Rafi's Website Personal Website. Writings on tech and music mostly. https://rafichaudhury.com/site/ Sun, 14 Jul 2024 19:12:15 +0000 Sun, 14 Jul 2024 19:12:15 +0000 Pico Zines - a personal printing press <p>I spent the past weekend (and a few weeknight evenings prior) cutting and printing some zines at home. It wasn't particularly complicated, but spending those hours doing it led to me coming up with some thoughts I wanted to jot down. </p> <p>Although I'm already on Issue #3 of the GLIDER fanzine, I found the process of home-printing paper zines to be qualitatively pretty different. Issues of GLIDER are professionally printed in 50-unit runs at a local print shop. It features 'perfect binding', which is the name given to books where the pages are glued to the spine. In most respects, working on Glider feels like writing a book. The experience is primarily digital, and while I design the cover and interiors, I don't actually know what it will look and feel like in my hands until I crack open the shipping box. </p> <p>That wasn't the case with paper zines, where you are working with the tactile experience of folding and cutting paper as soon as the sheet of paper pops out of the printer. Talk about rapid prototyping! Here's what I ended the weekend with:</p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/zines/2-zines.jpg" alt="A zine about Skywave" class="img-fluid" /> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/zines/spacemen-3-zine.jpg" alt="A zine about Spacemen 3" class="img-fluid" /></p> <p>The Spacemen 3 zine is a standalone version of the zine I designed for inclusion in the 2nd issue of <a href="https://www.glidermag.com">GLIDER</a>. As I was more interested in learning the mechanics of folding and cutting, I chose to populate the zine with pre-existing material. The 2nd zine is a restrospective of the noise pop band Skywave, compiling reviews of their 4 best records, which I had previously written for my website. </p> <h3>Deceptively small, surprisingly content-dense</h3> <p>Most zines are made by folding sheets of paper and stapling them together. You can fit a surprising amount of content into 2 sheets paper printing double-sided. Based on my estimates, 1200-1500 words should easily be possible on a 16-page zine, which is made with 2 sheets of paper. </p> <h3>The right fit for short, self-contained stories</h3> <p>Zines are a good fit for standalone content. We all have domains of expertise on obscure topics that nobody else shares. Zines can be a good outlet for compartmentalizing some of that information. I say 'some' because zines are supposed to be short and punchy, so focusing on the highlights is key. Which brings me to my next point...</p> <h3>A Stone Age PowerPoint</h3> <p>Making these felt a LOT like making Powerpoints in school. I'm not complaining, I've always thought that Powerpoints were an excellent example of content because it forced people to be succinct and focus on the really interesting stuff; not that everyone followed those guidelines, but they at least understood that brevity was the point, and that the audience could drill down to the details afterwards should they need to.</p> <h3>A physical artifact that's unique in its visibility</h3> <p>I've written a lot of reviews, blog posts and online comments in my lifetime, and 99.9% of them exist in the ether, sitting on websites I that I no longer visit, or on comment threads on ancient posts that are no longer visited. Heck, even this Spacemen 3 zine originally appeared on my Instagram account in 2020, and I'd mostly forgotten about it. </p> <p>Printing it out felt a bit childish at points, almost like I was working on a school project. In my defense, I can't remember a time I was cutting paper and stapling things together for something that <em>wasn't</em> a school project. It wasn't painless by any means. It took a bit of work to track down a set of <a href="https://metaparadox.itch.io/affinity-publisher-zine-templates">printable zine templates that would work with Affinity Publisher</a>. I also had to buy a paper trimmer from a crafts store, and just like the online reviews said, it requires an unreaasonable level of focus to cut the paper in straight lines. </p> <p>But once it was all done, I felt a calming sense of completion. I'm writing this blog post as a way of documenting what I learned, and then metaphorically 'closing the loop' on this topic and moving on to another project of interest. </p> <p>Until next time!</p> Mon, 09 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/zines_personal_printing_press https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/zines_personal_printing_press What's in My Bag? (2019 Edition) <h2 class="text-center">1. Kobo Mini e-Reader </h2> <p>This absolutely brilliant little device is probably the best $50 I’ve ever spent. A 5-inch square of e-ink, it has a form factor that’s perfect for fitting in your back pocket. Living in Toronto, I use public transport 99% of the time, so the ability able to fit this in a pocket while trying to grab a support rail on a winding streetcar route is invaluable.</p> <p>I love how indestructible it feels. It’s the Prism DuroSport of E-readers. It hasn’t exactly been treated well since I got it in 2013, and yet it putters on without any complaints. </p> <div class="row"> <div class="col-6"> <img class="img-fluid img-spacing" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/kobo-mini-1.jpg" alt="kobo Mini image showing body of Pocket article"> </div> <div class="col-6"> <img class="img-fluid img-spacing" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/kobo-mini-2.jpg" alt="Kobo mini showing thumbnails of Pocket articles"> </div> </div> <p>Best of all, a 2016 firmware update gave it the ability to download articles synced to my Pocket account. This has extended its shelf life much longer than I would have thought, given that when I first purchased it, I had already begun buying physical books in an attempt to dress up my embarrassingly bare shelves at home. But a lot of my reading still happens through long-form online analyses and thought pieces. I can’t imagine a better use case for the e-reader than that. I can sit back with the e-reader and read for hours without worrying about incoming notifications and draining the battery life of my phone. </p> <p>The page lag is abysmally slow unfortunately. but since my mobile and ebook reading habits are different, I’m less likely to want torapidly scan through scanning paragraphs, as I’m not trying to figure out if this browser tab is worthy my time. </p> <!-- ## 2. MacBook Pro 13-inch, mid-2014 --> <h2 class="text-center">2. MacBook Pro 13-inch, mid-2014</h2> <p>My daily driver ever since I purchased a refurbished version in 2015. Not having much money at the time, I sprung for the base model with 128GB storage and 8GB RAM. I've managed to scrape by with those specs for years until I tried my hand at video editing on Davinci Resolve and realized what a difference 16GB RAM would have made. I'm still running on the original battery, so hopefully this machine will have some years left in it. </p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/Huawei-3.jpg" class="img-fluid img-spacing" alt="Macbook Pro next to Huawei phone"> <!-- ##3. Huawei Mediapad 8.4 tablet --> <h2 class="text-center">3. Huawei Mediapad 8.4 tablet</h2> <p>Having used everything from a 7-inch POS from Acer, an 8.9-incher from Google and a 12-inch behemoth Surface Pro 3, I've come to realize that there will never be a perfectly sized tablet. What works great when reading magazine-size PDFs, is too large and unwieldy on a train. Correspondingly, what works great for couch surfing and ebooks shows its limitations when you try to use it for 'real work'. </p> <p>Seeing as how web developers have pretty much given up on building tablet-optimized layouts, the Huawei M3 is the best compromise. It's got a hi-res screen. While it doesn't have my favoured 4:3 aspect ratio, but in the same token, it's also not hideous for the price (like Samsung's Tab S2 8.0) or plagued with an ancient version of Android (Asus ZenPad S). </p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/huawei-mediapad-m3-8.4.jpg" class="img-fluid img-spacing" alt="Huawei MediaPad M3 8.4"> <!-- ##4. Portable Power Bank, 20,000mAH --> <h2 class="text-center">4. Portable Power Bank, 20,000mAH</h2> <p>Don't let the small-ish size fool you, this thing is <em>heavy</em>. If you're close to 0%, it's not going to charge particularly quickly either. But otherwise it's been pretty reliable, and is a huge step up from the cheap 2,000mAH (that's one less zero) Anker version I initially picked up, before realizing how meager that capacity really is.</p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/powerbank.jpg" class="img-fluid img-spacing" alt="Huawei MediaPad M3 8.4"> <!-- ##5. Hand Sanitizer and Portable disinfectant wipes --> <h2 class="text-center">Hand Sanitizer and Portable disinfectant wipes</h2> <p>Good for traveling on buses and sitting down at coffee shops for writing sessions</p> Wed, 30 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/whats-in-my-bag https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/whats-in-my-bag USB Monitors are suprisingly portable <p>I came across this tweet, and in an effort to stop and think about stuff more often, instead of scrolling by on to the next fleeting thought, I decided to write a bit about it, particular <em>#13: You don't need an office, it's freeing to fit your business in a backpack</em>. </p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/portable-office/twitter-janis-ozolins.jpg" alt="janis-ozolins" class="img-thumb-lg img-spacing float-end" /></p> <p>Usually these Twitter lists have a signal-to-noise ratio of maybe 1:4, and this one is no different. I will say that #13 made sense to me; I've usually done my best work out of a coffee shop than sitting in an offie or even worse, sitting at home staring at the walls. </p> <p>What's been missing in my coffee shop setup is the enormous productivity advantage that multiple monitors offer. I've held off on getting a 15-inch laptop because it crosses the boundaries of inconpicuousness in ways my current 13-inch Macbook Pro does not. </p> <p>Having a second monitor take up another computer's worth of space on a cramped coffee shop table is a no-no. But as a I recently discovered, a USB monitor paired with an adjustable laptop riser works remarkably well!</p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/portable-office/usb-monitor-front.jpg" class="img-fluid"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/portable-office/usb-monitor-oblique.jpg" class="img-fluid"> <p>Granted, there are a few caveats. This setup needs an external mouse and keyboard, as the monitor rests on the laptop's mouse/kb. I'm using a Macbook Pro 2014, which has a slightly recessed keyboard. This allows you to place the monitor on the opened laptop base, without it making contact with the keys. Pretty convenient! </p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/portable-office/keyboards.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="3 types of keyboards"> <figcaption>Choose your fighter (clockwise from left): Bluetooth Keyboard, Folding BT Keyboard, USB wireless keyboard w/ trackpad</figcaption> <p>Another thing to keep in mind is that you'll need a cable to power the monitor. With newer Macbooks (or USB-C compatible laptops, post-2018), you can use a single USB-C powered cable to act as both video-out and power the monitor. </p> <p>That's not the case in my pics. My Mac supports mini-DisplayPort (or Firewire, I always get them confused). So I have to use two cables to use this properly: </p> <ul> <li>Cable 1: mini-HDMI, to connect to the MBP's HDMI port</li> <li>Cable 2: USB-C power cable, to connect to the MBP's USB port</li> </ul> <p>The resulting setup isn't very sleek, especially with the lengthy cables. But it works very well for money. I will however say that powering the portable monitor is going to chew up your laptop's battery, so if you're planning on spending a long time without a power adapter nearby, consider bringing a portable power bank to power the monitor with. </p> Sun, 20 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/usb-monitors https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/usb-monitors The soon-to-be lost art of concert ticket stubs <p>The music world offers a litany of paraphernalia on which the quirks of particular styles and cultures get etched on to forever. You'll see this on liner notes, beer coasters, fanclub pins, gig posters and ticket stubs. It's that last one that I'm worried is disappearing before our eyes.</p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/ticketstubs/sonic-youth-london-1990.jpg" class="img-thumb-lg"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/ticketstubs/beatles.jpg" class="img-thumb-lg"> <p>With live music's descent into a vertically-integrated rent-seeking perpetual motion machine complete, the humble ticket stub no longer serves as a visually distinct artifact of the local club issuing them. If you have the displeasure of attending a show where the vendor is Ticketmaster, your ticket stub is now entirely digital; a listless, screenshot-resistant bar code that looks the same regardless of the artist playing or the location they're playing at. </p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/ticketstubs/alvvays-ticket.jpg" class="img-thumb-lg img-spacing float-end"> <p>It sounds a bit corny to say, but ticket stubs told a story. The basic metadata isn't complex: it lists the venue, the price, and the artists on the bill. But it's more than that. It serves as a representation of what the band sounded like in that period. The venue name reminds you of the other great artists that have played there; the CBGBs, Alexandra Palace, The Roxy, Danforth Music Hall....some of these places don't exist anymore, either lost to the tide of ever-rising commercial rents or unrecognizable in its modern incarnation, for the former reason. </p> <p>My Ticketmaster account is rapidly filling up with a list of past shows that have no mementos associated with them. The web app is slow and unreliable; half the time, I'm unable to get it to display the (now-useless) ticket stub for a quick screenshot. </p> <p>I want to believe that there is a business need for unique ticket designs, but I can't really envision people wanting to show each other colorful designs of past shows they've attended. This sort of 'media' tends to stay inside people's private collections, peeking out into the public eye only via the occasional nostalgia tweet. I just hope that we haven't already entered a world where this wonderful art will only ever re-appear in a Taschen coffee table book. </p> Sun, 25 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/ticket-stubs https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/ticket-stubs SEO Endgame <p>For personal sites, its probably a losing battle. </p> <p>Writing on the ibternet feels like a weird exercise. I write a para or 2 and immediately go over it wuth a fine toothcomb, wondering if the words are 'relevant' for search engines. I work partially in an SEO role professionally so that instinct does kick in. It's a good instinct to have, but over time it leads to a style of writing that optimizes for the lowest common denominator. </p> <p>I often have to remind myself that Im writinfg for myself. And the writinf is not so self indulgent that no one can find value from it. • You can tell when a popular website gets its traffic via social media. It's information architecture is dreadful, every post is either dumped into an infinitely scrolling homepage, or the taxonomy is ugly and clumsy in its machine-generated, search-engine optimized tags. </p> <p>Like any normal person writing online, I would like for my stuff to be read. The readership doesn't have to be in the millions, or even in the hundreds of thousands. After all, I have a self-published print magazine from which I've gotten a lot out of, despite the worldwide readership coming in at under 5 figures (if I count the decimal points). </p> <p>But the hardest thing to do for a brand new web site is to actually show up on search engines at all. Chances are, any topic you write about has likely been covered, even tangentially, by a larger, older, more established website. Search engines consider at a dizzying array of factors in deciding how high to rank a particular page, but some appear to be set in stone. </p> <p>The first of those is <strong>backlinks</strong>, i.e., the number of times other websites have linked to pages on your site. Ordinarily, this would mean that each link from your site that's been shared on Facebook and Twitter should be boosting your signal on search engines. This is of course not the case; that would be far too simple! Most search engines today downgrade the importance of links posted on social media, because of the prevalence of linkspam that already pollutes those sites. Nope, the 'backlinks' that matter here are those that are posted on actual 'web-sites' from the Web 1.0 era, like message boards and personal blogs. Of course corporate websites are included here as well, but let's face it, there's no reason for them to link to some random blog. And as we all know, one of the best parts of the Web 1.0 era was the blessed absence of corporate sites to begin with. </p> <p>The second seemingly evergreen factor is particularly stupid:<strong>length</strong>. Google search execs will swear up and down that length is irrelevant, yet can't explain why every cooking recipe that reaches the first page of results seems to include a small novella about the chef's grandmother before getting to the 1 paragraph of relevant information. The only time you'll ever see content that isn't monstrously verbose is for low-information searches like 'celebrity net worth'. And in those cases, Google won't even deign to link the website up top on the results page. It will scrape the information and put it on the page itself, saving you a click. This is what's known as a &quot;zero-click search&quot;</p> <p>All this implies that a better search engine is possible if X or Y optimization was chosen instead of W or Z. But it won't be. Google sells ads first and foremost; the quality of search only needs to be good enough so that people don't go elsewhere. And for years, that's proved to be the case. Despite there being a 1996-style renaissance in new search engines (Ecosia, Duck.com, Brave Search, Startpage.com), Google remains un-toppled, its effigy unscathed. </p> <p>But, it's possible that cracks are finally, finally beginning to show. It hasn't escaped anyone's notice that the results page has been serving more and more ads before showing organic results. While that's certainly led to an increase in the annoyance quotient, it hasn't bled into hurting the quality of organic results...until now. Google has been gamed, and there's no turning back. Most useful information isn't delivered by a standard search anymore. You must append &quot;site:reddit.com&quot; to limit results to those from some sane domain. This is because B2B businesses and affiliate link sites have monopolized search results to show some variation of this for any possible search:</p> <p>[[best nutrition plan for beginners 2022]]</p> <div class="blockquote float-end"> <h3>WIRED</h3> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/wired-marketing-copy-gpt3.png" class="img-border img-fluid" alt="Wired.com headline: The Future of the Web Is Marketing Copy Generated by Algorithms - The killer app for GPT-3 could help marketers lure clicks and game Google rankings."