor day. The strange thing was, as we wandered this vacant city, the only real noise was made by fighter planes and bombers. Vapor trails wrapped the skyline, and I felt somehow protected.

there is no date, but the url seems to indicate the snapshot was taken on october 27, 2001. about a month after 9/11.

that book cover is just too perfect. just look at that mouse, that gloriously incongruous mouse. it must have crawled there from a douglas adams script, it’s probably super intelligent and that’s why tom selleck is trying to protect it. a web search on the book itself gives us this excerpt:

There was no answer when I rapped at the concierge’s door. It must be understood at once that the concierge population of France is recruited from asylums for the criminally insane.

i would also like to draw your attention to the igloo coolers arranged irregularly in the background.

the html source is wrapped at 80 columns. there are no comments.

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first of all, i wrote a thing about tilde.club which i am telling you about. standard disclaimers apply.


i think of this journey of mine down through the tilde.club user listing as kind of like far lands or bust, of which I have seen two episodes, which is weird: you’d think a person would watch either five seconds or every episode ever, right?

~aanand and ~abrons are still in their unaltered, default states. so far there haven’t been too many of these kind in a row. i kind of hope at least one person keeps theirs as the default forever.

~abutler, though, has made token (sparing? discerning?) updates; that .gif is pulling its weight here and more. i mean, when someone says ‘stay tuned for updates on my random thoughts’ my typical response is don’t bet on it but those two kids remind me of others like them that i have discounted in the past, and lived to regret it.

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i had to march through only two empty tildes before arriving at ~aalaap’s page. i remember seeing this one early on, when we were still trying to figure out how to communicate with one another within the system. i mean, wall was there right from the get-go, but there was the instinctive hunt for something less invasive, more refined.

and what did we get, in this instance? a murmur of shades in a bright blankness of alabaster.

there is no time here; the things you see might have been said five seconds or five days ago, each succeeding the next by minutes or weeks. The speakers are not in conversation, almost could not be in conversation, for precisely that reason. names are given but may be fakes; there is no topic; glyphs — gasps — left without hope or disappointment — it is as if one found oneself in a room of muttering spirits, and, opening one’s mouth to speak, hears the voice of another, as though at a great distance.

i quickly turned and left.

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having given in to CSS, i am now using a CMS to generate this site my index.html file. i set up a separate section at my main website where i can write and save my posts. once posted, i manually publish to tilde by logging in to ssh and doing curl http://site.com/section -o index.html.

i’m going to be going on an explore of each page on tilde, going by the order on the home page. whenever I can I’ll post the results of my explorations here.


first on the list was the inscrutably handled ~_ aka david rutledge and you should really have a look there every day because it’s a legit blog and everything.

i have my own analogy for what tilde is: i say it is a coral reef, with fishes puttering about feverishly, and every ambient fact or thought accreting into unique little coral formations of text everywhere. david’s hand-rolled blog is just such an example of this.

and: check out that blog roll on the left! how am i going to keep up with all these blogs with no rss!? prolly keep my own blogroll and just click them all as often as i can.

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Oct 04, 2014 — I am of two minds whether to use CSS here.

Oct 01, 2014 — first chance to really work on my pages. hanging out at my friend's upper room in minneapolis. jess and i started a thing a few years ago called creativity night where people were supposed to come hang out and paint or write or whatever but it quickly devolved into people just being social and not doing anything creative at all. goodwin's creative thing tonight was creating exotic pizzas on dominos website and almost ordering them. my wife and i still carry the torch though, she's drawing/painting.





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