Human Voice

When I joined twitter, it was because my friends were talking about it. Conversations that I could normally only participate in during conferences or meetups became available to me. I tried to follow it slavishly at first, and then I had an epiphany that it was more like chatting with some friends at a restaurant or bar – people are coming and going, and you chat with whomever is around and available. Facebook was similar, but family and friend focused – keeping up with what my friends are doing after I moved 1000 miles away.

Fast forward a decade, and the human voice has been nearly extinguished in both mediums. I still have accounts in both systems, but it’s more like turning on a constant advertising stream. I ceased being able to rely on either for even slight recency of human voices, let alone the friends and conversations that I used to have. They have become the modern noise-on-the-TV that I grew up with – nothing good on. Perhaps worse, because so much of it is emotionally strident – “this one small trick”, “you’ll be shocked and amazed”, etc. So much bullshit.

Fortunately I’ve (re)found a place where I can get that human voice again:

I’ve gone back to checking my RSS feeds first for reading instead of hitting twitter or facebook, which makes a huge difference. That dopamine hit isn’t the same – RSS isn’t a never-ending stream of potentially interesting content that keeps you addicted like a manic crackhead, but the content that is there tends to be pretty darned good.

I’ve gone back to curating – looking for mentions and links, and following those back to sources. The “X Weekly” curated newsletters are equally good for finding new people to read, as well as friends of friends. It takes some effort, but that is also making it more real. If someone goes to wonky, I can easily ignore them for a bit, or drop their feed from my set – no shaming or cancel notification, just stepping away to more of what I’m interested in.

If you want to pipe up and join in the conversation, you can easily host your writing at Micro.blog, WordPress, or Medium. Micro.blog and WordPress are $5 and $8 per month and Medium is no direct cost.

Remember if you’re not paying for a service, you are likely the product…

I have used WordPress for years, so I stuck there, but honestly the easy to get started option is very much micro.blog. Write about whatever you want, as much as you want. A sentence, paragraph, or longer – there’s no limit, no “right way/wrong way”, and you don’t need to torture your words into some small number of characters.

Back to NetNewsWire

I started with RSS and NetNewsWire as an aggregator quite a while ago to keep up with the blogs and other various information sources I wanted to follow. It was the most effective way of keeping up with the developer communities I was interested in. Things progress, change, and generally move – and I moved with RSS to using Google’s Reader – which was really a lovely solution, in that I had a sync’d view of what’s I’d read regardless of the device I was using. Then in 2013, they shut it down.

I was disappointed, but not angry. I was getting a lot of connected news stories from Twitter, LinkedIn, some email newsletters, and even a touch through friends on Facebook. Fast-forward to 2019 and the state of social media has devolved so much that I can’t reliably find recent updates – the timelines aren’t timelines, instead having morphed into tuned and algorithmically calculated ad-feeders. I suppose it was inevitable – trusting those sources to find and gather information, it’s a natural place to monetize with advertising, so of course the providers will optimize that.

A month ago I started the “purge these assholes” from my social media feeds, which was mostly successful. After I stopped following a number of hyperbolic-tending sources, the streams were better. They still didn’t help me learn and find new information – they still weren’t what I wanted and once had.

I was at the Xcoders meetup a month ago, and getting back into doing some IOS and Mac development projects. I knew that Brent had been quietly working on Evergreen, and that recently transformed/renamed to NetNewsWire – now open source and with a working build. It is a development build – so I fully expect things might break, not work, or otherwise have holes, but it was a no-brainer for me. Now it’s installed, in my dock, and getting daily use.

I’m relieved to have a news source that

  • is only filtering what I want, when I want
  • supports the open web
  • isn’t brutally promoting ads into my face.

I’m happy to sort and filter through all the various sources. In fact, I even went through all the blogs listed in IOSDevDirectory and made an IOS Dev OPML file for myself. If you’re so inclined in that direction, feel free to grab it and use it yourself.