> <p class="small"><em>They seem delighted at the prospect</em>. <br> <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/ai-generated-marketing-content">FULL ARTICLE</a></p> </div> <p>And that's not even considering the impact that AI will have in this sector. I'm pretty skeptical of its higher-flying promises such as self-driving cars, but I have no doubt that AI will wipe the floor with the lowest-hanging fruit, which is writing marketing copy for websites. The writing is already systematized to work in favour of search engines rather than people. Will we even be able to tell the difference between worked churned out by a content mill manned with Fiverr.com writers creating their 5th article of the day? The standard has been lowered enormously to fill the demand for 'content'</p> <p>For the most part, users seem to have gone along with it. But, we now appear to have reached a point where the organic search results themselves are so obviously gamed, the average person is actually considering alternatives. Granted, the alternative has been TikTok, an even stupider medium for locating information, but considering the enormous downgrading of internet IQ that walled-gardens and walled-phones have bestowed, we can't expect good decision-making from netizens at this juncture. </p> <ul> <li>Robin rendle anti seo </li> <li>Glider mag anti seo </li> </ul> <p><a href="https://millionshort.com">Millionshort.com</a> and <a href="https://wiby.me/">wiby.me</a> exist as examples of search engines that try to give you a fighting chance against the deluge of blogspam. </p> <p>Examples of bad sites</p> <ul> <li>Celeb net worth </li> <li>product review sites filled eith aff links (sitebuilderreport)</li> <li>albumoftheyear.org</li> </ul> Fri, 15 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/seo-endgame https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/seo-endgame A Salute to David Thorpe <p>The master of incisive, hunorous quips about the bands we hold dear There are increasingly fewer places to go on the Internet for snark that doesn't feel cruel or petty. </p> <p>I remember waiting each week/month for articles. The first one i read was modern rock summer 2004 which took aim at Muse. Thats probably how I found the article in the first place The hits just kept coming. My favkurote has to be classic rock sucks. </p> <p>In retrospect a product that came out of DA forums was bound to have rude insuly humor that wouldn't work today. Mockingbsuields for weight gain when today there's footage of him saying he was </p> Fri, 15 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/salute-to-david-thorpe https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/salute-to-david-thorpe Music Magazines Going Digital: We All Lose <p>It was a long time coming, but the stately indie music rag New Musical Express (NME) has finally shut its doors. Which is to say, it’s print edition is dead, and now it exists as an online-only website. </p> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/1995_08NME_blurvsoasis.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="Blur v Oasis, 1995 cover"> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/libertines-nme-2002.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="Libertines, 2002 cover"> </div> </div> <p>Originally print version for 1 GBP, then went free.\ Survived until 2018, much longer than Melody Maker Economics I know the decision to go digital was not an easy one, and probably based on the financial untenability of continuing to print a free edition. </p> <h2>What we’ve lost</h2> <p>The visual identity of the magazine disappears</p> <p>It becomes like every other boring CMS website out there, everything templated and filled to the brim w/ ads.</p> <p>NME’s print ads were for new record releases, or upcoming festivals. Now, it’s the programmatic ad trash that follows you around, hawking products we’ll never ever buy from. I’d see a full-colour ad about [....]. </p> <p>Now, I’ll see an ad about investing in Ontario. Because obviously as someone from a Toronto IP, I obviously have the same intentions as a foreign investor group with millions to put into the auto industry or whatever the government thinks is good target. </p> Fri, 31 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/music-magazines-going-digital-we-all-lose https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/music-magazines-going-digital-we-all-lose Hobby Newsletters, Digital Members' Clubs and the Monetization of Online Communities <p>The <em>hobby economy</em> sounds great in theory. What if your particular area of nerdery was something that could be shared, for profit? The most common way this happens today is with a content stream of some sort: a blog, a newsletter, a Youtube channel, a podcast, all focused on an area of general interest. </p> <p>The ecosystem of businesses that do nothing besides write about Apple is enormous and long-standing; besides the official Mac magazine, there is 9to5Mac, MacRumors and the now-defunct TUAW (RIP). These are what I'd call 'consumer'-focused sites as they don't have a paywall and focus mostly on explaining Apple products to laypersons. On the professional side, there's the newsletter <a href="https://www.aboveavalon.com/about">Above Avalon</a> that focuses exclusively on analyses of Apple product pipeline, targeted at those that have stock positions in Apple. </p> <p>Sidenote: And considering that MacOS itself has long had a following of diehards, there are even businesses (SetApp) that bundle small MacOS apps together and sell access to <em>that</em> for a subscription. </p> <p>None of these apps are made by professionals. That's also the case for the most recent one I discovered: a virtual clubhouse for Apple Fans known as <strong><a href="https://club.macstories.net/about">MacStories</a></strong>. The main product offereing seems to be an Apple-focused newsletter, rather than the usual ad-revenue driven blog. Annoyingly, much of its content is paywalled, which makes it hard to determine the quality of the content. </p> <p>And that's important to know because it costs $50/yr to get them, placing it among the upper range of the price range of paid newsletters. For that much I can get a year's worth of the <strong>New Yorker</strong>. They'll jack that up 10-fold once the introductory year expires, but that's not the point! What exactly am I paying for with MacStories?</p> <p>Upon further examination....not very much. There have articles about new Mac/iOS features, which aren't exactly a rare commodity. There are no subscription perks to speak of, like discounts on apps or anything. But there is a Discord channel. I'm not a fan personally: I've been on chat channels for Spline, Logseq, Famous slack channel, and it's the same thing, over and over again. </p> <p>Have a password-protected Discourse at least. </p> <ul> <li>similar site called MacProVideo, but they have a giant library of tutorials, that make a lot of sense</li> <li>Reminds me of those iPad/iOS tutorial books they sell at airports. </li> <li>It seems to be working? They have sponsors, they have communities. At some point they could potentially leverage that </li> </ul> <h2>Old School Example</h2> <ul> <li>GAmefaqs.com, Rand Fishkin/HN comment</li> <li>Anandtech, sold to Apple. </li> </ul> <h2>The Generalist</h2> <ul> <li>MetaMuse podcast</li> <li>Going for a poor man's Stratechery, which is good </li> <li>Don't you become a shill, eventually?</li> </ul> <h2>EV Universe</h2> <p>Good example of when a newsletter reads more like a fanzine, but with the professional polish of a PR piece, or native advertisement insert. </p> <p>Link: <a href="https://www.evuniverse.io/newsletter/semi">https://www.evuniverse.io/newsletter/semi</a></p> <p>HN Discussion: <a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=33861574">https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=33861574</a></p> <h2>The Information</h2> <h2>Opposite ends of the Spectrum</h2> <ul> <li> <p>Ironically, Matt Levine's one, is free!</p> </li> <li> <p>Platt's Oil &amp; Gas - very expensive as I recall, market-moving info</p> </li> <li> <p>Crypto - Messiari Research or whatever</p> </li> </ul> <h2>Trying to Monetize something myself</h2> <p>Seems like it would be good lead gen for a book (<em>James Clear, Atomic Habits</em>), Atomic Habits is better in that the issue is actionable, </p> <h2>Doubts</h2> <p>At some point, starts to feel like a job** -- the grind of churning out 'content' Don't you become a shill eventually? </p> <h2>What's the endgame?</h2> <p>PKM Influencers aplenty; I'd have to steer clear of the Notion crowd, and pursue the road less trodden, like Obsidian. Sorry Logseq I love you, but they have mind-mapping and Apple Freeform style infinite canvases now</p> <h2>Magazine**</h2> <p>You wouldn't think so, but this turns out to be the route I took. More info here: www.glidermag.com</p> Mon, 05 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/macstories-monetization-communities https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/macstories-monetization-communities Bluetooth headsets - A tale of hassle <p>I've used Bluetooth headphones since around 2013. My first pair was this $25 ode to fugliness. It was an around-the-neck style set of 'phones with with on-ear earcups, which didn't cut out external sound; I thought they'd be good for using while biking. </p> <figure> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/kinivo-bt-headphones.jpg"> <figcaption>Kinivo BT headphones, apparently a white-label brand whose clones are widely available</figcaption> </figure> <p>Despite the dorky look, the unreliable microphone and a very annoying habit of losing reception at busy intersections, this brand and this style continues to by my most liked type of BT headset. Not the strongest vote of confidence I've ever bestowed, but appropriate given the overall low standards of the BT space. </p> <p>Surprisingly, the price for this cheapo style of headphones has gone up seemingly every year; variants of the original Kinivo now sell for $40 - $50. Having bought multiple versions of them over the years, I can tell you that they are identical if not worse. There's no BT aptX, not BT 5.0, nothing to reflect the improvements to BT audio quality in the past decade. </p> <p>Not wanting to pay more for stagnant technology, I decided to look elsewhere. Surely there would be at least one vendor out there that wasn't shilling AirPods ripoffs or grotesquely large over-the-ear headphones that Beats and Skullkandy popularized. I wasn't wrong; I found one....just one though. </p> <div class="d-flex flex-row"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/headphones/jlabrewind-1.jpg" alt="JLab Rewind 1" class="img-thumb-md img-spacing-sm"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/headphones/jlabrewind-2.jpg" alt="JLab Rewind 2" class="img-thumb-md img-spacing-sm"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/headphones/jlabrewind-3.jpg" alt="JLab Rewind 3" class="img-thumb-md img-spacing-sm"> </div> <p>The JLab Rewind features a name-befitting retro '80s design. Mercifully, it's minimal and not obtrusive when out and about. You can wear it around your neck when not in use, and it won't chafe under your chin the way headphones with larger earcups do. </p> <p>The right side has a Pause/Play button that's extremely handy; unlike the Kinivo however, it doesn't have all the other controls that made it incredibly convenient: we need a PREV/NEXT button too!</p> <p>On the bad side, the on-ear design really does not block any kind of noise <em>at all</em>. The Kinivo's earpiece design made it look awful when worn, but the faux-leather cushioning delivered far better sound than what I get on the JLab. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that these aren't really suitable for listening to music at all; the bass response is almost non-existent unless you press the band to your ears. </p> <p>I'd still recommend these if you are primarily listening to spoken audio, such as Zoom, podcasts or TV shows; there are no problems there. But if you aren't obssessive about headphone shapes, portability and comfort, I'd strongly advise you to grab something else. </p> Thu, 13 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/headphones https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/headphones A small milestone for Glider Magazine <p>The first issue of <strong><em>GLIDER</em></strong> is sold out! Only 50 copies were printed, so that might not be that many. But aside from a couple of copies given to friends, the remainder have found themselves in far-flung corners of the world, from Irvine, CA to Auckland, NZ, Hong Kong and London, UK! </p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/glider-1-sold-out.jpg" alt="Image of Glider Magazine Issue 1" class="img-fluid" /></p> Wed, 02 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/glider-magazine-milestone https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/glider-magazine-milestone GazePop15 rundown, Nov 2022 <div class="float-end"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/jamc-honeysdead.jpg" class="img-border img-thumb-sm" alt="jamc honeys dead album cover"> </div> <h3>1. Jesus and Mary Chain - Tumbledown</h3> <p>Where 'Teenage Lust' felt like they were trying too hard to Americanize their sound, this deep cut did it right, matching the sweetness of their melodies with grungy production featuring a sample from <strong>EINSTURZENDE NEUBATEN</strong>'s <em>'Tanz Debil'</em></p> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>15. The Radio Dept - Closing Scene (2008) </h3><p>A mesmerizing B-side from the 🇸🇪 dreampoppers, and a fitting choice to close out this 15-day challenge. They'd end their live sets with this song, their instruments still feeding back into the PA as they left the stage.</p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/radiodept-passive-aggressive.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="radio dept album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>14. Sunday Reeds - Drowning in History (2009)</h3> <p>Repping Australia's meagre contributions where I can. "Drowning in Amplifier Hiss" would be a better title, but SR did have a knack for cheap, fizzy noisepop unencumbered by things like "originality" or "a mixing board". </p> <a href="https://thesundayreeds1.bandcamp.com/album/drowning-in-history">Bandcamp</a> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/sundayreeds-drowninginhistory.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="radio dept album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>13. Starflyer 59 - She's the Queen EP (1994)</h3> <p> While rarely spoken of these days, SF59 carved out their own little niche of US Christian shoegaze in the '90s alongside Morella's Forest and The Violet Burning. RIYL fuzzed out grunge-gaze like Hum. </p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/starflyer59-shesthequeen.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="radio dept album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>12. Spacemen 3 - Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To (1994)</h3> <p>Including this odds-and-sods compilation for no other reason than the fantastic name. And maybe the sludgy, Velvets-on-mushrooms drone of 'Losing Touch with My Mind'.</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/sp3-takingdrugstomakemusic.