I think I rigged up an rss feed. Hey, that’s cool. News readers should find it automatically when pointed to the domain, but if not (which would be good for me to learn about) then you can grab it directly here.

A few of the things that are making me thoughtful recently:

  • The desire to pay time and attention in a more selective way, so that I use my time well and feel good about it, a desire that quite likely sends me to spend more time in face to face and personal connections;
  • Spending less time on Twitter, possibly for the same reason, partly in response to API restrictions and the resulting desire to cease adding my own value to a network in which I am a commodity; and partly because I am feeling a little less personal weight, less importance to me, of that particular community;
  • It’s election season, and promoted posts are popping up constantly on Facebook for Jeff Flake, Freedomworks and other conservative political groups. They’re sponsored links, also constantly being LIKED by one or two friends of mine – fine guys but with whom I probably have nothing in common after the time and distance since high school – and I would prefer to not spend any more time wondering “how the hell did that get into my feed?”
  • The energy happening on alpha/app.net – a non-free platform [!] – that is creating interesting conversation, community, and enthusiasm for doing cool things.
    • (Yes, thanks, I get the tension between “spend less time online” and “hey! cool thing online!”)
  • A period of exploring new web hosts prior up to the re-launching of TextDrive as replacement to the what-was-Joyent-hosting that, naturally, originally replaced TextDrive the first time around.

It was this last item that really sparked things. I was angry at the apparent loss of my lifetime hosting deal — about which I’ve noodled more, elsewhere, and may port those thoughts here at some point — and eventually came around to the decision that I’d be just fine going ahead and paying for hosting again: After all, I valued it, so I should pay for it and use it smartly. In short, I spent a lot of cycles thinking about the tools and services I truly value and are therefore willing to pay real money for.

In fact, I want to pay money for these things. This all ends for me with the clarity that I am willing to pay (real money!) for quality online services that allow me to have control and ownership and privacy, as opposed to the free services that need to turn my data – my network, my “social graph” or my eyeballs – into, basically, ad dollars in order to stay afloat.

A little over a year ago, I started movement in this direction when I began using fastmail.fm for mail services. [ Aside: fastmail is great; rock-solid IMAP, flexible options of all kinds, worth every penny. If you find it’s something valuable to you too, I get a credit if you sign up via my referral link ] At the time I was prompted in part by this post by Marco Arment on owning one’s own critical information. With fastmail, I began using a + suffix of my primary email address, every time I signed up for something or gave out my email address, instead of using my gmail address. My whole family is now on fastmail.

I’m not quite prepared to delete my accounts on Twitter and Facebook the way some vigorous Alpha/App.net users are (c.f. @jdscolam’s blog post – for which I appreciate his passion), because I still do get some value there: Twitter has a set of locals with whom I enjoy being in touch; and Facebook has helped me to stay connected with family and friends from various times in my life. But I’ve certainly spent less time there, and a plot of my posting activity would have a pretty steep downward curve over the last month or so.

I have spent some time lately thinking about alternatives to things I have used for free, such as posterous for my son’s blog – but on that score, with mixed success. It’s a strange situation, to be looking for someone to, as the saying goes, take my money, and finding only mildly satisfying options. More on that search later.

So, I’ll continue to look for ways to pay for the things I value, which will tie my time to my money and remind me to treat both with appropriate importance. That’s not a bad idea at all.

This list helps me keep track of where it may all be going.

Things to maybe write about

  • [ ] Today’s coffee
  • [ ] Being a Mac guy who spends most of his time in Windows
  • [ ] I have a toddler so there is yogurt everywhere
  • [ ] “You got a PhD and then did what?”
  • [ ] Podcasts I like
  • [ ] Working in IT, not as an engineer
  • [ ] Reading from my Instapaper back catalog
  • [ ] On not getting better at the guitar
  • [ ] Looking for worthwhile things that cost money

Mechanics

A small ruby script does most of the heavy lifting around here. It gets the job done and is a work in progress. Among the to-do items:

  • [******----] Automated re-syncing to server (pending TXD server transition)
  • [----------] Cool favicon
  • [*---------] Make better image formatting/handling
  • [********--] Build a proper multi-article index page
    • [******] Index pagination
    • [------] Article-to-article pagination
  • [**********] Build not-quite-brain-dead RSS feed
  • [**********] Build a proper archive
  • [**********] Rebuild all static files for header-footer change

Changes

  • Feb 2013: Rudimentary link log-style format for specified entries.
  • April 2013: Move build to server side. Improve “briefly” (link) entry presentation.

Update March 23, 2014: And, so, TextDrive is defunct. Well, I got another year-plus some months out of my “lifetime.” I’m in new digs at Kaizen Garden now.

For the sake of completeness, I also wrote about the original announcement of Joyent’s end of lifetime TXD hosting, back when.