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="sp3 album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>11. Drop Nineteens - Delaware</h3> <p>A sonically schizophrenic debut that bore little resemblance to their Slowdive-infatuated demo tapes, but nonetheless contained some prime shoegaze cuts, most surprising of which was a cover of Madonna's 'Angel'</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/dropnineteens-delaware.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="drop nineteen album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>10. Black Tambourine - Complete Recordings</h3> <p>Team @SlumberlandRecs delivers again. Label head Mike Schulman's vacuum-cleaner guitars ringing out over Pam Berry's bummed-out '60s girl group vocals makes for an LP that invites repeat listening.</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blacktambourine.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="black tambourine album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>9. Death in Vegas - Girls</h3> <p>Featured on the Lost In Translation OST, this fits in seamlessly among the Kevin Shields solo tracks, MBV and JAMC songs to build the film's atmosphere of luminous neon melancholy.</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/lost-in-translation.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="lost-in-translation album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>8. Flying Saucer Attack - Rural Psychedelia (1993)</h3> <p>Glam rock guitars have never sounded more monstrous than on this cover of the Suede single "The Drowners" (reviewed in Glider #2 - MBV Special Issue)</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/flying-saucer-attack-1993-art.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="fsa album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>7. The Depreciation Guild - In Her Gentle Jaws (2007)</h3> <p>A rare mashup of kaleidoscopic dreampop and chiptune bleeps and bloops. They would release only 2 albums, after which frontman Kurt Feldman joined @thepainsofbeing on drums.</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/depreciationguild-2007.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="depreciationguild-2007 album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>6. Hartfield - It Could Happen To You? (2003)</h3> <p>Little known Japanese record with a Hygge-esque coziness you'd otherwise associate with twee pop. They never released anything else sadly. Mixed by the legendary @wavertone</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/hartfield-truecolor.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="hartfield-truecolor.jpg album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>5. Static Daydream - S/T (2015)</h3> <p>Another indie act in thrall to Creation Records-era noisepop . Check out how they adapted the riff from House of Love's 'Shine On' on the opening single!</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/static-daydream.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="staticdaydream album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>4. The Heart Throbs - Cleopatra Grip (1990)</h3> <p>In '04 I was checking out a shoegaze station on the Live365 when I first heard this. Nearly 20 years on, the chorus is just as spot on as ever: "We're so tired // So tired of everything..."</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/heart-throbs-cleopatra-grip.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="cleopatra grip album cover"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>3. History of Apple Pie - S/T (2013)</h3> <p>Noisy power pop had a brief revival in the 2010s with bands like Yuck, Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls. THAP were a small London band that sadly got lost in the shuffle. RIYL Velocity Girl, Swirlies</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/history-of-apple-pie.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="STAR - Devastator (2007)"> </div> </div> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>2. STAR - Devastator (2007)</h3> <p>Ultra-saturated teenage love buzz noisepop from the good people that brought you Astrobrite and Loveliescrushing</p> </div> <div class="col"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/star-devastator.jpg" class="float-md-end img-thumb-md" alt="STAR - Devastator (2007)"> </div> </div> Mon, 14 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/gazepop15-nov-2022 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/gazepop15-nov-2022 Galaxy Z Fold 3 - my use cases <p>I picked up a refurbished Z Fold 3. I'd been wanting one ever since the first one became commercially available in 2020. Since that time, the tech has come a long way. The Z Fold 4 is available, although physically there is not much difference between that and the Fold 3. The Z Fold 3 is still pretty expensive, but at least I was able to use my CC cashback to defray the cost ever so slightly. </p> <p>Here's what I've tried using it for:</p> <h2>1. USB-C Video Output to monitor</h2> <p>I was able to connect the phone to my 16-inch external USB monitor successfully. When using video out mode, the phone is switched over to Samsung DeX mode. </p> <h2>2. Note and Receipts Scanner</h2> <p>One of the less-talked about features of the Z Fold 3 is the wide angle of the camera. The pictures you get with the rear facing camera appear squarish by default, as opposed to the more rectangular portrait and landscape modes. This is quite fortuitous, as notebook pages rarely match the narrow shooting angle of most smartphone cameras.</p> <p>I'm currently using Notebloc for receipt and scanning relevant pages of my paper notebooks. One issue I'm facing is that you really have to make a habit out of doing this, at least once a week. Otherwise, materials pile up!</p> <h2>3. Tablet Replacement</h2> <div class="row"> <div class="col-auto"> <p>I bought the phone with the optional pen. I have basically 2 main needs for the tablet: a large canvas to read PDFs on, and using the split screen functionality to take notes while reading. I set up Syncthing Android to sync the PDF library sitting my Mac's local drive, to my phone, and used Xodo Reader to read, bookmark and annotate. Works very well. As a bonus, PDFs look amazing on this display. I have been slightly obssessed with figuring out the perfect tablet size and aspect ratio, and never found a winner. This is it: an iPad Mini size device that fills the screen while displays US Letter size PDFs, and folds in half so it doesn't take up a quarter of my desk when not in use! </p> </div> <div class="col"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/tablet.png"> </div> </div> Sun, 30 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/galaxy-fold-3-things-to-do https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/galaxy-fold-3-things-to-do Everything Stupid about the Internet <h2>Format</h2> <p>Everything Stupid about the Internet</p> <p>Domain: internet.sucks</p> <p>Small paragraphs about each</p> <p>Add rating scale for how stupid you have to be to fall for this:</p> <p>BD - Brain Dead. [brief description:......] BR - Boneheaded Rube [brief description:......] AP - Average Punter DR - Digital Revocation. You shouldn’t be allowed to have a computer Add rating scale for how irritating this is:</p> <p>1 2 3 4</p> <h2>1990s</h2> <p>The good: We were years away from having unwashed swarms of humanity descending on the Internet to “make money from blogging”. </p> <ul> <li>Dancing baby</li> <li>Dancing scantily clad</li> <li>You are 1 millionth customer</li> <li>&quot;<blink>&quot;</li> <li>Links that turned purple</li> <li>Having to share a computer and panic when you saw purple links that showed they'd been clicked</li> </ul> <h2>2000s</h2> <p>The Good: The web is still relatively new, so the options to irritate you are still limited. Streaming video can be encapsulated by this iconic image [Real Player buffering]. Your phone can’t connect to the Internet unless you’re a Blackberry-wielding bigwig, and even if you are, the mobile internet looks like this [insert image of WAP site]. </p> <p>The bad: </p> <p>every computer can run Macromedia (later Adobe) Flash, and designers know how much of a sucker you are for loud, disruptive web experiences. </p> <p>Plus, we are in the Wild West era of programmatic advertising CMSs (Wordpress, Joomla) have arrived and we are the starting point of the web beginning to look like an identikit heap of ugly page templates, useless “category” tags and a web experience that feels like it was generated by a machine. </p> <ul> <li>Prevent right click on page, show !message about content being copyrighted</li> <li>Loud emoticon pack ads</li> <li>Limewire/Ares/Kazaa/Frostwire - fake MP3s </li> <li>Free iPod ads</li> <li>Free anti-malware ads</li> <li>“Hot girls in your area want to meet you”, fake chat windows</li> <li>Dickheads in message boards sending you those LMGTFY links </li> <li>“One weird trick”, “Doctors hate him”, “Mortgage rates in {%locale%} are falling!</li> <li>pre-Panda algorthim, random sites filled with copied content, or senseless machine-generated sentences. Look up apartment design websites</li> <li>Multi-page slideshows</li> <li>Work from home ads</li> </ul> <h2>2010s</h2> <p>The Good: </p> <p>The Bad: Zero-click searches. Net worth Forbes articles being takas gospel..linkrd tincreasung stupiduty of abg population.oen ‘Viral videos’ are now anything you can claim to have ‘broken the internet’. At least in the mid-2000s viral vids “felt” viral, like Star Wars kid, “Charlie bit my finger”, “Chocolate rain”</p> <p>Youtube vids: </p> <p>Prank fails</p> <p>Are you a teenager or adult who economic prospects rely entirely on being a dancing monkey for an audience of 12 year olds? You may be eligible for an exciting career as a Youtuber! [insert Jez dancing image]</p> <p>Drift customer service “messenger” style popups</p> <p>Want to Receive notifications????? Pushcrew</p> <p>Autoplaying videos</p> <p>Social Share Buttons - because adcorps think you’re too much of a moron to copy and paste, so they’ve helpfully added this JS monstrosity to their website, which, totally by coincidence, drops invisible tracking pixels so they know what other sites you visit </p> <p>Those goddamn recipe websites</p> <ul> <li>Mobile Games: [clash of clans] [angry birds] [candy crush]</li> <li>Starting tweeets with “BREAKING:” for something that isn’t breaking to anybody ever</li> <li>Zergnet/Outbrain/Taboola</li> <li>Spotify’s annoying ads</li> <li>Paywalls everywhere, even on Medium.com</li> <li>Snarky Twitter bios</li> <li>Medium.com</li> <li>Infinite Scrolling</li> <li>Recommendation algorithms (Spotify, YouTube, Netflix)</li> <li>SEO optimized titles (Ultimate guide for fat loss for absolute beginners 2019”)</li> <li>Listicles</li> <li>Headphone needs app to connect</li> <li>Youtube comments</li> <li>Reaction Videos</li> <li>Pocket Articles (see below)</li> <li>Self-promotion, digital nomads, the grind, influencer (Self-improvement article as lead-gen for shitty ebook), shitty articles on Entrepreneur, Forbes and Medium</li> <li>Look up decline of forbes.com</li> <li>I studied morning habits of millionaires. Here’s what I learned. This is absolutely sign up for my udemy course about how to be a millionaire!</li> <li>“Do this ONE thing to be successful in 2019”</li> <li>Chatbots aka “Conversational Commerce” (Slack, FB, etc)</li> <li>Full page modals that launch the second you open the site</li> <li>Google showing machine-generated search results</li> <li>Pinterest sign in to view more (no, I just need to find a pic, not click on a Pinterest thumbnail that’s 200px wide, only to take me to a login screen. This companyis worth $19bn btw</li> <li>“Millenial-friendly language” (emojis, “we just can’t”, “rockstar”, “this is everything”); use themuse.com career training example</li> <li>Recaptcha computer vision training; hope that pirated ebook download was worth it!</li> <li>Trying to modify your FB News Sidebar, Twitter Promoted ads or Pocket recommendations, </li> <li>Amazon Netflix autocomplete for shows they dont have</li> </ul> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>Why yes I do want to get notifications in my browser</h3> <p>It's always the most cancerous websites throwing these in your face, too.</p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/badinternet/notifications.jpg" class="img-fluid float-md-end"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>Download our App! (Wayfair)</h3> <p>Your mobile website works fine. Stop trying to get me to download your app. It's not going to happen! There are no cool features that are 'app-only'. Except for you, I guess. I bet you'd love it if I handed you my location data, and notification permissions so you could spam me at all hours of the day to tell me some restaurant I don't give a shit about is offering 5% off for a limited time.</p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/badinternet/skipthedishes.jpg" class="img-fluid float-md-end"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>Podcast-deluged hellscape</h3> <p>- Podcasts - if you ever wanted to listen to your friend and his/her guest rambling inarticulately about a topic you don’t care about, you’re in luck! Recording equipment is cheap and begging for listeners is no longer gauche</p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/badinternet/podcast.jpg" class="img-fluid float-md-end"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>YouTube Home Page (when you haven't signed in)</h3> <p>Just horrifying</p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/badinternet/youtube-trending.jpg" class="img-fluid float-md-end"> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <h3>Clickbait and Exaggerated Faces on Video Thumbnails</h3> <p>No one in the history of internet content provision has ever been this excited to tell you about the benefits of Bitcoin. The mouth-agape thumbnail is crucial to achieving this.</p> </div> <div class="col"> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/badinternet/exaggerated-reaction-face.jpg" class="img-fluid float-md-end"> </div> </div> <p>Full Google Doc: <a href="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MyUnMONR0FUd5vdLQZlqot7y5UE8hrhTSPKMP_rEIU0/edit">https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MyUnMONR0FUd5vdLQZlqot7y5UE8hrhTSPKMP_rEIU0/edit</a></p> Sat, 01 Jan 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/everything-stupid-about-the-internet https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/everything-stupid-about-the-internet Back to the Kobo Mini <p>Recently, I came across an article on the Raptitude blog:</p> <p><a href="https://www.raptitude.com/2022/02/what-i-learned-during-my-three-days-offline/">https://www.raptitude.com/2022/02/what-i-learned-during-my-three-days-offline/</a></p> <p>I've been researching note-taking systems and productivity stuff in general in an attempt to be a bit more alert and intentional about my goals. Going online remains a major distraction and time sink, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/05/i-dont-know-how-to-waste-time-on-the-internet-anymore.html">even as it becomes harder to waste time online</a>. </p> <p>I've had a Kobo Mini since 2013. Its been my longest lasting electronic device, alongside a Logitech wireless KB/mouse. </p> <p>Image of Excel sheet w sold electronics </p> <p>Syncing is a bit of a hassle....show image comparing phone to kobo sync setup, compared to cassette futurism image. </p> <div class="row"> <div class="col"> <figure> <img class="img-fluid img-border" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/cassette-futurism-modem.jpg" alt="motorola phone hotspot 80s"> <figcaption>Downloading email to your PDA for offline reading, 1994</figcaption> </figure> </div> <div class="col"> <figure> <img class="img-fluid img-border" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/kobo-mini-usb-sync.jpg" alt="usb otg cable syncs phone with kobo mini"> <figcaption>Syncing EPUB files to my Kobo Mini via USB OTG cable, 2022</figcaption> </figure> </div> </div> <p>Of course, since then, I have gotten a Boox Note Air tablet, even though it's not used all that frequently. Here's how it looks next to that:</p> <img class="img-thumb-lg" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/kobo-mini-boox-note-air.jpg"> <p>Feels like syncing PDAs back in the day. Nice to have a single-purpose, truly distraction free device. Kobo is pocketable, you genuinely forget about it </p> Wed, 23 Feb 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/back-to-the-kobo-mini-ereader https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/back-to-the-kobo-mini-ereader Amateur Rockumentary Channels on Youtube <p>Being stuck at home for the better part of the past two years has had me exploring all kinds of strange corners of Youtube. Usually I don't touch amateur Youtube channels with a 10-ft pole, because it's all subscribe this and Discord that and Patreon subscriptions and giveaways and a bunch of inane silliness I can do without. </p> <p>Lately however, as I began the planning for GLIDER magazine, I became curious to see if there were any hobbyist channels out there started by enthusiasts like myself. There were! Here are some I found:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Punk Rock MBA</strong></li> <li><strong>Trash Theory</strong></li> <li><strong>Stained Glass Stories</strong> - A new addition, this channel appears to have been started in 2022, and has uploaded several shoegaze oriented videos. I enjoyed watching this one: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS7LbWqD3og">Top 10 Shoegaze Albums</a></li> <li><strong>20/20 Sound</strong> -- A channel that rarely posts, but usually uploads quality mini-docs about '80s/'90s UK indie bands. </li> <li><strong>Todd in the Shadows</strong> -- A channel with a twist! Todd is a pianist/keyboardist who usually kicks off videos by playing a piano version of the song he's about to deconstruct. The pacing and writing is good; Todd does his research well and his videos usually have several funny insights. A few episodes I enjoyed watching: '90s Eurodance one-hit wonder &quot;Haddaway - What is Love&quot;, Billy Idol's 'Shock to the System' as a metaphor for his failed Cyberpunk rebrand, and Van Halen's first post-Sammy Hagar album, the ill-fated &quot;III&quot; -- <strong>Middle 8</strong> -- Video editing on this is extremely slick, but the topics are meh and the author sounds like he is basically running a channel to rack up views. Not for purists</li> </ul> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/yt-channels-music-docu.jpg"> Mon, 30 May 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/amateur-rockumentary-channels-on-youtube https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/amateur-rockumentary-channels-on-youtube Pro Evo Soccer - a relaxing Android game <h3>Casual Games - A Misnomer?</h3> <p>I'm into casual games, but I rarely find any worth playing. A casual game to me is a single-player affair that I can drop out of at any time, and pick it back up again without needing to retrain myself on the controls or the mechanics. It should feel <strong>relaxing</strong>; like throwing on a pair of slip-on shoes to take a leisurely walk to the mailbox. </p> <p>Most modern games I come across don't fit the bill at all. They are usually a mutant mixture of the things that keep me away from games in general: a AAA abomination with 60+ hours of grindquest-padded gameplay, multiplayer-focused, open world, and a seemingly endless list of paid add-ons and level packs. Yes, there are games like Sim City, Stardew Valley and Animal Kingom, but these end up being massive time sinks as well. </p> <p>And a lot of them are simply too hard to persist with. If I only have 30 minutes free, I do not want to spend it making repeated attempts to clear the same level of bad guys. </p> <p>&quot;Oh, it's to increase the challenge level&quot; I hear you say. I don't recall my reason for purchasing this game to have been &quot;I want to be challenged&quot;. That's for my LinkedIn, not real life. </p> <p>So as much as I love the blood-red luminescence of the isometric levels on <strong>Ruiner</strong>, I had to set it aside because of my mounting frustration with the speed of enemies and the lethality of their weapons relative to mine. Ruiner's one of those games that tries to institute a certain amount of 'reality' by allowing you to carry no more than one primary weapon and one mostly useless sidearm. </p> <p>Mobile games have these same faults, but manage to plumb the depths of suckage even further with in-game advertising, pay-to-win (P2W) mechanics and ultra-simplistic controls. I gaze across a row of icons on the Google Play store, mouth agape at how many of them are brazen clones of Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, operable with nothing more than a tap and a swipe. </p> <h3>Finally finding one I like</h3> <p>So it was a big, big surprise that the game I've been consistently playing is a) on mobile and b) exactly the kind of P2W cash-grab I would have otherwise avoided. </p> <p>It is <strong>Pro Evo Soccer</strong>, or <strong>PES</strong> on Android. I started playing it during the pandemic lockdown, and I'm fairly certain it kept me sane during those months. I'm still playing it in 2024, and to my surprise, they've kept all the good things, and, get this.... <em>removed some of the bad things</em>. It usually goes the opposite way for mobile games. </p> <p>I've played numerous soccer games on Android, and they've always felt stilted on mobile. Either the game was a graphically simplistic &quot;reimagined&quot; version of their desktop equivalent (think Fallout Tactics v Fallout 3) or it tried too hard to match desktop FIFA/PES playing experiene without the right kind of ball movement physics. This was the pitfall for <strong>Dream League Soccer</strong>, the last game I played (and loved) back in 2017. </p> <h3>What's Great about PES</h3> <p><strong>Graphics</strong>: This might sound superficial, but I don't care. I was there when FIFA transitioned from sprite-based graphics to a blocky polygonal representations in FIFA '97. To me, it's pretty amazing that the graphics and motion tracking on a mobile game can be so good that I can recognize players from the opposition team by their running style and how they position their body to shoot. In FIFA '97, the net didn't even bulge when the ball went in! Meanwhile in PES, opposition defenders fall to their knees in despair when you score a late goal with seconds left on the clock! </p> <video width="100%" controls autoplay muted inline loop> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/2024/blog/pes-chipshots.webm" type="video/webm"> Your browser does not support the video tag </source></video> <p><em>Chip shots are very satisfying to watch when pulled off right</em></p> <p><strong>Game Physics</strong>: Soccer games are all about the <em>movement</em> of the ball. In reality, kicking a ball doesn't make it go in a perfectly straight line. Yet for the vast majority of mobile games I've played, that's exactly how it's rendered; closer to foosball than <em>futbol</em>. The ball movement physics in PES introduces realism, which in my opinion generates half the fun. A good example of this is when the ball hits the crossbar or the posts. If it hits the outside, it ricochets <em>away</em> from the goal. If it hits the inside, it can ricochet into the goal, or cause chaos by bouncing back into the 18-yd box where defenders and attackers battle to reach it first. PES provides these moments aplenty. </p> <video width="100%" controls autoplay muted inline loop> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/2024/blog/PES-crossbar.webm" type="video/webm"> Your browser does not support the video tag </source></video> <p><em>Post/Crossbar physics are very realistic</em></p> <p><strong>Not too real, though</strong>: PES and FIFA on consoles aren't casual games anymore. You're expected to know how to manage your players' stamina, use sprint mode sparingly, and dodge incoming tackles with deft button combos on your controller. I don't have time for all that. The touchscreen-based controls are more than enough, and thankfully don't appear to have any &quot;special move&quot; combos/gestures which just add cognitive load to the experience of playing. Even average players can occasionally come out of nowhere to send a hopeful longshot flying into the top corner. It's extremely satisfying when it happens!</p> <video width="100%" preload="none" controls autoplay muted inline loop> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/2024/blog/pes-halfvolleys.webm" type="video/webm"> Your browser does not support the video tag </source></video> <p><em>Fun with half-volleys</em></p> <h3>What'll happen when it changes?</h3> <p>Mobile games rarely stay the same for very long. They add new, sometimes user-hostile features, either to boost the number of downloads, increase playing time, or simply make more money per download. This hasn't happened on PES yet, but it's probably only a matter of time. </p> <p>Having played the game for a number of years now, I've noticed that the teams available to play as often change as rights expire. It's not too bad because if your team is missing, you can simply sign the actual players and build a uniform that resembles your team's kit. </p> <p>The music changes as well. The song selection is actually pretty good, and I found myself humming &quot;Everything's Electric&quot; by Liam Gallagher. It's no longer available on the soundtrack unfortunately. </p> <p>The bigger issue is if the game mechanics change. Dream League Soccer dropped out of conention for me when they raised the difficulty to the point where you had to buy super-players to win, with real currency, natch. From what I can tell, Pro Evo itself no longer has official commentary tracks from Peter Drury and Jim Beglin. </p> <p>With older mobile games, it was possible to simply download an archived APK of an older version of a game if the updated version messed up the gameplay balance. Modern games however need a network connection just to initialize, and Pro Evo is no exception. There's no way to go back to the 2020 version I used to play. When the time comes for Pro Evo to be finally put out to pasture, all I'll have are my saved replays. </p> <p>And a PSP ROM of PES 2010 if I'm desperate. </p> Thu, 01 Feb 2024 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/ProEvo https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/ProEvo Curating my Corner of the Internet with a freehand web editor <div class="columns four"> <p><span class="firstcharacter">T</span>hirty years after it began, the Internet feels like it has lost most of its magic. We as a society appear to have decided that constant novelty is the only thing we'll agree to suffer through ads for. Correspondingly, our collective web experience frustrates more than it excites. It is a whiplash feed of ephemeral 'content' interspersed with ads and walled within 3 or 4 platforms with web-accessible front-ends (social media, newsletters, Discord channels). They'd all love for you to switch to the mobile app, though. </p> <p>Websites still exist, but they too have consolidated themselves into blog-based periodicals at the mercy of search algorithms and have cheapened themselves with affiliate link-stuffed &quot;best [product category] for 2024&quot; articles among a deluge of low-information posts which are helpfully obscured by an email signup modal. It is entirely devoid of much of the personality that made the early Internet so weird and wonderful. </p> <p>Why did this come to be? It is because the only people making websites anymore are those that look to monetize it in some way. <strong>Personal websites are becoming a historical artifact rather than being part and parcel of the web itself.</strong></p> <p>Such websites used to be made for no other reason than a person wanting to keep an online record of things that were meaningful to them, or what they were cultivating knowledge about. These are the types of sites I'm talking about:</p> </div> <div class="row pt-5"> <div class="col"> <p><a href="http://ratbehavior.org"><strong>1. RatBehavior.org</strong></a></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-11%20at%208.57.34%20AM.jpg" alt="Rat Behavior Website" class="img-thumb-lg" /></p> </div> <div class="col"> <p><a href="https://maya.land/"><strong>2. Maya.land</strong></a></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-11%20at%2011.34.04%20AM.jpg" alt="Maya.Land" class="img-thumb-lg" /></p> </div> <div class="col-auto"> <p><a href="https://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/post/44131391428/original-url"><strong>3. Guy's Kingdom, c. 1997</strong></a> </p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/tumblr_mivfokvws41rlkewbo1_1280.png" alt="Guy&#039;s Kingdom Geocities Page" class="img-thumb-lg" /></p> </div> <div class="col-auto"> <p><a href="https://webspace.merz-akademie.de/~helene.dams/icanhashistory/"><strong>4. ^..^= I Can Has History? =^..^=</strong></a> </p> <video class="inline-video" controls autoplay muted loop> <source src="../assets/blog/icanhashistory-hb.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag //JS disabled// </source></video> </div> <div class="col-auto"> <p><a href="https://www.cameronsworld.net"><strong>5. Cameron's World</strong></a> </p> <video class="inline-video" controls autoplay muted loop> <source src="../assets/blog/cameronsworld-hb%201.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag //JS disabled// </source></video> </div> </div> <div class="row pt-5"> <div class="col-md-6 offset-md-3"> <p class="text-center">There are lots of reasons why sites like these don't exist anymore; I won't rehash them here. My focus is on one of the biggest culprits that does not receive enough attention:</p> <blockquote class="long text-center">Too much knowledge of code is required to create a hand-made website. Building one shouldn't be any more difficult than making a PowerPoint.</blockquote> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Website v Blog</h2> <p>A blog is something that the centralized, templated worlds of social media, <strong>Medium.com</strong> and <strong>Substack</strong> have mostly absorbed. Those who continue to host one on their own domain like this site tend to treat it as a &quot;hire me!&quot; billboard or fill it with boring think pieces. If this site weren't proof enough, have a gander at what comes up when you browse the <a href="https://kagi.com/smallweb">Kagi Small Web</a> or the <a href="https://bearblog.dev/discover/">Bearblog.dev</a> index. </p> <p>A <em>website</em> should be different. It should be an online outpost of authentic pages created by people, not businesses, marketers or side-hustlers. There is about as much &quot;content strategy&quot; on a website as there is for making a scrapbook. </p> <p>Websites of yore, the ones that come up on a <a href="http://wiby.me/surprise/">Wiby.me/surprise</a> visit don't have a content management system (CMS) under the hood, and are thus unshackled by templates, the tyranny of the chronological blog format, and the rat race of attempting to rank on Google. </p> <p>These types of personal websites are mostly snapshots in time. They're not meant to be updated daily, and thus <em>will</em> fall out of favour with search engines. Deploying these websites is no more complicated than copying a folder of HTML files and corresponding assets (images, stylesheets, etc.) on to a web server. </p> <p>We desperately need these types of sites to make a comeback to combat the stifling sameness of being online today. We can't expect to turn back the clock and have everyone writing HTML by hand again, not when we're all accustomed to typing text and uploading media via carefully manicured, intentionally minimal user interfaces. </p> <p><strong>We need a freehand web editor that allows us to express ourselves outside of these bounds.</strong> </p> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Defining the &quot;Freehand&quot; Web</h2> <p>Quite simply, a freehand web builder offers the following features:</p> <ul> <li>Place items anywhere on the page without writing any markup. Markup, styles and scripting are supported, but are not the primary method of getting media on the page. </li> <li>No templated &quot;safe zone&quot;. Any part of the browser viewport is fair game for placing elements and media. If there's space to spare on your screen, you should be able to put something there. </li> <li>The ability to Drag and Drop images, text, audio and video straight on to the page, without writing anchor links. </li> <li>Immediately publish to the open web (preferably on your own server). </li> </ul> <p>There used to be professional tools that offered a certain level of WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) design in the past:</p> <ul> <li>Microsoft FrontPage</li> <li>Adobe PageMill</li> <li>Macromedia (later Adobe) Flash</li> </ul> <p>They weren't perfect by any means; they were pricey and targeted at businesses over consumers. By 2010, they had all fallen by the wayside, replaced by code-heavy tools better equipped to manage the growing complexity of commercial web development. </p> <p>FrontPage allowed WYSIWYG design, but the editor was janky and felt like coralling a Microsoft Word document into a website. Websites built by university instructors from that era often had that telltale look of something that was built in a Word-like editor and exported to HTML. Flash was primarily an animation design tool, and while it was suitable for freehand web design, it had a steep learning curve due to its focus on scripting and interactivity. </p> <p>Modern tools such as Squarespace, WIX and Webflow offer WYSIWYG as well, however they too are targeted at businesses, not hobbyists, and thus have a user experience that's still very much focused on the creation of commercial websites -- product sales pages and e-commerce sites. </p> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Common Objections</h2> <p>Now those who are familiar with web design are probably revving up to comment on why this approach won't work. Let me get the biggest objection out of the way: </p> <p><strong><em>#1: Squarespace/WordPress aren't freehand page builders, because they have to account for mobile-friendliness, adapt to multiple screen sizes, prevent unintended mistakes from users, optimize for search engines etc.</em></strong></p> <p>That is valid. But it's not relevant to what I'm saying, which is that we could still use a PowerPoint-level web maker. Having Adobe Premiere Pro in 2004 didn't mean that Windows Movie Maker <em>wasn't</em> underpinning a lot of the content library of early Youtube. </p> <p>Did it look cheap? Maybe, if you stuck with the default settings. You didn't have to, but defaults are powerful. It's why everyone posted on <strong>Medium.com</strong> a decade ago after all; it's design decisions gave it a more attractive look out of the box than Blogspot or Typepad. And then once those defaults became commoditized across all apps with a text box, we went back to wondering <em>&quot;Why do websites look so boring?