Original post, September 18, 2012

TextDrive is not dead, after all, Dean Allen to return with some kind of ninja + jedi mojo and keep us all in the bits to which we have become accustomed.

As I watched this news unfold, to be entirely honest I wasn’t sure it was a good idea, because 1) discussions of shared hosting suggested it wasn’t really a viable thing anymore and 2) Dean seemed happy with his cheeses and wine and stuff, and 3) I was reconciled to going off and doing something new, anyway. But I concluded that we’re all more or less adults, that the key folks are smarter at this stuff than I am, and that I’d trust Dean not do jump back in through a fit of (merely) fury or loyalty. Also I had this idea for a project and need somewhere to cram it.

I’m glad that I mentally composed an in-the-moment rant, but I’m also glad I decided that it was better left as an exercise and then let go; better things to do, after all. I’m happy to have a continued place to put my nonsense online, and I’m encouraged by the community that re-shaped and gathered again around these events.

I do hope this doesn’t kill the BBQ. We were almost there.

As many are doing, the closure of TextDrive/Joyent lifetime accounts prompts me to do some thinking about the time with them. In many ways it’s one of the parallel stories – one of a handful of constants – to my last eight and a half years. (Basically textpattern startup through now.)

The alpha launch of Textpattern was the beginning of a huge amount of sociability, tinkering, and geekery among smart and interesting people. I first rolled my then-movable type blog to textpattern in February of 2004. The community was active and friendly, and had a pretty large core of early adopters who naturally jumped on the original TextDrive VC offer when Dean and Jason introduced it in 2004. I didn’t; couldn’t swing the money as a deep-in-it graduate student married to another graduate student, and I always wished I had – so I jumped when the second round, the VCII, came along.

So for the past seven years I’ve had this space where I could play with the web. I had everything a hobbyist web guy could want for my personal experiments in web projects and self publishing, hosted sites for family, my friend Cam Scott’s poet/flyfishing site… It was just there, and that gave me a huge amount of simple freedom to explore and learn.

There was something great about being able to have an idea, put something on the web, then leave it alone and just not care if it gets hits or needs maintenance or has to be paid for.

And the community continued: I got to meet a handful of them over the years, once in San Francisco, and recently in flagstaff where I had the great pleasure of meeting Joel for coffee. Online, it was this forum I checked into daily. We posted good news and bad news, child announcements, work updates, rants and nonsense, lots and lots of nonsense. What a tremendous great place accreted around a couple of guys’ adventure in web hosting, and persisted through all the organizational changes and frankly unimaginable growth of that company – until now.

I think Kelly put it about right:

Then today, Joyent sent out emails stating that we were being shut down. It was time to find hosting elsewhere, end of life or something. We don’t fit into things now. We’re old, and old people get sent away because they get in the way.

I don’t know how I feel about this exactly yet. I understand business costs, and that having a bunch of currently non-paying users taking up old hardware can be a drag. This odd thing I’m feeling is less about having to migrate than it is about something else.

My first reaction wasn’t about what I was going to do with my web sites, but a feeling of loss for what we had been a part of, the loss of being a part of something that was no longer what I still wanted – not a startup to which I was a (small) contributor, but a big company with accountants and lawyers. The thing we had isn’t there anymore, even though a lot of us still are.

I don’t want to focus on the nastiness that has erupted around the web and on the forum; threats of class action lawsuits that shut down conversation, anger and outrage. I think Joyent is making the wrong decision; but I don’t think I have anything to gain by trying to force them to keep me – or us – in their fold.

Update: Well, this was unexpected.

Thanks for visiting. I’m Alan, and this is a little spot for me to think out loud about things, mostly nerdery. I have been a sociologist, a clinical researcher, an IT guy of various roles, and am now working in analytics for a team with lots of interesting problems to solve.

If you enjoy what I write here or have questions or comments, please get in touch. You can send me email to alan at this domain.

You can also comment on things here at Pretty Good Hat using webmentions or via replies at my micro blog.

You might also be interested in the Pretty Good Hat RSS feed or my (dormant?) tilde club hangout.

Tooling

This is the second generation of Pretty Good Hat, circa roughly the end of January 2017. The original was a static blog rendered from a bunch of markdown files by some homebuilt ruby nonsense. This iteration is built with Hugo from a bunch of markdown files. I host with Pair Networks (hosting drama backstory), and write in various tools on a Mac and iOS.

Indieweb

I’m using Pretty Good Hat to plant some stakes in the Indieweb — a concept of decentralized networking that emphasizes owning one’s own online presence and content. The site supports webmentions, syndication, and posting to Hugo via micropub and media endpoints. You can read about some of my indieweb adventures via the #indieweb tag.

Here is my archive. All the way back for the life of this here site. (Excluding notes/microblog posts, as I haven’t incorporated them into this list. You may find many of those in the #tags page.)