&quot;</em></p> <p><strong><em>#2: WYSIWYG design is a bad idea and generates spaghetti code that is hard to edit outside the authoring app</em></strong></p> <p>These days, I'd say that argument needs to be laid to rest. In the web development world, people aren't editing <code>.html</code> files directly anymore, they are using an authoring app (e.g. <strong>Visual Studio Code</strong>) to edit the markup, and using some sort of pipeline to manage code revisions, and deploy to a web server. If your tech stack is a CMS, then there usually aren't <code>.html</code> files at all. User inputs (posts) are stored in a database, and a page is generated dynamically server-side.</p> <p>Moreover, not having to worry about things like <code>grid</code>, <code>flexbox</code> and <code>float</code> allows the average person to use the web as a pure canvas, infinite paper. It's what whiteboard software does so well.</p> <p>But unfortunately whiteboards aren't the 'web', they don't feel like websites. They're usually login-walled, and pay-walled, and take a long time to load to pull in all the background Javascript. Most of all though, they're designed for 'collaborative teams' and not weirdos who want to fill up the entire viewport with cool media. <img src="../assets/2024/blog/excalidraw-share-web-tweet.jpg" alt="Tweet text: yesterday saw @excalidraw can do a shared page. my whole world just changed" class="img-fluid" /> <p class="small"><em>Y'know what else can do shared pages? A website!</em></p></p> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Exploring &quot;Hotglue&quot;</h2> <p>Hotglue is a fascinating open-source &quot;anything goes, WYSIWYG&quot; website making tool. I'm using a self-hosted version that's available on their <a href="https://github.com/k0a1a/hotglue2">Github</a>. They also have a hosted version that's been used in many art school classes, so there's <a href="https://hotglue.me/latest">a healthy library of one-off project websites</a> on it. It is a PHP package, so deployment is pretty simple: just drag and drop the folder into a web server running PHP; it does not require configuring a database like WordPress does. </p> <p>As it is open-source and has not been updated for a while, it didn't run initially on a server running PHP v8. A minor tweak was needed to make it work, which I've documented in<a href="https://github.com/k0a1a/hotglue2/issues/27#issuecomment-1832561199"> this Github issue.</a> </p> <p>It has plenty of caveats, and you wouldn't want to use it for anything that could be seen by a client. But it is <strong>fast</strong>, very visual and fun to use, and surprisingly extensible considering that active development appears to have stopped nearly a decade ago. </p> <p>Here are some sites I found interesting:</p> <p><a href="https://mollysoda.hotglue.me/?Desktop%20Dump%20Archive"><strong>MollySoda's Desktop Dump Archive</strong></a> appears to be a visual scrapbook-style site, collecting pieces of Internet ephemera, one for each month that the user was using Hotglue. I could see myself using it for something similar, keeping a web log of the infographics, images and memes I save to my phone, which often ends up crowding out the regular pictures in my photos app. </p> <p>Note that the freeform arrangement of images and text make the site look much <strong>denser</strong> and more <strong>lived-in</strong> than what a similar CMS-templated page would offer. On a Wordpress/Squarespace site, this arangement would resemble an Etsy page displaying a soulless grid of products. </p> <p><a href="https://copyandpaste.hotglue.me/?hotglue"><strong>Nicola Hardy's Portfolio</strong></a> site takes a more buttoned-down approach to site design, while still displaying a lot of personality with colours and shapes. There is a clear visual identity, plenty of padding between elements to delineate separate content areas. This is what templates attempt to do, and it's a good example of how a freeform web builder allows you to (mostly) have the best of both worlds: structure <strong>and</strong> freeform chaos!</p> <p>Right away, you can see the potential for building template-agnostic layouts for information however you like.</p> </div> <div class="row pt-5"> <div class="col"> <p><strong>MollySoda's website</strong></p> <video class="mt-3 mb-3" controls autoplay muted loop> <source src="../assets/blog/desktop-dump-hb.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag //JS disabled// </source></video> </div> <div class="col"> <p><strong>Nicola Hardy's website</strong></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-12%20at%2012.18.34%20PM.jpg" alt="nicola hardy site screenshot 1" class="img-thumb-lg" /> <img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-12%20at%2012.19.17%20PM.jpg" alt="nicola hardy site screenshot 2" class="img-thumb-lg" /></p> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Hotglue User Interface</h2> <p>Right off the bat, the Hotglue UI feels significantly different from other web authoring tools you might have used before.</p> <p>There is no visible navigation bar at the top of the screen like many other WYSIWYG tools. When you create a new page, you start with a completely blank canvas. Clicking once brings up a menu, and double-clicking brings up a more detailed menu. The crudeness of the UI and the limited (but not drastically so) formatting palette gives pages its own form and personality, and prioritizes fast creation. </p> <p>Being able to drag the mouse up to adjust fonts and Colors, and drag and drop images into the browser window and have them immediately show up makes things visual at a level that feels fundamentally different from editing a site in WordPress or Squarespace where there is a clear distinction between &quot;editing mode&quot; and &quot;viewing mode&quot;.</p> <p>In Hotglue, there is amost no distinction, except for the URL bar that has an &quot;/edit&quot; bit at the end. Changes you make on the canvas are immediately saved to the state of the page. There is no &quot;Publish&quot; button to hit, it is immediately live on the website.</p> <p>If you're concerned about elements being mis-aligned, there's a handy &quot;grid&quot; overlay that helps you visually align things. </p> </div> <div class="row g-0 pt-3"> <div class="col"> <p class="small mt-3"><strong>Menus</strong></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-11%20at%2011.09.41%20AM.jpg" alt="single click menu showing initial set of options" class="img-thumb-md" /> <img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-11%20at%2011.10.22%20AM.jpg" alt="double-click menu showing a more detailed set of options" class="img-thumb-md" /></p> <p class="small mt-3"><strong>Alignment Grid</strong></p> <video width="480" controls autoplay muted loop> <source src="../assets/blog/hotglue-grid-hb.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </source></video> </div> <div class="col"> <p class="small mt-3"><strong>Click and Drag adjustment of element dimensions</strong></p> <video width="480" controls autoplay muted loop> <source src="../assets/blog/hotglue-ui-hb.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </source></video> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Building my own mini-sites</h2> <p>I created a few pages and linked them all together on a corny <a href="https://rafichaudhury.com/hotglue2/">&quot;homepage&quot;</a>. </p> <p>The main page I made is a review of Hotglue's HTML/CSS/JS customization capabilities. </p> <p>Another page I made is a list of electronics I've sold after getting my maximum use out of them, designed in the style of an electronics store flyer. I used to keep a spreadsheet of this on Google Sheets, but mapping them out this way was a lot more fun!</p> <p>It's very easy to put together mazy layouts; everything is genuinely drag and drop. Compare the ease of aligning blocks of content compared to a rigid system of real HTML/CSS that immediately saps your will to live. No <code>grid-template-areas</code> or <code>z-index: 9999</code> or <code>colspan/rowspan</code> nonsense here.</p> <p>Changes made are immediately saved to the page. This offers a sense of immediacy that you'd get with a regular consumer app like Pinterest, but is unique for an OSS project where usually there is an 'editor' mode that looks and feels different than a browser environment, and usually requires you to explicitly hit a &quot;Publish&quot; or &quot;Submit&quot; button for your changes to be saved. </p> <p>I've used tools like Obsidian and Logseq's whiteboards, as well as numerous mindmapping tools, and yet I keep coming back to Hotglue for two main reasons:</p> <ul> <li>It's genuinely faster to load than the aforementioned dedicated apps, which include a lot of background Javascript, as they are built on Electron.</li> <li>Everything is online immediately, so I don't have to think about publishing changes. I can immediately pull them up on my phone or another device without worrying about device syncing. </li> </ul> <video width="320" class="mt-3 mb-3" controls autoplay muted loop> <source src="../assets/blog/homepage-hb.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </source></video> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Who is the freehand web for?</h2> <p>Anybody who thinks better on pen and paper than a Word doc. </p> <p>Anybody who wants to produce, collate, and publish information without monetization, in a format/platform that isn't bent to the needs of the aspiring monetizers. </p> <p>Anybody that recognizes the potential of HTML/CSS/JS as an interactive, freeform and endlessly malleable document format. A document that isn't artificially constrained by templates, but can be tamed with HTML directly if needed. A document where content doesn't have to flow from left to right (or RTL) or top to bottom. It can be a digital scrapbook if need be. </p> <p>If you've appreciated the width of a OneNote page or Excel document, you can understand that not all information should be mandated to be displayed in a top-down fashion. </p> <p>Hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson struggled to get his 1974 book <em>Computer Lib/Dream Machine</em> published because it had an unconventional size and format that caused most publishers to reject it. Eventually, he would spend $2,000 ($12,000 in today's money!) out of his own pocket for a publication run of a few hundred copies, each in a giant 10.7&quot; x 14&quot; format, larger than most magazines. </p> <p>The web we have today incorporates many of the concepts he discussed decades ago. The cost of self-publishing our ideas online is a mere fraction of what it was back then. Best of all, we aren't restricted by the desires of the publisher. Back then, it might have been Penguin or Random House. Today, it's social media networks and blog engines. </p> <p>The website examples I showed earlier were are all 15+ years old. But even apart from the shrines to GIF maximalism, there is relevant content today that would be robbed of its personality if it had to be squeezed into the ever-narrowing viewports of smartphones.</p> <p><img src="../assets/2024/blog/phone-widths-2.jpg" alt="Narrow phone 21:9 aspect ratio, next to wider old phone, 3:2 aspect ratio" class="img-thumb-md" /></p> </div> <div class="row pt-5"> <div class="col-md-6"> <p class="small"><strong>Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music, original Flash version, c. 2002</strong></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/Screenshot%202024-06-16%20at%2012.00.07%20PM.jpg" alt="Ishkur&#039;s Guide to Electronic Music, original Flash version" class="img-fluid" /></p> </div> <div class="col-md-6"> <p><img src="../assets/2024/blog/desktop-mode-tweet.jpg" alt="Tweet text: Maybe: mobile interfaces shouldn&#039;t try to achieve parity w/ desktop. Desktop is the &quot;I&#039;m logging on&quot; mode, similar to how we used computers before phones. Full-fledged, immersive, meant for long-length internet surfing. Mobile is the companion. Quick check-in; quick jotting down. ...and desktop has become just that reduced form, but with more padding and white space" class="img-fluid" /></p> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>A familiar UX for the freehand web</h2> <p>There are applications that allow for the freeform visual arrangement of text, images and shapes, so the UX of what a freeform website builder could look like is already well established:</p> <ul> <li><strong>PowerPoint/Keynote</strong> - as easy as it gets. The point-and-click, drag-and-drop user interface has been around since 1987 via <strong>Hypercard</strong>, its spiritual predecessor. Hypercard even included a full scripting language under the hood that allowed people to write their own applications on the back end, and 'draw' the user interface on the front end. While PowerPoint and its ilk were never given this capability, web authoring tools like Macromedia Flash (later Adobe Flash) were able to achieve this level of dynamic interactivity for the web, before they fell out of favour in the early 2010s. </li> <li><strong>Excalidraw/TLDraw</strong> - lo-fi wireframing and sketchnoting. The hand-drawn feel of these make it more approachable to use compared to a full on prototyping or system diagramming tool. Excalidraw especially has become very popular for building very information-dense documents. </li> <li><strong>Sketch/Figma</strong> - used for web prototyping</li> <li><strong>Mural/Miro</strong> whiteboards for collaborative brainstorming.</li> </ul> <p>But these are all login-walled, paywalled or app-gated. They're mostly designed for companies, not individuals. While people do end up using them for personal use, they still can't simply build an HTML file that can be placed anywhere and shared with anyone, without any restrictions. We should be able to make websites with the exact same ease of use as the above tools. <img src="../assets/blog/excalidraw.jpg" alt="Excalidraw Diagram" class="img-fluid" /></p> <p><em>Excalidraw in action</em> <a href="https://x.com/nexxeln/status/1784698842677424193" class="x-small"><em>Image Source</em></a></p> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Principles for Designing a Wilder Web</h2> <ul> <li>Your first page will be ugly; there's no getting around it. Faced with the spectre of the blank page, you <em>will</em> make something that is messy and amateurish. Some will look at the end product and hate it. It won't look like how a website should. Some will want some structure, some sanitized inputs. Those people should choose a blog. Freehand web design is about fewer constraints, not more. </li> <li>Remember that &quot;Personal home pages&quot; were always ugly. The world of &quot;professional web design&quot; didn't kick off until '99 or so, when businesses started to come online, and required a more buttoned-down look and feel. As early as 1996, Tim-Berners Lee, one of the main inventors of the WWW commented that homepages were gauche and frivolous, likening them to a garden gnome on someone's lawn, rather than the house itself. We've been living in the world of massive whitespace, remotely downloaded fonts and 'clean design' for decades, so some level of unlearning will be necessary to create and embrace your own proudly garish attempts at information design. </li> <li>Pollinate your website with clipart. This can come in any form: hand-drawn sketches from your pen-enabled phone/tablet, PNG exports from Excalidraw, desktop icons from Windows 3.1 or <a href="https://archive.org/details/Clipart25k2">CDs of clip art preserved in amber on the Internet Archive</a>. <img src="../assets/2024/blog/mega-clipart-a.jpg" alt="&#039;90s Clip Art: Mega Clip Art 7000 CD cover" class="img-thumb-md" /></li> <li>Don't be afraid to go <em>wide</em>. After years of social media overload, we've been been subliminally trained to believe that thoughts and concepts should be mapped out in no more than 280 characters (Twitter), or a one-minute video shot in 9:16 aspect ratio (TikTok), or an image in a 5:4 aspect ratio (Instagram). That isn't how information is gathered and arranged in real life, but it <em>is</em> a way in which information can be interspersed with advertisements. Your website is a not a billboard - your incentives are not the same as that of an ads company. </li> <li>Build your own navigational language. Apply principles from sketchnoting, such as having a consistent set of icons and symbols to denote where somebody is on the page. Take inspiration from the world of academic research posters, whose design guidelines emphasize the scannability of information-dense layouts. </li> </ul> <p><img src="../assets/blog/research-poster.jpg" alt="research poster design with bordered areas separating content groups" class="img-thumb-md" /></p> <p class="small"><em><a href="https://designlab.wisc.edu/resources/projects/posters/">Source: UW-Madison Design Lab</a></em></p> </div> <hr> <div class="row pt-1"> <div class="col-md-6 offset-md-3"> <blockquote class="long text-center"> <p><strong>analyte123 on March 5, 2021</strong></p> <p><em>Doing crazy things with CSS, including animations, has never been easier or more consistent between browsers, and yet creativity in web design has gone down practically to zero these days. <strong>I blame mobile, where nobody can seem to escape from the &quot;responsive column of blandly styled content&quot; paradigm.</strong></em></p> <p>Source: <a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26358952">HN</a></p> </blockquote> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="row pt-5"> <div class="col"> <p class="small"><em>Example site at regular 100% browser zoom</em></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/hotglue-1.jpg" alt="example of info-dense site" class="img-fluid" /></p> </div> <div class="col"> <p class="small"><em>30% browser zoom; area in the first image delineated by the red rectangle</em></p> <p><img src="../assets/blog/hotglue-1-zoomedout.jpg" alt="info-dense site at 30% browser zoom" class="img-fluid" /></p> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>What's Missing?</h2> <p>Hotglue is a proof-of-concept tool. While very usable, it has significant limitations if you are looking to build something that you expect a lot of viewers for. </p> <ul> <li>It's not responsive out of the gate, which goes without saying for something that allows absolute positioning of elements. It doesn't reflow in WYSIWYG mode, just as a PowerPoint won't. However, as it is a website, you can write HTML/CSS directly and build a responsive page if you want.</li> <li>Navigation requires a mouse. On mobile, you can sometimes bring up the operation menus with a tap-and-hold on the screen, but it's not reliable. If you have a mouse connected via USB OTG, or better yet, a lapdock, you'll be fine. There are also no keyboard shortcuts.</li> <li>Password-protection for published pages is lacking. While editing pages requires a login, the pages you create are immediately published, with no way to &quot;unpublish&quot; them without deleting the page entirely. </li> <li>Audio and Video cannot be added via drag-and-drop, you have to write the appropriate HTML and specify the location of the files in your anchor links.</li> <li>There is no alt text for images, which is a surprisingly big oversight</li> <li>Hotglue needs a live PHP web server with HTTPS; it won't run on a localhost server.</li> </ul> <p>These are all issues a future successor should account for. </p> </div> <hr> <div class="row"> <div class="col-md-6"> <h2>SEO and Website Discovery</h2> <p>Optimizing your website for the benefit of the one search engine has been a big reason for why the Internet is so bland today. SEO for this kind of freehand website doesn't make sense, not least because engines don't even bother linking to sites anymore, if they can simply fish out an 'answer' (even when you didn't ask a question). In the world of freehand websites, you're better off working within the decentralized underground of webrings and Fediverse posts to have your pages seen. </p> <p>Here are some webrings to get started:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://brisray.com/web/webring-list.htm">https://brisray.com/web/webring-list.htm</a></li> <li><a href="https://webring.xxiivv.com/">https://webring.xxiivv.com/</a></li> <li><a href="https://fediring.net/#table-of-members">https://fediring.net/#table-of-members</a></li> </ul> </div> <div class="col-md-6"> <blockquote class="long"> <p><strong>johnnyApplePRNG on Jan 30, 2022</strong> </p> <p><em>I feel like google adsense or monetization in general was the downfall of all of that early web richness. When the web was first created, everybody got on and just started learning html and making things... because humans are creative. I did the same. I made fun websites with/for my friends. I loved geocities.</em> </p> <p><strong><em>Then after a few years, I was only concerned with pumping out crap content and how many pageviews I was getting.</em></strong></p> <p><em>Source: <a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30133439">HN</a></em> </p> </blockquote> </div> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>Modern Alternatives</h2> <p>Hotglue isn't the only game in town. Thankfully, there are a handful of (commercial) tools that take a more playful approach towards building websites.</p> <ol> <li><a href="https://tumult.com/hype/"><strong>Tumult Hype</strong></a>: this is a MacOS application that is the closest alternative to Adobe Flash. It meets all the criteria of the freehand web described earlier in this article. Most importantly, it generates an HTML file and folder with all resources (images, media), which can be run completely offline, through a USB stick for example. Using Hype, I was able to extend what I was building in Hotglue with a much-needed feature improvement: adding pan-and-zoom via this amazing Github library: <a href="https://github.com/anvaka/panzoom/">Anvaka/Panzoom</a> . It's also available as a one-time payment app, an increasing rarity in the software world. </li> <li><a href="https://mmm.page/"><strong>MMM.page</strong></a>: This is a subscription-based web app that is closest to the spirit of Hotglue. The creator writes often about the loss of the wilder web, which is always a good sign. </li> <li><a href="https://kinopio.club/hello-kinopio-0NXlh0DZniTgGUoSuqmq5"><strong>Kinopio</strong></a>: A subscription-based web app that focuses on building mind maps rather than pure websites, but the philosophy is very similar: a desktop-first, infinite canvas approach to information design.</li> </ol> </div> <hr> <div class="columns four"> <h2>But do people even <em>want</em> to make websites anymore?</h2> <p>That depends on what preconceptions you have about what a website should be. If a website to you is a blog that you'll feel obligated to keep updating, you won't want to make one. But if a website is a simple document you can create once, and aren't really worried about views or freshness, then perhaps that is more manageable. Like a sketchbook for your thoughts, referenced frequently, but updated only periodically. </p> <p>The internet is changing, from an open savannah of boundless information, to a dark forest where non-HTTPS sites are hidden, and answers are instantly provided via an opaque chatbot fed on data from millions of SEO-optimized, advertisement and affilliate-link ridden blogspam sites. </p> <p>As a result, we're no longer surfing the web, but rather curating the parts we like best, either by taking screenshots (which will never leave our gallery app), creating Youtube playlists, posting links on Hacker News and bookmarking things on Twitter. We're already building a web of information that's mostly for our own reference, but needlessly siloing it among many different platforms that are financially incentivized towards catering to advertisers, not users. </p> <p>While there are SaaS tools that do this (<a href="https://www.are.na/"><strong>Are.na</strong></a>, <a href="https://milanote.com/"><strong>Milanote</strong></a> and <strong>Pinterest</strong> come to mind), they too require you to pigeonhole your thoughts into their predefined boxes, <strong>when all that's really needed is a browser and your personal website</strong>. </p> <p>The freehand web allows for the construction of simple sites that aren't designed for infinite scrolling, but rather as gardens and fields to be explored. </p> <p>This isn't for everyone: some, nay <em>many</em>, will prefer an Internet that is mostly a content dumb pipe. The RSS zealots, the reader mode obsessives, the minimalists kneeling at the pedestal of <a href="https://motherfuckingwebsite.com">motherfuckingwebsite.com</a> - they will <em>hate</em> freehand websites. </p> <p>For everybody else that wants to explore a lived-in, thoroughly personal, annotated web experience, there is (mostly) Hotglue. But there should be much more. </p> </div> <hr> <h2>Further Reading</h2> <ul> <li><a href="http://art.teleportacia.org/observation/vernacular/">A Vernacular Web 2, Olia Lialina, 2007</a></li> <li><a href="https://justinjackson.ca/webmaster/">I'm a fucking Webmaster | Justin Jackson</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.galaxykate.com/blog/casualcreator.html">What are Casual Creators? | Kate Compton</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.codecademy.com/resources/blog/myspace-and-the-coding-legacy/">MySpace and the Coding Legacy it Left Behind, 2020</a></li> <li><a href="https://stackingthebricks.com/how-blogs-broke-the-web/">How the Blog Broke the Web | Amy Hoy</a></li> <li><a href="https://zine.yesterweb.org/issue-00/index.php?page=2">The Internet and Capitalism, YesterWeb Zine</a></li> </ul> Thu, 20 Jun 2024 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Freehand-Web https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Freehand-Web Building a Personal Internet from Markdown Files <h4>Briefly</h4> <p>Note-taking apps like <strong>Obsidian</strong> have helped me link my digital libraries together, but don't go all the way to meeting my archiving needs. I jerry-rigged my own solution, which I'm calling <a href="https://github.com/rafic20/folderbase"><strong>Folderbase</strong></a>.</p> <hr /> <p>All the information I've ever committed to electronic storage consists of text files, images, audio and video. Computers have been able to handle these file formats for decades, and yet I find myself needing to use multiple separate applications to manage them all. </p> <aside class="marginnote"> <p><strong>Folderbase</strong> is an offline-first visual document viewer for your folders of Markdown files. Get it on <a href="https://codeberg.org/rafi_c/Folderbase">Codeberg</a></p> </aside> <h4>Information Silo</h4> <div class="row"> <div class="col-4"> <p><strong>Image Libraries</strong></p> </div> <div class="col-8"> <div class="inline-div-block"> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/osx-photos.png" alt="OSX Photos" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>OSX Photos</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/icon-samsung-gallery.png" alt="Samsung Gallery" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Samsung Gallery</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/Pinterest-logo.png" alt="Pinterest" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Pinterest</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/icon-eagle-design.png" alt="Eagle.design" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Eagle</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="row"> <div class="col-4"> <p><strong>Notes / Journaling</strong></p> </div> <div class="col-8"> <div class="inline-div-block"> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/icon_Obsidian.png" alt="Obsidian" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Obsidian</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/icon_sublime_text.png" alt="Sublime Text" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Sublime Text</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets//folderbase-assets/icon-macdown.png" alt="MacDown" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>MacDown</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/osx-notes.png" alt="Apple Notes" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Apple Notes</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="row"> <div class="col-4"> <p><strong>General File Management</strong></p> </div> <div class="col-8"> <div class="inline-div-block"> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/osx-finder.png" alt="OSX Finder" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>MacOS Finder</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/win-explorer.png" alt="Windows Explorer" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Windows Explorer</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/icon-simple-file-explorer.png" alt="Simple File Explorer" class="img-thumb-xs-b" /></p> <p>Simple File Explorer</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>Most apps focus on managing only one of these filetypes well, so my information ends up getting siloed inside a particular app.</p> <p>It doesn't have to be like this! We already have a universal software standard for viewing documents: <strong>the web browser</strong>. By using a lightweight markdown-based <abbr title="Content Management System">CMS</abbr> on the server and making some client-side tweaks on the browser, I was certain I could string together a better file management solution. </p> <p>And so I came up with <strong>Folderbase</strong>: a universal 'view layer' for my folders of text notes and multimedia assets that:</p> <ul> <li>can be &quot;installed&quot; as a web app to run in full-screen</li> <li>doesn't require a build step to compile</li> <li>works offline</li> <li>runs on my laptop, phone and e-reader on the same codebase</li> </ul> <video width="100%" preload="none" controls autoplay muted loop style="margin: 2rem 0;"> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-demo.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag </source></video> <aside class="marginnote"> <p class="small">The "Install Web App" feature isn't available on Firefox, which is shocking considering that it's the only major browser that <em>doesn't</em> have an operating system and app store fiefdom to rest its laurels on.</p> </aside> <hr /> <h3>How It Works</h3> <p>On the back end is a PHP library that loops through the folders, gets metadata for the <code>.md</code> Markdown files, and compiles them to HTML. The front-end input is handled by any Markdown-file compatible text editor, which is pointed at a folder whose content structure looks like this:</p> <div class="row"> <div class="col-6"> <pre><code>``` |-- folderbase | |-- content | | |-- note1.md | | |-- note2.md | |-- assets | | |-- img1.jpg | | |-- audio1.wav ```</code></pre> </div> <div class="col-6"> <pre><code>``` note1.md ======== --- title: Note 1 template: page --- Content for Note 1 (text, img, audio, video) ```</code></pre> </div> </div> <p>The output is an installable <abbr title="Progressive Web App">PWA</abbr>: a read-only knowledgebase that's fully portable<sup>&ast;</sup>, self-hostable <em>and</em> works completely offline. This is a tool I made due to my mounting frustrations around wrangling my personal information in a way that made it easy to reference and build upon.</p> <aside class="marginnote"> <p>* Portable as in "copy to USB stick" portable, not the <em>'sign into account, verify two-factor auth code, then navigate through a byzantine menu to find the 'Export ZIP' option"</em> brand of portable. </p> </aside> <hr /> <h3>How I'm using it</h3> <p>Organizing different types of media is hard. Trying to corral them all into 1 off-the-shelf app that can handle multiple use cases was impossible. I had to scale down the scope of my ambitions into something more feasible:</p> <div class="row row-padding-h-r g-0"> <div class="col-6 pe-3 mb-2"> <h4>Image Moodboards</h4> <p class="small">I use Pinterest because the user experience of curating images is good, but Pinterest's insistence on making the app a 'social', online-only experience doesn't suit my use case. Also, as an entirely ad-funded app, Pinterest doesn't make money unless I view my collections inside their <del>ad delivery system</del> convenient mobile app. </p> </div> <div class="col-6 pe-3 mb-3"> <h4>Offline Reading</h4> <p class="small">I wanted to be able to get rid of read-it-later apps like Instapaper, Pocket and Readwise. I have a <a href="https://addons.mozilla.org/en-CA/firefox/addon/markdownload/">browser extension</a> that can copy a web page to a local Markdown file, so it's just a matter of setting up the CSS to render it nicely on the web. </p> </div> <div class="col-6 pe-3 mb-3"> <h4>Frequently Referenced Notes</h4> <p class="small">We've all got them: grocery lists, cooking preparation checklists, exercise routines. Opening up Obsidian or another PKM app to view these requires a full app load and time to locate the note itself. Folderbase on the other hand launches almost instantaneously, and no page is more than 3 taps away. </p> </div> <div class="col-6 pe-3 mb-3"> <h4>Internet Whitelist</h4> <p class="small">I used to open my browser only when I was looking for something. In the social media + smartphone era, I found myself going straight to Reddit or Twitter to see an immediate feed of content.</p> <p class="small">An internet whitelist changes that. Instead of mindless scrolling, I can pick where I want to go based on some rough categories: text-only news sites, small-internet personal websites and music websites. Yes, I could just go back to browser bookmarks, but the UX of organzing a bunch of haphazardly bookmarked sites that I remembered to hit <code>⌥ + D</code> on makes that a hassle compared to simply editing a text file. </p> </div> </div> <hr /> <h3>The Inspiration</h3> <p>I watched <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i60_REoeIY">a conference talk about <strong>Hypercard</strong> (1987-2004)</a>, a precursor to the web browser and PowerPoint. Hypercard was a user-friendly software that came pre-installed with the Mac and let you create cards with data in them (text, image, audio), and link them together like a browser does with hyperlinks. </p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/hypercard-home-card.png" alt="Hypercard Home screen" /></p> <p class="small"><em>Hypercard home screen (source: <a href="https://lowendmac.com/2003/remembering-hypercard/">Low End Mac</a>)</em></p> <p>It had a scripting language underneath (similar to how Excel had VBA underneath to write custom functions), so users could graduate from making manually hyperlinked mini-databases, into something with a front-end that could input data and display it. One of the comments on the video jumped out at me:</p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/ios-hypercard.jpg" alt="Youtube comment: I would kill to have something like this on my iPhone – instead of paying for shabby flashcard- and to-do apps. How a pocket computer that you cannot program yourself is considered a &quot;smart&quot; phone is beyond me. " /></p> <p>It is crazy that what people call &quot;a computer in your pocket&quot; can't actually write any programs the way a real computer can. </p> <hr /> <h3>Choosing a Featureset</h3> <p>I didn't want to spend any more time trying to find the 'the perfect note-taking app'. There were too many out there already, and they all had some kind of gotcha that caused them to be incompatible with the core requirements I had: </p> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Offline-first</strong></p> </summary> <p>Folderbase is a repository of personal notes and documents that are unlikely to be shared with others, so you shouldn't need an Internet connection to access it. To launch it offline, you can move your folders to the root of a local server app running PHP 7.3+ (e.g. the <code>htdocs</code> folder for KSWeb on Android) and and navigate to the server address, (e.g. <code>localhost:8080/folderbase/</code>). If you want to put it online, you can follow the exact same steps; the only difference is that you'd be plopping the folder into a remote webserver root via SFTP or Git.</p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Separate app for text input</strong></p> </summary> <p>I use two apps for note-taking: <strong>Obsidian</strong> and <strong>Markor</strong>. Every now and then, I'll edit MD files in <strong>Sublime Text</strong>. All 3 apps work well for me, so I point them all to the main folder in which my text notes sit. The Folderbase web app is exclusively a 'view layer' for data sitting in my folders, with <abbr title="Create, Read, Update, Delete">CRUD</abbr> operations handled by a Markdown notes app (add/remove/edit text files) and a file manager (add/remove/edit image/media files).</p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>File and Folder-based</strong> </p> </summary> <p>Text files in one folder, images and other non-text assets in another. No database allowed. This structure offers maximum portability and eliminates vendor lock-in, as it doesn't require any kind of app scaffolding to navigate. If all you have are the raw files on a USB drive, your content will still be intact.</p> <p>Even Stephen Ango, the CEO of <a href="https://obsidian.md">Obsidian</a> (defacto leader of offline note apps) advocates for a system that's based on files, and free of apps:</p> <p>&gt; <em>File over app is a philosophy: if you want to create digital artifacts that last, they must be files you can control, in formats that are easy to retrieve and read. Use tools that give you this freedom.</em> &gt; <a href="https://twitter.com/kepano/status/1675626836821409792">@kepano</a></p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Fast Navigation</strong></p> </summary> <p>My files are organized in rough accordance with the Johnny Decimal system: all data stored in a maximum of 10 folders, each of which can have 10 subfolders, for a total of 100 folders. From a navigation standpoint, this means I can reach any file in the system with a maximum of 3 clicks. </p> <p>This was inspired by reading about the design process of the Palm Pilot PDAs of the '90s, the earliest offline-first digital assistant. I prefer to navigate this way instead of using a search bar, which would the right UX option if I had thousands of files to look through. Having a spatial awareness of where my data sits gives me a feeling of comfort.</p> </details> <aside class="marginnote"> <p><em>&quot;If any task on the Palm Pilot takes more than three taps of the stylus, it's too long, and it has to be redesigned&quot;</em></p> <p><a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11034777">Source</a></p> </aside> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Better <em>browse-ability</em></strong> </p> </summary> <p>As much as I like Obsidian, its UI is designed for writing information and not really for referencing that information later. From a document browsing standpoint it resembles <strong>Sublime Text</strong> or <strong>Notepad++</strong>; a directory column on the left, and a wide editor/reading view on the right. I wanted something that resembled a 'desktop', or 'homepage', as offered in other (non-Markdown) tools like <strong>Notion</strong>. </p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/obsidian-filetree-ui.jpg" alt="Obsidian UI Filetree" /></p> <p class="small">Obsidian Workspace UI</p> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/notion-homepage.jpg" alt="Notion UI" /></p> <p class="small">Notion Workspace homepage <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/Notion/comments/18as8ot/my_new_homepage_i_am_a_writer/"><em>(Source)</em></a></p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS)</strong></p> </summary> <p>Folderbase is a personal, non-commercial tool that uses open-source libraries, so making the source code available was a no-brainer. The bigger reason for making it open-source is to allow anyone to extend it as they see fit. In general, FOSS makes it such that if the software stops being maintained (or stops meeting my needs), I can downgrade to an older version that still works, or better yet, I can implement fixes directly to the source code. This is what happened for me with <a href="https://hotglue.me/">Hotglue</a>, a 10-year old WYSIWIG web editor whose runtime code needed some deprecated functions to be commented out in order to run on post-2015 versions of PHP. </p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Web over Native App</strong></p> </summary> <p>I wanted to be able to write the code once and have it work on any operating system with a browser - my personal machine and phone (MacOS + Android) as well as my work laptop and phone (Windows 10, iPhone). If Linux is in the mix one day, it'll work there too. </p> <p>Using web tools (HTML, CSS, JS, PHP) and using an app-ish browser window as the view layer is the only sane way to do this. Writing OS applications with native tools would require me to learn how to do that, 3 times over (C+ for Windows, Swift for Mac/iOS, Kotlin for Android). Even then, on platforms like iOS, a native app's source code would not be able to be distributed as open source </p> </details> <hr /> <h3>Approach</h3> <p>There are static site generators that can convert Markdown files into a browsable, hyperlinked website.</p> <p>However, most SSGs are Javascript-based and deploying them required knowledge of NodeJS and a build system, as well as specific syntax for SSG options like Ghost, Hugo or Jekyll. That was a no-go for me as it would be a net-new thing to learn on top of all the work that would be required to actually build the app. Dropping a folder into the root of a webserver and firing up <code>localhost:8888</code> on the browser was as complicated as I wanted the deployment to be.</p> <p>Obsidian has a <code>Dataviews</code> query language that handle some of my complaints. And I could have tried to learn it, but the more I looked into it, I realized I would be learning a made-up query syntax, the knowledge for which would be useless outside of Obsidian. Why do that when I could just design a layout with the universal language of HTML and CSS? </p> <p>I settled on using a little-known PHP-based markdown CMS called <a href="https://github.com/picocms/Pico">Pico</a> and got to work. </p> <hr /> <h2>UI/UX</h2> <p>The goal here was to design a system that provided a low-friction way of getting my many notes into a permanent, structured digital format:</p> <details open> <summary> <p><strong>Custom Layouts</strong></p> </summary> <p>If I wanted to create a Pinterest-style moodboard by dragging some images into an Obsidian file, it will immediately resemble a stodgy Word document. But here's how it looks in Folderbase, with nothing other than a <code>&lt;div class="moodboard"&gt;&lt;/div&gt;</code> block enclosing the images.</p> <video width="100%" preload="none" controls autoplay muted loop style="margin: 2rem 0 0 0;"> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/moodboard.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag </source></video> <p class="small"><em>Creating a Moodboard with drag-and-drop</em></p> </details> <details open> <summary> <p><strong>Install as Web App</strong> </p> </summary> <p>I can't stand looking at browser chrome when using an app; it takes away vertical screen real estate and fills it with the distracting icons for all the other tabs I've left open! Mercifully, Chrome, Safari and Edge browsers all offer the ability to &quot;install&quot; a web app to your desktop. Once 'installed', the application launches in full screen, without an address bar or browser chrome, making it look and feel more like a native app (especially with the HTMX transitions). This requires a <code>manifest.json</code> file with links to an app icon image, as well as mobile and desktop preview images. </p> <p>If your browser is Chrome, installing as a web app means that when you launch the app from your app drawer, it first loads a Chrome window, then a separate headless window containing the app. That's a bit awkward UX-wise; Safari and Microsoft Edge don't do this fortunately. </p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/install-web-app.jpg" alt="install as web app dialog message"> <p class="small"><em>"Install Web App" dialog on Chrome</em></p> </details> <aside class="marginnote"> <p class="small mb-2">Set these options as shown to make your Obsidian content web-friendly</p> <a href="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/obsidian-options.jpg"><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/obsidian-options.jpg" class="img-thumb-sm"></a> <span class="x-small text-monospace text-uppercase mb-2">Click to Enlarge</span> <br> </aside> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Low-friction input with Obsidian</strong></p> </summary> <p>Obsidian's excellent out-of-the-box editing functionality, coupled with some CMS-friendly formatting options makes it a great 'edit layer' for Folderbase. For example, with a couple of setting changes, you can drag images into Obsidian and have them be saved in the 'assets' folder directly, with Markdown-friendly image links that display nicely in a web browser. This is a lot better UX-wise than saving to a generic 'download' folder, moving the file to 'assets' and then painstakingly adding a Markdown link to the file</p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Page Layout</strong> </p> </summary> <p>The writing experience in most Markdown apps is fine; the reading experience however is not. Obsidian for example shows your document in a boring top-down view with narrow margins, pretty much exactly in the layout you used while wroting it. If you use a paid service like Obsidian Publish to put it on the web, it will use the same display theme as in the app -- boring! There's so much available screen real estate, but the Markdown format confines you to single-column layouts. </p> <p>Not on Folderbase though. With a simple code block I can change the page layout into multi-column grid that supports 4 columns on desktop, and folds down to 2 on mobile:</p> <pre><code> &lt;div class="grid-4"&gt; &lt;div markdown="1"&gt; // Column 1 start Column Content (text/image/audio/video) &lt;/div&gt; // Column 1 end &lt;/div&gt; </code></pre> <p><img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/folderbase-assets/layout-grid-4.jpg" alt="4-column grid design" /></p> <p class="small mt-1"><em>4-column grid layout on mobile</em></p> <p>The same applies for CSS columns (separate from CSS Grid). By enclosing paragraphs within a code block like `<section class="two" markdown="1"></section> </p> </details> <details> <summary> <p><strong>Page Transitions with HTMX</strong></p> </summary> <p>When clicking through to a new page, there was an unsightly white flash in the browser as the server switched from displaying Page A to Page B. A proper web application would have a system of views and URL routing that would smoothly load in the content of a new page without refreshing the entire browser viewport. </p> <p>For those building framework-less non <abbr title="Single Page Applications">SPA</abbr> sites, there are ways around this. You could use client-side solutions like <strong><a href="https://github.com/miguel-perez/smoothState.js">smoothstate.js</a></strong>, <strong><a href="https://barba.js.org/">BarbaJS</a></strong>, or the <strong><a href="https://swup.js.org/">SWUP</a></strong> library. Of these, I'd only ever gotten SWUP to work, and even then it didn't have the smooth effect I expected.</p> <p><a href="https://htmx.org/">HTMX </a>to the rescue. I'd taken a Javascript class some years ago and had learned about AJAX/XHR requests, a way to load content into a web page without a full page refresh. Unfortunately, the amount of code required for a single XHR request was a hassle to type out. HTMX wraps all that up into a single property <code>hx-get</code>, which can pull in the URI of the linked page via a Pico object <code>page.url</code>. I added in an optional attribute: <code>hx-replace-url</code>. This ensured that page changes would update the browser history, and that the breadcrumb navigation I had set up would reflect the correct values for &quot;parent page&quot; and &quot;child page&quot; when internal links were clicked. </p> <p>I am not a developer, so building this out required a lot of trial and error, in addition to hunting through closed or abandoned tickets in the Pico CMS Github. </p> </details> <hr /> <h2>Deployment</h2> <p>A PHP-based application needs a server to run, so Folderbase doesn't work unless a local web server is active on your computer. You can open the app from the app drawer like normal, but if there's no local server app running, you'll see a blank screen. Some types of 'web-to-application' wrappers like Electron can be configured to launch a local server at runtime. But Electron is for Javascript-based apps, and mine is PHP-based. </p> <p>There are some wrapper packages that are PHP-compatible, but to limit the scope of the project, I kept it as is. As this is personal software, this isn't a big deal for me. I run MacOS and Android, and both operating systems offer web server apps for local development (MAMP and KSWeb (or Termux), respectively). Folderbase works on both. In future I may try to use MacOS Shortcuts to create a script and shortcut that handles the sequence of events (1. launch server app 2. launch Folderbase) with a single click.</p> <hr /> <h2>Final Thoughts</h2> <p>It feels good to make my own tools. It's an ability that feels like it'll become only more relevant as the software I depend on may not always work the same way. For example, Simple Mobile Tools, a company that makes truly great, uncomplicated open-source Android apps (Gallery, Voice Recorder, Calculator etc), <a href="https://github.com/SimpleMobileTools/General-Discussion/issues/241">was recently acquired by an adware company</a>. So its future app updates are likely to have anti-user features like greater telemetry, advertisements and require elevated device permissions (geolocation, microphone etc). </p> <p>The biggest takeaway from building Folderbase is that developing an app that references locally stored data is hard. An off-the-shelf flat-file CMS provided the basic framework, but I still had to tweak a lot of Twig loops and filters to get the information architecture right. On top of that, I had to learn the CSS Grid quite well to get the layout I wanted.</p> <p>In the 1980s, the home computer industry was so new that most computers came with a programming environment that was easily accessible to the end-user. There was so little software out there, users were expected to build their own little programs. </p> <aside class="marginnote"> <p>* Apple Notes does offer an export option --- to PDF. Why would I want a plaintext note in the heaviest document format possible? Samsung Notes does the same thing, which caused me to flee to Obsidian in the first place. </p> </aside> <p>Today, we have the opposite problem; there's too much third-party software, each with its own 'lock-in-the-user' philosophy. The hundred or so notes in my Apple Notes app can be synced via Apple iCloud, but cannot be exported to a plaintext format*. Meanwhile the ability to write and execute code on your own device seems to get hidden behind more and more byzantine menus, permissions and scary security dialogs with each passing OS upgrade. </p> <p>Perhaps programming can't be as simple as writing a cell reference formula in Microsoft Excel. But should it really be harder than firing up a Hypercard-style app, or MS Access/Filemaker? </p> <hr /> <h2>References and Further Reading:</h2> <ul> <li><a href="https://cristobal.space/writing/folk.html">Folk (Browser) Interfaces (cristobal.space, 2022)</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.robinsloan.com/notes/home-cooked-app/">An App can be A Home-Cooked Meal (robinsloan.com, 2020)</a></li> <li><a href="https://riffle.systems/essays/prelude/">Building data-centric apps with a reactive relational database (riffle.systems, 2022)</a></li> </ul> Thu, 28 Dec 2023 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Folderbase https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Folderbase Downloading the Internet to a bunch of PDFs <p><em>INCOMPLETE</em></p> <p>Summary:</p> <ul> <li>export your bookmarks to HTML</li> <li>send it to yourself</li> <li>Install Kiwi HTML extension (iffy on FF Android)</li> <li>Or use PDFTools app (couple of extra clicks)</li> </ul> <p>I bought a tablet recently. It’s a Chuwi Hipad Plus. Yes, it’s a total iPad Pro ripoff but seeing as how Samsung abandoned the wonderful 4:3 aspect ratio for the frumpier 16:10 years ago, I had no choice. </p> <p>Anyway, I was surprised to find that it came with 128GB storage. The grotesquely proportioned Samsung tablet it replaced only had 32GB + microSD. I don’t watch much video, let alone keep a bunch on my device, so what could I do with the storage?</p> <p>Well, the whole reason for wanting 4:3 is to be able to read PDF magazines without having the pages look squeezed in portrait mode. But what if I could read the Internet on a PDF? </p> <p>Ludicrous, I hear you cry. Why, Pocket and Instapaper exist so that man would not have to suffer the indignity of having bookmarks on multiple devices. I agree, and I’ve been using Pocket for a decade. It is a great product. It even integrates with my ancient Ebook reader from 2013. </p> <p>But it’s online-first, and it’s not going to download 10 years worth of articles on to application storage. It assumes you will eventually rejoin civilization and turn your Wifi back on at some point, so it can feed you the info on o “just in time” basis. </p> <p>And even then, apps like Pocket don’t deliver the full web page, just the text. And sometimes the text doesn’t render properly, or at all, particularly if the site in question has a paywall. I’ve also noticed that clicking on saved articles loads the live page in a webview inside the application. There’s no way to disable this, but switching to airplane mode will reliably load the locally saved all-text version. I imagine they do this to sidestep concerns from publishers that they’re scraping content without proportionate attribution to the original site (e.g. ad impressions on the publisher’s site). Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find an archive.is link, but that’s rare. And it’s a hassle. </p> <p>I don’t want that to happen. I want to have a portable archive of stuff I find on the Internet. It’s gotten to the point where my own bookmarks are dead ends, because websites don’t last forever. I remember coming across an absolutely scathing takedown of the The Economist some years ago. It was a well-written, to-the-point piece that covered a lot of my own criticisms of the magazine; I couldn’t have articulated some of their points anywhere nearly as well. I bookmarked it, and returned to it many years later, only to realize the site was no more. </p> <p>Fortunately, I was able to locate it once I recalled its title: “Why aren’t Milennials buying The Economist?” The original site it was published on (The Leveller) is no more, but the writer fortunately reposted it on Medium. I’d rather not have the spectre of linkrot hovering above me, so I’ll just download to PDF and get on with my day. </p> Thu, 03 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Downloading-the-Internet-to-PDF https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Downloading-the-Internet-to-PDF Arsenal FC Dashboard - Arsene Wenger's last 5 years, 2013-2018 <p>Arsene Wenger is writing a book: <strong><em>My Life and Lessons in Red and White.</em></strong></p> <p>It won’t come out until October 2020, and there’s already talk that it won’t have as many details as fans would like about his relatively turbulent final years managing Arsenal. I’ll still be buying it regardless.</p> <p>For those that don’t follow football, Arsenal FC are a team in the English Premier League, and Arsene Wenger was their manager from 1996 to 2018. His reign is unique because managers are usually the first to be sacked when the team’s performance dips. Having that job for 5 successive seasons is rare. Having it for 22 is nearly unheard of, unless you’re Manchester United, whose manager Sir Alex Ferguson won the league 13 times between 1992-2013, over a reign than lasted 26 seasons.</p> <p><em>Rafi from The League helpfully breaks down the distinction between futbol and “soccer” (S02E02, “Bro-lo El Cordero”):</em></p> <video controls inline> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/arsenaldash/rafi-soccer-hb.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Clip from The League, S2E2, "Bro-lo El Cordero" </source></video> <p>Between 1998 and 2005, Wenger won the Premier League thrice and the FA Cup 4 times. The first 10 years of his Arsenal tenure are seen as transformational, particularly regarding player nutrition and fitness, and the development of a distinctive fast-paced, counterattacking style of play.</p> <p>The next 12 years however were a struggle, with trophies far and few in between and mounting criticism of his tendency to let his top players move to rival teams, and having them replaced with cheaper, inexperienced youngsters who were thrown into the deep end of high-stakes league and European competitions.</p> <p>Anyway, this isn’t an inquisition about Wenger. I’m writing this post to share a little dashboard I created in Google Data Studio mapping Arsenal’s performances between 2013-18, the last half-decade of Wenger’s tenure.</p> <p>Here’s the link: <a href="https://datastudio.google.com/reporting/1lER4IC5ATUgvOBBUBPsUGNjJnj8lKbJB">https://datastudio.google.com/reporting/1lER4IC5ATUgvOBBUBPsUGNjJnj8lKbJB</a></p> <p>And a little preview:</p> <img src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/arsenaldash/data-studio-arsenal-dashboard.png" class="img-fluid" alt="image of soccer statistics dashboard"> <p><em>Arsenal 2013-2018, created in Google Data Studio</em></p> <p>The dashboard has the following bits of info you can browse through:</p> <ul> <li>Points totals in the league table and gap between Arsenal and the eventual league winner</li> <li>Transfer market activity, both incoming and outgoing players and fees</li> <li>Player performances (goals and assists)</li> <li>Games played, Goals scored, Total wins for each season</li> </ul> <p>Overall, I’d say Arsenal had a relatively strong final 5 years with Wenger at the helm. He added 3 FA Cups in that time, taking his tally to 7, a Premier League record. But as with most sports, the numbers rarely tell the whole story. Arsenal’s best chance to win the league in a decade came in the 2015/16 season, when rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and United were all going through turbulent periods. Wenger’s competition for much of the season was from upstarts Leicester City FC, led by Claudio Ranieri, who hadn’t managed in England since 2003. LCFC’s odds to win the league were 5000:1. And they won it, with a team that cost a fraction of what Arsenal’s did.</p> <p>In February 2016, with 12 games remaining in the season, Arsenal beat Leicester to go within 2 points of them at the top of the league. The momentum was in their favour, as you can see in the reactions to Danny Welbeck’s last-minute goal.</p> <video controls inline> <source src="https://rafichaudhury.com/site/assets/blog/arsenaldash/Goal_Danny_Welbeck_Arsenal_vs_Leicester_City_2_1.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </source></video> <p><em>February 14, 2016: A Valentine’s Day special from Arsenal, but ultimately an inconsequential victory. BBC Football Match Repot</em></p> <p>But momentum comes and goes, and a series of avoidable losses, plus a morale-damaging elimination from the Champions League would result in Arsenal ending the season a full 10 points behind Leicester.</p> <p>It do be like that sometimes. There’s no doubt that the book will include plenty of highlights from the glory years. That said, I am eager to find out if there will at least be something of a post-mortem regarding all those missed opportunities.</p> Tue, 01 May 2018 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Arsenal-FC-Dashboard-Wenger-Final-Years-Visualized https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/Arsenal-FC-Dashboard-Wenger-Final-Years-Visualized I don't understand the subscription model either <p>I came across this seemingly innocuous tweet from a men's fashion blogger that resulted in a classic Twitter pile-on. </p> <blockquote> <p><strong>derek guy (@dieworkwear)</strong></p> <p>i support everyone who's trying to make a living and hope people are able to do what they love, but i don't understand how people start substacks and patreons and ask people to pay them $5/ month for content. <em>3:40 PM · Mar 1, 2023</em></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="https://twitter.com/dieworkwear/status/1631031796447211521">Original Link</a></p> <p>The responses were some variant of &quot;people should write for free forever huh?&quot; or &quot;people put up a subscription banner, some people pay to continue hearing from them. What's so hard to understand about that?&quot;. </p> <p>For me, quite a few things still! </p> <h2>What am I paying for?</h2> <p>The main reason I've identified as to why I <em>personally</em> still don't grok the subscription model is this: <strong>most people do not design their offering as a &quot;product&quot;</strong>. In most cases, the 'offer' is not really anything more than an infrequent and unfocused blog with a paywall. I don't feel like I'm paying for a stream of specialized knowledge . Instead, I feel like I'm supporting <em>you</em>, as you fumble through what may be your first business venture. In isolation, is that worth $5/mo if the person isn't a particularly compelling writer? </p> <p>A followup tweet from the author of the original points to this:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>derek guy (@dieworkwear)</strong><br /> i know ive said this before, but i miss the content that was on the internet 15-20 yrs ago. created by passionate hobbyists who did what they did out of love, and there was no intention to sell merch, gain subscribers, or even grow an audience. <strong>3:51 PM · Mar 1, 2023 · 506K Views</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I hate to say it, but a lot of what passes for &quot;paid content&quot; out there is materially worse than information made available for free by others. It's one thing if you're a talented storyteller or insight-haver who can weave these myriad threads together into a narrative that both entertains and saves people time. But that's very difficult to do, so the route taken by most appears to be writing with a particular ideological bent or sense of humour that makes their work relatable, not necessarily <em>good</em>.</p> <h2>Pricing and Positioning</h2> <p>Part of that is because of the price point. There are newsletters that people will pay big money for, particularly if it's information you couldn't get elsewhere, that will make you money. Think of Platts' <em>Oil and Gas Bulletin</em>. That's not really a Substack-type of publication, but it's as ubiquitous (or used to be so) on an energy trader's desk as the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> would be on a management consultants'. </p> <p>It costs a lot more than $5/mo though, but in my opinion that gives it a sense of continuity and permanence that is absent on a one-person newsletter where there's a risk that the person loses interest or becomes unable to monetize. For a modern analogue of this, you can think of crypto-related newsletters that offer access to a paid Telegram or Discord channel where discussion of presumably non-public market intelligence is taking place. </p> <p>Setting pricing too low creates a paradox where it signals to the buyer that the product is both frivolous because it' so cheap, while also not worth it because comparatively you get more out of say, a US$5/mo VPS on Digital Ocean. Are they completely different products with different use cases and benefits? Yes, but they come out of the same limited pool of money known as my wallet!</p> <p>Pricing is also a tremendously difficult thing for any business to get right, as evidenced by the backlash Netflix and Spotify have received for gradually raising their prices each year. Individual businesses that sell one thing have it even harder, because there are price points that are psychologically hard-wired into our brain as &quot;acceptable&quot; or &quot;too much&quot;, even as those thresholds become unmoored from reality in the wake of rising inflation. So if you're known for delivering high value at $5/mo, what's going to happen to your readership once the fiver is no longer enough to keep the lights on, and you have to accelerate to a more eye-raising $10/mo? Speaking for myself, I'd expect the quality to improve as well, even if mathematically it is simply a cost-of-doing-business increase. </p> <h2>Price-Quality balance will never be perfect</h2> <p>Part of the reason there are so many &quot;content&quot;-related subscriptions is because the market for paid writing is seemingly shrinking every year as more and more publications are slashing payments to long-form writers. Substack claims to be a safe harbour for writers to hang their own shingle, but is a poor replacement for the loss of on-commission writing as it forces writers to also become &quot;publishers&quot;. Quality suffers as a result. Filler and bloat begin to appear in their work as they try to stick to a &quot;content calendar&quot;. </p> <p>Why do all writers have to go with Substack anyway, and have their presence disappear beneath the weight of the publishing behemoths that dominate much of its business? The big reason is that the economics of making <em>micropayments</em> online (for amounts of $0.01 to $10) remains unfeasible. </p> <p>You as a sole proprietor may be able to set up your own website, but if you want to accept payments, you will have to route them through some faceless behemoth such as Paypal and Stripe. They do the nasty work of dealing with Mastercard and Visa, but your customer's money goes to them first, not you. Paypal and Stripe can withold payments if any part of your business fails a compliance check and that can happen at any time. In that kind of climate, it makes sense for writers to shift the risk to a company like Substack (for a cut of your revenue) that probably has a better relationship with payment processors than you do. </p> <h2>Why can't I buy just one thing?</h2> <p>Even if you were able to set up your own shop and handle payments, you'd still be paying 3% plus a flat charge of $0.30 on every transaction. If you want to sell a short story for $2, your processing fee will be $0.32, or 8.3% of the price. If you've ever wondered why E-books are barely cheaper than paperbacks, the transaction fee is partially why. </p> <p>Substack won't deal with these low-tier prices either, which is why the minimum paid tier they offer is the notorious $5/mo. It's this ongoing processing costs that have also accelerated the push for subscriptions and away from one-time purchases. </p> <p>When we make purchasing decisions, we usually don't &quot;subscribe&quot; first unless it's an essential service like electricity or a phone plan. With everything else, like a phone or a restaurant, it's usually on a one-time payment basis, with subscriptions (continuing business) occurring if the offering is determined to be delivering sustained value. </p> <h2>What's my threshold for subscribing to a one-person business?</h2> <p>Maybe it's just me. Maybe <em>I</em> don't want to admit that there's a human being behind every business, likely an underpaid one. Perhaps I can't expect every interaction to be emotionless and transactional in the way most professional businesses are. But the catch-22 for me seems to be something along the lines of &quot;If you don't do this professionally, do I want to buy from you?&quot;</p> <p>This is where it gets tricky for me; I'm happy to do one-time buys, but a subscription needs to pass a trust test. Once, I purchased a USB Digital-to-Audio converter (DAC) from a home-based business. There were commercial options available, but I liked the fairly chintzy marketing page on Ebay for the home seller promising a high quality, no-fluff product, and was pleased with it once it arrived. I bought it on a one-time basis for $50. There was no expectation of a continuance of our commercial relationshship. </p> <p>That's where the difference lies in today's patronage model. You're not just paying for the delivery of a product, you're paying to support someone's work. You're showing appreciation. And that makes the actual pricing less useful as a signal for quality and regularity. You're acknowledging the reality that this is a one-person business that could end at any moment. </p> <p>The problem for me has been balancing that desire for supporting human endeavour with the mental tax of managing a growing list of micro-subscriptions that keep billing me in the background whether I use them or not. I'm very much of the &quot;out of sight, out of mind&quot; type of person. It's entirely possible that I will forget about a service I use unless it's repeatedly visible to me. </p> <p>Substack's attempted to address this with a native mobile app that presumably makes it easier to keep your subscriptions and reading in one place. But using that would put me in a position where I'm in Substack's moat; you see, unlike an RSS app that lets you subscribe to anything with an RSS feed, the official Substack app will only let you access newsletters on Substack. </p> Thu, 02 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0000 https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/5-bucks-per-month https://rafichaudhury.com/site/blog/5-bucks-per-month